What does Proverbs 26:16 mean?
ESV: The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.
NIV: A sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven people who answer discreetly.
NASB: A lazy one is wiser in his own eyes Than seven people who can give a discreet answer.
CSB: In his own eyes, a slacker is wiser than seven who can answer sensibly.
NLT: Lazy people consider themselves smarter than seven wise counselors.
KJV: The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.
Verse Commentary:
Many frustrated parents have told their children something like, "if you'd put as much effort into the work as you do into making excuses, it would already be done!" Human beings have a seemingly limitless ability to rationalize: to explain away and justify their actions even when common sense disagrees. Looking for excuses, the lazy person takes on the role of a super-genius; they know better than everyone else. They see dangers and excuses no one else thinks of. Some of those seem ridiculous (Proverbs 26:13). Others seem arrogant.

In some cases, a lazy person's excuses are offensive. The last phrase of this proverb literally means "return discreetly" or "reply with good taste." Inventing reasons not to meet obligations can mean angering others and putting down their efforts.
Verse Context:
Proverbs 26:13–16 turns to the topic of laziness. The "sluggard" is depicted as reluctant to leave his house, preferring to stay in bed. Using poetic exaggeration, Solomon (Proverbs 25:1) pictures this person as so lifeless that they can't bring their hand out of a dish to eat food. As with those who are arrogant, the lazy person may refuse wisdom, convincing themselves that their way is better.
Chapter Summary:
This chapter includes three main sections. The first repeatedly refers to a "fool," meaning someone lacking godly wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). The second warns against being lazy. The third condemns careless conflict, lying, and warns about those who disguise their hate with words. Several statements in this passage repeat or echo others made in the book of Proverbs.
Chapter Context:
Chapter 25 introduced another section of Solomon's proverbs (Proverbs 25:1). These were collected by later scribes; the list runs through the end of chapter 29. This chapter covers topics such as foolishness, laziness, and conflict. This echoes principles given in other proverbs.
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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