What does Proverbs 10:12 mean?
ESV: Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.
NIV: Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.
NASB: Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all offenses.
CSB: Hatred stirs up conflicts, but love covers all offenses.
NLT: Hatred stirs up quarrels, but love makes up for all offenses.
KJV: Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.
This is a key principle of biblical ethics. The general idea given here is repeated often in the Old Testament (Leviticus 19:18; Proverbs 15:1) and is cited in the New Testament (James 5:20; 1 Peter 4:8). In short, revenge-seeking never comes to a good end. It only multiplies anger and escalates a cycle of retaliation. Choosing to respond in love, instead, is far more powerful.
When people despise each another, they try to hurt one another. They argue and tear each other apart. This tragedy can even occur within a group of believers. Hatred divides and disrupts fellowship. Hatred destroys a congregation's testimony and causes unbelievers to discredit Christianity. Hatred serves the Devil. Love, on the other hand, covers faults and sins. It is important to note that love does not overlook any and every sin, no matter how grievous it might be. This verse is not referring to ignoring sin or "covering it up." But love does keep on trying to find common ground and ways to work together. It waits patiently for an offender to see the error of his way and repent. It is willing to forgive. In so far as it's possible, and reasonable, love leads us to pursue unity (John 17:21)
Jesus identified love as evidence of belonging to Him. He said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34–35).
Proverbs 10:11–32 contrasts the righteous and the wicked, focusing on their different speech patterns, their different lifestyles, their different attitudes, and their different destinies. Verses 21 through 27 are especially focused on the different results which can be expected from pursuing godliness, versus pursuing sin.
This chapter begins 375 "proverbs," which are general-case lessons or observations. These wise remarks continue the discussion of wisdom and wickedness begun in chapters 1—9. Most of the verses in chapter 10 contain a sharp contrast, with the conjunction "but" separating the lines. Often, the subject changes from verse to verse. The contrasting subjects include sons, treasure, work ethic, reputation, relationships, success, and speech.
In Proverbs 7—9 Solomon contrasts wisdom and wickedness in the symbolic persons of Lady Wisdom and Woman Folly. He calls upon his sons, or students, to choose wisdom, and he points out the benefits of choosing wisdom and the disastrous results of choosing wickedness. Chapter 10 presents vivid contrasts between wisdom and wickedness in many of life's settings. These comparisons continue into chapter 11.
Proverbs is best understood in context with the books of Ecclesiastes and Job. In Proverbs, “wisdom” is given in short, simple, general terms. Ecclesiastes represents wisdom based on observation and experience. This often shows how the general principles of the book of Proverbs don’t apply in absolutely every circumstance. Job represents wisdom based on the experience of suffering and injustice. All three come to the conclusion that God does indeed know best, and the most sensible course of action is to follow His will.
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