*Scripture verses covered in this section's commentary are noted in italics

Proverbs 6:12-15 meaning

Verses covered in this passage:

  • Proverbs 6:12
  • Proverbs 6:13
  • Proverbs 6:14
  • Proverbs 6:15

Solomon illustrates the characteristics of a wicked person and the result.

Twelve verses into Chapter 6, it feels as though Solomon is on a bit of a roll. He has been warning against the dangers of wickedness—either from unwisely guaranteeing the obligation of another or living a life of laziness. Perhaps Solomon has seen these things all too often. The tone certainly has that feel of righteous indignation, a sort of heavy lament that people so often choose self-harm over the path that leads to their own flourishing.

Building on the previous section, he has worked to a bit of a crescendo here, but takes a turn to a new topic: a worthless person, a wicked man, is the one who walks with a perverse mouth (vs 12). It seems that someone inclined to laziness is simultaneously prone to an active and destructive tongue.

The word for worthless has a root that literally means “unprofitable.” Much of Proverbs is about how wisdom is the best source of gain for each of us, the path to our best self-interest. A person who ignores wisdom is not profitable, either for themselves or others. Solomon uses the terms worthless person and wicked man together here to emphasize that evil is not profitable. Iniquity brings no true value, only that which is worthless.

The mark of a worthless person and a wicked man is that he is one who walks with a perverse mouth. The word for perverse is the Hebrew word “iqqeshuwth”; it is only found twice in all of Scripture (here and in Proverbs 4:24). It can mean “crooked” or “devious” and both times it is used as an adjective to refer to the mouth.

So the marker of an unprofitable person is a crooked mouth. There is an insinuation here and in the following verses that the inner workings (of evil) are displayed outwardly (through a perverse mouth). A perverse (or crooked) mouth likely means a person who says one thing but means another—his words and actions do not match. They are intended to manipulate, control, or exploit.

The wicked man is not in alignment with others (like the ant), but crooked, in the way he communicates. Unlike the ant, the wicked is not looking to fulfill his role in order to contribute to the broader effort. Rather he uses his deceptive words to exploit and extract from the labors of others.

This perverse identifier continues in verse 13 with three more examples: who winks with his eyes, who signals with his feet, who points with his fingers (vs 13). The literal translations of some of these words help reveal what Solomon is saying.

The word for winks means “pinch” or “squint,” so the wicked man is causing himself to see poorly, to perceive perversely. His eyes are not fully open to observe reality, through no other obtrusion than himself. He also could be winking at his allies to signal that he is deceiving someone else, in order to extract from their labors, and transfer it to his own.

The word for signals means “speaks,” which is attached in this verse with feet.

And the word for points means “teaches,” attached to finger. Perhaps these pictures of giving signals and information with hands and feet furthers the notion of the wicked man’s crooked posture. He is not straightforward, gives signals such as winks, and movements of feet and hands in order to clue allies and deceive victims.

So this wicked man is all out of sorts. He is not using his body as it was intended, an allusion to Solomon’s previous warnings about not stewarding one’s life well. He is crooked, not in alignment, misusing the opportunity and resources God has given him. And he is not working as a member of a team, serving with others toward a common purpose, in a self-governing manner, loving his neighbors, as God has directed (Leviticus 19:18). Rather he is a self-serving exploiter.

It is not a great surprise that this out-of-sorts man with perversity in his heart continually devises evil and spreads strife (vs 14). His whole person is out of whack—not seeing, communicating, or teaching according to design. Perversity in his heart is the cause. That he Continually devises evil is the effect.

He also spreads strife—literally “sends out evil.” He is contagious. What he is communicating does not align with reality and is muddled even within himself—truly crooked. This affects how he thinks and what he does. And he bears witness to this way of life.

Therefore, meaning “because of these perverse ways,” his calamity will come suddenly (vs 15). Imagine the strain of something crooked pulling against its proper alignment. At a certain point, it breaks. Even if you know it is coming, it is startling. And if you don’t know it is coming, it is especially startling.

That is what happens to this wicked man. He bends and bends and bends until his calamity (literally “destruction”) comes suddenly. This would indicate that wicked men can persist in their wickedness for some time. Perhaps we wonder why God’s justice is lagging. But God judges in due time (2 Peter 3:9-10).

There will inevitably come a point of no return for the wicked. He will eventually shatter. Instantly he will be broken and there will be no healing (vs 15). While bending, there is always hope we will realize what we are doing and the force bringing us back toward alignment will correct us. But once we shatter, pressing beyond the breaking point, there is no putting the pieces together. God is patient, and willing that all come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). But at some point, judgement comes; and when it does, it is sudden and real.

The inference is for Solomon’s audience to avoid the bend, and certainly to avoid the break.

Biblical Text

12 A worthless person, a wicked man,
Is the one who walks with a perverse mouth,
13 Who winks with his eyes, who signals with his feet,
Who points with his fingers;
14 Who with perversity in his heart continually devises evil,
Who spreads strife.
15 Therefore his calamity will come suddenly;
Instantly he will be broken and there will be no healing.

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