The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing,…. He desires knowledge, but does not care to be at any pains to get it, and so has it not; he desires riches, but chooses not to make use of the means, to be diligent and industrious, and so he is without them; he desires to wear good clothes and rich raiment, but is unwilling to labour for them, and therefore is clothed with rags; he desires food, and plenty of it, but refuses to work for it; and he that will not work should not eat, and therefore he has it not, but starves and famishes: and, in spiritual things, the sluggard desires heaven and happiness, but does not care to do the duties of religion; he would die the death of the righteous, but is unwilling to live his life; to abstain from sin, and live soberly and righteously, is too hard service for him; he does not choose to do or suffer anything for the cause of Christ and true religion. Jarchi’s note is, that
“in the future state he shall see the glory of the wise man, and desire it; but shall not attain to it;”
but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat; become rich; increase in temporal things, and have great plenty and prosperity; and so, in spiritual matters, such who are diligent in the use of means, constantly attend on the word and ordinances, and labour for the meat which endures to everlasting life; such are filled and satisfied, as with marrow and fatness; and become fat and flourishing, and fruitful in every good word and work; and shall at last arrive to that state where there will be no more hunger and thirst.
(Comp. Pro_10:4.) The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing; literally, and nothing is there—he gains nothing (Pro_14:6; Pro_20:4). He has the wish, but not the will, and the empty wish without corresponding exertion is useless (Pro_21:25, etc.). Vulgate, “The indolent wishers, and wishes not;” he wishes for something, but he wishes not for the labour of getting it; he would like the result, but he hates the process by which the result is to be obtained. Septuagint, “In desires every idle man is occupied;” his mind is fixed wholly on aimless wishes, not on action. Shall be made fat (Pro_11:25); Septuagint, “The hands of the valiant are fully occupied (ἐν ἐπιμελει ́ ᾳ).”
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown
In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury.
In all labour (Hebrew, painful labour) there is profit: but the talk of the lips (tendeth) only to penury. In all honest labour there is profit, soon or late; but no profit, nay, rather ‘penury,’ results from empty talk. Loud talkers are lazy workers.
In all labour there is profit. All honest industry has a reward, and all care and pain borne for a good object bring comfort and content (comp. Pro_10:22). So the Greek distich says—
Ἅπαντα τὰ καλὰ τοῦ πονοῦντος γίγνεται
“To him who labours all fair things belong.”
In contrast to the diligent are those who talk much and do nothing. But the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury (Pro_21:5). Those who work much get profit; those who talk much and do little come to want. So in spiritual matters Christ teaches that they who think that prayer is heard for much speaking are mistaken; and he adds, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Mat_6:7; Mat_7:21). Septuagint, “In every one who taketh thought (μεριμνῶντι) there is abundance; he who liveth pleasantly and without pain shall be in want.” Cato, ‘Dist.,’ 1.10—
“Contra verbosos noli contendere verbis:
Sermo datus cunctis, animi sapientia paucis.”
“Against the wordy strive not thou in words;
Converse with all, but to the favoured few
Impart thy heart’s deep wisdom.”
Oriental proverbs: “Sweet words, empty bands;” “To speak of honey will not make the mouth sweet;” “We do not cook rice by babbling” (Lane). Turkish, “The language of actions is more eloquent than the language of words.”
The sluggard will not plough by reason of the cold,…. Or, “in the cold”; in the time of cold, as Aben Ezra; in the time of autumn, which is the time of ploughing, when it begins to be cold weather, and winter is drawing on: and this is discouraging to the sluggard, who does not care to take his hands out of his bosom to feed himself, and much less to plough; see Pro_19:24;
therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing; he shall ask of those who have ploughed and sowed, and are now reaping and gathering in their increase at harvest time; but they shall give him nothing; for such as will not work should not eat; and if a man will not plough and sow, he cannot expect to reap, nor should he be encouraged in begging. This holds good in spiritual things; such who have been slothful and sluggish about their spiritual affairs, unconcerned for the grace of God, and indolent in the use of means, or performance of duty, will ask when too late, or of wrong persons, and shall not have it; as the foolish virgins ask oil of the wise, when the bridegroom is come; and the rich man for water from Abraham, when in hell, Mat_25:8.
