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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Proverbs 12

 

 

Verse 1

Proverbs 12:1 Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof [is] brutish.

Ver. 1. Whoso loveth instruction, loveth knowledge.] Here is showed, that adversity is the best university, saith an interpreter. Schola crucis, schola lucis. (a) Corrections of instruction are the way of life. Men commonly beat and bruise their links, before they light them, to make them burn the brighter. God first humbles whom he means to illuminate; as Gideon took thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he "taught the men of Succoth." [ 8:16] {See Trapp on "Revelation 3:19"} Mr Ascham was a good schoolmaster to Queen Elizabeth, but affliction was a better, as one well observeth. That verse was much in her mouth -

Non ignara mali miseris suceurrere disco. ” - Virgil.

But he that hateth reproof.] Whether it be by the rebukes of men, or the rod of God, he is brutish: tardus est, he is fallen below the stirrup of reason, he is a beast in man’s shape; nothing is more irrational than irreligion. That sapless fellow Nabal would hear nothing; there was no talking to him, no dealing with him; but as [the] horse and mule that have no understanding. [Psalms 32:9] Basil complains of the Western churches, that they were grown so proud, ut quid verum sit neque sciant, neque sustineant discere, (b) that they neither knew what was truth, nor would be taught better. Such are near to ruin, and that without remedy. [Proverbs 29:1] {See Trapp on "Proverbs 29:1"}


Verse 2

Proverbs 12:2 A good [man] obtaineth favour of the LORD: but a man of wicked devices will he condemn.

Ver. 2. A good man obtaineth favour of the Lord.] Or, "Hath what he will of God"; id quod vult a Domino impetrat; quia eius voluntas est ipsissima Dei voluntas, nec aliud vult. Thus Mercer out of Rabbi Levi. Thus it is written of Luther, that by his prayers he could prevail with God at his pleasure. When great gifts were offered him, he refused them with this brave speech, Valde protestatus sum me nolle sic satiari a Deo: - I solemnly protested to God, that I would not be put off with these low things. And on a time praying for the recovery of a godly useful man, among other passages, he let fall this transcendent rapture of a daring faith, Fiat mea voluntas, "Let my will be done"; and then falls off sweetly, Mea voluntas, Domine, quia tua; " My will, Lord, because thy will!" Here was a good man, here was a blessed man; according to that rule, Beatus est qui habet quicquid vult, et nihil male vult; - Blessed is he that hath what he will, and wills nothing but what he should.

But a man of wicked devices.] Such as no good man is; he doth not plot or plough mischief; he doth not cater and "make provision for the flesh"; [Romans 13:14] there is no "way of wickedness" [Psalms 139:24] found in him; the peace is not broken between God and him, because his mind never yields to sin, [Romans 7:25] he "walks not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, therefore no condemnation." [Romans 8:1] If an evil thought haunt his heart, as again it befalls, it is the device of the man, he is not the man of such devices. The wicked, on the contrary, is wholly made up of sinful thoughts and purposes, and is in the midst of them; therefore God will call him to a heavy reckoning. See Jeremiah 6:19, Revelation 2:23.


Verse 3

Proverbs 12:3 A man shall not be established by wickedness: but the root of the righteous shall not be moved.

Ver. 3. A man shall not be established by wickedness.] For he lays his foundation upon firework, and brimstone is scattered upon his house top: if the fire of God from heaven but flash upon it, it will be all a flame immediately. He walks all day upon a mine of gunpowder; and hath God with his armies ready to run upon the thickest bosses of his buckler, and to hurl him to hell. How can this man be sure of anything? Cain built cities, but could not rest in them. Ahab begat seventy sons, but not one successor in the kingdom. Phocas having built a mighty wall, heard from heaven: "Though thy walls were as high as heaven, sin is under it, and will subvert it." (a) Aσταφμητον το κακον. Sin hath no settledness.

But the root of the righteous shall not be moved.] For though shaken with winds, yet they are rooted as trees; like a ship at anchor, they wag up and down, yet remove not. "God is my rock, I shall not be greatly moved." [Psalms 62:2] Nay, "I shall not be moved at all." [Proverbs 12:6] "The gates of hell cannot do it." [Matthew 16:18] "None can pluck them out of God’s hands," [John 10:28] for he "hath laid help upon one that is mighty." [Psalms 89:19]


Verse 4

Proverbs 12:4 A virtuous woman [is] a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed [is] as rottenness in his bones.

Ver. 4. A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband.] Heb., A valiant woman; an able housewife, such as Bathsheba commends to her son, [Proverbs 31:10-31] and as Paul describes. [Titus 2:4-5] She is said to be a crown to her husband - not a ring for his finger, or a chain of gold for his neck, but a crown or garland for his head, a chief and choice ornament, as Sarah was to Abraham, as Livia to Augustus, as Placilla to Theodosius, as Nazianzen’s mother to her husband. (a)

Is as rottenness in his bones.] Not a disgrace only to him, but a disease, and such a disease, as is far worse than a quartan ague: for there be two good days for one bad; but here a continual pain, and hardly curable. The wise man here expresseth the mischief of an evil wife, by a very apt similitude. And that of Jerome is not much behind it, Sicut in ligno vermis, ita perdit virum suum uxor malefica. As the worm eats into the heart of the tree, and destroys it, so doth a haughty wife her husband. All evils, as elements, are most troublesome, when out of their proper place, as impiety in professors, injustice in judges, dishonour and discomfort in a wife, &c.


