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Proverbs 2:12-19

Context

2:12 to deliver 1  you from the way of the wicked, 2 

from those 3  speaking perversity, 4 

2:13 who leave 5  the upright 6  paths

to walk on the dark 7  ways,

2:14 who delight 8  in doing 9  evil, 10 

they rejoice in perverse evil; 11 

2:15 whose paths 12  are morally crooked, 13 

and who are devious 14  in their ways;

2:16 to deliver you 15  from the adulteress, 16 

from the sexually loose woman 17  who speaks flattering 18  words; 19 

2:17 who leaves 20  the husband 21  from her younger days, 22 

and forgets her marriage covenant 23  made before God. 24 

2:18 For her house 25  sinks 26  down to death,

and her paths lead 27  to the place of the departed spirits. 28 

2:19 None who go in to her will return, 29 

nor will they reach the paths of life. 30 

1 tn The Hiphil infinitive construct of נָצַל (natsal, “to deliver”) expresses the purpose of understanding right conduct: to protect a person from the wicked. The verb נָצַל (natsal) means “to save; to deliver; to rescue,” as in snatching away prey from an animal, rescuing from enemies, plucking a brand from the fire, retrieving property, or the like. Here it portrays rescue from the course of action of the wicked.

2 tn The term “wicked” (רַע, ra’) means “bad, harmful, painful.” Rather than referring to the abstract concept of “wickedness” in general, the term probably refers to wicked people because of the parallelism with “those speaking perversity.”

3 tn Heb “man.” The singular noun אִישׁ (’ish, “man”) here will be further defined in vv. 13-15 with plural forms (verbs, nouns and suffixes). So the singular functions in a collective sense which is rendered in a plural sense in the translation for the sake of clarification and smoothness.

4 tn Heb “perversities.” The plural form of תַּהְפֻּכוֹת (tahpukhot) may denote a plurality of number (“perverse things”) or intensification: “awful perversity.” As here, it often refers to perverse speech (Prov 8:13; 10:31, 32; 23:33). It is related to the noun הֶפֶךְ (hefekh, “that which is contrary, perverse”) which refers to what is contrary to morality (Isa 29:16; Ezek 16:34; BDB 246 s.v. הֶפֶךְ). The related verb הָפַךְ (hafakh, “to turn; to overturn”) is used (1) literally of turning things over, e.g., tipping over a bowl (2 Kgs 21:13) and turning over bread-cakes (Judg 7:13; Hos 7:8) and (2) figuratively of perverting things so that they are morally upside down, so to speak (Jer 23:36). These people speak what is contrary to morality, wisdom, sense, logic or the truth.

5 tn The articular plural active participle functions as attributive adjective for אִישׁ (’ish, “man”) in v. 12b, indicating that אִישׁ (“man”) is collective.

6 tn Heb “paths of uprightness.” The noun יָשָׁר (yashar, “uprightness; straightness”) is an attributive genitive. The moral life is described in Proverbs as the smooth, straight way (2:13; 4:11). The wicked abandon the clear straight path for an evil, crooked, uncertain path.

7 tn Heb “ways of darkness.” Darkness is often metaphorical for sinfulness, ignorance, or oppression. Their way of life lacks spiritual illumination.

8 tn The articular plural active participle functions as the second attributive adjective for אִישׁ (’ish, “man”) in v. 12b.

9 tn The Qal infinitive construct is the complementary use of the form, expressing the direct object of the participle.

10 tn Or “harm.”

11 tn Heb “the perversity of evil” (so NASB). The noun רָע (ra’, “evil”) functions as an attributed genitive which is modified by the construct noun תַהְפֻּכוֹת (tahpukhot, “perversity”) which functions as an attributive adjective.

12 tn The noun in this relative clause is an accusative of specification: The evil people are twisted with respect to their paths/conduct.

13 tn Heb “crooked.” The adjective עִקֵּשׁ (’iqqesh, “crooked; twisted”) uses the morphological pattern of adjectives that depict permanent bodily defects, e.g., blindness, lameness. Their actions are morally defective and, apart from repentance, are permanently crooked and twisted.

14 tn The Niphal participle of לוּז (luz, “devious; crooked”) describes conduct that is morally deceptive, crafty, and cunning (Isa 30:12).

