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First Part of Hezekiah's Solomonic Collection Cont'd (Proverbs 27)

12. Boasting and Praise (27:1-2)

"TYPE: CATCHWORD....These two proverbs both begin with the same verbal root [the words translated "boast" and "praise" both coming from the Hebrew halal]. Behind both is the contrast between arrogance and humility....The two verses together espouse an attitude of humility before the sovereignty of God and the judgment of the community" (NAC). Proverbs 27:1 is alluded to in James 4:13-16, where planning for the near future without taking into consideration unexpected circumstances that God may allow or bring to pass is referred to as arrogant and evil boasting.

13. Unbearable Personalities (27:3-4)

"TYPE: THEMATIC, GRAMMATICAL PARALLEL....These two proverbs strongly parallel each other in the Hebrew. Both concern behavior that cannot be endured" (NAC). As noted in our introduction to Proverbs, the wording of verse 3 about fools being heavy—i.e., hard to bear—is similar to a saying written later about grief in the Assyrian "Words of Ahiqar": "I have lifted sand, and I have carried salt; but there is naught which is heavier than {grief}" (quoted in Expositor's, introduction to Proverbs).

14. Honest Friendship (27:5-6)

"TYPE: THEMATIC, CATCHWORD....In addition to a common catchword [the Hebrew root meaning 'love'], both verses concern the nature of genuine friendship" (NAC)—which is characterized by openness and honesty, including rebuking the friend if necessary for his own good. This is contrasted with hidden love (being too timid to be frank, more concerned with oneself being rejected rather than the welfare of the other person) and with an enemy's deceptive show of affection.

15. Real Friends, Close at Hand (27:7-10)

"TYPE: PARALLEL....The four verses are arranged in parallel (A B A B) and generally concern forming significant friendships. Verses 7 and 9 both deal with pleasant substances (honey, incense, oil) and the paradox that what may seem bitter (bitter food or direct advice) can actually be sweet. Verse 8 decries the man who wanders far from home while verse 10 urges the reader to cultivate neighbors [near at hand] as friends to whom one can go in time of crisis [rather than relatives far away]" (NAC). By itself, verse 7 would seem to point out merely that those with much (in the way of good food or perhaps luxuries in general) get sick of it, no longer appreciating what they have, while a person with little delights in whatever he is able to get. Yet in context of the preceding and following verses the proverb could also refer to friendship and counsel—perhaps a caution to be sparing in friendly advice, lest the recipient grow tired of it.

16. Fatherly Advice (27:11-27)

"TYPE: THEMATIC....Verse 11 is a fatherly plea for the son to heed wisdom similar to those that begin lengthy exhortations in Prov 1–9. If v. 11 does form a heading to a series of paternal teachings here (and is not just an interjection with no following material), one may ask how much of what follows may be placed under this heading. It is perhaps significant that vv. 12-27 for the most part concern matters about which a father might naturally teach his son: sound business practices and skills in dealing with men in the community" (NAC).

The first two proverbs here are nearly identical to proverbs in Solomon's major collection (compare 27:12 with 22:3 and 27:13 with 20:16).

Proverbs 27:14 gives further counsel on friendship (in a similar vein to 25:20). A show of friendliness without proper social sensitivities can be obnoxious. Speaking of obnoxious, the following verse, 27:15, compares a nagging or argumentative wife to a constant dripping—as in 19:13. The next verse, 27:16, must accompany the previous one as it would be incomprehensible on its own. It is commonly understood to mean that a contentious wife is also uncontrollable—like trying to stop the wind or keep oil from slipping through one's fingers. However, the Hebrew of the verse is difficult and the translation not certain.

The point of verse 17 about iron sharpening iron (e.g., an iron file on an ax head) is that friends are "sharpened" (made more effective in various ways) through close interaction with one another. This includes the rebuke and hearty counsel mentioned in verses 5-6 and 9.

Verse 18 concerns a servant or employee looking after his master or employer's estate or business and receiving livelihood and honor from that source (symbolized by the fig tree). Ultimately, this would apply to the blessings and future reward of God's servants for being faithful stewards in the work He has entrusted them with.

Verse 19 is subject to various interpretations. "The Hebrew could be more literally rendered, 'Like the water, the face to the face, so the heart of the man to the man'" (NAC). The NKJV rendering of the second colon makes more sense if reversed, as we cannot see men's hearts. The meaning would be that a man's heart is revealed by the man—that is, the man (what we see of him, what he says and what he does) reveals what is in his heart.

The word "hell" in verse 20 is translated from the Hebrew sheol, meaning "grave." A comparison is made here that is also a warning. As the grave and destruction are never full—being pictured as ravenous monsters that never seem to get enough since people continue to die and meet destruction (compare 30:16)—so the eyes of man, representing his covetous desires, are never satisfied. In the parallel, besides covetous being voracious, we may note that "the avaricious appetite of humans is compared to that which destroys" (NIV Application Commentary, note on verses 19-20). Thus the proverb may imply not only that people are greedy, but that having greedy eyes leads to the devouring of others and eventually the self.

The first line of verse 21 is identical to 17:3. In the previous verse the focus on the crucible concerned the refining process—compared to God's refining of people's character. Here the focus is on what the refining process reveals—the pure metals—the comparison being with the revealing of a man's character by what people say of him. Of course, we must consider this in general terms. The righteous may well experience public censure over issues of righteousness (see Matthew 5:11), though some will nonetheless take note of good character (compare 1 Peter 2:12). Indeed, if we inquire of the right people about someone (those of good character who know the person in question), we are likely to gain a proper assessment.

Verse 22 contains another metaphor of processing natural materials—mortar and pestle rather than crucible. The point is that fools cannot be separated from their foolishness—showing the importance of being careful in choosing one's associates.

Unlike the preceding short proverbs, verses 23-27 constitute an extended poem. The message here, though couched in pastoral terms, can be generally applied to one's means of earning a living. "Take care of your business, and it will take care of you" (NAC). This is the reward for diligence.

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