“Eat thou not the bread of [him that hath] an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats: For as he thinketh in his heart, so [is] he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart [is] not with thee. The morsel [which] thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up, and lose thy sweet words.” – KJV
“Don’t eat with people who are stingy; don’t desire their delicacies. They are always thinking about how much it costs. “Eat and drink,” they say, but they don’t mean it. You will throw up what little you’ve eaten, and your compliments will be wasted.” – NLT
I have been struggling with this proverb. You must admit, it’s a little odd. I mean, what’s the deal with “dainty meats” and throwing up?
The best I can figure, the meaning of this proverbs is pretty simple once you get past the language. For one thing, don’t eat with a hypocrite. Secondly, if you do, you’ll regret anything nice you ever said.
It does seem a little strange, though. Why would someone feed you and say, “Go ahead, dear, eat all you want,” while at the same time regret you ever came to dinner?
Better to Eat Herbs
Solomon must have had an experience or two with people who wanted to entertain him with a meal. But evidently there were people who offered the best on the menu while wincing every time he took a nibble. Have you ever known anyone like that?
What makes a person sick after eating all the nice, expensive food is the guilt one is made to feel. There are some people who want to make you think they care, but then they make you feel guilty for taking advantage of their hospitality. The great Matthew Henry said,
Do not sponge upon those that are bountiful, nor make thyself burdensome to any; but especially scorn to be beholden to those that are paltry and not sincere. Better have a dinner of herbs, and true welcome, than dainty meats without it.*
Here’s the point that must be taken: don’t desire the things that belong to the wealthy, nor ask them for a free meal. Sure, there are kindly millionaires who love to give. The problem it that there are many others who love money more than people, but don’t want to seem greedy on the surface. That is why they will say, “Eat and drink,” but gag you in the end.
One commentary says that “Cultivating the friendship of the wealthy is a waste of effort,” and then goes on to say…
“For like a hair in the throat, so he is.” Just as getting a hair in the throat while eating causes a gag reflex and sometimes vomiting (v. 8), even so the wealthy man’s hospitality will leave one feeling disgusted.**
I sure hope the next rich person that takes me to dinner keeps his hair off my food.
*Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), Pr 23:6–8.
**Duane A. Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, vol. 14, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 195-196.