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Proverbs 15

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15:1 A gentle response 1  turns away anger,

but a harsh word 2  stirs up wrath. 3 

15:2 The tongue of the wise 4  treats knowledge correctly, 5 

but the mouth of the fool spouts out 6  folly.

15:3 The eyes of the Lord 7  are in every place,

keeping watch 8  on those who are evil and those who are good.

15:4 Speech 9  that heals 10  is like 11  a life-giving tree, 12 

but a perverse tongue 13  breaks the spirit.

15:5 A fool rejects his father’s discipline,

but whoever heeds reproof shows good sense. 14 

15:6 In the house 15  of the righteous is abundant wealth, 16 

but the income of the wicked brings trouble. 17 

15:7 The lips of the wise spread 18  knowledge,

but not so the heart of fools. 19 

15:8 The Lord abhors 20  the sacrifices 21  of the wicked, 22 

but the prayer 23  of the upright pleases him. 24 

15:9 The Lord abhors 25  the way of the wicked,

but he loves those 26  who pursue 27  righteousness.

15:10 Severe discipline 28  is for the one who abandons the way;

the one who hates reproof 29  will die.

15:11 Death and Destruction 30  are before the Lord

how much more 31  the hearts of humans! 32 

15:12 The scorner does not love 33  one who corrects him; 34 

he will not go to 35  the wise.

15:13 A joyful heart 36  makes the face cheerful, 37 

but by a painful heart the spirit is broken.

15:14 The discerning heart seeks knowledge,

but the mouth of fools feeds on folly. 38 

15:15 All the days 39  of the afflicted 40  are bad, 41 

but one with 42  a cheerful heart has a continual feast. 43 

15:16 Better 44  is little with the fear of the Lord

than great wealth and turmoil 45  with it. 46 

15:17 Better a meal of vegetables where there is love 47 

than a fattened ox where there is hatred. 48 

15:18 A quick-tempered person 49  stirs up dissension,

but one who is slow to anger 50  calms 51  a quarrel. 52 

15:19 The way of the sluggard is like a hedge of thorns, 53 

but the path of the upright is like 54  a highway. 55 

15:20 A wise child 56  brings joy to his father,

but a foolish person 57  despises 58  his mother.

15:21 Folly is a joy to one who lacks sense, 59 

but one who has understanding 60  follows an upright course. 61 

15:22 Plans fail 62  when there is no counsel,

but with abundant advisers they are established. 63 

15:23 A person has joy 64  in giving an appropriate answer, 65 

and a word at the right time 66  – how good it is!

15:24 The path of life is upward 67  for the wise person, 68 

to 69  keep him from going downward to Sheol. 70 

15:25 The Lord tears down the house of the proud, 71 

but he maintains the boundaries of the widow. 72 

15:26 The Lord abhors 73  the plans 74  of the wicked, 75 

but pleasant words 76  are pure. 77 

15:27 The one who is greedy for gain 78  troubles 79  his household, 80 

but whoever hates bribes 81  will live.

15:28 The heart of the righteous considers 82  how 83  to answer, 84 

but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things. 85 

15:29 The Lord is far 86  from the wicked,

but he hears 87  the prayer of the righteous. 88 

15:30 A bright look 89  brings joy to the heart,

and good news gives health to the body. 90 

15:31 The person 91  who hears the reproof that leads to life 92 

is at home 93  among the wise. 94 

15:32 The one who refuses correction despises himself, 95 

but whoever hears 96  reproof acquires understanding. 97 

15:33 The fear of the Lord provides wise instruction, 98 

and before honor comes humility. 99 

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1 tn Heb “soft answer.” The adjective רַּךְ (rakh, “soft; tender; gentle”; BDB 940 s.v.) is more than a mild response; it is conciliatory, an answer that restores good temper and reasonableness (W. McKane, Proverbs [OTL], 477). Gideon illustrates this kind of answer (Judg 8:1-3) that brings peace.

2 tn Heb “word of harshness”; KJV “grievous words.” The noun עֶצֶב (’etsev, “pain, hurt”) functions as an attributive genitive. The term עֶצֶב refers to something that causes pain (BDB 780 s.v. I עֶצֶב). For example, Jephthah’s harsh answer led to war (Judg 12:1-6).