Verse 5

Proverbs 12:5 The thoughts of the righteous [are] right: [but] the counsels of the wicked [are] deceit.

Ver. 5. The thoughts of the righteous are right.] He feeds his thoughts upon the best objects, those especially mentioned in that little Bible, Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these Things."if worse break in, as they will, he jostles them out, and rids the room of them. {See Trapp on "Proverbs 11:23"}

But the counsels of the wicked are deceit.] Not their rash thoughts only, but also their deliberate ones are how to circumvent others, or to cloak their own wickedness. "Every imagination," the whole frame, "of their thoughts is evil, only evil, and continually evil." [Genesis 6:5; Genesis 8:21] If good thoughts look into a wicked heart, they stay not there, as those that like not their lodging: the flashes of lightnings may be discerned into the darkest prisons. The light that shines into a holy heart is constant, like that of the sun, which keeps due times, and varies not the course for any of these sublunary occasions.


Verse 6

Proverbs 12:6 The words of the wicked [are] to lie in wait for blood: but the mouth of the upright shall deliver them.

Ver. 6. The words of the wicked are to lie in wait for blood.] As they think not, so neither speak they the language of the righteous. "Ye are the light of the world"; [Matthew 5:14] and because the light stands in the light of their wicked ways, as the angel in Balaam’s way to his sin, therefore they hate the saints; and, as all hatred is bloody, seek their lives, mixing cruelty with their craft, as Cain, Herod, Julian, &c. The old serpent lends them his seven heads to plot, and his ten horns to push. Their own study and exercise also hath made them expert and skilful in their hellish trade; and the taste of blood hath made them as hungry as hounds after it. Thus I kept the ban dogs at stave’s end, said Nicholas Shetterden, martyr, not as thinking to escape them, but that I would see the foxes leap above ground for my blood, if they can reach it, so it be the will of God; yet we shall see them gape and leap for it. (a)

But the mouth of the upright shall deliver them.] Shall defend harmless men that are helpless. [Proverbs 24:11] Hence those many apologies of Tertullian, Apollonius, Arnobius, and others for the primitive Christians under persecution. Hence we had that unparalleled work, Calvin’s Institutions, which was written upon this occasion. Francis, king of France, willing to excuse his cruelty exercised upon his Protestant subjects to the German princes, whose friendship he then desired, wrote to them, that he only punished Anabaptists for their contempt of the Scriptures, and of all civil government. Calvin, though then but twenty-five years of age, not able to bear that blur cast upon the reformed religion under the name of those sectaries, set forth that excellent work, as well to vindicate the truth, as to plead for the innocence of those that professed it. (b)


Verse 7

Proverbs 12:7 The wicked are overthrown, and [are] not: but the house of the righteous shall stand.

Ver. 7. The wicked are overthrown, and are not.] Say that the righteous cannot prevail by their apologies for themselves and others, God will take the matter into his own hand, and avenge them, [Luke 18:7] as he did the primitive Christians and the French Protestants, upon their merciless persecutors.

Tu, vero, Herodes sanguinolente, time.

As Beza warned Charles IX, author of the massacre.

But the house of the righteous shall stand.] God’s house, the Church, shall; as the gloss applies this text, "The mountain of the Lord shall be exalted above all mountains." The Church, because it is highest in the favour of God, so it shall be highest in itself; when the enemies shall be in that place that is fittest for them, the lowest, that is the footstool of Christ. There is a council in heaven will dash the mould of all contrary counsels upon earth. [Psalms 2:1-12] Gaudeo quod Christus dominus est: alioqui totus desperassem; - ‘ I am glad yet that Christ is king; for otherwise I should have been utterly out of hope,’ writes Miconius to Calvin, upon the view of the Church’s enemies.


Verse 8

Proverbs 12:8 A man shall be commended according to his wisdom: but he that is of a perverse heart shall be despised.

Ver. 8. A man shall be commended according to his wisdom.] And all wisdom consists in this, Ut Deum quis cognoscat et colat, saith Lactantius; - That a man rightly know and worship God. This did not Apollonius, whom yet Philostratus commendeth, that he was non doctus, sed natus sapiens, not instructed, but born wise. See the contrary, Job 11:12. Nor Archimedes, who yet had the name and note, saith Plutarch, of a divine, and not human wisdom; (a) nor Aristotle, whom yet Averroes admires, as the very rule and copy that nature invented, wherein to set forth the utmost of human perfection; and further saith, that his doctrine was the chiefest truth, and his understanding the utmost extent of human wisdom. These were wise, I confess, in their generations, and so accounted; but by whom? Not by St Paul; he had another opinion of them. See Romans 1:22-23, 1 Corinthians 2:6. Not by our Saviour. See Matthew 11:25. Not by any that are rightly instructed to the kingdom of heaven, and have their senses exercised to discern good and evil. The Italians arrogate to themselves the monopoly of wisdom in that proverb of theirs, Italus sapit ante factum, Hispanus in facto, Germanus post factum. Italians, say they, both seem and are wise; whereas Spaniards seem wise, and are fools; Frenchmen seem fools, and are wise; Portuguese neither are wise, nor so much as seem so. Thus the Jesuits - those great clerks, politicians, and wizards of the world - do vaunt that the Church is the soul of the world, the clergy of the Church, and they of the clergy. But what saith that great apostle that knew more than twenty of them? "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord"; [1 Corinthians 1:31] for "not he that commendeth himself is approved," - no, nor he whom the world cries up for a wise man - "but he whom the Lord commendeth." [2 Corinthians 10:18]

