What does Proverbs 21:31 mean?
ESV: The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.
NIV: The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord.
NASB: The horse is prepared for the day of battle, But the victory belongs to the Lord.
CSB: A horse is prepared for the day of battle, but victory comes from the Lord.
NLT: The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.
KJV: The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the Lord.
NKJV: The horse is prepared for the day of battle, But deliverance is of the Lord.
Verse Commentary:
The prior proverb noted, broadly, that no human effort could possibly undo God's intended purposes. This verse underscores the Lord's sovereign control of history. A nation may mount an impressive arsenal of weapons, but victory does not depend exclusively upon weapons. God's will is infinitely more powerful and is ultimately all that matters.

King David understood that chariots and horses—the pinnacle of military technology in that era—do not guarantee victory. He writes in Psalm 20:7–8: "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright." He also writes in Psalm 33:17: "The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue." A nation's success in battle is entirely dependent upon the Lord's will.
Verse Context:
Proverbs 21:17–31 continues the recorded wisdom of Solomon (Proverbs 10:1). He contrasts the wise person with the foolish person, the righteous with the wicked, the lazy person with the diligent, and human wisdom with the Lord's sovereignty.
Chapter Summary:
This chapter begins and ends with a declaration of God's sovereignty. He alone judges the heart; the Lord considers intentions just as important as physical actions. Other comments include statements about unpleasant spouses, proper perspectives on wealth, work ethic, and the essential nature of godly wisdom. Human wisdom is no match for the sovereign Lord, who alone is ultimately responsible for victory in battle.
Chapter Context:
This is part of the second major section of the book (Proverbs 10—22) featuring nearly four hundred statements. Most of these are two-line comments presenting common sense and general wisdom. The vague theme of chapter 21 is God's control. Man may believe he is in control of his circumstances, but God superintends everything. The chapter begins and ends by assuring the readers that God holds ultimate sway over all things.
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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