3 tn Heb “raises anger.” A common response to painful words is to let one’s temper flare up.

4 sn The contrast is between the “tongue of the wise” and the “mouth of the fool.” Both expressions are metonymies of cause; the subject matter is what they say. How wise people are can be determined from what they say.

5 tn Or “makes knowledge acceptable” (so NASB). The verb תֵּיטִיב (tetiv, Hiphil imperfect of יָטַב [yatav, “to be good”]) can be translated “to make good” or “to treat in a good [or, excellent] way” (C. H. Toy, Proverbs [ICC], 303). M. Dahood, however, suggests emending the text to תֵּיטִיף (tetif) which is a cognate of נָטַף (nataf, “drip”), and translates “tongues of the sages drip with knowledge” (Proverbs and Northwest Semitic Philology, 32-33). But this change is gratuitous and unnecessary.

6 sn The Hiphil verb יַבִּיעַ (yabia’) means “to pour out; to emit; to cause to bubble; to belch forth.” The fool bursts out with reckless utterances (cf. TEV “spout nonsense”).

7 sn The proverb uses anthropomorphic language to describe God’s exacting and evaluating knowledge of all people.

8 tn The form צֹפוֹת (tsofot, “watching”) is a feminine plural participle agreeing with “eyes.” God’s watching eyes comfort good people but convict evil.

9 tn Heb “a tongue.” The term “tongue” is a metonymy of cause for what is produced: speech.

10 tn Heb “a tongue of healing.” A healing tongue refers to speech that is therapeutic or soothing. It is a source of vitality.

11 tn The comparative “like” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is implied by the metaphor; it is supplied for the sake of clarity.

12 tn Heb “tree of life.”

13 tn Heb “perversion in it.” The referent must be the tongue, so this has been supplied in the translation for clarity. A tongue that is twisted, perverse, or deceitful is a way of describing deceitful speech. Such words will crush the spirit (e.g., Isa 65:14).

14 tn Heb “is prudent” (so KJV, NASB, NRSV); NCV, NLT “is wise.” Anyone who accepts correction or rebuke will become prudent in life.

15 tn The term בֵּית (bet, “house”) functions as an adverbial accusative of location.

16 sn The Hebrew noun חֹסֶן (khosen) means “wealth; treasure.” Prosperity is the reward for righteousness. This is true only in so far as a proverb can be carried in its application, allowing for exceptions. The Greek text for this verse has no reference for wealth, but talks about amassing righteousness.

17 tn Heb “will be troubled.” The function of the Niphal participle may be understood in two ways: (1) substantival use: abstract noun meaning “disturbance, calamity” (BDB 747 s.v. עָכַר) or passive noun meaning “thing troubled,” or (2) verbal use: “will be troubled” (HALOT 824 s.v. עכר nif).

18 tc The verb of the first colon is difficult because it does not fit the second very well – a heart does not “scatter” or “spread” knowledge. On the basis of the LXX, C. H. Toy (Proverbs [ICC], 305) suggests a change to יִצְּרוּ (yitsÿru, “they preserve”). The Greek evidence, however, is not strong. For the second line the LXX has “hearts of fools are not safe,” apparently taking לֹא־כֵן (lo-khen) as “unstable” instead of “not so.” So it seems futile to use the Greek version to modify the first colon to make a better parallel, when the Greek has such a different reading in the second colon anyway.

19 sn The phrase “the heart of fools” emphasizes that fools do not comprehend knowledge. Cf. NCV “there is no knowledge in the thoughts of fools.”

20 tn Heb “an abomination of the Lord.” The term יְהוָה (yÿhvah, “the Lord”) functions as a subjective genitive: “the Lord abhors.” Cf. NIV “the Lord detests”; NCV, NLT “the Lord hates”; CEV “the Lord is disgusted.”

21 tn Heb “sacrifice” (so many English versions).

22 sn The sacrifices of the wicked are hated by the Lord because the worshipers are insincere and blasphemous (e.g., Prov 15:29; 21:3; 28:9; Ps 40:6-8; Isa 1:10-17). In other words, the spiritual condition of the worshiper determines whether or not the worship is acceptable to God.

