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Book of Proverbs
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Proverbs 26

King James Version
1 As snow in summer, and as rain in harvest, so honour is not seemly for a fool.
2 As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.
3 A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool's back.
4 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.
6 He that sendeth a message by the hand of a fool cutteth off the feet, and drinketh damage.
7 The legs of the lame are not equal: so is a parable in the mouth of fools.
8 As he that bindeth a stone in a sling, so is he that giveth honour to a fool.
9 As a thorn goeth up into the hand of a drunkard, so is a parable in the mouths of fools.
10 The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors.
11 As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.
12 Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.
13 The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets.
14 As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed.
15 The slothful hideth his hand in his bosom; it grieveth him to bring it again to his mouth.
16 The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.
17 He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears.
18 As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death,
19 So is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am not I in sport?
20 Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.
21 As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife.
22 The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.
23 Burning lips and a wicked heart are like a potsherd covered with silver dross.
24 He that hateth dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him;
25 When he speaketh fair, believe him not: for there are seven abominations in his heart.
26 Whose hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness shall be shewed before the whole congregation.
27 Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him.
28 A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin.

Bible Commentary
1 As snow in summer is unsuitable to the time, and as rain in harvest is injurious, so giving honour to a fool is absurd and unbecoming.2,3
2 Give honour to a fool, and he thunders out causeless curses against all that he is disgusted with, right or wrong, wishing ill to others upon presumption that they are bad and have done ill, when either they mistake the person or misunderstand the fact, or they call evil good and good evil. He that is cursed without cause, the curse shall do him no more harm than the bird that flies over his head. It will fly away like the sparrow or the wild dove, which go nobody knows where, till they return to their proper place, as the curse will at length return upon the head of him that uttered it.2
//--> 3 Wicked men are compared to the horse and the ass.  An unbroken horse needs a whip for correction, and an ass a bridle for direction and to check him when he would turn out of the way; so a vicious man, who will not be under the guidance and restraint of religion and reason, ought to be whipped and bridled, to be rebuked severely, and made to smart for what he has done amiss, and to be restrained from offending any more.2
4 This verse seems to contradict the one that follows, but Solomon is making a play upon the little word ki, here rendered “according to”.  In this verse it means “in harmony with”.  To enter into discussion with a fool within the terms of his folly is to lower oneself to his level and to accept his outlook upon life as one worthy of consideration.4
5 Here “according to” means “as it deserves”.  Answer a fool so that the foolishness of the proposition is revealed to those who listen and to the fool himself. Thus he may come to realise that he is far from wise and may seek to become so.2
6 A fool is not fit to be entrusted with any business, even to go on an errand.  He that sends a message by a careless heedless person, one who is so full of his jests and so given to his pleasures that he cannot apply his mind to any thing that is serious, will find his message misunderstood, the one half of it forgotten, the rest awkwardly delivered, and so many blunders made about it that he might as well have cut off his legs, that is, never have sent him. Nay, he will drink damage; it will turn much to a man’s disgrace to make use of the service of a fool, for people will be apt to judge of the master by his messenger.
7 Wise sayings, as a foolish man delivers them and applies them (in such a manner that one may know he does not rightly understand them), lose their excellency and usefulness, and becomes a jest.  As the legs of the lame are not equal, by reason of which their going is unseemly, so unseemly is it for a fool to pretend to speak apophthegms, and give advice, and for a man to talk devoutly whose conversation is a constant contradiction to his talk and gives him the lie. His good words raise him up, but then his bad life takes him down, and so his legs are not equal.2
8 To tie a stone into a sling so that the missile cannot fly off when one thong is released is not only to fail to accomplish the purpose in hitting the mark, but also to endanger one’s own safety, since the stone would be likely to fly round at the end of another thong and strike some part of the body.4  To give honour to a fool is to put a sword in a madman’s hand, with which we know not what mischief he may do, even to those that put it into his hand.2
9 The drunkard in possession of a thorny staff or any sharp thing would be armed and capable of doing great harm to himself and others in his dull rage.  Thus a parable told by a fool is both useless and dangerous.2,4
10 The great God that formed all things at first, and still governs them in infinite wisdom, renders to every man according to his work.  He will give the recompense that is deserved by fools and transgressors, by such as sin either through ignorance, or wilfully.2,5
11 As the dog, after he has gained ease by vomiting that which burdened his stomach, yet goes and licks it up again, so sinners, who have been convinced only and not converted, return to sin again, forgetting how sick it made them. The apostle (2 Pt. 2:22) applies this proverb to those that have known the way of righteousness but are turned from it; but God will spue them out of his mouth, Rev. 3:16.2