The sluggard will not plough by reason of the cold; propter frigus, Vulgate. But חֹרֶף (choreph) denotes the time of gathering—the autumn; so we would translate, “At the time of harvest the sluggard ploughs not”—just when the ground is most easily and profitably worked. “The weakness of the coulter and other parts of the plough requires that advantage be taken, in all but the most friable soils, of the softening of the surface by the winter or spring rains; so that the peasant, if industrious, has to plough in the winter, though sluggards still shrink from its cold, and have to beg in the harvest” (Geikie, ‘Holy Land and Bible,’ 2:491). Therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing. So the Vulgate, Mendicabit ergo aestate, et non dabitur illi. But this does not accurately represent the meaning of the clause. If ever the prosperous are disposed to relieve the needy, it would be at the time when they have safely garnered their produce; an appeal to their charity at such a moment would not be made in vain. Rather the sentence signifies that the lazy man, having neglected to have his land ploughed at the proper time, “when he asks (for his fruits) at harvest time, there is nothing.” He puts off tilling his fields day after day, or never looks to see if his labourers do their duty, and so his land is not cultivated, and he has no crop to reap when autumn comes. “By the street of By-and-by one arrives at the house of Never” (Spanish proverb). Taking a different interpretation of the word choreph, the LXX. renders, “Being reproached, the sluggard is not ashamed, no more than he who borrows corn in harvest.”
I went by the field of the slothful – This is a most instructive parable; is exemplified every day in a variety of forms; and is powerfully descriptive of the state of many a blackslider and trifler in religion. Calmet has an excellent note on this passage. I shall give the substance of it.
Solomon often recommends diligence and economy to his disciples. In those primitive times when agriculture was honorable, no man was respected who neglected to cultivate his grounds, who sunk into poverty, contracted debt, or engaged in ruinous securities. With great propriety, a principal part of wisdom was considered by them as consisting in the knowledge of properly conducting one’s domestic affairs, and duly cultivating the inheritances derived from their ancestors. Moses had made a law to prevent the rich from utterly depressing the poor, by obliging them to return their farms to them on the Sabbatic year, and to remit all debts at the year of jubilee.
In the civil state of the Hebrews, we never see those enormous and suddenly raised fortunes, which never subsist but in the ruin of numberless families. One of the principal solicitudes of this legislator was to produce, as far as possible in a monarchical state, an equality of property and condition. The ancient Romans held agriculture in the same estimation, and highly respected those who had applied themselves to it with success. When they spoke in praise of a man, they considered themselves as giving no mean commendation when they called him a good husbandman, an excellent laborer. From such men they formed their most valiant generals and intrepid soldiers. Cato De Re Rustica, cap. 1. The property which is acquired by these means is most innocent, most solid, and exposes its possessor less to envy than property acquired in any other way. See Cicero De Officiis, lib. 1. In Britain the merchant is all in all; and yet the waves of the sea are not more uncertain, nor more tumultuous, than the property acquired in this way, or than the agitated life of the speculative merchant.
But let us look more particularly into this very instructive parable: –
I. The owner is described.
1. He was איש עצל ish atsel, the loitering, sluggish, slothful man.
2. He was אדם חסר לב adam chasar leb, a man that wanted heart; destitute of courage, alacrity, and decision of mind.
II. His circumstances. This man had,
1. שדה sadeh, a sowed field, arable ground. This was the character of his estate. It was meadow and corn land.
2. He had כרם kerem, a vineyard, what we would call perhaps garden and orchard, where he might employ his skill to great advantage in raising various kinds of fruits and culinary herbs for the support of his family.
III. The state of this heritage:
1. “It was grown over with thorns.” It had been long neglected, so that even brambles were permitted to grow in the fields:
2. “Nettles had covered the face thereof.” It was not weeded, and all kinds of rubbish had been suffered to multiply:
3. “The stone wall was broken down.” This belonged to the vineyard: it was neither pruned nor digged; and the fence, for want of timely repairs, had all fallen into ruins, Pro_24:31.
IV. The effect all this had on the attentive observer.
1. I saw it, אחזה אנכי echezeh anochi, I fixed my attention on it. I found it was no mere report. It is a fact. I myself was an eyewitness of it.
2. I considered it well, אשית לבי ashith libbi, I put my heart on it. All my feelings were interested.
3. I looked upon it, רעיתי raithi, I took an intellectual view of it. And
4. Thus I received instruction, לקחתי מוסר lakachti musar, I received a very important lesson from it: but the owner paid no attention to it. He alone was uninstructed; for he “slumbered, slept, and kept his hands in his bosom.” Pro_24:33. “Hugged himself in his sloth and carelessness.”
