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Wednesday, May 29th, 2024
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 13

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries

Verse 1

“A wise son heareth his father’s instruction; But a scoffer heareth not rebuke.”

“A wise child loves discipline, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.”(F1) “A sensible son heeds what his father tells him, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.”(F2)

Verse 2

“A man shall eat good by the fruit of his mouth; But the soul of the treacherous shall eat violence.”

“Good people are rewarded for the good things they say, but evil people always want to do wrong.”(F3) “Good people will be rewarded for what they say, but those who are deceitful are hungry for violence.”(F4)

Verse 3

“He that guardeth his mouth keepeth his life; But he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction.”

“He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his soul; but he that hath no guard on his speech shall meet with evils.”(F5) “He that keeps his own mouth keeps his own life: but he that is hasty with his lips shall bring terror upon himself.”(F6)

Verse 4

“The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing; But the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.”

“The sluggard longeth without result, but the diligent soul is amply appeased.”(F7) “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.”(F8)

Verse 5

“A righteous man hateth lying; But a wicked man is loathsome, and cometh to shame.”

“A good man hates an untrue word, but an evil man’s talk is a shame and a disgrace.”(F9) “The translation of the second line, which determines the main point of the proverb, turns on whether we take the two verbs in their primary meaning or their secondary sense. The primary meaning is, causes to stink and makes ashamed; but they also can mean, acts shamefully and disgracefully.”(F10) We have included this here, because it explains how widely different translation may be made.

Verse 6

“Righteousness guardeth him that is upright in the way; But wickedness overthroweth the sinner.”

It is simply amazing how the author of Proverbs is able to say almost exactly the same thing in a hundred different ways. In a homily on the second clause here, Dyer has this: “There is more bitterness following on sin’s ending than there ever was sweetness flowing out of the sin’s being committed. You that see nothing but delight in sin’s commission will suffer nothing but woe in its conclusion. You that sin for your profits will never profit by your sins.”(F11)

Verse 7

“There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: There is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great wealth.”

“The KJV, ASV, and the the English Revised Version (1881) miss the point here. What we have is two equally obnoxious social shams. Translate: “There are poor people who pretend to be rich, and there are rich people who feign they are poor.”(F12) The reasons why such pretending is done both by the rich and the poor was explained by McGee.

“Some people drive a Cadillac automobile to impress the neighbors, when they can’t really afford it, but there are also very wealthy people who complain of their financial hardships to avoid appeals for contributions. A member of a church where I preached was very wealthy; but he gave less than most of the others and was always talking about how hard times were.”(F13)

Verse 8

“The ransom of a man’s life is his riches; But the poor heareth no threatening.”

The background of this proverb is indicated by the word `ransom.’ When a wealthy man is kidnapped, blackmailed or threatened in some way, his wealth can save his life. However the poor man will not be threatened in any such manner. “There are advantages and disadvantages in wealth. One with money can be exposed to robbery and extortion, but the poor are not so apt to be the object of extortion or blackmail.”(F14)

Verse 9

“The light of the righteous rejoiceth; But the lamp of the wicked shall be put out.”

“The light of the righteous shines brightly, but the lamp of the wicked goes out.”(F15) “Note the distinction between the `light’ and the `lamp.’ The righteous have the true light in them; but the lamp of the wicked is temporary, contrived and inadequate. It shall shortly be extinguished.”(F16)

Verse 10

“By pride cometh only contention; But with the well-advised is wisdom.”

“Pride engenders strife, but with the humble is wisdom.”(F17) “This proverb is directed against litigiousness, quarrelsomeness, and the offensive assertion of one’s supposed rights, and especially, perhaps, against the obstinate pride of rival princes. Humble is used here in the sense of `unassuming.’“(F18)

Verse 11

“Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished; But he that gathereth by labor shall have increase.”

“Wealth by means of fraud always becomes less; but he that increaseth it by labor gains always more.”(F19) “The contrast here is of one who by fraud and deception quickly arrives at wealth,”(F20) with another who by honest toil and enterprise finds true prosperity.

Verse 12

“Hope deferred maketh the heart sick; But when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.”

“Delay in the accomplishment of some much-desired goal occasions sinking of the spirits and despondence; but, when the object of longing is obtained, it is a tree of life.”(F21) The mention here of “the tree of life” and in Proverbs 13:14 of “the fountain of life” supports the view that it is the longing for heaven which is the long-delayed joy of the godly person. This being true, we find a very important emphasis in Proverbs 13:13 upon the Word of God by which heaven is to be received by the faithful.

Verse 13

“Whoso despiseth the word bringeth destruction upon himself,” But he that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded.”

As Keil pointed out, the setting of this verse in between the tree of life and the fountain of life in Proverbs 13:12 and Proverbs 13:14 makes it imperative to understand “The Word,” here as, “The expression of the divine will, the word of God.”(F22)

Verse 14

“The law of the wise is a fountain of life, That one may depart from the snares of death.”

What is this law of the wise? There is no reference whatever here to human wisdom, there being no fountain of life in the wisdom of men. If one wishes to know the wisdom of men, he may find it in their books; if he wishes to know the true wisdom, the wisdom of God, he will find it in God’s book (The Bible), and nowhere else.

