Proverbs 12
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is brutish.
1. instruction] or, correction, R.V. text. See Proverbs 1:2, note.

A good man obtaineth favour of the LORD: but a man of wicked devices will he condemn.
2. obtaineth] See Proverbs 3:13, note. Comp. Proverbs 8:35.

A man shall not be established by wickedness: but the root of the righteous shall not be moved.
A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones.
4. A virtuous woman] Comp. Ruth 3:11, and for a full description of the character intended, ch. Proverbs 31:10-31.

The thoughts of the righteous are right: but the counsels of the wicked are deceit.
The words of the wicked are to lie in wait for blood: but the mouth of the upright shall deliver them.
6. to lie in wait] So R.V. marg., a lying in wait; but R.V. text, of lying in wait, comp. Proverbs 1:11.

them] This may mean either the righteous themselves, or those for whose blood the wicked lie in wait.

The wicked are overthrown, and are not: but the house of the righteous shall stand.
7. the wicked are overthrown] Lit. to overthrow the wicked! It is only to overthrow them, and they cease to exist; they have no stay, no power of recovery in them. Comp. Proverbs 10:25; Psalm 37:9-10; Psalm 37:35-38.

A man shall be commended according to his wisdom: but he that is of a perverse heart shall be despised.
He that is despised, and hath a servant, is better than he that honoureth himself, and lacketh bread.
9. despised] Rather, lightly esteemed, R.V.; a person of no consequence, in the eyes of others, and perhaps (as in 1 Samuel 18:23, the word is used by David of himself) in his own eyes also, in contrast to him who honoureth himself.

hath a servant] Notwithstanding his lowly position he is well enough off to keep a slave. Zebedee, though only a fisherman, had hired servants (Mark 1:20).

Another rendering (with a change of Heb. vowel points), is a servant to himself, works for his own living, is adopted by the LXX. ἐν ἀτιμίᾳ δουλεύων ἑαυτῷ, and by the Vulg., pauper et subjiciens sibi. Comp. for the sentiment, Sir 10:27 :

“Better is he that laboureth and aboundeth in all things,

Than he that glorifieth himself and lacketh bread.”

A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.
10. righteous] because by such consideration he proves himself to be (Luke 1:6) “righteous, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 5:14; Deuteronomy 22:6-7; Deuteronomy 25:4), and because he is like the righteous God Himself (Psalm 145:9; Jonah 4:11).

regardeth] Lit. knoweth, Comp. Exodus 23:9.

He that tilleth his land shall be satisfied with bread: but he that followeth vain persons is void of understanding.
11. vain persons] We may either supply persons, with A.V. and R.V. text: or things, with R.V. marg. and LXX. μάταια, Vulg. sectatur otium, and in accordance with the usage of this Book in following the Heb. verb here employed by an accus. of a thing, Proverbs 11:19, Proverbs 15:9. In the former case the argument expanded will be: To keep bad company argues want of understanding, because it leads not to plenty but to lack of bread. In the latter case we may understand by vain things, idle, useless occupations, thus preserving the contrast to the honest labour of the former clause of the verse.

The LXX. and Vulg. have an interesting addition:

“He that takes pleasure in tarrying long at the wine

Shall leave dishonour in his own stronghold;”

as an example probably of the general principle of the proverb. Comp. Proverbs 21:17.

The wicked desireth the net of evil men: but the root of the righteous yieldeth fruit.
12. net] This rendering, which is retained in R.V. text, and on which the rendering prey, R.V. marg., is only a gloss (prey=net, for what it catches), gives a good and forcible antithesis to the proverb. There is perhaps an intended contrast between the restless and often fruitless activity of the hunter with his net, and the calm, stedfast fruit-bearing, as by a natural process, of the firmly-rooted tree. So St Paul contrasts the “works” of the flesh with the “fruit” of the spirit, and “the unfruitful works of darkness” with “the fruit of the light” (Galatians 5:19; Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 5:9-10, R.V.).

The abrupt change of figure from the “net” to the tree is quite in accordance with Hebrew modes of thought. In like manner in Psalms 1 the righteous is the flourishing and fruitful tree, and the wicked, not as we might have expected the barren and withered tree, but the chaff scattered by the wind as it sweeps across the bare hill-top of the summer threshing-floor.

The rendering fortress (A.V. marg., the munimentum of the Vulgate) is explained to mean, that the protection which a wicked man seeks by associating with men like himself, and so finding security in numbers, the righteous has in his own innate stability. But this is far-fetched, and the rendering disappears altogether in R.V.

