VERSE OF THE DAY
A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.
Being Kind in answers promotes positive responses but negative harsh words make raging temper flares
Bible Gateway Proverbs 15 :: NIV. A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.
What Does Proverbs 15:1 Mean? ►
A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.
Many verses in the book of Proverbs are contrasting couplets that stand-alone as a wise piece of advice for men and women of every generation. But like this first verse in chapter 15 which says, “a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger,” it is also linked to a much wider body of teaching that could impact the lives of all who take note of its intrinsic wisdom and apply it in their lives.
The verse in question not only deals with the immense power of speech, for good or ill, but also touches on the issue of ones controlled actions or unguarded reactions to the words, behaviour, language, and speech of others.
Words can be helpful and healing. They can provide hope and encouragement. Wise and gracious words are a powerful tool in ‘pouring oil on troubled waters’ or diffusing a situation that could quickly escalate into a serious conflict.
However, the words we speak and the messages from our lips should also be spoken in spirit and in truth… in grace and in love. For just as a gentle, controlled, thoughtful, or caring word can calm the troubled breast, bring hope to the hopeless, healing to the injured, or grace to an offender, so a harsh, hateful, cruel, or careless comment, can as easily be used to wound or discourage, hurt or hinder, harm or handicap, or speedily stir up strife and anger.
Although this proverb is applicable to every category of humankind, and if used in the corridors of power, the interactions of everyday life, or the privacy of our own homes, would impact our local community and the wider world for good… its target audience are the redeemed of God. How much influence for good this proverb would command if it were applied within the churches of Christendom and practiced in the individual lives and homes of Christians?
Not only does this first verse highlight the need for good, gracious, and gentle answers, but five further verses in the same chapter give greater insight into the need for godly interactions and wise words rather than ungodly speech or careless remarks.
Verse 2 explains that, “the tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, but the mouth of fools spouts folly,” while verse 4 suggests that, “a soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perverse speech, crushes the spirit.” Verse 7 is an important reminder that, “the lips of the wise spread knowledge, but this is not so from the hearts of fools.”
The chapter concludes with three further wise sayings connected with words and language. Verse 23, “A man has joy in an apt answer, and how delightful is a timely word!” Verse 26, “Evil plans are an abomination to the Lord, but pleasant words are pure.” And verse 28, “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.”
Every verse in this Psalm and every reference in Scripture on the correct use of gracious speech and wise language encourages us to give thoughtful questions and circumspect answers… timely words and godly interactions, controlled comments and a refusal to engage in unnecessary chit-chat and unwholesome gossip.
What a difference the Church would make in the world, if the simple message that, “a soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words incites anger,” were applied in lives of all who have been saved by grace through faith in Christ. What a change could be wrought if we simply followed Christ’s example – Who only said and did those things He heard from His Father in heaven. No surprise that the people, “wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of the mouth of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Proverbs 15:1 Meaning of Gentle Answer Turns Away Wrath
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
Explanation and Commentary of Proverbs 15:1
If someone is angry with you, if they are wrathful towards you, the difficult thing is to refuse to return malice for malice, wrath for wrath, but doing so is crucial if you want to “turn away wrath.” A gentle answer will remove all the fuel from the fire of anger. But the natural inclination of the average person is to return a harsh word. Even if someone is not already angry, a harsh word can cause them to become so.
The question remains, how does one become the sort of person who can give a gentle answer in the face of wrath, or abstain from hurling out the harsh word that feels so natural? The key is to be supernatural, or spiritual, rather than natural. The natural man cannot help but return evil for evil, but the spiritual man doesn’t trade that way. For the spiritual man, or the one who is in Christ, there is no need. Wrathful words pose no threat to the man or woman who has been saved by grace, forgiven by God, redeemed and justified, and walks by the Holy Spirit. This is the one who obeys Jesus’ command to “turn the other cheek” (Mt 5:38-40). This is the man or woman who lives in freedom because of who God is, what he has done sending Christ to die, and who it means that we are. Walk in Christ and give a gentle answer in the face of anger and wrath.
