Proverbs Chapter 13  PDF  MSWord

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Go to Bible: Proverbs 13
Pro 13:1

“listen to rebuke.” The mocking fool does not listen to the rebukes that are given to him. This sometimes involves his not listening, but the verse may be also stating a deeper fact than just that. Many times the fool will sit and listen to what others tell him, but just does not “hear” it. The problem can be with his attitude, his preconceived ideas, due to demons, or perhaps for other reasons. This was the case when Jesus confronted the religious leaders. They simply could not “hear” him (John 8:43). This is why prayer is important in working with people. God knows the heart of each person and can give us accurate direction in how to help people, or whether to walk away.

Pro 13:2(top)
Pro 13:3(top)
Pro 13:4

“lazy.” See commentary on Proverbs 6:6; “lazy one.”

“prosperous.” The literal Hebrew is “fat.”

Pro 13:5

“become a stench.” This is a graphic and idiomatic way to say that wicked people will be hated.a Wicked people stink to the righteous. Interestingly, righteous people stink to the wicked (2 Cor. 2:16).

Koehler and Baumgartner, HALOT Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon.
Pro 13:6

“wickedness perverts a sinner.” The last phase in the Hebrew text reads: “wickedness perverts (or “overthrows”) sin,” or “wickedness perverts a sin offering.” The Hebrew word chatta’ah (#02403 חַטָּאָה) can mean either “sin” or “sin offering.” This is an amphibologia, a double entendre; both meanings are valid and important. If the Hebrew is understood as “sin,” the verse is a metonymy of effect for the one who sins, the sinner. Wickedness perverts and overthrows the sinner and causes his ruin and eventual everlasting death. However, wickedness also perverts and ruins the sin offering. When we purposely sin, our prayers and sacrificial offerings are ignored by God, and can even be an abomination to Him. It is clear in both the Old Testament and New Testament that if a person lives in disregard of God and His commands, that person will not receive the blessings of God (cp. Deut. 31:16-18; Prov. 15:8; Isa. 1:11-15; 58:1-9; 59:1-8; 66:1-4; Jer. 7:21-29; 14:10-12; Amos 5:21-24; Mic. 3:9-12; 6:6-8; Rom. 2:13-16; James 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5).

Pro 13:7(top)
Pro 13:8

“does not hear.” The Hebrew can also be “does not listen to.” The Hebrew reads, “to rebuke,” which is confusing to commentators. In this context, the idea of the rebuke seems to be that the poor person owes some kind of payment and is being rebuked by the creditor, almost certainly along with some kind of threat if there is no payment made. It does not seem to be a threat of extortion; the poor person has nothing to extort. Many English versions only have “threat,” but that is a nuance to make the verse supposedly make more sense in English. But “rebuke” is in the Hebrew text, and so we include that and get “threatening rebuke” from the context.

Pro 13:9

“will go out.” Wicked people will die here on earth, then experience everlasting death in the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:13-15). Although many English versions nuance the verb to “will be extinguished,” or “will be put out,” that is an interpretation, not a translation. The Hebrew verb is simply to “go out” (cp. NAB; NASB; NET; Rotherham).

Pro 13:10(top)
Pro 13:11

“by hand.” The literal Hebrew is “by hand,” which is an idiom for “little by little” or “over time.” There are a few people who have “get rich quick” schemes that work, but the vast majority of those schemes fail. The way to acquire wealth is by living a disciplined lifestyle and accumulating little by little over time. People who do that rarely lose. For example, people who buy lottery tickets usually lose twice: they don’t win the lottery, and they don’t have the wealth they could have had if they had wisely invested all the money they spent on lottery tickets over the years. The key to acquiring wealth is simple but difficult. Spend less than you make and do it for a long time, and invest your savings wisely.

Pro 13:12(top)
Pro 13:13

“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.a

“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 and Aramaic 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.”b 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.c 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 (Hos. 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.

Bruce Waltke, The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 1-15 [NICOT], 563-65.
Waltke, Proverbs [NICOT], 564.
Michael Fox, Proverbs 10-31 [AYB].
Pro 13:14

“instruction.” See commentary on Proverbs 1:8.

Pro 13:15

“never changes.” The Hebrew word is eythan (#0386 אֵיתָן), and it means perpetual, constant, ever-flowing, or enduring. However, that is considered to be a difficult reading by most translators and commentators, who amend the Hebrew text to fit with the Septuagint, and thus amend the Hebrew to read something such as “is hard” or “is destruction.” Usually, eythan refers to things that last, such as the life of the righteous, but that does not mean that every use of eythan has to have that meaning. While it is always possible that the Masoretic Hebrew text got corrupted, there is no need to believe that is the case here just because the reading is difficult. In the first stanza, we see that good judgment brings favor, but what about the way of the wicked and the unfaithful?

