Proverbs 13:1-25

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A “wise son” — a “father’s discipline.” When a father disciplines, trains, or instructs his son and he is responsive, the son will prove to be wise, using good judgment and conducting himself in an exemplary manner. According to the Septuagint, an “astute son is obedient to his father.” A “ridiculer,” however, “does not listen to rebuke.” He mocks what is noble and right, disregards correction, and chooses to persist in a wayward manner of life. The Septuagint refers to an unresponsive son as “in destruction” or heading for ruin. (13:1)

“From the fruit of his mouth, a man will eat good” or good things. The “fruit” or the speech that comes from a man’s mouth can have a good effect on others, providing comfort, encouragement, sound advice, and praise or commendation. At the same time, the man whose mouth utters good or wholesome words is benefited as if partaking of good things. He derives satisfaction and joy from using his mouth in a positive way. The “soul” of treacherous ones, either their desire or they themselves, is linked to “violence.” This could mean that their “desire” is to use violent means to gain their unworthy objectives. Another possible meaning could be that they themselves live for violence, conducting themselves in a violent, ruthless, and oppressive manner. (13:2; see the Notes section.)

One who “guards his mouth” preserves his “soul” or his life. He avoids careless, hasty, and senseless speech that could give rise to conflict, hostility, or fury and thus his wise restraint can protect him from getting into serious trouble. The person whose lips are opened wide, exercising no restraint in what he says and being unprotected from anything injurious that might come into his open mouth, will come to “ruin.” According to the Septuagint, one who is “hasty” or “rash with his lips” will put himself into a state of terror, evidently as a consequence of his thoughtless words. (13:3)

The “soul of the sluggard” (either the sluggard himself or his appetite) desires but gets nothing. He puts forth no effort to obtain what he may crave and, therefore, ends up with nothing to fill his desire. The “soul of diligent ones” (either they themselves or their appetite) “will be made fat” or will be fully satisfied. The Septuagint rendering indicates that “every idle person is with desires.” These words imply that the desires of lazy individuals are not satisfied on account of their failure to busy themselves. The “hands” of diligent ones, however, are “in care.” This may imply that they are in God’s care while working industriously. (13:4)

A righteous person hates a “word of falsehood.” To him, lies and deception are repugnant. A wicked or corrupt individual has no qualms about what he says or does. The words of the Hebrew text regarding the wicked one may be variously understood, and this is reflected in the renderings of modern translations. “The wicked bring shame and disgrace.” (NIV) “The wicked man is vile and disgraceful.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “The actions of the wicked are base and disgraceful.” (REB) “Those who are evil cause shame and disgrace.” (CEV) “The wicked slanders and defames.” (NJB) The Septuagint says that the “impious” or “ungodly one” is “ashamed and will not have boldness” or the freedom to speak in an open or unrestrained manner. (13:5)

“Righteousness” is what “guards” the “innocent one” in his way (or the one whose way is innocent or honest). On account of his “righteousness” or upright conduct, the individual is protected from pursuing a course that could lead to ruin. “Wickedness,” however, causes the overthrow of one who lives a life of sin, deliberately refusing to conduct himself in a praiseworthy manner. His wickedness or flagrant moral failure will lead to a calamitous end. According to the Septuagint, “sin makes the impious” or ungodly ones “worthless.” There is nothing noble about them, for their life is one of moral corruption. (13:6)

Outward appearances can be deceptive. One person may pretend to be rich and actually have nothing, while someone else may pretend to have little but possess great wealth. The Septuagint rendering conveys a different meaning. Though “having nothing,” certain ones “enrich themselves.” Others “humble themselves in much wealth.” (13:7)

The “ransom for a man’s soul” or life is “his wealth.” A rich man may be able to buy his way out of a distressing situation or his riches may subject him to circumstances that call upon him to pay a ransom. The “poor man,” however, “has not heard a rebuke.” Perhaps because the poor person is regarded as a nobody who has nothing valuable, he does not hear any rebuke that demands action regarding material possessions. The Septuagint indicates that the poor person is not subject to threat or intimidation, apparently because he does not own anything that someone would want. (13:8)

The “light of righteous ones will rejoice, and the lamp of wicked ones [light of impious or ungodly ones (LXX)] will be extinguished.” In this context, “light” may represent life that is associated with contentment and well-being. For upright individuals, their life is like a bright light that brings joy. The “lamp of wicked ones” is not a light that continues to provide illumination, for their life and everything associated with their corrupt conduct will come to its end. According to the Septuagint, righteous persons always have light. Their life is never associated with corrupt deeds carried out under the cover of darkness. (13:9; see the Notes section.)

