Proverbs Chapter 12
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Go to Bible: Proverbs 12
|Pro 12:1||- (top)|
“but a person.” The word “person” is iysh (#0376 אִישׁ pronounced “eesh”), which most literally refers to a man, a male in contrast to a woman, a husband, or a man opposed to an animal or God. Nevertheless, it can also be used to refer to men and women, and it makes sense to translate it in a gender-neutral way in this context (see commentary on Prov. 2:12, “the one”).(top)
“will not be established.” This is the figure of speech tapeinosis, or “demeaning; belittling.” In this case, the statement is made in the negative, “not be established” in a way that catches our attention because it is clear from the scope of Scripture that wickedness will “overthrow” or “destroy” a person (Ps. 37:38; 92:7; 101:8; 145:20).a
See E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible, s.v. “tapeinosis,” 159.
“excellent.” The Hebrew word is chayil (#02428 חַיִל), and it basically refers to strength. There are many kinds of strengths, and none is specifically mentioned in this context. The word chayil is used of physical strength (Ps. 33:17; Eccles. 12:3), including strength for battle (Ps. 18:39). “Strength” (chayil) can also refer to wealth (Job 20:18; Ezek. 28:5); strength of character (Gen. 47:6; Exod. 18:21, 25; 1 Chron. 26:7, 9, 30; Ruth 3:11), and sexual potency (Prov. 31:3). When a woman has strength of character, she is usually called “noble” or “virtuous.”
Because chayil, “strong” can refer to different kinds of strength, including physical strength, strength of character, and the strength of wealth, the English versions are divided as to how to translate this verse. Women, like men, have many different and even multiple strengths. English translations include “worthy” (ASV; NLT; cp. NAB); “virtuous” (ERV; KJV; BBE; YLT); “capable” (CJB; HCSB; NJB); “diligent” (Rheims-Douay); “excellent” (ESV; NASB; NKJ); “a wife with strength of character” (GWN); “noble” (NET); “noble character” (NIV); and “good” (NRSV; RSV).
There is a real sense in which an amplified Bible could say, “A strong, virtuous, excellent, diligent, capable wife of noble character is the crown of her husband,” because all those attributes can be reflected in the word chayil. Because the English word “excellent” can be understood in a multitude of ways, we went with “excellent” in the REV.(top)
|Pro 12:5||- (top)|
“lie in wait for blood.” A beautiful personification. The words of the wicked have a life of their own, hiding in ambush until a time they can do harm.(top)
“and will be no more.” The wicked do not have everlasting life, so when they are overthrown in this life, they come to an end, which Revelation 20:14 tells us is death in the lake of fire.(top)
“A person.” The word “person” is iysh (#0376 אִישׁ pronounced “eesh”), which most literally refers to a man, a male in contrast to a woman, a husband, or a man opposed to an animal or God. Nevertheless, it can also be used to refer to men and women, and it makes sense to translate it in a gender-neutral way in this context (see commentary on Prov. 2:12).(top)
|Pro 12:9||- (top)|
“cares for.” The Hebrew is literally, “knows the life of his animal,” but “knows” in this context means to care for or care about. The word “know” can mean to know or experience, but it can also have an idiomatic or pregnant sense and mean “to care about,” “to act lovingly toward.” Thus, Psalm 144:3 (YLT 1862/87/98) says, “what is man that Thou knowest him,” while the NIV(2011) translates that in a way that recognizes the idiom: “what are human beings that you care for them?” Similarly, Proverbs 12:10 (YLT) says, “The righteous man knoweth the life of his beast,” while the NIV(2011) has, “The righteous care for the needs of their animals.”
[For more on “know” see commentary on Gen. 3:22. For information on other words that have an idiomatic sense, such as “remember,” see commentary on Luke 23:43.]
“life.” The Hebrew is nephesh (#05315 נָ֫פֶשׁ), which is technically “soul,” which is the life of the animal. This is just one more verse that clearly shows animals have a soul, just as humans do. When animals die, their soul does not go to heaven, and the same is true for people. When animals and people die, they are dead, in the ground. God will raise people from the grave, but not animals.(top)
“will be satisfied with bread.” Proverbs 12:11 is one of the many “ideal” promises in the Word of God which would be fulfilled here on earth today if we lived in a godly world with godly people. We do not. The Devil is the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4; 1 John 5:19), and between bad weather, bad politics, wars, and evil people, a person who works his land sometimes goes hungry anyway. This promise will only be fully fulfilled in the future.
[For more on promises like this, see commentary on Prov. 19:5.]
“sense.” The Hebrew word is leb (#03820 לֵב), which is often translated “heart,” but this is one of those cases where that translation would cause confusion. In modern English, the word “heart” usually refers to emotion or passion, but that is not its meaning here. The function of the brain was unknown in biblical times, so things that we generally assign to the brain, like thinking, attitudes, understanding, and good sense, were assigned to the heart. In this case, a fool who pursues worthless things lacks “sense.”
