19:9 A false witness will not go unpunished,
and a poor person is better than a liar. 15
and the mouth of the wicked devours 17 iniquity.
but the one who reports accurately speaks forever. 20
1 tn Heb “a witness of faithfulness.” The genitive functions in an attributive sense: “faithful witness” (so KJV, NRSV); TEV “reliable witness.”
2 tn Heb “a witness of falsehood.” The genitive functions in an attributive sense: “false witness.”
3 sn This saying addresses the problem of legal testimony: A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness does lie – naturally. The first colon uses the verb כָּזַב (kazav, “to lie”) and the second colon uses the noun כָּזָב (kazav, “lie; falsehood”).
4 tn Heb “a witness of truth”; cf. CEV “an honest witness.”
5 tn The noun נְפָשׁוֹת (nÿfashot) often means “souls,” but here “lives” – it functions as a metonymy for life (BDB 659 s.v. נֶפֶשׁ 3.c).
sn The setting of this proverb is the courtroom. One who tells the truth “saves” (מַצִּיל [matsil, “rescues; delivers”]) the lives of those falsely accused.
6 tn The term “brings” does not appear in the Hebrew but is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity. Also possible, “is deceitful.”
7 tc Several commentators suggest emending the text from the noun מִרְמָה (mirmah, “deception”) to the participle מְרַמֶּה (mÿrameh, “destroys”). However, this revocalization is not necessary because the MT makes sense as it stands: A false witness destroys lives.
8 tn Heb “a witness of lies.” This expression is an attributive genitive: “a lying witness” (cf. CEV “dishonest witnesses”). This is paralleled by “the one who pours out lies.”
9 tn Heb “breathes out”; NAB “utters”; NIV “pours out.”
10 tn Heb “will not escape” (so NAB, NASB); NIV “will not go free.” Here “punishment” is implied, and has been supplied in the translation for clarity.
sn This proverb is a general statement, because on occasion there are false witnesses who go unpunished in this life (e.g., Prov 6:19; 14:5, 25; 19:9). The Talmud affirms, “False witnesses are contemptible even to those who hire them” (b. Sanhedrin 29b).
11 tn Heb “breathes out”; NAB “utters”; NIV “pours out.”
13 tn Heb “the desire of a man” (so KJV). The noun in construct is תַּאֲוַת (ta’avat), “desire [of].” Here it refers to “the desire of a man [= person].” Two problems surface here, the connotation of the word and the kind of genitive. “Desire” can also be translated “lust,” and so J. H. Greenstone has “The lust of a man is his shame” (Proverbs, 208). But the sentence is more likely positive in view of the more common uses of the words. “Man” could be a genitive of possession or subjective genitive – the man desires loyal love. It could also be an objective genitive, meaning “what is desired for a man.” The first would be the more natural in the proverb, which is showing that loyal love is better than wealth.
14 tn Heb “[is] his loyal love”; NIV “unfailing love”; NRSV “loyalty.”
15 sn The second half of the proverb presents the logical inference: The liar would be without “loyal love” entirely, and so poverty would be better than this. A poor person who wishes to do better is preferable to a person who makes promises and does not keep them.
16 tn Heb “a witness who is worthless and wicked” (עֵד בְּלִיַּעַל, ’ed beliyya’al). Cf. KJV “an ungodly witness”; NAB “an unprincipled witness”; NCV “an evil witness”; NASB “a rascally witness.”
sn These are crooked or corrupt witnesses who willfully distort the facts and make a mockery of the whole legal process.
17 tn The parallel line says the mouth of the wicked “gulps down” or “swallows” (יְבַלַּע, yÿvala’) iniquity. The verb does not seem to fit the line (or the proverb) very well. Some have emended the text to יַבִּיעַ (yavia’, “gushes”) as in 15:28 (cf. NAB “pours out”). Driver followed an Arabic balaga to get “enunciates,” which works well with the idea of a false witness (W. McKane, Proverbs [OTL], 529). As it stands, however, the line indicates that in what he says the wicked person accepts evil – and that could describe a false witness.
18 tn Heb “a witness of lies,” an attributive genitive.
19 tn The Hebrew verb translated “will perish” (יֹאבֵד, yo’bed) could mean that the false witness will die, either by the hand of God or by the community. But it also could be taken in the sense that the false testimony will be destroyed. This would mean that “false witness” would be a metonymy of cause – what he says will perish (cf. NCV “will be forgotten”).
20 tn Heb “but a man who listens speaks forever.” The first part of it may mean (1) a true witness, one who reports what he actually hears. But it may also refer to (2) someone who listens to the false testimony given by the false witness. The NIV follows the suggestion of a homonym for the Hebrew word with the meaning “will perish/be destroyed”: “will be destroyed forever.” This suggests a synonymous pair of ideas rather than a contrast. Others accept antithetical parallelism. C. H. Toy suggested an idea like “be established” to contrast with “will perish” (Proverbs [ICC], 411). W. McKane suggested it meant the truthful witness “will speak to the end” without being put down (Proverbs [OTL], 556). It is simpler to interpret the words that are here in the sense of a contrast. The idea of speaking forever/to the end would then be hyperbolic.
21 sn The first line identifies the emblem of the proverb: False witnesses are here compared to deadly weapons because they can cause the death of innocent people (e.g., Exod 20:16; Deut 5:20; and Prov 14:5).
22 tn The verb עָנָה (’anah) followed by the preposition בְּ (bet) with its object means “to testify against” (answer against someone). With the preposition לְ (lamed) it would mean “to testify for” someone. Here the false witness is an adversary, hence the comparison with deadly weapons.
23 tn While עֵד (’ed) could be interpreted as “evidence” (a meaning that came from a metonymy – what the witness gives in court), its normal meaning is “witness.” Here it would function as an adverbial accusative, specifying how he would answer in court.