A man shall eat good by the fruit of his mouth: but the soul of the transgressors shall eat violence.
– Proverbs 13:2
This proverb relies on the general principle of sowing and reaping. In this case, words are the seed sown and either good or violence is reaped. The first phrase deals with wise words and their return of good (Proverbs 12:14; 18:20). The word for transgressors means traitors. It indicates acting deceitfully. Such men use their words deceitfully to fulfill their plans (Proverbs 1:11-13). Their love and pursuit of violence through their speech brings it back on their own heads eventually (Proverbs 1:31).
Chapter 13 continues the first section of the Proverbs of Solomon. The proverbs in this chapter mainly have a two-line antithetical structure. The proverbs in this chapter touch on words, or speech, wealth and poverty, pride, parenting, and wisdom generally.
A wise son heareth his father’s instruction: but a scorner heareth not rebuke.
– Proverbs 13:1
Training in wisdom begins at home with one’s parents. The word for instruction means discipline and so includes correction. A wise son is characterized as one who receives instruction and correction, which sets him at odds with a fool (Proverbs 15:5). The contrast is with a scorner, which is the hardest form of a fool, or the final progression of the fool. A scorner despises correction and hates those who try to correct him (Proverbs 9:7-8; 15:12). The word for rebuke means a chiding and is stronger than in the first phrase. The tenor of the proverb is that a son who chafes at the discipline of his father at home is on his way to becoming a scorner. Scorners ultimately find themselves scorned by God at the last (Proverbs 3:34).
In the way of righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof is no death.
– Proverbs 12:28
I understand the Hebrew is difficult in this proverb, and particularly the second phrase. Various interpretations have been given. The proverb doesn’t have a contrast and the first phrase sets the context. The way of righteousness, or the way of wisdom, is the way of life (Proverbs 8:35; 9:11). It’s the way of life now in the sense of wholeness and the way of life ultimately in hope beyond the grave. The second phrase indicates either there is a path of death, or there is no death in the path of righteousness. The general tenor of the Proverbs contrasts wisdom and folly as life and death. Wisdom and heeding wisdom tends to longer life (Proverbs 4:10). The way of folly is natural and wisdom delivers from death (Proverbs 15:24). The sober warning is given in Proverbs 8:36 that to hate and refuse wisdom is to embrace and love death.
The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious.
– Proverbs 12:27
The Proverbs speaks much of diligence and slothfulness. The first phrase shows the slothful man cannot finish what he has started. He has no commitment and perseverance to see a project through (Proverbs 19:24; 26:15). He creates a lot of waste and is left unsatisfied (Proverbs 6:11; 13:4; 21:25-26). The quarry taken in hunting is similar to the image of the harvest. There is a short time to roast it before it spoils. So, the slothful squander opportunities. The contrast expresses a different view by the diligent. All substance got through hard work and great blessing is precious, not to be wasted.
The righteous is more excellent than his neighbor: but the way of the wicked seduceth them.
– Proverbs 12:26
The language of this proverb is difficult and the interpretations various. The word for excellent means to explore, or search out. The word for seduceth means to wander, vacillate, or go astray. The contrast is between the different effects the righteous and the wicked have on their neighbor. The searching out indicates a careful guidance and the wandering indicates going astray from the way of wisdom.
Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad.
– Proverbs 12:25
The word for heaviness means anxious care, and stoop is obviously to bow down. A person with many anxieties is weighed down and burdened. A good word is encouraging, helpful, and fitting (Proverbs 15:23; 16:24; 25:11; 27:9). Words are powerful (Proverbs 18:21). That power can be used for good or ill. Obviously, wisdom strives to use words aright.
The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute.
– Proverbs 12:24
Proverbs consistently commends diligence, or hard work (Proverbs 6:6-11; 10:4; 12:27; 13:4; 19:15; 21:5). Diligence is a part of walking in wisdom. As Solomon put elsewhere, “time and chance” happens to all, so there is no absolute guarantee that diligence will lead to prosperity, but it is generally true (Ecclesiastes 9:11). To bear rule means to have dominion and it isn’t limited to positions of government. It refers here to the ascendance of the diligent to greater responsibility and authority. The word for tribute means a tax or forced labor situation. This contrast shows how the slothful descend in responsibility and authority. They are neither wise nor diligent like the ant, which needs no overseer (Proverbs 6:6-8).
A prudent man concealeth knowledge: but the heart of fools proclaimeth foolishness.
– Proverbs 12:23
The word for concealeth means to hide or cover. A couple of senses are covered here. The wise man stores up knowledge (Proverbs 10:14), and he measures out his words (Proverbs 10:19; 11:13; 15:2). The main thought of the proverb is restraint or control over the tongue exercised by the prudent. The contrast comes in the fool proclaiming, or crying out, foolishness. Talkativeness is a mark of a fool (Proverbs 15:2). Not only does a fool pour out foolishness, but he also proves himself to be a fool by doing so (Proverbs 13:16; Ecclesiastes 10:3).