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Proverbs 1:3-4

Context

1:3 To receive 1  moral instruction 2  in skillful living, 3 

in 4  righteousness, 5  justice, 6  and equity. 7 

1:4 To impart 8  shrewdness 9  to the morally naive, 10 

and 11  a discerning 12  plan 13  to the young person. 14 

1 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.

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

3 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).

4 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.

5 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.

6 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.

7 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.

8 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.

9 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.

10 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.

11 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.

12 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.”

13 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.

14 tn Heb “young man” or “youth.”



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