Proverbs 14:4

4 Without any oxen to pull the plow your barn will be empty, but with them it will be full of grain.

Proverbs 14:4 Meaning and Commentary

Proverbs 14:4

Where no oxen [are] the crib [is] clean
Or "empty" F26, so Jarchi and Aben Ezra. Oxen were used in Judea in several parts of husbandry; in ploughing the land, bringing home the corn, and in threshing or treading it out, ( Deuteronomy 22:10 ) ( 25:4 ) . Now where these are not, or not used, where husbandry is neglected, there is no straw in the crib for beasts, and much less food for men; or rather, no corn or "wheat" F1 on the "threshingfloor" F2, or in the barn, granary, or storehouse; for so the same word is rendered, ( Jeremiah 50:26 ) ; and in this manner it is interpreted by Gersom here, as also by Kimchi F3: the word translated "clean" is used for "wheat", ( Amos 8:5 ) . By supplying the negative particle, the whole may be rendered thus; "where no oxen are, the threshingfloor", "granary", or storehouse, "is without wheat"; or there is no wheat "on the floor", or "in the barn" the note of Jarchi on the text is,

``where there are no scholars of the wise men, there is no instruction in the constitutions.''
But much better is the mystical sense, thus; that where there are no ministers of the Gospel, there is no food for souls. Oxen are an emblem of faithful and laborious ministers. The ox was one of the emblems in the cherubim, which design Gospel ministers; the names by which oxen are called agree with them. Here are two words used of them in the text; the one comes from a root which signifies to "teach", "lead", "guide", and "govern"; and the same word for "oxen" signifies "teachers", "leaders", "guides", and "governors"; names which most properly belong to ministers of the word: the other word comes from a root which signifies to "see", to "look"; because these creatures are sharp sighted. Ministers are seers, overseers, and as John's living creatures in ( Revelation 4:6 ) ; one of which was an ox, were full of eyes, within, and before, and behind. So ministers of the word had need to have good sight, to look into the Scriptures, and search them; to look to themselves and to their flock, and to look out to discover enemies, and danger by them; and to look into their own experience, and into things both past and to come. There is a likeness in ministers to these creatures, as to the nature of them; they are clean, creatures, as such should be that minister in holy things; and chew the cud, as such should revolve in their minds and constantly meditate upon divine things; and, like them, are patient and quiet under the yoke; and are not only strong to labour, but very laborious in the word and doctrine; submit to the yoke, draw the plough of the Gospel; bring home souls to Christ, to his church, and to heaven; and tread out the corn, the mysteries of grace, out of the sacred writings. Now where there are no such laborious and diligent ministers of the word, as there are none in the apostate church of Rome, there is no spiritual food for the souls of men; but a famine of the word, and men perish for lack of knowledge; but much increase [is] by the strength of the ox;
as there is a large increase of the fruits of the earth, through the tillage of it by proper instruments; as by the strong and laborious ox, whose strength is employed in ploughing the ground F4 and treading the corn; which is put for all means of husbandry, where that is used or not: so through the unwearied labours of Gospel ministers, the blessing of God attending them, there is much spiritual food; see ( Proverbs 13:23 ) . There is an increase of converts, a harvest of souls is brought in; and an increase of gifts and of grace, and of spiritual light and knowledge, and plenty of provisions; which spiritual increase, through the ministry of the word, is owing to God, ( 1 Corinthians 3:6 1 Corinthians 3:7 ) .

F26 (rb) "vacuum", V. L. Munster, Pagninus, Mercerus, Gejerus, Amama; so the Syriac version.
F1 "Triticum", Baynus.
F2 (owba) "area", Gussetius, p. 14. Michaelis, Schultens.
F3 Sepher Shorash. rad (oba) & R. Joseph Kimchi in Abendana in loc.
F4 "Fortis arat valido rusticus arva bove", Tibullus, l. 2. Eleg. 2. v. 14.

Proverbs 14:4 In-Context

2 Be honest and you show that you have reverence for the Lord; be dishonest and you show that you do not.
3 Proud fools talk too much; the words of the wise protect them.
4 Without any oxen to pull the plow your barn will be empty, but with them it will be full of grain.
5 A reliable witness always tells the truth, but an unreliable one tells nothing but lies.
6 Conceited people can never become wise, but intelligent people learn easily.

Footnotes 1

  • [a]. your barn will be . . . grain; [or] you may grow a little grain, but with them you can grow much more.
Scripture taken from the Good News Translation - Second Edition, Copyright 1992 by American Bible Society. Used by Permission.