But he that is of a perverse heart.] As all are that are not heavenly wise, and that show not "out of a good conversation their works with meekness of wisdom." [James 3:13; James 3:17] But so did none of those heathen sages, whom God, for their unthankfulness, "gave up unto vile affections" [Romans 1:20] and vicious conversation; and so set a noverint universi, as it were, upon them. Know all men that these men know nothing aright, and as they ought to know; "professing themselves to be wise, they proclaim themselves fools." [Romans 1:22]


Verse 9

Proverbs 12:9 [He that is] despised, and hath a servant, [is] better than he that honoureth himself, and lacketh bread.

Ver. 9. Better is he that is despised.] Viz., Of others, and hath no extraordinary opinion of himself, but sticks close to his business, and hath help at hand when he pleases, a servant at his beck and check. This was the case of Galleacius Caracciolus, that noble marquis, in his exile at Geneva for conscience’ sake. See his life set forth in English by Mr Crashaw.

Than he that honoureth himself and lacketh bread.] That standing upon his slippers, and boasting of his gentility - as those Spanish Hidalgoes ruffle it out in brave apparel - but hath not a penny in his purse, yea, not sometime food sufficient to put in his belly. Spaniards are said to be impudent braggers, and extremely proud in the lowest ebb of fortune. If a Spaniard have but a capon, or the like good dish to his supper, you shall find the feathers scattered before his door the next morning. (a)


Verse 10

Proverbs 12:10 A righteous [man] regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked [are] cruel.

Ver. 10. A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast.] There be beasts ad usum, et ad esum. Some are profitable alive, not dead, as the dog, horse, &c.; some dead, not alive, as the hog; some both, as the ox. There is a mercy to be shewed to these dumb creatures, as we see in Eleazar; [Genesis 24:32] and the contrary in Balaam, who spurred his ass till she spake. [Numbers 22:27-28] Otherwise we shall make them "groan under the bondage of our corruption," [Romans 8:21] and he that hears the young ravens, may hear them, for "he is gracious." [Exodus 22:27] The restraint that was of eating the blood of dead beasts, declared that he would not have tyranny exercised on them while they are alive.

But the tender mercies of the wicked.] If any such thing there were; but they have no such bowels left, with Judas; no such tenderness, scarce common humanity; cannibal-like, they "eat up God’s people as they eat bread," feeding upon them alive, and by degrees; and dealing by them as the cruel Spaniards do by the Indians. They suppose they shew the wretches great favour when they do not for their pleasure whip them with cords, and day by day drop their naked bodies with burning bacon, which is one of the least cruelties that they exercise toward them. (a) In the sixth Council of Toledo, it was enacted that the king of Spain should suffer none to live within his dominions that profess not the Roman Catholic religion. In pursuance of which decree, Philip, king of Spain, said, he had rather have no subjects than Protestants; and, out of a bloody zeal, suffered his eldest son Charles to be murdered by the cruel Inquisition, because he seemed to favour that profession. When the Spaniards took Heidelberg, they took Monsieur Mylius, an old minister; and, after they had abused his daughter before his eyes, tied a small cord about his head, which, with truncheons, they wreathed about till they squeezed out his brains. What should I speak of the French massacres, and late Irish immane and monstrous murders, equalling, if not exceeding that at Athens, taken by Sulla, which yet, saith Appian, was ανελεης σφαγη, a merciless massacre; or that of Ptolomy Lathurus, king of Egypt, who slew thirty thousand Jews at once, and forced the rest to feed upon the flesh of their slain fellows; or, lastly, that of the Jews committed upon the inhabitants of Cyrene, whom they not only basely butchered, but afterwards ate their flesh, drank their blood, and clothed themselves with their skins, as Dio relates in the life of Trajan, the emperor!


Verse 11

Proverbs 12:11 He that tilleth his land shall be satisfied with bread: but he that followeth vain [persons is] void of understanding.

Ver. 11. He that tilleth his land shall be satisfied, &c.] This is true of all other lawful callings, manual or mental, - the sweat of the brow or of the brain. Sin brought in sweat, [Genesis 3:19] and now not to sweat increaseth sin. Men must earn their bread before they eat it, [2 Thessalonians 3:12] and be diligent in their callings to serve God and men, themselves and others, with the fatness and sweetness thereof, and then they have a promise they shall be fed. [Psalms 37:7]

But he that followeth vain persons, &c.] It is hard to be a good fellow and a good husband too. Qui aequo animo malis immiscetur, malus est, saith one, He that delights in bad company cannot be good.


Verse 12

Proverbs 12:12 The wicked desireth the net of evil [men]: but the root of the righteous yieldeth [fruit].

