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Proverbs 1:20-33

Context
Warning Against Disregarding Wisdom

1:20 Wisdom 1  calls out 2  in the street,

she shouts loudly 3  in the plazas; 4 

1:21 at the head of the noisy 5  streets she calls,

in the entrances of the gates in the city 6  she utters her words: 7 

1:22 “How long will you simpletons 8  love naiveté? 9 

How long 10  will mockers 11  delight 12  in mockery 13 

and fools 14  hate knowledge?

1:23 If only 15  you will respond 16  to my rebuke, 17 

then 18  I will pour 19  out my thoughts 20  to you

and 21  I will make 22  my words known to you.

1:24 However, 23  because 24  I called but you refused to listen, 25 

because 26  I stretched out my hand 27  but no one paid attention,

1:25 because 28  you neglected 29  all my advice,

and did not comply 30  with my rebuke,

1:26 so 31  I myself will laugh 32  when disaster strikes you, 33 

I will mock when what you dread 34  comes,

1:27 when what you dread 35  comes like a whirlwind, 36 

and disaster strikes you 37  like a devastating storm, 38 

when distressing trouble 39  comes on you.

1:28 Then they will call to me, but I will not answer;

they will diligently seek 40  me, but they will not find me.

1:29 Because 41  they hated moral knowledge, 42 

and did not choose to fear the Lord, 43 

1:30 they did not comply with my advice,

they spurned 44  all my rebuke.

1:31 Therefore 45  they will eat from the fruit 46  of their way, 47 

and they will be stuffed full 48  of their own counsel.

1:32 For the waywardness 49  of the

simpletons will kill 50  them,

and the careless ease 51  of fools will destroy them.

1:33 But the one who listens 52  to me will live in security, 53 

and will be at ease 54  from the dread of harm.

1 tn The noun חָכְמָה (khokhmah, “wisdom”) is the abstract feminine plural form. It probably functions as a plural of intensity, stressing the all-embracing, elevated wisdom (W. McKane, Proverbs [OTL], 272). As in 8:1-9:11, Wisdom is personified as a righteous woman in 1:20-33.

2 sn The verb רָנַן (ranan, “to cry out, give a ringing cry”) always expresses excitement, whether of joyful praise or lamentable sorrow (BDB 943 s.v.). Here it is an excited summons.

3 tn Heb “she gives her voice.” The expression means to shout loudly (BDB 679 s.v. נָתַן Qal.x).

4 sn The word רְחֹבוֹת (rÿkhovot, “plazas”) refers to the wide plazas or broad open spaces near the gate where all the people assembled. The personification of wisdom as a woman crying out in this place would be a vivid picture of the public appeal to all who pass by.

5 tc MT reads הֹמִיּוֹת (homyyot, “noisy streets”; Qal participle feminine plural from הָמָה [hamah], “to murmur; to roar”), referring to the busy, bustling place where the street branches off from the gate complex. The LXX reads τειχέων (teicewn) which reflects חֹמוֹת (khomot), “walls” (feminine plural noun from חוֹמָה [khomah], “wall”): “She proclaims on the summits of the walls.” MT is preferred because it is the more difficult form. The LXX textual error was caused by simple omission of yod (י). In addition, the LXX expands the verse to read, “she sits at the gates of the princes, at the gates of the city she boldly says.” The shorter MT reading is preferred.

6 sn The phrase “in the city” further defines the area of the entrance just inside the gate complex, the business area. In an ancient Near Eastern city, business dealings and judicial proceedings would both take place in this area.

7 tn Heb “she speaks her words.”

8 tn Wisdom addresses three types of people: simpletons (פְּתָיִם, pÿtayim), scoffers (לֵצִים, letsim) and fools (כְּסִילִים, kÿsilim). For the term “simpleton” see note on 1:4. Each of these three types of people is satisfied with the life being led and will not listen to reason. See J. A. Emerton, “A Note on the Hebrew Text of Proverbs 1:22-23,” JTS 19 (1968): 609-14.

9 tn Heb “simplicity” (so KJV, NASB); NAB “inanity.” The noun פֶּתִי (peti) means “simplicity; lack of wisdom” (BDB 834 s.v.; HALOT 989 s.v. II פֶּתִי). It is related to the term פְּתָיִם (pÿtayim) “simpletons” and so forms a striking wordplay. This lack of wisdom and moral simplicity is inherent in the character of the naive person.

10 tn The second instance of “How long?” does not appear in the Hebrew text; it is supplied in the translation for smoothness and style.

11 sn The term לֵצִים (leysim, “scoffers; mockers”) comes from the root לִיץ (lits, “to scorn; to mock; to speak indirectly” (BDB 539 s.v. לִיץ). They are cynical and defiant freethinkers who ridicule the righteous and all for which they stand (e.g., Ps 1:1).

