Proverbs 13:13-18

Proverbs 13:13‑18  •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 7
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Slighting the word is of the most serious import. It is near akin to unbelief in the Lord; and its commonest occasion is also akin. For men doubt the Deity of the Lord, because in His grace He deigned to become man; and they because they see Him to be man refuse Him to be God. This is heinous iniquity; for it takes advantage of His love, in glorifying God and thereby saving our souls by His redemption by suffering for our sins, to dishonor Himself and deny His personal glory as the Son. Similarly the word comes through the human vessel from Moses to the apostle John; and men lay hold of the human element to deny the divine, thus depriving it, as far as the hostile will can, of its divine authority.
“Whoso despiseth the word destroyeth himself; but he that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded.
The teaching of the wise [is] a fountain of life, to turn away from the snares of death.
Good understanding procureth favor; but the way of the treacherous [is] rugged.
Every prudent one acteth with knowledge; but the foolish layeth open folly.
A wicked messenger falleth into evil; but a faithful ambassador [is] health.
Poverty and shame [shall be to] him that refuseth instruction; but he that regardeth reproof shall be honored” (vers. 13-18).
The first of these admits of an alternative rendering, though in effect it may come to the same sense. But competent persons understand the opening clause to mean “shall be held accountable” or “fall in debt to it.” The Sept. strangely translates the verse, and adds to it: “he that slighteth a matter shall be slighted by it; but he that feareth a command hath health. To a crafty son there shall be nothing good; but a wise servant shall have prosperous doings, and his way shall be directed aright.” The Latin Vulgate departs still more widely from the Hebrew and hardly calls for citation save in a note.1 What God exalts above all His name man despises at the peril of his own ruin; but to stand in awe of injunction is to insure recompence in due time. What a man sows he assuredly reaps.
The word leads to and forms the teaching of the wise man, which is here described as a fountain of life. Such teaching refreshes as well as quickens, and guards from the destructive temptations which beset the path.
Again, the value of “good understanding” makes itself felt in a scene where folly abounds and the levity which so often veils our happiness. It procures favor, because it morally commends itself without an effort; whereas the way of the treacherous is indeed “hard” or rugged, as they themselves, and all that are ensnared by them. Fidelity is a jewel in a world of pitfall through deceit.
But “knowledge” has its use as well as a good understanding; and every prudent man works with it, instead of trusting himself unaided by it, or being content to go forward blindly. The foolish one spreads out folly: what else has he to lay bare? How blessed for Christians that, whatever be the personal deficiency of each, of God are they in Christ, who was made to them wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification and redemption! Yet no man is so foolish as one professing the Lord's name, who depends on and seeks himself to the dishonor of his Master.
Next, we have the strongly drawn opposition between “a wicked messenger,” and “a faithful ambassador.” The one comprehends the widest class of varying degree; but even its most insignificant member falls into evil, and he can do nothing but mischief. The other is not only a messenger of the highest rank but discharges his office with integrity, as “a faithful ambassador.” If the former by his wickedness can but fall into evil by his wickedness, the latter “is health” wherever he goes in a world of sin and misery.
Verse 18 contrasts the refusal of instruction with the readiness to take reproof to heart, a rare and precious trait in anyone. Poverty and shame must be his who has no ear for the instruction which enriches all, and which all need. But what honor falls to the wise and lowly mind that welcomes and weighs reproof! Grace alone can make it real.