Hope Deferred Makes the Heart Sick: What Does Proverbs 13:12 Mean?


Proverbs 13:12 reads, “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.” King James Version (KJV)

TranslationProverbs 13:12
ESVHope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
NASBHope deferred makes the heart sick, But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
NIVHope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
NLTHope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.

Hope Deferred Makes the Heart Sick: Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary

13:6. An honest desire to do right, preserves a man from fatal mistakes, better than a thousand fine-drawn distinctions. 7. Some who are really poor, trade and spend as if they were rich: this is sin, and will be shame, and it will end accordingly.

Some that are really rich, would be thought to be poor: in this there is want of gratitude to God, want of justice and charity to others. There are many hypocrites, empty of grace, who will not be convinced of their poverty.

There are many fearing Christians, who are spiritually rich, yet think themselves poor; by their doubts, and complaints, and griefs, they make themselves poor. 8. Great riches often tempt to violence against those that possess them; but the poor are free from such perils.

9. The light of the righteous is as that of the sun, which may be eclipsed and clouded, but will continue: the Spirit is their Light, he gives a fulness of joy: that of the wicked is as a lamp of their own kindling, easily put out.

10. All contentions, whether between private persons, families, churches, or nations, are begun and carried forward by pride. Disputes would be easily prevented or ended, if it were not for pride.

11. Wealth gotten by dishonesty or vice, has a secret curse, which will speedily waste it. 12. The delay of what is anxiously hoped for, is very painful to the mind; obtaining it is very pleasant. But spiritual blessings are chiefly intended.

Proverbs 13:12 | Pulpit Bible Commentary

Verse 12. – Hope deferred maketh the heart sick. Delay in the accomplishment of some much-desired good occasions sinking of the spirits, languor, and despondency.

Many refer this sentence to the impatient longing for heaven which holy men feel, such as we may read in ‘De Imitatione,’ 3:48, 49, and in the hymns, “For thee, O dear, dear country;” and “We’ve no abiding city,” etc.

And St. Paul can exclaim (Romans 7:24), “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (comp. Romans 8:23; Philippians 1:23).

Septuagint, “Better is he who taketh in hand to aid with all his heart, than he who promises and raises hopes” (comp. James 2:15, 16).

When the desire cometh – when the object of the longing is obtained – it is a tree of life (Proverbs 11:30); there are then no longer languor and despondence, but strength and refreshment and vigorous action. Septuagint, “A good desire is a tree of life.”

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