12 A man who has some little sense, but is proud of it, thinks it much more than it is.  He has such a conceit of his own abilities as makes him opinionative, dogmatical, and censorious; and all the use he makes of his knowledge is that it puffs him up.2 The self-conceited are taught with more difficulty than the stupid.6
13 The slothful man dreads the way, the streets, the place where work is to be done and a journey to be gone; he hates business, hates every thing that requires care and labour.  When he is pressed to be diligent, either in his worldly affairs or in the business of religion, this is his excuse (and a sorry excuse it is, as bad as none), There is a lion in the way, some insuperable difficulty or danger which he cannot pretend to grapple with.2
14 Having seen the slothful man in fear of his work, here we find him in love with his ease; his turning from side to side shows that he is not in need of the long hours of sleep.2,4  He does not care to get out of his bed, but seems to be hung upon it, as the door upon the hinges. He does not care to get forward with his business; in that he stirs to and fro a little, but to no purpose; he is where he was.2
15 The slothful man makes various pretences for his slothfulness: That he hides his hand in his bosom may be for fear of cold, to pretend that something ails his hand, or that it was blistered with yesterday’s hard work.  It is common for those that will not do their duty to pretend they cannot.  He himself is the loser by his slothfulness, for he starves himself.  Those that are slothful in religious matters will not be at the pains to feed their own souls with the word of God, the bread of life, nor to fetch in promised blessings by prayer, though they might have them for the fetching.2
16 One reason why the sluggard is more sure of himself and his wisdom than all the men of understanding is that he is too lazy to think things out for himself.  He is satisfied with preconceived opinions and adopts any view that comes to his ears as long as it suits his fancy.  The kind of men who can “render a reason” have pondered problems long enough to be aware that there are several sides to many questions.  They avoid the dogmatic ignorance of the unthinking.4
17 As either holding a dog by the ears or letting him go involves danger, so involvement in another man's strife or failure involves a useless risk of reputation, does no good, and may do us harm.6
18 The malicious deceitful man is compared to a madman; he does in effect cast fire-brands, arrows, and death; he does more mischief than he can imagine. Fraud and falsehood burn like fire-brands, kill, even at a distance, like arrows.2
How many hearts have been made sad, and how many reputations have been slain, by this kind of sport! "I designed no harm by what I said;"It was only in jest". Sportive as such persons may think their conduct to be, it is as ruinous as that of the mad man who shoots arrows, throws firebrands, and projects in all directions instruments of death, so that some are wounded, some burnt, and some slain.3
20 The tale-receiver and the tale-bearer are the agents of discord. If none received the slander in the first instance, it could not be propagated. Hence our proverb, "The receiver is as bad as the thief." And our laws treat them equally; for the receiver of stolen goods, knowing them to be stolen, is hanged, as well as he who stole them.3
21 We must not associate with contentious men who are apt to put the worst constructions upon everything, pick quarrels upon the least occasion, insinuate base characters, reveal secrets, misrepresent words and actions, do what they can to make relations, friends, and neighbours, jealous one of another to alienate them one from another, and sow discord among them.  By not giving ear to the contentious man strife will as surely cease, as the fire will go out when it has no fuel.2 
22 The words of a tale-bearer wound the reputation of him who is belied, and perhaps the wound proves incurable, and even the plaster of a recantation (which yet can seldom be obtained) may not prove wide enough for it. They wound the love and charity which he to whom they are spoken ought to have for his neighbour and give a fatal stab to friendship and Christian fellowship.
23 Ill words and ill-will are similar to a potsherd and the dross of silver, which has no real value, although sometimes they make a shew of it, as dross does of silver.2,5   Smooth lips that flatter and make great professions of friendship are like a silver coating to rude earthenware, and even the outside is not pure.3,6
24 He that hates his neighbour, and is contriving to do him a mischief, yet dissembles with his lips, professes to have a respect for him and to be ready to serve him, talks kindly with him, that his malice may not be suspected and guarded against, and so he may have the fairer opportunity to execute the purposes of it, this man lays up deceit within him, that is, he keeps in his mind the mischief he intends to do his neighbour till he catches him at an advantage.2
25 We are here cautioned not to be so foolish as to suffer ourselves to be imposed upon by the pretensions of friendship. Remember to distrust when a man speaks fair; be not too forward to believe him unless you know him well, for it is possible there may be seven abominations in his heart, a great many projects of mischief against you, which he is labouring so industriously to conceal with his fair speech.2
26 He whose hatred is covered by deceit will one time or other be discovered, and his wickedness shown, to his shame and confusion, before the whole congregation.2 This may lead to trial before the assembly of the nation, or retribution.3,5
27 What pains men take to do mischief to others? As they put a force upon themselves by concealing their design with a profession of friendship, so they put themselves to a great deal of labour to bring it about; it is digging a pit, it is rolling a stone, hard work. They shall themselves fall into the pit they digged, and the stone they rolled will return upon them, as in the case of Haman who was hanged on a gallows of his own preparing (Esther 7:9,10).
28 The mischief of a slandering lie is open and obvious; it afflicts, it hates, and everybody sees it.  Men guard against it as well as they can.  However a flattering lie secretly works the ruin of those it is spoken to. It is little suspected, and men betray themselves by being credulous of their own praises and the compliments that are passed upon them. A wise man therefore will be more afraid of a flatterer that kisses and kills than of a slanderer that proclaims war.2

References and notes
1.  King James Authorized Version
2.  The Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Bible -
3.  Adam Clarke's Bible Commentary -
4.  Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary Vol. 3 pgs. 1037-1039
John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible -
Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (1871).  Commentary by A. R. FAUSSETT -
6.  John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible -
Some Fools in Proverbs by Jason Jackson
9.  To Sheol and Back: Looking at Wisdom Literature Through the Eyes of Lament -
10.  Humor in the Hebrew Bible by Hershey H. Friedman, Ph.D.



Music for Proverbs 26

Click on image for song preview of Proverbs 26. The music was composed in 2003.  Proverbs 26 features on the CD Variety Album Vol. 1. It is also expected to be included in the forthcoming album Proverbs 26-31.

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Bible Author

That Solomon was the author of Proverbs 26 appears clear from ch.25:1


Outline of Proverbs

No other book of the Old Testament appears to be quite as difficult to outline as the book of Proverbs. Like the dictionary, it seems to change the subject with every verse. However the book of Proverbs is logically and helpfully constructed. It begins with a brief introductory preface in the first six verses. This is followed by a series of ten different discourses from a father to his son, filled with very practical exhortations on how to face some of the problems of life. That carries us over to the beginning of ch. 10, and so far there have been no proverbs. But in chapter 10 we have a collection of proverbs that are noted for us as the proverbs of Solomon, the wise king of Israel, the son of David. This second division runs through to ch. 25 which begins another collection of proverbs said to be the proverbs of Solomon which were copied down by the men of Hezekiah, the king of Judah, after Solomon's death. The book closes with a postlude in chapters 30 and 31 that brings before us the words of two unknown individuals, Agur, son of Jakah, in chapter 30, and Lemuel, king of Massa, in chapter 31.7


Division of Proverbs 26

This chapter has some very helpful words about troublesome people in general. In chapter 26:
verses 3 - 12 there is a series on fools and how to handle them.
verses 13 - 16 tell what to do about sluggards and what is wrong with lay people.
verses 17 - 23 concern meddlers and how to handle them.
then, verses 24 -28 is about the loveless - those who hate.



