and apply your heart to my instruction. 3
I am making them known to you today 9 – even you.
sayings 11 of counsel and knowledge,
so that you may give accurate answers 13 to those who sent you?
and do not crush the needy in court, 15
and will rob those who are robbing 17 them.
and do not associate with a wrathful person,
and entangle yourself in a snare. 20
22:26 Do not be one who strikes hands in pledge
or who puts up security for debts.
22:27 If you do not have enough to pay,
which was put in place by your ancestors. 25
He will take his position before kings;
23:1 When you sit down to eat with a ruler,
if you possess a large appetite. 32
23:4 Do not wear yourself out to become rich;
be wise enough to restrain yourself. 36
for they surely make wings for themselves,
and fly off into the sky like an eagle! 38
do not crave his delicacies;
“Eat and drink,” he says to you,
but his heart is not with you;
and will have wasted your pleasant words. 44
for he will despise the wisdom of your words. 46
23:10 Do not move an ancient boundary stone,
or take over 47 the fields of the fatherless,
he will plead their case against you. 49
and your ears to the words of knowledge.
23:13 Do not withhold discipline from a child;
even if you strike him with the rod, he will not die.
then my heart also will be glad;
when your lips speak what is right. 56
but rather be zealous in fearing the Lord 58 all the time.
and your hope will not be cut off. 60
and guide your heart on the right way.
among those who eat too much 64 meat,
23:21 because drunkards and gluttons become impoverished,
23:22 Listen to your father who begot you,
and do not despise your mother when she is old.
wisdom, and discipline, and understanding.
whoever fathers a wise child 69 will have joy in him.
23:25 May your father and your mother have joy;
may she who bore you rejoice. 70
and let your eyes observe my ways;
Who has contentions? Who has complaints?
Who has wounds without cause? Who has dullness 80 of the eyes?
23:30 Those who linger over wine,
those who go looking for mixed wine. 81
23:31 Do not look on the wine when it is red,
when it sparkles 82 in the cup,
when it goes down smoothly. 83
and stings like a viper.
and your mind will speak perverse things.
and like one who lies down on the top of the rigging. 87
They beat me, but I did not know it! 89
When will I awake? I will look for another drink.” 90
do not desire 92 to be with them;
24:2 for their hearts contemplate violence,
and their lips speak harm. 93
and through understanding it is established;
24:4 by knowledge its rooms are filled
with all kinds of precious and pleasing treasures.
and a man of knowledge makes his strength stronger;
24:6 for with guidance you wage your war,
and with numerous advisers there is victory. 98
24:8 The one who plans to do evil
will be called a scheming person. 102
and the scorner is an abomination to people. 104
your strength is small! 107
24:11 Deliver those being taken away to death,
and hold back those slipping to the slaughter. 108
24:12 If you say, “But we did not know about this,”
does not the one who evaluates 109 hearts consider?
Does not the one who guards your life know?
Will he not repay each person according to his deeds? 110
and honey from the honeycomb is sweet to your taste.
and your hope will not be cut off.
do not assault 117 his home.
but the wicked will be brought down 119 by calamity.
and when he stumbles do not let your heart rejoice,
and turn his wrath away from him. 122
24:19 Do not fret because of evil people
or be envious of wicked people,
and the lamp of the wicked will be extinguished. 124
and who knows the ruinous judgment both the Lord and the king can bring? 129
24:23 These sayings also are from the wise:
peoples will curse him, and nations will denounce 134 him.
and a pleasing blessing 138 will come on them.
is the one who gives an honest answer.
24:27 Establish your work outside and get your fields ready;
and do not deceive with your words. 143
24:29 Do not say, “I will do to him just as he has done to me;
24:30 I passed by the field of a sluggard,
by the vineyard of one who lacks wisdom. 146
the ground 148 was covered with weeds,
and its stone wall was broken down.
I received instruction from what I saw: 150
24:33 “A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to relax,
24:34 and your poverty will come like a bandit,
and your need like an armed robber.” 151
and I do not have human understanding; 160
30:3 I have not learned wisdom,
Who has gathered up the winds in his fists? 164
Who has bound up the waters in his cloak? 165
Who has established all the ends of the earth? 166
What is his name, and what is his son’s name? 167 – if you know!
30:6 Do not add to his words,
lest he reprove you, and prove you to be a liar. 171
do not refuse me before I die:
do not give me poverty or riches,
and say, “Who is the Lord?”
Or lest I become poor and steal
and demean 178 the name of my God.
lest he curse you, and you are found guilty. 180
and do not bless their mothers. 182
30:12 There is a generation who are pure in their own eyes
and whose eyelids are lifted up disdainfully. 186
and whose molars 189 are like knives
to devour 190 the poor from the earth
and the needy from among the human race.
“Give! Give!” 193
There are three things that are never satisfied,
land that is not satisfied with water,
and fire that never says, “Enough!” 198
and despises obeying 200 a mother –
the ravens of the valley will peck it out
and the young vultures will eat it. 201
four that I do not understand:
the way of a snake on a rock,
the way of a ship in the sea,
and the way of a man with a woman. 204
she eats and wipes her mouth 207
and says, “I have not done wrong.” 208
and under four things it cannot bear up:
under a fool who is stuffed with food, 211
and under a female servant who dispossesses 213 her mistress.
but they are exceedingly wise: 215
30:25 ants are creatures with little strength,
but they prepare 216 their food in the summer;
but they make their homes in the crags;
30:27 locusts have no king,
but they all go forward by ranks; 218
but it gets into the palaces of the king. 220
four things that move about magnificently: 222
who does not retreat from anything;
and a king with his army around him. 225
or if you have planned evil,
put 227 your hand over your mouth!
and as punching the nose produces blood,
an oracle 232 that his mother taught him:
O son 234 of my vows,
it is not for kings to drink wine, 239
or for rulers to crave strong drink, 240
31:5 lest they drink and forget what is decreed,
and wine to those who are bitterly distressed; 245
and remember their misery no more.
for the legal rights of all the dying. 250
and plead the cause 252 of the poor and needy.
1 sn A new collection of sayings begins here, forming the fourth section of the book of Proverbs. This collection is not like that of 1:1–9:18; here the introductory material is more personal than 1:1-7, and the style differs, showing great similarity to the Instruction of Amenemope in Egypt (especially the thirty precepts of the sages in 22:17–24:22). Verses 17-21 form the introduction, and then the sayings begin in v. 22. After the thirty sayings are given, there are further sayings in 24:23-34. There is much literature on this material: see W. K. Simpson, ed., Literature of Ancient Egypt; ANET 412-425; and A. Cody, “Notes on Proverbs 22:21 and 22:23b,” Bib 61 (1980): 418-26.
2 sn To “incline the ear” means to “listen carefully” (cf. NCV); the expression is metonymical in that the ear is the instrument for hearing. It is like telling someone to lean over to hear better.
3 tn Heb “knowledge” (so KJV, NASB); in this context it refers to the knowledge that is spoken by the wise, hence “instruction.”
4 tn Or “when” (so NIV).
5 tn Heb “keep them,” referring to the words of the wise expressed in these sayings. The referent has been specified in the translation for clarity.
6 tn The term “and” does not appear in the Hebrew but is supplied in the translation.
7 sn If the teachings are preserved in the heart/mind of the disciple, then that individual will always be ready to speak what was retained.
8 tn The form לִהְיוֹת (lihyot, “to be”) is the infinitive construct indicating the purpose (or result) of the teaching (cf. NASB, NIV, NRSV).
9 tn Heb “I cause you to know.” The term “today” indicates that the verb should have the instantaneous nuance, and so an English present tense is used in the translation (“am making…known”).
10 tn Older English versions and a few more recent ones render this phrase as either “excellent things” following the Qere (so KJV, ASV, NASB, NKJV), “officers,” or “heretofore” [day before yesterday], following the Kethib. However (as in most recent English versions) the Qere should be rendered “thirty,” referring to the number in the collection (cf. NAB, NIV, NRSV, NLT).
11 tn The term “sayings” does not appear in the Hebrew text but is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.
12 tn Heb “to cause you to know the truth of words of truth” (NASB similar).
13 tn Heb “to return true words”; NAB “a dependable report”; NIV “sound answers.”
14 tn Two negated jussives form the instruction here: אַל־תִּגְזָל (’al-tigzal, “do not exploit”) and וְאַל־תְּדַכֵּא (ve’al-tÿdakke’, “do not crush”).
sn Robbing or oppressing the poor is easy because they are defenseless. But this makes the crime tempting as well as contemptible. What is envisioned may be in bounds legally (just) but out of bounds morally.
