Proverbs 24:12

ESV If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?
NIV If you say, 'But we knew nothing about this,' does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?
NASB If you say, 'See, we did not know this,' Does He who weighs the hearts not consider it? And does He who watches over your soul not know it? And will He not repay a person according to his work?
CSB If you say, "But we didn't know about this," won't he who weighs hearts consider it? Won't he who protects your life know? Won't he repay a person according to his work?
NLT Don’t excuse yourself by saying, 'Look, we didn’t know.' For God understands all hearts, and he sees you. He who guards your soul knows you knew. He will repay all people as their actions deserve.
KJV If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?

What does Proverbs 24:12 mean?

The prior verse called on godly people to intervene when innocents are being killed or persecuted (Proverbs 24:11). This has physical, earthly application in cases of injustice and abuse. It also applies to the idea of evangelism, where Christ-followers seek to "rescue" others from condemnation in eternity (John 3:36; James 5:20).

Here, we are reminded that no one can fool God; claiming "I did not know" is futile in matters of good and evil. Other Scriptures provide reminders of God's perfect knowledge (Hebrews 4:12–13) and our lack of excuse (Romans 1:18–20). Taken in context with the prior verse, the scenario is someone who perceives injustice or atrocity, yet tries to plead ignorance. Excuses might work with other people, but God knows the true motives of the heart. He knows the difference between discretion (Proverbs 2:11; 3:21; 14:16) or strategy (Proverbs 20:18) as opposed to indifference or cowardice (Romans 1:28–32; Proverbs 21:13).

As with the first half of this lesson, this verse has application to evangelism. The ministry of rescuing lost souls is pressing; believers cannot pretend to be ignorant of spiritual needs in a fallen world. After presenting Himself to a Samaritan woman, Jesus emphasized this urgency. After the disciples returned to Jesus from a shopping trip to find food, Jesus told them to look and see a waiting harvest (John 4:35). Likely, the "fields" Jesus referred to were the people of Samaria coming to meet Him (John 4:28–30).

There are many excuses for not rescuing the perishing, but not a single good reason to leave the suffering to their fate. The apostle Paul endured many harsh trials to reach the lost. He said, "Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others" (2 Corinthians 5:11).
What is the Gospel?
Download the app: