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Deeper Commentary

Pro 29:1
He who is often rebuked and stiffens his neck will be destroyed suddenly, with no remedy-
This sounds like a criticism of Solomon's political enemies in the family of Saul. Being broken without remedy (as in Prov. 6:15) suggests that what is in view is an earthen vessel smashed, a figure used in the prophets of the last judgment. Israel were likewise smitten without remedy at the hands of their invaders (s.w. 2 Chron. 36:16; Jer. 8:15; 14:19). Many of Solomon's warnings of judgments in the Proverbs come exactly true for the Israel whom he wrongly assumed would be his eternal kingdom. The "remedy" Solomon has in mind is giving heed to wisdom.

Pro 29:2 When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; but when the wicked rule, the people groan-
This surely refers to the way the people rejoiced at Solomon’s ascension to power (2 Chron. 9:7); again he is justifying himself. All the knowledge of God which we quite rightly seek after must be personally applied. The very possession of it and teaching of it to others can of itself make a man or woman demotivated to personally apply it. He foretold that the people would sign when a wicked man ruled them (Prov. 29:2 RV)- and they did "sigh" because of the heavy burdens he placed upon them (1 Kings 12:4). See on :4,12.

Pro 29:3 Whoever loves wisdom brings joy to his father; but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth-
At the  end  of his days, Solomon recognized that although  he  had  loved  the  theory  of wisdom, the image of a spiritual  life, the wisdom of God had never really impacted his soul: "I said, I will be wise (referring back to his request for wisdom  in  1  Kings 3); but it was far from me" (Ecc. 7:23). His request  for wisdom had only been so that he could do the job of leading  Israel, living out the parental expectation of his father, whom he admits in Proverbs 4 had taught him to ask for wisdom.  In Prov. 19:12 he speaks as if his own wisdom was like the dew coming down- as if he felt that the mere possession of wisdom made him the Messiah figure which his father had so hoped for him to be in Ps. 72:6. And he says as much in Prov. 29:3: “Whoso loveth wisdom [exactly what Solomon was commended for doing] rejoiceth his father”.

The Lord's parable of the prodigal son appears to deconstruct Solomon's approach however. For the son who squandered his wealth with prostitutes was the one who was finally saved; whereas Solomon seems to just give up with those he considered fools and sinners. Whereas the love of God is ever seeking and waiting for them.

Pro 29:4 The king by justice makes the land stable, but he who takes bribes tears it down-
Solomon imposed the "yoke" of tribute upon the people (2 Chron. 10:4), whereas he himself had warned that a king that imposes tribute [NEV "bribes"] on his people "overthrows" a country (Prov. 29:4 RV mg.). He saw it all as true- and yet it was far from him personally. See on :2.

Pro 29:5 A man who flatters his neighbour spreads a net for his own feet-
In the Hezekiah context, this would refer to Rabshakeh, the apostate Jew who knew Hebrew, used the Yahweh Name and knew the situation in Judah. His flattery was in offering the Jews horses, and to 'emigrate' to Assyria, to receive there a land like their own.

Pro 29:6 An evil man is snared by his sin, but the righteous can sing and rejoice-
As in :8, in the Hezekiah context (see on Prov. 25:1), the snare in view is the Assyrian encirclement of Jerusalem, which led to their own destruction. The joy of the people of Jerusalem is therefore in view. But Hezekiah likes to think that the Assyrians are the wicked, and the Jews were the righteous. He has the same overly simplistic worldview which Solomon also had, whose Proverbs are now being reused by him. For the prophets condemn the Jews at that time; there was only a tiny righteous minority, and the whole salvation of Zion at this time was by grace and not their own righteousness.

Pro 29:7 The righteous care about justice for the poor; the wicked aren’t concerned about knowledge-
This sounds like a self justifying reference to the way Solomon judged the two prostitutes. LXX "A righteous man knows how to judge for the poor".

Pro 29:8 Mockers stir up a city, but wise men turn away anger-
"Stir up" is AV "bring into a snare". Hezekiah is referring to the judgments upon Jerusalem, encircled by the snare of the Assyrians. But he sees the "wise men" in Zion ass turning away God's wrath from the city. This was true to an extent, but he fails to engage with the massive dimension of God's salvation of Zion from the Assyrians by grace.