15 tn Heb “in the gate” (so KJV); NAB, NASB, NRSV “at the gate.” The “gate” of the city was the center of activity, the place of business as well as the place for settling legal disputes. The language of the next verse suggests a legal setting, so “court” is an appropriate translation here.
16 tn The construction uses the verb יָרִיב (yariv) with its cognate accusative. It can mean “to strive,” but here it probably means “to argue a case, plead a case” (cf. KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV). How the
17 tn The verb קָבַע (qava’, “to rob; to spoil; to plunder”) is used here in both places to reflect the principle of talionic justice. What the oppressors did to the poor will be turned back on them by the
18 tn Heb “possessor of anger.” This expression is an idiom for “wrathful person” or “an angry person” (cf. NAB “a hotheaded man”; NLT “short-tempered people”). These are people characterized by anger, meaning the anger is not a rare occurrence with them.
19 tn The verb פֶּן־תֶּאֱלַף (pen-te’elaf) is translated “lest you learn.” The idea is more precisely “become familiar with his ways.” The construction indicates that if one associates with such people he will become like them (cf. TEV “you might learn their habits”).
21 tn The “bed” may be a metonymy of adjunct, meaning the garment that covers the bed (e.g., Exod 22:26). At any rate, it represents the individual’s last possession (like the English expression “the shirt off his back”).
22 tn Heb “If you cannot pay, why should he take the bed from under you?” This rhetorical question is used to affirm the statement. The rhetorical interrogative לָמָּה (lamah, “why?”) appears in MT but not in the ancient versions; it may be in the Hebrew text by dittography.
24 sn Moving a boundary stone was (and still is) a major problem. The boundaries that were established by the forefathers were to be preserved, but no law would stop such violations if people lacked integrity (e.g., Deut 19:14; 27:17; 1 Kgs 21:16-19). Boundaries in Israel were sacred because God owned the land and he apportioned the property to the tribes. To extend one’s property illegally by moving a neighbor’s boundary marker was a violation of covenant and oath. Of course, disputes could arise when both sides claim their ancestors established a boundary.
25 tn Heb “your fathers” (so NAB, NASB).
sn The fourth saying deals with respect for property that belongs to other people (cf. Instruction of Amenemope, chap. 6, 7:12-13 [ANET 422]).
26 sn The word translated “skilled” is general enough to apply to any crafts; but it may refer to a scribe or an official (R. N. Whybray, Proverbs [CBC], 134).
27 tn The verb form used twice here is יִתְיַצֵּב (yityatsev), the Hitpael imperfect of יָצַב (yatsav), which means “to set or station oneself; to take one’s stand” in this stem. With the form לִפְנֵי (life) it means “to present oneself before” someone; so here it has the idea of serving as a courtier in the presence of a king.
29 tn The construction uses the imperfect tense of instruction with the infinitive absolute to emphasize the careful discernment required on such occasions. Cf. NIV “note well”; NLT “pay attention.”
30 tn Or “who,” referring to the ruler (so ASV, NAB, TEV).
31 sn The expression “put a knife to your throat” is an idiom that means “curb your appetite” or “control yourself” (cf. TEV). The instruction was from a time when people dealt with all-powerful tyrants. To enter the presence of such a person and indulge one’s appetites would be to take a very high risk.
32 tn Heb “lord of appetite.” The idiom בַּעַל נֶפֶשׁ (ba’al nefesh) refers to someone who possesses a large appetite (cf. NAB “a ravenous appetite”). A person with a big appetite is in danger of taking liberties when invited to court.
34 sn The final line gives the causal clause: The impressive feast is not what it appears to be; the king is not doing you a favor, but rather wants something from you or is observing you (K&D 17:104); cf. TEV “he may be trying to trick you.”
35 sn Verses 1-3 form the sixth saying about being cautious before rulers (cf. Instruction of Amememope, chap. 23, 23:13-18). One should not get too familiar with rulers, for they always have ulterior motives. The Mishnah cites Gamaliel as warning that a ruler only draws someone into his court for his purpose, but in their day of trouble he will not be there to help them (m. Abot 2:3).
36 tn Heb “from your understanding cease.” In the context this means that the person should have enough understanding to stop wearing himself out trying to be rich (cf. NRSV “be wise enough to desist”).
37 tc The Kethib is הֲתָעוּף (hata’uf), “do your eyes fly [light] on it?” The Qere is the Hiphil, הֲתָעִיף (hata’if) “do you cause your eyes to fly on it?” But the line is difficult. The question may be indirect: If you cast your eyes on it, it is gone – when you think you are close, it slips away.
tn The term “riches” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation based on the previous verse.
38 sn This seventh saying warns people not to expend all their energy trying to get rich because riches are fleeting (cf. Instruction of Amememope, chap. 7, 9:10-11 which says, “they have made themselves wings like geese and have flown away to heaven”). In the ancient world the symbol of birds flying away signified fleeting wealth.
39 tn Heb “an evil eye.” This is the opposite of the “good eye” which meant the generous man. The “evil eye” refers to a person who is out to get everything for himself (cf. NASB, NCV, CEV “selfish”). He is ill-mannered and inhospitable (e.g., Prov 28:22). He is up to no good – even though he may appear to be a host.
40 tc The line is difficult; it appears to mean that the miser is the kind of person who has calculated the cost of everything in his mind as he offers the food. The LXX has: “Eating and drinking with him is as if one should swallow a hair; do not introduce him to your company nor eat bread with him.” The Hebrew verb “to calculate” (שָׁעַר, sha’ar) with a change of vocalization and of sibilant would yield “hair” (שֵׂעָר, se’ar) – “like a hair in the throat [נֶפֶשׁ, nefesh], so is he.” This would picture an irritating experience. The Instruction of Amenemope uses “blocking the throat” in a similar saying (chapt. 11, 14:7 [ANET 423]). The suggested change is plausible and is followed by NRSV; but the rare verb “to calculate” in the MT would be easier to defend on the basis of the canons of textual criticism because it is the more difficult reading.
41 tn The phrase “the cost” does not appear in the Hebrew but is implied by the verb; it is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.
42 tn Heb “soul.”
43 sn Eating and drinking with a selfish miser would be irritating and disgusting. The line is hyperbolic; the whole experience turns the stomach.
44 tn Or “your compliments” (so NASB, NIV); cf. TEV “your flattery.”
sn This is the eighth saying; it claims that it would be a mistake to accept hospitality from a stingy person. He is always thinking about the cost, his heart is not in it, and any attempt at pleasant conversation will be lost.
45 sn The mention of “the ears” emphasizes the concerted effort to get the person’s undivided attention. However, a fool rejects instruction and discipline.
46 sn Saying number nine indicates that wisdom is wasted on a fool. The literature of Egypt has no specific parallel to this one.
47 tn Or “encroach on” (NIV, NRSV); Heb “go into.”
48 tn The participle גֹּאֵל (go’el) describes a “kinsman redeemer.” Some English versions explicitly cite “God” (e.g., NCV, CEV) or “the Lord” (e.g. TEV).
sn The Hebrew term describes a “kinsman-redeemer.” That individual would be a rich or powerful relative who can protect the family; he does this by paying off the debts of a poor relative, buying up the property of a relative who sells himself into slavery, marrying the widow of a deceased relative to keep the inheritance in the family, or taking vengeance on someone who harms a relative, that vengeance often resulting in delivering (“redeeming”) the relative from bondage. If there was no human “kinsman redeemer,” then the defenseless had to rely on God to perform these actions (e.g., Gen 48:16; Exod 6:6; Job 19:25; Isa 41–63). In the prophetic literature God is presented as the Redeemer in that he takes vengeance on the enemies (the Babylonians) to deliverer his people (kin). In this proverb the
50 tn Heb “bring.” The Hiphil imperative “come; enter” means “to apply the heart,” to use the heart or mind in the process. The same would be true in the second half: “to bring the ears” would mean to listen very carefully. Cf. TEV “Pay attention.”
51 tn Or “punish” (NIV). The syntax of these two lines suggests a conditional clause (cf. NCV, NRSV).
53 tn The term שְׁאוֹל (shÿ’ol, “Sheol”) in this context probably means “death” (so NIV, NCV, NLT) and not the realm of the departed (wicked) spirits (cf. NAB “the nether world”). In the wisdom of other lands, Ahiqar 6:82 says, “If I strike you, my son, you will not die.” The idea is that discipline helps the child to a full life; if the child dies prematurely, it would be more than likely a consequence of not being trained by discipline. In the book of Proverbs the “death” mentioned here could be social as well as physical.
