at the entrance of the doorways she cries out: 2
And you fools, understand discernment! 4
and your plans will be established. 17
even the wicked for the day of disaster. 20
than to have abundant income without justice. 35
all the weights 45 in the bag are his handiwork.
because a throne 47 is established in righteousness.
but a wise person appeases it. 55
to acquire understanding is more desirable 60 than silver.
and a haughty spirit before a fall. 67
than to share the spoils 69 with the proud.
but folly leads to the discipline of fools. 82
sweet to the soul and healing 89 to the bones.
but its end is the way that leads to death. 91
and a gossip separates the closest friends. 102
and leads him down a path that is terrible. 105
1 tn Heb “at the mouth of.”
2 tn The cry is a very loud ringing cry that could not be missed. The term רָנַן (ranan) means “to give a ringing cry.” It is often only a shrill sound that might come with a victory in battle, but its use in the psalms for praise shows that it also can have clear verbal content, as it does here. For wisdom to stand in the street and give such a ringing cry would mean that it could be heard by all. It was a proclamation.
3 tn The imperative of בִּין (bin) means “to understand; to discern.” The call is for the simple to understand what wisdom is, not just to gain it.
4 tn Heb “heart.” The noun לֵב (lev, “heart”) often functions metonymically for wisdom, understanding, discernment.
5 tn Heb “plans of the heart” (so ASV, NASB, NIV). The phrase מַעַרְכֵי־לֵב (ma’arkhe-lev) means “the arrangements of the mind.”
sn Humans may set things in order, plan out what they are going to say, but God sovereignly enables them to put their thoughts into words.
6 tn Heb “[are] to a man.”
7 tn Here “the tongue” is a metonymy of cause in which the instrument of speech is put for what is said: the answer expressed.
8 sn The contrasting prepositions enhance the contrasting ideas – the ideas belong to people, but the words come from the
9 sn There are two ways this statement can be taken: (1) what one intends to say and what one actually says are the same, or (2) what one actually says differs from what the person intended to say. The second view fits the contrast better. The proverb then is giving a glimpse of how God even confounds the wise. When someone is trying to speak [“answer” in the book seems to refer to a verbal answer] before others, the
10 tn Heb “ways of a man.”
11 sn The Hebrew term translated “right” (z~E) means “innocent” (NIV) or “pure” (NAB, NRSV, NLT). It is used in the Bible for pure oils or undiluted liquids; here it means unmixed actions. Therefore on the one hand people rather naively conclude that their actions are fine.
12 tn Heb “in his eyes.”
13 tn The figure (a hypocatastasis) of “weighing” signifies “evaluation” (e.g., Exod 5:8; 1 Sam 2:3; 16:7; Prov 21:2; 24:12). There may be an allusion to the Egyptian belief of weighing the heart after death to determine righteousness. But in Hebrew thought it is an ongoing evaluation as well, not merely an evaluation after death.
sn Humans deceive themselves rather easily and so appear righteous in their own eyes; but the proverb says that God evaluates motives and so he alone can determine if the person’s ways are innocent.
tn Heb “roll.” The verb גֹּל (“to commit”) is from the root גָּלַל (“to roll”). The figure of rolling (an implied comparison or hypocatastasis), as in rolling one’s burdens on the
16 tn The suffix on the plural noun would be a subjective genitive: “the works you are doing,” or here, “the works that you want to do.”
17 tn The syntax of the second clause shows that there is subordination: The vav on וְיִכֹּנוּ (vÿyikonu) coming after the imperative of the first clause expresses that this clause is the purpose or result. People should commit their works in order that the
19 tn Heb “for its answer.” The term לַמַּעֲנֵהוּ (lamma’anehu) has been taken to mean either “for his purpose” or “for its answer.” The Hebrew word is מַעֲנֶה (ma’aneh, “answer”) and not לְמַעַן (lÿma’an, “purpose”). So the suffix likely refers to “everything” (כֹּל, kol). God ensures that everyone’s actions and the consequences of those actions correspond – certainly the wicked for the day of calamity. In God’s order there is just retribution for every act.
