24-26 Your enemy shakes hands and greets you like an old friend while plotting against you.
When he speaks warmly to you, don’t believe him for a minute;
he’s just waiting for the chance to rip you off.
No matter how shrewdly he conceals his malice,
eventually, his evil will be exposed in public.
27 Malice backfires;
28 Liars hate their victims;
flatterers sabotage trust.
-Proverbs 26:23-28 The Message
23 Like the glaze covering an earthen vessel
are fervent lips with an evil heart.
24 Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips
and harbors deceit in his heart;
25 when he speaks graciously, believe him not,
for there are seven abominations in his heart;
26 though his hatred be covered with deception,
his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.
27 Whoever digs a pit will fall into it,
and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling.
28 A lying tongue hates its victims,
and a flattering mouth works ruin.
Proverbs 26:23-28 ESV
Verse 23 study: Looking at vv. 24-26, the Hebrew text is complex, but the apparent meaning is good surface can hide an opposite nature beneath.
Verses 24-26 studies: This proverb means people with hate in their hearts may sound pleasant enough; don’t believe what they say.
Verses 25-26 studies: The person in v. 24 must be avoided. People will eventually see through their deceptions.
Verse 27 study: Troublemakers make trouble for themselves.
7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. -Galatians 6:7 ESV
This is supposed to link to verses 23-26 as a theme of retribution. The emphasis is not on direct divine judgment but on the self-destructive nature of folly looking to destroy others.
Verse 28 study: Hatred is the most extensive breakdown in human relationships.
15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. -1 John 3:15 ESV
Human speech has the potential for evil, and misuse cannot be excused.
5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. -James 3:5-10 ESV
when you butt into a quarrel that’s none of your business.
18-19 People who shrug off deliberate deceptions,
saying, “I didn’t mean it, I was only joking,”
Are worse than careless campers
who walk away from smoldering campfires.
20 When you run out of wood, the fire goes out;
when the gossip ends, the quarrel dies down.
21 A quarrelsome person in a dispute
is like kerosene thrown on a fire.
22 Listening to gossip is like eating cheap candy;
do you want junk like that in your belly?
-Proverbs 26:17-22 The Message
17 Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own
is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears.
18 Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death
19 is the man who deceives his neighbor
and says, “I am only joking!”
20 For lack of wood, the fire goes out,
and quarreling ceases where there is no whisperer.
21 As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire,
so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.
22 The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels;
they go down into the inner parts of the body.
-Proverbs 26:17-22 ESV
Verse 17 study: Grabbing a dog’s ears is a good way to get bitten. Likewise, interfering in arguments is a good way to get hurt. In most cases, both arguers will turn on the other person who interferes. Stay out of arguments you don’t have anything to do with. If you have to get involved, wait until the arguers have cooled off after fighting. Afterward, you may be able to mend their differences and their relationship. This also comes with wisdom, knowing when to not interfere.
Verses 18-19 studies: Destruction can be potential in a common element of property and person (v. 18) and personal relations (v. 19.)
Verse 20 study: Adding fuel to the fire keeps the fire going. The same can be said when talking about someone that irritates you. When you stop adding fuel to the fire, the fire will eventually stop growing. Likewise, if you stop talking about the person that upsets you, your irritation dies because nothing is added to annoy you. People will always talk bad about you without knowing the truth. Knowing how to handle it is what wisdom is all about.
Verse 21 study: I’m not happy if I’m not working. A quarrelsome man is not satisfied if they can’t undermine a relationship. Understanding the difference between not being happy with something good versus knowing when to cut ties is essential.
You can expect far more from a fool than from him.
13 Loafers say, “It’s dangerous out there!
Tigers are prowling the streets!”
and then pull the covers back over their heads.
14 Just as a door turns on its hinges,
lazybones turn back in bed.
15 A shiftless sluggard puts his fork in the pie
but is too lazy to lift it to his mouth.
Proverbs 26:11-16 The Message
11 Like a dog that returns to his vomit
is a fool who repeats his folly.
