whoever goes astray by them is not wise. 3
and guide your heart on the right way.
among those who eat too much 7 meat,
23:21 because drunkards and gluttons become impoverished,
Who has contentions? Who has complaints?
Who has wounds without cause? Who has dullness 11 of the eyes?
23:30 Those who linger over wine,
those who go looking for mixed wine. 12
23:31 Do not look on the wine when it is red,
when it sparkles 13 in the cup,
when it goes down smoothly. 14
and stings like a viper.
and your mind will speak perverse things.
and like one who lies down on the top of the rigging. 18
They beat me, but I did not know it! 20
When will I awake? I will look for another drink.” 21
1 sn The drinks are wine and barley beer (e.g., Lev 10:9; Deut 14:26; Isa 28:7). These terms here could be understood as personifications, but better as metonymies for those who drink wine and beer. The inebriated person mocks and brawls.
2 tn The two participles לֵץ (lets, “mocker”) and הֹמֶה (homeh, “brawler”) are substantives; they function as predicates in the sentence. Excessive use of intoxicants excites the drinker to boisterous behavior and aggressive attitudes – it turns them into mockers and brawlers.
3 sn The proverb does not prohibit the use of wine or beer; in fact, strong drink was used at festivals and celebrations. But intoxication was considered out of bounds for a member of the covenant community (e.g., 23:20-21, 29-35; 31:4-7). To be led astray by their use is not wise.
4 tn Heb “my son,” but the immediate context does not limit this to male children.
5 tn Heb “do not be among,” but in the sense of “associate with” (TEV); “join” (NIV); “consort…with” (NAB).
6 tn The verb סָבָא (sava’) means “to imbibe; to drink largely.” The participial construction here, סֹבְאֵי־יַיִן (sov’e-yayin), describes “drunkards” (cf. NLT) which is somewhat stronger than saying it refers to “people who drink too much” (cf. NIV, TEV).
7 tn The verb זָלַל (zalal) means “to be light; to be worthless; to make light of.” Making light of something came to mean “to be lavish with; to squander,” especially with regard to food. So it describes “gluttons” primarily; but in the expression there is also room for the person who wastes a lot of food as well.
8 tn Here “drowsiness” is a metonymy of effect or adjunct, put for the drunkenness and gluttony that causes it. So all of it, the drunkenness and the drowsiness that comes from it, brings on the ruin (cf. CEV “you will end up poor”). Likewise, “rags” is a metonymy of adjunct, associated with the poverty brought on by a dissolute lifestyle.
9 sn This is the fourteenth saying, warning about poor associations. Drunkenness and gluttony represent the epitome of the lack of discipline. In the Mishnah they are used to measure a stubborn and rebellious son (m. Sanhedrin 8). W. G. Plaut notes that excessive drinking and eating are usually symptoms of deeper problems; we usually focus more on the drinking because it is dangerous to others (Proverbs, 241-42).
10 sn The eighteenth saying is about excessive drinking. The style changes here as the sage breaks into a vivid use of the imagination. It begins with a riddle describing the effects of drunkenness (v. 29) and gives the answer in v. 30; instructions follow in v. 31, with the consequences described in v. 32; the direct address continues in vv. 33 and 34; and the whole subject is concluded with the drunkard’s own words in v. 35 (M. E. Andrews, “Variety of Expression in Proverbs 23:29-35,” VT 28 : 102-3).
11 sn The Hebrew word translated “dullness” describes darkness or dullness of the eyes due to intoxication, perhaps “redness” (so KJV, NASB, NRSV); NIV, NCV, NLT “bloodshot eyes.” NAB understands the situation differently: “black eyes.”
12 sn The answer to the question posed in v. 29 is obviously one who drinks too much, which this verse uses metonymies to point out. Lingering over wine is an adjunct of drinking more wine; and seeking mixed wine obviously means with the effect or the purpose of drinking it.
13 tn Heb “its eye gives.” With CEV’s “bubbling up in the glass” one might think champagne was in view.
14 tn The expression is difficult, and is suspected of having been added from Song 7:10, although the parallel is not exact. The verb is the Hitpael imperfect of הָלַךְ (halakh); and the prepositional phrase uses the word “upright; equity; pleasing,” from יָשָׁר (yashar). KJV has “when it moveth itself aright”; much more helpful is ASV: “when it goeth down smoothly.” Most recent English versions are similar to ASV. The phrase obviously refers to the pleasing nature of wine.
15 tn Heb “its end”; NASB “At the last”; TEV (interpretively) “The next morning.”
16 tn The feminine plural of זָר (zar, “strange things”) refers to the trouble one has in seeing and speaking when drunk.
17 tn Heb “heart.” The idiom here means “middle”; KJV “in the midst.”
18 sn The point of these similes is to compare being drunk with being seasick. One who tries to sleep when at sea, or even worse, when up on the ropes of the mast, will be tossed back and forth.
19 tn The phrase “You will say” is supplied in the translation to make it clear that the drunkard is now speaking.
20 sn The line describes how one who is intoxicated does not feel the pain, even though beaten by others. He does not even remember it.
21 tn The last line has only “I will add I will seek it again.” The use of אוֹסִיף (’osif) signals a verbal hendiadys with the next verb: “I will again seek it.” In this context the suffix on the verb refers to the wine – the drunkard wants to go and get another drink.