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David Guzik :: Study Guide for Proverbs 12

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Words, Deeds, and Destiny


Proverbs 12:1

Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge,
But he who hates correction is stupid.

a. Whoever loves instruction: Wisdom tells us to keep learning and to love instruction and knowledge. A humble willingness to be taught (instruction) shows a true love of knowledge.

i. “If we find that we are upset when our faults are pointed out to us, that shows we lack not only grace but understanding. We are behaving as if we were stupid…Oh, for a teachable spirit to sit at the feet of our divine Master and learn from him.” (Bridges)

b. He who hates correction is stupid: The proud man or woman who is unwilling to receive correction reveals his or her own rejection of knowledge.

i. Hates correction: “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].” (Trapp)

ii. Is stupid: “Discovereth himself to be a most foolish and stupid creature, because he is an enemy to himself and to his own happiness.” (Poole)

Proverbs 12:2

A good man obtains favor from the Lord,
But a man of wicked intentions He will condemn.

a. A good man obtains favor from the Lord: Obedience to God leads to deeper relationship with Him (1 John 1:6-7). This principle was especially true under the old covenant, with its promises of blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience (Deuteronomy 27-28).

i. John Trapp on verse 2, regarding Martin Luther: “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!’”

b. A man of wicked intentions He will condemn: God sees the heart, and sees wicked intentions before they result in action, and even if they never result in action.

Proverbs 12:3

A man is not established by wickedness,
But the root of the righteous cannot be moved.

a. A man is not established by wickedness: Many men seek to advance and establish themselves through treating others badly. Lying, cheating, and deception are common when someone seeks to advance or establish. This is never God’s way and can never enjoy His blessing.

i. “Evil is always variable: it has no fixed principle, except the root that is in the human heart; and even that is ever assuming new forms. Nothing is permanent but goodness; and that is unchangeable, because it comes from GOD.” (Clarke)

b. The root of the righteous cannot be moved: God establishes His righteous ones in a firm, permanent way. Their root goes down deep and holds strong.

i. Cannot be moved: This idea is repeated many times in the Scriptures. “‘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]” (Trapp)

Proverbs 12:4

An excellent wife is the crown of her husband,
But she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones.

a. An excellent wife is the crown of her husband: A man may achieve success in many areas of life, but unless there is happiness in the home, all other achievements are empty. To have an excellent wife and all the home happiness that she brings is a true crown of success.

i. “The modern sense of virtuous (AV, RV) [excellent] does no justice to the Heb. term’s root idea of strength and worth…The modern phrase, ‘she has a lot in her’, expresses something of the meaning.” (Kidner)

b. She who causes shame is like rottenness: A wife that brings shame to the husband and the family seems to take away life and happiness instead of bringing it.

i. “The ignoble wife invisibly saps his strength and vitality and deconstructs him from within.” (Waltke)

ii. “A ‘crown’ is a symbol of honor and renown; but the negative side, using the figure of ‘decay in his bones,’ is that the disgrace will eat away her husband’s strength and destroy his happiness.” (Ross)

Proverbs 12:5

The thoughts of the righteous are right,
But the counsels of the wicked are deceitful.

a. The thoughts of the righteous are right: The righteous man or woman is not only right in their actions, but even in their thoughts. They know something of what it means to be transformed by the renewing of the mind (Romans 12:1-2).

b. The counsels of the wicked are deceitful: As for the wicked, it is more than their actions that are deceitful; their counsels (thinking, thoughts) are also full of deception and error.

i. The counsels of the wicked: “Not their rash thoughts only, but also their deliberate ones are how to circumvent others, or to cloak their own wickedness.” (Trapp)

Proverbs 12:6

The words of the wicked are, “Lie in wait for blood,”
But the mouth of the upright will deliver them.

a. Lie in wait for blood: The wicked plot violence and are ready to ambush others for their own unrighteous gain.

i. “The vivid picture of ‘lying in wait for blood’ conveys that the wicked make a trap by their false accusations.” (Ross)

b. The mouth of the upright: The upright man or woman will find their rescue in the good and wise words that they speak.

Proverbs 12:7

The wicked are overthrown and are no more,
But the house of the righteous will stand.

a. The wicked are overthrown: Having no root in righteousness, the wicked cannot and will not stand. They will one day be overthrown and simply perish.

b. The house of the righteous will stand: God will preserve His own righteous men and women. They and their house will endure that which would overthrow the house of the wicked.

