Proverbs 19 – “Assorted Sayings”

charity-handsHebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Proverbs 19 is a collection of twenty-nine assorted wisdom sayings. While the chapter has no overarching theme, topics such as wisdom, wives, false witnesses, and poverty come up more than once.

II. Photo

Verse 17 encourages charity giving, “He who is generous to the poor makes a loan to the LORD; He will repay him his due.”

III. Important Verses
v. 4: Wealth makes many friends, But a poor man loses his last friend.
v. 6: Many court the favor of a great man, And all are the friends of a dispenser of gifts.
v. 11: A man shows intelligence by his forebearance; It is his glory when he overlooks an offense.
v. 13: A stupid son is a calamity to his father; The nagging of a wife is like the endless dripping of water.
v. 14: Property and riches are bequeathed by fathers, But an efficient wife comes from the LORD.
v. 15: Laziness induces sleep, And a negligent person will go hungry.
v. 17: He who is generous to the poor makes a loan to the LORD; He will repay him his due.
v. 18: Discipline your son while there is still hope, And do not set your heart on his destruction.
v. 21: Many designs are in a man’s mind, But it is the LORD’s plan that is accomplished.

IV. Outline
1. Evil speech
2-3. Folly
4. The rich/poor
5. False witnesses
6. The gift giver
7. The poor
8. Wisdom
9. False witnesses
10. Status
11. Forgiveness
12. The king’s wrath/favor
13. A disappointing child/wife
14. A good wife
15. Laziness
16. Following a command
17. Charity
18. Punishing a child
19. A hot temper
20. Accept criticism
21. God is in control
22. Greed; Honesty
23. Fear of God
24. Laziness
25. Beating/rebuke
26. A disappointing son
27. Accept criticism
28. Wicked witnesses
29. The wicked one’s reward

V. Comment
Like the chapters that precede it, Proverbs 19 does not seem to have any overarching theme. While some verses use antithetical parallelism (e.g vv. 4, 12, 14, 21), the majority of sayings employ synthetic or synonymous parallelism. In terms of structure, some of the verses are linked by catchwords (e.g. letz and shefat in vv. 28-29).

V. 4 makes a realistic observation about wealth and poverty: “Wealth makes many friends, But a poor man loses his last friend.” It is interesting that vv. 6-7 echoes this saying, “Many court the favor of a great man, And all are the friends of a dispenser of gifts. All the brothers of a poor man despise him; How much more is he shunned by his friends…” The topic is discussed in Ben Sira too; see 13:21, “A rich man beginning to fall is held up of his friends: but a poor man being down is thrust also away by his friends,” and 13:23, “When a rich man speaketh, every man holdeth his tongue, and, look, what poor man speak, they say, What fellow is this? And if he stumble, they will help to overthrow him.” Thus, according to both Proverbs and Ben Sira, the rich seem to be on an upward spiral while the poor are trapped in a downward spiral.

V. 11 speaks about “letting things go”: “A man shows intelligence by his forebearance; It is his glory when he overlooks an offense.” Prov. 17:9 has a similar message, “He who seeks love overlooks faults, But he who harps on a matter alienates his friend.” This “wisdom teaching” is actually found as a command in Lev. 19:18, albeit with different vocabulary: “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen. Love your fellow as yourself: I am the LORD.”

V. 13 speaks about disappointing family members: “A stupid son is a calamity to his father; The nagging of a wife (midyenei ishah) is like the endless dripping of water.” Other proverbs also deal with the disappointing son. For example, 10:1 says, “A wise son brings joy to his father; A dull son is his mother’s sorrow,” and 17:25 says, “A stupid son is vexation for his father And a heartache for the woman who bore him.”  Some verses speak about a bickering wife as well. For example, 21:29 emphatically states, “It is better to live in the desert Than with a contentious, vexatious wife (‘eshet medanim).” Yet, our v. 14 also speaks about the decent wife, “Property and riches are bequeathed by fathers, But an efficient wife comes from the LORD.” While finding a good wife might seem as if it were left to chance, this verse says it is in the hands of God.

V. 15 speaks about laziness: “Laziness induces sleep, And a negligent person will go hungry.” A verse with a similar meaning is 20:13, “Do not love sleep lest you be impoverished; Keep your eyes open and you will have plenty of food.” Indeed, 21:25 warns how laziness can lead to death, “”The craving of a lazy man kills him, For his hands refuse to work.”

V. 17 speaks about how one who gives charity will be paid back by God: “He who is generous to the poor makes a loan to the LORD; He will repay him his due.” Why is this so? One’s treatment of the poor seems to be related to one’s treatment of God. For example, 14:31 says, “He who withholds what is due to the poor affronts his Maker; He who shows pity for the needy honors Him.” Indeed, it seems as if God plans for the rich to meet the poor: “Rich man and poor man meet; The LORD made them both” (22:2).

v. 18 speaks about physically hitting one’s son: “Discipline your son while there is still hope, And do not set your heart on his destruction.” This is not an uncommon theme in the book of Proverbs. For example, 13:24 says, “He who spares the rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him early.” Prov. 23:13-14 says, “Do not withhold discipline from a child; If you beat him with a rod he will not die. Beat him with a rod And you will save him from the grave” Also see Ben Sira 30:1, “He that loveth his son causeth him oft to feel the rod, that he may have joy of him in the end.”

V. 21 speaks about God’s control of man’s future: “Many designs are in a man’s mind, But it is the LORD’s plan that is accomplished.” Many other sayings share the same message. For example, 16:3 says, “Entrust your affairs to the LORD, And your plans will succeed,” and Prov. 20:24 says, “A man’s steps are decided by the LORD; What does a man know about his own way?” Prov. 16:9 corroborates the notion that “all is up to God”: “A man may plot out his course, But it is the LORD who directs his steps.”

VI. Works Used

See “Commentaries” page.

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2 thoughts on “Proverbs 19 – “Assorted Sayings”

  • How do observations that rich men have more friends and are more respected than poor men help Mishles cause. He just said better to be honest poor man than dishonest. False weights are an abomination etc.. In addition to the difference in material wealth, “the poor have less friends and less respect?”It seems counter productive to describe how the rich have it so much better than the poor. Better would have been” the friends of a rich man are not real friends he is surrounded by flatterers.” The more possesions the more worry etc…

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