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David Guzik :: Study Guide for Proverbs 16

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Of Righteousness and Kings


Proverbs 16:1

The preparations of the heart belong to man,
But the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.

a. The preparations of the heart belong to man: God plans and prepares, and because man is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), it is in the nature of man to make preparations of the heart.

b. But the answer of the tongue is from the Lord: When wisdom is given voice (the answer of the tongue), it is from the Lord—beyond the preparations of man’s heart.

i. “A somewhat obscure proverb which recognizes that man has to exercise his own reason in making his plans, but that he is dependent on the Lord for the answer of the tongue.” (Morgan)

Proverbs 16:2

All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
But the Lord weighs the spirits.

a. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes: By instinct, men and women justify themselves and see their own ways as pure. Some of the most criminal and violent people have though themselves pure in their own eyes.

i. “They who are best acquainted with mankind will tell you that self- righteousness is not the peculiar sin of the virtuous, but that most remarkably, it flourishes best where there appears to be the least soil for it.” (Spurgeon)

b. But the Lord weighs the spirits: Despite the constant self-justification of men and women, God fairly and accurately weighs the spirits of all. God knows and God measures.

i. “The conclusion of the matter is that we deceive ourselves so easily and therefore cannot fully evaluate ourselves. God, by his Spirit and through his Word, provides the penetrating evaluation.” (Ross)

Proverbs 16:3

Commit your works to the Lord,
And your thoughts will be established.

a. Commit your works to the Lord: Every man and woman should commit their works to the Lord. They should depend on God in their works and they should do those works as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23).

i. Commit your works: “Heb. Roll, &c., as a man rolls a burden to another, which is too heavy for himself, imploring his help. Refer all thy actions and concerns to God, and to his glory.” (Poole)

ii. “The admonition commit to (golel, lit. ‘roll to/upon’ cf. Genesis 29:3, 8, 10; Psalm 22:9, 37:5) connotes a sense of finality; roll it unto the Lord and leave it there.” (Waltke)

iii. “Our activities and plans (AV, RV, thoughts) will be no less our own for being his: only less burdensome (commit is lit. ‘roll’, as in Psalm 37:5), and better made.” (Kidner)

b. Your thoughts will be established: Usually we think of committing our thoughts or plans to the Lord, then committing our works to Him. Here Solomon reversed that order, and told us to first commit our works, then trust that our thoughts and plans will be established.

Proverbs 16:4

The Lord has made all for Himself,
Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom.

a. The Lord has made all for Himself: God, as creator of all things, has the right to claim all things for Himself.

b. Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom: God’s plan and providence includes the destiny of the wicked. He has appointed them for the day of doom.

i. “The general meaning is that there are ultimately no loose ends in God’s world: everything will be put to some use and matched with its proper fate. It does not mean that God is the author of evil.” (Kidner)

ii. “He does not make the wicked or ungodly man; but when man has made himself such, even then God bears with him. But if he repent not, when the measure of his iniquity is filled up, he shall fall under the wrath of God his Maker.” (Clarke)

iii. John Trapp was among those who believed that this proverb did not teach the predestination of the damned: “For God may, to show his sovereignty, annihilate his creature; but to appoint a reasonable creature to an estate of endless pain, without respect of his desert, cannot agree to the unspotted justice of God.”

Proverbs 16:5

Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord;
Though they join forces, none will go unpunished.

a. Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord: God resists the proud (James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5) and regards them as an abomination. The proud man or woman imitates Satan in his proud rebellion against God (Isaiah 14:12-15).

b. Though they join forces, none will go unpunished: One proud man or woman cannot succeed against God, but neither can many proud men or women. Even if they join forces against God as they did at Babel (Genesis 11:1-9), they will not go unpunished, even as at Babel.