Ver. 12. The wicked desireth the net of evil men,] i.e., He so furiously pursueth his lusts, as if he desired destruction; as if he would outdare God himself; as if the guerdon of his gracelessness would not come time enough, but he must needs run to meet it. Thus thrasonical Lamech [Genesis 4:23] thinks to have the odds of God, seventy to seven. (a) Thus the princes of the Philistines, while plagued, came up to Mizpeh against Israel [1 Samuel 7:10-11] - who were there drawing water, i.e., weeping abundantly before the Lord - as it were to fetch their bane. Thus Pope Julius III will have his pork flesh, al despito de Dio; and Doctor Story (b) will curse Queen Elizabeth in his daily grace before eating, and yet say in open parliament that he saw nothing to be ashamed of, much less to be sorry for, but that he had done no more against the heretics, yea, against the queen herself in the days of her sister Mary. This Story, escaping out of prison, got to Antwerp, and there received commission under Duke d’Alva to search all ships coming thither for English books. But one Parker, an English merchant, trading to Antwerp, laid his fair net to catch this foul bird, causing secret notice to be given to Story, that in his ship were store of heretical books, with other intelligences that might stand him in stead. The canonist, conceiving that all was cock sure, hasted to the ship, where, with looks very big upon the poor mariners, each cabin, chest, and corner above board, were searched, and some things found to draw him further on; so that the hatches must be opened, which seemed to be unwillingly done, and great signs of fear were revealed by their faces. This drew on the doctor to descend into the hold; where now in the trap the mouse might well gnaw, but could not get out; for the hatches went down, and the sails hoisted up, which, with a merry gale, were blown into England, where ere long he was arraigned and condemned of high treason, and accordingly executed at Tyburn, as he had well deserved. (c)


Verse 13

Proverbs 12:13 The wicked is snared by the transgression of [his] lips: but the just shall come out of trouble.

Ver. 13. The wicked is snared by the transgression of his lips.] His heart is oft so full of venom that it cannot be hid, but blisters his tongue, and breaks out at his lips to his own ruin, as it befell Story, Campian, Garnet, and other Popish poisonous spiders, who were swept down by the hand of justice, and drew their last thread in the triangle of Tyburn. Detexit facinus fatuus, et non implevit, as Tacitus saith of one that was sent by the senate to despatch Nero, but exposed and betrayed himself.

But the just shall come out of trouble.] They suffer sometimes for their bold and free invectives against the evils of the times, or otherwise for discharging their consciences, but they shall surely be delivered. "There is yet one man," saith Ahab, "Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the Lord: but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil." [1 Kings 22:8] It is very probable that Micaiah was that disguised prophet who brought to Ahab the fearful message of displeasure and death for dismissing Benhadad, for which he was ever since fast in prison, deep in disgrace. But God, "with the temptation, made a way for him to escape." So he did for Peter; [Acts 12:7-11] Paul; [2 Timothy 4:6-8] all the apostles. [Acts 4:13-21] John Baptist, indeed, was, without any law, right, or reason, beheaded in prison, as though God had known nothing at all of him, said George Marsh the martyr. (a) And the same may be said of sundry other faithful withesses to the truth, but then by death they entered into life eternal. Mors fuit aerumnarum requies, which was Chaucer’s motto. Besides that, heaven upon earth they had during their troubles. Philip, Landgrave of Hesse, being a long time prisoner under Charles V, was demanded what upheld him all that while. Respondit, divinas consolationes martyrum se sensisse, he answered - that he had felt the divine comforts of the martyrs. The best comforts are usually reserved for the worst times.


Verse 14

Proverbs 12:14 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.

Ver. 14. A man shall be satiated with good, &c.] There are "empty vines that bear fruit to themselves." [Hosea 10:1] And as empty casks sound loudest, and base metal rings shrillest, so many empty tattlers are full of discourse - sed cui bono? as he said. Plato and Xenophon thought it fit and profitable that men’s speeches at meals should be written. And if Christians should so do, what kind of books would they be! And yet "for every idle word account must be given," [Matthew 12:36] as for every good word there is "a book of remembrance." [Malachi 3:16] Much fruit will redound by holy speeches to ourselves - much to others. Paul shows that the very report of his bonds did a great deal of good in Caesar’s house. [Philippians 1:14] A poor captive maid was the means of Naaman’s conversion, as afterwards the words of his servants were greater in operation with him than the words of the great prophet Elisha. One seasonable truth, falling upon a prepared heart, hath oft a strong and sweet influence. Sometimes also, though we know that which we ask of others as well as they do, yet good speeches will draw us to know it better by giving occasion to speak more of it, wherewith the Spirit works most effectually, and imprints it deeper, so that it shall be a more rooted knowledge than before; for that satiates the soul which is graciously known, and that is graciously known which the Spirit seals upon our souls. "In the morning, therefore, sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thy hand, for thou kuowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good." [Ecclesiastes 11:6]

And the recompense of a man’s hands shall be given unto him.] He "shall eat the fruit of his doings." [Isaiah 3:10] "For the talk of the lips, if that be all, tendeth only to penury." [Proverbs 14:23] Nos non eloquimur magna, sed vivimus, said they of old. Origen’s teaching and living were said to be both one. He cannot look to be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth, qui operibus destruit quod recto docet - who says one thing and doeth another. A smooth tongue and a rough hand carries away double judgment.


