Search Bible Outlines and commentaries


A.  (:1) Embrace Discipline

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,

But he who hates reproof is stupid.

Paul Koptak: There is a difference between loving discipline — teaching and correction that warn of possible errors — and correction, which speaks to errors already committed. “Discipline” (musar) has appeared in every previous chapter except chapters 2 and 11 and it will appear again in 13:1. The first line of 12:1 repeats “love” for emphasis, for readers know how rare that love is. Those who pride themselves on knowledge often avoid correction, yet those who love the truth want to learn when they are in the wrong.

Allen Ross: Those who wish to improve themselves must learn to accept correction and learn from it. This proverb adds the contrast that to refuse correction is brutish (“stupid” is bāʿar, descriptive of a dumb animal). It is almost as though one distinction between the human and the brute is this rational feature of being able to receive discipline.

George Mylne: But he who hates instruction, and cannot endure the reproof of love is brutish. He is like the horse or the mule, which bites and kicks at the man who performs a painful operation upon it, though absolutely necessary for removing a dangerous distemper. Or he is like a dog, or sow, which will show as much rage at the man that casts a pearl before it, as if he were killing it with a stone. He is surely a brute, and not a rational creature, who has swallowed poison, and will rather allow it to take its course, than admit the necessary relief of medicine, lest he should be obliged to confess his folly, in exposing himself to the need of it.

Lindsay Wilson: The idea of the first half is that discipline leads to greater knowledge (see also 9:9), while the implication of what follows is that those who reject or resist (hate) correction do not grow in understanding. It is not simply that they make a stupid decision in rejecting reproof, but that the result of their decision is that they end up being less wise.

Tremper Longman: The sages felt that mistakes provided opportunities for learning. They also apparently assumed that everyone would make mistakes along the way. What they could not tolerate, however, was an attitude of defensiveness that refuses to admit mistakes. True learners, truely wise persons, are those who desire to know when they have done wrong so that they can change their behavior. Thus, the wise person loves “discipline” (mûsār, see 1:2) and “correction” (tôkaḥat, see 1:23). It is stupid to resist criticism because it means that a person will perpetuate wrong behavior. The word “dullard” (bāʿar) is strong and refers to a person “who does not have the rationality that differentiates men from animals (Ps. 73:22).”

The principle expressed here reminds us why the book of Proverbs so prizes humility over pride. Humility allows one to hear words of criticism and creates an openness to change, whereas pride does the opposite. Humility and the ability to hear correction thus provide the road to success and life; pride leads to failure and ultimately death.

Caleb Nelson: A rooted life grows in the soil of hearing rebuke. Intellectual discipline begins with learning that you’re wrong. Now, obviously you shouldn’t throw out everything you know every time someone says “I think that may not be correct.” You’d change your opinion twenty times a day. But the minimum that’s being talked about here is giving fair consideration to it every time someone tells you that you’re wrong.

Because really, honestly, if you can’t hear you’re wrong, you’re stupid. We have all been taught for our whole lives that folly is a moral condition, not an intellectual one, and that some very smart people can be fools. But brothers and sisters, that’s not the whole story. Moral conditions become intellectual conditions . That’s the point of this verse. The person who is sunk in pride to the point where he can’t hear that he’s wrong is stupid. He’s not just morally evil. He’s not just wrong. He’s not just arrogant. He’s also a dummy.

This is true across the board — individually, ecclesiastically, socially, politically. The person who can’t hear that he’s wrong is morally evil and intellectually blighted. Brothers and sisters, to reject discipline and refuse to learn from it, to reject correction and refuse to change, is to be like a brute, as the KJV has it. It’s to be stupid. And we wonder why the products of an educational and political system saturated with moral folly are intellectual pygmies. It’s no mystery. And if we submit to that system, if we embrace the folly of arrogance, the folly of socialism, the folly of prelacy, the folly of intersectional feminism, the folly of race-baiting or racism, then we too will be first evil and then stupid.

B.  (:2) Exercise Discernment

A good man will obtain favor from the LORD,

But He will condemn a man who devises evil.

George Mylne: When our Lord was upon earth, he revealed and condemned the corrupt hearts of many hypocritical rogues and at the day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God, no vain pretender to goodness shall stand in the congregation of the righteous. Even those who refused to minister to the necessities of others, shall be commanded to Hell. How shall they escape, whose hearts were pre-occupied with wicked devices, to the ruin or damage of those who were made of the same blood with themselves!

C.  (:3) Endure Steadfastly — Stand Firm

A man will not be established by wickedness,

But the root of the righteous will not be moved.

