The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Proverbs 13

Pro 13:1

A WISE SON HEEDS HIS FATHER'S INSTRUCTION, BUT A MOCKER DOES NOT LISTEN TO REBUKE: The wisdom of obedience, and folly of disobedience: Pro 10:8,17; 12:1,15; 13:1,13,18; 15:5,10,12,31,32; 19:16; 28:4,7,9. Like Pro 10:1, this verse in its generality suggests the beginning of a new section.

Those who are wise will respond properly and readily to any discipline. A discerning person is thus more affected by a single rebuke than is a fool by a hundred blows, for the rebuke goes deep into the conscience and motivates that one to improve his conduct (Pro 17:10). Such a rebuke may come from father or mother, or indeed from anyone who is older and wiser (eg, Pro 1:8; 4:1–6,13; 13:20; 15:5,7,20,31; 16:31).

A WISE SON HEEDS HIS FATHER'S INSTRUCTION: "Instruction" is "muwcar" (see Pro 1:2n): warning, admonition. (There is, in the original, no word for "heeds"; literally, it reads: "a wise son -- discipline by a father." Perhaps the best way to read this is to supply "is the result of".)

"ALREADY [the son] is wise [who listens to his father]. Apart from all that he will gain by his teachableness, readiness to receive instruction is in itself an admirable feature of character; it is so more particularly in the young. In them it is positively essential to spiritual beauty and worth; and it goes a long way to constitute such worth. It is an attribute of mind which is pleasing to God, and which commends itself greatly to the esteem of man" (Clarkson, Pulpit).

BUT A MOCKER DOES NOT LISTEN TO REBUKE: The "mocker", or "scorner" (AV) is the highest level of a fool. He has no respect for authority, reviles religion, and, because he thinks that he knows what is best, is not teachable. Eli warned and rebuked his wicked, profane sons, Hophni and Phineas; but they did not hear their father's instruction (1Sa 2:25).

MOCKER: The Hebrew "luwts" signifies a mocker (cf Pro 15:12; 19:25), one who is arrogant (cf Pro 21:24) and incorrigible (cf Pro 9:7,8). Psa 1:1 speaks of the "seat of mockers [sw]" -- this is a very powerful image: the "mocker" is characterized by his "seat", because he enjoys sitting and watching, and joking about, and laughing at, others -- ie, at those who diligently go about DOING something!

The change to a stronger word in the second half of the verse -- "ge‘arah" (rebuke, or even perhaps a threat), instead of "muwcar" (instruction) -- shows that the mocker does not respond to any level of discipline. "He will not consult the wise" (Pro 15:12). "The scorner is one who respects nothing but his own opinion. We have met him many times and when convenient have failed to recognized him in ourselves" (Bowen).

"All that God teaches, by the voice of inspired teachers, by our own experience, is... a father's instruction. Above all, instruction by means of suffering is God's fatherly way with souls. And we have the great example of Christ to guide us and to sweeten obedience, for he 'learned' it by the things which he suffered [Heb 5:8]. On the other hand, the scorner has cast aside all reverential awe in the presence of the Holy One. To refuse the faithful warnings of friends, to be no better for those lessons of experience which are written in personal suffering, is to disown one's filial relation, and to estrange one's self from God" (Johnson, Pulpit).

Pro 13:2

FROM THE FRUIT OF HIS LIPS A MAN ENJOYS GOOD THINGS, BUT THE UNFAITHFUL HAVE A CRAVING FOR VIOLENCE: A contrast is drawn between the good man, whose careful words bring good results both for himself and others, and treacherous or unfaithful men, who crave disruption and violence.

FROM THE FRUIT OF HIS LIPS A MAN ENJOYS GOOD THINGS: "Fruit of the lips", of course, signifies one's speech (cp Pro 12:14; 18:20). "Enjoys good things" is, literally, "eats what is good". The little irony in this phrase is that what comes out of one's lips -- ie, one's words -- directly affects what is taken into one's lips -- ie, what one "eats", or enjoys. When seen that way, this phrase reminds us of Jesus' words: "What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean' " -- or 'clean', for that matter! -- "but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean' " (Mat 15:11) -- or 'clean'!

BUT THE UNFAITHFUL HAVE A CRAVING FOR VIOLENCE: The unfaithful have a desire, or craving, for the rewards of violence, but -- by implication -- they will "earn" violence themselves. In other words, that which they wish to visit upon others, they will themselves be visited with! Cp with Pro 1:31; 10:6, as well as Psa 64:8; Rom 6:21; Rev 16:6; 18:6.

The LXX reads "the souls of the wicked perish untimely." But the MT makes perfect sense as it stands; no emendation is necessary.

BUT THE UNFAITHFUL HAVE A CRAVING: "The noun 'nephesh' (traditionally 'soul') has a broad range of meanings, and here denotes (1) 'appetite' (eg, Psa 17:9; Pro 23:3; Ecc 2:24; Isa 5:14; Hab 2:5; BDB 660... 5.c) or (2) 'desire' (eg, Deu 12:20; Pro 13:4; 19:8; 21:10; BDB 660... 6.a)" (NETn).

FOR VIOLENCE: The desire of the "unfaithful" ("bogedim", or "treacherous ones") is to obtain what does not belong to them. They have an appetite for "violence" -- that is, they enjoy violently afflicting others. Or, perhaps more precisely, they have an appetite for what "violence" may obtain for them -- ie, ill-gotten material gains.

Pro 13:3

HE WHO GUARDS HIS LIPS GUARDS HIS LIFE, BUT HE WHO SPEAKS RASHLY WILL COME TO RUIN: It is safest to hold one's tongue, for a tight control over what one says prevents trouble. "The contrast in this verse is between the silent type who chooses words well, and the fool whose open mouth is full of mere chatter (cf Ecc 10:12–14) that turns out to be ruinous to himself" (WBC). "He that keeps a strong bridle on his tongue, and a strong hand on that bridle, keeps his soul from a great deal, both of guilt and grief, and saves himself the trouble of many bitter reflections on himself, and reflections of others upon him. There is many a one ruined by an ungoverned tongue. He that loves to bawl and bluster and make a noise, will find it will be the destruction of his reputation, his interest, and his comfort" (Henry). "The sheep that bleats is strangled by the wolf" (Italian saying).

For similar ideas see Pro 10:10,14,19,31; 11:12; 12:23; 17:28; 21:23 -- indeed, many, many other proverbs; Psa 141:3; and especially the extended exhortation in Jam 3:1-12. The old Arab proverb is appropriate: "Take heed that your tongue does not cut your throat" (Zockler, cited in EBC).

HE WHO GUARDS HIS LIPS GUARDS HIS LIFE: Two Hebrew words are translated "guards" in this verse: "natzar" and "shamar". Both are commonly used to mean "protect", "keep a watch over", "maintain". The two words appear together as parallel synonyms in Pro 2:8,11; 4:6; 13:3; 16:17; 27:18.

BUT HE WHO SPEAKS RASHLY WILL COME TO RUIN: Literally, "he that openeth wide his lips" (AV) -- "expressing unexamined and unconsidered whatever comes into his mind" (KD). "Ruin" is "mechittah" (sw Pro 10:14,29; 14:28; 18:7) -- corruption, or dissolution, as from a fire. Such a free and impetuous talker will be -- with his offending lips, as well as his whole person -- reduced to ashes.

Sins of the tongue include:

Pro 13:4

THE SLUGGARD CRAVES AND GETS NOTHING, BUT THE DESIRES OF THE DILIGENT ARE FULLY SATISFIED: Proverbs of slothfulness and diligence: Pro 10:4,26; 12:11,24,27; 13:4,23; 15:19; 16:26; 18:9; 19:15,24; 20:4,13; 21:5,25,26; 22:13,29; 24:30-34; 26:13-16; 27:18,23,27; 28:19. "The slothful wishes and dreams of prosperity and abundance... but his desire remains unsatisfied, since the object is not gained but only lost by doing nothing; the industrious gain, and that richly, what the slothful wishes for, but in vain" (KD).

The two phrases are more nearly parallel than first appears in the NIV translation: the contrast is between "the soul of the sluggard" ("nephesh atsel", "the slothful") and the "soul of the diligent" ("nepesh harusim"). "Nephesh", or "soul", stands for the whole person, including his appetites and desires -- not some ephemeral, immortal wisp that survives his death; it is, of course, the equivalent of "psuche" in the NT (cf Mat 16:24-27; Mark 3:4; Luke 6:9; 9:56; Rom 13:1; 1Th 5:20; Jam 1:21; 5:20).

THE SLUGGARD CRAVES AND GETS NOTHING: "A lazy person has great craving -- but nothing else!" (WBC). "Laziness is barren and encourages escapism; the illusory world of desire unrelated to attainment is a prison" (McKane). "Craves" is related to the verb used in the Ten Commandments' prohibition against coveting (Exo 20:17; Deu 5:21). The indolent person may have desire and craving, but failure to act means that he or she will have nothing. Refusal to work could even mean death (Pro 21:25). The implied command is to learn from the ant, for the way of wisdom lies in the direction of diligence (Pro 6:9).

Bowen has an interesting and amusing -- but ultimately spiritually admonitory -- comment on the sluggard of the animal world -- the sloth: "The sloth lives in an inverted world hanging from the upper branches of trees by long hooked claws. It moves slowly hand over hand but spends most of its day asleep. Its head is the same diameter as its neck and, lacking obvious ears, seems to emerge directly from its powerful shoulders. At the other end there is no visible tail. It is often difficult to tell the sloth's front end from its rear. Unless molested, this upside-down animal seldom moves during the day... The sloth is such a masterpiece of immobility that during the rainy season tiny plants grow on its coarse hair. Caterpillars feed on the plants, and moths nest in them. The sloth's immobility is its chief safeguard against enemies. Seen motionless high among the dense foliage, it most resembles a mass of dead leaves, a termite nest, or a lump of mouldy fungus. Even when killed a sloth continues to cling to his branch with his curved claws. No one, perhaps not even the sloth, knows whether he is dead or alive. No other warm-blooded mammal is so languid and lethargic."

"The slothful man wants to attain the end without the use of the proper means. He would be rich without labour, learned without study, and respected without doing anything to deserve respect. This desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour. Such persons waste their days in forming idle schemes and vain wishes. The consequences are often very terrible. They become a plague and a burden to all who are connected with them. They frequently injure their best friends, prey upon the property of others, and bring disgrace and ruin upon their dearest earthly connections. Our land, all our lands, abound with such drones. Slothfulness also gives birth to envy, discontent, fraud, lying, and almost every other evil work. In whatever situation of life a slothful person is fixed, he will, from this disposition, fall into some destructive vice, and become miserable in himself and mischievous to others. A sluggard, whatever he may profess, cannot be a truly religious person, or possessed of those graces which form the character of a member of Christ and a child of God. The sluggard may desire the good things of religion, but as he will not use the means for attaining them, he 'desires, and has nothing.' God will be found only of them who diligently seek Him. A slothful disposition is so pernicious in its nature and effects that wherever it reigns and has the dominion, it must debase a person's character and pervert the end for which he was sent into the world" (Richardson, BI).

"A sluggard goes to bed late, uses the snooze button, sleeps in late, is grouchy until noon, complains about his job, dresses sloppily, arrives late, moves slowly, slouches, is often still with hands in pockets or arms folded, would rather talk than work, takes frequent breaks, complains about difficult tasks, stands around unless forced to action, never asks for the next assignment, looks for shortcuts, leaves early, makes fun of hard workers, and is always talking about his last or next vacation... Such a warning about slothfulness is not just OT doctrine. The apostle Paul said, 'Be not slothful in business' (Rom 12:11) ['Never be lacking in zeal': NIV]. He also taught that working hard with your own hands in a good job would provide everything you need (1Th 4:11,12; Eph 4:28). And he taught like Solomon that starvation is the best cure for sluggards (2Th 3:10)" (LGBT).

BUT THE DESIRES OF THE DILIGENT ARE FULLY SATISFIED: The Proverbs praise diligence in labor as a precious possession (Pro 12:27) which will bring its reward in material possessions (Pro 10:4; 12:24; 21:5). The NT encourages the same virtue (cf Heb 6:11; 2Pe 1:5-11), but with a different motive, service to the ultimate employer, the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 6:6; Col 3:23). A Christian should work "en psuche", ie "with all his soul" or "heartily", as though he were working to, or for, the Lord. But the distinction between the two Testaments is more artificial than real: (a) First of all, there is, after all, a strong moral dimension in the OT: Proverbs does emphasize the moral restraints that God has placed on gaining wealth. It is not to be achieved through deceit (Pro 21:6), or by using false balances (Pro 20:10), or by shifting boundary markers (Pro 22:28), or through oppression (Pro 23:10,11). Such wealth will prove to be a fleeting vapor and a snare of death to those who touch it (Pro 21:6). (b) Secondly, there is a material dimension in the NT: those who show diligence is seeking the Kingdom of God will receive the Kingdom of God, along with all its attendant blessings (Mat 19:29; Mar 10:29,30; Luk 18:29,30).

"The doors of opportunity are marked 'Push' and 'Pull' " (Unknown). "Make hay while the sun shines" (English proverb). "Opportunity knocks, but it has never been known to turn the knob and walk in."

