Proverbs 26:22

The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.

– Proverbs 26:22

This verse is the same as Proverbs 18:8. The word for wounds only appears in these two verses and means to gulp down. The image is that of devouring food. Just as what we eat goes into the body and has internal effect, gossip and slander penetrate and have an effect on our souls. Wisdom teaches to refuse to hear such talk (Proverbs 26:17, 20-21; 20:3).

 


 

 

Proverbs 26:21

As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife.

– Proverbs 26:21

This saying uses the image of feeding fuel to a fire, whether coals or wood. A contentious man is a brawling or quarrelsome man. He fuels strife just wood fuels fire. Proverbs here adds contentious as a character that stirs up strife along with hateful and angry (Proverbs 10:12; 15:18; 29:22).

 


 

 

Proverbs 26:20

Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.

– Proverbs 26:20

Verses 20-22 form sayings about the gossiping busybody. The word for talebearer means whisperer, and the word for strife means quarrel, or contest. The image of a fire is apt as a picture of gossip. James used this image when referring to the tongue and the destructive power it holds (James 3:6).  The two phrases parallel. Talebearing, or gossiping, is to strife as wood is to fire. It is the fuel. If you do not add wood, the fire will burn out. If you do not add gossip, strife will stop. Proverbs identifies several sources of strife—hatred (Proverbs 10:12), dishonesty (Proverbs 16:28), anger (Proverbs 15:18; 29:22; 30:33), pride (Proverbs 13:10; 28:25), foolishness (Proverbs 18:6; 20:3; 26:17), belligerence (Proverbs 26:21), and gossip (Proverbs 17:9; 26:20).

 


 

 

Proverbs 26:18-19

As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death, So is the man that deceiveth his neighbor, and saith, Am not I in sport?

– Proverbs 26:18-19

Verses 18-19 refer to the chronic jokester who does not seriously consider the damaging effects of his jesting. A mad man is a reference to insanity and the picture is completed by him throwing flaming arrows, arrows, and even death around indiscriminately. He has no concern for the danger that threatens those around him. The comparison is to the jolly fool who deceives his neighbor with no forethought of the hurtful potential of his antics. Of course, he attempts to cover is with the suggestion that he was only having fun (Proverbs 10:23; 15:21).

 


 

 

Proverbs 26:17

He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears.

– Proverbs 26:17

The next three verses are loosely connected. This verse speaks of the meddler, or busybody. We would say he sticks his nose in other people’s business. The saying has more force once we realize dogs were not domesticated pets in those days, but wild and dangerous animals. Grabbing a wild dog by the ears is just not going to end well and you are very likely to get hurt. It is an apt depiction of the trouble the meddler makes for himself for no reason. Proverbs elsewhere labels the meddler a fool (Proverbs 18:6) and honors the wise who avoid unnecessary strife (Proverbs 20:3).

 


 

 

Proverbs 26:16

The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.

– Proverbs 26:16

This group of sluggard sayings finishes with a saying that gets at the root of the lazy man’s problems. He is wise in “his own conceit,” or in his own eyes. The word for reason means taste, or judgment. It has been translated as discretion and understanding. The word refers to what we might call good sense. The number seven is in excess of the two or three witnesses in the law and the excess points to the fact that their reason is established, true, and reliable. The sluggard will not receive it, but thinks he is smarter than all who disagree with him. In the face of hard truth, he persists in his own judgment. The lazy man or woman has a stubborn pride that clings to their own excuses and rationalizations as to why they do not work.

 


 

 

Proverbs 26:15

The slothful hideth his hand in his bosom; it grieveth him to bring it again to his mouth.

– Proverbs 26:15

The third saying is very close to Proverbs 19:24. The word for grieveth means weary or tiring. The image exaggerates laziness to the point the sluggard is too lazy to lift his hand to his mouth to eat. Kidner pointed out the sluggard’s objection to being hurried in regard to this saying.

 


 

 

Proverbs 26:14

As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed.

– Proverbs 26:14

The second saying gives the image of a hinged door as apt to depict the slothful upon his bed. A door is fastened to the post with hinges so it can swing back and forth, but it does not move out of its place. The sluggard is similarly hinged to his bed, so he does not get up and get to work. Proverbs marks a sluggard as one over-indulging in sleep and rest (Proverbs 6:9-10; 24:33). This group of sayings highlights the sluggard’s rationalizations and Kidner here points out the lazy often say they are not at their “best in the morning.”

 


 

 

Proverbs 26:13

The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets.

– Proverbs 26:13

Verses 13-16 form a group of sayings about sluggards, or slothful men. All together they provide a picture of either self-deception, or at least a lack of self-awareness. A sluggard never thinks he is lazy, but rather has answers for all challenges to his lack of proper action and work. This saying echoes Proverbs 22:13, where the sluggard cannot go out to work because the possibility of a lion in the streets. Kidner pointed out this excuse makes the sluggard a “realist” in his own mind. He doesn’t think he is lazy but rather he is pragmatic.

This saying relates to the thinking of a person who will not start to work because of the all the difficulties. Whatever project is suggested, they persist in pointing out all the obstacles and difficulties. Merely pointing out a difficulty is sufficient reason to never tackle the project.

 


 

 

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