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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Proverbs 11

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Blessings to the Righteous and Upright

Proverbs 11:1

Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord,
But a just weight is His delight.

a. Dishonest scales are an abomination: The term abomination was reserved for terrible, horrific things. This shows just how deeply God cares about simple honesty and fairness. He regards dishonest scales as an abomination.

b. A just weight is His delight: To the degree that God condemns the dishonest who defraud, to the same degree He has delight in just and fair business practices.

i. The Law of Moses clearly commanded God’s people to have honest scales (Leviticus 19:35-36 and Deuteronomy 25:13-16).

Proverbs 11:2

When pride comes, then comes shame;
But with the humble is wisdom.

a. When pride comes, then comes shame: The proud man or woman fears shame. Ironically, they cultivate shame and disgrace for themselves. One significant reason for this is that God resists the proud (James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5).

b. With the humble is wisdom: There is great wisdom in humility because it recognizes the truth about God and the truth about self, especially in relation to others. This humility is an important foundation for true wisdom.

i. The humble: “Lowly (AV, RV) is a rare word, found only here and (as a verb) in Micah 6:8 (‘walk humbly with thy God’), where it suggests the biddable spirit that is the opposite of the insubordination just considered.” (Kidner)

ii. “The humble man looks for nothing but justice; has the meanest opinion of himself; expects nothing in the way of commendation or praise; and can never be disappointed but in receiving praise, which he neither expects nor desires.” (Clarke)

Proverbs 11:3

The integrity of the upright will guide them,
But the perversity of the unfaithful will destroy them.

a. The integrity of the upright will guide them: The man or woman who lives with integrity—a trustworthy life lived without shame or secrets—is recognized as upright and will have their integrity to guide them.

b. The perversity of the unfaithful will destroy them: The false and crooked ways of the unfaithful will bring those who practice them to destruction.

Proverbs 11:4

Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
But righteousness delivers from death.

a. Riches do not profit in the day of wrath: The book of Proverbs recognizes the benefit of riches, but also their limitations. Earthly wealth is useless in the day of wrath.

i. John Trapp used two historical examples to illustrate the truth that riches do not profit in the day of wrath: “Wherefore should I die, being so rich? Said that wretched Cardinal Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester, in Henry VI’s time. Fie, quoth he, will not death be hired? Will money do nothing? His riches could not reprieve him.”

b. But righteousness delivers from death: We can and should use our present earthly wealth to store up treasure in heaven (Luke 12:33-34), which will bring profit in the day of wrath.

Proverbs 11:5

The righteousness of the blameless will direct his way aright,
But the wicked will fall by his own wickedness.

a. The righteousness of the blameless will direct his way aright: The blameless man or woman finds some rest in the confidence that God’s guiding eye is upon the righteous.

b. The wicked will fall by his own wickedness: The wicked man or woman has no such confidence. God does not need to specially intervene in the fall of the wicked; he or she can fall by his own wickedness.

Proverbs 11:6

The righteousness of the upright will deliver them,
But the unfaithful will be caught by their lust.

a. The righteousness of the upright will deliver them: The upright will have their reward; their righteousness will be blessed and they will be delivered.

b. The unfaithful will be caught by their lust: As the upright are delivered, the unfaithful will be caught—and by their own lust, receiving the penalty of their own unfaithful desires.

Proverbs 11:7

When a wicked man dies, his expectation will perish,
And the hope of the unjust perishes.

a. His expectation will perish: The wicked man or woman often expects blessing and goodness, but that expectation will perish when they die and face the judgment to come to all men and women (Hebrews 9:27).

b. The hope of the unjust perishes: The hopes of the wicked end up only being wishes, and wishes that are bitterly disappointed.

i. “That is to say, the expectation or hope of the wicked lies wholly on this side of the grave, and perishes at death.” (Morgan)

ii. “Hope was not made for the wicked; and yet they are the very persons that most abound in it! They hope to be saved, and get at last to the kingdom of God; though they have their face towards perdition, and refuse to turn. But their hope goes no farther than the grave.” (Clarke)

