Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 16

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Verses 1-5

The LORD Is Sovereign

Proverbs 16:1 indicates that the LORD is beyond the “plans of the heart” of a “man”. The word “but” at the beginning of the second line of the verse assumes that there is a contrast with the first line of the verse. In the first line it is about man and the plans that he has in his heart. In the second line it is about “the LORD” from Whom “the answer of the tongue” of man comes. That here and in the next verses is spoken about “the LORD” (Yahweh), shows that the emphasis lies on God’s relationship with man.

Man can and may have plans in his heart. The word ‘plans’ has to do with developing a plan in arranged order with the intention to implement it in such a way. But when it comes down to the implementation, it is important to realize that God has the final say. He determines the implantation of it, which may be quite different from what man would have thought. It is about the acknowledgement of God in the implementation of the plans which are made by man.

It is a general proverb that applies to every person, believing or unbelieving. An unbeliever does not acknowledge God and does not involve Him in his plans and their implementation. Still God has also the final say here. An example of that is Balaam. He had plans in his heart to curse God’s people, but God made him speak out blessings over His people (Numbers 23-24).

Proverbs 16:2 indicates that the LORD is beyond the “ways” of man. With “ways” is meant all his ways, his whole conduct, everything he says and does. When man judges himself, when he looks at himself with his own eyes, he thinks that he is “clean”. He does not see uncleanness in his motives. But because he judges himself, he cannot be objective. Lack of self-knowledge and the great probability of self-deception make his self-judgment unreliable. The proverb assumes that such premature opinion about oneself is ignorant at best and self-satisfied at worst.

But the LORD examines the behavior and knows the motives of it. He examines or tests the spirits which leads one to self-judgment. In His light it can turn out that a person is far from being clean in his motives. When God says: “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7), it does not only apply when we look at others, but also when we look at ourselves. Testing the spirits is more than the testing of motives only. God also sees the mind in which one speaks and works. Is there obedience or rebellion?

The conclusion is that we easily deceive ourselves and therefore are not able to evaluate ourselves completely. Only God comes to a perfect, all pervasive assessment. Intellectual explanations and self-justification are typical to the nature of the fallen man. But God sees through its smoke curtain and knows what motivates a person inwardly.

We can see the speck in the eye of our brother and at the same time be blind for the log in our own eye (Matthew 7:3). We are blind for our own mistakes and think that we are completely right. But the Lord knows us completely. When it is all right, we are not aware of anything and at the same time we know that we are not righteous by that, because the knowledge of ourselves is very limited. Therefore it is good to leave the ultimate judgment about ourselves and our service to the Lord (1 Corinthians 4:4-Deuteronomy :).

Proverbs 16:3 indicates that the LORD is beyond the “works” of man. If we want our plans to succeed, we should be dependent on God. Therefore we should commit our works, what we intend to do, to Him. The verb ‘commit’ literally means ‘turn’ or ‘roll’. It is the picture of the turning or rolling of burdens. It means that we should turn away the worries about the activities, its project and the execution, as a stone from us and turn them in the direction of God and in that way commit those worries to Him (cf. Psalms 22:8; Psalms 37:5Psalms 55:22). We do that by laying everything that we are engaged with, in prayer with the Lord.

If we do that, all our plans will be established, meaning carried out, be achieved. It proves of full dependence on God. Success or failure does not depend on accidental events or adversaries, but on God. Therefore we should commit our plans to Him. To commit means that we cast all things on Him and leave them with Him (1 Peter 5:7). This is a one-off matter. It is good to start the day with committing ourselves to Him about everything with which we will be occupied, whether planned or not planned.

Proverbs 16:4 says that the LORD stands above all His works, also above the wicked. Everything that He has created, is part of His plan. Nothing exists ‘accidentally’; there are no ‘loose ends’ in His world. He stands at the beginning of everything and has made everything with a purpose. Everything that is, meets His intention. That intention is His glorification (Colossians 1:16). All His works will glorify Him (Psalms 145:10).

