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Proverbs 12:16-20

Context

12:16 A fool’s annoyance 1  is known at once, 2 

but the prudent 3  overlooks 4  an insult.

12:17 The faithful witness 5  tells what is right, 6 

but a false witness 7  speaks 8  deceit.

12:18 Speaking recklessly 9  is like the thrusts of a sword,

but the words 10  of the wise bring 11  healing. 12 

12:19 The one who tells the truth 13  will endure forever,

but the one who lies 14  will last only for a moment. 15 

12:20 Deceit is in the heart of those who plot evil, 16 

but those who promote peace 17  have joy.

1 tn Heb “The fool, at once his vexation is known.” This rhetorically emphatic construction uses an independent nominative absolute, which is then followed by the formal subject with a suffix. The construction focuses attention on “the fool,” then states what is to be said about him.

2 tn Heb “on the day” or “the same day.”

sn The fool is impatient and unwise, and so flares up immediately when anything bothers him. W. McKane says that the fool’s reaction is “like an injured animal and so his opponent knows that he has been wounded” (Proverbs [OTL], 442).

3 tn Heb “shrewd.”

4 tn Heb “covers.” The verb כָּסָה (casah) means “covers” in the sense of ignores or bides his time. The point is not that he does not respond at all, but that he is shrewd enough to handle the criticism or insult in the best way – not instinctively and irrationally.

5 tn The text has “he pours out faithfully”; the word rendered “faithfully” or “reliably” (אֱמוּנָה, ’emunah) is used frequently for giving testimony in court, and so here the subject matter is the reliable witness.

6 tn Heb “righteousness.”

7 tn Heb “witness of falsehoods.” The genitive noun functions attributively, and the plural form depicts habitual action or moral characteristic. This describes a person who habitually lies. A false witness cannot be counted on to help the cause of justice.

8 tn The term “speaks” does not appear in this line but is implied by the parallelism; it is supplied in the translation for clarity and smoothness.

9 tn The term בּוֹטֶה (boteh) means “to speak rashly [or, thoughtlessly]” (e.g., Lev 5:4; Num 30:7).

10 tn Heb “the tongue” (so NAB, NIV, NRSV). The term לָשׁוֹן (lashon, “tongue”) functions as a metonymy of cause for what is said.

11 tn The term “brings” does not appear in the Hebrew but is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity and smoothness.

12 sn Healing is a metonymy of effect. Healing words are the opposite of the cutting, irresponsible words. What the wise say is faithful and true, gentle and kind, uplifting and encouraging; so their words bring healing.

13 tn Heb “a lip of truth.” The genitive אֱמֶת (’emet, “truth”) functions as an attributive adjective: “truthful lip.” The term שְׂפַת (sÿfat, “lip”) functions as a synecdoche of part (= lip) for the whole (= person): “truthful person.” The contrast is between “the lip of truth” and the “tongue of lying.”

14 tn Heb “a tongue of deceit.” The genitive שָׁקֶר (shaqer, “deceit”) functions as an attributive genitive. The noun לָשׁוֹן (lashon, “tongue”) functions as a synecdoche of part (= tongue) for the whole (= person): “lying person.”

15 tn Heb “while I would twinkle.” This expression is an idiom meaning “only for a moment.” The twinkling of the eye, the slightest movement, signals the brevity of the life of a lie (hyperbole). But truth will be established (תִּכּוֹן, tikon), that is, be made firm and endure.

16 sn The contrast here is between “evil” (= pain and calamity) and “peace” (= social wholeness and well-being); see, e.g., Pss 34:14 and 37:37.

17 tn Heb “those who are counselors of peace.” The term שָׁלוֹם (shalom, “peace”) is an objective genitive, so the genitive-construct “counselors of peace” means those who advise, advocate or promote peace (cf. NAB, NIV).



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