but it is swept away by injustice. 19
but he maintains the boundaries of the widow. 21
whoever rejoices over disaster will not go unpunished.
19:4 Wealth adds many friends,
how much more do his friends avoid him –
he too will cry out and will not be answered. 37
for he gives some of his food 40 to the poor.
22:16 The one who oppresses the poor to increase his own gain
and the one who gives to the rich 41 – both end up only in poverty.
and do not crush the needy in court, 43
and will rob those who are robbing 45 them.
24:11 Deliver those being taken away to death,
and hold back those slipping to the slaughter. 46
24:12 If you say, “But we did not know about this,”
does not the one who evaluates 47 hearts consider?
Does not the one who guards your life know?
Will he not repay each person according to his deeds? 48
for the legal rights of all the dying. 58
and plead the cause 60 of the poor and needy.
1 tn Heb “is.” This expression, “a rich man’s wealth is his strong city,” is a metaphor. The comparative particle “like” is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity and smoothness.
2 tn Heb “a city of his strength.” The genitive עֹז (’oz, “strength”) functions as an attributive genitive: “strong city” = “fortified city.” This phrase is a metaphor; wealth protects its possessions against adversity like a fortified city. Such wealth must be attained by diligence and righteous means (e.g., 13:8; 18:23; 22:7).
3 tn Heb “the ruin of the poor.” The term דַּלִּים (dalim, “of the poor”) functions as an objective genitive. Poverty leads to the ruin of the poor. The term “ruin” includes the shambles in which the person lives. This provides no security but only the fear of ruin. This proverb is an observation on life.
4 tn Heb “is their poverty.”
5 tn Heb “There is one who scatters.” The participle מְפַזֵּר (mÿfazzer, “one who scatters”) refers to charity rather than farming or investments (and is thus a hypocatastasis). Cf. CEV “become rich by being generous”).
6 tn Heb “increases.” The verb means that he grows even more wealthy. This is a paradox: Generosity determines prosperity in God’s economy.
7 tn Heb “more than what is right.” This one is not giving enough, but saving for himself.
8 tn Heb “comes to lack.” The person who withholds will come to the diminishing of his wealth. The verse uses hyperbole to teach that giving to charity does not make anyone poor, and neither does refusal to give ensure prosperity.
9 tn Heb “the soul of blessing.” The genitive functions attributively. “Blessing” refers to a gift (Gen 33:11) or a special favor (Josh 15:19). The term נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh, “soul”) functions as a synecdoche of part (= soul) for the whole (= person); see BDB 660 s.v. 4.
11 tn The verb מַרְוֶה (marveh, “to be saturated; to drink one’s fill”) draws a comparison between providing water for others with providing for those in need (e.g., Jer 31:25; Lam 3:15). The kind act will be reciprocated.
12 tn The phrase “for others” does not appear in the Hebrew but is implied by the causative Hiphil verb which normally takes a direct object; it is elided in the Hebrew for the sake of emphasis. It is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity and smoothness.
13 tn This verb also means “to pour water,” and so continues the theme of the preceding participle: The one who gives refreshment to others will be refreshed. BDB 924 s.v. רָוָה lists the form יוֹרֶא (yore’) as a Hophal imperfect of רָוָה (ravah, the only occurrence) and translates it “will himself also be watered” (cf. KJV, ASV, NASB). But the verb looks very much like a Hiphil of the root יָרָא (yara’, “to shoot; to pour”). So the editors of BHS suggest יוּאָר (yu’ar).
14 tn The direct object suffix on the verb picks up on the emphatic absolute phrase: “they will curse him – the one who withholds grain.”
15 sn The proverb refers to a merchant who holds back his grain from the free market to raise prices when there is a great need for the produce. It is assumed that merchants are supposed to have a social conscience.
16 tn Heb “but a blessing is for the head of the one who sells.” The parallelism with “curse” suggests that בְּרָכָה (berakhah) “blessing” means “praise.”