Pro 29:9 If a wise man goes to court with a foolish man, the fool rages or scoffs, and there is no peace-
LXX "A wise man shall judge nations". Solomon has in view how all the nations came to him for instruction in justice, and Hezekiah was visited by the leaders of the surrounding nations after the destruction of the Assyrians. They see themselves as "the wise man", in self justification.

Pro 29:10 The bloodthirsty hate a man of integrity; and they seek the life of the upright-
Solomon again alludes to those who sought the life of his father, whom David in his Psalms describes as "bloodthirsty"; for it was the same family groups of Saul and Absalom / Adonijah who were the potential opposition to Solomon. He constantly uses his Proverbs to justify the integrity of David and himself, and to bring down his potential opponents. 

Pro 29:11 A fool vents all of his anger, but a wise man brings himself under control-
LXX as GNB "but the wise reserves his in part". The implication is that the anger of the wise is still there and will be expressed later; perhaps a warning that Solomon the wise man would express in due course his anger with all who had opposed his father and himself.

Pro 29:12 If a ruler listens to lies, all of his officials are wicked-
The book of Proverbs has in view a bad ruler (s.w. Prov. 28:15; 29:2,12,26; Ecc. 9:17). And this bad ruler offers deceitful food (Prov. 23:3), which Solomon in Prov. 23 advises against eating. We need to recall that eating together was seen as a sign of fellowship and acceptance of each other within the same cause. Solomon may have in view Jeroboam, who clearly sought to usurp Solomon as king. Or he may be alluding back to the various people like Absalom and Adonijah who had feasted to celebrate their apparent usurping of David's throne. The LXX in Prov. 23:1-8 reads rather differently to the Masoretic Text, and speaks much of the evil of the ruler in view.

Pro 29:13 The poor man and the oppressor have this in common: Yahweh gives sight to the eyes of both-
In the Hezekiah context, "the oppressor" was the Assyrian and Judah were the poor man. But Hezekiah takes comfort as does David in the fact that all men are no more nor less than human. "Oppressor" is elsewhere "creditor", and may refer to the abuse of the poor by the rich in Hezekiah's time, a vice which the relevant prophets comment upon.

Pro 29:14 The king who fairly judges the poor, his throne shall be established forever-
Solomon is clearly referring to the promises to David, which he assumed were about him. He thought that because he had judged the poor harlots wisely, therefore he would be the promised Messiah. And this was just what David his father had hoped and expected of him. David had even asked Solomon to “do wisely” i.e. to show wisdom, in order that the promises to him about Messiah would be fulfilled (1 Kings 2:3 RVmg.). So this was surely one of Solomon’s motives in giving them justice and being ‘wise’; he sought to live out his father’s expectations and to fulfil the requirements of the Messiah figure.

"Established forever" is the language of the eternal establishment of the Davidic line through his Messianic son; which Solomon wrongly assumed must automatically refer to himself. David led him into this wrong assumption by dedicating "Kingdom" Psalms like Ps. 72 to Solomon. Solomon's fulfilment of the role of David's greater prophetic son was strictly conditional; and he failed totally to meet those conditions. But he uses his possession of wisdom, and teaching of it with his lips, as a reason to wrongly think that he fulfilled the role (Prov. 12:19; 29:14).

Pro 29:15 The rod of correction gives wisdom, but a child left to himself causes shame to his mother-
This appears to be an out of context allusion to David's words in Ps. 38:14, reflecting on his sin with Bathsheba, and how he felt unable to give reproof to others: "Yes, I am as a man who doesn’t hear, in whose mouth are no reproofs [s.w. "correction"]". Solomon was obsessed with David his father, speaking hundreds of times of "David my father". But he failed to have his humility; he endlessly dishes out reproofs in Proverbs, indeed he sees his Proverbs as reproofs to people (e.g. Prov. 1:25; 6:23; 10:17; 12:1; 13:18; 15:5,31; 29:15); whereas David humbly felt unable to do so because of his awareness of his sins. And at the time David wrote the Proverbs, when he received wisdom at the start of his reign, he was sinning likewise [in essence] by marrying foreign women. 

