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Proverbs 4:1-14

Context
Admonition to Follow Righteousness and Avoid Wickedness 1 

4:1 Listen, children, 2  to a father’s instruction, 3 

and pay attention so that 4  you may gain 5  discernment.

4:2 Because I give 6  you good instruction, 7 

do not forsake my teaching.

4:3 When I was a son to my father, 8 

a tender only child 9  before my mother,

4:4 he taught me, and he said to me:

“Let your heart lay hold of my words;

keep my commands so that 10  you will live.

4:5 Acquire wisdom, acquire understanding;

do not forget and do not turn aside from the words I speak. 11 

4:6 Do not forsake wisdom, 12  and she will protect you;

love her, and she will guard you.

4:7 Wisdom is supreme 13  – so 14  acquire wisdom,

and whatever you acquire, 15  acquire understanding! 16 

4:8 Esteem her highly 17  and she will exalt you;

she will honor you if you embrace her.

4:9 She will place a fair 18  garland on your head;

she will bestow 19  a beautiful crown 20  on you.”

4:10 Listen, my child, 21  and accept my words,

so that 22  the years of your life will be many. 23 

4:11 I will guide you 24  in the way of wisdom

and I will lead you in upright paths. 25 

4:12 When you walk, your steps 26  will not be hampered, 27 

and when you run, 28  you will not stumble.

4:13 Hold on to instruction, 29  do not let it go;

protect it, 30  because it is your life.

4:14 Do not enter the path of the wicked

or walk 31  in the way of those who are evil.

Proverbs 4:20-22

Context

4:20 My child, pay attention to my words;

listen attentively 32  to my sayings.

4:21 Do not let them depart 33  from your sight,

guard 34  them within your heart; 35 

4:22 for they are life to those who find them

and healing to one’s entire body. 36 

1 sn The chapter includes an exhortation to acquire wisdom (1-4a), a list of the benefits of wisdom (4b-9), a call to pursue a righteous lifestyle (10-13), a warning against a wicked lifestyle (14-19), and an exhortation to righteousness (20-27).

2 tn Heb “sons.”

3 tn Heb “discipline.”

4 tn The Qal infinitive construct with preposition ל (lamed) indicates the purpose/result of the preceding imperative.

5 tn Heb “know” (so KJV, ASV).

6 tn The perfect tense has the nuance of instantaneous perfect; the sage is now calling the disciples to listen. It could also be a perfect of resolve, indicating what he is determined to do.

7 tn The word לֶקַח (leqakh, “instruction”) can be subjective (instruction acquired) or objective (the thing being taught). The latter fits best here.

8 tn Or “a boy with my father.”

9 tc The LXX introduces the ideas of “obedient” and “beloved” for these two terms. This seems to be a free rendering, if not a translation of a different Hebrew textual tradition. The MT makes good sense and requires no emendation.

tn Heb “tender and only one.” The phrase רַךְ וְיָחִיד (rakh vÿyakhid, “tender and only one”) is a hendiadys meaning “tender only child.” The adjective רַךְ (rakh) means “tender; delicate” (BDB 940 s.v. רַךְ), and describes a lad who is young and undeveloped in character (e.g., 2 Sam 3:39). The adjective יָחִיד (yakhid) means “only one” (BDB 402 s.v. יָחִיד) and refers to a beloved and prized only child (e.g., Gen 22:2).

10 tn The imperative with the vav expresses volitional sequence after the preceding imperative: “keep and then you will live,” meaning “keep so that you may live.”

11 tn Heb “from the words of my mouth” (so KJV, NASB, NRSV); TEV, CEV “what I say.”

sn The verse uses repetition for the imperative “acquire” to underscore the importance of getting wisdom; it then uses two verb forms for the one prepositional phrase to stress the warning.

12 tn Heb “her”; the 3rd person feminine singular referent is personified “wisdom,” which has been specified in the translation for clarity.

13 tn The absolute and construct state of רֵאשִׁית (reshit) are identical (BDB 912 s.v.). Some treat רֵאשִׁית חָכְמָה (reshit khokhmah) as a genitive-construct phrase: “the beginning of wisdom” (cf. NAB, NASB, NRSV). Others take רֵאשִׁית as an absolute functioning as predicate and חָכְמָה as the subject: “wisdom is the first/chief thing” (cf. KJV, ASV). The context here suggests the predicate.

