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Proverbs 23:29-35

Context

23:29 Who has woe? 1  Who has sorrow?

Who has contentions? Who has complaints?

Who has wounds without cause? Who has dullness 2  of the eyes?

23:30 Those who linger over wine,

those who go looking for mixed wine. 3 

23:31 Do not look on the wine when it is red,

when it sparkles 4  in the cup,

when it goes down smoothly. 5 

23:32 Afterward 6  it bites like a snake,

and stings like a viper.

23:33 Your eyes will see strange things, 7 

and your mind will speak perverse things.

23:34 And you will be like one who lies down in the midst 8  of the sea,

and like one who lies down on the top of the rigging. 9 

23:35 You will say, 10  “They have struck me, but I am not harmed!

They beat me, but I did not know it! 11 

When will I awake? I will look for another drink.” 12 

1 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 [1978]: 102-3).

2 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.”

3 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.

4 tn Heb “its eye gives.” With CEV’s “bubbling up in the glass” one might think champagne was in view.

5 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.

6 tn Heb “its end”; NASB “At the last”; TEV (interpretively) “The next morning.”

7 tn The feminine plural of זָר (zar, “strange things”) refers to the trouble one has in seeing and speaking when drunk.

8 tn Heb “heart.” The idiom here means “middle”; KJV “in the midst.”

9 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.

10 tn The phrase “You will say” is supplied in the translation to make it clear that the drunkard is now speaking.

11 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.

12 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.



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