54 tn Heb “my son,” although the context does not limit this exhortation to male children.
55 tn Heb “my kidneys”; in biblical Hebrew the term was used for the innermost being, the soul, the central location of the passions. Cf. NASB, NIV “my inmost being.”
56 sn This twelfth saying simply observes that children bring joy to their parents when they demonstrate wisdom. The quatrain is arranged in a chiastic structure (AB:B'A'): The first line (A) speaks of wisdom in the child, and it is paired with the last line (A') which speaks of the child’s saying what is right. In between these brackets are two lines (B and B') concerning joy to the parent.
57 tn The verb in this line is אַל־יְקַנֵּא (’al-yÿqanne’), the Piel jussive negated. The verb means “to be jealous, to be zealous”; it describes passionate intensity for something. In English, if the object is illegitimate, it is called “envy”; if it is correct, it is called “zeal.” Here the warning is not to envy the sinners. The second colon could use the verb in the positive sense to mean “but rather let your passion burn for the fear of the
58 tn Heb “the fear of the
59 tn Heb “end” (so KJV); ASV “a reward.”
60 sn The saying is an understatement; far from being cut off, the “hope” will be realized in the end. So this saying, the thirteenth, advises people to be zealous for the fear of the
61 tn Heb “my son,” but the immediate context does not limit this to male children.
62 tn Heb “do not be among,” but in the sense of “associate with” (TEV); “join” (NIV); “consort…with” (NAB).
63 tn The verb סָבָא (sava’) means “to imbibe; to drink largely.” The participial construction here, סֹבְאֵי־יַיִן (sov’e-yayin), describes “drunkards” (cf. NLT) which is somewhat stronger than saying it refers to “people who drink too much” (cf. NIV, TEV).
64 tn The verb זָלַל (zalal) means “to be light; to be worthless; to make light of.” Making light of something came to mean “to be lavish with; to squander,” especially with regard to food. So it describes “gluttons” primarily; but in the expression there is also room for the person who wastes a lot of food as well.
65 tn Here “drowsiness” is a metonymy of effect or adjunct, put for the drunkenness and gluttony that causes it. So all of it, the drunkenness and the drowsiness that comes from it, brings on the ruin (cf. CEV “you will end up poor”). Likewise, “rags” is a metonymy of adjunct, associated with the poverty brought on by a dissolute lifestyle.
66 sn This is the fourteenth saying, warning about poor associations. Drunkenness and gluttony represent the epitome of the lack of discipline. In the Mishnah they are used to measure a stubborn and rebellious son (m. Sanhedrin 8). W. G. Plaut notes that excessive drinking and eating are usually symptoms of deeper problems; we usually focus more on the drinking because it is dangerous to others (Proverbs, 241-42).
67 tn Heb “buy” (so KJV, NASB, NIV, NLT); CEV “Invest in truth.”
sn The sixteenth saying is an instruction to buy/acquire the kind of life that pleases God and brings joy to parents. “Getting truth” would mean getting training in the truth, and getting wisdom and understanding would mean developing the perception and practical knowledge of the truth.
68 tc The Qere reading has the imperfect יָגִיל (yagil) with the cognate accusative גִּיל (gil) which intensifies the meaning and the specific future of this verb.
69 tn The term “child” is supplied for the masculine singular adjective here.
70 tn The form תָגֵל (tagel) is clearly a short form and therefore a jussive (“may she…rejoice”); if this second verb is a jussive, then the parallel יִשְׂמַח (yismakh) should be a jussive also (“may your father and your mother have joy”).
71 tn Heb “my son”; the reference to a “son” is retained in the translation here because in the following lines the advice is to avoid women who are prostitutes.
72 tn The comparative “like” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is implied by the metaphor; it is supplied for the sake of clarity.
73 tn Heb “foreign woman” (so ASV). The term נָכְרִיָּה (nokhriyyah, “foreign woman”) often refers to a prostitute (e.g., Prov 2:6; 5:20; 6:24; 7:5). While not all foreign women in Israel were prostitutes, their prospects for economic survival were meager and many turned to prostitution to earn a living. Some English versions see this term referring to an adulteress as opposed to a prostitute (cf. NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NLT).
74 tn The comparative “like” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is implied by the metaphor; it is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.
75 sn In either case, whether a prostitute or an adulteress wife is involved, the danger is the same. The metaphors of a “deep pit” and a “narrow well” describe this sin as one that is a trap from which there is no escape. The “pit” is a gateway to Sheol, and those who enter are as good as dead, whether socially or through punishment physically.
76 tn The noun חֶתֶף (khetef) is defined by BDB 369 s.v. as “prey,” but this is the only occurrence of the word. The related verb BDB 368-69 s.v. חָתַף defines as “to seize; to snatch away” (with an Aramaic cognate meaning “to break in pieces” [Pa], and an Arabic word “death”). But the only occurrence of that word is in Job 9:12, where it is defined as “seizes.” So in this passage the noun could have either a passive sense (what is seized = prey), or an active sense (the one who seizes = a robber, bandit). The traditional rendering is “prey” (KJV); most modern English versions have the active sense (“robber” or similar; cf. NIV “like a bandit”). Since the prepositional phrase (the simile) is modifying the woman, the active sense works better in the translation.
77 tn The participle means “unfaithful [men]” (masculine plural); it could also be interpreted as “unfaithfulness” in the abstract sense. M. Dahood interprets it to mean “garments” (which would have to be repointed), saying that she collects garments in pledge for her service (M. Dahood, “To Pawn One’s Cloak,” Bib 42 : 359-66). But that is far-fetched; it might have happened on occasion, but as a common custom it is unlikely. Besides that, the text in the MT makes perfectly good sense without such a change.
sn Such a woman makes more people prove unfaithful to the law of God through her practice.
79 sn The eighteenth saying is about excessive drinking. The style changes here as the sage breaks into a vivid use of the imagination. It begins with a riddle describing the effects of drunkenness (v. 29) and gives the answer in v. 30; instructions follow in v. 31, with the consequences described in v. 32; the direct address continues in vv. 33 and 34; and the whole subject is concluded with the drunkard’s own words in v. 35 (M. E. Andrews, “Variety of Expression in Proverbs 23:29-35,” VT 28 : 102-3).
80 sn The Hebrew word translated “dullness” describes darkness or dullness of the eyes due to intoxication, perhaps “redness” (so KJV, NASB, NRSV); NIV, NCV, NLT “bloodshot eyes.” NAB understands the situation differently: “black eyes.”
81 sn The answer to the question posed in v. 29 is obviously one who drinks too much, which this verse uses metonymies to point out. Lingering over wine is an adjunct of drinking more wine; and seeking mixed wine obviously means with the effect or the purpose of drinking it.
82 tn Heb “its eye gives.” With CEV’s “bubbling up in the glass” one might think champagne was in view.
83 tn The expression is difficult, and is suspected of having been added from Song 7:10, although the parallel is not exact. The verb is the Hitpael imperfect of הָלַךְ (halakh); and the prepositional phrase uses the word “upright; equity; pleasing,” from יָשָׁר (yashar). KJV has “when it moveth itself aright”; much more helpful is ASV: “when it goeth down smoothly.” Most recent English versions are similar to ASV. The phrase obviously refers to the pleasing nature of wine.
84 tn Heb “its end”; NASB “At the last”; TEV (interpretively) “The next morning.”
85 tn The feminine plural of זָר (zar, “strange things”) refers to the trouble one has in seeing and speaking when drunk.
86 tn Heb “heart.” The idiom here means “middle”; KJV “in the midst.”
87 sn The point of these similes is to compare being drunk with being seasick. One who tries to sleep when at sea, or even worse, when up on the ropes of the mast, will be tossed back and forth.
88 tn The phrase “You will say” is supplied in the translation to make it clear that the drunkard is now speaking.
89 sn The line describes how one who is intoxicated does not feel the pain, even though beaten by others. He does not even remember it.
90 tn The last line has only “I will add I will seek it again.” The use of אוֹסִיף (’osif) signals a verbal hendiadys with the next verb: “I will again seek it.” In this context the suffix on the verb refers to the wine – the drunkard wants to go and get another drink.
91 tn Heb “evil men,” although the context indicates a generic sense.
92 tn The Hitpael jussive is from the verb that means “to crave; to desire.” This is more of a coveting, an intense desire.
93 sn This nineteenth saying warns against evil associations. Evil people are obsessed with destruction and trouble. See on this theme 1:10-19; 3:31 and 23:17. D. Kidner observes that a close view of sinners is often a good antidote to envying them (Proverbs [TOTC], 153).
94 tn The preposition בְּ (bet, “by; through”) in these two lines indicates means.