Discipline and punishment of the unwise is a big theme in Solomon's Proverbs. He took it to the extent of whipping his own people (1 Kings 12:11). This abusive attitude to people arose from his obsession with the idea that he had wisdom, and people generally are fools, idiots, unwise- and therefore he could abuse them. This abusive attitude to people is another outcome of believing that mere possession of truths about God justifies us, and declares all other people foolish, unwise and able to be legitimately abused by us. In contrast, the heart of God (as of David) bleeds for such people and wants to save them rather than gloat in their unwisdom and punish them for it.

This desperate avoidance of shame at all costs is a major theme in Solomon's Proverbs, and reflects his overall focus upon the external rather than the internal. He does indeed talk about the heart, but on balance I would conclude that he is more concerned about appearances before men than before God. And this led to his own spiritual downfall.

Pro 29:16 When the wicked increase, sin increases; but the righteous will see their downfall-
The first part of this verse is axiomatic, and seems inserted in order to emphasize the reality of the second half, which is what Solomon wants to emphasize. Again Solomon implies that the downfall of the wicked is in this life, so that it is seen by the righteous. But this will only finally be true at the day of judgment, which Solomon has little place for in his thinking as he considers himself the ultimate judge of all. And it was this attitude which led him to major moral failure as he refused to judge himself; and there are many examples of such a path to ruin in Christian leaders.

Pro 29:17 Correct your son, and he will give you peace; yes, he will bring delight to your soul-
As will be explained on :19, this is true so far as it goes, and is a fair enough commentary upon the Mosaic instruction to stone to death a disobedient son. But Solomon took this idea of physical chastisement too far, to the point of not giving due weight to the power of God Himself through His wisdom to discipline or chastise a person.

Pro 29:18 Where there is no Divine revelation, the people cast off restraint; but one who keeps the law is blessed-
The parallel is between "Divine revelation" (AV "vision"), and "the law". But "the law" of Moses was already in existence and available. This seems another case of where Solomon effectively places his words, the Divine revelation of wisdom to him in a vision of the night, as being the effective replacement of God's law. And he often teaches that "blessing" comes from obeying his teachings about wisdom, rather than directing attention to keeping the covenants with Moses and Abraham which were to be the basis for Divine blessing.

Pro 29:19 A servant can’t be corrected by words; although he understands, yet he will not respond-
Solomon has so much to say about "correction" or "instruction" coming from the possession of wisdom (Prov. 8:10,33; 10:17; 12:1; 13:1,24; 15:5,10,32; 16:22; 19:20,27; 22:15; 23:12,13). But in the end he chastised or corrected his people by whipping them (s.w. 1 Kings 12:11,14). Solomon initially asked for wisdom in order to guide his people, but he ended up whipping / physically chastising them into conformity with his wishes rather than allowing wisdom to correct. Again, he was playing God; for it is God through His wisdom who chastises, and not man. But Solomon thought he was effectively God to his people. This is why Solomon argues that servants cannot be corrected by words (Prov. 29:19 s.w.), and a child must be physically chastised (s.w. Prov. 19:18; 29:17 cp. Prov. 13:24; 23:13), regardless of his screams of pain. This kind of thing is a denial of his claims elsewhere that it is Divine wisdom which chastises / corrects, and such correction is from God and not man. Solomon's final description of himself as an old and foolish king who refuses to be admonished says it all (Ecc. 4:13); he admonishes others (s.w. Ecc. 12:12), but refuses to be admonished or corrected by his own wisdom. He failed to personalize it.  

Pro 29:20 Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him-
Solomon now creates a category lower even than "a fool". What he says is true, but he seems to rejoice in categorizing idiots and placing the majority of society in those categories. This all arose from a persuasion that he was the ultimately "wise" because he possessed Divine truth; and such hyper judgmentalism became narcissism, and was his undoing. Those who are proud and judgmental in their possession of "truth" are liable to the same path.

Pro 29:21 He who pampers his servant from youth will have him become a son in the end-
GNB "If you give your servants everything they want from childhood on, some day they will take over everything you own". This sounds very much like Solomon's reflections upon Rehoboam, who was his servant but who then tried to overthrow Solomon and take power. Again, Solomon states Divine truth, but as ever inserts his own agenda of self justification into the way he uses it.

