Kings have a Boss
- 21:1 A king’s mind is like a mountain stream in the LORD’s hands.
He steers it in whatever direction he wants it to go.
- 21:2 You might convince yourself you’re doing the right thing.
But the LORD knows what’s really going on.
- 21:3 The LORD wants you to live right and treat folks fairly
More than he wants your sacrifices.
- 21:4 If you’re looking proud and feeling proud,
You’re ready to plow1 the ground and plant some sin.
- 21:5 Make careful plans and you’ll do just fine.
Rush, and you’ll race to ruin.
Lying to death
- 21:6 Lying your way to wealth
Is the last breath of a dying person.2
- 21:7 Violent people end violently
Because they refuse to do the right thing.
- 21:8 The path you travel might seem odd,
But it’s the right path for the right and righteous.3
Stay away from cranky women
- 21:9 You’re better off living in the corner of an attic
Than downstairs, in the house of a cranky woman4 you can never please.
- 21:10 People bad to the bone love being bad.
They’re even bad to their friends.
- 21:11 Ignorant people learn by watching others get punished.5
Smart people learn from teachers.
- 21:12 God, who’s good, sees what goes on in the lives of bad people.
He stops them by ruining their plans.
- 21:13 If you ignore the cries for help from helpless people,
One day you’ll cry out to silence.
- 21:14 To calm an angry person, give a secret gift.
Yessir, a bribe will relax the rage.
- 21:15 Good people love to see justice served.
But it’s a nightmare to crooks on the receiving end.
- 21:16 If you wander away from common sense and good judgement,
You’ll find your way to the graveyard.
A good time to get broke
- 21:17 If you love to have a good time, you’re going to get broke.
If you love to eat and drink, cheers, you won’t get rich that way.
- 21:18 Good folks are free to go because bad folks pay the price.
It’s the bad who take their place when it’s time to punish. 6
- 21:19 You’re better off living somewhere in the badlands,
Than anywhere with an angry and arguing woman.
- 21:20 Smart people save money and keep food handy.
Fools spend all the money and eat all the food.
- 21:21 Chase the virtues of goodness and loyalty,
Find a wonderful life filled with goodness and respect.
One brain can conquer a fortress of brawn
- 21:22 All it takes to overpower a fortress of brutes is one person with brains.
And the trusted fortress comes tumbling down.
- 21:23 If you watch your mouth like a soldier on guard,
You’ll save yourself a bunch of trouble.
- 21:24 If you’re double-dipped, both proud and stubborn,
People will call you names: Proud, Snooty, and Big Fat Mouth.
- 21:25 Top on the Bucket List of Lazy Bums is a deadly wish.
They wish they didn’t have to work, and they make their wish come true.
- 21:26 All day long all these lazy folks want is more,
While good folks give and give and give some more.
The disgust of bad people worshiping
- 21:27 It’s disgusting to watch bad people pretend to worship.
It’s even worse when they doing it for a bad reason.
- 21:28 A liar on the witness stand won’t survive.
But a witness telling the truth gets to keep talking.
- 21:29 Bad people fake their way along by wearing disguises.
Good people plan their way and stay on track.
- 21:30 No amount of wisdom, education, or expert advice
Can match what you’ll find in the LORD.
- 21:31 Your warhorse might be ready to ride,
But the battle is the LORD’s to win.
The Hebrew word, nir, can mean a light or plowed ground. Either way, scholars say it’s tough to connect the second line to the first. Many say the proverb is corrupt, meaning edited beyond recognition or repair. The second line would literally say the “lamp of the wicked is sin” or “tillage [plowed ground] of the wicked is sinful.” Regardless, the first line sets pride up for a knockout punch.
The second line is hard to understand, if not impossible. It’s more literally, “a driven breath, seekers of death.” What to do with that is any scholar’s guess. Some translate it as a fleeting vapor, headed for extinction, or soon to evaporate.
This is another proverb some scholars say is so corrupt or confusing that it remains mysterious. Scholars say they don’t understand what some of the words mean. An approach different from the one taken here says the first line talks about the crooked path of bad people, and that the second line is the contrast, which talks about the good conduct of good people.
Or a cranky man. But this parable was written for young men by elderly men who apparently had not consulted their wives in the matter. It’s a parable repeated in Proverbs 25:24.
Some scholars explain this parable by saying some folks have to see what happens to bad people before they decide to take the high road in life. Others, more savvy, simply learn from teachers wiser than themselves. That would make the point similar to the proverb in 19:25.
The writer didn’t say anything about punishment, but scholars say it’s implied. The idea is that good people are held for ransom and bad people not only become the ransom that frees the good folks, the bad folks suffer for it.