By Irvin Himmel
Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished (Prov. 16:5).
Like unbelief, pride is found at the root of all rebellion against God. It is an attitude of heart which keeps the creature from bowing in submission to the Creator.
We commonly use the word pride in both a good sense and a bad sense. When we use the word to denote reasonable self-respect, that is a good sense. Every person needs to maintain self-dignity. An individual who has absolutely no respect for himself is in bad shape. To say that one takes pride in his work usually means that he wants to do his work well.
“Pride is never used in a good sense in the Bible but is always condemned” (E.M. Zerr). The Bible speaks of pride in the sense of vanity, haughtiness, arrogance, conceit, inordinate self-esteem, or egotism. Pride often manifests itself in boastfulness and the seeking of honor, attention, or acclaim. Pride multiples disobedience.
(1) Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon in the days of Daniel, was lifted up with pride. Walking in his palace, the king said, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?” (Dan. 4:30) God knocked this arrogant king from his pedestal by taking away his sanity. Nebuchadnezzar was driven from among men, ate grass as oxen eat it, became wet with the dew of heaven, and his hair grew like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws. After his reason returned, the king of Babylon honored the king of heaven, acknowledging that those who “walk in pride” God is able to abase (4:37).
(2) The Edomites, dwelling in what they thought was an impregnable natural fortress, felt secure even when they sided with the enemies of God’s people. At various times in history they showed hostility toward the Israelites. The prophet Obadiah foretold the doom of Edorn. Said the prophet, “The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground?” Obadiah continued, “Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the Lord” (Obad. 3,4). God did in fact knock the Edomites from their “nest among the stars.”
(3) The Pharisee in the parable in Luke 18:9-14 is a classic example of pride. In the temple this arrogant fellow prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.” After giving thanks that he was such a fine dude, he boasted of his works. “I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.” What folly for a man to brag before his Maker! In contrast to the proud Pharisee, the humble publican confessed that he was a sinner and asked for mercy.
Pride and Abomination
An “abomination” is something loathsome, utterly detestable, disgusting, or hated. When the writer of Proverbs listed six things, yea seven, which are an abomination to God, the first on the list was “a proud look” (Prov. 6:16, 17). In harmony with this, our text says, “Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord.” No matter how man may consider pride, God finds it disgusting.
Though Hand Join in Hand
In 11:21, this proverb is found: “Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished: but the seed of the righteous shall be delivered.” The expression “though hand join in hand” is taken by some to be striking hands as a pledge, therefore it means that something is made sure. The New American Standard Bible renders it “assuredly.” If this be the correct rendition, our text is saying that assuredly the proud in heart will not escape punishment.
Another view is that “though hand join in hand” means joining with others in whatever is under consideration. If this be the preferred meaning, our text is saying of the proud in heart, although others may hold hands with them in their unrighteous ways, God will punish them. The fact that many are involved in a wicked practice does not make it less abominable to God. Evil confederates will not get one off the hook. “The power of sinners cannot secure them against God, though they strengthen themselves with both hands. Though they may strengthen one another with their confederacies and combinations, joining forces against God, they shall not escape his righteous judgment” (Matthew Henry).
Pride and Punishment
“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18). Jesus said, “For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased: and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Lk. 14:11; 18:14). If people do not humble themselves to serve God, they will be abased with everlasting misery in the world to come. “When pride cometh, then cometh shame” (Prov. 11:2). Men and women who are too proud to bow to the will of God must face eternal shame.
Let us cast away pride and learn true humility of heart. “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Pet. 5:5,6).
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 16, p. 486
August 17, 1989