Pearls From Proverbs

By Irvin Himmel

A Rough Road

“Good understanding giveth favor: but the way of transgressors is hard” (Prov. 13:15).

Things are not always what they seem. The course which looks good may offer more misery than happiness, more heartaches than comfort, and more disappointments than satisfaction.

Good Understanding

The Hebrew word sekel denotes intelligence, sound judgment, good sense, or prudence. It is translated “wisdom” in Proverbs 12:8; in 19:11 it is “prudence.”

Abigail, Nabal’s wife, was a woman of good understanding (1 Sam. 25:3). In contrast, her husband was churlish and evil in his deeds.

We show sound judgment and prudence in yielding to the will of God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments. (Psa. 111:10).

“Obedience to God proves that our judgment is sound. Why should not be obeyed? Does not reason itself claim obedience for the Lord of all? Only a man void of understanding will ever justify rebellion against the holy God. Practical godliness is the test of wisdom. Men may know and be very orthodox, they may talk and be very eloquent, they may speculate and be very profound; but the best proof of their intelligence must be found in their actually doing the will of the Lord” (C.H. Spurgeon).

Giving of Favor

It is a fact that good understanding gives favor. “A man shall be commended according to his wisdom: but he that is of a perverse heart shall be despised” (Prov. 12:8). Favor and good understanding are connected in Proverbs 3:4.

Joseph gained favor with Pharaoh, king of Egypt, through sound judgment and prudence. Pharaoh remarked concerning Joseph, “Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the spirit of God is?” He said to Joseph, “There is none so discreet and wise as thou art” (Gen. 41:38,39).

Daniel gained favor with Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, through wisdom and good understanding. In all matters of wisdom and understanding, the king found Daniel and his three companions ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers in his realm (Dan. 1: 19,20).

The youthful years of Jesus are summed up in Luke 2:52: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Wise judgment is appreciated by right-thinking people. Good understanding brings esteem, honor, admiration, and respect.


The Hebrew word for “transgressors” in our text is bagad. It is a term pointing to such as deal deceitfully or treacherously. It appears in Psalm 119:158, which says, “I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved; because they kept not thy word.” It is used in Isaiah 21:2 where the prophet said, “the treacherous dealer dealeth treacherously. “

Our text refers especially to the unfaithful, the offensive, the treacherous. The New American Standard Bible renders it, “Good understanding produces favor, But the way of the treacherous is hard.”

A Hard Way

The course of transgressors is rugged and rough. Often there is violence. “A man shall eat good by the fruit of his mouth: but the soul of the transgressors shall eat violence” (Prov. 13:2).

Many transgressors have no compassion. “. . . The manner in which they transact with men, is stiff, as hard as stone, and repulsive; they follow selfish views, never placing themselves in sympathy with the condition of their neighbour; they are without the tenderness which is connected with fine culture; they remain destitute of feeling in things which, as we say, would soften a stone” (F. Delitzsch).

The way of transgressors is hard because the pleasures of sin are for limited duration and are deceitful. How dreadful to reach the end of life and realize that one has taken the road to perdition.

Transgression brings suffering, not only to the transgressor, but even to his family and friends in many cases. Some have plunged headlong into some wicked act without stopping to think of the consequences. Innocent people are hurt. Although the sin may be forgiven, some of its effects may never be erased during the lifetime of the offender.

No relief is in sight for one who continues in transgression. Sometimes one treacherous act leads to another, and then another. Deeper and deeper into evil plunges the unfaithful person. He heaps misery on top of misery. Guilt weighs heavily until his conscience becomes as hardened as the stones along a rugged path.

The narrow way that leads to life requires sacrifice, self-denial, and discipline. But there is no road as rough as that which the transgressor travels.

Guardian of Truth XXX: 13, p. 393
July 3, 1986