Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Proverbs 30:12

There is a kind who is pure in his own eyes, Yet is not washed from his filthiness.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Pride;   Purity;   Self-Delusion;   Self-Righteousness;   Washing;   Thompson Chain Reference - Evil;   Generation, Evil;   Self-Justification-Self-Condemnation;   Self-Righteousness;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Self-Delusion;   Self-Righteousness;   Sin;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Proverb, the Book of;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Pardon;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Ablutions;   Proverbs, Book of;   Purity-Purification;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Agur;   Generation;   Jakeh;   Massa;   Proverbs, Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Generation;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Proverbs, Book of;  
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Filth;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

The second, Those who were self-righteous, supposing themselves pure, and were not so.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Proverbs 30:12". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

The Pharisee temper (compare the marginal reference).

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Proverbs 30:12". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes,.... Not in the eyes of God, who sees the heart, and all the impurities of it, as well as of life and conversation; nor in the eyes of others, though such may appear outwardly righteous before men; but in their own eyes, in their own conceit and imagination, trusting in themselves that they are righteous: but such have not their eyes opened or enlightened to see the plague of their own hearts, the spirituality of the law of God, the perfection of righteousness that requires; nor the righteousness and holiness of God himself; nor the imperfection and insufficiency of their own; did they, they would not seem pure and righteous to themselves. No man is pure by nature, or through anything done by them; but by the grace of God, and through the blood and righteousness of Christ; and such are far from being pure in their own eyes, or as considered in themselves: but those who are pure neither by nature nor by grace, yet think they are so. There were some such in Agur's time, and such were the Scribes and Pharisees in Christ's time; there were a generation of them; and there are of the same sort in our days, as Papists, Perfectionists, and all self-justiciaries; see Luke 18:9;

and yet is not washed from their filthiness; their native, original, and universal pollution by sin they have from their birth, and which is increased by numerous actual transgressions; and from which none are or can be washed but those who are born of water and of the Spirit, or are washed with the washing of regeneration; and are washed from their sins in the blood of the Lamb, whose blood cleanses from all sin; and are arrayed with the fine linen, clean and white, the righteousness of the saints, which is the righteousness of Christ imputed to them: whatsoever is short of these leaves men unwashed from their filthiness, whatever opinion they may have of themselves; see Job 9:30, Jeremiah 2:22.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 30:12". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.

Not washed — Who imagine they are truly religious, when they live in a course of wickedness.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 30:12". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Proverbs 30:12 [There is] a generation [that are] pure in their own eyes, and [yet] is not washed from their filthiness.

Ver. 12. There is a generation that are pure, &c.] As the ancient Puritans, the Novatians, Donatists, Catharists, Illuminates. Non habeo, Domine, cui ignoscas, said one justiciary: I have done nothing, Lord, that needs thy pardon. "Ye are those that justify yourselves," saith Christ to the Pharisees. "All these things have I done from my youth; what want I yet?" said one of them that far overweaned his own worth, and rated himself above the market. "In all my labours they shall find none iniquity in me," saith guilty Ephraim; "that were sin," [Hosea 12:8] that were a foul business to find iniquity in Ephraim, whose iniquities were (yet) grown over his head, as appears throughout that whole prophecy. That man of sin, the Pope, will needs be held sinless, and sundry of his votaries say they can supererogate. And are there not among us, even among us, such sinners before the Lord, that stand upon their pantofles, and proudly ask, Who can say, black is their eye? There is a generation of these, that is, a continual succession of them. Such dust-heaps you may find in every corner.

And yet is not washed from their filthiness.] Either "of flesh or spirit"; [2 Corinthians 7:1] they wallow in sin like swine, and welter in wickedness, which is filth and blood, [Isaiah 4:4] the vomit of a dog, [2 Peter 2:22] the excrement of the devil, the superfluity or garbage of naughtiness, and the stinking filth of a pestilent ulcer, as the Greek words (a) used by St James, [James 1:21] do signify. The whole world lieth in wickedness, [1 John 5:19] as a lubber in a lake, as a carcase in its slime. Nil mundum in mundo; and yet who so forward to boast of their good hearts to Godward?

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 30:12". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae



Proverbs 30:12. There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.

