“He who covers his sins will not prosper?” — Proverbs 28:13

Proverbs 28:13 (NKJV)

13 He who COVERS HIS SINS will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.


Now, the text above has been used severally to frighten believers to legalistic bondage. Many have been told that they are not doing well in life because of some past sins. “The rooster has come home to roost” etc.


But what is the author REALLY saying? Let’s examine this together, shall we?


The word “covers” as used here is translated from the Hebrew word “mekasseh.”


It literally refers to a garment which is used to hide from view. That is, the act of veiling actions in an attempt to avoid their being revealed as well as to prevent exposure to their consequences.


So, in context, this person is attempting to shield himself from the repercussions of his wrongful acts.


Follow closely..


“..He who covers his sins will not prosper”


Now, the reasonable question would be: “Prosper in WHAT?” His finances, marital life?


The word “prosper” as used here is translated from the Hebrew word “tsalack.”


It means “to succeed, to advance in a pursuit or action.”


Now, adhering STRICTLY to the hermeneutical law of contextual reading, what action is “he” trying to perform?


Get a good job? Marry a lovely woman? No! He is attempting to shield himself BY HIMSELF from the consequences of his sins! He is trying to be his own Saviour, take the role of THE Saviour!


So, what will he not succeed in? That’s very easy. Covering his sins!


This is not a text that supports the lie that God inflicts people with ills and retards their progress in life because He is mad about some “hidden sin” in their lives. Nope!


The nature of the Father is one that gives FREELY without any pre-qualifications.


Matthew 5:44-45 (NKJV)

44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the EVIL AND ON THE GOOD, and sends rain on THE JUST AND ON THE UNJUST.


James 1:5, 13 (NKJV)

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, WHO GIVES to ALL LIBERALLY and WITHOUT REPROACH, and it will be given to him.. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor DOES HE HIMSELF TEMPT ANYONE.


This text (Proverbs 28:13) rather shows us CLEARLY and emphasizes man’s inability to take care of sin by himself. He can’t. He will NEVER succeed in doing so.


Therefore, what is the way out?


The author explains:


“..But whoever confesses and forsakes (them) will have mercy.


Now, it’s key to note that the grammatical construct of this verse is poorly captured in the English translation.


Let’s go back to the originals, shall we?


The word “confess” as used here is translated from the Hebrew word “yadah.”


It is derived from a primitive root word “yad” which is the Hebrew word for the hand.


So, “yadah” in the Hebrew literally means “to hold out the hand, that is, to acknowledge.”


The original idea of the word is that you were holding on to something before BUT NOW you are holding it out. You are “surrendering,” giving up on your own efforts.


Now, follow closely.


“..But whoever confesses and forsakes (them) will have mercy.


It is key to note that the word “them” here is in italics. Italicized words in the Bible are words which are not present in the original Greek or Hebrew manuscripts but were added by the translators for easy reading or to complete a grammatical thought. Sometimes they are beneficial and sometimes, they are not. So let’s do without it:


“..But whoever confesses and forsakes will have mercy.


The phrase “and forsakes” is a single word in the original Hebrew manuscript. It is the word “azab.”


“Azab” means “to depart from, be rescued from, to be loosed from, set free from.”


Same word is used in Exodus 23:5


Exodus 23:5 (NKJV)

5 If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, YOU SHALL SURELY HELP HIM WITH IT.


Actually, the originals read: “You shall FREE it with him.” That is, release it from its burden. So, help would be granted this beast under burden. But notice, this aid would come externally to the beast of burden i.e it is PASSIVELY being assisted, doing nothing of its own strength. That’s the word “azab.”


Back to Proverbs 28:13


Morphologically, the Hebrew word “azab” (which is “and forsakes” in Proverbs 28:13) appears firstly in the conjunction (type “waw”) which implies that “and” here is a continuing conjunction (“furthermore”). So it’s still explaining “confesses,” (“yadah”) that act of acknowledging helplessness and surrendering.


“Forsake” (“azab”) then appears in the verb cohortative mood. That is, it expresses consequence. So, being freed from (“azab”) is a result of confessing (“yadah”), acknowledging that one needs help.


“..will have mercy.”


This phrase is translated from the Hebrew word “racham.” It means “to love or show compassion on.”


