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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Proverbs 12

 

 

Verse 1

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.


Verse 3

Proverbs 12:3. A man shall not be established by wickedness — By any sinful course, however craftily devised, and apparently well calculated to answer that end. For the power and prosperity which are raised by sin are built on the sand. But the root of the righteous shall not be moved — Namely, out of its place. They shall stand fast and flourish like well-rooted trees.


Verse 4

Proverbs 12:4. A virtuous woman — אשׁת חיל, a woman of strength, or vigour, (namely, of minds) of diligence, or economy. Thus אישׁ חיל, is rendered, Ruth 1:2 . A man of valour. “Solomon seems to intend by this appellation, a woman who has all the perfections of her sex; wisdom, modesty, prudence, virtue, and, above all, economy and good management; and by her who maketh ashamed, he means the contrary; and particularly a woman who dissipates her husband’s substance in expensive follies; in the same manner as he called a libertine a prodigal son, a son that causeth shame,” chap. 10:5: see Calmet.


Verses 5-7

Proverbs 12:5-7. The thoughts of the righteous are right — His constant purpose is to be upright before God, and just and true in all his dealings with men. But the counsels of the wicked are deceit — His great care and contrivance are to deceive and wrong others by fair pretence and cunning artifices. The words of the wicked are to lie in wait, &c. — Are designed and ordered to entrap or deceive others, and to destroy them; but the mouth of the upright shall deliver them — Namely, from those that lie in wait for them: either, 1st, By prayer to God for their deliverance; or, 2d, By bearing witness for them, and pleading their righteous cause, with such wisdom and arguments as cannot be gainsaid. The wicked are overthrown, and are not — They and their families shall suddenly perish; but the house The family and posterity, of the righteous shall stand — On a firm basis, notwithstanding the attempts of their enemies to overthrow them. They shall stand when they that assaulted them are quite extinct.


Verse 8

Proverbs 12:8. A man shall be commended — Namely, by wise and good men; according to his wisdom — More or less, according to the degree of wisdom, which his discourses and actions discover to be in him; but he that is of a perverse heart — Which he shows by his wicked words and actions; shall be despised — By God, and all wise men.


Verse 9

Proverbs 12:9. He that is despised — That lives in an obscure and mean condition in the world, such being commonly despised by persons of a higher rank; and hath a servant — Hath but one servant: or, as the LXX. render it, δουλευων εαυτω, serveth, or is servant to himself; that is, hath none to wait upon him, or work for him but himself; that supports himself by his own labours; is better than he that honoureth himself — Is happier, and in a better condition, than he that glories in his high birth and gay attire; and lacketh bread — Wants necessaries for his own sustenance.


Verse 10

Proverbs 12:10. A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast — Which is employed in his service. He will not destroy it, either by labours beyond its strength, or by denying it necessary food or rest, or any other way: and much more will he be pitiful to his own servants, and to poor men; but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel — There is much cruelty mixed even with their most merciful actions, when they pretend, or intend to show mercy. Hebrew, רחמי רשׁעים, the bowels of the wicked, &c., those very bowels, which in others are the seat of pity, in him are hardened and shut up, and only excite him to cruelty. A late writer interprets this clause thus: “The very kindnesses of the wicked, being treacherous, are a cruel cheat: nay, the highest expressions which they make of tenderness and compassion, whereby they induce others to repose a trust in them, are intended merely as a cover for the mischief which they mean more securely to do them.” Thus the proverb of the Greeks, εχθρων δωρα αδωρα, “The gifts of enemies are no gifts.” See Clemency to Brutes.


Verse 11

Proverbs 12:11. He that tilleth his land — That employeth his time and strength in an honest calling; shall be satisfied with bread — Shall, through the blessing of God, have food convenient for himself and his family; but he that followeth vain persons — That associates with them, and follows their idle course of living; is void of understanding — Will find at last, by the desperate courses into which they will lead him, that he wants not only bread; but understanding.


Verse 12

Proverbs 12:12. The wicked desireth the net of evil men — He approves and uses those cunning and deceitful arts which evil men employ, like nets, to insnare others, and to take their goods to themselves. The word מצוד, however, here rendered net, may be translated fortress, as it is in the margin, and then the clause will be, he desires the fortress of wicked men, or of wickedness, that is, he seeks to fortify and establish himself by wicked practices. But the root of the righteous yieldeth fruit — That justice and piety in which he is rooted, and which is the root of his actions, doth of itself, without the aid of any indirect and sinful courses, yield him sufficient fruit, both for his own need, and for doing good to others.


