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Proverbs 16:21-23

Context

16:21 The one who is wise in heart 1  is called 2  discerning,

and kind speech 3  increases persuasiveness. 4 

16:22 Insight 5  is like 6  a life-giving fountain 7  to the one who possesses it,

but folly leads to the discipline of fools. 8 

16:23 A wise person’s heart 9  makes his speech wise 10 

and it adds persuasiveness 11  to his words. 12 

1 tn Heb “wise of heart” (so NRSV).

2 tn Heb “to the wise of heart it will be called discerning.” This means that the wise of heart, those who make wise decisions (“heart” being the metonymy), will gain a reputation of being the discerning ones.

3 tn Heb “sweetness of lips.” The term “lips” is a metonymy of cause, meaning what is said. It is a genitive of specification. The idea of “sweetness” must be gracious and friendly words. The teaching will be well-received because it is both delightful and persuasive (cf. NIV “pleasant words promote instruction”).

4 tn Heb “teaching” or “receptivity”; KJV “learning”; NIV “instruction.”

5 tn The Hebrew noun שֵׂכֵל (sekhel, “prudence; insight”; cf. KJV, NASB, NIV “understanding”; NAB, CEV “good sense”) is related to the verb that means “to have insight; to give attention to; to act circumspectly [or, prudently],” as well as “to prosper; to have success.” These words all describe the kind of wise action that will be successful.

6 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.

7 tn Heb “fountain of life.” The point of the metaphor is that like a fountain this wisdom will be a constant provision for living in this world.

8 tn Heb “the discipline of fools [is] folly.” The “discipline” (מוּסָר, musar) in this proverb is essentially a requital for sin (hence “punishment,” so NIV, NCV, NRSV); discipline which is intended to correct is normally rejected and despised by fools. So the line is saying that there is very little that can be done for or with the fool (cf. NLT “discipline is wasted on fools”).

9 tn Or “mind” (cf. NCV, NRSV, NLT).

10 tn Heb “makes wise his mouth,” with “mouth” being a metonymy of cause for what is said: “speech.”

11 sn Those who are wise say wise things. The proverb uses synthetic parallelism: The first line asserts that the wise heart ensures that what is said is wise, and the second line adds that such a person increases the reception of what is said.

12 tn Heb “to his lips.” The term “lips” functions as a metonymy of cause for what is said.



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