1* A mild answer turns back wrath,a
but a harsh word stirs up anger.*
2The tongue of the wise pours out knowledge,
but the mouth of fools spews folly.
3The eyes of the LORD are in every place,
keeping watch on the evil and the good.
4A soothing tongue is a tree of life,
but a perverse one breaks the spirit.
5The fool spurns a father’s instruction,
but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.* b
6In the house of the just there are ample resources,
but the harvest of the wicked is in peril.
7The lips of the wise spread knowledge,
but the heart of fools is not steadfast.*
8The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD,c
but the prayer of the upright is his delight.
9The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD,
but he loves one who pursues justice.d
10Discipline seems bad to those going astray;
one who hates reproof will die.*
11Sheol and Abaddon* lie open before the LORD;
how much more the hearts of mortals!
12Scoffers do not love reproof;
to the wise they will not go.
13A glad heart lights up the face,
but an anguished heart breaks the spirit.e
14The discerning heart seeks knowledge,
but the mouth of fools feeds on folly.*
15All the days of the poor are evil,
but a good heart is a continual feast.*
16* Better a little with fear of the LORD
than a great fortune with anxiety.
17Better a dish of herbs where love is
than a fatted ox and hatred with it.
18The ill-tempered stir up strife,f
but the patient settle disputes.
19The way of the sluggard is like a thorn hedge,
but the path of the diligent is a highway.
20A wise son gives his father joy,
but a fool despises his mother.g
21Folly is joy* to the senseless,
but the person of understanding goes the straight way.
22Plans fail when there is no counsel,
but they succeed when advisers are many.* h
23One has joy from an apt response;
a word in season, how good it is!* i
24The path of life leads upward for the prudent,
turning them from Sheol below.*
25The LORD pulls down the house of the proud,
but preserves intact the widow’s landmark.
26The schemes of the wicked are an abomination to the LORD,j
but gracious words are pure.*
27The greedy tear down their own house,
but those who hate bribes will live.*
28The heart of the just ponders a response,
but the mouth of the wicked spews evil.
29The LORD is far from the wicked,
but hears the prayer of the just.
30A cheerful glance brings joy to the heart;
good news invigorates the bones.
31The ear that listens to salutary reproofk
is at home among the wise.*
32Those who disregard discipline hate themselves,
but those who heed reproof acquire understanding.
33The fear of the LORD is training for wisdom,
and humility goes before honors.l
* [15:1–7] These verses form a section beginning and ending with the topic of words.
* [15:1] Paradoxically, where words are concerned soft is powerful and hard is ineffective.
* [15:5] One becomes wise by keeping and foolish by rejecting. One must accept the tradition of the community.
* [15:7] “Lips” and “heart” are a fixed pair, in Proverbs signifying, respectively, expression and source. The wise disseminate what they have in their heart, but the wicked are unsound even in the source of their words, their hearts.
* [15:10] Discipline, always a good thing in Proverbs, seems bad to those deliberately wandering from justice.
* [15:11] Sheol and Abaddon: terms for the abode of the dead, signifying the profound obscurity which is open nevertheless to the sight and power of God; cf. 27:20.
* [15:14] The contrasts include heart (organ of reflection) and mouth (organ of expression), and the wise and fools. One type feeds its mind with wisdom and the other feeds its face with folly.
* [15:15] Good heart does not refer to good intentions but to an instructed mind. Wisdom makes poverty not only bearable but even joyful like the joy of feast days.
* [15:16–17] The sages favor wealth over poverty—but not at any price; cf. Ps 37:16.
* [15:21] The word “joy” occurs in the first line of vv. 20, 21, and 23. The state of folly is joy to a fool but the wise person is totally absorbed in keeping on the right or straight road.
* [15:22] Failure to consult makes it likely a plan will not succeed. The point is nicely made by contrasting the singular number in the first line (“no counsel”) with the plural number in the second line (“many advisers”).
* [15:23] Conversation is the art of saying the right thing at the right time. It gives pleasure to speaker and hearer alike.
* [15:24] Death is personified as Sheol, the underworld. “Up” and “down” in Hebrew as in English are metaphors for success and failure (see Dt 28:43). One who stays on the path of life need not fear the punishment that stalks sinners.
* [15:26] “Pure” here means acceptable. The language of ritual (acceptable or pure) is applied to ordinary human actions. “Gracious words” are words that bring peace to the neighbor.
* [15:27] The same lesson as the opening scene of Proverbs (1:8–19): one cannot build a house by unjust gain. Injustice will come back upon a house so built.
* [15:31] To become wise, one must hear and integrate perspectives contrary to one’s own, which means accepting “reproof.” Wisdom does not isolate one but places one in the company of the wise.
c. [15:8] Prv 21:27; Eccl 4:17; Is 1:11–15.
e. [15:13] Prv 12:25; 17:22; Sir 30:22.
f. [15:18] Prv 6:21; 29:22; Sir 28:11.
i. [15:23] Prv 25:11; Sir 20:6.