What does Proverbs 12 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
Chapter 12 continues to offer individual statements of common sense and godly wisdom.

The first portion of this chapter compares the various lifestyles of God-fearing people (Proverbs 1:7) to the lives of those who choose foolishness and sin. Among the highlights of this advice is the "stupidity"—the irrationality—of those who refuse to take good advice. Likewise, it is noted that it's better to "be" successful, even if others do not know it, rather than to "appear" successful and be a failure. Solomon also connects a person's treatment of animals to their righteousness (Proverbs 12:1–11).

The next part of chapter 12 makes frequent references to speech. Those who lie put themselves at risk: their own deceit, eventually, contradicts itself and they will be caught. Those who patiently hold their tongue, waiting to speak until they have something useful and helpful to say, are wise. In contrast are those who can't control their speech, hurting other people and damaging their own reputation in the process. Of special distaste to God are those who persistently lie (Proverbs 12:12–23).

The last statements of this chapter return to the opposing results of godliness, versus sin. Hard work, honesty, goodness, and kind words benefit a person and those around him. Laziness, lies, and rebellion against God are paths to disaster (Proverbs 12:24–28).
Verse Context:
Proverbs 12:1–11 describes the righteous person and the wicked person. Solomon contrasts their character, their conduct, their relationship to the Lord, and the consequences of their behavior.
Proverbs 12:12–23 continues Solomon's contrast of a wise righteous person and a wicked fool. In this segment, he focuses mainly on their different speech patterns. He points out that the words of a liar are an abomination to the Lord, whereas the Lord delights in the words of a wise person.
Proverbs 12:24–28 comes after demonstrating several contrasts between the speech patterns of the righteous and the wicked. In this passage, Solomon provides several commendations of those who seek God's will.
Chapter Summary:
Proverbs 12 contains a series of contrasts between lifestyles, comparing those who honor God to those who reject His wisdom. The results of those decisions are also compared. This repeats several common themes from the book of Proverbs, such as the self-destructive nature of sin and God's distaste for those who lie.
Chapter Context:
Proverbs 12 continues Solomon's wise sayings. A large portion of the book of Proverbs includes these short, common sense pieces of advice. After a series of introductions and lessons in chapters 1—9, chapter 10 began a long list of individual statements. In this chapter he continues to contrast the righteous and the wicked, showing that the life of the righteous is far better than the life of the wicked. This pattern will continue, covering the same basic theme, through chapter 15.
Book Summary:
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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