Proverbs 12:8

A man will be commended according to his wisdom,
But he who is of a perverse heart will be despised.

a. Will be commended according to his wisdom: Wise men and women will be recognized and honored for their wisdom. The more wisdom, the greater the commendation. This is often true in this world, but always true in the world to come.

b. Will be despised: The one with a crooked or twisted heart will not receive praise, but instead will be despised. This present age often shows this to be true, and the coming age will certainly show it so.

Proverbs 12:9

Better is the one who is slighted but has a servant,
Than he who honors himself but lacks bread.

a. Better is the one who is slighted but has a servant: To receive an insult or be slighted is never pleasant, but wisdom sees that if one has enough in this world to have a servant, they shouldn’t be so proud as to despair over an insult.

i. Has a servant: “Hath but one servant. Or rather, is servant to himself; hath none to wait upon him or work for him but himself, that getteth bread by his own labours.” (Poole)

b. Than he who honors himself but lacks bread: The proud man who promotes his own honor can’t eat his self-exaltation. Honoring self isn’t the way to either prosperity or happiness.

i. “Nothing is so despicable as to be proud when there is nothing to be proud about.” (Bridges)

ii. Kidner suggested an alternative translation: “But RSV, following LXX, Syr., reads the same Heb. consonants to mean: Better is a man of humble standing who works for himself than one who plays the great man but lacks bread. This is stronger, and gives more content to the word ‘better’.”

Proverbs 12:10

A righteous man regards the life of his animal,
But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.

a. A righteous man regards the life of his animal: God cares for the animals (Matthew 10:29, Psalm 104:27). The righteous or godly man will also show care and compassion to his animal. There is a true sense in which the animal is his, and God gives him authority of the animal; but he is to exercise that authority with care and compassion.

i. “Verse 10 teaches that a good man cares for those who provide for him, even if they are only animals. The wicked only exploit.” (Garrett)

ii. “I once in my travels met with the Hebrew of this clause on the sign board of a public inn: yodea tsaddik nephesh behemto. ‘A righteous man considereth the life of his beast;’ which, being very appropriate, reminded me that I should feed my horse.” (Clarke)

b. The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel: Even the supposed mercies of the wicked have their own cruel self-interest in mind. The righteous man is kind even to his animals; the wicked man can be cruel even in his kindness.

i. “The wicked, influenced by Satan, can show no other disposition than what is in their master. If they appear at any time merciful, it is a cloak which they use to cover purposes of cruelty.” (Clarke)

Proverbs 12:11

He who tills his land will be satisfied with bread,
But he who follows frivolity is devoid of understanding.

a. He who tills his land: The one who does the hard work of farming will be satisfied with bread. Under God’s blessing, they will enjoy the result of their labor.

b. He who follows frivolity: The one who lives for the vain and superficial things of life lacks something worse than bread; he is devoid of understanding.

i. “The proud person is Satan’s throne, and the idle man his pillow. He sits in the former and sleeps quietly on the latter.” (Swinnock, cited in Bridges)

Proverbs 12:12

The wicked covet the catch of evil men,
But the root of the righteous yields fruit.

a. The wicked covet the catch of evil men: It is in the nature of the wicked to covet what others have, even if it is the catch of evil men. In this they sin in the covetousness and the longing for what has been gained by evil men.

b. The root of the righteous yields fruit: God’s righteous men and woman don’t need to covet the catch of evil men, because they are like fruit bearing trees. This comes from their very root, from who they are.

Proverbs 12:13

The wicked is ensnared by the transgression of his lips,
But the righteous will come through trouble.

a. The wicked is ensnared: What a wicked man says (the transgression of his lips) will eventually get him into trouble. It will become a snare he his trapped in.

i. “A man who deals in lies and false oaths will sooner or later be found out to his own ruin. There is another proverb as true as this: A liar had need of a good memory; for as the truth is not in him, he says and unsays, and often contradicts himself.” (Clarke)

b. The righteous will come through trouble: The righteous man or woman will certainly experience trouble, but will come through it. As Jesus said, in the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

Proverbs 12:14

A man will be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth,
And the recompense of a man’s hands will be rendered to him.

a. A man will be satisfied with good: A righteous man finds blessing comes to his life by what he says (the fruit of his mouth). His good, kind, and encouraging words will bring life to himself and others.

b. The recompense of a man’s hands will be rendered to him: A man will receive what he has worked for, whether it be for good or evil. God’s judgments are true and fitting.