Verse 13-14

Proverbs 12:13-14. The wicked is snared — Brought into trouble; by the transgression of his lips — By his wicked speeches against God and men; but the just shall come out of trouble — Namely, by his wise, and holy, and inoffensive words, whereby he pacifieth men, and pleases God, and therefore is favoured with his protection. A man shall be satisfied, &c., by the fruit of his mouth — By his pious and profitable discourses. And the recompense of a man’s hands — That is, of his works, of which the hand is the great instrument; shall be rendered unto him — Namely, by God, to whom the work of retribution belongs.


Verse 15

Proverbs 12:15. The way of a fool — The counsel and course which his own mind suggests to him in ordering his affairs; is right in his own eyes — Highly pleases him, so that he neglects and despises the opinions and advices of others; but he that hearkeneth, &c., is wise — That distrusts his own judgment, and seeks counsel from others.


Verse 16

Proverbs 12:16. A fool’s wrath is presently known — By his rash words and indecent actions, whereby he exposes himself to shame; but a prudent man covereth shame — Either, 1st, The shame, reproach, or injury, done to him by others, which he conceals, and bears with patience: or, 2d, His own shame, to which the folly of rash anger would have exposed him.


Verse 17

Proverbs 12:17. He that speaketh truth — He that makes conscience of representing every thing fairly, to the best of his knowledge, whether in judgment or common conversation, whether he be upon his oath or not; he showeth forth righteousness — He makes it appear that he is governed by the principles and laws of righteousness; and he promotes justice by doing honour to it, and serving the administration of it; but a false witness shows forth deceit — He not only manifests how little conscience he makes of deceiving those he deals with, but how much pleasure he takes in it, and that he is possessed of a lying spirit, Jeremiah 9:3-5. It is of unspeakable concern to us all, to possess ourselves with a dread and detestation of the sin of lying, and a reigning principle of honesty.


Verse 18-19

Proverbs 12:18-19. There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword — Words that are cutting and killing; opprobrious words, which grieve the spirits of those to whom they are spoken, and cut them to the heart; or slanders, which wound the reputation of those of whom they are uttered, and perhaps incurably; or whisperings and evil surmisings, which divide and cut asunder the bonds of love and friendship, and separate those that have been very dear to each other; but the tongue of the wise is health — His speech, both in judgment and in common discourse, is sound and wholesome in itself, and tends to the comfort and benefit of others, closing up those wounds which the backbiting tongue had made, restoring peace, accommodating matters, and persuading persons at variance to a reconciliation. The lip of truth shall be established, &c. — The speaker of truth is constant, and always consistent with himself, and the more and longer his words are tried, the more doth the truth of them appear; whereas liars, though they may make a fair show for a time, yet are easily and quickly convicted of falsehood. Truth may indeed be eclipsed for a little while, but it will come to light: it is great, and will prevail. “Those, therefore, that make a lie their refuge,” says Henry, “will find it a refuge of lies.” Houbigant translates this verse, “Perpetuity is in the lip of truth: the tongue of falsehood is for a point of time.”


Verse 20-21

Proverbs 12:20-21. Deceit is in the heart of them that imagine evil — Either, 1st, Deceit toward others, whom they design to deceive, and then to destroy, while good counsellors bring safety and joy to others: or, rather, 2d, To themselves. So the sense of the verse is, They whose hearts devise mischief against others, shall be deceived in their hopes, and bring that trouble upon themselves which they design against others: but they who, by good counsels, labour to promote the peace and happiness of others, shall reap the comfort and benefit of it themselves. There shall no evil happen to the just — Either of sin or suffering, as the next clause explains this: no such evil shall befall them as commonly befalls the wicked, who are overwhelmed, or utterly destroyed by it; whereas good men are supported under their troubles, and shall be delivered out of them, and receive much benefit by them.


Verse 22

Proverbs 12:22. Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord — “The Lord,” says Melancthon, on this verse, “recommends to us the love and care of truth, both in doctrines concerning himself, and in arts, and all honest covenants and contracts: for truth being among the chiefest and most conspicuous virtues, therefore the contrary vice is condemned by an expressive word, abomination, that is, such an evil as God detests with a singular indignation; (for idols are called abominations;) which is principally true of such lies as are invented on purpose to destroy men’s fame, and much more of such as are devised for taking away their lives, and for the ruin of their families.”


