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Song of Solomon
Proverbs 12 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)
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Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof
; correction, discpline, which shows a man his faults, gives him a lowly opinion of himself, and opens his mind to receive
, especially the knowledge of himself and of all moral obligations.
is as insensible to higher aspirations, to regret for the past or hope of amendment, as a brute beast (comp.
). 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.
obtaineth favour of the LORD: but a man of wicked devices will he condemn.
A good man.
The word is general, the particular virtue intended being often modified by the context. In view of the contrast in the second clause, it means here "pure," "straightforward." having a heart free from evil thoughts. As the psalm says, "Surely God is good to Israel, even to such as are pure in heart" (
Obtaineth favour of the Lord
); Septuagint, "Better is he who findeth favour from the Lord."
A man of wicked devices
); one whose thoughts are perverse and artful.
- Jehovah -
; Vulgate, "He who trusts to his imaginations doeth wickedly;" Septuagint, "A man that is a sinner shall be passed over in silence (
A man shall not be established by wickedness: but the root of the righteous shall not be moved.
A man shall not be established by wickedness.
Man is metaphorically compared to a tree, especially the olive. Wickedness gives him no firm hold for growth or life (comp.
The root of the righteous shall not be moved.
The righteous are planted in a good soil, are "rooted and grounded in love" (
), and the root being thus well placed, the tree is safe, and brings forth much fruit (comp. ver. 12;
). Vers. 4-12 contain proverbs concerning the management of a house and business.
A virtuous woman
a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed
as rottenness in his bones.
A virtuous woman;
one whose portrait is beautifully traced in ch. 31. The term is applied to Ruth (
). The Vulgate renders,
. The expression means one of power either in mind or body, or both. The same idea is contained in
Such a woman is not simply loving and modest and loyal, but is
a crown to her husband;
is an honour to him, adorns and beautifies his life, making, as it were, a joyous festival. So St. Paul (
1 Thessalonians 2:19
) calls his converts "a crown of glorying." The allusion is to the crown worn by the bridegroom at his marriage, or to the garlands worn at feasts (comp.
Song of Solomon 3:11
; Wisd. 2:8). The Son of Sirach has much praise for the virtuous woman: "Blessed is the man that hath a good (
) wife, for the number of his days shall be double. A virtuous (
) woman rejoiceth her husband, and he shall fulfil the years of his life in peace" (Ecclus. 26:1, 2).
She that maketh ashamed;
"that doeth shamefully" (
); one who is a terrible contrast to the woman of strong character - weak, indolent, immodest, wasteful.
Is as rottenness in his bones
). Such a wife poisons her husband's life, deprives him of strength and vigour; though she is made "bone of his bones, and flesh of his flesh" (
), far from being a helpmate for him, she saps his very existence. Septuagint, "As a worm in a tree, so an evil woman destroyeth a man." Here again Siracides has much to say, "A wicked woman abateth the courage, maketh an heavy countenance and a wounded heart: a woman that will not comfort her husband in distress maketh weak hands and feeble knees" (Ecclus. 25:23). Thus runs a Spanish maxim (Kelly, 'Proverbs of All Nations') -
"Him that has a good wife no evil in life
that may not be borne can befall;
Him that has a bad wife no good thing in life
that chance to, that good you may call."
The thoughts of the righteous
the counsels of the wicked
The thoughts of the righteous are right;
just and fair, much more then words and actions. St. Gregory ('Mor. in Job,' lib. 25) takes another view, seeing in "judgments" the stings of conscience, and a rehearsal of the day of account. "The righteous," he says, "approach the secret chambers of the Judge in the recesses of their own hearts; they consider how smartly he smites at last, who long patiently bears with them. They are afraid for the sins which they remember they have committed; and they punish by their tears the faults which they know they have perpetrated. They dread the searching judgments of God, even in those sins which perchance they cannot discover in themselves. And in this secret chamber of inward judgment, constrained by the sentence of their own conduct, they chasten with penitence that which they have committed through pride" (Oxford transl.). But
the counsels of the wicked
- which they offer to others -
The mere "thoughts" are contrasted with the mature, expressed "counsels" Septuagint, "The wicked steer (
) deceits." (For "counsels," see notes,
and Proverbs 20:18.)
