Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.XXVII.
(1) Boast not thyself of to-morrow.—This is forbidden also in James 4:13, sqq.; but there on the higher ground that it argues a want of submission to the will of Almighty God. This temper of mind, as well as the opposite one of too great anxiety for the morrow (Matthew 6:34), proceed from the same cause, too much dependence upon self, and are only to be met by learning to realise the love of God for His children (ibid., 26, 30, 33), and looking up to Him daily for protection, guidance, and support.
Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.(2) Let another man (zar) praise thee . . . a stranger (nokhrî).—As to the difference between these words, see above on Proverbs 2:16. A higher consideration than this is suggested in 2Corinthians 10:18.
A stone is heavy, and the sand weighty; but a fool's wrath is heavier than them both.(3) But a fool’s wrath is heavier than them both—i.e., harder to bear. (Comp. Ecclesiasticus 12:15.) The “fool” here (evil) is the headstrong, self-willed person. who has never learned to control himself, but bursts out into the maddest rage when crossed.
Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?(4) But who is able to stand before envy?—Rather, jealousy. (Comp. Proverbs 6:34.) “Wrath” and “anger” rage for awhile like a storm, and then subside; but jealousy can never be completely set at rest.
Open rebuke is better than secret love.(5) Secret love—i.e., that never discloses itself in acts of kindness, not even in “open rebuke” when such is needed.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.(6) Faithful are the wounds of a friend—i.e., the “open rebuke” of the previous verse, the “smiting” and “reproof” of Psalm 142:5.
The kisses of an enemy are deceitful.—Rather, plentiful, showered upon one, but all meaningless.
The full soul loatheth an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.(7) The full soul loatheth an honeycomb.—So the moderate use of the good things of this life increases our enjoyment of them. But in spiritual things, the less we content ourselves with, the less hunger we feel, and less enjoyment do we derive from them.
As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place.(8) A man that wandereth from his place.—That wandereth forth as an exile that has lost his home. Comp. Genesis 12:4, and, on the contrary, Job’s hope that he would “die in his nest” (Proverbs 29:18). For the spiritual sense comp. Luke 15:13, sqq.
Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel.(9) Ointment and perfume.—Comp. Proverbs 7:17 and note on Proverbs 21:17.
Thine own friend, and thy father's friend, forsake not; neither go into thy brother's house in the day of thy calamity: for better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off.(10) Better is a neighbour that is near.—See above on Proverbs 17:17; Proverbs 18:24. “Near” and “far off”—i.e., in feeling.
My son, be wise, and make my heart glad, that I may answer him that reproacheth me.(11) My son.—The address of a father to his son, or master to pupil.
That I may answer him that reproacheth me for having brought you up badly when he sees you ignorant or ill-behaved. So Christians are exhorted to let their “light so shine before men” that their Father in heaven may be thereby glorified (Matthew 5:16).
A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished.(12) A prudent man foreseeth the evil.—See above on Proverbs 22:3.
Take his garment that is surety for a stranger, and take a pledge of him for a strange woman.(13) Take a pledge of him for a strange woman.—See above on Proverbs 20:16; and for “strange woman” comp. note on Proverbs 2:16.
He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him.(14) He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice . . .—If gratitude is to be acceptable, the time, place, and manner of shewing it must all be well chosen. A man who is so eager to express his thanks that he begins early in the morning, and in so loud a voice as to draw upon his patron the attention of all the bystanders, is looked upon as a nuisance; any one would as soon be cursed as blessed by him. So God loves heartfelt gratitude offered in secret. (Comp. Matthew 6:5-6.)
A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike.(15) A continual dropping in a very rainy day.—See above on Proverbs 19:13.
Whosoever hideth her hideth the wind, and the ointment of his right hand, which bewrayeth itself.(16) Whosoever hideth her hideth the wind—i.e., you might as well try and stop the wind from blowing as seek to restrain her.
And the ointment of his right hand, which bewrayeth itself.—Rather, perhaps, and oil meeteth his right hand—i.e., if he puts out his hand to stop her she slips through it like oil.
Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.(17) So a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend—i.e., the play of wit with wit sharpens and brightens up the face.
Whoso keepeth the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof: so he that waiteth on his master shall be honoured.(18) Whoso keepeth the fig-tree—i.e., tends it carefully year after year, “shall eat the fruit thereof” when it has come to perfection.
So he that waiteth on his master—i.e., attends to him, observes and follows out his wishes, “shall be honoured” for his good service. (Comp. Matthew 25:21.)
As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man.(19) So the heart of man (answereth) to man.—What is in our own hearts we find in others also. Whatever are the distinguishing features of our own characters we discover and elicit the same in others. The merciful, the generous, the devout, the pure, recognise the same qualities in others, and themselves feel and receive sympathy from such persons. So the evil, too, find themselves in harmony with those of like disposition.
Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.(20) Hell and destruction.—See above on Proverbs 15:11.
The eyes of man are never satisfied.—Comp. Ecclesiastes 1:8; Ecclesiastes 4:8. God would thus teach us that in Himself only can man find complete satisfaction. (Comp. Psalm 36:8-9; 1Corinthians 2:9.)
As the fining pot for silver, and the furnace for gold; so is a man to his praise.(21) So is a man to his praise—i.e., as the fining-pot and furnace test the metals put into them, so does that on which a man prides or boasts himself. Observe what this is—e.g., wealth, or show, or popularity, or duty—and you will see what sort of a man he is. Or it may mean, praise—i.e., popularity, is as great a trial to a man as the fining-pot to silver; he must be of good metal if he comes unhurt out of this. Or, again, it may signify, let a man test his praise—i.e., examine by whom and for what he is praised, and be sure it is genuine and well deserved
Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him.(22) Though thou shouldest bray (i.e., pound) a fool (a self-willed, headstrong person) in a mortar among wheat with a pestle.—This would separate completely the husks from the wheat; but obstinacy has become a part of such a man’s nature, and cannot be got rid of even by such violent measures.
Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.(23) Be thou diligent to know the state of thy herds. . . .—In the last five verses of this chapter the peace and security of the pastoral life are described as being far superior to the uncertainty attending other sources of wealth and the regal power. For the spiritual sense of this passage comp. 1Peter 5:2-4
For riches are not for ever: and doth the crown endure to every generation?(24) For riches are not for ever.—Comp. Proverbs 23:5. So it is well to have a sure source of income, like husbandry or cattle-feeding, upon which to fall back.
The hay appeareth, and the tender grass sheweth itself, and herbs of the mountains are gathered.(25) The hay appeareth.—Or perhaps better, is gone. The quiet succession of the crops and seasons is here described.
Herbs of the mountains—i.e., pasturage.
The lambs are for thy clothing, and the goats are the price of the field.(26) And the goats are the price of the field—i.e., you can purchase a field from the profit of your goats.
And thou shalt have goats' milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance for thy maidens.(27) For the maintenance for thy maidens, who tend the cattle.