Proverbs 10:1-7

Proverbs 10:1-7

Now begins the proverbs of Solomon in the second major section of the book. Various proverbs are strewn throughout these chapters. They are to be read with discernment where one does not cancel out the other. A tension between various proverbs must be kept. Life’s contexts will reveal the truth of each proverb!


10:1 — A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.

Already the tension we mentioned becomes evident. In 9:12, we are told that we alone will bear our folly. In this proverb, we are reminded about another aspect. We are related to other people (cf. 11:10); children are connected to their parents — the ties that bind us can have wholesome and worrisome effects. They will be gladdened by the wisdom of their sons and daughters. Parents will also be greatly pained by the folly of their children. Remember, one of the main actors in Prov. 1-9 was the father. He was very desirous of seeing his son choose and walk in wisdom.

Longman says that this should help the children to consider their ways. Are their ways bringing sorrow or gladness to their parents? Wise parents rejoice in the wise course of life in their children. If our actions bring them sorrow, could it be that we are acting in foolishness?

Bridges also points out the challenge this presents. If parents want to avoid sorrow in the future with their children, then they should be diligent in disciplining and instructing their children in the present. Overindulgence may grant temporary relief and pleasure but it may yield a lifetime of sorrows. “Want of early discipline; passing over trifles; yielding when we ought to command — how little do we think to what they may grow!” (Bridges)


10:2-3 — Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death. 3 The LORD does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.

Longman notes that the two statements in this proverb seem incongruous or unrelated. In Proverbs, the wicked usually do not have wealth.[1] That basic principle is still established here because such treasures are fleeting and do not profit because of the way they were gained. Furthermore, the divine principle is also in play. God will thwart their cravings. In the end, all their desires and dreams will come to nothing.

The righteous, on the one hand will be delivered from death and will not go hungry. That is, he will not fall to premature death on account of folly (though the folly of others may converge on the wise). Furthermore, YHWH will not let his own go hungry, that is, they will have their needs met (as vv. 4-5 concretely illustrate). Remember the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Even in our material circumstances, God is the One watching and providentially ordering all these affairs. This does not mean that if you are prosperous, you are righteous. “Proverbs are not promises; they are generally true principles, all other things being equal.” (Longman) Remember the books of Job and Ecclesiastes.

Yet, we should consider Bridges’s statement: “To spiritualize the temporal promises would be to lose great enlargements of faith. They are not restricted to the Old Dispensation. If David was preserved from famishing…” how much more the sons of God? If God cares for the fowls, “Are not ye much better than they?” (Mt. 6:25, 26)?

All this is true in a general way materially but it is absolutely true in the spiritual realm. God will ultimately deliver His own from death and that deliverance  was accomplished through the death of His Son, “Where, O death, is your sting?” (1Cor. 15:5) “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.” (Lk. 6:21)


10:4-5 — A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. 5 He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.

Verse 4 is the first of many proverbs describing the contrast between laziness and hard work. (See our study notes in 6:9-11.) Verse 4 is universally believed. The rich are rarely lazy (unless of course they inherited all that they possess). All who are lazy are rarely rich. This is consistent throughout proverbs (cf. 6:6-11; 10:26; 12:11, 24; 24:30-34).

Wisdom enables us to evaluate our lives concretely. The slacker and diligent demonstrate their tendencies by how they work on their farms. The righteous are supposed to be diligent and hard workers because they labor for the Lord and not for themselves. God gives wisdom that in turn enables them to be diligent — this enables them to prosper and avoid harm. All this is from God so that we do not rejoice in our diligence but in God’s mercy.


10:6 — Blessings are on the head of the righteous, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

As always, goodness belongs to the righteous (cf. Deut. 28:2). The righteous know their God and are in covenant relationship with Him through Christ Jesus. He is their God and that can only bode well for them.

The wicked on the other hand have a mouth full of violence. That is, “the speech of the wicked produces harmful effects.” (Longman) “The injurious curses that went forth from their mouths boomerang against them and silence them (cf. Hab. 2:17).” (Waltke) That is, “Deceitfulness is the mark of the wicked, but the godly are known by the evidence of God’s favor upon them and the salutary effects of their words (vv. 6, 11).” (Garrett)


10:7 — The memory of the righteous is a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot.

One can notice the similarity between this verse and the previous one. In fact, several commentators have commented on both verses as a single thought. The antithesis between the righteous and the wicked is once again maintained. Memory is pitted against name; the word ‘blessing’ against ‘rot.’ The word “name” is quite loaded and could just as well be translated as “reputation.”

Verse 6 indicates that the righteous are blessed and this verse shows one of those blessings. Both the righteous and wicked will be remembered but only the memory of the righteous will be pleasant. Blessing and shame, as it were, live on! But in another sense, the name of the wicked will perish (Ps. 9:6, “…the very memory of them has perished”; cf. 34:16; 109:15).

What does this mean? The social impact on how we will be viewed is considered here. That is not to be the motivation but there is always that dimension to one’s character in the Lord. Later on, we learn that not only that we will live forever but also that we will be given a new name (Rev. 2:17).

[1] Later on, we intend to develop what Proverbs teaches about the “lot” of the wicked and the “benefits” of the righteous.

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