Proverbs 16:6

In mercy and truth
Atonement is provided for iniquity;
And by the fear of the Lord one departs from evil.

a. In mercy and truth atonement is provided: God in His mercy and truth has provided atonement for iniquity. God’s mercy prompted the great sacrifice of Jesus Messiah on the cross, and His truth made it necessary to make atonement in a way that honored the righteousness of God.

i. “This may be misunderstood, as if a man, by showing mercy and acting according to truth, could atone for his own iniquity. The Hebrew text is not ambiguous: bechesed veemeth yechapper avon; ‘By mercy and truth he shall atone for iniquity.’ He-God, by his mercy, in sending his son Jesus into the world,-’shall make an atonement for iniquity’ according to his truth-the word which he declared by his holy prophets since the world began.” (Clarke)

ii. To paraphrase a thought from Bridges: Mercy engages; truth fulfills. The ransom is provided by mercy and accepted by truth. Both sat together in the eternal council. In Jesus, both entered into the world together.

iii. Some commentators believe that this refers to man’s mercy and truth, but are careful to point out that it does not teach the idea of self-atonement or self-salvation. “The second line indicates that the mercy (ḥesed) and truth (better, loyalty and faithfulness, RSV) are man’s here, not God’s…This is not a denial of grace, but a characteristic demand for ‘fruits that befit repentance’.” (Kidner)

b. By the fear of the Lord one departs from evil: The great principle of the fear of the Lord is not only the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7, 9:10), it is also the foundation of a God-honoring life. To live in the fear of the Lord is to depart from evil.

Proverbs 16:7

When a man’s ways please the Lord,
He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.

a. When a man’s ways please the Lord: It is possible for a man or woman to live a life that pleases God. This isn’t the idea that we can be perfectly pleasing to God before our salvation is completed in resurrection and glorification. Instead the idea is that in general, a man or woman can honor and please the Lord with their life.

b. He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him: One of God’s blessings on the man or woman who pleases Him is to give them peace with others, even extending to their enemies.

i. “God is the guardian and defence of all that fear and love him; and it is truly astonishing to see how wondrously God works in their behalf, raising them up friends, and turning their enemies into friends.” (Clarke)

ii. “A life style pleasing to God disarms social hostility.” (Ross)

Proverbs 16:8

Better is a little with righteousness,
Than vast revenues without justice.

a. Better is a little with righteousness: Sometimes those who are righteous in this world have little of the material comforts of this world.

b. Than vast revenues without justice: Someone who has great wealth (vast revenues) but little righteousness is worse off than the righteous man or woman who has little materially in this world. Vast revenues without justice can never give a peaceful conscience, freedom from guilt and sin, the love and joy of God, and a hundred other things the righteous enjoy.

i. It isn’t that the only two options in life are to have either little with righteousness or vast revenues without justice. It’s that when those two options are compared, the first is clearly better.

ii. “Was not the widow of Zarephath richer with her scanty fare than Jezebel in her royal attire? …If godliness is great riches in this life, what will it be in eternity?” (Bridges)

Proverbs 16:9

A man’s heart plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps.

a. A man’s heart plans his way: This is not a bad thing. We, as the God in whose image we are made, think about and plan our way. Many people would do well to more carefully plan their way.

b. But the Lord directs his steps: We plan as we can and should, but we should never think that our ability to plan makes us lord over our lives. It is the Lord who directs our steps. Every plan we make should be held in humility before God and surrender to His ultimate will.

i. “A man may plan his road to the last detail, but he cannot implement his planning, unless it coincides with Yahweh’s plan for him.” (Waltke)

ii. “A man can and does devise his own way under the direction of his heart. If desire be evil, the way devised is evil. If desire be good, the way devised is good. But that is not all the truth about life. This is also true: ‘Jehovah directeth his steps’…That is to say that no man can step outside the government of God, no man can devise a way that enables him to escape from God.” (Morgan)

iii. This is true with both good and bad plans. “The point is the contrast between what we actually plan and what actually happens—God determines that. As Paul later said, God is able to do abundantly more than we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).” (Ross)

iv. “As rational agents we think, consult, act freely. We are dependent agents, and the Lord exercises his own power in permitting, overruling, or furthering our actions. Thus man proposes, and God disposes.” (Bridges)

Proverbs 16:10

Divination is on the lips of the king;
His mouth must not transgress in judgment.

a. Divination is on the lips of the king: The word divination is used here not in the sense of seeking occult or demonic guidance. It used simply in the sense of wise guidance, the wisdom that should be on the lips of the king.

