Proverbs 18 Study Notes


18:1 Desires are cravings (21:25-26; cp. Nm 11:4; Ps 10:3). Sound wisdom is competence (3:21; 8:14) that leads to success (see note at 2:7).

18:2 If the fool delighted in understanding, he would remain quiet. But instead he cannot keep from blurting out all he thinks he knows (15:2).

18:3 This is probably not teaching that a wicked person brings contempt, dishonor, and derision to others. Instead, society dishonors him.

18:4 This could be saying that good speech can be really deep and meaningful—a source of wisdom. Or it could mean that typical human speech is often useless (20:5), but wisdom’s fountain is a useful, flowing river.

18:5 To show partiality is literally to “lift the face.” It may refer to a superior lifting his own face and looking on an inferior with a smile and a favorable judgment (Nm 6:26; cp. Ps 4:6), or to the inferior who had been bowed and groveling on the ground having his face or head lifted by the superior in vindication (Gn 40:13; Jb 11:15). Besides partiality, it means that the inferior “appeases” the superior (Pr 6:35) and that the superior “accepts” (Jb 42:9) or “grants the request of” the inferior (Gn 19:21; 1Sm 25:35). To pervert justice is literally “to turn aside from judgment” (Is 29:21; Am 5:12; Mal 3:5).

18:6-7 Lips and mouth refer to what the fool (Hb kesiyl) says, which causes trouble, escalating from strife and a beating to devastation (or terror) and ultimately to death.

18:8 On gossip, see note at 16:28. Choice food is readily and greedily swallowed. The words go down to the hearer’s innermost being (lit “chamber of the belly”) where they infect his thinking and poison his heart.

18:9 To be lazy is to sink down, relax, and let go to the point of being slack, feeble, or ineffective. Brother implies solidarity—that he has the same characteristics (Jb 30:29) and supports the same causes (cp. “companion” in Pr 28:24). Vandal is literally “master (Hb ba‘al) of destruction” (cp. “skilled at destruction” in Ezk 21:31).

18:10-11 These two proverbs illustrate a genuine and an imaginary refuge, respectively. A strong tower was a central place in a region or city to which people could run when threatened (Jdg 9:51). The Lord’s name implies his character as the eternal, powerful, faithful, covenant-keeping God (Ex 3:15; 6:6-7; Dt 7:9). The righteous people, who call on, rely upon, and have faith in the character of God, will be protected (lit “exalted” or lifted up so the enemy cannot reach them). A rich man relies on his wealth when he is threatened. To him it seems like a high (lit “exalted”) wall around a fortified city (cp. 10:15), but that is only in his imagination. In reality, wealth cannot save (11:28; cp. Jb 31:24-28; 36:18-19; Ps 49; 52:5-7; Mt 16:26; Mk 10:24-25).

18:12 This proverb goes beyond 16:5,18 to teach that humility brings honor (see note at 3:16; cp. 15:33; 22:4; 29:23; see also “wisdom” in note at 11:2). This Hebrew word for “humility” implies being bowed down by affliction and then, when affliction shows that we are not self-sufficient, having a trusting relationship with God.

18:13 The fool does not want to listen but to speak, to spout his opinion (v. 2) or give an answer (lit “return a word”). Such an action epitomizes his foolishness (’iwweleth, from ’ewiyl) and brings disgrace on him (a loss of honor or position due to sin or defeat).

18:14 Psychological or spiritual brokenness (15:13) is worse than physical sickness.

18:15 Unlike the fool who hates knowledge (1:22), refuses to listen (18:13), and does not intend to buy wisdom (17:16), the wise seek to hear knowledge (see note at 1:4), and the discerning (see note at 1:5) mind acquires (see note at 4:5-8) knowledge.

18:16 This gift is a bribe (see note at 15:27). It “makes room” or provides relief and brings a man safely (the word is used of shepherds leading their sheep) into the presence of important people, such as kings and judges. This is an astute observation: bribery appears to work (17:8; 19:6; 21:14). However, only those who hate bribes will ultimately prosper (15:27).

18:17 To cross-examine is literally to “search,” to diligently test or scrutinize to find what is hidden (25:2; 28:11).

18:18 On the lot, see note at 16:33. Flipping a coin can put an end to even the harshest argument. This is the only place in Proverbs where separates has a good sense (cp. v. 1; 16:28; 17:9; 19:4).

18:19 The brother is offended, having suffered a perceived loss or crime. Metal bars were used to reinforce the doors of a fortress. It was nearly impossible to get through in order to reconcile the situation.

18:20 Fruit is the harvest that results over time from what was initiated, as wheat comes from a sown field. Satisfied and filled are the same word in Hebrew. In a bad sense it can mean “glutted” (25:16-17). The approach a person takes in his speech will return to him. If his speech is wicked, he will get his fill of depravity (1:31); if his speech is honorable, he will get all the good things he needs (12:14; cp. 14:14; 28:19).

18:21 The tongue is powerful (Jms 3:1-12). Those who love the tongue and eat its fruit are those who choose to live or die under its power, like those who live by the sword (Gn 27:40; Mt 26:52), by the law (Neh 9:29; Ezk 20:11; Rm 10:5; Gl 3:12), or by faith (Hab 2:4; Rm 1:17; Gl 3:11). Prudent speech brings life (v. 20; 12:14; 13:2; 21:23), and wicked or excessive speech brings death (13:3; Mt 15:18-19).

18:22 The good thing is literally abstract “good”; in other contexts it is translated “success” (16:20; 17:20; 19:8). On favor, see note at 19:6.

18:23 To plead is to appeal for mercy or cry for help (Pss 86:6; 116:1; 130:2; 140:6) or present a petition (2Ch 6:21; Dn 9:3,17). The rich one thinks his wealth will allow him to get away with answering roughly (lit “strong, fierce”). But words can come back to kill the speaker (13:3; 18:20-21) and wealth cannot save (11:28; 18:11).

18:24 The first friends are neighbors or companions, who may be attracted by money (19:4). The second kind of friend is literally “one who loves.” Jesus is such a friend to his followers (Jn 15:13-14).