Open rebuke is better than secret love.
How do you love your friends? Do they truly love you? Here is a short and somewhat obscure proverb, but it is one you must learn and practice from both directions. Are you a true, loving friend? Do you have loving friends, and do you appreciate the way they love?
There are two kinds of friends, shown by rebuke and love and by the following verse (Pr 27:6). One is better than the other, so you must learn and love the good one and reject and despise the bad. Solomon by inspiration of God defined true friendship and love for you.
What is open rebuke? It is telling a man his fault personally and directly, whether against you, others, or God. It is open, for you do it to his face, rather than pretending all is well; and it is rebuke, for you reprove his error, rather than flatter with compliments. Open rebuke is not telling others, for unnecessarily telling others is wrong (Pr 25:9; 11:13).
Jesus Christ taught this rule (Matt 18:15); James taught it (James 5:19-20); Paul taught it (Gal 6:1-3); and Paul practiced it with Peter, whose fault was public (Gal 2:11-14). True friends, the kind appreciated by the Son of God and His apostles obeyed this proverb.
Rebuking a friend for sin is true love, which Moses had taught long before (Lev 19:17). Not correcting him is truly hatred. Charity cannot bear another in sin (I Cor 13:6), as helping them live a holy life is the highest measure of love and friendship (I Sam 23:16).
What is secret love? It is showing affection, friendship, and service without the courage or commitment to correct another’s faults. It is secret, for the real character of love – correction – is missing; it is called love sarcastically, for only outward flattery and superficial kindness exist in such a relationship. It is rather and truly hatred (Lev 19:17).
The connected proverb helps (Pr 27:6). A friend wounding you by correction is faithful; a friend who kisses without correction is an enemy. The kisses are deceitful, for there is no substance; the wound is faithful, for it is proof of true friendship. Greater favor and stronger friendship will result from rebuke than from worldly flattery (Pr 28:23; 27:9).
Dear reader, do you love this way? If so, you will warn the unruly (I Thes 5:14), reprove and chasten your children (Pr 13:24; 29:15), provoke others to righteousness (Heb 3:12-13; 10:23-25), and please others, rather than yourself, for their edification (Rom 15:1-2).
Do you receive the open rebuke of this proverb without bristling? David said he would consider reproof and smiting by a righteous man a true act of kindness (Ps 141:5). As a sinner, you need such friends, who will confront rather than flatter you. Cherish them!
Jesus faithfully rebuked His dear friends (Matt 16:23; Luke 9:55; John 21:17), and they spent the rest of their lives profiting from his loving and faithful investment in them. The greatest love letter ever written is the Bible, and you will be personally rebuked every time you read it with godly humility and sincerity. Read it today to know the love of God.
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Do not boast about tomorrow,
For you do not know what a day may bring forth.
a. Do not boast about tomorrow: It is human nature to be overly confident in what future days hold. It is easy to boast about tomorrow, especially with our modern arrogance of continual progress.
b. For you do not know what a day may bring forth: We don’t know what tomorrow may hold, so we should have a humble attitude towards the future, as James 4:13-16 also speaks of.
i. “The verse is not ruling out wise planning for the future, only one’s overconfident sense of ability to control the future—and no one can presume on God’s future.” (Ross)
ii. “Little doth any man know what is in the womb of tomorrow, till God hath signified his will by the event. David in his prosperity said, that he should ‘never be moved’; but he soon after found a sore alteration: God confuted his confidence. .” (Trapp)
iii. Spurgeon considered what a blessing it was that we do not know what a day may bring forth. “To know the good might lead us to presumption, to know the evil might tempt us to despair. Happy for us is it that our eyes cannot penetrate the thick veil which God hangs between us and to- morrow, that we cannot see beyond the spot where we now are, and that, in a certain sense, we are utterly ignorant as to the details of the future. We may, indeed, be thankful for our ignorance.”
Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth;
A stranger, and not your own lips.
a. Let another praise you, and not your own mouth: We should stay away from self-promotion in its many forms. Modern technology gives us many more methods and opportunities to praise ourselves, but we should avoid such self-praise.
b. A stranger, and not your own lips: Honor means much more when it comes from an outside source, even a stranger than being the product of self-praise and self-promotion.
i. “A German proverb says: ‘Eigen-Lob stinkt, Freundes Lob hinkt, Fremdes Lob klingt’—’self-praise stinks, friend’s praise limps, stranger’s praise rings.’” (Waltke)
A stone is heavy and sand is weighty,
But a fool’s wrath is heavier than both of them.
a. A stone is heavy and sand is weighty: Solomon appealed to self-evident truths. It is in the nature of a stone to be heavy and in the nature of sand to be weighty.
b. But a fool’s wrath is heavier than both of them: When a fool – someone who rejects God’s wisdom – expresses their anger and wrath, it is a weighty, dangerous thing. The wrath of any person may have great consequence; how much more a fool?
Wrath is cruel and anger a torrent,
But who is able to stand before jealousy?
a. Wrath is cruel and anger a torrent: In all its manifestations, anger is a dangerous and difficult to control expression – like a torrent.
i. “The metaphor depicts anger as a spiritual force that is destructive, irrational and violent.” (Waltke)
b. Who is able to stand before jealousy? Solomon pointed out that there is a power and destructive capability in jealousy that can even go beyond wrath and anger. It can make a bigger torrent of evil. It was envy that motivated the religious leaders to arrange the death of Jesus (Matthew 27:18).
i. Jealousy: “Is a raging emotion that defies reason at times and takes the form of destructive violence, like a consuming fire.” (Ross)
ii. Kidner notes that jealousy in the Scriptures is usually used in a positive sense; it is jealousy for – God’s proper jealousy for our love. Yet passages like this also acknowledge that there is a dark side of jealousy, jealousy of and not for.
iii. Poole explained why jealousy is worse than wrath and anger: “Envy is worse than both of them, partly, because it is more unjust and unreasonable, as not caused by any provocation, as wrath and anger are, but only proceeding from a malignity of mind, whereby a man is grieved for another man’s happiness…and partly, because it is more secret and undiscernible, and therefore the mischievous effects of it are hardly avoidable; whereas wrath and anger discover themselves, and so forewarn and forearm a man against the danger.”
Open rebuke is better
Than love carefully concealed.
a. Open rebuke is better: Many are hesitant to rebuke others, especially others in God’s family. But there is a time and place where rebuke is not only good it is better than the alternative.
i. “Rebuke—kindly, considerately, and prayerfully administered—cements friendship rather than weakens it.” (Bridges)
ii. “We do not really like rebuke. We are inherently inclined to resent it. The fact that we really deserve it, or need it, does not make it pleasant… moreover, our dislike of rebuke leads us to think that those who love us serve us well when the are silent in the presence of our shortcomings.” (Morgan)
iii. “Yet it is a rough medicine, and none can desire it. But the genuine open-hearted friend may be intended, who tells you your faults freely but conceals them from all others.” (Clarke)
b. Than love carefully concealed: Love does little good when it is concealed. The honest love of an open rebuke can be much better than the carefully concealed love.
i. “Love that is hidden is not perfect love in either sense. The highest love must and does express itself. It does so in praise of the loved one…Love that hides itself, professes not to see, perhaps does not see, and so remains silent, is love on a very low level.” (Morgan)
Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.
a. Faithful are the wounds of a friend: A mark of a true friend is that they will be willing to wound us with loving correction. The correction may not feel good – as genuine wounds – but it will be an expression of the love and faithfulness of a friend.
i. “The ‘wounds’ are a metaphor for the painful and plain words that must be spoken in a true friendship in order to heal the beloved and/or to restore a broken relationship.” (Waltke)
b. The kisses of an enemy are deceitful: This cautions us that not all kisses are the greetings of friends. They may come from an enemy and be deceitful.
i. “Such as were the kisses of Joab, Judas, Absalom, and Ahithophel are not to be fancied, but deprecated and detested.” (Trapp)
ii. “Who would not choose this faithful wound, however painful at the moment of infliction, rather than the multiple kisses of an enemy? The kiss of the apostate was a bitter ingredient in the Savior’s cup of suffering.” (Bridges)
A satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb,
But to a hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.
