Chapter 10: Commentary

Chapter 10 begins the second collection of Proverbs (10:1-24:34) attributed to Solomon. This section consists of mainly single verse wise saying of typical Hebrew poetry. This chapter has only the single verse statements, somewhat similar to the wise sayings with which we grew up. "Righteousness" and "the righteous" together are the reoccurring theme in this chapter. These proverbs are most like the wise sayings with which we grew up.

10:1 The proverbs of Solomon: A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son grief to his mother.

     The beginning of this verse is not a heading added by the publisher of your Bible. It is part of the ancient text and alerts us to the fact that the book of Proverbs is divided into sections. This is the second section and consists of one-verse wise sayings versus the longer poems which told stories in the first section.
      The second part of this verse is the actual wise saying and is something any parent understands. When I know that my kids are doing well, it gives a little boost to my day – even though they both live on the other side of the country. But, if I know they're having a rough time in their lives, it is a downer. But that is what parenting is all about. We need to regularly pray for our kids and trust them into His hands – He actually cares more about them than we do!
      While there may be some special insights from the specific statements about father and mother in this verse, it is also just another example of parallel statements in Hebrew poetry. Parental love leads to emotions of both joy and grief. But mom can be just as glad as dad and he can feel just as much grief as she can.

10:2 Ill-gotten treasures are of no value, but righteousness delivers from death.

     At first glance, these two lines do not seem to relate, but a closer examination indicates how well they connect. Treasure always sound like a good idea, but ill-gotten treasures are of no value. There are two reasons why: 1.) Because the people I ripped off to get that treasure might come after me, with or without the help of the police! 2.) God knows and promises that He won't let us get away with it.
      The second half of the verse states that righteousness delivers from death. In the end, it won't matter how much treasure we have piled up, or who we know that can hook us up. The Almighty has declared that only righteousness can deliver them from death – both physically and spiritually.

10:3 The LORD does not let the righteous go hungry, but He thwarts the craving of the wicked.

     In true Hebrew poetic parallelism, this verse says God knows us and understands what is best for each of us. So, He knows when "the righteous go hungry" and He knows "the craving of the wicked."
      When it comes to the righteous, is says He "does not let the righteous go hungry." The rule is that God will feed the righteous - although there are points when He does have a different plan for their lives at that time.
      The verse does NOT say He will not feed "the wicked." But He will "thwart" the inappropriate "cravings" they have.
      The real issue about this verse for me is whether I choose to accept both these statements as true. If I do and the righteous go hungry, I should be able to accept that He is doing something unique in this situation.
      If I believe that He thwarts the craving of the wicked, when the wicked seem to really get out of control, I should be able to accept that there is something else He is doing in this situation.
      Admittedly, I do struggle with such situations as they happen in the world around me. But -- based on what the Bible says and my 44 years of imperfectly walking it -- I believe He's in charge and knows what He's doing and will do what is best for each of us!
      Choosing to believe and follow that has been a powerful force in my life over the decades. I invite you to join me.
      We can trust His judgment!

10:5 He who gathers crops in summer is a wise son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.

     Most of us understand the working ("gathers crops in summer") vs. not working ("sleeps during harvest") concept in this verse. Hard work in the summer heat to collect the available, minimal but valuable produce was a wise thing.
      On the other hand, not working during the normal and essential spring grain harvest was disgraceful. If sons would only work like the ants do in summer and harvest (6:8)!
      This verse is about activities, choices and character. Our activities are based on choices and our choices are based on our character. Consequently, our activities indicate the kind of people we are and how we will be known – at least that's the way Jesus saw it (Mt 7:16-20).
      But the other part of this verse is that my choices – good and bad – affect others. Here it is my parents. In agrarian ancient Israel, a family would greatly benefit or suffer from a son's choices.
      We are not islands unto ourselves and our choices will have an impact on those around us – especially those closest to us!

10:6 Blessings crown the head of the righteous, but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked.

