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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 13

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary


The Proverbs of Solomon:


Here begin the PROVERBS proper, the “nucleus of the book.” What has preceded is the introductory discourse or lecture. There is no difficulty in regarding the first nine chapters as one composition. If actually read, it would not be too long for one occasion, and the various parts are about as well connected as in the most of our modern lectures. Indeed, the unities are well preserved. It is possible that the first six verses of chapter first, which contain the title and preface, may have been prefixed subsequently to the composition of that admirable introductory discourse, and of the whole work. The remainder of the book is of a different character and form, especially from Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16. We have no longer a train of continued thought running on from verse to verse, but nearly every verse is independent of that which precedes and of that which succeeds. They might in general be inverted and transposed at pleasure, without any material injury to the sense, or diminution of the effect of the whole. They were divinely intended to form the Hebrew character to prudence and integrity by the principles of universal morality, and so are suitable for all times and peoples.

It, is not probable that all these Proverbs were original with Solomon. Many of them were, doubtless, the results of his own observation and experience; but others, perhaps long in use, were gathered from other sources; being, however, such as his judgment approved, he gave them a place in his collection.

It is the opinion of some critics that Solomon did not write, but spoke the proverbs, and that they were taken down in writing by others, at different times; that from the various collections thus made by different scribes of the three thousand proverbs which he spake, (compare 1 Kings 4:32,) those contained in this book are what were deemed worthy of preservation for after ages. They seem to have been arranged, by Solomon or others, chiefly according to their form, in two separate volumes, rolls, or memoranda, one of which extends from chapter x to chapter xv, inclusive, and which consists almost exclusively of antithetic parallelisms; the other, from chapter 16 to Proverbs 22:16, which consists chiefly of synthetic parallelisms. Every verse, in both parts, makes a complete sentence. There is rarely even a similarity of subject in two successive verses. Even the two parts of the same verse seldom so run into each other as to form a compound sentence, in which one number is dependent on the other. There are a few exceptions to this in the 20th chapter. This is altogether different from the method of the first nine chapters, and is not so rigidly observed in what follows Proverbs 22:16.

1. A wise son… glad father Gladdens his father.

A foolish son כסיל , ( kesil.) The radical idea is that of dullness, stiffness, grossness, rudeness; when applied to the mind, as here, it is the opposite of that refinement, culture, and intelligence, or the capability of them, which חכם , ( hhakham,) wise, implies. It has been suggested that the idea lies half concealed in the verse, that a father, in general, is better qualified to appreciate the mental qualities of a good and wise son, and the mother is more affected by the grossness and rudeness of an evil and foolish one.

This is not wholly improbable, yet too much stress is not to be laid on these niceties, which seem to overlook the nature of the Hebrew parallelism. Comp. Proverbs 1:8; Proverbs 15:20; Proverbs 17:0; Proverbs 25:23-24. For the expression heaviness, compare Proverbs 14:13; Proverbs 17:21; Psalms 119:22.

Verse 1

1. A wise son, etc. There is no verb in this clause, and the translators have anticipated the verb heareth, of the next clause. This is with difficulty allowable here, for the verb in the second clause is negative, and in this is made affirmative. There is another mode, preferred by competent critics, of rendering the first clause: “A wise son is one who has been instructed by his father,” (so Stuart, Conant, etc.,) or, retaining the original and more specific meaning of the word, one who has been restrained by his father: and rendering the second clause thus: But one who is a scorner has not listened to rebuke. As much as to say, Whenever you see a truly wise man (wise in the sense of this book, compare Proverbs 1:7) you may be sure that he is one who in his youth had suitable parental training, discipline, correction; but when you see a scoffer an arrogant, conceited, wicked man you may be certain he is one who, when young, either did not receive, or would not profit by, rebuke. Comp. Proverbs 1:22; Proverbs 9:7; Proverbs 17:10.

Verse 2

2. A man shall eat (that is, enjoy,) good, etc. A man that only speaks what is right and proper shall enjoy the good effects of his wise and upright conduct, but the soul of the transgressors בגדים , ( bogedhim) the treacherous, perfidious, faithless shall have their perfidy returned, which they will be compelled to eat, that is, suffer.