20 sn This is an example of synthetic parallelism (“A, what’s more B”). The A-line affirms a truth, and the B-line expands on it with a specific application about the wicked – whatever disaster comes their way is an appropriate correspondent for their life.
21 tn Heb “an abomination of the
22 tn Heb “every proud of heart”; NIV “all the proud of heart.” “Heart” is the genitive of specification; the phrase is talking about people who have proud hearts, whose ideas are arrogant. These are people who set themselves presumptuously against God (e.g., 2 Chr 26:16; Ps 131:1; Prov 18:12).
24 tc The LXX has inserted two couplets here: “The beginning of a good way is to do justly, // and it is more acceptable with God than to do sacrifices; // he who seeks the
tn The B-line continues the A-line, but explains what it means that they are an abomination to the
25 sn These two words are often found together to form a nominal hendiadys: “faithful loyal love.” The couplet often characterize the
26 tn Heb “is atoned”; KJV “is purged”; NAB “is expiated.” The verb is from I כָּפַר (kafar, “to atone; to expiate; to pacify; to appease”; HALOT 493-94 s.v. I כפר). This root should not be confused with the identically spelled Homonym II כָּפַר (kafar, “to cover over”; HALOT 494 s.v. II *כפר). Atonement in the OT expiated sins, it did not merely cover them over (cf. NLT). C. H. Toy explains the meaning by saying it affirms that the divine anger against sin is turned away and man’s relation to God is as though he had not sinned (Proverbs [ICC], 322). Genuine repentance, demonstrated by loyalty and truthfulness, appeases the anger of God against one’s sin.
27 tn Heb “fear of the
28 tn Heb “turns away from”; NASB “keeps away from.”
29 sn The Hebrew word translated “evil” (רַע, ra’) can in some contexts mean “calamity” or “disaster,” but here it seems more likely to mean “evil” in the sense of sin. Faithfulness to the
30 tn Heb “ways of a man.”
31 tn The first line uses an infinitive in a temporal clause, followed by its subject in the genitive case: “in the taking pleasure of the
32 tn The referent of the verb in the second colon is unclear. The straightforward answer is that it refers to the person whose ways please the
33 tn Heb “even his enemies he makes to be at peace with him.”
34 sn The lines contrast the modest income with the abundant income; but the real contrast is between righteousness and the lack of justice (or injustice). “Justice” is used for both legal justice and ethical conduct. It is contrasted with righteousness in 12:5 and 21:7; it describes ethical behavior in 21:3. Here the point is that unethical behavior tarnishes the great gain and will be judged by God.
35 sn This is another “better” saying; between these two things, the first is better. There are other options – such as righteousness with wealth – but the proverb is not concerned with that. A similar saying appears in Amenemope 8:19-20 (ANET 422).
36 tn Heb “the heart of a man.” This stresses that it is within the heart that plans are made. Only those plans that are approved by God will succeed.
37 tn Heb “his way” (so KJV, NASB).
38 tn The verb כּוּן (kun, “to establish; to confirm”) with צַעַד (tsa’ad, “step”) means “to direct” (e.g., Ps 119:133; Jer 10:23). This contrasts what people plan and what actually happens – God determines the latter.
39 sn “Steps” is an implied comparison, along with “way,” to indicate the events of the plan as they work out.
40 tn Heb “oracle” (so NAB, NIV) or “decision”; TEV “the king speaks with divine authority.” The term קֶסֶם (qesem) is used in the sense of “oracle; decision; verdict” (HALOT 1115-16 s.v.). The pronouncements of a king form an oracular sentence, as if he speaks for God; they are divine decisions (e.g., Num 22:7; 23:23; 2 Sam 14:20).
41 tn Heb “on the lips.” The term “lips” is a metonymy of cause referring to what the king says – no doubt what he says officially.
