Proverbs 21:25

The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labor.
– Proverbs 21:25

The word for desire means longing, or wish. In the negative sense, the word refers to greed and lust. The desire is explained in the next verse as daily, greedy coveting. The word for killeth can mean to die as a penalty, or what we might call execution. The slothful man’s desire destroys him. The first phrase is explained by his refusal to work. The slothful have an animal laziness that marks them (Proverbs 6:9-11; 12:27; 19:24). When laziness is couple with strong appetites, then unrighteousness is sure to follow. The slothful man will go to various evil means to obtain what he desires and bring ruin upon his own head.

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Proverbs 21:16

The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead.
– Proverbs 21:16

Wisdom takes the long view and is concerned with outcomes throughout Proverbs. The word for way mean road, or path. It is a metaphor for the course of one’s life. Just as roads lead somewhere, the way we go in this life has a somewhere we will come to. The word for understanding means prudence, and to wander is go astray from the way of wisdom, or prudence. The way of understanding is a way that leads to life (Proverbs 6:23; 15:24; 14:32). Despite diverse appearances, all other ways lead to death (Proverbs 5:32; 11:7). The fatherly addresses warn of the path to death with the strange woman (Proverbs 2:18-19; 7:26-27; 9:18). The word for remain means rest, not in the sense of refreshing but rather in the sense of dwelling. This is the destination of the way that departs from wisdom. The word for dead means shades and refers to the realm of the dead. So going in the way of wisdom or folly is literally a matter of life and death.

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Proverbs 21:6

The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro of that seek death.
– Proverbs 21:6

The wording of this proverb is difficult and interpretations vary. The first phrase clearly speaks of acquiring wealth through deceit. Such wealth is the ill-gotten gains we frequently speak of from Proverbs (Proverbs 10:2; 13:11; 20:14). The second phrase gives two consequences of profit by deception. Some like fleeting vapor for vanity tossed to and fro. Wealth acquired through ill means does not last, or does not bring the satisfaction sought. The second consequence of ill-gotten gains is to be ensnared by death. This looks more to the judgment to come on the one who lies, cheats, and steals his way to riches.

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Proverbs 19:16

He that keepeth the commandment keepeth his own soul; but he that despiseth his ways shall die.
– Proverbs 19:16

The word for commandment means law, or precept. It’s often used in Proverbs for the instruction of father and mother (Proverbs (2:1; 3:1; 6:20; 7:1). However, the instructions of father and mother are instructions in divine wisdom with life or death consequences (Proverbs 4:4; 6:23; 13:13). The fist phrase is like saying keep the commandment and keep your life. The word for despiseth means to hold in contempt, or think lightly of. The word for shall die means to be put to death, so it connotes a judicial punishment. Despising the way of wisdom and God’s commandment is not to merely run the risk of natural death, but it is to run afoul of the righteous Judge and face irremediable punishment.

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Proverbs 16:25

There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
– Proverbs 16:25

This proverb is a repeat of Proverbs 14:12. The proverb speaks of man’s contrivance apart from divine wisdom. He plans a way that seems right and good, but despite the best efforts and intentions, all plans not founded in wisdom will go astray and fail (Proverbs 5:5; 7:27; 9:18; 15:24). The man is either ignorant of God’s sovereignty or rejects it in his plans (Proverbs 16:9). Proverbs presents wisdom as looking ahead and considering the outcome of a way (Proverbs 14:15).

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Proverbs 15:27

He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts shall live.
– Proverbs 15:27

The word for greedy means covetous, but also violence. The greedy want gain at all costs, even to death (Proverbs 1:19). They are in a hurry to get rich (Proverbs 28:22). Greed is a driving force rather than wisdom and brings trouble, or disturbance, to his own house (Proverbs 11:29). The contrasting phrase juxtaposes life, so we infer pursuing greed leads to death (Proverbs 11:19). The way of wisdom and way of life is to hate gifts (Proverbs 8:13). The word for gifts means a present. The word sometimes means a bribe and Proverbs warns against bribes to pervert justice (Proverbs 28:16; 29:4).

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Proverbs 15:24

The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath.
– Proverbs 15:24

The wisdom of Proverbs reveals there are ultimately only two ways—the way of life and the way of death. The way of life is the way of wisdom, instruction, and correction (Proverbs 6:23; 10:17). It is the way that delivers from death (Proverbs 12:28; 14:23). The word for above means upward, or higher. It is contrasted with hell beneath, which is sheol, or the realm of the dead. It is the end of the way of folly as seen in the warnings against the way of the strange woman (Proverbs 2:18; 5:5; 7:27).

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Proverbs 15:10

Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way: and he that hateth reproof shall die.
– Proverbs 15:10

This proverb does not make a contrast, but shows a progression from bad to worse. Forsaking the way amounts to leaving the path of wisdom and walking in the way evil (Proverbs 2:12-15). He does not like correction but trusts to his own understanding (Proverbs 12:15; 15:5). He progresses to hatred of reproof. This marks a fool as a scorner, or scoffer. This is the hardened end of folly. He hates reproof (Proverbs 9:7-8; 13:1), and inherits the “judgments … prepared for scorners” (Proverbs 19:29; 3:34). Such scorners love and inherit death (Proverbs 8:36; 5:23; 11:7).

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Proverbs 14:32

The wicked is driven away in his wickedness: but the righteous hath hope in his death.
– Proverbs 14:32

Proverbs speaks of life and death often, but usually in the sense of life being a reward for wisdom and death being the same for folly (Proverbs 3:2; 5:23). Many commentators think the afterlife too advanced a subject for the time of the Proverbs, but this proverb is one place it is glimpsed. The word for driven away means to be cast down. The wicked shall not stand in the judgment and riches cannot deliver them (Proverbs 11:4, 7). The contrast is the hope, or refuge, of the righteous in death. Hope is had because righteousness delivers from death (Proverbs 11:4) and is the way of life (Proverbs 12:28).

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