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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Proverbs 12

The Proverbs of Solomon:

CONTAINING SUNDRY WISE OBSERVATIONS, MAXIMS, AND PRECEPTS, chapters Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16.

Here begin the PROVERBS proper, the “nucleus of the book.” What has preceded is the introductory discourse or lecture. There is no difficulty in regarding the first nine chapters as one composition. If actually read, it would not be too long for one occasion, and the various parts are about as well connected as in the most of our modern lectures. Indeed, the unities are well preserved. It is possible that the first six verses of chapter first, which contain the title and preface, may have been prefixed subsequently to the composition of that admirable introductory discourse, and of the whole work. The remainder of the book is of a different character and form, especially from Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16. We have no longer a train of continued thought running on from verse to verse, but nearly every verse is independent of that which precedes and of that which succeeds. They might in general be inverted and transposed at pleasure, without any material injury to the sense, or diminution of the effect of the whole. They were divinely intended to form the Hebrew character to prudence and integrity by the principles of universal morality, and so are suitable for all times and peoples.

It, is not probable that all these Proverbs were original with Solomon. Many of them were, doubtless, the results of his own observation and experience; but others, perhaps long in use, were gathered from other sources; being, however, such as his judgment approved, he gave them a place in his collection.

It is the opinion of some critics that Solomon did not write, but spoke the proverbs, and that they were taken down in writing by others, at different times; that from the various collections thus made by different scribes of the three thousand proverbs which he spake, (compare 1 Kings 4:32,) those contained in this book are what were deemed worthy of preservation for after ages. They seem to have been arranged, by Solomon or others, chiefly according to their form, in two separate volumes, rolls, or memoranda, one of which extends from chapter x to chapter xv, inclusive, and which consists almost exclusively of antithetic parallelisms; the other, from chapter 16 to Proverbs 22:16, which consists chiefly of synthetic parallelisms. Every verse, in both parts, makes a complete sentence. There is rarely even a similarity of subject in two successive verses. Even the two parts of the same verse seldom so run into each other as to form a compound sentence, in which one number is dependent on the other. There are a few exceptions to this in the 20th chapter. This is altogether different from the method of the first nine chapters, and is not so rigidly observed in what follows Proverbs 22:16.

1. A wise son… glad father Gladdens his father.

A foolish son כסיל , ( kesil.) The radical idea is that of dullness, stiffness, grossness, rudeness; when applied to the mind, as here, it is the opposite of that refinement, culture, and intelligence, or the capability of them, which חכם , ( hhakham,) wise, implies. It has been suggested that the idea lies half concealed in the verse, that a father, in general, is better qualified to appreciate the mental qualities of a good and wise son, and the mother is more affected by the grossness and rudeness of an evil and foolish one.

This is not wholly improbable, yet too much stress is not to be laid on these niceties, which seem to overlook the nature of the Hebrew parallelism. Comp. Proverbs 1:8; Proverbs 15:20; Proverbs 17:0; Proverbs 25:23-24. For the expression heaviness, compare Proverbs 14:13; Proverbs 17:21; Psalms 119:22.

Verse 1

1. Loveth instruction Better, discipline. (See Proverbs 1:3, and note.)

He that hateth reproof (or admonition) is brutish בער , ( ba’har,) is boorish, bearish, or beastly stupid. Comp. Proverbs 30:2; Proverbs 3:11-12; Hebrews 12:6; Hebrews 10:11; Psalms 49:10; Psalms 73:22; Psalms 92:6; Psalms 141:5.

Verse 2

2. A good man שׂוב , ( tobh,) an unusual word to express moral qualities.

Obtaineth Hebrew, draws out. There is some disagreement on the proper rendering of the latter clause, but the weight of criticism is in favour of our version.

Wicked devices Plots, usually with a bad sense, and supposed to be so used here.

Verse 3

3. Root of the righteous The righteous are here figuratively compared to a tree deeply rooted, and able to resist the storms, and continue unmoved in a flourishing condition. Not so the wicked. Compare Psalms 1:3-4; Proverbs 10:25; Isaiah 61:4; Isaiah 27:6; Jeremiah 17:8; Ephesians 3:17; Colossians 2:7.