By contrast, "a diligent man... loves hard work and stays until the job is finished. He goes to bed early, jumps up early, smiles in the morning, is excited about his job, dresses neatly, arrives early, walks briskly, stands erect, is never still, hates small talk, always asks for the next assignment, does every job properly, stays late, ridicules sluggards, commends hard workers, asks for overtime, and considers vacations necessary evils!" (LGBT).

"Child of God! shake off the dust of sloth. Take care that the bed of ease doth not pall thine appetites, and hinder thee from seeking food for thy soul; or from active exercise for God. Let thy graces be vigorous and radiant. Let thy profession by always progressing, deepening, expanding. If thou be in Christ, seek to be 'rooted and grounded in him' (Col 2:7). Let there be 'life more abundantly' (Joh 10:10). 'Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus' (2Ti 2:1). Let 'the joy of the Lord be thy strength' (Neh 8:10). Then thy soul shall be made healthful, vigorous in all fruit and grace (Psa 92:12-14)" (Bridges).

Pro 13:5

THE RIGHTEOUS HATE WHAT IS FALSE, BUT THE WICKED BRING SHAME AND DISGRACE: Here is another contrast between the moral conduct of the righteous and the wicked: the righteous hate the way that is "false" ("sheqer"), but the wicked act vilely and shamefully -- ie, in spreading what is "false", by telling lies! Other proverbs of lying, fraud, and dissimulation, and of truth and sincerity: Pro 10:18; 12:17,19,22; 17:4; 20:14,17; 26:18,19,24-26,28.

THE RIGHTEOUS HATE WHAT IS FALSE: "Debar sheqer" is literally a "word of falsehood", or a lie -- plain and simple. The righteous man hates such (Psa 119:104,128,163), as does God (Pro 6:16,17; 12:22).

BUT THE WICKED BRING SHAME AND DISGRACE: The verbs "yab'ish" ("shame") and "yahpir" ("disgrace") could be taken as a hendiadys -- that is, two words blended into one: ie, the wicked "spread the smell of scandal" (McKane). For the usage of the idea of "stink" for "ba'ash" (the root of "yab'ish") see Gen 34:30; Exo 5:21; and Ecc 10:1. Plaut notes: "Unhappily, the bad odor adheres not only to the liar but also to the one about whom he lies -- especially when the lie is a big one' " (EBC). The same two Hebrew words, for "shame" (actually, "bosh" instead of the closely-related "ba'ash") and "disgrace", occur in combination again in Pro 19:26: "He who robs his father and drives out his mother is a son who brings shame and disgrace."

We must put off lying (Col 3:9; Eph 4:25). In Israel, God commanded His people not to lie (Lev 19:11), and lying is still against sound doctrine (1Ti 1:10). No liars will enter the Kingdom of God; instead, they will be cast into the lake of fire -- which represents the second death (Rev 21:8,27). Parents should teach their children that lying, exaggerating, misrepresenting, slandering, or falsely accusing are horrible sins. Lies destroy trust in a person, and rightly so.

Pro 13:6

RIGHTEOUSNESS GUARDS THE MAN OF INTEGRITY, BUT WICKEDNESS OVERTHROWS THE SINNER: "Security in life resides with righteousness. This little contrast shows that righteousness, like a fortress, protects the man of integrity (see Pro 2:11; 4:6). This may work through divine intervention or natural causes. 'Righteousness' ('sedaqah') refers to that which conforms to the law and to order; so it would be natural to expect that the perfect walk ('tam-darek', literally, 'the way of integrity'; NIV, 'the man of integrity') would be safe. On the other side, perverse and malicious activity ('rish'ah', 'wickedness') plunges one into sinful activity" (EBC).

Notice that in this proverb "Righteousness" and "Wickedness" are personified; each is treated as though it were a person -- one a righteous MAN and the other a wicked MAN, who will in turn either protect or destroy those who befriend them (cp the extended parable in Rom 6 -- where "sin" is personified as "King Sin", who pays the wages of death to those who serve him). Of course, in more literal terms, it is GOD HIMSELF Who guards the righteous man and destroys the sinner.

In Pro 11:5 there is the same direct contrast, between "sedaqah" (righteousness) and "rish'ah" (wickedness): "The righteousness of the blameless makes a straight way for them, but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness." Indeed, all of Pro 11:3-6 mirrors this passage.

RIGHTEOUSNESS GUARDS THE MAN OF INTEGRITY: Cp Psa 25:21: "May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope is in you." And Psa 26:1: "Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have led a blameless life; I have trusted in the LORD without wavering." While we are not saved by our own righteous deeds, but rather by the grace of God, nevertheless a steady conformity to the ways of righteousness will keep one in the way that leads to life, and close to the One who can forgive. Thus there IS merit in doing the right thing, as much as we possibly can and in every way that we possibly can -- whilst ever seeking to avoid the pride and self-righteousness that might assail us if and when we compare ourselves to others.

And also, to do what is right, and to be seen -- as much as is reasonable -- to be doing what is right, has great advantages for this life as well: "It is wrong to relate our righteousness only to things eternal. It is a wise measure that will ensure we survive in the many risky encounters with others. Much time is spent in the law courts establishing the character of a person to determine whether there is reasonable doubt of their guilt or innocence in the matter of which they have been accused" (Bowen).

BUT WICKEDNESS OVERTHROWS THE SINNER: "The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast" (Pro 5:22). "Overthrow" is "calaph" -- to wrench, to subvert, to overturn or wreck. "The sinner here is a wreck, floating about like a derelict log. His happiness is wrecked. His future prospects are destroyed" (BI).

"While saints are secured FROM ruin, sinners are secured FOR ruin. The sinner's own wickedness overthroweth him... Let him not blame the Lord, or any mortal man beside himself, inasmuch as he is the author of ruin to himself" (Bridges).

Pro 13:7

ONE MAN PRETENDS TO BE RICH, YET HAS NOTHING; ANOTHER PRETENDS TO BE POOR, YET HAS GREAT WEALTH: "People may not be what they seem to be. Some who are poor pretend to be rich, perhaps to save face; some who are rich pretend to be poor, perhaps to conceal wealth and avoid responsibilities. Although there are times when such pretending may not be wrong, the proverb seems to be instructing that people should be honest and unpretentious. An empty display or a concealing of means can come to no good. 'Pretending to be rich' is like 'pretending to be somebody' (cf Pro 12:9)" (EBC).

PRETENDS... PRETENDS: In both instances, the KJV has "maketh himself", but these phrases -- like the word "pretends" -- are translators' attempts to fill in the ellipsis. The Hebrew reads something like: "There is to be rich who has nothing (or 'is of no consequence'), and there is to be poor who has great wealth (or 'is very rich')."

Sometimes, in this Book of Proverbs, the lack of a real context causes a problem with translation, and thus with interpretation: a single verse may stand altogether by itself, and thus there is little with which to compare it.

What does it mean, then, to be rich and yet have nothing? (1) Does it mean, as the KJV and ASV suggest, to "make oneself rich (or poor)"? This last phrase, actually, can -- by itself -- mean either of two quite different things: (a) ie, to labor intensely so as to accumulate wealth (or, correspondingly, so as to give or throw wealth away), OR (b) to work hard at APPEARING to be rich when one is actually poor (or, even, to work hard, against all reality, to APPEAR poor when one is, in fact, rich).

(2) Does it mean, as the RSV and NIV (and the JPS) put it, to "pretend" to be rich, or even poor (which would correspond, roughly, to the second of the two choices for the KJV and ASV renderings)? (Cp also Rotherham: "feigneth himself [rich]", and "pleadeth [poverty]".) (With this possibility in mind, consider the relevance to Christ's words about the "Corban" in Mat 15:3-9 and Mar 7:9-13.)

(3) And then again, in another sense, does the one who "makes himself 'rich' " do so (a) out of greed, or (b) with the desire to help others? Does the one who "makes himself 'poor' " do so (a) out of profligacy -- as a mere spendthrift -- or (b) does he "spend" himself altruistically, so as to make life better for others?

(4) And, to complete our list of questions, or quandaries: are "riches" and "poverty" to be understood literally, or spiritually? (For example, it is surely the spiritually "rich" and "poor" who are in mind in Rev 3:17,18. Also, cp Rev 2:9: "I know your... poverty -- yet you are rich!")

This proverb, then, is susceptible of several interpretations, depending on (1) how the ellipses are filled in, and (2) whether the proper setting of the proverb is the practical aspects of this life, or the spiritual aspects of the life to come. Indeed, there may be more than one reasonable interpretation overall.

Robert Roberts, for one, characteristically sees the proverb as having application to the age to come; he writes: "In prospect of the Lord's appearing, every one can see the force of this proverb. A man devoting the wisdom and labour of his life to self-enrichment, will find no favour with Christ who asks, as the condition of acceptance with him, that we be 'good stewards' of what God may place in our hands, abounding liberally to every good work, and bearing the burdens of the afflicted. Such a man, therefore, though for the time he succeed in making himself as rich as Rothschild, prospectively considered, 'hath nothing.' All that he has will pass out of his hands at death, and when he comes forth at the resurrection empty-handed, he is manifested as one of those who 'lay up treasures for themselves, and are not rich towards God' (Luke 12:21) [the rich fool who built bigger barns]. In contrast to him will be the man who, liberally using his means for the work of Christ, as he goes along, remains poor, but dies to open his eyes (in a moment) to the inheritance with which Christ, at his coming, will endow his faithful brethren."

However, RR also makes, in passing, a present-day application to the words as well; he writes: "A man bent on riches may become penurious as to insulate himself from all men, and be practically a poor man, while a man with a generous heart may so use what he has as practically to possess that which is his neighbour's, in so far as they eagerly place it at his disposal."

Bowen makes a similar application of this proverb, especially to Christ in the spiritual sphere: "Let us not pretend the bulk of our effort goes into providing more than we need and we are generous only with what is left over. How many can genuinely say that they gave of their penury? Who among us with two mites left [Mar 12:42; Luk 21:2] would throw both into the bag? The one who made himself poor [cp Christ in 2Co 8:9], who held not back, but gave when it hurt, bought treasure in heaven. It is a hard saying and one we acknowledge with difficulty."

And so it is possible that the Apostle Paul has this proverb in mind when he writes to the Corinthian believers, "But just as you excel in everything -- in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us -- see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich" (2Co 8:7-9). The picture he draws of the Lord Jesus Christ, then, is the same one as he presents to the Philippian believers also, when he writes of him that -- although he had a standing and status that put him alongside the God of all Creation -- yet, deliberately and out of love for others, he "made himself nothing... he humbled [or 'emptied'] himself... becoming obedient to the death on a cross" (Phi 2:5-9).

And again, he has the same proverb in mind when he writes of himself, and the other early disciples, who labored to spread the gospel and build up other believers, that they were "poor, yet making many rich" (2Co 6:10).

In fact, it is these NT applications (or so they would appear) that seem best, in retrospect, to limit and define Pro 13:7 itself.

Pro 13:8.

A MAN'S RICHES MAY RANSOM HIS LIFE, BUT A POOR MAN HEARS NO THREAT: There are disadvantages to having possessions. On the surface the verse appears to be saying that only the rich are susceptible to kidnapping and blackmail and robbery. The rich person may also be exposed to legal assaults, and may have to use his wealth to buy himself (or his family) out of legal troubles. And so with great riches come, quite often, great worries and concerns (cf Ecc 6:1-6).

On the other hand, a poor man is not the target of robbers and kidnappers and extortioners -- nor of civil actions -- because he has little money. He simply isn't worth the trouble. When the rich Jews were carried captive to Babylon, after the fall of Jerusalem, the poor were left in the land (2Ki 24:14; 25:12; Jer 39:10; cf Zep 3:12). The more money a person has, the more financial obligations become his; but a poor man is free of these distractions -- in fact, he often sleeps better than the rich man does (Ecc 5:12)!

And, IF the "poor man" can learn to be satisfied with the relatively little he does have, and to be thankful for it, then he will achieve a state of contentment which is rarely found by his much more "well-off" brother: "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs" (1Ti 6:6-10).

A MAN'S RICHES MAY RANSOM HIS LIFE: "Ransom" is the Hebrew "kopher" -- which signifies a bribe (1Sa 12:3; Pro 6:35; Amo 5:12) or ransom money (Exo 21:30; 30:12; Num 35:31,32; Job 33:24; 36:18; Psa 49:7; Pro 13:8; 21:18; Isa 43:3). Furthermore, it is related to "kaphar" -- the "ransom" of "atonement". Lev 25:25,48 is relevant here. Such a "ransom" or "atonement" price was given to God by rich and poor alike (Exo 30:12-16) -- the half-shekel of the sanctuary. In the NT, the coin in the mouth of the fish, which Peter found and paid over to the authorities, refers to the same OT practice of "kaphar" (Mat 17:27). However, Psa 49:7,8 takes a broader view, stating that "no man can redeem his brother" and "no payment is ever enough"; only God, and not money (1Pe 1:18,19), can effect redemption. "Praised by the Lord! when all the treasures of earth would have been beggared in the ransom, the riches of heaven were freely poured out" (Bridges). In itself, this passage seems to be pointing forward to the NT atonement or redemption -- which may be performed FOR every man, yet cannot be performed BY every man, but only BY Jesus Christ as the perfect High Priest and the perfect sacrifice (Mat 20:28; cp 1Ti 2:6). [See Lesson, Redemption.]

