These also are proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah, transcribed.
God was faithful to preserve the proverbs of King Solomon through the work of righteous Hezekiah, a king who came many years after him during the divided kingdom.
2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,
But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.
3 As the heavens for height and the earth for depth,
So the heart of kings is unsearchable.
One of the things that makes God God is that He has kept some things secret (Deuteronomy 29:29). He has instructed us in what we need to know, but some things are just beyond us. He is God, and we are not. Kings, however, make it their business to be informed and to know the inner workings of their kingdom. They are not God, and thus they need to be informed as to the goings on of their kingdom and of those around them so that they can make the best possible leadership decisions. God knows the state of a king’s heart, but no man can know with one hundred percent certainty what motivates a leader.
4 Take away the dross from the silver,
And there comes out a vessel for the smith;
5 Take away the wicked before the king,
And his throne will be established in righteousness.
A king that rules by righteousness and justice will find that it strengthens the kingdom by preserving peace and promoting equitable treatment of others. Those who make sure that the wicked are justly punished reduce corruption and bring benefit to all.
6 Do not claim honor in the presence of the king,
And do not stand in the place of great men;
7 For it is better that it be said to you, “Come up here,”
Than for you to be placed lower in the presence of the prince,
Whom your eyes have seen.
It is foolish to be presumptive and disrespectful to an authority figure by putting oneself forward or taking a higher seat than one should take. Rather, one should wait for the king to say where one should go rather than to suffer the humiliation of being put lower. A respectful and gracious approach is wisest.
8 Do not go out hastily to argue your case;
Otherwise, what will you do in the end,
When your neighbor humiliates you?
9 Argue your case with your neighbor,
And do not reveal the secret of another,
10 Or he who hears it will reproach you,
And the evil report about you will not pass away.
Rather than taking a neighbor’s personal offense to the world at large by taking it to the courts or shouting about his error from the rooftops to shame him, it is wiser to try to work things out privately with one’s neighbor first. Otherwise, it will be clear to others that the one offended has no discretion and no mercy or forbearance. Everybody makes mistakes, and it is no fun to have a neighbor that is a tattletale. Tattletales tend to lose a lot of friends fast.
11 Like apples of gold in settings of silver
Is a word spoken in right circumstances.
12 Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold
Is a wise reprover to a listening ear.
A timely word to encourage, edify, or provide needed advice is priceless, for wisdom is more valuable than gold and silver. Learning from those who are wise is like receiving a gift of gold for a person who recognizes the value of such reproof.
13 Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest
Is a faithful messenger to those who send him,
For he refreshes the soul of his masters.
It is always refreshing and encouraging when a person is trustworthy enough do what he said he would do and say what he said he would say. Reliable and loyal people are not that common, and they are a joy to have as friends.
14 Like clouds and wind without rain
Is a man who boasts of his gifts falsely.
Lots of people talk a big talk, but it is the walk that matters. Some people boast about their gifts and abilities, while others faithfully become the servant of all and allow God to strengthen them despite their human weakness and insufficiencies. We will be judged not on account of our boasting and empty promises, for faith without works is dead. Even those who give gifts while seeking the attention and approval of man will have had their reward in full (Matthew 6:2). Serving God is about living a peaceful and tranquil life (1 Timothy 2:2, 1 Thessalonians 4:11) that honors God in the heart and which is satisfied with His approval. Whether others are there to see or not, a humble heart always does what it does for God rather than for men (Colossians 3:23).
15 By forbearance a ruler may be persuaded,
And a soft tongue breaks the bone.
Those in authority don’t appreciate being intimidated or talked down to when trying to convince them to change their policy or alter a course of action. But those who speak graciously, kindly, respectfully, and gently have a much better chance of getting their message through.
16 Have you found honey? Eat only what you need,
That you not have it in excess and vomit it.
Honey is a delicious treat, but eating too much of it at one time will make a person sick enough to throw it up. The spiritual principle at work here is that of balance. There is wisdom in not hoarding wealth but in being generous, there is wisdom in working and still finding enjoyment in life, and there is wisdom in laboring for the kingdom but also taking time to rest in the embrace of Christ. It is easier to endure over the long haul if we do not overcommit ourselves, do not push ourselves too hard too fast, and make sure to take time to invest in the different stewardships and relationships that God has given us in life. The “honey” of life will keep being delightful when taken in proper portions and in balance. (see also verse 27 for further application)
17 Let your foot rarely be in your neighbor’s house,
Or he will become weary of you and hate you.