Dozens of verses testify that the wicked and unfaithful will come to ruin, but too often good and godly people ignore that fact, and waste their time on them, thinking that ungodly people will change. Of course, we always hope for the best for the ungodly, and pray that ungodly people will repent and believe God, but the wise person sets up reasonable boundaries and knows when to stop trying to help someone who is not beginning to make good decisions on their own. For example, the New Testament tells us to try to work with and correct a divisive person twice, and then move on (Titus 3:10-11). That may seem harsh, but our life on this planet is limited, and we must strive to put our time and energy where it will do the most good. When we have good judgment, we get favor, but if we don’t realize that the behavior of most ungodly people is unchanging, we will constantly waste our lives chasing the dream that someday that ungodly person will change. The wise thing to do is to set godly boundaries for dealing with people and pray for wisdom as to when to move on from someone who is unchanging. That can be difficult, but true godliness is often difficult. God’s Word says that generally the wicked will not change, and life has proved that out. Jesus taught us that the road to destruction is broad and many travel on it (Matt. 7:13), and we do not need to be the constant traveling companions of those people.

Pro 13:16(top)
Pro 13:17

“faithful.” The noun is plural in Hebrew, literally, “faithfulnesses.” This is the plural of emphasis, meaning great or consistent faithfulness.

Pro 13:18(top)
Pro 13:19(top)
Pro 13:20(top)
Pro 13:21

“Evil eagerly pursues.” Here in Proverbs 13:21, “Evil” is both a personification and literal, as is “goodness.” As a personification, the concept of evil is spoken of as if it is a person and thus has human attributes, including the ability to want and seek revenge. As a personification, the verse is saying that evil things happen to sinners, just as good things happen to the righteous (for more on the figure of speech personification, see commentary on Prov. 1:20, “wisdom”). However, we also believe that “Evil” is literal, and is the name of a demon or category of demons who attack people, and, as this verse points out, especially people who open themselves up to demonic (or angelic) attack by sinful lifestyles; that is, “Evil” attacks consistent, unrepentant sinners. The verse is ironic in that it turns the circumstances of the wicked person upside down. Wicked people “eagerly pursue” evil so they can get what they want in life (Prov. 11:19), but when they eagerly pursue evil, then Evil turns around and eagerly pursues them (Prov. 13:21).

The word “Evil” can be the figure of speech personification, but the text allows for, but does not demand, a second interpretation—a literal interpretation. This is important because people have always had different degrees of understanding of the spirit world and spiritual warfare. Ancient beliefs ranged from fools who did not even believe in a God (Ps. 14:1; 53:1) to people who believed in both angels and demons and the conflict between them (Acts 23:8). Those who have eyes to see the spiritual world will have understanding that others do not have.

The Old Testament is not nearly as clear as the New Testament when it comes to making a distinction between good angels and evil demons. The Old Testament mostly portrayed the spirit world as generally overseen by a God who protected the righteous, while the unrighteous were afflicted by spiritual powers—some of which were said to be from God and others simply described as “evil.” Thus, there are some other verses that are somewhat similar to Proverbs 13:21 in that they support the conclusion that “Evil” literally attacks sinners. For example, Proverbs 17:11 says, “Surely a rebellious person seeks evil, so a cruel messenger [or “angel”] will be sent against him” (the English word “angel” is “messenger” in both Hebrew and Greek). In that same general context, Proverbs 17:13 says that a person who repays good with evil will have “evil” (or “Evil”) in his house. Also, Scripture makes the point that sinners open themselves up to curses because their sin provides a reason or cause for the curse to come. Proverbs 26:2 (NET) says, “a curse without cause does not come to rest.”

Not only are there verses stating that Evil, or evil “angels” (messengers) will come against sinners, the biblical text has historical cases where evil people are attacked by “messengers,” including both God’s angels and evil spirits (demons). For example, God’s messengers (angels) destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:13), and they helped the Israelites conquer the Canaanites (Exod. 33:2). Evil spirits tormented Saul after he hardened his heart against God (1 Sam. 16:14). God’s messenger (angel) struck down 185,000 Assyrian soldiers when they tried to attack Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:35).

In contrast to the Old Testament, the New Testament much more clearly presents the spiritual warfare between good and evil. It shows that believers are supported by God, Jesus Christ, and angels, and that they battle against the Devil and demons who afflict anyone they can. The New Testament has many examples of people being afflicted by demons (cp. Luke 4:33-35, 41; 8:27-33; 9:38-42; 11:14; 13:10-13; Acts 16:16-19), but also has an example of a messenger of God (an angel) fighting against evil and destroying an evil person (Acts 12:23).