Pro 29:22 An angry man stirs up strife, and a wrathful man abounds in sin-
LXX "digs up sin", perhaps Solomon having a swipe at anyone who dared to make an issue about David's sin with his mother Bathsheba. As noted on :21, he is always seeking to justify himself through the truth which he states and preaches.

Pro 29:23 A man’s pride brings him low, but one of lowly spirit gains honour-
GNB "You will be respected". Solomon's idea is that the advantage of wisdom is that it gains the holder respect and honour in this life, whereas the fool will be brought low in this life. But the ultimate humiliation and honour are not now, but at the last day, of which he has little to say.

Pro 29:24 Whoever is an accomplice of a thief is an enemy of his own soul; he takes an oath, but dares not testify-
The sense is as GNB "He will be punished if he tells the truth in court, and God will curse him if he doesn't". Solomon's wisdom was given him so that he might wisely judge Israel. And he here outlines how he will judge, as the supreme judge of Israel. But as in :23, he sees sinners as destroying themselves. This is true, but he assumes that sin and righteousness have their reward right now in this life; whereas this is only part of the story. Solomon usually omits the final and more important perspective, of God's final judgment and the eternal outcomes of human behaviour in His Kingdom.

Pro 29:25 The fear of man proves to be a snare, but whoever puts his trust in Yahweh is kept safe-
Solomon presents his father David's being 'set on high' (Ps. 69:29) as programmatic for the exaltation of all the righteous; he sees David as the epitome of the righteous, and thereby justifies the Davidic dynasty (s.w. Prov. 18:10; 29:25).

LXX "Ungodliness causes a man to stumble: but he that trusts in his master shall be safe" would be Solomon again seeking to inculcate personal loyalty to himself through his Proverbs.

But GNB is also helpful: "It is dangerous to be concerned with what others think of you, but if you trust the LORD, you are safe". Worry about image and the opinion of others is a lack of faith. Because 

Pro 29:26 Many seek the ruler’s favour, but a man’s justice comes from Yahweh-
See on :12. Solomon was the judge of Israel, and through this Proverb he insists that his justice is directly from Yahweh. This may have been true initially, or insofar as he judged according to the Divine wisdom he had; but it led him to consider himself generally infallible. He thereby lost any sense of personal sin, possibility of failure or self examination. And this led him to personal spiritual disaster. This is still a Hezekiah Proverb (see on Prov. 25:1), and would refer to the ambassadors of the nations coming to Hezekiah to seek his favour.

Pro 29:27 A dishonest man detests the righteous, and the upright in their ways detest the wicked
"Abomination" is the common word for idols (e.g. Dt. 7:25,26). Idolatry is here interpreted as things like pride and telling lies (:17). These seven things are the essence of idolatry. There is a recurring nature to them, just as idols got a grip on the mind of the worshipper. Solomon often uses the word for quiet, secret sins, words and the matters of the heart, internal attitudes and judgments (Prov. 11:1,20; 12:22; 13:19; 15:26; 16:5; 17:15; 20:10,23; 24:9; 26:25; 28:9; 29:27). And this of course is the essence of idolatry in our age; this is the practical force to us of all Biblical teaching about idolatry.

LXX adds: "A son that keeps the commandment shall escape destruction; for such an one has fully received it. Let no falsehood be spoken by the king from the tongue; yea, let no falsehood proceed from his tongue. The king's tongue is a sword, and not one of flesh; and whosoever shall be given up to it shall be destroyed: for if his wrath should be provoked, he destroys men with cords, and devours men's bones, and burns them up as a flame, so that they are not even fit to be eaten by the young eagles. My son, reverence my words, and receive them, and repent". The additions of the LXX are at times quoted in the New Testament. So we can take this quite seriously, as a reference to how Solomon and Hezekiah (see on Prov.. 25:1) feared their sons were going astray. And they both did, Manasseh especially. We also have an insight here into what Solomon thought kings had the power to do to their people, and he ended up therefore not reigning for God but for himself, and abusing his people (1 Kings 12:11).