Proverbs 12


Of the benefit of instruction, and the cultivation of piety.

The virtuous woman. The different lot of the just and unjust.

The humane man. The industrious man. The fool and the wise man.

The uncharitable. The excellence of the righteous. The slothful

is in want. Righteousness leads to life, &c.


Verse 1. Whoso loveth instruction] musar, discipline or

correction, loves knowledge; for correction is the way to


But he that hateth reproof is brutish.] baar, he is a

bear; and expects no more benefit from correction than the ox does

from the goad.

Verse 2. A good man obtaineth favour] First, it is God who makes

him good; for every child of Adam is bad till the grace of God

changes his heart. Secondly, while he walks in the path of

obedience he increases in goodness, and consequently in the favour

of the Lord.

Verse 3. A man shall not be established by wickedness] 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. The produce of goodness is permanent,

because it has God's blessing in it: the fruit of wickedness, or

the property procured by wickedness, is transitory, because it has

God's curse in it. The righteous has his root in God; and

therefore he shall not be moved.

Verse 4. A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband]

esheth chayil, a strong woman. Our word virtue (virtus) is

derived from vir, a man; and as man is the noblest of God's

creatures, virtue expresses what is becoming to man; what is

noble, courageous, and dignified: and as vir, a man, comes from

vis, power or strength; so it implies what is strong and

vigorous in principle: and as in uncivilized life strength and

courage were considered the very highest, because apparently the

most necessary, of all virtues; hence the term itself might have

become the denomination of all excellent moral qualities; and is

now applied to whatever constitutes the system of morality and

moral duties. In some parts of the world, however, where arts

and sciences have made little progress, strength is one of the

first qualifications of a wife, where the labours of the field are

appointed to them. It is not an uncommon sight in different parts

of Africa, to see the wives (queens) of the kings and chiefs going

out in the morning to the plantations, with their mattock in their

hand, and their youngest child on their back; and when arrived at

the ground, lay the young prince or princess upon the earth, which

when weary of lying on one side, will roll itself on the other,

and thus continue during the course of the day, without uttering a

single whimper, except at the intervals in which its mother gives

it suck; she being employed all the while in such labour as we in

Europe generally assign to our horses. In these cases, the strong

wife is the highest acquisition; and is a crown to her husband,

though he be king of Bonny or Calabar. It is certain that in

ancient times the women in Judea did some of the severest work in

the fields, such as drawing water from the wells, and watering the

flocks, &c. On this account, I think, the words may be taken

literally; and especially when we add another consideration, that

a woman healthy, and of good muscular powers, is the most likely

to produce and properly rear up a healthy offspring; and children

of this kind are a crown to their parents.

Is as rottenness in his bones.] Does not this refer to a woman

irregular in her manners, who by her incontinence not only maketh

her husband ashamed, but contracts and communicates such diseases

as bring rottenness into the bones? I think so. And I think this

was the view taken of the text by Coverdale, who translates thus:

"A stedfast woman is a crowne unto her hussbonde: but she that

behaveth herself unhonestly is a corruption in his bones."

Verse 7. The wicked are overthrown] Seldom does God give such a

long life or numerous offspring.

But the house of the righteous shall stand.] God blesses their

progeny, and their families continue long in the earth; whereas

the wicked seldom have many generations in a direct line. This is

God's mercy, that the entail of iniquity may be in some sort cut

off, so that the same vices may not be strengthened by successive

generations. For generally the bad root produces not only a bad

plant, but one worse than itself.

Verse 9. He that is despised, and hath a servant] I believe the

Vulgate gives the true sense of this verse: Melior est pauper,

et sufficiens sibi; quam gloriosus, et indigens pane.

"Better is the poor man who provides for himself, than the proud

who is destitute of bread." The versions in general agree in this

sense. This needs no comment. There are some who, through pride of

birth, &c., would rather starve, than put their hands to menial

labour. Though they may be lords, how much to be preferred is the

simple peasant, who supports himself and family by the drudgery

of life!

Verse 10. A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast] One

principal characteristic of a holy man is mercy: cruelty is

unknown to him; and his benevolence extends to the meanest of the

brute creation. Pity rules the heart of a pious man; he can do

nothing that is cruel. He considers what is best for the comfort,

ease health, and life of the beast that serves him; and he knows

that God himself careth for oxen: and one of the ten commandments

provides a seventh part of time to be allotted for the rest of

labouring beasts as well as for man.

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.

The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.] achzari,

are violent, without mercy, ruthless. 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. To accomplish its end, iniquity

will assume any garb, speak mercifully, extol benevolence,

sometimes even give to the poor! But, timeo Danaos, et dona

ferentes. The cry of fire at midnight, provided it be in another's

dwelling, is more congenial to their souls than the cry of mercy.