BUT A POOR MAN HEARS NO THREAT: Bridges writes, "If 'money is a defense' (Ecc 7:12), so also is often want of money. If 'the rich man's wealth is a strong city' (Pro 10:15), the poor man's poverty is often his safeguard. He is beneath notice." He simply "offers too small a target" (Kidner). And so, as Bowen puts it, "The traveller who has nothing to lose can sing in the highwayman's face." Or, "a hundred men cannot rob one pauper" (Pulpit). And the (relatively) poor man who has a house can sleep with his door unlocked! His life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions (Luk 12:15).

The term "ge'arah" may mean (1) "rebuke" or (2) "threat". If "rebuke" is the sense here, it means that the burdens of society fall on the rich man as well as the dangers. That is, if he has the means to improve the quality of life for others, and to provide for the common defense and the general welfare, BUT DOES NOT, then he may at last be rebuked, both by God and man.

However, the sense of "threat" better fits the context: "The rich are threatened with extortion, but the poor are not" (NETn). This point is developed further in the following: "The noun 'ge'arah' (Psa 18:15), like its verbal counterpart 'ga'ar', is often translated 'rebuke', a sense that it carries in several passages (eg, Pro 13:1,8; 17:10; Ecc 7:5). However, in Psa 18 (= 2Sa 22) and other contexts where the term is associated with God's anger this translation fails to convey the full force of the word. For example in Psa 104:7 the noun is parallel to... 'your thunderous voice'. Job 26:11 states that heaven's pillars 'quake' and are 'aghast' at Yahweh's 'ge'arah'. According to Psa 76:6, Yahweh's 'ge'arah' casts His enemies into a stupor. The physical reactions described in these verses suggest a cause more powerful than a mere verbal rebuke (cf Psa 9:5; 106:9; Isa 50:2; 51:20; 66:15; Nah 1:4). Likewise in Psa 18 (= 2Sa 22), where the term is associated with Yahweh's anger and thunder (vv 7,13) and stands parallel to 'the blast of breath from your nostrils' (v 15b, NIV), something more than a mere rebuke must be in view. Caquot observes that Yahweh's 'ge'arah' cannot be distinguished from storm phenomena and is the equivalent of His battle cry (TDOT, Caquot, 3:51,53)" (RB Chisholm, BibSac 151:281).

HEARS NO THREAT: The last three words of v 8 are perfectly identical (in Hebrew, of course) to the last three words of v 1 -- where the NIV translates "does not listen to rebuke". So why the difference in translation? Because the context in each case determines the meaning. In v 1 the subject is the mocker in contrast to the wise man, and so the translators assume that the mocker does not hear the rebuke (or threat) because he IS a fool -- meaning he does not listen to the words of the wise. In v 8 the subject is the poor man in contrast to the rich man, and the translators assume that the poor man does not NEED to listen to any threat (rather than rebuke) because... well, why would a criminal or a violent man even bother to threaten a poor man with the loss of his "riches" anyway?

The RSV reads the last half of v 8: "But a poor man has no means of redemption." This "correction" appears to have no support in the MT, and is not followed by other translations at all.

Pro 13:9

THE LIGHT OF THE RIGHTEOUS SHINES BRIGHTLY, BUT THE LAMP OF THE WICKED IS SNUFFED OUT: The righteous can anticipate a long and prosperous life. The images of light and dark are used effectively: "light" represents life, joy, and prosperity (cf Jer 25:10; Pro 31:18; Job 29:3); and "dark" signifies adversity and death (see refs below).

A very similar contrast is portrayed, in some detail, in Pro 4:18,19: "The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. BUT the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble."

THE LIGHT OF THE RIGHTEOUS SHINES BRIGHTLY: The verb "yismah" carries the meaning of "shines" rather than "rejoices" (KJV, NASB) (GR Driver, "Problems in the Hebrew Text" 180; he shows the relation between "bright" and "joy" in Ugaritic). The ideas of a lamp burning brightly and people rejoicing are natural twins: we use similiar language when we say a campfire or a fire in an open fireplace is "burning cheerfully". It warms us and makes us happy just to see it in action.

More particularly, the figure of the light may very well be drawn from the enduring flame of the temple light (Exo 30:7,8; Lev 24:3,4; cf 1Ki 11:36; 15:4; Psa 97:11; 112:4; 132:17) -- speaking of the presence and the Glory of the LORD (cf Psa 36:9; Dan 12:3). And the righteous are commanded to be as bright and shining lamps, offering enlightenment and hope to all within their range (Mat 5:14-16; Phi 2:15).

BUT THE LAMP OF THE WICKED IS SNUFFED OUT: Now the direct contrast may be seen, and emphasized. The lamp of the righteous -- like the flame in the sanctuary of God -- is to burn perpetually. The wicked is like a lamp too, but it is a lamp the wick of which is about to be snuffed out -- and its light extinguished forever (2Ch 29:7; cf Job 18:5,6; 21:17; Pro 20:20; 24:20; Isa 43:17; Rev 18:23).

More generally, the absence of light, or the turning of light into darkness, or day into night, describes God's judgments -- upon Israel, for example, in invasion or exile (cf Jer 4:23; Lam 3:2; Amo 5:18-20). And one of the figures to describe eternal judgment is that of being cast into "outer darkness" (Mat 8:12; 22:13; 25:30). The foolish virgins, who allowed their "lamps" to burn out (Mat 25:8), were left in darkness outside the wedding feast (Mat 25:10; cp 2Th 1:9).

"What a true and striking contrast between 'the light' of the righteous, and 'the lamp' of the wicked! Their course and end are according to their source. There is no real righteousness in God's estimate apart from Him who revealed Himself and justifies us by the faith of Christ. The light of the righteous therefore rejoiceth, as in it sins are effaced, and sorrows turned into profit and consolation. The lamp of the wicked may flare widely for a while during the pleasures of sin for a season; but ere long it dims, flickers, and shall be quenched" (Kelly).

The LXX adds, "Deceitful souls go astray in sins, but the righteous are pitiful and merciful."

Pro 13:10

PRIDE ONLY BREEDS QUARRELS, BUT WISDOM IS FOUND IN THOSE WHO TAKE ADVICE: Those who are wise listen to advice rather than argue out of stubborn pride. Other proverbs of pride and humility: Pro 11:2; 15:25,33; 16:5,18,19; 18:12; 21:4; 25:6,7; 28:25; 29:23. See Lesson, Prov and strife.

PRIDE ONLY BREEDS QUARRELS: The idea of "pride" ("zadon") here describes contempt for other opinions, and a clash of competing and unyielding personalities (Kidner); WBC translates it as "arrogance", and the RSV "insolence". This kind of conceited person creates strife, enflames passions, and wounds feelings (McKane 454). In the LXX, the Hebrew "zadon" is translated by the Greek "hubris" (Pro 11:2; 13:10; Jer 50:32; Eze 7:10)! "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall" (Pro 16:18). "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?" (Jam 4:1). "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luk 14:11; cp Rom 12:16; 1Ti 3:6; 1Pe 5:5; Jam 4:10). The word for "quarrels" ("matza") can mean verbal or physical conflicts (Pro 17:19; Isa 58:4).

"By pride comes nothing but strife, and he loveth transgression that loveth strife. It is the pride of monarchs and nations that produces war. In the affairs of private life our pride, rather than our sense of right, usually creates, fosters, and embitters divisions, alienations, and quarrels. All the foolish extravagances of social competition are to be traced to the same source. From first to last the haughty spirit is a curse and a torment to every one, and not least to itself. It is like a cold and biting wind. It breaks the heart of the humble, it excites the passions of the wrathful, it corrupts the conduct of the weak. Pride is hateful to God. The proud man, whether he knows it or not, comes into direct conflict with God; he is pitting himself against the Omnipotent. If God is to dwell in a human heart at all, it must be in one which has been emptied of all pride, one which has, as it were, thrown down all the barriers of self-importance, and laid itself open to the incoming Spirit" (Horton, BI).

Pride that leads to contention and strife is demonstrated by Korah and his associates (Num 16), the men of Ephraim who confronted Gideon (Jdg 8:1-3), others who confronted Jephthah (Jdg 12:1-6), the young men who advised Rehoboam (1Ki 12:10,11,16), and even the apostles who disputed among themselves as to which of them was the "greatest" (Luk 22:24).

"There is contention for truth's sake. But in the latter lie many dangers to purity of temper. Whenever we become angry in controversy, as a great man said, we cease to contend for the truth, and begin to contend for ourselves" (Johnson, Pulpit).

A minor quibble with the NIV translation: rather than "Pride ONLY (Heb 'raq') breeds quarrels", it might better be read: "Pride breeds ONLY quarrels". Although it may be said that pride ALWAYS leads to quarrels, it is not the only cause; other traits and actions may well lead to quarrels as well. (Other translators and commentators suggest "truly" or "surely" as alternatives for "only" here. And again, others yet read the word "raq" to mean "that which is empty": thus, "An empty head produces nothing but strife by his arrogance.")

BUT WISDOM IS FOUND IN THOSE WHO TAKE ADVICE: The path of wisdom is to seek, and take, advice: "Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise" (Pro 19:20; cp Pro 12:15). Wisdom is characterized by humility (Pro 11:2; 22:4), prudence (Pro 1:4; 8:5,12; 14:8; 15:5), generosity (Pro 19:17; 22:9), and caution (Pro 12:18,23,26; 15:28). Wisdom is "pure" and "peaceable" (Jam 3:17). By contrast, fools act rashly (Pro 12:23) and with pride (Pro 3:33–35; 13:10; 18:12; 22:3) to their own hurt and that of others.

Wisdom is often associated with maturity and advanced years: "Is not wisdom found among the aged?" (Job 12:12). "Advanced years should teach wisdom" (Job 32:7). And mature wisdom is an important source of advice and guidance for the prudent (Pro 4:11; cf Job 26:3) -- although, ironically, the Book of Job points out that age and wisdom are not AUTOMATICALLY associated!

Pro 13:11

DISHONEST MONEY DWINDLES AWAY, BUT HE WHO GATHERS MONEY LITTLE BY LITTLE MAKES IT GROW: Steady and wise investment produces prosperity. This verse seems to be a warning against wild and imprudent speculation, or gambling.

DISHONEST MONEY: There is some question whether the text should read (a) "in haste" (Heb "mehobal") (cp LXX, RSV) -- ie, a quick scheme; or (b) "in vanity" (Heb "mehebel") -- meaning either "dishonest" (NIV) or "transitory". The MT reads the latter; it could simply mean that the gain comes from something fleeting or nonexistent (the root "hebel" means a vapor or a breath or the wind: it is the "vanity" of Ecclesiastes), which may also imply dishonesty. ("Wealth by a breath"! Wealth gained by vain talking instead of useful labor.) The sw occurs in Pro 21:6: "A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor ['hebel'] and a deadly snare."

DWINDLES AWAY: The verb "ma'at" means to become small or few, to diminish.

DISHONEST MONEY DWINDLES AWAY: If riches come quickly through some questionable means, then it stands to reason that one could lose those riches just as easily. As the old saying, "Easy come, easy go." (Matthew Henry echoes this in his quaint expression: "Riches wear as they are won and woven... That which is won ill will never wear well.") Cp the idea in Pro 10:2: "Ill-gotten treasures are of no value." And Pro 20:21: "An inheritance quickly gained at the beginning will not be blessed at the end." Also cp Pro 28:20: "A faithful man will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished." And finally Jer 17:11: "Like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay is the man who gains riches by unjust means. When his life is half gone, they will desert him, and in the end he will prove to be a fool."

Wealth gotten in... an unjust or unlawful way, either by robbery and theft... or by fraud and tricking, by overreaching and circumventing others; or by vain practices, as by cards or dice, and by stage playing and the like; or by curious and illicit arts, as necromancy, astrology, and such like things; whatever is gotten in a wicked way very seldom lasts long; it lessens by little and little till it comes to nothing... and sometimes very quickly and suddenly, all at once" (Gill). Cp generally Jam 5:1-5.

"Fraudulent gain looks very different from coarse, vulgar robbery. The sleek swindler [admits] no common brotherhood with the brutal burglar. Fraudulent gain is got in the way of business; it is not at all like the money directly stolen from a man's pocket. The process is so very roundabout that it is difficult to trace the transition from fair dealing to cheating. The decorous thief would be horrified at hearing his true name. He knows his actions are not quite straightforward, but the crookedness of them is almost hidden [even] from himself by neat contrivances. Now, all this makes the pursuit of fraudulent gain the more treacherous and dangerous. A man who follows such a course is lost before he [knows] himself to be dishonest" (Pulpit).

"What is true of private is no less true of public possessions. When such possessions are obtained, on the part of any country, by self-aggrandising and unprovoked aggression, extermination and conquest, what are such means but injustice, oppression, and murder, on an extended scale? Gathering possessions by a violation of the rights of others, of the principles of equity and honour and good faith, or, in one word, of the royal law, is turning a country's glory into shame, and under the righteous and retributive administration of Heaven the extension of dominion is but an extension of danger" (Wardlaw, BI).

