Proverbs 20:12

ESV The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made them both.
NIV Ears that hear and eyes that see— the Lord has made them both.
NASB The hearing ear and the seeing eye, The Lord has made both of them.
CSB The hearing ear and the seeing eye— the Lord made them both.
NLT Ears to hear and eyes to see — both are gifts from the Lord.
KJV The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord hath made even both of them.
NKJV The hearing ear and the seeing eye, The Lord has made them both.

What does Proverbs 20:12 mean?

The Creator designed mankind with the ability to both see and hear. We are given more than one way to obtain knowledge—so we need to pursue truth in all forms and from all means. This statement reiterates concepts about diligence in uncovering truth (Proverbs 2:1–5; 11:27), including the value in seeking more than a single perspective (Proverbs 18:1, 15, 17). This highlights the idea of "cautious skepticism," which means taking in all information before making a decision (Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:1; Galatians 1:8). The comment also connects to the prior proverb, which noted that how a person acts speaks to their character—such evidence should be carefully noted (Matthew 7:16–20; 1 Corinthians 6:9–13).

How a person interprets what they perceive is important (Romans 1:18–20). Paul predicted that the time was coming "when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions" (2 Timothy 4:3). In other words, they will follow teachers who tell them what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear. Jesus identified true believers as those who hear His voice and follow Him (John 10:3–4).

It is also good to carefully consider what a person exposes their senses to, in the first place (Philippians 4:8–9). A person can look at good things, or evil. We can listen to what is uplifting, or to what's morally destructive. The psalmist declared: "I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless" (Psalm 101:3). Psalm 119:18 contains a prayer that every believer should offer regarding his eyes, "Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law."
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