The words of the wicked
to lie in wait for blood: but the mouth of the upright shall deliver them.
The words of the wicked are to lie in wait
- a lying in wait - for blood (see
). The wicked, by their lies, slanders, false accusations, etc., endanger men's lives, as Jezebel compassed Naboth's death by false witness (
1 Kings 21:13
The mouth of the upright shall deliver them;
the innocent whose blood the wicked seek. The good plead the cause of the oppressed, using their eloquence in their favour, as in the Apocryphal Story of Susannah, Daniel saved the accused woman from the slanders of the elders.
The wicked are overthrown, and
not: but the house of the righteous shall stand.
The wicked are overthrown, and are not;
overthrow the wicked, and they shall be no more.
The verb is in the infinitive, and may be rendered either way; but the notion is scarcely of an overthrow. The Vulgate has,
change them a little from their previous state, let them suffer a blow from any cause or of any degree, and they succumb, they have no power of resistance. What the stroke is, or whence it comes, is not expressed; it may be the just judgment of God - temptation, trouble, sickness - but whatever it is, they cannot withstand it as the righteous do (see
). Some commentators see in the phrase the idea of suddenness, "While they turn themselves round, they are no more" (
). Septuagint, "Wheresoever the wicked turn, he is destroyed."
The house of the righteous,
being founded on a secure foundation,
A man shall be commended according to his wisdom: but he that is of a perverse heart shall be despised.
According to his wisdom.
A man who gives practical proof of wisdom by life and character, whose words and actions show that he is actuated by high views, is praised and acknowledged by all (see on Proverbs 27:21). Thus we read of David, that he behaved himself wisely, "and he was acceptable in the sight of all the people" (
1 Samuel 18:5
). The Septuagint, taking
differently, renders, "The mouth of the prudent is commended by men."
He that is of a perverse heart;
Vulgate, "a vain and senseless man;" Septuagint, "one slow of heart (
)." One who takes distorted views of things, judges unfairly, has no sympathy for others,
shall be despised.
He that is
despised, and hath a servant,
better than he that honoureth himself, and lacketh bread.
- This verse may be translated,
Better is a man who is lightly esteemed and hath a slave, than he that boasts himself and lacketh bread
the man who is thought little of by his fellows, and is lowly in his own eyes, if he have a slave to minister to his wants (which all Orientals of even moderate wealth possess), is better off than one who boasts of his rank and family, and is all the while on the verge of starvation. "Respectful mediocrity is better than boastful poverty." Ecclus. 10:27, "Better is he that laboreth and aboundeth in all things, than he that boasteth himself, and wanteth bread." But the words rendered,
hath a slave,
a servant to himself.
So the Vulgate has,
, "sufficing himself," and the Septuagint,
, "serving himself." And the expression implies attending to his own concerns, supplying his own wants. Hence the gnome means, "It is wiser to look after one's own business and provide for one's own necessities, even if thereby he meets with contempt and detraction, than to be in real want, and all the time assuming the airs of a rich and prosperous man." This latter explanation seems most suitable, as it is not at all clear that, at the time the book was written, the Israelites of moderate fortune kept slaves, and the proverb would lose its force if they did not do so. Says a mediaeval jingle -
"Nobilitas morum plus ornat quam genitorum."
regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked
A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast.
For "regardeth," the Hebrew word is literally "knoweth" (
); he knows what animals want, what they can bear, and treats them accordingly (comp.