Soul נפשׁ ( nephesh) may mean appetite, and the clause may be read, But the appetite of the treacherous (shall eat) violence. Conant: “The spirit of the treacherous shall feed on violence.” Comp. Proverbs 12:14; Proverbs 18:20-21.

Verse 3

3. He that keepeth (or watcheth) his mouth Meaning himself. Comp. James 3:2: “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” The latter clause of this proverb is very forcible:

He that openeth… destruction To guard well against passionate or injurious words is often to preserve safety and life. Compare Proverbs 10:19; Proverbs 12:23; Psalms 39:1.

Verse 4

4. Sluggard desireth The sentiment of this verse is, the lazy man has a great appetite, with nothing to satisfy it; but the diligent ( active) shall be fed abundantly. The Septuagint has: “Every slothful man desires, but the hands of the active are diligent.” On first clause, compare Proverbs 11:25; on second, Proverbs 10:4.

Verse 5

5. Hateth lying דבר שׁקר , ( debhar sheker,) a word of lying; that is, a lying word slander or false report. Zockler takes debhar in the sense of thing any deceitful thing; a possible sense. Miller: “A deceitful business.”

But a wicked man is loathsome, and cometh to shame Causes a badodour, and acts shamefully, or puts to the blush. This is, doubtless, to be understood metaphorically of false and slanderous reports put in circulation by him, but the expressions are strong, and may readily be understood. Comp. on first clause, Proverbs 19:26; also, Colossians 3:9; Romans 12:9; Ephesians 4:25; Leviticus 19:11.

Verse 6

6. Upright in the way תם דרךְ . ( tam darek,) perfect of way, a periphrasis for a man of integrity, an upright, perfect man; his righteousness guards him is his protection.

Overthroweth The primary meaning of the verb סל Š ( salaph) is, to slip, and in the form used here, to cause to slip. See Gesenius, who renders this clause, “Wickedness causeth the erring (fool) to slip.” Substantially followed by Noyes: “Wickedness causeth the sinner to slip.” This makes a good antithesis.

The sinner Literally, sin; but the abstract is often put for the concrete the sinner or the sinful their own wickedness hurls them down. The proverb, so rendered, asserts the natural consequences of righteousness on the one hand, and of wickedness on the other. But some contend that חשׂאת ( hhattath) means sin offering. Miller renders: “Wickedness subverts the sin offering.”

Verse 7

7. Maketh… rich… poor That which lies on the surface of this verse is, simulated wealth on the one hand, and pretended poverty on the other. But this is one of the proverbs in which we probably have two meanings; one on the surface, the other to be sought beneath. There is a seeming wealth beneath which lies spiritual poverty; there is a poverty which makes a man rich toward God. “As poor,” says Paul, “yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” Compare Proverbs 11:22; 2 Corinthians 6:10; Revelation 2:9; Luke 12:21; 1 Timothy 6:18; James 2:5. As to the first sense given above, which is taken as the full meaning by some, there are cases as when a man is among marauders and freebooters, or under a rapacious despotism, so common in the East where he may be excusable for concealing his wealth.

Verse 8

8. Ransom… man’s life… riches Under a crushing despotism wealth sometimes causes men to be accused of serious crimes in order to extort money from them. This is done, also, under other circumstances by private threats of accusation, or of giving publicity to crimes or pretended crimes, “blackmailing.” in the East a man has often to purchase his life by a part or the whole of his wealth. The second clause is more obscure; the most probable meaning is, the poor is free from such risks no such accusations are brought against him for purposes of extortion.

Rebuke May be rendered restraint, distraint, or distress, as these terms are used in law. He hears nothing of it. “The traveller who has nothing can sing in the presence of the robber.” Juvenal. Following the Septuagint: some render נערה , ( ge’harah,) “rebuke,” by threatenings. (So French, Noyes, and Zockler.) It does not clearly appear that the Hebrew word ever has this sense. Some understand the verse thus: Riches frequently buy off a man from punishment or other evils, yet, notwithstanding this obvious advantage, the poor man will not listen to those who “rebuke” him for his faults, which are the cause of his poverty. Conant translates: “The ransom of a man’s soul is his wealth, and the poor hear not rebuke;” and comments thus: “The ransom of the soul its redemption from the power of ignorance and sin is the true riches; and poor is he who heeds not rebuke, since instructive reproofs (Proverbs 6:23) are the way of life.” Miller is to the same effect.