Peter Wallace: What does it mean to be established? (In Hebrew the word means “to be firm, to be grounded, to be anchored”.)

Paul Koptak: The Hebrew phrase “root of the righteous” repeats in 12:12, where that root flourishes, another symbol of endurance. Here that root is (lit.) “never moved.” Yahweh told the prophet Jeremiah that he would pull up the roots of those who wanted to establish themselves through wickedness (Jer. 1:9–10); those who would make themselves as strong as trees turn out to be nothing more than weeds. The presence of Yahweh named in Proverbs 12:2 lingers in this saying. It reminds the reader that no one lives independently, especially the wicked. In fact, the wicked can be sure they will perish, as has already been stated in 10:30.

Tremper Longman: What constitutes stability is not clearly stated, but we may presume that the lives of the righteous are not rocked by troubles and setbacks as envisioned for the wicked. There may be a paradox involved here. People perform wicked acts to get ahead in life (steal money, cheat others, lie to cover their tracks), but according to the sages, these acts do not lead to stability but to trouble. Wickedness complicates life by making it tumultuous. The proverb is an observation that serves to motivate its hearers toward righteousness.

Charles Bridges: The condition of the righteous is firm and cannot be shaken.  Their leaves may fall in the wind.  Their branches may tremble in the storm.  But they are rooted in God and cannot be moved.  This is a bright prospect for the church, against whom not even the gates of hell can prevail (Matthew 16:18).


A.  (:4) Virtuous Wife

An excellent wife is the crown of her husband,

But she who shames him is as rottenness in his bones.

Paul Koptak: Once again, the focus is on the man’s decisions about character. While we may rightly reject the thought that a woman only exists to do a man good, we do not have to reject the principle of choosing one’s life partner wisely, true for both men and women. Directed toward men, this proverb urges its young readers to value character above beauty (cf. 31:29–30), but all readers are instructed to hold character as the most important quality to seek in a mate.

Allen Ross: The moral character of a woman affects her husband’s enjoyment of life. The contrast is between a wife of noble character (ʾēšet-ḥayil, as in 31:10) and a “disgraceful wife” (mebîšâ, lit., “one who puts to shame,” i.e., lowers her husband’s standing in the community). 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.

B.  (:5) Righteous Intentions

The thoughts of the righteous are just,

But the counsels of the wicked are deceitful.

Lindsay Wilson: A contrast is made between the ‘plans’ (niv, maḥšĕbôt, better than thoughts, esv) thought up by the righteous and the expressed thoughts (counsels/advice) of the wicked (v. 5). These thoughts are set out respectively as either just or deceitful.

Tremper Longman: Again, this proverb contains a general observation, in this case to serve as a warning when listening to the advice of others and perhaps to motivate sages to be just in their own giving of advice. The righteous help people navigate life not just for their own benefit but also for the benefit of others. On the other hand, there are hidden motives behind the advice that the wicked give a person about the future.

C.  (:6) Impactful Words

The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood,

But the mouth of the upright will deliver them.

Tremper Longman: The proverb is an observation on the consequences that flow from the speech of the “wicked” and from those “with integrity,” two words used to indicate the realms of fools and the wise. As we might expect, the words of the wicked lead to a negative end, even a violent death. It is a little unclear, perhaps intentionally, whether the ambush comes on those who listen to the advice of the wicked, whose guidance is fraudulent (see the previous verse), or on the wicked themselves. Certainly, the teaching of Proverbs affirms both results (11:9).

In the same way, it is not clear whether the words (indicated by the mouth from which the words flow) of those with integrity saves them from jams or saves those who listen to their advice. But again, the sage would affirm both results. Like the previous verse, this proverb serves to warn its hearers to be discerning as they listen to the speech of others (12:13).

D.  (:7) Enduring Stability

The wicked are overthrown and are no more,

But the house of the righteous will stand.

Lindsay Wilson: Verse 7 gives a summary verdict of the outcome of these two competing options. The wicked who sought to ambush with their words (v. 6a) are themselves overthrown and destroyed (v. 7a), but the righteous will stand firm (v. 7b).

George Mylne: Evil shall slay the wicked, so that they shall have no more existence in that world where their hopes and happiness lay and their existence in the eternal world shall be an everlasting curse. But the righteous shall be established, and their seed with them.

E.  (:8) Wise Insight

A man will be praised according to his insight,

But one of perverse mind will be despised.