15 sn This purpose clause introduced by לְהַצִּילְךָ (lÿhatsilkha, “to deliver you”) parallels the purpose clause introduced by לְהַצִּילְךָ (“to deliver you”) in v. 12. There it introduced deliverance from the evil man, and now from the evil woman. The description of the evil man encompassed four poetic lines in the Hebrew text (vv. 12-15); likewise, the description of the evil woman is four poetic lines (vv. 16-19).

16 tn Heb “strange woman” (so KJV, NASB); NRSV “the loose woman.” The root זוּר (zur, “to be a stranger”) sometimes refers to people who are ethnically foreign to Israel (Isa 1:7; Hos 7:9; 8:7) but it often refers to what is morally estranged from God or his covenant people (Pss 58:4; 78:30; BDB 266 s.v.). Referring to a woman, it means adulteress or prostitute (Prov 2:16; 5:3, 20; 7:5; 22:14; 23:33; see BDB 266 s.v. 2.b). It does not mean that she is a foreigner but that she is estranged from the community with its social and religious values (W. McKane, Proverbs [OTL], 285). It describes her as outside the framework of the covenant community (L. A. Snijders, “The Meaning of זוּר in the Old Testament: An Exegetical Study,” OTS 10 [1954]: 85-86). Here an Israelite woman is in view because her marriage is called a “covenant with God.” She is an adulteress, acting outside the legal bounds of the marriage contract.

17 tn Heb “alien woman.” The adjective נָכְרִי (nokhri, “foreign; alien”) refers to (1) people who are ethnically alien to Israel (Exod 21:8; Deut 17:15; Judg 19:12; Ruth 2:10; 1 Kgs 11:1, 8; Ezra 10:2, 10, 11; see BDB 649 s.v. 1); (2) people who are morally alienated from God and his covenant people (Job 19:15; Ps 69:9; Prov 20:16; Eccl 6:2; Jer 2:21; see BDB 649 s.v. 3) and (3) as a technical term in Proverbs for a harlot or promiscuous woman as someone who is morally alienated from God and moral society (Prov 2:16; 5:20; 6:24; 7:5; 20:16; 23:27; 27:13; see BDB 649 s.v. 2). The description of the woman as a “strange woman” and now an “alien woman” is within the context of the people of Israel. She is a “foreigner” in the sense that she is a nonconformist, wayward and loose. It does not necessarily mean that she is not ethnically Israelite (though BDB notes that most harlots in Israel were originally chiefly foreigners by reason of their otherwise homeless condition).

18 tn Heb “makes smooth.” The Hiphil of II חָלַק (“to be smooth; to be slippery”) means (1) “to make smooth” (metal with hammer) and (2) “to use smooth words,” that is, to flatter (Pss 5:10; 36:3; Prov 2:16; 7:5; 28:23; 29:5; see BDB 325 s.v. 2; HALOT 322 s.v. I חלק hif.2). The related Arabic cognate verb means “make smooth, lie, forge, fabricate.” The seductive speech of the temptress is compared to olive oil (5:3) and is recounted (7:14-20).

19 tn Heb “whose words she makes smooth.” The phrase is a relative clause that does not have a relative pronoun. The antecedent of the 3rd person feminine singular suffix is clearly “the sexually loose woman” earlier in the line.

sn For descriptions of seductive speech, see Prov 5:3 where it is compared to olive oil, and 7:14-20 where such speech is recorded.

20 tn The construction is the active participle of עָזַב (’azav) with the article, serving as an attributive adjective. The verb means “to forsake; to leave; to abandon.”

21 tn Heb “companion” (so NAB, NASB); NIV “partner.” The term אַלּוּף (’alluf, “companion”) is from the root אָלַף (’alaf, “to be familiar with; to cleave to”) and refers to a woman’s husband (Prov 2:17; Jer 3:4; see BDB 48 s.v. אַלּוּף 2). This noun follows the passive adjectival formation and so signifies one who is well-known.

22 tn Heb “of her youth.” The noun נְעוּרֶיהָ (nÿureha, “her youth”) functions as a temporal genitive. The plural form is characteristic of nouns that refer to long periods of duration in the various stages of life. The time of “youth” encompasses the entire formative period within marriage.

23 tn Heb “the covenant.” This could refer to the Mosaic covenant that prohibits adultery, or more likely, as in the present translation, the marriage covenant (cf. also TEV, CEV). The lexicons list this use of “covenant” (בְּרִית, bÿrit) among other referents to marriage (Prov 2:17; Ezek 16:8; Mal 2:14; BDB 136 s.v. 1.5; HALOT 157 s.v. A.9).

