Summary: A proverb is a very brief and particular expression of truth that teaches basic values — appropriate patterns of human behavior that help an individual mature into responsible adulthood

A pigs snout and a beautiful lady.


Proverbs 11 contains thirty-one individual sayings. While the topics covered are vast, many con-trast either proper behavior with improper behavior or the righteous with the wicked. Proverbs is one of the few places in Scripture where context is of no help. Each proverb represents in a practical way the choice one must make between the way of Wisdom and the way of Folly. We have covered Prov.11:1-11 in an early study.

Proverbs are not promises. Let me say that again, proverbs, in the Bible, are not promises that God is required to satisfy for you.

Christians love to pick out those “promises” they find in scripture such as “I will never leave or forsake you,” or “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish,” or “In my Father’s house are many rooms … I am going there to prepare a place for you.”

We regard those promises to believers as completely trustworthy and guaranteed as long as the conditions are met — repenting of sins and following Jesus. The one guaranteeing those promises is God himself so there are no exceptions — no failed promises because God never fails. We can trust his word.

The one problem that I have encountered regarding “promises” is when well-intentioned Christians mistake a Biblical principle for a Biblical promise. It seems to happen most often with the “wisdom literature” in the Bible and most often with the Book of Proverbs. Proverbs are unusual; there usually is no context to help ascertain the meaning of an individual verse — each verse is a separate thought.

Also Proverbs is written in different literary style. Well, each of these different literary styles in the Bible have their own interpretive principles that you have to be mindful of . And if you ignore those interpretive principles, you can misunderstand what’s being communicated. And so when it comes to Proverbs, it’s important to realize that it is Hebrew Poetry and we have to interpret it as such Principles in the Bible are concepts that offer general guidance, and are not to be understood as absolutes or promises in each and every situation. In short a principle is a standard offered as general guidance, but should not be interpreted as an absolute or promise On the other hand, a promise is a decree from God that will take place in God’s timing and in God’s ways with no exceptions.

A proverb is a very brief and particular expression of truth that teaches basic values — appropriate patterns of human behavior that help an individual mature into responsible adulthood. They often are practical observations about everyday attitudes and life in general. As such, it is often possible to find “exceptions” to particular proverbs. The mistake comes in when we regard them as 100% iron clad legal guarantees from God with no exceptions possible.

Proverbs entail probable outcomes, not guaranteed outcomes. Take, for example, a modern proverb like, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Notice, it’s a short, pithy way to capture an idea. And is it true that if you eat fruits, and apples, and vegetables that generally you’ll be a healthy person? But is it a promise? Is it a guarantee that if you eat an apple every day you will never have to see a doctor? Well, of course no. We all know that’s not the case? So, is that a violation of that proverb? No, it just means that, generally speaking, if you eat a healthy diet, you’ll generally be healthy, but it’s not a guarantee or a promise.

Lets now come to where we left off in our earlier study.

He who despises his neighbor lacks sense, But a man of understanding keeps silent. Proverbs 11:12

Speech is one of the most certain evidences of wisdom, or the lack of wisdom. The words of a man’s mouth reveal what is in his heart (Luke 6:45). Merely the quantity of words can prove either wisdom or folly. “A fool’s voice is known by multitude of words” (Eccl 5:3). A simple rule for wisdom is to cut your words in half.

Wise men do not proudly despise others in their hearts or with words. They will hold back detracting or sneering words that fools or wicked men are often quick to say. They know all men are more similar than they are different, so contempt from one about another is not justified.

Jesus considers unkind speech about another to violate the sixth commandment against murder. Jesus said, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire” (Matt 5:21-22).

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