The manifestation of “insolence” gives rise to strife, for the insolent person is unwilling to listen to others and stubbornly rejects sound advice. According to the Septuagint, an “evil man” carries out “evil with insolence.” Persons who take counsel, weighing options and giving careful consideration to advice that is offered, demonstrate that they are in possession of wisdom or the capacity to apply knowledge to a successful end. The Septuagint refers to those who are their own judges as being “wise.” This could mean that such persons know themselves — their strengths and their limitations — and, therefore, are willing to listen to the advice of others. (13:10)

“Wealth from vanity” could refer to possessions that are quickly obtained with little effort or through lawless means. Such wealth can “dwindle away.” The Septuagint rendering is more specific than the extant Hebrew text. It indicates that “substance hastily obtained by lawlessness is diminished.” The “one gathering by the hand,” however, “will increase.” “Gathering by the hand” suggests honest laboring. The Septuagint refers to the one gathering for himself as doing it “with piety.” His noble efforts will be blessed with increase. (13:11)

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” When a person’s hope does not materialize at the expected time, the effect can be devastating. The individual can become discouraged and depressed. According to the Septuagint rendering, the one who begins to help wholeheartedly [literally, “with heart”) is better than the one who promises and leads someone to hope. A “desire fulfilled” is a “tree of life,” for the fulfillment of a desire has a strengthening and refreshing effect on the individual. The Septuagint says that a “good desire” is a “tree of life,” implying that a “good desire” is one that would be satisfied. (13:12)

One who despises a “word” will bring ruin upon himself. In this context, “word” apparently denotes sound counsel or advice. Individuals who pay no attention to good advice and stubbornly pursue a foolish course are bound to experience dire consequences. The person who respects the “commandment,” having a wholesome fear of the consequences for disregarding it and diligently seeking to live up to it, will be recompensed accordingly. He will be blessed for having adhered to God’s way. (13:13; see the Notes section.)

The “law,” “teaching,” or “instruction” of a wise person is a “fountain of life,” for such instruction promotes right conduct, contributing to a state of well-being and to the avoidance of senseless actions that can prove to be ruinous. This “law” or “teaching” can help one escape the “snares of death,” or can, when heeded, prevent one from dying prematurely from living a debauched life. According to the Septuagint, the senseless one, because of having pursued a corrupt course of life, “will die by a snare” as if trapped like an animal that is killed for food. (13:14)

“Good sense,” insight, or understanding “wins favor.” Observers will look favorably upon individuals who sensibly conduct their affairs of life and who give sound advice. The next phrase in the Hebrew text is commonly emended to indicate that the “way of the faithless” or treacherous ones leads to destruction (“is enduring” [according to the literal rendering]). According to the Septuagint, for one “to know the law is good understanding” or reveals the individual to be in possession of sound judgment. “And the ways of scorners [lead] to destruction.” (13:15)

Every shrewd, prudent, or sensible person “will act with knowledge, not rashly but thoughtfully. A “fool,” however, “will spread out folly.” The individual who chooses to conduct himself in a senseless manner will only spew forth foolish thoughts. According to the Septuagint rendering, the senseless one did “spread out his own evil,” openly displaying his corrupt acts. (13:16)

A “bad messenger” (one who is untrustworthy in getting the message to the intended party or parties in a timely manner or who distorts the message he is to convey) “will plunge into calamity.” By failing to accomplish what is required of him, he will incur the anger of the one or ones who sent him and will be held accountable for any problems or adverse consequences arising from his failure. A “faithful” or trustworthy “envoy,” however, is associated with “healing.” In the Hebrew text, there is no verb to make the relationship of the envoy to healing explicit. Modern translations commonly add the verb “brings,” and there are also translations that supply the verb “is.” “A trusty messenger brings healing.” (NJB) “A trustworthy envoy brings healing.” (NIV) “A trustworthy envoy is a healing remedy.” (NAB) The bearing of the messenger and the way in which he presents the message can lead to ending or preventing the development of conflict between parties, tribes, or nations. His disposition and words can promote healing. (13:17; see the Notes section.)

One who ignores discipline or instruction, refusing to correct his wrong course, is heading for calamity. “Poverty and disgrace” often are the result from such senseless rejection of sound instruction. According to the Septuagint, “discipline removes poverty and disgrace.” One who heeds reproof, acting on it by making the needed changes in the way he conducts himself, “will be glorified” or “honored.” (13:18)

“Desire fulfilled is sweet” or “pleasant to the soul” or the individual. There is a measure of delight in having one’s desire satisfied. Corrupt persons also have desires, but these desires are not noble. Therefore, for senseless persons to “turn away from evil” is an “abomination.” They do not want to abandon their base means to attain the fulfillment of their cravings. The Septuagint represents the desires of pious or godly ones as “sweetening,” “pleasing,” or “gladdening” the “soul.” The implication is that their good desires when fulfilled have a cheering effect on them. As for the “impious” or ungodly ones, their “works are far from knowledge.” Their corrupt acts reveal that they are not conducting themselves in keeping with the knowledge linked to upright living. (13:19)

