Proverbs 27:1-27

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It is impossible to know what the future may hold or what one may be able to accomplish. Therefore, the admonition of the proverb is, “Do not boast about tomorrow” (as if you can control what may or may not happen or what you will be able to do the next day), “for you do not know what a day may bring.” To boast about the things one will accomplish reflects a self-reliant attitude that disregards life’s uncertainties and ignores God’s providential leading and his permissive will. Even the best-laid plans may be frustrated on account of completely unexpected developments. At the same time, procrastination is unwise. At a later time, postponed tasks or unfulfilled duties may be far more difficult and even impossible to perform. (27:1)

The wise course is to avoid self-praise, preserving a modest view of oneself and one’s accomplishments. A person’s conduct, words, and deeds should be such as to gain the favorable view of others. “Let a stranger praise you and not your mouth; a foreigner and not your lips.” Instead of self-praise from one’s own mouth or one’s own lips, the praise that is more meaningful and impartial comes from others — strangers who have nothing to gain from their favorable comments. This proverb should not be regarded as discounting the value of sincere praise from acquaintances, for they are able to observe laudable conduct and actions on a regular basis. The Septuagint rendering includes the desirability of praise from associates. “Let a neighbor [or a person near to you] praise you and not your mouth.” (27:2)

A large stone or boulder is very heavy, and so is a load of sand. For one to be subjected to the vexation or anger of a fool is “heavier than both.” A senseless man quickly unleashes his vicious temper with unrestrained fury against others over the most insignificant slights or provocations. (27:3)

“Wrath” is “cruel” (“merciless” [LXX]) toward those against whom it is expressed. There is also a “flood of anger” (“sharp” or “passionate” anger) or the force of unleashed anger that is comparable to a raging torrent. Jealousy, however, is even stronger, for it can be coupled with rage resulting from love that was betrayed by an illicit sexual relationship or from having been unjustifiably dishonored. When the right to exclusive devotion is threatened, jealousy is directed against anyone who would undermine that right. It is more difficult to withstand jealousy than the force of anger, for jealousy is less likely to be mitigated. (27:4)

“Better is open reproof than concealed love.” A warranted reproof, though initially painful, can lead to good results when heeded. It is far better to experience the unpleasant effect of the rebuke that can be beneficial than to be left unaware of a love that would leave one with a pleasant feeling. Open expressions from others are to be preferred to the emotions and feelings that they may choose to hide. (27:5)

“Wounds” in the form of discipline or reproof may initially be painful. When they result from the actions of a friend, they are “faithful” or trustworthy. This is because these “wounds” are an evidence of his deep concern for the welfare of his friend. The “kisses of an enemy” may be profuse, but they are feigned expressions of kindly feelings. They cannot be trusted as indicating a change in the relationship, for they can serve to conceal hatred and evil intentions. The Septuagint conveys a more specific comparative meaning of the words than does the Hebrew text. “More trustworthy are the wounds of a friend than willing kisses of an enemy.” (27:6)

For a “sated soul” or person, any additional food, regardless of how tasty it may otherwise be, is unwanted. Before reaching the point of satiety, the individual may have regarded honey as a desirable treat. After he had his fill, however, honey would cease to be appealing. His reaction toward it could be likened to his “trampling” upon it or rejecting it as undesirable. For a hungry or famished “soul” or person, just any food to satisfy hunger is welcome. Therefore, everything that may be “bitter” appears “sweet” to him. (27:7)

For a bird, the nest is a location of security as also is the home for a man. A forced departure for a bird from its nest is like the forced departure of a man from his home, with both coming to be in a vulnerable state — the bird as fluttering about away from the nest and the man as wandering far from his former home. (27:8; see the Notes section.)

Oil or ointment, when applied to the skin can be soothing and refreshing, and incense may fill the surroundings with a pleasant aroma. Accordingly, “oil and incense gladden the heart” or can bring pleasure to a person’s inner self. There is also the “sweetness” or pleasantness of a person’s associate or friend “from the counsel of the soul.” Possibly the expression “counsel of the soul” refers to the good advice of a friend and which the recipient considers to be pleasingly acceptable. The Septuagint conveys a very different meaning. “With ointments and wines and incenses the heart is delighted, but the soul is ripped apart by mishaps [or misfortunes],” causing great distress for the person. Modern translations incorporate aspects of the Septuagint wording in their renderings or, in other ways, convey a variety of meanings that are not apparent from the extant Hebrew text. “The pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel.” (NIV) “The sweetness of a friend is better than one’s own counsel.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “The soul is torn by trouble.” (NRSV) “By grief the soul is torn asunder.” (NAB) “Cares torment one’s very soul.” (REB) “The sweetness of friendship [gladden the heart] rather than self-reliance.” (NJB) (27:9)