23 sn J. H. Greenstone notes that if God will accept the prayers of the upright, he will accept their sacrifices; for sacrifice is an outer ritual and easily performed even by the wicked, but prayer is a private and inward act and not usually fabricated by unbelievers (Proverbs, 162).

24 tn Heb “[is] his pleasure.” The 3rd person masculine singular suffix functions as a subjective genitive: “he is pleased.” God is pleased with the prayers of the upright.

25 tn Heb “an abomination of the Lord.” The term יְהוָה (yÿhvah, “the Lord”) functions as a subjective genitive: “the Lord abhors.”

26 tn Heb “the one who” (so NRSV).

27 sn God hates the way of the wicked, that is, their lifestyle and things they do. God loves those who pursue righteousness, the Piel verb signifying a persistent pursuit. W. G. Plaut says, “He who loves God will be moved to an active, persistent, and even dangerous search for justice” (Proverbs, 170).

28 tn The two lines are parallel synonymously, so the “severe discipline” of the first colon is parallel to “will die” of the second. The expression מוּסָר רָע (musar ra’, “severe discipline”) indicates a discipline that is catastrophic or harmful to life.

29 sn If this line and the previous line are synonymous, then the one who abandons the way also refuses any correction, and so there is severe punishment. To abandon the way means to leave the life of righteousness which is the repeated subject of the book of Proverbs.

30 tn Heb “Sheol and Abaddon” (שְׁאוֹל וַאֲבַדּוֹן (shÿol vaadon); so ASV, NASB, NRSV; cf. KJV “Hell and destruction”; NAB “the nether world and the abyss.” These terms represent the remote underworld and all the mighty powers that reside there (e.g., Prov 27:20; Job 26:6; Ps 139:8; Amos 9:2; Rev 9:11). The Lord knows everything about this remote region.

31 tn The construction אַף כִּי (’af ki, “how much more!”) introduces an argument from the lesser to the greater: If all this is open before the Lord, how much more so human hearts. “Hearts” here is a metonymy of subject, meaning the motives and thoughts (cf. NCV “the thoughts of the living”).

32 tn Heb “the hearts of the sons of man,” although here “sons of man” simply means “men” or “human beings.”

33 sn This is an understatement, the opposite being intended (a figure called tapeinosis). A scorner rejects any efforts to reform him.

34 tn The form הוֹכֵחַ (hokheakh) is a Hiphil infinitive absolute. It could function as the object of the verb (cf. NIV, NRSV) or as a finite verb (cf. KJV, NASB, NLT). The latter has been chosen here because of the prepositional phrase following it, although that is not a conclusive argument.

35 tc The MT has אֶל (’el, “to [the wise]”), suggesting seeking the advice of the wise. The LXX, however, has “with the wise,” suggesting אֶת (’et).

36 tn The contrast in this proverb is between the “joyful heart” (Heb “a heart of joy,” using an attributive genitive) and the “painful heart” (Heb “pain of the heart,” using a genitive of specification).

37 sn The verb יֵיטִב (yetiv) normally means “to make good,” but here “to make the face good,” that is, there is a healthy, favorable, uplifted expression. The antithesis is the pained heart that crushes the spirit. C. H. Toy observes that a broken spirit is expressed by a sad face, while a cheerful face shows a courageous spirit (Proverbs [ICC], 308).

38 tn The idea expressed in the second colon does not make a strong parallelism with the first with its emphasis on seeking knowledge. Its poetic image of feeding (a hypocatastasis) would signify the acquisition of folly – the fool has an appetite for it. D. W. Thomas suggests the change of one letter, ר (resh) to ד (dalet), to obtain a reading יִדְעֶה (yideh); this he then connects to an Arabic root da`a with the meaning “sought, demanded” to form what he thinks is a better parallel (“Textual and Philological Notes on Some Passages in the Book of Proverbs,” VTSup 3 [1955]: 285). But even though the parallelism is not as precise as some would prefer, there is insufficient warrant for such a change.