42 tn Heb “his mouth.” The term “mouth” is a metonymy of cause for what the king says: his pronouncements and legal decisions.
43 sn The second line gives the effect of the first: If the king delivers such oracular sayings (קֶסֶם, qesem, translated “divine verdict”), then he must be careful in the decisions he makes. The imperfect tense then requires a modal nuance to stress the obligation of the king not to act treacherously against justice. It would also be possible to translate the verb as a jussive: Let the king not act treacherously against justice. For duties of the king, e.g., Psalm 72 and Isaiah 11. For a comparison with Ezekiel 21:23-26, see E. W. Davies, “The Meaning of qesem in Prov 16:10,” Bib 61 (1980): 554-56.
44 tn Heb “a scale and balances of justice.” This is an attributive genitive, meaning “just scales and balances.” The law required that scales and measures be accurate and fair (Lev 19:36; Deut 25:13). Shrewd dishonest people kept light and heavy weights to make unfair transactions.
45 tn Heb “stones.”
46 sn The “wickedness” mentioned here (רֶשַׁע, resha’) might better be understood as a criminal act, for the related word “wicked” can also mean the guilty criminal. If a king is trying to have a righteous administration, he will detest any criminal acts.
47 tn The “throne” represents the administration, or the decisions made from the throne by the king, and so the word is a metonymy of adjunct (cf. NLT “his rule”).
48 tn The MT has the plural, even though the verb “loves” is masculine singular. The ancient versions and two Hebrew
49 tn Heb “lips of righteousness”; cf. NAB, NIV “honest lips.” The genitive “righteousness” functions as an attributive adjective. The term “lips” is a metonymy of cause for what is said: “righteous speech” or “righteous counsel.”
50 tn The MT has the singular participle followed by the plural adjective (which is here a substantive). The editors of BHS wish to follow the ancient versions in making the participle plural, “those who speak uprightly.”
51 sn The verse is talking about righteous kings, of course – they love righteousness and not flattery. In this proverb “righteous” and “upright” referring to what is said means “what is right and straight,” i.e., the truth (cf. NCV).
52 sn This proverb introduces the danger of becoming a victim of the king’s wrath (cf. CEV “if the king becomes angry, someone may die”). A wise person knows how to pacify the unexpected and irrational behavior of a king. The proverb makes the statement, and then gives the response to the subject.
53 tn The comparative “like” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is implied by the metaphor; it is supplied for the sake of clarity.
54 tn The expression uses an implied comparison, comparing “wrath” to a messenger because it will send a message. The qualification is “death,” an objective genitive, meaning the messenger will bring death, or the message will be about death. E.g., 1 Kgs 2:25, 29-34 and 46. Some have suggested a comparison with the two messengers of Baal to the god Mot (“Death”) in the Ugaritic tablets (H. L. Ginsberg, “Baal’s Two Messengers,” BASOR 95 : 25-30). If there is an allusion, it is a very slight one. The verse simply says that the king’s wrath threatens death.
55 tn The verb is כָּפַּר (kapar), which means “to pacify; to appease” and “to atone; to expiate” in Levitical passages. It would take a wise person to know how to calm or pacify the wrath of a king – especially in the ancient Near East.
56 tn Heb “the light of the face of the king.” This expression is a way of describing the king’s brightened face, his delight in what is taking place. This would mean life for those around him.
sn The proverb is the antithesis of 16:14.
57 tn Heb “cloud.”
58 tn Heb “latter rain” (so KJV, ASV). The favor that this expression represents is now compared to the cloud of rain that comes with the “latter” rain or harvest rain. The point is that the rain cloud was necessary for the successful harvest; likewise the king’s pleasure will ensure the success and the productivity of the people under him. E.g., also Psalm 72:15-17; the prosperity of the land is portrayed as a blessing on account of the ideal king.
