Proverbs 12:23

Prudence Conceals Knowledge

23a A prudent man concealeth knowledge…

1. Solomon states here that a prudent man isn’t constantly blurting out whatever he knows. There are times when he wisely keeps it to himself.

2. Prudent: subtle, shrewd, crafty, sly, sensible, crafty.

a. This is meant in a good sense.

b. This speaks of a person who is wise and who knows how to use wisdom… is clever…

3. The clever man POSSESSES his knowledge.

a. Knowledge: perception, skill, discernment, understanding, wisdom.

b. The prudent man is clever… and he has discernment and understanding.

c. He has a lot of insight…

d. Perhaps the conversation is about computers… or on the issue of Bible translations… or maybe the conversation switches over to gardening…
• The subject matter is not the point.
• Solomon is simply describing a man who has understanding—in any realm.
• Solomon’s point is that prudent men—clever men—have insight in various realms of knowledge.

e. But it isn’t possessing the information that makes the man prudent or shrewd.

4. The clever man CONCEALS his knowledge.

a. This does not mean that he plays dumb.

b. Nor does it mean that he ALWAYS conceals his knowledge.

c. Solomon’s point is that the prudent man is NOT like the fool, who constantly blurts out everything he knows.

d. The prudent man refuses to dominate the conversation—and dazzle people with his knowledge.

e. A little knowledge puffeth up.

5. A wise and prudent man knows when to be quiet and when to speak up.

a. Therein lies his shrewdness… his craftiness… his wisdom.

b. He is sensible to the whole situation… going on around him.

c. He is careful to distinguish between adding knowledge which might be helpful… and he knows when it would simply be being picky…

d. Example: imagine having a conversation with your old English teacher. This woman has LOTS of knowledge about the proper use of the English language.
• A foolish English teacher would be constantly correcting everyone’s English—and being obnoxious about it.
• A prudent English teacher would conceal her knowledge… and perhaps in a helpful way—in a private setting give you a pointer that would be beneficial.

e. Example: as pastor, I sometimes hear folks in conversations say things about the Bible or Christianity that are not correct.
• There is a time to speak up and correct.
• The foolish believer will be constantly pointing out the error in everyone’s speech.
• There are also times to be quiet… keep your knowledge concealed.
• One needs wisdom in knowing WHEN and WHY to speak up.
• One needs wisdom in realizing that not everyone is at the same level of maturity… and that is not a bad thing.
• A high school English teacher would be quite foolish indeed to keep interrupting a 4-year-old toddler and correcting their English!

f. Wisdom and prudence demand that we conceal knowledge…and not continually blurt out everything we know.
• It can become obnoxious… irritating…
• It tends to dominate a conversation… and thus selfishly leave others out of the conversation…
• It is usually an expression of pride—the love of hearing oneself speak… and the love of bragging about one’s superior knowledge…

6. The truly prudent man or woman will conceal knowledge…because he or she considers this knowledge to be PRECIOUS.

a. If you have something that is of little value, then you can throw it to the wind if you like. It’s no great loss.

b. But if you have something that is precious and valuable… you use it sparingly.

c. Knowledge and wisdom are precious—like rubies. (Prov. 20:15) You don’t just scatter rubies all over the place… toss them about as if they were worthless rocks.

d. When the value of knowledge is appreciated, then that knowledge will be dispersed with great care… slowly… wisely… helpfully… constructively… humbly… judiciously… graciously…

e. When the value of knowledge is not appreciated, then that knowledge is to be concealed.
• Jesus said, “Cast not your pearls before swine.” (Matt. 7:6)
• In that situation, keep your pearls to yourself.

7. This proverb also speaks of another truth mentioned several times in this book: wisdom often requires us to be quiet.

a. The prudent man is not a blabbermouth. (Prov.10:19)

b. The prudent man is not a know-it-all! (Prov. 17:27)
• Solomon says that a prudent man won’t act like a know it all!

c. Nor will he be a gossip. He conceals knowledge… especially if that knowledge could harm someone. (Prov.11:13)
• You might know some dirt on another person.
• But prudence and wisdom demand that you conceal it…

d. There are often good reasons to conceal things you know.
• This is a proverb. There are exceptions to this proverb.
• If you know someone about to blow up an airplane, don’t conceal that knowledge!
• But if you know that Fred and Alice had an argument—conceal it… bury it…
• Some things you know are to be proclaimed. Other things you know are to be concealed.
• The prudent man is shrewd enough to know the difference.
• The fool doesn’t know the difference…
• Be prudent.

8. The wise man sometimes conceals and sometimes reveals knowledge.

a. Cf. Prov. 15:2 – the wise man USES knowledge aright.
• This means he knows how, when, and where to use it.
• He is careful in what he says… in the information he gives out.
• Be CAREFUL about what you write in emails—especially if it might be gossip. Once it is out in cyberspace—who knows where it could end up! You may end up with egg on your face!
• Using knowledge aright means knowing when to speak…
• It means knowing in whose company to say what…
• It means at times withholding information…

b. Prov. 15:28 – he studies to answer. (meditates; muses)
• He is careful with his words.
• He chooses them carefully… cautiously…
• He THINKS before he speaks…
• Usually, when we think before we speak, our words will be FEWER.

23b But the heart of fools proclaimeth foolishness.

1. Proclaim: to call; call out; recite; read; cry out; utter a loud sound.

a. Solomon speaks of the fool as one who does NOT conceal, but does just the opposite.

b. The fool makes loud proclamations for all to hear…

c. He isn’t trying to hold anything back. He cries out… a loud sound… like a megaphone blurting out its message.

2. The fool behaves in the opposite way of the wise or prudent man.

a. The prudent man conceals knowledge.

b. The fool conceals nothing, but blurts out whatever is on his mind… which is usually foolishness.

c. The wise man conceals his knowledge. The fool reveals his ignorance.

d. This proverb implies that foolish people don’t POSSESS knowledge. They have in its place “foolishness.”

e. They who are full of folly and ignorance of ALL people ought to be quiet… but alas, the fool PROCLAIMS all of his ignorant foolishness.

3. This demonstrates a threefold problem on the part of the fool:

a. Folly is in his heart… (the fact that it is there)

b. He has no self-control… (the fact that it all comes out) (Cf. 12:16 – a prudent man also covers up shameful wrath and anger! He doesn’t blurt it all out.)

c. He has no discernment to recognize it as folly.

4. We have all experienced this phenomenon too.

a. The person with the least amount of worthwhile things to say, dominates the conversation… and says the most.

b. Prov. 15:2 – the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.
• Cause to bubble; ferment; flow; to pour forth; emit; belch forth.
• The fool’s mouth is a constantly flowing river… fomenting out folly and foolishness.

c. Prov. 29:11 – A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.
• The wise man has self control over his thoughts. The fool does not.
• The wise man knows when to keep his thoughts to himself. The fool does not.
• The wise man sometimes conceals knowledge. And sometimes (afterwards) he utters it… at the appropriate occasion…

d. One of the best and wisest things a fool can do is to keep quiet… and refuse to display his ignorance! (Prov. 17:28) That is the first step towards wisdom!