In verses 1-2 we are told of avoiding evil company. The wicked way may look inviting but it leads to ruin. In verses 3-4 we see life as a comparison to the building and furnishing of a house. Wisdom and understanding are the needed associates in such an enterprise. (Matthew 7:24-27) And in verses 5-6 wisdom is mightier than physical strength. The point is made in the illustration of waging war. Here strategy is the more effective weapon than the force of mightier numbers. In the history of the early Israelite days their victories confirmed this belief.
Verse 7 states that the foolish man does not understand wisdom. Wisdom is too high for him and is beyond his ability. At the gate of the city where men meet to discuss the important issues of the day the fool has nothing of significance to say. Verses 8-9 denounce the mischief maker who always has a twist. He is always trying to outwit and scheme to out maneuver others to his advantage. He does so to his own disadvantage. The scoffing of the mischief maker is an admonition and a shameful thing to all people.
Verse 10 is an observation of the fainthearted. In the Hebrew we have a play on words that cannot be expressed in translation. The experiences of life will show the kind of strength that one has. Verses 11-12 makes a strong statement on social responsibility for those who are oppressed. The picture given is of the downtrodden that have no one to defend them and they themselves are defenseless. They are seen as poor beast being driven to slaughter. The bystanders of life claim innocence by stating they knew not what was happening. The Parable teaches this is not good enough as God test our hearts. God knows whether you knew or not. The bystander will be judged according to what they knew. Jesus spoke a Parable of the last judgment and should be read in connection to this Proverb. (Matthew 25:31-46)
Verse 13-14 say that what honey is to the mouth as wisdom is to the mind. Verses 15-16 give warning to plotting against the righteous. Even as one might knock the righteous down seven times the righteous cannot be knocked out because the Lord is on his side. Verses 17-18 begins with a noble statement and ends with an unbecoming statement. “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls.” This is as Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5:43-48) But verse 18 would not measure up to the standard of Jesus’ teaching. This verse warns that if you rejoice over the hard times of an enemy the Lord may turn away his anger from your enemy.
Verse 19-20 is a compliment to the two proceeding verses. The idea is that if one is envious of an evil person’s success it is considered idleness. The reasoning for this is that there is no future in doing evil. Evil itself has no future. As the “The lamp of the wicked will be put out.” Verses 12-22 places the king in a league with God as an emissary of the divine. Paul takes this position in Romans 13:1-9 about the authority of governments.
Third Collection 23-34
In verse 23 “These also are sayings of the wise.” This is a statement to introduce certain Proverbs that are to follow. Verses 23, 24-26 speak against showing favoritism in the courts of law. A judge who would declare the wicked innocent would be an abhorrence everywhere by nations. Even in the pagan world there is an abhorrence to crooked judges who free the guilty. Partiality in judgment is condemned and fairness is commended. A judge who gives a correct answer is as a true friend.
Verse 27 speaks of the need to do things in the proper sequence. The reference here is the time to get married. One should not get married until his affairs are put in order. That would be the wrong order. One must first be able to support a family, build their house which is a figure to describing starting a family.
Verse 8 is admonition against bearing a false witness against a neighbor. To “witness without cause” is to perjure one’s self. In any society this would be a serious crime where truth and justice are highly regarded.
Verses 30-34 are more statements of the despicable behavior of the sluggard. Laziness is a vice that is condemned by the wise. The evidence of the sluggard is the condition of the fields of such a man. The conclusion is that just taking it easy will lead to poverty.