i. “Heb. divination, which is sometimes taken in a good sense for prudence, as it is Isaiah 3:2. A great sagacity and piercing judgment to discern dubious and difficult cases.” (Poole)

ii. Divination: “The word qesem is used throughout the Bible in the negative sense of ‘divination’; here it seems merely to mean his words from an oracular sentence, as if he speaks for God (see Numbers 22:7; 23:23; and, for a popular opinion of such, 2 Samuel 14:20).” (Ross)

b. His mouth must not transgress in judgment: The same lips that must speak wisdom and discernment should not also be used to go beyond God’s wisely appointed boundaries of judgment.

i. “The Old Testament lends no support to the idea that the king can do no wrong; rather, he is a man under authority: Deuteronomy 17:18-20.” (Kidner)

Proverbs 16:11

Honest weights and scales are the Lord’s;
All the weights in the bag are His work.

a. Honest weights and scales are the Lord’s: Fair business and measures are so pleasing to God that it can be said that honest measures belong to Him. All of God’s measurements and assessments are fair and true. The proper measure does not come from the king, nor does it belong to the king. The right measure comes from God and belongs to Him.

i. “Balance [weights] refers to a stationary balance with beams and bolts, and scale (see Proverbs 11:1) possibly refers to the hand-held balance.” (Waltke)

b. All the weights in the bag are His work: This assumes that the weights in the bag are those mentioned in the previous line—honest weights and scales. Fair and honest business is God’s business, His work.

i. “Verse 11 does not mention the king and is theologically important in that, using the concrete image of scales and measures, it teaches that the principle of justice is derived from God. Equity is not a human invention, and thus kings do not have the authority to suspend or violate the laws of fairness.” (Garrett)

Proverbs 16:12

It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness,
For a throne is established by righteousness.

a. It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness: Solomon admitted that it was possible for kings to commit wickedness. Some think that because someone is a king or leader all they do is justified. Sadly, Solomon became a king who committed wickedness (1 Kings 11:1-10).

b. A throne is established by righteousness: The righteous life of a king invites God’s blessing upon his life and reign. Because of this great potential and influence, it is an even greater sin for kings to commit wickedness.

i. “if this proverb had been written later, after the monarchy had disintegrated, there would have been a greater variance between the ideal and the real. But coming from the golden age of Solomon, the ideal was still credible.” (Ross)

Proverbs 16:13

Righteous lips are the delight of kings,
And they love him who speaks what is right.

a. Righteous lips are the delight of kings: In their positions of authority, it is important for kings to hear from those who speak honestly and wisely. Therefore they find delight in righteous lips.

i. It is always important for kings and leaders to hear the truth from others and not mere flattery. “Most princes are held by their parasites, who soothe them up in their sins, and smooth them up with fair words, which soak into them as oil doth into earthen vessels.” (Trapp)

b. They love him who speaks what is right: Even when a man speaks what may be difficult for the king to hear, the one who speaks what is right will gain the love and respect of those who are in authority.

Proverbs 16:14

As messengers of death is the king’s wrath,
But a wise man will appease it.

a. As messengers of death is the king’s wrath: When a king or man of authority is angry, his reaction can bring death or a death-like fear to others. This is true of earthly kings; it is much more true of the King of Kings. To be the target of His wrath is to receive messengers of death.

i. “Solomon’s kingdom is said to be established only after he rid his realm of the wrongdoers (1 Kings 2:22-46).” (Waltke)

ii. “Queen Elizabeth was so reserved, that all about her stood in a reverent awe of her very presence and aspect, but much more of her least frown or check; wherewith some of them, who thought they might best presume of her favour, have been so suddenly daunted and planet stricken that they could not lay down the grief thereof but in their grave.” (Trapp)

b. But a wise man will appease it: Wisdom can help us have the right reaction even in the difficult moments when a king or person of authority is angry and shows their wrath. The wise man or woman will especially know how to appease the wrath of the King of Kings—not by their own works and merits, but by receiving what God has provided in the person and work of Jesus Messiah.

