ESV - 20 Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda.
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As Solomon (the author of this verse in Proverbs) said in Ecclesiastes (which he also wrote), "[There is] a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance." (Ecclesiastes 3:4). When a person is troubled in some way, the initial focus of someone who cares about them should not be to try to cheer them up with words or actions that have no relation to the person's situation. Such behavior is likely to convey an attitude of non-concern or of obliviousness to what the person is going through, rather than consoling or helping them,. The first priority of someone who genuinely cares for the troubled person should be to understand the person's perspective; to convey that understanding to the person; to offer sympathy or comfort (where appropriate); to consider concrete actions (including actions that you yourself can perform) that can address or alleviate (if possible) the root cause of the problem; and then to offer them in a way that does not minimize the trouble, but acknowledges its validity, and lets the person know that you are concerned about them and are there for them. Solomon is describing the same type of situation to which James referred in his epistle in the New Testament when he said, "Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?" (James 2:15-16). This describes the same nonchalant attitude (even if well-intended) that is of no benefit to the person in need, and that is perceived by that person as being as caustic or explosive as pouring vinegar on soda.
Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda. (Proverbs 25:20 ESV) Vinegar… nitre — נתר, (nether,) the natron or natrum of the ancients, and wholly different in its qualities from our nitre or saltpeter. (a constituent of gun powder, and thus explosive!) It is an alkali, native in India, Syria, Tripoli, Egypt, Hungary, and other parts of the world. It is found in abundance in many parts of Asia, where the natives sweep it up from the ground and call it soap earth. It was used in washing clothes and in baths. Compare Jeremiah 2:22. It was made into soap by mixing it with oil. It readily dissolves in water but produces a strong fermentation with acids. It is known in our modern chemistry (or a similar alkali produced by art) as the carbonate of soda. “Vinegar” here, as elsewhere in the Bible, means sour wine. It's Hebrew form is חמצ, (hhomets,) from the root חמצ, (hhamats,) to be sharp, sour, or to ferment. A heavy heart — Might be rendered a bad heart, which, according to a high authority, has no relish for music: — “Vinegar” (Prov. 25:20) --according to Warren Wiersbe’s Index of Biblical Images is a simile for “Thoughtlessness, Cruelty” and is the only verse he lists, although “vinegar” also symbolized 2 other different things: (1) An “Undependable person” Prov. 10:26, and (2) “Scorn/Persecution” (Ps. 69:21; Matt. 27:34, 48; Mark 15:23, 36; Luke 23:36; John 19:29) It is inappropriate and counterproductive to sing songs to a heavy heart. One needs to be sensitive to others (e.g., 1 Sam 19:9).
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