It has long been recognized that consistently wicked people often have troubles that seem “out of the ordinary” or “beyond coincidental,” and are of spiritual origin. Many ancient people knew that behavior that offended God (or “the gods”) opened a person up to attacks from evil spirits. Although demons are known to attack good people too, their attacks on the ungodly are consistent enough to have been recognized by many different cultures. While most modern “educated” people deny or misunderstand the demonic world and thus attribute demonic attacks to “really bad luck,” most ancient societies recognized that there were evil spirits that caused harm, so they developed rituals, spells, and charms to ward the evil spirits off.

One of the Greek goddesses said to attack people who sinned was Nemesis (Νέμεσις). Nemesis was the goddess of divine retribution. The name Nemesis basically means “distributor of what is due.”a In Greek mythology, she is portrayed as a winged goddess carrying a dagger or whip.

The Furies were also goddesses in Greek mythology. Wikipedia says, “In Greek mythology the Erinyes...also known as the Furies, were female chthonic deities [goddesses of the underworld] of vengeance. A formulaic oath in the Iliad invokes them as ‘the Erinyes, that under earth take vengeance on men, whosoever hath sworn a false oath.’ They correspond to the Dirae in Roman mythology. The Erinyes are crones [old women]…described as having snakes for hair, dog’s heads, coal-black bodies, bat’s wings, and blood-shot eyes. In their hands they carry brass-studded scourges, and their victims die in torment.”b

While Nemesis and the Furies are not described in the Bible, demons that torment and kill people are, and many ancient people knew that such demons existed. Contrary to the theory of evolution, life is not just a bunch of random physical and material occurrences dictated by chance. Life was given by God and is now enmeshed in a huge spiritual war between Good and Evil, with Evil doing its best to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10). A person who eagerly pursues evil to get what he wants out of life will instead find himself pursued by Evil. Psalm 140:11 is another verse that speaks of “evil” hunting violent people, and Proverbs 17:11 is another supporting verse.

“reward.” The Hebrew verb is shalam (#07999 שָׁלַם), and in the piel aspect, as it is here, it means to be rewarded, repaid, recompensed. We chose “reward” because although salvation is not by works but by trusting God (having “faith”), believers will be rewarded for the good works they do for God. Also, however, because the reward is reward for work done, it can be considered a payment. God will reward or repay believers for the work they have done for Him. There are many times that knowing that fact gives believers the mental fortitude to keep on obeying God in the face of great trials or temptations. The wise believer looks for an everlasting reward, not a temporal pleasure here on earth.

[For more information on the rewards believers will receive for obeying God, see commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:10.]

Liddell and Scott, Greek-English Lexicon.
Wikipedia; “Furies” redirected to “Erinyes.” Accessed Jan. 24, 2016.
Pro 13:22

“will provide an inheritance.” The Hebrew verb is in the hiphil aspect and is causal. A very literal translation could be that “a good person will cause his children’s children to inherit,” but saying “provide an inheritance” makes the point well.

A good and godly person realizes that the Devil, the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4), works aggressively to place the ungodly in positions of wealth and power, and to disempower the godly. That is one reason that governments seem to have so many ungodly people in positions of power, and why so many wealthy people are ungodly and promote ungodly causes. The wise, good, and godly person knows that his godly children and grandchildren are fighting both the fallen nature of the world and also spiritual forces to get ahead in life, and may well need help to succeed. The good person is more than willing to give that help.

Like all proverbs, this proverb is often applicable, but not universally applicable. It is not helpful to give much, if any, to the unwise, because it does not help them and it wastes resources that could be better used. On the other hand, many people just need a boost to get ahead and stay ahead, and the wise person looks for that kind of person to help. A good man prepares to give others a boost in life, and also knows that often one of the best ways to help is to begin to help while he is still alive, and so he gives money or property along with coaching and training in how to wisely handle wealth. Jesus illustrated that point in his parables in which a rich man gave different amounts of money to his servants and noted what they did with what he gave them, and then gave more to the ones who were wise with what they had already been given (Matt. 25:14-29).

“to his children’s children.” This verse does not mean that a good person does not leave an inheritance to his children but skips over them and leaves it to his grandchildren. It means he leaves enough wealth that his whole family, including his children and grandchildren, are helped along.

