Words of the Wise Another Collection - Part I
Dr. Joe Temple


Open your Bibles to the book of Proverbs, chapter 24, as we begin the discussion of a new division of the book, beginning with verse 23. Immediately you notice the words, “These things also belong to the wise…” The moment we read that statement, we are reminded of another portion of the book of Proverbs at which we have been looking for quite some time— The Proverbs of the Wise .

We learned that the wise were a group of men on an equality with the prophets and with the priests. Their pronouncements were accepted on the same basis. We pointed out to you, when we began our discussion of the words of the wise , that they fell into two collections. Collection number one is recorded in Proverbs, chapter 22, verse 17, and goes through chapter 24, verse 22. Collection number two begins with chapter 24, verse 23, and continues through verse 34. We are going to begin a discussion of this second collection of The Words of the Wise . Notice the statement in verse 23:

Proverbs 24:

23 These things also belong to the wise…

In your Bible you will notice that the words thing and belong are in italics, which indicates they are not in the original text, so the statement might read, “These also to the wise…” That might be difficult for us to comprehend unless we were familiar with the entire book, so we have suggested that if you want a title for this particular division of the book, you might refer to it as The Words of the Wise - Another Collection . We have looked at one and now we look at another.

Follow in your Bibles as we read the paragraph which begins with verse 23:

Proverbs 24:

23 These things also belong to the wise. It is not good to have respect of persons in judgment.
24 He that saith unto the wicked, Thou are righteous; him shall the people curse, nations shall abhor him:
25 But to them that rebuke him shall be delight, and a good blessing shall come upon them.
26 Every man shall kiss his lips that giveth a right answer.
27 Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house.
28 Be not a witness against thy neighbour without cause; and deceive not with thy lips.
29 Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work.
30 I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding;
31 And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.
32 Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction.
33 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:
34 So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.

This constitutes The Words of the Wise - Another Collection. Since I never know how far we will get in any one given discussion, I would like to suggest to you at the very outset that we look at the content of the collection, which we have just read. Perhaps you noticed as we read this particular passage that it fell into a discussion of four definite subjects. There is first presented to us A Respect of Persons in Judgment . Then there is a paragraph, which I have designated for reasons which we will see later, First Things First . Then there is a paragraph dealing with our relationship to neighbors, and then there is a lesson to be learned from the field of the slothful.

Wise men gathered their students together, as was their custom, and taught them in regard to the things which we have suggested to you as representing the content of this collection. Then the Spirit of God led in the gathering together of the various things that were said along this line so that they might be preserved for us today and we might have the opportunity of learning what those men learned.

Respect of Persons in Judgment

I suggest that we look at the paragraph that deals with respect of persons in judgment in verses 23-25:

Proverbs 24:

23 …It is not good to have respect of persons in judgment.
24 He that saith unto the wicked, Thou are righteous; him shall the people curse, nations shall abhor him:
25 But to them that rebuke him shall be delight, and a good blessing shall come upon them.

The Spirit of God has so arranged the Word of God that it is effective for every age, but sometimes we find some portions of the Word of God more applicable to certain ages than to others, and sometimes the ages repeat themselves in the course of history so that the application of the Word is apt. I believe that this particular paragraph, which we are considering at the moment, is particularly applicable to this age in which we live, even to the last few years within the lifespan of most of you; for there has been shown in the courts of the laws of our land a respect of persons in judgment so that judgment has become a travesty and individuals no longer look forward to it as an area where problems can be solved.

You might wonder why we are referring to the courts of our laws. I think we will find out if we have an explanation of terms found within the paragraph itself, which is necessary if we are to going to be able to understand. Notice the word judgment there in verse 23. I remind you that the word judgment here comes from the Hebrew word mishpat , which refers to a judicial sentence. So we are not talking about the personal evaluation of individuals, of which sin most of us are guilty at one time or another because I daresay that most of us, if not all of us, have expressed our opinion concerning certain individuals and have judged them in a manner that is condemned in the Scripture, reminding ourselves that if we have a beam within our own eyes, we should not be attempting to take the splinter out of the eye of another individual. This is condemned by the Word of God, but this is not what we are talking about. We are talking about the matter of having respect of persons in relation to judicial sentences which are passed out in courts of law.

