1 tn The Hebrew כֶּלִי (keli) means “vessel; utensil” (cf. KJV, ASV, NASB). But purging dross from silver does not produce a “vessel” for the silversmith. Some versions therefore render it “material” (e.g., NIV, NRSV). The LXX says “that it will be entirely pure.” So D. W. Thomas reads כָּלִיל (kalil) and translates it “purified completely” (“Notes on Some Passages in the Book of Proverbs,” VT 15 : 271-79; cf. NAB). W. McKane simply rearranges the line to say that the smith can produce a work of art (Proverbs [OTL], 580; cf. TEV “a thing of beauty”). The easiest explanation is that “vessel” is a metonymy of effect, “vessel” put for the material that goes into making it (such metonymies occur fairly often in Psalms and Proverbs).
2 tn The traditional translation of “silver dross” (so KJV, ASV, NASB) never did make much sense because the parallel idea deals with hypocrisy – “fervent lips with an evil heart.” But silver dross would not be used over earthenware – instead it is discarded. Yet the MT clearly has “silver dross” (כֶּסֶף סִיגִים, kesef sigim). Ugaritic turned up a word spsg which means “glaze,” and this found a parallel in Hittite zapzaga[y]a. H. L. Ginsberg repointed the Hebrew text to k’sapsagim, “like glaze,” and this has been adopted by many commentators and recent English versions (e.g., NAB, NIV, NRSV, NLT). The final ם (mem) is then classified as enclitic. See, among others, K. L. Barker, “The Value of Ugaritic for Old Testament Studies,” BSac 133 (1976): 128-29.
3 tn The word translated “fervent” actually means “burning, glowing”; the LXX has “flattering lips” (as if from חָלַק [khalaq] rather than דָּלַק [dalaq]).
4 sn The analogy fits the second line very well. Glaze makes a vessel look beautiful and certainly different from the clay that it actually is. So is one who has evil intent (“heart”) but covers it with glowing speech.