Proverbs 12:1
Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is brutish.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
XII.

(1) Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge.—Rather, he that loveth knowledge loveth discipline, i.e., to put himself in the place of a learner; while “he that hateth reproof,” who will not take advice, is “brutish,” “nourishing a blind life within the brain,” like the animals who are incapable of improvement.

Proverbs

THE MANY-SIDED CONTRAST OF WISDOM AND FOLLY

Proverbs 12:1 - Proverbs 12:15
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The verses of the present passage are a specimen of the main body of the Book of Proverbs. They are not a building, but a heap. The stones seldom have any mortar between them, and connection or progress is for the most part sought in vain. But one great antithesis runs through the whole-the contrast of wisdom or righteousness with folly or wickedness. The compiler or author is never weary of setting out that opposition in all possible lights. It is, in his view, the one difference worth noting between men, and it determines their whole character and fortunes. The book traverses with keen observation all the realm of life, and everywhere finds confirmation of its great principle that goodness is wisdom and sin folly.

There is something extremely impressive in this continual reiteration of that contrast. As we read, we feel as if, after all, there were nothing in the world but it and its results. That profound sense of the existence and far-reaching scope of the division of men into two classes is not the least of the benefits which a thoughtful study of Proverbs brings to us. In this lesson it is useless to attempt to classify the verses. Slight traces of grouping appear here and there; but, on the whole, we have a set of miscellaneous aphorisms turning on the great contrast, and setting in various lights the characters and fates of the righteous and the wicked.

The first mark of difference is the opposite feeling about discipline. If a man is wise, he will love ‘knowledge’; and if he loves knowledge, he will love the means to it, and therefore will not kick against correction. That is another view of trials from the one which inculcates devout submission to a Father. It regards only the benefits to ourselves. If we want to be taught anything, we shall not flinch from the rod. There must be pains undergone in order to win knowledge of any sort, and the man who rebels against these shows that he had rather be comfortable and ignorant than wise. A pupil who will not stand having his exercises corrected will not learn his faults. On the other hand, hating reproof is ‘brutish’ in the most literal sense; for it is the characteristic of animals that they do not understand the purpose of pain, and never advance because they do not. Men can grow because they can submit to discipline; beasts cannot improve because, except partially and in a few cases, they cannot accept correction.

The first proverb deals with wisdom or goodness in its inner source; namely, a docile disposition. The two next deal with its consequences. It secures God’s favour, while its opposite is condemned; and then, as a consequence of this, the good man is established and the wicked swept away. The manifestations of God’s favour and its opposite are not to be thrown forward to a future life. Continuously the sunshine of divine love falls on the one man, and already the other is condemned. It needs some strength of faith to look through the shows of prosperity often attending plain wickedness, and believe that it is always a blunder to do wrong.

But a moderate experience of life will supply many instances of prosperous villainy in trade and politics which melted away like mist. The shore is strewn with wrecks, dashed to pieces because righteousness did not steer. Every exchange gives examples in plenty. How many seemingly solid structures built on wrong every man has seen in his lifetime crumble like the cloud masses which the wind piles in the sky and then dissipates! The root of the righteous is in God, and therefore he is firm. The contrast is like that of Psalm 1:1 - Psalm 1:6 -between the tree with strong roots and waving greenery, and the chaff, rootless, and therefore whirled out of the threshing-floor.

The universal contrast is next applied to women; and in accordance with the subordinate position they held in old days, the bearing of her goodness is principally regarded as affecting her husband. That does not cover the whole ground, of course. But wherever there is a true marriage, the wife will not think that woman’s rights are infringed because one chief issue of her beauty of virtue is the honour and joy it reflects upon him who has her heart. ‘A virtuous woman’ is not only one who possesses the one virtue to which the phrase has been so miserably confined, but who is ‘a woman of strength’-no doll or plaything, but

‘A perfect woman, nobly planned

To warn, to comfort, and command.’

The gnawing misery of being fastened like two dogs in a leash to one who ‘causes shame’ is vividly portrayed by that strong figure, that she is like ‘rottenness in his bones,’ eating away strength, and inflicting disfigurement and torture.

