observe its ways and be wise!
6:7 It has no commander,
overseer, or 2 ruler,
6:8 yet it prepares its food in the summer;
it gathers at the harvest what it will eat. 3
6:9 How long, you sluggard, will you lie there?
When will you rise from your sleep? 4
6:10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to relax, 5
and your need like an armed man. 7
but the one who sleeps 14 during the harvest
is a son who brings shame to himself. 15
so is the sluggard to those 17 who send him.
but personal possessions 27 are precious to the diligent.
but the desire of the diligent will be abundantly satisfied. 31
and he will not even bring it back to his mouth! 52
but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. 63
for his hands 66 refuse to work.
24:30 I passed by the field of a sluggard,
by the vineyard of one who lacks wisdom. 67
the ground 69 was covered with weeds,
and its stone wall was broken down.
I received instruction from what I saw: 71
24:33 “A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to relax,
24:34 and your poverty will come like a bandit,
and your need like an armed robber.” 72
A lion in the streets!” 74
so a sluggard turns 77 on his bed.
he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth. 79
than seven people who respond with good sense. 81
1 sn The sluggard (עָצֵל, ’atsel) is the lazy or sluggish person (cf. NCV “lazy person”; NRSV, NLT “lazybones”).
2 tn The conjunction vav (ו) here has the classification of alternative, “or” (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 71, §433).
3 tc The LXX adds a lengthy section at the end of the verse on the lesson from the bee: “Or, go to the bee and learn how diligent she is and how seriously she does her work – her products kings and private persons use for health – she is desired and respected by all – though feeble in body, by honoring wisdom she obtains distinction.” The Greek translator thought the other insect should be mentioned (see C. H. Toy, Proverbs [ICC], 124).
tn Heb “its food.”
4 sn The use of the two rhetorical questions is designed to rebuke the lazy person in a forceful manner. The sluggard is spending too much time sleeping.
5 sn The writer might in this verse be imitating the words of the sluggard who just wants to take “a little nap.” The use is ironic, for by indulging in this little rest the lazy one comes to ruin.
6 tn Heb “like a wayfarer” or “like a traveler” (cf. KJV). The LXX has “swiftness like a traveler.” It has also been interpreted as a “highwayman” (cf. NAB) or a “dangerous assailant.” W. McKane suggests “vagrant” (Proverbs [OTL], 324); cf. NASB “vagabond.” Someone traveling swiftly would likely be a robber.
7 tn The Hebrew word for “armed” is probably connected to the word for “shield” and “deliver” (s.v. גָּנַן). G. R. Driver connects it to the Arabic word for “bold; insolent,” interpreting its use here as referring to a beggar or an insolent man (“Studies in the Vocabulary of the Old Testament, IV,” JTS 33 : 38-47).
8 tn Heb “a palm of slackness.” The genitive noun רְמִיָּה (remiyyah, “slackness”) functions as an attributive adjective: “a slack palm” (BDB 941 s.v.). The term כַף (khaf, “palm”) is a synecdoche of part (= palm) for the whole person (= one who works with his hands). The hand is emphasized because it is the instrument of physical labor. The “slack hand” is contrasted with the “diligent hand.” A slack hand refers to a lazy worker or careless work that such hands produce. See N. C. Habel, “Wisdom, Wealth, and Poverty Paradigms in the Book of Proverbs,” BiBh 14 (1988): 28-49.
9 tc The MT reads רָאשׁ (ra’sh, “poor”) which is the plene spelling of רָשׁ (rash, “poor [person]”; HALOT 1229-30 s.v. רֵישׁ). Both Tg. Prov 10:4 and LXX reflect an alternate vocalization רִישׁ (rish, “poverty”) which is from the same root, and essentially means the same thing.
tn Heb “causes poverty.” The expression is literally, “the palm of slackness causes poverty.”
