but by knowledge 4 the righteous will be delivered.
but the words 7 of the upright will deliver them.
and a gossip separates the closest friends. 13
whoever rejoices over disaster will not go unpunished.
but whoever repeats a matter separates close friends. 18
they go down into the person’s innermost being. 25
strife and insults will cease. 33
do not reveal the secret of another person, 35
25:10 lest the one who hears it put you to shame
and your infamy 36 will never go away.
26:20 Where there is no wood, a fire goes out,
26:21 Like charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire,
26:22 The words of a gossip are like delicious morsels;
they go down into a person’s innermost being. 45
1 tn Heb “with his mouth.” The term פֶּה (peh, “mouth”) functions as a metonymy of cause for speech.
2 sn The Hebrew word originally meant “impious, godless, polluted, profane.” It later developed the idea of a “hypocrite” (Dan 11:32), one who conceals his evil under the appearance of godliness or kindness. This one is a false flatterer.
3 sn The verb שָׁחַת (shakhat) means “to destroy; to ruin” (e.g., the destruction of Sodom in Gen 13:10). The imperfect tense is probably not an habitual imperfect (because the second colon shows exceptions), but probably a progressive imperfect (“this goes on”) or potential imperfect (“they can do this”).
4 sn The antithetical proverb states that a righteous person can escape devastating slander through knowledge. The righteous will have sufficient knowledge and perception to see through the hypocrisy and avoid its effect.
5 tn The infinitive construct אֱרָב (’erav, “to lie in wait”) expresses the purpose of their conversations. The idea of “lying in wait for blood” is an implied comparison (hypocatastasis): Their words are like an ambush intended to destroy (cf. NAB, NRSV “are a deadly ambush”). The words of the wicked are here personified.
6 tn Heb “for blood.” The term “blood” is a metonymy of effect, the cause being the person that they will attack and whose blood they will shed. After the construct “blood” is also an objective genitive.
7 tn Heb “mouth.” The term פֶּה (peh, “mouth”) is a metonymy of cause, signifying what the righteous say. The righteous can make a skillful defense against false accusations that are intended to destroy. The righteous, who have gained wisdom, can escape the traps set by the words of the wicked.
8 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).
10 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.
11 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).
12 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).
13 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
14 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.
15 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).
16 tn Heb “covers” (so NASB); NIV “covers over.” How people respond to the faults of others reveals whether or not they have love. The contrast is between one who “covers” (forgives, cf. NCV, NRSV) the fault of a friend and one who repeats news about it. The former promotes love because he cares about the person; the latter divides friends.
17 sn The participle מְבַקֵּשׁ (mÿvaqesh) means “seeks” in the sense of seeking to secure or procure or promote love. There can be no friendship without such understanding and discretion.
18 sn W. G. Plaut notes that harping on the past has destroyed many friendships and marriages (Proverbs, 188). W. McKane observes that this line refers to the person who breaks up friendships by his scandalous gossip, even if it is done with a kind of zeal for the welfare of the community, for it will destroy love and trust (Proverbs [OTL], 508-9).
19 sn The “lips” is a metonymy of cause, meaning what the fool says. The “mouth” in the second colon is likewise a metonymy for speech, what comes out of the mouth.
20 sn “Strife” is a metonymy of cause, it is the cause of the beating or flogging that follows; “flogging” in the second colon is a metonymy of effect, the flogging is the effect of the strife. The two together give the whole picture.
21 tn Heb “calls for.” This is personification: What the fool says “calls for” a beating or flogging. The fool deserves punishment, but does not actually request it.
22 tn Heb “blows.” This would probably be physical beatings, either administered by the father or by society (e.g., also 19:25; Ps 141:5; cf. NAB, NIV, TEV, NLT). Today, however, “a beating” could be associated with violent criminal assault, whereas the context suggests punishment. Therefore “a flogging” is used in the translation, since that term is normally associated with disciplinary action.
23 tn Or “slanderer”; KJV, NAB “talebearer”; ASV, NRSV “whisperer.”
24 tn The word כְּמִתְלַהֲמִים (kÿmitlahamim) occurs only here. It is related to a cognate verb meaning “to swallow greedily.” Earlier English versions took it from a Hebrew root הָלַם (halam, see the word לְמַהֲלֻמוֹת [lÿmahalumot] in v. 6) meaning “wounds” (so KJV). But the translation of “choice morsels” fits the idea of gossip better.
25 tn Heb “they go down [into] the innermost parts of the belly”; NASB “of the body.”
sn When the choice morsels of gossip are received, they go down like delicious food – into the innermost being. R. N. Whybray says, “There is a flaw in human nature that assures slander will be listened to” (Proverbs [CBC], 105).
27 tn Heb “lips.” The term “lips” is a metonymy for what one says with his lips. The expression “perverse in his lips” refers to speech that is morally perverted. Some medieval Hebrew
28 tc The Syriac and Tg. Prov 19:1 read “rich” instead of MT “fool.” This makes tighter antithetical parallelism than MT and is followed by NAB. However, the MT makes sense as it stands; this is an example of metonymical parallelism. The MT reading is also supported by the LXX. The Hebrew construction uses וְהוּא (vÿhu’), “and he [is],” before “fool.” This may be rendered “one who is perverse while a fool” or “a fool at the same time.”
29 sn The word describes a slanderer (NASB), a tale-bearer (KJV, ASV), or an informer. BDB 940 s.v. רָכִיל says the Hebrew expression “goers of slander” means slanderous persons. However, W. McKane observes that these people are not necessarily malicious – they just talk too much (Proverbs [OTL], 537).