That also goes for the wicked. When he comes into judgment, it is because it fits to his life. This is how God has ordered it. Therefore we should not draw the wrong conclusion that God is the Author of evil. God cannot sin and does not tempt anyone to sin (James 1:13-Ezra :). Only good things come from Him (James 1:16-Job :).

God has made man well (Genesis 1:27), but man started to behave wickedly (Ecclesiastes 7:29). God calls the wicked to repent (Acts 17:30), for He takes no pleasure in the death of sinners (Ezekiel 33:11). But if he does not repent before the day of judgment, he will perish on that day. The wicked and the day of evil belong together.

The wicked have not honored God in their life. They will be forced to do it in the judgment (Philippians 2:10-1 Kings :). The wicked is not made to live wickedly and to die wickedly. There is no election to be rejected. The Lord Jesus says of Judas Iscariot that it would have been good “if he had not been born” (Matthew 26:24). Judas is fully responsible for the choice that he made to betray and deliver the Lord Jesus for payment. At the same time God knew how to use him for the implementation of His plan.

Everything has a purpose. The existence of the wicked seems to mock that purpose. Therefore it is clearly said here that “the wicked” was made “for the day of evil”. The wicked is focused on the purpose that God has allocated him for because of his wickedness. Also from the judgment over the wicked – whereby we can think especially, but not exclusively, of the antichrist, the man of sin – God’s elevation appears beyond everything that He has made.

Proverbs 16:5 says that the LORD is above “everyone who is proud in heart”. The wicked of Proverbs 16:4 has followers: everyone who is proud. ‘Proud’ describes the arrogance of those who have an arrogant attitude against God (2 Chronicles 26:16; Psalms 131:1). It is not only the proud look, but the pride in heart by which one exalts himself above everything and everyone. Pride is the characteristic of satan and the antichrist and all their followers. Because pride disputes the elevation of God beyond everything and because the proud wants to take that place himself, this sin is an abomination to Him. It is the sin of satan and man.

God will take revenge for that sin. That is absolutely sure. It is just as sure as giving a pledge to someone (“assuredly”). These arrogant people will not go unpunished as innocent ones. God will humiliate all who are arrogant and proud (Isaiah 2:11-2 Kings :).

Verses 6-9

To Live Under the Sovereignty of God

Proverbs 16:6 is about the full liberation of sin, by which that liberation has been achieved and its consequences in practice. The first line of the verse speaks about the atonement of a crime. The second line of the verse speaks about the keeping of oneself from evil.

“Lovingkindness and truth” are features of God. They become especially visible on the cross (Psalms 85:10). God has brought about the atonement for everyone who believes by the work of His Son Jesus Christ on the cross. His lovingkindness announce that He is full of kindness and love towards man. He has shown that in the gift of His Son.

His truth has to do with His faithfulness to the truth. Naturally, He cannot ignore sin. Sin has to be judged. He did that in the judgment that He brought over His Son. His faithfulness to the truth also implies that He reconciles everyone with Him who accepts the sacrifice which He has brought in Christ.

He who partakes in the atonement of his crimes, has been liberated from the power of sin. It will be seen in his life that he does not serve sin anymore and that he keeps away from evil. He cannot do that by his own strength. The impetus of that lies in “the fear of the LORD”. Out of love and honor for God he will not want to have anything to do with evil, with sin, anymore, in order to live to the honor of God (Titus 2:11-2 Kings :).

When “a man’s ways” are pleasing to the Lord, it is because they remind him of the ways that the Lord Jesus went about on earth and in which He was fully pleased (Proverbs 16:7). Those ways evoke in the first instance hatred from the side of the world and no peace. Yet, enemies will recognize the advantage of such a way and because of that will seek to be friends with him.

A lifestyle which is pleasing to God, disarms social hostility. The life which is pleasing to God, is a life which is lived in faith (Hebrews 11:6). It will be blameless and will find mercy with others. God can make that happen. It is not about all hostility of all enemies, but in certain situations, which are according to His will. One can be accused by enemies and be thrown into prison. God can work on the hearts of the fellow prisoners in prison, in order to accept and honor the believer. Joseph experienced it.

