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Proverbs 21:6

Context

21:6 Making a fortune 1  by a lying tongue is like 2  a vapor driven back and forth; 3 

they seek death. 4 

Proverbs 21:23

Context

21:23 The one who guards his mouth and his tongue 5 

keeps his life 6  from troubles. 7 

1 tn The first word of the verse is the noun meaning “doing, deed, work.” The BHS editors suggest reading with the LXX an active participle – “the one who makes” (cf. NAB “He who makes”). The second word means “treasure,” from the verb “lay up, store up.” It is an objective genitive here.

2 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.

3 tn The Hebrew הֶבֶל נִדָּף (hevel nidaf) is properly “a driven vapor” (“driven” = the Niphal participle). The point of the metaphor is that the ill-gotten gains will vanish into thin air. The LXX has “pursues” (as if reading רֹדֵף, rodef); cf. NAB “chasing a bubble over deadly snares.”

4 tn The Hebrew has “seekers of death,” meaning “[they that seek them] are seekers of death,” or that the fortune is “a fleeting vapor for those who seek death.” The sense is not readily apparent. The Greek and the Latin versions have “snares of death”; the form מוֹקְשֵׁי (moqÿshe) was read instead of מְבַקְשֵׁי (mÿvaqshe). This reading does not make a more credible metaphor, and one must explain the loss of the letter ב (bet) in the textual variant. It is, however, slightly easier to interpret in the verse, and is followed by a number of English versions (e.g., NAB, NIV, NRSV, NLT). But whether the easier reading is the correct one in this case would be difficult to prove.

5 sn “Mouth” and “tongue” are metonymies of cause, signifying what one says (cf. NCV, TEV, CEV).

6 tn This part could also be translated “keeps himself” (so NIV), for נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) often simply means “the whole person.” The participle שֹׁמֵר (shomer) is repeated from the first line in the parallelism – to guard what is said is to guard against difficulty.

7 sn The “troubles” (צָרוֹת, tsarot) here could refer to social and legal difficulties into which careless talk might bring someone (e.g., 13:3; 18:21). The word means “a strait, a bind, difficulty.” Careless and free talking could get the person into a tight spot.



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