20. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
20. Itaque si esurit inimicus tuus, pasce illum; si sitit, potum da illi: hoc enim faciens carbones ignis congeres in caput ipsius.
21. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
21. Ne vincaris a malo, sed vincas bono malum.
1 Calvin has in this exposition followed Chrysostom and Theodoret. The former part no doubt contains the right view; the following verse proves it, "Overcome evil with good." The idea of "heaping coals of fire" is said to have been derived from the practice of heaping coals on the fire to melt hard metals; but as "the coals of fire" must mean "burning coals," as indeed the word in Proverbs 25:22, whence the passage is taken, clearly means, this notion cannot be entertained. It seems to be a sort of proverbial saying, signifying something intolerable, which cannot be borne without producing strong effects. such is represented to be kindness to any enemy, to feed him when hungry and to give him drink when thirsty, has commonly such a power over him that he cannot resist its influence, no more than he can withstand the scorching heat of burning coals. Of course the natural tendency of such a conduct is all that is intended, and not that it invariably produces such an effect; for in Scripture things are often stated in this way; but human nature is such a strange thing, that it often resists what is right, just, and reasonable, and reverses, as it were, the very nature of things.
It is not true what Whitby and others have held, that "coals of fire" always mean judgments or punishments. The word indeed in certain connections, as in Psalm 18:13; Psalm 140:11, has this meaning, but in Proverbs 25:22, it cannot be taken in this sense, as the preceding verse most clearly proves. There is no canon of interpretation more erroneous than to make words or phrases to bear the same meaning in every place. -- Ed.