10 tn Heb “but the hand of the diligent” (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NRSV). The genitive noun חָרוּצִים (kharutsim, “diligence”) functions as an attributive adjective: “a diligent hand.” The noun חָרוּצִים (kharutsim) uses the plural form because the plural is often used for abstract moral qualities. The term יָד (yad, “hand”) is a synecdoche of part (= “hand”) for the whole person (= “the one who works with his hands”). The hand is emphasized because it is the instrument of physical labor.
11 tn Heb “makes rich” (so NASB, NRSV). The Hiphil verb is used in a causative sense; literally, “the hand of the diligent makes rich.”
12 tn The direct object “crops” does not appear in the Hebrew but is implied by the verb; it is supplied in the translation for the sake of smoothness.
13 tn Heb “prudent.” The term מַשְׂכִּיל (maskil) refers to a wise and so successful person. He seizes the opportunity, knowing the importance of the season.
14 sn The term “sleeps” is figurative, an implied comparison that has become idiomatic (like the contemporary English expression “asleep on the job”). It means that this individual is lazy or oblivious to the needs of the hour.
15 tn The phrase “to himself” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied for the sake of clarity. Another option is “to his father.”
16 sn Two similes are used to portray the aggravation in sending a lazy person to accomplish a task. Vinegar to the teeth is an unpleasant, irritating experience; and smoke to the eyes is an unpleasant experience that hinders progress.
17 tn The participle is plural, and so probably should be taken in a distributive sense: “to each one who sends him.”
18 sn In the biblical period agriculture was the most common occupation for the people; so “working a field” describes a substantial occupation, but also represents working in general. Diligent work, not get-rich-quick schemes, is the key to ensuring income.
19 tn Heb “will have his fill of” or “will be satisfied with.”
20 tn Heb “empty things” or “vain things.” The term רֵיקִים (reqim) refers to worthless pursuits in an effort to make money. The fact that the participle used is “chase after” shows how elusive these are. Cf. NIV “fantasies”; NCV “empty dreams”; TEV “useless projects.”
22 tn The term חָרַץ (kharats, “diligent”) means (1) literally: “to cut; to sharpen,” (2) figurative: “to decide” and “to be diligent. It is used figuratively in Proverbs for diligence. The semantic development of the figure may be understood thus: “cut, sharpen” leads to “act decisively” which leads to “be diligent.” By their diligent work they succeed to management. The diligent rise to the top, while the lazy sink to the bottom.
23 tn Heb “the hand of the diligent.” The term “hand” is a synecdoche of part (= hand) for the whole (= person): diligent person. The hand is emphasized because it is the instrument of physical labor; it signifies the actions and the industry of a diligent person – what his hand does.
24 tn Heb “deceitful.” The term refers to one who is not diligent; this person tries to deceive his master about his work, which he has neglected.
25 tn Heb “will be for slave labor.” The term מַס (mas, “slave labor”) refers to a person forced into labor from slavery.
26 tc The MT reads יַחֲרֹךְ (yakharokh) from II חָרַךְ (kharakh, “to roast”?). On the other hand, several versions (LXX, Syriac, Vulgate) reflect a Hebrew Vorlage of יַדְרִיךְ (yadrikh) from דָרַךְ (darakh, “to gain”), meaning: “a lazy person cannot catch his prey” (suggested by Gemser; cf. NAB). The MT is the more difficult reading, being a hapax legomenon, and therefore should be retained; the versions are trying to make sense out of a rare expression.
tn The verb II חָרַךְ (kharakh) is a hapax legomenon, appearing in the OT only here. BDB suggests that it means “to start; to set in motion” (BDB 355 s.v.). The related Aramaic and Syriac verb means “to scorch; to parch,” and the related Arabic verb means “to roast; to scorch by burning”; so it may mean “to roast; to fry” (HALOT 353 s.v. I חרך). The lazy person can’t be bothered cooking what he has hunted. The Midrash sees an allusion to Jacob and Esau in Genesis 25. M. Dahood translates it: “the languid man will roast no game for himself, but the diligent will come on the wealth of the steppe” (“The Hapax harak in Proverbs 12:27,” Bib 63 : 60-62). This hyperbole means that the lazy person does not complete a project.
