Proverbs 21:27

The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination: how much more, when he bringeth it with a wicked mind?
– Proverbs 21:27

The word for abomination means disgusting, or detestable. Here it refers to a form of ritual worship that God hates. The first phrase echoes Proverbs 15:8 and the issue is the odious nature of hypocritical worship. Getting the outward form right is meaningless when the heart is not right (1 Samuel 15:22-23). In the second phrase, wicked mind refers to an evil intent, or plan. We could view this as an attempt to bribe God to overlook unrighteousness, or an attempt to entice God to deliver the wicked one through payment apart from repentance and faith. However, God refuses to hear those who will not hear him (Proverbs 28:9).

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Proverbs 21:3

To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.
– Proverbs 21:3

The word for justice means rightness, or doing what is right by a standard of righteousness. The word for judgment means a verdict, and so refers to our dealings with others being just dealings. The word for sacrifice means slaughter, as in a ritual sacrifice for offering. The proverb says righteous conduct is better to Yahweh than religious acts. The proverb does not disparage religious acts, but rather wisely observes that religious acts without accompanying righteous life are hollow and hypocritical. Another way to see it is that no amount of religious piety can make up for unrighteousness in life (1 Samuel 15:22; Isaiah 58:1-14; Micah 6:6-8). This proverb is a thematic summary of what all proverbs are saying. People often approach Proverbs topically because it is easier to study the whole book that way. If you think about the various topics, i.e., marriage, children, wealth, parents, work, poverty, business, anger, speech, etc., you get a picture of wisdom that is righteousness in all of life. Men often make the mistake that pious observance of ritual without living in the way of the fear of the Lord is righteousness.

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