1#A new section (24:1–14)—on the fates of the wicked and foolish—begins with a warning not to take the foolish as role models. The same admonition is repeated in 23:17–18 and 24:19–20. In 24:1, the verb means “to be jealous, zealous; to emulate.” The motive stated in the other passages—the wicked have no future—is indirectly stated here. Do not envy the wicked,
nor desire to be with them;#Prv 3:31; 23:17; Ps 37:1.
2For their hearts plot violence,
and their lips speak of foul play.
3By wisdom a house is built,
by understanding it is established;
4And by knowledge its rooms are filled
with every precious and pleasing possession.
5The wise are more powerful than the strong,
and the learned, than the mighty,#Prv 21:22.
6For by strategy war is waged,
and victory depends on many counselors.#Prv 20:18.
7#The verses are unclear; most scholars take them as two or even three single sayings, but, taken singly, the verses are banal. They are best taken as a single statement. Just as vv. 3–6 described the advantages of wisdom, so vv. 7–9 describe the disadvantages of its opposite, folly: it alienates one from the community (v. 7), for fools become notorious (v. 8), dooming their plans and ostracizing themselves. Wise words are beyond fools’ reach,#Sir 6:21.
in the assembly they do not open their mouth;
8As they calculate how to do evil,
people brand them troublemakers.
9The scheme of a fool gains no acceptance,
the scoffer is an abomination to the community.
10#Excuses for not coming to the aid of one’s neighbor in serious trouble do not suffice before God, who sees through self-serving excuses. Did you fail in a day of adversity,
did your strength fall short?
11Did you fail to rescue those who were being dragged off to death,#Rescue
death: perhaps refers to the legal rescue of those unjustly condemned to death.
those tottering, those near death,
12because you said, “We didn’t know about it”?
Surely, the Searcher of hearts knows
and will repay all according to their deeds.#Ps 62:13; Sir 16:12; Mt 16:27; Rom 2:6.
13#God’s word is sometimes said to be sweeter than honey, e.g., Ps 119:101–103. Cf. also Ps 19:11; Prv 16:24; Ez 3:3; Sir 24:19–22. If you eat honey, my son, because it is good,
if pure honey is sweet to your taste,
14Such, you must know, is wisdom to your soul.
If you find it, you will have a future,
and your hope will not be cut off.#Prv 23:18.
15#The just will overcome every misfortune that oppresses them. Seven times is an indefinite number. Do not lie in wait at the abode of the just,
do not ravage their dwelling places;
16Though the just fall seven times, they rise again,
but the wicked stumble from only one mishap.
17#The admonition is linked to the previous by the words “fall” and “stumble.” Premature public celebration of the downfall of enemies equivalently preempts the retribution that belongs to God. Do not rejoice when your enemies fall,
and when they stumble, do not let your heart exult,
18Lest the Lord see it, be displeased with you,
and withdraw his wrath from your enemies.
19Do not be provoked at evildoers,
do not envy the wicked;
20For the evil have no future,
the lamp of the wicked will be put out.#Prv 13:9.
21My son, fear the Lord and the king;
have nothing to do with those who hate them;
22For disaster will issue suddenly,
and calamity from them both, who knows when?
V. FURTHER SAYINGS OF THE WISE
23These also are Words of the Wise:
To show partiality in judgment is not good.#Prv 18:5; 28:21; Lv 19:15; Dt 1:17; 16:19.
24Whoever says to the guilty party, “You are innocent,”
will be cursed by nations, scorned by peoples;
25But those who render just verdicts will fare well,
and on them will come the blessing of prosperity.
26An honest reply—
a kiss on the lips.#The kiss is a gesture of respect and affection. The greatest sign of affection and respect for another is to tell that person the truth.
27Complete your outdoor tasks,
and arrange your work in the field;
afterward you can build your house.#House: can refer to both the building and the family (cf. 2 Sm 7). In the context established by the placement noted above under 24:23, the saying means that neglect of one’s field is a sign that one is not building the house properly. In an agricultural society especially, the concept of household includes fields for animals and crops. On the metaphorical level, one must lay a careful preparation before embarking on a great project. This verse is sometimes interpreted as advocating careful and practical preparation for marriage.
28Do not testify falsely against your neighbor#Prv 19:5; 25:18.
and so deceive with your lips.
29Do not say, “As they did to me, so will I do to them;#Prv 20:22.
I will repay them according to their deeds.”#Retribution is a long and complex process that belongs to the Lord, not to individuals. Cf. vv. 12d, 17–18.
30#Neglect of one’s fields through laziness ruins all plans to build a house (v. 27). This vignette is a teaching story, like those in 7:1–27; Ps 37:35–36. I passed by the field of a sluggard,
by the vineyard of one with no sense;
31It was all overgrown with thistles;
its surface was covered with nettles,
and its stone wall broken down.
32As I gazed at it, I reflected;
I saw and learned a lesson:
33A little sleep, a little slumber,#Prv 6:10–11.
a little folding of the arms to rest—
34Then poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like a brigand.