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Bible: What Does Proverbs 19-20 Teach Us About Mankind and His Character?

Updated on September 15, 2016



The Fool


Mankind: Basically Good or Basically Evil?

What is your opinion of mankind?

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Proverbs 19-20: The Poor, the Fool, the Slothful, and the False Witness/Knowledge about Mankind

This chapter highlights several groups: the poor, the fool, the slothful, and the false witness.

Of the four, the poor man generally receives the best review.

Solomon perceives the honest, poor man as better than a foolish pervert and a liar (vv. 1, 22).

[That's not saying too much for the poor man]!

His poverty often removes others, even brothers, from his company (vv. 4, 7), but the LORD rewards those who show compassion to the poor man by lending to him (v. 17).

The foolish man in his twisted thinking worries about everything rather than trusts God (v. 3).

Given his nature, for him to live in luxury would be incongruous (v. 10).

He may cause his father bankruptcy, shame, and reproach (v. 13a; cf. v. 26).

Scourging is his just desert (v. 29).

Laziness, sleeping too much, and hunger often join hands in the slothful man's life (v. 15).

However, once he finds food, he is exceedingly greedy and unmannerly in his eating habits (v. 24).

Solomon alludes to the false witness as one who will certainly be punished, even with death (vv. 5, 9).

He despises the law, and works against its administration (v. 28a).

The author offers sound counsel on listening to instruction, asserting that practicing this art leads to wisdom and knowledge.

Hurrying (“hastens with his feet”) away from or ceasing to listen to instruction can cause someone to neglect learning, stray from the truth, and thereby do harm to his soul (vv. 2, 27).

Yet one who gains wisdom by listening to counsel and then keeps the commandment benefits himself throughout his entire life (vv. 8, 16, 20).

Possessing wisdom enables a man to overlook faults and keep his "cool" (v. 11).

The beginning of wisdom—the fear of the LORD—will lead to life (v. 23).

Chastening also has its benefits.

Its proper administration corrects the simpleton who scoffs, redirects a son who strays, and reproves a man of understanding who discerns (vv. 18, 25).

However, rescuing an angry man from punishment will meet with less than ideal results (v. 19).

[The recidivism rate skyrockets when a criminal does not serve his full sentence.]

Finally, Solomon mentions the LORD's influence in a man's life. He, and not earthly fathers, can provide for him a wise mate (v. 14).

His will, and not a man's, will come to fruition (v. 21).

He, and not the poor man, will repay one who has compassion (v. 17).

[Solomon again desires his audience to be aware of those who fail to please the LORD, and then exhorts them to listen to instruction so that they may learn wisdom and receive its benefits].

The King


Proverbs 20

Again, Solomon deals with a diverse array of topics:

(1) folly, wisdom, and associated concepts (vv. 1, 3, 4, 13, 18),

(2) the king and his ways (vv. 2, 8, 26, 28),

(3) conduct (vv. 7, 10-11, 17, 23),

(4) the sovereignty of God (vv. 12, 24),

(5) speech (vv. 14, 15, 19-20, 22, 25), and

(6) man (vv. 5-6, 9, 27, 29-30).

While verse one does not explicitly prohibit drinking alcoholic beverages, it does strongly warn people about its effects.

Fools lose control of themselves while "under the influence."

The sluggard's softness, laziness, and fondness for shut-eye reduce him to begging and poverty (vv. 4, 13).

Quarreling is natural activity for a fool, but it takes a man of honor to end a conflict (v. 3).

However, if war is unavoidable, the wise official will seek sage advice to wage it well (v. 18).

Solomon envisions the king as possessing the power of life and death over his subjects (v. 2; cf. 19:12a), as exercising almost infallible moral judgment (vv. 8, 26), and as ruling by divine (or perhaps his own) spiritual qualities (v. 28).

Cleansing From Sin

Can mankind cleanse its heart from sin?

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The author broaches elements of conduct and their effects.

Living right as a father greatly affects what happens to his children (v. 7).

Society will soon enough judge a child's behavior (v. 11).

The life of one enjoys great gain by lying and cheating will inevitably end in humiliation (v. 17).

Dishonesty in business practices is an abomination before God (vv. 10, 23; cf. 8:7; 11:1; 12:22; 13:19; 15:8, 9, 26; 16:5, 12; 17:15).

Statements concerning God's sovereignty in creation (v. 12) and in determining the mysterious vicissitudes of individual lives (v. 24) really bear little relation to the context.

[And I suppose Solomon never intended them to].

Moral judgments upon how and what one speaks again comprise a significant part of a chapter.

Verse 14 comments upon the deceit and pride of a shrewd businessman, while the next verse exults in the value of wise speech.

Solomon commands avoidance of flatterers and gossips (v. 19), and warns strongly against breaking the fifth commandment with the tongue (v. 20).

Executing revenge (v. 22) is usurping God's prerogative, and reneging on a promise will trip up the unfaithful (v. 25).

What does this chapter tell us about man?

First, his heart devises plans that are profound, often buried deeply within and sometimes obscurely defined.

But one who understands divine wisdom can excavate in those places of the mind, unearth the enigmas, and decipher them (v. 5).

Second, Solomon declares rhetorically that people do not have the capacity to cleanse their heart from sin (v. 9).

God employs man's spirit to show him what his heart is really like (v. 27), and sometimes He inflicts painful chastening on him to convince him of his need for cleansing (v. 30; cf. 1 Peter 4:1).

Man expresses his pride in different ways at different stages of life (v. 29).

Most people proudly announce "I'm a good person," but Solomon points out that acts of faithfulness, not mere words, measure one’s goodness (v. 6).

© 2013 glynch1


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