Proverbs 11:8

The righteous is delivered from trouble,
And it comes to the wicked instead.

a. The righteous is delivered from trouble: God promises deliverance to His righteous ones. Whatever trouble they experience in this life is only temporary, and they will see His deliverance in this life and especially in the life to come.

b. It comes to the wicked instead: For the righteous, this life is the worst trouble they will ever experience. For the wicked, their greatest trouble is yet to come.

i. “The Israelites were delivered out of the trouble of the Red Sea, but the Egyptians were drowned by it (Exodus 14:21-28). Mordecai was rescued from the gallows, on which Haman was then hanged (Esther 5:14; 7:10). Peter was snatched from death, while his persecutors and jailers were condemned.” (Bridges)

Proverbs 11:9

The hypocrite with his mouth destroys his neighbor,
But through knowledge the righteous will be delivered.

a. With his mouth destroys his neighbor: One of the identifying marks of the hypocrite is that they destroy people with their words. Sincere love looks to build others up, not to destroy them.

i. “Haman, under the pretense of loyalty, sought to destroy a whole nation (Esther 3:8-13). Ziba, under the same false cover, wanted to destroy his neighbor (2 Samuel 16:1-4; compare 19:26-27).” (Bridges)

b. Through knowledge the righteous will be delivered: God’s deliverance comes to the righteous through their knowledge, both in the sense of wisdom and in the sense of personal relationship with God.

Proverbs 11:10

When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices;
And when the wicked perish, there is jubilation.

a. When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices: God gives favor among men with His righteous ones (Proverbs 3:4), and the community rejoices when they are blessed.

i. “When such men are encouraged and advanced into places of power and trust, the city rejoiceth; the citizens or subjects of that government rejoice, because they confidently expect justice and tranquillity, and many other benefits, by their administration of public affairs.” (Poole)

ii. “However drab the world makes out virtue to be, it appreciates the boon of it in public life.” (Kidner, cited in Ross)

b. When the wicked perish, there is jubilation: As much as the community rejoices over the blessing of the righteous, they also celebrate the calamity and end of the wicked. Wicked men and women are not missed when they pass.

i. “Rome rejoiced at the death of Nero, and the public rejoiced in the French Revolution at the death of Robespierre.” (Waltke)

Proverbs 11:11

By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted,
But it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.

a. The city is exalted: When good comes to the upright, it is good for the entire community. Their blessing and prosperity extends beyond themselves.

b. It is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked: The words of the wicked can even destroy a city, leading to its overthrow.

i. This mouth of the wicked can overthrow a city either spiritually or politically. It can be done through the promotion of spiritual or social deception. “Whether he be a seedsman of sedition or a seducer of the people, a Sheba or a Shebna, a carnal gospeller or a godless politician, whose drift is to formalise and enervate the power of truth, till at length they leave us a heartless and sapless religion.” (Trapp)

Proverbs 11:12

He who is devoid of wisdom despises his neighbor,
But a man of understanding holds his peace.

a. He who is devoid of wisdom despises his neighbor: The way of wisdom is also the way of love and respect. When one despises his neighbor, it isn’t evidence of superior wisdom and discernment, but a failure of true wisdom.

b. A man of understanding holds his peace: Men and women of wisdom (understanding) recognize there is a time and place to hold back one’s outrage. They know when love and respect would compel them to hold their peace.

Proverbs 11:13

A talebearer reveals secrets,
But he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.

a. A talebearer reveals secrets: The unfaithful gossip, the uncontrolled talker (a talebearer) loves the power and intrigue of revealing secrets. For them, such secrets are a form of power that they use for their own advancement.

i. A talebearer: “Or, he that goeth about (from one place or person to another, as the manner of such is) telling tales, making it his business to scatter reports, revealeth secrets.” (Poole)

ii. “It is not safe to be close to this cruel man who trifles with the happiness of his fellow creatures. For as readily as he betrays a confidence about a neighbor to us, so he will betray a confidence about us to someone else.” (Bridges)

b. He who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter: The man or woman of wisdom—those of a faithful spirit—knows there is an appropriate time to conceal a matter. There are times when love and wisdom guide to privacy.

