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Proverbs 26:2

Context

26:2 Like a fluttering bird or like a flying swallow,

so a curse without cause 1  does not come to rest. 2 

Proverbs 26:17

Context

26:17 Like one who grabs a wild dog by the ears, 3 

so is the person passing by who becomes furious 4  over a quarrel not his own.

1 tn Heb “causeless curse” (KJV similar) describes an undeserved curse (cf. NIV, NRSV). The Hebrew word translated “causeless” is the adverb from ָחנַן (khanan); it means “without cause; gratuitous.”

sn This proverb is saying that a curse that is uttered will be powerless if that curse is undeserved. It was commonly believed in the ancient world that blessings and curses had power in themselves, that once spoken they were effectual. But scripture makes it clear that the power of a blessing or a curse depends on the power of the one behind it (e.g., Num 22:38; 23:8). A curse would only take effect if the one who declared it had the authority to do so, and he would only do that if the curse was deserved.

2 tc The MT has the negative with the verb “to enter; to come” to mean “will not come” (לֹא תָבֹא, lotavo’). This is interpreted to mean “will not come to rest” or “will not come home.” Some commentators have taken the Qere reading of לוֹ (lo) instead, and read it as “will come home to him.” This is also a little difficult; but it gives the idea that an undeserved curse will come [back] to him [who gave it]. Just as a bird will fly around and eventually come home, so will the undeserved curse return on the one who gave it. This is plausible; but there is no referent for the suffix, making it syntactically difficult.

3 tn Heb “grabs the ears of a dog. The word “wild” has been supplied in the translation to make clear that these were not domesticated pets. CEV, to accomplish the same point, has “a mad dog,” but there is no indication of that in context.

sn Someone who did this ran a serious risk of injury or harm. Dogs were not domestic pets in the ancient Near East; they were scavengers that ran in packs like jackals.

4 tn The word מִתְעַבֵּר (mitabber) means “to put oneself in a fury” or “become furious” (BDB 720 s.v.). The Latin version apparently assumed the verb was עָרַב (’arav), for it has the sense of “meddle” (so also NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV). However, the MT reading could easily fit the verse, referring to anyone passing by who gets furious over a fight that is not his.



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