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Proverbs 23:4-5

Context

23:4 Do not wear yourself out to become rich;

be wise enough to restrain yourself. 1 

23:5 When you gaze upon riches, 2  they are gone,

for they surely make wings for themselves,

and fly off into the sky like an eagle! 3 

1 tn Heb “from your understanding cease.” In the context this means that the person should have enough understanding to stop wearing himself out trying to be rich (cf. NRSV “be wise enough to desist”).

2 tc The Kethib is הֲתָעוּף (hatauf), “do your eyes fly [light] on it?” The Qere is the Hiphil, הֲתָעִיף (hataif) “do you cause your eyes to fly on it?” But the line is difficult. The question may be indirect: If you cast your eyes on it, it is gone – when you think you are close, it slips away.

tn The term “riches” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation based on the previous verse.

3 sn This seventh saying warns people not to expend all their energy trying to get rich because riches are fleeting (cf. Instruction of Amememope, chap. 7, 9:10-11 which says, “they have made themselves wings like geese and have flown away to heaven”). In the ancient world the symbol of birds flying away signified fleeting wealth.



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