V. The consequences of this conduct.
1. Poverty described as coming like a traveler, making sure steps every hour coming nearer and nearer to the door.
2. Want, מחסר machsor, total destitution; want of all the necessaries, conveniences, and comforts of life; and this is described as coming like an armed man כאיש מגן keish magen, as a man with a shield, who comes to destroy this unprofitable servant: or it may refer to a man coming with what we call an execution into the house, armed with the law, to take even his bed from the slumberer.
From this literal solution any minister of God may make a profitable discourse.
The field … the vineyard; the two chief objects of the farmer’s care, which need constant labour if they are to prove productive. Moralizing on this passage, St. Gregory (‘Moral.,’ 20.54) says, “To pass by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding, is to look into the life of any careless liver, and to take a view of his deeds.”
And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns,…. Or “thistles”; which grow up of themselves, are the fruit of the curse, and the effect of slothfulness;
and nettles had covered the face thereof; so that nothing was to be seen but thorns and thistles, nettles and weeds; and such is the case of the souls of men when neglected, and no concern is had for them; so it is with carnal and worldly professors, who are overrun with the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things, comparable to thorns and nettles for their piercing and stinging nature, and the unfruitfulness and unprofitableness of them; such are the thorny ground hearers, Mat_13:22; and such is the case of all unregenerate persons, whose souls are like an uncultivated field, and a neglected vineyard; in which grow naturally the weeds of sin and corruption, comparable to thorns and nettles for their spontaneous production, for the number of them, for their unfruitfulness, and for the pain and distress they bring when conscience is awakened; and because as such ground that bears thorns and nettles is nigh to cursing, and its end to be burned, which is their case; see Heb_6:8;
and the stone wall thereof was broken down; the fence about the fields, the wall about the vineyard, to keep out men and beasts; see Isa_5:2; which through slothfulness, and want of repair and keeping up, fell to decay, Ecc_10:18; and thus carnal professors and unregenerate men, having no guard upon themselves, are open and exposed to every sin, snare, and temptation; Satan has free egress and regress; the evil spirit can go out and come in when he pleases, and bring seven evil spirits more wicked than himself: indeed such is the evil heart of man that it needs no tempter; he is drawn aside of his own lust, and enticed; he is liable to every sin, and to fall into the utmost ruin; he has nothing to protect and defend him; not the Spirit, nor grace, nor power of God.
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown
Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction.
Then I saw, and considered it well (applied my mind to it) … and received instruction – (cf. margin.) I took no superficial view, but considered well what was the cause of the desolate state of the field, and so I received instruction to avoid the culpable sloth of its owner, as I should wish to escape his fate. Though fools will not learn from the wise, the wise may learn much from fools.
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown
Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:
Compare the same, Pro_6:10-11.
So shall thy poverty come as one that traveleth; and thy want as an armed man. ‘At first slowly, step by step, like a traveler, without being felt, comes debt and diminution of one’s inheritance. But soon poverty attacks, like an armed warrior, with a strong and, irresistible hand; as the ancients rightly said, ‘Necessity is the strongest of things, therefore we must meet the traveler, fortify ourselves against the armed man’ (Bacon, in ‘Poli Synopsis’).
These verses are a repetition, with very slight variations, of Pro_6:10, Pro_6:11 (where see notes), and possibly have been introduced here by a later editor. Pro_6:33 seems to be the sluggard’s own words; Pro_6:34 shows the result of his sloth. There are numberless proverbs dedicated to this subject in all languages; e.g. “No sweat, no sweet;” “No pains, no gains; …. He that wad eat the kernel maun crack the nut;” “A punadas entran las buenas hadas,” “Good luck enters by dint of cuffs” (Spanish); “Nihil agendo male agere discimus; … . The dog in the kennel,” say the Chinese. “barks at his fleas; the dog that hunts does not feel them” (Kelly). “Sloth and much sleep,” say the Arabs, “remove from God and bring on poverty.” The LXX. is somewhat dramatic in its rendering: “Afterwards I repented (μετενόησα), I looked that I might receive instruction. ‘I slumber a little, I sleep a little, for a little I clasp (ἐναγκαλι ́ζομαι) my hands across my breast.’ But if thou do this, thy poverty will come advancing, and thy want like a good runner (ἀγαθο ̀ς δρομεύς)” The word ἐναγκαλι ́ζομαι occurs in Pro_6:10, but nowhere else in the Septuagint. It is used by St. Mark. It has been thought that the original mashal ended with Verse 32, the following passage being added by a scribe as illustrative in a marginal note, which afterwards crept into the text.
