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Proverbs 25:9-13

Context

25:9 When you argue a case 1  with your neighbor,

do not reveal the secret of another person, 2 

25:10 lest the one who hears it put you to shame

and your infamy 3  will never go away.

25:11 Like apples of gold in settings of silver, 4 

so is a word skillfully spoken. 5 

25:12 Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold, 6 

so is a wise reprover to the ear of the one who listens. 7 

25:13 Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest, 8 

so is a faithful messenger to those who send him,

for he refreshes the heart 9  of his masters.

1 tn The verse begins with the direct object רִיבְךָ (ribkha, “your case”) followed by the imperative from the same root, רִיב (riv, “argue”). It is paralleled by the negated Piel jussive. The construction of the clauses indicates that the first colon is foundational to the second: “Argue…but do not reveal,” or better, “When you argue…do not reveal.”

2 sn The concern is that in arguing with one person a secret about another might be divulged, perhaps deliberately in an attempt to clear oneself. The point then is about damaging a friendship by involving the friend without necessity or warrant in someone else’s quarrel.

3 tn The noun דִּבָּה (dibbah, “infamy; defamation; evil report; whispering”) is used of an evil report here (e.g., Gen 37:2), namely a true report of evil doing. So if a person betrays another person’s confidence, he will never be able to live down the bad reputation he made as one who betrays secrets (cf. NIV).

4 sn The verse uses emblematic parallelism, stating the simile in the first part and the point in the second. The meaning of the simile is not entirely clear, but it does speak of beauty, value, and artistry. The “apples of gold” (possibly citrons, quinces, oranges, or apricots) may refer to carvings of fruit in gold on columns.

5 tn Heb “on its wheels.” This expression means “aptly, fittingly.” The point is obviously about the immense value and memorable beauty of words used skillfully (R. N. Whybray, Proverbs [CBC], 148). Noting the meaning of the term and the dual form of the word, W. McKane suggests that the expression is metaphorical for the balancing halves of a Hebrew parallel wisdom saying: “The stichos is a wheel, and the sentence consisting of two wheels is a ‘well-turned’ expression” (Proverbs [OTL], 584). The line then would be describing a balanced, well-turned saying, a proverb; it is skillfully constructed, beautifully written, and of lasting value.

6 sn This saying is another example of emblematic parallelism; the first half is the simile, and the second half makes the point from it: A wise rebuke that is properly received is of lasting value. The rebuke in the ear of an obedient student is like ornaments of fine jewelry.

7 tn The “ear of the listener” refers to the obedient disciple, the one who complies with the reproof he hears. Cf. KJV, ASV, NAB “an obedient ear.”

8 sn The emblem in the parallelism of this verse is the simile of the first line. Because snow at the time of harvest would be rare, and probably unwelcome, various commentators have sought to explain this expression. R. N. Whybray suggests it may refer to snow brought down from the mountains and kept cool in an ice hole (Proverbs [CBC], 148); this seems rather forced. J. H. Greenstone following Rashi, a Jewish scholar who lived a.d. 1040-1105, suggests it might refer to the refreshing breeze that comes from snow-capped mountains (Proverbs, 260). C. H. Toy suggests a snow-cooled drink (Proverbs [ICC], 464), and W. McKane an application of ice water to the forehead (Proverbs [OTL], 585). Some English versions replace “snow” with “water” (cf. TEV “cold water”; CEV “cool water”). These all attempt to explain the simile; but the point is clear enough, a faithful servant is refreshing to his master. The analogy could be hypothetical – as refreshing as the coolness of snow would be in harvest time.

9 tn Heb “he restores the life [or, soul] of his masters.” The idea suggests that someone who sends the messenger either entrusts his life to him or relies on the messenger to resolve some concern. A faithful messenger restores his master’s spirit and so is “refreshing.”



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