We must not forget that this proverb is not to be validated in all situations. Another rule, which is equally valid, is that believers have tribulations in the world (John 16:33), like also “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus” will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).

The few possessions that one has, but which have been gained in a righteous way, are better than “a great income” which is unfairly gained ”with injustice” (Proverbs 16:8). “A little” does not necessarily mean extreme poverty; it may possibly refer to a modest income. It is about what is satisfactory in life, and that is God’s approval and having fellowship with Him. God hates unfairly gained income.

What has been gained unfairly, will therefore not be used fairly. What has been earned fairly, will be spent well, to live from it and also to do good to others with it. What has been unfairly gained, will be squandered in debauchery. As soon as one gets the taste of it, he is insatiable. He will want to appropriate more things in order to be able to finance his luxurious lifestyle.

The widow of Zarephath, who had a little, but with Elijah had the resources in her house (1 Kings 17:10-Ezra :), was better off than Jezebel with her ‘great income with injustice’ (2 Kings 9:32-Haggai :). In spiritual sense we can apply this to the church on earth. The true believers, the true church, have little in an earthly point of view, but possess God’s righteousness in Christ. They have little strength. In contrast there is the false church, the roman-catholic system which boasts to have all spiritual riches, but with injustice. The true church has nothing but Christ, the false church has everything apart from Christ.

Proverbs 16:9 shows the possible contrast between what our plans are and what really happens. God determines what really happens. We can make plans for the way that we want to go. But if we want to make steps to go that way, we should consider that it is ultimately the Lord who directs our lives (Jeremiah 10:23; Psalms 37:23). It is all about that we learn to say: “If the Lord wills and we will live and also do this or that” (James 4:15; James 4:13-2 Chronicles :; 1 Thessalonians 3:11).

Verses 10-15

The Characteristics of a King After God’s Heart

In Proverbs 16:10-Ezra : follows a series of proverbs about kings. What is said here of a king and kings, is perfectly brought into practice by the Lord Jesus, both in His government now in secret and soon when He will openly reign over the world. Kings are the representatives of God on earth (Romans 13:1-Judges :). God wants them to express His features as a righteous Ruler in their speech and actions.

That also goes for the speech and actions of the believers in this time, for they are a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9) and have been made to be a kingdom (Revelation 1:6). They have no government task yet, but surely have the dignity of kings and therefore are to behave like that.

The first and main task of someone who reigns is that he makes righteous decisions (Proverbs 16:10). A king must make righteous decisions in disputes. When “a divine decision is in the lips of the king”, it refers to an official judicial decision from him in his capacity as king. It is not possible to appeal against such a decision and there is no need to. It is literally an ‘oracle’, an utterance of God, for he represents God. It does not mean that he is infallible, but it clarifies what kind of responsible function he has. In the same way we are also responsible, if we serve with our gifts, that our speech must be “as of one who is speaking the utterances of God” (1 Peter 4:11). Here also the word ‘utterances’ is literally ‘oracles’.

The king who is aware of his high position and great responsibility, will not “err in judgment with his mouth”. This is what the Lord Jesus perfectly did. Error in judgment is a judgment which is contrary to the truth. In that case a king releases the guilty and punishes the innocent. God will never do that and thus neither will the Lord Jesus do that. Also a believer who lives in fellowship with the God and Christ will never do that.

Proverbs 16:11 is between verses which deal with a king and kings. Therefore this verse applies in the first place to them. They are to be fully honest and sincere. Not a king determines what is honest and dishonest, but God. God is the sovereign Ruler over morality, not the king. God is the source of honesty and justice in all human relations and actions. The proverb is about “just balances” and “scales”. It is written in the law of the LORD that the means of weighing are to be just (Leviticus 19:36; Deuteronomy 25:13; Amos 8:5; Micah 6:11).

God has given man the ability to work with measures and weights. We owe them to Him. As He teaches the farmer how he should plough the land (Isaiah 28:23-Joel :), He also teaches the merchant and everyone who trades. He makes a regular purchase and sale possible by giving man the ability of weighing. In that way he can earn money in an honest way and provide in his livelihood.

