Proverbs chapter 21

The collection of 375 short pithy sayings of Solomon continues in this chapter.





VERSE 1. The king’s heart is in the LORD’s hand like the watercourses. He turns it wherever he desires.

KJV translation: The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.

turns it wherever he desires. Solomon imagines that a king is a pliable instrument in the hand of the LORD, and that the LORD is directing the king on a moment-by-moment basis. In essence, Solomon sees himself as infallible.

Of course history shows us that kings are not infallible. They make terrible mistakes. Their own personality quirks go uncorrected and can lead to national catastrophes.

Genesis 47:6. The land of Egypt is before you. Make your father and your brothers dwell in the best of the land. Let them dwell in the land of Goshen. If you know any able men among them, then put them in charge of my livestock.”

Ezra 6:22. and kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy; because the LORD had made them joyful, and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, to strengthen their hands in the work of God, the God of Israel’s house.


VERSE 2. Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the hearts.

NIV translation: All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the LORD weighs the heart.

This verse is fantastic! Would you consider memorizing it? More great verses to memorize from the Book of Proverbs and from the entire Bible.

All a man’s ways seem right to him. We humans justify our actions to ourselves. We rationalize our behavior. Adam and Eve, for example, tried to justify their eating of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. But the LORD God sees our hidden intentions. We can fool most people, and once in a while. We might even be able to fool ourselves. But we can never deceive the LORD.


VERSE 3. To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.

do righteousness and justice. To act on the faith is more important that merely fulfilling religious obligations.

Micah 6:8. He has shown you, O man, what is good. What does the LORD require of you, but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?


VERSE 4. A high look, and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, is sin.


VERSE 5. The plans of the diligent surely lead to profit; and everyone who is hasty surely rushes to poverty.

plans of the diligent. Solomon prizes people who work hard. He sees their labor as profitable. Perhaps as he wrote this, he had his slaves in mind.


VERSE 6. Getting treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor for those who seek death.


VERSE 7. The violence of the wicked will drive them away, because they refuse to do what is right.


VERSE 8. The way of the guilty is devious, but the conduct of the innocent is upright.


VERSE 9. It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop, than to share a house with a contentious woman.

a contentious woman. As is typical with Solomon, he blames the woman for problems in a marriage. He does not blame the man. He also does this in verse 19 below. Nonetheless:

  • Those who have been in a bad marriage will testify how awful it is to be in a wonderful house with a quarrelsome spouse.
  • Whether the quarrelsome person is the wife or the husband does not matter. The result is a hellacious existence for the non-quarrelsome person.
  • Worse, the quarrelsome person almost always feels righteous about being so quarrelsome.


VERSE 10. The soul of the wicked desires evil; his neighbor finds no mercy in his eyes.


VERSE 11. When the mocker is punished, the simple gains wisdom. When the wise is instructed, he receives knowledge.


VERSE 12. The Righteous One considers the house of the wicked, and brings the wicked to ruin.


VERSE 13. Whoever stops his ears at the cry of the poor, he will also cry out, but shall not be heard.

stops his ears at the cry of the poor. That is, someone who ignores poor people. Someone who does not help them.


VERSE 14. A gift in secret pacifies anger; and a bribe in the cloak, strong wrath.


VERSE 15. It is joy to the righteous to do justice; but it is a destruction to the workers of iniquity.

joy … to do justice. Godly people seek opportunities to serve other people, particularly those who have a disadvantage in society.


VERSE 16. The man who wanders out of the way of understanding shall rest in the assembly of the departed spirits.


VERSE 17. He who loves pleasure shall be a poor man. He who loves wine and oil shall not be rich.

He who loves pleasure. Solomon disparages people who love pleasure. However, he ignores that he himself had a giant appetite for pleasure.


VERSE 18. The wicked is a ransom for the righteous; the treacherous for the upright.


VERSE 19. It is better to dwell in a desert land, than with a contentious and fretful woman.

a contentious and fretful woman. As is typical with Solomon, he blames the woman for problems in a marriage. He does not blame the man. He also does this in verse 9 above. Nonetheless:

To be married to somebody who is quarrelsome or complaining is misery. It does not matter if the complainer is the wife or the husband. In either case, the life of the other person is usually a living hell.


VERSE 20. There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man swallows it up.


VERSE 21. He who follows after righteousness and kindness finds life, righteousness, and honor.

life, righteousness, and honor. These are the lifelong goals of godly people.


VERSE 22. A wise man scales the city of the mighty, and brings down the strength of its confidence.


VERSE 23. Whoever guards his mouth and his tongue keeps his soul from troubles.

guards his mouth. Are you able to refrain from speaking? If so, you will save yourself from lots of troubles in life.


VERSE 24. The proud and arrogant man, “scoffer” is his name; he works in the arrogance of pride.


VERSE 25. The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor.

the sluggard. To be called a sluggard is a great biblical insult. Solomon often writes about the sluggardly person. Read more »


VERSE 26. There are those who covet greedily all day long; but the righteous give and don’t withhold.


VERSE 27. The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination; how much more, when he brings it with a wicked mind!


VERSE 28. A false witness will perish, and a man who listens speaks to eternity.


VERSE 29. A wicked man hardens his face; but as for the upright, he establishes his ways.

hardens his face. Godly people are not domineering or assaulting other people. They can be gentle and soft.


VERSE 30. There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD.


VERSE 31. The horse is prepared for the day of battle; but victory is with the LORD.


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Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.



Author: todd

At Explore the Faith, I share insights into the Bible and theological writings. If you like what I write, become my partner by donating. Help me reach the world for the Lord Jesus Christ.