     This verse discusses two characters regularly contrasted in Proverbs - "the righteous" and "the wicked." And the focus is not on what happens to them, but is about them - about who they are.
      "The righteous" are men and women who operate in a manner consistent with God's way. Their attitudes and actions follow both His standards and His plan for their lives. Now that sounds like a pretty good way to go!
      Resultant to being such a person is that "blessings crown the head." Consistently - but not perfectly! - thinking and living as they do continues to keep them in the right place at the right time. This isn't rocket science to figure out - just the willingness to make good choices!
      Conversely, "violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked." The verb "overwhelms" is an appropriate translation, but the standard English translation for this word is "cover."
      In addition, the word-order of this Proverb can also suggest a slightly different reading - "the mouth of the wicked covers/conceals violence." Being the wicked person they are, violence is, in fact, part of their ongoing plans and activities. Sadly, it's part of their life!
      So this verse is not about what happens to us, but the realities of being who we are - benefits or consequences. And, when I'm the person I'm supposed to be - its good to be me!

10:7 The memory of the righteous will be a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot.

     It is a wonderful thing to consider that a life lived appropriately (Honest, Open and Willing) will be remembered and called out as a blessing by those who follow. It is also a sobering thought that the wickedness we practiced in this life will not be forgotten and will long afterward be considered as something rotten.
      I often ask the men of Helping Up Mission, "if your family could put on your gravestone what they really want to say, what do you think they might say?" It's a sobering thought!

10:8 The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin.

     This wise saying is painful for me! It compares two different people - "the wise in heart" and "a chattering fool."
      The distinguishing characteristic of the wise person here is that he or she chooses to "accept commands." To do that, means they must first listen so they can follow directions!
      The distinguishing characteristic of the fool in this verse is his "chattering!" This guy or gal is apparently talking so much that they don't listen very well. Busted!
      While the verse doesn't discuss what all this listening and following commands specifically does for the wise, we can assume it is probably pretty good. But it does say what all the talking this fool does will get him - "ruin."
      A fool talks and gets nowhere. Wisdom, on the other hand, is in the heart - which is focused on attitudes and thoughts. Wisdom affects how we think, which affects how we feel, which will affect how we act.
      Wise people listen while fools just keep on talking. Verses like this are difficult for talkers like me...because we just have so much to say! Guess I better just wise up!

10:9 "The memory of the righteous will be a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot."

     It is a wonderful thing to consider that a life lived appropriately will be remembered and called out as "a blessing" by those who follow. It is also a sobering thought that the "wickedness" we practiced in this life will not be forgotten and will long afterward be considered as something "rotten."
      At Helping Up Mission we talk spirituality as "living Honest, Open and Willing before God one day at a time." Being that guy will not only bring me blessings in this life, but will make me a blessing to so many around me.
      I like to say to the guys here, "If your family could put on your tombstone what they really want to say, what do you think it might look like?" A sobering thought for all of us!

10:11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

     This wise saying is about "the mouth of" two major characters in Proverbs - "the righteous" and "the wicked." Of course, the real issue here is actually the words they speak out of their mouths.
      "The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life." Words from the heart of a righteous person are a continually-flowing source of life which would be helpful and supportive of others. That sounds pretty good!
      "The mouth of the wicked conceals violence" might also sounds like a good thing. But the idea of "concealing" doesn't. The wicked person's words are actually hiding something - "violence" or "destruction" or just plain "wrong" in their heart!
      So this proverb suggests that it's very important to understand which person is talking to us. Once we know, we'll be much better equipped to handle both their words and even the motivations behind them.
      Of course, it would also be a good thing if I would apply the same reality check to my own words and my own heart, too!

10:12 Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.