Proverbs 11:14

Where there is no counsel, the people fall;
But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.

a. Where there is no counsel, the people fall: People need leadership and guidance. God has given systems and structures of authority, and those in leadership need to be able to give wise counsel.

b. In the multitude of counselors there is safety: There is great value and safety in receiving opinion and input from the multitude of counselors. No man or woman has all gifts and wisdom, and a multitude of counselors may work well to bring greater wisdom and safety in decisions.

i. “One special thing the primitive Christians prayed for the emperor was, that God would send him Senatum fidelem, a faithful council.” (Trapp)

Proverbs 11:15

He who is surety for a stranger will suffer,
But one who hates being surety is secure.

a. He who is surety for a stranger will suffer: To promise to pay the debts of a stranger is to invite trouble. It is never a surprise when one suffers because of such a foolish promise.

b. One who hates being a surety is secure: There is security in being responsible only for one’s own debts, for the things that they have control over.

Proverbs 11:16

A gracious woman retains honor,
But ruthless men retain riches.

a. A gracious woman retains honor: A mark of a truly gracious woman is that she carries with herself a sense of honor and dignity.

i. A gracious woman: “Heb. a woman of grace and favour, i.e. one who by her meekness, and modesty, and prudence, and other virtues, renders herself acceptable and amiable to God and to men.” (Poole)

b. Ruthless men retain riches: Character and honor are important to the gracious woman, but all the ruthless care about is riches. Wealth is their god.

i. Some believe that ruthless men does not have a negative sense in this proverb, and that it simply speaks of the reward that comes to the strong. “The method of this proverb is of comparison rather than of contrast, the idea being that a ‘gracious woman’ will defend honor with the same strength and persistency as ‘violent men,’ or ‘strong men,’ as the Authorized Version had it, will retain riches. The word ‘violent’ here suggests evil rather than good.” (Morgan)

Proverbs 11:17

The merciful man does good for his own soul,
But he who is cruel troubles his own flesh.

a. The merciful man does good for his own soul: The one who shows mercy to others will be shown mercy (2 Samuel 22:26), and this is good for the soul.

i. The merciful man: “The kindness spoken of is ḥesed, steadfast love, like God’s.” (Kidner)

b. He who is cruel troubles his own flesh: The one who is unmerciful and cruel to others will find that it troubles himself. They measure they use for others will also be measured to them (Matthew 7:2).

i. “The word ‘trouble’ may recall Joshua 7:25-26—Achan troubled Israel.” (Ross)

Proverbs 11:18

The wicked man does deceptive work,
But he who sows righteousness will have a sure reward.

a. The wicked man does deceptive work: When someone works with deception and dishonesty, it is evidence of wickedness. The wise and honest person knows that work must be done in a way marked by honesty and integrity.

b. He who sows righteousness will have a sure reward: Those who do their work in righteousness—marked by honesty and integrity—will see the sure reward of their work. Their righteous work is like good seed that has been sown.

Proverbs 11:19

As righteousness leads to life,
So he who pursues evil pursues it to his own death.

a. As righteousness leads to life: For Solomon, this was a self-evident fact. Using the same logic he could have written, “As the sun rises in the east.” The path of righteousness is a path to life.

b. He who pursues evil pursues it to his own death: The way of evil is also a path, and it leads to death. Many people sacrifice a lot in their pursuit of the evil way, but their only reward is the destination of death.

i. Pursues evil: “That follows it hotfoot – as Asael followed Abner; that is, wholly carried after it, and thinks to have a great catch of it, that works ‘all uncleanness with greediness.’ [Ephesians 4:19].” (Trapp)

