Proverbs 13


בֵּן חָכָם מוּסַר אָב וְלֵץ לֹא־שָׁמַע גְּעָרָה׃   13:1

Prov. 13:1   The discipline of a father makes a son wise,

                                but a scorner does not hear rebuke.

There’s a lot to say about this verse.  To begin, the first part of it consists of some rather pithy Hebrew.  It is normally liberally translated as something like “A wise son is instructed of his father.”  But the third Hebrew word is mistranslated as is instructed, because the word is a noun, not a verb.  The appropriate verb form omits the vav.  I suspect the typical translation is favored by others because the couplet makes simple sense that way.  It says “A wise son is instructed of his father, but a scorner doesn’t hear rebuke.”  However, surprise, surprise!  It contains more than one message.  It could be saying (1) a wise son receives instruction, but a scornful son doesn’t, or (2) a wise son accepts discipline, but anyone who scorns discipline will not learn.  My translation, on the other hand, introduces other more subtle possibilities.  It could be saying (1) same as (1) above, or (2) a wise father makes his son wise, but a father without wisdom could make his son a scorner, or (3) if a son is seeking wisdom, his father’s discipline could make him wise, but if he is scornful, he will not become wise.  Now above and beyond all this, my translation properly interprets the second Hebrew word as a verb, to make wise, instead of the usual adjective. 

מִפְּרִי פִי־אִישׁ יֹאכַל טֹוב וְנֶפֶשׁ בֹּגְדִים חָמָס׃   13:2

Prov. 13:2   From the fruit of one's mouth, one may eat good,

                                but the passion of the deceitful is cruelty.

Is this verse telling us that a wise mouth produces good, while a foolish mouth produces its opposite?

נֹצֵר פִּיו שֹׁמֵר נַפְשֹׁו פֹּשֵׂק פָתָיו מְחִתָּה־לֹו׃   13:3

Prov. 13:3   He who watches over his mouth guards his soul;

                                he who opens wide his lips, destruction is his.

In other words, one should not talk too freely?

מִתְאַוָּה וָאַיִן נַפְשֹׁו עָצֵל וְנֶפֶשׁ חָרֻצִים תְּדֻשָּׁן׃   13:4

Prov. 13:4   A sluggish one desires much but his soul has nothing,

                                but the soul of the diligent shall be anointed.

דְּבַרשֶׁ־קֶר יִשְׂנָא צַדִּיק וְרָשָׁע יַבְאִישׁ וְיַחְפִּיר׃   13:5

Prov. 13:5   A righteous person will hate anything false,

                                while a wicked person will be odious and cause shame.

צְדָקָה תִּצֹּר תָּם־דָּרֶךְ וְרִשְׁעָה תְּסַלֵּף חַטָּאת׃   13:6

Prov. 13:6   Righteousness will guard a path of integrity,

                                whereas wickedness will subvert a sinner.

יֵשׁ מִתְעַשֵּׁר וְאֵין כֹּל מִתְרֹושֵׁשׁ וְהֹון רָב׃   13:7

Prov. 13:7   There may be a pretender of wealth but without anything,

                                a pretender of poverty with much wealth.

Trust not in what you see?  Appearances can be deceiving?  Don’t trust anyone you don’t know well?

כֹּפֶר נֶפֶשׁ־אִישׁ עָשְׁרֹו וְרָשׁ לֹא־שָׁמַע גְּעָרָה׃   13:8

Prov. 13:8   The ransom of a person's life would be his wealth,

                                so a poor person hears no rebuke.

This one seems a little tough.  Traditional translators interpret the last word to mean threat, rather than rebuke, but the identical word is translated as rebuke everywhere else.  In fact, the last three words of v. 13:1 above are identical to the last three here.  Traditionally, the verse seems to be saying that only a rich person need fear for his life, a poor person need not worry about ransom.  Yet I suspect the author had something else in mind.  Is he telling us that a rich person’s “rebuke” may involve his ransoming his life?  Or is he saying that a rich person is smart enough to listen to rebuke and may have to pay ransom for his honor (or life), while a poor person is not interested in hearing rebuke?

אֹור־צַדִּיקִים יִשְׂמָח וְנֵר רְשָׁעִים יִדְעָךְ׃   13:9

Prov. 13:9   The light of the righteous will make glad,

                                while the lamp of the wicked will be extinguished.

רַק־בְּזָדֹון יִתֵּן מַצָּה וְאֶת־נֹועָצִים חָכְמָה׃   13:10

Prov. 13:10   Surely with pride one will produce contention,

                                but with deliberations, wisdom.

Pride doesn’t involve thinking?

הֹון מֵהֶבֶל יִמְעָט וְקֹבֵץ עַל־יָד יַרְבֶּה׃   13:11

Prov. 13:11   Wealth from vanity will be diminished,

                                but what is being amassed slowly will increase.

Selfish or greedy accumulation of riches doesn’t accomplish as fine an end as wise -- slow and deliberate -- accumulation?