Verse 9

9. The light of the righteous rejoiceth Burns brightly, cheerfully, as if rejoicing; equal to, they shall have prosperity, or a happy posterity.

The lamp of the wicked… put out An Arabic proverbial saying is: “Ill fortune has put out my lamp;” that is, good fortune has failed me. Comp. Job 18:5-6; Job 21:17; Job 22:28; Job 29:3; Job 38:7; Psalms 19:5; Psalms 97:11; Psalms 112:4; Proverbs 4:18; Matthew 5:16.

Verse 10

10. Only by pride Such pride as prevents men from taking wise and wholesome advice.

With the well advised those who both receive and profit by good counsel is wisdom. On this verse Melanchthon reminds his pupils of the old Greek adage, “A mountain cannot mix with a mountain.” that is, two high-minded or proud men will never agree: but with the lowly, (comp. Proverbs 11:2,) those sufficiently humble to be advised is practical wisdom, or prudence in avoiding dissensions. “It is uncertain what word the ‘ only’ qualities. We may have, 1. By pride alone comes contention: that is the one unfailing spring of quarrels; or, 2. By pride comes contention only: it, and it alone, is the fruit of pride. The latter construction is preferable.” Speaker’s Commentary. The Geneva Bible version renders the first clause, “Only by pride doth man make contention,” and makes this marginal note: “Whereas every man contendeth to have the pre-eminence, and will not give place to another.”

Verse 11

11. Wealth… by vanity Hebrew, from nothing, or without effort, “by fraud or impatient dishonesty.” Zockler.

Shall be diminished Waste away.

Gathereth by labour Hebrew, by, with, or upon the hand, as we say, by the handful. It is, however, procured by slow and toilsome effort, as by honest labour.

Shall increase This agrees with the general observation of mankind, as is witnessed by the many proverbial sayings expressive of it. The “hand” above represents all honest ways of industry, and is opposed to “vanity.” Comp. Proverbs 10:2; Proverbs 10:4; Proverbs 20:21; Jeremiah 17:11; Psalms 128:2. On wealth gotten by vanity, comp. Job 15:28-29; Job 20:15; Job 19:22; and “with the hand,” Proverbs 22:29; Proverbs 27:23; Proverbs 27:27.

Verse 12

12. Hope deferred That is, the object of the hope.

Maketh the heart sick Or, maketh a sick heart, because of the disappointments.

But when the desire cometh, etc. That is, when the object of desire is gained. Then there is an exhilaration of spirit, of which the tree of life is a vivid emblem. Compare Proverbs 3:18; Proverbs 10:28; Proverbs 11:30.

Verse 13

13. Despiseth the word (of God, or of Wisdom) shall be destroyed Bring destruction to himself; the idea is, that the despiser, or neglecter, or violator of the word, is in legal bondage to it, and is liable to suffer the penalty.

But he that feareth (reverences, obeys) the commandment of God shall be rewarded, recompensed, or be at peace, or safe. So the Septuagint and Vulgate, but the Authorized Version follows the Hebrew. Compare Proverbs 11:31; Jeremiah 18:20.

Verse 14

14. The law Instruction, precepts.

Is a fountain of life, to depart That is, to cause or enable one to depart.

From the snares of death “An established formula for the description of mortal perils.” Zockler.

Verse 15

15. Good understanding Intelligence accompanied with kindness; kindly wisdom.

Way of transgressors Their conduct; frequently denoted as “a way.”

Is hard Difficult, rough, perhaps hard to bear; Zockler renders: “desolate.” The primary idea of the word seems to be that of perpetuity, as an ever-trodden way, hence hard and desolate, destitute of verdure, etc. This word, rendered hard, has been a hard word for the critics.

Verse 16

16. Dealeth with knowledge Acts with thought, or foresight of what he is about to do.

A fool layeth open Or spreads abroad.

His folly The foolish man does not act with wise consideration, and, therefore, exposes his ignorance. Comp. Proverbs 12:23; Proverbs 15:2.