The one who walks with wise persons or who chooses their company “will become wise.” He will learn from them and be encouraged to conduct himself uprightly. The person who associates with fools, with individuals who choose to live in a senseless and corrupt manner, will be harmed. According to the Septuagint, he will come to be known as a fool. Therefore, he will also suffer harm on account of his senseless behavior. (13:20)

Calamity pursues “sinners” or individuals who choose to live a corrupt way of life. They suffer the consequences from their dishonest dealings and deceptive words. As for righteous or upright persons, “good” will repay. The Hebrew text may be understood to indicate that “good” is the source of the repayment or that the “good” actions of upright individuals will be rewarded. Possibly there is an implication that God will repay upright individuals with good. Modern translations vary in their renderings. “Good fortune rewards the righteous.” (REB) “But prosperity rewards the righteous.” (NRSV) “But the righteous are well rewarded.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “But the just shall be recompensed with good.” (NAB) “But prosperity is the reward of the righteous.” (NIV) “But you will be rewarded if you live right.” (CEV) The Septuagint says, “Good will overtake [or come to] righteous ones.” (13:21)

The family line of a good man, or one whose conduct is praiseworthy and who comes to the aid of those in need, will continue. He will leave an inheritance to his grandsons (literally, “sons of sons”). The “wealth of a sinner [impious or ungodly ones (LXX)],” of one who habitually chooses to live contrary to God’s commands, “is laid up for the righteous one.” The things a lawless individual accumulated will be lost to him and come to benefit an upright person. (13:22)

The ground of the poor may produce “much food” and then be “swept away through judgment” or unjust judicial decisions that deprive those of little means from the product of their hard labor. Another possible meaning is that certain persons are “swept away through judgment” or an unjust judgment that is rendered against them. Translators vary in the meaning they convey with their renderings. “Even when the land of the poor produces good crops, they get cheated out of what they grow.” (CEV) “The fallow land of the poor may yield much grain, but through injustice it may be stolen.” (REB) “A lawsuit devours the tillage of the poor, but some men perish for lack of a law court.” (NAB) “Though the farms of the poor yield much food, some perish for lack of justice.” (NJB) “The tillage of the poor yields much food; but substance is swept away for lack of moderation.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) (13:23; see the Notes section.)

A man who holds back his rod, refraining from administering needed discipline, is one who “hates his son.” An undisciplined or untrained son will likely make poor choices in life, bringing harm to himself and possibly also a premature death. A man who loves his son will discipline, train, or correct him as needed. The Septuagint indicates that the man “carefully disciplines” his son. (13:24)

For the righteous person, “food” is for the “satisfying of his soul.” In this context, the designation “soul” could either apply to the person or to his appetite. The thought may be that the upright individual eats enough to be satisfied. In the case of wicked ones, they may eat but their belly is not filled. They are not satisfied. Their belly “suffers want.” According to the Septuagint, the “souls of impious” or ungodly ones “are wanting,” indicating that their appetites are not satisfied. (13:25)

Notes

In verse 2, the Septuagint rendering differs from the extant Hebrew text. A good man is represented as one who “will eat from fruits of righteousness.” The “fruits of righteousness” would be the kindly acts and upright conduct and dealings that are a product of the person’s righteousness. His right living and acting would bring rewards and blessings that would be like food for him. The “souls of transgressors” or “lawless ones,” either their lives or they themselves, will come to an untimely end.

After wording that basically corresponds to the reading of the extant Hebrew text of verse 9, the Septuagint adds, “Deceitful souls [or persons] go astray in sins, but righteous ones are compassionate and show mercy.”

The Hebrew term davár can designate a “word,” “matter,” or thing.” In verse 13, the Septuagint rendering is a form of prágma, a word that can mean “matter,” “thing,” “affair,” “deed,” or “undertaking.” The words in the Septuagint may be rendered, “One who despises a matter will be despised by it,” suggesting that the individual would suffer the consequences for his attitude toward the matter. “But [as for] the one who fears [or has respect for] the commandment, this one is healthy” or in a state of well-being. The Septuagint then continues with wording not found in the extant Hebrew text. “To a deceitful son, nothing will be good, but for a wise servant, his undertakings will prosper, and his way will be guided aright.”

If the letter aleph is deleted from the Hebrew word for “messenger,” the consonants that remain are those for the designation “king.” This appears to explain why the Septuagint contains the word for “king” in its rendering of verse 17. “A rash king will plunge into evil, but a faithful messenger will deliver him,” apparently from the difficulty that his rashness brought about. The demeanor of the messenger and the manner in which he expresses himself can counter the undesirable situation that the king’s arrogance created.

In verse 23, the Septuagint rendering differs from the extant Hebrew text. “Righteous ones may spend many years in wealth” or prosperity, “but unrighteous ones will perish speedily.”