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PROVERBS CHAPTER 26
Rules how to carry it towards fools, Proverbs 26:1-12. The slothful man described, Proverbs 26:13-16. The character of a contentious man, and of a busybody, and tale-bearer, Proverbs 26:17-23. The evil of hypocrisy and lying, Proverbs 26:24-28.
As snow in summer, and as rain in harvest; unbecoming and unseasonable.
So honour is not seemly for a fool, because he neither deserves it, nor knows how to use it, but his folly is both increased and publicly manifested by it.
By wandering from place to place; by its perpetual restlessness it secures itself from the fowler, that he cannot shoot at it, nor spread his net over it.
Shall not come, to wit, upon the innocent person, but he shall escape from it like a bird, &c.
A bridle was very proper and usual for an ass, when they rode upon it, (as the Jews most commonly did,) though not to restrain him from running away, which is the principal use of it in horses, yet that the rider might rule and guide him, which was very necessary for that stupid creature. Although the ancient interpreters render it a goad, or spur, or something of the like nature and use.
A rod for the fool’s back; which is most proper and necessary for him. Not words, but blows, must make him better.
How can these contrary rules be reconciled, answer him not, and answer him?
Answ. Easily, by considering the difference of persons, and times, and places, and other circumstances, and of the manner of answering. And such seemingly contradictory precepts are not only used by, but are esteemed elegant in, other authors.
Answer him not, when he is incorrigible, or when he is inflamed with passion or wine, &c., or when it is not necessary, nor likely to do him good.
Answer him, when he is capable of receiving good by it, or when it is necessary for the glory of God, or for the discharge of a man’s duty, or for the good of others.
According to his folly; so as to imitate his folly, by such passionate, or reproachful, or foolish speeches as he useth to thee.
Be like unto him; show thyself to be as great a fool as he.
According to his folly; so as his folly needs and requires, convincing him strongly, reproving him sharply, exposing him to just shame, and correcting him with a rod, when he deserves it, and thou hast a just power to use it.
Lest he be wise in his own conceit; lest thy silence make him arrogant and presumptuous, as if his words were unanswerable.
He that sendeth a message by the hand of a fool, he that employeth a fool upon any important errand or business which is too hard for him,
cutteth off the feet, to wit, of his messenger; he bids one go that wants legs; he sends one who wants that discretion, which is as necessary for that employment as legs are for going.
Drinketh damage; he bringeth upon himself abundance of loss and mischief, not only spoiling that business about which he sends him, but making himself contemptible to the person to whom he sends him, and to others with him, as if he had not common prudence to choose a fit messenger, and giving occasion, by the folly of his messenger, to further misunderstandings, and jealousies, and inconveniences. For the phrase, we may observe that drinking in Scripture frequently notes the plentiful doing or receiving of any thing, as they who multiply sins are said to drink iniquity like water, Job 15:16; Job 34:7; and they who are greatly afflicted are commonly said to drink the cup.
The legs of the lame are not equal, Heb. As (which note of similitude is plainly understood from the particle so in the following clause) the legs of the lame are lifted up, to wit, in going, or rather in dancing, which is done with great inequality and uncomeliness.
So is a parable in the mouth of fools; no less absurd and indecent are wise and pious speeches from a foolish and ungodly man, whose actions grossly contradict them, whereby he makes them contemptible, and himself ridiculous.
As he that bindeth a stone in a sling; whereby he hinders his own design of throwing the stone out of it; or, who fastens it there only for a season, that he may speedily and violently throw it away. Or, as it is rendered in our margin, and by many others, As he that putteth a precious stone (Heb. a stone, which is oft emphatically used for a precious stone, both in Scripture, as Exodus 39:10; 1 Chronicles 29:8, and elsewhere, and also in other authors) in an heap of stones, where it is obscured and lost.
So is he that giveth honour to a fool; no less absurd is he that giveth to a fool that honour and praise which he is not capable either of receiving, or retaining, or using aright, but it is quite wasted upon him, and doth him more hurt than good.
As a thorn is in a drunkard’s hand, which he cannot hold and manage cautiously, but employeth to his own and others’ hurt,
so is a parable in the mouth of fools; as improper and unprofitable, and, by accident, hurtful to himself and others. See Poole "Proverbs 26:7".