Proverbs 11:20

Those who are of a perverse heart are an abomination to the Lord,
But the blameless in their ways are His delight.

a. Those who are of a perverse heart are an abomination to the Lord: There is a sense in which we are the victims of sin, but another and perhaps greater sense in which we are the willing participants and perpetrators of sin. God is right to regard the perverse heart of man as an abomination before Him.

b. The blameless in their ways are His delight: Men and women can delight God. Especially from a new covenant perspective, we see thatthe blameless in their ways are those who have been forgiven and declared righteous because of the person and work of Jesus Christ. These are those who are His delight, God delights in them as He delights in His own Son.

i. We can say that this proverb hints at the transformation the new covenant promised. “The proverb calls for a transformation of human affections to correspond with God’s affections. One must be sincere in his heart and constant in his way. No in-between ground is granted.” (Waltke)

Proverbs 11:21

Though they join forces, the wicked will not go unpunished;
But the posterity of the righteous will be delivered.

a. Though they join forces, the wicked will not go unpunished: Individually, man is not strong enough to resist God; collectively man is also not strong enough to resist God. God judged mankind when they joined forces to resist God in the days of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9).

b. But the posterity of the righteous will be delivered: God’s blessing will be upon His righteous ones, and upon their descendants (their posterity).

Proverbs 11:22

As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout,
So is a lovely woman who lacks discretion.

a. As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout: Solomon used a humorous and absurd word picture. No one would think of putting a ring of gold in a swine’s snout; the ornament doesn’t match the thing adorned.

b. So is a lovely woman who lacks discretion: It doesn’t fit to put a golden ring in a pig’s snout; so it doesn’t fit to have a lovely woman who does not have the wisdom or self-control that mark discretion. The power and influence of that woman’s beauty isn’t enough to make up for her folly.

i. Lacks discretion: “The word is literally ‘taste’; this can mean physical taste (Exodus 16:31), intellectual discretion (1 Samuel 25:33—Abigail had it), or ethical judgment (Psalm 119:66). Here the description is probably of a woman with no moral sensibility, no propriety—unchaste.” (Ross)

ii. “Note that the woman has actually abandoned discretion; an immoral way of life is implied.” (Garrett)

iii. “It implies that she has turned herself into a boorish animal in her dress, speech, and behavior. In fact, she is worse than a pig. The sow by nature is boorish, but this woman ‘turns aside’ from her dignity. The misplaced ornaments, instead of enhancing her beauty, make her look foolishly wasteful, grotesque, and repulsive. Instead of gaining honor by her natural gift, she wins ridicule (Pro 11:16). The proverb instructs youth to give priority to inner grace, not outward beauty.” (Waltke)

iv. “If the thought of the contrast be carried out a little, it will be recognized that the swine will speedily destroy the luster of the gold, and so a woman lacking discretion will surely destroy her own beauty.” (Morgan)

Proverbs 11:23

The desire of the righteous is only good,
But the expectation of the wicked is wrath.

a. The desire of the righteous is only good: The good character of a righteous man or woman is reflected in their desires. They desire that which is good.

b. The expectation of the wicked is wrath: The good desires of the righteous will be fulfilled, and that which is due to the wicked will come to them.

Proverbs 11:24

There is one who scatters, yet increases more;
And there is one who withholds more than is right,
But it leads to poverty.

a. There is one who scatters, yet increases more: This refers to the generous man or woman who scatters, yet not in the sense of wasteful distribution. This is Biblical generosity, which is like the scattering of seed (2 Corinthians 9:8-13) that will later bring a great harvest (increases more). We never lose when we give generously unto God and His work.

b. There is one who withholds more than is right: To be stingy and to hold on to more than is right is to lead to poverty. When we are selfish and ungenerous with what God has given us, we should expect that God would grant less to us—leading eventually to poverty.