a. A satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb: When our life is satisfied – either materially or physically – then we find it easy to hate and reject things that would otherwise be greatly desired, such as the honeycomb.
i. “Most agree that the proverb is capable of wider application than eating; it could apply to possessions, experiences, education, etc.” (Ross)
ii. Spiritually, this can be understood in a negative sense: “May not satiety be as great a curse as famine? Is it not fearfully written on many a professing Christian, he who is full loathes honey?” (Bridges)
ii. Spiritually, this can be understood in a positive sense: “The best way of combating worldliness is by satisfying the heart with something better. The full soul loatheth even the honeycomb. When the prodigal gets the fatted calf, he has no further hankering after the husks which the swine eat…Fill your heart with God and His sacred truth, and the things of the world will lose their charm.” (Meyer)
b. To a hungry soul ever bitter thing is sweet: When a life is truly hungry, they will eat almost everything and consider it sweet. This is true in the physical world, seen in those deprived of food for long periods. It is also seen in the spiritual world, when those who are awakened as truly hungry souls are ravenous for spiritual food.
i. Charles Spurgeon used this proverb as a basis to speak of the sweetness of Jesus and His work for us: “Sweet is liberty to the captive, and when the Son makes you free, you are free indeed; sweet is pardon to the condemned, and proclaims full forgiveness and salvation; sweet is health to the sick, and Jesus is the great physician of souls; sweet is light to those who are in darkness and to eyes that are dim, and Jesus is both sun to our darkness and eyes to our blindness.”
Like a bird that wanders from its nest
Is a man who wanders from his place.
a. Like a bird that wanders from its nest: With just a few words, Solomon painted a heart-touching picture of a bird away from its place of safety and security – the nest where it belongs.
i. This proverb made Charles Spurgeon think about those who seem to wander from church to church. “Too many in our London churches are a sort of flying camp, always flying from one place to another — a set of gipsy-Christians, who have no settled abode, and no ‘local habitation,’ and are about as respectable as the gipsies with whom I have compared them.”
b. Is a man who wanders from his place: We have a place appointed by God, and we can be as out of place as a bird without a nest if we wander from it. We need to take care that we perceive our place not as the one that culture our community may assign to us, but truly the place God has assigned us.
i. “Those who wander lack the security of their home and can no longer contribute to their community life.” (Ross)
ii. “An honest man’s heart is the place where his calling is: such a one, when he is abroad, is like a fish in the air, whereinto if it leap for recreation or necessity, yet it soon returns to its own element.” (Trapp)
Ointment and perfume delight the heart,
And the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel.
a. Ointment and perfume delight the heart: Solomon stated a self-evident truth. It is in the nature of an ointment or perfume to delight the heart through its pleasant smell.
b. The sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel: Strong, hearty counsel from a friend is sweet and can bring delight – just as it is natural for ointment and perfume to delight the heart. This proverb should make us ask, Is there someone in my life who can give hearty counsel? Can I give hearty counsel to someone else?
i. “The gladdening oil and incense is a simile for the agreeable and delightful counsel of a friend that originates in his very being. Both the outward fragrances and the wholesome counsel produce a sense of wellbeing.” (Waltke)
Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend,
Nor go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity;
Better is a neighbor nearby than a brother far away.
a. Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend: We should hold the bonds of friendship as dear and obligating, even beyond generations. Friends should not be forsaken.
i. “A well and long tried friend is invaluable. Him that has been a friend to thy family never forget, and never neglect.” (Clarke)
ii. “Solomon exemplified his own rule by cultivating friendly links with Hiram, the friend of his father (1 Kings 5:1–10). The unprincipled contempt of this rule cost Solomon’s foolish son his kingdom (1 Kings 12:6–19).” (Bridges)
iii. “Now, inasmuch as the Lord Jesus is ‘thine own friend, and thy father’s friend,’ the injunction of the text comes to thee with peculiar force: ‘Forsake him not.’ Canst thou forsake him?” (Spurgeon)
b. Nor go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity: We should not assume that our birth brother is the best one to help in the day of calamity, especially if the brother is far away. Better is a lesser resource that is nearby than a better resource that is far away.
