Proverbs 20

The Word Made Fresh

1Wine mocks, liquor brawls,
but only the ignorant are led astray by it.
2Dread the king’s anger like the lion’s roar;
the royal anger may take your life.
3It is honorable to avoid strife,
but fools are always quick to quarrel.
4Those who are lazy don’t plant in season;
and when harvest comes there is nothing.
5The mind’s plots are like deep water,
but those who are intelligent will uncover them.
6A lot of people declare themselves loyal,
but try to find one worthy of that trust.
7Good men and women live in integrity.
Fortunate are the children who come after them!
8The king, sitting on the throne,
can look around and see every evil.
9Is there anyone who can claim to have purified the heart?
Is there anyone who can say, “My heart is clean?”
10To use differing weights and measures
is an affront to the LORD.
11Even children can be judged by their actions;
look to see whether what they do is right or wrong.
12The ear that hears, the eye that sees –
the LORD formed them both.
13Don’t fall in love with sleep, or you’ll be poor.
Pay attention, and you’ll have plenty of bread.
14“Terrible, terrible,” says the buyer,
then goes off boasting about the purchase.
15Yes, there is gold, and an abundance of precious stones,
but speech filled with knowledge is even more precious.
16Accept the garment of one who has given a pledge for a stranger;
then seize the pledge as a guarantee to foreigners.
17Stolen bread is sweet,
but soon turns to gravel.
18Accepting advice can help in making plans;
but only go to war following wise instruction.
19A secret is not safe with one who is given to gossip;
so, don’t hang around those who babble.
20Curse your father and your mother
and your lamp will be consumed with darkness.
21Wealth too quickly acquired at the first
will hardly be multiplied in the end.
22Don’t say you will repay evil;
wait for the LORD to help you.
23The LORD hates differing weights and measures,
and false scales are also hated.
24Since all our steps are ordered by the LORD
we should not think we can understand our own decisions.
25When someone says, “It is a holy thing,”
then doubts it, they are caught in a snare.
26The wise ruler sets the wicked apart,
and then drives over them.
27The human spirit is the LORD’s lamp,
and with it every inmost part is examined.
28The king is preserved by loyalty and faithfulness,
and the throne upheld by righteousness.
29The glory of youth is strength;
the beauty of age is gray hair.
30Evil is cleansed by blows that wound;
the inner self is improved by being challenged.


1: In other places wine is acknowledged to be a good thing, but excessive drinking never leads to anything good.

2: Beware of the king.

3: The quick temper has been mentioned several times. Any group that includes someone who is temperamental will have a hard time completing a task.

4: “Go to the ant, you sluggard!” (see 6:6)

5: Part of the book’s definition of intelligence includes what we might call insight and intuition.

6: While upholding loyalty as a virtue, the author admits that, nevertheless, it is often hard to find someone who is loyal.

7: Integrity may be defined as acting and speaking in accordance with one’s stated beliefs. The Bible goes a step further and insists that integrity has to do with acting and speaking in accordance with God’s Word. Such integrity will surely influence the next generation.

8: Here is another proverb that serves to keep the king’s subjects in line.

9: This verse falls into the category of “rhetorical questions.”

10: Loaded scales and slightly shortened measuring tapes are standard tools of crooked merchants. Let the buyer beware.

11: Your reputation is set early in life.

12: We have to answer to God for how we use our eyes and ears.

13: You have to work if you want to prosper.

14: This verse reminds me of the ritual of car buying in our culture. At the dealership we moan about being cheated, but then tell all our friends what a good deal we got.

15: Intelligent conversation should be highly valued.

16: Never co-sign a loan for someone you barely know.

17: “Bread” is used metaphorically in this saying. The point is, if you are cheated in a deal through deceitful but sweet-sounding promises, you may be pleased at first but ultimately, you’ll pay the price.

18: This verse is a rather sudden shift from the world of day-to-day business to the world of kings and generals and national security. The basic value expressed is that two heads are better than one.

19: Use care in your choice of confidants.

20: A warning is given to enforce the 5th commandment (Exodus 20:12). Interesting that of the 10 this one is reiterated more often in the Bible than any of the others except the 4th (keeping the Sabbath).

21: Easy come, easy go.

22: Don’t take the law into your own hands. To do so reveals a lack of trust in God.

23: See verse 20. This is a rewording of the same rule.

24: On the one hand this proverb gives assurance. On the other hand, it seems to introduce an element of helplessness.

25: In other words, you’d better be sure you know what you’re making a vow about.

26: As translated in the NRSV, this verse presents a mixed metaphor. Perhaps a better rendering would be “A wise king scatters the wicked and drives the wheels (of his chariot) over them.” In other words, do not allow the wicked to influence the king.

27: The idea here is that there is within the human heart something that corresponds to God’s spirit and enables us to do some soul-searching.

28: No one can rule solely by their own power. Even the king needs supporters.

29: Amen!

30: Physical discipline used as a means of correction is encouraged.


As Proverbs continues, much of its wisdom will be repeated. See if you can find a few treasures among these thirty verses.