God, who is oft called
great, as Psalms 86:10; Psalms 135:5, &c., and is described by the name of
the Most High, as Psalms 9:2; Psalms 21:7, &c., who created all things, and therefore observeth and governeth all men and things, will certainly give that recompence which is meet for and deserved by fools and transgressors, i.e. by such as sin either through ignorance and heedlessness, or wilfully and wickedly. Or, as it is the margin, A great man (a prince or potentate, who are called by this title, Esther 1:8; Daniel 1:3, &c.) grieveth (as this word is used, Isaiah 51:9; Isaiah 53:5, and elsewhere) all, (to wit, all that are subject to him, or all that stand in his way) he hireth (as this word most commonly signifies) the fools, he hireth also transgressors. So the sense is, It is the manner of many princes to vex and oppress their subjects, which because they cannot do by themselves alone, they hire others, both fools, who do not know or consider what they do, and transgressors, who are ready to execute all their commands, right or wrong, that they may be their instruments in that work.
As a dog returneth to his vomit, to lick up that which he had lately vomited, forgetting how burdensome and vexatious it was to him,
so a fool returneth to his folly; such like is the impudence and madness of sinners, who having smarted for their sins, and been forced to forsake them far a time, do afterwards return to the commission of them.
A man wise in his own conceit; who, being a fool, thinks himself wise, and therefore scorneth the counsels of others.
There is more hope of a fool; of doing good to one who is a fool, and sensible of his folly, and ready to receive instruction.
To excuse his idleness, and keeping himself at home. See Poole "Proverbs 22:13".
Turneth upon his hinges; moving hither and thither upon them, but not removing one jot from its place.
He will not take the least pains for the most necessary things.
Is wiser in his own conceit, because by his idleness he avoids those troubles and dangers to which other men by their activity expose themselves, forgetting in the mean thee what reproach and loss, and how much greater mischiefs, both here and hereafter, are brought upon him by his slothfulness.
That can render a reason, to wit, a satisfactory reason, of all their actions, i.e. who are truly wise men.
He that passeth by; who is going upon the way, and about his business. But this word is by some referred to the last clause, is like
one that taketh a dog by the ears as he is passing by him, without any thought of doing him harm; which agrees very well both with the order of the words in the Hebrew text, and with the matter of the other clause, to which this similitude is referred.
Belonging not to him; in which he is not concerned, nor any way obliged to meddle.
Is like one that taketh a dog by the ears; exposeth himself to great and needless hazards, as a man that causelessly provoketh a mastiff dog against himself.
As a madman, as one that feigneth himself mad, that under that pretence he may do mischief with impunity,
who casteth fire-brands, to hurt his neighbour’s person, or to consume his house or goods.
Death; any instruments of death.
That wrongs him under a false pretence of kindness and familiarity.
Tale-bearer, to carry such reports from one to another as may provoke them to mutual rage and strife.
Heb. A man of contentions, that loveth and giveth him self up to contentions.
This was delivered before, Proverbs 18:8, and is here repeated, as being a point of great concernment to the peace and welfare of all societies, and fit to be oft and earnestly pressed upon the consciences of men, because of their great and general proneness to this sin.
1. With love. Words delivered with show of true and fervent affection. Or rather,
2. With malice or hatred. A slanderous or evil tongue; for this word is constantly used in a bad sense, and notes the heat of rage and persecution.
Like a potsherd covered with silver dross; such a tongue and heart are of no real worth, although sometimes they make a show of it, as dross doth of silver.
Dissembleth, or, carrieth himself like another man; pretends love and kindness; which sense seems to agree best both with the next clause of this verse, and with the two following verses,
Covered by deceit; with false professions of love. Showed before the whole congregation; instead of that secrecy and impunity, which by this art he designed and promised to himself, he shall be brought to public shame and punishment.
Whoso diggeth a pit, that another may fall into it. It is a metaphor from hunters, who used to dig deep pits, and then to cover them slightly with earth, that wild beasts passing that way might fall into them, and sometimes in the heat of pursuit fell into them themselves.
That rolleth a stone, to wit, up the hill, with design to do mischief to some person or thing with it.
Hateth those that are afflicted by it, because by his calumnies he hath made them his enemies.
A flattering mouth; which, though it be more smooth and plausible than a slandering mouth, yet is in truth no less pernicious, betraying others either to sin, or to danger and mischief.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Proverbs 26". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20