Proverbs 11:12 says, “He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace.” (KJV)
The first part of this proverb clearly tells us that if you hate your neighbor then you lack wisdom. But what does that really mean? To get a better understanding we need to look at this scripture in its original language – Hebrew. Below is the transliteration. Normally, Hebrew is read from right to left, but the scripture below is actually reading left to right. I thought this would be easier to read for those who don’t read Hebrew.
There are three words I want to define in this first part. The first word is wisdom used in the KJV. The Hebrew word used here is “leb” (pronounced labe). It means “inner man, mind, will, heart (of man, of moral character), understanding, soul, knowledge, thinking, reflection, memory, inclination, resolution, determination (of will), conscience, as seat of appetites, as seat of emotions and passions, and as seat of courage.”1
The second word is despiseth. The Hebrew word used here is “buwz” (pronounced booz). It means “to despise, hold in contempt, or hold as insignificant.” 2
The third word is neighbor. The Hebrew word used here is “rea`” (pronounced ray’-ah). It means “friend, companion, fellow (citizen), or another person.”3
A Proper Understanding
Now that we understand what each of these words really mean we can go forward. If you loathe someone or regard another person as worthless you lack understanding and knowledge. This person can be your friend, your spouse, your child, or someone you barely know. It can be your neighbor next door who plays his music too loud or your ex-boyfriend who did you wrong. If you think someone is insignificant because they don’t have the same skin color or the education you have, you reveal what’s truly in your heart – a lack of moral character.
Why should this even matter? Because first of all, it is a sin to despise your neighbor. Secondly, when you detest someone else you really detest yourself, which shows that you lack good sense. When a person tries to make another person feel worthless it is usually because that’s how she really feels about herself. When she feels bad about herself, she can’t see anything good in herself or in others. So in order to make herself feel like she is worth something she belittles someone else. Instead of complimenting she degrades. Instead of encouraging she discourages. She tries to make the other person feel intimated because that’s how she really feels. Finally, we are all a part of one another.
We Belong to Each Other
The Bible tells us in Romans 12:5 that while we are one body in Christ, we are still members of one another. We belong to each other. We all come from the same two people; therefore, we are all connected in one way or another. Thus, when we treat one another badly we’re actually treating ourselves badly. Maybe that’s why the Bible tells us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
Jesus understood this principle and quoted from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 as a reply to one man’s question about what the greatest commandment was. “Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40 NLT) He quoted from the scriptures because the man who asked him the questions was considered to be an expert in the scriptures.
He goes on to tell us that everything we do depends on our love for God and our neighbor. So if he thought it was a good idea to treat our neighbors right how much more should we?
The Second Part
The second part of Proverbs says, “but a man of understanding holdeth his peace.” (KJV) Here is the Hebrew:
The Hebrew word used for understanding is “tabuwn” (pronounced taw-boon). It means “understanding, intelligence and insight.”4 The Hebrew word used for peace (KJV) is “charash” (pronounced khaw-rash’ ). It means “to be silent, be dumb, be speechless, and be deaf.”5
So a man who has some form of intelligence or insight knows about to keep silent. He doesn’t go around putting others down. He understands that everyone has a story to tell and that sometimes we as human beings just don’t know how to express ourselves.
I remember one time a young lady came into our church and received Jesus as her Savior. Well, she came back a few times and some people made comments about the way she was dressed. They even expressed to her that she needed to change her wardrobe into something more befitting of a church environment now that she was “saved.” This caused much embarrassment to the young lady. She left the church.
They didn’t know her life story. They didn’t know why she always wore skimpy outfits nor did they take the time to find out. They didn’t know how to keep silent, which means they did not have proper understanding. If they had maybe the lady would still be there and growing in Christ. Wherever she is today I hope she found someone who knew the value of love, understanding, and silence.
Our Heavenly Father, who is in heaven,
Help us to learn the value of silence and the time to be silent. Help us to love ourselves and to show that love to others.
In Yeshua the Messiah’s name, Amen.
“So there are many of us, and in union with the Messiah we comprise one body, with each of us belonging to the others.” (Romans 12:5 CJB)
“He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth : but he that hath mercy on the poor , happy is he.” (Proverbs 14:21 KJV)
“And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5 CJB)
“Don’t take vengeance on or bear a grudge against any of your people; rather, love your neighbor as yourself; I am ADONAI.” (Leviticus 19:18)
“He who belittles another lacks good sense, whereas a person of discernment stays silent.” (Proverbs 11:12 CJB)