Proverbs 16:15

In the light of the king’s face is life,
And his favor is like a cloud of the latter rain.

a. In the light of the king’s face is life: The approval and favor of an earthly king could mean success or failure for anyone in his kingdom. To have his shining countenance give approval (the light of the king’s face) meant you were safe in the king’s favor and had life.

i. “The saying describes the benefits of having a king who is pleased with his subjects. The king’s brightened face signifies his delight and thus means life for those around him (as opposed to his wrath).” (Ross)

b. His favor is like a cloud of the latter rain: The welcome and approval of a king is like life-giving rain, especially the latter rain which ensured a good harvest. This proverb is especially true regarding the King of Kings. The favor of His countenance is a blessing to receive (Numbers 6:25) and it gives light and life.

i. “As acceptable as those clouds which bring the latter rain, whereby the fruits are filled and ripened a little before the harvest; of which see Deuteronomy 11:14 Job 29:23 James 5:7.” (Poole)

ii. “The early rains prepare the ground for plowing and sowing and the latter rains provide the last bit of moisture on which the cereal harvest depends.” (Waltke)

Proverbs 16:16

How much better to get wisdom than gold!
And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.

a. How much better to get wisdom than gold: The riches of this world have their use, but it is better to have wisdom than gold. Wisdom is much more helpful and useful in this life, and it is far more profitable for the life to come.

i. “Who believes this, though spoken by the wisest of men, under Divine inspiration?” (Clarke)

b. To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver: One should make the main pursuit of their life to gain wisdom and understanding in the fear of the Lord. This has value far more than gold or silver, but it also often leads to material prosperity as it did for Solomon (1 Kings 3:5-15).

i. “Wisdom and wealth are not incompatible; but this comparison is between wealth without wisdom and wisdom without wealth.” (Ross)

Proverbs 16:17

The highway of the upright is to depart from evil;
He who keeps his way preserves his soul.

a. The highway of the upright is to depart from evil: The upright man or woman knows that the path of their life—their highway—should move away from evil, not towards it or with it.

b. He who keeps his way preserves his soul: The one who walks well upon the right way will find his life preserved. He will stay away from the evil way that may cost him his life, his soul.

Proverbs 16:18

Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before a fall.

a. Pride goes before destruction: God is opposed to the proud (James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5) and the proud man or woman is an abomination to God (Proverbs 16:5). With God so set against the proud, no wonder that pride goes before destruction.

i. “The special evil of pride is that it opposes the first principle of wisdom (the fear of the Lord) and the two great commandments.” (Kidner)

ii. “A bulging wall is near a downfall. Swelling is a dangerous symptom in the body; so is pride in the soul.” (Trapp)

iii. “So far as any man is proud, he is kin to the devil, and a stranger to God and to himself.” (Baxter, cited in Bridges)

b. And a haughty spirit before a fall: One of the many ways that pride is evident is in a haughty spirit—an attitude that communicates superiority over other people. Those who think themselves higher than others are ready to fall under the fair judgment of God.

i. “The proverb gives the strong impression of saying the same thing twice…In this way its truth is underscored and clarified; the proud are defined more precisely as the haughty in spirit.” (Waltke)

Proverbs 16:19

Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly,
Than to divide the spoil with the proud.

a. Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly: Because pride is an abomination to God (Proverbs 16:5) and leads to destruction (Proverbs 16:18), it isn’t so bad to live among the lowly and to have a humble spirit.

b. Than to divide the spoil with the proud: A humble life among the lowly is better than having reward (spoil) among the proud. This is because proud people are not pleasant company, and because it is never good to join those whom God is set against.

i. “A humble man is worth his weight in gold; he hath far more comfort in his losses than proud giants have in their rapines and robberies.” (Trapp)

Proverbs 16:20

He who heeds the word wisely will find good,
And whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he.

a. He who heeds the word wisely will find good: Obedience to God—to heed His word and to do it wisely—will always bring good. This thought also suggests that there are unwise or foolish ways to heed the word, perhaps as the religious leaders in Jesus’ day could strain out a gnat and swallow a camel (Matthew 23:24).

b. Whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he: The good the obedient will find also comes because they have a true and confident trust in God. They can happily and calmly rest in the good God who loves and cares for them.

i. “I have read a story of an old Doctor of the Church, who, going out one morning, met a beggar, and said to him, ‘I wish you a good day.’ ‘Sir,’ said he, ‘I never had an ill day in any life.’ ‘But,’ said the Doctor, ‘your clothed are torn to rags, and your wallet seems to be exceedingly empty.’ Said he, ‘My clothes are as good as God wills them to be, old my wallet is as full as the Lord has been pleased to make it, and what pleases him pleases me.’ ‘But,’ said the Doctor, ‘suppose God should cast you into hell?’ ‘Indeed, sir,’ said he, ‘but that would never be; but if it were, I would be contented, for I have two long and strong arms — faith and love — and I would throw these about the neck of my Savior, and I would never let him go, so that if I went there, he would be with me, and it would be a heaven to me.’ Oh, those two strong arms of faith and love! if you can but hang about the Savior’s neck, indeed, you may fear no ill weather.” (Spurgeon)

Proverbs 16:21

The wise in heart will be called prudent,
And sweetness of the lips increases learning.

a. The wise in heart will be called prudent: Those who are wise in heart will demonstrate it in their life. Others will see it and call them prudent or wise. This is another reminder that true wisdom is demonstrated in life; it isn’t only having good or true thoughts in one’s mind.

b. The sweetness of the lips increases learning: The phrase sweetness of the lips doesn’t have to do with good tasting food or pleasant kisses. Like many proverbs, it refers to wise and well-spoken words, perhaps with a touch of eloquence. Such speaking increases learning, both in the speaker and those who hear him or her.

i. The sweetness of the lips: “Eloquence added to wisdom; the faculty of expressing a man’s mind fitly, and freely, and acceptably.” (Poole)

ii. “Wise teachers choose their words carefully and in so doing enhance the learning experience for their students. The wisdom of the true sage not only benefits the disciples morally but is a joy to receive as well.” (Garrett)

Proverbs 16:22

Understanding is a wellspring of life to him who has it.
But the correction of fools is folly.

a. Understanding is a wellspring of life to him who has it: Wisdom (understanding) brings life to the wise man or woman. It is like a continually flowing wellspring of life.

b. The correction of fools is folly: Wisdom brings life, but it is usually foolish to try to correct a fool. As soon as a fool decides to receive correction, they have started not being a fool and leaving their folly.

Proverbs 16:23

The heart of the wise teaches his mouth,
And adds learning to his lips.

a. The heart of the wise teaches his mouth: Our wisdom is shown by what we speak, and by the control we have over the words that come from our mouth. Godliness and wisdom are evident when they teach the mouth what to say and not say.

b. And adds learning to his lips: Wisdom is shown by a heart and mind that are continually learning. When learning is added to the lips (the words one says), then a person truly has wisdom and is growing in it.

Proverbs 16:24

Pleasant words are like a honeycomb,
Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.

a. Pleasant words are like a honeycomb: There is wonderful power in our words to bring blessing and pleasantness to others. In ancient Biblical culture, nothing was as sweet as honey from the honeycomb, and pleasant words can be just as sweet and wonderful.

i. Like a honeycomb: “One might recall, in line with the use of this imagery, how Jonathan’s eyes brightened when he ate the honeycomb (1 Samuel 14:27); such is the uplifting effect of pleasant words.” (Ross)

b. Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones: Encouraging and pleasant words bring enjoyment to the whole person (the soul) and health to the body (the bones).

