"On the lips of the discerning, wisdom is found, but a rod is for the back of him who lacks understanding."
Chapter 10 starts a section of proverbs that is designed to teach general principles of wisdom. Notice that chapter 10 verse 1 restates who wrote these proverbs. These are the ideas that wise people have tucked in their minds that control the actions that they take. This section is just a series of what seems like random statements that are bits of wisdom. They are actually thought-rhymes that are connected from one thought to the next.
This particular proverb is about where to find wisdom and the consequences for a lack of depth in your soul. It rhymes with the verse before it through the connection with the mouth in verse 11 and stirring up strife in verse 12.
This is the Hebrew word bin which is most commonly translated understanding in the NASB translation. It means the idea of careful pondering, understanding the connection between things, and realizing what will happen when something is done what the results will be. The 'discerning' person grasps many of these factors. The ‘undiscerning’ person does not.
Solomon is saying that if one is going to find wisdom, it is going to be in or stated by a person who has a grasp of the material and understands the results of particular actions. One does not find wisdom with the person who says, "Well, let’s just try this and we'll see what happens."
In other words, wisdom has an accurate predictive element. This is what will result from that action and here is how long it will generally take. This predictive element is a crucial element in any philosophies truth claims. Can your philosophy of life accurately predict what will happen and tell you what to do about those predictions? Wisdom can. If you say this, then the other person will most likely act in this way... If you do this, then this will most likely be the result... If this is done, then it will typically cause...
When you find someone who really understands what will happen in the people dynamic business, then you find wisdom. If, however, you find someone who acts impulsively or without much foresight, then you are not in the presence of wisdom.
This is much like keeping your hand on the chess piece so that you can look at all the potential moves. Mentally this is the discipline of wisdom. If I say this, then that person will probably say that and it will result in this fight or this bizarre action or this development. It is this kind of thinking that the wise person does and the impulsive, foolish person does not do. Fools tend to evaluate things based upon whether they want to do them or not.
Ask yourself about the decisions that you are presently facing – today, this week. Do you really understand what will happen if you do what you are thinking about doing? If not, do some more research. You will never have 100 percent absolute certainty about what will happen, but wisdom has a high level of success in predicting what results from certain behaviors.
This is an overall symbol correction that brings about a change in behavior. It is negative and difficult, but it does not always involve an actual rod. God disciplines us in various ways. The problem is that we are not always paying attention, and we endure the pain of the chastisement but do not learn the lesson.
The proverb is saying that the person who consistently engages in selfish pursuits at the expense of others really needs strong, firm, and negative correction and training. It has to stop. Often the only way to make a person stop being destructive and selfish is for the negative feedback loop to get significantly higher until there is a willingness to move in a new direction.
This is the unexpected word leb and not the word bin. It means that the person who is unwilling to ponder and think deeply with the whole of their soul will need to be forced into a level of contemplation and training for a new course.