Verse 15

Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool [is] right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel [is] wise.

Ver. 15. The way of a fool is right in his own eyes.] He thinks his own wit best. Consilii satis est in me mihi; { a} he will not part with his commonwealth of baubles for the Tower of London. And such a fool is every natural man; [Job 11:12] wise enough, haply, in his generation - so is the fox too; - wise with such a wisdom as, like the ostrich’s wings, makes him outrun others upon earth, and in earthly things, but helps him never a whit towards heaven - nay, hinders him, and hangs in his light, as it fared with the Pharisees. [Matthew 21:31] Of such it may be said, as Quintilian said of some conceited, presumptuous, and arrogant of themselves, that they might have proved excellent scholars if they had not been so persuaded already. So might many have been wise if they had not been conceited by their own wisdom, and saved if not too well persuaded of their good estate to Godward. They clasp and hug the barn (b) of their own brain, with the ape, till they strangle it.

At parit ut vivat regnetque beatus.

Cogi posse negat. ” - Hor., Ephesians 2:1-22.

But he that hearkeneth to counsel is wise.] He that, suspecting his own judgment, takes advice from those wiser than himself, seldom miscarries. There is that self-love in many, that they think their molehill a mountain, their kestril an eagle, their goose a swan. And, being self-conceited, they love to be flattered. Not so the wise man; he knows that humanum est errare, to error is human, and that triste mortalitatis privilegium est licere aliquando peccare. It is a sad privilege of mortals to be permitted to sin at any time. He is therefore glad of good counsel, and thankful for a seasonable reproof. "Let the righteous smite me."


Verse 16

Proverbs 12:16 A fool’s wrath is presently known: but a prudent [man] covereth shame.

Ver. 16. A fool’s wrath is presently known.] He hath no power over his passions. Hence פתי, a fool, and פתאם, suddenly, rashly, are from the same root. Like tow, he is soon kindled; like a pot, he soon boils; and like a candle whose tallow is mixed with brine, as soon as lighted he spits up and down the room. A fool uttereth all his mind. [Proverbs 29:11 ] The Septuagint render it, All his anger - θυμον. For, as the Hebrews well note in a proverb they have, A man’s mind is soon discovered, bekis, bekos, becoynos; - in loculis, in poculis, in ira; - in his purse, in his drink, in his anger. See my "Common Place of Anger."

But a wise man covereth shame.] By concealing his wrath, or rather by suppressing it when it would break forth to his disgrace, or the just grief of another. Ut fragilis glacies, occidit ira mora. (a) This was Saul’s wisdom; [1 Samuel 10:27] and Jonathan’s, when, incensed by his father’s frowardness, he went shooting; [1 Samuel 20:35] and Ahasuerus, when in a rage against Haman, he walked into the garden. The philosopher wished Augustus, when angry, to say over the Greek alphabet; Ambrose desired an angel’s authority; [Galatians 1:8] Theodosius to repeat the Lord’s Prayer before he decreed anything.


Verse 17

Proverbs 12:17 [He that] speaketh truth sheweth forth righteousness: but a false witness deceit.

Ver. 17. He that speaketh truth sheweth forth righteousness.] Will be ready to help the truth in necessity, and will do it boldly, as the word signifies - even with a courage not budging, for "Charity rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, hut rejoiceth in the truth." [1 Corinthians 13:6]

But a false witness uttereth deceit.] Coloureth his sycophancies with plausible pretences, and faceth down an untruth. "The proud have forged a lie against me." [Psalms 119:69] The Hebrew hath it, Assuunt mendacium mendacio, They eke out one lie with another; they are loud and lewd liars; as Egesippus saith of Pilate, that he was Vir nequam et parvi faciens mendacium. What is truth? said he, scornfully, to our Saviour, q.d., Thy life is in question, and dost thou talk of truth?


Verse 18

Proverbs 12:18 There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise [is] health.

Ver. 18. There is that speaketh lies like the piercings of a sword.] False witnesses do so, with a witness. As Doeg, [Psalms 52:2] and his fellow hacksters with their murdering weapons in David’s bones, [Psalms 42:10] whereby they killed him alive, and buried him in their throats, those gaping graves, open sepulchres. Abimelech and his fellow priests were killed with the tongue, as with a tuck or rapier; so was Naboth and his sons; so was our Saviour Christ himself. Reckon thou Shimei and Rabshakeh among the first and chiefest kill Christs, [Acts 2:23; Acts 3:15] saith one, because ever an honest mind is more afflicted with words than blows. You shall find some, saith Erasmus, that if death be threatened, can despise it; but to be belied they cannot brook, nor from revenge contain themselves. How was David enraged by Nabal’s railings! Moses, by the people’s murmurings! Jeremiah, by the derisions of the rude rabble. [Jeremiah 20:7-8]

But the tongue of the wise is health.] Or, A medicine, as the tench is to the wounded fishes; or as that noble Lady Eleanor’s tongue was to her husband, Prince Edward, afterward Edward I, who, being traitorously wounded by a poisoned knife in the Holy Land, was perfectly cured by her daily licking his rankling wounds whilst he slept, and yet herself received no harm; (a) so sovereign a medicine is a good tongue, anointed with the virtue of love and wisdom. Wholesome words, as certain salves or treacles, cure the wounds of afflicted hearts, and extract the poison infused by evil tongues.