30 tn The form is the Hitpael imperfect (of prohibition or instruction) from עָרַב (’arav). BDB 786-88 lists six roots with these radicals. The first means “to mix,” but only occurs in derivatives. BDB 786 lists this form under the second root, which means “to take on a pledge; to exchange.” The Hitpael is then defined as “to exchange pledges; to have fellowship with [or, share].” The proverb is warning people to have nothing to do with gossips.
31 tn The verb פֹּתֶה (poteh) is a homonym, related to I פָּתָה (patah, “to be naive; to be foolish”; HALOT 984-85 s.v. I פתה) or II פָּתָה (“to open [the lips]; to chatter”; HALOT 985 s.v. II פתה). So the phrase וּלְפֹתֶה שְׂפָתָיו may be understood either (1) as HALOT 985 s.v. II פתה suggests, “one opens his lips” = he is always talking/gossiping, or (2) as BDB suggests, “one who is foolish as to his lips” (he lacks wisdom in what he says; see BDB 834 s.v. פָּתָה 1, noted in HALOT 984 s.v. I פתה 1). The term “lips” is a metonymy of cause for what is said: gossip. If such a person is willing to talk about others, he will be willing to talk about you, so it is best to avoid him altogether.
32 sn This proverb, written in loose synonymous parallelism, instructs that the scorner should be removed because he causes strife. The “scorner” is לֵץ (lets), the one the book of Proverbs says cannot be changed with discipline or correction, but despises and disrupts anything that is morally or socially constructive.
33 tc The LXX freely adds “when he sits in council (ἐν συνεδρίῳ, ejn sunedriw), he insults everyone.” The MT does not suggest that the setting is in a court of law; so the LXX addition is highly unlikely.
34 tn The verse begins with the direct object רִיבְךָ (ribkha, “your case”) followed by the imperative from the same root, רִיב (riv, “argue”). It is paralleled by the negated Piel jussive. The construction of the clauses indicates that the first colon is foundational to the second: “Argue…but do not reveal,” or better, “When you argue…do not reveal.”
35 sn The concern is that in arguing with one person a secret about another might be divulged, perhaps deliberately in an attempt to clear oneself. The point then is about damaging a friendship by involving the friend without necessity or warrant in someone else’s quarrel.
36 tn The noun דִּבָּה (dibbah, “infamy; defamation; evil report; whispering”) is used of an evil report here (e.g., Gen 37:2), namely a true report of evil doing. So if a person betrays another person’s confidence, he will never be able to live down the bad reputation he made as one who betrays secrets (cf. NIV).
37 sn One difficulty here is that it is the west wind that brings rain to Israel (e.g., 1 Kgs 18:41-44). C. H. Toy suggests that the expression is general, referring to a northwest wind – unless it is an error (Proverbs [ICC], 468). J. P. M. van der Ploeg suggests that the saying originated outside the land, perhaps in Egypt (“Prov 25:23,” VT 3 : 189-92). But this would imply it was current in a place where it made no sense. R. N. Whybray suggests that the solution lies with the verb “brings forth” (תְּחוֹלֵל, tÿkholel); he suggests redefining it to mean “repels, holds back” (cf. KJV “driveth away”). Thus, the point would be that the north wind holds back the rain just as an angry look holds back slander (Proverbs [CBC], 149). But the support for this definition is not convincing. Seeing this as a general reference to northerly winds is the preferred solution.
38 tn Heb “a tongue of secret” or “a hidden tongue,” referring to someone who goes around whispering about people behind their backs (cf. KJV, NAB, NASB, NRSV “a backbiting tongue”).
39 tn The phrase “brings forth” does not appear in Hebrew in this line but is implied by the parallelism with the previous line; it is supplied here in the translation for clarity.
40 sn The verse implies a comparison between the two parts to make the point that certain things automatically bring certain results. Gossiping words will infuriate people as easily as the northerly winds bring the cold rain.
41 sn Gossip (that is, the one who goes around whispering and slandering) fuels contention just as wood fuels a fire. The point of the proverb is to prevent contention – if one takes away the cause, contention will cease (e.g., 18:8).
42 tn Heb “becomes silent.”
43 sn Heb “a man of contentions”; NCV, NRSV, NLT “a quarrelsome person.” The expression focuses on the person who is contentious by nature. His quarreling is like piling fuel on a fire that would otherwise go out. This kind of person not only starts strife, but keeps it going.
44 tn The Pilpel infinitive construct לְחַרְחַר (lÿkharkhar) from חָרַר (kharar, “to be hot; to be scorched; to burn”) means “to kindle; to cause to flare up.”
46 tn The traditional translation of “silver dross” (so KJV, ASV, NASB) never did make much sense because the parallel idea deals with hypocrisy – “fervent lips with an evil heart.” But silver dross would not be used over earthenware – instead it is discarded. Yet the MT clearly has “silver dross” (כֶּסֶף סִיגִים, kesef sigim). Ugaritic turned up a word spsg which means “glaze,” and this found a parallel in Hittite zapzaga[y]a. H. L. Ginsberg repointed the Hebrew text to k’sapsagim, “like glaze,” and this has been adopted by many commentators and recent English versions (e.g., NAB, NIV, NRSV, NLT). The final ם (mem) is then classified as enclitic. See, among others, K. L. Barker, “The Value of Ugaritic for Old Testament Studies,” BSac 133 (1976): 128-29.
47 tn The word translated “fervent” actually means “burning, glowing”; the LXX has “flattering lips” (as if from חָלַק [khalaq] rather than דָּלַק [dalaq]).
48 sn The analogy fits the second line very well. Glaze makes a vessel look beautiful and certainly different from the clay that it actually is. So is one who has evil intent (“heart”) but covers it with glowing speech.