It carries a shade of meaning in the Hebrew Lexicon which implies a captor  letting his prisoner go, a compassionate disposition leading to granting a freedom or release.


It is used in this context in 1 Kings 8:46-50


1 Kings 8:46-50 (NKJV)


46 “When they sin against You (for there is no one who does not sin), and You become angry with them and deliver them to the enemy, and they take them captive to the land of the enemy, far or near; 47 yet when they come to themselves in the land where they were carried captive, and repent, and make supplication to You in the land of those who took them captive, saying, ‘We have sinned and done wrong, we have committed wickedness’; 48 and when they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies who led them away captive, and pray to You toward their land which You gave to their fathers, the city which You have chosen and the temple which I have built for Your name: 49 then hear in heaven Your dwelling place their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause, 50 and forgive Your people who have sinned against You, and all their transgressions which they have transgressed against You; and GRANT THEM COMPASSION before those who took them captive, that they may HAVE COMPASSION ON THEM


Also in Jeremiah 42:11-12


Jeremiah 42:11-12 (NKJV)

11 Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom you are afraid; do not be afraid of him,’ says the Lord, ‘for I am with you, to save you and deliver you from his hand. 12 AND I WILL SHOW YOU MERCY, that HE MAY HAVE MERCY ON YOU AND CAUSE YOU TO RETURN TO YOUR OWN LAND.’


Reading in context of Proverbs 28:13 and having considered the original meaning of the word “azab” (to set free from”), it is safe to assert that “racham” (“mercy”) as used in same text would carry this shade of meaning.


This compassion is to effect a release from the consequence of sin.


Morphologically, “will have mercy” here (“racham” in the Hebrew) is in the verb pual which expresses a passive verb. That is, mercy or compassion is BEING done by another (the subject here would be God) and RECEIVED by he who acknowledges that he needs help.


So, Proverbs 13:28 can be better translated:


“He who attempts to shield himself from the consequences of his sins will not advance in that pursuit. But he who acknowledges his sins and surrenders is set free and will enjoy liberty from their consequences. [This is God’s compassion upon him].”


Now, follow closely..


Man, no matter how much he tries can NEVER shield himself from the consequences of his sins. He needs God to show mercy, that is, take away the consequences HIMSELF! Only God has such ability.


Romans 4:5-8 (NKJV)


5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:

7 “Blessed are those whose LAWLESS DEEDS ARE FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS ARE COVERED; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord SHALL NOT IMPUTE SIN.”


Morphologically, “are covered” here is in the aorist passive indicative in the Greek. The passive voice indicates that the justified man is not responsible for covering his sins, rather God’s forgiveness does so.


The source text (Psalm 32:1-5) has the word “covered” translated from the Hebrew word “kasah” which is not just “to cover” but actually to take out of sight. The sins God forgives are sent away, out of visibility, as though they NEVER were! Hence, man must surrender and depend on God the Saviour, to take care of sin instead of trying to do so by his own efforts.


1 John 1:8-9 (NKJV)

8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.


Jesus’ parable in Luke 18:9-14 bears this out. Jesus spoke this parable to those “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others” (vs. 9)


Two men, a legalistic Pharisee and a tax collector come to the Temple to pray.


The self-righteous Pharisee exalts himself and his good deeds while the tax collector simply depended on the mercy of God and not any merits of his own.


His words


Luke 18:13 (NKJV)

13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, BE MERCIFUL to me a sinner!’


The phrase “be merciful” as used here carries a very interesting idea in the Greek.


It is translated from the word “hilaskomai.” It literally means “offer an offering for me!”


This man came with no works, not even a blood offering, rather, he simply rests on the mercy of God.


God would offer the offering FOR him. This completely negates the customs of the Law where man would bring an animal sacrifice in a misconceived bid to “appease” God. God will ACTUALLY be the One doing the offering that would provide mercy for sins.


Hence, Jesus is the Lamb OF God.


John 1:29 (NKJV)


29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The LAMB OF GOD who takes away the sin of the world!


He is the Lamb that God would offer FOR man. The Sacrifice that COMPLETELY takes away sins will not be from MAN to God but from GOD to man. I trust this blessed you. Let me know. Share with a friend too.


© Josh Banks Ministries. 2018.


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