Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is brutish.XII.
(1) Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge.—Rather, he that loveth knowledge loveth discipline, i.e., to put himself in the place of a learner; while “he that hateth reproof,” who will not take advice, is “brutish,” “nourishing a blind life within the brain,” like the animals who are incapable of improvement.
A good man obtaineth favour of the LORD: but a man of wicked devices will he condemn.(2) A good man.—The corresponding phrase, “a man of wicked devices,” i.e., who plots against his neighbour, fixes the sense of “good” as signifying “benevolent” (comp. Psalm 73:1); and for the sentiment, Luke 6:35.
A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones.(4) A virtuous woman.—Literally, of power, i.e., of ability and character, like the wife described in Proverbs 31, or the “able” men of Exodus 18:21.
The thoughts of the righteous are right: but the counsels of the wicked are deceit.(5) The thoughts of the righteous are right.—Or, justice. (Comp. Matthew 12:35.)
The words of the wicked are to lie in wait for blood: but the mouth of the upright shall deliver them.(6) The words of the wicked are to lie in wait for blood—i.e., are calculated for this end.
The mouth of the upright shall deliver them—i.e., those for whom the wicked lie in wait.
The wicked are overthrown, and are not: but the house of the righteous shall stand.(7) The wicked are overthrown.—By the righteous judgments of God (Psalm 37:35-36), or by the storms of temptation and trouble, which, when they come, overwhelm the house built on the sand of earthly hopes, and not on the “Rock of ages.” (Isaiah 26:4; Matthew 7:24, sqq.)
A man shall be commended according to his wisdom: but he that is of a perverse heart shall be despised.(8) According to his wisdom—i.e., intelligent observance of the ends to be pursued in life, and the best means of attaining to them; in other words, finding out the will of God and how to fulfil it.
Shall be despised.—Comp. 1Samuel 2:30.
He that is despised, and hath a servant, is better than he that honoureth himself, and lacketh bread.(9) He that is despised.—That is, lowly in his eyes and those of others, as David (1Samuel 18:23); if “he hath a servant,” that is, if he be in easy circumstances. It has been remarked that “the first necessity of an Oriental in only moderate circumstances is a slave.”
He that honoureth himself.—Boasts of his pedigree, it may be, and is all the while starving.
A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.(10) Regardeth the life of his beast.—Rather, knows their feelings (comp. Exodus 23:9), and so can feel for them. God’s own care for the brute creation (Jonah 4:11) was shown in the merciful provisions of the Law, by which cattle shared the rest of the Sabbath, and had their portion of the corn as it was being trodden out (Deuteronomy 25:4).
Tender mercies.—What the wicked calls tenderness and kind treatment is really cruelty, as he takes no thought for the comfort of his beast.
He that tilleth his land shall be satisfied with bread: but he that followeth vain persons is void of understanding.(11) Vain persons.—Or, things, such as “searching for hid treasures” (Proverbs 2:4).
The wicked desireth the net of evil men: but the root of the righteous yieldeth fruit.(12) The wicked desireth the net of evil men—i.e., to enrich himself by prey as they do; but the “root of the righteous yieldeth fruit,” by their own exertion they gain all they require without injuring others.
The wicked is snared by the transgression of his lips: but the just shall come out of trouble.(13) The wicked is cursed by the transgression of his lips.—For his words, the product of his evil heart, while designed to injure others, often bring the offender himself into trouble (Psalm 7:16), and moreover, as being the true index of the inner life of the soul, are being stored up as a witness against him at the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:37). The “just man,” on the contrary, avoids all this “trouble.”
A man shall be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth: and the recompence of a man's hands shall be rendered unto him.(14) A man shall be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth . . .—Even in this life the wise counsels and kindly deeds by which others are aided, the “bread cast upon the waters” (Ecclesiastes 11:1), return to the giver in the shape of love and respect, and. it may be, of similar aid; while the full recompense, “good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over,” will come later, at the great day of retribution.
A fool's wrath is presently known: but a prudent man covereth shame.(16) A fool’s wrath is presently known.—He cannot contain himself if he thinks himself slighted or injured; the “prudent man,” on the other hand, “covereth shame,” not noticing an insult at the time, but waiting for a convenient opportunity of telling the offender of his fault and bringing him to a better mind (Matthew 18:15).
There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.(18) There is that speaketh.—Rather, that babbleth, like the piercing of a sword, that chatters on, not noticing or caring how he may wound the feelings of others by his inconsiderate remarks.
The tongue of the wise is health.—Or, healing; soothing the wounds made by the other’s indiscriminate chatter.
The lip of truth shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment.(19) A lying tongue is but for a moment.—Being detected and silenced by the providence of God, (Comp. Psalm 64:7-8.)
Deceit is in the heart of them that imagine evil: but to the counsellers of peace is joy.(20) Deceit is in the heart . . .—Those who plot and devise evil against others begin by deceiving them, and end by deceiving themselves also; whereas the “counsellors of peace,” who seek the good of their neighbours, bring joy to them and to themselves also through the satisfaction derived from a good conscience.
There shall no evil happen to the just: but the wicked shall be filled with mischief.(21) There shall no evil happen to the just.—Comp. our Lord’s promise as to temporal matters for those who “seek the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33). and for God’s care in spiritual matters, 1Corinthians 10:13.
A prudent man concealeth knowledge: but the heart of fools proclaimeth foolishness.(23) A prudent man concealeth knowledge.—Till the right opportunity for bringing it forth presents itself; while “the heart of fools proclaimeth foolishness,” cannot help blurting out and displaying its ignorance and folly, which it mistakes for wisdom.
The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute.(24) Under tribute.—Like the descendants of the Amorites and other former inhabitants of Canaan, by whose forced labour Solomon executed his great works (1Kings 9:20-21). A Hebrew from poverty might be reduced to slavery (Lev. xxv, 39),
Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad.(25) Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop.—But, as this is not favourable to the spiritual life, we have warnings against excessive anxiety (Matthew 6:34), and exhortations to cast all our care upon God (1Peter 5:7; Psalm 37:5) as a religious duty, that trusting in Him, and so having from Him the “peace which the world cannot give,” our hearts may be “set to obey” His commandments.
The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour: but the way of the wicked seduceth them.(26) The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour.—Though, perhaps, inferior to him in worldly advantages. Or, it may signify, the just man is a guide to his neighbour, showing him “the way wherein he should walk;” the wicked, on the other hand, so far from guiding others, himself helplessly wanders.
The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious.(27) The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting.—Or, does not net, (i.e., secure) his prey; but a valuable possession to a man is diligence.
In the way of righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof there is no death.(28) In the way of righteousness is life.—Comp. above on Proverbs 10:2, “Righteousness delivereth from death.”