The same warning, on a national scale, is uttered by the prophet Habakkuk: "Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion! How long must this go on? Will not your debtors suddenly arise? Will they not wake up and make you tremble? Then you will become their victim. Because you have plundered many nations, the peoples who are left will plunder you. For you have shed man's blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them. Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain to set his nest on high, to escape the clutches of ruin! You have plotted the ruin of many peoples, shaming your own house and forfeiting your life. The stones of the wall will cry out, and the beams of the woodwork will echo it. Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by crime!" (Hab 2:6-12). It is significant that the prophet closes this section of warnings with the glorious promise: "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea" (Hab 2:14). The coming Kingdom of God will right all wrongs, and redress all grievances, and set up a righteous government that will not oppress and plunder other peoples, but that will reward righteousness while it punishes thieves and swindlers and crooks of all kinds.

BUT HE WHO GATHERS MONEY LITTLE BY LITTLE MAKES IT GROW: The image of "hand by hand" (NIV, "little by little") stresses the diligent activity and the gradual growth of one's investment (the KJV simply translates "labour"). "Grow" is "rabah" -- to become many, to multiply, to "increase" (AV, RSV); it is the precise contrast of "ma'at" (to diminish or decrease). Those who generate income through production and hard work will see their wealth steadily grow without the attendant risks that various "speculators" encounter. Cp Pro 14:23: "All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty."

Pro 13:12

HOPE DEFERRED MAKES THE HEART SICK, BUT A LONGING FULFILLED IS A TREE OF LIFE: See Article, Hope deferred (Pro 13:12). The two halves of the verse answer to the two parts of John 16:22: "So with you: (1) Now is your time of grief, but (2) I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy."

HOPE DEFERRED MAKES THE HEART SICK: The word "hope" ("tokhelet", from "yakhal") has the implication of a tense or even an anxious wait. This particular word is not very common in the OT: in its two other uses in the Book of Proverbs, it refers to the vain expectation of the powerful (Pro 11:7), as well as the prospect of joy for the righteous (Pro 10:28): the latter is apparently in view in Pro 13:12.

"Deferred" is derived from "mashakh", which signifies to draw or drag out -- as a warrior draws a bow, or a farmer draws grain out of a bag for sowing. God "draws out" or prolongs His kindness to those that know Him (Psa 36:10), and He "draws out" or prolongs the power of the mighty for a while (Job 24:22). Also, He announces that none of His words will be "drawn out" or delayed any longer (Eze 12:28, and see also v 25).

To make the heart sick (Heb "mahalah-leb") means to be discouraging or depressing. And sometimes the best and truest hope, if deferred, can bring on tears (Psa 42:1-3; 69:3) and fainting (Psa 119:81-83; Song 5:8). And so it is good to guard against this natural reaction by reminding ourselves that God's purpose may at times appear to be maturing more slowly than it should (Jam 5:7,8).

BUT A LONGING FULFILLED IS A TREE OF LIFE: "A longing fulfilled" is, literally, "a desire that comes". The Hebrew "ta'avah" likewise describes desires of the righteous (Psa 38:9; Pro 10:24; 11:23), the slothful (Pro 21:25–26), the afflicted (Psa 10:17), or the wicked (Psa 112:10). The sw occurs again, just a few verses along in Pro 13:19, where the first phrase ("A longing -- 'ta'avah' -- fulfilled is sweet to the soul") is in seeming contrast to the second ("but fools detest turning from evil"): this suggests that the "longing" here is that of the righteous. The reference to a "tree of life" suggests the same.

And so we are reminded: "I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD Almighty" (Hag 2:7). And we are exhorted: "For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay" (Hab 2:3; cp Heb 10:36-39). "Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (Rev 22:20).

A TREE OF LIFE: The tree that bestowed life was located in the "middle of" the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:9; 3:24). Before Adam and Eve sinned, they had free access to it, but after their act of disobedience, God set the cherubim to guard the way to its fruit, and the couple were not permitted to partake of it. The only other places in the OT where the expression "tree of life" occurs are all in Proverbs. Pro 3:18 promises that wisdom will be "a tree of life to those who embrace her." Pro 11:30 says, "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life." And finally, Pro 15:4 tells us, "The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life." In these cases the concept "tree of life" is associated with wellbeing, health, and fullness of life.

The last book of the Bible again contains references to the tree of life. Rev 2:7 promises, to those who overcome, the "right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise [ie, garden] of God." And the last chapter of the Bible presents the tree of life "on each side of" the "river of the water of life" (Rev 22:2; cp Eze 47:12). And the last reference in that chapter promises a blessing to "those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life" (Rev 22:14).

"Long we may have to wait. But never let us despair. 'The patience of hope' [1Th 1:3] issues in 'the full assurance of hope' [Heb 6:11]. What was it to Abraham, when, after long deferred hope, the desire came, and he called the child of promise -- Laughter! (Gen 15:3; 21:3-6). What was it 'when the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, and they were like unto them that dream!' (Psa 137 with Psa 126). What was it to old Simeon and the waiting remnant, when 'the desire of all nations' came! (Luk 2:25-30, with Hag 2:7; cp Mat 13:16,17). What to the disciples, when at the manifestation of their risen Lord, their sickening hearts 'believed not for joy, and wondered!' (Luk 24:41). What to the little flock met together in the faintness of deferred hope to plead for Peter's deliverance, when the desire came -- the answer to prayer, so marvellously vouchsafed! (Acts 12:12-16)" (Bridges).

"In Pro 13:12 we are shown that, in eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve were fulfilling 'the desires of the flesh'. By contrast, we are called upon to 'desire' eternal things and not to set our hope on earthly things. Indeed, until 'the desire of all nations' comes (Hag 2:7), our hearts should be 'sick', and we should be saying with Isaiah: 'Yea, in the way of Thy judgments, O Lord, have we waited for Thee; the desire of our soul is to Thy name, and to the remembrance of Thee. With my soul have I desired Thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek Thee early: for when Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness' (Isa 26:8,9)" (RC, Tes 57:5).

This proverb has an obvious application to the final return of Christ in all his glory, to confer immortality upon the saints, and to recreate the earth and all that is in it. But it is well to consider, perhaps if only for a moment, the present application. Very long waiting takes its toll. Therefore we should not neglect to think often of the limited objectives that can be realized in a reasonable time; in this way the waiting does not become too great a burden. We have all experienced the revitalizing effect of realizing a short-term hope, and thus we can appreciate the usefulness of not always looking too far ahead. Young people are prone to wishing their lives away by living for future events, and not accepting the enjoyment of the day-to-day experiences along the way. Furthermore, it is helpful to avoid as much "sickness of heart" as we can. We should not be always and only working toward a goal that seems to be somewhere in the further distance, if it means we fail to respond in joy and thankfulness to what is happening all around us. We need the little ongoing joys that the Truth with its blessings can bestow upon us; to relish these will give us practice in appreciating what our Heavenly Father has given us, even now! And they -- even the LITTLE joys -- will provide continuing previews and foretastes of the great and eternal joy for which we also hope. So it is well to remember that we HAVE received small blessings, so many and so varied (the "firstfruits of the Spirit" -- so to speak: Rom 8:23); and in this way we may remember more readily that we WILL receive the greater blessings that are yet stored up (the "adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies")!

Pro 13:13

HE WHO SCORNS INSTRUCTION WILL PAY FOR IT, BUT HE WHO RESPECTS A COMMAND IS REWARDED: A wicked man despises the Law itself; but a righteous man despises his sin against that Law! Cp Pro 10:17: "He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray."

It has been pointed out that the Garden of Eden motif ("tree of life" in v 12, and "fountain of life" in v 14) brackets v 13, and suggests that this verse also might have its own reflections of Paradise. Adam and Eve scorned the instruction of Yahweh and the angels, and lost their title, or claim, to the blessings of the garden. And the "debt" they incurred (see the textual notes below) was also passed on to their posterity. But he who respects the Law of God will eventually find his way back to the tree of life, and the joys of that primeval life, through Christ -- who is himself the True and Living Way to the Tree of Life (cp Joh 14:6).

HE WHO SCORNS INSTRUCTION WILL PAY FOR IT: Not only do fools scorn, or despise, instruction (as here), but they also despise wisdom in all its aspects (Pro 1:7; 23:9). Furthermore, they despise their neighbors (Pro 11:12; 14:21). A foolish son despises his mother (Pro 23:22; 30:17). Sadly, even the great king David "despised" the word of the LORD in the matter of Bathsheba and Uriah, and paid a terrible price (2Sa 12:9,10). Parker states, "This is a great law of the Biblical revelation -- namely, that destruction is not a merely arbitrary act on the part of God, a mere penalty, but that it involves the idea of suicide or self-ruin. The law of reward and also the law of punishment are to be found within ourselves" (BI).

"Instruction" is the Hebrew "dabar" -- which is often translated "word" or even the quite generic "thing". It signifies teaching in the most general terms.

"Yehabel" is translated "will pay for"; this is derived from the word for "pledge" -- that is, he "will have his pledge seized from him", or his property will be mortgaged. (By the slightest variation, some suggest "yehubbal", ie "will be ruined, or broken by" -- thus the KJV has "shall be destroyed". Whether there is an etymological relationship between these two almost identical Hebrew roots is still disputed by Hebraists.) The vivid point made here is that whoever despises the teaching will be treated as a debtor -- he will pay for it if he offends against the Law of God: "See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?" (Heb 12:25).

Carrying the connection with "pledge" or debt further, KD adds this relevant thought: "Whoever places himself contemptuously against a word which binds him to obedience will nevertheless not be free from that word, but is under pledge until he redeem the pledge by the performance of the obedience refused, or till that higher will enforce payment of the debt withheld by visiting with punishment."

BUT HE WHO RESPECTS A COMMAND IS REWARDED: "Command" is the familiar Hebrew "mitzvah"; in contrast to "dabar", it is "instruction" in the more forceful, more compulsory sense. In a very straightforward way, to be rewarded is the absolute opposite of to "pay for it". Cp Pro 11:31: "If the righteous receive their due on earth, how much more the ungodly and the sinner!" And Psa 19:11: "In keeping [the law of the LORD] there is great reward."

"Respect", of course, has an element of fear about it, and the AV has reasonably translated this: "He that FEARETH the commandment shall be rewarded." Bridges, in passing, emphasizes an important point: "The slave," he says, "FEARS the penalty; the child [FEARS] the commandment." For, as we know, there are two kinds of "fear", scripturally understood: there is the "fear", or terror, felt by the wicked and the indifferent; and then there is the "fear", or loving respect, felt by the son or daughter of God -- the fear, not nearly so much of being punished, as of disappointing or hurting the Loving Father.

The LXX adds, at the end of this verse, an extra verse: "A crafty son will have no good thing, but the affairs of a wise servant will be prosperous; and his path will be directed rightly." With this cp the last half of Pro 14:15.

Pro 13:14

THE TEACHING OF THE WISE IS A FOUNTAIN OF LIFE, TURNING A MAN FROM THE SNARES OF DEATH: This saying is almost identical with Pro 14:27: "The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death." It would appear that the "teaching of the wise" is interchangeable with "the fear of the LORD".

THE TEACHING OF THE WISE IS A FOUNTAIN OF LIFE: "Teaching" here is "torah": in the Pentateuch, "torah" means the Law itself; in the "wisdom" literature it means -- more generally -- any wise instruction or teaching. Here, the teacher is wise, the teaching is wise, and the taught is wise! A wise man listens to the wise man's teaching (Pro 12:15; cp Ecc 7:5)!

"A fountain of life" is the love and kindness that comes from and belongs to God (Psa 36:9). It is "the mouth of the righteous" (Pro 10:11), "the teaching of the wise" (here), "the fear of the LORD" (Pro 14:27), and "understanding... to those who have it" (Pro 16:22). With this cp also Pro 18:4: ' The words of a man's mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook." The figure of a fountain connects with the Garden of Eden symbolism (cp Rev 21:6), as does the "tree of life" in Pro 13:12. (Likewise, "teaching" here connects with "instruction" and "command" in v 13 -- giving a further unity to vv 12-14 here.)

TURNING A MAN FROM THE SNARES OF DEATH: The proverb contrasts that which bubbles up and refreshes (a fountain) with that which pulls down and destroys (a snare)! Following on from the first part of this verse, and its Edenic connections with vv 12,13, there may be here an allusion to the primeval garden, and thus to the serpent tempter, to the sad outcome of that temptation, the death visited upon mankind by Eve and Adam's disregard for the law of God.

"Snares" is the plural of "mowqesh" -- a noose, net, cord, or snare for catching animals (cp Amo 3:5; cf Psa 91:3, where a different Heb word occurs). The "snares" that might catch God's people include false gods (Exo 23:33; Deu 7:16; Psa 106:36), those who worship them (Exo 34:12; Jos 23:13; Jdg 2:3), undesirable friends (Pro 2:12-15; 22:25), the adulteress with her seductive words (Pro 2:16-18), and the fear of what other men might think or say (Pro 29:25). Sometimes men are entrapped by their own sinful talk (Pro 12:13; 18:7; cf Pro 29:6). Gideon's golden ephod, while not intended as an idol, nevertheless became a snare in later times (Jdg 8:27). Saul's daughter Michal, whom David loved, became a "snare" to him -- as Saul hoped she would (1Sa 18:20,21).