12 Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.
13 The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road!
There is a lion in the streets!”
14 As a door turns on its hinges,
so does a sluggard on his bed.
15 The sluggard buries his hand in the dish;
it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth.
16 The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes
than seven men who can answer sensibly.
-Proverbs 26:11-16 ESV
Verse 11 study: Fools will not learn from their mistakes but repeat them like a dog to its vomit.
Verse 12 study: The degree of folly is found in the highest of the fools that think are wise. Examples are seen in worldly wisdom that regards God’s wisdom as folly.
Verses 13-16 studies: If you find excuses not to work, you won’t work and will have endless reasons not to work. Laziness is more dangerous than a prowling lion. The less you do, the less you want to do, and the more useless you become. To overcome laziness, take some steps towards change. Set realistic goals, figure out your steps towards change, and follow these steps. Pray for strength and persistence. To keep excuses from making you useless, stop making excuses. It’s not worth it.
Verse 14 study: Like a door on its hinges, a lazy person turn restlessly on their beds.
Verse 16 study: The number 7 is precise. It symbolizes completeness. But it is not necessary for this instance; it serves only to highlight the self-delusion of the fool.
is like putting a scalpel in the hands of a drunk.
10 Hire a fool or a drunkard
And you shoot yourself in the foot.
-Proverbs 26:6-10 The Message
6 Whoever sends a message by the hand of a fool
cuts off his own feet and drinks violence.
7 Like a lame man’s legs, which hang useless,
is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
8 Like one who binds the stone in the sling
is one who gives honor to a fool.
9 Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard
is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
10 Like an archer who wounds everyone
is one who hires a passing fool or drunkard.
-Proverbs 26:6-10 ESV
Verses 6-11; 17-19; 23 studies: These are a list of contradictions that should typically never be together.
Verse 6 study: Asking a fool to do errands is asking for trouble.
Verse 7 study: From a fool’s mouth, a proverb becomes useless as a paralyzed leg. Some people are blind to where wisdom won’t work, even when needing proverbs. It’s only people that have receptive attitudes to make the most out of them. If we wait to learn from God, he will respond and pour his heart out to us. Wisdom being said by a foolish person is so incongruous within his character that it loses power.
Verse 8 study: When someone in a group causes tension, the leader usually tries to make him loyal and productive by placing privilege or responsibility. It doesn’t work because it won’t go anywhere. It’s like trying to tie a stone to a sling. It will only come back and swing at you. New power may be just what the person causing tension needs to manipulate the group.
Verse 9 study: When a thorn pricks us, that’s an alert so we can remove the thorn before it causes damage. A drunk person may not feel the thorn, so it will work its way into his flesh. Similarly, a fool may not feel the sting of a proverb because he doesn’t see where it touches his life. So a fool won’t take the point to heart; he will go to his church, employer, spouse, or whoever and apply his rebellion against those. So the next time you find yourself saying, “So-and-so should pay attention to that,” stop and ask yourself, “is there a message in it for me?”
than pray for snow in summer or rain during harvest.
2 You have as little to fear from an undeserved curse
as from a wren’s dart or a swallow’s swoop.
3 A whip for the racehorse, a tiller for the sailboat—
and a stick for the back of fools!
4 Don’t respond to the stupidity of a fool;
you’ll only look foolish yourself.
5 Answer a fool in simple terms
so he doesn’t get a swelled head.
-Proverbs 26:1-5 The Message
26 Like snow in summer or rain in harvest,
so honor is not fitting for a fool.
2 Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying,
a causeless curse does not alight.
3 A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey,
and a rod for the back of fools.
4 Answer not a fool according to his folly,
lest you be like him yourself.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly,
lest he is wise in his own eyes.
-Proverbs 26:1-5 ESV
Verse 1 study: The perceptible orderliness of nature should parallel society’s educated guess of human nature.
