Proverbs 21 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Proverbs 21)

Verse 1

[1] The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.

The kings — He names kings not to exclude other men, but because they are more arbitrary and uncontrollable than others.

As rivers — Which husband-men draw by little channels into the adjacent grounds as they please.

Verse 4

[4] An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin.

The plowing — Even their civil or natural actions, which in themselves are lawful, are made sinful as they are managed by ungodly men, without any regard to the glory of God, which ought to be the end of all our actions.

Verse 5

[5] The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want.

Hasty — Who manages his affairs rashly.

Verse 6

[6] The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death.

Lying tongue — By any false or deceitful words or actions.

Is tossed — Is like the chaff or smoak driven away by the wind.

Of them — That take those courses which will bring destruction upon them.

Verse 8

[8] The way of man is froward and strange: but as for the pure, his work is right.

The way — Of every man by nature.

Strange — Estranged from God.

Right — But he whose heart is pure, his conversation is agreeable to it.

Verse 10

[10] The soul of the wicked desireth evil: his neighbour findeth no favour in his eyes.

Desireth — To do mischief.

No favour — He spares neither friend nor foe.

Verse 11

[11] When the scorner is punished, the simple is made wise: and when the wise is instructed, he receiveth knowledge.

The wise — The simple learn wisdom, both from the punishment of wicked men, and from the prosperity of good men.

Verse 12

[12] The righteous man wisely considereth the house of the wicked: but God overthroweth the wicked for their wickedness.

Considereth — He looks through its present glory to that ruin for which it is designed.

Verse 14

[14] A gift in secret pacifieth anger: and a reward in the bosom strong wrath.

In secret — Which makes it more acceptable.

In the bosom — Secretly conveyed into the bosom.

Verse 16

[16] The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead.

Shall remain — Shall, without repentance, be condemned to eternal death.

Verse 17

[17] He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man: he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich.

Wine and oil — Delicious fare and luxurious feasting. Wine and oil were much used in feasts in those parts.

Verse 18

[18] The wicked shall be a ransom for the righteous, and the transgressor for the upright.

A ransom — The wicked shall be brought into those troubles, which were designed by wicked men for the righteous: thus Haman was a ransom for Mordecai.

Verse 20

[20] There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up.

The wise — Wise men lay up desirable treasures for their own use, and for their families. Oil is particularly mentioned, because that was a considerable part of their wealth and treasures in those countries.

Verse 22

[22] A wise man scaleth the city of the mighty, and casteth down the strength of the confidence thereof.

The strength — The strongest sorts to which the citizens trust.

Verse 25

[25] The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour.

Killeth — Torments him to death, while he passionately desires what he sees, he shall not enjoy, and will not take pains to procure.

Verse 26

[26] He coveteth greedily all the day long: but the righteous giveth and spareth not.

Coveteth — Spends his whole time in vain and lazy desires.

Giveth — By God's blessing upon his industry he procures enough, not only for his own support, but for the relief of others.

Verse 27

[27] The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination: how much more, when he bringeth it with a wicked mind?

The sacrifice — All the most costly services which they offer to God.

Because — As all the ancient translators render it, the Hebrew particle, aph, being expletive: or, even because; so the following clause gives the reason.

A wicked mind — Not in obedience to God's command, but either to cover, or countenance, or promote some wicked design.

Verse 28

[28] A false witness shall perish: but the man that heareth speaketh constantly.

Heareth — He witnesses nothing but what he has heard or seen.

Constantly — Always affirms the same thing.

Verse 29

[29] A wicked man hardeneth his face: but as for the upright, he directeth his way.

Hardeneth — Continues in evil with obstinacy and impudence.

Directs — He orders his steps aright.

Verse 31

[31] The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the LORD.

The horse — Under which all war-like provisions are comprehended.