The Compassion of the Wicked is Cruelty

Did you marvel when you saw these news stories last week?

U.S. President Barack Obama has cited the biblical Golden Rule to defend the controversial “federal guidance” he issued instructing all public schools to allow transgender students to use the restrooms of the opposite biological sex or risk losing federal funding.
Obama Cites Golden Rule to allow boys into girl’s bathrooms

Rescuers are scouring bear-infested woods in northern Japan for a little boy who was abandoned by his parents as punishment.
Japanese boy left in woods as punishment

• Ever wonder how Liberals can claim that abortion is a good moral choice?

• Ever wonder why Peter Singer can be hailed as a champion of ethics when he advocates animal rights, abortion, euthanasia, and the killing for children under the age of two that are deemed defective?

• In short, have you ever wondered about a world where wrong is right, up is down, perverted is normal, and criminals are virtuous?

We here at are here to help. The answer has probably been in your hands all along, it’s just that no one pointed this out to you. Let us introduce you to Proverbs 12:10.

I’m sure this verse has been one that had you read it, you would just sail bye it, but let’s take a closer look. In particular, the second part of Proverbs 12:10 has not been rendered correctly into English in many popular translations.

New King James
A righteous man regards the life of his animal, But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.

King James Version
A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.

American Standard Version
A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast; But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.

The following versions are closer to the mark:

New American Standard Version
A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal, But even the compassion of the wicked is cruel.

God’s Word Translation
A righteous person cares [even] about the life of his animals, but the compassion of wicked people is [nothing but] cruelty.

In short, the second part of Proverbs 12:10 should be rendered, “The compassion of the wicked is cruelty.”

I have to give credit for this to David Chilton, although I don’t know if he ever put it in writing anywhere.

Here are some commentaries that I felt helped to understand the passage.

But the tender mercies; literally, the bowels, regarded as the seat of feeling. The wicked cannot be supposed to have “tender mercies;” hence it is best to take the word in the sense of “feelings,” “affections.” What should be mercy and love are in an evil man only hard-heartedness and cruelty.
Pulpit Commentary on Proverbs 12

In 10b most interpreters find an oxymoron: the compassion of the godless is compassionless, the direct opposite of compassion; i.e., he possesses either altogether no compassion, or he shows such as in its principle, its expression, and in its effects is the opposite of what it ought to be (Fl.). Bertheau believes that in the sing. of the predicate אכזרי he is justified in translating: the compassion of the wicked is a tyranny. And as one may speak of a loveless love, i.e., of a love which in its principle is nothing else than selfishness, so also of a compassionless compassion, such as consists only in gesture and speech without truth of feeling and of active results. But how such a compassionless compassion toward the cattle, and one which is really cruel, is possible, it may be difficult to show. Hitzig’s conjecture, רחמי, sprang from this thought: the most merciful among sinners are cruel – the sinner is as such not רחוּם. The lxx is right in the rendering, τὰ δὲ σπλάγχνα τῶν ἀσεβῶν ἀνελεήμονα. The noun רחמים means here not compassion, but, as in Genesis 43:30 (lxx ἔντερα or ἔγκατα) and 1 Kings 3:26 (lxx μήτρα), has the meaning the bowels (properly tender parts, cf. Arab. rakhuma, to be soft, tender, with rḥm), and thus the interior of the body, in which deep emotions, and especially strong sympathy, are wont to be reflected (cf. Hosea 10:8). The singular of the predicate אכזרי arises here from the unity of the subject-conception: the inwards, as Jeremiah 50:12, from the reference of the expression to each individual of the many.  Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary on Proverbs 12

This rendering of Proverbs 12:10 also happens to fit into Calvinism’s idea of Total Depravity. (For a detailed discussion you can refer to site such as this: Five Points of Calvinism Chapter 1)

So next time you want to quote Romans chapter one to someone but they won’t sit still long enough to let you, just remember this passage.  Solomon distilled much into one succinct phrase, “The compassion of the wicked is cruelty”. Almost a thousand years later, Paul built upon this in his letter to the Romans.

So in our world of soundbites and bumper stickers, add this to your mental toolbox; then next time you see the wicked acting according to their nature, you’ll understand that the compassion of the wicked is cruelty.