October 16 Morning Verse of The Day

9:8 Correction or reproof is wasted upon a “scoffer” because the more shallow and foolish a man, the less willing he is to listen to wise and godly counsel. On the other hand, the wise are eager and glad to receive knowledge and understanding and to profit from correction or rebuke (see 1:7, note).[1]

9:8 Here the parallel structure is antithetic (i.e., the two parts are contrasted opposites).

reprove a wise man. While a fool shuts out wisdom, a wise person is glad for the opportunity to shut out folly. Wisdom perceives the positive side of correction; wisdom is not defensive and easily offended, but humble and responsive.[2]

9:8 rebuke the wise In contrast to the scoffer, the wise person accepts rebuke. Throughout Proverbs, the wise person exhibits wisdom by humbly looking to increase in wisdom (12:15; 21:11).[3]

Ver. 8.—Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee (see the last note, and comp. ch. 15:12, and note there). There are times when reproof only hardens and exasperates. “It is not proper,” says St. Gregory, “for the good man to fear lest the scorner should utter abuse at him when he is chidden, but lest, being drawn into hatred, he should be made worse” (‘Moral.,’ viii. 67). “Bad men sometimes we spare, and not ourselves, if from the love of those we cease from the rebuking of them. Whence it is needful that we sometimes endure keeping to ourselves what they are, in order that they may learn in us by our good living what they are not” (ibid., xx. 47, Oxford transl.). Rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee. So Ps. 141:5, “Let the righteous smite me, it shall be a kindness; and let him reprove me, it shall be as oil upon the head; let not my head refuse it” (comp. ch. 19:25; 25:12; 27:6).[4]

9:8. Do not reprove a scoffer, lest he hate you, Reprove a wise man, and he will love you.

To ‘reprove’ someone is a powerful thing. The word has strong judicial and forensic connections. It can mean to decide, judge and prove. It is a word found often in courtroom contexts. This same word is then used to describe the action of reproving, rebuking or correcting one that has gone astray. Little wonder, then, that the ‘scoffer’ has no time for the person who takes this tack with him. In fact, the scoffer will ‘hate’ you for such righteous judgments. This ‘hate’ can have the sense of deep-seated negative emotions, but the idea is more clearly that of flat rejection of a person or thing. Note Proverbs 5:12, where hate is made synonymous with turning away reproof: ‘And you say, “How I have hated instruction! And my heart spurned reproof!” ’ A similar contrast is seen in Proverbs 1:29: ‘Because they hated knowledge, And did not choose the fear of the Lord.’ Here, hate is the opposite of choosing or embracing the fear of the Lord. Thus, a scoffer may say, ‘I don’t hate you’ (meaning they don’t hold a deep emotional dislike toward you) and mean it. But, their rejection of God’s reproof through you is ‘hate’ in this biblical sense (cf. 1 Kings 22:8).

On the other hand, the same action of reproof will draw a markedly different response from one who possesses some kernel of wisdom. When confronted, exposed and judged by your rebuke, the wise man will ‘love’ you. This, too, may not necessarily speak of overflowing positive emotion, but has more to do with accepting, embracing and learning from the truth as you have presented it. Indeed, a rebuke will likely unsettle the emotions and make one uncomfortable in your presence, but the wise one will hear the truth and recognize in it the gift of life from God. Frequently, this notion of ‘love’ and ‘hate’ as acceptance and rejection are set over against one another (Prov. 1:22; 8:36; 12:1; 13:24; 14:20).

What was a general principle in verse 7 has now become a clear prohibition in verse 8. It is not only a waste of time and an opportunity for personal heartache to reprove a scoffer, it is wrong. ‘Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces’ (Matt. 7:6).[5]

8  Do not correct (ʾal-tôkaḥ) a mocker (lēṣ) makes explicit the implied admonition of v. 7. The linking of ykḥ (“correct”) with both “mocker” and “wicked” (v. 7a) suggests that “mocker” and “wicked” are co-referential terms. The command to correct your neighbor frankly in Lev. 19:17 must be nuanced by this proverb. Lest he hate you (pen-yiśnāʾekā; see 1:22; 15:12) signifies to avoid the negative, passionate, emotional feeling that rejects a relationship. The wise aim to lead the potentially educable to repent and thereby to establish a true, spiritual friendship with them. If rebuke defeats this aim, as it will with those committed not to learn, then it is better not expressed (cf. 17:14). To save the impressionable simpleton, the mocker should be fined instead (21:11). By contrast, the sage admonishes the one in authority to correct (hôkaḥ) a wise person (leḥākām; see p. 94). Although the wise possesses wisdom (see 1:2), he is not perfect (cf. 4:18). Rather, he is the picture of educability itself (1:5; 12:1; 13:1; 14:6; 15:31; 19:25; 21:11; Matt. 13:12). The superior, detecting that a person has the essential ingredient for wisdom, the fear of the Lord, is admonished to correct him so that he will love you (weyeʾehābekā, i.e., be your committed spiritual friend; see 1:22). Because of their differing psyches, the arrogance of the wicked and the humility of the righteous, correction repulses the former and awakens in the latter the yearning to be with a superior who improves him (see 15:31; 18:15).[6]

[1] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Pr 9:8). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 886). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[3] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Pr 9:8). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[4] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Proverbs (p. 182). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[5] Kitchen, J. A. (2006). Proverbs: A Mentor Commentary (pp. 205–206). Fearn, Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor.

[6] Waltke, B. K. (2004). The Book of Proverbs, Chapters 1–15 (pp. 440–441). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

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