Look at the human fiends, "out-heroding Herod," in horse races,

bruising matches, and cock fights, and in wars for the extension

of territory, and the purposes of ambition. The hell is yet

undescribed, that is suited to such monsters in cruelty.

Verse 11. He that tilleth his land] God's blessing will be in

the labour of the honest agriculturist.

But he that followeth vain persons] He who, while he should be

cultivating his ground, preparing for a future crop, or reaping

his harvest, associates with fowlers, coursers of hares, hunters

of foxes, or those engaged in any champaign amusements, is void of

understanding; and I have known several such come to beggary.

To this verse the Septuagint add the following clause: οςεστιν


ατιμιαν. "He who is a boon companion in banquets, shall leave

dishonour in his own fortresses." This has been copied by the

Vulgate and the Arabic. That is The man who frequents the

ale-house enriches that, while he impoverishes his own habitation.

Verse 12. The wicked desireth the net of evil men] They applaud

their ways, and are careful to imitate them in their wiles.

Verse 13. The wicked is snared by the transgression of his lips]

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.

Verse 16. A fool's wrath is presently known] We have a proverb

very like this, and it will serve for illustration:-

A fool's bolt is soon shot.

A weak-minded man has no self-government; he is easily angered,

and generally speaks whatever comes first to his mind.

Verse 18. There is that speaketh] Instead of boteh,

blabbing out, blustering, several MSS. have boteach,

TRUSTING: and instead of kemadkeroth, AS the piercings,

seven MSS., with the Complutensian Polyglot, have

bemadkeroth, IN the piercings. "There is that trusteth in the

piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health." But I

suppose the former to be the true reading.

Verse 19. A lying tongue is but for a moment.] 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.

Verse 21. There shall no evil happen to the just] No, for all

things work together for good to them that love God. Whatever

occurs to a righteous man God turns to his advantage. But, on the

other hand, the wicked are filled with mischief: they are hurt,

grieved, and wounded, by every occurrence; and nothing turns to

their profit.

Verse 23. A prudent man concealeth knowledge] "If a fool hold

his peace he may pass for a wise man." I have known men of some

learning, so intent on immediately informing a company how well

cultivated their minds were, that they have passed either for

insignificant pedants or stupid asses.

Verse 24. The hand of the diligent shall bear rule] And why?

because by his own industry he is independent; and every such

person is respected wherever found.

Verse 25. Heaviness in the heart of a man maketh it stoop]

Sorrow of heart, hopeless love, or a sense of God's

displeasure-these prostrate the man, and he becomes a child before


But a good word maketh it glad.] A single good or favourable

word will remove despondency; and that word, "Son, be of good

cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee," will instantly remove despair.

Verse 26. The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour]

That is, if the neighbour be a wicked man. The spirit of the

proverb lies here: The POOR righteous man is more excellent than

his sinful neighbour, though affluent and noble. The Syriac

has it, "The righteous deviseth good to his neighbour." A late

commentator has translated it, "The righteous explore their

pastures." How can be translated THEIR pastures I know not;

but none of the versions understood it in this way. The Vulgate is

rather singular: Qui negligit damnum propter amicum, justus est.

"He who neglects or sustains a loss for the sake of his friend, is

a just man." The Septuagint is insufferable: "The well-instructed

righteous man shall be his own friend." One would hope these

translators meant not exclusively; he should love his neighbour as


Verse 27. The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in

hunting] Because he is a slothful man, he does not hunt for prey;

therefore gets none, and cannot roast, that he may eat. There is

some obscurity in the original, on which the versions cast little

light. Coverdale translates the whole verse thus: "A discreatfull

man schal fynde no vauntage: but he that is content with what he

hath, is more worth than golde." My old MS. Bible: The gylful man

schal not fynd wynnynge: and the substance of a man schal ben the

pris of gold.

By translating remiyah the deceitful, instead of the

slothful man, which appears to be the genuine meaning of the

word, we may obtain a good sense, as the Vulgate has done: "The

deceitful man shall not find gain; but the substance of a (just)

man shall be the price of gold." But our common version, allowing

remiyah to be translated fraudulent, which is its proper

meaning, gives the best sense: "The fraudulent man roasteth not

that which he took in hunting," the justice of God snatching from

his mouth what he had acquired unrighteously.

But the substance of a diligent man] One who by honest industry

acquires all his property-is precious, because it has the blessing

of God in it.

Verse 28. In the way of righteousness is life] chaiyim,

lives; life temporal, and life eternal.

And in the pathway thereof there is no death.] Not only do the

general precepts and promises of God lead to life eternal, and

promote life temporal; but every duty, every act of faith,

patience of hope, and labour of love, though requiring much

self-abasement, self-denial, and often an extension of corporal

strength, all lead to life. For in every case, in every

particular, "the path of duty is the way of safety." The latter

clause is only a repetition of the sense of the former.

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