This is virtually the same as Pro_22:13. The words for “lion” are different in two parts of the verse, shakhal being the lion of advanced age, ari the full-grown animal; the latter may possibly be assumed to be the more dangerous of the two, and so a climax would be denoted. There is a proverb current in Bechuana, which says, “The month of seed time is the season of headaches.”
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown
The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets.
(There is) a lion in the way. Energy soon puts to flight such lions (Pro_22:13).
As the door turneth upon its hinges. The door moves on its hinges and makes no progress beyond its own confined sphere of motion; so the slothful man turns himself on his bed from side to side, but never leaves it to do his. work. Other analogies have been found in this proverb. Thus: The door opens to let the diligent go forth to his daily business, while the sluggard is rolling upon his bed; the door creaks when it is moved, so the lazy man groans when he is aroused; the door now is opened, now is shut, so the sluggard at one time intends to rise, and then falls back in his bed, and returns to his sleep (comp. Pro_6:9, Pro_6:10; Pro_24:33).
He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread,…. Or, “shall he filled” or “satisfied with bread” : shall have bread enough, and to spare; provisions of all sorts, and in great plenty; See Gill on Pro_12:11;
but he that followeth, after vain persons; empty idle persons; keeps company and spends his time with them, when he should be about the business of his calling:
shall have poverty enough; or be “filled with it” ; he shall be exceeding poor, reduced to the utmost distress, be clothed in rags and destitute of daily food.
Cambridge Bible Perowne
6. Go to the ant] Comp. Pro_30:25; where however the foresight of the little insect is chiefly in view. Here its ceaseless activity, and that of its own free-will, without being set on work or kept up to it by external authority (Pro_6:7), furnishes the lesson to the sluggard.
sluggard] The Heb. word occurs frequently in this Book, but not elsewhere. Forms of the same root occur in Jdg_18:9, “be not slothful to go,” and Ecc_10:18, “by slothfulness the roof sinketh in.”
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown
Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:
Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. From the particular exhortation of the surety to sleepless energy (Pro_6:4), Solomon passes to a general exhortation to industry. God designs us to learn many a lesson from His creatures in the natural world. There is in each creature some spark of the divine excellency testifying silently against our deficiencies. “Go to the ant” as thy teacher. The ant does not borrow or beg, nor is it starved by neglecting to provide for its wants in time, but of its own accord burns with zeal for toil, without any one urging it (Gejer, from Basil). All the ants move on the same path (Aristotle, ‘Hist.,’ 9: 48). The ants that are without a load make way for those most laden (Plutarch). The burden which would be too difficult to carry they divide. The oldest go before as the leaders, and the others follow (OElian, in ‘Poli. Synopsis’). They construct their houses and cells under ground, and fill their stores with grain, and have channels sunk to drain off the rain; and if their food becomes wet, they bring it out to dry, and hide their food in cells protected from the rain.
Moreover, he does not bid us to consider the ant’s ways in order that we may be more learned, but that we may “be wise.” It is with a view to practice that knowledge is here recommended (Bochart). Kirby and Spence (‘Entomology,’ p. 313, Ed. 7, London, 1856) doubt that the ants store up their food against winter; nor does it necessarily follow from the statement here: it simply states, they provide their meat in summer, and gather it in harvest.
Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler. This statement is substantially correct, for though the most recent observations made by modern naturalists have discovered various classes of ants occupying the same ant hill, yet there appears to be a total want of that gradation and subordination in ant life which is noticeable among bees. The three terms used here, katsa, shoter, moshel, all refer to government, and correspond respectively with the modern, Arabic terms, kadi, wall, and emir (Zockler). The first refers to the judicial office, and should rather be rendered “judge,” the root katsah being “to decide” (see Isa_1:10; Isa_3:6, Isa_3:7; Mic_3:9). The word, however, is used of a military commander in Jos_10:24; Jdg_2:6-11, and in this sense it is understood by the Vulgate, which has dux. Shoter, rendered “overseer,” is literally “a scribe,” and appears as the general designation for any official In Exo_5:6, Exo_5:19 the shoter is the person employed by the Egyptian taskmasters to urge on the Israelites in their forced labour; in Num_11:16 the shoter is one of the seventy elders; and in 1Ch_23:4 he is a municipal magistrate. The meaning assigned to the word in the Authorized Version seems to be the correct one. The ant has no overseer; there is none to regulate or see that the work is done. Each ant apparently works independently of the rest, though guided by a common instinct to add to the common store. In moshel we have the highest title of dignity and power, the word signifying a lord, prince, or ruler, from mashal, “to rule.”
Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. It is this characteristic, combined with what has just been said, which gives point to the lesson the sluggard is to learn. The teacher, as it were, argues: If the ant, so insignificant a creature in the order of the animal kingdom, is so provident, how much more should you be—you, a man endued with superior intelligence, and with so many more resources at hand, and with greater advantages! If the ant, with none to urge, direct, or control her work, is so industrious, surely she provides an example at which you, the sluggard, should blush, since there is every external incentive to rouse you to action—your duty to the community, the urgent advice of your friends, and your dignity as a man. If she provides for the future, much more should you do so, and threw off your sloth. Objection has been taken to what is here stated of the provident habits of the ant in storing food, on the ground that it is carnivorous and passes the winter in a state of torpidity. That the ant does lay up stores for future use has, however, been the opinion of all ages. Thus Hesiod (‘Days,’ 14) speaks of the ant as harvesting the grain, calling it ἴδρις, “the provident.” Virgil says—
“Veluti ingentem formicae farris acervum
Quum populant hiemis memores, tectoque repenunt.”
“So the ants, when they plunder a tall heap of corn, mindful of the winter, store it in their cave.” The language of Horace (‘Sat.,’ 1.50, 32) might be a comment on our passage—
“Parvula (nam exemplo est) magni formica laboris sicut
Ore trahit quodcunque potest, atque addit acervo,
Quem struit, haud ignara ac non incauta futuri,
Quae, simul universum contristat Aquarius annum
Non usquam prorepit, et illis utitur ante Quaesitis sapiens.”
“For thus the little ant (to human lore
No mean example) forms her frugal store,
Gathered, with mighty toils, on every side,
Nor ignorant, nor careless to provide
For future want; yet when the stars appear
That darkly sadden the declining year,
No more she comes abroad, but wisely lives
On the fair store industrious summer gives.”
The same provident character is noted in AEsop’s fable, ‘The Ant and the Grasshopper;’ see also Aristotle (‘Hist. Nat.,’ 9.6). All objections on this subject appear to be based on insufficient data, and have been conclusively answered by recent observation. Apart from the remark of Buffon, that “the ants of tropical climates lay up provisions, and as they probably live the whole year, they submit themselves to regulations entirely unknown among the ants of Europe.” The late Professor Darwin states of the agricultural ant of Texas, which in many features resembles the ant of Palestine, that it not only stores its food, but prepares the soil for the crops, keeps the ground free from weeds, and finally reaps the harvest. Canon Tristram also observes, “The language of the wise man is not only in accordance with the universal belief of his own time, but with the accurately ascertained facts of natural history. Contrary to its habits in colder climates, the ant is not there dormant through the winter; and among the tamerisks of the Dead Sea it may be seen, in January, actively engaged in collecting the aphides and saccharine exudations, in long flies passing and repassing up and down the trunk. Two of the most common species of the Holy Land (Alta barbara, the black ant, and Alta structor, the brown ant) are strictly seed feeders, and in summer lay up large stores of grain for winter use. These species are spread along the whole of the Mediterranean coasts, but are unknown in more northern climates. Hence writers who were ignorant of ants beyond those of their own countries have been presumptuous enough to deny the accuracy of Solomon’s statement”. The Mishna, section ‘Zeraim,’ also contains a curious piece of legislation which bears testimony to the storing properties of the ant.
Cambridge Bible Perowne
8. The LXX. addition to this verse is interesting, both as illustrating their tendency to gloss, and also because it exhibits the bee in a favourable light, as an example of industry and wisdom, whereas, unless we regard it as latent in the use of the word as a proper name (Deborah, Jdg_4:4), that character of the insect is never referred to by the O.T. writers, who were familiar with it only in its wild state, and had no opportunity of watching its habits, but only noticed its vindictiveness in attacking men (Psa_118:12; Isa_7:18).
Their addition is:—
“Or, go to the bee, and learn what a work woman she is,
And how comely she makes her work,
Whose labours kings and common people gather to them,
And she is desired and had in honour of all men for health;
And though she be weak in strength of body,
Yet through her honouring wisdom is she advanced.”
