Proverbs 13:1-3. A wise son, &c. — Houbigant translates this verse, “A wise son regardeth the instruction of his father; but a son who is a scorner heareth not rebuke.” A man shall eat good — Shall receive much comfort, credit, and benefit to himself; by the fruit of his mouth — By his wise and profitable discourses; but the soul — That is, the person, as the word soul often signifies; of the transgressors — Of those that transgress with their lips, which seems to be the meaning here; shall eat violence — Shall have that violence and injury returned upon themselves, which they have offered to others in word or deed. He that keepeth his mouth — Namely, shut; that speaks sparingly, and with due care and caution; keepeth his life —
Prevents many sins and mischiefs which others run into; but he that openeth wide his lips — That takes the liberty of speaking whatever he pleases, or all that comes into his mind; shall have destruction — From God or men.
Proverbs 13:4. The sluggard desireth and hath nothing — Because he contents himself with lazy desires, without diligent endeavours; but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat — He shall be enriched with the fruit of his own labours.
Proverbs 13:5. A righteous man hateth lying — Both in himself and in other men, whereby he gets that good name, which is like a precious ointment; but a wicked man — Who accustoms himself to lying; cometh to shame —
Makes himself contemptible and hateful to all that know him; there being scarcely any reproach which men endure more impatiently, or revenge more severely, than that of being called or accounted liars.
Proverbs 13:7. There is that maketh himself rich, &c. — Some men, who have little or nothing, pretend to have great riches, and carry themselves accordingly; either out of pride and vanity, or with a design to gain reputation with others, whom they intend to defraud. There is that maketh himself poor, &c. — Some rich men seem and profess themselves to be very poor, that they may preserve and increase their estates, by concealing them from those who would either desire a share in them, or take them away by deceit and violence. Some, however, think the sense of the verse is, “There are those who are rich in their poverty, because they are content, desire nothing more, and use generously and charitably what they have: and there are others who, in the midst of their riches, are really poor and in necessity, because of their insatiable covetousness or profusion.”
Proverbs 13:8. The ransom of a man’s life are his riches — This verse is considered by some as setting forth the several advantages of riches and poverty. Riches enable a man to redeem his life when it is in the greatest danger, and poverty preserves a man from those rebukes and injuries which endanger, and oft destroy the rich. Others again consider it as showing the convenience of poverty above riches. Riches frequently expose men to the peril of losing their lives by false accusers, thieves, or tyrants, which they are forced to redeem with the loss of their riches; whereas poverty commonly secures men not only from such kinds of death, but even from rebukes and injuries; partly because the poor are cautions that they may not offend or provoke others; and partly because their persons and actions are neglected and slighted, and they are esteemed objects of pity. Bishop Patrick paraphrases the passage in the latter of these senses, thus: “Rich men are not always so happy as they are imagined; for their wealth sometimes only serves to make them accused of high crimes, and then to bring them off with a huge sum of money, which they pay to save their lives; but nobody is apt to find fault with the poor, or to bring any charge against them.” Dr. Waterland renders the latter clause, The poor heareth no disturbance.
Proverbs 13:9. The light of the righteous rejoiceth, &c. — Or, as Schultens renders it, The light of the righteous shall shine forth joyfully; but the darkening lamp of the wicked shall be put out — See note on Proverbs 4:18-19. The meaning seems to be, 1st, The comfort of good men is flourishing and lasting; their prosperity increases and makes them glad. 2d, The comfort of bad men is withering and dying; their lamp burns dim and faint; it looks melancholy, like a taper in an urn; and it will shortly be put out in litter darkness, Isaiah 50:11.
Proverbs 13:10. Only by pride cometh contention — This is not to be understood exclusively, as to all other causes of contention; for contentions often spring from ignorance, or mistake, or covetousness, or other passions; but eminently, because, as pride bloweth up those coals of contention, which other passions kindle, so oftentimes pride alone, without any other cause, stirreth up strife; which it doth by making a man self-conceited in his opinions, and obstinate in his resolutions, and impatient of any opposition: and many other ways; but with the well-advised — Who are not governed by their own passions, but by prudent consideration, and the good counsel of others; is wisdom — Which teacheth them to avoid and abhor all contention. “Melancthon,” says Bishop Patrick, “singled out for the observation of his scholars two remarkable sentences of this chapter, of which this is one; and upon it he reminds them of the Greek proverb, ορος ορειου μιγνυται, A mountain cannot mix with a mountain, that is, two high men will never agree together; and of another excellent saying among the Latins, Crede mihi, sapere est non multum sapere, Believe me, to be wise, is not to be over wise. For they whose minds are infected with a vain opinion of themselves, either cannot see the truth, if it be against their thoughts; or, if they do, they will not acknowledge it, for fear they should yield and confess themselves overcome.”
Proverbs 13:11. Wealth gotten by vanity — By vain, or deceitful, or wicked practices; shall be diminished — Because the curse of God attends it, and the same corrupt dispositions which incline men to sinful ways of getting riches will incline them to the like sinful ways of spending them. Wealth gotten by vanity will be bestowed upon vanity, and then it will be diminished. That which is obtained by such employments as are not lawful, or not becoming Christians; as by gaming, by the stage, or by any employment which only serves to feed the pride and luxury of mankind, may as truly be said to be gotten by vanity, as that which is got by fraud and lying, and will be diminished; but he that gathereth by labour — By diligence in an honest calling; shall increase — Through the divine blessing, and his property and influence will become greater instead of growing less.