Different types of Fools

The book of Proverbs addresses the fool. It defines his character, his behaviour, and his misery. But not all “fools” are alike. For this reason, Proverbs uses different words to discuss different kinds of fools.8


A teachable fool

There is the teachable fool. He is called “the simple one.” We say that some are naive, gullible, or too trusting. This individual is untrained; he cannot discern what would cause him great harm. He “lacks sense” (Prov. 7:7, ESV). He is easily persuaded by a strong influence, or he is easily controlled by a domineering personality. But “the simple” can be taught. If he will listen, he can be instructed in wisdom – skill for living. Accordingly, Solomon said that proverbs are designed “to give prudence to the simple” (Prov. 1:4).8


An hardened fool

There is also the hardened fool. He is ewil and kesil – Hebrew terms for thick and stupid. He makes foolish decisions, but he is not young or naive. He is, rather, a hardened fool. He “despises wisdom and instruction.” “They [fools] treat these virtues as worthless and contemptible”. “Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool” (Prov. 10:23, ESV), and he is not going to be persuaded by reason or collective wisdom (cf. Prov. 26:16). The hardened fool has developed his character by a series of foolish decisions – a life of folly. He will continue in foolishness, because changing would be too difficult. He hates instruction, is quick to be angry and contentious, can be explosive, is the centre of controversy, has loose lips, and associates with evil. Unfortunately, one who chooses to be such a fool cannot have sense even beaten into him. “A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool” (Prov. 17:10, ESV).8


An arrogant fool

Then there is the arrogant fool. He is the letz – the scoffer. “‘Scoffer’ is the name of the arrogant, haughty man who acts with arrogant pride” (Prov. 21:24, ESV). Paterson describes these people: “They were past masters in the art of heckling and they rejoiced with malicious joy to disrupt a meeting” (p. 67). Solomon explained: “Scoffers set a city aflame but the wise turn away wrath” (Prov. 29:8, ESV). Solomon encouraged his reader to: “Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out, and quarreling and abuse will cease” (Prov. 22:10, ESV). The scoffer is not content with going his own way; he delights in the ruin of others.8


Answering a fool

True wisdom consists of more than merely learning the sayings found in Proverbs. Wisdom in Proverbs is about knowing when to use these statements. Indeed, Proverbs itself states that "if you find [wisdom], you will find a future and your hope will not be cut off (v. 24. 14b NRSV)." Hence, wisdom is not the proverb itself but rather is knowing how and when to use it. A classic example of the ambiguity that Proverbs exhibits in its final form is found in vs. 26. 4-5: "Do not answer fools according to their folly, or you will be foolish yourself. Answer fools according to their folly or they will be wise in their own eyes (NRSV)." Which is true? They both are. Wisdom is the ability to discern which proverb fits the situation at hand. Yet under-girding this stress on ambiguity in Proverbs is the assumption that it is possible to discern when to use a particular axiom.9


Humour in Proverbs

The Book of Proverbs lampoons fools, lazy people, and quarrelsome women by using comical caricatures. These images describe the contentious woman and the woman who lacks discretion in a witty and clever manner. "As a gold ring in a swine’s snout, so is a beautiful woman from whom sense has departed" (Proverbs 11:22). "It is better to live in a desert than with a contentious and angry woman" (Proverbs 21:19). "It is better to live on a corner of a roof, than in a house of companionship with a quarrelsome wife" (Proverbs 25:24). "A constant dripping on a rainstormy day and a quarrelsome woman are alike" (Proverbs 27:15).10


Lampooning fools

The fool is also described in comical, ludicrous, and often graphical ways in Proverbs: "Like snow in the summer and like rain at harvest, so is honor unbefitting for a fool" (Proverbs 26:3). Snow is a disaster in the summer when the crops need warmth and rain is a calamity during the harvest season. Giving a fool honor is also a catastrophe since it makes people think that there is value in folly. "A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the body of fools" (Proverbs 26:3). "Like a thorn that goes into the hand of the drunkard, so is a parable in the mouth of fools" (Proverbs 26:9). A thorn in the hands of a fool will hurt others, so too does the telling of a parable by a fool annoy others because it is nonsensical. "Like a dog that returns to his vomit, so does a fool repeat his folly" (Proverbs 26:11). The fool shamelessly repeats his inanity just as the dog eats his own vomit.10


Proverbs Song Category

The Proverbs Song Category is a great starting point for searching the songs which make up this music category. The song category page contains Daily Scriptures and easy links to song previews and song pages. The song pages include interesting background information and commentary about the songs and the Bible author. Sometimes there are links to related web pages including Bible Quotes, Sermons, Music samples, and Bible Puzzles.

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