Proverbs 10: wise and foolish

Proverbs 10 seems at first glance to be a mish-mash of teachings and disjointed. The recurring theme, however, is the contrast between wise, righteous, blessed and a foolish, unwise person. It also divides itself into three themes: speech, business practices, and general behavior.

The first verse is about parenting. It begins with the author’s name: Solomon, the king whose name is synonymous with wisdom. And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore. And Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt (1 Kings 4:29-30).

This parenting statement is a curious one. A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother (verse 1). Why does it say the father is glad and the mother has heaviness? Because it’s true. Have you ever seen a proud father of a wise son or daughter? My! He sticks out his chest and almost pops buttons with pride. He loves that his child is wise. In contrast, when a son or daughter is foolish, who sorrows the most? Who blames herself? Who takes it to heart? The mother.

I’m going to divide the rest of the verses into the three categories we mentioned above:

1. Speech

What does this Proverb have to say about one’s speech? We have wise persons’ speech and fools’ speech. Let’s start with the fools and end with the wise.

  • Violence covereth the mouth of the wicked (9).
  • A prating fool shall fall (10).
  • Violence covereth the mouth of the wicked (11).
  • The mouth of the foolish is near destruction (14).
  • He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool (18).
  • In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin (19).
  • The froward (perverse) tongue shall be cut out (31).
  • The mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness (32).

Wise speech:

  • The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life (11).
  • In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found (13).
  • He that refraineth his lips is wise (19).
  • The tongue of the just is as choice silver (20).
  • The lips of the righteous feed many (21).
  • The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom (31).
  • The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable (32).

2. Business practices. In this section, we have the contrasts between good and bad, wise and foolish. I will leave the sentences intact, as I think they are easy to understand this way. You will read what God thinks about laziness, taking advantage of the poor, and how He provides for His own.

  • Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from death (2).
  • The LORD will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish: but he casteth away the substance of the wicked (3). God is always the Perfect Judge.
  • He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich (4). Several of the verses in this chapter are about laziness.
  • He that gathereth in summer is a wise son: but he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame (5).
  • The rich man’s wealth is his strong city: the destruction of the poor is their poverty (15). This verse is sad. The rich person has wealth, and that’s all he has. The poor are brought down by their poverty. I know you’ve seen this in society.
  • The labour of the righteous tendeth to life: the fruit of the wicked to sin (16). I like that a righteous person’s labor is for life. I think of 1 Corinthians 15:58, Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
  • As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him (26). Vinegar on the teeth and smoke in the eyes—two powerful uncomfortable feelings that everyone can relate to. One thing about the Bible that is so cool is how God uses illustrations that anyone in any culture worldwide can understand. Who likes a lazy messenger or worker? No one. The meaning is clear.

3. General behavior

  • The memory of the just is blessed: but the name of the wicked shall rot (7). This is a strong statement, but it’s true. What do we think of when we hear the names David Livingstone, Charles Spurgeon, and Isobel Kuhn? We smile, remembering their faithfulness and example. How about Charles Branson, Billy the Kid, and John Dillinger? We remember them for their crimes, their evil, and their lust for killing. Their names actually rot.
  • He that walketh uprightly walketh surely: but he that perverteth his ways shall be known (9).
  • Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins (12). This last phrase doesn’t mean that we ignore sin. It means we don’t keep drudging up old faults. Once sin is dealt with, we forget it in love.*
  • He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction: but he that refuseth reproof erreth (17).
  • The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich,* and he addeth no sorrow with it (22). This is talking about an enriched life, not material riches.
  • It is as sport to a fool to do mischief: but a man of understanding hath wisdom (23).
  • The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him: but the desire of the righteous shall be granted (24).
  • As the whirlwind passeth, so is the wicked no more: but the righteous is an everlasting foundation (25).
  • The fear of the LORD prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened (27).
  • The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the wicked shall perish (28).
  • The way of the LORD is strength to the upright: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity (29).
  • The righteous shall never be removed: but the wicked shall not inhabit the earth (30).

Isn’t it fascinating to read God’s practical Word? I know I want to be on the wise, righteous, and blessed side of things. Don’t you?

God bless you today!

*William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary.