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Proverbs 23:26-28

Context

23:26 Give me your heart, my son, 1 

and let your eyes observe my ways;

23:27 for a prostitute is like 2  a deep pit;

a harlot 3  is like 4  a narrow well. 5 

23:28 Indeed, she lies in wait like a robber, 6 

and increases the unfaithful 7  among men. 8 

1 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.

2 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.

3 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).

4 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.

5 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.

6 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.

7 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 [1961]: 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.

8 sn Verses 26-28 comprise the seventeenth saying; it warns the young person to follow the instructions about temptations because there are plenty of temptresses lurking about.



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