Look at the word respect in verse 23. I remind you that it comes from the Hebrew word nakar which may be translated by the word partial or by the word discriminate. In the days of the wise men in the courts of law in that land there were judges who discriminated and there were judges who were partial. As a way of rebuke, they announced that it was not a good thing for men to act in that fashion. When they donned the robes of justices, then they should not be partial; they should not discriminate.

Two examples are given in the paragraph—one of a negative sort and one of a positive sort. If we examine those examples, perhaps the truth will stay with us a bit closer. Look again, please, at verse 24:

Proverbs 24:

24 He that saith unto the wicked, Thou are righteous; him shall the people curse, nations shall abhor him:

Pronouncing the Guilty Innocent

Notice two words in that verse—the words wicked and righteous . Those English translations, which are appropriate as far as correction is concerned, are not happy translations as far as the context is concerned. We probably will be thinking in the realms of spiritual things, and I would like for you to keep in mind that the immediate subject under discussion is not related to spiritual things—wickedness and righteousness. Rather, we would call your attention to the subject under discussion, that of Pronouncing the Guilty Innocent. You may wonder why we suggest that to you in the light of the fact that the only two words in the text which are used relating to the subject are the words the wicked and righteous. We would remind you that the word wicked comes from the Hebrew word rasha , which is translated by the word guilty elsewhere in the Scripture. As a matter of fact, in the book of Numbers, chapter 35, verse 31, this word rasha is translated by the word guilty . Notice verse 31:

Numbers 35:

31 Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death.

Notice the word guilty. That is the Hebrew word rasha , translated by the word wicked , so when we are talking here in Proverbs, chapter 24, verse 24, we are talking about individuals who are guilty of definite crimes. Their guilt has been proved, but those who are exercising judicial authority are being partial; they are being discriminatory in the pronouncement of their sentences.

Notice the other word to which we called your attention, the word righteous . It comes from the Hebrew word tsaddiyq , which also is translated by the word innocent . You see the reason we say that the example that is given to us is an example of individuals who have the authority of producing judicial sentences, pronouncing the guilty innocent.

I would like for you to look at verse 24 again and notice the sad state of affairs into which things fall when this sort of thing happens. Individuals who are not pronouncing judgments, who are not doing what God would have them do, are losing the respect of individuals and of nations. Notice verse 24 again:

Proverbs 24:

24 …him [that is, the person who is partial in his judgment] shall the people curse, nations shall abhor him [nations shall lose respect]:

My hair is getting gray, but I am not real old, and yet I can remember in my lifetime when we spoke with a great deal of respect concerning the nine old men who pronounced judicial sentences in this country. When we used the term nine old men , we were not speaking disrespectfully. We were speaking of the Supreme Court, toward which men had been able, in a measure at least, to look with a great deal of respect. Then the Supreme Court became a politician's tool, and each president took the opportunity of passing it in the manner that he wished certain decisions to go. You who are old enough to experience the brunt of those decisions can remember well. Those of you who are not old enough to experience the brunt of them are familiar with them because you are being informed about them. Some of the decisions of the nine old men have been so ridiculous and so close to what we are talking about here that individuals curse—that is, they have no respect for—the Supreme Court of the land. Nations of the world oftentimes have delayed their political maneuvering until they have learned what the Supreme Court was going to say because they knew that it could oftentimes hamstring our actions as a nation.

The Word of God is tremendously up-to-date, and the wise men say that when men discriminate in their judicial pronouncements, they can expect to lose whatever respect would naturally be theirs.