Verse 17

17. A wicked messenger… mischief A bad one, either ignorant or neglectful, makes trouble for himself and those who send him.

But a faithful ambassador Hebrew, messenger of fidelities, is health, or healing. Heals differences and removes difficulties, procuring safety to himself and good to his principal. Comp. Proverbs 25:13; Proverbs 12:18; Pro 10:26 ; 1 Samuel 22:17-18; with Psalms 52:0, title; 2 Kings 1:9-14.

Verse 18

18. Refuseth instruction “Poverty and shame” shall be the condition of such as thus act.

Verse 19

19. Desire accomplished is sweet In this is implied that the desire is itself for good, consequently its accomplishment brings pleasure; fools so adhere to evil as to be incapable of good desires, and therefore fail to obtain that which is sweet to the soul. Comp. Proverbs 13:12; also Psalms 145:19.

Verse 20

20. Walketh with wise men This may be read imperatively: Walk with wise men and be wise. “This expresses the influence of good associates upon the character. A subject thus beautifully illustrated by the Persian moralist, Saadi. A friend of mine put into my hands a piece of scented clay; I took it and said to it, Art thou musk or ambergris, for I am charmed with thy perfume? It answered, I was a despicable piece of clay, but I was sometime in the company of the rose, by which means the sweet quality of my companion was communicated to me: otherwise I should only be a bit of clay as I appear to be.”

A companion of fools Morally so wicked persons.

Shall be destroyed Or shall become bad. “He that delighteth in fools showeth himself as evil,” or “becometh base.” Zockler. See note on Proverbs 11:15.

Verse 21

21. Evil pursueth sinners The natural effects of their own wickedness follow them, as a hunter does his prey. Comp. Genesis 4:7; Numbers 32:23; Psalms 32:10; Psalms 140:11; Acts 28:4. Good shall be repaid The good they do shall be returned to them, oft-times a hundred fold. Compare Proverbs 10:25; Proverbs 11:3; Proverbs 11:5; Proverbs 11:15.

Verse 22

22. A good man One who is good and doeth good a benevolent man.

An inheritance to his children’s children Namely, in the remembrance of his piety, love, and compassion. A great truth, which should be well pondered by those on whom Providence has liberally bestowed the blessings of this life.

Verse 23

23. Much food is in the tillage of the poor Their “tillage” or ploughing, as Miller renders, brings from the earth much food. The meaning is, that the industrious poor have their wants supplied by the blessings of Providence on their hard but honest toil; whereas the unjust perish, because of their injustice or oppression. Comp. Proverbs 12:11; Proverbs 16:8; Jeremiah 17:11; Jeremiah 22:13; Ezekiel 22:29.

Verse 24

24. He that spareth his rod Withholdeth suitable correction of some kind.

Hateth his son The effect of undue indulgence and lack of discipline will be to injure the child, and the result be as though he hated him.

But he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes Literally, Seeketh for him chastising. Really regards the entire well-being of the child, and would discharge to him the early obligation of a parent.

Solomon seems to have had no idea that a good education could be secured without correction. It is not necessary, says Stuart, “to understand the word rod in a literal sense; but it at least means correction of some kind for faults.” It must be remembered that moral suasion alone, as the exclusive appliance in the education of children, is a comparatively modern idea. It may be doubted whether it will stand the test of experience, in opposition to the judgment of the wise and good of the past ages. There are, probably, in this matter extremes on either hand to be guarded against, and a golden mean of right conduct, which every parent will do well to seek. There are some children who perhaps, never need corporal punishment; but there are others who are injured by the neglect of it. Compare Proverbs 3:11; Proverbs 23:13-14; Proverbs 29:15.

Verse 25

25. To the satisfying of his soul What his need requires to the proper sustenance of his life.

Belly בשׂן , ( beten,) stomach. A righteous man’s desires are moderate, and he lives in the temperate enjoyment of God’s blessings; but wicked men frequently bring themselves to poverty by their luxury and extravagance; and others, in consequence of the insatiableness of their desires, never have enough. Compare Proverbs 10:3; Psalms 34:10.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Proverbs 13". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/proverbs-13.html. 1874-1909.
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