Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Every wise woman - literally, Wise women. The fullest recognition that has as yet met us of the importance of woman, for good or evil, in all human society.
A rod of pride - i. e., The pride shown in his speech is as a rod with which he strikes down others and himself.
i. e., Labor has its rough, unpleasant side, yet it ends in profit. So also, the life of contemplation may seem purer, "cleaner "than that of action. The outer business of the world brings its cares and disturbances, but also "much increase." There will be a sure reward of that activity in good works for him who goes, as with "the strength of the ox," to the task to which God calls him.
Findeth it not - literally, there is none. The successful pursuit of wisdom presupposes at least earnestness and reverence. The scoffer shuts himself out from the capacity of recognizing truth.
The Hebrew counterpart to the Greek "Know thyself." "The highest wisdom is for a person to understand his own way. The most extreme folly is self-deceit." The word "deceit" may, however, involve fraud practiced upon others. The folly of fools shows itself then in their ceaseless effort to deceive.
Fools make a mock - The verb in the Heb. is singular, the noun plural. The King James Version assumes that the number is altered to individualize the application of the maxim. Others translate it: "Sin mocks the fools who are its victims," i. e., disappoints and ruins them; or, "A sin-offering does but mock the worshippers when they are willfully wicked:" they expect to gain God's favor, and do not gain it. So taken it becomes parallel to Pro 15:8; Pro 21:7.
A striking expression of the ultimate solitude of each man's soul at all times, and not merely at the hour of death. Something there is in every sorrow, and in every joy, which no one else can share. Beyond that range it is well to remember that there is a Divine Sympathy, uniting perfect knowledge and perfect love.
A way ... - The way of the fool, the way of self-indulgence and self-will.
Sorrow of some kind either mingles itself with outward joy, or follows hard upon it.
Shall be satisfied - These words are not in the original. Repeat the verb from the first clause, "He who falls away from God in his heart, shall be filled with his own ways; and the good man (shall be filled) with that which belongs to him."
Simple - In the bad sense (compare Pro 1:22).
The contrast lies between two forms of evil. Hasty anger acts foolishly, but the "man of wicked devices," vindictive and insidious, incurs all men's hatred.
Crowned - The teacher anticipates the truth, and the paradox, of the Stoic saying, "The wise is the only king."
The maxim, jarring as it is, represents the generalization of a wide experience; but the words which follow Pro 14:21 show that it is not to be taken by itself. In spite of all the selfish morality of mere prudence, the hearer is warned that to despise his "neighbor" (Christians must take the word in all the width given to it by the parable of the Good Samaritan) is to sin. The fullness of blessing comes on him who sees in the poor the objects of his mercy.
Err - In the sense of wandering from the right way, the way of life.
The contrast between a single, thorough deed, and the mere emptiness of speech.
"The crown," i. e., the glory of the wise man constitutes his wealth. He alone is truly rich even as he alone (compare Pro 14:18 note) is truly king.
The seeming tautology of the second clause is really its point. Turn "the foolishness of fools" as you will, it comes back to "foolishness" at last.
In the second clause, "destroyeth life" might have been expected as the antithesis to "delivereth souls." But what worse could be said? "A deceitful witness speaketh lies." All destruction is implied in falsehood.
His children - Probably, the children whom the Lord adopts, and who are true to their adoption.
See the marginal reference and Pro 10:11 note.
A protest against the false ideal of national greatness to which Eastern kings, for the most part, have bowed down. Not conquest, or pomp, or gorgeous array, but a happy and numerous people form the true glory of a king. The word translated "prince" is of doubtful meaning; but the translation is supported by the Septuagint, Vulg, and most commentators.
Exalteth folly - Lifts it up, as it were, on high, and exposes it to the gaze of all men.
Sound heart - literally, "heart of health," that in which all emotions and appetites are in a healthy equilibrium. The contrast with this is the envy which eats, like a consuming disease, into the very bones and marrow of a man's moral life.
Honoureth him - i. e., God, who is the Maker of poor and rich alike.
Consult marginal reference. The hope which abides even "in death" must look beyond it.
Omit "that which is." "Wisdom" is the subject of both clauses. She is "made nown," i. e., by the very force of contrast, in the midst of fools; or she is reserved and reticent in the one, noisy and boastful in the other. The Septuagint and some other versions get over the difficulty, by reading "Wisdom is not made known."
Reproach - The word so rendered has this sense in the Targum of Lev 20:17. Its more usual meaning is "mercy," "piety;" hence, some have attached to the word rendered "sin" the sense of "sin-offering," and so get the maxim "piety is an atonement for the people."