A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city; and such contentions are like the bars of a castle. (Prov. xviii:19). The word offend is here used in the sense of resisted. Quarrels between brothers are often the bitterest. Someone has observed that when cruelty is referred to as ruthless, pitiless, blood-stained, or fiendish one instinctively thinks of the feuds of Ancient Greece or Mediæval Europe. The strength and bitterness of feeling between estranged brothers has been expressed in several proverbs. In Spain and Portugal it is said, The wrath of brothers is the wrath of devils. The Italians and French have the expression, Three brothers, three castles. The French also say, A landmark is well placed between two brothers fields. Michael Jermin in commenting on this proverb expresses his admiration for brothers who settle their differences by lot rather than by strife. A better way is that proposed in the Turkish adage, When one hits you with a stone, hit him with a piece of cotton, remembering the observation of the modern Greeks, that Two brothers are one trunk; they should mutually support each other. In considering the proverb it is well to recall Æsops Fables of The Eagle and the Arrow, and The Pomegranate, the Apple Tree, and the Bramble.
A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike. (Prov. xxviii:15). William M. Thomson, traveller and missionary in the East, declares that the force of the saying is well understood in the country from which it came as the rains often soak through the flat earthen roofs of the mountain houses descending in numberless leaks all over the room. He then tells of a quarrel over some trifling matter that he witnessed. A woman, who was one of the parties concerned in the dispute, scolded and screamed and cursed in a loud voice for hours, ever and anon rushing into the room and out again and around the court like a fury, throwing off her tarbush, tearing her hair, beating her breast, and wringing her hands. Sometimes, trembling with rage, she snatched up her shoe and shook it in the face of the one with whom she was quarrelling. (The Land and the Book, vol. ii., p. 261.) A seventeenth-century writer thus quaintly alludes to the contentions of a quarrelsome woman: There is no flint so hard but the continual dropping of water will eat it out; and there is no heart so firmly settled in a resolute practice but the dropping of a brawling tongue will at length eat it out with grief. Solomons proverb may have suggested the English saying: Smoke, rain, and a very curst wife make a man weary of house and life, and the Danish phrase, Smoke, rain, and a scolding wife will make a man run out of doors.
A friend loveth at all times and a brother is born for adversity. (Prov. xvii:17). Constancy as a test of friendship is recognized in many proverbs: A friend in need is a friend indeed. (English, Scotch, Dutch, and French). In distress will the friend be seen. (Welsh). A fair-weather friend changes with the wind. (Spanish and Portuguese). He never was a friend who has ceased to be one. (French). He is a real friend who in the time of distress and helplessness takes his friend by the hand. (Persian). A friends neer kent till hes needed. (Scotch). An untried friend is like an uncracked nut. (Russian).
Many kinsfolk and few friends, some folk say;
But I find many kinsfolk, and friends not one.
Folk sayit hath been said many years since gone
Prove thy friend ere thou have need; but, in deed,
A living dog is better than a dead lion. (Eccles. ix:4). See Quotation Proverb: He fled, disgrace upon him, is better than God have mercy upon him. A living ass is better than a dead doctor. (Italian). To realize the full force of this proverb it must be understood that the Hebrews in common with others regarded the lion a symbol of royal strength and power: The King of Beasts. The lion is referred to in the Scriptures about one hundred and thirty times. (See Job x:16; Isa. xxxviii:13; Lam. iii:10; Hos. xiii:7, 8.) In Rev. (v:5) Jesus Christ is called The Lion of the Tribe of Juda. The figure of the lion or the lions face was often used as an ornament in Hebrew architecture and sculpture. (See I Ki. vii:29, 36; x:19, 20.) On the other hand the dog was by Jewish law an unclean animal and despised. (See Exod. xxii:31; Deut. xxiii:18; I Sam. xvii:43; xxiv:14; II Sam. ix:8; II Ki. viii:13; Isa. lxvi:3; Matt. xv:26; Phil. iii:2; and Rev. xxii:15.) The proverb is used in many lands, probably suggested in all cases by the Hebrew original. See note on New Testament Proverbs: Give not that which is holy unto the dogs.
A mans goings are of Jehovah; how then can man understand his way? (Prov. xx:24). The hand of Providence writes often by abbreviatures, hieroglyphics, or short characters, which, like the laconism on the wall, are not to be made out but by a hint or key from that spirit which indited them.Sir Thomas Browne.
Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit. (Prov. xxvi:5). See Introduction. It is thought by some people who are not familiar with the characteristics, growth, and general use of proverbs that this saying contradicts the one immediately preceding, for this reason it is repeated among the contradicting proverbs but under different circumstances both sayings are true and wise. The apparent clashing of proverbial precepts is often due, as in this case, to the consideration of principles or practices from different points of view. In some cases a wise man will not set his wit to that of a fool so far as to answer him according to his folly yet in other cases a wise man will use his wisdom for the conviction of a fool; when by taking notice of what he says there may be hopes of doing good, or at least preventing further mischief either to himself or others.Matthew Henry. This knot will be easily loosed if it be observed that there are two sorts of answers, the one in folly, the other unto folly.Peter Muffet.
A perverse man scattereth abroad strife; and a whisperer separateth chief friends. (Prov. xvi:28). The last half of this saying is often used as a modern proverb. The whisperers tongue is worse than the serpents venom. (Latin). Gossips and talebearers set on fire all the houses they enter. (English). Lies and gossip have wretched offspring. (Danish).
As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place. (Prov. xxvii:8). He who is far from home is near to harm. (Danish). Travel east or travel west, a mans own home is still the best. (Dutch).
As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death; so is the man that deceiveth his neighbour and saith: Am not I in sport? (Prov. xxvi:18, 19). A proverb for practical jokers. The difference between a mad man and a deceiver, says quaint Michael Jermin, is this, that the one is plainly mad, the other is cunningly mad; the one hath too much wit, the other hath too little. It is the same sport, which they both use, and that is to do hurt and mischief. In further explanation of the proverb Jermin remarks that, As firebrands are fire at the one end, wood at the other; as arrows are softly feathered at the one end, but pointed with iron at the other; so are the actions and words of a deceitful person, friendly in the appearance, hurtful in the effect, bringing mischief at last, as the arrows and firebrands bring death.
As is the mother, so is her daughter. (Ezek. xvi:44). See Proverbs Suggested by the Bible: Good fruit never came from a bad tree. Also Question and Answer Proverbs: Where is this twig? From this shrub. This proverb was used against the inhabitants of Jerusalem who had become evil in their ways like the Canaanites. (Ps. cvi:3540). There are a large number of sayings that closely resemble this one, showing that everywhere men have noticed the likeness of children to their parents. A few are here given: As the old cock crows, so crows the young. The young pig grunts like the old sow. (English). Gawsie cow, gudely calf. (Scotch). The young ravens are beaked like the old. (Dutch). He that was born of a hen loves to be scratching. (French). As the old bird sings, so the young ones twitter. (German and Danish). The young ones of the duck are swimmers. (Arabian). The young of a cuckoo will be a cuckoo. (Behar). The son of the brave is brave. (Osmanli). Bad crow, bad egg. (Greek). The spawn of the frogs will become frogs. (Japanese).
As one that taketh off a garment in cold weather and as vinegar upon soda, so is he that singeth songs to a heavy heart. (Prov. xxv:20). Light hearts may think to gladden heavy ones with a carol of airy glee, and their warbling may be well meant; but if the heart they sing to is out of tune, out of tune will sound their daintiest carolings too.Francis Jacox.
As the man is, so is his strength. (Judg. viii:21). Quoted by the two Midianite Kings, Zobah, and Zalmunna, when Gideons son Jether would not slay them. Not wishing to be hacked down by a boy they repeated the saying as a reason why they would prefer to meet death by the hand of Gideon himself.
As the sparrow in her wandering, as the swallow in her flying, so the curse that is causeless alighteth not. (Prov. xxvi:2). The curse that is uttered without just cause is forceless and is spoken only to be forgotten, like a bird that alights for a moment and then takes its flight. Curses are like chickens; they come home to roost. (English).
A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the back of fools. (Prov. xxvi:3). A fool, says the proverb, is like a beast, not to be controlled by appeal to reason. The designation of whip for horse and bridle for ass may be in part rhetorical variation: both animals at times may have required both instruments of guidance, but there may be a special propriety in the terms; the ass, the favourite riding animal, hardly needed the whip in moving over the rough mountain roads of Palestine; but for horses, rarely employed except in war and on plains, the whip might be useful.Crawford H. Toy in Commentary on Proverbs.
Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. (Eccles. viii:11). God cometh with leaden feet, but strikes with iron hand, God is at the end when we think Hes furtherest off, God stays long but strikes at last, Gods mills grind slow but sure, God permits the wicked, but not forever. (English). God waits long but hits hard. (Russian). The mills of the gods grind tardily but they grind small. (Greek). God delays but does not forget. (Modern Greek). Gods mill goes slowly, but it grinds fine. (German). Sin may lurk, but God deals heavy blows. (Arabian). God comes at last when we think he is furtherest off. (Italian and Danish). God postpones; He does not overlook. (Turkish).
Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good that are accustomed to do evil? (Jer. xiii:23). Habit is second nature. (English). To change ones habits smacks of death. (Portuguese). In washing a negro we lose our soap. (Turkish), A black cat will not be washed white by soap. (Persian). The tamarind may be dried but it loses not its acidity. (Telugu). If you put a cow in a cage, will it talk like a parrot? (Urdu). The wolf changes his hair, but yet remains the wolf. However you bind a tree it will always grow upward. Though you put oil on a dogs tail, it will never become straight. (Russian). Will the gall-nut become as sweet as the cocoa-nut, though watered with honey? (Urdu). Can the crow become white by eating camphor? (Behar). Even if you put a snake in a bamboo tube you cannot change its wriggling disposition. (Japanese).
Cast thy bread upon the waters; for thou shalt find it after many days. (Eccles. xi:1). Casting seed on the waters has been explained in many ways: (1) Sowing seed when the rivers have overflowed their banks; (2) sowing in moist and fertile places; (3) sowing in land that is being irrigated; (4) sowing in the sea where it will appear to be lost or thrown away; (5) sowing in low or marshy ground; (6) stowing it away in the hold of ships as merchandise. Cast thy bread upon the surface of the waters that it may be carried into the ocean where the multitude of waters is gathered together; so shall thine alms, carried into heaven, be found in the ocean of eternity where there is a confluence of all comforts and contentments.John Trapp.
Dead flies cause the oil of the perfumer to send forth an evil odour, so doth a little folly outweigh wisdom and honour. (Eccles. x:1). See Bible ProverbsNew Testament: A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump, and Evil companionships corrupt good manners. See also I Cor. v:6; Gal. v:9; II Tim. ii:17; James iii:5, 6. One barking dog sets all the street a barking. One ill example spoils many good. One ill weed mars a whole pot of pottage. (English). A little spark kindles a great fire. (English, Italian, German, Spanish). A little gall spoils a great deal of honey. (French, Spanish, Italian). One rotten apple in the basket infects the whole quantity. (Dutch). One rotten egg spoils the whole pudding, One bad eye spoils the other. (German). A single suspicion may destroy a good repute. (Danish). One mangy sheep spoils the whole flock. (Danish and Italian). Strong vinegar ruins the vessel in which it is contained. (Turkish). A coir improperly twisted will break the whole mass. (Malabar). Of a spark of fire a heap of coal is kindled. (Hebrew). To spare a swelling until it becomes an ulcer. (Chinese). A spoonful of tar in a barrel of honey, and all is spoiled. (Russian). One piece of arsenic suffices to kill a thousand crows. (Malay). A vessel of honey with a drop of poison in it. (Kurdish).
Now if some flies perchance, however small,
Into the alabaster urn should fall,
The odours of the sweets enclosed would die;
And stench corrupt, sad change their place supply.
Even a fool when he holdeth his peace is counted wise; when he shutteth his lips he is esteemed as prudent. (Prov. xvii:28). See Job xiii:5. Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact.George Eliot.
Grace is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman that feareth Jehovah, she shall be praised. (Prov. xxxi:30). The following German proverbs refer to feminine beauty: Every woman would rather be pretty than pious, Beauty and understanding go rarely together, Beauty and folly are sisters, Beauty is but dross if honesty be lost, Beauty vanishes, virtue endures, Beauty without modesty is infamous, Beauty without understanding is vain talk, Beauty without virtue is a rose without fragrance. On the other hand the Germans say: A virtuous woman though ugly is the ornament of her house. One of the severest criticisms that has ever been passed on woman in a proverb is found in Hindustan, where it is said: All pretty maids are poisonous pests; an enemy kills by hiding, these by smiles and jests. See also Grouping Proverbs: Infidelity, violence, deceit, etc.
See Prov. xx:25; John vii:51; The Acts xxv:16. Quick and good go not well together. (German). Quick and well dont agree. (Italian and Danish). He passes sentence before he hears the evidence. (English).
He that passeth by and vexeth himself with strife belonging not to him is like one that taketh a dog by the ears. (Prov. xxvi:17). He that tastes every mans broth sometimes burns his mouth. Meddle not with dirt; some of it will stick to you. (Danish).
In the mount of Jehovah it shall be provided. (Gen. xxii:14). Jehovah-jireh was the name of the place where Abraham offered a ram instead of his son Isaac. The word means Thou art a God of seeing, and led to the formation of the above proverb.
Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. (Prov. xxvii:17). A man by himself is no man, he is dull, he is very blunt; but if his fellow come and quicken him by his presence, speech, and example, he is so whetted on by this means that he is much more comfortable, skilful, and better than he was when he was alone.Peter Muffet.