Cambridge Bible Perowne
5. sleepeth] Sleeps heavily, goes fast to sleep. Stertit, Vulg. Comp. Jon_1:5-6, where the Heb. word is the same.
This is an example of an exactly balanced proverb in the wording of the two clauses, especially if with R.V. marg. we render literally, a son that doeth wisely … that doeth shamefully.
The LXX., having introduced another proverb at the beginning of this verse:
“A son who receives instruction shall be wise,
And shall serve himself of the fool as his minister,”
gives as the equivalent of our present proverb,
“A prudent son shall be saved from the heat,
But a son that is a transgressor shall be carried away by the wind in harvest.”
He that gathereth the harvest into the barn at the right season. The idea of husbandry is continued from the preceding verse. Son is here equivalent to “man,” the maxim being addressed to the young. That sleepeth; literally, that snoreth; Vulgate, qui stertit (Jdg_4:21). A son that causeth shame. The phrase is found in Pro_17:2; Pro_19:26; Pro_29:15. The Septuagint has, “The son of understanding is saved from the heat; but the sinful son is blasted by the wind in harvest.”
Where no oxen (cattle) are, the crib is clean. This does not mean, as some take it, that labour has its rough, disagreeable side, yet in the end brings profit; but rather that without bullocks to labour in the fields, or cows to supply milk—that is, without toil and industry, and necessary instruments—the crib is empty, there is nothing to put in the granary, there are no beasts to fatten. The means must be adapted to the end. Much increase is by the strength of the ox. This, again, is not an exhortation to kindness towards animals, which makes no antithesis to the first clause; but it is parallel with Pro_12:11, and means that where agricultural works are diligently carried on (the “ploughing ox” being taken as the type of industry), large returns are secured. Septuagint, “Where fruits are plentiful the strength of the ox is manifest.”
There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise. Precious treasure and store of provision and rich unguents (Pro_21:17) are collected in the house of the wise man, by which he may fare sumptuously, exercise hospitality, and lay up for the future (comp. Pro_24:4). But a foolish man spendeth it up. “A fool of a man” (Pro_15:20) soon swallows, runs through and exhausts, all that has been accumulated (Pro_21:17). Septuagint, “A desirable ἐπιθυμητο ̀ς treasure will rest on the mouth of the wise, but foolish men will swallow it up.” It is obvious to apply the maxim to spiritual things, seeing in it the truth that the really wise man stores up treasures of Divine love and the oil of God’s grace, while the foolish man wastes his opportunities, squanders his powers, and drives the Holy Spirit from him.
Prepare thy work without. The proverb enjoins a man to look well to his resources before he undertakes to build a house or to establish a family. “Without” (chuts) (Pro_7:12; Pro_8:26); in the fields. Put in due order all immediate work in thy farm. And make it fit for thyself in the field; and get ready for what has to come next. That is, in short, steadily and with due foresight cultivate your land; provide abundant means of subsistence before you attempt to build up your house. A suitor had, as it were, to purchase his bride from her relations by making considerable presents; it was therefore necessary to provide a certain amount of wealth before contemplating matrimony. And afterwards build thy house. This is, indeed, the meaning of the passage; but the Hebrew makes a difficulty, as it is literally, “afterwards and thou shalt build.” Some have supposed that some words have dropped out of the text (Cheyne, ‘Job and Solomon’). But vav in וּבָנִיתָ, coming after a date or notification of time, as here after אַהַר (comp. Gen_3:5), “has the future signification of a perfect consecutive” (Delitzsch), equivalent to “after that, then, thou mayest build.” Septuagint, “Prepare thy works for thy going forth (εἰς τη,ν ἔξοδον), and get ready for the field, and come after me, and thou shalt build up thine house.” In a spiritual sense, the heart must be first cleared of thorns, and opened to genial influences, before the man can build up the fabric of virtuous habits, and thus arrive at the virtuous character.
Prepare thy work without,…. As Solomon did for the building of the temple; timber and stones were prepared, hewed, squared, and fitted for the building before brought thither, 1Ki_5:18; or diligently attend to thy business without doors, whatever it is, that thou mayest provide for thyself and family the necessaries and conveniences of life, which are in the first place to be sought after;
and make it fit for thyself in the field; let nothing be wanting in managing the affairs of husbandry, in tilling the land, in ploughing and sowing, and reaping, and gathering in the increase, that there may be a sufficiency for the support of the family;
and afterwards build thine house; when, though the blessing of God upon thy diligence and industry, thou art become rich, or however hast such a competent substance as to be able to build a good house, and furnish it in a handsome manner, then do it; but first take care of the main point, that you have a sufficiency to finish it; see the advice of Christ, Luk_14:28; necessaries are first to be sought after, before things ornamental and superfluous; first take care to live, and then, if you can, build a fine house. Jarchi interprets this of a man’s first getting fields, vineyards, and cattle, something beforehand in the world, and then take a wife, when he is able to maintain her, whereby his house may be built up; see Rth_4:11.
