11 A word fitly spoken
is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
12 Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold
is a wise reprover to a listening ear.
13 Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest
is a faithful messenger to those who send him;
he refreshes the soul of his masters.
14 Like clouds and wind without rain
is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give.
15 With patience a ruler may be persuaded,
and a soft tongue will break a bone.
16 If you have found honey, eat only enough for you,
lest you have your fill of it and vomit it.
17 Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house,
lest he have his fill of you and hate you.
18 A man who bears false witness against his neighbor
is like a war club, or a sword, or a sharp arrow.
19 Trusting in a treacherous man in time of trouble
is like a bad tooth or a foot that slips.
20 Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart
is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day,
and like vinegar on soda.
21 If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat,
and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,
22 for you will heap burning coals on his head,
and the Lord will reward you.
23 The north wind brings forth rain,
and a backbiting tongue, angry looks.
24 It is better to live in a corner of the housetop
than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.
25 Like cold water to a thirsty soul,
so is good news from a far country.
26 Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain
is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.
27 It is not good to eat much honey,
nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory.
28 A man without self-control
is like a city broken into and left without walls. – Proverbs 25:11-28 ESV
This collection of Solomonic proverbs, compiled by King Hezekiah’s team of sages, seems to have a regal focus to it. As official employees of the king, these men put together a list of wise sayings that would have particular application to their employer. In other words, these were proverbs fit for a king. They were just the kind of timeless insights that Hezekiah would find beneficial as he attempted to lead the nation of Judah as God’s vice-regent.
Wisdom is not reserved for the wealthy and powerful but is available to anyone who fears the Lord. But it is an essential prerequisite for the man whom God has tasked with shepherding His flock. It was said of Solomon’s own father, that God “chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds…to shepherd Jacob his people” (Psalm 78:70-71 ESV). And that same Psalm goes on to say that “with upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand” (Psalm 78:72 ESV).
David was inherently wise because he had a heart for God. In fact, the Scriptures make it clear that David was chosen by God because of the disposition of his heart, not his resume of accomplishments.
“But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.’” – Acts 13:22 NLT
When Samuel had been tasked with the unenviable job of finding a replacement for the disobedient King Saul, God had given his prophet the following selection criteria:
“Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7 ESV
A heart-healthy king is also a wise king. He understands the ways of God. He longs to discover the hidden truths that God has concealed from the foolish and ungodly.
It is God’s privilege to conceal things
and the king’s privilege to discover them. – Proverbs 25:2 NLT
So, this five-chapter section of the book of Proverbs is filled with additional wise sayings that had been vetted by King Hezekiah’s crack team of researchers. They had discovered proverbs that Solomon had originally collected but that had been lost or simply neglected over time.
An apt description of these sayings is found in verse 11 of this chapter.
Timely advice is lovely,
like golden apples in a silver basket. – Proverbs 25:11 NLT
Though more than 250 years had passed since these proverbs had first been compiled by Solomon, they remained as relevant as ever. These were timeless truths that held never-fading value because they were of God.
Even divine insight that comes in the form of correction proves beneficial to anyone who will accept it as a gift from God.
To one who listens, valid criticism
is like a gold earring or other gold jewelry. – Proverbs 25:12 NLT
These proverbs deal with practical, everyday issues that impact both kings and commoners. They contain insights into everything from finding someone you can trust to deliver important news (verse 13) to learning how to control your appetite (verse 16). It is almost as if the men who collected these sayings had King Hezekiah in mind when they compiled the final list. You can almost hear them saying, “This would be a good one for Hezekiah to hear.” Verse 19 is a perfect case in point.
Putting confidence in an unreliable person in times of trouble
is like chewing with a broken tooth or walking on a lame foot. – Proverbs 25:19 NLT
This is just the kind of advice a king would need to hear. And because a king would never have a shortage of adversaries, verses 21-22 would be of particular help.
If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat.
If they are thirsty, give them water to drink.
You will heap burning coals of shame on their heads,
and the Lord will reward you. – Proverbs 25:21-22 NLT
And a king who acquiesced to the demands of the wicked or allowed the ungodly to influence his decisions would prove to be a risk to the nation’s well-being.
If the godly give in to the wicked,
it’s like polluting a fountain or muddying a spring. – Proverbs 25:26 NLT
A man in Hezekiah’s position always faced the risk of having his reign contaminated by men of disreputable character. There would always be flatterers around who used their access to the king to promote their own agendas and pad their own pockets. So, a wise king would need to constrain his appetite for praise and practice self-control.
It’s not good to eat too much honey,
and it’s not good to seek honors for yourself.
A person without self-control
is like a city with broken-down walls. – Proverbs 25:27-28 NLT
Because “If the godly give in to the wicked, it’s like polluting a fountain or muddying a spring” (Proverbs 25:26 NLT). Wise sayings are only valuable if they are heeded and applied. Wisdom is of little use if it is not put into practical use. And a king who surrounds himself with the wrong kind of advisers will end up making the wrong kind of decisions. And there is no better illustration of this truth than the life of Rehoboam, the son of Solomon and the heir to his throne.
The book of 1 Kings records what happened after Solomon had died and his son, Rehoboam had taken over the leadership of his kingdom. He had inherited a divided kingdom and faced rebellion from the tribes in the north, so he gathered the people together in Shechem and heard their complaint.
“Your father was a hard master,” they said. “Lighten the harsh labor demands and heavy taxes that your father imposed on us. Then we will be your loyal subjects.” – 1 Kings 12:4 NLT
They were demanding that Rehoboam correct the excesses of his father and treat the people with greater honor and respect. So, in response, Rehoboam “discussed the matter with the older men who had counseled his father, Solomon” (1 Kings 12:6 NLT). He sought the advice of these older and wiser men, and they gave him their counsel.
“If you are willing to be a servant to these people today and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your loyal subjects.” – Proverbs 12:7 NLT
In a sense, these men offered up “apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Proverbs 25:11 ESV), but Rehoboam “Rehoboam rejected the advice of the older men and instead asked the opinion of the young men who had grown up with him and were now his advisers” (1 Kings 12:8 NLT). He refused to listen to take the wise counsel of his elders but instead to the more ear-tickling advice of his peers.
The young men replied, “This is what you should tell those complainers who want a lighter burden: ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist! Yes, my father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions!’” – 1 Kings 11:10-11 NLT
And the unwise Rehoboam accepted the advice of his young friends, creating an immediate and irreparable disaster for his new kingship.
When all Israel realized that the king had refused to listen to them, they responded,
“Down with the dynasty of David!
We have no interest in the son of Jesse.
Back to your homes, O Israel!
Look out for your own house, O David!” – 1 Kings 12:16 NLT
Things did not turn out well for Rehoboam. He had been given the opportunity to do the right thing; to rule with wisdom and integrity, but he had chosen to take a different path. And rather than ruling over the 12 tribes of Israel as his father had done. he would end up with a kingdom consisting of two tribes: Judah and Benjamin. And the rest is history.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.