Proverbs 26


‘Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, honour is not fitting for a fool. Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest. A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the backs of fools! Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. Sending a message by the hands of a fool is like cutting off one’s feet or drinking poison.’ Proverbs 26:1-6

The Fool

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘In Proverbs 25:13, the cold of snow during harvest time was mentioned as a welcome blessing; but here snow in summer is considered as undesirable. Why? The cold of snow in Proverbs 25:13 was from snow stored up from the previous winter; here the reference is to a snowfall in summer.’

Clarke, in his commentary, says the following.

‘As the sparrow flies about the house, and the swallow emigrates to strange countries; so an undeserved malediction may flutter about the neighbourhood for a season: but in a short time it will disappear as the bird of passage; and never take effect on the innocent person against whom it was pronounced.’

Matthew Henry, in his commentary, says the following.

1. Wicked men are compared to the horse and the ass, so brutish are they, so unreasonable, so unruly, and not to be governed but by force or fear, so low has sin sunk men, so much below themselves. Man indeed is born like the wild ass’s colt, but as some by the grace of God are changed, and become rational, so others by custom in sin are hardened, and become more and more sottish, as the horse and the mule, Psalm 32:9.

2. Direction is given to use them accordingly. Princes, instead of giving honour to a fool (v. 1), must put disgrace upon him—instead of putting power into his hand, must exercise power over him. A horse unbroken 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.

Why do some honour fools in the eyes of the people? Why do some honour a lot of movie stars, athletes, rock stars, etc.? Most people look to them as ‘gods’ as if they have it made, and they know everything.

Like sparrows, they flutter around without setting any real goals. Like the horse, donkey and rod they never reach their intended target because an innocent person is being attacked. They require compulsive discipline.

Solomon is saying that we shouldn’t take a foolish person seriously and try to reason with their empty arguments. There are times a fool should be answered and times they shouldn’t be answered. These proverbs would be applied differently depending on the circumstances.

The messenger took the place of the one sending him. Sending by such a person is utterly useless. They are not fit to be entrusted with any business, not fit to go on an errand.

‘Like the useless legs of one who is lame is a proverb in the mouth of a fool. Like tying a stone in a sling is the giving of honour to a fool. Like a thorn bush in a drunkard’s hand is a proverb in the mouth of a fool. Like an archer who wounds at random is one who hires a fool or any passer-by. As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly. Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them.’ Proverbs 26:7-12

A proverb is useless from a fool because they don’t understand and cannot apply it to themselves. Tying a stone to a sling is useless because it cannot be slung, which is dangerous.

We shouldn’t give a place of honour to a fool. A fool is injured by it in ways they wouldn’t be if they were sober. A drunken person doesn’t feel any pain and so they wouldn’t know that their condition is serious. It is not only irresponsible, but also crazy.

The fool never learns, and, like this dog, they continue to do the things that will not work. They have difficulty learning from experience. Peter uses this proverb in 2 Peter 2:22, to speak about those who fall away. The ‘know it all’, is the egotist, they are the worst type of person.

‘A sluggard says, ‘There’s a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets!’ As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed. A sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth. A sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven people who answer discreetly.’ Proverbs 26:13-16

The Problem Of Laziness

Here Solomon gives another ‘lame’ excuse for those who don’t want to work. He says the slagged uses the excuse that there is a lion on the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets. This would be impossible as lions don’t roam around populated Notice that both a door and a sluggard move, but neither goes anywhere.

Despite their laziness, the sluggard considers themselves wise, even wiser than a team of seven competent people who are trained to give answers to difficult questions.

Clarke, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Seven here only means perfection, abundance, or multitude. He is wiser in his own eyes than a multitude of the wisest men.’

‘Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own. Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows of death is one who deceives their neighbour and says, ‘I was only joking!’ Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down. As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife. The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts. Like a coating of silver dross on earthenware are fervent lips with an evil heart.’ Proverbs 26:17-23

Here Solomon reminds us to mind our own business, Luke 12:14. Remember that most dogs were not domestic pets in Biblical times, they were wild, therefore, to grasp a dog by the ears was a sure way to get bitten.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘There is no Christian virtue any higher than that of refraining from meddling with other men’s quarrels. If one wonders what it is like to take a dog by the ears, he should try it once. He will never try it again! It is the sure way to be bitten by the dog. There might be an exception to this in a small lap dog; but, ‘The dog in Palestine was not a domesticated animal; and to seize any dog was dangerous’.’

They have no concern for the deadly consequences. He reminds us not to be a ‘practical joker’.

Clarke, in his commentary, says the following.

‘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 madman who shoots arrows, throws firebrands, and projects in all directions instruments of death, so that some are wounded, some burnt, and some slain.’

We’re not to ‘add fuel to the fire’ by continuing to gossip, Proverbs 18:8, if we hear gossip, we shouldn’t repeat it to someone else, James 3:6. They take a situation that might otherwise die out and turn it into a major conflict, Deuteronomy 19:15 / 2 Corinthians 13:1 / 1 Timothy 5:19. Smooth lips may cover an evil heart like glaze covers the rough earthenware of a piece of pottery, Psalms 12:2.

‘Enemies disguise themselves with their lips, but in their hearts, they harbour deceit. Though their speech is charming, do not believe them, for seven abominations fill their hearts. Their malice may be concealed by deception, but their wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.’ Proverbs 26:24-26

The Secret, Malicious Attitudes

Solomon speaks of a man who hates another but flatters him with a view to finding some way to destroy him.

The number seven is an illustration of something being full, in other words, this is a perfect degree of hate and malice. A group will be able to see through their disguise and reveal their real nature.

Matthew Henry, in his commentary, says the following.

1. 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. Satan is an enemy that hates us, and yet in his temptations speaks fair, as he did to Eve, but it is madness to give credit to him, for there are seven abominations in his heart; seven other spirits does one unclean spirit bring more wicked than himself.

2. Not to be so wicked as to impose upon any with a profession of friendship; for, though the fraud may be carried on plausibly awhile, it will be brought to light.

‘Whoever digs a pit will fall into it; if someone rolls a stone, it will roll back on them.’ Proverbs 26:27

Solomon is basically saying, those who set traps for others will fall into their own traps as a boomerang returns to the hand which throws it, Esther 7:10 / Daniel 6:24-28.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘In ancient warfare heavy stones were rolled to the top of some eminence, where they could be released to cause damage or destruction to some attacker. Such a trap, set for others could also, under some change of circumstance, destroy the one that set it.’

‘A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin.’ Proverbs 26:28

Here again, we’re warned about the use of our tongues, James 3:2-12. When people use their tongues to tell lies, we shouldn’t believe a word they tell us.

‘Everyone lies to their neighbour; they flatter with their lips but harbour deception in their hearts. May the LORD silence all flattering lips and every boastful tongue.’ Psalm 12:2-3.

Matthew Henry, in his commentary, says the following.

‘There are two sorts of lies equally detestable:

1. A slandering lie, which avowedly hates those it is spoken of: A lying tongue hates those that are afflicted by it; it afflicts them by calumnies and reproaches because it hates them and can thus smite them secretly where they are without defence; and it hates them because it has afflicted them and made them its enemies. The mischief of this is open and obvious; it afflicts, it hates, and owns it, and everybody sees it.

2. A flattering lie, which secretly works the ruin of those it is spoken to. In the former the mischief is plain, and men guard against it as well as they can, but in this 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.

Go To Proverbs 27