Verse 4

4. A virtuous woman אשׁת חיל , ( esheth hhayil.) Hhayil denotes, primarily, strength, firmness, of body or mind; hence ability, capability, virtue, worth, etc. The probable meaning here is, a worthy woman or wife; or a capable woman; one having all the good qualities of her sex, and the necessary qualifications physical, mental, and moral for her position as a wife and mother. Compare Proverbs 31:10, and note; Proverbs 31:23; Proverbs 31:28; Ruth 3:11. Such a wife is, indeed, a crown of glory to her husband.

Husband Literally, her lord. Compare Proverbs 31:10; Pro 31:23 ; 1 Corinthians 11:7.

She that maketh ashamed Because she lacks these qualities and qualifications, and has their opposites; but, especially, because of that disqualification and cause of shame unfaithfulness to her marriage vows. See Proverbs 2:17.

Is as rottenness in his bones Carries putrefaction through the bones; a metaphor, says Gesenius, of terror. The figure is sufficiently explicit and terrible. Compare Proverbs 14:30; Hebrews 3:16. The crown among the Hebrews was the sign of joy and gladness, as well as of royalty. Compare Song of Solomon 3:11.

Verse 5

5. Thoughts… righteous Their purposes, intentions, accord with justice, or a judicial decision; that is, are like unto one. They meditate, and intend nothing but what is right.

The counsels תחבלות , tahhbuloth, (comp. Proverbs 1:5; Proverbs 11:14,) the governing principles, of the wicked are deceit. Are intended to deceive. Tahhbuloth is the same word which in Proverbs 1:5, is translated wise counsels. See note there.

Verse 6

6. Are to lie in wait Are a lying in wait an ambush.

For blood That is, to shed blood, to take life. Compare Proverbs 1:11-18; Proverbs 11:9. Shall deliver them Namely, those whose blood is sought. It is implied that this shall be done by their counsels, advices, pleas, or prayers by what proceeds out of their mouth. “Men sincerely good give the best advice they can to deliver such innocent persons from their bloody snares.”

Patrick. But others understand that the upright shall deliver themselves.

The Speaker’s Commentary prefers the latter. Luke 20:3-7; Luke 20:19; Luke 20:41, seq.

Verse 7

7. Are not Are no more there is nothing left of them. Compare Proverbs 10:25; Esther 9:6; Job 5:3; Job 18:15; Job 27:18; Psalms 37:10; Psalms 37:37; Psalms 73:18; Matthew 7:27.

Verse 8

8. According to his wisdom Shrewdness or prudence. In proportion to it shall he be applauded.

Perverse Crooked of heart.

Shall be despised Literally, it shall be for contempt.

Verse 9

9. He that is despised Lowly, little noticed, or lightly esteemed. 1 Samuel 18:23. It is a different word from that rendered “despised” in Proverbs 12:8. Perhaps it ( נקלה , nikleh) should be translated ignoble; that is, of birth or family one of the common people.

And hath a servant A sign of wealth and substance.

Is better Better off than he that honoureth himself; affects honour, wealth, nobility, aristocracy, and lacketh bread. The general sentiment is, Better is a man in medium circumstances, who has the means of sustenance under his control, than a nobleman who is in a state of starvation. So Stuart. “Respectable mediocrity is better than boastful poverty.” Speaker’s Commentary. The Septuagint reads the passage thus: “He that is despised and serveth himself;” that is, supports himself by his own labour; which makes a good sense, and is followed by the Vulgate, the Geneva Bible, Muenscher, Zockler, Conant, (“tills for himself,”) and others. The present pointing of the Hebrew does not allow of this reading; but a little alteration of the vowel points does permit it. The points give us the Masoretic or Jewish traditional interpretation nothing more. It is respectable, but not infallible. If the sense of the Septuagint is to be followed, Miller’s form of the words is preferable “is a servant to himself” as being reconcilable with the present Hebrew pointing. The Douay reads: “Better is the poor man that provides for himself than he that is glorious and wanteth bread.”

Verse 10

10. A righteous (or just) man regardeth. יודע , ( yodhea’h,) knoweth.

The verb is used in the sense of taking care of. Compare Genesis 39:6; Psalms 1:6; Proverbs 27:23.

