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The one who despises a word is still bound by a pledge to it,
but the one who fears the commandment will be rewarded. Bible

“a word.” There is much discussion among scholars about whether or not the “word” in this verse refers to a divine commandment (the Word of God) or to a wise word from the sages. Most people who say it refers to a word from the sages say the context supports that view, but Proverbs changes context often from verse to verse, and the fact is that the context does not strongly support that conclusion anyway. It would be just as true to say that Proverbs 13:13 refers to the Word of God and Proverbs 13:14 builds on that and adds the importance of the wisdom of men. That the Hebrew text does not read “the Word” but rather “a word” does not diminish from the fact that the “word” can include an inspired Word from God. Jesus taught us that man lives by “every word” that comes from the mouth of God. It is popular in many Christian circles today to pick and choose what to live by in the Word of God. That kind of approach to the Bible only ends in ruin, now or on Judgment Day, when rewards are handed out, or withheld. In fact, that is exactly what the last refrain in the verse says. For good commentary on “word” being the inspired word, see Waltke, The New International Commentary.

“bound by a pledge to it.” The Hebrew is chabal (#02254 חָבַל), and is in the Niphal aspect of the verb, which is related to a pledge. The Holladay Hebrew-English lexicon has “he is forced to give a pledge.” This is one of the obscure sayings of the wise (Prov. 1:6), and it takes knowledge of the scope of Scripture to understand it. B. Waltke says the Hebrew text reads, “will become a debtor to it” (The New International Commentary on the Old Testament). M. Fox says that the Hebrew can be, “it is taken in pledge for him,” but he asserts that this does not make good sense. We disagree and think that if we understand the moral obligation people have to obey God the verse makes perfect sense. God gives His word, and even people who despise what God says are still in debt to it, after all, they are not God, God is God, their creator whether they recognize that or not.

In any case, it is the difficulty of the Hebrew text that has caused translators to look for other ways to translate the Hebrew into English. Nevertheless, the NASB has “will be in debt to it,” and Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible has “shall get pledged thereto.”

Humans are created by God and have a moral obligation to serve Him. Beyond that, humans have entered into covenants with God. Adam made a covenant with God that we know very little about (Hosea 6:7), but it apparently covers all mankind. Israel entered into a specific covenant with God referred to as the “Old Covenant,” which is better known as the “Old Testament,” and it applied to all Israel even if they were born long after the covenant was made. Christians entered into a binding agreement with God when they confessed that Jesus Christ was their Lord and God promised them salvation (Rom. 10:9-10).

Just because a person rejects God does not mean that he is free from his obligation to Him. We humans are “bound by pledge” to God. Paul recognized that God had committed to him the knowledge of the Administration of the Grace of God, and said woe unto him if he did not preach, because even if he was unwilling to do it, the Administration had still been committed to him and he was responsible to carry out the will of God (1 Cor. 9:16-17).

The whole concept of “sin” and “evil” is founded upon the idea that there is good behavior and bad behavior, and it is God who determines what is good and what is evil. No human can say, “I reject God’s order and reject the concept of sin,” and then simply be free of God’s moral and civil laws. There will be a Judgment Day, and on that day people who have rejected God will be thrown into the Lake of Fire and burned up.

Proverbs 13:13 is a very powerful proverb because it makes it clear that just because someone does not want to obey God does not mean that God will not hold him responsible for his actions. On the other hand, the humble person who fears God and obeys the commandment will be rewarded, which is exactly what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:17.


Commentary for: Proverbs 13:13