Proverbs 27:25

The hay appeareth, and the tender grass sheweth itself, and herbs of the mountains are gathered.
– Proverbs 27:25

This part of the saying reflects the divine provision of growth from the earth. The whole saying captures the cyclical nature of life lived in the created world. The hay appears. The grass shows itself. The herbs are gathered. These provide food for the house, servants, and animals. The wise farmer-shepherd-king lives wisely within the created order.

 


 

 

Proverbs 27:24

For riches are not for ever: and doth the crown endure to every generation?
– Proverbs 27:24

Verse 24 gives the reason for the previous verse and is expanded on in the following verses. Flocks and herds, when properly cared for, will produce and reproduce. They are a renewable resource. Riches, or wealth accumulated, do not work the same way. The mention of the crown gives the saying its kingly flavor. The crown is like the stored wealth in that it’s not as renewable. Clearly, the establishment of the crown requires righteous care of the people (2 Samuel 23:3; Proverbs 31:3-9).

 


 

 

Proverbs 27:23

Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.
– Proverbs 27:23

Verses 23-27 form a saying using shepherding as a metaphor for investing in sustainability through care for living things. Ultimately, the saying contributes to the training of the sage/king, as is common to the latter part of the book of Proverbs.

The word for state literally means face and is put for knowing the condition of the flocks. The word for look means to put or set. The word for well means heart. The last phrase means to set your heart to your herds. It doesn’t mean to have sentimental feelings about them, but rather to think on them, to intentionally know their condition and provide for their care. The wise king knows his real business is the welfare of his people (Proverbs 14:28; 29:2).

 


 

 

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.

 


 

 

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