Allen Ross: This saying makes a point about the appreciation of clear thinking. Praise for a person is in proportion to or “according to” (lepî, from peh; lit., “mouth”) one’s wisdom. The term for “wisdom” (śekel, lit., “intelligent,” as in 1Sa 25:3) refers to the capacity to think straight. The “warped mind” is naʿawēh-lēb—i.e., a crooked heart that lacks the ability to see things as they really are and so makes wrong choices. No praise exists here.

Lindsay Wilson: Good sense (śēkel; niv, ‘prudence’; it can mean intelligence, craftiness, success) is commended and contrasted with a mind twisted or made crooked – one that does not see things as they are. This provides a criterion for evaluating various thoughts and actions. Do they conform to good sense or are they the result of twisted thinking?

Tremper Longman: A distressed mind would not think clearly and thus would not arrive at the same helpful insight expected to come from the individual in the first colon. Thus, instead of praise, this person would receive shame.

Dennis Sherman: Even people in the world often highly regard the common sense of a person who fears God:

  • Joseph praised by Pharaoh – Genesis 41:39
  • Daniel praised by Nebuchadnezzar – Daniel 1:9ff
  • The shrewd manager by his master (parable told by Jesus) – Luke 16:8


A.  (:9) Reality More Important than Appearances

Better is he who is lightly esteemed and has a servant,

Than he who honors himself and lacks bread.

Allen Ross: The point seems to be that some people live beyond their means in a vain show (mitkabbēd, “pretend to be somebody,” a Hithpael participle from kābēd,to be weighty, honored”), whereas if they lived modestly they could have some of the conveniences of life, e.g., a servant.

Lindsay Wilson: The issue of status emerges. A comical picture is drawn of the one who tries to project an image of being successful (v. 9b, play the great man, esv; ‘pretend to be somebody’, niv), but uses all his resources on keeping up appearances so that he has no food. In the first ‘better than’ proverb of the sentence sayings, such a person is contrasted with a lowly person of good sense who is content with his actual position, and so is still able to afford a servant. It is a contrast between image and real benefit.

George Mylne: Oh! how much better and wiser were it to revere the providence of God, which fixes the lot of men and to accommodate our minds to our circumstances, however narrow! In this way, we may hope to enjoy the comforts, or at least the necessities of life with composed minds, and be able to serve the Lord without distraction. If men should despise us because we cannot live as wealthy men do, it is not difficult to determine whether their opinion or our own peace of mind, is to be preferred. Whatever men may say at present yet afterwards shall a man be commended according to his wisdom.

To live above our income, that we may be admired in the world, is to rebel against divine providence, and to forget him who used to feed on barley bread and fish, while employed in accomplishing the work of human salvation.

B.  (:10) Compassion for Animals (Inferiors) Demonstrates Inward Character

A righteous man has regard for the life of his beast,

But the compassion of the wicked is cruel.

Allen Ross: Compassion for animals indicates one’s character. The righteous are kind to all God’s creation (see Dt 25:4) because they have received his bounty. Toy, 248, suggests the analogy that if one is kind to animals, one will surely be kind to humans. Greenstone, 129, adds that even when the wicked are moved to compassion, they often manifest it in a cruel way.

Tremper Longman: The contrast is between the opposite sensibilities of the righteous and the wicked. Righteous persons are so sensitive to others that they are sensitive even to their animals. One can imagine just how carefully they would treat their fellow human beings. On the other hand, even the compassion of the wicked is cruel. That is, even their best efforts are dangerous. That cruelty (ʾakzārî) can lead to violence is seen in 11:17. We are not to restrict the statement about the cruelty of the wicked only to their actions toward animals.

George Mylne: A righteous man’s mercy diffuses itself not only over the most abject of his neighbors but even to creatures without reason. He will not deprive his animal of its food and rest, nor oppress it with unreasonable toil, nor sport himself with the misery and pain of those creatures which God has subjected to his power. He considers them as servants to be employed for his advantage but not to be tyrannized over.

Dennis Sherman: God has compassion for animals and in the Law He commanded Israel to share His Sabbath with them. Providing for the needs of the working ox functions in the law as a proverb for taking care of one’s workers – Deuteronomy 25:4; 1 Corinthians 9:9-10

C.  (:11) Work Ethic Should be Coupled with Contentment

He who tills his land will have plenty of bread,

But he who pursues vain things lacks sense.

Allen Ross: One ensures income through diligent work and not through unfounded speculation. Rêqîm means “vain things” or “empty things”; here it refers to “fantasies” (so NIV). Plaut, 145, advises that on the basis of this truth people should do their work and not run after some dream of a quick profit.