). The LXX. translates "pitieth." The care for the lower animals, and their kind treatment, are not the produce of modern sentiment and civilization. Mosaic legislation and various expressions in Scripture recognize the duty. God's mercies are over all his works; he saves both man and beast; he hateth nothing that he hath made (
; Wisd. 11:24). So he enacted that the rest of the sabbath should extend to the domestic animals (
); that a man should help the over-burdened beast, even of his enemy (
Exodus 23:4, 5
); that the unequal strength of the ox and the ass should not be yoked together in the plough (
); that the ox should not be muzzled when he was treading out the corn (
): that the sitting bird should not be taken from her little brood (
), nor a kid seethed in its mother's milk (
). Such humane injunctions were perhaps specially needed at a time when man's life was little regarded, and animal sacrifices had a tendency to make men cruel and unfeeling, when their symbolical meaning was obscured by long familiarity. These enactments regarding animals, and the mysterious significance affixed to the blood (
), afforded speaking lessons of tenderness and consideration for the inferior creatures, and
taught regard for the happiness and comfort of fellow men. Our blessed Lord has spoken of God's ears of flowers and the lower creatures of his hand.
But the tender mercies;
, regarded as the seat of feeling. The wicked cannot be supposed to have "tender mercies;" hence it is best to take the word in the sense of "feelings," "affections." What should be mercy and love are in an evil man only hard-heartedness and cruelty.
He that tilleth his land shall be satisfied with bread: but he that followeth vain
void of understanding.
- A contrast between industry and idleness, repeated at
He that tilleth his land.
Agriculture was the first of industries, and always highly commended among the Jews, bringing a sure return to the diligent (
Proverbs 27:18, 23-27
; and Ecclus. 20:28).
He that followeth after vain persons;
, Septuagint, empty, useless employments, profitless business, in contrast to active labour on the land. The Vulgate renders,
qui sectatur otium
, "he who studieth ease;" but the original,
, will not bear this meaning.
Is void of understanding;
he not only, as is implied, will be reduced to poverty, but shows moral weakness and depravity. The Septuagint and Vulgate here introduce a paragraph not found in our Hebrew text: "He who takes pleasure (
ὅς ἐστιν ἡδύς
) in carouses of wine will leave disgrace in his strongholds (
Isaiah 28:7, 8
). Probably this verse is derived from the following, with some corruption of the text.
The wicked desireth the net of evil
: but the root of the righteous yieldeth
- Modern commentators have endeavoured to amend the text of this verse by various methods, which may be seen in Nowack's note on the passage; but the existing reading gives an appropriate sense, and alteration is not absolutely needed, though it is plain that the LXX had before them something different from the Masoretic text.
The wicked desireth the net of evil men
), that he may use the means which they take to enrich themselves; or
may mean, not the instrument, but the prey - "such booty as evil men capture;" or yet again, the word may mean "fortress,"
the wicked seeks the protection of evil men. So the Vulgate,
Desiderium impii munimentum est pessimorum
, "What the wicked desire is the support of evil men," or, it may be, "the defense of evil men,"
that these may be secured from suppression and interruption. Another interpretation, which, however, seems somewhat forced, is that "the net" is a metaphor for the judgment of God, which overtakes sinners, and into which they run with such blind infatuation that they seem to "desire" it, The safest explanation is the second one given above, which signifies that the wicked man seeks by every means to obtain the prey which he sees sinners obtain, and, as is implied, gets small return for his labour, does not advance his interests.
But the root of the righteous yieldeth fruit.
The root supplies the sap and vigour needed for healthy produce. Without any evil devices or plotting, the righteous gain all that they want as the natural result of their high principles. Another hindering is, "He (the Lord) will give a root of the righteous," will enable them to stand firm in time of trial. Septuagint, "The desires of the impious are evil; but the roots of the pious are in strongholds,"
The wicked is snared by the transgression of
lips: but the just shall come out of trouble.
The wicked is snared by the transgression of his lips;
in the transgression of the lips is an evil snare
). A man by speaking unadvisedly or intemperately brings trouble upon himself, involves himself in difficulties which he did not foresee. Often when he has spoken in order to injure others, the slander or the censure has redounded on himself (comp.
Psalm 7:15, 16
). The just; the man who does not offend with his lips, avoids these snares. The Septuagint here introduces a couplet not found in the Hebrew: "He who looketh gently (
) shall obtain mercy; but he who frequents the gates [or, 'contends in the gates,'
συναντῶν ἐν πύλαις
] will harass souls." This seems to mean the man who is calm and considerate for others will himself be treated with pity and consideration (
); but he who is a gossip, or a busybody, or litigious, will be always vexing his neighbours.