12 tn Heb “delight.” The verb (חָמַד, khamad) is often translated “to take pleasure; to delight” but frequently has the meaning of a selfish desire, a coveting of something. It is the term, for example, used for coveting in the Decalogue (Exod 20:17; Deut 5:21) and for the covetous desire of Eve (Gen 3:6) and Achan (Josh 7:21). It is tempting to nuance it here as “illicit desire” for mockery.

13 tn Heb “for themselves.” The ethical dative לָהֶם (lahem, “for themselves”) is normally untranslated. It is a rhetorical device emphasizing that they take delight in mockery for their own self-interests.

14 sn The term “fool” (כְּסִיל, kÿsil) refers to the morally insensitive dullard (BDB 493 s.v.).

15 tn The imperfect tense is in the conditional protasis without the conditional particle, followed by the clause beginning with הִנֵּה (hinneh, “then”). The phrase “If only…” does not appear in the Hebrew but is implied by the syntax; it is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.

16 tn Heb “turn.” The verb is from שׁוּב (shuv, “to return; to respond; to repent”).

17 sn The noun תּוֹכַחַת (tokhakhat, “rebuke”) is used in all kinds of disputes including rebuking, arguing, reasoning, admonishing, and chiding. The term is broad enough to include here warning and rebuke. Cf. KJV, NAB, NRSV “reproof”; TEV “when I reprimand you”; CEV “correct you.”

18 tn Heb “Behold!”

19 tn The Hiphil cohortative of נָבַע (nava’, “to pour out”) describes the speaker’s resolution to pour out wisdom on those who respond.

20 tn Heb “my spirit.” The term “spirit” (רוּחַ, ruakh) functions as a metonymy (= spirit) of association (= thoughts), as indicated by the parallelism with “my words” (דְּבָרַי, dÿbaray). The noun רוּחַ (ruakh, “spirit”) can have a cognitive nuance, e.g., “spirit of wisdom” (Exod 28:3; Deut 34:9). It is used metonymically for “words” (Job 20:3) and “mind” (Isa 40:13; Ezek 11:5; 20:32; 1 Chr 28:12; see BDB 925 s.v. רוּחַ 6). The “spirit of wisdom” produces skill and capacity necessary for success (Isa 11:2; John 7:37-39).

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

22 tn Here too the form is the cohortative, stressing the resolution of wisdom to reveal herself to the one who responds.

23 tn The term “however” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is implied by the contrast between the offer in 1:23 and the accusation in 1:24-25. It is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.

24 tn The particle יַעַן (yaan, “because”) introduces a causal clause which forms part of an extended protasis; the apodosis is 1:26.

25 tn The phrase “to listen” does not appear in the Hebrew but is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.

26 tn The term “because” does not appear in this line but is implied by the parallelism; it is supplied in the translation for clarity and smoothness.

27 sn This expression is a metonymy of adjunct; it is a gesture that goes with the appeal for some to approach.

28 tn Heb “and.”

29 tn The verb III פָּרַע means “to let go; to let alone” (BDB 828 s.v.). It can refer to unkempt hair of the head (Lev 10:6) or lack of moral restraint: “to let things run free” (Exod 32:25; Prov 28:19). Here it means “to avoid, neglect” the offer of wisdom (BDB 829 s.v. 2).

30 tn The verbs are characteristic perfects or indefinite pasts. For the word “comply, consent,” see 1:20.

31 tn The conclusion or apodosis is now introduced.

32 sn Laughing at the consequences of the fool’s rejection of wisdom does convey hardness against the fool; it reveals the folly of rejecting wisdom (e.g., Ps 2:4). It vindicates wisdom and the appropriateness of the disaster (D. Kidner, Proverbs [TOTC], 60).

33 tn Heb “at your disaster.” The 2nd person masculine singular suffix is either (1) a genitive of worth: “the disaster due you” or (2) an objective genitive: “disaster strikes you.” The term “disaster” (אֵיד, ’ed) often refers to final life-ending calamity (Prov 6:15; 24:22; BDB 15 s.v. 3). The preposition ב (bet) focuses upon time here.

34 tn Heb “your dread” (so NASB); KJV “your fear”; NRSV “panic.” The 2nd person masculine singular suffix is a subjective genitive: “that which you dread.”

35 tn Heb “your dread.” See note on 1:31.

36 sn The term “whirlwind” (NAB, NIV, NRSV; cf. TEV, NLT “storm”) refers to a devastating storm and is related to the verb שׁוֹא (sho’, “to crash into ruins”; see BDB 996 s.v. שׁוֹאָה). Disaster will come swiftly and crush them like a devastating whirlwind.

37 tn Heb “your disaster.” The 2nd person masculine singular suffix is an objective genitive: “disaster strikes you.”

38 tn Heb “like a storm.” The noun סוּפָה (sufah, “storm”) is often used in similes to describe sudden devastation (Isa 5:28; Hos 8:7; Amos 1:14).