95 sn The twentieth saying, vv. 3-4, concerns the use of wisdom for domestic enterprises. In Prov 9:1 wisdom was personified as a woman who builds a house; but here the emphasis is primarily on the building – it is a sign of security and prosperity (C. H. Toy, Proverbs [ICC], 442). One could still make a secondary application from this line for a household or “family” (cf. NCV, which sees this as a reference to the family).
96 sn The twenty-first saying seems to be concerned with the need for wisdom in warfare. In line with that, the word used here is גֶּבֶר (gever), “mighty man; hero; warrior.”
97 tn The expression בַּעוֹז (ba’oz) employs a beth essentiae, meaning he “is strong,” not “in strength.”
98 sn The point of the saying is that wise counsel is necessary in war. Victory, strategy, and counsel are more important than mere military strength – many great armies have been destroyed because of their unwise leaders. See on this theme 11:14; 20:18; and 21:22.
99 tc The MT reads רָאמוֹת (ra’mot, “corals”) – wisdom to the fool is corals, i.e., an unattainable treasure. With a slight change in the text, removing the א (alef), the reading is רָמוֹת (ramot, “high”), i.e., wisdom is too high – unattainable – for a fool. The internal evidence favors the emendation, which is followed by most English versions including KJV.
100 tn Heb “[city] gate,” a metonymy of subject, meaning what goes on in the gate – court cases and business transactions. So it is in these assemblies that the fool keeps quiet. The term “court” has been used in the translation for clarity. Some English versions do not emphasize the forensic connotation here: NCV “in a discussion”; NLT “When the leaders gather.”
101 sn The verse portrays a fool out of his element: In a serious moment in the gathering of the community, he does not even open his mouth (a metonymy of cause, meaning “speak”). Wisdom is too high for the fool – it is beyond his ability.
102 tn Heb “possessor of schemes”; NAB “an intriguer.” The picture of the wicked person is graphic: He devises plans to do evil and is known as a schemer. Elsewhere the “schemes” are outrageous and lewd (e.g., Lev 18:7; Judg 20:6). Here the description portrays him as a cold, calculating, active person: “the fool is capable of intense mental activity but it adds up to sin” (W. McKane, Proverbs [OTL], 399).
103 tn Heb “the scheme of folly” (NIV similar). The genitive functions as an attributive genitive, meaning “foolish scheme.” But it could also be interpreted as a genitive of source, the scheme that comes from folly (or from the fool if “folly” were metonymical).
104 tn Heb “to a man”; cf. CEV “Everyone hates senseless fools.”
sn This describes evil people who flout all morality and goodness; sooner or later the public will have had enough of them.
105 tn Heb “show yourself slack” (NASB similar). The verb רָפָה (rafah) means “to sink; to relax.” In the causative stems it means “to let slacken; to let go; to refrain; to fail; to do nothing.” In the Hitpael stem BDB 952 s.v. defines it as “to show yourself slack.” It has also been rendered as “give up” (NCV, CEV); “fail” (NLT); “falter” (NIV). The colon implies a condition, for which the second part of the verse is the apodosis.
106 tn The verse employs a paronomasia to underscore the point: “trouble” is צָרָה (tsarah), literally “a bind; a strait [or, narrow] place”; “small” is צַר (tsar), with the same idea of “narrow” or “close.”
107 sn The test of strength is adversity, for it reveals how strong a person is. Of course a weak person can always plead adverse conditions in order to quit. This is the twenty-fourth saying.
108 tn The idea of “slipping” (participle from מוֹט, mot) has troubled some commentators. G. R. Driver emends it to read “at the point of” (“Problems in Proverbs,” ZAW 50 : 146). But the MT as it stands makes good sense. The reference would be general, viz., to help any who are in mortal danger or who might be tottering on the edge of such disaster – whether through sin, or through disease, war, or danger. Several English versions (e.g., NASB, NIV, NRSV) render this term as “staggering.”
sn God holds people responsible for rescuing those who are in mortal danger. The use of “death” and “slaughter” seems rather strong in the passage, but they have been used before in the book for the destruction that comes through evil.
109 tn Heb “weighs” (so NASB, NIV, NRSV) meaning “tests” or “evaluates.”
110 sn The verse completes the saying by affirming that people will be judged responsible for helping those in mortal danger. The verse uses a series of rhetorical questions to affirm that God knows our hearts and we cannot plead ignorance.
111 sn The twenty-sixth saying teaches that one should develop wisdom because it has a profitable future. The saying draws on the image of honey; its health-giving properties make a good analogy to wisdom.
112 tn D. W. Thomas argues for a meaning of “seek” in place of “know” (“Notes on Some Passages in the Book of Proverbs,” JTS 38 : 400-403).
113 tn The phrase “is sweet” is supplied in the translation as a clarification.
114 tn The term “it” is supplied in the translation.
115 tn Heb “there will be an end.” The word is אַחֲרִית (’akhrit, “after-part, end”). BDB 31 s.v. b says in a passage like this it means “a future,” i.e., a happy close of life, sometimes suggesting the idea of posterity promised to the righteous, often parallel to “hope.”
116 tn The word “wicked” could be taken as a vocative (cf. KJV, ASV, NASB, “O wicked man”); but since the next line refers to the wicked this is unlikely. It serves better as an adverbial accusative (“like the wicked”).
117 sn The saying warns that it is futile and self-defeating to mistreat God’s people, for they survive – the wicked do not. The warning is against a deliberate, planned assault on their places of dwelling.
118 tn The clause beginning with כִּי (ki) could be interpreted as causal or conditional; but in view of the significance of the next clause it seems better to take it as a concessive clause (“although”). Its verb then receives a modal nuance of possibility. The apodosis is then “and he rises up,” which could be a participle or a perfect tense; although he may fall, he gets up (or, will get up).
sn The righteous may suffer adversity or misfortune any number of times – seven times here – but they will “rise” for virtue triumphs over evil in the end (R. N. Whybray, Proverbs [CBC], 140).
119 tn The verb could be translated with an English present tense (“are brought down,” so NIV) to express what happens to the wicked in this life; but since the saying warns against being like the wicked, their destruction is more likely directed to the future.
120 sn The saying (vv. 17, 18) warns against gloating over the misfortune of one’s enemies. The prohibition is formed with two negated jussives “do not rejoice” and “let not be glad,” the second qualified by “your heart” as the subject, signifying the inner satisfaction of such a defeat.
121 tn Heb “and [it is] evil in his eyes.”
122 sn The judgment of God should strike a note of fear in the heart of people (e.g., Lev 19:17-18). His judgment is not to be taken lightly, or personalized as a victory. If that were to happen, then the
123 tn Heb “there is no end [i.e., future] for the evil.”
124 sn The saying warns against envying the wicked; v. 19 provides the instruction, and v. 20 the motivation. The motivation is that there is no future hope for them – nothing to envy, or as C. H. Toy explains, there will be no good outcome for their lives (Proverbs [ICC], 449). They will die suddenly, as the implied comparison with the lamp being snuffed out signifies.
125 tn Heb “my son,” but there is no indication in the immediate context that this should be limited only to male children.
126 tn Heb “do not get mixed up with”; cf. TEV “Have nothing to do with”; NIV “do not join with.” The verb עָרַב (’arav) is used elsewhere meaning “to exchange; to take on pledge.” In the Hitpael stem it means “to have fellowship; to share; to associate with.” Some English versions (e.g., KJV) interpret as “to meddle” in this context, because “to have fellowship” is certainly not what is meant.
127 tn The form rendered “rebellious” is difficult; it appears to be the Qal active participle, plural, from שָׁנָה (shanah), “to change” – “those who change.” The RV might have thought of the idea of “change” when they rendered it “political agitators.” The Syriac and Tg. Prov 24:21 have “fools,” the Latin has “detractors,” and the LXX reads, “do not disobey either of them,” referring to God and the king in the first line. Accordingly the ruin predicted in the next line would be the ruin that God and the king can inflict. If the idea of “changers” is retained, it would have to mean people who at one time feared God and the king but no longer do.
128 tn Heb “will rise” (so NASB).
129 tn Heb “the ruin of the two of them.” Judgment is sent on the rebels both by God and the king. The term פִּיד (pid, “ruin; disaster”) is a metonymy of effect, the cause being the sentence of judgment (= “ruinous judgment” in the translation; cf. NLT “punishment”). The word “two of them” is a subjective genitive – they two bring the disaster on the rebels. The referents (the
sn The reward for living in peace under God in this world is that those who do will escape the calamities that will fall on the rebellious. Verse 21a is used in 1 Peter 2:17, and v. 22 is used in Romans 13:1-7 (v. 4). This is the thirtieth and last of this collection.