39 sn The “days” represent what happens on those days (metonymy of subject).

40 tn The contrast is between the “afflicted” and the “good of heart” (a genitive of specification, “cheerful/healthy heart/spirit/attitude”).

sn The parallelism suggests that the afflicted is one afflicted within his spirit, for the proverb is promoting a healthy frame of mind.

41 tn Or “evil”; or “catastrophic.”

42 tn “one with” is supplied.

43 sn The image of a continual feast signifies the enjoyment of what life offers (cf. TEV “happy people…enjoy life”). The figure is a hypocatastasis; among its several implications are joy, fulfillment, abundance, pleasure.

44 sn One of the frequent characteristics of wisdom literature is the “better” saying; it is a comparison of different but similar things to determine which is to be preferred. These two verses focus on spiritual things being better than troubled material things.

45 sn Turmoil refers to anxiety; the fear of the Lord alleviates anxiety, for it brings with it contentment and confidence.

46 sn Not all wealth has turmoil with it. But the proverb is focusing on the comparison of two things – fear of the Lord with little and wealth with turmoil. Between these two, the former is definitely better.

47 tn Heb “and love there.” This clause is a circumstantial clause introduced with vav, that becomes “where there is love.” The same construction is used in the second colon.

48 sn Again the saying concerns troublesome wealth: Loving relationships with simple food are better than a feast where there is hatred. The ideal, of course, would be loving family and friends with a great meal in addition, but this proverb is only comparing two things.

49 tn Heb “a man of wrath”; KJV, ASV “a wrathful man.” The term “wrath” functions as an attributive genitive: “an angry person.” He is contrasted with the “slow of anger,” so he is a “quick-tempered person” (cf. NLT “a hothead”).

50 tn Heb “slow of anger.” The noun “anger” functions as a genitive of specification: slow in reference to anger, that is, slow to get angry, patient.

51 tn The Hiphil verb יַשְׁקִיט (yashqit) means “to cause quietness; to pacify; to allay” the strife or quarrel (cf. NAB “allays discord”). This type of person goes out of his way to keep things calm and minimize contention; his opposite thrives on disagreement and dispute.

52 sn The fact that רִיב (riv) is used for “quarrel; strife” strongly implies that the setting is the courtroom or other legal setting (the gates of the city). The hot-headed person is eager to turn every disagreement into a legal case.

53 tn Heb “like an overgrowth”; NRSV “overgrown with thorns”; cf. CEV “like walking in a thorn patch.” The point of the simile is that the path of life taken by the lazy person has many obstacles that are painful – it is like trying to break through a hedge of thorns. The LXX has “strewn with thorns.”

54 tn The comparative “like” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is implied by the metaphor; it is supplied for the sake of clarity.

55 sn The contrast to the “thorny way” is the highway, the Hebrew word signifying a well built-up road (סָלַל, salal, “to heap up”). The upright have no reason to swerve, duck, or detour, but may expect “clear sailing.” Other passages pair these two concepts, e.g., Prov 6:10; 10:26; 28:19.

56 tn Heb “son.”

57 tn Heb “a fool of a man,” a genitive of specification.

58 sn The proverb is almost the same as 10:1, except that “despises” replaces “grief.” This adds the idea of the callousness of the one who inflicts grief on his mother (D. Kidner, Proverbs [TOTC], 116).

59 tn The Hebrew text reads לַחֲסַר־לֵב (lakhasar-lev, “to one who lacks heart”). The Hebrew term “heart” represents the mind, the place where proper decisions are made (cf. NIV “judgment”). The one who has not developed this ability to make proper choices finds great delight in folly.

60 tn Heb “a man of understanding” (so KJV, NIV); NLT “a sensible person.”

61 tn The Hebrew construction is יְיַשֶּׁר־לָכֶת (yÿyasher-lakhet, “makes straight [to] go”). This is a verbal hendiadys, in which the first verb, the Piel imperfect, becomes adverbial, and the second form, the infinitive construct of הָלַךְ, halakh, becomes the main verb: “goes straight ahead” (cf. NRSV).

