What does Proverbs 16 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
This chapter of Proverbs continues recording Solomon's concise statements of wisdom. This began in chapter 10.

This segment begins with a discussion of man's plans. Human nature can lead us to arrogance and ignorance. Failure to seek God's will or examine our own motives can lead to disaster. Despite what a person might tell themselves, the Lord sees the heart, weighs the spirit, and determines what will happen. The Lord is sovereign; He has a purpose for everything He created. God detests arrogance—spiritual pride that causes a person to reject God—but is pleased when one turns away from evil. Godly wisdom is better than any material wealth (Proverbs 16:1–9).

Solomon then offers several perspectives on kings and rulers. He points out the fact that those in authority have great power, so it's common sense to avoid their wrath whenever possible. Some of these statements are expressions of ideals: the way a godly king ought to act (Proverbs 16:10–15).

Next are a series of proverbs relating to the value of wisdom, controlled speech, and self-reflection. Arrogance leads to disaster since it prevents a person from following God's will or recognizing their own errors. Having truth is valuable in and of itself; using careful words to speak truth makes others more likely to accept it. On the other hand, using words hatefully or for spite can cause incredible damage (Proverbs 16:16–26).

The concluding section of this chapter contrasts evil people with those who are righteous. Solomon offers additional warnings about self-control and the importance of reining in one's temper. Through all things, even those we think of as "random," God is ultimately in control (Proverbs 16:27–33).
Verse Context:
Proverbs 16:1–9 reflects on the heart's intention to make plans and the Lord's rule over that planning. Committing one's ways to God, with reverence, is the wise way to make plans. The Lord has a purpose for everything He created (1 Timothy 4:4). This continues the main section of the book of Proverbs: a compilation of short, general-case statements of wisdom.
Proverbs 16:10–15 continues Solomon's wise observations. This group of proverbs includes several touching on "kings;" these principles can be applied to other government leaders or authorities, as well. The passage describes ideals regarding leadership and discusses the relationship between rulers and their subjects.
Proverbs 16:16–26 focuses on righteousness, pride, humility, faith, speaking, and industrious labor. Again, we see the contrast between the upright and fools, as well as between diligence and laziness. Many of these proverbs come in a two-sentence style, where each presents the same idea from different directions of thought.
Proverbs 16:27–33 closes chapter 16, as Solomon continues his wise sayings. This passage contrasts evil men with men who are righteous, honest, and disciplined. Evil in the heart produces wicked speech, but righteousness in the heart shows itself in righteous living.
Chapter Summary:
This part of Solomon's proverbs emphasizes human motives, self-control, and common sense. Many of these proverbs are arranged in a two-part style. The first and second half of these statements make the same basic point, but from opposite perspectives. Notable verses are verses 9 and 33, speaking of God's sovereignty, and verse 18, a famous warning about arrogance. Also often cited is verse 25, which repeats Proverbs 14:12 and encourages self-reflection.
Chapter Context:
A lengthy list of Solomon's wise sayings began in chapter 10. Chapter 16 begins a section mostly composed of comparisons and completions. It extends to Proverbs 22:16. Man's thoughts, speech, motives, and conduct are examined in this chapter. The chapter also addresses pride, evil, and injustice.
Book Summary:
Proverbs is best understood in context with the books of Ecclesiastes and Job. In Proverbs, “wisdom” is given in short, simple, general terms. Ecclesiastes represents wisdom based on observation and experience. This often shows how the general principles of the book of Proverbs don’t apply in absolutely every circumstance. Job represents wisdom based on the experience of suffering and injustice. All three come to the conclusion that God does indeed know best, and the most sensible course of action is to follow His will.
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