27 tn Heb “the wealth of a man.”
28 tn The noun נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh, traditionally “soul”) has a broad range of meanings, and here denotes “appetite” (e.g., Ps 17:9; Prov 23:3; Eccl 2:24; Isa 5:14; Hab 2:5; BDB 660 s.v. 5.c) or (2) “desire” (e.g., Deut 12:20; Prov 19:8; 21:10; BDB 660 s.v. 6.a).
29 sn The contrast is between the “soul (= appetite) of the sluggard” (נַפְשׁוֹ עָצֵל, nafsho ’atsel) and the “soul (= desire) of the diligent” (נֶפֶשׁ חָרֻצִים, nefesh kharutsim) – what they each long for.
31 tn Heb “will be made fat” (cf. KJV, NASB); NRSV “is richly supplied.”
32 tc The MT reads מֵהֵבֶל (mehevel, “from vanity”). The Greek and Latin versions (followed by RSV) reflect מְבֹהָל (mÿvohal, “in haste”) which exhibits metathesis. MT is the more difficult reading and therefore preferred. The alternate reading fits the parallelism better, but is therefore a less difficult reading.
tn Heb “wealth from vanity” (cf. KJV, ASV). The term הֶבֶל (hevel) literally means “vapor” and figuratively refers to that which is unsubstantial, fleeting, or amount to nothing (BDB 210 s.v.). Used in antithesis with the expression “little by little,” it means either “without working for it” or “quickly.” Some English versions assume dishonest gain (cf. NASB, NIV, CEV).
33 tn Heb “will become small.” The verb מָעָט (ma’at) means “to become small; to become diminished; to become few.” Money gained without work will diminish quickly, because it was come by too easily. The verb forms a precise contrast with רָבָה (ravah), “to become much; to become many,” but in the Hiphil, “to multiply; to make much many; to cause increase.”
34 tn Heb “by hand”; cf. KJV, ASV, NASB “by labor.”
35 tn Heb “will increase.”
36 sn The Hebrew term עֶצֶב (’etsev, “painful toil; labor”) is first used in scripture in Gen 3:19 to describe the effects of the Fall. The point here is that people should be more afraid of idle talk than of hard labor.
37 tn Heb “word of lips.” This construct phrase features a genitive of source (“a word from the lips”) or a subjective genitive (“speaking a word”). Talk without work (which produces nothing) is contrasted with labor that produces something.
38 tn The term “brings” does not appear in the Hebrew, but is supplied in the translation for clarity and smoothness.
39 sn The noun מַחְסוֹר (makhsor, “need; thing needed; poverty”) comes from the verb “to lack; to be lacking; to decrease; to need.” A person given to idle talk rather than industrious work will have needs that go unmet.
40 tn Heb “like an overgrowth”; NRSV “overgrown with thorns”; cf. CEV “like walking in a thorn patch.” The point of the simile is that the path of life taken by the lazy person has many obstacles that are painful – it is like trying to break through a hedge of thorns. The LXX has “strewn with thorns.”
41 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.
42 sn The contrast to the “thorny way” is the highway, the Hebrew word signifying a well built-up road (סָלַל, salal, “to heap up”). The upright have no reason to swerve, duck, or detour, but may expect “clear sailing.” Other passages pair these two concepts, e.g., Prov 6:10; 10:26; 28:19.
43 tn Heb “Also, the one who.” Many commentators and a number of English versions omit the word “also.”
44 tn The form מִתְרַפֶּה (mitrappeh) is the Hitpael participle, “showing oneself slack.” The verb means “to sink; to relax,” and in the causative stem “to let drop” the hands. This is the lazy person who does not even try to work.
45 sn These two troubling types, the slacker and the destroyer, are closely related.