59 tn The form קְנֹה (qÿnoh) is an infinitive; the Greek version apparently took it as a participle, and the Latin as an imperative – both working with an unpointed קנה, the letter ה (he) being unexpected in the form if it is an infinitive construct (the parallel clause has קְנוֹת [qÿnot] for the infinitive, but the ancient versions also translate that as either a participle or an imperative).
60 tn The form is a Niphal participle, masculine singular. If it is modifying “understanding” it should be a feminine form. If it is to be translated, it would have to be rendered “and to acquire understanding is to be chosen more than silver” (cf. KJV, ASV, NASB). Many commentaries consider it superfluous. NIV and NCV simply have “to choose understanding rather than silver!”
61 sn The point of righteous living is made with the image of a highway, a raised and well-graded road (a hypocatastasis, implying a comparison between a highway and the right way of living).
62 tn The form סוּר (sur) is a Qal infinitive; it indicates that a purpose of the righteous life is to turn away from evil. “Evil” here has the sense of sinful living. So the first line asserts that the well-cared-for life avoids sin.
63 sn The second half of the verse uses two different words for “guard”; this one is נֹצֵר (notser) “the one who guards his way,” and the first is שֹׁמֵר (shomer) “the one who guards his life” (the order of the words is reversed in the translation). The second colon then explains further the first (synthetic parallelism), because to guard one’s way preserves life.
64 tc The LXX adds three lines after 17a and one after 17b: “The paths of life turn aside from evils, and the ways of righteousness are length of life; he who receives instruction will be prosperous, and he who regards reproofs will be made wise; he who guards his ways preserves his soul, and he who loves his life will spare his mouth.”
65 sn The two lines of this proverb are synonymous parallelism, and so there are parasynonyms. “Pride” is paired with “haughty spirit” (“spirit” being a genitive of specification); and “destruction” is matched with “a tottering, falling.”
66 tn Heb “[is] before destruction.”
67 sn Many proverbs have been written in a similar way to warn against the inevitable disintegration and downfall of pride. W. McKane records an Arabic proverb: “The nose is in the heavens, the seat is in the mire” (Proverbs [OTL], 490).
68 tn Heb “low of spirit”; KJV “of an humble spirit.” This expression describes the person who is humble and submissive before the
69 tn Heb “than to divide plunder.” The word “plunder” implies that the wealth taken by the proud was taken violently and wrongfully – spoils are usually taken in warfare. R. N. Whybray translates it with “loot” (Proverbs [CBC], 95). The proud are in rebellion against God, overbearing and oppressive. One should never share the “loot” with them.
70 tn Heb “he who is prudent” or “he who deals wisely” (cf. KJV). The proverb seems to be referring to wise business concerns and the reward for the righteous. One who deals wisely in a matter will find good results. R. N. Whybray sees a contrast here: “The shrewd man of business will succeed well, but the happy man is he who trusts the
71 tn Or “he who gives heed to a word,” that is, “who listens to instruction” (cf. NIV, NLT).
72 tn Heb “good” (so KJV, ASV).
73 tn Although traditionally this word is translated “happy” (cf. KJV, ASV, NAB, NRSV, NLT), such a translation can be misleading because the word means far more than that. It describes the heavenly bliss that comes from knowing one is right with God and following God’s precepts. The “blessed” could be at odds with the world (Ps 1:1-3).
74 tn Heb “and the one who trusts in the
75 tn Heb “wise of heart” (so NRSV).
76 tn Heb “to the wise of heart it will be called discerning.” This means that the wise of heart, those who make wise decisions (“heart” being the metonymy), will gain a reputation of being the discerning ones.
77 tn Heb “sweetness of lips.” The term “lips” is a metonymy of cause, meaning what is said. It is a genitive of specification. The idea of “sweetness” must be gracious and friendly words. The teaching will be well-received because it is both delightful and persuasive (cf. NIV “pleasant words promote instruction”).
78 tn Heb “teaching” or “receptivity”; KJV “learning”; NIV “instruction.”
