What does Proverbs 16:15 mean?
ESV: In the light of a king’s face there is life, and his favor is like the clouds that bring the spring rain.
NIV: When a king's face brightens, it means life; his favor is like a rain cloud in spring.
NASB: In the light of a king’s face is life, And his favor is like a cloud with the spring rain.
CSB: When a king's face lights up, there is life; his favor is like a cloud with spring rain.
NLT: When the king smiles, there is life; his favor refreshes like a spring rain.
KJV: In the light of the king's countenance is life; and his favour is as a cloud of the latter rain.
Verse Commentary:
The previous proverb (Proverbs 16:14) noted that the anger of a king could bring death; a wise person consciously seeks to keep clear of such wrath. Here, the inverse is stated: there are tremendous benefits in gaining the favor of a king. While a king's rage can bring destruction, his approval can bring life. References to a shining face—much like English expressions about someone "beaming"—are indications of happiness (Psalm 31:16) and approval (Numbers 6:25).

Likewise, rain that brings life to crops is considered a blessing (Psalm 72:6). Psalm 126:6 declares, "He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him."

As a general statement, this proverb implies there is good wisdom in "staying on the good side" of those in authority, when it's reasonably possible. This is not a call for believers to be insincere. Nor does it imply believers should compromise their faith for the sake of political influence. Scripture notes that when any earthly power calls on a believer to sin, that authority should be disobeyed (Acts 5:29). The Bible also condemns things like bribery (Proverbs 15:27; 17:23), insincere flattery (Romans 16:18), and other manipulative tactics.

A better way to please authority is through honesty (Proverbs 16:13) and a faithful life. In 1 Timothy 2:1–2 Paul encourages believers to pray for kings and other high-ranking officials. Doing so, he says, enables believers to lead a peaceful, quiet, godly, and dignified life (1 Timothy 2:2).
Verse Context:
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.
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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