Proverbs 20 Commentary

Honesty (20:1-30)

Wise people will not become drunkards, will not needlessly anger those in authority, will avoid quarrelling and will work to support themselves (20:1-4). They will also have the ability to draw out the deepest feelings and intentions of those with whom they deal (5). Many people boast of their loyalty but few practise it. To live honestly is the best way to guarantee a good future for one’s children (6-7). A king learns by experience to discern between right and wrong in cases brought before him for a decision; yet he knows that he, like anyone else, has a sinful heart (8-9).

God hates cheating. If ordinary people can, to some extent, know the state of other people’s hearts by what they see them do, how much more can God who made them (10-12). Conscientious workers are


satisfied in the knowledge that they make a living honestly. Shrewd buyers may boast that they have obtained a good article cheaply by complaining about it, but they may find that their boasting is shortlived (13-17). Wise people will listen to advice, beware of gossip and give to their parents the honour due to them (18-20).

Impatience can lead to wrongdoing, whether in obtaining a coveted inheritance, in wanting to see an offender punished, or in offering a gift in a rash vow. Patience will enable a person to wait for God; he will direct in the way that is right (21-25). A king’s punishments may be severe but they must be just (26). A sensitive conscience should show people their faults so that they can correct them. But if the conscience becomes dulled, more painful action may be needed to correct faults (27-30).

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