Proverbs 13:12. Hope deferred maketh the heart sick — The delay of that which a man eagerly desires and expects is such an affliction, that it differs little from a lingering disease; but when the desire cometh — When the good desired and expected is obtained. It is a tree of life — That is, most sweet, satisfactory, and reviving to the soul.
Proverbs 13:13-14. Whoso despiseth — Or wilfully and presumptuously disobeys, the word — Namely, the word of God, which is called the word, by way of eminence; shall be destroyed — Except he repent and return to obedience. But he that feareth the commandment — That hath a reverence to its authority, and is afraid to violate it; shall be rewarded — He makes God his friend, who will certainly reward him for his obedience. The law of the wise — The doctrine, instruction, or counsel of holy men, who are commonly called wise, as sinners are called fools, in this book; is a fountain of life — Sending forth streams of living water, and affording both refreshment and comfort to all that will partake thereof; to depart from the snares of death — Enabling them to repel the temptations of Satan, and keeping them at a distance from the snares of sin, and therefore from the snares of death, into which they run that forsake the law of the wise.
Proverbs 13:15. Good understanding — Discovering itself by a man’s holy and righteous practices; giveth favour — Maketh a man acceptable both to God and men; but the way of transgressors — Their conduct, or manner of conversation — is hard; Hebrew, איתן, rough, as this very word is rendered Deuteronomy 21:4; it is offensive to God and men, as rough ways are to travellers; fierce, intractable, and incorrigible. Bishop Patrick interprets the verse thus: “If a man have understanding enough to be thoroughly good, he will find things favourable to his honest desires; but they that take evil courses meet with great difficulties, and are forced to go backward and forward, and wind and turn every way, to bring about their ends, or save themselves perhaps from ruin.”
Proverbs 13:17. A wicked messenger — Who is unfaithful in the execution of the business committed to his charge; falleth into mischief — Shall not escape punishment from God, or from them who sent him; but a faithful ambassador is health — Procures safety and benefit, as to his master, so also to himself.
Proverbs 13:18. Poverty, &c., shall be to him, that refuseth instruction — Whereby he might have been preserved from destructive and dishonourable courses; but he that regardeth reproof — That considers it seriously, receives it kindly, and reforms himself by it; shall be honoured — And enriched, which is to be inferred from the former branch. Not indeed that it is always the case, but commonly, and when God sees it will be good for a man. Or, if he do not gain riches, he shall certainly have honour both from God and good men.
Proverbs 13:19. The desire accomplished is sweet — Whatsoever men earnestly desire the enjoyment of, it is sweet to them; therefore sinners rejoice in the satisfaction of their sinful lusts, and abhor all restraint of them.
Proverbs 13:20-21. He that walketh with wise men — That is, who keeps company, and commonly converses with them; shall be wise — Shall learn wisdom and goodness, both from their counsels and examples; but a companion of fools — But he who associates himself with the wicked; shall be destroyed — Shall be as certainly ruined as he will be unavoidably infected with their wickedness. Evil pursueth sinners — The evil of punishment, in proportion to their evil of sin, shall certainly, sooner or later, overtake them, although they may please themselves with hopes of impunity; but to the righteous good shall be repaid — The good which men, truly righteous, do, will infallibly return into their own bosoms, and reward them with many blessings.
Proverbs 13:22. A good man leaveth an inheritance, &c. — “A man that doeth good with his estate, takes the surest course to settle it upon his posterity for many generations;” and the wealth, &c. — Rather, but the wealth of the sinner, “of him who regards nothing but his own sinful lusts and pleasures, shall be transferred from his family into one that is truly virtuous.”
Proverbs 13:23. Much food is in the tillage of the poor — A poor man many times, through God’s blessing upon his endeavours, makes a plentiful provision for himself and family out of a few acres of land, which he manages judiciously and honestly; but there is that is destroyed for want of judgment — There are some whose far larger estates are wasted for want of skill, care, industry, and the divine blessing upon their labours. This is the other sentence of this chapter, (see on Proverbs 13:10,) which Melancthon selected for the observation of his scholars; “the latter part of which,” says Bishop Patrick, “he renders differently from all that I have read: (namely, thus:) There is much food in the furrows of the poor, and others heap up without any measure, that is, to no purpose, when a little will suffice; which is a wise saying, but not agreeable to the Hebrew text.”
Proverbs 13:24. He that spareth — Hebrew, חושׂךְ, withholdeth; his rod — From his son, when it is due to him; or that keeps back that correction which his son’s fault requires, and which he, as a father, is required to give him; hateth his son — His fond affection is as pernicious to his son as his or another man’s hatred could be; but he that loveth him, chasteneth him betimes — Either, 1st, In his tender years, as soon as he is capable of being profited by chastisement; or, 2d, Speedily, before he be hardened in sin. Thus, “as the chapter begins,” says Bishop Patrick, “with an admonition to hearken to reproof, especially from parents, which is repeated again in the thirteenth and eighteenth verses, so here again, in the last verse but one, advice is given to parents not to spare the rod, if reproof will not do, some children being so disposed that they must be thus treated. And it seems a wonderful piece of wisdom in the old Lacedemonians, as Plutarch relates, who, out of a universal love and care for each other’s good, made it lawful for any man to correct the child of another person, if he saw him do amiss. And if the child complained of it to his father, it was looked upon as a fault in the father if he did not correct him again for making that complaint. For they did not, according to Plutarch, look every man only after his own children, servants, and cattle; but every man looked upon what was his neighbour’s as his own, οπως οτι μαλιστα κοινονωσι και φροντιζωσιν ως ιδιων, that there might be, as much as possible, a communion among them; and they might take care of what belonged to others, as if they were their own proper goods.”
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Proverbs 13". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany