New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Pro 13:1 A wise son listens to his father’s instruction, but a scoffer doesn’t listen to rebuke-
The book of Job makes it clear that it is the content of an elder's instruction which should govern whether or not it is accepted. But Solomon demands submission to him simply because he is a king and a father. Being "wise" is predicated therefore upon accepting Solomon's truths; personal behaviour and spirituality doesn't come into the picture with Solomon, and his own apostasy shows the end of this line of thinking.

Pro 13:2 By the fruit of his lips, a man enjoys good things; but the unfaithful crave violence-
"Transgressors" or "traitors" is the term used by David of Saul and his supporters (Ps. 25:3; 59:5; 119:158). Solomon uses this term, teaching that "transgressors" must be rooted out of the earth / eretz promised to Abraham (Prov. 2:22), and that the "transgressors" are to face judgment (Prov. 11:3,6; 13:2; 21:18; 22:12; 23:28; 25:19). All Solomon says is true, but he clearly has in view the house and supporters of Saul, who were a group he felt he needed to repress in order to keep his own kingdom and power intact.

Pro 13:3 He who guards his mouth guards his soul; one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin-
This continues the common theme of Proverbs, that the advantage of wisdom is that it benefits you in this life; and the unwise are only hurting themselves. Whilst this is true, it seems an altogether human and secular approach to God's truth. Because the purpose of our believing, obedient lives is for God's wider glory, and to pave the way for life in His Kingdom in the future. But these things seem almost unknown to Solomon.

Pro 13:4 The soul of the sluggard desires, and has nothing, but the desire of the diligent shall be fully satisfied-
The Proverbs contain repeated condemnation of laziness. Lack of a zealous work ethic is a rejection of wisdom, according to Solomon. As Solomon explains in Ecc. 1, he was an active person, not lazy by nature. And yet he lacked spirituality. He claimed that his service of God was due to his spirituality, but it was in reality merely a semblance of serving God when it was really just reinforcing his own personality type. His mocking of the "sluggard" or "lazy one" is so frequent (Prov. 6:6,9; 10:26; 13:4; 15:19; 19:24; 20:4; 21:25; 22:13; 24:30; 26:13-16). But it is a reflection of his own works-based approach to righteousness; the 'wise' "do" good things, and the wicked don't do enough good things. Personal spiritual mindedness and relationship with God are simply not emphasized.

Solomon sees the advantage of generosity and wisdom generally as being for this life. He totally lacks any sense of a judgment and Kingdom yet to come. And this was the root of his own spiritual undoing. David saw himself as being "made fat" by God's grace (Ps. 23:5, s.w. "anoint"), whereas Solomon sees this as a direct result of the good deeds of the righteous, such as generosity (Prov. 11:25) and hard work (Prov. 13:4). This is exactly the kind of justification by works which Paul argues against in Romans.

Pro 13:5 A righteous man hates lies, but a wicked man brings shame and disgrace-
Again, Solomon is justifying his father David, who uses these words to describe how he "hates lies" (Ps. 119:104,128,163). The reality was that David had brought shame and disgrace through his sin with Solomon's mother, Bathsheba. But Solomon seems at pains to make a case that the righteous don't do this kind of thing, and the shame and disgrace which arose was due to Solomon's half brothers and court politics. Whereas Nathan is clear that it all came as a consequence for David's sin.

Pro 13:6 Righteousness guards the way of integrity, but wickedness overthrows the sinner-
David by contrast felt he was kept or guarded in the way of integrity by God constantly pointing out that way to him (s.w. Ps. 119:33). Solomon seems to think that mere possession of Divine truth made him "righteous", and this of itself kept him in the way. He has none of the constant desire to be taught which David had, because he assumed he had received total truth. Those who consider they hold "the truth" as a package of doctrinally correct propositions can make the same mistake as Solomon.

Pro 13:7 There are some who are made rich, yet have nothing. There are some who are made poor, yet have great wealth-
The Hebrew grammar makes these reflexive verbs, as if the making rich or poor are done to the person by themselves, possibly referring simply to their own perceptions of themselves. Solomon's own words were so true of him: “There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing [quoted in Rev. 3:17 about the rejected]: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great wealth” (Prov. 13:7 AV). This last phrase is quoted about the Lord Jesus, who made Himself poor on the cross (2 Cor. 8:9). And yet Solomon, who made himself rich, is the very anti-Christ, the only specific person associated in the Bible with the number 666 (1 Kings 10:14).  