Proverbs 12:15

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
But he who heeds counsel is wise.

a. The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: The fool almost always thinks they are on the right path. It is difficult for them to think carefully and accurately about the path of their life.

b. He who heeds counsel is wise: The wise man or woman understand the value of counsel and does not look only to what is right in his own eyes. The wise person understands that is helpful to get another set of “eyes” on one’s way.

Proverbs 12:16

A fool’s wrath is known at once,
But a prudent man covers shame.

a. A fool’s wrath is known at once: The fool does not have the self-control to wait and let the immediate anger pass before making a response. The fool does most things out of impulse without thought.

b. A prudent man covers shame: The wise and prudent man knows that there are many times when the right thing to do is to cover shame. They thoughtfully respond to situations instead of making an immediate, impulsive response.

i. “It is not so much that the wise man represses anger or feelings but that he is more shrewd in dealing with it.” (Ross)

Proverbs 12:17

He who speaks truth declares righteousness,
But a false witness, deceit.

a. He who speaks truth declares righteousness: The words of the wise are filled with truth and therefore reflect God’s righteousness.

b. But a false witness, deceit: The false witness doesn’t speak the truth, and promotes deceit instead of righteousness.

Proverbs 12:18

There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword,
But the tongue of the wise promotes health.

a. There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword: Some people have the terrible ability to speak in a manner that stabs and slices others. Their words are like the slashing and piercings of a sword, bringing hurt instead of healing.

i. “How keenly have the servants of God suffered from this sword! Many will speak daggers without compunction who would be afraid to use them.” (Bridges)

b. The tongue of the wise promotes health: Wise men and women are able to bring health and healing from the words they speak.

Proverbs 12:19

The truthful lip shall be established forever,
But a lying tongue is but for a moment.

a. The truthful lip shall be established forever: God looks after those who love the truth and speak the truth. Under His blessing, they will be established forever.

b. The lying tongue is but for a moment: It often seems that the lying tongue wins the day and is stronger than the truthful lip. The judgments of the God of truth will show how temporary the success of the lying tongue is.

i. But for a moment: “The lying tongue may continue to utter its falsehood for long years by the calendars of men, but when you place those years by the side of the ages of God, they are as a moment, as the winking of the eye, as nothing.” (Morgan)

ii. “Truth stands for ever; because its foundation is indestructible: but falsehood may soon be detected; and, though it gain credit for a while, it had that credit because it was supposed to be truth.” (Clarke)

iii. “It is truth which abides. A lie must perish. In a world still largely mastered by lies, it is difficult at times to believe this. Yet to review the history of the race is to have evidence of it. Lies are always perishing.” (Morgan)

Proverbs 12:20

Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil,
But counselors of peace have joy.

a. Deceit is in the heart: Those who devise evil and practice it have deceit in their heart before it is ever evident in their actions. There is something corrupt in their core that finds expression outwardly.

b. Counselors of peace have joy: There is a happiness and contentment (joy) that comes to those who speak words of peace. This shalom is within the counselors of peace, and so they are able to give it to others.

i. “Significantly, Proverbs always represents counselors as in a group (Proverbs 11:14; 15:22; 24:6).” (Waltke)

Proverbs 12:21

No grave trouble will overtake the righteous,
But the wicked shall be filled with evil.

a. No grave trouble will overtake the righteous: God’s righteous men and women will certainly experience trouble. Yet God promised to manage the degree of trouble, the duration of trouble, and the depth of the trouble. Especially seen in light of eternity, no grave trouble will overtake the righteous.

b. The wicked shall be filled with evil: In contrast, the wicked will receive the result of their wickedness. They will not be rescued from their trouble; because they pursued evil, they will be filled with evil.

Proverbs 12:22

Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord,
But those who deal truthfully are His delight.

a. Lying lips are an abomination: The God of truth loves the truth, and regards the lips that spread lies as offensive, an abomination.

b. Those who deal truthfully are His delight: The same God who regards lies as an abomination takes delight in those who value and tell the truth. Wisdom’s lesson is plain: stop lying and start telling the truth.