A man shall be satisfied with good by the fruit of
mouth: and the recompence of a man's hands shall be rendered unto him.
A man shall be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth
). A man's words are like seeds, and if they are wise and pure and kindly, they will bring forth the fruit of love and favour and respect. Christian commentaters see here a reference to the day of judgment, wherein great stress is laid on the words (
Of a man's hands.
That which a man has done, his kindly actions, shall meet with full reward (comp.
Isaiah 3:10, 11
The way of a fool
right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes;
in his own judgment (
: 16:2). The second clause is best translated, as in the Revised Version, "But he that is wise hearkeneth unto counsel," distrusting his own unaided judgment, which might lead him astray (
; comp. Ecclus. 35:19; Tobit 4:18). Theognis, 221, etc. -
Ὅς τις τοι δοκέει τὸν πλησίον ἴδμεναι οὐδὲν
Ἀλλ αὐτὸς μοῦνος ποικίλα δήνε ἔχειν
Κεῖνός γ ἄφρων ἐστὶ νόου βεβλαμμένος ἐσθλοῦ
Ἴσως γὰρ πάντες ποικίλ ἐπιστάμεθα
"Who thinks his neighbour nothing knows,
And he alone can see,
Is but a fool, for we perhaps
Know even more than he."
A fool's wrath is presently known: but a prudent
A fool's wrath is presently
("in the day,"
) known. A foolish man, if he is vexed, insulted, or slighted, has no idea of controlling himself or checking the expression of his aroused feelings; he at once, in the same day on which he has been incensed, makes his vexation known.
A prudent man covereth
- concealeth -
; takes no notice of an affront at the moment, knowing that by resenting it he will only make matters worse, and that it is best to let passions cool before he tries to set the matter right (comp.
). Christ's injunction goes far beyond this maxim of worldly prudence: "I say unto you that ye resist not evil;" "Unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek, offer also the other" (
); and it is certain that these maxims might be carried into practice much more than they are, even in the present state of society. Septuagint, "A clever man (
, Vulgate) concealeth his own disgrace." Corn. a Lapide quotes a Hebrew proverb which asserts that a man's character is accurately discerned "by purse, by cup, by anger;"
by his conduct in money transactions, under the influence of wine, and in the excitement of anger.
speaketh truth sheweth forth righteousness: but a false witness deceit.
He that speaketh
- breatheth out fearlessly (
truth showeth forth righteousness.
The truth always conduces to justice and right, not only in a matter of law, but generally and in all cases. Vulgate, "He who speaks that which he knows is a discoverer of justice;" Septuagint, "A just man announces well proved assurance [or, 'the open truth'] (
)." A false witness showeth forth deceit (
Proverbs 14:5, 25
); exhibits his true character, which is fraud, treachery, and wrong doing.
There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise
There is that speaketh.
The word implies speaking thoughtlessly, rashly; hence we may render, "a babbler," "prater." Such a one inflicts wounds with his senseless tattle.
Like the piercings of a sword.
The point of the simile is seen when we remember that the edge of the sword is called its "mouth" in the Hebrew (
, etc.; comp.
). The Greek gnome says -
Ἀλλ οὐδὲν ἕρπει ψεῦδος εἰς γῆρας χρόνου
"A sword the body wounds, a word the soul."
est qui promittit
, which restricts the scope of the clause to the making of vain promises (
et quasi gladio pungitur conscientiae
, "And is pierced as it were by the sword of his conscience." where "conscience" is added to make the meaning plain. Such a man suffers remorse if he breaks his promise, or if, like Jephthah, he keeps it.
The tongue of the wise is health;
it does not pierce and wound like that of the chatterer, rather it soothes and heals even when it reproves (
The lip of truth shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue
but for a moment.
The lip of truth shall be established forever.