130 tn Heb “to recognize faces”; KJV, ASV “to have respect of persons”; NLT “to show favoritism.”
131 tn Heb “not good.” This is a figure known as tapeinosis – a deliberate understatement to emphasize a worst-case scenario: “it is terrible!”
132 tn The word means “wicked; guilty” or “criminal”; the contrast could be “wicked – righteous” (cf. KJV, ASV, NAB, NASB) or “innocent – guilty” (cf. NIV, TEV, CEV). Since this line follows the statement about showing partiality in judgment, it involves a forensic setting. Thus the statement describes one who calls a guilty person innocent or acquitted.
133 tn Or “righteous”; the same Hebrew word may be translated either “innocent” or “righteous” depending on the context.
134 tn The verb means “to be indignant.” It can be used within the range of “have indignation,” meaning “loathe” or “abhor,” or express indignation, meaning “denounce” or “curse.” In this passage, in collocation with the previous term “curse,” the latter is intended (cf. NAB, NIV, NLT).
135 tn The verb means “to be pleasant; to be delightful.” The imperfect tense promises that there “will be delight” to those who rebuke the wicked.
136 tn The verb יָכַח (yakhakh) means “to decide; to adjudge; to prove.” This word occurs frequently in the book of Proverbs meaning “to reprove” or “to rebuke.” It deals with disputes, legal or otherwise. It can refer to a charge against someone or starting a dispute (and so rebuke); it can mean quarrel, argue; and it can mean settle a dispute. In this context the first or last use would work: (1) reproving the wicked for what they do (cf. KJV, NASB, NRSV), or (2) convicting them in a legal setting (cf. NAB, NIV, NLT). In light of the previous forensic context the second sense is preferred here.
137 tn “The guilty” is supplied in the translation for clarity based on the preceding context. See the previous note on the word “convict”: If a non-forensic context is preferred for vv. 23-25, “wicked” would be supplied here.
138 tn The expression is בִרְכַּת־טוֹב (birkat-tov, “blessing of good”); the genitive “good” has to be an attributive genitive modifying “blessings.” The word is general enough to mean any number of things – rich, healthy, pleasing, etc. The parallelism here narrows the choice. Some English versions interpret the “blessing” here as prosperity (cf. NAB, TEV, CEV).
139 tn Heb “the one who returns right words kisses the lips.” This is an implied comparison for giving an honest answer. Honesty is like a kiss. The kiss would signify love, devotion, sincerity, and commitment (in that culture) – an outward expression of what is in the heart. It is an apt illustration of telling the truth. Some English versions now replace the figure to avoid cultural misunderstanding (cf. TEV, CEV “a sign of true friendship”; NLT “an honor”).
140 tn The perfect tense with vav following the imperatives takes on the force of an imperative here.
141 sn If the term “house” is understood literally, the proverb would mean that one should be financially secure before building a house (cf. NLT). If “house” is figurative for household (metonymy of subject: children or family), the proverb would mean that one should have financial security and provision before starting a family. Some English versions suggest the latter meaning by using the word “home” for “house” (e.g., TEV, CEV).
142 sn The legal setting of these sayings continues with this warning against being a false accuser. The “witness” in this line is one who has no basis for his testimony. “Without cause” is the adverb from חָנָן (khanan), which means “to be gracious.” The adverb means “without a cause; gratis; free.” It is also cognate to the word חֵן (“grace” or “unmerited [or, undeserved] favor.” The connotation is that the opposite is due. So the adverb would mean that there was no cause, no justification for the witness, but that the evidence seemed to lie on the other side.
143 tn Heb “lips.” The term “lips” is a metonymy of cause; it means “what is said.” Here it refers to what is said in court as a false witness.
144 tn Heb “repay to the man.” The verb is שׁוּב (shuv), which in the Hiphil stem means “to restore; to repay; to return” (cf. TEV, CEV, NLT “I’ll get even”). The idea is that of repaying someone for what he did.
145 sn Rather than give in to the spirit of vengeance, one should avoid retaliation (e.g., Prov 20:22; Matt 5:43-45; Rom 12:9). According to the Talmud, Hillel said, “Do not do to others what you would not have them do unto you” (b. Sanhedrin 31a).
146 tn Heb “lacks heart”; KJV “understanding”; NAB, NASB, NLT “sense.”
147 tn The Hebrew term וְהִנֵּה (vÿhinneh, traditionally “and, lo” [KJV, ASV]) is a deictic particle that calls attention to what comes next. “And look” is too abrupt here; “I saw” calls attention to the field that was noticed.
148 tn Heb “its face” (so KJV, ASV).
149 sn Heb “I set my heart.” The “heart” represents the mind and the will combined; to “set” the mind and will means to give careful consideration to what was observed.
150 tn Heb “I looked, I received instruction.” There are four verbs in the two parts of this verse: “I saw…I set…I saw…I received.” It is clear that the first two verbs in each half verse are the foundation for the next two. At the beginning of the verse the form is the preterite with the vav (ו) consecutive; it can be subordinated as a temporal clause to the next verb, probably to be identified as a preterite with the vav – “when I saw, I put.” The next two verbs are both perfect tenses; their construction would parallel the first half of the verse, even though there are no conjunctions here – “[when] I saw, I received.”
sn The teacher makes several observations of the state of the sluggard that reveal that his continued laziness will result in poverty. The reminiscence used here may be a literary device to draw a fictional but characteristically true picture of the lazy person.
151 tn Heb “a man of shield.” This could refer to an armed warrior (so NRSV) but in this context, in collocation with the other word for “robber” in the previous line, it must refer to an armed criminal.
153 tn The title הַמַּשָּׂא (hammasa’) means “the burden,” a frequently used title in prophetic oracles. It may be that the word is a place name, although it is more likely that it describes what follows as an important revelation.
154 tn The definite article is used here as a demonstrative, clarifying the reference to Agur.
155 sn The word translated “says” (נְאֻם, nÿ’um) is a verbal noun; it is also a term that describes an oracle. It is usually followed by the subjective genitive: “the oracle of this man to Ithiel.”
156 tn There have been numerous attempts to reinterpret the first two verses of the chapter. The Greek version translated the names “Ithiel” and “Ukal,” resulting in “I am weary, O God, I am weary and faint” (C. C. Torrey, “Proverbs Chapter 30,” JBL 73 : 93-96). The LXX’s approach is followed by some English versions (e.g., NRSV, NLT). The Midrash tried through a clever etymologizing translation to attribute the works to Solomon (explained by W. G. Plaut, Proverbs, 299). It is most likely that someone other than Solomon wrote these sayings; they have a different, almost non-proverbial, tone to them. See P. Franklyn, “The Sayings of Agur in Proverbs 30: Piety or Skepticism,” ZAW 95 (1983): 239-52.
157 tn The particle כִּי (ki) functions in an asseverative sense, “surely; indeed; truly” (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 73, §449).
158 tn The noun בַּעַר (ba’ar) means “brutishness”; here it functions as a predicate adjective. It is followed by מֵאִישׁ (me’ish) expressing comparative degree: “more than a man” or “more than any man,” with “man” used in a generic sense. He is saying that he has fallen beneath the level of mankind. Cf. NRSV “I am too stupid to be human.”
159 tn Heb “than man.” The verse is using hyperbole; this individual feels as if he has no intelligence at all, that he is more brutish than any other human. Of course this is not true, or he would not be able to speculate on the God of the universe at all.
160 tn Heb “the understanding of a man,” with “man” used attributively here.
161 sn The construction uses repetition to make the point emphatically: “I do not know the knowledge of the Holy One.” Agur’s claim to being “brutish” is here clarified – he is not one of those who has knowledge or understanding of God. C. H. Toy thinks the speaker is being sarcastic in reference to others who may have claimed such knowledge (Proverbs [ICC], 521).
162 tn The epithet “the Holy One” is the adjective “holy” put in the masculine plural (as in 9:10). This will harmonize with the plural of majesty used to explain the plural with titles for God. However, NRSV takes the plural as a reference to the “holy ones,” presumably referring to angelic beings.
163 sn To make his point Agur includes five questions. These, like Job 38–41, or Proverbs 8:24-29, focus on the divine acts to show that it is absurd for a mere mortal to think that he can explain God’s work or compare himself to God. These questions display mankind’s limitations and God’s incomparable nature. The first question could be open to include humans, but may refer to God alone (as the other questions do).
