The fountains of ancient Israel (Proverbs 16:22) were not the decorative kind seen today. A fountain was a natural spring-fed pool and was considered a treasure in the arid climate. Cities were often built around such water sources.
A bribe is anything that is given with the intent of persuading someone to act in a person’s favor. Bribes were forbidden in Ex. 23:8. The poor often lost their cases in court because they could not afford to bribe the judge (Prov. 17:23).
Though quarrels were often settled by a judge’s decision, sometimes there was not enough evidence to reach a verdict. In such cases, the parties involved might cast lots, trusting that the Lord himself would decide the result (Proverbs 18:18). Lots were like the dice used in various games today.
A false witnesses is someone who testifies dishonestly against another person (Proverbs 19:5).
Unequal weights. The price for some goods was fixed according to their weight. If the seller’s scales were unequal (Proverbs 20:23), the buyer could be charged far more than the fair price of the goods.
The concept of weighing the heart (Proverbs 21:2) originated in Egypt. Egyptians believed that when a person died, the gods placed that person’s heart on a set of golden scales along with the Feather of Truth. If the heart weighed less than the feather, the person was admitted into the afterlife. It is possible that the Israelites brought this imagery with them when they left Egypt and replaced the Egyptian gods with Yahweh, who is the true judge of the heart.
Landmarks (Proverbs 22:28) were boundary stones placed on each corner of a person’s property to show where it began and ended.
Since the process of distillation had not yet been invented, the wine of ancient Palestine had a low alcoholic content. Sometimes, people added various herbs and spices to the wine to increase its potency. The drunkenness described in Proverbs 23:29–35 could have been caused by drinking such “mixed wine” (v. 30).
The phrase kisses the lips in Proverbs 24:26 probably has more to do with respect and friendly affection than with any idea of romance. The proverb teaches that speaking honestly to a person is one way of showing respect and affection.
Rains from the north. In Palestine, winds from the north usually bring good weather. When the north wind brings rain, as in Proverbs 25:23, the rain can be sudden and damaging. Thus it is compared here to a “backbiting tongue.”
Glazing over the truth?
As in modern times, clay pottery was often glazed to improve its appearance. But glaze could also be used to hide poor craftsmanship. It is this dishonest use that is described in Proverbs 26:23.
What is a crucible?
In the ancient world, a crucible (Proverbs 27:21) was a bowl-shaped instrument used to hold metals such as gold and silver for the refining process. The crucible had to withstand the high temperatures needed to melt out the impurities within the metals. Materials such as clay or stone were used as crucibles.
Gluttony refers to excessive eating. The Bible condemns gluttony as well as drunkenness. Proverbs teaches that eating and drinking in excess can lead to poverty (Proverbs 23:19–21).
Hezekiah’s contribution to Proverbs.
Although most of the Proverbs were collected or written by King Solomon, who reigned from 971–931 b.c., the book of Proverbs did not exist in its present form until the time of King Hezekiah, some 200 years later. Hezekiah and “his men,” probably his scribes, recorded Proverbs chs. 25–29.
Rock badgers are small cliff-dwelling animals closely resembling guinea pigs. They live and forage for food in large groups and are good at hiding. They are best known for posting sentries that alert the group when danger is near. Perhaps it was this mark of wisdom that earned them a mention in Proverbs (30:26).
Ecclesiastes encourages God’s people to trust him in a fallen and often confusing world, in which sin and heartache touch every corner of the globe. We are to “fear God and keep his commandments” (Ecc. 12:13), even when we cannot understand everything that is going on around us.
The words vanity, vanities, and vain occur nearly 40 times in Ecclesiastes. Their literal meaning is “vapor” or “breath,” so they are used to describe things that can be fleeting or elusive, like the search for meaning and purpose in life.
Working too hard?
It is equally wrong to be lazy or to be a “workaholic.” People sometimes work too hard because they want all the nice things their neighbors have (Proverbs 4:4). People should work diligently but should also enjoy the quiet contentment that comes from serving the Lord (v. 6).
The peaceful shadows of old age.
The righteous will enjoy a long and peaceful old age, like the shadows of evening (Ecc. 8:13). There is no such hope, however, for the wicked.
“Eat, drink, and be merry”?
Ecclesiastes advises those who serve God to enjoy his gifts of food, drink, comfort, married life, and honest work (9:7–9; compare 2:24–26; 3:13; 5:19–20).