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Proverbs 12:20 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
20 Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil,
but those who plan peace have joy.
This proverb is difficult to interpret and, of course, this means that the translators have struggled with it as well. Pay close attention to both lines and we will be able to clarify the problem.
Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil: The Hebrew (mirmah) rendered deceit means dishonesty, treachery, a person deliberately misleading so as to give another a false view. This is the same Hebrew word from verse 17 above, where the setting was a judicial hearing. Here it is referring more to heart intent, the purpose or intention of the ones who devise (Heb. charash) evil, that is, wicked plans, plots or schemes with the intention of hurting others.
but those who plan peace have joy: This is not a contrast that might have been expected. In line 1 we had deceit in the heart, so here we were looking for something more like truth in the heart. That way we would have had the good person heart intent, namely, the opposite of the wicked heart intent of bad people from line 1. Well, being that this is actually what God wanted to be said, it does not matter what we expected. The Hebrew (yoets) here rendered plan is referring to one who gives advice or counsel about problems. The UASV has plan peace and the ESV, LEB, NASB, and the CSB read similarly but the RSV reads plan good. The Hebrew word (shalom) has the primary meaning of peace. Thus, what we have here is those who are counselors of peace have joy because they are advising others on how they can live in peace. Have joy (Heb. simchah) means great happiness and pleasure.
The wicked one’s heart intent is filled with a life of devising evil plans with the intention of hurting others. The wicked one schemes as to how he can plant his evil intentions within you thinking, which results in horrible outcomes. While, on the other hand, the good person who is a counselor of peace, he gives advice to others on how they may overcome their problems, which brings them a measure of peace in this fallen world in which they live, and results in the counselor of peace having great happiness and pleasure as well.