Then come a pair of verses describing the inward and outward work of the two kinds of men as these affect others. The former verses dealt with their effects on the actors; the present, with their bearing on others. Inwardly, the good man has thoughts which scrupulously keep the balance true and are just to his fellows, while the wicked plans to deceive for his own profit. When thoughts are translated into speech, deceit bears fruit in words which are like ambushes of murderers, laying traps to destroy, while the righteous man’s words are like angels of deliverance to the unsuspecting who are ready to fall into the snare. Selfishness, which is the root of wickedness, will be cruelty and injustice when necessary for its ends. The man who is wise because God is his centre and aim will be merciful and helpful. The basis of philanthropy is religion. The solemn importance attached to speech is observable. Words can slay as truly as swords. Now that the press has multiplied the power of speech, and the world is buzzing with the clatter of tongues, we all need to lay to heart the responsibilities and magic power of spoken and printed words, and ‘to set a watch on the door of our lips.’

Then follow a couple of verses dealing with the consequences to men themselves of their contrasted characters. The first of these {Proverbs 12:7} recurs to the thought of Proverbs 12:3 but with a difference. Not only the righteous himself, but his house, shall be established. The solidarity of the family and the entail of goodness are strongly insisted on in the Old Testament, though limitations are fully recognised. If a good man’s son continues his father’s character, he will prolong his father’s blessings; and in normal conditions, a parent’s wisdom passes on to his children. Something is wrong when, as is so often the case, it does not; and it is not always the children’s fault.

The overthrow of the wicked is set in striking contrast with their plots to overthrow others. Their mischief comes back, like an Australian boomerang, to the hand that flings it; and contrariwise, delivering others is a sure way of establishing one’s self. Exceptions there are, for the world-scheme is too complicated to be condensed into a formula; but all proverbs speak of the average usual results of virtue and vice, and those of this book do the same. Proverbs 12:8 asserts that, on the whole, honour attends goodness, and contempt wickedness. Of course, companions in dissipation extol each other’s vices, and launch the old threadbare sneers at goodness. But if wisdom were not set uppermost in men’s secret judgment, there would be no hypocrites, and their existence proves the truth of the proverb.

Proverbs 12:9 seems suggested by ‘despised’ in Proverbs 12:8. There are two kinds of contempt-one which brands sin deservedly, one which vulgarly despises everybody who is not rich. A man need not mind, though his modest household is treated with contempt, if quiet righteousness reigns in it. It is better to be contented with little, and humble in a lowly place, than to be proud and hungry, as many were in the writer’s time and since. A foolish world set on wealth may despise, but its contempt breaks no bones. Self-conceit is poor diet.

This seems to be the first of a little cluster of proverbs bearing on domestic life. It prefers modest mediocrity of station, such as Agur desired. Its successor shows how the contrasted qualities come out in the two men’s relation to their domestic animals. Goodness sweeps a wide circle touching the throne of God and the stall of the cattle. It was not Coleridge who found out that ‘He prayeth best who loveth best’ but this old proverb-maker; and he could speak the thought without the poet’s exaggeration, which robs his expression of it of half its value. The original says ‘knoweth the soul’ which may indeed mean, ‘regardeth the life’ but rather seems to suggest sympathetic interest in leading to an understanding of the dumb creature, which must precede all wise care for its well-being. It is a part of religion to try to enter into the mysterious feelings of our humble dependants in farmyard and stable. On the other hand, for want of such sympathetic interest, even when the ‘wicked’ means to be kind, he does harm; or the word rendered ‘tender mercies’ may here mean the feelings {literally, ‘bowels’} which, in their intense selfishness, are cruel even to animals.

Proverbs 12:11 has no connection with the preceding, unless the link is common reference to home life and business. It contrasts the sure results of honest industry with the folly of speculation. The Revised Version margin ‘vain things’ is better than the text ‘vain persons,’ which would give no antithesis to the patient tilling of the first clause. That verse would make an admirable motto to be stretched across the Stock Exchange, and like places on both sides of the Atlantic. How many ruined homes and heart-broken wives witness in America and England to its truth! The vulgar English proverb, ‘What comes over the Devil’s back goes under his belly,’ says the same thing. The only way to get honest wealth is to work for it. Gambling in all its forms is rank folly.

