What does Proverbs 20:8 mean?
ESV: A king who sits on the throne of judgment winnows all evil with his eyes.
NIV: When a king sits on his throne to judge, he winnows out all evil with his eyes.
NASB: A king who sits on the throne of justice Disperses all evil with his eyes.
CSB: A king sitting on a throne to judge separates out all evil with his eyes.
NLT: When a king sits in judgment, he weighs all the evidence, distinguishing the bad from the good.
KJV: A king that sitteth in the throne of judgment scattereth away all evil with his eyes.
NKJV: A king who sits on the throne of judgment Scatters all evil with his eyes.
Verse Commentary:
Some proverbs simply note harsh realities (Proverbs 17:23; 19:7). Others commend a certain view or course of action (Proverbs 6:6; 14:7; 19:20). This is one of the proverbs expressing an ideal: the way things ought to be (Proverbs 16:12). Properly understood, the role of "king" should be grounded in godliness and justice (Proverbs 8:12–15; 14:34; 29:14).

Solomon (Proverbs 10:1) served not only as Israel's king, but also as her judge (1 Kings 3:16–28). As a wise king and judge, when he tried a case, he had to carefully consider who was innocent and who was guilty. True wisdom comes from a pursuit of godly truth (Proverbs 1:7; 3:1–6). It is developed through constant learning (Proverbs 18:15; 27:17) and practice (Hebrews 5:14). Solomon also had been given a special dose of wisdom from God (1 Kings 3:9–12). His eyes could separate those telling the truth from those who were lying. Here, this is compared to the "winnowing" process which divides edible grain from inedible chaff.

The apostle James identifies Jesus as the Judge (James 5:9). Matthew 25:31–46 reveals that at His second coming, Jesus will judge the nations. As the all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-wise Judge, He will divide believers from unbelievers, rewarding His people and punishing those who reject Him. The book of Revelation shows readers the great white throne judgment. When this takes place, all unbelievers throughout history will be appropriately tried for their sins and cast into the lake of fire. Earthly judges have finite knowledge and are subject to error, but Jesus has infinite knowledge and cannot make a mistake. His judgment is flawless—there will one day be a perfect "winnowing" of all evil.
Verse Context:
Proverbs 20:1–11 issues warnings about alcohol, infuriating those in authority, quarreling, and laziness. Solomon (Proverbs 10:1) also commends an understanding mind, faithfulness, integrity, and righteous conduct.
Chapter Summary:
In this section of Solomon's wise sayings (Proverbs 10:1), he again discusses a wide range of subjects. These echo many of the common themes of the book of Proverbs. Solomon warns against foolishness (Proverbs 1:7), hastiness, angering authorities, and the consequences of sin and dishonesty. Several references condemn dishonest business dealings. Others note the value of diligence in making decisions.
Chapter Context:
This chapter of Proverbs belongs to the second division of the book that extends from Proverbs chapter 10 to chapter 22, in which there are nearly 400 wise sayings. Proverbs 20 continues the collection of Solomon's wise sayings. In this chapter Solomon focuses on numerous things which harm the unwise. Among them are laziness, wrong values, and bad decisions.
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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