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Proverbs 24:23-34

Context
Further Sayings of the Wise

24:23 These sayings also are from the wise:

To show partiality 1  in judgment is terrible: 2 

24:24 The one who says to the guilty, 3  “You are innocent,” 4 

peoples will curse him, and nations will denounce 5  him.

24:25 But there will be delight 6  for those who convict 7  the guilty, 8 

and a pleasing blessing 9  will come on them.

24:26 Like a kiss on the lips 10 

is the one who gives an honest answer.

24:27 Establish your work outside and get your fields ready;

afterward build 11  your house. 12 

24:28 Do not be a witness against your neighbor without cause, 13 

and do not deceive with your words. 14 

24:29 Do not say, “I will do to him just as he has done to me;

I will pay him back 15  according to what he has done.” 16 

24:30 I passed by the field of a sluggard,

by the vineyard of one who lacks wisdom. 17 

24:31 I saw 18  that thorns had grown up all over it,

the ground 19  was covered with weeds,

and its stone wall was broken down.

24:32 When I saw this, I gave careful consideration to it; 20 

I received instruction from what I saw: 21 

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.” 22 

1 tn Heb “to recognize faces”; KJV, ASV “to have respect of persons”; NLT “to show favoritism.”

2 tn Heb “not good.” This is a figure known as tapeinosis – a deliberate understatement to emphasize a worst-case scenario: “it is terrible!”

3 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.

4 tn Or “righteous”; the same Hebrew word may be translated either “innocent” or “righteous” depending on the context.

5 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).

6 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.

7 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.

8 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.

9 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).

10 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”).

11 tn The perfect tense with vav following the imperatives takes on the force of an imperative here.

12 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).

13 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.

14 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.

15 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.

16 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).

17 tn Heb “lacks heart”; KJV “understanding”; NAB, NASB, NLT “sense.”

18 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.

19 tn Heb “its face” (so KJV, ASV).

20 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.

21 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.

22 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.



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