What does Proverbs 12:23 mean?
ESV: A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims folly.
NIV: The prudent keep their knowledge to themselves, but a fool's heart blurts out folly.
NASB: A prudent person conceals knowledge, But the heart of fools proclaims foolishness.
CSB: A shrewd person conceals knowledge, but a foolish heart publicizes stupidity.
NLT: The wise don’t make a show of their knowledge, but fools broadcast their foolishness.
KJV: A prudent man concealeth knowledge: but the heart of fools proclaimeth foolishness.
NKJV: A prudent man conceals knowledge, But the heart of fools proclaims foolishness.
Verse Commentary:
This sentiment resembles Proverbs 17:28. The simple ability to keep control of one's tongue is a sign of wisdom. At the very least, it's better to say nothing than to babble out something foolish. Even if others might think poorly of the silent person, there is great advantage in being careful with one's words (Proverbs 10:19). An English proverb derived from these ideas says, "it's better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt."

The word translated "prudent" here also means "sensible." A person with good sense does not feel led to ramble about what he knows, or thinks he knows. It is wise to keep quiet about one's knowledge, waiting for the right moment to offer good advice. In that restraint, a person shows humility. In contrast, a fool is quick to speak, likely to spit out something inane rather than helpful. Such a person is vain and ignorant (Proverbs 12:16). He mistakes his foolish counsel as wisdom that he feels compelled to share with anyone within earshot (Proverbs 13:16).
Verse Context:
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.
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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