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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Proverbs 13

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The Value of Correction

Proverbs 13:1

A wise son heeds his father’s instruction,
But a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.

a. A wise son heeds his father’s instruction: The fact that Solomon delivered this proverb to his own son does not make it any less true. Children are wise to listen to the instruction from their parents.

b. A scoffer does not listen to rebuke: The scoffer is fool enough to reject all guidance and therefore never learns.

i. Does not listen: “Or, Heareth and jeereth; – as Lot’s sons-in-law, as Eli’s sons, and afterwards Samuel’s.” (Trapp)

ii. Instruction…rebuke: “The change to a stronger word in the second line—(‘rebuke’)—shows that he does not respond to any level of discipline.” (Ross)

Proverbs 13:2

A man shall eat well by the fruit of his mouth,
But the soul of the unfaithful feeds on violence.

a. A man shall eat well by the fruit of his mouth: Wise and good speech brings blessings of many different kinds, including the blessing of prosperity.

b. The soul of the unfaithful feeds on violence: Those who are unfaithful to God and His wisdom may find themselves supported by or through violence.

i. Feeds on violence: “Shall have that violence and injury returned upon themselves, which they have offered to others in word or deed.” (Poole)

Proverbs 13:3

He who guards his mouth preserves his life,
But he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction.

a. He who guards his mouth preserves his life: Wise and good words can preserve life. This is true both in a moment of crisis and over a lifetime.

i. Guards his mouth: “As the guard keepeth the gates in a siege. God hath set a double guard of lips and teeth before this gate, and yet, unless he himself set the watch, and keep the door, all will be lost.” (Trapp)

ii. “The old Arab proverb is appropriate: ‘Take heed that your tongue does not cut your throat’.” (Ross)

b. He who opens wide his lips shall have destruction: To speak too much is usually to find trouble, leading to destruction. Wisdom will guard the mouth and the words it speaks.

i. “How often have the foolish, headstrong, and wicked, forfeited their lives by the treasonable or blasphemous words they have spoken! The government of the tongue is a rare but useful talent.” (Clarke)

ii. “It has often been remarked that God has, given us two EYES, that we may SEE much; two EARS, that we may HEAR much; but has given us but ONE tongue, and that fenced in with teeth, to indicate that though we hear and see much, we should speak but little.” (Clarke)

Proverbs 13:4

The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing;
But the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.

a. The soul of a lazy man desires: It isn’t that the lazy man or woman lacks desire; they wish for many things. Yet they have nothing because they cannot or will not apply themselves to the work required to take desires to reality.

i. “The sluggard craves the fruit of diligence without the diligence that gains it.” (Bridges)

ii. “Affection without endeavour is like Rachel – beautiful, but barren.” (Trapp)

b. The soul of the diligent shall be made rich: As in most places in Proverbs, soul here is used in the sense of “life,” without so much reference to the non-material aspect of one’s being. Yet, it is true that diligence in spiritual things leads to spiritual riches and blessing.

i. “We often hear many religious people expressing a desire to have more of the Divine life, and yet never get forward in it. How is this? The reason is, they desire, but do not stir themselves up to lay hold upon the Lord.” (Clarke)

Proverbs 13:5

A righteous man hates lying,
But a wicked man is loathsome and comes to shame.

a. A righteous man hates lying: The righteous man or woman doesn’t just love truth and avoid the lie; they actually hate lying. Being godly, they have some of the love of the truth and hatred of the lie that God Himself has.

b. A wicked man is loathsome: The implication is that wicked men and women love the lie, and this makes the loathsome and repulsive. This will surely bring them to shame.

i. Come to shame: “Makes himself contemptible and hateful to all that know him; there being scarce any reproach which men more impatiently endure, and severely revenge, than that of being called or accounted a liar.” (Poole)

Proverbs 13:6

Righteousness guards him whose way is blameless,
But wickedness overthrows the sinner.

a. Righteousness guards him whose way is blameless: A blameless life—certainly not free of sin, but a life of general righteousness and integrity—is honored and blessed by God. It is both the righteousness of the blameless man or woman that guards, and the righteousness of God Himself.

b. Wickedness overthrows the sinner: Even as the blameless man or woman’s own righteousness guards them, so the sin of the sinner overthrows them. Deeds can reflect destiny.

i. The sinner: “Heb. the man of sin, who giveth up himself to wicked courses.” (Poole)

Proverbs 13:7

There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing;
And one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches.

a. There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing: Material riches and wealth may be of little account for happiness in this world and especially in the world to come. One may work hard to make himselfrich, yet find at the end of it all that is nothing. Solomon wrote about these principles in Ecclesiastes.

