Proverbs 26:1 ¶ As snow in summer, and as rain in harvest, so honour is not seemly for a fool.
This chapter opens with several proverbs that deal with fools.
Some things just don’t go together; they are not natural or beneficial, e.g, snow in summer, rain during harvest and honor given to a fool. Reminder: Solomon’s reference to a fool is to one that is perverse and has turned away from what is right according to God’s word.
Sadly, in America today, many “fools,” many people lacking wisdom that are in rejection of the LORD are honored and admired by the masses.
Ironside: “Both weather conditions described in this verse are out of place and may cause serious inconvenience. Snow in summer is injurious because it retards growth. Rain during harvest greatly interrupts the reaper and may even ruin the crop. So a fool in the place of honor is unsuitable and may cause much damage.”
Proverbs 26:2 ¶ As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.
The Hebrew for both “wandering” and “flying” make reference to fleeing. Solomon is saying that one need not fear a curse that is without cause or undeserved.
EBC Abridged: “It was commonly believed that blessings and curses had objective existence—that once uttered, the word was effectual. Scriptures make it clear that the power of a blessing or a curse depends on the power of the one behind it (e.g., Balaam could not curse what God had blessed; cf. Nu 22:38; 23:8).”
Proverbs 26:3 ¶ A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool’s back.
The whip, bridle and rod in this verse are all means of controlling the horse, ass and fool respectively. They all have spirits that require physical force to control; it is not possible to reason with them.
Proverbs 26:4 ¶ Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.
Proverbs 26:5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.
The KJV wording is confusing, but I think the CJB expresses the proverb clearly: “Don’t answer a fool in terms of his folly, or you will be descending to his level; but answer a fool as his folly deserves, so that he won’t think he is wise.”
One should always be careful not to affirm a fool in his wrongdoing. We should always be ready to speak the truth in love, hoping that the fool will come to see the folly of his ways.
EBC Abridged: “In negligible issues one should just ignore stupid persons; but in issues that matter, they must be dealt with lest credence be given to what they say.”
Ironside: “When you are conversing with a fool you need to consider the time and manner in which you answer him. To answer him in the same scoffing and egotistical spirit that he exhibits, would be to sink to his level. But on the other hand to allow foolish, unlearned statements to go unchallenged without rebuttal will only reinforce his self-assurance and conceit.”
Proverbs 26:6 ¶ He that sendeth a message by the hand of a fool cutteth off the feet, and drinketh damage.
Proverbs 26:7 The legs of the lame are not equal: so is a parable in the mouth of fools.
Proverbs 26:8 As he that bindeth a stone in a sling, so is he that giveth honour to a fool.
Proverbs 26:9 As a thorn goeth up into the hand of a drunkard, so is a parable in the mouth of fools.
All of these verses warn against dealing with a fool.
EBC Abridged: “Sending a messenger is like having another pair of feet; sending a fool on the mission is not only no help, it is like cutting off the pair of feet one has—it is a setback!”
Ironside: “The lame walk with a halting, uncertain gait because of their unequal legs. When he who is not himself wise attempts to use wise speech, he too stumbles and by his uncertain words and ways makes known his folly.”
Ironside: "The common version would seem to mean that it is as senseless to honor a fool as to tie a stone in a sling and then try to throw it.”
Smith: “A drunkard with a thorn or something in his hand could be a very dangerous person, because he"s not really responsible for his actions. He’s got a thorn in his hand. It makes him a dangerous person. So that a parable in the mouth of a fool can be a very dangerous thing.”
Proverbs 26:10 ¶ The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors.
This is one of those instances when the KJV certainly differs from many other translations. The plain reading of the KJV seems to be referencing the fact that fools and transgressors will one day get their just reward—they will be judged and condemned.
The commentary from the EBC Abridged acknowledges that the statement has a negative connotation. “This line is difficult because it can be translated in different ways, but it does express something negative.”
After looking at the Hebrew, I think there is also support for other translations like the NIV: “Like an archer who wounds at random is he who hires a fool or any passer-by.”
EBC Abridged: “Anyone who hires a fool or a stranger gives them ample opportunity to do great damage. The undisciplined hireling will have the same effect as an archer’s shooting at random.”
Proverbs 26:11 ¶ As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.
This immediately brought to mind the Apostle Peter’s use of this proverb in describing those that had made insincere professions of faith in Jesus.
2 Peter 2:20–22 “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.”
Ironside: “In the previous part of the chapter, Peter had been writing of false teachers who make false professions throughout: persons who would pursue Christianity as a system, even with a view to pervert it, but who had never known its power. Such people might go on for a time as though really born of God, but their true state would at last be seen. Giving up their unsatisfactory profession and relapsing into their old ways, they become apt illustrations of the truth of this proverb.”
This proverb is rooted in one of the most disgusting habits of a dog. Just as disgusting is a fool that never learns from his wrongdoing; he is determined to continue in his foolishness. Until such a person has a change of heart and repents of his sin before the LORD, he will continue in his sin.
Proverbs 26:12 ¶ Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.
As I read this proverb, my first thought was that a man who is wise in his own eyes is a fool. I think Solomon was saying that a person who is wise in their own eyes is less likely to yield to the wisdom of God than the person who is caught up in foolishness for other reasons.
Guzik quoting Morgan: “The greatest fool is the fool who does not know he is a fool.”
Proverbs 26:13 ¶ The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets.
Proverbs 26:14 ¶ As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed.
Proverbs 26:15 ¶ The slothful hideth his hand in his bosom; it grieveth him to bring it again to his mouth.
Proverbs 26:16 ¶ The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.
This group of verses talk about the slothful man, the sluggard, the lazy person.
Verse 13 is basically a statement about how such a person will make up any excuse to excuse his laziness. Any such excuse is justified from his point of view.
Verse 14 pictures the lazy man as being as attached to his bed as a door on its hinges.
Verse 15 is expressed well in the NLT: “Some people are so lazy that they won’t lift a finger to feed themselves.”
Verse 16 tells us that the lazy person considers himself wiser than any group of seven men of reason and understanding. I believe the number seven is just used to represent any number of men that form a complete group.
Guzik quoting Kidner: “Admiration for the wit of this portraiture has to be tempered with disquiet, on reflection that the sluggard will be the last to see his own features here (see 16), for he has no idea that he is lazy: he is not a shirker but a ‘realist’ (13); not self-indulgent but ‘below his best in the morning’ (14); his inertia is ‘an objection to being hustled’ (15); his mental indolence a fine ‘sticking to his guns’ (16).”
Proverbs 26:17 ¶ He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears.
The person who inserts himself in the middle of a controversy that has nothing to do with him is to be compared to a person that tries to grab a dog by its ears. He is just asking to get hurt.
Guzik quoting Bridges: “There is a world of difference between suffering as a Christian and suffering as a busybody. Even with Christian intentions, many of us are too fond of meddling in other peoples’ affairs.”
Proverbs 26:18 ¶ As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death,
Proverbs 26:19 So is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am not I in sport?
Again, I liked the NLT: “Just as damaging as a mad man shooting a lethal weapon is someone who lies to a friend and then says, ‘I was only joking.’”
Obviously, there is a distinction between harmless, clean fun and harmful pranks. Harmful pranks are the subject of this proverb.
Ironside: “Only the most thoughtless and selfish person will engage in amusement at the expense of another’s suffering. “
Proverbs 26:20 ¶ Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.
Proverbs 26:21 As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife.
Proverbs 26:22 The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.
This group of verses all warn against gossip. A fire deprived of fuel will not burn. Strife or quarreling will stop when there is no gossip to fuel it. Just as fuel causes a fire to burn, so a person intent on quarreling causes trouble for others. The words of a gossip cause deep wounds to the victim’s spirit.
Clarke: “The tale-receiver and the tale-bearer are the agents of discord. If none received the slander in the first instance, it could not be propagated. Hence our proverb, "The receiver is as bad as the thief." And our laws treat them equally; for the receiver of stolen goods, knowing them to be stolen, is hanged, as well as he who stole them.”
Proverbs 26:23 ¶ Burning lips and a wicked heart are like a potsherd covered with silver dross.
Proverbs 26:24 ¶ He that hateth dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him;
Proverbs 26:25 When he speaketh fair, believe him not: for there are seven abominations in his heart.
Proverbs 26:26 Whose hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness shall be shewed before the whole congregation.
This group of verses warns of the danger a hypocrite with lying lips. I liked the NLT for v23: “Smooth words may hide a wicked heart, just as a pretty glaze covers a common clay pot.”
Guzik: “There are people who are able to speak with power and persuasion, but they have a wicked heart. The ill effect of their wicked heart is made much more effective because of their fervent words.”
Clarke: “Splendid, shining, smooth lips; that is, lips which make great professions of friendship are like a vessel plated over with base metal to make it resemble silver; but it is only a vile pot, and even the outside is not pure.”
Verses 24-26 warn against the person identified in verses 23, the person that uses deceptive speech to hide evil intentions that will eventually, inevitably be revealed.
Guzik quoting Waltke: “Seven abominations is an abstraction for the full panoply of his wicked thoughts and deeds that utterly offend the moral sensibilities of the righteous.”
panoply - collection
Proverbs 26:27 ¶ Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him.
I think verse 27 is another expression of reaping what you sow.
Smith reminds us of another old saying that applies: “Be sure your sins will find you out.”
Proverbs 26:28 ¶ A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin.
People who lie reveal their hatred for those that are victims of their lies. Such people employ flattery as a means to accomplish their selfish evil purposes.
Ironside: “Conscious of having wronged another and being determined not to confess it, the deceiver fills his heart with hatred against the object of his wrongdoing….To hide his wretched feelings, a liar will flatter with his lips while all the time he is plotting the ruin of his victim. It is the sin which became, as it were, incarnate in Judas Iscariot!”