Because man is sinful, it is to be said to him that he is not to work with deviating, thus false balances and weights. He has to be faithful. That applies above all to those who have a particular obligation as role models, such as kings, but also parents, elders, teachers.

Cunning traders had light and heavy weights for dishonest transactions. They used light weights when they had to sell something, in which way they gave less goods than what was paid for. In our time we can think of the keeping of two accounts, whereby the account as a proof is shown which delivers the most profit.

Faithfulness in trade transactions is also necessary when it comes down to spiritual matters. When decisions are to be made in a spiritual case, it should also happen honestly. Sympathy or antipathy may not play a role. The case should be considered without discrimination. It is also important to present the truth of God’s Word in balance or balanced and not to emphasize certain truths at the expense of other truths.

A righteous king not only acts justly, but it is also “an abomination to him to commit wicked acts” (Proverbs 16:12). He hates adultery and murder that others commit, but those sins are also an abomination to himself. What is wrong for others, is certainly wrong for kings who are considered to be punishing the wrong.

If they themselves would act wickedly, it would jeopardize their throne. A righteous government determines the stability of the rulers. Therefore kings hate the committing of illegal acts. The kingdom of the Lord Jesus fully answers to it (Psalms 45:7-Ruth :; Psalms 89:14).

Godly kings love righteousness and dislike hypocritical flattery (Proverbs 16:13). Flattery is the order of the day in palaces, but is despised by one who reigns in the fear of God. People who are honest and frank, are valuable for rulers of countries. Political leaders know that the society, over which they have authority, becomes chaos without such people. Only when the truth rules, is there a good government. A king, who wants to reign righteously, will surely take faithful people in his government.

When the king gets inflamed with anger, it is like a death threat (Proverbs 16:14). The expressions of his fury are messengers of death to him or to those whom he is angry about. Those who are the object of his anger do well by taking a wise attitude. Only wisdom offers a possibility to escape from death which is a result of the king’s fury (Ecclesiastes 10:4).

God’s anger is inflamed against sin. He sends messengers out with the warning about the judgment of death. Whoever listens to those messengers and acknowledges that His judgment is just, and in that way takes in the right place before Him, sees that there is a wise Man, Who has made an atonement. Christ took away God’s anger about sin for everyone who believes, by undergoing the anger of God’s wrath as a substitute for everyone who believes. Therefore, everyone who believes and accepts the atonement, is also wise.

The Proverbs 16:14; Proverbs 16:15 belong together. A king has power over death (Proverbs 16:14) and life (Proverbs 16:15). Proverbs 16:15 is the reverse of Proverbs 16:14. The opposite of the dark anger of a king, with death as a threat is the light of his face with life as a result. This light radiates from God’s sight to all who are reconciled with Him through the work of Christ. Whoever lives in the light, lives the true life. Light and life belong together (John 1:4).

His delight is in those who walk in the light of His face. It means that they live in fellowship with Him. Therefore He blesses them with a great blessing. He is “like a cloud with the spring rain”. In Israel the spring rain is the rain that falls down before the harvest. In that way the harvest gets a last growth stimulus in order to come to stage of full ripeness. It is also a picture of the coming of the Lord Jesus for His people (Hosea 6:3) and also a picture of Himself (Psalms 72:6). The greatest blessing of life in the light of God’s face is the fellowship with Christ. That works spiritual growth and a focus on His coming.

In a prophetic sense it refers to the blessing with which Christ in His kingdom will influence the earth. Under His righteous government the land will know a prosperity which it has never known ever before (Psalms 72:15-Esther :).

Verse 16

Wisdom and Understanding, Not Gold and Silver

Wisdom is not a little bit, but much more precious than the purest gold. Wisdom builds up a man, gold builds up his possessions. Wisdom and wealth are not incompatible. In this comparison it is about the difference between wealth without wisdom and wisdom without wealth. Earthly wealth without heavenly wisdom often comes forth from greed or degenerates into it.