Pro 13:8 The ransom of a man’s life is his riches, but the poor hear no threats-
Prov. 13:8  speaks of how our attitude to wealth is a crucial factor in our eternal destiny: “The ransom of a man’s life are his riches”. Just prior to that we read in Prov. 13:7: “There is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches”. This verse is actually part quoted in 2 Cor. 8:9 and Phil. 2:7, about how on the cross, the Lord Jesus made himself poor, of no reputation, and now has been so highly exalted. Our living out of the Lord’s cross is shown in our making of ourselves poor. That is surely the unmistakable teaching of this allusion. But Solomon may have had in view the way that rich people were held to ransom to part with their riches for the sake of their lives being spared, whereas the poor don't have this problem. He may be thereby implying that wealth is the most important thing a man has after his physical life. This accords with his mistaken view that the wise get wealth and the foolish are poor.

Pro 13:9 The light of the righteous shines brightly, but the lamp of the wicked is snuffed out-
"The righteous" in :5 and elsewhere in Proverbs refers to David, and Solomon was the "lamp" or descendent given to David, shining brightly in his kingdom (1 Kings 15:4). But Solomon was not the Messianic "lamp" of David in its ultimate term (Ps. 132:17). He failed to fulfil the conditions to become the Messianic son of David. But he prides himself that he is shining brightly, whereas all other contenders for the throne had been snuffed out. Again, what he says is true, but is harnessed to his own personal self-justification.  

Pro 13:10 Pride only breeds quarrels, but with ones who take advice is wisdom-
Again this is true, but almost every verse in this section has included some self justification. "Quarrels" is the word used in the parable about the strivings between David's sons (2 Sam. 14:6). He is implying that all the quarrels about his being the one to have the throne merely came from pride, and the wise will accept Solomon's kingship.

Pro 13:11 Wealth gained dishonestly dwindles away, but he who gathers by hand makes it grow-
Solomon believed that his own wealth was a result of his wisdom. But wealth is given by God, and in his case, he was told that right at the start of his reign. It didn't come from his own hard work, but from God's gracious gift, in recognition of his desire for wisdom to teach Israel. And again, the Lord's parable of the rich fool shows that the rich sometimes take their wealth to the grave. But the ultimate perspective upon wealth is that it cannot affect in any way our eternity, nor be taken into God's Kingdom. Indeed, it must be shed if we are to enter the needle gate into the Kingdom- whether or not the wealth was attained by our hard work or by dishonesty.

Pro 13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when longing is fulfilled, it is a tree of life-
Access to the tree of life has been taken away because of human sin; only in the restored Eden of the Kingdom of God on earth will we be able to eat the fruit of the tree of life. Indeed God in His grace and wisdom barred access to the tree of life, knowing that eternity in our present state would be a curse. But Solomon likes to think that his kingdom is the Kingdom of God, and the life according to his wisdom was effectively the life eternal. Again we see a failure in Solomon to perceive that the true life and restoration of Eden was yet future. This would explain why as he got older and approached death, he became disillusioned; for clearly his life had not been the life of the Kingdom.  

Pro 13:13 Whoever despises instruction will pay for it, but he who respects a command will be rewarded-
Again this is true, but the instruction and commands which Solomon has in immediate view is his own teaching in the anthology of Proverbs we are reading. He would tolerate no disobedience to it.

Pro 13:14 The teaching of the wise is a spring of life, to turn others away from the snares of death-
AV "the law of the wise is a fountain of life". But the law could not bring life, only grace could; and Solomon was far from realizing this (Gal. 3:21). David so often talks about God's "law", using the word torah. But Solomon so often speaks of his own torah, and that of his wife, the mother of "my son" (s.w. Prov. 1:8; 3:1; 4:2; 6:20; 7:2; 13:14; 31:26). Yet elsewhere in the Bible, the well over 200 occurrences of torah are always about God's law. Solomon applies the word to his own teachings and that of his wife, and thereby plays God. whilst it could be argued that Solomon's teachings were Divinely inspired, all the same he ought surely to have spoken of them as God's torah rather than his own torah. This kind of playing God is seen so often in the teachers of God's people.