i. “The ‘brother’ in v. 10 is a close relative, one to whom people naturally turn in difficult times. Normally the close family identity of the Israelites would dictate that one go to a relative for help, and this verse is surprising for appearing to go against custom here.” (Garrett)
My son, be wise, and make my heart glad,
That I may answer him who reproaches me.
a. My son, be wise, and make my heart glad: Solomon gave a simple encouragement to his son to be wise and therefor bring gladness to his father.
b. That I may answer him who reproaches me: A foolish son is a cause of insult and reproach to the parents. In some way, the son who rejects wisdom makes the parents look bad.
i. “In other words, his son will either publicly disgrace the father or enable him to stand proudly before even his enemies.” (Garrett)
A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself;
The simple pass on and are punished.
a. A prudent man foresees evil: Wisdom will lead a man or woman to anticipate danger and to take action, such as to hide from the coming evil.
i. “This was delivered Proverbs 22:3, and is here repeated to enforce the foregoing exhortation, by representing the great advantage of wisdom.” (Poole)
b. The simple pass on and are punished: Those who are naïve and untrained in wisdom are blind to the potential danger around them. They will eventually bear the bad consequence of their blindness and be punished.
i. “The verse is a motivation for the naive to be trained; for life would be far less painful for them if they knew how to avoid life’s dangers.” (Ross)
ii. Pass on: “The simple rush blindfolded into hell. The ox has to be driven to destruction, but the sinner plunges into it in spite of every effort to restrain him.” (Bridges)
Take the garment of him who is surety for a stranger,
And hold it in pledge when he is surety for a seductress.
a. Take the garment of him who is surety for a stranger: If someone is a bad credit risk (foolish enough to be surety for a stranger), then we should hold a deposit as security against anything they owe to us (take the garment).
b. When he is surety for a seductress: The man is as immoral and foolish to be surety for a seductress, then we should especially regard them as a credit risk.
i. “Probably by her enticements and flatteries, she seduced some male to become indebted to her (see Proverbs 5 and 7). The proverb instructs the disciple to have nothing to do with these fools.” (Waltke)
He who blesses his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning,
It will be counted a curse to him.
a. He who blesses his friend with a loud voice: The sense here is of an over-the-top greeting and blessing, meant to flatter and manipulate. It is loud and it starts early in the morning. Something is amiss in such excessive praise.
i. Blesses his friend with a loud voice: “That extols a man above measure, – as the false prophets did Ahab, and the people Herod, – that praiseth him to his face; which, when a court parasite did to Sigismund the emperor, he gave him a sound box on the ear.” (Trapp)
ii. “His unnatural voice and timing betrays him as a hypocrite and no good will come of it.” (Waltke)
iii. “Remember the Italian proverb elsewhere quoted: ‘He who praises you more than he was wont to do, has either deceived you, or is about to do it.’ Extravagant public professions are little to be regarded.” (Clarke)
b. It will be counted a curse to him: Normally a friendly greeting is a blessing. Yet if that blessing is flattery or meant to manipulate it can be counted a curse.
i. “There is nothing more calculated to arouse suspicion than profuse protestations of friendship.” (Morgan)
ii. “When a man exceeds all bounds of truth and decency, affecting pompous words and hyperbolical expressions, we cannot but suspect some sinister motive. Real friendship needs no such assurance.” (Bridges)
A continual dripping on a very rainy day
And a contentious woman are alike;
Whoever restrains her restrains the wind,
And grasps oil with his right hand.
a. A continual dripping on a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike: The scene is in a house with a bad roof, where a rainy day means continual dripping. That dripping shows there is a problem, it brings damage, and it greatly annoys. That is the same effect as a contentious woman in the house.
