What does Proverbs 13:8 mean?
ESV: The ransom of a man’s life is his wealth, but a poor man hears no threat.
NIV: A person's riches may ransom their life, but the poor cannot respond to threatening rebukes.
NASB: The ransom of a person’s life is his wealth, But the poor hears no rebuke.
CSB: Riches are a ransom for a person's life, but a poor person hears no threat.
NLT: The rich can pay a ransom for their lives, but the poor won’t even get threatened.
KJV: The ransom of a man's life are his riches: but the poor heareth not rebuke.
This proverb uses an unexpected twist to uncover a hidden advantage of poverty. A rich person can "ransom" themselves. This might mean to buy themselves out of trouble, but in this context, it means a more literal ransom. This is the fee demanded by someone to return a captured or kidnapped person, or to free a slave. The rich person is subject to ransom demands because of their wealth. No one will make such threats against a poor person because they have no riches to give. Threats to wealth, property, or money are powerless against someone who has none of those things.
Material wealth does, in fact, come with downsides. That includes the risk of being robbed or kidnapped or murdered for one's money. Further, a rich man may wonder whether his "friends" are truly friends or simply pretending to be his friends to get something from him. Wealth at best is only temporal, whereas "godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world" (1 Timothy 6:6–7). Hebrews 13:5 provides the right perspective on what is truly important. It reads: "Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'"
Proverbs 13:4–11 observes key differences between the rich and poor, the testimony of the righteous and the dismal end of the wicked, the insolence of the wicked and the willingness of the wise to accept advice. This continues the pattern of contrast and comparison used in this section of the book.
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.
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.
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.
Accessed 3/1/2024 9:41:23 PM
© Copyright 2002-2024 Got Questions Ministries. All rights reserved.
Text from ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB, NLT, KJV © Copyright respective owners, used by permission.