24 tn Heb “covenant of God.” The genitive-construct could mean “covenant made before God.” The woman and her husband had made a marriage-covenant in which God was invoked as witness. Her sin is against her solemn pledge to her husband, as well as against God.

25 tn Or “she sinks her house down to death.” The syntax of this line is difficult. The verb שָׁחָה is Qal perfect 3rd person feminine singular of שׁוּחַ (“to sink down”) which must take a feminine singular subject – most likely the “loose woman” of 2:16-17. However, most English versions take בֵּיתָהּ (betah) “her house” (ms noun + 3rd person feminine singular suffix) as the subject (e.g., KJV, RSV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, CEV): “her house sinks down to death.” But בֵּיתָהּ “her house” (ms noun + 3rd person feminine singular suffix) is masculine rather than feminine so it cannot be the subject. K&D 16:83 suggests that בֵּיתָהּ (“her house”) is a permutative noun that qualifies the subject: “she together with all that belongs to her [her house] sinks down to death” (GKC 425 §131.k). D. Kidner suggests that “her house” is in apposition to “death” (e.g., Job 17:13; 30:23; Prov 9:18; Eccl 12:5), meaning that death is her house: “she sinks down to death, which is her house” (Proverbs [TOTC], 62). The BHS editors attempt to resolve this syntactical problem by suggesting a conjectural emendation of MT בֵּיתָהּ (“her house”) to the feminine singular noun נְתִיבֹתֶהָּ (“her path”) which appears in 7:27, to recover a feminine subject for the verb: “her path sinks down to death.” However, the reading of the MT is supported by all the versions.

26 tc The MT reads שָׁחָה (Qal perfect 3rd person feminine singular of שׁוּחַ “to sink down”): “she sinks her house down to death.” The LXX reflects שָׁתָה (shatah, Qal perfect 3rd person feminine singular of שִׁית (shith) “to place; to put”): “she established her house near death.” This is a matter of simple orthographic confusion between ח (khet) and ת (tav). The MT preserves the more difficult reading (see following note) so it is probably the original.

27 tn The verb “lead” is not in the Hebrew but is implied by the parallelism; it is supplied in the translation for the sake of smoothness.

28 tn Heb “to the departed spirits” or “to the Rephaim.” The term רְפָאִים (rÿfaim, “Rephaim”) refers to spirits of the dead who are inhabitants of Sheol (BDB 952 s.v.; HALOT 1274-75 s.v. I רְפָאִים). It is used in parallelism with מֵתִים (metim, “the dead”) to refer to the departed spirits of the dead in Sheol (Ps 88:11; Isa 26:14). The Rephaim inhabit מָוֶת (mavet, “[place of] death”; Prov 2: 18), שְׁאוֹל (shÿol, “Sheol”; Job 26:5; Prov 9:18; Isa 14:9), “darkness and the land of forgetfulness” (Ps 88:14), and “the land of the Rephaim” (Isa 26:19). Scholars debate whether רְפָאִים is derived from the root (1) רָפָא (rafa’, “to heal”), meaning “the healers” or (2) רָפָה (rafah, “to be weak; to sink down”), meaning “the powerless ones” or “those who sink down (to Sheol)” (BDB 952 s.v.; HALOT 1274-75 s.v.). The related term occurs in Phoenician and Neo-Punic meaning “spirits of the dead” (DISO 282) and in Ugaritic referring to “spirits of the dead” who inhabited the underworld and were viewed as healers (UT 2346; WUS 2527). The Hebrew term is often translated “the shades” as a description of the shadowy existence of those who dwelling in Sheol who have lost their vitality (R. F. Schnell, IDB 4:35). Used here in parallelism with מָוֶת (“[place of] death”), רְפָאִים (“the Rephaim”) probably functions as a synecdoche of inhabitants (= the departed spirits of the dead) for the place inhabited (= Sheol). The point of this line is that those who fall prey to an adulteress will end up among the departed spirits in the realm of the dead. This might mean (1) physical death: he will get himself killed by her zealous husband (e.g., Prov 5:23; 6:32-35; 7:23-27) or (2) spiritual death: he will find himself estranged from the community, isolated from the blessings of God, a moral leper, living a shadowy existence of “death” in the land of no return (W. McKane, Proverbs [OTL], 288).

29 tn Heb “all who go in to her will not return.”

30 sn The phrase “reach the paths of life” is a figurative expression for experiencing joy and fullness of blessing (BDB 673 s.v. נָשַׂג 2.a).



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