Proverbs 16:1

1 The plans of the heart belong to man, but 1the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.

Proverbs 16:1 Meaning and Commentary

Proverbs 16:1

The preparations of the heart in man
The sense of these words, according to our version, depends upon the next clause, and the meaning of the whole is, that a man can neither think nor speak without God: the "orderings" or "marshallings of the heart" F1, as it may be rendered; that is, of the thoughts of the heart, which are generally irregular and confused; the ranging them in order, as an army in battle array, or as things regularly placed on a well furnished table; the fixing them on any particular subject, though about things civil and natural, so as closely to attend to them, and proceed in a regular manner in the consideration of them, are not without the concurrence of divine Providence: and whereas the thoughts of men's hearts are evil, and that continually, and nothing but evil thoughts naturally proceed from thence; the ordering and marshalling of them, and fixing them to the attention and consideration of divine and spiritual things, are not without the supernatural grace of God; for we cannot think a good thought of ourselves, nor indeed anything of ourselves in a spiritual manner, ( 2 Corinthians 3:5 ) ; all preparations for religious service and duty, whether it be to pray unto God, or to preach in his name, are from the Lord; it is he that works in men both "to will and to do"; that gives them the willing mind, or a suitable frame for service, as well as ability to perform it; that pours out the Spirit of grace and supplication on them, and disposes and directs their minds to proper petitions, and furnishes his ministering servants in their studies with agreeable matter for their ministrations, ( Psalms 10:17 ) ( 2 Corinthians 3:5 2 Corinthians 3:6 ) ; and the answer of the tongue [is] from the Lord;
who made man's mouth, and teaches him what to say, both before God and man; what he shall say in prayer to him, or in preaching to others; for the "door of utterance" in either service is from him, as well as the preparation for it: most versions and interpreters make these clauses distinct, the one as belonging to men, the other to God; thus, "to men [belong] the preparations of the heart, but from the Lord is the answer" or "[speech] of the tongue"; the former is said by way of concession, and according to the opinion of men; and the sense may be, be it so, that man has the marshalling and ordering of his own thoughts, and that he can lay things together in his mind, and think pertinently and properly on a subject, and is capable of preparing matter for a discourse; yet it is as easy to observe, that men can better form ideas of things in their minds, the they can express their sense and meaning; and though they may be ever so well prepared to speak, yet they are not able to do it, unless the Lord gives them utterance, and assists their memories; they lose what they had prepared, or deliver it in a disorderly and confused manner, and sometimes think to say one thing, and say another; their tongues are overruled by the Lord to say what they never intended, as in the cases of Balaam and Caiaphas. The Targum is,

``from man is the counsel of the heart, and from the Lord is the speech of the tongue.''


F1 (bl ykrem) "dispositiones sive ordinationes", Montanus, Munster, Vatablus, Piscator, Cocceius, Michaelis; "instructiones adversae aciei in corde", Schultens.

Proverbs 16:1 In-Context

1 The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.
2 All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit.
3 Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.
4 The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.
5 Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished.

Cross References 1

  • 1. [Matthew 10:19, 20]
The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.