Proverbs 12:23

A prudent man conceals knowledge,
But the heart of fools proclaims foolishness.

a. A prudent man conceals knowledge: It is a mark of wisdom and prudence to not reveal all that we know, especially if it may harm or disgrace others.

i. “Someone who is careful in what he says will be equally careful about whom he confides in.” (Garrett)

b. The heart of fools proclaims foolishness: The wise man or woman knows restraint, but the fool does not. It is in the nature of fools to proclaim their foolishness. What is in the heart will eventually be revealed.

i. “Fools, however, proclaim their folly everywhere. They are dogmatic in arguments when wiser men are cautious. They teach when they should be learning.” (Bridges)

Proverbs 12:24

The hand of the diligent will rule,
But the lazy man will be put to forced labor.

a. The hand of the diligent will rule: This is both according to the blessing of God (who rewards the diligent) and the nature of the world and society. Hard working people achieve and come to places of leadership.

i. “So, Christian, be diligent. Spend and be spent in Christ’s service. Your privileges will be enlarged. Your God will be honored. Your crown will be secure.” (Bridges)

b. The lazy man will be put to forced labor: Because he is unfit to rule over others or even himself, the lazy man will be ruled over by others.

i. “Diligence at work determines success and advancement. To put it bluntly, the diligent rise to the top and the lazy sink to the bottom.” (Ross)

ii. The lazy man: “Heb. the deceitful. So he calls the slothful, because deceit and idleness are commonly companions, and such men seek to gain by fraud what they either cannot or will not get by honest labour.” (Poole)

Proverbs 12:25

Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression,
But a good word makes it glad.

a. Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression: Solomon considered an inward cause of depression. It may come from fear and anxiety with a man or woman’s heart. This is why God so often tells us to be anxious for nothing (Philippians 4:6) and pray about everything.

b. But a good word makes it glad: An anxious heart can be helped by a simple good word. Encouragement costs little from the one who gives it but can do enormous good for the one who receives it.

i. “The ‘kind word’ probably includes encouragement, kindness, and insight—saying that which the person needs to gain the proper perspective and renew hope and confidence.” (Ross)

ii. Think of the many times Jesus spoke a simple good word and made others glad:

  • Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you (Matthew 9:2)
  • Your sins are forgiven (Luke 7:48)
  • Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well (Luke 8:48)
  • Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more (John 8:11)

iii. Our simple words of encouragement can encourage and guide beyond all our imagining. “A single good or favourable word will remove despondency.” (Clarke)

Proverbs 12:26

The righteous should choose his friends carefully,
For the way of the wicked leads them astray.

a. The righteous should choose his friends carefully: This is good advice for both the righteous and those who have the wisdom to seek after righteousness. It has been rightly said, show me your friends and I will show you your future.

b. For the way of the wicked leads them astray: Bad friends can have a significant impact for evil and many people have been led astray towards the way of the wicked because of unwise and undiscerning friendships. The power of friendship can also work for good, and good friends can help one on the way of wisdom.

Proverbs 12:27

The lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting,
But diligence is man’s precious possession.

a. The lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting: Using a somewhat humorous illustration, Solomon showed that the lazy man does not finish the job. He went to all the trouble of hunting and capturing the prey, but will never enjoy the fruit of his work because he is too lazy to do it.

i. “Just as one who might hunt but never cook what he finds, so the lazy person never completes a project.” (Ross)

b. Diligence is man’s precious possession: There are many precious things a man or woman can have, but diligence is near the top of the list. Many great things are accomplished with little talent but great diligence.

Proverbs 12:28

In the way of righteousness is life,
And in its pathway there is no death.

a. In the way of righteousness is life: It is a common belief that the way of righteousness is boring or unpleasant. This is a deception from the world, the flesh, and the devil. The truth is that in the way of righteousness is life.

b. In its pathway there is no death: The life righteousness brings is not only for the present, but also for eternity. Those who walk in the way of righteousness will receive and know eternal life, beginning now into eternity.

i. “The practice of justice and godliness, though it expose a man to some dangers and inconveniences in the world, yet it will certainly lead him to life and happiness, whereas the end of all wicked courses is death and destruction.” (Poole)

©2017 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission

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