Posted by Mark Herzer

Proverbs 10:23-32

10:23 — Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool, but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding.

What brings us pleasure will often reveal more about our character than anything else. The wicked find pleasure in wicked activities and words (“spoke” “like a joke”).[1] “The idea is that doing evil is something that fools actually relish, not something that circumstances force on them.” (Longman) Man’s heart can harden over time and fall head long into this. “Sinners at first feel much uneasiness from the operation of fear and shame, but they are hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, till at length they not only cast off all restraints, but become impudent in sin, and think it a manly action to cast away the cords of God, and to pour insult and abuse on their fellowmen.” (Lawson)

But pleasure for the righteous is wisdom. The contrast is clear. One delights in mischief and the other in wisdom. Something in each one makes them relish either wickedness or wisdom. In what do we find pleasure?

 

10:24-25 — What the wicked dreads will come upon him, but the desire of the righteous will be granted. When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more, but the righteous is established forever.

As fools take pleasure in wickedness (v. 23), anxieties also plague their hearts. The end result of their dread and desires is nothing good — their fears will be realized. The righteous on the other hand will ultimately receive what they long for. The idea is not so much over what the righteous wants or receives but rather, because he is a man of God, steeped in God’s Word and thus filled with wisdom, he will desire what God wants and in the end will receive it.

Though God is not explicitly mentioned, Proverbs assume it because the Holy God of Israel governs the moral universe. In this life, the truths of these proverbs generally prevail but in eternity, it will most certainly prevail.

Verse 25 expands upon this point. Some sort of calamity will visit the wicked while the righteous endure forever. It does not mean that every one who falls under some kind of natural disaster is particularly wicked. Rather, the righteous will always endure and the wicked will always perish, either in some fashion in this world or in the world to come. Prov. 12:7 states the same, “The wicked are overthrown, and are not: but the house of the righteous shall stand.” We also know of Ps. 1.

 

10:26 — Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to those who send him.

This is almost humorous. The first part of the verse is understandable (perhaps something sour can be used to replace vinegar here, as one writer noted, the drinker expected sweet wine but instead received sour vinegar — furthermore, their dental care was not the best). These are not the most comforting experiences. We will always tend to avoid them (vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes).

In ANE culture, the messenger served a very important purpose. Critical matters could be concluded by these messengers. Those who sent sluggards would have been be sorely disappointed; they harm themselves in utilizing them. Might as well experience smoke in your eyes than use sluggards.

Sluggards are often morally bankrupt and they overlook their social obligations and personal responsibilities. Ancient Israel had just as many of them as we do now and the book of Proverbs says nothing good about them (Prov. 6:6-11; 10:4; 12:11, 24; 24:30-34; etc.).

 

10:27 — The fear of the LORD prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be short.

As the fear of the Lord is foundational to wisdom (1:7), so fearing the Lord can only help us. It does not mean that only the righteous will live long but all things being equal, the righteous will live a pleasant and long life because it pleases the Lord. The wicked can be judged at any moment and their lives will indeed be shortened eternally.

 

10:28 — The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish.

This is just like v. 24. Both have an expectation of the future. Neither one of them can control what will come upon them but only the righteous can hope for good because they have God as their God and His Law as their guide. All this is generally true. In terms of eternity, this proverb makes more sense.

 

10:29 — The way of the LORD is a stronghold to the blameless, but destruction to evildoers.

“The “way of the LORD” refers to God’s providential administration of life. Thus divine justice will be security for the righteous and disaster for the wicked.” (EBC) The “way” most likely refers to the manner in which God morally rules and determines events in the world. Therefore, it serves two purposes.

In addition, the wicked do not follow the Lord’s way (what He has revealed) and as a result, the Lord’s way (God’s providential workings) will bring harm to them. God’s ways (both providence and precept) serve as the source of light, hope, and comfort for the wise. The righteous rests in Lord’s way as his stronghold; he does not take refuge in his own wisdom or in the ways of the world. The wicked have defied the Lord’s way and as a result, they will suffer the consequences — the Lord’s way will bring destruction to them. One follows the Lord’s way and the other does not. Both will reap what they sow.

 

10:30 — The righteous will never be removed, but the wicked will not dwell in the land.

See v. 25. One thing needs to be noted in this verse. This proverb clearly notes that the wicked will not dwell “in the land” (i.e. the promised land). They will not inherit what God has promised. The impermanence of the wicked is once against contrasted with the permanence of the righteous.

 

10:31-32 — The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, but the perverse tongue will be cut off. The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse.

Once again, the righteous and the wicked are contrasted. This time, the proverb focuses on the tongue. Solomon has already spoken about the function and fruit of the tongue (vv. 17-21). Now the two images (the fate of the righteous/wicked and the fruits of the tongue) coalesce. The enduring righteous will bring forth wisdom and what is acceptable with his mouth. The wicked tongue will be “cut off” because he brings forth perversity.

When our speech is with grace, and seasoned with salt, it ministers grace to the hearers, and keeps ourselves from mischief; whereas the forward tongue shall be cut out. It provokes God, and it oftentimes provokes men. Forward speeches may escape punishment from man, but they shall not escape God’s righteous judgment, who will cut out their tongues, and make them fall upon themselves. (Lawson)


[1] The word often denotes “an outward audible expression of inner mirth and pleasure” like laughter.


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