Breaking Down the Key Parts of Proverbs 15:1
#1 “A gentle answer…”
These are gentle and understanding words, given in a gentle and understanding tone. This is best done not by self-control, but by true freedom from anger obtained by deep integration of the truth of the gospel.
#2 “…turns away wrath,”
It is a rare person who will stay in their rage in the face of humble gentleness.
#3 “but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
A person who is not angry can quickly become so when given a harsh word. A harsh word can be a powerful trigger to defensiveness and rash impulses. When the person is already angry, a harsh word will be like gasoline thrown on an already blazing fire.
Proverbs 15 – The Words of the Wise
A soft answer turns away wrath,
But a harsh word stirs up anger.
a. A soft answer turns away wrath: When people come to us in wrath, we are often tempted to be harsh in response. Wisdom shows us the value of a soft answer, one without sharp edges or points. That kind of answer can actually turn away wrath.
i. “Soft speech is like oil on bruised skin to soften and heal it (cf. Judges 8:1-3); painful speech has the effect of oil poured on fire (cf. 1 Kings 12:1-16).” (Waltke)
ii. “Pride and passion on both sides strike together like two flints. We indulge in sarcasm as if we would rather lose a friend than miss scoring a point in the argument. All this the world excuses. But the Gospel sets before us our Savior’s example and imbues us with his spirit; so we should be careful not to provoke a chafed or wounded spirit.” (Bridges)
b. A harsh word stirs up anger: A harsh response to wrath often only stirs up more anger. It may feel good at the moment but ends up making the situation worse, not better.
i. “Many conflicts arise not because the issues separating the parties are so great but because of the temperaments people bring to a confrontation.” (Garrett)
ii. “How was Saul enkindled by Doeg, and David by Nabal’s currishness! Rehoboam, with one churlish breath, lost ten tribes.” (Trapp)
iii. “Gideon in Judges 8:1-3 is a classic example of the soft answer that brings peace, whereas Jephthah illustrates the harsh answer that leads to war (Judges 12:1-6).” (Ross)
The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly,
But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.
a. The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly: The wise man or woman will show their right use of knowledge by the words they say. The words of their tongue demonstrate their wisdom.
i. Uses knowledge rightly: “Expressing what he knows prudently and gracefully; taking due care both what, and when, and to whom, and in what manner he speaks.” (Poole)
ii. “This is very difficult to know: – when to speak, and when to be silent; what to speak, and what to leave unspoken; the manner that is best and most suitable to the occasion, the subject, the circumstances, and the persons…. Even wise counsel may be foolishly given.” (Clarke)
b. The mouth of fools pours forth foolishness: A fool will be revealed by their words. It isn’t enough for a man or woman to claim they have wisdom in their heart or mind; what they say proves either their wisdom or folly.
i. Pours forth: “Hebrew, Bubbleth it out; blurteth it out, as a fountain casteth out its waters, with a great force and swiftness.” (Trapp)
The eyes of the Lord are in every place,
Keeping watch on the evil and the good.
a. The eyes of the Lord are in every place: Wisdom understands that we are always under the eye of God. He sees us in every place, even when we are hidden to human eyes.
i. The eyes of the Lord: “The eyes of Christ are ‘as a flaming fire.’ [Revelation 1:14] And the school of nature teacheth that the fiery eye needs no outward light, that sees extra mittendo, by sending out a ray.” (Trapp)
ii. “So how will I meet these eyes? Will I meet them as a rebel or as a child?” (Bridges)
b. Keeping watch on the evil and the good: God takes note of both the evil and the good. He will deal with the evil according to His righteous judgment, and He will bless and reward the good. Among men, evil is often unpunished and good is often unrewarded – but God sees and notes all.
i. We might say that God has night vision and sees all that happens under the cover of darkness.