164 sn The questions are filled with anthropomorphic language. The questioner is asking what humans have ever done this, but the meaning is that only God has done this. “Gathering the wind in his fists” is a way of expressing absolute sovereign control over the forces of nature.
165 sn The question is comparing the clouds of the heavens to garments (e.g., Job 26:8). T. T. Perowne writes, “Men bind up water in skins or bottles; God binds up the rain-floods in the thin, gauzy texture of the changing clouds, which yet by his power does not rend under its burden of waters.”
166 sn The ends of the earth is an expression often used in scripture as a metonymy of subject referring to the people who live in the ends of the earth, the far off and remote lands and islands. While that is possible here as well, this may simply be a synecdoche saying that God created the whole world, even the most remote and distant places.
167 sn The reference to “son” in this passage has prompted many suggestions down through the years: It was identified as Israel in the Jewish Midrashim, the Logos or demiurge by some of the philosophers and allegorical writers, as simple poetic parallelism without a separate identity by some critical scholars, and as Jesus by Christian commentators. Parallels with Ugaritic are interesting, because Baal is referred to as a son; but that is bound up within the pantheon where there was a father god. Some of the Jewish commentators exhibit a strange logic in expressing what Christians would say is only their blindness to the full revelation: There is little cogency in this being a reference to Jesus because if there had been such a person at any time in the past he would have left some tradition about it through his descendants (J. H. Greenstone, Proverbs, 317). But Judaism has taught from the earliest times that Messiah was preexistent (especially in view of Micah 5 and Daniel 7); and the claims of Jesus in the Gospels bear this out. It seems best to say that there is a hint here of the nature of the Messiah as Son, a hint that will later be revealed in full through the incarnation.
168 sn The text here uses an implied comparison (a figure of speech known as hypocatastasis): It compares the perfection of every word from God with some precious metal that has been refined and purified (e.g., Ps 12:6). The point is that God’s word is trustworthy; it has no defects and flaws, nothing false or misleading. The second half of the verse explains the significance of this point – it is safe to trust the
169 tn The comparative “like” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is implied by the metaphor; it is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.
170 sn The line uses two more figures of speech to declare that God can be trusted for security and salvation. “Shield” is a simple metaphor – God protects. “Take refuge” is another implied comparison (hypocatastasis) – God provides spiritual rest and security for those who put their trust in him.
171 tn The form of the verb is a Niphal perfect tense with a vav consecutive from the root כָּזַב (kazav, “to lie”). In this stem it has the ideas of “been made deceptive,” or “shown to be false” or “proved to be a liar.” One who adds to or changes the word of the
173 tn Assuming that the contents of vv. 7-9 are a prayer, several English versions have supplied a vocative phrase: “O
174 tn The two words might form a hendiadys: “falsehood and lies” being equivalent to “complete deception.” The word שָׁוְא means “false; empty; vain; to a false purpose.” The second word means “word of lying,” thus “a lying word.” Taken separately they might refer to false intentions and false words.
175 tn The word חֹק (khoq) means “statute”; it is also used of a definite assignment in labor (Exod 5:14; Prov 31:15), or of a set portion of food (Gen 47:22). Here it refers to food that is the proper proportion for the speaker.
177 tn The verb כָּחַשׁ (kakhash) means “to be disappointing; to deceive; to fail; to grow lean.” In the Piel stem it means “to deceive; to act deceptively; to cringe; to disappoint.” The idea of acting deceptively is illustrated in Hos 9:2 where it has the connotation of “disowning” or “refusing to acknowledge” (a meaning very close to its meaning here).
178 tn The Hebrew verb literally means “to take hold of; to seize”; this produces the idea of doing violence to the reputation of God.
179 tn The form תַּלְשֵׁן (talshen) is the Hiphil jussive (with the negative אַל, ’al); it is a denominative verb from the noun “tongue” (Heb “wag the tongue”). It means “to defame; to slander,” if the accusation is untrue. Some have suggested that the word might have the force of “denouncing” a slave to his master, accusing him before authorities (e.g., Deut 23:15-16). This proverb would then be a warning against meddling in the affairs of someone else.
180 tn If what was said were true, then there would be no culpability. But the implication here is that it was slander. And the effect of that will be a curse – the person who is the target of the slander will “curse” the person who slandered him (קָלַל [qalal] in the Piel means “to treat lightly [or, with contempt]; to curse”), and culpability will result (the verb וֹשׁם means “to be guilty; to make a guilt offering [or, reparation offering]”). This word for guilt suggests a connection to the Levitical teaching that the guilty had to make reparation for damages done (Lev 5). Cf. NAB “you will have to pay the penalty”; NIV, NLT “you will pay for it.”
181 sn The next four verses all start with the Hebrew expression translated “There is a generation.” This is a series of denunciations of things that are dangerous in society without mentioning specific punishments or proscriptions. The word “generation” as used in this passage refers to a class or group of people.
182 sn The first observation is that there is a segment in society that lacks respect for parents. This uses the antonyms “curse” and [not] “bless” to make the point. To “curse” a parent could include treating them lightly, defaming them, or showing disrespect in general. To “bless” would mean to honor, respect, or enrich in some way, which is what should be done (e.g., Exod 21:17; Prov 20:20).
183 tn The verb רָחַץ (rakhats) means “to wash; to wash off; to wash away; to bathe.” It is used of physical washing, ceremonial washings, and hence figuratively of removing sin and guilt through confession (e.g., Isa 1:16). Here the form is the Pual perfect (unless it is a rare old Qal passive, since there is no Piel and no apparent change of meaning from the Qal).
sn The point of the verse is that there are people who observe outer ritual and think they are pure (טָהוֹר [tahor] is the Levitical standard for entrance into the sanctuary), but who pay no attention to inner cleansing (e.g., Matt 23:27).
185 tn Heb “how high are its eyes!” This is a use of the interrogative pronoun in exclamatory sentences (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 25, §127).
186 tn Heb “its eyelids are lifted up,” a gesture indicating arrogance and contempt or disdain for others. To make this clear, the present translation supplies the adverb “disdainfully” at the end of the verse.
sn The verbs “to be high” (translated “are…lofty”) and “to be lifted up” depict arrogance and disdain for others. The emphasis on the eyes and eyelids (parasynonyms in poetry) is employed because the glance, the look, is the immediate evidence of contempt for others (e.g., also 6:17 and Ps 131:1).
187 tn The comparative “like” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is implied by the metaphor; it is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.
188 sn There are two figures used in each of these lines: teeth/great teeth and “swords/knives.” The term “teeth” is a metonymy for the process of chewing and eating. This goes with the figure of the second half of the verse that speaks about “devouring” the poor – so the whole image of eating and chewing refers to destroying the poor (an implied comparison). The figures of “swords/knives” are metaphors within this image. Comparing teeth to swords means that they are sharp and powerful. The imagery captures the rapacity of their power.
189 tn Heb “teeth” (so NRSV) or “jaw teeth” (so KJV, ASV, NASB) or perhaps “jawbone.” This is a different Hebrew word for “teeth” than the one in the previous line; if it refers to “jaw teeth” then a translation like “molars” would be appropriate, although this image might not fit with the metaphor (“like knives”) unless the other teeth, the incisors or front teeth, are pictured as being even longer (“like swords”).
190 tn The Hebrew form לֶאֱכֹל (le’ekhol) is the Qal infinitive construct; it indicates the purpose of this generation’s ruthless power – it is destructive. The figure is an implied comparison (known as hypocatastasis) between “devouring” and “destroying.”
191 sn The next two verses describe insatiable things, things that are problematic to normal life. The meaning of v. 15a and its relationship to 15b is debated. But the “leech” seems to have been selected to begin the section because it was symbolic of greed – it sucks blood through its two suckers. This may be what the reference to two daughters calling “Give! Give!” might signify (if so, this is an implied comparison, a figure known as hypocatastasis).
192 sn As one might expect, there have been various attempts to identify the “two daughters.” In the Rabbinic literature some identified Alukah (the “leech”) with Sheol, and the two daughters with paradise and hell, one claiming the righteous and the other the unrighteous; others identified Alukah with Gehenna, and the two daughters with heresy and government, neither of which is ever satisfied (Midrash Tehillim quoted by Rashi, a Jewish scholar who lived
193 tn The two imperatives הַב הַב (hav hav, “give, give,” from יָהַב, yahav) correspond to the two daughters, and form their appeal. This would then be a personification – it is as if the leech is crying out, “Give! Give!”