Verse 19

Proverbs 12:19 The lip of truth shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue [is] but for a moment.

Ver. 19. The lips of truth shall be established for ever.] Veritas odium parit: Truth breeds hatred: a good mistress she is, but he that follows her too close at heels, may hap have his teeth struck out. He that prizeth truth, shall never prosper by the possession or profession thereof, saith Sir Walter Raleigh. (a) This is most true, for the most part, of "the truth of the gospel," [Galatians 2:5] "the doctrine according to godliness" [1 Timothy 6:3] - "sweet in the mouth, but bitter in the belly"; [Revelation 10:9] very pleasant in itself, but the publishing of it, whereby the fruit of it might come to the rest of the members, is full of trouble and anguish. How many faithful witnesses of the truth have lost their lives in the defence of it! All which notwithstanding, "the lips of truth shall be established," saith the Spirit here. ‘Great is the truth, and shall prevail.’ He that loseth his life in Christ’s cause, shall find it in heaven; "his name" also "shall be famous upon earth; the generation of the upright shall be blessed."

The lying tongue is but for a moment.] As is to be seen in Gehazi, in Ananias and Sapphira, in Doeg, and others; - "God [Psalms 52:5] shall likewise destroy thee for ever, and root thee out of the land of the living." Did he not deal so by Julian, Ecebolius, Latomus, Bomelius, Pendleton, Harding, and others, both ancient and modern, renegades and apostates? "How are they brought into desolation as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terror." [Psalms 73:19]


Verse 20

Proverbs 12:20 Deceit [is] in the heart of them that imagine evil: but to the counsellors of peace [is] joy.

Ver. 20. Deceit is in the heart of them, &c.] Incendiaries and make-baits, counsellors of contention, have twenty devices to make trouble, and to put all into a combustion; but they shall either be defeated of their purposes, or have small joy of their achievements; - witness our late English boutifeaus, with the whole nation of Ignatius, whose practice is to machinate mischief, and breed hate; being herein no less dangerous than once those Jews were, who, before they were banished hence, threw bags of poison into the wells and fountains that the people were to drink from, and so endeavoured to poison them all. The just judgment of God upon Nicholas Saunders, priest, the firebrand of Ireland, 1580 AD, spent with famine and forsaken of all help, is most worthy to be kept in perpetual remembrance. He being impatiently grieved at the evil success of his rebellion with Earl Desmond, and seeing that neither the Pope’s blessing, nor the consecrated banner, nor the plume of phoenix feathers, so said to be at least, sent from Rome, could do him any help, lost himself, and ran stark mad, wandering up and down in the mountains and woods, and, finding no comfort, died miserably. (a) Thus God met with a restless and wretched man, and that foul mouth was stopped with famine that was ever open to sow sedition and stir up rebellions against the state.

But to the counsellors of peace there is joy.] They shall have peace for peace: peace of conscience for peace of country, pax pectoris peace of the heart for pax temporis; peace of time, they shall be called and counted the children of peace, yea, "the children of God," have the comfort and credit of it, [Matthew 5:9] {See Trapp on "Matthew 5:9"} as Augustus Caesar and our Henry VII had; who as he went into banishment together with the public peace, so he brought it back with him at his return, and was afterwards wont to say, If we princes should take every occasion that is offered, the world should never be quiet, but wearied with continual wars.


Verse 21

Proverbs 12:21 There shall no evil happen to the just: but the wicked shall be filled with mischief.

Ver. 21. There shall no evil happen to the just.] First, For evil of sin: God will not lead him into temptation, but will cut off occasions, remove stumbling blocks out of his way: devoratory evils, as Tertullian calls them, he shall be sure not to fall into. "That evil one shall not touch him," [1 John 5:18] viz., tactu qualitativo, as Cajetan expounds it, with a deadly touch: nibble he may at their heels, but cannot reach their heads; shake he may his chain at them, but shall not set his fangs in them, or so far thrust his sting into them as to infuse into them the venom of that sin unto death. [Proverbs 12:17] Next, For evil of pain: though "many be the troubles of the righteous," [Psalms 34:19] and they "fall into manifold temptations," [James 1:2] they go not in step by step into these waters of Marah, but "fall into" them, being, as it were, precipitated, plunged over head and ears, yet are bidden to be "exceeding glad," as a merchant is to see his ship come laden in. Their afflictions are not penal, but probational; not mortal, but medicinal. "By this shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged, and this is all the fruit, the taking away of his sin." [Isaiah 27:9] Look how the scourging and beating of a garment with a stick, drives out the moths and the dust; so doth affliction corruptions from the heart; and there is no hurt in that, no evil happens thereby to the just.

