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  Discovery Box

Proverbs 1:2-6


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 

1:4 To impart 14  shrewdness 15  to the morally naive, 16 

and 17  a discerning 18  plan 19  to the young person. 20 

1:5 (Let the wise also 21  hear 22  and gain 23  instruction,

and let the discerning 24  acquire 25  guidance! 26 )

1:6 To discern 27  the meaning of 28  a proverb and a parable, 29 

the sayings of the wise 30  and their 31  riddles. 32 

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 Heb “to give.” The infinitive construct + ל (lamed) here introduces the fourth purpose of the book: It reveals the purpose from the perspective of the teacher. It is what the wise instructor/sage wants to impart to the naive youths.

15 tn The noun עָרְמָה (’arÿmah) “prudence, shrewdness, craftiness” (BDB 791 s.v.) or “cleverness” (HALOT 886 s.v. 1) refers to a shrewd plan of action, viewed positively or negatively. It is used negatively of planned deception (Josh 9:4) and premeditated murder (Exod 21:14). The related adjective described the serpent as “shrewd, crafty, cunning” (Gen 3:1); it describes cunning plans (Job 5:12) and deception (Job 15:5). The related verb describes a wicked concocted plan (Ps 83:4). The term is used positively of a morally prudent lifestyle (Prov 8:5, 12; 15:5; 19:25). There is no virtue for simpletons to be unaware in this world; they need to be wise as serpents. Proverbs provide a morally shrewd plan for life.

16 tn Heb “the naive” or “simpleton.” The substantival adjective פֶּתִי (peti) means “simple; open-minded” in the sense of being open and easily influenced by either wisdom or folly (BDB 834 s.v.; HALOT 989 s.v. I פֶּתִי). The simpleton is easily enticed and misled (Prov 1:32; 7:7; 9:6; 22:3; 27:12); believes everything, including bad counsel (Prov 14:15); lacks moral prudence (Prov 8:5; 19:25); needs discernment (Prov 21:11); but is capable of learning (Prov 9:4, 16). The related verb means “to be wide open; open-minded; enticed, deceived” (BDB 834). The term describes one easily persuaded and gullible, open to any influence, good or bad (cf. NLT “the simpleminded”). This is the “wide-eyed youth” who is headed for trouble unless he listens to the counsel of wisdom.

17 tn The conjunction “and” does not appear in the Hebrew text but is implied; it is supplied in the translation for the sake of smoothness and style.

18 tn Heb “knowledge and purpose.” The noun דַּעַת (daat, “knowledge”) may be nuanced “discernment” here (HALOT 229 s.v. I דַּעַת 4). The nouns וּמְזִמָּה דַּעַת (daat umÿzimmah, “discernment and purpose”) form a hendiadys (two nouns joined with vav to describe the same thing): The first noun functions adjectivally and the second functions as a noun: “discerning plan.” This parallels “a shrewd plan for the morally naive” or “a discerning plan for the young person.”

19 tn The noun מְזִמָּה (mÿzimmah) may mean (1) “plan” or (2) “discretion” (BDB 273 s.v.; HALOT 566 s.v.). It describes the ability to make plans or formulate the best course of action for gaining a goal (C. H. Toy, Proverbs [ICC], 7). The related verb זָמַם (zamam) means “to plan; to devise” (BDB 273 s.v.; HALOT 272 s.v. I זמם; e.g., Gen 11:6). Here the nouns “knowledge and plan” (וּמְזִמָּה דַּעַת, daat umÿzimmah) form a hendiadys: knowledge of how to form and carry out a morally wise plan for life.

20 tn Heb “young man” or “youth.”

21 tn The term “also” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity and smoothness.

sn Verse 5 functions as a parenthesis in the purpose statements of 1:1-7. There are two purpose statements in 1:2 (“to know wisdom” and “to discern sayings”). The first is stated in detail in 1:3-4, first from the perspective of the student then the teacher. 1:6 will state the second purpose of 1:2. But between the two the writer notes that even the wise can become wiser. The book is not just for neophytes; it is for all who want to grow in wisdom.

22 tn The verb יִשְׁמַע (yishma’) functions as a jussive of advice or counsel (“Let him hear!”) rather than a customary imperfect (“he will hear”). The jussive is supported by the parallelism with the following Hiphil jussive וְיוֹסֶף (vÿyosef, “Let him add!”).

23 tn Heb “add.”

24 tn The Niphal substantival participle נָבוֹן (navon, “discerning”), rather than the noun, is used to describe a person who is habitually characterized by discernment. 1:5 forms a striking contrast to 1:4 – there was the simpleton and the youth, here the wise and discerning. Both need this book.

25 tn The Hiphil verb וְיוֹסֶף (vÿyosef) is a jussive rather than an imperfect as the final short vowel (segol) and accent on the first syllable shows (BDB 415 s.v. יָסַף Hiph).

26 tn The noun תַּחְבֻּלָה (takhbulah, “direction; counsel”) refers to moral guidance (BDB 287 s.v.). It is related to חֹבֵל (khovel, “sailor”), חִבֵּל (khibel, “mast”) and חֶבֶל (khevel, “rope; cord”), so BDB suggests it originally meant directing a ship by pulling ropes on the mast. It is used in a concrete sense of God directing the path of clouds (Job 37:12) and in a figurative sense of moral guidance (Prov 11:14; 20:18; 24:6). Here it refers to the ability to steer a right course through life (A. Cohen, Proverbs, 2).

27 tn The infinitive construct + ל (lamed) means “to discern” and introduces the fifth purpose of the book. It focuses on the benefits of proverbs from the perspective of the reader. By studying proverbs the reader will discern the hermeneutical key to understanding more and more proverbs.

28 tn The phrase “the meaning of” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is implied; it is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.

29 tn The noun מְלִיצָה (mÿlitsah) means “allusive expression; enigma” in general, and “proverb, parable” in particular (BDB 539 s.v.; HALOT 590 s.v.). The related noun מֵלִיץ means “interpreter” (Gen 42:23). The related Arabic root means “to turn aside,” so this Hebrew term might refer to a saying that has a “hidden meaning” to its words; see H. N. Richardson, “Some Notes on לִיץ and Its Derivatives,” VT 5 (1955): 163-79.

30 tn This line functions in apposition to the preceding, further explaining the phrase “a proverb and a parable.”

31 tn The term “their” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but seems to be implied; it is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity and smoothness.

32 tn The noun חִידָה (khidah, “riddle”) designates enigmatic sayings whose meaning is obscure or hidden, such as a riddle (Num 12:8; Judg 14:12, 19), allegory (Ezek 17:2), perplexing moral problem (Pss 49:5; 78:2), perplexing question (1 Kgs 10:1 = 2 Chr 9:1) or ambiguous saying (Dan 8:23); see BDB 295 s.v. and HALOT 309 s.v. If this is related to Arabic hada (“to turn aside, avoid”), it refers to sayings whose meanings are obscure. The sayings of the wise often take the form of riddles that must be discerned.

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