|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
12:1 Those who have grace, will delight in the instructions given them. Those that stifle their convictions, are like brutes. 2. The man who covers selfish and vicious designs under a profession of religion or friendship, will be condemned. 3. Though men may advance themselves by sinful arts, they cannot settle and secure themselves. But those who by faith are rooted in Christ, are firmly fixed. 4. A wife who is pious, prudent, and looks well to the ways of her household, who makes conscience of her duty, and can bear crosses; such a one is an honour and comfort to her husband. She that is the reverse of this, preys upon him, and consumes him. 5. Thoughts are not free; they are under the Divine knowledge, therefore under the Divine command. It is a man's shame to act with deceit, with trick and design. 6. Wicked people speak mischief to their neighbours. A man may sometimes do a good work with one good word. 7. God's blessing is often continued to the families of godly men, while the wicked are overthrown. 8. The apostles showed wisdom by glorying in shame for the name of Christ. 9. He that lives in a humble state, who has no one to wait upon him, but gets bread by his own labour, is happier than he that glories in high birth or gay attire, and wants necessaries.
Verse 9. - This verse may be translated, Better is a man who is lightly esteemed and hath a slave, than he that boasts himself and lacketh bread; i.e. the man who is thought little of by his fellows, and is lowly in his own eyes, if he have a slave to minister to his wants (which all Orientals of even moderate wealth possess), is better off than one who boasts of his rank and family, and is all the while on the verge of starvation. "Respectful mediocrity is better than boastful poverty." Ecclus. 10:27, "Better is he that laboreth and aboundeth in all things, than he that boasteth himself, and wanteth bread." But the words rendered, hath a slave, are literally, a servant to himself. So the Vulgate has, sufficiens sibi, "sufficing himself," and the Septuagint, δουλεύων ἑαυτῷ, "serving himself." And the expression implies attending to his own concerns, supplying his own wants. Hence the gnome means, "It is wiser to look after one's own business and provide for one's own necessities, even if thereby he meets with contempt and detraction, than to be in real want, and all the time assuming the airs of a rich and prosperous man." This latter explanation seems most suitable, as it is not at all clear that, at the time the book was written, the Israelites of moderate fortune kept slaves, and the proverb would lose its force if they did not do so. Says a mediaeval jingle -
"Nobilitas morum plus ornat quam genitorum."
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
He that is despised, and hath a servant,.... Meaning not the same person as before, but one in mean circumstances of life; and because he has not that substance as others have, at least does not make that show and figure in the world as some; and mean in his own eyes, as Jarchi; and does not affect grandeur, and to look greater than he is; has just sufficiency to keep a servant to wait upon him; or, as some render it, is "a servant to himself" (p); to this purpose the Septuagint; and so Jarchi and Gersom interpret it, who does his own work at home and abroad, in the house and in the field, and so gets himself a competent living. He
is better than he that honoureth himself, and lacketh bread; that boasts of his pedigree, and brags of his wealth; dresses out in fine clothes, keeps a fine equipage, makes a great figure abroad, and has scarce bread to eat at home, and would have none if his debts were paid; the former is much the better man on all accounts, and more to be commended; see Proverbs 13:7. And so, as Cocceius observes, the least shepherd (under Christ) that has ever so few sheep, one or two under his care, whom he brings to righteousness, and by whom he is loved, is preferable to the pope of Rome, who is adored by all; and yet neither has nor gives the bread of souls; and without the offerings of others has not anything to eat.
(p) "servus sibiipsi", Montanus; "suiipius", Vatablus; "sibimet", Schultens.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
9. despised—held in little repute, obscure (1Sa 18:23; Isa 3:5).
hath a servant—implying some means of honest living.
honoureth himself—is self-conceited.
Proverbs 12:9 Parallel Commentaries
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