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Brutish - Dumb as a brute beast. The difference between man and brute lies chiefly in the capacity of the former for progress and improvement, and that capacity depends upon his willingness to submit to discipline and education. Compare Psalms 49:12.
Virtuous - The word implies the virtue of earnestness, or strength of character, rather than of simple chastity.
A crown - With the Jews the sign, not of kingly power only, but also of joy and gladness. Compare Song of Solomon 3:11.
Shall deliver them - i. e., The righteous themselves.
Two interpretations are equally tenable;
(1) as in the King James Version, He whom men despise, or who is “lowly” in his own eyes (compare 1 Samuel 18:23), if he has a slave, i. e., if he is one step above absolute poverty, and has some one to supply his wants, is better off than the man who boasts of rank or descent and has nothing to eat. Respectable mediocrity is better than boastful poverty.
(2) he who, though despised, is a servant to himself, i. e., supplies his own wants, is better than the arrogant and helpless.
Regardeth - literally, “knoweth.” All true sympathy and care must grow out of knowledge. The duty of a person to animals:
(1) rests upon direct commandments in the Law Exodus 20:10; Exodus 23:4-5;
(2) connects itself with the thought that the mercies of God are over all His works, and that man’s mercy, in proportion to its excellence, must be like His Jonah 4:11; and
(3) has perpetuated its influence in the popular morality of the East.
Tender mercies - Better, “the feelings, the emotions,” all that should have led to mercy and pity toward man.
The contrast is carried on between the life of industry and that of the idle, “vain person” of the “baser sort” (the “Raca” of Matthew 5:22). We might have expected that the second clause would have ended with such words as “shall lack bread,” but the contrast goes deeper. Idleness leads to a worse evil than that of hunger.
The meaning seems to be: The “net of evil men” (compare Proverbs 1:17) is that in which they are taken, the judgment of God in which they are ensnared. This they run into with such a blind infatuation, that it seems as if they were in love with their own destruction. The marginal rendering gives the thought that the wicked seek the protection of others like themselves, but seek in vain; the “root of the just” (i. e., that in them which is fixed and stable) alone yields that protection.
See Proverbs 13:2 note.
The “fool” cannot restrain his wrath; it rushes on “presently” (as in the margin, on the same day, however, uselessly. The prudent man knows that to utter his indignation at reproach and shame will but lead to a fresh attack, and takes refuge in reticence.
The thought which lies below the surface is that of the inseparable union between truth and justice. The end does not justify the means, and only he who breathes and utters truth makes the righteous cause clear.
The “deceit” of “those who imagine evil” can work nothing but evil to those whom they advise. The “counselors of peace” have joy in themselves, and impart it to others also.
Another aspect of the truth of Proverbs 10:14.
Under tribute - The comparison is probably suggested by the contrast between the condition of a conquered race (compare Joshua 16:10; Judges 1:30-33), and that of the freedom of their conquerors from such burdens. The proverb indicates that beyond all political divisions of this nature there lies an ethical law. The “slothful” descend inevitably to pauperism and servitude. The prominence of compulsory labor under Solomon 1 Kings 9:21 gives a special significance to the illustration.
Is more excellent than - Rather, the just man guides his neighbor.
The word rendered “roasteth” occurs nowhere else; but the interpretation of the King James Version is widely adopted. Others render the first clause thus: “The slothful man will not secure (keep in his net) what he takes in hunting,” i. e., will let whatever he gains slip from his hands through want of effort and attention.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Proverbs 12". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27