ii. Keeping watch: “The word employed describes a very active and purposeful seeing. The statement is far more than that God sees; it is that He is investigating, observing…. He is keeping watch upon the evil. It is never out of His sight. It loves the darkness rather than the light, but He sees as well in the darkness as in the light.” (Morgan)
iii. And the good: “The Lord’s eyes also see the good. He sees them in outward destitution, in secret retirement, in deep affliction. He pierces the prison walls. He is with them in the furnace and in the storm.” (Bridges)
A wholesome tongue is a tree of life,
But perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
a. A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: Good words are like a tree that continually brings life from its shade and fruit. Our words have the power to do far more good than we often think.
b. Perverseness in it breaks the spirit: If someone’s tongue is perverse (twisted, crooked, corrupt) instead of wholesome, their words will break the spirit of others. Our words have the power to do far more harm than we often think.
A fool despises his father’s instruction,
But he who receives correction is prudent.
a. A fool despises his father’s instruction: Proverbs is written as advice from a father to his children. A fool would despise the wisdom that comes from a godly parent and God’s word.
i. “One’s attitude toward parental teaching will determine one’s lifelong attitude toward authority and instruction.” (Garrett)
b. He who receives correction is prudent: Learning wisdom is more than learning facts; it is to receive correction. If what we learn only confirms what we already know, it probably isn’t wisdom we are learning.
In the house of the righteous there is much treasure,
But in the revenue of the wicked is trouble.
a. In the house of the righteous there is much treasure: Because wisdom and godliness tend to bring prosperity, this is generally true of material treasure. Thankfully, the treasure in the house of the righteous isn’t only material; the greater treasure is spiritual.
i. “Every righteous man is a rich man, whether he hath more or less of the things of this life.” (Trapp)
b. In the revenue of the wicked is trouble: Even what the wicked man or woman earns (the revenue) can be a problem. Instead of treasure, they have trouble.
i. Revenue of the wicked: “Though he may obtain great revenues, yet they are attended with much trouble and vexation; either because they are strangely blasted and taken from them, or because they are embittered to them by their own insatiable desires, or tormenting cares and fears, or the horrors of their guilty consciences, or by divers other ways.” (Poole)
The lips of the wise disperse knowledge,
But the heart of the fool does not do so.
a. The lips of the wise disperse knowledge: The wise man or woman will spread (disperse) knowledge and wisdom. It is within them and will be given to others by the words they say.
b. The heart of the fool does not do so: Since wisdom isn’t in the heart of the fool, it won’t be on their lips either. They are unable to spread the blessing of wisdom to others through their words.
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
But the prayer of the upright is His delight.
a. The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord: Without godliness, religious ritual, such as sacrifice, can be an abomination to God. As Samuel said to Saul, Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22).
b. The prayer of the upright is His delight: The godly man or woman delights God with their prayer. The wicked one goes to the trouble and expense of offering a sacrifice, but it does not delight God in the way the prayer of the upright does.
The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
But He loves him who follows righteousness.
a. The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord: God rejects the religious ceremonies of the wicked (Proverbs 15:8); therefore, much more does God consider the sinful life of the wicked as an abomination.
b. He loves him who follows righteousness: The one who lives and follows righteousness does so in surrender and love to God, and they do what Jude advised; they keep themselves in the love of God (Jude 1:21).
Harsh discipline is for him who forsakes the way,
And he who hates correction will die.
a. Harsh discipline is for him who forsakes the way: When a man or woman departs from God’s path (the way), in mercy God will send them harsh discipline. This discipline is a warning and opportunity to change one’s ways.
b. He who hates correction will die: The one who rejects God’s loving and merciful correction seals his own fate and sets his own course. They are on the way of death and will remain there.
i. “He that is embittered by rebukes, and not bettered by chastisements, shall die…they that will not obey that sweet command, ‘Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden,’ shall one day have no other voice to obey but that terrible [word],‘Go ye cursed into everlasting flames.’” (Trapp)
ii. “The one who hates correction will die (see Proverbs 5:23; 10:21) an eternal death without God, the tragic and inevitable end of apostates who have become hardened against truth.” (Waltke)
Hell and Destruction are before the Lord;
So how much more the hearts of the sons of men.
a. Hell and Destruction are before the Lord: These two destinies are symbolically pictured as persons who are before the Lord to serve His purpose. The sobering truth is that God has a plan and a purpose for both Hell and Destruction.
i. “Sheol and Abaddon represent the remote underworld and all the mighty powers that reside there (see Proverbs 27:20; Job 26:6; Psalm 139:8; Amos 9:2; Revelation 9:11).” (Ross)
ii. God can see what we cannot. Hell and Destruction are presently invisible to us, but they are before the Lord. If we could see Hell and Destruction, we would think and live much differently. “We, silly fishes, see one another jerked out of the pond of life by the hand of death; but we see not the frying pan and the fire that they are cast into, that ‘die in their sins,’ and refuse to be reformed.” (Trapp)
iii. “God’s surveillance extends to the realm of the dead in the depths of the earth, as remote from heaven as possible, and he will be met in every corner of this pitch-black place shrouded in mystery and secrecy and of no apparent value to humanity or God.” (Waltke)
b. How much more the hearts of the sons of men: If God has a plan and a purpose for those two destinies, it is much more true that He has a plan and purpose for humanity (the sons of men).
i. “This is a simple method of drawing attention to God’s perfect knowledge of all the deepest and hidden things. If that which is most full of mystery to us is perfectly known to Him, how well He must know our hearts.” (Morgan)
ii. “And not only so, but we have known cases in which the thoughts of men have been revealed from the pulpit. I have sometimes seen persons nudge with their elbow, because they have got a smart hit, and I have heard them say, when they went out, ‘That is just what I said to you when I went in at the door.’ ‘Ah!’ says the other, ‘I was thinking of the very thing he said, and he told me of it.’ Now, if God thus proves his own Omniscience by helping his poor, ignorant servant, to state the very thing, thought and done, when he did not know it, then it must remain decisively proved that God does know everything that is secret, because we see he tells it to men, and enables them to tell it to others.” (Spurgeon)
A scoffer does not love one who corrects him,
Nor will he go to the wise.
a. A scoffer does not love one who corrects him: Because the fool and the scoffer hate correction, they will hate (not love) the one who brings it.
i. Does not love one who corrects him: “As Ahab did Micaiah; Herodias, John Baptist; the Pharisees, our Saviour.” (Trapp)
b. Nor will he go to the wise: In rejecting correction, the scoffer rejects wisdom and will remain trapped in his folly.
A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance,
But by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.
a. A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance: If someone has happiness and joy, it should be seen on their face. They should have a cheerful countenance.
i. “This cheerfulness, however, is very different from the noisy mirth of the ungodly. The word cheerful was often used by the old writers. It was Foxe’s favorite description of the holy joy of the martyrs.” (Bridges)
b. By sorrow of heart the spirit is broken: Those who have deep sorrow of heart will display their broken spirit. We can observe both the happy and the sad with understanding and sympathy for both the merry heart and those with sorrow of heart.
i. “The words used here stress the pain and the depression with a note of despair.” (Ross)
The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge,
But the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness.
a. The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge: The scoffer avoids wisdom’s correction (Proverbs 15:12), but the one with understanding and wisdom in his or her heart will seek after more wisdom.
i. Seeks knowledge: “As a hungry man seeks meat, or a covetous man gold, the more he hath, the more he desires.” (Trapp)
b. The mouth of fools feeds on foolishness: In this sense, the normal course of humanity is that the wise become wiser and that fools feed on more foolishness.
i. “Let fools feed on foolishness, as swine do on swill, as flies do on blotches, as carrion kites do on stinking carcasses.” (Trapp)
All the days of the afflicted are evil,
But he who is of a merry heart has a continual feast.
a. All the days of the afflicted are evil: To live in days of affliction is to know the trouble and evil of life and this fallen world.
