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Proverbs 29:24

Context

29:24 Whoever shares with a thief 1  is his own enemy; 2 

he hears the oath to testify, 3  but does not talk.

1 sn The expression shares with a thief describes someone who is an “accomplice” (cf. NAB, NIV) because he is willing to share in the loot without taking part in the crime.

2 tn Heb “hates his soul.” The accomplice is working against himself, for he will be punished along with the thief if he is caught.

3 tn Heb “oath” or “imprecation”; ASV “adjuration.” This amounted to an “oath” or “curse” (cf. NAB “he hears himself put under a curse”; NRSV “one hears the victim’s curse”) either by or on behalf of the victim, that any witness to the crime must testify (cf. Lev 5:1). However, in this legal setting referring to “a victim’s curse” could be misleading (cf. also KJV “he heareth cursing”), since it could be understood to refer to profanity directed against those guilty of the crime rather than an imprecation called down on a witness who refused to testify (as in the present proverb). The present translation specifies this as an “oath to testify.”

sn The oath to testify was not an oath to tell the truth before a court of law in the modern sense. Instead it was a “curse” or “imprecation” expressed by the victim of the theft, or by the legal authorities, called down on any witness of the crime who kept silent or refused to testify (as here). According to Lev 5:1, if a witness does not speak up he is accountable for the crime. This person hears the adjuration, but if he speaks up he is condemned, and if he does not speak up he is guilty under the law. The proverb is an unusual one; it seems to be warning against getting mixed up in any way with the thief, for it will create a serious ethical dilemma.



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