Proverbs 16:25

There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.

a. There is a way that seems right to a man: Some people walk a path of life that they know is wrong, and many proverbs speak to that person. Others walk a path of life that seems right to them, and they are mistaken. It isn’t enough to feel good about our path, or to follow our heart on life’s way. God’s revelation and word is always truer and safer than what seems right to a man.

b. But its end is the way of death: Taking the wrong way—even if it seems right to a man—isn’t an innocent mistake. This is because the wrong path ends in death. The end of the wrong path isn’t temporary trouble or inconvenience; its end is the way of death.

i. The repetition of this proverb (also at Proverbs 14:12) emphasizes its greatness and importance. “And think not this a vain repetition; but know that it is thus redoubled, that it may be the better remarked and remembered. Nothing is more ordinary or more dangerous than self-delusion…To warn us therefore of this greatest wickedness, it is that this sentence is reiterated.” (Trapp)

Proverbs 16:26

The person who labors, labors for himself,
For his hungry mouth drives him on.

a. The person who labors, labors for himself: The Bible recognizes the principle of personal property (Exodus 20:15) and that the reward of work properly belongs to the worker (labors for himself). This argues against schemes of forced communal living, either on a small or national scale. It also argues against excessive taxation, because it does not say the person who labors, labors for his government.

b. For his hungry mouth drives him on: When people are rewarded with the benefit of their own work, they know that their work can fill their hungry mouth. When it isn’t necessary to work in order to fill a hungry mouth, much less work will be done.

i. “That is to say that hunger will make a man work when nothing else will. This is in harmony with the apostolic principle, ‘If a man will not work, neither let him eat.’” (Morgan)

ii. “A worker’s appetite works for him; his mouth urges him on…this is welcome realism (cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12), though it is not the last word on incentives: cf. Ephesians 4:28; 6:7.” (Kidner)

iii. “Though work is tiring and frustrating in this fallen world, nevertheless the drive to gratify his appetites prods the diligent person to productive efforts…God and the wise do not frustrate these primal, productive drives and appetites by denying them gratification (Proverbs 10:3) or by gratifying them apart from work (cf. Proverbs 3:27; 10:3a; 1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:10).” (Waltke)

Proverbs 16:27

An ungodly man digs up evil,
And it is on his lips like a burning fire.

a. An ungodly man digs up evil: The sense is that for the ungodly man, the evil he casually finds isn’t enough to satisfy his desire. He digs up evil, finding the effort to pursue evil.

i. Digs up evil: “A wicked man labours as much to bring about an evil purpose, as the quarryman does to dig up stones.” (Clarke)

ii. John Trapp relates how the enemies of both Augustine and Beza dug up their old sins and tried to discredit them on account of those sins.

b. It is on his lips like a burning fire: When an ungodly man digs up evil, he can’t keep it to himself. He has to spread it to others, so he casts it from his lips as if it were a burning fire.

i. “What he finds he spreads; his speech is like scorching fire—the simile speaks of the devastating effect of his words.” (Ross)

Proverbs 16:28

A perverse man sows strife,
And a whisperer separates the best of friends.

a. A perverse man sows strife: Twisted, perverse people love to sow strife the way a farmer sows seeds. When there is much strife, there is some perverse person sowing the strife.

i. Sows: “It is, appropriately, the word used of the release of flaming foxes in the Philistines’ corn, Judges 15:5.” (Kidner)

b. A whisperer separates the best of friends: This is one way that the perverse man sows strife—by whispering gossipy words. The strife they sow is so powerful that it can separate the best of friends. Often, such people show they are perverse because they count it a victory and an accomplishment to sow such strife and to separate even the best of friends.

i. Whisperer: “denotes a malicious gossip who misrepresents a situation and by his calumny aims to besmirch and to defame others behind their backs. In Pro 17:9 the talebearer also implicitly repeats a matter without confronting the wrong doer directly.” (Waltke)

Proverbs 16:29

A violent man entices his neighbor,
And leads him in a way that is not good.

a. A violent man entices his neighbor: The violent man may do this by encouraging partnership in his violent works, or by inviting a violent response from his neighbor.

b. Leads him in a way that is not good: Violence often leads to a way that is not good. Sometimes the threat or presence of strength is necessary to prevent violence, but often violence leads to a way that is not good.

