The Pulpit Commentary

Proverbs 12:4-11 (Proverbs 12:4-11)

Blessings and miseries of domestic life


1 . The virtuous wife. ( Proverbs 12:4 .) The word is literally "a woman of power, " and the idea of force lies in the word and the idea of virtue. Her moral force and influence makes itself felt in all the life of the household ( Proverbs 31:10 ; Ruth 3:11 ). She is her husband's "crown of rejoicing", his glory and pride.

"A thousand decencies do daily flow

From all her thoughts and actions."

2. Noble thoughts and words. ( Proverbs 12:5 .) This expression includes, of course, noble words and deeds, and implies all that we speak of as high principles. And these are the very foundations and columns of the home. But expressly also the straightforward speech of the good man is named. ( Proverbs 12:6 .) There is "deliverance" in the mouth of the righteous; men may build upon his word, which is as good as his bond.

3 . Hence, stability belongs to the house of the good man. ( Proverbs 12:7 .) If we trace the rise of great families who have become famous in the annals of their country, the lesson is on the whole brought home to us that it is integrity, the true qualities of manhood, which formed the foundation of their greatness. On a smaller scale, the history of village households may bring to light the same truth. There are names in every neighbourhood known as synonyms of integrity from father to son through generations.

4 . Prudence is an indispensable element in character and reputation. But let us give the proper extension to the idea of prudence which it has in this book. It is the wide view of life—the mind "looking before and after," the contemplation of all things in their long issues, their bearings upon God, destiny, and eternity. The prudence which often passes by that name may be no prudence in this higher souse.

5 . Self - help. ( Proverbs 12:9 .) To be "king of two hands," and bear one's part in every useful toil and art, to be a true "working man," is the only honourable and true way of living. "Trust in thyself;" every heart vibrates to that iron string. "Heaven helps those who help themselves." Proverbs unite with experience to bid us lean upon the energies God has placed in brain and hand and tongue. He is never helpless who knows the secret of that self-reliance which is one with trust in God.

6 . Mercifulness. (Verse 10.) The good man "knows the soul of his beast;" enters into their feeling pains, and needs, and feeds them well. The Law of Moses is noted for its kindness to animals. And in the East generally there is a deep sense that animals are not only the slaves of man, but the creatures of God. A person's behaviour to dumb creatures is, like behaviour to women end children, a significant part of character.

7 . Industry and diligence. (Verse 11.) The picture of the hard-working farmer or peasant rises to the mind's eye. Enough bread, competence, is ever conditioned by industry. Times may go hard with the farmer, but the evil that is foreseen and fought against by extra diligence is no evil when it comes; and how seldom are the truly industrious known to want, even in the most unfavourable seasons! This is a bright picture of domestic soundness, happiness, and prosperity. Let us contrast it with—


1 . The vicious wife. Like a canker in her husband's bones. The slothful, or drunken, or extravagant, or frivolous wife is the centre of all evil in the house; she is like a stagnant pool in a weed grown garden. One may tell in many cases by the mere aspect of the house whether there be a good wife and mother dwelling there or not.

2 . Unprincipled habits. (Verse 5.) Where the speech is impure, where there is mutual reserve and concealment, conspiracy and counter-conspiracy going on, neither truth nor love, how can a home be otherwise than cursed?

3 . Fierce spite. (Verse 6.) All spite is murderous, and if it does not issue in the last extreme of violence, at least it lacerates the heart, burns, and is self-consuming. When taunts, recriminations, answering again, fill the air of a house, the very idea of the family and its peace must vanish.

4 . Dissolution and break up. There are homes that go to pieces, names that sink into obscurity, families that die out; and a moral lesson may here too be often inferred.

5 . Moral perversity is at the root of these evils (verse 8). There is a twist in the affections, a guilty misdirection of the will. Contempt in others' minds reflects the moral basis, and prophesies its miserable end.

6 . Idle vanity and pride, again, contrasted with that habit of honest self-help which is free from false shame, is another of the tokens that things are not going well. To be above one's situation, to shun humble employment, to stand upon one's dignity,—these are sure enough marks of want of moral power, and so of true stability.

7 . Cruelty, again, to inferiors or to dumb creatures marks the corrupt heart. Even the comparative tenderness of the bad man is a spurious thing, for there is no real kindness from a heart without love.

8 . The frivolous pursuit of pleasure, again, the "chase after vanity," opposed to steady industry, is one of the unfailing accompaniments of folly and conducements to failure, poverty, and misery.


1 . The indications of a sound state of things in the household, or the reverse, are numerous and manifold, but all connected together. Partial symptoms may point to widespread and deeply seated evil.

2 . At bottom the one condition of happiness is the fear of God and the love of one's neighbour; and the cause of misery is a void of both.—J.

- The Pulpit Commentary

Proverbs 12:1-15 (Proverbs 12:1-15)

The downward and the upward paths

Whether we are daily ascending or descending depends very much on whether we are ready or are refusing to learn The man of open mind is he who moves up, but the man whose soul is shut against the light is he who is going down.

