Beginning of Wisdom

Proverbs from the Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near East

The Value of Wealth (Proverbs 13:11)

Posted by jac/cdc on January 29, 2007

הֹון מֵהֶבֶל יִמְעָט וְקֹבֵץ עַל־יָד יַרְבֶּה׃

HON may-HE-vel yim-AT v’-ko-VAYTS al-YAD yar-BE

Wealth in haste will diminish, but the one who gathers by hand will increase.

I’ve followed the Greek in my translation, which appears to represent a Hebrew text with מבהל instead of מהבל, which does not make very good sense in the context (cf. 28:22). The contrast here is found in the correlation of the origin of wealth and its end. “Wealth in haste” is general enough not to require an interpretation as something illegal or unethical. Rather, the contrast seems to be in the valuation of wealth: for the one to whom wealth has quickly and easily come, it also easily goes; for the one who has gathered wealth “by hand,” i.e., little by little through hard work, it is valued and therefore increased rather than quickly expended. “Easy come, easy go” expresses a similar sentiment, and points to broader applications than just wealth: great effort infuses that which is gained with value that anything easily acquired or won cannot have.

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