b. He who is of a merry heart has a continual feast: When a merry heart instead of an afflicted heart marks our attitude towards life, there is a sense of continual bounty and enjoyment.
i. A continual feast: “Hath constant satisfaction and delight in all conditions, yea, even in affliction.” (Poole)
ii. “It is a full feast, a lasting feast; not for a day, as that of Nabal, not for seven days, as that of Samson, no, nor of hundred and eighty days, as that of Ahasuerus, but a durable continual feast, without intermission of solace, or interruption of society.” (Trapp)
Better is a little with the fear of the Lord,
Than great treasure with trouble.
a. Better is a little with the fear of the Lord: Especially in our materialistic and consumer age, we constantly want more, and we fear living with little. Yet life is better with little if lived with reverence and honor to God (the fear of the Lord).
i. “If saints be sad, it is because they are too busy here below, and, Martha-like, troubled about many things, with neglect of that one thing necessary.” (Trapp)
b. Than great treasure with trouble: To have great treasure and great trouble is not a good life. Because the fear of the Lord spares us from much trouble, it is better to have that than great treasure.
i. “Riches, though well got, are but as manna, those that gathered less had no want, and those that gathered more, it was but a trouble and annoyance to them.” (Trapp)
Better is a dinner of herbs where love is,
Than a fatted calf with hatred.
a. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is: The presence of love makes up for a lot. We can live on a humble diet but can never flourish without love.
i. “Riches and poverty are more in the heart than in the hand. He is wealthy who is contented. He is poor who wants more.” (Bishop Hall, cited in Bridges)
b. Than a fatted calf with hatred: One may enjoy the extravagant abundance of a fatted calf, but hatred will spoil it all. Nothing really makes up for a lack of love.
i. “A fattened ox (see Proverbs 7:22; 14:4) represents the king of domesticated animals at its very best and functions as a synecdoche for the finest foods (cf. Luke 15:23).” (Waltke)
A wrathful man stirs up strife,
But he who is slow to anger allays contention.
a. A wrathful man stirs up strife: When strife is stirred up, it doesn’t happen by accident. Usually, the cause is a wrathful man or woman who stirs up strife.
b. He who is slow to anger allays contention: The wise man or woman is slow to anger, and they have a way of bringing peace and smoothing over contention instead of stirring up strife.
The way of the lazy man is like a hedge of thorns,
But the way of the upright is a highway.
a. The way of the lazy man is like a hedge of thorns: Those who are lazy may not see it in themselves. Often, they may more easily see the result of their laziness, which is a life filled with constant trouble and irritations (like a hedge of thorns).
i. “Because he is slothful, he imagines ten thousand difficulties in the way which cannot be surmounted; but they are all the creatures of his own imagination, and that imagination is formed by his sloth.” (Clarke)
ii. Many times, Proverbs reminds us of what serious sin laziness is.
· Laziness is theft – you live off the work of others.
· Laziness is selfishness – you live for yourself and comfort.
· Laziness is neglect of duty – you don’t do what you should.
iii. In his sermon titled The Hedge of Thorns and the Plain Way, Charles Spurgeon used Proverbs 15:19 in a spiritual sense, speaking to those who are spiritually lazy: “The spiritual sluggard does not believe after that practical fashion. He says, ‘It is true;’ but he acts as if it were false. He is too much a sluggard to become an infidel; he is too lethargic to argue against the truth which condemns him; he nods assent, it is the nod of sleep.” Spurgeon went on to describe the life of the spiritually lazy man:
· His spiritual life is lived as if he were asleep.
· He once gave an effort to forsake sin but did not follow through.
· His spiritual life is a hard way, full of thorns.
· Spiritual things seem long and dreary.
· The Christian life is full of thorny perplexities, problems, and misery.