i. “The man takes shelter under the roof of his home expecting to find protection from the storm. Instead, he finds his leaky roof provides him no shelter from the torrential downpour. Likewise, he married with the expectation of finding good, but the wife from whom he expected protection from the rudeness of the world, harshly attacks him at home.” (Waltke)
b. Whoever restrains her restrains the wind: To correct or reform a contentious woman can be a fool’s errand. She can be as difficult to restrain as the wind or as hard to get a hold of as oil in the hand. Instead of trying to change a contentious woman, a wise and godly husband loves her as Jesus Christ loves His church (Ephesians 5:25-31) and leaves the changing up to God.
i. “The husband would be dealing with a woman who was as unpredictable and uncontrollable as a gust of wind or a hand grasping oil.” (Ross)
ii. John Trapp saw in this a warning to men in how they chose their future spouse: “Let this be marked by those that venture upon shrews, if rich, fair, well descended, in hope to tame them and make them better.”
As iron sharpens iron,
So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.
a. As iron sharpens iron: A piece of iron can sharpen another piece of iron, but it happens through striking, friction, and with sparks. We think of the iron of a blacksmith’s hammer working on a sword to make it sharp.
b. So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend: A man can be used to sharpen (improve and develop) his friend, but it may happen through a bit of friction and sparks. We shouldn’t be afraid of such and expect that true sharpening can happen without the occasional use of friction.
i. “The analogy infers that the friend persists and does not shy away from critical, constructive criticism.” (Waltke)
ii. “Gladly let us take up the bond of brotherhood. If a brother seems to walk alone, sharpen his iron by godly communication. Walk together in mutual concern for each other’s infirmities, trials, and temptations.” (Bridges)
iii. The countenance: “Countenance (AV, RV) almost equals ‘personality’ here. Like ‘soul’, it can stand for the man himself (cf. RSV).” (Kidner)
Whoever keeps the fig tree will eat its fruit;
So he who waits on his master will be honored.
a. Whoever keeps the fig tree will eat its fruit: The worker is worthy of his reward. If a man keeps a fig tree, it is appropriate for him to eat its fruit. It is cruel and unfair to keep the fruit of a man’s labor from him.
i. “He mentions the fig tree, because they abounded in Canaan, and were more valued and regarded than other trees.” (Poole)
ii. “The fig tree needed closer attention than other plants; so the point would include the diligent tending of it.” (Ross)
b. So he who waits on his master will be honored: The appropriate fruit from properly serving one’s master is to be honored. It isn’t right to keep honor from the one who has faithfully waited on his master. God promised to reward those who wait upon Him. Do your work diligently and leave promotion and reward up to God.
i. In a sermon on this proverb Charles Spurgeon mentioned many ways that our Master may choose to honor His servants:
· We are honored in our Master’s honor.
· We are honored with our Master’s approval.
· We are honored by being given more to do.
· We are honored in the eyes of our fellow servants.
· We are honored by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
As in water face reflects face,
So a man’s heart reveals the man.
a. As in water face reflects face: Smooth and clear water can give a wonderful reflection of a man or woman’s face.
i. “The Hebrew is very cryptic: literally, ‘As the water the face to the face, so the man’s heart to the man.’” (Kidner)
b. So a man’s heart reveals the man: The feelings and thoughts that come from our heart reveal us as the reflection in smooth water reveals the face. Who we are will eventually be evident to others as our words and actions reveal out heart.
Hell and Destruction are never full;
So the eyes of man are never satisfied.
a. Hell and Destruction are never full: The grave and the world beyond will receive humanity and never become full. They are used here as figures of something that can never be satisfied.
i. “The grave devours all the bodies which are put into it, and is always ready to receive and devour more and more without end.” (Poole)
b. So the eyes of man are never satisfied: Our longing to look upon things we desire will never be satisfied; it must be controlled and brought under God’s dominion. A man will never see enough alluring images of women or enough beautiful machines. The answer is having the need channeled and satisfied in God and what He provides.