Verse 15

“Good understanding giveth favor; But the way of the transgressor is hard.”

There are two views of this passage. The way of the transgressor may be interpreted as in the RSV, “The way of the faithless is their ruin,” or it may be referred to the way of the transgressor’s behavior, his manner, as in this: “The manners of rogues are rough.”(F23) We prefer the interpretation that views the earthly life of every transgressor as encompassing many sorrows and misfortunes.

Verse 16

“Every prudent man worketh with knowledge; But a fool flaunteth his folly.”

“Every prudent man acts out of knowledge, but a fool exposes his folly.”(F24) “The prudent man here is the opposite of a knave.”(F25) The `fool’ in Proverbs is nearly always, not the mentally incompetent, but the morally delinquent.

Verse 17

“A wicked messenger falleth into evil; But a faithful ambassador is health.”

“This passage refers to the envoy who was an important government official, or to a scribe,”(F26) who was entrusted with some important mission. A wicked man in such a position could bring evil upon an entire nation. Solomon, of course, was experienced in the choice of such messengers.

Verse 18

“Poverty and shame shall be to him that refuseth correction; But he that regardeth reproof shall be honored.”

A various reading of the first clause is: “Poverty and shame shall be to him that throweth correction to the wind.”(F27) “A man who follows vicious courses and cannot be persuaded to abandon them must be left to the ruin and disgrace that shall soon come upon him. Then, when through bitter experience, he learns the truth of what he would not believe, the correction he had rejected will be like a poisoned dart in his soul, inflaming his conscience with tormenting remorse.”(F28)

Verse 19

“The desire accomplished is sweet to the soul; But it is an abomination to fools to depart from evil.”

Our comment, above, on Proverbs 13:12, is also applicable here.

Jamieson’s comment here was that, “Self denial, which fools will not endure, is essential to success.”(F29)

Verse 20

“Walk with wise men, and thou shalt be wise; But the companion of fools shall smart for it.”

This teaches that one’s associates are a most important factor in the determination of his destiny. The New Testament reiteration of this truth is, “Be not deceived. Evil communications corrupt good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

Verse 21

“Evil pursueth sinners; But the righteous shall be recompensed with good.”

A various reading here has, “Misfortune to sinners; good fortune to the righteous.”(F30) We learned in our study of Job, however, that in our life on earth there are many variations and exceptions to the proposition laid down here. Nevertheless, this is the way God intended that it should be; and, in the big frame of reference, that is the way it is.

Verse 22

“A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children; And the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the righteous.”

There is a sense in which this is profoundly true. Christ said, “The meek shall inherit the earth.” In the earthly sense, the meek usually get skinned out of their possessions; and yet, in the sense of the true “possession of the earth,” it is only the righteous who have it. Of course, we do not think that is what Solomon had in mind here!

Another rendition here comes close to saying what Solomon probably meant: “A good person will have wealth to give to his children and grandchildren, but in the end good people will get all the things that evil people have.”(F31) Lazarus finally got all the joy that the rich man enjoyed on earth; and it was all taken away from the rich man (Luke 16). This passage falls short of saying that, on earth all the property of evil people will pass into the hands of the righteous. However, we have a feeling that such a view may have been entertained by Solomon and the Israelites in general.

Verse 23

“Much food is in the tillage of the poor; But there is that is destroyed by reason of injustice.”

This stresses exactly what we wrote above. Adam’s race is in rebellion against the Creator. Through our progenitors in Eden, we have chosen Satan as the “god of this world,’; and God Himself has cursed the earth for the sake of Adam and his posterity. In that situation how could it be possible for injustices to be eliminated? A current rendition of this verse is: “Unused fields could yield plenty of food for the poor, but unjust men keep them from being farmed.”(F32)

“There is that is… etc.” This kind of archaic language is scattered throughout Proverbs; and it is this very thing which has fueled the need for translations in `modern English.’ The Anchor Bible (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1982) renders this, “Litigation devours the poor man’s farm land, and his dwelling is swept away by injustice.”(F33)

Verse 24

“He that spareth the rod hateth his son; But he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”

The 20th century in America has witnessed the alarming and disastrous rejection of what is taught here. For any who might wish to pursue this thought further, we have thoroughly discussed it in Vol. 10 (Hebrews) of our New Testament Commentary, pp. 294-295. Today, our Society of the Undisciplined is in the business of dismantling and wrecking a whole civilization that was constructed upon a foundation of Christian values.

“He that loveth him chasteneth him betimes” Betimes, here is hardly a current English expression. It means “in a timely manner.” or “as it may be required.” The alternate reading from the American Standard Version margin is diligently.

Verse 25

“The righteous eateth to the satisfaction of his soul; But the belly of the wicked shall want.”

The Douay Version of the Bible renders the second clause, “The belly of the wicked is never to be filled.”(F34) There is here a profound truth regarding fleshly appetite, which must be controlled and directed to God-approved purposes; because it is impossible fully to gratify the appetites of the flesh. The drunkard literally dies of thirst for alcohol; and nobody knew any better than Solomon that a thousand women were insufficient to gratify his sexual lust. The belly of the wicked can’t be filled!

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Proverbs 13". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/proverbs-13.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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