Verse 2 study: Curses don’t have the power to afflict someone innocent. This type of curse has meaning only as an expression of divine retribution. A curse has no purpose if it has no effect.
Verses 4-5 studies: These two verses seem to contradict each other. But the writer is saying we shouldn’t take foolish people seriously. This will only make them proud and determined to win the argument. It’s an empty argument, not worth the fight. In some situations, you shouldn’t try to answer a fool. There is no way you can get inside their closed mind. You could be stepping to their level if you choose to respond. Fools will abuse you, and you will be tempted to harm them. In other situations, common sense tells you to answer when you have to expose a fool’s pride and folly.
These verses also illustrate that no proverb is intended to cover every possible situation. The contradiction in these proverbs shows that proverbs should be applied suitably. One situation demands we should avoid playing the fool’s game by giving an answer, while another demand that we expose the folly that the fool is not considered wise.
25 Like a cool drink of water when you’re worn out and weary
is a letter from a long-lost friend.
26 A good person who gives in to a wrong person
is a muddied spring, a polluted well.
27 It’s not wise to stuff yourself with sweets,
nor is glory piled on glory good for you.
28 A person without self-control
is like a house with its doors and windows knocked out.
-Proverbs 25:25-28 The Message
25 Like cold water to a thirsty soul,
so is good news from a far country.
26 Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain
is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.
27 It is not good to eat much honey,
nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory.
28 A man without self-control
is like a city broken into and left without walls.
-Proverbs 25:25-28 ESV
Verse 26 study: To give way to the wicked means setting aside your right and wrong standards. No one is helped by someone who promises with the wicked.
Verse 27 study: When you dwell on honors, what you think you deserve is harmful. It will only make you bitter, discouraged, or angry, and the rewards will not come to you if you believe it is yours. Moreover, pining for what you should have received may make you miss the satisfaction of knowing you did your best.
Verse 28 study: The city walls restricted inhabitants’ movements, making people happy to have the wall. Without it, they would have been vulnerable to attacks by any passing groups of marauders. Self-control limits us, to be sure, but it is not necessary. A life that is out of control is open to all kinds of attacks. So think of self-control as a way of defense and protection.
21-22 If you see your enemy hungry, go buy him lunch;
if he’s thirsty, bring him a drink.
Your generosity will surprise him with goodness,
and God will look after you.
23 A north wind brings stormy weather,
and a gossipy tongue, stormy looks.
24 Better to live alone in a tumbledown shack
then share a mansion with a nagging spouse.
-Proverbs 25:21-24 The Message
If your enemy is hungry, give him bread 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.
23 The north wind brings forth rain,
and a backbiting tongue, angry looks.
24 It is better to live in the corner of the housetop
than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.
-Proverbs 25:21-24 ESV
Verses 21-22 studies: God has a way of retaliating in the most challenging and effective ways. Romans 12:19-21 is where Paul quotes this proverb. Matthew 5:44, Jesus encourages us to pray for those who hurt us. Returning good for evil, we acknowledge God as the balancer of all accounts and trust him to be the judge.
Verse 22 study: You will heap burning coals on his heads. There is a metaphor behind it. It means a few things. An image of overcoming evil with good. Psalms 140:10 uses a phrase as a description of punishment. It is the meaning of penitence through a burning sense of shame. The Egyptian penitential rite in which coals were carried on the head to show contrition is how some associates imagined it. The proverb comments on divine recompense: “the Lord will reward you.”
Exodus 23:4-5 Israel was ordered to show kindness to the enemies, which is rare. It could be the sign of the enemies as those who oppose God’s kingdom and also threaten Israel’s survival as messianic people. Jesus developed implications of the gospel for the treatment of personal enemies in Matthew 5:43-48.
Verse 23 study: Take note of both lines’ inevitable cause and effect relationship.
Verse 24 study: Proverbs teaching is an example of controlling your tongue. Contentious also mean quarrelsome.
16-17 When you’re given a box of candy, don’t gulp it all down;
overeat chocolate, and you’ll make yourself sick;
And when you find a friend, don’t outwear your welcome;
show up at all hours, and he’ll soon get fed up.
