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The Life of the Sluggard
Proverbs 10:26 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
26 Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes,
so is the sluggard to those who send him.
Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes: This verse is not a contrast between line one and line two. Rather, line one describes what the sluggard (lazy person) is like by describing him as vinegar on the teeth and smoke to the eyes. Vinegar (חֹמֶץ chomets) is a cause of soreness to the teeth. It is a sour-tasting liquid by fermentation of dilute alcoholic liquids produced from wine and other sources, which was used as a flavorer or preservative. If one were to drink this acidic-like drink, it would irritate the mouth. The acetic acid contained in it causes a sour taste in the mouth and can cause one’s teeth to feel sensitive. In Psalm 69:21, it is used alongside poison, “They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.” Smoke (עָשָׁן ashan) is also an irritant in that it stings the eyes.
so is the sluggard to those who send him: The sluggard (עָצֵל atsel) is a reference to a lazy person who is unwilling to exert himself. He is always lazy and a moral failure with no discipline or initiative.
The teeth are filled with discomfort from the sour wine used by the common folks (Ruth 2:14; Ps. 69:21), and the eye stings from the wood smoke, which is related to or characterized by the exasperation of having a messenger who will linger when he has been sent on his way. If you have ever hired a lazy person, you know what a complete disappointment it can be, as it will cause you much vexation, and you will suffer loss. This is true because you spend much of your life at work. It can bring you happiness and satisfaction if you do good work and show initiative. Imagine being paired with a lazy person who expects you to do everything for him while he is late and takes extended breaks. He also calls off work constantly. Your life will not know satisfaction, as this one will be a constant irritant to you, just like ‘smoke in one’s eyes.’
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