Proverbs 16:30

He winks his eye to devise perverse things;
He purses his lips and brings about evil.

a. He winks his eye to devise perverse things: This is likely connected to the previous verse. The violent man of Proverbs 16:29 may entice his neighbor as he winks his eye, treating it as a light and clever thing to devise perverse things.

i. “The winking eye and pursed lips of v. 30 may be taken either as signals among conspirators or as a general statement of shiftiness in the facial mannerisms of scheming people.” (Garrett)

ii. To devise perverse things: “Wicked men are great students; they beat their brains and close their eyes that they may revolve and excogitate mischief with more freedom of mind. They search the devil’s skull for new devices, and are very inventive to invent that which may do harm.” (Trapp)

b. He purses his lips and brings about evil: With expressions of contempt, the violent man brings about evil. He does not seriously consider the bad effects of his actions.

i. Winks his eye…purses his lips: “Often people who are planning wicked things betray themselves with malicious expressions. Two expressions are depicted here: winking the eye and pursing the lips. Facial expressions often reveal whether someone is plotting something evil.” (Ross)

Proverbs 16:31

The silver-haired head is a crown of glory,
If it is found in the way of righteousness.

a. The silver-haired head is a crown of glory: The cultural setting of its time, there was nothing unusual about this statement. Ancient cultures were sensible enough to honor and value the wisdom and experience of old age. They saw the white hair of the elderly as a crown of glory.

i. Silver-haired head: “It is often considered a blessing (Genesis 15:15; 25:8), but not always (Hosea 7:9), and is treated with respect (Leviticus 19:32).” (Waltke)

b. If it is found in the way of righteousness: This is a helpful and necessary follow-up statement to the first line of this proverb. It isn’t age itself that brings a crown of glory to a person, but age in the way of righteousness. The sad truth is that age itself does not make all people better and certainly not godlier.

i. “There is something commendable about old age that can remember a long walk with God through life and can anticipate unbroken fellowship with him in glory.” (Ross)

Proverbs 16:32

He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.

a. He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty: There is someone better than the mighty man who can defeat many others on the field of combat. It is the man (or woman) who has control over his own anger, who can (when it is wise and necessary) be slow to anger.

i. “There have been many kings who had conquered nations, and yet were slaves to their own passions. Alexander, who conquered the world, was a slave to intemperate anger, and in a fit of it slew Clytus, the best and most intimate of all his friends, and one whom he loved beyond all others.” (Clarke)

ii. “A great conflict and a glorious victory are set out here. The heart is the field of battle. All its evil and powerful passions are deadly foes. They must be met and triumphed over in God’s strength.” (Bridges)

b. And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city: Under God’s wisdom and strength, to rule one’s own spirit is a greater accomplishment than to conquer a city. Some who can conquer cities should first be concerned with conquering self.

i. Matthew Poole thought of three reasons why he who rules his spirit was better than he who takes a city.

  • He conquers though he fights a stronger enemy
  • He conquers by his own hands, and not through other people
  • He conquers without the injury and ruin of others

ii. “How much better Valentinian the emperor, who said, upon his deathbed, that among all his victories one only comforted him; and being asked what that was, he answered, I have overcome my worst enemy, mine own naughty heart.” (Trapp)

iii. “This is a proverb that is constantly quoted, and very little believed. If men only recognized that there is more valor and heroism in self-control than in doughty deeds which others acclaim in song and story, how different our world would be.” (Morgan)

Proverbs 16:33

The lot is cast into the lap,
But its every decision is from the Lord.

a. The lot is cast into the lap: This was something similar to the rolling of dice. To cast the lot was to use some tool of chance to make a choice. The lot was used to divide the land of Israel among the tribes (Numbers 26:55, Joshua 14:2) and to arrange the workers for the temple (1 Chronicles 24:5). The disciples used lots to fill the vacancy left by Judas (Acts 1:26).

b. Its every decision is from the Lord: The idea is not that every single event in life is a message from God, nor is it that we should use games of chance to determine God’s will. To cast the lot was a way to commit the decision to God, and when we commit our decisions to Him, God guides us (Proverbs 3:5-6).

i. “The Old Testament use of the word lot shows that this proverb (and Proverbs 18:18) is not about God’s control of all random occurrences, but about his settling of matters properly referred to him.” (Kidner)

ii. Waltke connected Proverbs 16:33 back to Proverbs 16:32: “Ultimately, the Lord, not the disciple’s self possession alone, rules his destiny, as illustrated by ‘the lot.’”

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

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