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Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, [1834], at

Proverbs Chapter 21

Proverbs 21:1

pro 21:1

Rivers of water - See the Psa 1:3 note. As the cultivator directs the stream into the channels where it is most wanted, so Yahweh directs the thoughts of the true king, that his favors may fall, not at random, but in harmony with a divine order.

Proverbs 21:3

pro 21:3

Compare the marginal reference. The words have a special significance as coming from the king who had built the temple, and had offered sacrifices that could not be numbered for multitude" Kg1 8:5.

Proverbs 21:4

pro 21:4

The plowing - The Hebrew word, with a change in its vowel points, may signify either:

(1) the "fallow field," the "tillage" of Pro 13:23, or

(2) the lamp.

According to: (1) the verse would mean, "The outward signs of pride, the proud heart, the broad lands of the wicked, all are evil." (2) however, belongs, as it were, to the language of the time and of the book Pro 13:9; Pro 24:20. The "lamp of the wicked" is their outwardly bright prosperity.

Proverbs 21:5

pro 21:5

Here diligence is opposed, not to sloth but to haste. Undue hurry is as fatal to success as undue procrastination.

Proverbs 21:6

pro 21:6

Vanity - Or, "a breath driven to and fro of those that are seeking death." Another reading of the last words is: "of the snares of death" (compare Ti1 6:9). Some commentators have suggested that the "vapor" or "mist" is the mirage of the desert, misleading those who follow it, and becoming a "net of death."

Proverbs 21:7

pro 21:7

Robbery - Probably the "violence" which the wicked practice.

Shall destroy them - More literally, carries them away.

Proverbs 21:8

pro 21:8

Or, "Perverse is the way of a sin burdened man."

Proverbs 21:9

pro 21:9

A wide house - literally, "a house of companionship," i. e., a house shared with her. The flat roof of an Eastern house was often used for retirement by day, or in summer for sleep by night. The corner of such a roof was exposed to all changes of weather, and the point of the proverb lies in the thought that all winds and storms which a man might meet with there are more endurable than the tempest within.

Proverbs 21:12

pro 21:12

Or, The Righteous One (Yahweh) regardeth well the house of the wicked, and maketh the wicked fall into mischief.

Proverbs 21:16

pro 21:16

congregation of the dead - The Rephaim (compare the Pro 2:18 note).

Remain - i. e., "He shall find a resting place, but it shall be in Hades."

Proverbs 21:17

pro 21:17

Wine and oil - i. e., The costly adjuncts of a princely banquet. The price of oil or precious unguent was about equal to the 300 days' wages of a field laborer Mat 20:2. Indulgence in such a luxury would thus become the type of all extravagance and excess.

Proverbs 21:18

pro 21:18

Compare the marginal reference. Evil doers seem to draw down the wrath of God upon their heads, and so become, as it were, the scapegoats of the comparatively righteous.

Proverbs 21:20

pro 21:20

Spendeth it up - literally, swalloweth it. The wise man keeps a store in reserve. He gains uprightly, spends moderately, never exhausts himself. But the proverb may have also a higher application. The wise man stores up all "treasure to be desired" of wisdom, all "oil" of divine influence, which strengthens and refreshes, and so is ready at all times for the work to which the Master calls him. Compare Mat 25:1-13.

Proverbs 21:21

pro 21:21

The man who keeps "righteousness" will assuredly find it, but he will find besides it the "life" and the "honor" which he was not seeking. Compare Kg1 3:13; Mat 6:33.

Proverbs 21:22

pro 21:22

Even in war, counsel does more than brute strength. So of the warfare which is carried on in the inner battlefield of the soul. There also wisdom is mighty to the "pulling down of strongholds" (Co2 10:4, where Paul uses the very words of the Septuagint Version of this passage), and the wise man scales and keeps the city which the strong man armed has seized and made his own.

Proverbs 21:25

pro 21:25

Killeth him - He wastes his strength and life in unsatisfied longings for something which he has not energy to gain. The wish to do great or good things may sometimes be taken for the deed, but if the hindrance is from a man's own sloth, it does but add to his condemnation.

Proverbs 21:26

pro 21:26

All the day long - Better, every day. The wish of the slothful man passes into restless, covetous, dissatisfied desire; the righteous, free from that desire, gives without grudging.

Proverbs 21:27

pro 21:27

A lower depth even than Pro 15:8. The wicked man may connect his devotion with his guilt, offer his sacrifice and vow his vow (as men have done under paganism or corrupted Christianity) for success in the perpetration of a crime.

Proverbs 21:28

pro 21:28

Speaketh constantly - His testimony abides evermore who repeats simply what he has heard, whether from the lips of men or from the voice within, in contrast with "the false witness."

Proverbs 21:29

pro 21:29

Directeth - i. e., Makes straight and firm. On one side it is the callousness of guilt; on the other side it is the confidence of integrity.

Proverbs 21:30

pro 21:30

Two companion proverbs. Nothing avails against, nothing without, God. The horse is the type of warlike strength, used chiefly or exclusively in battle. Kg1 4:26; Kg1 10:26-28, may be thought of as having given occasion to the latter of the two proverbs.

Next: Proverbs Chapter 22