"Snares of death" may simply mean "deadly snares", but there is an element of personification in the phrase also. " 'Snares of death' suggests that death is like a hunter; McKane compares the idea to the Ugaritic god of death, Mot, carrying people off to the realm of the departed (p 455). At least the line conveys mortal peril" (EBC). Though "mot" clearly is not to be perceived in the OT as a discrete and personal entity like the god of Ugaritic texts, it frequently is personified and viewed as a strong enemy of mankind (cp Song 8:6). It is able to kill (Jer 18:21), either by itself or by its firstborn (Job 18:13). It can climb through windows in its relentless pursuit of the living (Jer 9:21), and it overwhelms its victims as waves of the sea (2Sa 22:5,6; Psa 18:5).

"The snares of death, as a metaphor, probably has reference in the first instance to a stagnant cistern which could cause a swift and painful death. To drink from this source is like being caught by a snare. In murky stale water lurked snags, snakes, dead animals and diseased slime. These snares of death are illustrated by the harlot of Pro 5:5; 7:22 -- which is to be contrasted with Pro 5:15 where the man of Wisdom drinks 'running water from [his] own spring' (NEB)" (Crawford).

"Why do parents have rules against playing in the street? Because they want their child to live and not be killed by a vehicle! Should a child resent such a rule? No! Why do parents restrict activities with the opposite sex? Because they want their children to have lively marriages without the scar of fornication! In each case, the parental law is a blessing!

"If you are noble and prudent, you will appreciate laws given by those wiser than you. If you desire success in life, you will accept and obey rules given to prosper and protect you. You will grasp the importance of learning from the wisdom of others. And you will remember that the laws they impose are to bless your life and guard you from death.

"Why do nations have traffic laws? Schools have weapons rules? Factories have safety laws? The military have authority rules? Airlines have maintenance laws? And electric appliances have user rules? Because the laws and rules are given to protect the user from danger and death, and they are given to provide sufficient guidance for great success.

"What causes you to resent rules? You think you know better? You know the teacher is not perfect? The rule restricts your freedom? The giver is too pushy? You think it is just a matter of opinion? You were not born yesterday? In all these cases, you are being foolish, for the law was given to help and protect you, not please or enrich the giver. It proves wisdom to accept instruction and correction. Only fools and scorners resent them" (LGBT).

Pro 13:15

GOOD UNDERSTANDING WINS FAVOR, BUT THE WAY OF THE UNFAITHFUL IS HARD: The happiness of the righteous, and the misery of the wicked: Pro 10:6,9,16,24,25,27-30; 11:3,5-8,18-21,31; 12:2,3,7,13,14,21,26,28; 13:6,9,14,15,21,22,25; 14:11,14,19,32; 15:6,8,9,24,26,29; 20:7; 21:12,15,16,18,21; 22:12; 28:10,18; 29:6.

GOOD UNDERSTANDING WINS FAVOR: "Sekhel tob" ("good understanding") describes the capacity for good sense, sound judgment, and wise opinions. "Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man" (Pro 3:3,4). And so it was for Jesus: he "grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men" (Luk 2:52). "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding" (Psa 111:10).

BUT THE WAY OF THE UNFAITHFUL IS HARD: The MT reads "etan" -- "enduring, permanent, perennial" (BDB 450 sv 1). Several scholars suggest that the text here is corrupt and the reading should be "harsh, hard, firm, rugged" (BDB 450 sv 2); this is followed by the AV and NIV. Driver suggested that "lo" (signifying "not") has mistakenly dropped out of the text, and so the meaning would not have been "enduring" but rather "not enduring", ie, "passing away".

Others suggest emending the text to "edam" -- signifying "their calamity" (BDB 15): thus reading "the way of the faithless [leads to] their calamity" (see HAL 1:45 sv 2), their "ruin" (WBC), or their "destruction" (LXX); this last -- a Vorlage (see Pro 11:31n) -- is followed by the RSV. This would give the somewhat familiar expression "the way, or road, that leads to destruction" (cp Psa 1:6; Mat 7:13).

"The way of transgressors is hard" (AV). "In regard to a large class of sins, retribution follows in the present life. Sin never pays. It means sorrow, distress, pain, whether that pain follows immediately or after a while. The point of the text is, that retribution follows now, in this present world. The earliest steps of vice seem pleasant; if it were not so, it would offer no temptation. To yield to lower appetites and passions is so easy, so natural, so inviting. But the wilful do not go far without being brought to a very different conclusion. 'The way of transgressors turns out to be rough and hard. I might endeavour to deter you from evil courses by telling you of the judgment to come; but what I wish to impress is that there is a day of reckoning even here. Look at the misery which intemperance brings; which licentiousness brings; which gambling brings; which fraudulent dealing brings. Then let this be the hour of your final, and ever-to-be-remembered decision for God and righteousness" (Davidson, BI).

Much more succinctly, but quite powerfully, Adam Clarke writes, "Most sinners have more pain and difficulty to get their souls damned, than the righteous have, with all their cross-bearings, to get to the kingdom of heaven." And Charles Bridges says, "Men fight their way to hell, as others do to [the kingdom of] heaven, by great tribulation" [Acts 14:22].

Generally, cp Pro 4:19: "The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble." Jer 2:19: "Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the LORD your God." And Rom 6:21,23: "What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!... For the wages of sin is death."

Pro 13:16

EVERY PRUDENT MAN ACTS OUT OF KNOWLEDGE, BUT A FOOL EXPOSES HIS FOLLY: The proverb contrasts the thoughtfulness that characterizes the actions of the clever with the impetuousness of the fool. Cp Pro 12:23: "A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the heart of fools blurts out folly." And Pro 15:2: "The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly."

EVERY PRUDENT MAN ACTS OUT OF KNOWLEDGE: The prudent ("arum") is one who knows the circumstances, the dangers, and the pitfalls. This makes him cautious. He sees danger and takes refuge (Pro 22:3; 27:12). He overlooks insults (Pro 12:16). He acts out of his knowledge, and is "crowned" with knowledge (Pro 14:18).

"The lives of Naomi and Esther are colorful examples of prudent persons who played a vital role in God's history of salvation. Though successes in life ultimately come from God, the OT also emphasizes a responsible attitude to the life of faith. Cleverness for the sake of achieving one's own malicious goal is condemned, but exercising it diligently and responsibly in dependence on God brings divine blessings. It is in light of this that Jesus' words, 'shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves' (Mat 10:16), take on meaning" (NIDOTTE). To these two women may be added the example of Abigail, who prudently foresaw danger and acted wisely to turn it aside (1Sa 25) -- even while her husband Nabal displayed his folly for all to see, and paid for it with his life.

The RSV offers the slightest variation on this phrase: instead of "every prudent man acts", it has: "In everything, a prudent man acts..." (this is possible, with the change of only one vowel).

BUT A FOOL EXPOSES HIS FOLLY: Given some time, the fool will eventually demonstrate his folly: he will make a fool of himself because it is his nature. In "paras" ("exposes", "spreads out") may be seen the figure of a peddler displaying his wares in the marketplace: "he spreads out his folly" for the whole world to see. The fool as a salesman is a telling comparison: in "selling" his wares he deceives others into "buying": "The folly of fools is deceptive" (Pro 14:8). "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure [desperately wicked]" (Jer 17:9).

"Foolish men show their folly in at least two ways: (1) By talking about things of which they know little or nothing... Empty-minded persons are generally talkative. (2) By attempting things which they are incapable of achieving. The foolish man knows not his aptitudes and inaptitudes. Hence he is seen everywhere, striving to be what he never can be; to do that which he never can accomplish" (Thomas, BI). "Fools rush in, where angels fear to tread." Fools do not count the cost; they begin to build but are not able to finish (Luk 14:28-30).

Pro 13:17

A WICKED MESSENGER FALLS INTO TROUBLE, BUT A TRUSTWORTHY ENVOY BRINGS HEALING: "The faithfulness of the messenger determines the success of the mission. Wisdom literature in the ancient world was frequently concerned with instructing ambassadors" (EBC).

A WICKED MESSENGER FALLS INTO TROUBLE: "Wicked" is "unreliable" (NET). "Messenger" is "malak" (sw usually translated "angel"). The RSV reads, slightly differently, "plunges men into trouble", perhaps by betraying trusts. But the text simply says the wicked messenger falls into trouble, meaning that he is punished for his bad service (cp Gehazi in 2Ki 5:26,27).

The "wicked messenger" may, in a spiritual context, be a false, or apostate, teacher (2Ti 4:3,4; cp 1Ti 4:1-3; 2Ti 3:6,7; 2Pe 2:1,2; in the OT, cp Jer 23:13-16,28; Eze 3:18; 33:7,8). As such he may distort the message he has been commissioned to deliver (perhaps for money: 2Co 2:17; 2Pe 2:15; Jud 1:11), or even work deliberately against the will of the one who sends him. Or else he may never quite deliver the message he was entrusted with: "As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is a sluggard to those who send him" (Pro 10:26; cp generally Pro 25:19; 26:6).

The LXX, reading "melek" (king) instead of "malak" (messenger), translates: "A rash king shall fall into evil"; but this misses the parallelism altogether.

BUT A TRUSTWORTHY ENVOY BRINGS HEALING: "Trustworthy envoy" is "tsir emunah" -- an expression suggesting government service (cp Isa 18:2; 57:9; Jer 49:14; Oba 1:1). He "brings healing", ie, he guarantees success by delivering his message honestly, diligently, and faithfully; on this point cp Pro 12:18: "The tongue of the wise -- eg, the trustworthy ambassador -- brings healing." Eliezer, Abraham's trusted servant, was such a messenger; he was blessed himself, and he brought health to his master (Gen 24:33-56).

In a religious sense, the trustworthy messenger or representative (or "apostle", literally "one sent") brings spiritual healing to those who hear and receive his divine message -- as well as comfort and satisfaction to the one who sent him. "The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life" (Pro 15:4). "Like the coolness of snow at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to those who send him; he refreshes the spirit of his masters" (Pro 25:13). "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, 'Your God reigns!' " (Isa 52:7; cp Isa 40:9; 61:1-3; Rom 10:12-15).

Preachers of the gospel are ambassadors of Christ (2Co 5:20). As such, they ought to be faithful men (1Co 4:1,2; 1Ti 1:12; 2Ti 2:2; Tit 1:6-11), who will not be distracted with the things of this world (2Ti 2:4). They must give themselves wholly to their work (1Ti 4:13-16). They must handle the Scriptures honestly (2Co 4:2) and with much study (2Ti 2:15). They must not hesitate "to proclaim... the whole will of God" (Acts 20:27). When God's people have faithful ambassadors, they will have spiritual health (Neh 8:1-12; 1Ti 4:15,16).

The KJV of this verse reads: "A wicked messenger falleth into mischief: but a faithful ambassador is health." In his autobiography, Robert Roberts describes his decision, as a fairly young man in England, to begin publishing a monthly religious magazine. He writes that "Dr Thomas had suspended the Herald of the Kingdom some two years previously; and there was nothing in the field in the way of an adequate periodical representation of the truth." And so Dr Thomas advised him to start a periodical -- which, it was hoped, would be an improvement upon the rather "feeble" efforts then current in another quarters. RR continues: "After turning the matter over, I decided to call the new magazine 'The Ambassador of the Coming Age', which I now see was an absurdity; for an age cannot have an ambassador, still less an age not yet come. The idea was to have a name that was new and at the same time expressive of the character of the publication, and the strength of the desire somewhat blunted the discernment that might have detected the unfitness of the title. The next thing was to find a motto. One with the word 'Ambassador' in it was a 'sine qua non' [Latin, 'without which nothing' -- that is, the essential, crucial, or indispensable ingredient without which something would be impossible]. Proverbs supplied 'A faithful ambassador is health' [Pro 13:17]. The very thing, thought I, and adopted the verse in which the words occurred, without noticing the first part of it, which declared that 'a wicked messenger falleth into mischief.' Now, the 'Messenger' was the name of one of the aforesaid weak and uncertain publications. The new motto was, therefore, an impeachment of the work already in the field, as well as an assertion of the character it was desirable to attain; but I did not observe this till the magazine actually appeared. The friends of the 'Messenger' were of course quick to pounce down upon the motto. Some even declared their belief that I had adopted the name 'Ambassador' because it fitted a verse in which the 'Messenger' was condemned. This was as far from the truth as possible. My eye was wholly filled with 'faithful ambassador'. The 'wicked messenger' was invisible to me till the magazine was in the hands of the readers" (My Days and My Ways, ch 24).

Pro 13:18

HE WHO IGNORES DISCIPLINE COMES TO POVERTY AND SHAME, BUT WHOEVER HEEDS CORRECTION IS HONORED: Responding correctly to discipline can bring honor and success. The point seems to refer to commercial success, where self-control and caution bring results. This verse is closely paralleled by Pro 13:13: "He who scorns instruction will pay for it, but he who respects a command is rewarded." And Pro 15:32: "He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding."

The wisdom of obedience, and folly of disobedience: Pro 10:8,17; 12:1,15; 13:1,13,18; 15:5,10,12,31,32; 19:16; 28:4,7,9. Consider also the extended treatment of this theme in Pro 1:20-33; 5:9-14.

HE WHO IGNORES DISCIPLINE COMES TO POVERTY AND SHAME: The verb "para" (to let go, to let alone) means "to reject, to avoid, or to neglect"; sometimes the word refers to a willful ignoring of available instructions and thereby suffering the appropriate consequences (Pro 1:25; 8:33; 15:32). "Discipline" is "muwcar" -- the moral instruction and training that is common to the Book of Proverbs itself (see Pro 1:2n).

