|Barnes' Notes on the Bible|
i. e., "Vague as the flight of the sparrow, aimless as the wheelings of the swallow, is the causeless curse. It will never reach its goal." The marginal reading in the Hebrew, however, gives" to him" instead of "not" or "never;" i. e., "The causeless curse, though it may pass out of our ken, like a bird's track in the air, will come on the man who utters it." Compare the English proverb, "Curses, like young chickens, always come home to roost."
Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
As the bird - צפור tsippor is taken often for the sparrow; but means generally any small bird. As the sparrow flies about the house, and the swallow emigrates to strange countries; so an undeserved malediction may flutter about the neighborhood for a season: but in a short time it will disappear as the bird of passage; and never take effect on the innocent person against whom it was pronounced.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying,.... As a bird, particularly the sparrow, as the word (h) is sometimes rendered, leaves its nest and wanders from it; and flies here and there, and settles nowhere; and as the swallow flies to the place from whence it came; or the wild pigeon, as some (i) think is meant, which flies away very swiftly: the swallow has its name in Hebrew from liberty, because it flies about boldly and freely, and makes its nest in houses, to which it goes and comes without fear;
so the curse causeless shall not come; the mouths of fools or wicked men are full of cursing and bitterness, and especially such who are advanced above others, and are set in high places; who think they have a right to swear at and curse those below them, and by this means to support their authority and power; but what signify their curses which are without a cause? they are vain and fruitless, like Shimei's cursing David; they fly away, as the above birds are said to do, and fly over the heads of those on whom they are designed to light; yea, return and fall upon the heads of those that curse, as the swallow goes to the place from whence it came; it being a bird of passage, Jeremiah 8:7; in the winter it flies away and betakes itself to some islands on rocks called from thence "chelidonian" (k). According to the "Keri", or marginal reading, for here is a double reading, it may be rendered, "so the curse causeless shall come to him" (l); that gives it without any reason. The Septuagint takes in both,
"so a vain curse shall not come upon any;''
what are all the anathemas of the church of Rome? who can curse whom God has not cursed? yea, such shall be cursed themselves; see Psalm 109:17.
(h) "sicat passeris", Mercerus, Gejerus; "ut passer", Piscator; Schultens. (i) Bochart. Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 1. c. 8. (k) Vid. Strabo. Geograph. l. 14. p. 458. Dionys. Perieg. v. 506, 507. (l) "in quempiam", V. L.
Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament
This verse is formed quite in the same way as the preceding:
As the sparrow in its fluttering, as the swallow in its flying,
So the curse that is groundless: it cometh not.
This passage is one of those fifteen (vid., under Psalm 100:3) in which the לא of the text is changed by the Kerı̂ into לו; the Talm., Midrash, and Sohar refer this לּו partly to him who utters the curse himself, against whom also, if he is a judge, such inconsiderate cursing becomes an accusation by God; partly to him who is cursed, for they read from the proverb that the curse of a private person also (הדיוט, ἰδιώτης) is not wont to fall to the ground, and that therefore one ought to be on his guard against giving any occasion for it (vid., Norzi). But Aben Ezra supposes that לא and לו interchange, as much as to say that the undeserved curse falls on him (לו) who curses, and does not fall (לא) on him who is cursed. The figures in 2a harmonize only with לא, according to which the lxx, the Syr., Targ., Venet., and Luther (against Jerome) translate, for the principal matter, that the sparrow and the swallow, although flying out (Proverbs 27:8), return home again to their nest (Ralbag), would be left out of view in the comparison by לו. This emphasizes the fluttering and flying, and is intended to affirm that a groundless curse is a פּרח בּאוּיר, aimless, i.e., a thing hovering in the air, that it fails and does not take effect. Most interpreters explain the two Lameds as declaring the destination: ut passer (sc. natus est) ad vagandum, as the sparrow, through necessity of nature, roves about... (Fleischer). But from Proverbs 25:3 it is evident that the Lamed in both cases declares the reference or the point of comparison: as the sparrow in respect to its fluttering about, etc. The names of the two birds are, according to Aben Ezra, like dreams without a meaning; but the Romanic exposition explains rightly צפּור by passereau, and דּרור by hirondelle, for צפור (Arab. 'uṣfuwr), twitterer, designates at least preferably the sparrow, and דרור the swallow, from its flight shooting straight out, as it were radiating (vid., under Psalm 84:4); the name of the sparrow, dûrı̂ (found in courtyards), which Wetstein, after Saadia, compares to דרור, is etymologically different.
