What does Proverbs 3:34 mean?
ESV: Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor.
NIV: He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.
NASB: Though He scoffs at the scoffers, Yet He gives grace to the needy.
CSB: He mocks those who mock but gives grace to the humble.
NLT: The Lord mocks the mockers but is gracious to the humble.
KJV: Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly.
Verse Commentary:
The English verb "scorn" or "scoff" or "mock" comes from the Hebrew word yā'lis', referring to the behavior of one who sneers at others. The noun "scoffer" is from the word lē'sim, meaning one who is derisive or arrogant. Those with overly inflated opinions of themselves will be humiliated in the face of a supreme God. In contrast, those who admit their own weakness and limitations can find mercy and grace in God (Hebrews 4:15–16). This concept is often repeated in teachings of the New Testament (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).

Even a self-labelled "religious" person can scorn God's grace and mercy by proudly relying on his own righteousness. This is illustrated in Jesus' story about two men who entered the temple to pray (Luke 18:9–14). One man, a proud Pharisee, recited his religious deeds and compared himself favorably to other men, including the tax collector. But the tax collector's humility found favor in God' sight. The tax collector stood far off, would not raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his beast and prayed humbly, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner" (Luke 18:13). Jesus said the publican went home justified rather than the proud Pharisee. He concluded the story by saying, "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 18:14).
Verse Context:
Proverbs 3:27–35 gives general principles about our relationships, both with other people and with God. Solomon instructs the reader to show honor, integrity, trustworthiness, peace, and contentment towards others. This passage also contrasts the response of God to those who defy His will, versus His actions towards those who honor Him.
Chapter Summary:
This chapter of Proverbs is addressed to Solomon's son. The term, ''my son'' occurs 15 times in chapters 1—7. The words may apply to one of Solomon's students in his court or to one of his biological sons. The application of wisdom in Proverbs 3 shows the benefits of trusting in the Lord with one's whole heart. Solomon credits obedience to and trust in God for longevity, success, guidance, health, reward that exceeds monetary wealth, enjoyment, peace, security, confidence, excellent human relationships, the Lord's blessing and favor, and honor. As with all ''proverbs,'' biblical or otherwise, their purpose is to impart general wisdom, not absolute prophecy. Like the original audience, modern readers are not expected to see these guidelines as absolute guarantees for any one person.
Chapter Context:
This passage lies in the second section of the book, found in chapters 1—9. The author, King Solomon, reigned over Israel from 971 to 931 BC. The first section of Proverbs, the preface, is found in Proverbs 1:1–7. The third section, chapters 10—22, were also written by Solomon. These proverbs were likely written by Solomon in his middle years, whereas he probably wrote Song of Songs in his early adulthood, and Ecclesiastes near the end of his life. As in the first two chapters, wisdom is stressed in Proverbs 3.
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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