17 tn Heb “for the head of the one who sells.” The term “head” functions as a synecdoche of part (= head) for the whole (= person). The head is here emphasized because it is the “crowning” point of praise. The direct object (“it”) is not in the Hebrew text but is implied.
18 tn Heb “fallow ground” (so NASB). The word נִיר (nir) means “the tillable [or untilled; or fallow] ground.” BDB 644 s.v. says this line could be rendered: “abundant food [yields] the fallow ground of poor men” (i.e., with the
19 tc The MT reads “there is what is swept away because [there is] no justice” (וְיֵשׁ נִסְפֶּה בְּלֹא מִשְׁפָּט, vÿyesh nispeh bÿlo’ mishpat). The LXX reads “the great enjoy wealth many years, but some men perish little by little.” The Syriac reads “those who have no habitation waste wealth many years, and some waste it completely.” Tg. Prov 13:23 reads “the great man devours the land of the poor, and some men are taken away unjustly.” The Vulgate has “there is much food in the fresh land of the fathers, and for others it is collected without judgment.” C. H. Toy says that the text is corrupt (Proverbs [ICC], 277). Nevertheless, the MT makes sense: The ground could produce enough food for people if there were no injustice in the land. Poverty is unnecessary as long as there is justice and not injustice.
20 sn The “proud” have to be understood here in contrast to the widow, and their “house” has to be interpreted in contrast to the widow’s territory. The implication may be that the “proud” make their gain from the needy, and so God will set the balance right.
21 sn The
22 sn The parallelism helps define the subject matter: The one who “mocks the poor” (NAB, NASB, NIV) is probably one who “rejoices [NIV gloats] over disaster.” The poverty is hereby explained as a disaster that came to some. The topic of the parable is the person who mocks others by making fun of their misfortune.
23 sn The Hebrew word translated “insults” (חֵרֵף, kheref) means “reproach; taunt” (as with a cutting taunt); it describes words that show contempt for or insult God. The idea of reproaching the Creator may be mistaking and blaming God’s providential control of the world (C. H. Toy, Proverbs [ICC], 337). W. G. Plaut, however, suggests that mocking the poor means holding up their poverty as a personal failure and thus offending their dignity and their divine nature (Proverbs, 187).
24 tn The Niphal imperfect probably should be taken in the passive sense (the poor person is deserted by his “friend,” cf. NAB, NIV) rather than as a direct middle (the poor person deserted his friend).
25 sn This proverb simply makes an observation on life: People pursue wealthy folk hoping that they can gain something from the rich, but the poor are deserted even by friends, who fear that the poor will try to gain something from them.
26 tn Heb “brothers,” but not limited only to male siblings in this context.
27 tn Heb “hate him.” The verb שָׂנֵא (sane’) may be nuanced “reject” here (metonymy of effect, cf. CEV). The kind of “dislike” or “hatred” family members show to a poor relative is to have nothing to do with him (NIV “is shunned”). If relatives do this, how much more will the poor person’s friends do so.
28 tn The direct object “them” does not appear in the Hebrew but is supplied in the translation for the sake of smoothness.
29 tn Heb “not they.” The last line of the verse is problematic. The preceding two lines are loosely synonymous in their parallelism, but the third adds something like: “he pursues [them with] words, but they [do] not [respond].” Some simply say it is a corrupt remnant of a separate proverb and beyond restoration. The basic idea does make sense, though. The idea of his family and friends rejecting the poor person reveals how superficial they are, and how they make themselves scarce. Since they are far off, he has to look for them “with words” (adverbial accusative), that is, “send word” for help. But they “are nowhere to be found” (so NIV). The LXX reads “will not be delivered” in place of “not they” – clearly an attempt to make sense out of the cryptic phrase, and, in the process, showing evidence for that text.