Is Saul also among the prophets? (I Sam. x:12). See I Sam. xix:24. The saying is an expression of astonishment because of the appearance of high spiritual endowments and a strong moral and religious tone in the life of Saul.
Let another man praise thee and not thine own mouth; a stranger and not thine own lips. (Prov. xxvii:2). Self-praise is no recommendation. He that praiseth himself spattereth himself. (English). Self-praise disgraces. (Spanish). Who praises himself fouls himself. (Italian). Self-praise smells, friends praise halts. (German).
Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before Jehovah. (Gen. x:9). There have been many speculations regarding Nimrod and his name is associated with a number of old legends. It is said that he was in possession of the garments of skin worn by Adam and Eve when they left Paradise. These garments at first fell into the possession of Enoch, then they descended to Methuselah and then to Noah, who preserved them in the ark during the period of the flood. Then Ham stole them and kept them hidden for a long time. Finally Ham gave them to his son Cush, who in turn presented them to Nimrod. As the garments made their wearer invincible and irresistible, Nimrod was able to overcome all the beasts of the forest and every human antagonist and finally to triumph over the King of Babylon. Ruling in his place, he extended his sway until he became sovereign of the world. Nimrod was said to be very wicked and tried to lead others into evil ways. In this he was assisted by his son Mardon, in whose day men began to use the phrase: Out of the wicked cometh forth wickedness, which afterwards became a proverb. See further notes on Nimrod under Proverbs Suggested by the Scriptures.
Out of the wicked cometh forth wickedness. (I Sam. xxiv:13). See Matt. vii:1520; xii:3335; also notes on proverbs quoted above: Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before Jehovah, and Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good that are accustomed to do evil. This proverb, sometimes quoted, Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked, is said to be the oldest proverb on record.
Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Prov. xvi:18). Pride before a fall. (Hindi). Pride goeth before and shame cometh after. Pride breakfasted with plenty, dined with poverty, and supped with infamy. You gazed at the moon and fell into the gutter. (English). Pride leaves home on horseback but returns on foot. (German, Italian). Pride neer leaves its maister till he get a fa. (Scotch). He who climbs too high, the sprig will break under him. Pride and its companion had a fall together. The lofty are apt to fall. There is no pride without humiliation. (Welsh). Pride leads to the destruction of men. (Hebrew). Pride will have a fall. (English, German, Danish). If pride lead the van, beggary brings up the rear.Benjamin Franklin.
Pride triumphant rears her head,
A little while and all her power is fled.
How justly then will impious mortals fall,
Whose pride would soar to heavn without a call.
W. D. Roscommon.
See Bible ProverbsNew Testament: He that exalteth himself shall be humbled, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted, and Proverbs Suggested by the Bible: Pride will have a fall.
Skin for skin. (Job ii:4). This proverbial expression was quoted by Satan and emphasized by the added clause, All that a man hath will he give for his life. The argument used by the adversary was that Job, like other men, would willingly relinquish all that he possessed rather than part with his life; therefore were Jehovah to touch his bone and flesh he would at once renounce his allegiance.
The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the childrens teeth are set on edge. (Ezek. xviii:2). See Jer. xxxi:29, 30. This proverb, as used by the Jews, implied a censure upon divine justice which Jehovah refuted.
The full soul loathed a honeycomb, but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet. (Prov. xxvii:7). A good repast ought to begin with hunger, A man who wants bread is ready for anything, One may be surfeited by eating tarts. (French). A hungry ass eats any straw, Hunger changes beans into almonds (Italian). Hunger finds no fault with the cooking. Hunger makes hard beans soft. (English). The Pharisees found no more sweetness or savoriness in our Saviours sermons, than in the white of an egg, or a dry chip.John Trapp. Dr. Toy thinks that this proverb may be an allusion to praise and congratulation which may be nauseous to him who has much of it, grateful to him to whom it rarely comes.
There is a way which seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death. (Prov. xiv:12). If the road be fifty miles long, it may be apparently right for forty-nine of them, and because it is right for so large a portion of the distance, we may hastily conclude it must be right even to the very end . It is the last mile that dips down into bottomless abysses.Joseph Parker.
They shall surely ask counsel at Abel. (II Sam. xx:18). Abel-beth-maacah (Abel of the house of Maacah) was situated in upper Galilee west of Tell-el-kadi. At one time it was celebrated for the wisdom of its inhabitants.
Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein; and he that rolleth a stone, it shall return upon him. (Prov. xxvi:27). He who digs a pit with malicious intent shall fall therein and he who rolls a stone up a hill that it may descend on the person or property of his enemy will find that it will return on his own head and crush him.