i. “Our own age abounds with men who have made themselves rich, and yet have nothing. They have amassed great wealth, and yet it has no purchasing power in the true things of life. It cannot insure health, it brings no happiness, it often destroys peace.” (Morgan)

b. And one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches: There are those who willingly make themselves poor on a material level, and do so out of generosity to others or out of fixed spiritual priorities. Such ones have great riches in this life and in the life to come.

i. Morgan saw the key to this proverb in its use of self in both the first and second lines. “To make self rich, is to destroy the capacity for life. To make self poor, by enriching others, is to live.”

ii. The greatest occasion of anyone making himself poor yet gaining great riches through it was that of Jesus Christ. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Proverbs 13:8

The ransom of a man’s life is his riches,
But the poor does not hear rebuke.

a. The ransom of a man’s life is his riches: A man’s life can be measured in many ways. One of those measurements—though by no means the best measurement—is his riches. In a time of crisis, a man’s riches may well ransom his life.

i. His riches: “They may help a man out at a dead lift, and get him a release out of captivity, or a lease of his life. ‘Slay us not,’ say they, [Jeremiah 41:8] ‘for we have treasures in the field. So he forebore, and slew them not among their brethren.’” (Trapp)

ii. The ransom of a man’s life: “But what can a person give in exchange for his soul (Matthew 16:26)? It is too precious to be redeemed with corruptible silver and gold (1 Peter 1:18). When all the treasures of earth were insufficient for this ransom, the riches of heaven were poured out (1 Peter 1:19; Hebrews 10:5-8).” (Bridges)

b. The poor does not hear rebuke: Most commentators take this in a positive sense, with the idea that the poor will never find himself in the same trouble as the rich man who must ransom his life with his riches.

i. Morgan explains the thought in the positive sense: “That is to say that if wealth has its advantages, so also has poverty. The rich man by his wealth may be able to conserve his life, but the poor man escapes the very dangers into which the rich are brought.”

ii. “Those who have riches have often much trouble with them; as they had much trouble to get them, so they have much trouble to keep them. In despotic countries, a rich man is often accused of some capital crime, and to save his life, though he may be quite innocent, is obliged to give up his riches; but the poor, in such countries, are put to no trouble.” (Clarke)

iii. If taken in a negative sense, then here Solomon considered those whose poverty comes from their moral failings. Certainly not everyone who is poor is in that condition because of their unwillingness to hear rebuke, but some are. Their foolish rejection of wisdom leads them to poverty.

Proverbs 13:9

The light of the righteous rejoices,
But the lamp of the wicked will be put out.

a. The light of the righteous rejoices: Righteousness—godliness as expressed in real life—is associated with light and with rejoicing. There is something wrong with the person who claims to be righteous rarely have evidence of light and rejoicing.

b. The lamp of the wicked will be put out: Righteousness is associated with light, but the wicked with darkness. The darkness conceived of here is one that is imposed by the judgment of a righteous God (will be put out).

i. “The proverb contrasts the enduring wealth of the righteous with the extinction of the wicked and implicitly their wealth.” (Waltke)

Proverbs 13:10

By pride comes nothing but strife,
But with the well-advised is wisdom.

a. By pride comes nothing but strife: Pride—excessive self-focus and self-regard—constantly generates strife. When people are focused on their own exaltation they will always attempt to advance themselves at the expense of others.

i. Nothing but strife: “Pride is a dividing distemper; gouty swollen legs keep at a distance; bladders blown up with wind spurt one from another, and will not close; but prick them, and you may pack a thousand of them in a little room.” (Trapp)

ii. “Perhaps there is not a quarrel among individuals in private life, nor a war among nations, that does not proceed from pride and ambition…It was to destroy this spirit of pride, that Jesus was manifested in the extreme of humility and humiliation among men. The salvation of Christ is a deliverance from pride, and a being clothed with humility. As far as we are humble, so far we are saved.” (Clarke)

b. With the well-advised is wisdom: Those who listen to and receive the counsel of others walk in wisdom.

Proverbs 13:11

Wealth gained by dishonesty will be diminished,
But he who gathers by labor will increase.

a. Wealth gained by dishonesty will be diminished: This may be because God’s blessing is not upon wealth gained by dishonesty, or because such wealth was not gained by the habits of life that earn and retain wealth.

i. “The metaphor of getting money from a vapor suggests what English speakers call ‘easy money,’ including tyranny, injustice, extortion, lies, and windfalls, at the expense of others.” (Waltke)

ii. “Wealth that is not the result of honest industry and hard labour is seldom permanent. All fortunes acquired by speculation, lucky hits, and ministering to the pride or luxury of others, &c., soon become dissipated. They are not gotten in the way of Providence, and have not God’s blessing, and therefore are not permanent.” (Clarke)

b. He who gathers by labor will increase: This happens with God’s blessing on honest labor and in the practice of habits that normally earn, retain, and increase wealth.