30 sn The participle חוֹנֵן (khonen, “shows favor to”) is related to the word for “grace.” The activity here is the kind favor shown poor people for no particular reason and with no hope of repayment. It is literally an act of grace.
31 tn The form מַלְוֵה (malveh) is the Hiphil participle from לָוָה (lavah) in construct; it means “to cause to borrow; to lend.” The expression here is “lender of the
32 tn Heb “he.” The referent of the 3rd person masculine singular pronoun is “the
33 sn The promise of reward does not necessarily mean that the person who gives to the poor will get money back; the rewards in the book of Proverbs involve life and prosperity in general.
34 tn Heb “and his good deed will repay him.” The word גְּמֻלוֹ (gÿmulo) could be (1) the subject or (2) part of a double accusative of the verb. Understanding it as part of the double accusative makes better sense, for then the subject of the verb is God. How “his deed” could repay him is not immediately obvious.
35 sn The imagery means “pay no attention to” the cry for help or “refuse to help,” so it is a metonymy of cause for the effect.
36 sn “Cry” here would be a metonymy of effect for the cause, the cause being the great needs of the poor.
37 sn The proverb is teaching that those who show mercy will receive mercy. It involves the principle of talionic justice – those who refuse the needs of others will themselves be refused when they need help (so Luke 16:19-31).
38 tn Heb “good of eye.” This expression is an attributed genitive meaning “bountiful of eye” (cf. KJV, ASV “He that hath a bountiful eye”). This is the opposite of the “evil eye” which is covetous and wicked. The “eye” is a metonymy representing looking well to people’s needs. So this refers to the generous person (cf. NASB, NIV, NRSV, NLT).
39 tn The form יְבֹרָךְ (yÿvorakh) is a Pual imperfect (here in pause) from בָּרַךְ (barakh); the word means “blessed” in the sense of “enriched,” implying there is a practical reward for being generous to the poor.
40 sn It is from his own food that he gives to the poor. Of the many observations that could be made, it is worth noting that in blessing this kind of person God is in fact providing for the poor, because out of his blessing he will surely continue to share more.
41 tn Heb “oppressing the poor, it is gain; giving to the rich, it is loss.” The Hebrew is cryptic, but two sins are mentioned here that will be punished by poverty: extortion and bribery. Perhaps the proverb is simply saying it is easy to oppress the poor for gain, but it is a waste of money to try to buy or bribe a patron (D. Kidner, Proverbs [TOTC], 149).
42 tn Two negated jussives form the instruction here: אַל־תִּגְזָל (’al-tigzal, “do not exploit”) and וְאַל־תְּדַכֵּא (ve’al-tÿdakke’, “do not crush”).
sn Robbing or oppressing the poor is easy because they are defenseless. But this makes the crime tempting as well as contemptible. What is envisioned may be in bounds legally (just) but out of bounds morally.
43 tn Heb “in the gate” (so KJV); NAB, NASB, NRSV “at the gate.” The “gate” of the city was the center of activity, the place of business as well as the place for settling legal disputes. The language of the next verse suggests a legal setting, so “court” is an appropriate translation here.
44 tn The construction uses the verb יָרִיב (yariv) with its cognate accusative. It can mean “to strive,” but here it probably means “to argue a case, plead a case” (cf. KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV). How the
45 tn The verb קָבַע (qava’, “to rob; to spoil; to plunder”) is used here in both places to reflect the principle of talionic justice. What the oppressors did to the poor will be turned back on them by the
46 tn The idea of “slipping” (participle from מוֹט, mot) has troubled some commentators. G. R. Driver emends it to read “at the point of” (“Problems in Proverbs,” ZAW 50 : 146). But the MT as it stands makes good sense. The reference would be general, viz., to help any who are in mortal danger or who might be tottering on the edge of such disaster – whether through sin, or through disease, war, or danger. Several English versions (e.g., NASB, NIV, NRSV) render this term as “staggering.”
sn God holds people responsible for rescuing those who are in mortal danger. The use of “death” and “slaughter” seems rather strong in the passage, but they have been used before in the book for the destruction that comes through evil.
47 tn Heb “weighs” (so NASB, NIV, NRSV) meaning “tests” or “evaluates.”
48 sn The verse completes the saying by affirming that people will be judged responsible for helping those in mortal danger. The verse uses a series of rhetorical questions to affirm that God knows our hearts and we cannot plead ignorance.
49 tc The MT reads “a poor man,” גֶּבֶר רָשׁ (gever rash); cf. KJV, NASB, NLT. The problem is that the poor in the book of Proverbs is not an oppressor and does not have the power to be such. So commentators assume the word is incorrect. By a slight change to רָשָׁע (rasha’) the reading becomes “a wicked ruler” [Heb “a wicked mighty man”]. There is no textual support for this change. The LXX, however, reads, “A courageous man oppresses the poor with impieties.” If “a poor man” is retained, then the oppression would include betrayal – one would expect a poor man to have sympathy for others who are impoverished, but in fact that is not the case. It is a sad commentary on human nature that the truly oppressed people can also be oppressed by other poor people.
50 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.
51 sn “Food” is a metonymy of effect here. The picture is of the driving rain that should cause crops to grow so that food can be produced – but does not (some English versions assume the crops are destroyed instead, e.g., NCV, TEV, CEV, NLT). The point the proverb is making is that a show of strength may not produce anything except ruin.
52 sn The generous individual will be rewarded. He will not lack nor miss what he has given away to the poor.
53 tn Heb “hides his eyes”; “to them” is supplied in the translation to indicate the link with the poor in the preceding line. Hiding or closing the eyes is a metonymy of cause or of adjunct, indicating a decision not to look on and thereby help the poor. It could also be taken as an implied comparison, i.e., not helping the poor is like closing the eyes to them.
54 tn The term “receives” is not in the Hebrew text but is implied, and is supplied in the translation.
55 sn The text does not specify the nature or the source of the curses. It is natural to think that they would be given by the poor who are being mistreated and ignored. Far from being praised for their contributions to society, selfish, stingy people will be reviled for their heartless indifference.
56 sn The instruction to “open your mouth” is a metonymy of cause; it means “speak up for” (so NIV, TEV, NLT) or in this context “serve as an advocate in judgment” (cf. CEV “you must defend”).
57 sn The instruction compares people who cannot defend themselves in court with those who are physically unable to speak (this is a figure of speech known as hypocatastasis, an implied comparison). The former can physically speak; but because they are the poor, the uneducated, the oppressed, they are unable to conduct a legal defense. They may as well be speechless.
58 tn Or “of all the defenseless.” The noun חֲלוֹף (khalof) means “passing away; vanishing” (properly an infinitive); in this construction “the sons of the passing away” means people who by nature are transitory, people who are dying – mortals. But in this context it would indicate people who are “defenseless” as opposed to those who are healthy and powerful.
59 tn The noun צֶדֶק (tsedeq) serves here as an adverbial accusative of manner. The decisions reached (שְׁפָט, shÿfat) in this advocacy must conform to the standard of the law. So it is a little stronger than “judging fairly” (cf. NIV, NCV), although it will be fair if it is done righteously for all.
60 sn Previously the noun דִּין (din, judgment”) was used, signifying the legal rights or the pleas of the people. Now the imperative דִּין is used. It could be translated “judge,” but in this context “judge the poor” could be misunderstood to mean “condemn.” Here advocacy is in view, and so “plead the cause” is a better translation (cf. NASB, NIV, NRSV “defend the rights”). It was – and is – the responsibility of the king (ruler) to champion the rights of the poor and needy, who otherwise would be ignored and oppressed. They are the ones left destitute by the cruelties and inequalities of life (e.g., 2 Sam 14:4-11; 1 Kgs 3:16-28; Pss 45:3-5, 72:4; Isa 9:6-7).