You might have noticed a shift in rhythm around chapter 15, which is almost fully completed today. By chapter 18, Proverbs designed around contrast have become rare and have been replaced by many that are built around a reinforcing redundancy. For example: “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape,” or “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” Notice that the first line makes an assertion, and the second either reinforces it, focuses it, or propels it.
These are mixed with straightforward observations such as “The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death,” and “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.” This makes at least three styles of proverb with which you’ve become familiar.
Today there are a few recurring themes to attend to. Personal relationships fill the conversation today, with fathers, sons, husbands, and friends receiving advice and encouragement. Remember, as I’ve said before, that proverbs are descriptive, observational: they come from the pen of those who have “been around the block,” who have observed the world and come to certain conclusions.
This descriptive nature is highlighted by verse 14 of chapter 21: A gift in secret averts anger, and a concealed bribe, strong wrath. Is this making a righteous recommendation, or is it simply making an observation? Taken as a prescription, you could argue that bribery is an acceptable option; taken as an observation, you could easily confirm that, “Yes, this is how the world works.” The next verse offers some context, with: “When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers,” but this still doesn’t really answer the bribery question. That the Bible offers proverbs such as these, without exposition, is one more mark of its remarkable character.
Our verse for this week is Psalm 119:105: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Proverbs 18 through 21. Now let’s read it!
Proverbs 18 - 21
18:1 Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire;
he breaks out against all sound judgment.
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
but only in expressing his opinion.
When wickedness comes, contempt comes also,
and with dishonor comes disgrace.
The words of a man's mouth are deep waters;
the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.
It is not good to be partial to the wicked
or to deprive the righteous of justice.
A fool's lips walk into a fight,
and his mouth invites a beating.
A fool's mouth is his ruin,
and his lips are a snare to his soul.
The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels;
they go down into the inner parts of the body.
Whoever is slack in his work
is a brother to him who destroys.
The name of the LORD is a strong tower;
the righteous man runs into it and is safe.
A rich man's wealth is his strong city,
and like a high wall in his imagination.
Before destruction a man's heart is haughty,
but humility comes before honor.
If one gives an answer before he hears,
it is his folly and shame.
A man's spirit will endure sickness,
but a crushed spirit who can bear?
An intelligent heart acquires knowledge,
and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
A man's gift makes room for him
and brings him before the great.
The one who states his case first seems right,
until the other comes and examines him.
The lot puts an end to quarrels
and decides between powerful contenders.
A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city,
and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.
From the fruit of a man's mouth his stomach is satisfied;
he is satisfied by the yield of his lips.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
and those who love it will eat its fruits.
He who finds a wife finds a good thing
and obtains favor from the LORD.
The poor use entreaties,
but the rich answer roughly.
A man of many companions may come to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
19:1 Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity
than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.
Desire without knowledge is not good,
and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.
When a man's folly brings his way to ruin,
his heart rages against the LORD.
Wealth brings many new friends,
but a poor man is deserted by his friend.
A false witness will not go unpunished,
and he who breathes out lies will not escape.
Many seek the favor of a generous man,
and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts.
All a poor man's brothers hate him;
how much more do his friends go far from him!
He pursues them with words, but does not have them.
Whoever gets sense loves his own soul;
he who keeps understanding will discover good.
A false witness will not go unpunished,
and he who breathes out lies will perish.
It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury,
much less for a slave to rule over princes.
Good sense makes one slow to anger,
and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
A king's wrath is like the growling of a lion,
but his favor is like dew on the grass.
A foolish son is ruin to his father,
and a wife's quarreling is a continual dripping of rain.
House and wealth are inherited from fathers,
but a prudent wife is from the LORD.
Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep,
and an idle person will suffer hunger.
Whoever keeps the commandment keeps his life;
he who despises his ways will die.
Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD,
and he will repay him for his deed.
Discipline your son, for there is hope;
do not set your heart on putting him to death.
A man of great wrath will pay the penalty,
for if you deliver him, you will only have to do it again.
Listen to advice and accept instruction,
that you may gain wisdom in the future.
Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.
What is desired in a man is steadfast love,
and a poor man is better than a liar.
