Bible Commentary: Proverbs 11:28–12:28

You are here

Bible Commentary

Proverbs 11:28–12:28

Login or Create an Account

With a account you will be able to save items to read and study later!

Sign In | Sign Up


First Part of Major Solomonic Collection 

9. The Source of Life (Proverbs 11:28–12:4)

"TYPE: INCLUSIO....The structure of this collection is complex. Proverbs 11:28 has a close parallel in Proverbs 12:3; both concern the flourishing of the righteous and failure of the wicked to establish themselves through wealth and cunning. Proverbs 11:29, which concerns a son's behavior in the family (see Proverbs 17:2), is answered by Proverbs 12:4, which deals with the wife's contribution to the family. Proverbs 11:28-29 and Proverbs 12:3-4 thus form an inclusio around Proverbs 11:30–12:2.

"Proverbs 11:28-29 and Proverbs 12:3-4 teach that a man cannot provide for the security of his family through any means that violate basic principles of right and wrong. Rather than focus his attention on making as much money as possible, a man should give thought to the choice of a good wife and then to the spiritual nurture of his children. Above all else, he must conduct his own life with integrity if he expects the same from his family.

"The two pairs—Proverbs 11:30-31 and Proverbs 12:1-2—each deal with behavior (Proverbs 11:30; Proverbs 12:1) and its reward or punishment (Proverbs 11:31; Proverbs 12:2). The collection is thus structured as follows.

“Aa The true source of life (Proverbs 11:28)
            “Ab Family life (Proverbs 11:29)
                                    “Ba Behavior of righteous and wicked (Proverbs 11:30)
                                                “Bb Divine judgment (Proverbs 11:31)
                                    “Ba′ Behavior of righteous and wicked (Proverbs 12:1)
                                                “Bb′ Divine judgment (Proverbs 12:2)
“Aa′ The true source of life (Proverbs 12:3)
            “Ab′ Family life (Proverbs 12:4)” (NAC).

The reference to "winning souls" as a wise course of action in Proverbs 11:30 is to "to capturing (loqeah 'to lay hold of, seize, conquer') people with ideas or influence (2 Samuel 15:6)" (Expositor's Bible Commentary, note on Proverbs 11:30).

Verse 31 in the NIV reads: "If the righteous receive their due on earth/how much more the ungodly and the sinner!" Expositor's notes on this verse: " Retribution for sin is certain, for the righteous and especially for the sinner. The proverb uses a 'how much more' argument—if this be true, how much more this (argument from the lesser to the greater). The point is that divine justice deals with all sin; and if the righteous suffer for their sins, certainly the wicked will. The LXX [Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures] introduces a new idea to the verse: 'If the righteous be scarcely saved'; this is recorded in 1 Peter 4:18." We will consider this further when we come to this New Testament verse.

Proverbs 12:1 in the KJV and NKJV appears to state the obvious: "Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge..." Yet the word for "instruction" can be translated, as in other versions, as "discipline"—paralleling the "correction" in the latter part of the verse.

The Hebrew words in verse 4 translated "excellent wife," or by some as "noble woman" or "virtuous woman," are the same as those used in the well-known ode of Proverbs 31:10-31.

10. Plans and Schemes (Proverbs 12:5-7)

"TYPE: THEMATIC....The unity of this collection is indicated in the Hebrew structure. These three proverbs follow a logical progression: the righteous make plans that are just, but the wicked scheme with deceitful counsel (v. 5); the wicked attempt to ambush the righteous with their lies, but the righteous are delivered by their integrity (v. 6); the wicked are totally destroyed, but the righteous stand secure (v. 7)" (NAC).

11. Earned Respect (Proverbs 12:8)


12. On Providing for One's Needs (Proverbs 12:9-11)

"TYPE: INCLUSIO....The well-earned prosperity of the righteous contrasts with the feigned wealth, the acts of exploitation, and the idle plans of the foolish and wicked" (NAC).

The Jewish Soncino commentary notes on verse 9: "The interpretation of the verse depends on the way this phrase ['and hath a servant' (KJV)] is understood. One possible reading is: Better to be held in low social esteem by not living beyond one's means, and yet possess a slave to do the menial work and so have a comfortable life, than make a pretense of wealth, mixing with the rich and spending what is necessary for food on maintaining a place in such society. This yields a satisfactory meaning and a sensible admonition which many need today. One the other hand, the words and hath a servant may signify 'and is a slave to himself,' i.e. he does for himself the humble tasks which are usually relegated to a slave, and spends the money on feeding his body well. In either case, the point is the futility of inflicting [de]privations upon oneself to preserve an outward show of affluence which does not correspond with reality."

Verse 10 shows that the consideration and care of a righteous man extends to not just other people, but to his animals as well. Cruelty to animals—or cruelty in any form, for that matter—is totally contrary to God's will.

13. On Fruit and Snares (Proverbs 12:12-14)

"TYPE: THEMATIC....This collection employs two metaphors of gathering food: hunting with snares (symbolizing the wicked) and laboring to raise crops (symbolizing the righteous)" (NAC). The wicked trap themselves, and the righteous, through proper words and acts, receive blessings in return. This is another way of expressing the principle of reaping what one sows (see Galatians 6:7).

14. Able to Take Advice (Proverbs 12:15)


15. The Use and Abuse of Words (Proverbs 12:16-22)

"TYPE: LINKED PARALLELISM AND CHIASMUS....These seven verses are made up of four verses arranged in parallel (vv. 16-19) conjoined by a common verse to a four-verse chiasmus [i.e., concentric arrangement] (vv. 19-22). The structure is as follows:

“A: Thoughtless reactions (v. 16)
            “B:  Honesty and lying (v. 17)
“A′: Reckless words (v. 18)
            “B′: Honesty and lying (v. 19)
                        “C: Plotting evil and promoting peace (v. 20)
                        “C′: Trouble to the wicked, not the righteous (v. 21)
            “B″: Honesty and lying (v. 22)” (NAC).

16. A Wholesome Life (12:23-28)

"TYPE: PARALLEL....This text is structured as a six-verse parallel as follows:

“A: Caution and incaution (v. 23).
            “B: Diligence and laziness (v. 24)
                        “C: Anxiety and joy (v. 25)
“A′: Caution and incaution (v. 26)
            “B′: Laziness and diligence (v. 27)
                        “C′: Life and immortality (v. 28)

"The six proverbs of this section do not have a single theme but describe types of activity that may promote or undermine a wholesome life" (NAC).

Proverbs 12:23 shows the importance of being careful in what one reveals to others and of not making a show of knowledge.

Verse 24 is ironic in that a lazy person, lacking diligence, fails to advance in life and ends up having to do the menial labor he wants to avoid. In verse 27, the lazy man is humorously portrayed not roasting the food he went to the trouble of catching—and thereby letting it go to waste and failing to benefit from it. The idea is that he doesn't complete tasks—and loses out because of it.

Verse 26 makes it clear that we can choose who our friends are—and that it's important that we do and that we choose wisely. Compare with Proverbs 13:20.

In Proverbs 12:28, we again see the future of life for the righteous—and, indeed, of "no death." According to Soncino: "To reproduce the original [Hebrew], the words should be hyphenated 'no-death.' This can only be an allusion to immortality which follows the ending of a righteous life upon earth" (note on verse 28). The NIV here has "immortality."