What does Proverbs 13:23 mean?
ESV: The fallow ground of the poor would yield much food, but it is swept away through injustice.
NIV: An unplowed field produces food for the poor, but injustice sweeps it away.
NASB: Abundant food is in the uncultivated ground of the poor, But it is swept away by injustice.
CSB: The uncultivated field of the poor yields abundant food, but without justice, it is swept away.
NLT: A poor person’s farm may produce much food, but injustice sweeps it all away.
KJV: Much food is in the tillage of the poor: but there is that is destroyed for want of judgment.
NKJV: Much food is in the fallow ground of the poor, And for lack of justice there is waste.
Verse Commentary:
Many statements in the book of Proverbs refer to the general rule of godly wisdom: doing good usually results in good (Proverbs 3:21–23). For the most part, following biblical principles and obeying the Lord gives a person greater success than pursuing sin (Proverbs 2:3–8). At the least, godly conduct avoids the negative consequences of dishonesty and crime (Proverbs 5:22; 11:5). However, Scripture is also honest about how evil people can take prosperity away from those who are righteous. An especially heinous form of evil is when those who are rich take advantage of those who are poor.

A poor man may work his land and obtain enough food to put on the table, but he may lose it quickly. An unjust person or persons may steal what the land produces. Unfair or unwise orders from a landowner may severely limit what the crop produces. The apostle James took unscrupulous rich farmers to task for keeping their workers poor. They were unjust and cared only about increasing their wealth so they could live in luxury. He writes in James 5:4–6: "Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you."
Verse Context:
Proverbs 13:12–25 emphasizes the value of wisdom as true wealth. Solomon writes that whoever reveres God's Word will be rewarded, and he describes how wisdom obtained from the Word applies to several areas of life.
Chapter Summary:
This chapter of Proverbs continues Solomon's wise sayings. He counsels his readers to be sensible and hardworking, as well as honest. This allows a person to be content with what they have, to enjoy life, and to bless their descendants. Laziness leads to trouble and ruin, as does a lack of discipline.
Chapter Context:
Starting in chapter 10, the book of Proverbs records a long series of wise sayings from Solomon. These continue for several chapters. Through chapter 15, a major focus is on issues such as godly living, mostly given in contrast with examples of ungodliness. This chapter emphasizes themes such as work ethic, honesty, and discipline.
Book Summary:
Proverbs is best understood in context with the books of Ecclesiastes and Job. In Proverbs, “wisdom” is given in short, simple, general terms. Ecclesiastes represents wisdom based on observation and experience. This often shows how the general principles of the book of Proverbs don’t apply in absolutely every circumstance. Job represents wisdom based on the experience of suffering and injustice. All three come to the conclusion that God does indeed know best, and the most sensible course of action is to follow His will.
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