Proverbs 21

The Word Made Fresh

1The king’s heart is like refreshing water in the LORD’s hand,
for the LORD can turn it wherever it needs to go.
2Everyone thinks they are doing the right thing,
but the LORD measures the heart.
3To live right and just
is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifices.
4Arrogance and pride are the traits of wrongdoers,
and they lead to sin.
5Those who plan diligently receive abundance,
but those who are in a hurry remain wanting.
6Using a lying tongue to get rich
is foolish and will trap the liar every time.
7Those who practice violence will be swept away
because they are not doing what is right.
8A crooked path is the way of the wicked,
but those who are innocent conduct themselves well.
9It’s better to live on a corner of the roof
than in the house with constant contention.
10Wicked people look for evil pursuits,
and their neighbors get no mercy from them.
11When a fool is punished, simple folks become wiser;
when the wise are given instructions, they grow in knowledge.
12A good person keeps an eye on the house of the wicked,
and sends their plans into ruin.
13Don’t close your ear to the cry of the poor,
or you yourself will soon cry out and not be heard.
14A gift given secretly may turn away anger,
but a hidden bribe will bring trouble.
15When justice succeeds the righteous rejoice,
but those who are wicked are dismayed.
16Those who wander from the path of understanding
will end up in the gathering of the dead.
17Pleasure lovers will inevitably be in need;
and those who love wine and oil will never be wealthy.
18Evil people are ransomed for the upright
and faithless people for those who are good.
19It is better to live in the desert
than in a house with an argumentative spouse.
20The home of the wise contains many treasures,
but fools cast them aside.
21Those who pursue righteousness and kindness
will enjoy an honorable life.
22A single wise soldier attacked a city of warriors
and brought down the walls in which they trusted.
23Watching over mouth and tongue
keeps one out of trouble.
24Arrogant people are proud and haughty;
they behave arrogantly and proudly.
25The desires of the lazy are deadly
because lazy hands refuse to work.
26All day long wicked people long for what others have;
while those who are good give without withholding.
27The sacrifices of the wicked are abominable;
even more so when offered for evil gain.
28False witnesses will fail.
Those who listen well testify well.
29Wicked people present a bold face,
but good people pay attention to their behavior.
30Neither wisdom nor understanding nor advice
can succeed against the LORD.
31The horse is carefully prepared for the battle,
but victory belongs to the LORD.


1: If the king submits to God’s rule, God will use the king.

2: The motive is as important as the deed. Does this contradict “the ends justify the means”?

3: This sentiment is shared in many other passages in the Old Testament, particularly among the prophets. See, for example, Isaiah 1:11 and Jeremiah 6:20.

4: The wicked follow the path lighted by their own character flaws.

5: Hastiness, as well as laziness, is the bane of diligence. One of my old supervisors used to say, “Work smarter, not harder.”

6: Deceit cannot be maintained; only honesty can withstand every challenge.

7: Perhaps this is another way of saying, “Those who live by the sword die by the sword.”

8: Guilt causes one to continuously look for cover.

9: The contentious spouse pops up every now and then.

10: It is God’s nature to be merciful; the wicked are by definition of another mind.

11: I think this is another way of saying that some people have to have wisdom beaten into them while others can simply be taught. Stubborn people do seem to suffer a lot more than agreeable people.

12: The main point of this proverb is that righteousness cannot ultimately abide wickedness.

13: Closing the ear is a deliberate act. To deliberately turn away from someone in need is a sin.

14: Some commentators think that the “secret gift” is equivalent to what today we would call an out-of-court settlement.

15: I am going to agree with those who think the better way to understand this is to change the word order to something like, “The righteous take joy in doing justice, but evildoers are dismayed by it.”

16: If you live foolishly, you may as well not live at all.

17: The frivolous life is wasted.

18: This proverb’s meaning is obscure to say the least. It seems to imply that only so many of us can be blessed, and having wicked people helps to insure there are enough blessings to go around for those among us who are upright, but that is a point of view that goes against the very nature of God.

19: Perhaps the frequent mention of the contentious spouse serves a two-fold purpose: to caution young people in their choice of who to marry, and to encourage spouses to be agreeable.

20: The link between wisdom and wealth is another oft-sounded theme.

21: Not only wealth, but long life and honor are rewards of wisdom.

22: This may be a reference to one of the exploits of David or another famous soldier from the past.

23: Much trouble can be avoided if we would simply be quiet.

24: Here is the definition of “arrogant.” You may want to reflect again on Psalm 1:1.

25: Laziness can be fatal.

26: This is the difference between living with open hands and living with closed fists.

27: God does not accept bribes. One who worships without having faith is a hypocrite.

28: Here is another rule for the court: the witness given by a deceitful person will ultimately fail. When searching for someone to serve as a witness in a legal case, look for someone who knows how to listen, for that person is more likely to testify accurately to what they have heard.

29: A wicked person fakes and feigns his way through life. The upright person proceeds thoughtfully.

30: No matter how smart you are, God is in charge.

31: If God is against you, it doesn’t matter whether you win the battle or not. Eventually God’s way will prevail.


There is a lot of repetition going on here, of course, but see what you can find that is a new outlook on life.