I. THE DOWNWARD PATH . We strike one point in this path when we come to:

1 . The forming of a false estimate of ourself. When "our way is right in our own eyes" ( Proverbs 12:15 ), and that way is the wrong one, we are certainly in the road that dips downward. The wise who love us truly are grieved when they see us imagining ourselves to be humble when we are proud of heart, generous when we are selfish, spiritual when we are worldly minded, sons of God when we are children of darkness; they know well and sorrow much that we are in a bad way, in the downward road.

2 . The consequent refusal to receive instruction. The man who thinks himself right is one who will oppose himself to all those who, and to all things which, approach him to instruct and to correct. He takes up a constant attitude of rejection. Whenever God speaks to him by any one of his many agents and influences, he is resolutely and persistently deaf.

3 . The consequent sinking into a lower state; he becomes "brutish." A man who never admits correcting and purifying thoughts into his mind is sure to decline morally and spiritually. If our soul is not fed with truth, and is not cleansed with the purifying streams of Divine wisdom, it is certain to recede in worth; it will partake more and more of earthly elements. The finer, the nobler, the more elevating and enlarging elements of character will be absent or will grow weaker; the man will sink; he will become brutish.

II. THE UPWARD PATH . This is, naturally and necessarily, the reverse of the other. It is that wherein:

1 . We form a true estimate of ourselves.

2 . We open our minds to welcome wisdom from all quarters. We. hearken "unto counsel," i.e. to the words of those who are wiser than ourselves. And it may be that some who have much less learning, or experience, or intellectual capacity than we can claim are in a position to advise us concerning the way of life. It may be even "the little child" who will "lead" us into the circle of truth, into the kingdom of God. And not only unto "counsel" shall we hearken; we shall give heed, if we are wise, to the suggestions of nature, to the teaching of events, to the promptings of the Divine Spirit. We shall be always ready and even eager to learn and willing to apply.

3 . We attain to a higher and deeper wisdom. "Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge." In the upward way which he of the humble heart and open mind is travelling there grow the rich fruits of heavenly wisdom. The higher we ascend, the more of these shall we see and gather. To love counsel is to love knowledge; it is to love truth; it is to become the friend and disciple and depository of wisdom. There is a knowledge which is very precious that may be had of all men; it is found on the plain where all feet can tread. There is also a knowledge which dwells upon the hills; only the traveller can reach this and partake of it; and the path which climbs this height is the path of humility and heedfulness; it is taken only by those who are conscious of their own defect, and who are eager to learn all the lessons which the Divine teacher is seeking to impart.—C.

- The Pulpit Commentary

Proverbs 12:3-12 (Proverbs 12:3-12)

Strength and fruitfulness

Concerning the righteous man two things are here affirmed.

I. IN HIM IS STRENGTH . "The root of the righteous shall never be moved." The strong wind comes and blows down the tree which has not struck its roots far into the foil; it tears it up by the roots and stretches it prone upon the ground. It has no strength to stand because its root is easily moved. The righteous man is a tree of another kind; his root shall never be moved; he will stand against the storm. But he must be a man who deserves to be called and considered "righteous" because he is such in deed and in truth; for they are many who pass for such of whom no such affirmation as this can be made. The man of whom the text speaks:

1 . Is well rooted. He is rooted

2 . Is immovable . There may come against him the strong winds of bodily indulgence, or of pure affection, or of intellectual struggle and perplexity, or of worldly pressure; but they do not avail; he is immovable; his roots only strike deeper and spread further in the ground. He "stands fast in the Lord;" he is a conqueror through Christ who loves him. For:

3 . He is upheld by Divine power . While his own spiritual condition and his moral habits have much to do with his steadfastness, he will be the first to say that God is "upholding him in his integrity, and setting him before his face."

II. IN HIM IS FRUITLESSNESS . "The root of the righteous yieldeth fruit" ( Proverbs 12:12 ). The ungodly man cannot be said to bear fruit, for the product of his soul and of his life does not deserve that fair name.

1 . The forms of godly fruitfulness are these:

2 . The source and the security of such fruitfulness are:

- The Pulpit Commentary

Proverbs 12:4-12 (Proverbs 12:4-12)

Proverbs 12:4-12 contain proverbs concerning the management of a house and business.

- The Pulpit Commentary

Proverbs 12:11 (Proverbs 12:11)

A contrast between industry and idleness, repeated at Proverbs 28:19 . He that tilleth his land. Agriculture was the first of industries, and always highly commended among the Jews, bringing a sure return to the diligent ( Proverbs 10:5 ; Proverbs 20:4 ; Proverbs 27:18 , Proverbs 27:23-27 ; and Ec Proverbs 20:28 ). He that followeth after vain persons; rather, vain things ; μάταια , Septuagint, empty, useless employments, profitless business, in contrast to active labour on the land. The Vulgate renders, qui sectatur otium, "he who studieth ease;" but the original, reikim, will not bear this meaning. Is void of understanding; he not only, as is implied, will be reduced to poverty, but shows moral weakness and depravity. The Septuagint and Vulgate here introduce a paragraph not found in our Hebrew text: "He who takes pleasure ( ὅς ἐστιν ἡδύς ) in carouses of wine will leave disgrace in his strongholds ( ὀχυρώμασι )" ( Isaiah 28:7 , Isaiah 28:8 ; Habakkuk 2:16 ). Probably this verse is derived from the following, with some corruption of the text.

- The Pulpit Commentary