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Proverbs 3:1-12

Context
Exhortations to Seek Wisdom and Walk with the Lord 1 

3:1 My child, 2  do not forget my teaching,

but let your heart keep 3  my commandments,

3:2 for they will provide 4  a long and full life, 5 

and they will add well-being 6  to you.

3:3 Do not let truth and mercy 7  leave you;

bind them around your neck,

write them on the tablet of your heart. 8 

3:4 Then you will find 9  favor and good understanding, 10 

in the sight of God and people. 11 

3:5 Trust 12  in the Lord with all your heart, 13 

and do not rely 14  on your own understanding. 15 

3:6 Acknowledge 16  him in all your ways, 17 

and he will make your paths straight. 18 

3:7 Do not be wise in your own estimation; 19 

fear the Lord and turn away from evil. 20 

3:8 This will bring 21  healing to your body, 22 

and refreshment 23  to your inner self. 24 

3:9 Honor 25  the Lord from your wealth

and from the first fruits of all your crops; 26 

3:10 then your barns will be filled completely, 27 

and your vats 28  will overflow 29  with new wine.

3:11 My child, do not despise discipline from the Lord, 30 

and do not loathe 31  his rebuke.

3:12 For the Lord disciplines 32  those he loves,

just as a father 33  disciplines 34  the son in whom he delights.

1 sn The chapter begins with an introductory exhortation (1-4), followed by an admonition to be faithful to the Lord (5-12). Wisdom is commended as the most valuable possession (13-18), essential to creation (19-20), and the way to a long and safe life (21-26). There then follows a warning to avoid unneighborliness (27-30) and emulating the wicked (31-35).

2 tn Heb “my son” (likewise in vv. 11, 21).

3 tn The verb יִצֹּר (yitsor) is a Qal jussive and the noun לִבֶּךָ (libbekha, “your heart”) functions as the subject: “let your heart keep my commandments.”

4 tn The phrase “they will provide” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but are supplied in the translation for the sake of smoothness.

5 tn Heb “length of days and years of life” (so NASB, NRSV). The idiom “length of days” refers to a prolonged life and “years of life” signifies a long time full of life, a life worth living (T. T. Perowne, Proverbs, 51). The term “life” refers to earthly felicity combined with spiritual blessedness (BDB 313 s.v. חַיִּים).

6 tn The noun שָׁלוֹם (shalom, “peace”) here means “welfare, health, prosperity” (BDB 1022 s.v. 3). It can be used of physical health and personal well-being. It is the experience of positive blessing and freedom from negative harm and catastrophe.

7 tn The two words חֶסֶד וֶאֶמֶת (khesed veemet, “mercy and truth”) form a nominal hendiadys, the second word becoming an adjective: “faithful covenant love” or “loyal [covenant] love and faithfulness.”

8 sn This involves two implied comparisons (hypocatastasis). One is a comparison of living out the duties and responsibilities taught with binding a chain around the neck, and the other is a comparison of the inward appropriation of the teachings with writing them on a tablet. So the teachings are not only to become the lifestyle of the disciple but his very nature.

9 tn The form וּמְצָא (umÿtsa’, “find”) is the imperative but it functions as a purpose/result statement. Following a string of imperatives (v. 3), the imperative with a prefixed vav introduces a volitive sequence expressing purpose or result (v. 4).

10 tn The noun שֵׂכֶל (sekhel, “understanding”) does not seem to parallel חֵן (khen, “favor”). The LXX attaches the first two words to v. 3 and renders v. 4: “and devise excellent things in the sight of the Lord and of men.” Tg. Prov 3:4 and Syriac Peshitta list all three words separately: “favor and good and understanding.” C. H. Toy (Proverbs [ICC], 59) suggests emending the MT’s שֵׂכֶל־טוֹב (sekhel-tov, “good understanding”) to שֵׁם־טוֹב (shem-tov, “a good name”). It is also possible to take the two words as a hendiadys: the favor of good understanding, meaning, a reputation for good understanding.

