but as for the pure, 3 his way is upright.
he overthrows the wicked to their ruin. 7
and terror 10 to those who do evil.
finds life, bounty, 16 and honor.
1 tn The first line of the proverb is difficult. Since וָזָר (vazar) occurs only here it has been given much attention. The translation of “guilty” is drawn from an Arabic cognate meaning “to bear a burden” and so “to be sin laden” or “guilty” (cf. NASB, NIV, NCV, NRSV, NLT). G. R. Driver prefers to read the line as “a man crooked of ways is false [zar]” (“Problems in the Hebrew Text of Proverbs,” Bib 32 : 185). C. H. Toy adopts the meaning of “proud” (Proverbs [ICC], 400). Whatever the reading, “guilty” or “proud” or “false,” the idea is that such people are devious. Bad people are underhanded; good people are aboveboard (C. H. Toy, Proverbs [ICC], 400). Another way to analyze the line is to read it with the definition “strange, stranger”: “The way of a man and a stranger is perverse.” But this is unclear, and would form no satisfactory contrast to 8b. Another suggestion is “the way of (usual) man is changeable and strange, but the pure fellow leads a straight and even course” (J. H. Greenstone, Proverbs, 244); cf. NLT “the innocent travel a straight road.”
2 tn The form הֲפַכְפַּךְ (hafakhfakh) is an adjective with an intensified meaning due to the duplication of the second and third radicals; it means “very devious; crooked” (from the verb “to overturn”).
3 tn If this translation stands, then the construction is formed with an independent nominative absolute, resumed by the suffixed noun as the formal subject. It draws attention to the “pure” or “innocent” person in contrast to the previously mentioned wicked.
4 tn In the book of Proverbs, the Hebrew term צַּדִּיק (ysadiq) normally refers to a human being, and that is a possible translation here (cf. KJV, ASV, NAB), although it would have to refer to a righteous person who was a judge or a ruler with the right to destroy the wicked. Many commentators and English versions simply interpret this as a reference to God (cf. NIV, NRSV, TEV, NLT).
5 tn The form מַשְׂכִּיל (maskil) is now used with the meaning “to consider; to give attention to; to ponder.” It is the careful scrutiny that is given to the household of the wicked before judgment is poured out on them.
6 tn Heb “house.” This term probably means “household” here – the family. One way to read the line is that the righteous judge (human or divine) takes into consideration the wicked person’s family before judging the wicked person. The other – and more plausible – interpretation is that the judge considers the household of the wicked and then on the basis of what was observed judges them.
7 tn Heb “to evil” (i.e., catastrophe); cf. NLT “to disaster.”
8 tn The Qal infinitive construct עֲשׂוֹת (’asot) functions as the subject of the sentence.
9 tn The term “brings” is supplied in the translation; many English versions supply a simple copula (“is”).
10 sn The noun means “terror (NAB, NASB, NIV), destruction (KJV, ASV), ruin (cf. NCV).” Its related verb means “be shattered, dismayed.” The idea of “dismay” (NRSV) or “terror” would make the better choice to contrast with “joy” in the first line, but “ruin” is also possible. Whenever justice prevails, whether in the courts or simply in society, the people who practice iniquity may be shaken into reality by fear (cf. CEV “crooks are terrified”).
11 tn The term “become” is supplied in the translation.
12 sn The Hebrew word translated “ransom” (כֹּפֶר, kofer) normally refers to the price paid to free a prisoner. R. N. Whybray (Proverbs [CBC], 121) gives options for the meaning of the verse: (1) If it means that the wicked obtain good things that should go to the righteous, it is then a despairing plea for justice (which would be unusual in the book of Proverbs); but if (2) it is taken to mean that the wicked suffers the evil he has prepared for the righteous, then it harmonizes with Proverbs elsewhere (e.g., 11:8). The ideal this proverb presents – and the future reality – is that in calamity the righteous escape and the wicked suffer in their place (e.g., Haman in the book of Esther).
13 tn Or “treacherous” (so ASV, NASB, NLT); NIV “the unfaithful.”
14 tn The phrase “are taken” does not appear in the Hebrew but is implied by the parallelism; it is supplied in the translation for smoothness.
15 sn These two attributes, “righteousness” (צְדָקָה, tsÿdaqah) and “loyal love” (חֶסֶד, khesed) depict the life style of the covenant-believer who is pleasing to God and a blessing to others. The first term means that he will do what is right, and the second means that he will be faithful to the covenant community.
16 sn The Hebrew term translated “bounty” is צְדָקָה (tsÿdaqah) again, so there is a wordplay on the term in the verse. The first use of the word had the basic meaning of “conduct that conforms to God’s standard”; this second use may be understood as a metonymy of cause, indicating the provision or reward (“bounty”) that comes from keeping righteousness (cf. NIV “prosperity”; NCV “success”). The proverb is similar to Matt 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.”
17 tn Heb “a wicked man.”
18 tn Heb “he hardens his face.” To make the face firm or hard means to show boldness (BDB 738 s.v. עָזַז Hiph); cf. NRSV “put on a bold face.”
19 tn The “upright” is an independent nominative absolute; the pronoun becomes the formal (emphatic) subject of the verb.
20 tc The Kethib is the imperfect of כּוּן (kun), “he establishes.” This reading has the support of the Syriac, Latin, and Tg. Prov 21:29, and is followed by ASV. The Qere is the imperfect tense of בִּין (bin), “he understands; he discerns.” It has the support of the LXX and is followed by NIV, NCV, NRSV, NLT. The difficulty is that both make good sense in the passage and both have support. The contrast is between the wicked who shows a bold face (reflecting a hardened heart) and the upright who either gives thought to his ways (or solidifies his ways). The sense of the Qere may form a slightly better contrast, one between the outer appearance of boldness and the inner discernment of action.