(Note: It is true that the Gemara to Negam, Proverbs 14:1, explains the Mishnic צפרים דרור, "house-birds," for it derives דרור from דור, to dwell.)
Regarding חנּם, vid., under Proverbs 24:28. Rightly the accentuation separates the words rendered, "so the curse undeserved" (קללת, after Kimchi, Michlol 79b, קללת), from those which follow; לא תבא is the explication of כן: thus hovering in the air is a groundless curse - it does not come (בוא, like e.g., Joshua 21:43). After this proverb, which is formed like Proverbs 26:1, the series now returns to the "fool."
Geneva Study Bible
As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.
26:2 By flying - Secures itself from the fowler. Not come - Upon the innocent person, but he shall escape from it like a bird.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
2. Though not obvious to us,
the bird-literally, "sparrow"-and
swallow-have an object in their motions, so penal evil falls on none without a reason.
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary
26:2. He that is cursed without cause, the curse shall do him no more harm than the bird that flies over his head. 3. Every creature must be dealt with according to its nature, but careless and profligate sinners never will be ruled by reason and persuasion. Man indeed is born like the wild ass's colt; but some, by the grace of God, are changed. 4,5. We are to fit our remarks to the man, and address them to his conscience, so as may best end the debate. 6-9. Fools are not fit to be trusted, nor to have any honour. Wise sayings, as a foolish man delivers and applies them, lose their usefulness. 10. This verse may either declare how the Lord, the Creator of all men, will deal with sinners according to their guilt, or, how the powerful among men should disgrace and punish the wicked. 11. The dog is a loathsome emblem of those sinners who return to their vices, 2Pe 2:22. 12. We see many a one who has some little sense, but is proud of it. This describes those who think their spiritual state to be good, when really it is very bad. 13. The slothful man hates every thing that requires care and labour. But it is foolish to frighten ourselves from real duties by fancied difficulties. This may be applied to a man slothful in the duties of religion. 14. Having seen the slothful man in fear of his work, here we find him in love with his ease. Bodily ease is the sad occasion of many spiritual diseases. He does not care to get forward with his business. Slothful professors turn thus. The world and the flesh are hinges on which they are hung; and though they move in a course of outward services, yet they are not the nearer to heaven. 15. The sluggard is now out of his bed, but he might have lain there, for any thing he is likely to bring to pass in his work. It is common for men who will not do their duty, to pretend they cannot. Those that are slothful in religion, will not be at the pains to feed their souls with the bread of life, nor to fetch in promised blessings by prayer. 16. He that takes pains in religion, knows he is working for a good Master, and that his labour shall not be in vain. 17. To make ourselves busy in other men's matters, is to thrust ourselves into temptation. 18,19. He that sins in jest, must repent in earnest, or his sin will be his ruin. 20-22. Contention heats the spirit, and puts families and societies into a flame. And that fire is commonly kindled and kept burning by whisperers and backbiters. 23. A wicked heart disguising itself, is like a potsherd covered with the dross of silver.
Matthew Henry's Whole Bible Commentary
Here is, 1. The folly of passion. It makes men scatter causeless curses, wishing ill to others upon presumption that they are bad and have done ill, when either they mistake the person or misunderstand the fact, or they call evil good and good evil. Give honour to a fool, and he thunders out his anathemas against all that he is disgusted with, right or wrong. Great men, when wicked, think they have a privilege to keep those about them in awe, by cursing them, and swearing at them, which yet is an expression of the most impotent malice and shows their weakness as much as their wickedness. 2. The safety of innocency. He that is cursed without cause, whether by furious imprecations or solemn anathemas, the curse shall do him no more harm than the bird that flies over his head, than Goliath's curses did to David, 1 Sa. 17:43. It will fly away like the sparrow or the wild dove, which go nobody knows where, till they return to their proper place, as the curse will at length return upon the head of him that uttered it.