Solomon uses  the figure of a well of living water to describe spiritual words  and  thinking (Prov. 10:11; 13:14; 14:27; 16:22). Yet this is the  very  figure which he uses concerning his worldly bride (Song of Solomon  4:15).  It could be argued that this typifies the massive  imputation of righteousness  which  the  Lord  Jesus grants to us, His worldly Gentile bride. But I would rather see it as an example of how he chose to justify his love for worldly women by as it were clothing those women in his own mind with the imagery of spirituality.

Pro 13:15 Good understanding wins favour; but the way of the unfaithful is hard-
Solomon teaches that material blessings (Heb.) come as a result of using wisdom. But Ecc. 9:11 shows his rejection of Prov. 13:15: “The race is not to the swift… neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all”. He concluded life was just a random sequence of events.

Pro 13:16 Every prudent man acts from knowledge, but a fool exposes folly-
The idea may be that the actions of the wise and foolish are openly displayed for public view. That may sound obvious, but the sense is that the way of wisdom earns approval from observers, whereas the unwise appear foolish in public. And Solomon seems all too concerned about appearances, being shamed or avoiding looking foolish, in the court of public opinion- rather than before God's final judgment.

Pro 13:17 A wicked messenger falls into trouble, but a trustworthy envoy gains healing-
"Trouble" is the word for "evil", and Solomon uses the idea of falling into evil / trouble as the ultimate judgment for the wicked, to be avoided by all means (Prov. 13:17; 17:20; 28:10,14). But by the time of Ecc. 9:12, Solomon concludes that death is the ultimate falling into evil, and this shall come upon all men, and therefore being righteous or wicked is irrelevant in the face of death.   

Pro 13:18 Poverty and shame come to him who refuses discipline, but he who heeds correction shall be honoured-
This appears to be an out of context allusion to David's words in Ps. 38:14, reflecting on his sin with Bathsheba, and how he felt unable to give reproof to others: "Yes, I am as a man who doesn’t hear, in whose mouth are no reproofs". Solomon was obsessed with David his father, speaking hundreds of times of "David my father". But he failed to have his humility; he endlessly dishes out reproofs in Proverbs, indeed he sees his Proverbs as reproofs to people (e.g. Prov. 1:25; 6:23; 10:17; 12:1; 13:18; 15:5,31; 29:15); whereas David humbly felt unable to do so because of his awareness of his sins. And at the time David wrote the Proverbs, when he received wisdom at the start of his reign, he was sinning likewise [in essence] by marrying foreign women. 

Pro 13:19 Longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but fools detest turning from evil-
Removing / turning or departing from evil is a major theme of Proverbs (Prov. 13:19; 14:16; 16:6,17). Solomon uses the same phrase in Ecc. 11:10, but he gives the reason as being because youth is vanity; old age will prove that there is no point in not departing from evil, and going the way of evil, like going the way of righteousness, is all the same vanity. This nihilistic approach is because Solomon failed to discern that the end point of the path of righteousness, departing or removing our foot from the way of evil, is the redemption of the body in God's future Kingdom. But because he failed to understand that, he ends up concluding as he gets older that the choice between evil and good is all the same vain and meaningless. It is the hope of the resurrection of the body, the reality of judgment to come and the future Kingdom of God, which make morality of so much meaning today. We may also note again Solomon's overly simplistic idea that if a man removes himself from evil, all will go wonderfully for him in life. The same phrase is used of how Job removed himself from, or "eschewed", evil; but his life was traumatic and without all the blessings for wisdom which Solomon liked to imagine.   

Pro 13:20 One who walks with wise men grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm-
Solomon sees wisdom as being mediated through men. Whilst this may be true, and it certainly was in an illiterate society, he fails to perceive the direct, personal relationship possible and preferable between God and man. David's desire was for fools to repent: "Understand, you brutes... You fools, when will you be wise?" (Ps. 94:8). But Solomon makes little appeal to the fools, but instead divides men into the righteous and the fools, and almost gloats over the foolishness of the fools, relishing in describing their position.  