Proverbs 13:12

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.

a. Hope deferred makes the heart sick: The strength of hope sustains the heart; when hope’s fulfillment is long delayed (deferred), it can make the heart sick.

i. “How many see we lie languishing at hope’s hospital, as he at the pool of Bethesda!” (Trapp)

ii. “Plaut elaborates that people can bear frustration only so long; they must have encouragement to continue (p. 153). Perhaps believers should make it part of their task to help others realize their hopes whenever possible.” (Ross)

b. When the desire comes, it is a tree of life: When hope’s desire finally is fulfilled it brings long-sustained life. This principle reminds us that though hope’s delayed fulfillment may even make the heart sick, it is worth it to endure the sense of sickness for the goodness of the fulfillment when it comes.

Proverbs 13:13

He who despises the word will be destroyed,
But he who fears the commandment will be rewarded.

a. He who despises the word will be destroyed: This principle may be fulfilled through the direct judgment of God upon those who commit the terrible sin of despising His word, or by the natural consequences of such folly.

b. He who fears the commandment will be rewarded: The one who not only understands and obeys but also properly respects and reverences God’s word (fears the commandment) will be rewarded both in this life and the life to come.

i. Word and commandment: “The use of these two terms has religious significance: they most often refer to Scripture. Kidner says that their use is a ‘reminder that revealed religion is presupposed in Proverbs.’” (Ross)

ii. Fears the commandment: “As Queen Elizabeth…who, when the Bible was presented to her as she rode triumphantly through London after her coronation, received the same with both her hands, and kissing it, laid it to her breast, saying that it had ever been her delight, and should be her rule of government.” (Trapp)

Proverbs 13:14

The law of the wise is a fountain of life,
To turn one away from the snares of death.

a. The law of the wise is a fountain of life: God’s word (the law of the wise) is a continual source of life for all who will receive it.

b. To turn one away from the snares of death: This is one way that God’s word brings life. Understanding and obeying God’s word will keep one away from many things that trap and destroy, both spiritual and material.

i. Snares of death: “Suggests that death is like a hunter.” (Ross)

ii. The snares of death: “There is only one fountain of life, but there are many snares of death (cf. 2 Tim. 2:24-26).” (Waltke)

Proverbs 13:15

Good understanding gains favor,
But the way of the unfaithful is hard.

a. Good understanding gains favor: This happens both from the blessing of God and simply from the way people relate and socialize with each other. Men and women of good understanding are more welcome among others in the way they deal with people.

b. The way of the unfaithful is hard: Those who reject wisdom and live lives unfaithful to God and man will find life hard. They find many more obstacles and difficulties in their path, and receive less help from others along the way.

i. This recalls a contemporary proverb, supposedly attributed to the actor John Wayne: Life is hard; it’s harder when you’re stupid.

ii. The way of the unfaithful is hard: “They dream of a flowery path, but they make for themselves a hard way…‘I was held before conversion,’ said Augustine, ‘not with an iron chain, but with the obstinacy of my own will.’” (Bridges)

iii. “Never was a truer saying; 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.” (Clarke)

Proverbs 13:16

Every prudent man acts with knowledge,
But a fool lays open his folly.

a. Every prudent man acts with knowledge: The wise and prudent man or woman not only has knowledge, but they act with it. Wisdom is more than in their mind, it is in their life.

b. A fool lays open his folly: The folly of the fool is plain for the world to see. It is open before God and man.

i. “Lacking this prudence, a fool exposes his folly. He pours out his wrath, vaunts his vanity, exposes his thoughtlessness, and exercises no judgment.” (Bridges)

Proverbs 13:17

A wicked messenger falls into trouble,
But a faithful ambassador brings health.

a. A wicked messenger falls into trouble: It could be often said that the wicked person falls into trouble, but this is even more so of the messenger, who has the responsibility to relay the message. This is a warning to those who are or wish to be messengers of God’s truth.

i. “The messenger is an example of a person charged with a serious responsibility. Those who are reliable are appropriately rewarded, but those who are not soon find themselves in serious trouble.” (Garrett)

ii. “‘The professional courier had to be courageous and bold and his training must have included the study of military strategy and tactics.’ They also enjoyed an extraordinary status that entitled them to privileged treatment: ‘Their names are amongst those of the very few names of officials which have come down to us in the literature.’ They were authorized to speak in the ‘I’ style of the client.” (Waltke)

b. A faithful ambassador brings health: An ambassador is a special kind of messenger, and those who are faithful in that duty bring goodness to others and to themselves. This is a blessing for those who are or wish to be ambassadors of God.

