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Proverbs 4:16-17

Context

4:16 For they cannot sleep unless they cause harm; 1 

they are robbed of sleep 2  until they make someone stumble. 3 

4:17 For they eat bread 4  gained from wickedness 5 

and drink wine obtained from violence. 6 

1 sn The verb is רָעַע (raa’), which means “to do evil; to harm.” The verse is using the figure of hyperbole to stress the preoccupation of some people with causing trouble. R. L. Alden says, “How sick to find peace only at the price of another man’s misfortune” (Proverbs, 47).

2 sn Heb “their sleep is robbed/seized”; these expressions are metonymical for their restlessness in plotting evil.

3 sn The Hiphil imperfect (Kethib) means “cause to stumble.” This idiom (from hypocatastasis) means “bring injury/ruin to someone” (BDB 505-6 s.v. כָּשַׁל Hiph.1).

4 tn The noun is a cognate accusative stressing that they consume wickedness.

5 tn Heb “the bread of wickedness” (so KJV, NAB, NIV, NRSV). There are two ways to take the genitives: (1) genitives of apposition: wickedness and violence are their food and drink (cf. TEV, CEV, NLT), or (2) genitives of source: they derive their livelihood from the evil they do (C. H. Toy, Proverbs [ICC], 93).

6 tn Heb “the wine of violence” (so KJV, NAB, NIV, NRSV). This is a genitive of source, meaning that the wine they drink was plundered from their violent crime. The Hebrew is structured in an AB:BA chiasm: “For they eat the bread of wickedness, and the wine of violence they drink.” The word order in the translation is reversed for the sake of smoothness and readability.



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