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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Proverbs 10

Verses 1-14

1. Things that produce profit 10:1-14

Verses 1-16


Chapters 1-9, as we have seen, contain discourses that someone, probably Solomon, wrote urging his son to choose the way of wisdom for his life. However, Kidner believed that if Solomon had written the first nine chapters, Proverbs 10:1 would read, "These also are proverbs of Solomon." [Note: Kidner, p. 22.] At Proverbs 10:1, we begin the part of the book that sets forth what "the wise way" is in a variety of life situations.

"Until now the book of Proverbs has been identifying the truly wise man. From this point on, it will describe how such a man should conduct his life from day to day. This logical topical order appears in many New Testament epistles, where the saved person is first identified, and then the daily life he should live is described [e.g., Romans 1-5, 6-8; Ephesians 1-3, 4-6]." [Note: Irving L. Jensen, Proverbs, p. 64.]

"The main thought is that moral goodness and industry bring prosperity, and wickedness and indolence adversity . . ." [Note: Toy, p. 196.]

There are 184 maxims in chapters 10-15 and 191 in chapters 16-22 for a total of 375. [Note: Jensen, p. 65.] A maxim is a succinct or pithy saying that has some proven truth to it, a general rule, principle, or truth. This group represents only a few of the 3,000 proverbs Solomon wrote (1 Kings 4:32). Waltke wrote that the Book of Proverbs contains 930 sayings. [Note: Waltke, The Book . . ., p. xxi.] Most of the proverbs in this section are one verse long and contain two lines each; they are couplets. The second line contrasts, compares, or completes the idea expressed in the first line. This is Hebrew parallelism. In chapters 10-15, most couplets contain antithetic parallelism. The key word is "but." In chapters 16-22, there are more synonymous parallelisms marked by the conjunction "and." There are also continuous sentences in which the second line continues the thought of the first line (e.g., Proverbs 14:26). Some couplets contain comparisons in which the relative value of two things is set forth (e.g., Proverbs 11:31). Some contain a statement in the first line followed by an explanation in the second line (e.g., Proverbs 20:2). [Note: For further discussion, see R. N. Whybray, The Book of Proverbs, pp. 57-59.]

Is there any logic to the arrangement of these seemingly unrelated proverbs? In some places there is a general association of ideas, and in some places there is a recurring key word (e.g., "king" in Proverbs 16:12-15, and "Yahweh" in Proverbs 16:1-7). However, many of these couplets have no logical connection with what immediately precedes or follows in the context. This anthology style is typical of other ancient Near Eastern wisdom literature.

"The absence of a systematic arrangement is due to the traditional character of the contents. There is no need of a closely knit argument; striking images, incisive wording are all that is required to give a fresh appeal to the truth of familiar viewpoints." [Note: Frankfort, p. 61.]

"It is also surprising to find lofty precepts mixed with more ’trivial’ apothegms. Of course, this is a misconception based on the modern-day viewpoint of life. From the sages’ perspective each proverb is an expression of ’wisdom,’ which is . . . the fixed order of reality. Viewed from this perspective no sentence is trivial . . ." [Note: Waltke, "The Book . . .," p. 226.]

Why did the Holy Spirit not arrange these proverbs topically so we could study all of them that deal with one subject together? Perhaps He did so because the method He chose is "a course of education in the life of wisdom." [Note: Kidner, p. 22.]

"As we read Proverbs chapter by chapter, the Spirit of God has the freedom to teach us about many subjects, and we never know from day to day which topic we’ll need the most. Just as the Bible itself isn’t arranged like a systematic theology, neither is Proverbs. What Solomon wrote is more like a kaleidoscope than a stained-glass window: We never know what the next pattern will be." [Note: Wiersbe, p. 16. See also p. 59.]

In the notes that follow (on Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16), I have commented only on those proverbs that appear to me to need clarification in the NASB.

Verses 1-33

A. Marks of Wise Living chs. 10-15

Solomon advocated choosing things that benefit and things that have true and lasting value. He pictured wise living in a variety of contexts. He urged making wise investments, valuing righteousness, and avoiding trouble. He also pointed out the fruits of wise living and concluded this section of the book with further advice for wise living.

Verse 2

At face value both statements in this verse may seem untrue. The solution to this puzzling proverb, as well as the solution to many that follow, lies in remembering that Solomon had the whole course of a life in view, not just the immediate consequences of an act or condition. The righteous escape death in that they have greater true riches (as God’s beneficiaries) than the wicked, simply because they are righteous, regardless of their financial condition.

Verse 3

The righteous will not lack what is most important in life, though they may lack food. Conversely, God will not meet the deepest cravings of the wicked because they have rejected His ways.

"The wicked are condemned to live forever with their unfulfilled, and so sterile, desires, which cannot be transformed into practical attainment." [Note: McKane, p. 426.]

Verse 6

The righteous receive blessings from God and other people. The wicked, on the other hand, conceal violence within themselves, and sorrow will cover their faces.

Verse 10

The winking eye is a clue to insincere speech or behavior. As a tiny gesture, it can do greater damage than many larger overt acts. Similarly the words of a fool, though small, will result in his or her own destruction eventually. However, the power of words is greater than that of "shifty signs." [Note: Ross, p. 954.]

Verse 15

Even though wealth is not most important, it still can result in security-and its absence can result in poverty, so people should not despise it.

Verses 15-32

2. Things of true value 10:15-32

Verse 19

Transgressing means breaking across. When we speak too much, we break across into an area where we should not go. This can happen in private as well as public speech. Some people transgress when they engage in inappropriate transparency. We should only share our lives with people to the degree that they have committed themselves to us.

Verse 30

The righteous person will never be permanently or ultimately shaken, though he or she may experience hardships. However, the wicked will not experience God’s blessing in the end. Dwelling in the land of promise was the wandering Israelite’s hope of eventual divine blessing. The alternative was exile from the land.

Verse 32

Speech indicates character. "Fitting" (NIV) is better than "acceptable," and "perverted" means inappropriate.

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Proverbs 10". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". 2012.