Proverbs 24:18

Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him.
– Proverbs 24:18

Verse 18 provides a surprising explanation for the warning in verse 17. Gloating over the downfall of your adversaries is displeasing to the Lord. It doesn’t seem ultimate, divine judgment is in view, but rather the calamities that befall those who oppose you. Wisdom here seems to be along the lines of the words of Jesus when we warned about misinterpreting providential events in Luke 13:1-5. In other words, we don’t know the providence behind a calamity that comes on one. We should not assume such a calamity is a justification of ourselves and a condemnation of those we don’t get along with.

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Proverbs 24:12

If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? And he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? And shall not he render to every man according to his works?
– Proverbs 24:12

Proverbs doesn’t often refer cases upward, but verses like this one bring us back to the deeply theological realities of wisdom. We know that justice, or righteousness, is the context of this saying. Walking wisdom means walking in the way of justice, and that may not be the way of momentary successes. If we consider proverbs such as Proverbs 18:16 and Proverbs 17:23, we righteousness is more important than wealth. Additionally, religious acts will not make up for the lack of doing righteousness (Proverbs 15:8; 16:6; 21:27; 28:9, 13). The first phrase is a feigned ignorance and the rest of the verse dismisses this with the sovereign omniscience of Yahweh. Wisdom understands Yahweh knows us inside and out (Proverbs 5:3, 11, 21; 16:2; 17:3; 20:12; 21:2), and shall reward us according the reality of ways (Proverbs 3:32-33; 11:4, 19, 21; 12:14; 15:9; 16:4; 17:5; 19:5; 28:20).

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Proverbs 22:12

The eyes of the LORD preserve knowledge, and he overthroweth the words of the transgressor.
– Proverbs 22:12

The phrase, eyes of the Lord, is used in Proverbs to refer to God’s sovereign and complete knowledge of the doings of man (Proverbs 5:21; 15:3). God’s omniscient observation is inescapable. The word for preserve means guard, or watch. The word for knowledge means perception, or understanding. The contrast with the second phrase gives us the sense of truth for knowledge. The open, searching eyes of Yahweh sees the doings of man and preserves the truth, or right record, of events. The first phrase hints to Yahweh as judge and the second phrase makes that clear. The word for transgressor means treacherous, or deceitful. Such falsehood will be overthrown, or destroyed, by the truth. The eyes of Yahweh not only see a man’s actions, but his thoughts and intentions in them as well (Proverbs 15:11; 16:2; 17:3; 21:2).

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Proverbs 22:2

The rich and poor meet together: the LORD is the maker of them all.
– Proverbs 22:2

This proverb is a wisdom observation. We are warned against oppressing the poor because Yahweh has made them (Proverbs 14:31). This proverb adds he has made the rich, as well as all in between. That both classes meet together means they share common existence in life. God sinks and raises people as he pleases, according to his purpose, and roles can be reversed instantly by his sovereign power (Daniel 4:35). This wisdom gives us two important implications for life. First, we should recognize God’s sovereign order in our own lives. We are where we are and we are what we are by God’s grace. Second, we should treat all people with dignity and respect because God is the creator of all and the ruler of all.

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Proverbs 21:2

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.
– Proverbs 21:2

This proverb is similar to Proverbs 16:2 (see commentary). The word for right means straight, or upright. It can have a moral tinge, but also gives the sense of being correct. The first phrase is a wisdom observance that men think the way they are going is correct. Unless a man is bent on deliberate self-destruction, he thinks the way he is going will lead to some happiness. The seventeenth century French mathematician Blaise Pascal put it this way: “All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.” 1

The proverb is a wisdom observation about our fallible self-knowledge, self-evaluation, and self-direction. Man is incompetent of himself, which is why we need wisdom and wise counsellors (Proverbs 11:14; 12:15; 15:22; 19:20-21). The word for pondereth means to balance, as in to measure by weight with a scale. The contrast of the second phrase with the first is that man follows his heart but only Yahweh truly knows the heart, or mind. Man cannot always accurately assess his motives and objectives, but God always knows what is in the deep, dark waters of our hearts (Proverbs 20:5).

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Notes:

  1. Blaise Pascal, Pascal’s Pensees, trans. W. F. Trotter (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1958), 113, #425.

Proverbs 21:1

Introduction
Chapter 21 continues the Proverbs of Solomon, which form the largest section of this book and continues through the next chapter. The proverbs in this chapter touch on God’s sovereign omniscience, righteousness, justice, rewards, laziness, moderation, pride, and home life.

The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.
– Proverbs 21:1

The phrase, rivers of water, refers to channels, or watercourses, like what might be dug for irrigation or drainage. A gardener, or farmer, digs such channels in order to direct the water where he wants it to go. The image is analogous to God’s control, even over kings. He turns the king’s heart to accomplish the purposes of his will. The word for heart has a range of meaning and Proverbs often uses it in a way comparable to our use of mind. The proverb does not speak to how God does this, but leaves that mysterious. Other proverbs speak to God determining outcomes even though men plan and act according to their own hearts (Proverbs 16:9, 33; 20:24).

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Proverbs 20:24

Man’s goings are of the LORD; how can a man then understand his own way?
– Proverbs 20:24

The word for goings means steps, or way. That his goings are of the Lord means that God ultimately directs the course of his life (Proverbs 16:9). The rhetorical question of the second phrase highlights that man cannot fully comprehend the whole course of his life. He cannot fully discern the twists and turns that attend life, and though he may plan and execute some things that prosper, many other things happen he does not intend or understand (Ecclesiastes 9:11). Contemplation of this without wisdom can lead to despair and fatalism. Wisdom means understanding that one’s life is in the hands of another and gives us incentive to seek good counsel and pursue wisdom (Proverbs 14:8; 20:18; Ecclesiastes 3:14).

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Proverbs 19:21

There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.
– Proverbs 19:21

The word for devices means a contrivance, or plan. The word is modified by many, which means abundant. Man has many ideas and plans he wants to bring to pass. The proverb contrasts man’s plans with the counsel, or purpose, of God. God’s purpose will always be accomplished and, if man’s plans come to fruition, it is because of God’s purpose (Proverbs 16:1, 9, 33).

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Proverbs 16:33

The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.
– Proverbs 16:33

The casting of lots in the Old Testament time was a way of making decisions deemed too difficult, or the settling of disputes. The word for disposing means judgment, or verdict. The point of the proverb is God’s sovereign determinations and not random chance controlling events. This proverb closes chapter 16, which has strong statements of God’s sovereignty from the start (Proverbs 16:1, 9).

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