Friendship should be highly valued. One should not leave, ignore, or forget about an associate or friend or one’s father’s associate or friend. Longtime friends are precious and often are a source of comfort and aid in times of need or trouble. The preferable course may be to turn to them instead of going to the house of a brother on the day of one’s calamity or ruin. “Better is a [concerned] neighbor [friend (LXX)] nearby than a brother far away,” either a brother living a long distance away or one who is distant on account of estrangement. (27:10)

The father’s exhortation is, “Be wise, my son, and gladden my heart, that I may answer the one who is taunting me.” When heeding his father’s admonition, the son would use good judgment and conduct himself in a laudable manner. His exemplary life would bring joy to his father’s heart or his father’s inmost self. This would also put the father in a position to silence anyone who disparaged him, for he could call attention to the fine conduct of his son, pointing to it as evidence that he had been a good father who properly taught his son. The son would also come to the defense of his father. In the Septuagint, the concluding phrase directed to the son is, “and turn reviling words away from you.” (27:11)

Upon becoming aware of calamity, a dangerous or risky situation, an unfavorable circumstance, or a tumult, a prudent person does what he can to shield himself from the possibility of harm, seizing any available opportunity to hide himself. The Septuagint says that the prudent person hid himself from approaching evils. Simpletons or foolish individuals exercise no caution but blindly go on their way and suffer the consequences (“will pay a penalty” [LXX] from coming to be in a dangerous or hazardous situation). (27:12; see the Notes section.)

A man who pledged himself to put up security for a stranger placed himself in a risky situation, for he would be held responsible for the repayment of the debt if the debtor failed to do so. The consequence of loss for this foolhardy action is expressed with the imperative, “Take his garment.” The imperative suggests a permanent seizure (unlike the case of a man who gave his garment as a pledge but to whom it had to be returned every evening [Exodus 22:25, 26; Deuteronomy 24:12, 13]). In the case of a foreign woman (probably a prostitute), a pledge was to be taken from the man. The pledge could be for what the man owed for her services or for money he had borrowed to procure her services. (27:13; see the Notes section.)

In the case of one who “blesses” or greets his fellow or “friend” (LXX) with a loud voice in the morning, the blessing will be reckoned to him as a curse (“will not seem to differ from one cursing”). For a person who is not fully awake or alert, a loud blessing or greeting would be annoying and as unpleasant as the utterance of a malediction. Moreover, if a blessing is intended, the morning is too early to know what may yet happen during the course of the day to warrant a loud proclamation as if the blessing was certain to be fulfilled. (27:14)

A leaky roof that drives one away [from one’s house (LXX)] on a day of steady rain, and a contentious, nagging, quarrelsome or abusive (LXX) woman (or wife) are comparable. Both create unpleasant circumstances that a person would want to escape. The Septuagint says that the abusive woman or wife would drive the man or husband “from his own house.” (27:15) Whoever would try to hide her or cover up her actions would not be successful. Any attempt to control or restrain her would be as fruitless as an effort to control the wind and trying to grasp an object covered with oil. According to the Hebrew text, it would be as if the individual’s right hand encountered oil (literally, “will call for oil”) (27:16; see the Notes section.)

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens the face [the person] of [his] companion.” An iron tool can be sharpened with an iron implement. Likewise, by communicating and sharing knowledge, one man “sharpens” or enlightens his companion, with the interchange resulting in mutual benefit. (27:17)

The one “guarding” or tending (who “plants” [LXX]) a fig tree will be rewarded with a good crop and, therefore, “will eat its fruit.” He who “guards his master will be honored.” The servant who conscientiously cares well for the interests of his master will be honored and rewarded by him. (27:18)

“As face corresponds to face in water, so the heart of a man [an earthling] to a man [an earthling].” The reflection of a face on the surface of water mirrors the appearance of the actual face. Similarly, in the “heart,” or the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of another person, one can see a reflection of one’s own heart or a commonality with one’s own inner self. The thought expressed in the Septuagint is the opposite. It says that faces are not alike nor are the “hearts of men” or people. (27:19)

“Sheol [Hades (LXX)] and Abaddon [Destruction] are not satisfied, and the eyes of a man [an earthling] are not satisfied.” No limit exists for the number of people who can enter the realm of the dead. There always remains ample room for more, as if the appetite of Sheol can never be satisfied. The realm of the dead is also a place of destruction, for the corpses decompose. In the case of the eyes, what they see can create desires within a person to want to possess or to experience, and those desires cannot all be satisfied. (27:20)

