There is a way which seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, and yet he will be punished if he follows it, for his perverted conscience may arise from his desertion of God, and his refusal of the light He offered. (Comp. Romans 1:28, sqq.)Proverbs 14:12. There is a way which seemeth right unto a man — There are some evil actions or courses which men may think to be lawful and good, either through gross ignorance, or self-flattery, or through want of necessary diligence in examining them by the rule of God’s word; all which are culpable causes of the mistake, and therefore do not excuse the error; but the end thereof are the ways of death — The event shows that they were sinful and destructive.
ways of death—leading to it.There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Verse 12. - This verse occurs again in Proverbs 16:25. There is a way which seemeth right unto a man. This may refer to the blinding effects of passion and self-will; for these make a man think his own way best and most desirable. But it seems better to take it as a warning against following a perverted or uninstructed conscience. Conscience needs to be informed by God's Word and ruled by God's will to make it a safe guide. When properly regulated, it is able to pronounce a verdict upon contemplated action, and its verdict must always he obeyed. But warped by prejudice, weakened by disuse and disobedience, judicially blinded in punishment and in consequence of sin, it loses all power of moral judgment, and becomes inoperative of good; and then, as to the way that seemed at the moment right, the end thereof are the ways of death (Proverbs 5:5). The man is following a false light, and is led astray, and goes headlong to destruction (comp. Romans 1:28; 1 Timothy 4:2; see on ver. 13). St. Gregory ('Moral.,' 5:12) has some words on this subject: "There are times when we are ignorant whether the very things which we believe we do aright, are rightly done in the strict Judge's eye. For it often happens that an action of ours, which is cause for our condemnation, passes with us for the aggrandizement of virtue. Often by the same act whereby we think to appease the Judge, he is urged to anger when favourable Hence, while holy men are getting the mastery over their evil habits, their very good practices even become an object of dread to them, lest, when they desire to do a good action, they be decoyed by a semblance of the thing, lest the baleful canker of corruption lurk under the fair appearance of a goodly colour. For they know that they are still charged with the burden of corruption, and cannot exactly discern the things that be good" (Oxford transl.).
But to the man of understanding knowledge is easy.
The general sentence is concrete, composed in the common historical form. Regarding ואין, necquidquam, vid., at Proverbs 13:4. The participle נקל is here neut. for נקלּה, something which makes itself easy or light. The frivolous man, to whom truth is not a matter of conscience, and who recognises no authority, not even the Supreme, never reaches to truth notwithstanding all his searching, it remains veiled to him and far remote; but to the man of understanding, who knows that the fear of God and not estrangement from God leads to truth, knowledge is an easy matter - he enters on the right way to this end, he brings the right receptivity, brings to bear on it the clear eye, and there is fulfilled to him the saying, "To him that hath it is given."
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