Here are the major sections, The Use of the Mouth (13:1–4), Action and Reaction (13:5–6), The Uncertainty of Riches (13:7–11), A Hope Fulfilled (13:12–19), The Right Friends (13:20–21) and Providing for the Family (13:22–25)
The Use of the Mouth (13:1–4)
Those who listen to their parents instructions (v. 1a ) and know when to be silent (v. 3a) will enjoy many benefits (vv. 2a, 4b), but those who shut their ears and open their mouths (vv. 1b, 3b) become violent and lazy (vv. 2b, 4a ). A number of words and concepts bring these verses together. The “mocker” corresponds to the one who “speaks thoughtlessly,” while shutting one’s mouth corresponds to receiving instruction (vv. 1, 3).
The idea of “eating” verses 2a and 4b are at the same time literal and metaphoric. By the fruit of his mouth a man “eats well” (v. 2a), that is, his appropriate words benefit him in every way; moreover, the “life” of the diligent “grows fat” (v. 4b), that is, his life is full and his physical needs are met. The treacherous man, however, has an appetite for violence (v. 2b), but the sluggard remains unsatisfied (v. 4a), that is, he has nothing to eat.
Verse 1, at the head of this collection, describes respect for fatherly advice as the key to attaining the satisfaction in life described in vv. 2–4. Those who reject wisdom, on the other hand, are apt to become violent (due to their lack of self-control) and finally achieve only an empty life.
Action and Reaction (13:5–6)
These two proverbs contrast the “righteous” and “wicked” in v. 5 and “righteousness” and “wickedness” in v. 6. The righteous are concerned for the truth (instead of gossip), the wicked promote scandal. Verse six implies that disregard for truth and the spreading of scandal is ultimately self-destructive. Those who care about the truth, however, are preserved by their integrity.
Money & Wealth (13:7–11)
The acquisition, possession, and use of money dominate vv. 7–8, 11. Verses 9–10 do not refer to money, but the overall context throws new meaning on these proverbs as well.
There is more to v. 7 than that some people deceitfully pretend to be rich or poor. More profoundly, things are not always what they seem. One person may appear rich (and may or may not have money) and basically have nothing and the reverse is true as well. This is illustrated in v. 8, in which the point is made that although the rich have some protection from their money, the poor have little need for such protection since they have nothing worth stealing. Wealth is therefore a prison, and the one who appears rich has nothing enviable. Similarly, if one has acquired wealth dishonestly, that wealth will soon disappear (v. 11). The apparent wealth of those who acquired money without learning the lessons of financial ma is short-lived.
13:9–11 Verse 9, means that the life and joy of the righteous flourishes while the hope of the evil fades. Verse 10, (“pride only breeds quarrels”)
Pride is an ingredient in every quarrel. It stirs up conflict and divides people. Humility, by contrast, heals. Guard against pride. If you find yourself constantly arguing, examine your life for pride. Be open to the advice of others, ask for help when you need it, and be willing to admit your mistakes. Although verse 10 has nothing to do with money, it draws the reader to reflect that true wealth includes of humility. The arrogant rich only appear to be wealthy but their lives are filled with strife
A Hope Fulfilled (13:12–19)
Every person desires to see his or her longings fulfilled. Verse 12 presents this truth. This sentiment is restated in the companion verse, v. 19a; but the second colon, v. 19b, asserts that fools will not turn from evil. The implication is that fools will not see their desires fulfilled. The intervening verses show that life and happiness can only be obtained by wisdom.
Verses 13 and 18 both teach that listening to instruction is essential for success in life. Verses 14–15 closely parallel each other and both teach that good sense saves one from death and destruction. Verses 16–17 parallel each other also. The messenger is an example of a person charged with a serious responsibility. Those who are reliable are appropriately rewarded, but those who are not soon find themselves in serious trouble. These Proverbs teach that by learning from the wise, one can enjoy a life of fulfilled aspirations.
The Right Friends (13:20–21)
Verse 20 speaks of choosing human companions wisely, and v. 21 reveals that “misfortune” will follow the sinners and “prosperity” will follow the righteous and in that sense be their “companions.”
The old saying “A rotten apple spoils the barrel” is true of human connections. Our friends and associates affect us, sometimes profoundly. Be careful whom you choose as your closest friends. Spend time with people you want to be like — because you and your friends will surely grow to resemble each other.
When most people need advice, they go to their friends first because friends accept them and usually agree with them. But that is why they may not be able to help them with difficult problems. Our friends are so much like us that they may not have any answers we haven’t already heard. Instead, we should seek out older and wiser people to advise us. Wise people have experienced a lot of life — and have succeeded. They are not afraid to tell the truth. Who are the wise, godly people who can warn you of the pitfalls ahead?
Providing for the Family (13:22–25)
All people desire to leave a good heritage for their children. Verses 22 and 24 speak, of providing for the material and moral needs of their children. Proverbs regularly keeps these two in balance. It emphasizes the need for moral training without deprecating the physical needs of family life.
It is not easy for a loving parent to discipline a child, but it is necessary. The greatest responsibility that God gives parents is the nurture and guidance of their children. Lack of discipline puts parents’ love in question because it shows a lack of concern for the character development of their children. Disciplining children averts long-range disaster. Without correction, children grow up with no clear understanding of right and wrong and with little direction to their lives. Don’t be afraid to discipline your children. It is an act of love. Remember, however, that your efforts cannot make your children wise; they can only encourage your children to seek God’s wisdom above all else!
Verse 23 and v. 25 describe two reasons a family may be impoverished and hungry. On the one hand, it may be injustice in society (i.e., it is not the family’s fault, and their hunger points to a need for changes in the system). On the other hand, poverty may be a result of sin in the family. Addiction to alcohol, indolence, and financial irresponsibility are all potential causes of poverty, although the terms “righteous” and “wicked” imply divine favor or disfavor as well. Proverbs takes a balanced position; it neither dehumanizes the poor on the grounds that they are to blame for all their troubles nor absolves the individual of personal responsibility.
Until tomorrow, Darrell
Life Application Bible Notes
New American Commentary