· He may find that his way to heaven is blocked.
b. The way of the upright is a highway: The wise man or woman – upright and hardworking before the Lord – does not know the same constant troubles and irritations of life that the lazy man must endure. Life for the upright is much smoother and more efficient in its progress.
i. “Unthinking persons suppose that the sluggard lives a happy life, and travels an easy road. It is not so…. Labour of a holy sort has ten thousand times more joy in it than purposeless leisure.” (Spurgeon)
A wise son makes a father glad,
But a foolish man despises his mother.
a. A wise son makes a father glad: A father is made glad by a wise son, both for the blessing of knowing there is good for the son, and because it vindicates the father’s trust in God and training of the son in wisdom.
b. A foolish man despises his mother: The foolish man or woman brings disgrace to his parents, and their rejection of the parents’ wisdom shows they despise their mother and father.
i. “Tragically the person who needs their instruction, out of his exaggerated opinion of his self-importance, feels that he is better than his godly parents and so is intractable and incorrigible.” (Waltke)
Folly is joy to him who is destitute of discernment,
But a man of understanding walks uprightly.
a. Folly is joy to him who is destitute of discernment: For the fool, his foolishness (folly) is something to take pleasure in. He only hates his folly when they have to pay the bitter consequences of it. Otherwise, it is joy to him.
b. A man of understanding walks uprightly: With wisdom, our life is ordered and upright. The wise man or woman finds joy in what is good and upright.
i. “His sincerity supplies him with serenity; the joy of the Lord, as an oil of gladness, makes him lithe and nimble in ways of holiness.” (Trapp)
Without counsel, plans go awry,
But in the multitude of counselors they are established.
a. Without counsel, plans go awry: The difference between success and failure can often be found in those who plan with or without counsel. Wisdom understands that other people also have wisdom.
i. “Our wisdom lies in self-distrust, or at least allowing for the possibility that we may often be wrong! So it is most expedient, especially in important matters, to seek experienced counsel.” (Bridges)
b. In the multitude of counselors they are established: Normally there is more insight from many people than from one. Getting many eyes to see and many minds to think about plans can often see those plans established and successful.
A man has joy by the answer of his mouth,
And a word spoken in due season, how good it is!
a. A man has joy by the answer of his mouth: Right and wise words have the potential and power to bring great joy to one’s self and to others.
b. A word spoken in due season, how good it is: The value in a good word is often not only found in its content but also in its timing. The right word at the right time (in due season) is a powerful force for good.
i. “This proverb sets forth the satisfaction of being able to say the right thing at the right moment.” (Morgan)
The way of life winds upward for the wise,
That he may turn away from hell below.
a. The way of life winds upward for the wise: One of the great benefits of a life of wisdom is that, generally, life gets better as the years go on. The progress of their life winds upward and not down; they move from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).
b. That he may turn away from hell below: The progress of a wise life isn’t just in what it heads toward (upward), but also in what it moves away from. Heaven becomes closer and hell becomes further distant behind.
i. Upward…below: “A recognition of the two forces of which man is ever conscious the upward pull and the downward pull with a declaration that wisdom consists in answering the upward.” (Morgan)
ii. From hell below: “Or, from the lowermost hell; not from the grave, as this word is elsewhere used, for no wisdom can prevent that; but from hell properly so called, as this word is elsewhere used, as hath been formerly observed.” (Poole)
The Lord will destroy the house of the proud,
But He will establish the boundary of the widow.
a. The Lord will destroy the house of the proud: Those who choose pride set themselves against God (James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5), and God will set Himself against them. They and their house will be targets of God’s destruction.
b. He will establish the boundary of the widow: The widow is the picture and representative of a humble, needy person who looks to and depends on God. She represents the opposite of the proud, and God takes special care of those who humbly depend on Him.
i. “When they were too weak to have a voice, God spoke for the poor and needy through Moses (cf. Deuteronomy 19:14; 27:17), the prophets (Hosea 5:10), and the sages (Job 24:2; Proverbs 15:25; 22:28).” (Waltke)
ii. “The story of Naboth (1 Kings 21) illuminates the saying; but it is relevant to all kinds of exploitation.” (Kidner)
The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord,
But the words of the pure are pleasant.
