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David Guzik :: Study Guide for Proverbs 19

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Fools and Family Life


Proverbs 19:1

Better is the poor who walks in his integrity
Than one who is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.

a. Better is the poor who walks in his integrity: Previous proverbs have been critical of the poor, but here Solomon recognized that not all poverty is caused by moral failure or weakness. There are definitely poor people who walk in their integrity.

i. “Often men put under their feet those whom God carries in his heart. Man honors the perverse for their riches and despises the poor because of their poverty.” (Bridges)

b. Than one who is perverse in his lips, and is a fool: The Book of Proverbs is honest about the disadvantages of poverty. Yet it also recognizes that poor is in no way the worst thing a person can be. It is far worse to be a fool who speaks twisted, perverse things.

i. “Once again a proverb correlates poverty with piety and wealth with impiety. The poor may be miserable for the moment, but the unethical rich are miserable for eternity. Thus the proverb teaches the pilgrim to walk by faith, not by sight.” (Waltke)

Proverbs 19:2

Also it is not good for a soul to be without knowledge,
And he sins who hastens with his feet.

a. It is not good for a soul to be without knowledge: When a person (a soul) has no wisdom (is without knowledge), it is never good. It may be common, but it is not good.

b. And he who sins hastens with his feet: Solomon listed a second thing that was no good—the one who rushes toward sin (hastens with his feet). On this side of eternity we will also struggle with sin, but we don’t have to run towards it. We should be those who battle against sin, not run towards it.

Proverbs 19:3

The foolishness of a man twists his way,
And his heart frets against the Lord.

a. The foolishness of a man twists his way: it is true that a fool is foolish because they are twisted, crooked. Yet it also true that the foolish man finds his way more and more twisted. Foolishness leads to more twistedness.

b. His heart frets against the Lord: God intended us to be at peace with Him, but because of rebellion (both inherited and chosen), we are in many ways against the Lord. The foolish man or woman has no peace in God; their heart frets against the Lord. They are angry and perhaps bitter against God for their twisted way.

i. “Fools will try to blame God when they ruin their lives…The fool is not willing to accept failure as his own. Of course, to blame God is also folly.” (Ross)

ii. “Such is the pride and blasphemy of a proud spirit. The criminal blames the judge for his righteous sentence.” (Bridges)

Proverbs 19:4

Wealth makes many friends,
But the poor is separated from his friend.

a. Wealth makes many friends: When a person is wealthy, it draws many people to them in friendship. Yet these friendships may not be sincere or meaningful.

i. “Although a crowd, each one forms the friendship out of what he can gain, not for what he can give. The proverb anticipates the Lord’s teaching to use of money to win friends and an eternal reward in the kingdom of God (Luke 18:1-9).” (Waltke)

b. The poor is separated from his friend: The wealthy man has advantages and draws many friends, but the poor man does not have these advantages. Their would-be friends find it easy to separate from them.

Proverbs 19:5

A false witness will not go unpunished,
And he who speaks lies will not escape.

a. A false witness will not go unpunished: The first idea in this proverb is probably that of the law court, and in the court it is essential that the false witness be punished. Justice depends upon it. This principle extends beyond the court of law into our daily life. God loves the truth and wants us to speak the truth.

b. He who speaks lies will not escape: Among men, sometimes the falsewitness and liars escape the discovery and penalty of their sin. With God, he who speaks lies will not escape. Jesus said our every word would be held to account (Matthew 12:36).

i. “This is a statement made in faith, for perjurers may escape human justice. Even the stern law of Deuteronomy 19:18-21 availed nothing for Naboth—or for Jesus.” (Kidner)

Proverbs 19:6

Many entreat the favor of the nobility,
And every man is a friend to one who gives gifts.

a. Many entreat the favor of the nobility: When someone is of high status and importance (of the nobility), many people want their favor. There are advantages in having the favor of influential people.

b. Every man is a friend to the one who gives gifts: Many people who offer friendship do so out of selfish motives. They want the benefit of the favor of the nobility and the gifts that others may offer.

Proverbs 19:7

All the brothers of the poor hate him;
How much more do his friends go far from him!
He may pursue them with words, yet they abandon him.

a. All the brothers of the poor hate him: To be poor is often to be rejected by men, even by brothers and friends. What a contrast to Jesus, who Himself became poor (2 Corinthians 8:9) to draw near to us in our poverty and need.

b. He may pursue them with words, yet they abandon him: By nature, people run from the poor person, even when he tries to persuade and pursue them with words. In contrast, God pursues the poor and needy.

