I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. — Proverbs 24:30-32
Last year while driving through our fishing community, I noticed the boat of a young family man who lives nearby. It was beached, neglected, and partly submerged in water, though we were in the peak of the fishing season. As far as I knew, the man was healthy, but he and his family were subsisting on a government allowance. With some initiative, he could have been engaged in commercial fishery and providing for his family, but he apparently was choosing not to, so his boat sat idle.
This scene reminded me of our focus verses, in which Solomon described the field and vineyard of the slothful. The land had been neglected; thorns and nettles flourished everywhere. As Solomon passed by, he observed that although the ground was fertile, the stone wall surrounding it was broken down and nothing useful was growing in the field.
Roman statesman Cato Major once said, “Wise men profit more by fools than fools by wise men; for wise men will avail [learn from] the faults of fools, but fools will not imitate the virtues of the wise.” In our text, Solomon not only observed the neglected field, but he “considered it” thoughtfully and “received instruction.” While Solomon did not state his conclusion, the implication is apparent. Wise individuals are diligent, make good use of potential at hand, and profit from their labors. The slothful have opportunities they do not take, obligations they do not fulfill, and potential they do not exercise — and in the end, will find that their field is “grown over with thorns.”
This proverb has a spiritual application. Our souls are our fields, and we have a responsibility. We can tend our souls diligently, making sure that we guard against encroaching “weeds,” or we can indifferently neglect our spiritual well-being. If the latter is our choice, in time our souls will be overgrown with “thorns and nettles” — the pride, covetousness, malice, and the inordinate lusts and passions which the fallen human nature produces. If no “fence” is erected, there is no safeguard to keep the enemy out.
For those of us who have been forgiven and saved by Jesus’ Blood, we have a cultivated field we are charged to occupy till our Lord returns. We need to produce crops instead of weeds, and fruit instead of thorns, but that will take diligence! May we take advantage of today and work our fields.
This chapter is a continuation of the third section of Proverbs referred to as “the words of the wise.” The first twenty-two verses offer wise counsel to a son, while the concluding verses contain further prudent advice from wise sages.
Verses 1-2 warn against associating with evil men because of the violence and trouble they devise. While some Bible scholars think the “house” referred to in verses 3-4 alludes to a family, others suggest it is symbolic of a man’s character. The “precious and pleasant riches” possibly refer to the blessings a man receives through wise living.
The implication of verses 5-6 is that the strength of wisdom is superior to brute force, and seeking wise council is advisable before entering into battle. This does not necessarily refer only to physical battles, but can also be applied to day-to-day challenges in general. The gate of the city was where judicial decisions and counsel were given, but verse 7 infers that wisdom is out of reach for the fool, because he has nothing worthwhile to offer.
Verses 11-12 indicate that declining to help a person who is in mortal danger and then pleading ignorance is not acceptable. God perceives the motive of every heart and will judge accordingly.
In verse 15 the wicked are warned against conspiring to harm the righteous. Verse 16 does not suggest that the righteous will sin, but rather that they may fall into difficult circumstances. The phrase “seven times” was a Hebrew adage for “frequently.” The implication is that the righteous, with God’s help, will rise up and keep going, while the calamity of the wicked will cause their lasting destruction.
“These things also belong to the wise” (verse 23) may indicate that this section of the Book of Proverbs continues a group of sayings from various sages of that era. An honest answer is likened to a kiss in verse 26, meaning it will win respect and affection.
The phrase “build thine house” in verse 27 could refer to marriage and having children. The implication is that it is needful for a man to prepare ahead of time so that he possesses the means to provide for his family.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III. The sayings of the way of wisdom
B. The words of the wise
2. The counsel
q. Concerning envy of evil men (24:1-2)
r. Concerning wisdom (24:3-10)
s. Concerning aid for the oppressed (24:11-12)
t. Concerning wisdom (24:13-14)
u. Concerning protection of the righteous (24:15-16)
v. Concerning reaction to others’ misfortune (24:17-18)
w. Concerning fruit for evil doers (24:19-20)
x. Concerning respect for authority (24:21-22)
3. The cautions (24:23-34)
a. Concerning impartial judgment (24:23-26)
b. Concerning planning a house (24:27)
c. Concerning false witness (24:28-29)
d. Concerning idleness (24:30-34)
Solomon’s indictment of the sluggard contains a spiritual warning for our day: neglect or indifference regarding our spiritual wellbeing will have eternal consequences.