The power of the proverb is to encourage people to gain wisdom and understanding. In case the choice (what is “to be chosen”) has to be made between gaining understanding and gaining silver, Solomon puts it clearly that the choice must be made for gaining understanding. Gold and silver are earthly, temporary things; wisdom and understanding, which can only come from God, are of permanent value. There is no noble metal that can give satisfaction to the soul.

We find the meaning of this proverb in the words of the Lord Jesus not to store up treasures on earth, but in heaven. He says: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-Ecclesiastes :).

Verse 17

The Highway

“The highway of the upright” is the excellent way of life of upright men. The highway is an elevated and paved way. The holes in that way are closed and the bumps on that way are removed. The dangers of falling into a hole or stumbling over a height are not there for the upright ones. That does not mean that they don’t have to care about anything on going their way. They see that the evil threatens them from all sides and to turn away from it. That shows that they go a highway and live uprightly.

Whoever goes the highway and watches carefully to stay on that way “preserves his life”. He protects his life against evil. To live righteously is a protection against evil. The highway is the best way, but it is not the way that everyone goes. It is the way of the pilgrim. He goes that way because this way is in his heart (Psalms 84:5). It is “the Highway of Holiness” (Isaiah 35:8), which God shows us in His Word.

Verses 18-19

Humbleness Is Better Than a Haughty Spirit

It is an act of God’s righteousness He humiliates proud, haughty men (Proverbs 16:18). They have exalted themselves and are struck by God. Their destruction and stumbling come when they feel like being at the height of their fortune and provoke God with their nose in the air (Daniel 4:30-Obadiah :; Revelation 18:7-Ruth :). Whoever walks with his nose in the air, doesn’t see where he goes and over which he can stumble. That causes his “destruction” and “stumbling”. We therefore do not need to be worried about the pride and haughtiness of others, but all the more about our own pride and haughtiness. Haman is an illustration of this verse (Esther 5:9-2 Chronicles :; Esther 7:1-2 Samuel :).

Proverbs 16:19 connects to Proverbs 16:18. It is better to be “lowly” together with the “humble in spirit”, than “to divide the spoil” of robberies with the “proud”. The humble in spirit submits himself to God. He is modest and does not push himself to the front. That shows that he belongs to the company of the gentle ones and therefore to the Lord Jesus from Whom they have learnt to be gentle and humble in heart (Matthew 11:29). Someone is humble when he does not assert his rights and doesn’t defend himself when injustice is done to him.

The proud are those who in their pride are rebellious against God. They are arrogant and oppressive. That there is mention of dividing the spoil with the proud refers to the pressure that the proud exert on the humble to cooperate with their evil practices, using the division of the spoil as a bait. In order not to bite in the bait we should have a humble spirit which is depending on God.

Verses 20-24

The Value of the Word and Words

The conclusion that we can draw from both lines of Proverbs 16:20, is that “he who gives attention to the word … trusts in the LORD”. Conversely we can say that he who trusts in the LORD, will give attention to the Word of God. To give attention to the Word literally means ‘the one who wisely deals with the Word’. That makes clearer that it is not about incidentally giving attention to the Word, but that it means the daily, continual dealing with the Word of God. It is about what God says and not about what somebody says himself.

Giving attention to the Word of God implies that we listen to the teaching of it. He who listens with that mind and lives with God like that, “will find good”. He will find the true meaning of life, which is Christ. He is the personification of good. He is the Good.

That it is about what God says and not what the person says who is addressed here, appears from the second line of the verse. To give attention to what God says implies that we trust Him. The trusting one is he who continuously trusts. Whoever does that, can really be called “blessed”. He will receive all kinds of blessing (Jeremiah 17:7). The LORD provides him who gives attention to His Word, him who seriously considers it, with good through His Word.

That one who is wise of heart, will appear from his speech and silence and his whole conduct (Proverbs 16:21). Others will remark about it and he will be called “understanding”, a man of understanding, a man who speaks knowingly. His wise words will deliver him a reputation of competence and will offer him the possibility to exert a benevolent influence on his environment.

His manner of speaking makes it pleasant for others to listen to him. His words are sweet or pleasant. Those are words which are spoken with a certain gracefulness. There is no bitterness or harshness in them. What he says edifies the listener; it gives him more understanding in what is spoken about. His words of education are received well, because they are convicting. The wise in heart is “able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2).