Proverbs 19:8

He who gets wisdom loves his own soul;
He who keeps understanding will find good.

a. He who gets wisdom loves his own soul: The possession and pursuit of wisdom is so good and helpful to us that we can and should get wisdom simply out of self-interest. In so doing we love our own soul, our own life.

i. Loves his own soul: “Or loveth himself, because he procures great good to his soul, or to himself, as it follows; as sinners, on the contrary, are said to hate their souls, Proverbs 29:24, because they bring mischief upon them.” (Poole)

b. He who keeps understanding will find good: Wisdom isn’t just something to get; it is also something to keep. We find good when keep understanding.

Proverbs 19:9

A false witness will not go unpunished,
And he who speaks lies shall perish.

a. A false witness will not go unpunished: The words and idea of this proverb were previously presented in Proverbs 19:5. The repetition reminds us that this is an important principle. In the law court and in daily life, God wants us to be people of the truth and so He promised that a false witness will not go unpunished.

b. He who speaks lies shall perish: This speaks to the certainty of God’s justice towards those who lie. Revelation 21:8 warns that liars are among those who will have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

Proverbs 19:10

Luxury is not fitting for a fool,
Much less for a servant to rule over princes.

a. Luxury is not fitting for a fool: The sense is that there are some wisdom-rejecting fools who enjoy luxury, but it doesn’t seem right. It isn’t fitting for a fool to live in luxury.

b. Much less for a servant to rule over princes: Solomon spoke according to the wisdom of natural man, which places great trust in nobility and family lineage. This is one of the proverbs that the gospel and the new covenant turn on its head, where those who would be great should be as servants and not as princes (Matthew 20:26 and 23:11).

i. “The slave, who is incompetent both by disposition and training, will be drunk from the feeling of power and his rulership will develop into unbearable despotism. The consequences for the community are only incompetence, mismanagement, abuse of power, corruption, injustice; in brief, social chaos (cf. Ecclesiastes 10:5-7).” (Waltke)

ii. “The slave has the same rational power as his sovereign. But lesser habits of mind make him unfit to rule. There are, however, exceptions to this, as in the case of Joseph.” (Bridges)

Proverbs 19:11

The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger,
And his glory is to overlook a transgression.

a. The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger: It isn’t necessarily weakness of lack of courage that makes a man slow to anger. It may be wisdom, here described as discretion.

b. His glory is to overlook a transgression: A wise man or woman knows that they have been forgiven much, and this shapes how they deal with others. They don’t act as if they must hold everyone accountable for every transgression, but know when to overlook a transgression.

i. “The virtue which is indicated here is more than a forgiving temper; it includes also the ability to shrug off insults and the absence of a brooding hypersensitivity.” (McKane, cited in Ross)

ii. “The manlier any man is, the milder and readier to pass by an offence. This shows that he hath much of God in him (if he do it from a right principle), who bears with our evil manners, and forgives our trespasses, beseeching us to be reconciled.” (Trapp)

Proverbs 19:12

The king’s wrath is like the roaring of a lion,
But his favor is like dew on the grass.

a. The king’s wrath is like the roaring of a lion: The roar of a lion can be terrifying, not only for the sound itself but also for the understanding that it means destruction may swiftly follow. The same is true for the wrath of a king or any other influential person. It is much more true regarding the wrath of God, or the wrath of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5).

i. “Heb., Of a young lion, which, being in his prime, roars more terribly; sets up his roar with such a force that he amazeth the other creatures whom he hunteth, so that, though far swifter of foot than the lion, they have no power to fly from him.” (Trapp)

ii. “There is nothing more dreadful than the roaring of this tyrant of the forest. At the sound of it all other animals tremble, flee away, and hide themselves. The king who is above law, and rules without law, and whose will is his own law, is like the lion.” (Clarke)

b. His favor is like the dew on the grass: This means the king’s favor is refreshing and life giving; it also means that it is fleeting, as the dew on the grass. The favor of God is certainly refreshing and life giving, but it is not fleeting, as if God were an impossible to please tyrant.

i. “Dew, which in the climatic conditions of Palestine was essential to the survival of vegetation in the hot, dry summer, is a gift from God.” (Waltke)

ii. “This proverb would advise the king’s subjects to use tact and the king to cultivate kindness.” (Ross)

Proverbs 19:13

A foolish son is the ruin of his father,
And the contentions of a wife are a continual dripping.

a. A foolish son is the ruin of his father: It is grieving to any parent to have a foolish son or daughter. This may run from grief to ruin as the grief destroys the father’s health and life, or as the father ruins himself to rescue the foolish son.

b. The contentions of a wife are a continual dripping: This proverb of sympathy for a man’s problems as a father now looks at a man’s potential problem as a husband. A wife who often contends (fights, argues) with her husband is like a continual dripping in at least three ways.