So the next proverb {Proverbs 12:12} continues the same thought, and puts it in a somewhat difficult phrase. It goes a little deeper than the former, showing that the covetousness which follows after vain things, is really wicked lusting for unrighteous gain. ‘The net of evildoer’s is better taken as in the margin {Rev. Ver.} ‘prey’ or ‘spoil,’ and the meaning seems to be as just stated. Such hankering for riches, no matter how obtained, or such envying of the booty which admittedly has been won by roguery, is a mark of the wicked. How many professing church members have known that feeling in thinking of the millions of some railway king! Would they like the proverb to be applied to them?

The contrast to this is ‘the root of the righteous yields fruit,’ or ‘shoots forth,’ We have heard {Proverbs 12:3} that it shall never be moved, being fixed in God; now we are told that it will produce all that is needful. A life rooted in God will unfold into all necessary good, which will be better than the spoil of the wicked. There are two ways of getting on-to struggle and fight and trample down rivals; one, to keep near God and wait for him. ‘Ye fight and war; ye have not, because ye ask not.’

The next two proverbs have in common a reference to the effect of speech upon the speaker. ‘In the transgression of the lips is an evil snare’; that is, sinful words ensnare their utterer, and whoever else he harms, he himself is harmed most. The reflex influence on character of our utterances is not present to us, as it should be. They leave stains on lips and heart. Thoughts expressed are more definite and permanent thereby. A vicious thought clothed in speech has new power over the speaker. If we would escape from that danger, we must be righteous, and speak righteousness; and then the same cause will deepen our convictions of ‘whatsoever things are lovely and of good report.’

Proverbs 12:14 insists on this opposite side of the truth. Good words will bring forth fruit, which will satisfy the speaker, because, whatever effects his words may have on others, they will leave strengthened goodness and love of it in himself. ‘If the house be worthy, your peace shall rest upon it; if not, it shall return to you again.’ That reaction of words on oneself is but one case of the universal law of consequences coming back on us. We are the architects of our own destinies. Every deed has an immortal life, and returns, either like a raven or a dove, to the man who sent it out on its flight. It comes back either croaking with blood on its beak, or cooing with an olive branch in its mouth. All life is at once sowing and reaping. A harvest comes in which retribution will be even more entire and accurate.

The last proverb of the passage gives a familiar antithesis, and partially returns to the thought of Proverbs 12:1. The fool has no standard of conduct but his own notions, and is absurdly complacent as to all his doings. The wise seeks better guidance than his own, and is docile, because he is not so ridiculously sure of his infallibility. No type of weak wickedness is more abominable to the proverbialist than that of pert self-conceit, which knows so little that it thinks it knows everything, and is ‘as untameable as a fly.’ But in the wisest sense, it is true that a mark of folly is self-opinionativeness; that a man who has himself for teacher has a fool for scholar; that the test of wisdom is willingness to be taught; and, especially, that to bring a docile, humble spirit to the Source of all wisdom, and to ask counsel of God, is the beginning of true insight, and that the self-sufficiency which is the essence of sin, is never more fatal than when it is ignorant of guilt, and therefore spurns a Saviour.

Proverbs 12:1. Whose loveth instruction — Admonition, or reproof, (as appears from the next clause,) which is a singular means of gaining true wisdom; loveth knowledge — Shows that he is a true lover of it, because he is willing to purchase it upon such unwelcome terms, as reproofs are generally thought to be. But he that hateth reproof — Who cannot endure to be told of, and reproved for, his faults; is brutish — Discovers himself to be a most foolish and stupid creature, because he is an enemy to himself, and to his own happiness.

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.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 Psalm 49:12. CHAPTER 12

Pr 12:1-28.

1. loveth knowledge—as the fruit of instruction or training (Pr 1:2).

hateth reproof—(Pr 10:17).

brutish—stupid, regardless of his own welfare (Ps 49:10; 73:22). Instruction; admonition or reproof, as appears from the next clause, which is a singular means of getting true and sound knowledge.

Loveth knowledge; showeth that he is a true lover of knowledge, because he is willing to purchase it upon such unwelcome terms, as reproofs are generally esteemed.

Is brutish; discovereth himself to be a most foolish and stupid creature, because he is an enemy to himself and to his own happiness.