The wicked is snared by the transgression of his lips: but the just shall come out of trouble.
13. The wicked is snared] Rather:

In the transgression of the lips is a snare to the evil man,

R.V. text; comp. A.V. marg., and for the sentiment, Proverbs 18:7. This is preferable to the rendering of R.V. marg., an evil snare, because it preserves the balance of the verse: the evil man, by the wicked and deceitful words which he uses to prosecute his purposes, entangles himself in a snare: the righteous man, by his righteous dealing, though he fall into trouble, is delivered out of it and walks at liberty.

The LXX. add:

“He that hath regard to gentleness shall obtain mercy;

But he that opposeth men in the gates will trouble souls.”

A man shall be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth: and the recompence of a man's hands shall be rendered unto him.
14. recompence] Rather, doings, R.V., as at once more literal and clearer. Comp. Matthew 7:2; Luke 6:37-38.

The point of the proverb is, that his speech and action have their consequences for a man himself, as well as for his neighbour.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.
15. he that hearkeneth … is wise] Rather, he that is wise hearkeneth unto counsel, R.V. (εἰσακούει δὲ συμβουλίας σοφός, LXX.; qui autem sapiens est audit consilia, Vulg.), in contrast to the fool, who thinks his own way must be right.

A fool's wrath is presently known: but a prudent man covereth shame.
16. presently] Lit. in the (same) day. Comp. “Will they make an end in one (lit. the) day?” Nehemiah 4:2 [Heb. 3:34]; αὐθημερόν, LXX.

He that speaketh truth sheweth forth righteousness: but a false witness deceit.
There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.
18. speaketh] Rather, speaketh rashly, R.V.; scattereth thoughtless words, as one might recklessly brandish a naked sword.

“Many a word at random spoken

May wound … a heart that’s broken.”

The lip of truth shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment.
19. but for a moment] Lit. while I wink. Comp. Jeremiah 49:19, where the word is rendered, suddenly.

Deceit is in the heart of them that imagine evil: but to the counsellers of peace is joy.
There shall no evil happen to the just: but the wicked shall be filled with mischief.
21. evil … mischief] Rather, mischief … evil, with R.V., reversing the meaning of the two Heb. words.

Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight.
A prudent man concealeth knowledge: but the heart of fools proclaimeth foolishness.
23. the heart] Comp.

“The heart of fools is in their mouth;

But the mouth of wise men is their heart.” Sir 21:26.

The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute.
24. the slothful] Lit. sloth. See Proverbs 10:4. Comp. Proverbs 13:1-2.

shall be under tribute] Rather, shall come, or be put, under task-work, i.e. servile or enforced labour. The phrase occurs frequently (e.g. Deuteronomy 20:11; Jdg 1:30; Jdg 1:33; Jdg 1:35), and is rendered, “be, or become tributary,” both in A.V. and R.V., though with the alternative, “be subject to task-work,” in R.V. marg. But in all those places the words, “and shall serve thee” are added, showing that it was not in money but in toil, as with the Israelites in Egypt, that the “tribute” was to be paid. Hence the phrase comes to have the meaning which it has here.

Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad.
25. In spite of grammatical anomalies, the rendering of this verse in A.V. and R.V. is to be retained.

The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour: but the way of the wicked seduceth them.
26. is more excellent than] Rather, is a guide to, R.V. Comp. “He guideth (the same word) the perfect in his way,” 2 Samuel 22:33, R.V.

seduceth them] Rather, causeth them to err, R.V. The antithesis between the two clauses of the verse is thus brought out more forcibly, especially if we understand by “them” the persons included in the collective word “neighbour.” See Proverbs 11:9, note.

The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious.
27. roasteth not] i.e. will not take the trouble to dress the animal which he has caught; or, better, never catches an animal to dress.

Others, however, would render the word (which occurs nowhere else), catcheth not (R.V. marg.), or, killeth not (Maurer) his prey, οὐκ ἐπιτεύξεται, “will not (take the trouble to) catch,” LXX.

the substance &c.] Rather, the precious substance of men is to the diligent, R.V. text; or, is to be diligent, R.V. marg.; the diligent temperament is itself the treasure; κτῆμα δὲ τίμιον ἀνὴρ καθαρός, a precious possession is a man that is pure, LXX.

In the way of righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof there is no death.
28. no death] The rendering to death, i.e. the pathway (sc. common and well-trodden, or, of evil men) leadeth to death, is supported by LXX. εἰς θάνατον, and Vulg. ducit ad mortem.

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