Truth is consistent, invincible, enduring; and the fact belongs not only to Divine truth (
), but to human, in its measure. Septuagint, "True lips establish testimony," pointing the last word
Is but for a moment;
while I wink the eye
). Lying never answers in the end; it is soon found out and punished (
). Septuagint, "But a hasty (
, Vulgate) witness hath an unjust tongue." One who gives his testimony without due consideration, or influenced by evil motives, readily fails into lying and injustice. With the latter half of the verse we may compare the gnome -
Ἀλλ οὐδὲν ἕρπει ψεῦδος εἰς γῆρας χρόνου
"Unto old age no lie doth ever live."
A lie has no legs, is a maxim of wide nationality; and "Truth may be blamed, but shall ne'er be shamed."
in the heart of them that imagine evil: but to the counsellers of peace
Deceit is in the heart of them that imagine evil;
that give evil advice; such are treacherous counsellors, and their advice can only work mischief, not joy and comfort (see on Proverbs 3:29).
But to the counsellors of peace
(health and prosperity)
They who give wholesome advice diffuse joy around. Vulgate, "Joy attends them;" Septuagint, "They shall be glad;" but the original signifies rather to cause joy than to feel it.
There shall no evil happen to the just: but the wicked shall be filled with mischief.
There shall no evil
- mischief -
happen to the just.
The mischief (
) intended is not misfortune, calamity, but the evil consequences that follow on ill-doing (
); from these the righteous are saved. Our Lord goes further, and says (
), "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these (temporal) things shall be added unto you." Vulgate, "Nothing that happens can make a just man sorrowful;" for he knows it is all for the best, and he looks toward another life, where all seeming anomalies will be cleared up. Septuagint, "The just man takes pleasure in naught that is unjust."
The wicked shall be filled with mischief;
, moral and physical (
). The Old Testament takes a general view of God's moral government without regarding special anomalies.
abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly
They that deal truly;
, "he who acts in good faith."
A prudent man concealeth knowledge: but the heart of fools proclaimeth foolishness.
A prudent man concealeth knowledge
). He is not wont to utter unadvisedly what he knows, but waits for fitting opportunity, either from humility or wise caution. Of course, in some cases reticence is sinful. The LXX., reading the passage differently, renders, "A prudent man is the seat of intelligence (
The heart of fools proclaimeth foolishness
). A foolish man cannot help exposing the stupid ideas that arise in his mind, which he considers wisdom. Septuagint, "The heart of fools shall meet with curses."
The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute.
speak of the means of getting on in life.
The hand of the diligent shall bear rule
). For "diligent" the Vulgate has
, "the strong and active;" Septuagint,
, "choice." Such men are sure to rise to the surface, and get the upper hand in a community, as the LXX. adds, "with facility," by a natural law.
But the slothful
shall be under tribute;
reduced to compulsory service
, like the Gibeonites in Joshua's time, and the Canaanites under Solomon (
Joshua 9:21, 23
1 Kings 9:21
, "The fool shall be slave to the wise;" and an Israelite reduced to poverty might be made a servant (
Leviticus 25:39, 40
). The LXX., taking the word in another sense, translates, "The crafty shall be for plunder;"
they who think to succeed by fraud and trickery shall become the prey of those who are stronger than themselves.
Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad.
- in the heart of man maketh it stoop
). Care brings dejection and despair; hence the Christian is bidden to beware of excessive anxiety, and not to perplex himself with solicitude for the future (Matthew 6:84;
1 Peter 5:7
A good word maketh it glad.
Λύπην γὰρ εὔνους οϊδεν ἰᾶσθαι λόγος
"A word of kindness grief's keen smart can heal."
Septuagint, "A word of terror disturbs the heart of a (righteous) man, but a good message will gladden him." The "word of terror" may be an unjust censure, or evil tidings. Says a Servian proverb, "Give me a comrade who will weep with me; one who will laugh I can easily find."
more excellent than his neighbour: but the way of the wicked seduceth them.
The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour.