Unlike our modern culture, in the biblical times families generally lived together or very close together. A wise man worked diligently, lived righteously, and used his money and goods wisely so that he accumulated wealth. This took self-control, goal setting, and some self-denial, just as it does today. A person who spends lavishly will not accumulate wealth (Prov. 21:17). If the man was wise and self-controlled, when he died there was enough wealth to help not only his children, but his grandchildren as well. The reason that Proverbs 13:22 in the Hebrew text speaks specifically of a man leaving an inheritance is that in the biblical culture, women were not generally allowed to own property or to pass it down to others. However, in today’s culture, the verse applies to both men and women, and a wise woman provides for her children and grandchildren.

A wise and godly person realizes that the world is stacked against people who try to “make it on their own.” Although there are always some people who start with little or nothing and accumulate wealth, those people are relatively few. Far greater is the number of people who try hard to be successful, but the everyday expenses of life, taxes, and some unexpected expenses keep them under financial stress. Often, all people need to do well in life is a little outside help that allows them to get some basic needs paid for. A financial gift from a parent or grandparent is often all it takes to bring a person from just getting along to doing well in life. Also, that gift may not come as money, but in some other form such as providing education that allows a person to get a better job.

Pro 13:23

“of the poor.” The Hebrew text can be translated “of the poor” or “for the poor,” and both meanings are true. A person reading the Hebrew text would see both meanings, but translators bringing the text into English must make a choice.

Saying that there is an abundance of food in the unplowed field of the poor is simply a way of stating that if the ground was tilled and the plants were planted and cared for, there would be food.

“carried away because of a lack of justice.” God designed the earth to produce enough food to feed the people of the world, but the Devil has worked hard in many ways to make sure that people live in poverty. Unjust landlords or governments take away the profits of the worker, leaving him destitute and without the motivation to do what it takes to have future abundant harvests. Justice would say, “The farmer who labors must be the first to partake of the fruits” (2 Tim. 2:6), but what often happens is landowners or evil governments do not insure that happening.

In our modern world, there are many people who do not realize that God provided the earth, animals, and fish to provide for the needs of humans, and so they oppose hunting and fishing, and support taking huge tracts of land out of production “for conservation.” While land, animals, and fish can certainly be overhunted and/or abused, they can also be properly managed without being made unavailable to the public. Humans and animals are not equal and eating meat and fish is not “cruel.” God gave humans dominion over animals (Gen. 1:26), and gave animals to humans as food (Gen. 9:3). At the time God gave the animals as food to people, there were not many painless ways to hunt and kill an animal, so we can see that God is not opposed to hunting animals for food.

The Devil wants people to be hungry and malnourished, and one of the ways he promotes that agenda is by discouraging eating the animals God gave to people as food. In some societies eating meat is discouraged by some because it is considered wrong or cruel; in other societies, some food is considered too holy to eat, and in some societies, it is simply “unfashionable” to eat certain things that would otherwise be very good and health-promoting food.

Pro 13:24

“desires discipline.” While the REV has “desires discipline,” the Hebrew text is more graphic and idiomatic, and could be more literally translated, “searches [or “seeks”] him out for chastisement [or “discipline”]. The HALOTa lexicon has “searches him out for a beating” [entry under the word for “search,” not “discipline”].

The idea of the Hebrew text is that the parent who really loves a child understands that he must learn at an early age that bad behavior brings unwanted consequences. At a time when girls were regularly married by 14, and boys by 16, children were taught very early that being wise and doing things the right way avoided a lot of pain in life.

The Hebrew text saying, “searches him out for a beating,” would not be misunderstood in the biblical culture. There was no social security in the biblical world, and no “old folk’s homes” where the elderly could be taken care of. In their old age, or if they were hurt or disabled, parents were cared for by their children, which was one reason that children were so greatly loved and esteemed. No one living in the biblical era would think that a parent searching out a child for a beating would be child abuse, although that might be what someone today would think if we had that translation in the REV text.

Everyone in biblical times understood that children had to learn at an early age to be wise and make good decisions, and firm discipline helped ensure the children would be safe. There were no hospitals, no antibiotics, and no outpatient surgery centers. A child who was foolish and got what we today would think of as a minor injury could easily die or be crippled for life, so good parents diligently watched over their children to keep them safe and healthy and teach them wisdom.

Koehler and Baumgartner, Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon,
Pro 13:25

“of his appetite.” In the Hebrew text, the word translated as “appetite” is nephesh (#05315 נֶפֶשׁ), which is often translated as “soul” but which has many different meanings and here refers to the person’s appetite.

[For more on “soul” and the meanings of the Hebrew and Greek words translated as “soul,” see Appendix 16: “Usages of ‘Soul’”]


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