The “fountain of life” which the ones of understanding have (Proverbs 16:22), has been given by God to them. That fountain is not only a refreshment for its owners, but also for everyone around him. The New Testament believer also owns such a fountain. Of it is said that rivers of living water flow from his inside to others to refresh them (John 4:14; John 7:38-Malachi :). That refreshment can only flow by the power of the Holy Spirit. In that way Paul has been a fountain of life by the power of the Holy Spirit in the proclamation of the gospel and in strengthening the believers (Acts 14:21-Song of Solomon :).

We also can be a fountain of life, for also to us the understanding has been given, by which we know Him Who is true (1 John 5:20). It is the understanding which formerly was darkness (Ephesians 4:18), but now has been opened and enlightened by the Spirit of Christ, by which we are able to understand the Scripture (Luke 24:45). With the knowledge that we have of Him, we can serve others and in that way become a fountain of life to others.

With the fool there is no fountain of life present. Fools have nothing else in themselves than a fountain of foolishness. When an admonition of teaching comes out of their mouth, it is nothing more than foolishness. Whoever listens to that, becomes like the fools.

The one who is wise of heart, is taught by his heart so that he may say wise things (Proverbs 16:23). He also knows when he should speak and to whom he should speak. He not only speaks well-chosen words which others understand, but his words are educational and increase the understanding of him to whom he speaks. What the wise says, is not only useful, but it also improves the growth. There is an increase of understanding, which will become apparent from what he says.

The heart of the wise is a source of words of wisdom. That is not only true from the born-again heart. When the Word of Christ dwells abundantly in us, we will teach and admonish one another in all wisdom with psalms, praises and spiritual songs (Colossians 3:16).

With “pleasant words” (Proverbs 16:24) the words from the heart of the wise of the previous verse are meant. Such words have the sweetness of a honeycomb (Psalms 19:10; Psalms 119:103). Pleasant words are comforting and encouraging. They can be words from the Word of God, or words, spoken in a prayer or a praise. Those are words to which God loves to listen to and therefore also to which everyone does who is born of Him.

Like honey in a honey comb is being produced by diligent bees, pleasant words are the result of a continuous relationship with God in secret. He who can speak pleasant words, has studied the Scripture diligently and can therefore bring forward old and new things for the benefit of the listeners, to the encouragement and recovery of spiritual power (Matthew 13:52).

We see the benevolent effect of the use of a little bit of honey with Jonathan (1 Samuel 14:27). In a spiritual sense sweet words have the same effect. Sweet words are no juicy words. They are loving and at the same time clear, convincing words. Sweet words are healing when they come forth from the teaching of God’s Word.

Bones are the power through which the body is able to move and move on. We regain spiritual and physical power when we have heard encouraging words. People can listen to the words of prophecy, which means words that are spoken for “edification, exhortation and comfort” (1 Corinthians 14:3), as to melodious music (cf. 1 Chronicles 25:1-Joshua :).

Verse 25

The End of a Seemingly Right Way

This proverb is identical to Proverbs 14:12. There the proverb is in context with appearances which deceive (Proverbs 14:11-1 Chronicles :), with looking at the appearance, while the reality is different. It is relying on what you see without the awareness of being deceived. Here the proverb is in context with the way in which we plan our lives and where it ends up to. It is about how we think of our own lives and how we live it opposite to the way God thinks about it and wants us to live it.

The way which seems right to someone, can be the way of pleasure and careless enjoyment. We see that the very apparently right way, ends up into countless "ways of death". There is plenty of choice on that very way, but each choice on it, leads to death. It does not necessarily have to be about the choice for a life in great sins. As long as there is enough money, as long as one can make a career, if everything goes well in one’s family and everyone gives the other what he is entitled to, one can think that he is on the right way. Such people will turn out to be deceived. It is as with the man who said: ‘I climbed the ladder of success, but I discovered the ladder was standing against the wrong wall.’

