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Proverbs 3:13-20

Context
Blessings of Obtaining Wisdom

3:13 Blessed 1  is the one 2  who finds 3  wisdom,

and the one who obtains 4  understanding.

3:14 For her 5  benefit 6  is more profitable 7  than silver,

and her 8  gain 9  is better 10  than gold.

3:15 She is more precious than rubies,

and none of the things 11  you desire 12  can compare 13  with her. 14 

3:16 Long life 15  is in her right hand;

in her left hand are riches and honor.

3:17 Her ways are very pleasant, 16 

and all her paths are peaceful.

3:18 She is like 17  a tree of life 18  to those who obtain her, 19 

and everyone who grasps hold of her will be blessed. 20 

3:19 By wisdom the Lord laid the foundation of the earth; 21 

he established the heavens by understanding. 22 

3:20 By his knowledge the primordial sea 23  was broken open, 24 

and the clouds drip down dew. 25 

1 tn Although the word אַשְׁרֵי (’ashre, “blessed”) is frequently translated “happy” here (so KJV, ASV, NAB, NCV, NRSV, TEV, NLT), such a translation can be somewhat misleading because the word means more than that – “happiness” depends on one’s circumstances. This word reflects that inner joy and heavenly bliss which comes to the person who is pleasing to God, whose way is right before God.

2 tn Heb “the man” (also again in the following line).

3 tn The perfect tense verb may be classified as a characteristic or gnomic perfect, as the parallel imperfect tense verb suggests (see note on v. 13b).

4 tn The imperfect tense verb may be classified as a progressive or habitual imperfect.

5 tn Heb “her profit.” The 3rd person feminine singular suffix on the noun is probably a genitive of source: “from her.”

6 tn Heb “profit.” The noun סַחַר (sakhar, “trading profit”) often refers to the financial profit of traveling merchants (Isa 23:3, 18; 45:14; HALOT 750 s.v.). The related participle describes a traveling “trader, dealer, wholesaler, merchant” (e.g., Gen 37:28; Prov 31:14; Isa 23:2; Ezek 27:36; HALOT 750 s.v. סחר qal.2). Here the noun is used figuratively to describe the moral benefit of wisdom.

7 tn The noun סַחַר (“profit”) is repeated in this line for emphasis. The two usages draw upon slightly different nuances, creating a polysemantic wordplay. The moral “benefit” of wisdom is more “profitable” than silver.

8 tn Heb “her yield.” The 3rd person feminine singular suffix on the noun is probably a genitive of source: “from her.”

9 tn Heb “yield.” The noun תְּבוּאָה (tÿvuah, “product; yield”) is normally used of crops and harvests (BDB 100 s.v. 1). Here it is figurative for the moral benefit of wisdom (BDB 100 s.v. 2.b).

10 tn The phrase “is better” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is implied by the parallelism; it is supplied in the translation for the sake of smoothness.

11 tn Heb “all of your desires cannot compare with her.”

12 tn Heb “your desires.” The 2nd person masculine singular suffix on the noun probably functions as subjective genitive.

13 tn The imperfect tense verb יָסַד (yasad, “to establish be like; to resemble”) has a potential nuance here: “can be compared with.”

14 tn Heb “All of your desires do not compare with her.”

15 tn Heb “length of days” (so KJV, ASV).

16 tn Heb “her ways are ways of pleasantness” (so KJV, NRSV). The present translation contracts this expression for the sake of smoothness. The plural of דֶרֶךְ (derekh, “way”) is repeated for emphasis. The noun נֹעַם (noam, “pleasantness”) functions as an attributive genitive: “pleasant ways.”

17 tn The comparative “like” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is implied by the metaphor; it is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.

18 sn The metaphor compares wisdom to the symbol of vitality and fullness of life. This might be an allusion to Gen 3:22, suggesting that what was lost as a result of the Fall may be recovered through wisdom: long and beneficial life (R. Marcus, “The Tree of Life in Proverbs,” JBL 62 [1943]: 117-20).

19 tn Heb “lay hold of her.”

20 tn The singular participle מְאֻשָּׁר (mÿushar, literally, “he will be blessed”) functions as a distributive singular for a plural subject (GKC 464 §145.l): “each and everyone will be blessed.” Not recognizing this point of syntax, the BHS editors unnecessarily suggest emending this singular form to the plural.

21 tn Heb “founded the earth.” The verb יָסַד (yasad, “to establish; to found”) describes laying the foundation of a building (1 Kgs 5:31 [HT]; 7:10; 2 Chr 3:3; Ezra 3:10-12; Zech 4:9) and God laying the foundation of the earth (Job 38:4; Pss 24:2; 89:12; 102:26; 104:5; Isa 48:13; 51:13, 16; Zech 12:1).

22 sn The theme of God’s use of wisdom in creation is developed in Prov 8:22-31. Because God established the world to operate according to the principle of wisdom it is impossible for anyone to live successfully in his world apart from the wisdom that only God can give.

23 sn The word תְּהוֹמוֹת (tÿhomot, “primordial sea”) alludes to the chaotic “deep” in Gen 1:2 (BDB 1063 s.v. תְּהוֹם 3). This was viewed in the ancient world as a force to be reckoned with. However, God not only formed it but controls it (see J. Emerton, “Spring and Torrent in Ps 74:15,” VT 15 [1965]: 125).

24 sn This might refer to God’s action of dividing the waters to form the dry ground on the third day (Gen 1:9-10) or, less likely, to the breaking up of the fountains of the deep at the flood (Gen 7:11).

25 sn The two colons form a merism: The wisdom of God is behind all forces of nature, whether the violent breaking forth of its watery forces at creation or the provision of the gentle rain and dew throughout history (T. T. Perowne, Proverbs, 55).



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