a. The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord: Wickedness doesn’t begin with actions; it begins in the heart and thoughts. There is certainly a sense in which our actions are more important than our thoughts, but our actions begin in our thoughts, so what we think is also important to God.
i. “How little most people think they are responsible for their thoughts. They live as if they were on their own and so can indulge themselves without any restraints.” (Bridges)
ii. “Thoughts…in the first line, mean ‘plans’, and the contrasted language of the second line emphasizes the fact that such plans are hateful to God even before they issue in words or deeds.” (Kidner)
b. The words of the pure are pleasant: Solomon knew that a person’s thoughts would be ultimately revealed by their words. God hears the words of the pure and is pleased, contrasting with the thoughts of the wicked.
He who is greedy for gain troubles his own house,
But he who hates bribes will live.
a. He who is greedy for gain troubles his own house: Many of those who are greedy for gain justify it with the excuse that they do it for their family. This is not wise, because being greedy for gain will ultimately bring trouble to one’s house.
i. “The ‘greedy man’ is the one who wants a big cut, who is in a hurry to get rich, and who is not particular how it happens.” (Ross)
ii. “The Papists propose rewards to such as shall relinquish the Protestant religion and turn to them…. Thus they tempted Luther, but he would not be hired to go to hell; and thus they tempted that noble Marquis of Vicum, nephew to Pope Paul V, who left all for Christ and fled to Geneva, but he cried out, Let their money perish with them that prefer all the world’s wealth before one day’s communion with Jesus Christ and his despised people.” (Trapp)
b. He who hates bribes will live: The one who hates bribes is set as a contrast to the one who is greedy for gain. The greedy man or woman will do anything for more money and loves bribes if they can bring more money. God’s blessing is on men and women of integrity who hate bribes and other dishonest ways of doing business.
The heart of the righteous studies how to answer,
But the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.
a. The heart of the righteous studies how to answer: The idea behind the phrase “how to answer” is simply what one says in response. God’s righteous ones – men and women of wisdom – think beforehand what they should and will say. Their words are not based only on impulse and reaction.
b. The mouth of the wicked pours forth evil: There is little self-control when it comes to the mouth of the wicked. Evil words and ideas simply pour out of their mouth, with no wise thought beforehand.
i. “The advice is to say less but better things.” (Ross)
The Lord is far from the wicked,
But He hears the prayer of the righteous.
a. The Lord is far from the wicked: Men and women who are wicked do their best to separate themselves from God, and in this sense, God is far from them. There is another sense, especially in light of the work of Jesus, in which God draws near to the wicked to offer redemption and wisdom (Romans 5:8).
i. “But this farness or nearness respects not God’s essence, which is every where, but his gracious and helpful presence.” (Poole)
ii. “Proverbs does not envision the wicked as repenting; if they did, they would be righteous.” (Waltke)
b. He hears the prayer of the righteous: God draws near to those who draw near to Him (James 4:8). The prayer of the righteous man or woman is effective before God (James 5:16).
The light of the eyes rejoices the heart,
And a good report makes the bones healthy.
a. The light of the eyes rejoices the heart: The eyes are something like a lamp to the whole body (Matthew 6:22-23). When the eyes are full of light it brings happiness and contentment to the heart and the whole body.
i. “The light of the eyes may perhaps refer to the radiant face of a friend (cf. Proverbs 16:15); if so, the two lines of the proverb will be speaking of the heartwarming effect that persons and facts, respectively, can bring.” (Kidner)
b. A good report makes the bones healthy: Good news cheers the spirit and brings health to the body. The ultimate fulfillment of this is the gospel – the good news, the good report of what God did in Jesus Christ to demonstrate His love for us and to rescue us (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).
