Proverbs 12:9
Parallel Verses
New International Version
Better to be a nobody and yet have a servant than pretend to be somebody and have no food.

New Living Translation
Better to be an ordinary person with a servant than to be self-important but have no food.

English Standard Version
Better to be lowly and have a servant than to play the great man and lack bread.

New American Standard Bible
Better is he who is lightly esteemed and has a servant Than he who honors himself and lacks bread.

King James Bible
He that is despised, and hath a servant, is better than he that honoureth himself, and lacketh bread.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
Better to be dishonored, yet have a servant, than to act important but have no food.

International Standard Version
It's better to be unimportant, yet have a servant, than to pretend to be important, but lack food.

NET Bible
Better is a person of humble standing who nevertheless has a servant, than one who pretends to be somebody important yet has no food.

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
Better is a poor man who waits on himself than one who boasts and lacks bread.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
Better to be unimportant and have a slave than to act important and have nothing to eat.

Jubilee Bible 2000
He that despises himself and becomes a slave is better than he that honours himself and lacks bread.

King James 2000 Bible
He that is despised, and has a servant, is better than he that honors himself, and lacks bread.

American King James Version
He that is despised, and has a servant, is better than he that honors himself, and lacks bread.

American Standard Version
Better is he that is lightly esteemed, and hath a servant, Than he that honoreth himself, and lacketh bread.

Douay-Rheims Bible
Better is the poor man that provideth for himself, than he that is glorious and wanteth bread.

Darby Bible Translation
Better is he that is lightly esteemed, and hath a servant, than he that honoureth himself, and lacketh bread.

English Revised Version
Better is he that is lightly esteemed, and hath a servant, than he that honoureth himself, and lacketh bread.

Webster's Bible Translation
He that is despised, and hath a servant, is better than he that honoreth himself, and is destitute of bread.

World English Bible
Better is he who is lightly esteemed, and has a servant, than he who honors himself, and lacks bread.

Young's Literal Translation
Better is the lightly esteemed who hath a servant, Than the self-honoured who lacketh bread.
Parallel Commentaries
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.

Pulpit Commentary

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 Additional Commentaries
Context
Loving Discipline and Knowledge
8A man will be praised according to his insight, But one of perverse mind will be despised. 9Better is he who is lightly esteemed and has a servant Than he who honors himself and lacks bread. 10A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal, But even the compassion of the wicked is cruel.…
Cross References
Matthew 15:8
"'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.

Proverbs 12:8
A person is praised according to their prudence, and one with a warped mind is despised.

Proverbs 12:10
The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.
Treasury of Scripture

He that is despised, and has a servant, is better than he that honors himself, and lacks bread.

he that is or rather, as in the old translation 'He that is despised, and is his own servant, is better than he that boasteth himself and wanteth bread;' with which the versions generally agree. That is, it is better to be in lowness and obscurity, and to support oneself by manual labour, than to want the necessaries of life, through a foolish vanity, or with the pride of birth, which refuses to labour.

despised

Proverbs 13:7 There is that makes himself rich, yet has nothing: there is that …

Luke 14:11 For whoever exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself …

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