But the wicked shall be filled with mischief.] To treasure up sin, is to treasure up wrath. [Romans 2:5] "Every bottle shall be filled with wine"; [Jeremiah 13:12] the bottle of wickedness, when once filled with those bitter waters, will sink to the bottom: the ephah of wickedness, when top full, shall be borne "into the land of Shiner, and set there upon her own base." [Zechariah 5:8; Zechariah 5:11] He that makes a match with mischief, shall have his bellyful of it; [Hosea 4:17 Proverbs 14:14] he shall have an evil, "an evil, an only evil" [Ezekiel 7:5] - that is, "judgment without mercy," as St James expounds it. [James 2:13] Non surgit hic afflictio, as the prophet Nahum hath it; [Nahum 1:9] affliction shall not rise up the second time: God will have but one blow at him; he shall totally and finally be cut down at once. The righteous are smitten in the branches, but the wicked at the root; [Isaiah 27:8] those he corrects with a rod, yea, with the rods of men, hominum debilium, of weak or old men, as the word signifies, [2 Samuel 7:11] but these with a "grounded staff"; [Isaiah 30:32] and yet the worst is behind too. For whatsoever a wicked man suffers in this world is but hell typical; it is but as the falling of leaves - the whole tree will one day fall upon them. It is but as a drop of wrath forerunning the great storm, a crack forerunning the ruin of the whole building; it is but as a paying the use money required for the debt that must be paid at last.


Verse 22

Proverbs 12:22 Lying lips [are] abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly [are] his delight.

Ver. 22. Lying lips are abomination to the Lord.] Who hath therefore threatened to "cut them off," [Psalms 12:3] and to broil them on "coals of juniper," [Psalms 120:4] which burn sweetly, fiercely, lastingly; and to make them eat their false words, as Master Lewes of Manchester made the summoner that came to cite his wife eat the citation, by setting a dagger to his heart. (a)

But they that deal truly are his delight.] He "desireth truth in the inward parts," [Psalms 51:6] and all his are "children that will not lie"; [Isaiah 63:8] they will rather die than lie; Nec prodam, nec mentiar, said Firmus in Augustine; Non ideo negare volo, ne peream; sed ideo mentiri nolo, ne peccem, said that good woman upon the rack mentioned by Jerome. As they "love in the truth," [2 John 1:1] so they "speak the truth in love," [Ephesians 4:15] and are therefore dear to the Father in truth and love, [2 John 1:3] especially since they "do truth" as well as speak it, [1 John 1:6] and do not more desire to be truly good than they hate to seem to be so only.


Verse 23

Proverbs 12:23 A prudent man concealeth knowledge: but the heart of fools proclaimeth foolishness.

Ver. 23. A prudent man concealeth knowledge,] scil., Till he finds a fit time to vent it; for then "the lips of the wise do spread abroad knowledge." [Proverbs 15:7] He is no niggard where there is need, but loves not to outlash. Taciturnity is a virtue with him; Tacitus a good historian, Persae magnam rem sustineri posse non credunt ab eo cui tacere grave sit; { a} - The Persians hold not him fit for great employments that cannot keep counsel, saith Curtius.

But the heart of fools proclaimeth foolishness.] In it is, and out it must: Pleni rimarum sunt, they can keep no counsel, hold no secrets, must needs tell all, whatever come of it: ut qui nec tacere nec prudenter loqui norint; they can neither hold their tongue nor use it to purpose. The moralist adviseth η σιγαν η κρεισσονα σιγης λεγειν, - either to say nothing, or that which is better than nothing. And Socrates, being asked by one how he might have the reputation of a wise man, First, said he, thou must hold thy tongue oftener than speak; secondly, thou must learn how to frame thy speeches.


Verse 24

Proverbs 12:24 The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute.

Ver. 24. The hand of the diligent shall bear rule,] i.e., It shall make rich, and so get preferment; for, regina pecunia; money bears the mastery, and is a common meddler in most businesses. Agathocles, by his industry, became king of Sicily, Cromwell came to be earl of Essex, Cranmer came to be archbishop of Canterbury, &c.

But the slothful (or deceitful) shall be under tribute.] Cajetan renders it, Dolus erit ad liquefactionem; - Deceitful dealing shall melt to nothing. The same word (a) signifieth both melting and tribute, because too much tribute wastes men’s estates; as when the spleen swells, the rest of the body consumes. King John’s exactors received from his subjects no less sums of curses than of coin. He gathered money, the sinews of war; but lost their affections, the joints of peace. He had a troublesome reign, ill-beloved of his people, and far a less king, only by striving to be more than he was, the just reward of violations; what tribute he paid to the Pope’s legate at his absolution (eight thousand marks, besides other huge sums, insomuch as that John Florentinus, the legate, was nicknamed Ferentinus, for bearing away so much money) I need not here relate. (b) And yet this king was not slothful (for his endless turmoils kept his body still in motion, his mind in passions, and his prowess in use); (c) deceitful, I cannot deny him, in breaking promise with his subjects about their just liberties. But a great part of that blame may well lie upon his court parasites, who suggested, that now he was a king without a kingdom, a lord without a dominion, and a subject to his subjects. Wicked counsellors! as if it were not enough to be above men, but to be above mankind, as those princes would be that would not be under the law.


Verse 25

Proverbs 12:25 Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad.

