What does Proverbs 18:3 mean?
ESV: When wickedness comes, contempt comes also, and with dishonor comes disgrace.
NIV: When wickedness comes, so does contempt, and with shame comes reproach.
NASB: When a wicked person comes, contempt also comes, And with dishonor comes taunting.
CSB: When a wicked person comes, contempt also comes, and along with dishonor, derision.
NLT: Doing wrong leads to disgrace, and scandalous behavior brings contempt.
KJV: When the wicked cometh, then cometh also contempt, and with ignominy reproach.
NKJV: When the wicked comes, contempt comes also; And with dishonor comes reproach.
Verse Commentary:
The first phrase of this proverb seems to suggest that sinful attitudes lead people to be arrogant. That's true—the prior two proverbs noted that an ungodly resistance to wisdom leads to arrogant isolation (Proverbs 18:1–2). However, the main point here is clarified by the second phrase: living wickedly leads a person into shame and humiliation. At the most important level, this shame comes from God, who has contempt for the wicked person (Isaiah 23:9; Psalm 59:8). Man was created in God's image (Genesis 1:26–27), so our purpose is to glorify Him. When we act against His truth (Proverbs 1:7), we necessarily bring dishonor on ourselves; this is a natural consequence of sin.

Other proverbs have noted that sin can have earthly consequences, as well (Proverbs 10:14; 16:18). One of these is the loss of reputation one can experience when they act wickedly.

Adam and Eve discovered this fact when they rebelled against God in the garden of Eden. By failing to obey the only prohibition they received from God, they experienced judgment. The death penalty passed upon them and all their descendants. Shame followed their sin and caused them to try to hide from God's sight. No longer allowed to live in paradise, they were compelled to leave it. Sorrow and laborious work replaced perfect comfort and ease. Broken fellowship with God and a marred image of God replaced perfect fellowship with God and His perfect image in them. Their son Seth was born in Adam's fallen image, and all of Adam's subsequent descendants bear Adam's image (Genesis 5:3; 1 Corinthians 15:47–49).
Verse Context:
Proverbs 18:1–9 touches on themes such as arrogance and closed-mindedness. A common thread in this section is how unwise speech, or failure to be open-minded and diligent, can lead to serious consequences.
Chapter Summary:
This segment of Solomon's wise sayings includes several well-known and often-repeated remarks. Among these are references to God's "name" as a place of safety, the connection between pride and catastrophe, the value of a godly spouse, and the intimate loyalty of a good friend. As in other parts of the book of Proverbs, these teachings are tied to warnings about the consequences of poor decisions.
Chapter Context:
Chapter 18 continues a long string of wise sayings attributed to Solomon. These began in chapter 10 and will continue through chapter 22. This section contains numerous references to fair-mindedness and seeking out truth from multiple sources. Diligent responsibility—in words, actions, and beliefs—is a notable emphasis in this segment.
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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