18 Anyone who tells lies against the neighbors
in court or on the street is a loose cannon.
19 Trusting a double-crosser when you’re in trouble
is like biting down on an abscessed tooth.
20 Singing light songs to the heavyhearted
is like pouring salt into their wounds.
-Proverbs 25:16-20 The Message
If you have found honey, eat only enough for you,
lest you have your fill of it and vomit it.
17 Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house,
lest he has his fill of you and hates you.
18 A man who bears false witness against his neighbor
is like a war club, sword, or sharp arrow.
19 Trusting in a treacherous man in time of trouble
is like a bad tooth or a foot that slips.
20 Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart
is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day,
and like vinegar on soda.
-Proverbs 25:16-20 ESV
Verse 16 study: There is a thing as too much, even for something good.
Verses 16-17 study: Here is the message; know when to stop, honey is good for you, but too much can make you sick, neighborly friendship is good, but excessive familiarity can abuse another’s privacy. Therefore, relationships need to be defined wisely.
Verse 18 study: False witness (lying) is vicious. A stab wound is permanent; the effects of a stab wound are like bearing false witness. It is permanent to those who are being lied to. When tempted to pass on gossip, think of yourself stabbing the victim of your remarks with a sword. This image can shock you into silence.
False testimony belongs to the same group as weapons of war because they all have the same effects and instruments used to assault others and their well-being.
Verse 19 study: The pain is both acute and chronic.
Verse 20 study: The process of vinegar to soda renders the latter useless. Another thought is like pouring vinegar on a wound. Taking someone’s coat and pouring vinegar on wounds causes pain. Trifle does as well in the presence of sorrow.
There is a time for everything. The protest is against that which is unsuitable and has terrible taste.
are like cool drinks in sweltering heat—refreshing!
14 Like billowing clouds that bring no rain
is the person who talks big but never produces.
15 Patient persistence pierces through indifference;
gentle speech breaks down rigid defenses.
-Proverbs 25:11-15 The Message
A word fitly spoken
is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
12 Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold
is a wise reprover to a listening ear.
13 Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest
is a faithful messenger to those who send him;
he refreshes the soul of his masters.
14 Like clouds and wind without rain
A man boasts of a gift he does not give.
15 With patience, a ruler may be persuaded,
and a soft tongue will break a bone.
-Proverbs 25:11-15 ESV
Verse 11 study: Settings of silver are apples of gold, a word fitly spoken. This comparison places two or more things side by side to leave the reader to work out the nature of the comparison. This is why it is essential to choose your words; a common theme can highlight the comparison with objects of fine craftsmanship.
Verse 12 study: Verse 11 shares a comparison of ideas. Two pieces of jewelry are set alongside a good relationship between a wise teacher’s rebuke and the receptive pupil. This comparison says either a rebuke is valuable as fine gold jewelry or a wise rebuke with a receptive ear goes well together like matched jewelry.
Verse 13 study: It’s difficult to find people you can really trust. A messenger, aka faithful employee, is thorough, responsible, honest, and hardworking. This person helps take the load off their employer. Find out what your employer needs from you to make their job more accessible, and then do it.
Usually, a time of perspiring labor is unexpected by the refreshment of cooling snow. It’s pleasing as the work of a good envoy. Of course, it can be disastrous for the harvest, but refreshment is not the imagery of an unseasonable snowfall.
Verse 14 study: Churches, missions organizations, and Christian groups depend on people’s gifts to keep their ministries going. Many who promise to give fail to follow through. The Bible is clear about how this affects people involved in the church. If you make a pledge, keep your promise.
Inhabitants of Palestine often experienced clouds that promised rain but proved to be dry. This can be applied to those who seek power and influence, political or personal, by promises that are not fulfilled.
Verse 15 study: With patience, you are being slow to anger and resisting provocation. Break a bone means by soft diplomacy, strong resistance is broken.