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Proverbs 25:2

Context

25:2 It is the glory of God 1  to conceal 2  a matter,

and it is the glory of a king to search out a matter.

Proverbs 25:21-22

Context

25:21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat,

and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,

25:22 for you will heap coals of fire on his head, 3 

and the Lord will reward you. 4 

1 sn The proverb provides a contrast between God and the king, and therein is the clue to the range of application involved. The interest of the king is ruling or administering his government; and so the subject matter is a contrast to the way God rules his kingdom.

2 sn The two infinitives form the heart of the contrast – “to conceal a matter” and “to search out a matter.” God’s government of the universe is beyond human understanding – humans cannot begin to fathom the intentions and operations of it. But it is the glory of kings to search out matters and make them intelligible to the people. Human government cannot claim divine secrecy; kings have to study and investigate everything before making a decision, even divine government as far as possible. But kings who rule as God’s representatives must also try to represent his will in human affairs – they must even inquire after God to find his will. This is their glorious nature and responsibility. For more general information on vv. 2-27, see G. E. Bryce, “Another Wisdom ‘Book’ in Proverbs,” JBL 91 (1972): 145-57.

3 sn The imagery of the “burning coals” represents pangs of conscience, more readily effected by kindness than by violence. These coals produce the sharp pain of contrition through regret (e.g., 18:19; 20:22; 24:17; Gen 42-45; 1 Sam 24:18-20; Rom 12:20). The coals then would be an implied comparison with a searing conscience.

4 sn The second consequence of treating enemies with kindness is that the Lord will reward the act. The fact that this is promised shows that the instruction here belongs to the religious traditions of Israel.



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