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Proverbs 1:2-3

Context

1:2 To 1  learn 2  wisdom 3  and moral instruction, 4 

and to discern 5  wise counsel. 6 

1:3 To receive 7  moral instruction 8  in skillful living, 9 

in 10  righteousness, 11  justice, 12  and equity. 13 

Proverbs 1:8

Context

1:8 Listen, 14  my child, 15  to the instruction 16  from 17  your father,

and do not forsake the teaching 18  from 19  your mother.

1 tn The infinitive construct + ל (lamed) here designates purpose. This is the first of five purpose clauses in the opening section (1:2a, 2b, 3a, 4a, 6a). This clause reveals the purpose of the collection of proverbs in general. The three purpose clauses that follow qualify this general purpose.

2 tn Heb “to know.” The verb יָדַע (yada’) here means “to gain knowledge of” or “to become wise in” (BDB 394 s.v. 5). This term refers to experiential knowledge, not just cognitive knowledge; it includes the intellectual assimilation and practical use of what is acquired.

3 sn The noun “wisdom” (חָכְמָה, khokhmah) could be nuanced “moral skill.” It refers to “skill” that produces something of value. It is used in reference to the skill of seamen (Ps 107:27), abilities of weavers (Exod 35:26), capabilities of administrators (1 Kgs 3:28), or skill of craftsmen (Exod 31:6). In the realm of moral living, it refers to skill in living – one lives life with moral skill so that something of lasting value is produced from one’s life.

4 tn Heb “instruction.” The noun מוּסָר (musar) has a three-fold range of meanings: (1) physical or parental: “discipline; chastisement” (2) verbal: “warning; exhortation” and (3) moral: “training; instruction” (BDB 416 s.v. מוּסָר; HALOT 557 s.v. מוּסָר). Its parallelism with חָכְמָה (khokhmah, “wisdom, moral skill”) suggests that it refers to moral training or instruction that the Book of Proverbs offers to its readers. This instruction consists of wisdom acquired by observing the consequences of foolish actions in others and developing the ability to control the natural inclination to folly. This sometimes comes through experiencing chastisement from God. Sensing something of this nuance, the LXX translated this term with the Greek word for “child-training.”

5 tn The infinitive construct + ל (lamed) here designates a second purpose of the book: to compare and to make proper evaluation of the sayings of the wise. The term בִין (bin, “to discern”) refers to the ability to make distinctions between things. This is illustrated by its derivatives: The related preposition means “between” and the related noun means “space between.” So the verb refers to the ability to discern between moral options.

6 tn Heb “words of discernment.” The noun בִינָה (binah, “discernment”) functions as an attributive genitive: “discerning words” or “wise sayings” (so NLT). This noun is a cognate accusative of the infinitive of the same root לְהָבִין (lÿhavin, “to discern”). The phrase “to discern words of discernment” refers to the ability (1) to distinguish truth from falsehood or (2) to understand wise sayings, such as in Proverbs.

7 tn The infinitive construct + ל (lamed) here designates a further purpose of the book: This focuses on the purpose of the book from the perspective of the student/disciple. The verb לָקַח (laqakh, “receive”) means to acquire something worth having. It is parallel to the verb “treasure up” in 2:1.

8 tn Heb “instruction.” See note on the same term in 1:2.

9 tc MT reads the genitive-construct phrase מוּסַר הַשְׂכֵּל (musar haskel, “discipline of prudence”). Syriac adds vav (ו) and reads מוּסַר וְהַשְׂכֵּל (musar wÿhaskel, “discipline and prudence”). MT is the more difficult reading in terms of syntax, so is preferred as the original reading.

tn Heb “discipline of prudence.” The term הַשְׂכֵּל (haskel, “of prudence”) is a Hiphil infinitive absolute, functioning as an emphatic genitive of result, describing the results of a self-disciplined life. The basic meaning of שָׂכַל is “to be prudent, circumspect,” and the Hiphil stem means “to give attention to, consider, ponder; have insight, understanding” (BDB 968 s.v. I שָׂכַל). It is a synonym of חָכְמָה (khokhmah, “wisdom”), but while חָכְמָה focuses on living skillfully, שָׂכַל (sakhal) focuses on acting prudently. The word can also focus on the results of acting prudently: to have success (e.g., Isa 52:12). Elsewhere, the term describes the prudent actions of Abigail in contrast to her foolish husband Nabal (1 Sam 25).

10 tn Heb “righteousness and justice and equity.” The three nouns that follow “self-discipline of prudence” are adverbial accusatives of manner, describing the ways in which the disciplined prudent activity will be manifested: “in righteousness, justice, and equity.” The term “in” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is implied by the syntax; it is inserted in the translation for clarity.

11 sn The word “righteousness” (צֶדֶק, tsedeq) describes conduct that conforms to a standard. Elsewhere it is used in a concrete sense to refer to commercial weights and measures that conform to a standard (Deut 25:15). In the moral realm it refers to “righteous” conduct that conforms to God’s law.

12 tn Heb “and justice.” The conjunction “and” appears in the Hebrew text, but is omitted in the translation for the sake of English style and smoothness.

sn The noun מִשְׁפָּט (mishpat, “justice, judgment”) refers to the ability to make a decision that is just (e.g., Deut 16:18; 1 Kgs 3:28). From this legal background, the term came to mean one’s right or precedent. The person with prudence will make decisions that are just and right.

13 sn The Hebrew noun translated “equity” comes from the root יָשָׁר (yashar) which has the basic idea of “upright, straight, right.” It refers to activity that is morally upright and straight, that is, on the proper moral path. Elsewhere it is used in a concrete sense to describe cows walking straight down a path without turning right or left (1 Sam 6:12). Wisdom literature often uses the motif of the straight path to describe a morally “straight” life.

14 tn The imperative שְׁמַע (shÿma’, “Listen!”) forms an urgent exhortation which expects immediate compliance with parental instruction.

15 tn Heb “my son.” It is likely that collections of proverbs grew up in the royal courts and were designed for the training of the youthful prince. But once the collection was included in the canon, the term “son” would be expanded to mean a disciple, for all the people were to learn wisdom when young. It would not be limited to sons alone but would include daughters – as the expression “the children of (בְּנֵי, bÿne) Israel” (including males and females) clearly shows. Several passages in the Mishnah and Talmud record instructions to teach daughters the Mosaic law so that they will be righteous and avoid sin as well. The translation “my child,” although not entirely satisfactory, will be used here.

16 tn Heb “training” or “discipline.” See note on 1:2.

17 tn Heb “of.” The noun אָבִיךָ (’avikha, “of your father”) may be classified as a genitive of source.

18 tn Heb “instruction.” In Proverbs the noun תּוֹרַה (torah) often means “instruction” or “moral direction” rather than “law” (BDB 435 s.v. 1.a). It is related to יָרָה (yarah, “to point [or, show] the way” in the Hiphil (BDB 435). Instruction attempts to point a person in the right direction (e.g., Gen 46:28).

19 tn Heb “of.” The noun אִמֶּךָ (’immekha, “of your mother”) may be classified as a genitive of source.



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