SHAME... HONORED: This verse has a powerful little wordplay: "shame" is "qalon" (literally lightness), and "honor" is "kabod" (literally heaviness -- suggesting power and wealth). The contrast is between a man of straw or chaff, and a man of substance -- a man who is nothing and a man who is consequential; a man who will be blown away by the breeze, and a man who will remain!

BUT WHOEVER HEEDS CORRECTION IS HONORED: "Correction" is "towkechah" (sw Pro 1:23,25,30; 3:11; 5:12; 6:23; etc). From a root "yachah", which signifies "to reason together, to show the right way" -- or to "reprove" (NET). In texts that are concerned with instruction; it is often parallel to "yasar", or discipline (see Pro 12:1n). A wise man is particularly distinguished by his ability to accept -- and put to use -- counsel, advice, and even rebuke and correction: "Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning" (Pro 9:9). "Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man's rebuke to a listening ear" (Pro 25:12). "Let a righteous man [or, Let the Righteous One] strike me -- it is a kindness; let him rebuke me -- it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it" (Psa 141:5).

"What should we think of the young captain who insisted on setting sail without any chart, trusting to his native cleverness to shun the shoals and rocks, and to make his way to port? We know what to judge concerning him, and what to prophesy concerning his vessel; we are sure that the one is a fool, and that the other will be a wreck. And what shall we think of youth when it resolves to sail forth on the great sea of life, disregarding the experiences of the wise, and trusting to its own sagacity? (1) To take this course is to be unwise: Apart from all consequences which are in the future, it is the indication of a foolish spirit which is in itself deplorable. It shows a very ill-balanced judgment, a very exaggerated conception of one's own ability, a lack of the modesty the presence of which is so great a recommendation, and the absence of which is so serious a drawback. It calls for and it calls forth the pity of the wise; it is well if it does not elicit their contempt. And (2) to take this course is to move in the direction of disaster: It is to be in the way which conducts to the loss of much that is very valuable, to 'poverty' of more kinds than one... and to shame, the forfeiture of good men's regard, and a descent to a condition in which self-respect also is lost... He that feareth not God's commandment, nor regards man's warning, is a candidate for contempt, is a swift traveller on the road to ruin" (Clarkson, Pulpit).

"When we see an ignorant, self-conceited youth making light of God's words, and the counsels of his parents, we may know that he is on the road to a miserable and ignominious end" (FBN).

"There is a simple technique for success in a world doomed to failure. Find teachers that have the truth and wisdom of God and submit to their reproofs and instruction. It is that simple. God has revealed the wisdom of heaven to men. If you will find them and accept their correction and teaching, you can deliver yourself from failure, poverty, and shame.

"Where are such teachers? Where God’s preserved scriptures are taught! Intelligence or education cannot substitute for the Bible. There is no light or understanding outside the Bible (Isa 8:20; 1Co 1:19,20; 3:19,20; 1Ti 6:3-5,20,21)...

"Learning requires change: either you must correct errors you have learned, or you must add new knowledge to your inventory. The first requires accepting reproofs, and the second requires accepting new ideas through instruction. Pride, rebellion, and stubbornness will not allow a man to do either of these two things. He is a certain loser! A true teacher is an enemy of your thoughts and imaginations (2Co 10:4-6). He must destroy and pull down the strongholds of your mind, where you are holding false ideas and concepts. He must replace them with truth and wisdom, which you have not heard or accepted before. While the relationship is affectionate, the process is definitely conflict" (LGBT).

Pro 13:19

A LONGING FULFILLED IS SWEET TO THE SOUL, BUT FOOLS DETEST TURNING FROM EVIL: This proverb has occasioned much investigation, and quite a few interpretations. Some scholars feel that each line has lost its parallel, since there is no obvious contrast between the two lines of this verse as it now stands. But according to EBC, "Perowne may offer the best summary for the difficult verse: 'In spite of the sweetness of good desires accomplished, fools will not forsake evil to attain it'... One can surely say that Proverbs teaches people to make their desires good so that fulfilling them is cause for joy."

Man could be perpetually happy, but most men despise the way to happiness and success! The greatest source of human fulfillment and joy is found in righteousness, truth, and wisdom. When a man obtains these things, it is the sweetest accomplishment on earth. But most men despise these things so much that they refuse even to pursue the reward. Just so much do they hate and loathe the thoughts of giving up their sinful lifestyles.

A LONGING FULFILLED IS SWEET TO THE SOUL: This line is quite reminiscent of Pro 13:12: "A longing fulfilled in a tree of life." There is a lovely parallel in Isa 53:11: there the special Suffering Servant will see at last the result of his own sufferings, and -- in Isaiah's masterful understatement -- will be satisfied! What better "longing" might be fulfilled than this? As for the rest of us, the "longing fulfilled" -- which is sweetness itself -- is described in Psa 17:15: "And I -- in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness." "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God" (Mat 5:8).

BUT FOOLS DETEST TURNING FROM EVIL: The KJV has "It is abomination to fools to depart from evil." The reason is not difficult to see: fools find their sinful pleasures, even if short-lived, as "sweet to the soul" as the righteous find their knowledge of divine things and their communion with God. What is abominable for God Himself even to look upon -- that is, sin (Hab 1:13) -- is (what a tragedy!) abominable for the fool to depart from. Never the twain, therefore, will meet -- because there is fixed so great a gulf between the All-righteous Creator and the fools who scarcely bear any resemblance to His image and likeness. Such also is what Paul characterizes as the "enmity" between the Spirit and the flesh (Rom 8: 5-8). Fools must, sadly, return to their folly just as dogs return to their vomit and pigs to wallowing in the mire again (Pro 26:11; 2Pe 2:22; cp Mat 12:45). And in their returning they must depart from God.

Cp, a bit more generally, Pro 29:27: "The wicked detest the upright."

Pro 13:20

HE WHO WALKS WITH THE WISE GROWS WISE, BUT A COMPANION OF FOOLS SUFFERS HARM: Proper company contributes to safety and growth. The verse advises association with the wise and not with the fools. For further teachings on associations, see Pro 1:10; 2:12; 4:14; 12:15; 13:14; 14:7; 16:29; 23:20; 25:12; 28:7; 29:3; Ecc 7:5. The point cannot be missed: examine who is influencing you; one's companions can make all the difference in one's life. "No man can be careful of his time who is not wise in the choice of his company."

HE WHO WALKS WITH THE WISE GROWS WISE: In this chapter alone, training in wisdom picks up from v 1, and is continued in v 24; see also vv 10,14. How does one grow wise? By seeking out the company of wise men and women, and by talking with them, often and continuously: "Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name. 'They will be mine,' says the LORD Almighty, 'in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not" (Mal 3:16-18). Thus the writer to the Hebrews exhorts his readers: "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another -- and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Heb 10:24,25).

The Wisdom of Ecclesiasticus (6:36) translates, loosely, "If you find a wise man, learn where he lives, and wear out the path to his door." With this may be compared Pro 2:20: after Solomon warns the young man to avoid the street and the house and the company of the adulterous woman (vv 16-19), he concludes by saying: "Thus you will walk in the ways of good men and keep to the paths of the righteous."

Other bits of folk wisdom: (1) "Tell me your companions, and I will tell you what you are." (2) "He that lives with cripples learns to limp" (Dutch proverb). (3) "He that goes with wolves learns to howl" (Spanish proverb). (4) "He that takes the raven for his guide shall feed upon carrion" (Oriental proverb). (5) And of course the familiar English proverb, "He that lies down with dogs shall rise up with fleas."

BUT A COMPANION OF FOOLS SUFFERS HARM: "Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character' " (1Co 15:33). "Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness" (Eph 5:11). "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers" (2Co 6:14-18). Lot foolishly chose the rich and promising plains near Sodom, but soon found himself and his family living among the wicked men of that place, much to his detriment (Gen 13:12,13). The young king Rehoboam chose foolish young counselors, who led him astray (1Ki 12:8,10). On the other hand, David separated from the ungodly and fools (Psa 1:1; 101:1-8; 119:115) and chose companions from those who feared God (Psa 119:63,79).

"The wordplay in the second line {of Pro 13:20] stresses the power of association: 'a companion [ro'eh] of fools suffers harm [yeroa'].' Several have attempted to parallel the wordplay. Guillaume has 'he who associates with fools will be left a fool.' Kidner cites Knox translating the Vulgate as saying: 'Fool he ends that fool befriends' " (EBC).

COMPANION: This is the Hebrew word "ro'eh" [there is some question whether the Hebrew root is "ra'ah" (to cherish, as a friend) or "re'ah" (to pasture, or eat with)]. Either way, of course, the sense is "to associate with"; the word is also used, negatively, in Proverbs of associations with "a hot-tempered man" (Pro 22:24), "gluttons" (Pro 28:7), and "prostitutes" (Pro 29:3).

FOOLS: The Hebrew "keciyl" is defined in NIDOTTE as "insolent in religious affairs, and stupid in practical affairs". It is a very common word in Proverbs (approximately 49 times), and is derived from a root "to be fat", with implications of being silly or lazy.

Harry Whittaker, in "Exploring the Bible", has these sage words of advice as to good companions: " 'Iron sharpeneth iron' especially when sparks of Bible knowledge and elucidation are being struck. One recalls with pleasure and gratitude the American home where each place at table was set with half a dozen small cards each bearing a somewhat out-of-the-ordinary Bible question. As the meal proceeded, each person in turn read out a question and then looked around for the readiest answer. The arguments, discussions and investigations which those questions provoked were good for all concerned. Bread of Life was served with the meals at that table.

"Another piece of advice which goes logically with what has just been emphasized is that you marry a wife (or husband) that you can talk to freely about the Bible and with reasonable expectation of an intelligent, helpful response. In the Truth married life should mean more than home-building, mutual enjoyment and family-rearing. The home where animated conversation about the Word of God is not a normal everyday thing is an emasculated affair.

"In most Christadelphian ecclesias there are one or two outstandingly knowledgeable brethren. Some ecclesias, but not many, are blessed with more than one or two. Use to the full the frequent openings which come your way to pick the brains of such people, or the time will come when you will look back on these neglected opportunities and reproach yourself bitterly. Accept every invitation which comes your way to visit their homes -- and always go with a Bible in your hand. And if conversation does not readily turn in the direction of helpful Bible topics, blame yourself.

"The chances that fall to you to button-hole one of these walking encyclopaedias after a Bible Class or at the end of some other meeting should be taken full advantage of. That snatch of conversation before you go home may often be of more profit than the entire meeting which has preceded it."


"The text speaks of possible companionships under two classes -- the wise and the foolish. By the 'wise' is not meant the 'learned'; nor the cute, the clever, the capable man of business. By the 'wise' is meant the good, the man who places the spiritual above the material, God over and above self; the man who would rather be right than what is called successful. By 'fools' is not meant the intellectually weak and silly; nor the merely thoughtless, the giddy, the frivolous. By 'fools' is meant all who are morally and spiritually without God, and thus, openly or secretly, wicked. We are left free to choose our companions from among the wise and the fools, but we are not without guidance. We have reason, and conscience, and the Word and Spirit of God. The results we reap from our companionships will correspond with the choice we make. The reaping mentioned here is the result of the principle of assimilation. The associate of the wise will be assimilated to them. The very choice of the spiritually right, and good is an evidence of wisdom at the start. In such fellowship a right and God-pleasing character is built up. The companion of the frivolous and the wicked soon learn their ways, and become conformed to their character. Surely moral contamination is more to be dreaded than physical, You must have a companion. Receive, I beseech you, the best of all -- our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ" (Davidson, BI).

"Every man's present and future welfare doth very much depend upon the right choice and improvement of those friends or companions with whom he doth most familiarly converse. [Thus] it is that we have such frequent cautions and threats against conversing with bad company. This was the meaning of all those severe prohibitions in the ceremonial law against touching any unclean thing. It is observable, that he who touched a dead beast was unclean but till the evening (Lev 11:24), but he who touched a dead man was unclean for seven days (Num 19:11), signifying a bad man to be the most dangerous of all other creatures. The apostle styles wicked men to be such as are dead in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1) even whilst they live (1Ti 5:6)" (Wilkins, BI).

Two men were riding on top of a bus in London. As they came down a poor-looking street with a big factory on one side, they were halted, and they noticed the doors of the factory had opened and hundreds of girls were pouring out and making their way across the street to a lunch room. Suddenly the air was filled with a sweet delightful fragrance. The visitor said, "Isn't that remarkable in a factory district here in London? Such a wondrous fragrance! It seems like the smell of a great garden. You would not think of finding such fragrance in this district."

"Oh, you don't understand," said his friend; "this is one of the largest perfume-factories in all the British Isles, and these young people are working constantly among the perfumes, and everywhere they go the fragrance remains upon their garments."

If only we could live in such close proximity to our Lord -- that the fragrance that graces him might saturate our garments and follow us wherever we go! So it might be said of us, as it was said of the disciples, that others "were astonished and took note that these men had been with Jesus" (Act 4:13).