Another way that can look right to someone is that of total freedom. Give free sex all the space in whatever relationship one wants to have; give man the right to life and death by allowing him to commit abortion and euthanasia, and people will say that it is the right way of and to happiness. Also here that way will appear to be ending in death.

The broad road of sin seems right because many walk on it. But that is appearance, for that way ends up in death (Matthew 7:13-2 Chronicles :). The way of death is walked by those who use their mind, their feelings or their conscience as a standard and not God’s Word. One only goes the way which is right when he trusts in Christ and not in his own understanding, and knows Him in all of his ways (Proverbs 3:5-Joshua :).

Verse 26

Hunger Urges to Work

Hunger stimulates one, triggers him, urges him, exerts him, to work diligently (cf. Ecclesiastes 6:7). Hunger is good and has a benevolent effect that stimulates someone to work, in order to earn money. This makes it possible to buy food with which the hunger can be satisfied. Also in the New Testament the importance of working is pointed out several times, among other things in order to be able to provide for one’s own livelihood in that way and also to give to others (2 Thessalonians 3:10-2 Kings :; Ephesians 4:28; Ephesians 6:7).

It also goes for the spiritual application. He who is newly converted and therefore has new life, will have a desire for spiritual food (1 Peter 2:2). Spiritual hunger stimulates one to examine God’s Word diligently.

Verses 27-30

The Worthless, Perverse, Violent Man

Proverbs 16:27-Amos : deal with the worthless, perverse and violent man. There is climax in these verses. It starts with the “worthless man”, which is who this man is in himself and how he acts (Proverbs 16:27). Worthless men create ways to slander other people. ‘A worthless man’ is literally a ‘man of Belial’, someone in whom there is nothing good. The term describes deep depravity and wickedness.

This man is a bad person, for he “digs up evil”. It means that he brings the evil to the surface and he does that with great effort. Digging is a heavy job. He will go through someone’s entire case, in order to find anything evil, which he may use. Social media is an example of a wide and deep ‘digging territory’, whereby also certain data can be manipulated in such a way that they serve the wicked purpose which the worthless man has in his mind.

He scatters the evil that he digs, whether it is true or a lie, as seed from “his words”. His speech is like “a scorching fire”, which refers to the destroying effect of his words. James speaks about the tongue as “a fire, the world of iniquity” and continues to say: “The tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell (James 3:6).
The worthless man of Proverbs 16:27 is the “perverse man” in Proverbs 16:28. He is a man of falsehood and lies and “a slanderer”. He has no success with open attacks; therefore he chooses to whisper lies and slander, imputations, half-truths. The worthless man causes trouble and even brings division between best friends.

He cannot make friends himself and cannot stand it that there is friendship between others. Therefore he starts a campaign to slander others. He slanders the one after the other and sows doubt and distrust between both of them. He tells a lie about someone of which he knows that it would be spread. Thereby he is aware of the fact that the spreading will make it worse. Therefore he is also called a “worthless man”, because he destroys good relationships.

In Proverbs 16:29 the worthless and perverse man of the previous verses has become “a man of violence”, ‘a man of hamas’. The friends have become separated from one another by his slanderous talk, which disaster he already caused. But that does not satisfy him. They are to be killed also. It does not stop with talking, but he uses violence.

He is also a deceiver, who wants to influence others to join him. The man of violence will try to influence people in his environment to commit the violence which he has planned (Proverbs 1:10-2 Chronicles :; Proverbs 2:12-Ezra :). He will bring his fellow man “in a way that is not good”, which means that he wants to introduce him to the criminal circuit.

In order to reach the goal of Proverbs 16:29, he devises “perverse things” and then “brings evil to pass” (Proverbs 16:30). He is devoted to the evil in such a way that his body language cannot suppress his evil intentions, but betrays them. Facial expressions often make clear whether one intends to do harm to others (Proverbs 6:13-2 Chronicles :). Here two expressions are mentioned: to wink (or shut) the eyes and to compress the lips.

