1False scales are an abomination to the Lord,
but an honest weight, his delight.#The word pair “abomination” and “delight” (= acceptable) to God is common in Proverbs. Originally the language of ritual, the words came to be applied to whatever pleases or displeases God (cf. also 11:20). False weights were a constant problem even though weights were standardized. Cf. 20:23; Hos 12:8; Am 8:5. #a. [11:1] Prv 16:11; 20:10; Lv 19:35–36.
2When pride comes, disgrace comes;
but with the humble is wisdom.#Disgrace is the very opposite of what the proud so ardently want. Those who do not demand their due receive wisdom.
3The honesty of the upright guides them;
the faithless are ruined by their duplicity.
4Wealth is useless on a day of wrath,#Cf. note on 10:2. A day of wrath is an unforeseen disaster (even death). Only one’s relationship to God, which makes one righteous, is of any help on such a day. #b. [11:4] Prv 10:2.
but justice saves from death.
5The justice of the honest makes their way straight,
but by their wickedness the wicked fall.#In Hebrew as in English, “way” means the course of one’s life; similarly, “straight” and “crooked” are metaphors for morally straightforward and for bad, deviant, perverted. #c. [11:5] Prv 28:18.
6The justice of the upright saves them,
but the faithless are caught in their own intrigue.
7When a person dies, hope is destroyed;#d. [11:7] Prv 10:28; Wis 3:18.
expectation pinned on wealth is destroyed.#An ancient scribe added “wicked” to person in colon A, for the statement that hope ends at death seemed to deny life after death. The saying, however, is not concerned with life after death but with the fact that in the face of death all hopes based on one’s own resources are vain. The aphorism is the climax of the preceding six verses; human resources cannot overcome mortality (cf. Ps 49:13).
8The just are rescued from a tight spot,
but the wicked fall into it instead.
9By a word the impious ruin their neighbors,#e. [11:9] Prv 29:5.
but through their knowledge the just are rescued.#What the wicked express harms others; what the righteous leave unsaid protects. Verses 9–14 are related in theme: the effect of good and bad people, especially their words, on their community.
10When the just prosper, the city rejoices;#f. [11:10] Prv 28:12; 29:2.
when the wicked perish, there is jubilation.
11Through the blessing of the upright the city is exalted,
but through the mouth of the wicked it is overthrown.
12Whoever reviles a neighbor lacks sense,
but the intelligent keep silent.
13One who slanders reveals secrets,#g. [11:13] Prv 20:19.
but a trustworthy person keeps a confidence.
14For lack of guidance a people falls;
security lies in many counselors.#h. [11:14] Prv 15:22; 20:18; 24:6.
15Harm will come to anyone going surety for another,#i. [11:15] Prv 6:1–2.
but whoever hates giving pledges is secure.#Proverbs is opposed to providing surety for another’s loan (see note on 6:1–5) and expresses this view throughout the book.
16A gracious woman gains esteem,
and ruthless men gain wealth.#Wealth and esteem are good things in Proverbs, but the means for acquiring them are flawed. As precious gifts, they must be granted, not taken. The esteem of others that depends on beauty is as fleeting as beauty itself (cf. 31:30) and the wealth acquired by aggressive behavior lasts only as long as one has physical strength.
17Kindly people benefit themselves,
but the merciless harm themselves.
18The wicked make empty profits,
but those who sow justice have a sure reward.#j. [11:18] Prv 10:16.
19Justice leads toward life,
but pursuit of evil, toward death.
20The crooked in heart are an abomination to the Lord,
but those who walk blamelessly are his delight.#The terminology of ritual (acceptable and unacceptable sacrifice, “abomination” and “delight”) is applied to human conduct as in v. 1. The whole of human life is under divine scrutiny, not just ritual.
21Be assured, the wicked shall not go unpunished,
but the offspring of the just shall escape.
22Like a golden ring in a swine’s snout
is a beautiful woman without judgment.#Ear and nose rings were common jewelry for women. A humorous saying on the priority of wisdom over beauty in choosing a wife.
23The desire of the just ends only in good;
the expectation of the wicked is wrath.
24One person is lavish yet grows still richer;
another is too sparing, yet is the poorer.#A paradox: spending leads to more wealth.
25Whoever confers benefits will be amply enriched,
and whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
26Whoever hoards grain, the people curse,
but blessings are on the head of one who distributes it!
27Those who seek the good seek favor,
but those who pursue evil will have evil come upon them.#The saying is about seeking one thing and finding another. Striving for good leads to acceptance by God; seeking evil means only that trouble will come. The same Hebrew word means evil and trouble.
28Those who trust in their riches will fall,
but like green leaves the just will flourish.#k. [11:28] Ps 52:9–10.
29Those who trouble their household inherit the wind,
and fools become slaves to the wise of heart.
30The fruit of justice is a tree of life,
and one who takes lives is a sage.#Most translations emend Hebrew “wise person” in colon B on the basis of the Greek and Syriac translations to “violence” (similar in spelling), because the verb “to take a life” is a Hebrew idiom for “to kill” (as also in English). The emendation is unnecessary, however, for the saying deliberately plays on the odd meaning: the one who takes lives is not the violent but the wise person, for the wise have a profound influence upon life. There is a similar wordplay in 29:10.
31If the just are recompensed on the earth,
how much more the wicked and the sinner!#The saying is not about life after death; “on the earth” means life in the present world. The meaning is that divine judgment is exercised on all human action, even the best. The thought should strike terror into the hearts of habitual wrongdoers. #l. [11:31] 1 Pt 4:18.