This rendering has the authority of the Chaldee, and would signify that a good man is superior to others morally and socially, is more respected and stands higher, though his worldly position be inferior. But the clause is better translated,
The just man is a guide to his neighbour
, directs him in the right way; as the Syriac puts it, "gives good counsel to his friend." Septuagint, "The righteous wise man (
) will be a friend to himself;" Vulgate, "He who regards not loss for a friend's sake is righteous," which is like Christ's word, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (
). Hitzig, Delitzsch, and others, reading differently, translate, "A just man spieth out (or, looketh after) his pasture;
he is not like the sinner, hampered and confined by the chain of evil habits and associations, but is free to follow the lead of virtue, and to go whither duty and his own best interests call him. This gives a very good sense, and makes a forcible antithesis with the succeeding clause.
But the way of the wicked seduceth them
; "causes them, the wicked, to err." Far from guiding others aright, the wicked, reaping the moral consequences of their sin, drift hopelessly astray themselves. Before the last clause some manuscripts of the Septuagint add, "But the judgments of the wicked are harsh; evils shall pursue sinners" (
). The whole is probably a gloss.
roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man
The slothful man
roasteth not that which he took in hunting.
There is some doubt concerning the correct meaning of the word translated "roasteth" (
), which occurs only in the Chaldea of
, where it signifies "burned" or "singed," according to the traditional rendering. It seems to be a proverbial saying, implying either that a lazy man will not take the trouble to hunt, or, if he does hunt, will not prepare the food which he has taken in the chase, or that he does not enjoy it when he has gotten it. Others render, "will not start his prey;" or "catch his prey," Septuagint; or "secure his prey,"
will not keep in his net what he has caught, but carelessly lets it escape. The Vulgate renders, "The cheat will gain no profit." The word rendered "cheat,"
in the Latin, and
in the Greek, is the same as that rightly translated "slothful" (ver. 24).
But the substance of a diligent man is precious;
the substance which an honest, industrious man acquires by his labour is stable and of real value. This second clause, however, is variously translated, Revised Version,
precious substance of men is to the diligent
is to be diligent
; Delitzsch, "Diligence is a man's precious possession;" Septuagint, "A pure man is a precious possession." The Authorized Version is probably erroneous, and the rendering should be, as Delitzsch and Nowack take it, "But a precious possession of a man is diligence."
In the way of righteousness
thereof there is
In the way of righteousness is life
). For the promise of temporal prosperity which the Jew saw in such passages as these we substitute a better hope.
And in the pathway
thereof - of righteousness -
there is no death.
Many combine the two words thus: "no death,"
immortality; but examples of such combination are not forthcoming, and the anomaly is not necessitated by the failure of the usual rendering to afford an adequate sense. The Greek and Latin versions are noteworthy. Septuagint, "The ways of the revengeful (
) are unto (
) death." St. Chrysostom refers ('Hom. 16 in Ephesians') to this rendering: "He here speaks of vindictiveness; for on the spur of the moment he allows the sufferer to act in order to cheek the aggressor; but further to bear a grudge he permits not; because the act then is no longer one of passion, nor of boiling rage, but of malice premeditated. Now, God forgives those who may be carried away, perhaps upon a sense of outrage, and rush out to resent it. Hence he says, 'eye for eye;' and yet again 'The ways of the revengeful lead to death." Vulgate, "A devious path leads to death" - a path, that is, which turns aside from the right direction, a life and conversation which are alien from justice and piety. But both the Septuagint and the Vulgate have missed the right meaning of the words in question;
, "pathway." Many see in this verse a plain evidence that the writer believed in the immortality of the soul. We have reason to suppose that such was his faith, but it cannot be proved from this passage, though we may consider that he was guided to speak in terms to which later knowledge would affix a deeper interpretation (see
, and note there). It is Jesus Christ "who hath brought life and immortality (
) to light through the gospel" (
2 Timothy 1:10
). Writers in Solomon's time could speak only darkly about this sublime and comforting hope, though later, as in the Book of Wisdom and throughout most of the Apocryphal books, it formed a common topic, and was used as a reason for patience and resignation.
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