Proverbs 20:9

Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?
– Proverbs 20:9

This proverb is a rhetorical question that anticipates a negative answer. Though “Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness” (Proverbs 20:6) and “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes” (Proverbs 16:2), wisdom teaches us God weighs the spirits and ponders the hearts of all. Wisdom concludes, “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness” (Proverbs 30:12).

The word for heart means the inner being, including the mind, will, emotions, etc. The first phrase asks whose inner intentions and motivations are clean, or innocent. Being pure from my sin points to the outward acts being morally good, or upright. This proverb speaks of rich theological truth we refer to as the depravity of man. Man is a fallen and corrupt creature who cannot keep from sin, nor purify himself from its defilement (1 Kings 8:46; Proverbs 21:4; Job 9:30-31).

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Proverbs 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.
– Proverbs 17:22

The word for merry means glad, or joyful. The word for medicine means a cure, or healing. The word for heart generally means the mind as elsewhere in Proverbs. Our state of mind affects the state of our bodies (Proverbs 14:30). This can be reflected in more severe cases of dealing with diseases, but also in ongoing cases of poor health. There is “a time to laugh” (Ecclesiastes 3:4), in other words, a time and place for lightheartedness. The lifting of spirits can come in various ways, but it is beneficial (Proverbs 12:25; 15:13; 18:14). Fat bones are an image of health and vitality (Proverbs 3:8; 15:30; 16:24). Dry bones are obviously the opposite picture.

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Proverbs 17:20

He that hath a froward heart findeth no good: and he that hath a perverse tongue falleth into mischief.
– Proverbs 17:20

The wicked are described as having a froward heart (Proverbs 3:32; 6:12-15; 11:20). This means a perverse mind, bent toward folly and away from wisdom. All their plans are plans of wickedness and abominations before the Lord. The wicked are also described as having a perverse tongue (Proverbs 8:13; 10:10; 18:6-7). The word for perverse means to turn about or over. This refers to a false tongue, saying one thing and doing another. One who thinks and talks this way cannot expect to find good and can expect to find mischief, or evil (Proverbs 10:31; 13:17).

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Proverbs 16:1

Chapter 16 begins the second part of the “Proverbs of Solomon” that runs from chapter 10 to chapter 22. The proverbs in this second part are primarily two lines that parallel. The first part featured mostly proverbs that were two-line contrasts. The parallel structure has the second phrase building on the first, expanding it rather than contrasting it. Most of these proverbs begin a phrase that is good and moves to better in the second, or the first phrase is something bad and the second goes to something worse. The proverbs in chapters 16 to 22 are also arranged and grouped more topically than in chapters 10 to 15. These proverbs deal with various topics such as, relationships with people, speech, wealth, business, justice, etc.

The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD.
– Proverbs 16:1

Verses 1-9 touch on God’s sovereignty. Statements about God’s sovereignty in Proverbs are specimens of theology that seem ahead of their time, like statements about life after death, etc. But, they reveal much wisdom to us. The word for preparations means arrangement, mental ordering, or plans. The first phrase states that a man plans, or thinks, of his answer in his heart, or mind, before speaking. The second phrase reveals that, despite man’s plans, the answer, or reply, is from the Lord. This proverb balances human responsibility and God’s sovereignty. Man plans and does, but, ultimately, what man plans and does fulfills God will (Proverbs 16:9; 19:21; 20:24; 21:1).

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Proverbs 15:14

The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge: but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness.
– Proverbs 15:14

The word for seeketh means to search out and indicates a deliberate search. The word for knowledge means cunning, perception, and discernment. Proverbs presents wisdom as accessible to all (Proverbs 8:1-11; 9:1-6), but acquired only by those who seek for it (Proverbs 2:1-6). One of the marks of wisdom is to continue to seek for wisdom (Proverbs 1:5; 9:9). The contrast speaks of feeding on foolishness rather than seeking wisdom. The word for feedeth means to pasture, or graze. The word for fools is the most common word in Proverbs for fools. The word means stupid and obstinate. The usage in Proverbs shows the word describes one who chooses the way of folly and not one who is mentally impaired. The fool gobbles up foolishness and spews it out freely (Proverbs 15:2). The fool has no heart or patience for acquiring wisdom (Proverbs 17:6, 24). He prefers his easy foolishness so much he returns to it like a dog to its own vomit (Proverbs 26:11).

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Proverbs 14:30

A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.
– Proverbs 14:30

The word for sound means healthy or whole, and heart refers figuratively to the mind. We must guard our minds and feed them with sound wisdom to guard our life (Proverbs 4:23; Philippians 4:8). Wisdom affects our overall health as does folly (Proverbs 17:22). The contrast here is with envy, or jealousy. Envy, bitterness, resentment, anger, and all such thoughts and feelings are those that eat away at a man mentally, emotionally, and physically.

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Proverbs 14:13

Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.
– Proverbs 14:13

This proverb is a wise observation. Our emotional circumstances change, and can change quickly. As we grow in wisdom, we are more aware that joy and sorrow are mingled together (Ecclesiastes 1:18). The wisdom taught here instructs us not to put too much by our present experience. For good or bad, it will change, and probably soon.

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Proverbs 14:10

The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy.
– Proverbs 14:10

This proverb does not contrast bitterness and joy, but treats them both alike as unknowable to a stranger, or another person. It is a wise observation that a person knows his own deep sorrows and profound joys. These cannot be fully expressed to or known by another. Wisdom would mean being careful to speak into someone’s joy or pain, or assuming you fully understand it. We do have comfort in suffering knowing that God sees and understands (1 John 3:20; Hebrews 2:18; 4:15).

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Proverbs 10:20

The tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of the wicked is little worth.
– Proverbs 10:20

Solomon contrasts the tongue of the just with the heart of the wicked—righteous speech with the mind of the ungodly. A man’s speech is produced from the heart as if the heart were a treasure trove (Luke 6:45). Good treasure means good words and evil treasure means evil words. Little worth indicates smallness. It is scarcity in the bad sense because the fool produces a multitude of words but scarcely any are good (Proverbs 15:28). Choice silver is scarce in the good sense that makes it rare, valuable, and precious. It is also aesthetically pleasing, or pleasantly beautiful (Proverbs 25:11-12).

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