It is a good thing to open up one’s home and to be hospitable to others, but it is impolite and annoying after a while to presume that somebody else’s home is one’s own. Constantly invading somebody else’s personal space and privacy is wearying and can cause a person to hate the one who has no respect of proper boundaries.
18 Like a club and a sword and a sharp arrow
Is a man who bears false witness against his neighbor.
Lying and telling an untruth concerning a person is like beating him with weapons of war, for it slanders his testimony, perverts justice, and harms the innocent. A lot of damage can be done with the tongue.
19 Like a bad tooth and an unsteady foot
Is confidence in a faithless man in time of trouble.
A bad tooth makes us doubt whether or not we can chew our food, and a weak foot makes us wonder if we will fall when we take our next step. This is the perfect analogy of the doubt that comes by having to put one’s faith and confidence in a weak, doubting, and faithless man when we need his help in time of trouble. This is why friends that are loyal, trustworthy, and full of faith to do what is necessary are so precious and valuable.
20 Like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar on soda,
Is he who sings songs to a troubled heart.
A troubled heart needs compassion, understanding, sympathy, and comfort. Forcing somebody to try to buck up and be happy and not mourning with them is not a sign of love (Romans 12:15). It is like stripping somebody of a winter coat in freezing temperatures or causing a bubbling reaction between soda and vinegar. The lack of kindness and grace can even make a person angry. Let a person be comforted first, and songs can be sung later.
21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;
22 For you will heap burning coals on his head,
And the Lord will reward you.
The Christian response toward our enemies is not to hate them or wish trouble upon them but to love them by being kind to them. If they are hungry, we should feed them. If they are thirsty, we should give them something to drink. This alone is what could change their minds by the refining fire of the gospel made real to them. It is as the world, including the enemies of believers, sees their good works that they will glorify God (Matthew 5:16). Vengeance and hate don’t point people to God, but kindness and mercy do. Love also brings eternal rewards, for it is glorifying to God and indicative of His nature and love for the lost (John 13:34-35, 1 John 4:7-8). Hateful people find pleasure in making other people hate also, but seeing a love that cannot be turned to hate could convict them of their sin. Love is the reality that must define the Christian and demonstrate to the world that Christ is real and powerful.
23 The north wind brings forth rain,
And a backbiting tongue, an angry countenance.
Just as a shift in wind points to incoming rain, so too does a backbiting tongue lead to somebody getting very angry. Betrayal is sure to frustrate and disappoint and to bring division between friends.
24 It is better to live in a corner of the roof
Than in a house shared with a contentious woman.
Solomon has made this point several times already in this book that being married to a woman who provokes anger, is disrespectful, is spiteful, is hateful, and is ungrateful is one of the worst existences possible. One is better off isolated on the corner of a roof somewhere than in that situation. Thus, one must choose wisely when getting married, being sure that one’s wife fears God and values the descriptions of the excellent wife given in chapter 31. She is a rare find indeed and priceless at that. (see also Proverbs 21:9, 19)
25 Like cold water to a weary soul,
So is good news from a distant land.
Hearing good news, even if it is from somewhere across the globe, is always something that is encouraging. Hearing of good triumphing over evil is always like a refreshing glass of cold water to one who has been wandering in the wilderness of a world which loves evil. Testimonies of the gospel changing hearts is always good news and always so fun to hear.
26 Like a trampled spring and a polluted well
Is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.
A righteous man who falls into temptation or who doesn’t stand against the schemes of the wicked perverts himself, makes God look small, and destroys his testimony. Even if it means death, a righteous person must not compromise.
27 It is not good to eat much honey,
Nor is it glory to search out one’s own glory.
Searching out one’s own glory is the ultimate pride and arrogance. It is making an idol of oneself, worshipping one’s own looks, ability, intellect, and accomplishments. It is rejecting God, His provision, His blessing, and His sufficiency. It is calling the insufficient one sufficient, and it is calling the weak one strong. It is viewing the world in the totally wrong perspective. The end of self-glory and vanity is meaninglessness, disappointment, and failure to find true satisfaction. It is outright deception, and those who love self and hate God will pay in eternity. We should search out the glory of God, for He made the world, He has all power, and He alone can forgive sin. Satan wanted more glory for himself, and it led to him to being cast out of heaven (Isaiah 14:14). We must always seek to decrease so that He can increase through the testimony of our lives (John 3:30).
28 Like a city that is broken into and without walls
Is a man who has no control over his spirit.
In battle, a city has been overrun when its defenses have been broken through and its walls taken down. Those who have no self-control prove that Satan has control of them, and they need to turn their lives over to Christ so that He can be their Lord and Master and set them free from their chains to sin and death. In Christ alone is the victory.