Prov 26:1 Like snow in summer or rain in harvest,
honor is not fitting for a fool.
Honour is not fitting for a fool – ‘In 26:3–12, Solomon elaborates on this theme by presenting a number of vivid pictures of the fool and what happens when you give him a job to do. For one thing, you’ll have to treat him like a dumb animal and use a whip to motivate him (v. 3; see Ps. 32:9). Try to give him orders and explain what he’s to do and you’re in danger of becoming like him (Prov. 26:4–5). Send him on an important mission and you might as well cripple yourself, and be prepared for trouble (v. 6). As a lame person’s legs are useless to take him anywhere, so a fool can’t “get anywhere” with a proverb (v. 7). He not only confuses others, but he harms himself, like a drunk punctured by a thorn (v. 9). Don’t ask a fool to teach the Bible because he won’t know what he’s talking about and it’s painful to listen to him. And don’t ask a fool to wage war because he ties the stone in the sling! (v. 8)’ (Wiersbe)
Prov 26:2 Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow,
an undeserved curse does not come to rest.
Prov 26:3 A whip for the horse, a halter for the donkey,
and a rod for the backs of fools!
Prov 26:4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
or you will be like him yourself.
Prov 26:5 Answer a fool according to his folly,
or he will be wise in his own eyes.
This pair of verses is marked up by the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible as ‘absurd’. But this is to completely understand the nature of proverbs. Take the following pair of proverbs…
(a) Many hands make light work.
(b) Too many cooks spoil the broth.
…and the following pair:-
(a) You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
(b) It’s never too late too learn.
There is, of course, truth in each member of each pair. Wisdom lies in discerning when each applies.
‘These two verses demonstrate that the insights couched in proverbial form are not eternal “truth” carved in stone but, rather, depend on context for their application. (This is no doubt why the fool will never understand how to use a proverb correctly [vv. 7, 9].)’ (Harper’s Bible Commentary)
‘Life is complex and the same easy answer is not applicable to every situation. The wise person is one who can see which piece of wisdom applies in each circumstance.’ (NBC)
‘Wise men have need to be directed how to deal with fools; and they have never more need of wisdom than in dealing with such, to know when to keep silence and when to speak, for there may be a time for both.’ (MHC)
Prov 26:6 Like cutting off one’s feet or drinking violence
is the sending of a message by the hand of a fool.
Prov 26:7 Like a lame man’s legs that hang limp
is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.
Prov 26:8 Like tying a stone in a sling
is the giving of honor to a fool.
Prov 26:9 Like a thornbush in a drunkard’s hand
is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.
Prov 26:10 Like an archer who wounds at random
is he who hires a fool or any passer-by.
‘The original text of verse 10 is very difficult and there are many varied translations. “Like an archer who wounds everyone, so is he who hires a fool or who hires those who pass by” (NASB). “Like an archer who wounds at random is he who hires a fool or any passer-by” (NIV). “Like an archer who wounds everybody is he who hires a passing fool or drunkard” (RSV). Note that the emphasis is on the one doing the hiring and not on the fool. If you hire a fool (or just anybody who passes by) and give him or her responsibility, you might just as well start shooting at random, because the fool will do a lot of damage. Of course, nobody in his right mind would start shooting at random, so, nobody in his right mind would hire a fool.’ (Wiersbe)
Prov 26:11 As a dog returns to its vomit,
so a fool repeats his folly.
Prov 26:12 Do you see a man wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Prov 26:13 The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road,
a fierce lion roaming the streets!”
‘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 v16), for he has no idea that he is lazy; he is not a shirker but a “realist”, v13; not self-indulgent by “below his best in the morning”, v14; his inertia is “an objection to being hustled”, v15; his mental indolence a fine “sticking to his guns”, v16.’ (Kidner)
‘Indolence of character proceeds from a torpid state of the affections, or coldness of heart, in some partly natural, in most persons however, acquired by habit. In the state of indolence, the spellbound slumberer avails himself of every pretext for continuing to doze. The text gives one of his frivolous and groundless excuses. Consider some of the sluggard’s formidable discouragements and obstacles in the way of exertion — such as that labour is painful; that self-denial is against nature;and that there is no certain prospect of success, and that God, being all mercy, is ready to forgive at any time. You cannot question or dispute the evils, the misery and ruin to which indolence leads in this world; or the moral ruin to which the sin of lukewarmness, or indifference to your religious obligations, will lead you in the world to come.’ (James Flint, in Biblical Illustrator)
Prov 26:14 As a door turns on its hinges,
so a sluggard turns on his bed.
Prov 26:15 The sluggard buries his hand in the dish;
he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth.
Prov 26:16 The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes
than seven men who answer discreetly.
Prov 26:17 Like one who seizes a dog by the ears
is a passer-by who meddles in a quarrel not his own.
Prov 26:18 Like a madman shooting
firebrands or deadly arrows
Prov 26:19 is a man who deceives his neighbor
and says, “I was only joking!”
‘Verses 18–19 could be taken to condemn any kind of antics (such as modern practical jokes played on a groom on his wedding day). While practical jokes can be destructive and hurtful, the larger context here implies that such may not be precisely the nature of the deceit implied here. Rather, this is a person who enjoys gossiping about or tampering with the affairs of other people. Such a person will purposefully confuse others and engage in a kind of social disinformation. When called to account, he or she will treat the whole thing as a game and be oblivious to all the hurt such actions created.’ (Garrett)
Prov 26:20 Without wood a fire goes out;
without gossip a quarrel dies down.
Prov 26:21 As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire,
so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.
Prov 26:22 The words of a gossip are like choice morsels;
they go down to a man’s inmost parts.
Prov 26:23 Like a coating of glaze over earthenware
are fervent lips with an evil heart.
Prov 26:24 A malicious man disguises himself with his lips,
but in his heart he harbors deceit.
Prov 26:25 Though his speech is charming, do not believe him,
for seven abominations fill his heart.
Prov 26:26 His malice may be concealed by deception,
but his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.
Prov 26:27 If a man digs a pit, he will fall into it;
if a man rolls a stone, it will roll back on him.
Prov 26:28 A lying tongue hates those it hurts,
and a flattering mouth works ruin.