62 tn Heb “go wrong” (so NRSV, NLT). The verb is the Hiphil infinitive absolute from פָּרַר, parar, which means “to break; to frustrate; to go wrong” (HALOT 975 s.v. I פרר 2). The plans are made ineffectual or are frustrated when there is insufficient counsel.

63 sn The proverb says essentially the same thing as 11:14, but differently.

64 tn Heb “joy to the man” or “the man has joy.”

65 tn Heb “in the answer of his mouth” (so ASV); NASB “in an apt answer.” The term “mouth” is a metonymy of cause for what he says. But because the parallelism is loosely synonymous, the answer given here must be equal to the good word spoken in season. So it is an answer that is proper or fitting.

66 tn Heb “in its season.” To say the right thing at the right time is useful; to say the right thing at the wrong time is counterproductive.

67 tn There is disagreement over the meaning of the term translated “upward.” The verse is usually taken to mean that “upward” is a reference to physical life and well-being (cf. NCV), and “going down to Sheol” is a reference to physical death, that is, the grave, because the concept of immortality is said not to appear in the book of Proverbs. The proverb then would mean that the wise live long and healthy lives. But W. McKane argues (correctly) that “upwards” in contrast to Sheol, does not fit the ways of describing the worldly pattern of conduct and that it is only intelligible if taken as a reference to immortality (Proverbs [OTL], 480). The translations “upwards” and “downwards” are not found in the LXX. This has led some commentators to speculate that these terms were not found in the original, but were added later, after the idea of immortality became prominent. However, this is mere speculation.

68 tn Heb “to the wise [man],” because the form is masculine.

69 tn The term לְמַעַן (lemaan, “in order to”) introduces a purpose clause; the path leads upward in order to turn the wise away from Sheol.

70 tn Heb “to turn from Sheol downward”; cf. NAB “the nether world below.”

71 sn The “proud” have to be understood here in contrast to the widow, and their “house” has to be interpreted in contrast to the widow’s territory. The implication may be that the “proud” make their gain from the needy, and so God will set the balance right.

72 sn The Lord administers justice in his time. The Lord champions the widow, the orphan, the poor, and the needy. These people were often the prey of the proud, who would take and devour their houses and lands (e.g., 1 Kgs 21; Prov 16:19; Isa 5:8-10).

73 tn Heb “an abomination of the Lord.” The term יְהוָה (yÿhvah, “the Lord”) functions as a subjective genitive: “the Lord abhors.”

74 tn The noun מַחְשְׁבוֹת (makhshÿvot) means “thoughts” (so KJV, NIV, NLT), from the verb חָשַׁב (khashav, “to think; to reckon; to devise”). So these are intentions, what is being planned (cf. NAB “schemes”).

75 tn The word רַע (“evil; wicked”) is a genitive of source or subjective genitive, meaning the plans that the wicked devise – “wicked plans.”

76 sn The contrast is between the “thoughts” and the “words.” The thoughts that are designed to hurt people the Lord hates; words that are pleasant (נֹעַם, noam), however, are pure (to him). What is pleasant is delightful, lovely, enjoyable.

77 tc The MT simply has “but pleasant words are pure” (Heb “but pure [plural] are the words of pleasantness”). Some English versions add “to him” to make the connection to the first part (cf. NAB, NIV). The LXX has: “the sayings of the pure are held in honor.” The Vulgate has: “pure speech will be confirmed by him as very beautiful.” The NIV has paraphrased here: “but those of the pure are pleasing to him.”

78 tn Heb “the one who gains.” The phrase בּוֹצֵעַ בָּצַע (botseakh batsa’) is a participle followed by its cognate accusative. This refers to a person who is always making the big deal, getting the larger cut, or in a hurry to get rich. The verb, though, makes it clear that the gaining of a profit is by violence and usually unjust, since the root has the idea of “cut off; break off; gain by violence.” The line is contrasted with hating bribes, and so the gain in this line may be through bribery.

79 sn The participle “troubles” (עֹכֵר, ’okher) can have the connotation of making things difficult for the family, or completely ruining the family (cf. NAB). In Josh 7:1 Achan took some of the “banned things” and was put to death: Because he “troubled Israel,” the Lord would “trouble” him (take his life, Josh 7:25).

