1 tn Heb “the beginning of a quarrel”; TEV, CEV “The start of an argument.”
2 tn The verse simply begins with “letting out water.” This phrase is a metaphor, but most English versions have made it a simile (supplying “like” or “as”). R. N. Whybray takes it literally and makes it the subject of the clause: “stealing water starts a quarrel” (Proverbs [CBC], 100). However, the verb more likely means “to let out, set free” and not “to steal,” for which there are clearer words.
sn The image involves a small leak in a container or cistern that starts to spurt out water. The problem will get worse if it is not stopped. Strife is like that.
tc The LXX has “The outpouring of words is the beginning of strife.” This would make it a warning against thoughtless talk.
3 tn The temporal clause is formed with the prepositional “before,” the infinitive construct, and the following subjective genitive. The verb גָּלַע (gala’) means “to expose; to lay bare,” and in the Hitpael “to disclose oneself; to break out.”
4 tn Heb “man.”
5 tn Heb “cessation” (שֶׁבֶת, shevet); NAB “to shun strife”; NRSV “refrain from strife.”
sn One cannot avoid conflict altogether; but the proverb is instructing that at the first sign of conflict the honorable thing to do is to find a way to end it.
6 tn Heb “breaks out.” The Hitpael of the verb גָּלַע (gala’, “to expose; to lay bare”) means “to break out; to disclose oneself,” and so the idea of flaring up in a quarrel is clear. But there are also cognate connections to the idea of “showing the teeth; snarling” and so quarreling viciously.