11 tn Heb “man.”

12 sn The word בְּטַח (bÿtakh, “trust”) is used in the OT in (1) literal physical sense: to physically lean upon something for support and (2) figurative sense: to rely upon someone or something for help or protection (BDB 105 s.v. I בְּטַח; HALOT 120 s.v. I בטח). The verb is often used with false securities, people trusting in things that prove to be worthless. But here the object of the secure trust is the Lord who is a reliable object of confidence.

13 sn The “heart” functions as a metonymy of subject encompassing mind, emotions and will (BDB 524 s.v. לֵב 2).

14 tn Heb “do not lean.” The verb שָׁעַן (shaan, “to lean; to rely”) is used in (1) literal physical sense of leaning upon something for support and (2) figurative sense of relying upon someone or something for help or protection (BDB 1043 s.v.). Here it functions figuratively (hypocatastasis: implied comparison); relying on one’s own understanding is compared to leaning on something that is unreliable for support (e.g., Isa 10:20).

15 tn Heb “your understanding.” The term בִּינָה (binah, “understanding”) is used elsewhere in this book of insight given by God from the instructions in Proverbs (Prov 2:3; 7:4; 8:14; 9:6, 10; 23:23). Here it refers to inherent human understanding that functions in relative ignorance unless supplemented by divine wisdom (Job 28:12-28; 39:26). The reflexive pronoun “own” is supplied in the translation to clarify this point. It is dangerous for a person to rely upon mere human wisdom (Prov 14:12; 16:25).

16 tn Heb “know him.” The verb יָדַע (yadah, “to know”) includes mental awareness of who God is and the consequential submission to his lordship. To know him is to obey him. The sage is calling for a life of trust and obedience in which the disciple sees the Lord in every event and relies on him. To acknowledge the Lord in every event means trusting and obeying him for guidance in right conduct.

17 tn The term דֶרֶךְ (derekh, “way”) is figurative (hypocatastasis: implied comparison) referring to a person’s course of life, actions and undertakings (Prov 2:8; 3:6, 23; 11:5; 20:24; 29:27; 31:3; BDB 203 s.v. 5; cf. TEV “in everything you do”; NCV, NLT “in all you do”). This is a call for total commitment in trust for obedience in all things.

18 tn The verb יָשָׁר (yashar) means “to make smooth; to make straight” (BDB 444 s.v.). This phrase means “to make the way free from obstacles,” that is, to make it successful (e.g., Isa 40:3). The straight, even road is the right road; God will make the way smooth for the believer.

19 tn Heb “in your own eyes” (so NAB, NIV, NRSV); NLT “Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.”

20 sn The second colon clarifies the first. If one fears the Lord and turns away from evil, then he is depending on the Lord and not wise in his own eyes. There is a higher source of wisdom than human insight.

21 tn Heb “it will be.” The form is Qal jussive of הָיָה (hayah) and is one of the rare uses of the volitive to express purpose or result, even though there is no vav prefixed to it. This indicates that v. 8 is the outcome of v. 7. If a person trusts in the Lord and fears him (vv. 5-7), God will bless him (v. 8).

22 tc Heb “your navel” (cf. KJV, ASV). MT reads שָׁרֶּךָ (sharrekha, “your navel”) which functions as a synecdoche of part (= navel) for the whole (= body), meaning “your body” (BDB 1057 s.v. שׂר). The geminate noun שֹׂר (sor, “navel; navel-string [= umbilical cord]”) occurs only two other times in OT (Ezek 16:4; Song 7:3). The LXX reads τῷ σώματί σου (tw swmati sou, “your body”). So the BHS editors suggest emending MT to the more commonly used terms בְּשָׂרֶךָ (bÿsarekha, “your flesh”) or שְׁאֵרֶךָ (shÿerekha, “your body”). But this kind of emendation runs counter to the canons of textual criticism; normally the more difficult reading or rarer term is preferred as original rather than a smooth reading or common term. Since “navel” occurs only twice elsewhere, it is difficult to imagine that it would have been confused for these two more common terms and that a scribe would mistakenly write “your navel” instead. If MT “your navel” is a synecdoche for “your body,” the LXX is not pointing to a different textual tradition but is merely interpreting MT accordingly. In similar fashion, the English versions which read “your body” are not rejecting the MT reading; they are merely interpreting the term as a figure (synecdoche) for “your body.”