Whose loveth instruction loveth knowledge,.... That loves the instruction of Wisdom, or Christ, Proverbs 4:13; the means of instruction, the Scriptures, which are profitable for instruction in righteousness, and are written for our learning; the Gospel, which instructs into the person, office, and grace of Christ; the ministers of the word, who are so many instructors in Christ; and even the rod of afflictions, by which men are taught their duty, and the will of God: and these are to be loved; and he that loves them clearly shows that he loves knowledge; since the means of instruction, making use of them, and getting instruction by them, are attended with labour, trouble, and difficulty; which a man would not choose, had he not a love unto and a desire after knowledge, and an increase of it; as the knowledge of God, of Christ, and of his truths. Aben Ezra inverts the words;

"he that loves knowledge loves instruction;''

but the sense is much the same;

but he that hateth reproof is brutish; or a "beast" (k): as the man that is willing to be instructed, in order to gain knowledge, shows himself to be a wise and understanding man; so he that hates the reproof the word of God gives, or the ministers of it, or God by them, appears to be no better than a brute, than the horse or mule that want understanding: so the man of sin hates the Scriptures, the Gospel, and the ministers of it, and the reproofs and convictions they give of his idolatry, superstition, and will worship; nor does he care that his doctrines and practices should be brought to this test, or that the people should have knowledge of them; but keeps them from them, and sets up his own infallibility as the rule of judgment; and it is one character of his followers, that they "receive not the love of the truth", 2 Thessalonians 2:10; and both he and they are represented by a beast, Revelation 13:1; and are more brutish than any man; see Proverbs 5:11.

(k) "instar bruti indocilis est", Michaelis.

Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is brutish.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. instruction] or, correction, R.V. text. See Proverbs 1:2, note.

Verse 1. - Instruction; correction, discpline, which shows a man his faults, gives him a lowly opinion of himself, and opens his mind to receive knowledge, especially the knowledge of himself and of all moral obligations. Is brutish; is as insensible to higher aspirations, to regret for the past or hope of amendment, as a brute beast (comp. Proverbs 30:2). On this point St. Augustine is quoted: "Quicumque corripi non vis, ex eo sane corripiendus es quia corripi non vis. Non vis enim tua tibi vitia demonstrari; non vis ut feriantur, fiatque tibi utilis dolor, quo medicum quaeras; non vis tibi tu ipse ostendi, ut cum deformem te vides, reformaturum desideres, eique supplices ne in illa remaneas foeditate" ('De Corrept. et Grat.,' 5). Such conduct is unworthy of one who is possessed of an immortal soul and infinite capacity for progress and improvement. Proverbs 12:1Three proverbs on knowledge, the favour of God, firmness and the means thereto.

1 He loveth correction who loveth knowledge,

   And he hateth instruction who is without reason.

It is difficult in such cases to say which is the relation of the ideas that is intended. The sequence of words which lies nearest in the Semitic substantival clause is that in which the predicate is placed first; but the subject may, if it is to be made prominent, stand at the head of the sentence. Here, 1b, the placing of the subject in advance recommends itself: one who hates instruction is devoid of reason. But since we have no reason in 1a to invert the order of the words as they lie together, we take the conceptions placed first in both cases as the predicates. Thus: he who loves knowledge shows and proves that he does so by this, that he willingly puts himself in the place of a learner; and devoid of reason is he who with aversion rejects reproof, which is designed to guard him from future mistakes and false steps. Regarding the punctuation דעת אהב (with Mercha on the ante-penult. and the העמדה-sign on the penult.), vid., at Proverbs 11:26., Proverbs 1:19. In 1b the Munach in תוכחת is transformed from Mugrash (Accentssystem, xviii. 2), as in Proverbs 15:10. בּער (cf. Proverbs 30:2) is a being who is stupid as the brute cattle (בּעיר, from בּער, to graze, cattle of all kinds; Arab. b'ayr, the beast κατ ̓ ἐξ., i.e., the camel); as a homo brutus is compared to a בּהמּה (Psalm 49:21), Psalm 73:22), and is called Arab. behymt, from bahym, "shut up" (spec. dabb, a bear; thwr, an ox; ḥamâr, an ass) (Fl.).

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