Tremper Longman: The emphasis here is not so much on lack of exertion, but rather that energy is misdirected. Fools, here characterized by lack of heart, exert energy (“pursue”), but what they pursue lacks substance. Perhaps it may be said that those who lack substance (heart) pursue that which lacks substance (“emptiness”). That emptiness is not specified is intentional and can be concretized to fit the situation.

George Mylne: The business of the farmer is so honorable, that it is here used by Solomon to signify every useful profession. Kings themselves are served by the field, and the only two universal monarchs practiced farming.

The Spirit of God here teaches us, that we ought to have a useful profession, and to follow it with diligence, minding our own business, and not meddling with affairs in which we have no concern.

That we shall be satisfied with bread, is the encouragement held out to pursue such a course as this. Some people think that they cannot have enough, unless they have more than the necessities and decent comforts of life; but we are here instructed that bread should satisfy our desires, unless God is pleased to bestow more upon us. Having food and clothing, let us be content. There are few who lack these and yet few are content. There are others who think that they will not be able to live by their business, without over-reaching their neighbors, by means of those underhand practices which custom has interwoven with many professions. But says the wise man, “He who works his land shall have enough;” and Paul tells us, that he may have something more to give to him who is needy.

To be satisfied with bread, is a happy temper of mind, and is commonly the portion of the man of industry, which not only procures bread but gives it a relish unknown to men that are above labor. A dinner of green herbs is commonly a sweeter meal to the laborer, and followed by more refreshing sleep than all the luxuries of high life to a man of fortune.

But he who chases vain (or idle) fantasies lacks judgment.” The idle man deserves the name of a fool; nor can he clear himself of it by alleging, that the love of company, or the example of others, allures him to this course of life. It must be both sin and folly for a man, whatever reasons he pretends for it, to indulge himself in a vice by which he endeavors to elude the sentence passed upon fallen man, and breaks so many commandments of God. The idle person weakens the powers of his mind, and destroys the vigor of his constitution. He exposes himself as a prey to disgrace, and his soul to the temptations of the devil. He wastes his precious time, and lays himself open to all the miseries of a self-procured poverty. In short, all the creatures in Heaven, earth, and Hell, proclaim the folly of the idle man. Let us, therefore, avoid it, as a nursery of vice and misery, and fill up our days with the useful labors of our calling, and the more important concerns of our souls.

D.  (:12) The Antidote for Envy = Fruit of the Righteous

The wicked desires the booty of evil men,

But the root of the righteous yields fruit.

Paul Koptak: This verse restates and summarizes the theme of the section, this time comparing the life and work of the righteous to a root, that part of the plant that goes deep into the earth to find water and nourish the plant and its good fruit. Righteousness bears fruit, but wickedness only desires what others have caught in their snare. In other words, the righteous work for what they own, but the wicked want what belongs to others, a theme that first appeared in chapter 1. “Root” echoes the “root of the righteous” in 12:3.

Lindsay Wilson: The final proverb generalizes about the wicked and righteous, the categories used in verse 10 as well. Someone who has twisted thinking (the wicked, rāšā‘) will envy the short-term dishonest gain of wrongdoers (v. 12a).  In the second half of the proverb the image is of the righteous person who shows good sense in sending down roots where he is (a tree seems in view) and so bearing fruit. The contrast appears to be between one who shows good sense by consistent, long-term thinking, and another who is enticed by the latest money-making scheme and flits from one mirage to the next.

Tremper Longman: Those who love wickedness are going to find evil or trouble and thus their lives will be unstable. This is contrasted to the lives of the righteous, whose lifestyle leads to stability. However, every interpreter, including the present one, must fully acknowledge the tenuousness of one’s proposed understanding because of the difficulties with the text.

George Mylne: The original word, which in the 24th verse of this chapter is rendered slothful, signifies also deceitfulness, for slothfulness and deceit often accompany each ether. Wicked men have more enlarged desires after earthly things than the righteous, and their hands often refuse to labor for necessary things.

What, then, shall they do? Their lusts must be gratified at the expense of conscience and honesty, and so they desire the plunder of evil men. Then they ensnare others, and drag their property to themselves, that their portion may be fat, and their food plenteous.

But a righteous man is above the temptations that lead men to over-reach their neighbors, for he has an inward principle of integrity and contentment, which tends to moderate his desires, and directs to praise-worthy means for the enjoyment of them. Thus, by the blessing of God, he obtains what is needful for himself, and something also to give to him who is in need.