23 tn Heb “drink.” The noun שִׁקּוּי (shiqquy, “drink”) is a figure: metonymy of cause (= drink) for the effect (= refreshment); see BDB 1052 s.v. Just as a drink of water would bring physical refreshment to one’s body, trusting in God and turning away from evil will bring emotional refreshment to one’s soul.

24 tn Heb “your bones.” The term עַצְמוֹתֶיךָ (’atsmotekha, “your bones”) functions as a synecdoche of part (= bones) for the whole person (= physical and moral aspects); cf. Pss 6:3; 35:10; Prov 3:8; 14:30: 15:30; 16:24; Isa 66:14 and BDB 782 s.v. עֶצֶם 1.d. Scripture often uses the body to describe the inner person (A. R. Johnson, The Vitality of the Individual in the Thought of Ancient Israel, 67-8).

25 tn The imperative כַּבֵּד (kabbed, “honor”) functions as a command, instruction, counsel or exhortation. To honor God means to give him the rightful place of authority by rendering to him gifts of tribute. One way to acknowledge God in one’s ways (v. 6) is to honor him with one’s wealth (v. 9).

26 tn Heb “produce.” The noun תְּבוּאָה (tÿvuah) has a two-fold range of meaning: (1) “product; yield” of the earth (= crops; harvest) and (2) “income; revenue” in general (BDB 100 s.v.). The imagery in vv. 9-10 is agricultural; however, all Israelites – not just farmers – were expected to give the best portion (= first fruits) of their income to Lord.

27 tn Heb “with plenty” (so KJV, NASB, NRSV); NIV “to overflowing.” The noun שָׂבָע (sava’, “plenty; satiety”) functions as an adverbial accusative of manner or contents: “completely.”

28 sn This pictures the process of pressing grapes in which the upper receptacle is filled with grapes and the lower one catches the juice. The harvest of grapes will be so plentiful that the lower vat will overflow with grape juice. The pictures in v. 10 are metonymies of effect for cause (= the great harvest that God will provide when they honor him).

29 tn Heb “burst open.” The verb פָּרַץ (parats, “to burst open”) functions as hyperbole here to emphasize the fullness of the wine vats (BDB 829 s.v. 9).

30 tn Heb “the discipline of the Lord.”

31 tn The verb קוּץ (quts) has a two-fold range of meaning: (1) “to feel a loathing; to abhor” and (2) “to feel a sickening dread” (BDB 880 s.v.). The parallelism with “do not despise” suggests the former nuance here. The common response to suffering is to loathe it; however, the righteous understand that it refines one’s moral character and that it is a means to the blessing.

32 tn Heb “chastens.” The verb יָכַח (yakhakh) here means “to chasten; to punish” (HALOT 410 s.v. יכח 1) or “to correct; to rebuke” (BDB 407 s.v. 6). The context suggests some kind of corporeal discipline rather than mere verbal rebuke or cognitive correction. This verse is quoted in Heb 12:5-6 to show that suffering in the service of the Lord is a sign of membership in the covenant community (i.e., sonship).

33 tc MT reads וּכְאָב (ukhav, “and like a father”) but the LXX reflects the Hiphil verb וְיַכְאִב (vÿyakhiv, “and scourges every son he receives”). Both readings fit the parallelism; however, it is unnecessary to emend MT which makes perfectly good sense. The fact that the writer of Hebrews quotes this passage from the LXX and it became part of the inspired NT text does not mean that the LXX reflects the original Hebrew reading here.

34 tn The verb “disciplines” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is implied by the parallelism; it is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.



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