Proverbs 13:18

Poverty and shame will come to him who disdains correction,
But he who regards a rebuke will be honored.

a. Poverty and shame will come to him who disdains correction: We all make mistakes, but the man or woman who cannot be corrected will remain in their mistakes and never learn from them. This often leads to poverty and shame.

i. Waltke observed that Proverbs shows us that “There are many causes of poverty: laziness (Proverbs 10:4-5; 12:24; 13:4; 15:19; 19:15; 20:4, 13; 21:25), love of pleasure and luxury (Proverbs 21:17; 28:19), a propensity to talk instead of getting down to work (Proverbs 14:23), wickedness in general (Proverbs 13:25), and meanness (Proverbs 11:24). This proverb points to a more fundamental problem, namely, the refusal, like that of the horse and mule (Psalm 32:9), to listen to the instructions that correct these flaws.”

ii. “Poverty due to moral failure brings disgrace, but poverty with virtue (Proverbs 17:1; 19:1), such as from injustice (Proverbs 13:23), is not disgraceful.” (Waltke)

iii. “Proverbs takes a balanced position; it neither dehumanizes the poor on the grounds that they are to blame for all their troubles nor absolves the individual of personal responsibility.” (Garrett)

b. He who regards a rebuke will be honored: A rebuke never feels good, but when we properly regard it and learn from it, we will not repeat the same mistakes over and over. This leads to honor in this life and the life to come.

i. Regards a rebuke: “That considers it seriously, receiveth it kindly, and reformeth himself by it, shall be honoured, and enriched…Or if he do not always gain riches, he shall certainly have honour both from God and men.” (Poole)

Proverbs 13:19

A desire accomplished is sweet to the soul,
But it is an abomination to fools to depart from evil.

a. A desire accomplished is sweet to the soul: When our desires are fulfilled—especially when they are accomplished through hard work, discipline, and sacrifice—this is sweet to the soul and brings great life satisfaction.

b. It is an abomination to fools to depart from evil: The fool is so in love with his or her evil that they regard it as a terrible thing (an abomination) to depart from that evil. This shows that evil and folly are not surface problems; they are bound up deep within a person’s being.

i. “Men will not pay the price of departing from evil, and so fail of the sweetness of fulfilled desire.” (Morgan)

ii. “A person’s life depends on finding his drives and appetites satisfied. The frustrated fool goes from failure to failure, but the gratified righteous go from strength to strength.” (Waltke)

iii. “Holiness makes heaven; sin makes hell. So which place are the ungodly suited for? Hating holiness means that you are fit for hell.” (Bridges)

Proverbs 13:20

He who walks with wise men will be wise,
But the companion of fools will be destroyed.

a. He who walks with wise men will be wise: Good companions bring much good and wisdom to life. When we choose to associate ourselves with wise men and women, we will gain in wisdom.

b. The companion of fools will be destroyed: It is taken for granted that the companion of fools is a fool and will remain rooted in their folly. Their choice of companions proves their folly and shows their destiny: destruction.

i. Kidner quoted John Knox’s translation of the Latin Vulgate: Fool he ends that fool befriends.

Proverbs 13:21

Evil pursues sinners,
But to the righteous, good shall be repaid.

a. Evil pursues sinners: In their very nature, sinners will purse evil. Yet it is also true that evil pursues sinners. The power of evil and the evil one desires to keep sinners in their grasp.

b. To the righteous, good shall be repaid: The “reward” of sinners is for evil to chase after them. God’s righteous men and women have a much better destiny. Good shall be granted to them as they reap what they have sowed (Galatians 6:7).

i. We remember the promise Jesus made: So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time–houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions–and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30)

ii. “God shall repay good. Now he is a liberal paymaster, and all his retributions are more than bountiful. Never did any yet do or suffer aught for God, that complained of a hard bargain. God will recompense your losses.” (Trapp)

iii. We also remember another of Jesus’ promises: Whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward. (Matthew 10:42)

Proverbs 13:22

A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children,
But the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.

a. A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children: The blessing on the life of a good man is great enough that, upon his death, he has enough to give an inheritance not only to his children, but to his grandchildren. This also shows the generosity of the good man.

i. More importantly, the good man passes an inheritance to his children and grandchildren greater than material wealth. He gives something money can’t buy: the gift of a good parent and grandparent, and the example of goodness, and all the goodness entails.

ii. “He files many a prayer in heaven in their behalf, and his good example and advices are remembered and quoted from generation to generation.” (Clarke)

b. The wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous: The sinner may have wealth, and this may be a discouragement to the righteous. Yet confident in the judgments of God, the righteous know that all things are theirs and God can, if He wishes, transfer the wealth of the sinner to the righteous.