i. The eyes of man: “That is, their lusts, their carnal concupiscence. To seek to satisfy it is an endless piece of business.” (Trapp)
ii. “The lust of the eye led Eve and Adam to transgress social boundaries in the first place. It is the bane of humanity, and this truism should drive the son to examine his own lusts.” (Waltke)
iii. “As the grave can never be filled up with bodies, nor perdition with souls; so the restless desire, the lust of power, riches, and splendour, is never satisfied. Out of this ever unsatisfied desire spring all the changing fashions, the varied amusements, and the endless modes of getting money, prevalent in every age, and in every country.” (Clarke)
The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold,
And a man is valued by what others say of him.
a. The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold: There is an appropriate place for silver and gold to be refined. It doesn’t happen just anywhere, but in the refining pot.
b. A man is valued by what others say of him: We often know a man’s value more by what others say of him than of what he thinks of himself. A man’s self-estimation can be unreliable.
i. “There are three interpretations of this proverb. First, that you may know what a man is by the way he bears praise. Second, that you may know what a man is by the things he praises. Third, that a man who treats praise as the fining pot treats silver and gold purges it of unworthy substance.” (Morgan)
ii. “Public praise formed a test for Saul and David (1 Samuel 18:7), David coming out the better for it.” (Ross)
iii. “He who is praised is not only much approved, but much proved. The courting of the praise of our fellow creatures has to do with the world within. Praise is a sharper trial of the strength of principle than is reproach.” (Bridges)
Though you grind a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain,
Yet his foolishness will not depart from him.
a. Though you grind a fool in a mortar with a pestle: Solomon used a striking and vivid image. Like crushed grain in a mortar and with a pestle, he pictured a fool being ground up.
b. Yet his foolishness will not depart from him: Despite the rough treatment mentioned in the previous line, foolishness does not depart from the fool. One of the sad marks of the fool is that he will not learn.
i. “Prisons were made into penitentiaries through the mistaken notion that confinement would bring repentance and effect a cure. Instead, many prisoners become hardened criminals. Divine grace that regenerates the fool is his only hope of being converted into a useful person.” (Waltke)
Be diligent to know the state of your flocks,
And attend to your herds;
For riches are not forever,
Nor does a crown endure to all generations.
When the hay is removed, and the tender grass shows itself,
And the herbs of the mountains are gathered in,
The lambs will provide your clothing,
And the goats the price of a field;
You shall have enough goats’ milk for your food,
For the food of your household,
And the nourishment of your maidservants.
a. Be diligent to know the state of your flocks: Solomon wrote this with images from the world of agriculture (flocks… herds… hay… grass… lambs… goats), but the principle applies in many other areas of life. We should work hard (be diligent) to know the state of whatever God has given us management over. If you don’t know the condition of something, you can’t effectively manage or lead it.
i. Flocks and herds “are here put for all riches and possessions, because anciently they were the chief part of a man’s riches.” (Poole)
ii. “This country scene is not designed to make farmers of everybody, but to show the proper interplay of man’s labour and God’s nurture, which a sophisticated society neglects at its peril.” (Kidner)
iii. Attend to your herds: “Heb., Set thy heart to them – that is, be very inquisitive and solicitous of their welfare. Leave not all to servants, though never so faithful; but supervise and oversee business, as Boaz did.” (Trapp)
b. For riches are not forever: We should give ourselves to diligent leadership and management because the future is uncertain. If we take good care of what God has given us now, it may provide for us in the future (the lambs will provide your clothing and so forth). If we don’t take care of what we have, it won’t be able to provide for us in an uncertain future.
i. “People should preserve what income they have because it does not long endure… the poem shows the proper interplay between human labor and divine provision.” (Ross)
ii. Goats the price of a field: “Wherewith thou mayest pay thy rent, and besides hire tillage, or it may be purchase land, and have money in thy purse to do thy needs with.” (Trapp)
iii. Enough goats’ milk: “The milk is qualified by goat’s, because goat’s milk was by far the animal nutrient of choice in the ancient Near East. It is richer in protein and easier to digest than cow’s milk.” (Waltke)
iv. “Verse 27 need not be taken to imply that goat’s milk will be the staple of everyone’s diet; after v. 26b the intent is rather that one can sell surplus milk or barter it for other kinds of food… you will have more than enough to meet all of your family’s needs.” (Garrett)
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