One shuts his eyes when he wants to concentrate on something without being distracted. This is how the worthless, perverse, violent man fully concentrates on the evil. He imagines how it will happen. To compress the lips means that one refrains to express his feelings, whether to laugh or to burst out in anger. Here it indicates the hidden evil intentions which he is about to carry out.

Verses 31-32

A Gray Head, Patience and Self-Control

When a person has gray hair and in that way wears “a crown of glory”, it is a proof that he walks the way of righteousness, which he has walked up to now. Righteousness is rewarded with a long life (cf. Psalms 92:14; Luke 1:5-Judges :). This is again the general meaning of this book. The general meaning of righteousness in Proverbs is that the wicked does not live long and passes prematurely and that the righteous lives long. But that does not mean that it goes for everyone in all cases. The gray head of the wickedly living older man is not a crown of glory, and one can die before he can find the first gray hair, while he has walked the way of righteousness.

It has to be the greatest care of older people to stay “in the way of righteousness”. When it is noticed in their old age that they have walked with God and they still do, their “gray head is a crown of glory” to them. Solomon says this in the first place to the young people. Young people are inclined to see especially youthful power as a crown of glory, whereby they despise older people because of their physical weakness. God’s Word prohibits that and demands instead, respect for older people (Leviticus 19:32). Whoever considers that, shows respect for God’s election of righteousness beyond youthful power.

But this word is not only important for young people. For older people it is important that they wear that ‘crown of glory’ with dignity. Let the old believers be old disciples (Acts 21:16). In that way they give the young people a reason to respect them. It is in the same line as what is said to Timothy, that he has to be watchful that no one will despise him because of his youth (1 Timothy 4:12). Apart from that it is always appropriate that young ones treat old ones with respect, even if an older one does not behave himself with dignity (Genesis 9:20-Daniel :).

Like a gray head goes above youthful power (Proverbs 16:31), slow to anger is better than physical power (Proverbs 16:32). Slow to anger is a feature of God (Exodus 34:6; Nahum 1:3). One is “mighty” on a certain occasion in a certain case, but “one who is slow to anger” is better, for he not only shows this Divine feature on certain occasions, but continually.

“He who rules his spirit” – or ‘controls’ his spirit, or controls himself, shows that he is better “than he who captures a city”. To capture a city after having taken it under siege for a shorter or longer time is an act which costs the lives of people. Self-control or self-judgment does no harm to anyone, but rather spares lives. It is a blessing to others and for the protection of oneself.

A godly man once said to the king: ‘You are the servant of my servant.’ He meant by that: ‘You are the bondservant of your evil desires, while I am the master of my evil desires’. The heart is a battle field. The evil desires which dwell in it, are lethal enemies. For the believer these enemies have been conquered. The point is to kill the evil desires as soon as they want to take control (Colossians 3:5), which means that they are directly made harmless in self-judgment. We do that by considering them as being judged in Christ on the cross. The true power to conquer these enemies lies in knowing our position in Christ. In Him we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37).

Verse 33

Man Considers, but God Decides

This verse is about the practice of seeking God’s guidance by casting the lot. What is decided by the lot is ultimately the decision of the LORD. Even when unbelievers do that, He decides. He determines the course of matters. Nothing happens outside His knowledge, without His will. He is involved in everything and it happens according to His counsel. We see His hand in everything, a hand that guides everything with wisdom. We thus see that this chapter ends like it started, with a word about God’s sovereignty.

In the Old Testament the lot was cast among others:
1. To organize the service in the temple (1 Chronicles 24:5; 1 Chronicles 24:311 Chronicles 25:8);
2. To reveal the truth (1 Samuel 14:41);
3. To trace offenders (Joshua 7:16);
4. To stop disputes (Proverbs 18:18);
5. To divide Canaan among the tribes (Numbers 26:55);

The last mention of the use of the lot in Scripture, is in context with the question of whom was going to replace Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:26). The Christian does not need the lot, for he has the Holy Spirit dwelling in him, Who leads him in the whole truth (John 16:13). He also has got the complete Word of God at his disposal, in which he can learn to know the will of God. Thereby he has prayer at his disposal. He can go directly to God as his Father to ask Him about His will.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Proverbs 16". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.