Proverbs 13:23

Much food is in the fallow ground of the poor,
And for lack of justice there is waste.

a. Much food is in the fallow ground of the poor: Most commentators understand this as a proverb in sympathy with the poor in both its first and second lines. In this thinking, the fallow ground of the poor exists because of the lack of justice mentioned in the second line.

i. “This is the declaration of an abiding truth that there is sustenance in the land, but men are excluded from it by injustice.” (Morgan) “According to this proverb, the lack of food for the hard-working poor is due to tyranny, not the environment.” (Waltke)

ii. Yet it is possible that the first line of this proverb rebukes those who are poor because of their lack of work or initiative. A wise man or woman might look at a piece of fallow ground and see much food that can be gained with hard work. Others may only see the hard work and a disruption to a lazy life.

iii. Adam Clarke understood this as a rebuke of the lazy poor: “O, how much of the poverty of the poor arises from their own want of management! They have little or no economy, and no foresight. When they get any thing, they speedily spend it; and a feast and a famine make the chief varieties of their life.”

b. For lack of justice there is waste: The second line of this proverb speaks clearly of things that are wasted because justice does not prevail. When hard work is justly rewarded and laziness is allowed its natural penalty there will be much less waste.

Proverbs 13:24

He who spares his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.

a. He who spares his rod hates his son: The rod is a figure of correction (as previously in Proverbs 10:13), here including but not limited to the appropriate physical discipline of children. The one who refuses to discipline his child may feel they avoid it out of compassion for the child, but they are mistaken. The harm is potentially so great that it could be said that he hates his son.

i. Hates his son: “His fond affection is as pernicious to him as his or another man’s hatred could be.” (Poole)

ii. “It is as if one should be so tender over a child as not to suffer the wind to blow upon it, and therefore hold the hand before the mouth of it, but so hard as he strangleth the child.” (Trapp)

b. He who loves him disciplines him promptly: Proper discipline for a child comes from both wisdom and love. Such correction will be done promptly, reinforcing the connection between the correction and error of the child.

i. “Ephesians 6:4 warns against undue severity; but the obligation remains. Proverbs itself exalts the place of tenderness, constructiveness and example, in this relationship: see, e.g., Pro 4:3, 4, 11.” (Kidner)

ii. “The proverb is based on several assumptions. First, that the home is the basic social unit for transmitting values (cf. Exodus 20:12). Second, that parents have absolute values, not merely valuations. Third, that folly is bound up in the heart of the child (Proverbs 22:16; cf. Genesis 8:21). Fourth, ‘that it will take more than just words to dislodge it.’ (Waltke)

Proverbs 13:25

The righteous eats to the satisfying of his soul,
But the stomach of the wicked shall be in want.

a. The righteous eats to the satisfying of his soul: This principle was even more treasured in ancient times, when only the relatively wealthy were able to eat as much as they pleased at a meal. God’s blessing on the righteous man or woman is often so great that they have material abundance that does them good.

i. It also speaks to having a soul that can be satisfied. “His desires are all moderate; he is contented with his circumstances, and is pleased with the lot which God is pleased to send.” (Clarke)

ii. “Although the word is used literally, in this gnomic proverb it can also be used metaphorically for the satisfying of the spiritual appetite.” (Waltke)

b. The stomach of the wicked shall be in want: This may be because of the judgment of God upon the wicked, but it is also true that the wicked and foolish life creates its own scarcity.

i. “Elijah was fed, first by ravens, afterwards by a widow, while the wicked country of Israel went hungry.” (Bridges)

ii. “The wicked, though he use all shifts and expedients to acquire earthly good, not sticking even at rapine and wrong, is frequently in real want, and always dissatisfied with his portion. A contented mind is a continual feast. At such feasts he eats not.” (Clarke)

iii. This principle was especially true according to the terms of the old covenant. “Abundance of food indicates a right relationship to the Lord and the community, but a lack of it signifies a failed relationship (cf. Proverbs 10:3; Deuteronomy 28:48, 57; Jeremiah 44:18; Ezekiel 4:17).” (Waltke)

©2017 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission

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