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Proverbs 22:22-28

Context

22:22 Do not exploit 1  a poor person because he is poor

and do not crush the needy in court, 2 

22:23 for the Lord will plead their case 3 

and will rob those who are robbing 4  them.

22:24 Do not make friends with an angry person, 5 

and do not associate with a wrathful person,

22:25 lest you learn 6  his ways

and entangle yourself in a snare. 7 

22:26 Do not be one who strikes hands in pledge

or who puts up security for debts.

22:27 If you do not have enough to pay,

your bed 8  will be taken 9  right out from under you! 10 

22:28 Do not move an ancient boundary stone 11 

which was put in place by your ancestors. 12 

1 tn Two negated jussives form the instruction here: אַל־תִּגְזָל (’al-tigzal, “do not exploit”) and וְאַל־תְּדַכֵּא (veal-tÿdakke’, “do not crush”).

sn Robbing or oppressing the poor is easy because they are defenseless. But this makes the crime tempting as well as contemptible. What is envisioned may be in bounds legally (just) but out of bounds morally.

2 tn Heb “in the gate” (so KJV); NAB, NASB, NRSV “at the gate.” The “gate” of the city was the center of activity, the place of business as well as the place for settling legal disputes. The language of the next verse suggests a legal setting, so “court” is an appropriate translation here.

3 tn The construction uses the verb יָרִיב (yariv) with its cognate accusative. It can mean “to strive,” but here it probably means “to argue a case, plead a case” (cf. KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV). How the Lord will do this is not specified – either through righteous people or by direct intervention.

4 tn The verb קָבַע (qava’, “to rob; to spoil; to plunder”) is used here in both places to reflect the principle of talionic justice. What the oppressors did to the poor will be turned back on them by the Lord.

5 tn Heb “possessor of anger.” This expression is an idiom for “wrathful person” or “an angry person” (cf. NAB “a hotheaded man”; NLT “short-tempered people”). These are people characterized by anger, meaning the anger is not a rare occurrence with them.

6 tn The verb פֶּן־תֶּאֱלַף (pen-teelaf) is translated “lest you learn.” The idea is more precisely “become familiar with his ways.” The construction indicates that if one associates with such people he will become like them (cf. TEV “you might learn their habits”).

7 sn The warning in this proverb is to avoid associating with a hothead because his influence could be fatal (a similar idea is found in the Instruction of Amenemope, chap. 9, 11:13-14 [ANET 423]).

8 tn The “bed” may be a metonymy of adjunct, meaning the garment that covers the bed (e.g., Exod 22:26). At any rate, it represents the individual’s last possession (like the English expression “the shirt off his back”).

9 tn Heb “If you cannot pay, why should he take the bed from under you?” This rhetorical question is used to affirm the statement. The rhetorical interrogative לָמָּה (lamah, “why?”) appears in MT but not in the ancient versions; it may be in the Hebrew text by dittography.

10 sn The third saying deals with rash vows: If people foolishly pledge what they have, they could lose everything (e.g., 6:1-5; 11:15; 17:18; 20:16; there is no Egyptian parallel).

11 sn Moving a boundary stone was (and still is) a major problem. The boundaries that were established by the forefathers were to be preserved, but no law would stop such violations if people lacked integrity (e.g., Deut 19:14; 27:17; 1 Kgs 21:16-19). Boundaries in Israel were sacred because God owned the land and he apportioned the property to the tribes. To extend one’s property illegally by moving a neighbor’s boundary marker was a violation of covenant and oath. Of course, disputes could arise when both sides claim their ancestors established a boundary.

12 tn Heb “your fathers” (so NAB, NASB).

sn The fourth saying deals with respect for property that belongs to other people (cf. Instruction of Amenemope, chap. 6, 7:12-13 [ANET 422]).



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