  • It is an always-present annoyance and trouble
  • It wastes and destroys, eroding good and valuable things
  • It points to some underlying, more basic problem

i. “The man who has got such a wife is like a tenant who has got a cottage with a bad roof, through every part of which the rain either drops or pours. He can neither sit, stand, work, nor sleep, without being exposed to these droppings. God help the man who is in such a case, with house or wife!” (Clarke)

ii. “Like as a man that hath met with hard usage abroad thinks to mend himself at home, but is no sooner sat down there but the rain, dropping through the roof upon his head, drives him out of doors again. Such is the case of him that hath a contentious wife – a far greater cross than that of ungracious children, which yet are the father’s calamities and heart breaks.” (Trapp)

iii. “Delitzsch passes on an Arab proverb told him by Wetzstein, which runs (in Toy’s more compact summary): ‘Three things make a house intolerable: tak (the leaking through of rain), nak (a wife’s nagging) and bak (bugs).” (Kidner)

Proverbs 19:14

Houses and riches are an inheritance from fathers,
But a prudent wife is from the Lord.

a. Houses and riches are an inheritance from fathers: There are good things a man may receive as an inheritance, including material things such as housesand riches. A man is blessed to have such things.

b. A prudent wife is from the Lord: A gift beyond the inheritance one may receive from fathers is this gift from God—a prudent wife. A wife of wisdom, self-control, and appropriate living is a greater gift than houses and riches. A wife who is not prudent may waste whatever wealth a man has. Every man with a prudent, wise wife should give thanks to the Lord.

i. From the Lord: “Nature makes a woman, election a wife; but to be prudent, wise, and virtuous is of the Lord. A good wife was one of the first real and royal gifts bestowed on Adam.” (Trapp)

ii. “Thus the proverb instructs the disciple to look to God (Proverbs 15:8, 29; 16:3; cf. Genesis 24:14) and find his favor through wisdom to obtain from him a competent wife (Proverbs 8:35; 18:22)…As a result, when a man has a competent wife, he praises God, not himself.” (Waltke)

iii. “The verse does not answer questions about unhappy marriages or bad wives; rather, it simply affirms that when a marriage turns out well, one should credit God.” (Ross)

Proverbs 19:15

Laziness casts one into a deep sleep,
And an idle person will suffer hunger.

a. Laziness casts one into a deep sleep: There are many problems with laziness, and one of them is that it leads to more laziness, sending the lazy man into a deep sleep. There is no work to be done from a deep sleep.

i. “Laziness plunges him into a state of being so deep in sleep that he is totally unconscious of his situation. Unaware of his tragic situation and unable to arouse himself, the sluggard neglects his source of income and so hungers. His fate is similar to that of drunkards and the gluttons (Proverbs 23:21).” (Waltke)

b. An idle person will suffer hunger: There is a great price to be paid from laziness, one of those prices is the hunger one suffers as their needs are not met through hard work. The lazy man or woman is puts themselves in a trap of sleep and hunger.

Proverbs 19:16

He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul,
But he who is careless of his ways will die.

a. He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul: Obedience to the word and commandment of God is of real, practical benefit. Obedience guards and keeps the life, the soul of the wise man or woman who lives according to God’s word.

b. He who is careless of his ways will die: To abandon wisdom and live careless in our ways is to invite death. God gave His commandment to give us life and to keep us from death.

Proverbs 19:17

He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord,
And He will pay back what he has given.

a. He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord: When we give to the poor (expressing our love and pity towards them), we aren’t wasting our money. It is like lending money to the Lord Himself.

i. “Their just and gracious Creator takes it upon himself to assume their indebtedness and so he will repay the lender in full.” (Waltke)

b. He will pay back what he has given: God will never be in debt to any man. He will never be in a position where He owes anything as a matter of debt. Therefore, to lend to the Lord is to ensure blessing in return. God will certainly pay back what we give in compassion to the poor. God promises that we will never be the loser for generous and compassionate giving.

i. “God will never be in your debt. He is exact and punctilious in His repayment. No man ever dared to do His bidding in respect to any case of need, and found himself the poorer…Was not Ruth’s love to Naomi well compensated?” (Meyer)

ii. “O what a word is this! God makes himself debtor for every thing that is given to the poor! Who would not advance much upon such credit? God will pay it again. And in no case has he ever forfeited his word.” (Clarke)

iii. “This promise of reward does not necessarily signify that he will get his money back; the rewards in Proverbs involve life and prosperity in general.” (Ross)