39 tn Heb “distress and trouble.” The nouns “distress and trouble” mean almost the same thing so they may form a hendiadys. The two similar sounding terms צוּקָה (tsuqah) and צָרָה (tsarah) also form a wordplay (paronomasia) which also links them together.

40 tn Heb “look to.” The verb שָׁחַר (shakhar, “to look”) is used figuratively of intensely looking (=seeking) for deliverance out of trouble (W. L. Holladay, Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon, 366); cf. NLT “anxiously search for.” It is used elsewhere in parallelism with בָּקַשׁ (baqash, “to seek rescue”; Hos 5:15). It does not mean “to seek early” (cf. KJV) as is popularly taught due to etymological connections with the noun שַׁחַר (shakhar, “dawn”; so BDB 1007 s.v. שָׁחַר).

41 tn The causal particle תַּחַת כִּי (takhat ki, “for the reason that”) introduces a second accusation of sin and reason for punishment.

42 tn Heb “knowledge.” The noun דָעַת (daat, “knowledge”) refers to moral knowledge. See note on 1:7.

43 tn Heb “the fear of the Lord.” The noun is an objective genitive; the Lord is to be the object of fear. See note on 1:7.

44 tn The verb “spurned” (נָאַץ, naats) is parallel to “comply, accede to, be willing” (e.g., 1:10). This is how the morally stubborn fool acts (e.g., 15:5).

45 tn The vav (ו) prefixed to the verb וְיֹאכְלוּ (vÿyokhÿlu) functions in a consecutive logical sense: “therefore.”

46 sn The expression “eat the fruit of” is a figurative expression (hypocatastasis) that compares the consequences of sin to agricultural growth that culminates in produce. They will suffer the consequences of their sinful actions, that is, they will “reap” what they “sow.”

47 sn The words “way” (דֶּרֶךְ, derekh) and “counsel” (מוֹעֵצָה, moetsah) stand in strong contrast to the instruction of wisdom which gave counsel and rebuke to encourage a better way. They will bear the consequences of the course they follow and the advice they take (for that wrong advice, e.g., Ps 1:1).

48 tn Heb “to eat to one’s fill.” The verb שָׂבֵעַ (savea’) means (1) positive: “to eat one’s fill” so that one’s appetite is satisfied and (2) negative: “to eat in excess” as a glutton to the point of sickness and revulsion (BDB 959 s.v.). Fools will not only “eat” the fruit of their own way (v. 31a), they will be force-fed this revolting “menu” which will make them want to vomit (v. 31b) and eventually kill them (v. 32).

49 tn Heb “turning away” (so KJV). The term מְשׁוּבַת (mÿshuvat, “turning away”) refers to moral defection and apostasy (BDB 1000 s.v.; cf. ASV “backsliding”). The noun מְשׁוּבַת (“turning away”) which appears at the end of Wisdom’s speech in 1:32 is from the same root as the verb תָּשׁוּבוּ (tashuvu, “turn!”) which appears at the beginning of this speech in 1:23. This repetition of the root שׁוּב (shuv, “to turn”) creates a wordplay: Because fools refuse to “turn to” wisdom (1:23), they will be destroyed by their “turning away” from wisdom (1:32). The wordplay highlights the poetic justice of their judgment. But here they have never embraced the teaching in the first place; so it means turning from the advice as opposed to turning to it.

50 sn The Hebrew verb “to kill” (הָרַג, harag) is the end of the naive who refuse to change. The word is broad enough to include murder, massacre, killing in battle, and execution. Here it is judicial execution by God, using their own foolish choices as the means to ruin.

51 tn Heb “complacency” (so NASB, NIV, NRSV, NLT); NAB “smugness.” The noun שַׁלְוַה (shalvah) means (1) positively: “quietness; peace; ease” and (2) negatively: “self-sufficiency; complacency; careless security” (BDB 1017 s.v.), which is the sense here. It is “repose gained by ignoring or neglecting the serious responsibilities of life” (C. H. Toy, Proverbs [ICC], 29).

52 tn The participle is used substantivally here: “whoever listens” will enjoy the benefits of the instruction.

53 tn The noun בֶּטַח (betakh, “security”) functions as an adverbial accusative of manner: “in security.” The phrase refers to living in a permanent settled condition without fear of danger (e.g., Deut 33:12; Ps 16:9). It is the antithesis of the dread of disaster facing the fool and the simple.

54 tn The verb שַׁאֲנַן (shaanan) is a Palel perfect of שָׁאַן (shaan) which means “to be at ease; to rest securely” (BDB 983 s.v. שָׁאַן). Elsewhere it parallels the verb “to be undisturbed” (Jer 30:10), so it means “to rest undisturbed and quiet.” The reduplicated Palel stem stresses the intensity of the idea. The perfect tense functions in the so-called “prophetic perfect” sense, emphasizing the certainty of this blessing for the wise.



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