14 tn The term “so” does not appear in the Hebrew but is supplied in the translation for the sake of smoothness and style.

15 tn The noun קִנְיָן (qinyan) means “thing got or acquired; acquisition” (BDB 889 s.v.). With the preposition that denotes price, it means “with (or at the price of) all that you have acquired.” The point is that no price is too high for wisdom – give everything for it (K&D 16:108).

16 tc The verse is not in the LXX; some textual critics delete the verse as an impossible gloss that interrupts vv. 6 and 8 (e.g., C. H. Toy, Proverbs [ICC], 88).

17 tn The verb is the Pilpel imperative from סָלַל (salal, “to lift up; to cast up”). So the imperative means “exalt her; esteem her highly; prize her.”

18 sn The personification of wisdom continues with the bestowal of a wreath for the head (e.g., 1:9). The point is that grace will be given to the individual like a wreath about the head.

19 tn The verb מָגַן (magan) is a Piel (denominative) verb from the noun “shield.” Here it means “to bestow” (BDB 171 s.v.).

20 sn This verse uses wedding imagery: The wife (wisdom) who is embraced by her husband (the disciple) will place the wedding crown on the head of her new bridegroom. Wisdom, like a virtuous wife, will crown the individual with honor and grace.

21 tn Heb “my son” (likewise in v. 20).

22 tn The vav prefixed to the imperfect verb follows an imperative; this volitive sequence depicts purpose/result.

23 tn Heb “and the years of life will be many for you.”

24 tn The form הֹרֵתִיךָ (horetikha) is the Hiphil perfect with a suffix from the root יָרָה (yarah, “to guide”). This and the parallel verb should be taken as instantaneous perfects, translated as an English present tense: The sage is now instructing or pointing the way.

sn The verb יָרָה (yarah) means “to teach; to instruct; to guide.” This is from the same root as the Hebrew word for “law” (torah). See G. R. Driver, “Hebrew Notes,” VT 1 (1951): 241-50; and J. L. Crenshaw, “The Acquisition of Knowledge in Israelite Wisdom Literature,” WW 7 (1986): 9.

25 tn Heb “in the tracks of uprightness”; cf. NAB “on straightforward paths.” Both the verb and the object of the preposition make use of the idiom – the verb is the Hiphil perfect from דֶּרֶךְ (derekh, related to “road; way”) and the object is “wagon tracks, paths.”

26 sn The noun צַעֲדֶךָ (tsaadekha, “your steps”) and the temporal infinitive בְּלֶכְתְּךָ (belekhtÿkha, “when you walk”) use the idiom of walking to represent the course of life. On that course there will be no obstacles; the “path” will be straight – morally and practically.

27 sn The verb צָרַר (tsarar, “to be narrow; to be constricted”) refers to that which is narrow or constricted, signifying distress, trouble, adversity; that which was wide-open or broad represents freedom and deliverance.

28 sn The progression from walking to running is an idiom called “anabasis,” suggesting that as greater and swifter progress is made, there will be nothing to impede the progress (e.g., Isa 40:31).

29 tn Heb “discipline.”

30 tn The form נִצְּרֶהָ (nitsÿreha, from נָצַר, natsar) has an anomalous doubled letter (see GKC 73 §20.h).

31 tn The verb אָשַׁר (’ashar, “to walk”) is not to be confused with the identically spelled homonym אָשַׁר “to pronounce happy” as in BDB 80 s.v. אָשַׁר.

32 tn Heb “incline your ear.” The verb הַט (hat) is the Hiphil imperative from נָטָה (natah, Hiphil: “to turn to; to incline”). The idiom “to incline the ear” gives the picture of “lean over and listen closely.”

sn Commentators note the use of the body in this section: ear (v. 20), eyes (v. 21), flesh (v. 22), heart (v. 23), lips (v. 24), eyes (v. 25), feet (v. 26), and hands and feet (v. 27). Each is a synecdoche of part representing the whole; the total accumulation signifies the complete person in the process.

33 tn The Hiphil form יַלִּיזוּ (yallizu) follows the Aramaic with gemination. The verb means “to turn aside; to depart” (intransitive Hiphil or inner causative).

34 tn Or “keep” (so KJV, NIV, NRSV and many others).

35 sn The words “eyes” and “heart” are metonymies of subject representing the faculties of each. Cf. CEV “think about it all.”

36 tn Heb “to all of his flesh.”



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