     The focus of this verse is on my attitude. My "hatred stirs up dissension" in others. When I can't let something go and it really gets to me, I will almost assuredly develop hatred in my heart. Even if I try to hide it, it will eventually spill out. That will inevitably lead to dissension between me and others.
      On the other side, my attitude of love toward others will help me to let things go and not hold things against someone else. It is possible for my "love covers over all wrongs" and that means "no hatin'!"
      Sometimes I can just process inside my own heart and let it go. Other times, mine will have to be tough love and I will need to face them over some issues. Then I will be empowered to be able to let it go. Either way, it's going to be my choice!

10:15 The wealth of the rich is their fortified city, but poverty is the ruin of the poor.

     At first glance, this proverb is a straight forward statement of two rather basic truths. "The rich" think their "wealth" is all they need. That they will be as safe and secure as if they were living in a "fortified city.".
      The second part of this verse is an opposite but also true statement. "Poverty" is a really difficult situation for ("the ruin of") "the poor." Yet, upon further consideration, I think this verse offers some additional insights.
      Starting with the second phrase first, poverty does seem to be a dead-end for the poor and as long as the poor are living in poverty, there seems to hope or answers. This was especially in the ancient world, it was very difficult to break out of that station in life.
      But it was not impossible for the poor to break out of poverty then, and it certainly is not impossible living in the United States today. I've been watching poor homeless guys change their situation in life here at Helping Up Mission for 14 years. Thus the second half of the verse is not an absolute unalterable truth.
      But neither is the first part of the verse. While the wealth of the rich feels like a fortified city, in reality it isn't. We all know about those who seemed to have everything, but ended up losing it all – no safety or security there! Again, a small but significant number at men at Helping Up Mission once had their own fortified city of wealth but eventually saw it collapse all around them.
      So, while both lines of this proverb are true observations, neither is an absolute truth. Wealth can be a great source of safety and security, but it may not last. And the poor are not necessarily doomed to poverty. Their situation can change!
      (a truth expanded on in 19:7). In the ancient world (and still much of the world today) getting out of poverty seems hopeless – "a place of ruin." This verse is not suggesting poverty is nNot being able to get out of poverty is described as a place of ruin – that is, a place where things aren't right and don't work well.
      Interestingly, this verse suggests that wealth doesn't really do us that much good, in the end, and, of course, neither does poverty. Taken together, this suggests things are just not that important!
      But most of us know this first line of the verse just isn't true. In fact, money in itself, is a dead-end.
      Interestingly, the first line of this verse is repeated word-for-word in 18:11 (the "fortified city" also in 18:19). Apparently, the LORD thinks we need to hear this message again.

10:19 Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.

     The term "sin" as used here is not just doing something wrong - whether big or little. It's best understood as "defiance" or "rebellion." This sin represents some strong motives raging against authority - human or God.
      You can't just talk defiance or rebellion into submission - it "is not ended by multiplying words." This is an attitude that will have to be changed from the inside.
      "Prudent" is a term used synonymously for "wisdom." It carries the idea of understanding what's going on and then deciding to do the appropriate thing.
      "The prudent" person can see the emotions of the one who feels all this defiance. The prudent understand the rebellious can't be talked down and realize the best thing they can do is "hold their tongues."
      Folks all bound up with all these feelings need to be able to talk, themselves. They should know they are being heard and they should be able to see in someone else a better way to live.
      Then at that point they might be open to hearing something that might really change their lives. It's hard work and will take some time.
      Do you know how hard this is for me to do this! I have so much to say and I really want to help and...And what I really need to do is just shut up!

10:22 The blessing of the LORD brings wealth, and he adds no trouble to it.

     This verse says two things about the blessing of the LORD, it brings riches and it does not bring sorrow. This doesn't mean that things are never difficult or unpleasant or that we will become absolutely wealthy. But it does say that God will bring nice stuff into our lives and the things He does in our lives are not designed to bring sorrow to us.
      The blessing of the LORD sounds a lot like wisdom. Wisdom in Proverbs also does not bring trouble into our lives and does bring a level of material blessings with it. I assume that the blessing of the LORD is basically synonymous to the wisdom Solomon speaks about so frequently. The same attitudes and openness that helps us apply wisdom also plugs us into the blessing of the LORD.
      This verse has been special to me for 38 years. On my wedding day, my missionary father-in-law quoted these words during the ceremony. I have found them to be wonderfully true in my life. And I'm not special - this promise is for you, too!