MEN of themselves are very backward to form an unfavourable estimate of their own character. Hence arises the necessity of accurate discrimination and undaunted fidelity in ministers, whose office is to “separate the precious from the vile,” and to give to every one his portion in due season. The Scriptures draw a broad line of distinction between the righteous and the wicked; and this, not in their actions only, but in their dispositions and habits; by which the different characters may be as clearly discerned as by their outward conduct. The generation of self-deceivers is very numerous: multitudes there are who stand high in their own estimation, whilst in God’s eyes they are as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. Amongst these we must number,

I. The decent formalist—

He is “pure in his own eyes”—

[He is punctual in the observance of outward duties, both civil and religious. He will attend constantly at the house of God, and even at the table of the Lord: he will also establish worship in his family: and in respect of his dealings with men, he will be all that is amiable and lovely: he will be honest, sober, just, temperate, benevolent: as far as the letter of the law goes, he may be blameless.

In such a state, what wonder is it if he be pure in his own eyes? He understands not the spirituality of the law, and can judge of himself only by the defective standard of heathen morality. By the world he is admired, and held up as a pattern of all excellence: and seeing that he stands high in the esteem of others, he almost of necessity entertains a high opinion of himself.]

But he “is not washed from his filthiness”—

[Much filthiness there is in the heart of every man by nature; and there is a filthiness which every person may properly call his own, as being congenial with his own feelings, and particularly connected with his own character. With the character before us there is a very abundant measure of pride, venting itself in a constant habit of self-confidence and self-complacency. Combined with this are impenitence and unbelief: for how is it possible that he should repent and believe, when he knows not the extent of his guilt and danger? “Being whole, he feels no need of a physician” — — — He is altogether under the dominion also of worldly-mindedness. When he has performed his religious duties, he goes to worldly company, without feeling any want, or being sensible of any danger. The friendship of the world is what he delights in as his chief good, never once suspecting, that this very disposition proves and constitutes him an enemy of God [Note: James 4:4.]. Thus, though there is nothing in him that the world disapproves, and nothing that seems to call for self-reproach, he is under the habitual and allowed dominion of evils, which render him abominable in the sight of God [Note: Luke 16:15.]. He has somewhat of “the from of godliness, but none at all of its power [Note: 2 Timothy 3:5.]” — — —]

Amongst this generation we must also number,

II. The almost Christian—

He goes much farther than the decent formalist—

[He is convinced of the truth and excellence of Christianity, and wishes to be a partaker of its benefits. He will vindicate the faithful servants of God against the accusations brought against them by the ungodly world: and will actually comply with many things which the Gospel requires — — —

From this partial change in himself he begins to think that he is a Christian indeed. His constrained approbation of the Gospel appears to him to be a cordial acceptance of it: and his slender performances of its duties are in his estimation like an unreserved obedience.]

But, like him, he deceives his own soul—

[He will not renounce all for Christ. When our Lord says, “Go, sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and come and follow me,” he departs sorrowful, like the Rich Youth, and chooses the world in preference to Christ. He draws back also from the cross, which he will not bear. He is ashamed of Christ, even at the very time that he shews some regard both for his word and ministers. He will not “come out from the world and be separate;” but still remains conformed to it, to its maxims, its habits, its spirit, and its company. Of the true Christian, our Lord says, “Ye are not of this world, even as I am not of the world:” but of the almost Christian, the very reverse is true: he strives to reconcile the inconsistent services of God and Mammon: and if this cannot be done, he will forego his eternal interests, rather than sacrifice his worldly interests, and subject himself to the scorn and hatred of the ungodly.

Thus, though pure in his own eyes, he is yet in bondage to the fear of man; and gives a decided preference to this world, before the preservation of a good conscience, and the approbation of his God.]

To the same class belongs also,

III. The inconsistent professor—

Who more confident of the goodness of his state, than he who professes to believe in Christ?

[The man who has felt some conviction of sin, and some hope in Christ, and has been hailed by others as a sound convert to the Christian faith, is ready to conclude that all is well: his successive emotions of hope and fear, of joy and sorrow, are to him a sufficient evidence, that his conversion is unquestionable. If he have some ability to talk about the Gospel, and some gift in prayer, he is still further confirmed in his persuasion, that there exists in him no ground for doubt or fear. More especially, if he have views of the Covenant of grace, as “ordered in all things and sure,” and have adopted a crude system of religion that favours a blind confidence, he concludes at once that he is, and must be, a child of God.]

But who more open to self-deception?

[Professors of the Gospel are very apt to forget that rule of judging which our Lord himself has prescribed, “By their fruits ye shall know them [Note: Matthew 7:16.].” But this is the only safe criterion whereby to judge of our state before God. Yet, when brought to this test, how low do many religious professors appear! They can talk of the Gospel fluently; but, if their spirit and temper be inquired into, they are found to be under the habitual dominion of some besetting sin, as they were before they ever thought of religion. It is lamentable to think what “filthiness there is both of flesh and spirit,” from which many who profess the Gospel have never yet been “washed [Note: Titus 1:16.]:” yet an inspired Apostle declares, that “if a man seem to be religious and bridleth not his tongue, he deceiveth himself, and his religion is vain [Note: James 1:26.].” What then must be the state of those who yet remain proud and passionate, worldly-minded and covetous, false and dishonest, impure and sensual, yea, and grossly defective in all the duties of their place and station? Truly, of all the people belonging to the generation spoken of in our text, these are in the greatest danger, because their confidence is founded in the idea, that they have already bathed in the fountain which alone is able to cleanse them from their sin.]