The life of his beast נפשׁ בהמתו ( nephesh behemto) is, perhaps, used as a periphrasis for beast; that is, for its comfort and well-being.

But the tender mercies רחמי , ( rahhame,) bowels, which the ancients regarded as the seat of the tender affections or sympathies.

Are cruel Cruelty itself; as much as to say, they possess no organs for the exercise of kindness toward either man or beast have no place for it in their constitution. On thoughtful kindness to animals, compare Deuteronomy 25:4; Leviticus 22:28; Exodus 20:10; Exodus 23:4-5; Jonah 4:11.

Verse 11

11. Satisfied with bread Shall have plenty.

Vain persons ריקים , ( rekim,) the raca of Matthew 5:22. Idle, profligate, empty-pated men; those who frequent saloons, taverns, ale houses, and other dissolute places, when they should be ploughing, or otherwise earning an honest living. The Septuagint here adds a proverb not in the Hebrew which is worthy of preservation: “He that enjoys himself (or spends his time) in banquets of wine, shall leave dishonour in his own strongholds.” The idea is, that he shall leave a heritage of dishonour to his household. Compare Proverbs 28:19; Genesis 3:19.

Verse 12

12. Desireth the net Spoil or prey, the product of the “net.”

Of evil men Or, of the evil. He is fond of the wiles and arts which are characteristic of the bad man; he resorts to trickery and deception to make himself secure and firm.

But the root of the righteous yieldeth fruit The righteous only shall be prosperous and successful. So the clause is generally understood. But the “net” or snare of the evil may mean, as in Proverbs 1:17, the snare in which they are taken and destroyed. The wicked are allured to this snare as an animal is allured by its appetite to the net in which it is taken. Compare Proverbs 8:36; Proverbs 11:27. Yieldeth, יתן , ( yitten,) commonly supposed to be from נתן , ( nathan,) to give, yield, etc.; but others suggest, what is probable, that it comes from יתן , ( yathan,) to be strong, firm; and hence render the last clause, the root of the righteous shall be firm. For illustration of “net of evil men,” compare Psalms 10:8-10. Conant’s interpretation gives a good sense: “In striking contrast with the chance gains of the wicked is here shown the sure and natural increase of the righteous. The former is likened to a net stealthily spread for the prey, that may take little or much, or, perchance, nothing. The latter is the natural and certain growth from the root, planted in the earth, that will not fail to bear fruit.”

Verse 13

13. Wicked… snared Well rendered by Conant: “In the transgression of the lips is an evil snare.” A man is often ensnared by his malicious or envious talk, or by his prevarications and falsehoods. Compare Ecclesiastes 10:12. Trouble Strait or distress.

Verse 14

14. Satisfied… fruit of his mouth His discourse; his wholesome counsels and wise instructions. A man shall reap the fruit of these in good to himself.

Shall be rendered unto him Or, He (Jehovah) shall render unto him. Compare Isaiah 3:10; Matthew 10:41-42: 2 Thessalonians 1:6.

Verse 15

15. Way of a fool A fool is so self-conceited that he takes no advice. A wise man relies not on his own judgment alone in matters of importance. Compare Proverbs 3:5-7; Job 32:1; Isaiah 5:21; Luke 18:11.

Verse 16

16. A fool’s wrath (vexation) is presently known Hebrew, the same day. He does not control his temper, but allows others to witness his provocation.

But a prudent man covereth shame He does not appear to recognise the contempt with which he is treated, takes no notice of a slight or insult, and suppresses the desire to retaliate. Saul, though not a very wise man, once acted on this maxim. 1 Samuel 10:27.

Verse 17

17. Speaketh Hebrew, breathes forth.

Truth Makes an honest and faithful statement.

Showeth forth Publishes or establishes.

Righteousness A just cause.

A false witness (shows or establishes) deceit An habitually faithful man can be relied upon to testify to the right; but a false witness supports fraud. The thought lying below the surface of this truism is the inseparable union between truth and justice.

Verse 18

18. There is that speaketh Prates or babbles.

Piercings of a sword Like knife-thrusts. His words are daggers.