79 tn The Hebrew noun שֵׂכֵל (sekhel, “prudence; insight”; cf. KJV, NASB, NIV “understanding”; NAB, CEV “good sense”) is related to the verb that means “to have insight; to give attention to; to act circumspectly [or, prudently],” as well as “to prosper; to have success.” These words all describe the kind of wise action that will be successful.
80 tn The comparative “like” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is implied by the metaphor; it is supplied for the sake of clarity.
81 tn Heb “fountain of life.” The point of the metaphor is that like a fountain this wisdom will be a constant provision for living in this world.
82 tn Heb “the discipline of fools [is] folly.” The “discipline” (מוּסָר, musar) in this proverb is essentially a requital for sin (hence “punishment,” so NIV, NCV, NRSV); discipline which is intended to correct is normally rejected and despised by fools. So the line is saying that there is very little that can be done for or with the fool (cf. NLT “discipline is wasted on fools”).
83 tn Or “mind” (cf. NCV, NRSV, NLT).
84 tn Heb “makes wise his mouth,” with “mouth” being a metonymy of cause for what is said: “speech.”
85 sn Those who are wise say wise things. The proverb uses synthetic parallelism: The first line asserts that the wise heart ensures that what is said is wise, and the second line adds that such a person increases the reception of what is said.
86 tn Heb “to his lips.” The term “lips” functions as a metonymy of cause for what is said.
87 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.
88 sn The metaphor of honey or the honeycomb is used elsewhere in scripture, notably Ps 19:10 . Honey was used in Israel as a symbol of the delightful and healthy products of the land – “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Deut 6:3).
89 sn Two predicates are added to qualify the metaphor: The pleasant words are “sweet” and “healing.” “Soul” includes in it the appetites, physical and spiritual; and so sweet to the “soul” would summarize all the ways pleasant words give pleasure. “Bones” is a metonymy of subject, the boney framework representing the whole person, body and soul. Pleasant words, like honey, will enliven and encourage the whole person. One might recall, in line with the imagery here, how Jonathan’s eyes brightened when he ate from the honeycomb (1 Sam 14:27).
90 tn Heb “There is a way that is right before a man [to the face of a man].”
92 sn The word for “laborer” and “labors” emphasizes the drudgery and the agony of work (עָמַל, ’amal). For such boring drudgery motivations are necessary for its continuance, and hunger is the most effective. The line is saying that the appetites are working as hard as the laborer.
93 tn Heb “soul.” The term נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) here means “appetite,” functioning as a metonymy; the “inner soul” of a person representing his appetite (BDB 660 s.v. 5a; see, e.g., Pss 63:6; 107:9; Prov 13:25; 16:24; 27:7; Isa 56:11; 58:10; Jer 50:19; Ezek 7:19). This is suggested by the parallelism with “hunger.”
94 tn Heb “labors for him” (so NAB).
95 tn Heb “his mouth” (so KJV, NAB). The term “mouth” is a metonymy for hunger or eating. The idea of the proverb is clear – the need to eat drives people to work.
96 tc The LXX has apparently misread פִּיהוּ (pihu) and inserted the idea of “ruin” for the laborer: “he drives away ruin.” This influenced the Syriac to some degree; however, its first clause understood “suffering” instead of “labor”: “the person who causes suffering suffers.”
97 tn Heb “a man of belial.” This phrase means “wicked scoundrel.” Some translate “worthless” (so ASV, NASB, CEV), but the phrase includes deep depravity and wickedness (C. H. Toy, Proverbs [ICC], 125-26).
99 tn Heb “on his lips” (so NAB) The term “lips” is a metonymy of cause. To say that “evil” is on his lips means that he talks about the evil he has dug up.
100 sn The simile stresses the devastating way that slander hurts people. W. McKane says that this one “digs for scandal and…propagates it with words which are ablaze with misanthropy” (Proverbs [OTL], 494).