Proverbs 19:18

Chasten your son while there is hope,
And do not set your heart on his destruction.

a. Chasten your son while there is hope: There is not an endless window of opportunity to chasten and wisely discipline our children. Age and circumstances limit the opportunity for effective training, so it must be done while there is hope. There may come the time when you wish you had done much more to chasten your son or daughter.

i. “It is far better that the child should cry under healthy correction than that parents should later cry under the bitter fruit to themselves and their children of neglected discipline.” (Bridges)

b. Do not set your heart on his destruction: To fail to chasten your son in the opportune season is to actually work for his destruction. Many parents bring much destruction to their children through neglect, not outright abuse.

i. “Psychologically healthy parents do not consciously desire to kill their children. But if they do not employ the God-given means of verbal reproof to prevent acts of folly and corporal punishment to prevent their repetition, they are in fact unwittingly party to the worst punishment, his death.” (Waltke)

Proverbs 19:19

A man of great wrath will suffer punishment;
For if you rescue him, you will have to do it again.

a. A man of great wrath will suffer punishment: Out of control anger brings many problems and costs. Among the fruit of the spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:23), and wisdom does not lead a person to be of great wrath.

i. “He punishes himself. Wounded pride and resentment leave the wretched criminal brooding in his room. He suffers an intolerable burden of self-inflicted punishment.” (Bridges)

b. For if you rescue him, you will have to do it again: The person who can’t control their anger will run into trouble again and again. To rescue them once isn’t enough, because the problem is more in them than in the circumstances that they blame for their anger. It is better for them to face the consequences of their action and hope they learn something form it.

i. “An ungovernable temper will repeatedly land its owner in fresh trouble.” (Kidner)

Proverbs 19:20

Listen to counsel and receive instruction,
That you may be wise in your latter days.

a. Listen to counsel and receive instruction: One of the first marks of wisdom is the readiness to receive more wisdom. A teachable person, one who will listen to counsel and receive instruction, has already made much progress on the path of wisdom.

b. That you may be wise in your latter days: The bad effects of the foolish rejection of wisdom may not be seen for many years. Yet in the latter days of a man or woman’s life, it will be clear whether or not they learned wisdom’s lessons and if they did listen to counsel. If you want to be wise later in life, start now.

Proverbs 19:21

There are many plans in a man’s heart,
Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand.

a. There are many plans in a man’s heart: It is in the nature of men (and women) to plan and prepare for the future. Some of the plans may be wise and some may be foolish, but there are many plans in a man’s heart.

b. Nevertheless, the Lord’s counsel—that will stand: Man makes his plans, and he should. Yet every plan should be made with an appreciation of God’s overall wisdom, work, and will.

i. James would later explain this principle this way: Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)

ii. “This is a perfectly self evident assertion, but, as such, important as to warrant a pause in reading it. The one thing in the heart that may be depended upon is the counsel or guidance of Jehovah.” (Morgan)

Proverbs 19:22

What is desired in a man is kindness,
And a poor man is better than a liar.

a. What is desired in a man is kindness: It is not that kindness is the highest or only virtue for the people of God. Yet, in many ways, it is the one most desired by others, especially in a modern world.

b. A poor man is better than a liar: This proverb shows that kindness, though valuable, is not the only virtue. To be a man or woman of truth—to not be a liar—is also of great value. This proverb reminds that though we should pursue and value kindness, we should not treat it as the only valued virtue among God’s people.

Proverbs 19:23

The fear of the Lord leads to life,
And he who has it will abide in satisfaction;
He will not be visited with evil.

a. The fear of the Lord leads to life: Since the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, it wonderfully leads to life. If we want life, we should begin with this honor, reverent awe and submission to God.

b. He who has it will abide in satisfaction: When we have and walk in the fear of the Lord, it leads to a life of satisfaction. The world, the flesh, and the devil want to convince us that a life founded on fear of the Lord leads to misery, but the opposite is true. It brings satisfaction and keeps us from a future of evil.

i. Will not be visited with evil: “When one lives a life of piety, the Lord provides a quality of life that cannot be disrupted by such evil.” (Ross)

Proverbs 19:24

A lazy man buries his hand in the bowl,
And will not so much as bring it to his mouth again.

a. A lazy man buries his hand in the bowl: Solomon pictured a lazy man sitting at his food, with his hand buried in his bowl of food.