But the tongue of the wise is health Or healing; heals the wounds made by the idle and malicious babblers. Compare Psalms 57:4; Psalms 59:7.

Verse 19

19. Lying tongue… for a moment Hebrew, until I can wink; the twinkling of an eye. The sense is: He that speaks truth is safe, but a liar shall quickly perish. On first clause compare Zechariah 1:5-6; Matthew 24:35.

Verse 20

20. Deceit “Delusion.” Miller.

Imagine evil Fabricators or advisers of evil.

Counsellors of peace Those who give wholesome advice.

Verse 21

21. Evil Calamity.

Happen Meet or befall. Romans 8:28 is a good comment on this clause: “All things work together for good to them that love God.”

Filled with mischief Evil calamity. Compare Proverbs 10:3; Proverbs 11:23; Proverbs 12:2-3; Psalms 91:10; 1 Corinthians 3:22-23; 2 Corinthians 4:17; 2 Thessalonians 1:6; 1Pe 3:12-13 ; 2 Peter 2:9.

Verse 22

22. Lying lips On this verse Melanchthon comments: “Truth being among the most conspicuous of virtues, therefore the opposite vice is condemned by an expressive word, abomination.”

They that deal truly Those who practise fidelity. Compare Proverbs 11:20; Psalms 5:6; Isaiah 9:15; Revelation 22:15.

Verse 23

23. A prudent man A wary or subtle man.

Concealeth knowledge Does not tell all he knows; wisely retains his knowledge for his own benefit. Comp. Proverbs 10:14.

Proclaimeth foolishness Or folly. Dr. Clarke has a sharp note on this: “I have,” he says, “known men of some learning so intent on immediately informing a company how well cultivated their minds were, that they have passed either for insignificant pedants or stupid asses.” “The heart of fools is in their mouth; but the mouth of the wise is in their heart.” Sir 21:26 . Comp. Proverbs 10:14; Proverbs 13:16; Proverbs 15:2.

Verse 24

24. Diligent… bear rule Diligence procures wealth and promotion; idleness brings poverty and dependence. The word rendered “slothful” also means deceitful, or fr audulent. They are often connected sloth frequently leading to fraud. In the East a conquered race were compelled to pay heavy taxes, while their conquerors were comparatively free from such burdens. Solomon’s familiarity with this fact may have suggested the illustration here.

Under tribute “Shall be obliged to serve.” Zockler. Comp. 1 Kings 9:21-22; Joshua 16:10; Judges 31:30, 33.

Verse 25

25. Heaviness in the heart Trouble, anxiety, sorrow.

Maketh it stoop Bows it down, as if oppressed by a burden.

A good word A kind or cheering word. Some grammatical anomalies are noticed here by the critics, but they do not affect the sense. On latter clause compare Proverbs 25:11; Isaiah 50:4; Zechariah 1:13; 2 Corinthians 2:4-7.

Verse 26

26. More excellent… neighbour Meaning, than his unrighteous neighbour. There is some difficulty in this verse on the word rendered more excellent, or, by some, more abundant. “The weight of later criticism is in favour of rendering thus: ‘ The righteous man guides, or shows, the way to his neighbour; but the way of the wicked misleads them.’” So Gesenius in Lex., with whom agree Stuart, Zockler, Miller. But Fausset adheres to the old rendering.

Verse 27

27. The slothful man roasteth not After a somewhat careful study of this difficult passage, I incline to the following translation: The indolent man shall not “roast,” or catch, prey.

But the substance Gain, wealth, prey, of a diligent man is precious; therefore, diligence is the best wealth. Muenscher follows the Authorized Version, and illustrates thus: It is the custom in some countries to singe and smoke dry (roast) the game taken, to preserve it. A diligent hunter in this manner preserves his game; while an indolent man, as long as his food lasts, lounges and sleeps in his hut, probably losing half of the animal by not quickly preserving or perfectly smoking it.

Verse 28

28. Way of righteousness is life Plural, lives; life temporal and life eternal.

Pathway thereof… is no death Better. A devious way leadeth to death. The original denotes a crooked, winding path, of uncertain, if not of positively evil, termination. The later critics think our Authorized Version has mistaken the sense.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Proverbs 12". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/proverbs-12.html. 1874-1909.