To obtain pure silver or gold, the base ore must be smelted or purified in a crucible or furnace. Therefore, the proverb refers to a “crucible” or smelter “for silver” and a “furnace for gold.” With apparent application to the testing of a man, the proverb continues, “and a man according to his praise.” This suggests that the praise a man may receive can reveal just what his true self is. Praise can contribute to motivating him to be conscientious about living up to his good reputation and to be concerned about speaking and conducting himself in a manner that honors God. It can also have the opposite effect, giving rise to feelings of superiority and arrogance and prompting him to continue pursuing a way of life that brings wealth and prestige but is gained through dishonorable means. The Septuagint represents the “mouth” of those doing the lauding as testing the man in the way silver and gold are proved or assayed by fire. This rendering indicates that a man’s character may be discerned from the sort of people who praise him. (27:21)

Certain individuals are determined to continue stubbornly and defiantly following a senseless and corrupt way of life. Nothing seems to sway them from their chosen course of folly. Regarding a “fool” of this type, the proverb indicates that he could be submitted to treatment comparable to being placed in a mortar with grain and pounded with a pestle, “but his folly will not depart from him.” The Septuagint says that, “if you whip a fool in the midst of the assembly, disgracing [him], his folly will by no means be removed.” The emphatic sense is conveyed in the Greek text by two words for “not” and is here rendered “by no means.” (27:22)

The concluding verses of chapter 27 contain admonition to be diligent about caring for domestic animals and the benefits resulting from doing so. “Know well the faces,” appearance, condition or “souls” (LXX) of “your flock.” “Set your heart on the herds.” Being thoroughly familiar with the condition of the sheep and goats in the flock would include knowing what each animal needed and attending to each one according to this need. To set the “heart” on the “herds” means to give thought to the animals, caring well for them. (27:23)

When sheep, goats, and cattle are given good care, they will remain healthy and reproductive. For the owner this means increased value. Other kinds of possessions do not reproduce and are more likely to be lost or to decrease in value over the course of time. “Wealth” does not remain for limitless time, and neither does a “crown” from “generation to generation.” According to the Septuagint, a man’s “might and strength” do not endure forever (literally, “into the age”), and he cannot hand it over “from generation to generation.” Based on the Septuagint rendering, the reference to “crown” in the Hebrew text could apply to the prominence, influence, or elevated standing a wealthy man may have in the community. (27:24)

Nourishment for flocks and herds is a renewable resource. After grass is cut for feed and greenery is gathered from hillsides and mountain slopes, new grass or vegetation grows. The admonition in the Septuagint is to care for the greenery in the field so as to be able to cut it for fodder and to gather the grass growing on the hills or mountains. (27:25)

Sheep provide wool for making clothing. Goats may be sold. With the proceeds from the sale, a field may be obtained. The Septuagint does not mention goats, but encourages valuing the plain (apparently as a productive area), looking after it, so that one may have more lambs. (27:26)

Another benefit from caring well for goats is having them as a source of milk for the entire household, with even maidservants (anciently regarded as having the lowest position as servants) receiving their share. (27:27)

The Septuagint concludes with a summary that differs from the extant Hebrew text. “Son, from me you have strong [substantive] sayings for your life, and for the life of your attendants.” The instruction his father provided would be valuable guidance for the son throughout his life and for all who would come to be part of his household, including servants. (27:27)


In verse 8, the Septuagint rendering differs from the reading of the Masoretic Text. “As when a bird flies down from its own nest, so a man becomes enslaved when he is driven from his own places.”

The Hebrew text of verse 12 repeats the wording of Proverbs 22:3. In the Septuagint, the rendering of verse 3 of chapter 22 differs both from the Hebrew text and the wording of verse 12 in chapter 27.

Verse 13 of the Hebrew text basically repeats Proverbs 20:16. For the phrase about the woman, a number of modern translations follow the Hebrew text but others render the words according to an emendation. “Hold it [the garment] in pledge if he does it for a wayward woman.” (NIV) “Take it as a pledge, [for he stood surety] for an unfamiliar woman.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “Hold it [the garment] as security for the unknown person.” (REB) “Take a pledge from him, for persons unknown.” (NJB) The Septuagint does not include the wording of Proverbs 20:16. Here in verse 13 of chapter 27, a different thought is expressed. “Remove his garment, for he went by, [he] ̶ an arrogant man who ruins things [belonging to] strangers.”

In verse 16, the Septuagint rendering differs from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. A “north wind” is “hard” or harsh, “but, by name, is called appropriate.”