The ear that hears the rebukes of life
Will abide among the wise.
a. The ear that hears the rebukes of life: Not every ear will listen to correction, but there is a blessing to those that do. Also, life has its own rebukes for those who have the ear to hear. In general, life rewards wisdom and rebukes folly.
i. Hears the rebukes of life: “That receives it gratefully and obeys it. ‘Advice is for them that will take it,’ so says one of our own old proverbs; and the meaning here is nearly the same.” (Clarke)
ii. “The way we receive a rebuke tests our character. It reveals if we possess the graces of humility, sincerity, and self-knowledge.” (Bridges)
b. Will abide among the wise: One of the more important aspects of wisdom is the simple ability to hear and learn. If we can’t learn, we can never abide among the wise.
He who disdains instruction despises his own soul,
But he who heeds rebuke gets understanding.
a. He who disdains instruction despises his own soul: To refuse wisdom and the instruction that comes from wisdom is to hate one’s own soul. Those who reject wisdom hurt many people, but most of all themselves.
b. He who heeds rebuke gets understanding. To hear and heed rebuke is to get and grow in wisdom (understanding). Receiving rebuke is rarely pleasant, but it is worth it for the wisdom it brings.
i. Heeds rebuke: “Correction is infinitely preferable to the poison of sweet flattery.” (Bridges)
ii. Gets understanding: “Hebrew, possesseth an heart, which the Hebrews make the seat of wisdom.” (Poole)
The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom,
And before honor is humility.
a. The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom: A common and foundational theme in Proverbs is repeated here. Wisdom begins in the fear of the Lord, and true wisdom flows from it.
b. And before honor is humility: An essential aspect of the fear of the Lord is humility. To properly fear God is to see and recognize Him as He really is. When we see and recognize who we really are, humility comes.
i. Before honor is humility: “Luther observed that ever, for most part, before God set him upon any special service for the good of the church, he had some sore fit of sickness. Surely, as the lower the ebb, the higher the tide; so the lower any descend in humiliation, the higher they shall ascend in exaltation; the lower this foundation of humility is laid, the higher shall the roof of honour be overlaid.” (Trapp)
ii. “Humility; whereby men submit to God, and yield to men, which gains them love and respect; whereas pride procures them hatred and contempt from God and men.” (Poole)
iii. “Paradoxically, the one who grants himself no glory before the glorious God in the end is crowned with the glory and wealth that give him social esteem.” (Waltke)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org
What does Proverbs 15:1 mean?
Solomon offers wise advice about how to respond to anger. He says a soft or gentle answer can defuse a potentially explosive situation. The word translated “wrath” here means rage. This is the kind of volatile anger that eventually leads to physical conflict. When we’re insulted or angry, the easiest course of action is to become furious and respond to the other person’s rage with similar rage. However, if a person chooses to respond to rage with harsh, hurtful words, he will make matters worse. Cutting, bitter responses only cause the enraged person’s anger to escalate; that results in further hostility.
In contrast, a cool temper refuses to fight fire with fire. The wise person answers gently, and that gentleness extinguishes the fire. At the very least, it gives no more fuel for it to burn. A calm, polite response can take a great deal of tension out of an argument.
This response calls for wisdom, thoughtfulness, concern for the other person, and self-discipline. Romans 12:19–20 tells us not to avenge ourselves, but to know the Lord will repay the wrong. The believer’s responsibility is to show kindness to an enemy: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
Proverbs 15:1–5 focuses on the wisdom of responding correctly to disagreement and correction. Several verses note the value in “soft” or “gentle” answers in resolving conflict. Those who unleash a torrent of attacks and criticisms are foolish, compared to those who take the time to consider an answer. Solomon reminds the reader that God sees and knows all, and he gives another reminder of the importance of listening to wise counselors.
Solomon begins this chapter of Proverbs by addressing subjects such as anger and self-control and how those reactions produce different responses from others. That extends to how carefully a person guards their words, and their responses to questions. Wise people seek wisdom and humbly accept it. Foolish people are careless, lazy, or arrogant. Solomon also notes the importance of perspective, and once again commends those who sincerely seek godly wisdom.