1. Those who, though pure in their own eyes, are not washed

[Happy would it be if men would relax the confidence which they are ever ready to maintain of the safety of their state before God. Every one conceives, that whatever others may do, he deceives not his own soul: yet behold so great is the number of self-deceivers, that they constitute “a generation!” Beloved, learn to try yourselves by the only true test, your conformity to the will of God, and to the example of Christ — — — It is in the balance of the sanctuary, and not in your own balance, that you are to weigh yourselves; for in that shall you be weighed at the last day: and if you are found wanting in that, the measure of your deficiency will be the measure of your condemnation — — —]

2. Those who, though not pure in their own eyes, are really washed from their filthiness—

[Blessed be God! there is a generation of these also. Many who once wallowed in all manner of filthiness, are now washed from it, even as the Corinthian converts were [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.]. Yet they are not pure in their own eyes: on the contrary, they are of all people most ready to suspect themselves [Note: Matthew 26:21-22.], and to “lothe themselves” for their remaining imperfections. See how strikingly this is exemplified in the very chapter before us: Agur was a man of unquestionable piety: yet, under a sense of his great unworthiness, he complained, “Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man [Note: Proverbs 30; Proverbs 2.].” This may appear to many to be extravagant: but it is the real feeling of many a child of God: I may add too, it is their frequent complaint before God. Such were the feelings of Job, of Isaiah, and of Paul [Note: Job 40:4; Job 42:6. Isaiah 6:5. Romans 7:18; Romans 7:24.]— — — If it be asked, Whence arises this, that such holy and heavenly persons should be so far from being pure in their own eyes? the reason is, that they try themselves by a more perfect standard, and from their clearer discoveries of the path of duty are more deeply conscious of their aberrations from it. Their love of holiness also makes them now to abhor themselves more for their want of conformity to the Divine image, than they once did even for the grossest sins. To you then, dearly Beloved, I would address myself in the language of consolation and encouragement. It is well that you see and lament your vileness, provided you make it only an occasion of humiliation, and not of despondency. The more lowly you are in your own eyes, the more exalted you are in God’s, who has said, that “he who humbleth himself shall be exalted.” Let your sense of your remaining imperfections make you plead more earnestly with your God that reviving promise, “From all your filthiness, and from all your idols, I will cleanse you [Note: Ezekiel 36:25. 1 John 1:9.].” And remember, that you are not to wash yourselves first, and then to lay hold on the promises, but to embrace the promises first, and then by means of them to cleanse yourselves from the defilements you lament. This is the order prescribed in the Gospel [Note: 2 Corinthians 7:1.]; and, if you will adhere to it, you shall have increasing evidence that it is the destined path of purity and peace.]

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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Proverbs 30:12". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Who not only pretend to others, but conceit within themselves, that they are truly religious persons, when they live in the course of wickedness.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Proverbs 30:12". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness. (There is) a generation ... pure in their own eyes, and (yet) is not washed from their filthiness - literally, excrement: what is "cast out into the draught" (Matthew 15:17) [ tsow'ah (Hebrew #6675), from yaatsaa' (Hebrew #3318), to go out]. Hypocrites and self-justifiers.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Proverbs 30:12". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.
that are
21:2; Judges 17:5,13; 1 Samuel 15:13,14; Job 33:9; Psalms 36:2; Isaiah 65:5; Jeremiah 2:22-24,35; Luke 11:39,40; 16:15; 18:11; 2 Timothy 3:5; Titus 1:15,16; 1 John 1:8-10
Psalms 51:2,7; Isaiah 1:16; Jeremiah 4:14; Ezekiel 36:25; Zechariah 13:1; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Titus 3:5; 1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5
Reciprocal: Leviticus 13:46 - the days;  Psalm 18:27 - bring;  Proverbs 12:15 - way;  Proverbs 14:12 - GeneralProverbs 16:2 - the ways;  Proverbs 21:8 - but;  Proverbs 30:11 - a generation;  Jeremiah 2:23 - How canst;  Hosea 12:8 - they;  Luke 15:7 - which;  Luke 18:9 - which;  2 Corinthians 7:1 - let

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Proverbs 30:12". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".