i. “This humorous portrayal is certainly an exaggeration. It probably was meant more widely for anyone who starts a project but lacks the energy to complete it.” (Ross)

ii. In the bowl: “The same word in 2 Kings 21:13 leaves no doubt of its meaning. The scene is thus a meal, and the example comically extreme.” (Kidner)

b. And will not so much as bring it to his mouth again: In this humorous, exaggerated picture, the lazy man has so little energy and initiative that he won’t even bring his hand from the bowl to his mouth. This exaggerated picture establishes a principle made elsewhere in proverbs: the lazy man will go hungry.

i. Will not so much as bring it to his mouth again: “To wit, to feed himself; he expects that the meat should drop into his mouth.” (Poole)

ii. “Is it possible to find anywhere a more graphic or sarcastic description of absolute laziness?” (Morgan)

Proverbs 19:25

Strike a scoffer, and the simple will become wary;
Rebuke one who has understanding, and he will discern knowledge.

a. Strike a scoffer, and the simple will become wary: When a determined fool and opponent of wisdom (a scoffer) is punished, others will learn. The more innocent fool (the simple) may learn from this.

i. “Smite him never so much, there is no beating any wit into him. Pharaoh was not a button the better for all that he suffered; but Jethro, taking notice of God’s heavy hand upon Pharaoh, and likewise upon the Amalekites, was thereby converted, and became a proselyte, as Rabbi Solomon noteth upon this text.” (Trapp)

b. Rebuke one who has understanding: The rebuke of the scoffer seems to do the scoffer no good, though it may benefit the simple. Yet when someone who values wisdom (one who has understanding) is corrected, he learns. He grows in his ability to discern knowledge.

i. “Here are three varieties of mind: closed (the scorner, AV, RV; cf. verse 29; Proverbs 9:7, 8), empty (the simple—he must be startled into attention), and open (the discerning—he accepts even a painful truth).” (Kidner)

Proverbs 19:26

He who mistreats his father and chases away his mother
Is a son who causes shame and brings reproach.

a. He who mistreats his father and chases away his mother: The Bible commands honor your father and you mother (Exodus 20:12). This proverb considers the person who does the opposite of Exodus 20:12.

i. “When the father and his household lies in ruin, the mother (see Proverbs 1:8) is left in a tragic situation without the provision and protection and of her husband. By ruining his father, the imbecile (cf. Proverbs 17:2) leaves his mother as good as a defenseless widow.” (Waltke)

b. Is a son who causes shame and brings reproach: One cannot disobey God and the standards of human society without paying a price. One price to be paid from the mistreatment of parents is to bring shame and reproach upon one’s self.

Proverbs 19:27

Cease listening to instruction, my son,
And you will stray from the words of knowledge.

a. Cease listening to instruction, my son: Solomon continued to give wisdom to his children, and here warned of the danger of ceasing to listen to instruction, to wisdom.

b. And you will stray from the words of knowledge: This shows us that attention and effort must be given to remain on the path of wisdom. If one does cease listening to instruction, then they will stray from the words of knowledge. One must set themselves on the path of wisdom and, with God’s help, determine that they will stay upon in.

i. “The meaning here is that it is better not to learn than to learn to refuse to obey.” (Morgan)

ii. “Without constant attention to wisdom depraved human beings unconsciously stray from it. Even Solomon, ancient Israel’s paragon of wisdom, strayed when he ceased listening to his own proverbs.” (Waltke)

Proverbs 19:28

A disreputable witness scorns justice,
And the mouth of the wicked devours iniquity.

a. A disreputable witness scorns justice: The witness who is not committed to truth doesn’t care about the workings of justice. Great harm comes upon society and its legal system with there is not care and promotion of the truth and the disreputable witness is not punished.

i. “The perjurers in the lawsuit against Naboth are called beliyyaal (1 Kings. 21:10, 13), a story that illustrates the lying witnesses’ lethal power.” (Waltke)

b. The mouth of the wicked devours iniquity: The words of the wicked (coming from the mouth) love iniquity so much that they devour it, as a hungry man devours food. This is the kind of person who scorns justice and tears down society.

Proverbs 19:29

Judgments are prepared for scoffers,
And beatings for the backs of fools.

a. Judgments are prepared for scoffers: Those who reject wisdom with hostility (scoffers) will not escape penalty. Judgments are prepared for them.

i. Are prepared for: “For these scorners (that promise themselves impunity) are judgments, not one, but many, not appointed only, but prepared long since, and now ready to be executed.” (Trapp)

b. Beatings for the backs of fools: Those who disregard wisdom, bound in their folly (fools) will also have their penalty. Correction will come to them in its appointed way, and sadly—the correction will do little good for them.

i. “Profane and wicked men expose themselves to the punishments denounced against such by just laws. Avoid, therefore, both their company and their end.” (Clarke)

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

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