[For more on the Hebrew word leb and “heart,” see commentary on Prov. 15:21, “sense.”](top)
|Pro 12:12||- (top)|
“will escape from.” The literal Hebrew is “will go out from.” While the tone of “escape” is certainly true, and comes from the contrast with the first stanza, there is also a sense in which sometimes the righteous person will see the trouble and turn away from it early, and not really get caught up in it.(top)
|Pro 12:14||- (top)|
|Pro 12:15||- (top)|
“prudent.” The Hebrew word is arum (#06175 עָרוּם), and it has both a positive and negative meaning. On the negative side, it means to be crafty or sly, and it is used to describe the Devil in Genesis 3:1. On the positive side, it means to be shrewd, sensible, or prudent. In this context, it means to be sensible or prudent.
“dishonor.” The Hebrew is qalown (#07036 קָלוֹן), which is shame, dishonor, humiliation. A prudent person does not display the fact that he has been dishonored or insulted. Also in this verse is the meaning that “dishonor” is put by the figure of speech Metonymy for that which causes it, i.e., an insult. A prudent person does not react with anger to an insult, whereas a fool becomes angry at once, and shows it.(top)
“speaks what is faithful.” The Hebrew is more compact: “speaks faithfulness,” but that is not as clear in English. The person who speaks faithful things, which in this context means what is faithful to God and to what he has been taught, will speak “righteousness,” the things that are right and make people righteous in the sight of God. The person who turns away from God and what he has been taught will speak unrighteousness; that which is unrighteous in the sight of God.(top)
“speaks recklessly.” There are many verses in the Bible that talk about how important it is to control what we say. There are many ways to speak recklessly: we can say the wrong thing, or say the right thing but at the wrong time or place. A person does not have to have the intention to hurt people with their words in order to deeply wound someone. It takes diligent effort to control one’s mouth, and also a humble attitude about life. It is basically impossible for a self-centered person to control his mouth because he frames all of life in terms of himself and how he feels.
In contrast to speaking recklessly, the tongue of the wise is healing. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if we are really being wise because we can tend to see ourselves in a good light. A good way to check to see if we are being wise is to notice if the people around us are being blessed and healed by what we say, and they will usually tell us if they are. The tongue of the wise is healing, and if people around us cannot testify to blessings and healing when they are with us, then there is a good probability we are not being wise, no matter how good we feel about what we say. Of course, sometimes wise words do hurt. But they don’t produce permanent harm. Reproof and godly rebuke hurt for a short time, but produce great gain and healing in the end.(top)
|Pro 12:19||- (top)|
|Pro 12:20||- (top)|
“No disaster.” Proverbs 12:21 is one of the “ideal” promises in the Word of God. (See commentary on Prov. 19:5).
“Will come upon.” The Hebrew verb is anah (#0579 אָנַה), and in the qal aspect of the Hebrew verb it means “to meet or encounter.” However, in this verse, it is in the pual aspect of the verb, the causal aspect, and it means “to be sent” or “to be allowed to meet.”a
The point of the proverb is not that the righteous are immune to “disaster.” Proverbs has many verses showing the righteous can suffer (Prov. 18:5; 24:15; 28:10). And other books like Job show it very clearly as well. Job was a righteous man who lost his children, his wealth, his health, and the respect of his friends. The point of this verse is that God is always good, and He never sends disaster upon the righteous.
The point does need to be made, however, that in the general context of Proverbs, righteous people do well and wicked people do badly, and there is certainly an overtone of that in this verse.
Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon; Harris, Archer, and Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament.
|Pro 12:22||- (top)|
“prudent.” See commentary on Proverbs 12:16.
“proclaims.” The Hebrew is qara (#07121 קָרָא), to cry out, to call out loud and clear. The heart of fools is self-centered and foolish. It neither cares for those it may hurt by spreading information nor realizes it damages itself and its reputation.(top)
“slack.” The Hebrew word is remiyah (#07423 רְמִיָּה), and means slackness; sluggish, lax, negligent, and careless behavior. It occurs 4 times in Proverbs; Proverbs 10:4, 12:24, 27, and 19:15.
[See commentary on Proverbs 10:4 for more information.](top)
“person’s.” The word “person’s” is iysh (#0376 אִישׁ pronounced “eesh”), which most literally refers to a man. Nevertheless, it can also be used to refer to men and women, and it makes sense to translate it in a gender-neutral way in this context (see commentary on Prov. 2:12).
“weighs it down.” More literally, “makes it bow down,” but not out of respect but out of pressure.(top)
“causes them to wander astray.” The primary meaning of the phrase is that the road (“the way”) of the wicked leads the wicked people themselves astray, and then, of course, they lead the people who follow them to wander astray also.(top)
“Laziness.” The Hebrew word is remiyah (#07423 רְמִיָּה), and means slackness; sluggish, lax, negligent, and careless behavior. It occurs 4 times in Proverbs: Proverbs 10:4, 12:24, 27, and 19:15, and is translated “slack” the other three times.
[See commentary on Prov. 10:4 for more information.](top)
“the journey of that road.” The Hebrew is more literally: “that road’s journey.” We have to understand that as meaning the journey on that road. The person who walks on the “righteous road” will not end in death.(top)