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Proverbs 4:1-4

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.

Proverbs 4:20-22

Context

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

listen attentively 11  to my sayings.

4:21 Do not let them depart 12  from your sight,

guard 13  them within your heart; 14 

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

and healing to one’s entire body. 15 

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 “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.

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

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

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

15 tn Heb “to all of his flesh.”



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