Pro 13:21

MISFORTUNE PURSUES THE SINNER, BUT PROSPERITY IS THE REWARD OF THE RIGHTEOUS: The happiness of the righteous, and the misery of the wicked: Pro 10:6,9,16,24,25,27-30; 11:3,5-8,18-21,31; 12:2,3,7,13,14,21,26,28; 13:6,9,14,15,21,22,25; 14:11,14,19,32; 15:6,8,9,24,26,29; 20:7; 21:12,15,16,18,21; 22:12; 28:10,18; 29:6.

This statement deals with recompense in absolute terms; it makes the principle of divine retribution seem unbending and mechanical. It is this principle, without allowing for any of the exceptions that Proverbs itself acknowledges, that Job's friends applied (incorrectly, of course). The general principle is fundamental and without doubt: God punishes sin, and God rewards righteousness. But it is obvious that the righteous do not always enjoy prosperity, nor do the wicked automatically suffer misfortune. The psalmists struggled with this same problem (eg, Psa 37; 49; 73) and concluded that these were temporary situations. But this proverb makes no reference to a time frame, and some may find it difficult to limit this saying to a general statement since it seems so assured in its pronouncement.

But the question is, and always will be, until the Kingdom comes... WHEN will God act in absolute retribution? Men have always, and often, anticipated this final judgment of God, looked about themselves, made their wishes God's will, and then assumed that God is already so acting. They have assumed that He is -- indisputably -- punishing sinners, right here and now, or rewarding the righteous, right here and now. This is very wrong, for it leaves all to one side, and out of the picture, two very important doctrines: (1) As for sinners, God in His mercy and longsuffering and kindness continues to bless, long past the limits of anyone's deserving; and (2) As for the righteous, God's loving discipline -- that of a Father for His children -- may develop their characters, and demonstrate His glory, by allowing, for a time, their measured trials and tribulations and sufferings.

MISFORTUNE PURSUES THE SINNER: "Misfortune" is "ra'ah" -- "evil" (as AV) or "calamity". The concept of a delayed retribution for the sinner may actually be implied in this phrase: the word "pursues" suggests that calamity, or punishment, will follow the sinner like a shadow, dogging his steps, haunting his dreams, and reminding him of the judgment of God that awaits him -- and this may be so throughout his life. "May disaster [sw: 'ra'ah'] hunt down men of violence" (Psa 140:11). Part of punishment is the guilty conscience that sin so often produces, and the terrible anticipation of what is surely coming. "Be sure that your sin will find you out" (Num 32:23).

" 'Evil pursueth sinners.' Justice is on the track, and sooner or later will lay its hand upon its victim. Firstly, it will most likely do so here. Very frequently, indeed almost always, some penalty immediately overtakes guilt, if not in bodily loss or suffering, yet in spiritual injury. And if not at once, penalty soon follows crime, vice, wrong doing. Or if not soon, yet after many years, the 'evil' comes and lays its stern hand upon the shoulder. The man may not, probably does not, see or even believe in its approach. Its step is silent, and it may be slow, but it is constant and certain. The 'evil' may be physical, and very often it is so; or it may be mental, intellectual; or it may be circumstantial; or it may be in reputation; or it may be in character, and this last, though least seen and often least regarded, is in truth the saddest and the most serious of all, for it affects the man himself -- he 'loses his own soul.' Thus, 'though leaden-footed,' penalty is 'iron-handed.' Secondly, it will surely do so hereafter (see Mat 25:31,32; 2Co 5:10; etc)" (Clarkson, Pulpit). Cp also Rom 2:6-10; 14:10-12; Acts 10:42; 17:31; 1Pe 4:5.

Despite the seeming prosperity of the world, the law of God teaches us that adversity pursues those who will not listen to verbal instruction. The history of sinners from the beginning -- Cain (Gen 4:10-16); Achan (Josh 7:20-26); Abimelech (Jdg 9:24,56,57); Ahab and wife Jezebel (1Ki 21:19; 2Ki 9:30-36) -- are solemn demonstrations of this fact, even when sinners seem, as with Joab, to have found a refuge (1Ki 2:28-32).

In the wisdom of God, such shadows and fears of conscience may also serve as a spur to repentance and forgiveness and renewal; and so (before it is too late) a wonderfully positive purpose may be served, in some cases.

BUT PROSPERITY IS THE REWARD OF THE RIGHTEOUS: "Prosperity" is "tob" -- "good" (as AV) or "good fortune". "Reward" is "shalem" -- "peace" of "safety" or "security". The NIV translation, while reasonable, may leave the impression (incomplete and imperfect) that this verse is all about material "good", about blessing in this life in the most straightforward manner; but this is not necessarily the case. The "good" which is the "peace" of the righteous may be the ultimate "good" of blessing and immortality in God's Kingdom. In fact, it may also include the "good" of contentment and "peace" and "trust in God", even now -- such "good" being enjoyed even in the midst of trials and sufferings.

To some this may seem a real contradiction in terms, but Bible teaching is plain: "[The Lord] said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2Co 12:9,10). "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Phi 4:11-13).

Cp Pro 12:14: "From the fruit of his lips a man is filled with good things as surely as the work of his hands rewards him." And Pro 11:30: "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life."

Pro 13:22

A GOOD MAN LEAVES AN INHERITANCE FOR HIS CHILDREN'S CHILDREN, BUT A SINNER'S WEALTH IS STORED UP FOR THE RIGHTEOUS: Divine justice, not human scheming, determines the final disposition of one's estates and wealth.

A GOOD MAN LEAVES AN INHERITANCE FOR HIS CHILDREN'S CHILDREN: In Israel, bequeathing an inheritance to one's family was a sign of God's blessing; such blessings were typically extended to the righteous but not to the sinners (Pro 19:14; 2Co 12:14). "A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed" (Pro 11:25).

"[A good man] is careful, both by justice and charity, to obtain the blessing of God upon what he has, and to [confer] that blessing upon his children, without which the greatest industry and frugality will be in vain: A good man, by being good and doing good, by honouring the Lord with his substance and spending it in His service, secures it to his posterity; or, if he should not leave them much of this world's goods, his prayers, his instructions, his good example, will be the best [estate], and the promises of the covenant will be an inheritance to his children's children (Psa 103:17)" (Henry). With this cp Gen 17:7,8; Psa 25:12,13; 102:28; 112:2; 128:6.

Wealth acquired and amassed by legitimate means seems, in the divine program, much more stable and secure than wealth acquired by deceit and violence (see also Pro 13:11). It will remain. When a righteous man lay dying he asked to see his son, to whom he spoke these words: "I have amassed no great fortune in my many years. I leave you only a small fortune; but, my dear son, it is honestly gained, and will wear well; there are no hired men's wages in it [Jam 5:4], nor is there one single penny of 'dirty money'. Of this you may be assured."

HIS CHILDREN'S CHILDREN: "His grandchildren" (NET). In the United States, at least, there is a particular financial arrangement -- for the very wealthy -- called a "generation-skipping trust". In this, estate taxes (ie, death duties) are bypassed or minimized by leaving the bulk of one's estate, not to one's children, but in trust for one's grandchildren.

BUT A SINNER'S WEALTH IS STORED UP FOR THE RIGHTEOUS: This is especially the subject of Psa 49 -- which seems to describe the great wealth of Egypt, and the Egyptian's (and particularly the Pharaoh's) preoccupation with death, and his meticulous preparing for it. But, alas for such a man, the psalmist cries: "The foolish and the senseless alike perish and leave their wealth to others... man despite his riches, does not endure; he is like the beasts that perish... The upright will rule over them in the morning; their forms will decay in the grave, far from their princely mansions... Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him" (Psa 49:10,12,14,16,17). In fact, a good deal of Egypt's wealth departed from the country along with the Israelite slaves, while the Egyptian firstborn died in the plagues (Exo 3:21,22; 11:2; 12:1,2,35,36; cf Isa 43:3; 61:6).

Cp Pro 28:8: "He who increases his wealth by exorbitant interest amasses it for another, who will be kind to the poor." Job 27:16,17 (a true principle, even if misapplied to the righteous Job): "Though [the wicked] heaps up silver like dust and clothes like piles of clay, what he lays up the righteous will wear, and the innocent will divide his silver." And Ecc 2:26: "To the sinner [God] gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God." This principle found practical expression in the life of Jacob, as he said to his wives Rachel and Leah: "So God has taken away your father's livestock and has given them to me" (Gen 31:9). And the wealth of the wicked Haman was left to Esther and Mordecai (Est 8:1,2).

Pro 13:23

A POOR MAN'S FIELD MAY PRODUCE ABUNDANT FOOD, BUT INJUSTICE SWEEPS IT AWAY: "Injustice can take away what hard labor produces. Plaut makes this application: there is no need for poverty; the earth yields enough if justice and decency prevail (p 155). The verse may also be saying that anything produced through unjust means will not endure. The lesson concerns the proper way to deal with produce, not the size of one's resources" (EBC). But there are other ways of reading this verse, based on variant readings (see the following notes).

A POOR MAN'S FIELD MAY PRODUCE ABUNDANT FOOD: The word translated "field" -- "nir" -- means "tillable (or untilled; or fallow) ground" (cp sw Jer 4:3; Hos 10:12). "Abundant" is "okhel" -- signifying greatness, wealth, fullness, abundance, or strength. BDB 644 says this line could be rendered: "The fallow ground of poor men [yields] abundant food." That is, with the LORD's blessing, even the unused ground of the poor, not worked at all or never worked, will yield a great deal. The poor but righteous man, who industriously cultivates his little (and unpromising) plot of ground, secures a good return, and is happy in eating the labor of his hands (cp Psa 128:1,2). (Also cp Pro 12:11; 27:18,23-27; 28:19.) [Some commentators, by the slightest of emendations, read "nobles" (McKane) or "chiefs" (WBC) instead of "poor".]

If read this way, the phrase sounds quite like several prophetic promises usually applied to the Kingdom Age: "Let grain abound throughout the land; on the tops of the hills may it sway. Let its fruit flourish like Lebanon; let it thrive like the grass of the field" (Psa 72:16). "[When] the Spirit is poured upon us from on high... the desert becomes a fertile field" (Isa 32:15). "The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom" (Isa 35:1,2).

This verse, then, encourages diligence of labor in small things: "Palestine was a land of small peasant proprietors, and the institution of the Jubilee was intended to prevent the acquisition of large estates by any Israelite. The consequence, as intended, was a level of modest prosperity. It was 'the tillage of the poor,' the careful, diligent husbandry of the man who had only a little patch of land to look after, that filled the storehouses of the Holy Land. Hence the proverb of our text arose. In all work it is true that the bulk of the harvested results are due, not to the large labours of the few, but to the minute, unnoticed toils of the many. Small service is true service, and the aggregate of such produces large crops. Spade husbandry gets most out of the ground. Much may be made of slender gifts, small resources, and limited opportunities if carefully calculated. This text is a message to ordinary, mediocre people, without much ability or influence...

"It is no mere accident that in our Lord's great parable he represents the man with the one talent as the hider of his gift. There is a certain pleasure in the exercise of any kind of gift, be it of body or mind; but when we know that we are but very slightly gifted by him, there is a temptation to say, ' Oh, it does not matter much whether I contribute my share to this, that, or the other work or no. I am but a poor man. My half-crown will make but a small difference in the total. I am possessed of very little leisure. The few minutes that I can spare for individual cultivation, or for benevolent work, will not matter at all. I am only an insignificant unit; nobody pays any attention to my opinion. It does not in the least signify whether I make my influence felt... I can leave all that to the more influential men. It is a good deal easier for me to wrap up this talent -- which, after all, is only a three-penny-bit, and not a talent -- and put it away and do nothing.' Yes, but then you forget that there is a great responsibility for the use of the smallest, as there is for the use of the largest, and that although it did not matter very much what you do to anybody but yourself, it matters all the world to you" (Maclaren).

BUT INJUSTICE SWEEPS IT AWAY: "The MT reads 'there is what is swept away because [there is] no justice' ('mishpat'). [On this, cp Ecc 4:1; 5:8.] The LXX reads 'the great enjoy wealth many years, but some men perish little by little.' The Syriac reads 'those who have no habitation waste wealth many years, and some waste it completely.' [The Targum commentary on this verse] reads 'the great man devours the land of the poor, and some men are taken away unjustly.' The Vulgate has 'there is much food in the fresh land of the fathers, and for others it is collected without judgment.' CH Toy says that the text is corrupt. Nevertheless, the MT makes sense: there is enough food for people from the ground if there were no injustice in the land. Poverty is unnecessary; the land can produce enough" (NETn).

Following the MT, the AV reads: "Much food is in the tillage of the poor: but there is that is destroyed for want of judgment." Accepting this reading, Islip Collyer comments, "How often we notice the most deplorable waste and extravagance among people who are apparently poverty stricken. They perform a double wrong in that they injure themselves and their more reasonable fellows, for nothing more readily dries up the springs of benevolence than the discovery that people whose apparent poverty has excited our compassion are indulging in extravagances such as we could not afford for ourselves" (PrPr).

On the other hand, as Bridges comments, "Egypt with her abundant crops would have been destroyed, but for Joseph's judgment in preserving the much food in the tillage (Gen 41:33-36). Solomon's prudent administgration of his household restrained waste and extravagance (1Ki 4:27,28). Even our [Lord], in the distribution of the food, directed that 'the fragments should be gathered up, that nothing be lost' (Joh 6:12), or destroyed for want of care and judgment."

