Proverbs 25:28

He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.
– Proverbs 25:28

This chapter ends with an obvious proverb comparing the lack of self-control to a city without defenses. The genius of the simile is that the city is not merely without walls, but it is broken down, or broken through. A man with no self-control has been overcome and has no resistance so he is vulnerable.

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Proverbs 25:27

It is not good to eat much honey: so for men to search their own glory is not glory.
– Proverbs 25:27

The wording of this proverb is difficult and the surprising second line has led to wide speculations. Previous proverbs have highlighted the benefits of honey and the necessity of moderation (Proverbs 24:13; 25:16). Overindulging in honey ruins it. The very quality that makes it desirable and pleasurable, its sweetness, is the same quality that makes it nauseating when gorged on. The second line of this proverb connects to the first in that way. Men searching their own glory ruins the very thing they are seeking.

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Proverbs 25:26

A righteous man falling down before the wicked is as a troubled fountain, and a corrupt spring.
– Proverbs 25:26

The word for falling down means to shake or slip. Its use here points to a loss of integrity for the righteous, or just man. A troubled fountain describes a water source that has been muddied by stamping, and a corrupt spring is contaminated water in some way. The images portray water that has been ruined and is useless. The comparison is to the compromised person, who’s reputation has been lost and they are effectively useless.

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Proverbs 25:25

As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.
– Proverbs 25:25

The image uses water in a good form. Cold water is refreshing and invigorating to a thirsty soul. Being from a far country meant rare, hard to come by. So good news here is an apt and timely word (Proverbs 15:23, 30).

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Proverbs 25:24

It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman and in a wide house.
– Proverbs 25:24

This Proverb is the same as Proverbs 21:9 (see commentary), and joins a group of proverbs on the same theme (Proverbs 19:13; 21:9, 19; 27:15-16). The contrasting parallel of the corner of the housetop and the wide house is contrasting solitude and society. Generally, we do not think it better to be alone in isolation, but it is preferred to the company of a contentious spouse.

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Proverbs 25:23

The north wind driveth away rain: so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.
– Proverbs 25:23

The final proverbs in this chapter don’t have a strong connection, or theme. The original in this verse is difficult, but the image is clear enough. The word for driveth away means bring forth, so rain comes with the wind. The word for backbiting means covering, or secrecy. When the word is used of speech, it indicates slanderous speech. The saying is that as sure as the wind brings the rain, a slandering tongue will bring an angry countenance. Wisdom’s warning would here goes to the slanderer.

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Proverbs 25:22

For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee.
– Proverbs 25:22

Verse 22 provides two results from the patient kindness to be shown to enemies in the previous verse. Paul refers to these two verses in a passage where he exhorts us to live peaceably with all men (Romans 12:17-21). He also referred to another key Old Testament passage when exhorting not to take vengeance. What Paul had to say in that passage sheds much light on the meaning of these verses in Proverbs, and particularly verse 22. Paul wrote not to repay “evil for evil,” and ended with “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). He acknowledges that we are sinned against by others, but exhorts us not to respond to that sin by sinning against them in a reciprocal manner.

We are to strive to live at peace with others and he gives us two foundational reasons and ways to do this. First, we have to give up any rights we think we have to avenge ourselves for being wronged. The reason for this is given in reference to Deuteronomy 32:35. Vengeance belongs to God. He is the judge and executer of justice. We are not to usurp his judicial purview. Jesus modeled this for us in his death (1 Peter 2:23). However, it is not that only the prerogative belongs to God, but he will revenge all injustice. So, we are to trust that to him.

Second, we respond to the unjust treatment we have received with a compassionate and patient kindness. We give bread and water to our hungering and thirsting adversary. We are to do good to them as Jesus taught in The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:44-45). Paul also quotes the result being coals of fire heaped on their heads through our actions. We know that Paul doesn’t mean we should show a fake kindness in order to fatten them for the kill. Jesus said doing so means we will be like our Father in Heaven. The phrase is best understood as bringing them to contrition, which would mean that we are seeking their good and not our own back in revenge.

These other Scriptures bring the meaning of this verse to light. Paul did not include the last phrase, “and the LORD shall reward thee.” However, understanding this phrase gives a meaning consistent with the meaning Paul used in his passage. The word for reward means to be safe, or to be completed. Actually, the word has such a broad range of meaning that it is obscure unless the immediate context, or some other passage, clarifies it. The word is used in a variety of ways in the Old Testament, but two instances will help us. The principle of restitution in the law uses this word to “make it good” (Exodus 22:14; Leviticus 24:18), referring to requiting, or repaying, one whom you have wronged. The word is used in this same vein in the other verse Paul quoted and it is there translated “recompence” (Deuteronomy 32:35). So, this proverb is teaching that compassionate and patient kindness can be shown to enemies, because the Lord will repay any vengeance necessary. This is exactly what Paul understood the proverb to mean and the way he used it in Romans 12:17-21.

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Proverbs 25:21

If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:
– Proverbs 25:21

Verses 21-22 teach a compassionate response and treatment of our enemies. Giving food and water to an enemy is a counterintuitive act of kindness. Though not humanly natural, it does rise from two principles of biblical teaching: 1) the command to show compassion to strangers (Exodus 23:4-5; Leviticus 19:9-18; Deuteronomy 24:14-22; Proverbs 3:27; 10:12; 17:9; 19:11), and, 2) the prohibition against taking personal vengeance (Proverbs 17:13; 20:22; 24:17-18). It may seem a stretch to go from loving neighbor to loving enemies, but Jesus taught the law of loving neighbors extended to even enemies in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:43-48).

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Proverbs 25:20

As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to a heavy heart.
– Proverbs 25:20

The first image depicts irritation as well as an actual worsening of a person’s situation. The second image is somewhat obscure in terms of the precise meaning. The word for nitre refers to sodium carbonate, which is neutralized by vinegar and doing so is counterproductive. Most likely it depicts ruining and making useless something otherwise useful. The point of the images is explained in the last phrase. The singing of songs here indicates an insensitive jollity. The effect is opposite of a word fitly spoken (Proverbs 12:25; 25:10-11).

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