Proverbs 20

Chapter 20

Who Can Find Someone Truly Faithful?[a]

1 Wine encourages recklessness and strong drink leads to brawls;
anyone who allows them to seduce him is not wise.[b]
2 The anger of a king is like the roar of a lion;
he who provokes him places his life in jeopardy.
3 It is honorable to avoid strife,
but every fool is quarrelsome.
4 The idler[c] does not plow in season;
so at harvest-time he looks for a crop in vain.
5 The purpose of a man’s heart is like deep water,
but a discerning person will draw it out.
6 Many declare their loyalty,
but who can find someone truly faithful?
7 When a man leads a blameless and upright life,
blessed are the children who succeed him.
8 A king who is seated on the throne of judgment
will eradicate all evil with a mere glance.
9 Who can truly say, “I have cleansed my heart
and I am purified of all sin”?[d]
10 Weights and measures that are not consistent
are an abomination to the Lord.
11 By his very actions a child reveals
whether his conduct is innocent and upright.
12 The ear that hears and the eye that sees—
the Lord has made both of them.
13 Do not love sleep if you wish to avoid poverty;
remain awake and you will never lack food.
14 “No good, no good,” says the buyer,
but then he goes forth to boast about his bargain.[e]
15 There is gold or an abundance of costly pearls,
but the lips that reveal knowledge are a rare jewel.
16 Take the garment of anyone who becomes surety for a stranger;
demand a pledge as security for persons unknown to you.[f]
17 Bread obtained by deceit may taste sweet to a man,
but afterward his mouth is filled with grit.
18 Plans will succeed when good advice is accepted;
follow wise guidance when waging war.
19 A tale-bearer will reveal secrets;
so do not associate with a gossip.
20 If anyone curses his father or mother,[g]
his lamp will go out in utter darkness.
21 Possessions that are quickly acquired in the beginning
will not be blessed in the end.
22 Do not say, “I will repay evil,”[h]
but trust in the Lord, who will help you.
23 Differing weights are an abomination to the Lord,
and dishonest scales are not acceptable to him.
24 A man’s steps are directed by the Lord;
how then can anyone understand his own way?
25 It is rash to pledge a sacred gift,
or to make a vow and then have second thoughts.[i]
26 A wise king winnows the wicked
and requites them for their guilt.[j]
27 The human spirit is the lamp of the Lord
that searches out the innermost self.
28 Loyalty and faithfulness preserve the king,
and his throne is founded on saving justice.
29 The glory of youths is their strength,
but the splendor of the aged is their gray hair.
30 Evil is cleansed away by blows that wound,
and beatings chasten the innermost being.[k]


  1. Proverbs 20:1 In the midst of these stand-alone proverbs, a few present the ideal figure of a king who dispenses justice (vv. 8, 26, 28); others delicately note commercial customs (v. 14), flog idlers again (vv. 4, 13), and return to trickery used in weights and measures (v. 23) or in fraud of any kind (vv. 17, 21). If one saying justifies corporal punishment (v. 30), others inveigh against the desire for vengeance (vv. 3, 22). Then amidst these sayings for familial, social, and even economic life, there appears a more profound reflection on the mystery of life in which God is at work (vv. 24, 27). A witness of a deep moral and religious sense, verse 9 recognizes the ineradicable tendency of human beings toward evil, from which they cannot free themselves by their own powers.
  2. Proverbs 20:1 Those who drink too much wine or hard liquor become scoffers and brawlers (see Hos 7:5). Drunkenness leads to poverty (Prov 23:20-21), strife and brawling (Prov 23:29-30), and perversion of justice (Prov 31:4-5).
  3. Proverbs 20:4 Idler: see note on Prov 6:6.
  4. Proverbs 20:9 No humans can claim to be sinless (see Job 14:4; Rom 3:23), except those whose sins are forgiven through the power of God (see 1 Ki 8:46ff; Job 4:17; 14:4; Pss 51:2ff; 130:3-4; Rom 3:23-24; 1 Jn 1:8).
  5. Proverbs 20:14 In Old Testament times, people arrived at the price of things through bargaining. The buyers would devalue things in order to buy them at bargain prices and then boast about their purchase.
  6. Proverbs 20:16 The words are like those of a judge against one who has imprudently made himself a guarantor (see Prov 6:1-5). A garment could be taken as security for a debt (see Deut 24:10-13).
  7. Proverbs 20:20 Curses his father or mother: such an action (see also Prov 30:11, 17) was punishable by death (see Ex 21:17; Lev 20:9).
  8. Proverbs 20:22 I will repay evil: vengeance is the province of the Lord, not of his faithful people. He will repay the wicked for their actions (see Deut 32:35; Ps 94:1). Trust in the Lord: see Pss 27:14; 37:34.
  9. Proverbs 20:25 Vows should be made without haste and should always be carried out (see also Eccl 5:1; Jer 44:25).
  10. Proverbs 20:26 Winnows the wicked and requites them for their guilt: literally, “winnows the wicked and causes the wheel to pass over them,” an example taken from the carts used in threshing at that time. The wheel of the cart separated the grain from the husk (see Isa 28:27-28); in the same way, the wicked will be separated from the righteous and punished.
  11. Proverbs 20:30 Once again (see Prov 10:13; 13:24, and note; 14:3; 19:29; 22:15) the idea is put forth that some type of punishment is needed to restrain evil.

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