Look at verse 25 and notice the other example, an example in another light:

Proverbs 24:

25 But to them that rebuke him shall be delight, and a good blessing shall come upon them.

You will notice that the word him is in italics, meaning there is nothing in the original text for that word, and if we read it, “But to them that rebuke…,” it could be any kind of rebuke, but this particular word rebuke is a word which is used to refer only to the guilty. It comes from the Hebrew word yakach , which means “to rebuke guilty people.” Of course, that is related to the sentence. Did you notice the difference? When the courts of the land are such that proper sentences will be handed out that the guilty will be properly rebuked, then there is delight, and a good blessing shall come upon them.

I am interested in that last statement because I have suggested to you in our study of the book of Proverbs that the proverbs are not only a practical group of sayings related to everyday living, they are also sayings of spiritual import. The Psalmist said, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,” and I am wondering if the Spirit of God did not have in mind in the last part of verse 25 the blessing of God. I am wondering if He did not have in mind the fact that God will bless the nation whose judicial system is not partial and discriminatory. This is something that we as a people need to be concerned about, something that we ought to be praying about and something that we ought to be doing something about as far as we are able.

I would like for you to look at verse 26. It is a rather unique verse. Notice as we read:

Proverbs 24:

26 Every man shall kiss his lips that giveth a right answer.

You read that verse just as I have read it and it sounds as if it might have just been thrust into this collection without any proper connection with anything that has gone before, but it is not necessary for us to assume that for two reasons. One is that we need to read the Word of God in the light of the customs of the Orient, which greatly influenced much of the writings. It was the custom in that era that when an individual submitted to rule and to authority to kiss him and let him know by the kiss that submission was a reality. There was nothing effeminate about it, and there was nothing out of place.

Perhaps you would like to turn to Psalm 2, which describes the nations in their rage against God as they attempt to throw off the rule of the Almighty. The Psalm begins with the words:

Psalm 2:

1 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?

God looks down upon the earth and He sees a time when all the [nations] (that is a better word than heathen ) are raging, and they are imagining a vain thing, a thing that they will never be able to accomplish. What is that? Notice in verse 2:

Psalm 2:

2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD [Jehovah], and against his anointed [the Lord Jesus Christ], saying,
3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.

“Let's rebel against God and His Son.” What response does this elicit from God? In verse 4, we read:

Psalm 2:

4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the LORD shall have them in derision.

His first reaction is one of amusement, amusement that mortal men could think they could throw off the reins of God and run their own lives. Then, in verse 5, the reaction is one of anger. Notice:

Psalm 2:

5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.

Then He will say to them:

Psalm 2:

6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.

Then the Son who has been set as King in the future, in verse 7, responds:

Psalm 2:

7 I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee [this is a reference to the Resurrection] .
8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen [the nations] for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.
9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.

This will He do when He returns the second time in glory. Now, the Spirit of God would give a bit of advice to the nations of the world. In verse 10, we read:

Psalm 2:

10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.
11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

Notice the words, “the Son, lest he be angry with you” ; that is, “Submit to Him. Declare that submission by the kiss.”

Go back to Proverbs, chapter 24, verse 26:

Proverbs 24:

26 Every man shall kiss his lips that giveth a right answer.

That is, “Every man will bow to judgment that is impartial and is not discriminatory.” This verse is interesting to me from another standpoint, however, because I believe that it represents the only way that we have the guarantee of right judgment, for this particular verse may be translated another way and it is in some of the other renderings. It reads: “He that equipeth his lips with wisdom shall give a right answer.” Notice: “He that equipeth his lips with wisdom shall give a right answer.”

Perhaps you are wondering why this verse might be rendered in this fashion. You see nothing there concerning the word kiss , but I remind you that the word kiss is from the Hebrew word nashaq which may be translated by the word equip , and I think the rendering that we have suggested to you is more consistent with the context. Notice it again: “He that equipeth his lips with wisdom shall give a right answer,” or “shall hand down a right decision.”

Wisdom, we have learned in our study, when it is not personified, represents the Word of the living God. When it is personified, it represents the Lord Jesus Christ. If men who are in places of authority will equip their lips with judicial sentences based upon the Word of God, then indeed they will be able to speak with authority, which will enable us to accept what they say. They indeed shall give a right answer.