194 sn There is a noticeable rhetorical sequence here: two daughters, three things, four (see W. M. Roth, “The Numerical Sequence x / x +1 in the Old Testament,” VT 12 : 300-311, and “Numerical Sayings in the Old Testament,” VT 13 : 86). W. McKane thinks the series builds to a climax with the four, and in the four the barren woman is the focal point, the other three being metaphors for her sexual desire (Proverbs [OTL], 656). This interpretation is a minority view, however, and has not won widespread support.
195 tn Throughout the book of Proverbs הוֹן (hon) means “wealth”; but here it has the nuance of “sufficiency” (cf. TEV, CEV, NLT “satisfied”) or “enough” (BDB 223 s.v.).
196 tn The term שְׁאוֹל (she’ol, “Sheol”) refers here to the realm of the dead: “the grave” (so KJV, NIV, NLT); cf. TEV, CEV “the world of the dead”; NAB “the nether world.”
198 sn There is no clear lesson made from these observations. But one point that could be made is that greed, symbolized by the leech, is as insatiable as all these other things. If that is the case, the proverb would constitute a warning against the insatiable nature of greed.
199 sn The “eye” as the organ that exhibits the inner feelings most clearly, here represents a look of scorn or disdain that speaks volumes (a metonymy of cause or of adjunct). It is comparable to the “evil eye” which is stinginess (28:22).
200 tn The Hebrew word לִיקֲּהַת (liqqahat, “obeying”) occurs only here and in Gen 49:10; it seems to mean “to receive” in the sense of “receiving instruction” or “obeying.” C. H. Toy suggests emending to “to old age” (לְזִקְנַת, lÿziqnat) of the mother (Proverbs [ICC], 530). The LXX with γῆρας (ghra", “old age”) suggests that a root lhq had something to do with “white hair.” D. W. Thomas suggests a corruption from lhyqt to lyqht; it would have read, “The eye that mocks a father and despises an aged mother” (“A Note on לִיקֲּהַת in Proverbs 30:17,” JTS 42 : 154-55); this is followed by NAB “or scorns an aged mother.”
201 sn The sternest punishment is for the evil eye. The punishment is talionic – eye for eye. The reference to “the valley” may indicate a place where people are not be given decent burials and the birds of prey pick the corpses clean. It is an image the prophets use in judgment passages.
202 tn The form נִפְלְאוּ (niflÿ’u) is the Niphal perfect from פָּלָא (pala’); the verb means “to be wonderful; to be extraordinary; to be surpassing”; cf. NIV “too amazing.” The things mentioned are things that the sage finds incomprehensible (e.g., Gen 18:14; Judg 13:18; Ps 139:6; and Isa 9:6). The sage can only admire these wonders – he is at a loss to explain them.
203 sn It is difficult to know for certain what these four things had in common for the sage. They are all linked by the word “way” (meaning “a course of action”) and by a sense of mystery in each area. Suggestions for the connections between the four include: (1) all four things are hidden from continued observation, for they are in majestic form and then gone; (2) they all have a mysterious means of propulsion or motivation; (3) they all describe the movement of one thing within the sphere or domain of another; or (4) the first three serve as illustrations of the fourth and greatest wonder, which concerns human relationships and is slightly different than the first three.
204 tn This last item in the series is the most difficult to understand. The MT reads וְדֶּרֶךְ גֶּבֶר בְּעַלְמָה (vÿderekh gever bÿ’almah, “and the way of a man with a maid,” so KJV, NASB). The last term does not in and of itself mean “virgin” but rather describes a young woman who is sexually ready for marriage. What is probably in view here is the wonder of human sexuality, for the preposition בְּ (bet) in this sequence indicates that the “way of the man” is “with” the woman. This mystery might begin with the manner of obtaining the love of the young woman, but focuses on the most intimate part of human relationships. And all of this was amazing to the sage. All of it is part of God’s creative plan and therefore can be enjoyed and appreciated without fully comprehending it.
205 sn Equally amazing is the insensitivity of the adulterous woman to the sin. The use of the word “way” clearly connects this and the preceding material. Its presence here also supports the interpretation of the final clause in v. 19 as referring to sexual intimacy. While that is a wonder of God’s creation, so is the way that human nature has distorted it and ruined it.
206 sn The word clearly indicates that the woman is married and unchaste; but the text describes her as amoral as much as immoral – she sees nothing wrong with what she does.
207 sn The acts of “eating” and “wiping her mouth” are euphemistic; they employ an implied comparison between the physical act of eating and wiping one’s mouth afterward on the one hand with sexual activity on the other hand (e.g., Prov 9:17).
208 sn This is the amazing part of the observation. It is one thing to sin, for everyone sins, but to dismiss the act of adultery so easily, as if it were no more significant than a meal, is incredibly brazen.
209 sn The Hebrew verb means “to rage; to quake; to be in tumult.” The sage is using humorous and satirical hyperbole to say that the changes described in the following verses shake up the whole order of life. The sayings assume that the new, elevated status of the individuals was not accompanied by a change in nature. For example, it was not completely unknown in the ancient world for a servant to become king, and in the process begin to behave like a king.
210 sn A servant coming to power could become a tyrant if he is unaccustomed to the use of such power, or he might retain the attitude of a servant and be useless as a leader.
211 tn Heb “filled with food” (so ASV); NASB “satisfied with food”; NAB, NRSV “glutted with food”; CEV “who eats too much”; NLT “who prospers.”
sn The expression stuffed with food probably represents prosperity in general. So the line portrays someone who suddenly comes into wealth, but continues to be boorish and irreligious.
212 tn The Hebrew term means “hated,” from שָׂנֵא (sane’), a feminine passive participle. The text does not say why she is hated; some have speculated that she might be odious (cf. KJV, ASV, NAB) or unattractive, but perhaps she is married to someone incapable of showing love (e.g., Gen 29:31, 33; Deut 21:15; Isa 60:5). Perhaps the strange situation of Jacob was in the mind of the sage, for Leah was described as “hated” (Gen 29:31).
213 tn The verb יָרַשׁ (yarash) means either (1) “to possess; to inherit” or (2) “to dispossess.” Often the process of possessing meant the dispossessing of those already there (e.g., Hagar and Sarah in Gen 16:5; 21:10); another example is the Israelites’ wars against the Canaanites.
214 tn Heb “Four are the small things of the earth.” TEV has “four animals,” though in the list of four that follows, two are insects and one is a reptile.
215 tn The construction uses the Pual participle with the plural adjective as an intensive; these four creatures are the very embodiment of wisdom (BDB 314 s.v. חָכַם Pu).
216 sn The wisdom of the ants is found in their diligent preparation (כּוּן, kun) of food supplies in the summer for times in the winter when food is scarce. See S. P. Toperoff, “The Ant in the Bible and Midrash,” Dor le Dor 13 (1985): 179-83. According to this, being prepared ahead of time is a mark of true wisdom.
217 tn Or “hyraxes.” This is the Syrian Hyrax, also known as the rock badger. KJV, ASV has “conies” (alternately spelled “coneys” by NIV), a term usually associated with the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) but which can also refer to the pika or the hyrax. Scholars today generally agree that the Hebrew term used here refers to a type of hyrax, a small ungulate mammal of the family Procaviidae native to Africa and the Middle East which has a thick body, short legs and ears and a rudimentary tail. The simple “badger” (so NASB, NRSV, CEV) could lead to confusion with the badger, an entirely unrelated species of burrowing mammal related to weasels.
sn Modern scholars identify this creature with the rock badger (the Syrian hyrax), a small mammal that lives in the crevices of the rock. Its wisdom consists in its ingenuity to find a place of security.
218 sn The Hebrew term means “divided”; they go forward in orderly divisions, or ranks (C. H. Toy, Proverbs [ICC], 535). Joel 1:4 describes their order and uses it as a picture of a coming invasion (e.g., Joel 2:7, 8). Therefore the wisdom of the locust is in their order and cooperation.
sn The point of this saying is that a weak creature like a lizard, that is so easily caught, cannot be prevented from getting into the most significant places.
220 tn Although the Hebrew noun translated “king” is singular here, it is traditionally translated as plural: “kings’ palaces” (so KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV).
221 tn The form מֵיטִיבֵי (metibe) is the Hiphil participle, plural construct. It has the idea of “doing good [in] their step.” They move about well, i.e., magnificently. The genitive would be a genitive of specification.
222 tn The construction uses the Hiphil participle again (as in the previous line) followed by the infinitive construct of הָלַךְ (halakh). This forms a verbal hendiadys, the infinitive becoming the main verb and the participle before it the adverb.
223 tn Heb “mighty among the beasts,” but referring to a superlative degree (“mightiest”).