Proverbs 11:25

The generous soul will be made rich,
And he who waters will also be watered himself.

a. The generous soul will be made rich: God has promised to bless the generous soul and will do so with riches in this world, the next, or both.

i. The generous soul: “Heb. the soul of blessing; that man who is a blessing to others, who blesseth them, i.e. doeth good to them, as blessing is oft used for a gift, as Genesis 33:11; 1 Samuel 25:27; 2 Corinthians 9:5.” (Poole)

ii. Rich is literally fat, and so translated in the King James Version (The liberal soul will be made fat). “Especially in countries where people have little to eat, the metaphor ‘to be fattened’ connotes wealth, abundance, full satisfaction, and health (cf. Deuteronomy 31:20).” (Waltke)

b. He who waters will also be watered himself: When we give, God knows how to give unto us. We can’t water others without being watered ourselves. We are never the loser for our God-guided generosity. Jesus told us that it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).

i. “If I want to get water I must give water. Though that seems a strange way of self-serving I pray you try it.” (Spurgeon)

ii. “The minister is refreshed by his own message of salvation to his people. The Sunday school teacher learns many valuable lessons in the work of instruction. Every spiritual gift, every active grace, is increased by exercise, while its efficiency withers by neglect.” (Bridges)

Proverbs 11:26

The people will curse him who withholds grain,
But blessing will be on the head of him who sells it.

a. The people will curse him who withholds grain: This has in mind the seller of grain who refuses to sell hoping to manipulate the market and gain a much higher price later. Such a selfish man or woman will not only be opposed by God, but also cursed by the people. God is a remarkably generous God; selfishness comes from the fallen nature of man.

i. “The grain trader had larger stores at his disposal, which he presumably could hold back in times of shortage to raise the price.” (Waltke)

ii. This verse doesn’t establish a regulated price for grain, yet it protects the buyer by warning the seller of the eventual consequences of their action. People will curse him.

iii. Charles Spurgeon thought this spoke to how we should regard financial markets and transactions: “Laws which interfere between buyer and seller, master and workman, by any form of law, are blunders and nuisances. Parliaments and princes have hung on to the antiquated absurdity of regulating prices, but the Holy Ghost does nothing of the kind. All the attempts of men to control the price of bread and wheat is sheer folly, as the history of France may well prove. The market goes best when it is left alone, and so in our text, there is no law enacted and no penalty threatened, except that which the nature of things makes inevitable. God knows political economy, whether men do or not, and leaving the coarse machinery of police regulations, he puts the offender under a form of self- acting legislature which is far more efficient.”

b. Blessing will be on the head of him who sells it: The one who does good by providing grain and goods for sale will be blessed by the community. This proverb doesn’t refer to someone who gives away grain, but simply to someone who sells it, making it available at a fair and good price.

i. The principle is spiritual as well as practical. When we distribute instead of hoarding, blessing will come. Spurgeon applied this to the “distribution” of the gospel in the 19th century missionary movement and the blessing that came to churches because of it. “Mark this, from the day when Fuller, Carey, Sutcliffe, and others, met together to send out missionaries to India the sun began to dawn of a gracious revival which is not over yet, for bad as the state of the Churches now is, yet it is marvellously an improvement upon anything before the age of missions…I believe that the neglect of sending the word to the heathen brought a blight and a curse upon the Churches, which is now happily removed.”

Proverbs 11:27

He who earnestly seeks good finds favor,
But trouble will come to him who seeks evil.

a. He who earnestly seeks good finds favor: God honors the one who earnestly seeks good, and that one may be blessed with favor among God and men. This is especially true when the good sought is God Himself (Deuteronomy 4:29, Matthew 7:7).

b. Trouble will come to him who seeks evil: Seeking good brings favor; but seeking evil brings trouble. The trouble is often simply finding the evil that one seeks.

i. Him who seeks evil: “The ceaseless energy of Satan’s servants in seeking evil puts to shame our indifference!” (Bridges)

Proverbs 11:28

He who trusts in his riches will fall,
But the righteous will flourish like foliage.

a. He who trusts in his riches will fall: Proverbs teaches us the value of money and wealth, but also teaches us to never trust in riches. To put trust in riches is to invite our own fall.

i. “Riches were never true to any that trusted to them.” (Trapp)

b. The righteous will flourish like foliage: The righteous man or woman does not trust in riches, but in God. This leads to a truly flourishing life.

