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Proverbs 26:20-23

Context

26:20 Where there is no wood, a fire goes out,

and where there is no gossip, 1  contention ceases. 2 

26:21 Like charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire,

so is a contentious person 3  to kindle strife. 4 

26:22 The words of a gossip are like delicious morsels;

they go down into a person’s innermost being. 5 

26:23 Like a coating of glaze 6  over earthenware

are fervent 7  lips with an evil heart. 8 

1 sn Gossip (that is, the one who goes around whispering and slandering) fuels contention just as wood fuels a fire. The point of the proverb is to prevent contention – if one takes away the cause, contention will cease (e.g., 18:8).

2 tn Heb “becomes silent.”

3 sn Heb “a man of contentions”; NCV, NRSV, NLT “a quarrelsome person.” The expression focuses on the person who is contentious by nature. His quarreling is like piling fuel on a fire that would otherwise go out. This kind of person not only starts strife, but keeps it going.

4 tn The Pilpel infinitive construct לְחַרְחַר (lÿkharkhar) from חָרַר (kharar, “to be hot; to be scorched; to burn”) means “to kindle; to cause to flare up.”

5 tn The proverb is essentially the same as 18:8; it observes how appealing gossip is.

6 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.

7 tn The word translated “fervent” actually means “burning, glowing”; the LXX has “flattering lips” (as if from חָלַק [khalaq] rather than דָּלַק [dalaq]).

8 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.



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