Pro 13:21 Misfortune pursues sinners, but prosperity rewards the righteous-
This again is how Solomon wanted to imagine things, assuming that others would follow his pattern, and be given prosperity. But spiritual reality is different. The righteous suffer and don't get prosperity now, whereas the wicked prosper. Reality is far more complex than the simple dualism Solomon presents, and the final rewards for human behaviour are yet future, at the day of judgment. But he had no desire to perceive that, as he imagined his kingdom to be God's Kingdom, under his own Messianic rulership.    

Pro 13:22 A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the wealth of the sinner is stored for the righteous-
This may be true, but the children of the wicked prosper, apparently (Job 21:11), and wealthy sinners leave prosperous houses to their children (Job 21:9; 22:18; Ps. 49:11). Again, Solomon's simplistic dualism fails to perceive the nuances of spiritual reality, because Solomon seems to have never experienced the ups and downs, paradoxes and tensions which are all part of spiritual experience in practice.   

Pro 13:23 An abundance of food is in poor people’s fields, but injustice sweeps it away-
AV "want of judgment", as if the failure to have enough food is the fault of the poor. This would be in line with :18 and Prov. 28:19. Solomon repeatedly sees poverty as being the fault of the poor, and their refusal of his teaching of wisdom (s.w. Prov. 6:11; 10:4,15; 13:7,8,18,23; 24:34; 28:19; 31:7). Many of these passages are effectively mocking the poor, which Solomon condemns in Prov. 17:5. He fails to take his own wisdom, as we also see in his behaviour with foreign women. Again we see Solomon's works based approach to righteousness, and lack of grace; refusing to accept that we are all poor men before God, as David himself exemplified when he cried to God as a poor man (Ps. 34:6). But his much beloved father David was unashamed to say he was a materially "poor man" (1 Sam. 18:23); and Uriah, whom he wronged, is described also as a "poor man" (2 Sam. 12:1). The poor were to be defended and given to (Ps. 82:3), and the Bible is clear that poverty isn't necessarily a result of sin or unwisdom. But Solomon fails to appreciate this, so obsessed is he with works, and the idea that obedience to his anthology of Proverbs will make the poor prosperous, as if God's truth is a kind of wealth creation scheme.  

Pro 13:24 One who spares the rod hates his son, but one who loves him is careful to discipline him-
Solomon has so much to say about "correction" or "instruction" coming from the possession of wisdom (Prov. 8:10,33; 10:17; 12:1; 13:1,24; 15:5,10,32; 16:22; 19:20,27; 22:15; 23:12,13). But in the end he chastised or corrected his people by whipping them (s.w. 1 Kings 12:11,14). Solomon initially asked for wisdom in order to guide his people, but he ended up whipping / physically chastising them into conformity with his wishes rather than allowing wisdom to correct. Again, he was playing God; for it is God through His wisdom who chastises, and not man. But Solomon thought he was effectively God to his people. This is why Solomon argues that servants cannot be corrected by words (Prov. 29:19 s.w.), and a child must be physically chastised (s.w. Prov. 19:18; 29:17 cp. Prov. 13:24; 23:13), regardless of his screams of pain. This kind of thing is a denial of his claims elsewhere that it is Divine wisdom which chastises / corrects, and such correction is from God and not man. Solomon's final description of himself as an old and foolish king who refuses to be admonished says it all (Ecc. 4:13); he admonishes others (s.w. Ecc. 12:12), but refuses to be admonished or corrected by his own wisdom. He failed to personalize it.  

Pro 13:25 The righteous one eats to the satisfying of his soul, but the belly of the wicked goes hungry
But we think of the righteous Paul often going hungry, and hardly having a satisfied soul (2 Cor. 6:5; 11:27). As I have observed so often, Solomon is presenting an overly simplistic view of blessing for the righteous now, and cursing for the wicked. The book of Job, and his father David's experiences, ought to have taught him that this was not the case. Solomon later concludes that despite having every material blessing, a man can still not be satisfied (s.w. Ecc. 4:8; 6:3). But in Proverbs he thinks that the righteous do satisfy their souls in this life (Prov. 13:25). But he thought that this would be experienced in this life, rather than in any future Kingdom of God on earth. As he got closer to death, he realized that he had not satisfied his soul despite all his wealth. And so he concluded that righteousness was vain, and turned away from Yahweh. This is what happens when we lose the perspective of the future Kingdom of God.