Proverbs 21:2

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.
– Proverbs 21:2

This proverb is similar to Proverbs 16:2 (see commentary). The word for right means straight, or upright. It can have a moral tinge, but also gives the sense of being correct. The first phrase is a wisdom observance that men think the way they are going is correct. Unless a man is bent on deliberate self-destruction, he thinks the way he is going will lead to some happiness. The seventeenth century French mathematician Blaise Pascal put it this way: “All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.” 1

The proverb is a wisdom observation about our fallible self-knowledge, self-evaluation, and self-direction. Man is incompetent of himself, which is why we need wisdom and wise counsellors (Proverbs 11:14; 12:15; 15:22; 19:20-21). The word for pondereth means to balance, as in to measure by weight with a scale. The contrast of the second phrase with the first is that man follows his heart but only Yahweh truly knows the heart, or mind. Man cannot always accurately assess his motives and objectives, but God always knows what is in the deep, dark waters of our hearts (Proverbs 20:5).

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  1. Blaise Pascal, Pascal’s Pensees, trans. W. F. Trotter (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1958), 113, #425.

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