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown
There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.
There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and (there is) that withholdeth more than is meet, but (it tendeth) to poverty. So far from the generous disperser of his riches, for the glory of God and the good of his neighbour, being really impoverished by scattering, he positively “increaseth” in true wealth by it. The metaphor is from sowing seed. He who would reap largely must scatter the seed far and wide, with no grudging hand (Pro_13:7). They who “withhold more than is meet” from the Lord, get no true gain from all their toils and all their riches, like the Jews in Haggai’s time, who had no prosperity until they made the house of the Lord their chief object (Hag_1:6; Hag_1:9-11; Hag_2:15-19; cf. Heb_13:16). So far is the true wealth of the withholder from being increased by withholding what is meet to be given for the glory of God and the good of man, that he is at last deprived even of that which he had (Mat_13:12). The Lord has a thousand ways of taking away from the selfish steward of God’s property the wealth which he uses not for God’s glory, namely, sickness, fire, death certainly.
There is that scattereth; that giveth liberally, as Psa_112:1-10 :99, “He hath dispersed, he hath given to the needy.” And yet increaseth; becomes only the richer in wealth and more blessed by God (comp. Pro_19:17). Nutt quotes the old epitaph, “What we spent, we had; what we saved, we lost; what we gave, we have.” Experience proves that no one ultimately loses who gives the tithe of his income to God (see on Pro_28:27). There is that withholdeth more than is meet; i.e. is niggardly where he ought to be liberal. But the expression is best taken as in the margin of the Revised Version, “that withholdeth what is justly due,” either as a debt or as a proper act of generosity becoming one who desires to please God and to do his duty. But it tendeth to poverty. That which is thus withheld is no real benefit to him. it only inure, sos his want. Septuagint and Vulgate, “There are who, sewing what is their own, make the more; and there are who, gathering what is another’s, suffer loss.”
The sentiment of the preceding verse is here carried on and confirmed. The liberal soul; literally, the soul of blessings, the man that blesses others by giving liberally. Shall be made fat (Pro_13:4; Pro_28:25). The term is used of the rich and prosperous (Psa_22:29). Septuagint, “Every simple soul is blessed.” He that watereth—benefits and refreshes others—shall be watered also himself; shall receive the blessing which he imparts. The Vulgate introduces another idea, Qui inebriat, ipse quoque inebriabitur, where the verb implies rather abundance than excess, as in Pro_5:19, etc. The Septuagint departs widely from the present text: “A passionate man is not graceful” (εὐσχήμων), i.e. is ugly in appearance and manner—a sentiment which may be very true, but it is not clear how it found its way into the passage. St. Chrysostom comments upon it in ‘Hom.’ 17, on St. John. There are some Eastern proverbs on the stewardship of the rich. When a good man gets riches, it is like fruit falling into the midst of the village. The riches of the good are like water turned into a rice field. The good, like clouds, receive only to give away. The rivers themselves drink not their water; nor do the trees eat their own sweet fruit, and the clouds eat not the crops. The garment in which you clothe another will last longer than that in which you clothe yourself. Who gives alms sows one and reaps a thousand.
