On Life and Conduct

Wine is a mocker, strong drink a riotous brawler;
And whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise.(A)

The terror of a king is like the roaring of a lion;
Whoever provokes him to anger forfeits his own life.

It is an honor for a man to keep away from strife [by handling situations with thoughtful foresight],
But any fool will [start a] quarrel [without regard for the consequences].

The lazy man does not plow when the winter [planting] season arrives;
So he begs at the [next] harvest and has nothing [to reap].

A plan (motive, wise counsel) in the heart of a man is like water in a deep well,
But a man of understanding draws it out.(B)

Many a man proclaims his own loyalty and goodness,
But who can find a faithful and trustworthy man?

The righteous man who walks in integrity and lives life in accord with his [godly] beliefs—
How blessed [happy and spiritually secure] are his children after him [who have his example to follow].

A [discerning] king who sits on the throne of judgment
Sifts all evil [like chaff] with his eyes [and cannot be easily fooled].

Who can say, “I have cleansed my heart,
I am pure from my sin?”©
Differing weights [one for buying and another for selling] and differing measures,
Both of them are detestable and offensive to the Lord.(D)
Even a boy is known and distinguished by his acts,
Whether his conduct is pure and right.
The hearing ear and the seeing eye,
The [omnipotent] Lord has made both of them.
Do not love [excessive] sleep, or you will become poor;
Open your eyes [so that you can do your work] and you will be satisfied with bread.
“It is [almost] worthless, it is [almost] worthless,” says the buyer [as he negotiates the price];
But when he goes his way, then he boasts [about his bargain].
There is gold, and an abundance of pearls,
But the lips of knowledge are a vessel of preciousness [the most precious of all].(E)
[The judge tells the creditor], “Take the clothes of one who is surety for a stranger;
And hold him in pledge [when he guarantees a loan] for foreigners.”(F)
Food gained by deceit is sweet to a man,
But afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel [just as sin may be sweet at first, but later its consequences bring despair].
Plans are established by counsel;
So make war [only] with wise guidance.
He who goes about as a gossip reveals secrets;
Therefore do not associate with a gossip [who talks freely or flatters].(G)
Whoever curses his father or his mother,
His lamp [of life] will be extinguished in time of darkness.
An inheritance hastily gained [by greedy, unjust means] at the beginning
Will not be blessed in the end.(H)
Do not say, “I will repay evil”;
Wait [expectantly] for the Lord, and He will rescue and save you.(I)
Differing weights are detestable and offensive to the Lord,
And fraudulent scales are not good.
Man’s steps are ordered and ordained by the Lord.
How then can a man [fully] understand his way?
It is a trap for a man to [[a]speak a vow of consecration and] say rashly, “It is holy!”
And [not until] afterward consider [whether he can fulfill it].
A wise king sifts out the wicked [from among the good]
And drives the [threshing] wheel over them [to separate the chaff from the grain].
The [b]spirit (conscience) of man is the lamp of the Lord,
Searching and examining all the innermost parts of his being.(J)
Loyalty and mercy, truth and faithfulness, protect the king,
And he upholds his throne by lovingkindness.
The glory of young men is their [physical] strength,
And the honor of aged men is their gray head [representing wisdom and experience].
Blows that wound cleanse away evil,
And strokes reach to the innermost parts.


  1. Proverbs 20:25 Such a vow would single out an item for sacrifice or for the use of the temple or the priests. The classic example of a careless vow was Jephthah’s promise to sacrifice to the Lord whatever came out of his house to meet him on his return from a successful battle (Judg 11:30-35).
  2. Proverbs 20:27 Lit breath.

Cross references

  1. Proverbs 20:1 : Prov 23:29, 30; Is 28:7; Hos 4:11
  2. Proverbs 20:5 : Prov 18:4
  3. Proverbs 20:9 : 1 Kin 8:46; 2 Chr 6:36; Job 9:30; 14:4; Ps 51:5; 1 John 1:8
  4. Proverbs 20:10 : Deut 25:13; Mic 6:10, 11
  5. Proverbs 20:15 : Job 28:12, 16-19; Prov 3:15; 8:11
  6. Proverbs 20:16 : Prov 27:13
  7. Proverbs 20:19 : Rom 16:17, 18
  8. Proverbs 20:21 : Prov 28:20; Hab 2:6
  9. Proverbs 20:22 : Deut 32:35; 2 Sam 16:12; Rom 12:17-19; 1 Thess 5:15; 1 Pet 3:9
  10. Proverbs 20:27 : 1 Cor 2:11