You have read the newspapers that in California, capital punishment was declared unconstitutional because it was regarded as unusual and cruel punishment. The men who handed down that decision did not equip their lips with wisdom, for had they known the Word of God, they would never have handed down a decision like that. In many places in the Bible it says that capital punishment is all right. Not only does it say that it is all right; it says that it is a necessity. As we learned from our study in the book of Revelation, one of the reasons that God is going to judge the earth during the Tribulation is that men have neglected the Everlasting Covenant, part of which has for one of its provisions the insistence upon capital punishment.

This world of ours is doing much to fill the cup of wrath of the Almighty, and it will not be long until that cup is ready to be poured out. One of the things that is going to fill it to the brim is the abolishment of capital punishment as a national measure. Men who speak with wisdom will not make mistakes like that. That is the reason, Beloved, that you should spend time being thoroughly grounded in the Word of God. I was amazed at the preachers who endorsed the move to which I just referred. I was amazed to read in the paper, and it is no secret, that a former president of the Texas Southern Baptist Convention said, “We were faced with this dilemma and the only decision that we could make was to abolish capital punishment because it represented cruel and unusual punishment.”

All that I can say, without dealing in personalities about any individual who makes a statement like that, is that there is a woeful lack of the knowledge of the Word. Don't you be inveigled into making decisions on the basis of your emotions because you are ignorant of the Word.

First Things First

You will recall, when I presented to you the divisions of this collection, I said that there was a second division. I entitled it First Things First for want of a better way of expressing it, and yet it is accurate as far as the Word of God is concerned. Look again at verse 27:

Proverbs 24:

27 Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house.

The Amplified Bible rendering of this verse suggests that it might be rendered as follows: “Put first things first. Prepare your work outside and get it ready for yourself in the field, and afterward build your house and establish a home.”

That is a good rendering. Put first things first. If you are settling virgin territory, don't build a real nice house to live in first. Plant your fields, take care of the cattle, live the best way that you can until that provision has been made; then build a home. The Rabbis used to use this text as a text for a lecture on the preparation for marriage. Whenever they spoke to young people about the importance of marriage, they used this text and said, “Put first things first. Take care of the fields. Take care of the cattle. Then build your home.”

By way of illustration, recognizing that we are living in a different era, I would like to suggest to you that oftentimes parents have spoken with me and I with them about the differences in the way we started out and the way our children are starting out. We have said, for example, that some children are living now in homes equal to or surpassing the homes which the people of our generation worked years to obtain. Somebody immediately would come back and say, “Is there anything wrong with that?” There is never anything wrong with having something good. Remember that. There is never anything wrong with having something good, but the sad thing is that in many instances the lovely homes are not paid for and in many cases never will be paid for because the individuals concerned have not put first things first. There would not be the loan businesses there are if people put first things first. There would not be the high interest rates making people wealthy if folk put first things first.

This particular division of this collection, of course, has a wider application than that, and I think that the simplest way to bring this to you in few words is to share with you some of the other renderings of the verse. The New English Bible , for example, says: “First put all in order out of doors. Make everything ready on the land, then establish your house and your home.” This is a suggestion that every farmer or rancher can understand, but many will never live on a ranch or a farm and so The Living Bible rendering suggests even a more forceful thought: “Develop your business first, before building your house.”

There are many young people starting out with a limited amount of money. Their fathers and their forefathers would have put that limited amount of money in the business, and they would have lived very frugally until the business was well established. Then they would have built their house. They would have added to their house as means permitted. Beloved, practically and materially, a word of good advice to all men is to put first things first.


I have said to you that these proverbs have a material application as well as a spiritual application, and so I would remind you that the spiritual application would be found in the words of the Savior: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all of these things shall be added unto you.” You have met individuals, I'm sure, that when they have obtained all of the comforts of life, they will be ready then to go to church, as they put it, and live a religious life. Well, such individuals are building the house before they are plowing the field, and the blessing of God cannot rest upon them. This is as far as we will go in this lesson, and I trust that you will put first things first.

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