Proverbs 25:26

A righteous man falling down before the wicked is as a troubled fountain, and a corrupt spring.
– Proverbs 25:26

The word for falling down means to shake or slip. Its use here points to a loss of integrity for the righteous, or just man. A troubled fountain describes a water source that has been muddied by stamping, and a corrupt spring is contaminated water in some way. The images portray water that has been ruined and is useless. The comparison is to the compromised person, who’s reputation has been lost and they are effectively useless.

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Proverbs 24:16

For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.
– Proverbs 24:16

Verse 16 continues from verse 15 and provides explanation for the warning in that verse. The warning was against plotting against the righteous. Falling seven times is a figure implying strength or resiliency. Such falling would seem to be final, but the righteous will not ultimately fall, but rise. The wicked’s plots may seem to succeed in the short term, but will ultimately fail. The success of the wicked will be short lived as they will finally fall into mischief, or evil. This contrast is consistently thematic throughout Proverbs (Proverbs 4:18-19; 10:28; 11:7, 23; 28:18).

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Proverbs 24:15

Lay not wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous; spoil not his resting place:
– Proverbs 24:15

Verses 14-15 form the next saying, which speaks to the futility of plotting against the righteous. The dwelling of the righteous and his resting place are figures of the full life of the righteous. The plotting of the wicked is not just an effort to steal money or goods, but an attack on the whole way of life of the righteous. Lying in wait and spoiling reminds of the warnings earlier in the fatherly addresses (Proverbs 1:11; 7:12). This warning, though, is aimed at the wicked.

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Proverbs 24:11

If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and that are ready to be slain;
– Proverbs 24:11

These next two verses illustrate the failure of verse 10 and end with God’s sovereign judgment as strong incentive to live righteously. Commentators vary on the specific application of those who are drawn unto death and ready to be slain. At least, the phrases refer to those in mortal dangers, and most likely due to some form of unjust oppression. The word for deliver means rescue and the condemnation here is failure to rescue. The general tenor comports with the teaching of wisdom, which requires eschewing the way of the wicked and doing righteousness (Proverbs 31:8-9).

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Proverbs 23:24

The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him.
– Proverbs 23:24

The word for righteous means just in conduct and character. Such a child brings joy and rejoicing to his parents. Joy and rejoicing in children, as well as the grim alternative, is a steady encouragement and exhortation to parental wisdom in raising children throughout Proverbs (Proverbs 10:1; 15:20; 23:15-16). Children who come to maturity with wisdom are a great delight to parents. The delight is also reciprocal, mature and wise children glory in their parents (Proverbs 17:6). Wise parents lovingly, patiently, and persistently teach their “law” to their children as they grow for the purpose of equipping them to walk in wisdom securely and honorably (Proverbs 1:9; 3:1, 23; 4:8-9, 12; 7:2-3). It is only a foolish and rebellious child who wants his parents to get out of his way (Proverbs 19:26; 30:11, 17; Luke 15:12-13).

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Proverbs 21:26

He coveteth greedily all the day long: but the righteous giveth and spareth not.
– Proverbs 21:26

This proverb continues from the previous one and describes the desire of the slothful. Greed marks the slothful and unrighteous. Greed contributes to their ruin (Proverbs 15:27; 28:22, 25). The antithesis in the second phrase shows generosity a mark of the righteous. Generosity is set against greedy coveting by showing the righteous giving without restraining their giving (Proverbs 11:24-26; 14:21, 31; 19:17; 22:9; 28:27).

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Proverbs 21:21

He that followeth after righteousness and mercy findeth life, righteousness, and honor.
– Proverbs 21:21

The word for righteousness means rightness, or justice. The word for mercy means goodness, kindness, and faithfulness. The word has a range of meaning that includes pity, but also loyalty, or fidelity. Sometimes it is translated as kindness or lovingkindness. The word is used to describe God’s remembering to show kindness to Naomi (Ruth 2:20), and Boaz doing the same for Ruth (Ruth 3:10). The two together describe a life in the way of wisdom and the proverb speaks directly to those pursuing that way. Pursuing and keeping to the upright way of wisdom enriches the life of the wise (Proverbs 3:16; 22:4).

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Proverbs 21:18

The wicked shall be a ransom for the righteous, and the transgressor for the upright.
– Proverbs 21:18

Commentators vary on the meaning of this proverb as it presents some difficulty. The word for ransom means covering and, in this context, refers to a price, or compensation. Theologically, we think of atonement with this word and I think that can put us off on the wrong foot. The same word is used in a couple different places in the law. The first is in a section of the law pertaining to ox goring, or more fundamentally, liability (Exodus 21:28-36). Exodus 21:28 refers to an accidental death by ox goring. The ox was to be stoned and not eaten. The owner’s liability was covered by the loss of the ox and there was no further criminal penalty.

However, if the owner knew the ox was disposed to goring and he did not keep it penned up, he would be criminally guilty when the ox killed someone. This would be like what we call involuntary manslaughter today where there is demonstrable criminal negligence leading to death. In this case, the owner shared in the guilt and was to be put to death along with the ox (Exodus 21:29). The law made a provision where the owner could pay a sum of money as a ransom for his life (Exodus 21:30). The phrase sum of money is translated from the same word as ransom in Proverbs 21:18. This was an amount set by the family of the victim, which would be approved by the judge or adjusted as he deemed necessary. The sum of money was a ransom price for the owner’s life, because otherwise he would be executed.

The next occurrence of the word is in Number 35:31-32 where such a satisfaction is not permissible in the case of murder. The ransom was a just restitution to the aggrieved. This proverb becomes clear when we consider the relation of the wicked to the righteous. The wicked are variously described as plotting and planning evil (Proverbs 6:14; 24:8-9). Not only do they plot evil generally, but they plot evil against the righteous specifically (Psalm 37:12, 32; Proverbs 1:11; 24:15). Wisdom also teaches that the evil plans of the wicked will ultimately ensnare them (Proverbs 5:22; 11:5-6; 12:13). This justice will also come specifically because of their plans and schemes against the innocent (Proverbs 1:11, 18). So the wicked transgress against the upright in their plans and actions, and the judgment that comes to them exacts the ransom price from them.

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Proverbs 21:12

The righteous man wisely considereth the house of the wicked: but God overthroweth the wicked for their wickedness.
– Proverbs 21:12

The wording of this proverb is difficult. I understand there is no change in subject between the first and second phrase in the Hebrew. The righteous one in the first phrase performs both actions—considereth and overthroweth. The most natural reading takes God, Yahweh, to be the righteous one. If so, this is the only place in Proverbs where the term is used of God. Does the meaning of the proverb justify this?

The word for considereth means to look at, or give attention to. The house of the wicked likely refers to the wicked’s prosperity. Wisdom points out the temporary prosperity of the wicked is unenviable (Proverbs 24:19-20). The word for overthroweth means ruin. The second phrase points to ultimate justice for the wicked, where their own wickedness destroys them (Proverbs 11:3-5; 13:6; 14:32). Proverbs is clear that God is the one who sees and judges the wicked (Proverbs 5:21; 15:3; 16:2). This meaning is clear in a similar proverb in Proverbs 22:12. The natural and consistent meaning takes the righteous one to be God who sees and metes out final justice.

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