among those who eat too much 3 meat,
23:21 because drunkards and gluttons become impoverished,
Who has contentions? Who has complaints?
Who has wounds without cause? Who has dullness 7 of the eyes?
23:30 Those who linger over wine,
those who go looking for mixed wine. 8
23:31 Do not look on the wine when it is red,
when it sparkles 9 in the cup,
when it goes down smoothly. 10
and stings like a viper.
and your mind will speak perverse things.
and like one who lies down on the top of the rigging. 14
They beat me, but I did not know it! 16
When will I awake? I will look for another drink.” 17
it is not for kings to drink wine, 19
or for rulers to crave strong drink, 20
31:5 lest they drink and forget what is decreed,
and wine to those who are bitterly distressed; 25
and remember their misery no more.
1 tn Heb “do not be among,” but in the sense of “associate with” (TEV); “join” (NIV); “consort…with” (NAB).
2 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).
3 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.
4 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.
5 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).
6 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).
7 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.”
8 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.
9 tn Heb “its eye gives.” With CEV’s “bubbling up in the glass” one might think champagne was in view.
10 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.
11 tn Heb “its end”; NASB “At the last”; TEV (interpretively) “The next morning.”
12 tn The feminine plural of זָר (zar, “strange things”) refers to the trouble one has in seeing and speaking when drunk.
13 tn Heb “heart.” The idiom here means “middle”; KJV “in the midst.”
14 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.
15 tn The phrase “You will say” is supplied in the translation to make it clear that the drunkard is now speaking.
16 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.
17 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.
18 tn Heb “[It is] not for kings.”
19 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.
20 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”).
21 tn The verb means “change,” perhaps expressed in reversing decisions or removing rights.
22 tn Heb “all the children of poverty.” This expression refers to the poor by nature. Cf. KJV, NASB, NRSV “the afflicted”; NIV “oppressed.”
23 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.”
24 sn Wine and beer should be given to those distressed and dying in order to ease their suffering and help them forget.
25 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.
26 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.
27 tn The king was not to “drink and forget”; the suffering are to “drink and forget.”