1 tn The participle and verb both are from the root צָפַן (tsafan, “to hide”). This combination could be translated “hiding her is [like] hiding the wind.”
sn A contentious woman is uncontrollable. The wind can gust at any moment; so too the contentious woman can nag or complain without warning. If anyone can hide the wind he can hide her.
2 sn The verb is the Qal imperfect of קָרָא (qara’); BDB 895 s.v. 5.b defines it here as “call for = demand, require,” but acknowledge that it is probably corrupt. R. B. Y. Scott interprets it to mean “grasping” oil in the hand, an expression he compares to the modern “butterfingers” (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes [AB], 163). Others have interpreted it to mean “betrays” – “ointment of his right hand betrays itself,” meaning its smell persists. However, the connection to the proverb does not seem obvious with that interpretation.
3 tc The LXX took an etymologizing approach to the whole verse and translated it “the north wind is a severe wind, but by its name is termed auspicious.” In this rendering the Hebrew text’s “oil” became “its name,” “right hand” became “auspicious,” and “grasp” became “called.”
4 sn The expression shares with a thief describes someone who is an “accomplice” (cf. NAB, NIV) because he is willing to share in the loot without taking part in the crime.
5 tn Heb “hates his soul.” The accomplice is working against himself, for he will be punished along with the thief if he is caught.
6 tn Heb “oath” or “imprecation”; ASV “adjuration.” This amounted to an “oath” or “curse” (cf. NAB “he hears himself put under a curse”; NRSV “one hears the victim’s curse”) either by or on behalf of the victim, that any witness to the crime must testify (cf. Lev 5:1). However, in this legal setting referring to “a victim’s curse” could be misleading (cf. also KJV “he heareth cursing”), since it could be understood to refer to profanity directed against those guilty of the crime rather than an imprecation called down on a witness who refused to testify (as in the present proverb). The present translation specifies this as an “oath to testify.”
sn The oath to testify was not an oath to tell the truth before a court of law in the modern sense. Instead it was a “curse” or “imprecation” expressed by the victim of the theft, or by the legal authorities, called down on any witness of the crime who kept silent or refused to testify (as here). According to Lev 5:1, if a witness does not speak up he is accountable for the crime. This person hears the adjuration, but if he speaks up he is condemned, and if he does not speak up he is guilty under the law. The proverb is an unusual one; it seems to be warning against getting mixed up in any way with the thief, for it will create a serious ethical dilemma.