10:24 What the wicked dreads will overtake him; what the righteous desire will be granted.

     This verse discusses two different characters – the wicked and the righteous. The wicked fear and dread something – it may be from the past or the future. Either way, sadly, this verse points out that what they dread comes upon them and overtakes them.
      Seemingly, this dread ends up emotionally paralyzing him and he finds himself powerless to address his object of fear before it overtakes him. Such is the situation of the wicked – their very nature leads to a lifestyle causing them to constantly live in dread of things – generally from their past – which can and will hurt them in the future.
      On the other hand, the righteous desire something in the future. His lifestyle also leads him to having something come on him, but this time it is something good that he desires.
      In both situations, a man has something on his mind – one thinking about negative things most likely from the past and the other thinking about positive things from the future. It is another way of saying that famous wise saying "you reap what you sow." This verse can also be seen as an example of the concept of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Our expectations can affect our behavior in such a manner than we actually cause those expectations to be fulfilled. Thus the Scriptures constantly remind us to think positive thoughts empower us to succeed in life.

10:26 As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is a sluggard to those who send him.

     The verse compares three things quite irritating in life. The first is vinegar to the teeth. Understandingly, the root of this Hebrew word is something sour. You can almost see the face someone makes when they get something really sour in their mouths. When I eat something really sour I run my tongue across my teeth in hopes of making that taste go away. It would be especially irritating in the ancient world, where they would have so little other things around to help take that taste out of their mouths.
      The second irritating thing in this verse is smoke in the eyes. I have always loved fire – wood-burning in campfires and the fireplace at home and even grilling over charcoal. What is really irritating to my wife was when I would inevitably fill the whole house with smoke from the fireplace because I hadn't handled the damper correctly!
      But this verse is speaking about all those times I was grilling over charcoal in the backyard and I made constant decisions to not be downwind and get smoke in my eyes. It seemed inevitable to me that I would and my eyes would water and I would be miserable.
      These two irritants were compared to a third, giving an assignment to a lazy guy. Unfortunately, we can never be sure if or when he will ever complete the task.
      The lesson of this verse is to remember the discomfort of the vinegar and smoke and then never make a decision to count on a sluggard to get a job done.

10:30 The righteous will never be uprooted, but the wicked will not remain in the land

     This wise saying contrasts what happens to "the righteous" and "the wicked." The righteous "will never be uprooted" - suggesting stability and continuity. The wicked get no such assurance - they "will not remain in the land."
      It's a straight forward statement and striking contrast of what each can expect in this life, even the life to come. But even more important than what will happen is why it happens.
      By definition, "the righteous" are those living according to a God-established standard. It is the result of conscious deliberate choices they made and continue making.
      Here's how that works. "The righteous" recognize their own powerlessness to do what's required. They've also accepted that God promises He can and will do it for them.
      Then, it's a daily decision to continually let Him do in my life what I can't do for myself. That's how we go to Heaven! It's also how to do a daily spiritual walk.
      In contrast, "the wicked" are those guilty of not living according to God's standard. The reason is they think they have a better plan and can work it out themselves. They've not yet come to grips with their own need.
      An interesting paradox - none of us are able to meet God's standard in our own strength. Those who admit such are declared "righteous," receive His empowerment and begin making better choices. Those who don't admit their need are left to their own failing devices to work it out the best they can - a dead end!
      It's the same as the Biblical basis behind the first 3 of the 12 Steps: I Can't (Step 1); He Can (Step 2); So Let Him (Step 3). That's how we do we go to a daily spiritual walk becomes a reality!