224 tn The Hebrew term זַרְזִיר (zarzir) means “girt”; it occurs only here with “loins” in the Bible: “that which is girt in the loins” (BDB 267 s.v.). Some have interpreted this to be the “greyhound” because it is narrow in the flanks (J. H. Greenstone, Proverbs, 327); so KJV, ASV. Others have suggested the warhorse, zebra, raven, or starling. Tg. Prov 30:31 has it as the large fighting cock that struts around among the hens. There is no clear referent that is convincing, although most modern English versions use “strutting rooster” or something similar (cf. CEV “proud roosters”).
225 tc This last line has inspired many suggestions. The MT has “with his army around him” (אַלְקוּם עִמּוֹ, ’alqum ’immo); so NIV. This has been emended to read “against whom there is no rising up” (so KJV, ASV) or “standing over his people.” The LXX has “a king haranguing his people.” Tg. Prov 30:31 has, “a king who stands up before his people and addresses them.” Some have attempted to identify this with Alcimus, the high priest who aspired to kingship (1 Macc 7:5-22), but such a suggestion is quite remote. Another interpretation sees the word for “God” in the line: “a king with whom God is.” Furthermore, C. H. Toy thinks the text is corrupt and must have at one time referred to some majestic animal (Proverbs [ICC], 537). While all these suggestions are fascinating, they have not improved or corrected the Hebrew text. At least one can say the focus is on the stately appearance of the king at some auspicious moment. The word occurs only here; but if it is interpreted with its Arabic cognate in mind, then it refers to a band of soldiers (BDB 39 s.v. אַלְקוּם).
226 tn The construction has the בְּ (bet) preposition with the Hitpael infinitive construct, forming a temporal clause. This clause explains the way in which the person has acted foolishly.
228 tn This line provides the explanation for the instruction to keep silent in the previous verse. It uses two images to make the point, and in so doing repeats two words throughout. The first is the word מִיץ (mits), which is translated (in sequence) “churning,” “punching,” and “stirring up.” The form is a noun, and BDB 568 s.v. suggests translating it as “squeezing” in all three places, even in the last where it describes the pressure or the insistence on strife. This noun occurs only here. The second repeated word, the verb יוֹצִיא (yotsir), also occurs three times; it is the Hiphil imperfect, meaning “produces” (i.e., causes to go out).
229 sn There is a subtle wordplay here with the word for anger: It is related to the word for nose in the preceding colon.
230 sn The analogy indicates that continuously pressing certain things will yield results, some good, some bad. So pressing anger produces strife. The proverb advises people to strive for peace and harmony through humility and righteousness. To do that will require “letting up” on anger.
231 sn Nothing else is known about King Lemuel aside from this mention in the book of Proverbs. Jewish legend identifies him as Solomon, making this advice from his mother Bathsheba; but there is no evidence for that. The passage is the only direct address to a king in the book of Proverbs – something that was the norm in wisdom literature of the ancient world (Leah L. Brunner, “King and Commoner in Proverbs and Near Eastern Sources,” Dor le Dor 10 : 210-19; Brunner argues that the advice is religious and not secular).
232 tn Some English versions take the Hebrew noun translated “oracle” here as a place name specifying the kingdom of King Lemuel; cf. NAB “king of Massa”; CEV “King Lemuel of Massa.”
234 tn In all three occurrences in this verse the word “son” has the Aramaic spelling, ַַבּר (bar), rather than the Hebrew בֵּן (ben). The repetition of the word “son” shows the seriousness of the warning; and the expression “son of my womb” and “son of my vows” are endearing epithets to show the great investment she has made in his religious place in God’s program. For a view that “son of my womb” should be “my own son,” see F. Deist, “Proverbs 31:1, A Case of Constant Mistranslation,” JNSL 6 (1978): 1-3; cf. TEV “my own dear son.”
235 sn The word translated “strength” refers to physical powers here, i.e., “vigor” (so NAB) or “stamina.” It is therefore a metonymy of cause; the effect would be what spending this strength meant – sexual involvement with women. It would be easy for a king to spend his energy enjoying women, but that would be unwise.
236 sn The word “ways” may in general refer to the heart’s affection for or attention to, or it may more specifically refer to sexual intercourse. While in the book of Proverbs the term is an idiom for the course of life, in this context it must refer to the energy spent in this activity.
237 tn The construction uses Qal infinitive construct לַמְחוֹת (lamkhot, “to wipe out; to blot out; to destroy”). The construction is somewhat strange, and so some interpreters suggest changing it to מֹחוֹת (mokhot, “destroyers of kings”); cf. BDB 562 s.v. מָחָה Qal.3. Commentators note that the form is close to an Aramaic word that means “concubine,” and an Arabic word that is an indelicate description for women.
238 tn Heb “[It is] not for kings.”
239 sn This second warning for kings concerns the use of alcohol. If this passage is meant to prohibit any use of alcohol by kings, it would be unheard of in any ancient royal court. What is probably meant is an excessive and unwarranted use of alcohol, or a troubling need for it, so that the meaning is “to drink wine in excess” (cf. NLT “to guzzle wine”; CEV “should not get drunk”). The danger, of course, would be that excessive use of alcohol would cloud the mind and deprive a king of true administrative ability and justice.
240 tn The MT has אֵו (’ev), a Kethib/Qere reading. The Kethib is אוֹ (’o) but the Qere is אֵי (’ey). Some follow the Qere and take the word as a shortened form of וַֹיֵּה, “where?” This would mean the ruler would be always asking for drink (cf. ASV). Others reconstruct to אַוֵּה (’avveh, “to desire; to crave”). In either case, the verse would be saying that a king is not to be wanting/seeking alcohol.
tn Here “strong drink” probably refers to barley beer (cf. NIV, NCV “beer”).
241 tn The verb means “change,” perhaps expressed in reversing decisions or removing rights.
242 tn Heb “all the children of poverty.” This expression refers to the poor by nature. Cf. KJV, NASB, NRSV “the afflicted”; NIV “oppressed.”
243 sn The word is דִּין (din, “judgment”; so KJV). In this passage it refers to the cause or the plea for justice, i.e., the “legal rights.”
244 sn Wine and beer should be given to those distressed and dying in order to ease their suffering and help them forget.
245 tn Heb “to the bitter of soul.” The phrase לְמָרֵי נָפֶשׁ (lÿmare nafesh) has been translated “of heavy hearts” (KJV); “in anguish” (NIV); “in misery” (TEV); “in bitter distress” (NRSV); “sorely depressed” (NAB); “in deep depression (NLT); “have lost all hope” (CEV). The word “bitter” (מַר, mar) describes the physical and mental/spiritual suffering as a result of affliction, grief, or suffering – these people are in emotional pain. So the idea of “bitterly distressed” works as well as any other translation.
246 tn The subjects and suffixes are singular (cf. KJV, ASV, NASB). Most other English versions render this as plural for stylistic reasons, in light of the preceding context.
247 tn The king was not to “drink and forget”; the suffering are to “drink and forget.”
248 sn The instruction to “open your mouth” is a metonymy of cause; it means “speak up for” (so NIV, TEV, NLT) or in this context “serve as an advocate in judgment” (cf. CEV “you must defend”).
249 sn The instruction compares people who cannot defend themselves in court with those who are physically unable to speak (this is a figure of speech known as hypocatastasis, an implied comparison). The former can physically speak; but because they are the poor, the uneducated, the oppressed, they are unable to conduct a legal defense. They may as well be speechless.
250 tn Or “of all the defenseless.” The noun חֲלוֹף (khalof) means “passing away; vanishing” (properly an infinitive); in this construction “the sons of the passing away” means people who by nature are transitory, people who are dying – mortals. But in this context it would indicate people who are “defenseless” as opposed to those who are healthy and powerful.
251 tn The noun צֶדֶק (tsedeq) serves here as an adverbial accusative of manner. The decisions reached (שְׁפָט, shÿfat) in this advocacy must conform to the standard of the law. So it is a little stronger than “judging fairly” (cf. NIV, NCV), although it will be fair if it is done righteously for all.
252 sn Previously the noun דִּין (din, judgment”) was used, signifying the legal rights or the pleas of the people. Now the imperative דִּין is used. It could be translated “judge,” but in this context “judge the poor” could be misunderstood to mean “condemn.” Here advocacy is in view, and so “plead the cause” is a better translation (cf. NASB, NIV, NRSV “defend the rights”). It was – and is – the responsibility of the king (ruler) to champion the rights of the poor and needy, who otherwise would be ignored and oppressed. They are the ones left destitute by the cruelties and inequalities of life (e.g., 2 Sam 14:4-11; 1 Kgs 3:16-28; Pss 45:3-5, 72:4; Isa 9:6-7).