23:1 When you sit down to eat with a ruler,
if you possess a large appetite. 4
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. 13
1 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.”
2 tn Or “who,” referring to the ruler (so ASV, NAB, TEV).
3 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.
4 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.
6 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.”
7 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).
8 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.
9 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.
10 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.
11 tn Heb “soul.”
12 sn Eating and drinking with a selfish miser would be irritating and disgusting. The line is hyperbolic; the whole experience turns the stomach.
13 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.