תֹּוחֶלֶת מְמֻשָּׁכָה מַחֲלָה־לֵב וְעֵץ חַיִּים תַּאֲוָה בָאָה׃   13:12

Prov. 13:12   Hope deferred makes the heart sick,

                                but a wish come true is a tree of life.

A proverb in the truest sense?  A wise observation?  Is it intended to teach anything?  It doesn’t seem so to me.  It’s just a plain old observation about life and our normal response to it.  However, I continue to look for more in the words -- and do I see something?  Is the author saying that the disappointments in life make us old, while wishes and dreams fulfilled bring happiness and life?

בָּז לְדָבָר יֵחָבֶל לֹו וִירֵא מִצְוָה הוּא יְשֻׁלָּם׃   13:13

Prov. 13:13   Holding contempt for the word, one would destroy himself,

                                but revering the commandment, he will be rewarded.

תֹּורַת חָכָם מְקֹור חַיִּים לָסוּר מִמֹּקְשֵׁי מָוֶת׃   13:14

Prov. 13:14   The instruction of someone wise is a fountain of life

                                to stay away from the snares of death.                           [Return to Prov. 14:27]

שֵׂכֶל־טֹוב יִתֶּן־חֵן וְדֶרֶךְ בֹּגְדִים אֵיתָן׃   13:15

Prov. 13:15   A good understanding will permit flexibility,

                                while the way of the faithless is rigid.

כָּל־עָרוּם יַעֲשֶׂה בְדָעַת וּכְסִיל יִפְרֹשׂ אִוֶּלֶת׃   13:16

Prov. 13:16   Anyone of prudence will act with discernment,

                                but a fool will spread folly everywhere.

מַלְאָךְ רָשָׁע יִפֹּל בְּרָע וְצִיר אֱמוּנִים מַרְפֵּא׃   13:17

Prov. 13:17   The messenger of any wicked one will stoop to evil,

                                but an ambassador of the faithful will be healing.

The traditional (mis)translation of this verse goes something like “A wicked messenger falls into trouble, but a faithful envoy brings healing.”  In the traditional translation much of the grammar of this verse is ignored.

רֵישׁ וְקָלֹון פֹּורֵעַ מוּסָר וְשֹׁומֵר תֹּוכַחַת יְכֻבָּד׃   13:18

Prov. 13:18   Poverty and disgrace: Avoiding correction!

                                But a heeder of reproof will be honored.

תַּאֲוָה נִהְיָה תֶעֱרַב לְנָפֶשׁ וְתֹועֲבַת כְּסִילִים סוּר מֵרָע׃   13:19

Prov. 13:19   A desire brought about must be sweet to the soul,

                                so the abomination of fools would be turning away from evil.

This verse is marvelous in its clever subtlety.  It says fools feel their desire fulfilled by embracing evil.

הָלֹוךְ) [הֹולֵךְ] אֶת־חֲכָמִים (וַחֲכָם) [יֶחְכָּם] וְרֹעֶה כְסִילִים יֵרֹועַ׃   13:20

Prov. 13:20   Walk with the wise and be wise,

                                as a companion of fools will be destroyed.

In my opinion, neither of the two “errors” indicated (one before the left parentheses and one within the set of parentheses) is incorrectly spelled.  The first is an infinitive, to walk, and the second is properly translatable as and be wise.  The traditional translation of the first part is something like “He who walks with wise men will be wise,” which makes errors out of both words.

חַטָּאִים תְּרַדֵּף רָעָה וְאֶת־צַדִּיקִים יְשַׁלֶּם־טֹוב׃   13:21

Prov. 13:21   Evil will pursue sinners,

                                but good will reward the righteous.

טֹוב יַנְחִיל בְּנֵי־בָנִים וְצָפוּן לַצַּדִּיק חֵיל חֹוטֵא׃   13:22

Prov. 13:22   Good shall be an inheritance of the children of children,

                                so the wealth of the sinner will be stored up for the righteous one.

                                                                                                                                  [Return to Prov. 28:8]

Another cleverly subtle one?  One’s grandchildren will receive the inheritance of a good person, while what a sinner accumulates will not go to his grandchildren?  Does that mean the sinner’s wealth will not survive two generations?

רָב־אֹכֶל נִיר רָאשִׁים וְיֵשׁ נִסְפֶּה בְּלֹא מִשְׁפָּט׃   13:23

Prov. 13:23   An abundance of food is in the tillable soil of the poor,

                                but substance is swept away without justice.

חֹושֵׂךְ בְטֹו שֹׂונֵא בְנֹו וְאֹהֲבֹו שִׁחֲרֹו מוּסָר׃   13:24

Prov. 13:24   The sparer of his rod is a hater of his son,

                                but loving him, he strives for his early chastening.

צַדִּיק אֹכֵל לְשֹׂבַע נַפְשֹׁו וּבֶטֶן רְשָׁעִים תֶּחְסָר׃   13:25

Prov. 13:25   A righteous person will be eating to the satisfaction of his soul,

                                but the belly of the wicked shall be wanting.

Is this intended as a metaphor?  I suspect it’s not about eating at all.  It’s about satisfaction in general.  A righteous person feels much satisfaction in life, while wicked people always want more.


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