80 tn Heb “his house.”

81 tn Heb “gifts” (so KJV). Gifts can be harmless enough, but in a setting like this the idea is that the “gift” is in exchange for some “profit [or, gain].” Therefore they are bribes (cf. ASV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NLT), and to be hated or rejected. Abram, for example, would not take anything that the king of Sodom had to offer, “lest [he] say, “I have made Abram rich” (Gen 14:22-24).

82 tn The verb יֶהְגֶּה (yehgeh) means “to muse; to meditate; to consider; to study.” It also involves planning, such as with the wicked “planning” a vain thing (Ps 2:1, which is contrasted with the righteous who “meditate” in the law [1:2]).

83 tn The word “how” is supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.

84 tc The LXX reads: “the hearts of the righteous meditate faithfulness.”

sn The advice of the proverb is to say less but better things. The wise – here called the righteous – are cautious in how they respond to others. They think about it (heart = mind) before speaking.

85 sn The form is plural. What they say (the “mouth” is a metonymy of cause) is any range of harmful things.

86 sn To say that the Lord is “far” from the wicked is to say that he has made himself unavailable to their appeal – he does not answer them. This motif is used by David throughout Psalm 22 for the problem of unanswered prayer – “Why are you far off?”

87 sn The verb “hear” (שָׁמַע, shama’) has more of the sense of “respond to” in this context. If one “listens to the voice of the Lord,” for example, it means that he obeys the Lord. If one wishes God to “hear his prayer,” it means he wishes God to answer it.

88 sn God’s response to prayer is determined by the righteousness of the one who prays. A prayer of repentance by the wicked is an exception, for by it they would become the righteous (C. H. Toy, Proverbs [ICC], 316).

89 tc The LXX has “the eye that sees beautiful things.” D. W. Thomas suggests pointing מְאוֹר (mÿor) as a Hophal participle, “a fine sight cheers the mind” (“Textual and Philological Notes,” 205). But little is to be gained from this change.

tn Heb “light of the eyes” (so KJV, NRSV). The expression may indicate the gleam in the eyes of the one who tells the good news, as the parallel clause suggests.

90 tn Heb “makes fat the bones”; NAB “invigorates the bones.” The word “bones” is a metonymy of subject, the bones representing the whole body. The idea of “making fat” signifies by comparison (hypocatastasis) with fat things that the body will be healthy and prosperous (e.g., Prov 17:22; 25:25; Gen 45:27-28; and Isa 52:7-8). Good news makes the person feel good in body and soul.

91 tn Heb “ear” (so KJV, NRSV). The term “ear” is a synecdoche of part (= ear) for the whole (= person).

92 tn “Life” is an objective genitive: Reproof brings or preserves life. Cf. NIV “life-giving rebuke”; NLT “constructive criticism.”

93 tn Heb “lodges.” This means to live with, to be at home with.

94 sn The proverb is one full sentence; it affirms that a teachable person is among the wise.

95 sn To “despise oneself” means to reject oneself as if there was little value. The one who ignores discipline is not interested in improving himself.

96 tn Or “heeds” (so NAB, NIV); NASB “listens to.”

97 tn The Hebrew text reads קוֹנֶה לֵּב (qoneh lev), the participle of קָנָה (qanah, “to acquire; to possess”) with its object, “heart.” The word “heart” is frequently a metonymy of subject, meaning all the capacities of the human spirit and/or mind. Here it refers to the ability to make judgments or discernment.

98 tn Heb “[is] instruction of wisdom” (KJV and NASB similar). The noun translated “wisdom” is an attributive genitive: “wise instruction.”

sn The idea of the first line is similar to Prov 1:7 and 9:10. Here it may mean that the fear of the Lord results from the discipline of wisdom, just as easily as it may mean that the fear of the Lord leads to the discipline of wisdom. The second reading harmonizes with the theme in the book that the fear of the Lord is the starting point.

99 tn Heb “[is] humility” (so KJV). The second clause is a parallel idea in that it stresses how one thing leads to another – humility to honor. Humble submission in faith to the Lord brings wisdom and honor.



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