16:1 The intentions of the heart 1 belong to a man, 2
but the answer of the tongue 3 comes from 4 the Lord. 5
19:21 There are many plans 6 in a person’s mind, 7
but it 8 is the counsel 9 of the Lord which will stand.
20:24 The steps of a person 10 are ordained by 11 the Lord –
so how can anyone 12 understand his own 13 way?
21:1 The king’s heart 14 is in the hand 15 of the Lord like channels of water; 16
he turns it wherever he wants.
1 tn Heb “plans of the heart” (so ASV, NASB, NIV). The phrase מַעַרְכֵי־לֵב (ma’arkhe-lev) means “the arrangements of the mind.”
sn Humans may set things in order, plan out what they are going to say, but God sovereignly enables them to put their thoughts into words.
2 tn Heb “[are] to a man.”
3 tn Here “the tongue” is a metonymy of cause in which the instrument of speech is put for what is said: the answer expressed.
4 sn The contrasting prepositions enhance the contrasting ideas – the ideas belong to people, but the words come from the
5 sn There are two ways this statement can be taken: (1) what one intends to say and what one actually says are the same, or (2) what one actually says differs from what the person intended to say. The second view fits the contrast better. The proverb then is giving a glimpse of how God even confounds the wise. When someone is trying to speak [“answer” in the book seems to refer to a verbal answer] before others, the
6 sn The plans (from the Hebrew verb חָשַׁב [khashav], “to think; to reckon; to devise”) in the human heart are many. But only those which God approves will succeed.
7 tn Heb “in the heart of a man” (cf. NAB, NIV). Here “heart” is used for the seat of thoughts, plans, and reasoning, so the translation uses “mind.” In contemporary English “heart” is more often associated with the seat of emotion than with the seat of planning and reasoning.
8 tn Heb “but the counsel of the
9 tn The antithetical parallelism pairs “counsel” with “plans.” “Counsel of the
sn The point of the proverb is that the human being with many plans is uncertain, but the
10 tn Heb “the steps of a man”; but “man” is the noun גֶּבֶר (gever, in pause), indicating an important, powerful person. BDB 149-50 s.v. suggests it is used of men in their role of defending women and children; if that can be validated, then a translation of “man” would be appropriate here. But the line seems to have a wider, more general application. The “steps” represent (by implied comparison) the course of life (cf. NLT “the road we travel”).
11 tn Heb “from the
sn To say that one’s steps are ordained by the
12 tn The verse uses an independent nominative absolute to point up the contrast between the mortal and the immortal: “and man, how can he understand his way?” The verb in the sentence would then be classified as a potential imperfect; and the whole question rhetorical. It is affirming that humans cannot understand very much at all about their lives.
13 tn Heb “his way.” The referent of the third masculine singular pronoun is unclear, so the word “own” was supplied in the translation to clarify that the referent is the human individual, not the Lord.
14 sn “Heart” is a metonymy of subject; it signifies the ability to make decisions, if not the decisions themselves.
15 sn “Hand” in this passage is a personification; the word is frequently used idiomatically for “power,” and that is the sense intended here.
16 tn “Channels of water” (פַּלְגֵי, palge) is an adverbial accusative, functioning as a figure of comparison – “like channels of water.” Cf. NAB “Like a stream”; NIV “watercourse”; NRSV, NLT “a stream of water.”
sn The farmer channels irrigation ditches where he wants them, where they will do the most good; so does the