Bible Commentary: Proverbs 11:1-27

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Proverbs 11:1-27

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First Part of Major Solomonic Collection 

6. What the Lord Abhors (Proverbs 11:1-21)

"In Proverbs 11:1-21 a group of proverb collections are held together by the inclusio formed by 'the Lord abhors' and 'he delights' in vv. 1, 20 [NIV].

• "MORAL INTEGRITY AND GOD'S JUDGEMENT. Type: Chiastic (Proverbs 11:1-4)....Verse 1 describes God's abhorrence of fraud, and v. 4 answers it with the promise that the wrongfully gained wealth of the wicked will do them no good in the day of judgment. Between these verses vv. 2-3 assert that humility and integrity, rather than their opposites, are the best guides in life" (NAC).

In its note on verse 1, The Bible Reader's Companion says: "Leviticus 19:35-36 forbids the use of 'dishonest standards,' weighted to favor the merchant rather than the seller [he buys from] or buyer [to whom he sells]. The Jewish Talmud calls for meticulous efforts to keep this command, decreeing that 'the shopkeeper must wipe his measures twice a week, his weights once a week, and his scales after every weighing,' to keep any substance from throwing them off. We can't be too careful trying to be fair with others."

As previously noted, the language of Proverbs 11:4 is similar to that of Proverbs 10:2.

• "SALVATION FOR THE RIGHTEOUS. Type: Thematic, Parallel Proverb Pair (Proverbs 11:5-6)....These two proverbs parallel each other and describe the respective fates of the righteous and the wicked...

• "DEATH OF A SINNER. Type: Inclusio, Proverb Pair (Proverbs 11:7-8)....As the text stands, these two proverbs are bound by the inclusio of the word 'wicked' in v. 7a and v. 8b.... In addition, these verses assert that God brings utter destruction to the wicked and imply a promise of eternal life to the righteous" (NAC).

As earlier noted, v. 7 contains language similar to that of Proverbs 10:28.

• "DESTRUCTIVE LIPS. Type: Chiastic, with an Afterward (Proverbs 11:9-13)....Verses 10-11 are an obvious pair in parallel, whereas vv. 9, 12 are bound by the theme of the slanderous gossip of the wicked against restrained silence of the righteous....Verse [13] is an afterword on the subject of the tongue" (NAC).

Verse 10 may seem odd in light of the unpopularity of God's servants among the nations of the world. However, despite persecution, it does make sense that others rejoice when the righteous are doing well: "Why should the community rejoice in the prosperity of the righteous? Because both the way a righteous man gains his wealth and the way he uses it benefits society. The righteous businessman employs others, supports schools and government with his taxes and in the O[ld] T[estament] tradition, shares generously" (Bible Reader's Companion, note on verses 10-11). And often people enjoy seeing justice where the good guy wins.

• "NATIONAL AND PERSONAL PRUDENCE. Type: Parallel (Proverbs 11:14-15)....Both proverbs here follow the pattern 'imprudent action brings disaster / prudent action gives security,' but the first involves national matters where the second concerns personal business" (NAC).

Verse 14 explains that it's vital to get counsel from a number of sources than can be weighed together in making important decisions (see also Proverbs 15:22; Proverbs 20:18; Proverbs 24:6).

Proverbs 11:15 should also be read in light of the next listed proverb in verse 16. "These two proverbs balance each other. The first warns against rashly giving surety or a pledge for a stranger. The second praises generosity [as being 'gracious' or 'kindhearted' (NIV) surely includes]; generosity begets honor" (Nelson Study Bible, note on verses 15-16). Verse 16, discussed next, should also be read in the context of the next verse, with which it is parallel.

• "KINDNESS AND CRUELTY. Type: Parallel (Proverbs 11:16-17)....The pattern of these two proverbs is 'kind woman / cruel man // kind man / ruthless man.' By itself v. 16 could be read cynically ('A kind woman gets respect, but a cruel man gets rich' justify unscrupulous behavior. In conjunction with v. 17, however, the self-destructive nature of the 'hard-nosed' approach to life is apparent....

• "THE WAGES OF SIN AND RIGHTEOUSNESS. Type: Chiasmus (Proverbs 11:18-19)....This pair has the chiastic pattern [in this case a-b-b-a] 'wicked man / he who sows righteousness / righteousness / he who pursues evil'....Note that this pair has links to vv. 16-17. The wealth of the cruel man corresponds to deceptive wages as the honor given a kind woman is genuine. Also the health/self-inflicted pain of v. 17 corresponds to the life and death of v. 19.

• "DIVINE JUDGMENT. Type: Parallel (Proverbs 11:20-21)....God's attitude toward individuals (disgust / pleasure) in v. 20 corresponds to the outcome of their lives (inescapable trouble / deliverance) in v. 21"—which also impacts their children (NAC).

7. Beauty Without Discretion (Proverbs 11:22)


8. Generosity and Selfishness (Proverbs 11:23-27)

"TYPE: INCLUSIO....Verses 23, 27 closely parallel each other and form an inclusio around vv. 24-26, all of which center on the theme of generosity and selfishness. The inclusio states the general truth that one receives back according to one's own behavior while vv. 24-26 deal with the concrete issue of hoarding [and refusing to sell currently at a fair price]" (NAC).

The picture of the one who scatters abroad increasing more—the generous person being made rich—is similar to Ecclesiastes 11:1: "Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days." The good we do will be returned to us in different ways. Just on a human level, a selfish, stingy person will likely make enemies, a factor that will probably hurt him later—even financially perhaps. The generous person will make friends who will be there to contribute to his prosperity and well-being later. But there is more to the universe than that—as there is a real God who blesses generosity and curses greed and selfishness.

Jesus likewise taught: "Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you" (Luke 6:38).

Of course, the passages here are not a promise of material wealth in this lifetime in return for being generous. The greatest riches are spiritual ones—though this does include the promised hope of possessing the entire universe as co-heirs with Christ.

See also Proverbs 13:7.