Verse 23

Proverbs 12:23. A prudent man concealeth knowledge — He doth not vain- gloriously and unseasonably utter what he knows, but keeps it in his breast till he hath a fit occasion to bring it forth for God’s glory, and the good of others; but the heart of fools proclaimeth foolishness — The heart of a foolish man induces him to make ostentation of his knowledge, whereby he betrays his ignorance and folly.


Verse 24

Proverbs 12:24. The hand of the diligent shall bear rule — Industry is the way to preferment. An instance of which we have 1 Kings 11:28, where we learn that Solomon advanced Jeroboam because he saw he was an industrious young man. Men that take pains in an honest employment, and especially those that labour to be useful to others, will thereby gain such an interest and reputation, as will give them a superiority over all about them. Thus many have risen strangely; and he that has been faithful in a few things has been made ruler over many things. And those who are diligent while they are young, frequently procure that wealth and power which enable them to rule, and so to rest, when they are old; but the slothful shall be under tribute — Or, rather, the deceitful, as רמיה signifies. He terms the slothful deceitful, because deceit and idleness are generally companions; and such persons seek to gain by fraud, by their shifts and arts of dishonesty, what they either cannot, or will not, get by honest labour.


Verse 25

Proverbs 12:25. Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop — Anxious cares and grief depress the spirit of a man, and disable him from exerting himself with any vigour in fulfilling his duty in his place and station, and from bearing with fortitude the sufferings to which he is exposed, in the course of divine providence; but a good word maketh it glad — A compassionate and encouraging word, from a friend or minister, affords him relief and comfort, and enables him to go on his way with tranquillity and peace if not also with joy.


Verse 26

Proverbs 12:26. The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour — Than any other man who is not righteous; that is, either, 1st, He is more excellent in his spirit and conduct, more just, benevolent, public-spirited, and merciful, &c.; or, 2d, In his condition, more happy, notwithstanding all his sufferings, and the contrary opinion of the world concerning him. He is even richer, though not in this world’s goods, yet in the graces and comforts of the Holy Spirit, which are the true riches. There is a real excellence in religion: it ennobles men, gives them elevated views and expectations; inspires them with disinterested and generous principles; renders them sincere, constant, and faithful; and endues them with fortitude, patience, and peace. It has an excellence which, in the sight of God, who is an infallible judge of what is excellent, is of great price and value. His neighbour may make a greater figure in the world, and may be more applauded, but the righteous man has the intrinsic worth. But the way of the wicked seduceth them — Hebrew, ותתעם, maketh them to err, or wander; that is, to fail of obtaining, or to lose, that advantage or happiness which they had promised themselves in and by their wicked practices. The way in which they walk seems to them to be not only a pleasant but the right way; it is so agreeable to flesh and blood, that they therefore flatter themselves with an opinion that it cannot be wrong; but they will not gain the point they aim at, nor enjoy the good they hope for. It is all a cheat; and therefore the righteous is wiser than his neighbours, who yet despise and trample upon him.


Verse 27

Proverbs 12:27. The slothful man — Or, the deceitful man, as in Proverbs 12:24, who seeks to enrich himself, not by his industry and diligence, but by fraudulent and unjust practices; roasteth not that which he took in hunting — Is too negligent and slothful to roast, or to take care that others roast, that which he took in hunting; so that he does not enjoy the fruit of his own labour. Or, if he has roast-meat, it is not that which he himself took, in hunting; but others have taken, or procured, for him. He lives upon the fruit of their labours, and not of his own. But the substance of a diligent man is precious — As being the fruit of his own industry, and of the blessing of God upon it: hence he has comfort in the enjoyment of it: it is his own daily bread, which God gives him in answer to his prayers, and not bread, so to speak, out of other people’s mouths.


Verse 28

Proverbs 12:28. In the way of righteousness is life, &c. — The practice of righteousness, though it expose a man to some dangers and inconveniences in the world, through the corruption of mankind, and the malice of the devil, yet it will certainly lead a man to life and happiness; whereas the end of all the wicked is death and destruction.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Proverbs 12:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/proverbs-12.html. 1857.

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