The fear of the LORD leads to life,
and whoever has it rests satisfied;
he will not be visited by harm.
The sluggard buries his hand in the dish
and will not even bring it back to his mouth.
Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence;
reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge.
He who does violence to his father and chases away his mother
is a son who brings shame and reproach.
Cease to hear instruction, my son,
and you will stray from the words of knowledge.
A worthless witness mocks at justice,
and the mouth of the wicked devours iniquity.
Condemnation is ready for scoffers,
and beating for the backs of fools.
20:1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler,
and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.
The terror of a king is like the growling of a lion;
whoever provokes him to anger forfeits his life.
It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife,
but every fool will be quarreling.
The sluggard does not plow in the autumn;
he will seek at harvest and have nothing.
The purpose in a man's heart is like deep water,
but a man of understanding will draw it out.
Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love,
but a faithful man who can find?
The righteous who walks in his integrity—
blessed are his children after him!
A king who sits on the throne of judgment
winnows all evil with his eyes.
Who can say, “I have made my heart pure;
I am clean from my sin”?
Unequal weights and unequal measures
are both alike an abomination to the LORD.
Even a child makes himself known by his acts,
by whether his conduct is pure and upright.
The hearing ear and the seeing eye,
the LORD has made them both.
Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty;
open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread.
“Bad, bad,” says the buyer,
but when he goes away, then he boasts.
There is gold and abundance of costly stones,
but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.
Take a man's garment when he has put up security for a stranger,
and hold it in pledge when he puts up security for foreigners.
Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man,
but afterward his mouth will be full of gravel.
Plans are established by counsel;
by wise guidance wage war.
Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets;
therefore do not associate with a simple babbler.
If one curses his father or his mother,
his lamp will be put out in utter darkness.
An inheritance gained hastily in the beginning
will not be blessed in the end.
Do not say, “I will repay evil”;
wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you.
Unequal weights are an abomination to the LORD,
and false scales are not good.
A man's steps are from the LORD;
how then can man understand his way?
It is a snare to say rashly, “It is holy,”
and to reflect only after making vows.
A wise king winnows the wicked
and drives the wheel over them.
The spirit of man is the lamp of the LORD,
searching all his innermost parts.
Steadfast love and faithfulness preserve the king,
and by steadfast love his throne is upheld.
The glory of young men is their strength,
but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.
Blows that wound cleanse away evil;
strokes make clean the innermost parts.
21:1 The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD;
he turns it wherever he will.
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes,
but the LORD weighs the heart.
To do righteousness and justice
is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.
Haughty eyes and a proud heart,
the lamp of the wicked, are sin.
The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance,
but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.
The getting of treasures by a lying tongue
is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death.
The violence of the wicked will sweep them away,
because they refuse to do what is just.
The way of the guilty is crooked,
but the conduct of the pure is upright.
It is better to live in a corner of the housetop
than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.
The soul of the wicked desires evil;
his neighbor finds no mercy in his eyes.
When a scoffer is punished, the simple becomes wise;
when a wise man is instructed, he gains knowledge.
The Righteous One observes the house of the wicked;
he throws the wicked down to ruin.
Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor
will himself call out and not be answered.
A gift in secret averts anger,
and a concealed bribe, strong wrath.
When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous
but terror to evildoers.
One who wanders from the way of good sense
will rest in the assembly of the dead.
Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man;
he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.
The wicked is a ransom for the righteous,
and the traitor for the upright.
It is better to live in a desert land
than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.
Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man's dwelling,
but a foolish man devours it.
Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness
will find life, righteousness, and honor.
A wise man scales the city of the mighty
and brings down the stronghold in which they trust.
Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue
keeps himself out of trouble.
“Scoffer” is the name of the arrogant, haughty man
who acts with arrogant pride.
The desire of the sluggard kills him,
for his hands refuse to labor.
All day long he craves and craves,
but the righteous gives and does not hold back.
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination;
how much more when he brings it with evil intent.
A false witness will perish,
but the word of a man who hears will endure.
A wicked man puts on a bold face,
but the upright gives thought to his ways.
No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel
can avail against the LORD.
The horse is made ready for the day of battle,
but the victory belongs to the LORD.