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Proverbs 6:1-5

Context
Admonitions and Warnings against Dangerous and Destructive Acts 1 

6:1 My child, 2  if you have made a pledge 3  for your neighbor,

and 4  have become a guarantor 5  for a stranger, 6 

6:2 if 7  you have been ensnared 8  by the words you have uttered, 9 

and have been caught by the words you have spoken,

6:3 then, my child, do this in order to deliver yourself, 10 

because you have fallen into your neighbor’s power: 11 

go, humble yourself, 12 

and appeal firmly 13  to your neighbor.

6:4 Permit no sleep to your eyes 14 

or slumber to your eyelids.

6:5 Deliver yourself like a gazelle from a snare, 15 

and like a bird from the trap 16  of the fowler.

1 sn The chapter advises release from foolish indebtedness (1-5), admonishes avoiding laziness (6-11), warns of the danger of poverty (9-11) and deviousness (12-15), lists conduct that the Lord hates (16-19), and warns about immorality (20-35).

2 tn Heb “my son” (likewise in vv. 3, 20).

3 sn It was fairly common for people to put up some kind of financial security for someone else, that is, to underwrite another’s debts. But the pledge in view here was foolish because the debtor was a neighbor who was not well known (זָר, zar), perhaps a misfit in the community. The one who pledged security for this one was simply gullible.

4 tn The conjunction “and” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for the sake of smoothness.

5 tn Heb “struck your hands”; NIV “have struck hands in pledge”; NASB “have given a pledge.” The guarantee of a pledge was signaled by a handshake (e.g., 11:15; 17:18; 22:26).

6 tn Heb “stranger.” The term זוּר (zur, “stranger”) probably refers to a neighbor who was not well-known. Alternatively, it could describe a person who is living outside the norms of convention, a moral misfit in the community. In any case, this “stranger” is a high risk in any financial arrangement.

7 tn The term “if” does not appear in this line but is implied by the parallelism. It is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.

8 tn The verb יָקַשׁ (yaqash) means “to lay a bait; to lure; to lay snares.” In the Niphal it means “to be caught by bait; to be ensnared” – here in a business entanglement.

9 tn Heb “by the words of your mouth.” The same expression occurs at the end of the following line (cf. KJV, ASV, NASB). Many English versions vary the wording slightly, presumably for stylistic reasons, to avoid redundancy (e.g., NAB, NIV, NRSV, NLT).

10 tn The syntactical construction of imperative followed by an imperative + vav consecutive denotes purpose: “in order to be delivered.” The verb means “to deliver oneself, be delivered” in the Niphal. The image is one of being snatched or plucked quickly out of some danger or trouble, in the sense of a rescue, as in a “brand snatched [Hophal stem] from the fire” (Zech 3:2).

11 tn Heb “have come into the hand of your neighbor” (so NASB; cf. KJV, ASV). The idiom using the “hand” means that the individual has come under the control or the power of someone else. This particular word for hand is used to play ironically on its first occurrence in v. 1.

12 tn In the Hitpael the verb רָפַס (rafas) means “to stamp oneself down” or “to humble oneself” (cf. KJV, NASB, NIV). BDB 952 s.v. Hithp suggests “become a suppliant.” G. R. Driver related it to the Akkadian cognate rapasu, “trample,” and interpreted as trampling oneself, swallowing pride, being unremitting in effort (“Some Hebrew Verbs, Nouns, and Pronouns,” JTS 30 [1929]: 374).

13 tn Heb “be bold.” The verb רָהַב (rahav) means “to act stormily; to act boisterously; to act arrogantly.” The idea here is a strong one: storm against (beset, importune) your neighbor. The meaning is that he should be bold and not take no for an answer. Cf. NIV “press your plea”; TEV “beg him to release you.”

14 tn Heb “do not give sleep to your eyes.” The point is to go to the neighbor and seek release from the agreement immediately (cf. NLT “Don’t rest until you do”).

15 tn Heb “from the hand.” Most translations supply “of the hunter.” The word “hand” can signify power, control; so the meaning is that of a gazelle freeing itself from a snare or a trap that a hunter set.

16 tc Heb “hand” (so KJV, NAB, NRSV). Some mss and versions have it as “trap,” which may very well represent an interpretation too.



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