Ver. 25. Heaviness in the heart of a man maketh it stoop.] Grief is like lead to the soul, - heavy and cold; it sinks downward, and carries the soul with it; Aιφα γαρ εν κακοτητι βροτοι καταγηρασκουσι. (a) How decrepit was David grown with much grief at seventy years of age. The like we may say of Jacob, who "attained not to the days of the years of the life of his fathers," [Genesis 47:9] as being a man of many sorrows. And this, some think, was the reason that our Saviour Christ, at little past thirty, was reckoned to be toward fifty. [John 8:57] He was "the man that had seen affliction by the rod of God’s wrath." [Lamentations 3:1]

But a good word maketh it glad.] Such as was that of our Saviour to the poor paralytic, "Son, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee." The promises are called a "good word." [Jeremiah 29:10] So David found them; [Psalms 119:92] medicine for the soul (b) - more truly so called than the library at Alexandria; cordials of comfort, "breasts of consolation"; [Isaiah 66:11] "wells of salvation"; [Isaiah 12:3] μαλακτικα miserarium, - as Plato said of wine and music; - that which mitigates man’s miseries; and without which wine, music, merry company, &c., will prove but miserable comforters, and at the best, but the devil’s anodynes.


Verse 26

Proverbs 12:26 The righteous [is] more excellent than his neighbour: but the way of the wicked seduceth them.

Ver. 26. The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour.] Let him dwell by whomsoever; he is ever a better man than his neighbours; he is "a prince of God" among them, as Abraham was among the Hittites. The Jews say that those seventy souls that went with Jacob into Egypt, were as much worth as all the seventy nations in the world. Nemo me maior, nisi qui iustior, said Agesilaus, when he heard the king of Persia styled the great king, i.e., I acknowledge none more excellent than myself, unless more righteous; none greater, unless better: "Upon all the glory shall be a defence," [Isaiah 4:5] that is, upon all the righteous, those only glorious, those "excellent of the earth," [Psalms 16:3] that are "sealed up to the day of redemption." [Ephesians 4:30] Now, whatsoever is sealed with a seal, that is excellent in its own kind, as Isaiah 28:25 hordeum signatum, excellent barley. The poorest village is an ivory palace, in quo est pastor et credentes aliqui, saith Luther, if it have in it but a minister and a few good people.

But the way of the wicked seduceth them,] i.e., The wicked will not be persuaded of the just man’s excellence; he cannot discern, nor will be drawn to believe, that there is any such gain in godliness, any such worth in well doing, any such difference between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not. He therefore goes another way to work, but is fearfully frustrated; for "who ever yet hardened himself against God and prospered?" [Job 9:4] They think themselves far better than the righteous; and so they were indeed, if they could find that felicity in wicked ways which their deceitful hearts promise them. But this they can never do.


Verse 27

Proverbs 12:27 The slothful [man] roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man [is] precious.

Ver. 27. The slothful (or deceitful) man roasteth not that which he took in hunting.] He shall never enjoy his evil gotten goods; but "though he heap up silver as the dust, and prepare raiment as the clay, he may prepare it, but the just shall put it on, and the innocent shall divide the silver." [Job 27:16-17] I read of a dishonest butcher that, having stolen an ox and caused it to be dressed on his wedding day, was on that very day apprehended, and not long after executed. I read of Tecelius, the Pope’s pardon monger in Germany, that having by sale of indulgences scraped together a huge amount of money, and returning for Rome, he was met, and eased of his cash by an odd fellow, who being afterwards prosecuted for a felon, produced a pardon for future sins granted him by Tecelius himself, and being thereupon acquitted by the judge he roasted that which that other old fox had taken in hunting.

But the substance of a diligent man is precious.] Great in value, whatsoever it be in quantity; as a small boxful of pearls is more worth than mountains of pebbles. [Psalms 37:16 Proverbs 15:16; Proverbs 12:2] The house of the righteous hath much treasure; though there be but curta suppellex, res augusta dotal, he is without that care in getting, fear in keeping, grief in losing, - those three fell vultures that feed continually on the heart of the rich worldling, and dissweeten all his comforts. Jabal that dwelt in tents, and tended the herds, had Jubal to his brother, the father of music. Jabal and Jubal, diligence and complacence, good husbandry and a well contenting sufficiency, dwell usually together.


Verse 28

Proverbs 12:28 In the way of righteousness [is] life; and [in] the pathway [thereof there is] no death.

Ver. 28. In the way of righteousness is life.] And life, in any sense, is a sweet mercy, a precious indulgence. Life natural is but a little spot of time between two eternities, before and after, but it is of great consequence (for ex hoc momento pendet aeternitas), and given us for this purpose, that glory may be begun in grace, and we have a further and further entrance into the kingdom of heaven here, as Peter saith, 2 Peter 1:11.

And in the path thereof there is no death.] Christ hath unstinged the first death, and made it of a punishment, a benefit; of a postern to let out temporal life, a street door to let in eternal life. (a) Surely the bitterness of this death is past to the righteous; there is no gall in it (as the Hebrew word there signifies); nay, there is honey in it, as once there was in the corpse of Samson’s dead lion. And for the second death, there is no danger; for they shall pass from the jaws of death to the joys of heaven. Yea, though hell had closed her mouth upon a child of God, it could as little hold him as the whale could Jonah; it must, perforce, regurgitate, and render up such a morsel.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 12:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/proverbs-12.html. 1865-1868.

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