He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord. English Church people are familiar with this distich, as being one of the sentences of Scripture read at the Offertory. The word for “poor” is here dal, “feeble” (see on Pro_19:1 and Pro_19:4). It is a beautiful thought that by showing mercy and pity we are, as it were, making God our debtor; and the truth is wonderfully advanced by Christ, who pronounces (Mat_25:40), “Inasmuch as ye have done it mite one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (see on Pro_11:24; Pro_28:27). St. Chrysostom (‘Horn.,’ 15, on 1Co_5:1-13), “To the more imperfect this is what we may say, Give of what you have unto the needy. Increase your substance. For, saith he, ‘He that giveth unto the poor lendeth unto God.’ But if you are in a hurry, and wait not for the time of retribution, think of those who lend money to men; for not even these desire to get their interest immediately; but they are anxious that the principal should remain a good long while in the hands of the borrower, provided only the repayment be secure, and they have no mistrust of the borrower. Let this be done, then, in the present case also. Leave them with God, that he may pay thee thy wages manifold. Seek not to have the whole here; for if you recover it all here, how will you receive it back there? And it is on this account that God stores them up there, inasmuch as this present life is full of decay. But he gives even here also; for, ‘Seek ye,’ saith he, ‘the kingdom of heaven, and all these things shall be added unto you.’ Well, then, let us look towards that kingdom, and not be in a hurry for the repayment of the whole, lest we diminish our recompense. But let us wait for the fit season. For the interest in these cases is not of that kind, but is such as is meet to be given by God. This, then, having collected together in great abundance, so let us depart hence, that we may obtain beth the present and the future blessings” (Oxford transl.). That which he hath given will he pay him again; Vicissitudinem suam reddet ei, Vulgate, “According to his gift will he recompense him.” גִּמוּל (gemul), “good deed” (Pro_12:14, where it is rendered “recompense”). Ecclesiasticus 32:10 (35), etc; “Give unto the Most High according as he hath enriched thee; and as thou hast gotten give with a cheerful eye. For the Lord recompenseth, and will give thee seven times as much.” There are proverbs rife in other lands to the same effect. The Turk says, “What you give in charity in this world you take with you after death. Do good, and throw it into the sea if the fish does not know it, God does.” And the Russian, “Throw bread and salt behind you, you get them before you” (Lane).
He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed. The “good of eye” is the kindly looking, the benevolent man, in contrast to him of the evil eye, the envious, the unfriendly and niggardly man (Pro_23:6; Pro_28:22). St. Jerome renders, Qui pronus est ad misericordiam. Such a one is blessed by God in this world and the next, in time and in eternity, according to the sentiment of Pro_11:25. Thus in the temporal sense:23). “Him that is liberal in food lips shall bless, and the testimony of his liberality will be believed.” Septuagint, “He that hath pity upon the poor shall himself be continually sustained (διατραφήσεται).” The reason is added, For he giveth of his brans to the poor. The blessing is the consequence of his charity and liberality. 2Co_9:6, “He that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully (ἐπ αὐλογίαις).” The Vulgate and Septuagint add a distich not in the Hebrew, Victoriam et honorem acquiret qui dat munera; animam autem aufert accipientium; Νίκην καὶ τιμὴν περι ποιεῖται ὁ δω ͂ρα δοὺς τὴν μέντοι ψυχὴν ἀφαι ρεῖται τῶν κεκτημένωνω, “Victory and honour he obtaineth who giveth gifts; but he takes away the life of the possessors.” The first hemistich appears to be a variant of Pro_19:6, the second to be derived from Pro_1:19. The second portion of the Latin addition may mean that the liberal man wins and carries away with him the souls of the recipients of his bounty. But this, though Ewald would fain have it so, cannot be the signification of the corresponding Greek, which seems to mean that the man who is so liberal in distributing gifts obtains the power to do so by oppressing and wronging others.
He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack (see Pro_11:24, etc.; Pro_19:17). God in some way compensates what is spent in almsdeeds by shedding his blessing on the benevolent. “Der Geiz,” runs the German maxim, “sammlet sich arm, die Milde giebt sich reich,” “Charity gives itself rich; covetousness hoards itself poor” (Trench). “Alms,” said the rabbis, “are the salt of riches.” But he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse (Pro_11:26). The uncharitable man either turns away his eyes that he may not see the misery around him, or pretends not to notice it, lest his compassion should be claimed. The expression, “hiding the eyes,” occurs in Isa_1:15, “When ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you.” The unmerciful man meets with the curses of those whom he has neglected to relieve when he had the power, and such curses are ratified and fulfilled because they are deserved, and Divine retribution attends them (see the opposite view, Isa_1:20). “Turn not away thine eye from the needy,” says the Son of Sirach, “and give him none occasion to curse thee; for if be curse thee in the bitterness of his soul, his prayer shall be heard of him that made him” (Ecclesiasticus 4:4, etc.; comp. Tobit 4:7). So in the ‘Didache,’ ch. 4; we have, Οὐκ ἀποστραφήσῃ τὸν ἐνδεόμενον, “Thou shalt not turn thyself from one in need.” Septuagint, “lie that turneth away his eye shall be in great distress;” Vulgate, Qui despicit deprecantem sustinebit penuriam.