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Proverbs 4:4-13

Context

4:4 he taught me, and he said to me:

“Let your heart lay hold of my words;

keep my commands so that 1  you will live.

4:5 Acquire wisdom, acquire understanding;

do not forget and do not turn aside from the words I speak. 2 

4:6 Do not forsake wisdom, 3  and she will protect you;

love her, and she will guard you.

4:7 Wisdom is supreme 4  – so 5  acquire wisdom,

and whatever you acquire, 6  acquire understanding! 7 

4:8 Esteem her highly 8  and she will exalt you;

she will honor you if you embrace her.

4:9 She will place a fair 9  garland on your head;

she will bestow 10  a beautiful crown 11  on you.”

4:10 Listen, my child, 12  and accept my words,

so that 13  the years of your life will be many. 14 

4:11 I will guide you 15  in the way of wisdom

and I will lead you in upright paths. 16 

4:12 When you walk, your steps 17  will not be hampered, 18 

and when you run, 19  you will not stumble.

4:13 Hold on to instruction, 20  do not let it go;

protect it, 21  because it is your life.

1 tn The imperative with the vav expresses volitional sequence after the preceding imperative: “keep and then you will live,” meaning “keep so that you may live.”

2 tn Heb “from the words of my mouth” (so KJV, NASB, NRSV); TEV, CEV “what I say.”

sn The verse uses repetition for the imperative “acquire” to underscore the importance of getting wisdom; it then uses two verb forms for the one prepositional phrase to stress the warning.

3 tn Heb “her”; the 3rd person feminine singular referent is personified “wisdom,” which has been specified in the translation for clarity.

4 tn The absolute and construct state of רֵאשִׁית (reshit) are identical (BDB 912 s.v.). Some treat רֵאשִׁית חָכְמָה (reshit khokhmah) as a genitive-construct phrase: “the beginning of wisdom” (cf. NAB, NASB, NRSV). Others take רֵאשִׁית as an absolute functioning as predicate and חָכְמָה as the subject: “wisdom is the first/chief thing” (cf. KJV, ASV). The context here suggests the predicate.

5 tn The term “so” does not appear in the Hebrew but is supplied in the translation for the sake of smoothness and style.

6 tn The noun קִנְיָן (qinyan) means “thing got or acquired; acquisition” (BDB 889 s.v.). With the preposition that denotes price, it means “with (or at the price of) all that you have acquired.” The point is that no price is too high for wisdom – give everything for it (K&D 16:108).

7 tc The verse is not in the LXX; some textual critics delete the verse as an impossible gloss that interrupts vv. 6 and 8 (e.g., C. H. Toy, Proverbs [ICC], 88).

8 tn The verb is the Pilpel imperative from סָלַל (salal, “to lift up; to cast up”). So the imperative means “exalt her; esteem her highly; prize her.”

9 sn The personification of wisdom continues with the bestowal of a wreath for the head (e.g., 1:9). The point is that grace will be given to the individual like a wreath about the head.

10 tn The verb מָגַן (magan) is a Piel (denominative) verb from the noun “shield.” Here it means “to bestow” (BDB 171 s.v.).

11 sn This verse uses wedding imagery: The wife (wisdom) who is embraced by her husband (the disciple) will place the wedding crown on the head of her new bridegroom. Wisdom, like a virtuous wife, will crown the individual with honor and grace.

12 tn Heb “my son” (likewise in v. 20).

13 tn The vav prefixed to the imperfect verb follows an imperative; this volitive sequence depicts purpose/result.

14 tn Heb “and the years of life will be many for you.”

15 tn The form הֹרֵתִיךָ (horetikha) is the Hiphil perfect with a suffix from the root יָרָה (yarah, “to guide”). This and the parallel verb should be taken as instantaneous perfects, translated as an English present tense: The sage is now instructing or pointing the way.

sn The verb יָרָה (yarah) means “to teach; to instruct; to guide.” This is from the same root as the Hebrew word for “law” (torah). See G. R. Driver, “Hebrew Notes,” VT 1 (1951): 241-50; and J. L. Crenshaw, “The Acquisition of Knowledge in Israelite Wisdom Literature,” WW 7 (1986): 9.

16 tn Heb “in the tracks of uprightness”; cf. NAB “on straightforward paths.” Both the verb and the object of the preposition make use of the idiom – the verb is the Hiphil perfect from דֶּרֶךְ (derekh, related to “road; way”) and the object is “wagon tracks, paths.”

17 sn The noun צַעֲדֶךָ (tsaadekha, “your steps”) and the temporal infinitive בְּלֶכְתְּךָ (belekhtÿkha, “when you walk”) use the idiom of walking to represent the course of life. On that course there will be no obstacles; the “path” will be straight – morally and practically.

18 sn The verb צָרַר (tsarar, “to be narrow; to be constricted”) refers to that which is narrow or constricted, signifying distress, trouble, adversity; that which was wide-open or broad represents freedom and deliverance.

19 sn The progression from walking to running is an idiom called “anabasis,” suggesting that as greater and swifter progress is made, there will be nothing to impede the progress (e.g., Isa 40:31).

20 tn Heb “discipline.”

21 tn The form נִצְּרֶהָ (nitsÿreha, from נָצַר, natsar) has an anomalous doubled letter (see GKC 73 §20.h).



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