101 tn Heb “a man of perverse things”; NAB “an intriguer.” This refers to someone who destroys lives. The parallelism suggests that he is a “slanderer” or “gossip” – one who whispers and murmurs (18:8; 26:20, 22).
102 tn The term אַלּוּף (’aluf) refers to a “friend” or “an intimate associate.” The word has other possible translations, including “tame” or “docile” when used of animals. Rashi, a Jewish scholar who lived
103 tn Heb “man of violence.” He influences his friends toward violence. The term חָמָס (khamas, “violence”) often refers to sins against society, social injustices, and crimes.
104 tn The verb in the first colon is the Piel imperfect, and the form in the second is the Hiphil perfect; the first is a habitual imperfect, and the second a gnomic perfect. The first verb, “to persuade, seduce, entice,” is the metonymy of cause; the second verb, “to lead,” is the metonymy of effect, the two together forming the whole process.
105 tn Heb “not good” (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV); NLT “a harmful path.” The expression “a way that is not good” is an example of tapeinosis – a deliberate understatement for the sake of emphasis: It is terrible. This refers to crime and violence. The understatement is used to warn people away from villains and to remind them to follow a good path.
106 sn The participle עֹצֶה (’otseh) describes one as shutting his eyes (cf. KJV, ASV). This could mean simply “closing the eyes,” or it could refer to “winking” (so many English versions). The proverb is saying that facial expressions often reveal if someone is plotting evil (e.g., 6:13-14).
107 tn The conjunction “and” does not appear in the Hebrew but is implied by the synonymous parallelism.
108 tn The participle קֹרֵץ (qorets) indicates that the person involved is pinching, compressing, or biting his lips (cf. NIV “purses his lips”).
109 tn The verb is a Piel perfect; it means “complete, finish, bring to an end.” The two cola may form the whole process: The first line has “to devise” evil, and the second has “he completes” evil. BDB, however, classifies this use of the Piel as “to accomplish in thought” meaning “to determine” something (BDB 478 s.v. כָּלָה 1f). In that case the two lines would have synonymous ideas, i.e., using facial expressions to plan evil actions.
110 tn The comparative “like” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is implied by the metaphor; it is supplied for the sake of clarity.
111 sn The proverb presents the ideal, for it is not concerned with old people who may be evil. The KJV tried to qualify the interpretation by making the second half of the verse a conditional clause (“if it be found in the way of righteousness”). This is acceptable but unnecessary. The book of Proverbs is simply laying out the equity of longevity for righteousness and premature death for wicked people. In this line “gray hair” is a metonymy of adjunct/effect, representing old age; and the “glorious crown” (taking the genitive as attributive) provides a fitting metaphor to compare the hair on the head with a crown.
112 tn Heb “it is found” (so NASB) or “it will be found.”
113 sn While the proverb presents a general observation, there is a commendable lesson about old people who can look back on a long walk with God through life and can anticipate unbroken fellowship with him in glory.
114 tn One who is “slow to anger” is a patient person (cf. NAB, NIV, NLT). This is explained further in the parallel line by the description of “one who rules his spirit” (וּמֹשֵׁל בְּרוּחוֹ, umoshel bÿrukho), meaning “controls his temper.” This means the person has the emotions under control and will not “fly off the handle” quickly.
115 tn Heb “who rules his spirit” (so NASB).
116 tn The phrase “is better than” does not appear in this line in the Hebrew text, but is implied by the parallelism.
117 sn The saying would have had greater impact when military prowess was held in high regard. It is harder, and therefore better, to control one’s passions than to do some great exploit on the battlefield.
118 tn Heb “the lot is cast.” Because the ancient practice of “casting lots” is unfamiliar to many modern readers, the imagery has been updated to “throwing dice.”
sn The proverb concerns the practice of seeking divine leading through casting lots. For a similar lesson, see Amenemope (18, 19:16-17, in ANET 423).
119 tn Heb “all its decision.”
120 sn The point concerns seeking God’s will through the practice. The