Chapter 12 continues the major section of the Proverbs, “The proverbs of Solomon,” which starts with chapter 10 and goes through chapter 22. There is no obvious topical arrangement of the proverbs, but several subjects have been addressed more than once to this point. Chapter 12 will add some proverbs to these subjects and cover a few more.
Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is brutish.
– Proverbs 12:1
The contrast in this proverb is between love and hate. Instruction and reproof parallel, with the first meaning discipline or training and the second meaning correction, even chastisement. To acquire and grow in wisdom, we must receive correction (Proverbs 9:7-8; 13:18). Hating instruction and correction will be the last lament of the fool as he is finally brought to shame and ruin (Proverbs 5:11-13). The word for brutish means an animal like a cow. When it is used of people, it means stupidity of the highest order (Psalm 32:9; 92:6). An animal has no reasoning capacity and doesn’t know what is best for it. A person who despises the correction of wisdom is just like a brute beast.
Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner.
– Proverbs 11:31
The word for recompensed means repaid and carries the thought of completion. The requital can be reward or judgment depending on the context. The word is used at least twice in Proverbs to speak of a reward to the righteous (Proverbs 13:13, 21). If we think more about the aspect of completion in the recompense, we see it refers to a fitting reward that finishes the works. So, the righteous receive a reward that brings completion to their works and the wicked receive a reward of judgment that finishes their works. The proverb does not present a contrast, but a comparison and the primary point is that just reward is sure to come to all.
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.
– Proverbs 11:30
The first phrase employs the tree of life metaphor. Fruit is something that is produced. The produce of the righteous is life-giving and nourishing to people. When taken with the second phrase, we know this is not coincidental. The righteous aim at doing good to others. The second phrase states that the wise win souls. The word for winneth is used over 900 times in the Old Testament and can be used in a variety of ways. It means to take in the sense of take hold of or grasp. It is also used to mean to receive or accept something. It can be used to describe taking or capturing men as in conquest. It can also mean to capture in terms of thought or persuasion. The word is used 19 times in Proverbs.
• The most common use is in the sense of taking hold of wise instruction (Proverbs 1:3; 2:1; 4:10; 8:10; 10:8; 21:11; 24:32).
• The second most common use is in the sense of taking or acquiring an object or possession (Proverbs 7:20; 20:16; 22:27; 27:13; 31:16).
• The third use describes the taking of life by the wicked (Proverbs 1:19; 24:11).
• The fourth usage refers to receiving shame or a snare (Proverbs 9:7; 22:25).
• The fifth use of the term described the strange woman taking her victims (Proverbs 6:25).
• The sixth use is in the sense of taking a bribe to pervert justice (Proverbs 17:23).
• That leaves the last usage, which is in our text (Proverbs 11:30).
It’s obvious the usage in this proverb is akin to the most common use of the word, which describes the receiving of wisdom. The use is simply inverted here. Rather than commanding or commending the receiving of wisdom, the word is describing the wise one who wins people to wisdom. The point of both phrases together is that the wise, those who have truly received wisdom, will seek to guide others into wisdom.
He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart.
– Proverbs 11:29
This proverb is not antithetical, rather the two beats are complementary. To trouble is to stir up or unsettle, like the stirring of a liquid that keeps the solids from settling to the bottom. Elsewhere, Solomon identifies the greedy man as a troubler of his own house (Proverbs 15:27). The exact trouble here is not mentioned, so we take it as various forms of mismanagement of the household. To inherit here is to acquire or gain as a possession. The wind represents that that cannot be possessed (Ecclesiastes 5:16). The second line gives the destiny of such a fool. He will end up serving one who is a wiser manager.
He that trusteth in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch.
– Proverbs 11:28
The contrast in this proverb is in the object of trust, or faith. Riches can be gained and lost. Proverbs views riches as short-lived and uncertain (Proverbs 23:5). To put trust in wealth is to fall, or come to ruin. At some point, riches will fail and hopes will be disappointed (Psalm 52:7; 62:10; Luke 12:20). The righteous are those who put their trust in the Lord. They may or may not have wealth, but that is not their refuge (Psalm 18:2). Because the righteous put their trust in the Lord, they will flourish (Psalm 52:8; 92:12-14).
He that diligently seeketh good procureth favor: but he that seeketh mischief, it shall come unto him.
– Proverbs 11:27
This proverb is a general truism about sowing and reaping. It is not reflective of a karmic worldview, for though the scriptures do speak of cycles in time, they do not present time as circular. Generally, a person reaps what they sow in this life. Diligently seeking speaks of early and eager seeking. It suggests one who actively pursues good. The word for seeketh in terms of mischief is a different word that includes a religious tinge, so that it speaks of one who religiously or devotedly seeks mischief. They are dedicated to it. There is a proverbial twist to the truism here for the implication seems to be that we will generally receive ourselves what we seek for others (Proverbs 17:11).
He that witholdeth corn, the people shall curse him: but blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it.
– Proverbs 11:26
The word for witholdeth is different from the one in verse 24. Here it is not the idea of hoarding but rather of denying. This proverb addresses business dealing where a merchant is keeping back the supply to inflate the price. In modern terms we might speak of price gouging. The one who does so will be cursed by people. The contrast is the one who deals uprightly in trade and sells his goods without taking advantage. The one who does this will be blessed by the people.
The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.
– Proverbs 11:25
This proverb is a simpler statement speaking of the reward to those who give generously. The liberal soul is a gift giver. Fatness is a symbol of prosperity and plenty. Water is an obvious blessing to the thirsty. These good things shall come to the generous giver. The point of the proverb is that he does his own self good by doing good to others (Proverbs 11:17).
There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.
– Proverbs 11:24
This proverb and the next two deal with generous giving and its reward. This first proverb reveals God’s counterintuitive economy. The one who scatters is the one who gives generously with an open hand. It would seem that generous giving would diminish and reduce a person to poverty. Yet, wisdom teaches the contrary that it increases a person. He that withholds is stingy, greedy, and grasping. They cannot and will not give because they believe it will lead them to poverty. Yet, wisdom teaches that is exactly what happens to those who withhold.
The few proverbs here don’t give a full explanation of the rewards for giving, but we can fill out that picture from the rest of Scripture. Some have erred badly here by supposing they have found some secret to growing rich on this earth. Prosperity preachers grow rich by selling this erroneous notion to eager coveters. God does reward generous giving (Deuteronomy 15:10-11; Psalm 112:9; 2 Corinthians 9:6-9). The few verses referenced sufficiently show that God’s reward of giving is not to make a person wealthy on this earth. He rewards giving by the giver having sufficient for his needs and to keep on giving. Unquestionably, some of those rewards are spiritual rewards and treasure laid up in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-20).