Side note on "nir" ("field"): In both Jer 4:3 and Hos 10:12 (cited above) plowing fallow or unplowed ground is metaphorical for serious repentance. Just as the ground must be plowed to produce a crop, the hard heart must be broken to bear fruit. In Hos 10:12 breaking up unplowed ground is in anticipation of the coming of the LORD, described by the figure of the early rains: repentance will result in blessing. In Jer 4:3 unplowed ground is broken up so as not to plant among thorns (cp Mat 13:7) -- one function of plowing is the removal of the weeds that inhibit a fruitful harvest. On this McKane comments, "The imagery is indicative of depth of repentance and a cleansing of the heart, and these are conditions of the renewal of a fruitful relationship with Yahweh."

Thus these cross-references suggest a possible spiritual application of this verse, analogous to Christ's parable of the sower and the seed (Mat 13; etc): Even the least likely field of human nature, if plowed and opened and made available to the good seed, may yield an abundant crop of righteousness. But one ought to be especially aware of "injustice" or "lack of judgment": even a small mistake, or minor indiscretion, or silly presumption, or foolish choice -- ie, one wrong sort of "seed" sown in that prepared field -- might "sweep away" all the harvest of righteousness that is anticipated. Therefore Paul writes, "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry" (Col 3:5).

Along this line, Gill has this to say: "This may be spiritually applied. By the 'poor' may be understood the poor ministers of the Gospel; who, though poor, make many rich (2Co 6:10); much spiritual food is to be had under their labours and ministrations, they being employed in cultivating the churches: or else the poor saints and poor churches themselves may be meant; who are tilled by them, among whom is plenty of spiritual provisions... and so by the 'tillage' may be meant the church of Christ itself, which is 'God's husbandry' (1Co 3:9); his agriculture, his tillage, his arable land; which he has separated and distinguished from the wide world, and employs his power and care about. For he is the husbandman (Joh 15:1); it is he that breaks up the fallow ground of men's hearts; that makes the ground good which he tills; who sows the seed of the word, and the seed of his grace there; who waters it with the dews of his grace, and causes his people to grow as the corn, and ripens them for glory: and when the harvest is come, the end of the world or of life, he sends his reapers, his angels, to gather them, the wheat, into his garner."

Pro 13:24

HE WHO SPARES THE ROD HATES HIS SON, BUT HE WHO LOVES HIM IS CAREFUL TO DISCIPLINE HIM: Parental love is displayed in disciplining the children responsibly (cf Pro 19:18; 20:11; 22:6,15; 23:13,14; 29:15,17). It is reflected in the divine discipline for spiritual children that God Himself exercises (Heb 12:5-11). Corporal discipline for unruly children in ancient Israel was taken for granted. There is simply no point in "sugar-coating" this teaching, in attempting to substitute "reasoning with the child" in every instance where "discipline" or "the rod" occurs. Elsewhere in the Law of Moses the possibility of the most extreme sanction imaginable is also envisioned for the hopelessly wayward son (Exo 21:17; Lev 20:9). If such could even be contemplated, as the remotest possibility in Israel, then what parent could blithely stop short of exerting real physical force -- if required -- to make his or her point to the disobedient child?

The irony today is that, while modern child psychologists explain how such "punishment" is always a form of "child abuse", the products of such permissive, or "enlightened", child-rearing are killing one another AND DYING all around them -- through their own unchecked tendencies to violence, and through all the terrible choices they have made, such as addictions and drug-dealing and crime and sexual promiscuity!

It must be added here, in haste, that there IS such a thing as "child abuse", but the remedy for such abuse (when such abuse does exist) is not for everyone else to refrain from ALL corporal punishment, and never to lay a hand upon a child! To argue for this sort of parenting because some parents have beaten and physically abused their children is equivalent to arguing that parents should (a) starve their children because there is such a thing as gluttony, (b) "force-feed" their children encyclopedias and unabridged dictionaries because there is ignorance in the world, or (c) lock them in their rooms because there is such a thing as bad company!

"To any Christian who declares that child training by this principle of physical punishment is out-of-date, an unsaved man has the right to say that salvation by the blood of Christ is also out-of-date. It is a very serious thing to tamper with these clear principles of the Word of God... Christians must remember that, since these are revealed principles, they must be obeyed regardless of the modern theories and findings of men. As long as natural psychology and progressive education refuse to recognize the Biblical teaching of the total depravity of every person born into this world, their guiding principles cannot be safe" (CC Ryrie, BibSac 109:436:351).

The powerful verbs "hates" and "loves" stress the point -- hating a son probably means, in effect, abandoning or rejecting him. For the general Biblical teaching on this, see Eph 6:4 and Heb 12:5-11; see Pro 4:3,4,10,11 for the balanced tenderness. Too much lenience and too much harsh discipline are equally productive of trouble. The balance comes when the child has room to grow while learning the limits.

HE WHO SPARES THE ROD: "Spares" is Heb "chasak" -- to restrain or withhold. "Rod" is "shebet", which refers to the staff of the shepherd; the sheep went under as they were counted (Psa 23:4; Mic 7:14). As here, the rod of authority of the educator (2Sa 7:14; Psa 89:32) was also called "shebet". The sw came to represent the authority or power of the one in charge. A king's royal "shebet", or rod (as in Gen 49:10), was the means of wielding righteousness and justice (cf Psa 2:9,10; 45:6,7; Num 24:17). How fitting, in the Hebrew, that the "rod" of discipline is also the "scepter" of kingship: God has given to kings the "divine right" to rule and punish; as one old philosopher put it concisely, but practically poetically: "The rod came down from heaven!"

HATES HIS SON: This sounds extreme and -- quite reasonably -- ought to be read "acts AS IF he hated his son" (cf Pro 3:12; 8:36). While feelings, and sentiments, and verbal professions, may be all in the direction of "love", if the conduct (toward children in this instance, but toward all men or even God Himself in other instances) gives the lie to the profession of such love, then the Divine judgment on the matter is: 'You do not REALLY love [your child, your neighbor, or your God] at all. But rather, it may be inferred that -- in a subconscious, take-it-or-leave-it, off-hand way -- you REALLY hate [your child, your neighbor, or your God]!' Love is an action; it is not an emotion! (More generally, cp the message of Joh 14:15: "IF you love me, you will obey what I command." And Joh 15:14: "You are my friends IF you do what I command.")

BUT HE WHO LOVES HIM IS CAREFUL TO DISCIPLINE HIM: "Is careful" is the verb "shahar": "to be diligent; to do something early" (BDB 1007). Thus "whoever loves him discipines him early on" (WBC) -- ie, "early on in his life" (cf Pro 1:28; 8:17, noting the "early" in the AV)! Thus Delitzsch cites old rabbis to the point that the Hebrew "does not denote the early morning of the day... but the morning of life." He then cites the old Hebrew proverb: "The earlier the fruit, the better the training." And he finishes with his own comments: "A father who truly wishes well to his son keeps him betimes under strict discipline, to give him while he is yet capable of being influenced the right direction, and to allow no errors to root themselves in him; but he who is indulgent toward his child when he ought to be strict, acts as if he really wished his ruin."

Failure to hear and respond positively to instruction leads to discipline and/or punishment. Sinners in general can expect the "rod" of serious discipline (Pro 15:10; Jer 30:14), as can fools in particular (Pro 13:18; 16:22). Discipline, however, has a beneficial and restorative purpose. It arises out of true love (as here), even if the disobedient hate it (Pro 5:12). Those who truly love will not withhold such discipline (Pro 23:13). The disciplined life is the ideal, one that seeks after God and upholds standards of justice and fairness (Pro 1:3). It takes the form of correction (Pro 6:23) or rebuke (Pro 3:11), whether by God or other people, and it may be administered through experience -- the "school of hard knocks" (Pro 24:32) -- or by the application of the rod, whether literal or figurative (Pro 22:15).

DISCIPLINE: Heb "muwcar" (see Pro 12:1n).

"The child that is wisely chastened comes to love the very hand that used the rod. Children must be taught that all things are not theirs, that the world is a place for discipline, and that all life is valuable only in proportion as it has been refined and strengthened by patient endurance. Let no merely cruel man take encouragement from these words to use the rod without measure, and to use it merely for the sake of showing his animal strength. That is not the teaching of the passage. The chastening is to be with measure, is to be timely, is to have some proportion to the offence that is visited, and is to give more pain to the inflicter of the punishment than to its receiver. Great wisdom is required in the use of the rod. The rod has to be used upon every man sooner or later; we cannot escape chastisement: we must be made to feel that the world is not all ours, that there are rights and interests to be respected besides those which we ourselves claim: the sooner that lesson can be instilled into the mind the better; if it can be wrought into the heart and memory of childhood it will save innumerable anxieties and disappointments in all after-life" (Parker, BI).

"Holden [writes Adam Clarke] makes some sensible observations on this passage: 'By the neglect of early correction the desires (passions) obtain ascendancy; the temper becomes irascible, peevish, querulous. Pride is nourished, humility destroyed, and by the habit of indulgence the mind is incapacitated to bear with firmness and equanimity the cares and sorrows, the checks and disappointments, which flesh is heir to.' "

" 'Spare the rod and spoil the child' is a saying known to everyone. Solomon was even more definite. He declared that a man who spared the rod hated his son. It is hardly possible to think of anything more emphatic... In interpreting 'the dark sayings of the wise', however, we must not always insist on the literal even where the literal could easily be applied. No one would take this reference to hatred in a literal sense, for it is quite certain that a destructive leniency is usually the expression of a genuine but foolish love. The saying means that the effect of parental weakness is so bad that it is akin to hatred in its effects even though love is the cause of it. The saying is intelligible and forceful but not strictly literal. Why then insist on nothing but an actual rod and physical pain in the other part of the saying? Correction may be made by word and look and in a hundred different manipulations of circumstances, some of which may be more effective than the rod, although even that may sometimes be necessary" (Islip Collyer; see Lesson, Prov, parents and children.)

Pro 13:25

THE RIGHTEOUS EAT TO THEIR HEARTS' CONTENT, BUT THE STOMACH OF THE WICKED GOES HUNGRY: The righteous find reward in the satisfaction of their physical needs. This is another general saying about God's blessings, based on the teachings in the Law of Moses (Lev 26; Deu 28; cf Isa 65:13,14). Other similar proverbs: Pro 10:3; 15:15,17.

THE RIGHTEOUS EAT TO THEIR HEARTS' CONTENT: "The righteous has enough food to satisfy his appetite [Heb 'nephesh': usually translated 'soul']" (NET; cp RSV and Pro 10:3n). Cp Psa 17:14: "You still the hunger of those you cherish." And Psa 34:10: "Those who seek the LORD lack no good thing."

Constable points out that this verse "illustrates the difference between a proverb and a promise. It expresses a condition that is generally true in this life all other things being equal. However, God never promised that He would keep every righteous person from starving to death (cf Mat 6:33)."

This phrase could also imply that whatever the righteous acquire and consume -- even if it be little by some standards -- will prove satisfying to them (ie, "to the satisfying of his SOUL": AV) for the simple fact that they ARE righteous, and have forsworn greed and covetousness. "If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that" (1Ti 6:8). Cp also Pro 16:8 ("Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice"), Psa 37:16 ("Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked"), Phi 4:11,12 ("I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances... in any and every situation"), and Heb 13:5 ("Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you' " -- cp Deu 31:6). A practical example of this is Daniel and his friends, the princes of Judah -- who refused the royal food and wine of Babylon but "feasted" on vegetables and water (Dan 1:12-16).

Finally, the righteous -- having a real "hunger and thirst for righteousness" -- will be "filled" with that righteousness (Mat 5:6); they will "eat to their heart's (or soul's) content" from the richest blessings of God. They know, truly and absolutely, that "man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Mat 4:4; Deu 8:3).

BUT THE STOMACH OF THE WICKED GOES HUNGRY: (a) This may imply a special judgment, either in this life or the one to come, for SOME wicked ones (cf Pro 6:11; 24:34). (b) But it may also be a commentary on the unlawful and unnecessary desires of the wicked, that go unsatisfied even in the midst of plenty. Jonathan Crosby writes, "Consider the wicked, who may gorge on abundance (Luk 16:19). He chooses excess over moderation and pays the consequences (Pro 21:17; 23:29-35). But he cannot rest, even in prosperity, for he has the evil disease of worrying about it (Ecc 5:17; 6:1,2). He always wishes the fare or setting was different, for his heart is covetous and greedy of what others have, and this vexes his soul (Ecc 6:9). Ahab, though king of Israel, could not enjoy anything without Naboth's vineyard (1Ki 21:1-4). [The wicked] finds trouble at the finest table, for there is always strife of some sort (Pro 15:17; 17:1). No matter where he looks, no matter what he does, all is vanity and vexation of spirit (Ecc 2:17; 4:4; 6:9). He is like the troubled sea; he cannot rest (Isa 57:20,21)" (LGBT). (c) And lastly, it may refer to the wicked's non-existent spiritual appetites and desires. This is the worst tragedy: that, having no desire for divine things, they starve to death -- spiritually -- when they might have plenty and more to spare of God's blessings! [This last point is also implied, rather subtly, in that the first line of this proverb attributes to the righteous a "soul" (AV, translated "heart" in the NIV) -- whereas the wicked has only a "belly" (AV), or "stomach" (NIB).]

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