46 tn Heb “possessor of destruction.” This idiom means “destroyer” (so ASV); KJV “a great waster”; NRSV “a vandal.”
47 tn Heb “causes to fall” or “casts”; NAB “plunges…into.”
48 tn Or “complete inactivity”; the word תַּרְדֵּמָה (tardemah) can refer to a physical “deep sleep” (e.g., Gen 2:21; Jonah 1:5, 6); but it can also be used figuratively for complete inactivity, as other words for “sleep” can. Here it refers to lethargy or debility and morbidness.
49 tn The expression וְנֶפֶשׁ רְמִיָּה (vÿnefesh rÿmiyyah) can be translated “the soul of deceit” or “the soul of slackness.” There are two identical feminine nouns, one from the verb “beguile,” and the other from a cognate Arabic root “grow loose.” The second is more likely here in view of the parallelism (cf. NIV “a shiftless man”; NAB “the sluggard”). One who is slack, that is, idle, will go hungry.
50 sn The two lines are related in a metonymical sense: “deep sleep” is the cause of going hungry, and “going hungry” is the effect of deep sleep.
51 tn Heb “buries” (so many English versions); KJV “hideth”; NAB “loses.”
52 sn This humorous portrayal is an exaggeration; but the point is that laziness can overcome hunger. It would have a wider application for anyone who would start a project and then lack the interest or energy to finish it (R. N. Whybray, Proverbs [CBC], 111). Ibn Ezra proposes that the dish was empty, because the sluggard was too lazy to provide for himself.
53 sn The act of plowing is put for the whole process of planting a crop.
54 tn Heb “in the autumn”; ASV “by reason of the winter.” The noun means “autumn, harvest time.” The right time for planting was after the harvest and the rainy season of autumn and winter began.
55 tn The Piel of the verb שָׁאַל (sha’al, “to ask”) means “to beg” or “to inquire carefully.” At the harvest time he looks for produce but there is none. The Piel might suggest, however, that because he did not plant, or did not do it at the right time, he is reduced to begging and will have nothing (cf. KJV, ASV; NASB “he begs during the harvest”).
56 tn The phrase “for the crop” does not appear in the Hebrew but is implied; it is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.
57 sn The proverb uses antithetical parallelism to teach that diligence leads to prosperity. It contrasts loving sleep with opening the eyes, and poverty with satisfaction. Just as “sleep” can be used for slothfulness or laziness, so opening the eyes can represent vigorous, active conduct. The idioms have caught on in modern usage as well – things like “open your eyes” or “asleep on the job.”
58 tn The second line uses two imperatives in a sequence (without the vav [ו]): “open your eyes” and then (or, in order that) you will “be satisfied.”
59 tn Heb “bread” (so KJV, ASV, NRSV), although the term often serves in a generic sense for food in general.
60 tn The word “diligent” is an adjective used substantivally. The related verb means “to cut, sharpen, decide”; so the adjective describes one who is “sharp” – one who acts decisively. The word “hasty” has the idea of being pressed or pressured into quick actions. So the text contrasts calculated expeditiousness with unproductive haste. C. H. Toy does not like this contrast, and so proposes changing the latter to “lazy” (Proverbs [ICC], 399), but W. McKane rightly criticizes that as unnecessarily forming a pedestrian antithesis (Proverbs [OTL], 550).
61 tn The term “lead” is supplied in the translation.
62 tn The Hebrew noun translated “plenty” comes from the verb יָתַר (yatar), which means “to remain over.” So the calculated diligence will lead to abundance, prosperity.
63 tn Heb “lack; need; thing needed”; NRSV “to want.”
64 tn Heb “the desire of the sluggard” (so ASV, NASB). This phrase features a subject genitive: “what the sluggard desires.” The term תַּאֲוַת (ta’avat, “desire; craving”) is a metonymy of cause. The craving itself will not destroy the sluggard, but what will destroy him is what the craving causes him to do or not to do. The lazy come to ruin because they desire the easy way out.
