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Proverbs 2:16-19

Context

2:16 to deliver you 1  from the adulteress, 2 

from the sexually loose woman 3  who speaks flattering 4  words; 5 

2:17 who leaves 6  the husband 7  from her younger days, 8 

and forgets her marriage covenant 9  made before God. 10 

2:18 For her house 11  sinks 12  down to death,

and her paths lead 13  to the place of the departed spirits. 14 

2:19 None who go in to her will return, 15 

nor will they reach the paths of life. 16 

1 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).

2 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.

3 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).

4 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).

5 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.

6 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.”

7 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.

8 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.

9 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).

10 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.

11 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.

12 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.

13 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.

14 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).

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

16 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).



TIP #08: Use the Strong Number links to learn about the original Hebrew and Greek text. [ALL]
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