Proverbs 27:22

Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him.
– Proverbs 27:22

The mortar and pestle paints the image of grinding and crushing. The word for bray means to pound. The imagery alludes to the beating of a fool he has merited through his folly (Proverbs 10:13; 18:6; 19:29; 26:3). The last phrase points to the deeper, spiritual problem of a fool and the fact that physical punishment alone is not sufficient to remove folly from him (Proverbs 17:10).




Proverbs 21:4

An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin.
– Proverbs 21:4

The text of this proverb is difficult. The Hebrew words for tillage and lamp are only differentiated by vowel points. We can see the similarity even in the transliteration of each: nir (tillage) and ner (lamp). The Septuagint has lampter (lamp, or lantern), and many translations have followed the Septuagint here and give plowing as an alternative reading. Knox, translating from the Latin Vulgate, rendered it as “hopes.” This takes “lamp” as a figure, not of the conscience, but of outlook, which is reasonable. Interestingly, plowing can also be a figure for hope, or outlook, and Paul used it this way in 1 Corinthians 9:10. If outlook fits and makes sense of the verse, then it isn’t nearly as difficult as it first appears. Though if I were smarter and more educated, I’m sure I could find more difficulty.

The high look and proud heart refer to arrogance that persists in its own way rather than receiving instruction in the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 6:17; 8:13; 30:13). The proverb is denouncing the thoughts of the wicked. They are high thoughts of self-conceit that dismiss and despise the wisdom of God (Psalm 10:4). This is why all the plans, or hopes, and actions of the wicked are tainted and sinful (Proverbs 21:27).

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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 14:34

Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.
– Proverbs 14:34

The scope of Proverbs is usually the individual, but in some places it’s broadened. Here, Solomon speaks to a nation and people. The word for righteousness means justice. A nation that pursues rightness and justice is exalted or lifted up. A nation that tolerates and approves sin by enculturating and codifying it, is brought to shame (Proverbs 11:11; Romans 1:32).

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