65 tn The verb תְּמִיתֶנּוּ (tÿmitennu) is the Hiphil imperfect with a suffix: “will kill him.” It is probably used hyperbolically here for coming to ruin (cf. NLT), although it could include physical death.
66 sn “Hands” is figurative for the whole person; but “hands” is retained in the translation because it is often the symbol to express one’s ability of action.
67 tn Heb “lacks heart”; KJV “understanding”; NAB, NASB, NLT “sense.”
68 tn The Hebrew term וְהִנֵּה (vÿhinneh, traditionally “and, lo” [KJV, ASV]) is a deictic particle that calls attention to what comes next. “And look” is too abrupt here; “I saw” calls attention to the field that was noticed.
69 tn Heb “its face” (so KJV, ASV).
70 sn Heb “I set my heart.” The “heart” represents the mind and the will combined; to “set” the mind and will means to give careful consideration to what was observed.
71 tn Heb “I looked, I received instruction.” There are four verbs in the two parts of this verse: “I saw…I set…I saw…I received.” It is clear that the first two verbs in each half verse are the foundation for the next two. At the beginning of the verse the form is the preterite with the vav (ו) consecutive; it can be subordinated as a temporal clause to the next verb, probably to be identified as a preterite with the vav – “when I saw, I put.” The next two verbs are both perfect tenses; their construction would parallel the first half of the verse, even though there are no conjunctions here – “[when] I saw, I received.”
sn The teacher makes several observations of the state of the sluggard that reveal that his continued laziness will result in poverty. The reminiscence used here may be a literary device to draw a fictional but characteristically true picture of the lazy person.
72 tn Heb “a man of shield.” This could refer to an armed warrior (so NRSV) but in this context, in collocation with the other word for “robber” in the previous line, it must refer to an armed criminal.
74 tn Heb “in the broad plazas”; NAB, NASB “in the square.” This proverb makes the same point as 22:13, namely, that the sluggard uses absurd excuses to get out of work. D. Kidner notes that in this situation the sluggard has probably convinced himself that he is a realist and not a lazy person (Proverbs [TOTC], 163).
75 tn The comparative “like” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied from context in the translation.
76 sn The sluggard is too lazy to get out of bed – although he would probably rationalize this by saying that he is not at his best in the morning. The humor of the verse is based on an analogy with a door – it moves back and forth on its hinges but goes nowhere. Like the door to the wall, the sluggard is “hinged” to his bed (e.g., Prov 6:9-10; 24:33).
77 tn The term “turns” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation from the parallelism.
78 tn Heb “buries” (so many English versions); KJV “hideth”; NAB “loses.”
80 tn Heb “in his eyes.” The lazy person thinks that he has life all figured out and has chosen the wise course of action – but he is simply lazy. J. H. Greenstone says, for example, “Much anti-intellectualism may be traced to such rationalization for laziness” (Proverbs, 269).
81 tn The term means “taste; judgment.” The related verb means “to taste; to perceive,” that is, “to examine by tasting,” or examine by experiencing (e.g., Ps 34:9). Here the idea is expressed with the participle in construct, “those returners [of] good sense,” those who answer tastefully, with discretion. Cf. NIV “who (+ can NRSV) answer discreetly.”
82 tn Or “will have plenty of food” (Heb “bread”); so NAB, NASB, NCV.
83 tn Heb “empty things” or “vain things”; NRSV “follows worthless pursuits.”
sn Prosperity depends on diligent work and not on chasing empty dreams. The proverb is essentially the same as Prov 12:11 except for the last expression.
84 tn The repetition of the verb strengthens the contrast. Both halves of the verse use the verb יִשְׂבַּע (yisba’, “will be satisfied; will be filled with; will have enough”). It is positive in the first colon, but negative in the second – with an ironic twist to say one is “satisfied” with poverty.