Proverbs 27:22

Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him.
– Proverbs 27:22

The mortar and pestle paints the image of grinding and crushing. The word for bray means to pound. The imagery alludes to the beating of a fool he has merited through his folly (Proverbs 10:13; 18:6; 19:29; 26:3). The last phrase points to the deeper, spiritual problem of a fool and the fact that physical punishment alone is not sufficient to remove folly from him (Proverbs 17:10).

 


 

 

Proverbs 27:21

As the fining pot for silver, and the furnace for gold; so is a man to his praise.
– Proverbs 27:21

The fining pot and furnace are not analytical tools for testing metal, but rather instruments of refining and preparing metal. Metal is tested in the crucible, and that is a common enough image of men being tested by trials, but it doesn’t end there. Metal is purified in the crucible and made ready for use. Likewise, praise tests and purifies a man, or else it tests and discards him. Wisdom warns against self-praise (Proverbs 17:3; 25:27; 27:2).

 


 

 

Proverbs 27:20

Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.
– Proverbs 27:20

The words for hell and destruction are sheol and abaddon in the Hebrew, and occur in Proverbs 15:11 (see comments for discussion of meaning). Here, they are never full and that refers to the grave as insatiable. We might say something like the funeral home and cemetery are always in business. Proverbs 30:15-16 has the same sense where sheol is translated grave. The figure is: the grave is always hungry and ready to swallow up lives.

The parallel comparison is to the insatiable desires of men. Man’s insatiable desires also destroy lives and that is a subtext in the comparison.

 


 

 

Proverbs 27:19

As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man.
– Proverbs 27:19

This saying is difficult to decipher. The first line speaks of a reflection, but the simile seems uncertain. Is the saying positive or negative? Some suggest some saying regarding friendship, but that introduces a second party that is not in the text. The most straightforward seems to be that a man may look into water to see a reflection of himself and may look into his heart/mind/thoughts/feelings to see his true nature.

 


 

 

Proverbs 27:18

Whoso keepeth the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof: so he that waiteth on his master shall be honored.
– Proverbs 27:18

The parallel in this verse shows faithful work will be rewarded. Caring for the fig tree will mean enjoying the fruit later. Likewise, the servant who tends to his master will receive reward. Wisdom sees benefits to servants who do their duties faithfully (Proverbs 17:2; 22:29).

 


 

 

Proverbs 27:17

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man the countenance of his friend.
– Proverbs 27:17

This saying is one of the famous sayings in Proverbs. The word for sharpeneth means to make sharp, as in sharpening a knife, but it can also have a more figurative meaning of making fierce, i.e., a sharp face. Some have keyed on the negative connotation of the figurative usage to give the saying a negative gloss. The saying in its natural meaning fits well with the various Proverbs on friendship, and I take it that way.

Iron to iron depicts a clash that creates friction, heat, and perhaps sparks, but the result of the process is making something sharper and more useful. A dull blade is made better by sharpening and that is the intent of the saying. Man to man, or friend to friend clashes produce friction but also result in sharpening, being made better. This understanding puts the saying in the category of the benefits of good counsel in Proverbs. Pair this saying with Proverbs 27:9 and you get a double-sided picture of true friendship—encouragement and constructive criticism.

 


 

 

Proverbs 27:16

Whosoever hideth her hideth the wind, and the ointment of his right hand, which bewrayeth itself.
– Proverbs 27:16

Verse 16 continues from the previous verse. The wording of the original is difficult and scholars have had varied opinions. The thrust of the saying is the uncontrollable nature of the contentious woman. Trying to restrain or correct her is like trying to grasp the wind, or shut it up, and like trying to hold oil in your hand. This saying confirms the place of the contentious woman in Proverbs’ gallery of fools (Proverbs 12:15-16; 15:2, 5; 17:10; 20:3; 22:15; 27:22).

 


 

 

Proverbs 27:15

A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike.
– Proverbs 27:15

Verses 15-16 form a saying about a contentious, or quarrelsome, wife. Here the contentious woman is compared to a constant drip on a rainy day. The word for very rainy means pouring rain, which increases the irritation from the drip. The drip is further described as continual, or continuous. The contentious woman is a certain type of fool in Proverbs, lacking wisdom and causing continual sorrow. Her presence and repeated quarrels keeps a man from peace and drives him to the wilderness or housetop as preferable living quarters (Proverbs 19:13; 21:9; 25:24).

 


 

 

Proverbs 27:14

He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be a curse to him.
– Proverbs 27:14

Words should be few (Proverbs 10:19; 11:12-13), dispassionate (Proverbs 15:1; 17:27), true (Proverbs 16:13; 24:24-26), appropriate (Proverbs 25:11), and timely (Proverbs 15:23). A lack of discernment, such as speaking too loud and too early, can turn a blessing otherwise into a curse.

 


 

 

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