Proverbs 11:29

He who troubles his own house will inherit the wind,
And the fool will be servant to the wise of heart.

a. He who troubles his own house will inherit the wind: To bring trouble to one’s own family is to prepare a future full of storm and difficulty. To inherit the wind is to have a future of storm and trouble.

i. “Achan, after whom the Valley of Achor was named (Joshua 7:26), provides a classic example of the proverb. Nabal, by selfishly hoarding his food and water for his own men, hung disaster over his household, but Abigail, by her wisdom, saved it (1 Samuel 25:17, 33).” (Waltke)

b. The fool will be servant to the wise of heart: Because God’s blessing is on the wise God will lift up the wise of heart. The foolish man or woman should expect to end up working for the wise man or woman.

Proverbs 11:30

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
And he who wins souls is wise.

a. The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life: A righteous life bears fruit, and it gives life to others. The New Testament will later speak of the fruit of the Spirit in the life of God’s people (Galatians 5:22-23, Ephesians 5:9). This is fruit like a tree of life to others. It brings shade and sustenance to others.

i. “The fruit of the righteous — that is to say his life — is not a thing fastened upon him, but it grows out of him…“Look to it more and more that your religion is real, true, natural, vital — not artificial, constrained, superficial, a thing of times, days, places, a fungus produced by excitement, a fermentation generated by meetings and stirred by oratory. We all need a religion which can live either in a wilderness, or in a crowd; a religion which will show itself in every walk of life, and in every company.” (Spurgeon)

b. He who wins souls is wise: One of the greatest exercises of wisdom is to win souls to God and His kingdom. It takes wisdom to love, give, and winsomely answer those who have yet to come into God’s kingdom.

  • We use the word win in romance; to win souls, you must love them.
  • We use the word win in war; to win souls is a battle.
  • We use the word win in sports; to win souls is a competition.

i. “God himself wins not souls without wisdom, for the eternal plan of salvation was dictated by an infallible judgment, and in every line of it infinite skill is apparent…There is as much wisdom to be seen in the new creation as in the old. In a sinner saved, there is as much of God to be beheld as in a universe rising out of nothing.” (Spurgeon)

ii. He who wins souls: “Heb. that catcheth souls, as a fowler doth birds; that maketh it his design and business, and useth all his skill and diligence, to gain souls to God, and to pluck them out of the snare of the devil.” (Poole)

iii. “The phrase ‘to win souls (i.e. people)’ can, however, also mean ‘to take lives’, when the context demands it (as in 1 Kings 19:4)…But the Old Testament knows the metaphor of capturing people with ideas or influences…and the promise, ‘thou shalt catch men’, was doubly apt if it was meant to awaken echoes of this proverb.” (Kidner)

iv. “It is implied in our text that there are souls which need winning. Ah me, all souls of men are lost by nature.” (Spurgeon)

v. “‘He that winneth souls is wise.’ I do not ask you how he did it. He sang the gospel, and you did not like it, but if he won souls he was wise. Soul-winners have all their own ways, and if they do but win souls they are wise. I will tell you what is not wise, and will not be thought so at the last, namely to go about the churches doing nothing yourself and railing at all the Lord’s useful servants.” (Spurgeon)

Proverbs 11:31

If the righteous will be recompensed on the earth,
How much more the ungodly and the sinner.

a. If the righteous will be recompenses on the earth: We see that many times God’s righteous men and woman see at least something of the reward of their righteousness while they are still on the earth. A righteous life is a blessed life.

b. How much more the ungodly and the sinner: The righteous will receive their reward, and often on this earth. It is sobering to consider how much more is this true of the ungodly and the sinner.

©2017 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission

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