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Proverbs 4:20-23

Context

4:20 My child, pay attention to my words;

listen attentively 1  to my sayings.

4:21 Do not let them depart 2  from your sight,

guard 3  them within your heart; 4 

4:22 for they are life to those who find them

and healing to one’s entire body. 5 

4:23 Guard your heart with all vigilance, 6 

for from it are the sources 7  of life.

1 tn Heb “incline your ear.” The verb הַט (hat) is the Hiphil imperative from נָטָה (natah, Hiphil: “to turn to; to incline”). The idiom “to incline the ear” gives the picture of “lean over and listen closely.”

sn Commentators note the use of the body in this section: ear (v. 20), eyes (v. 21), flesh (v. 22), heart (v. 23), lips (v. 24), eyes (v. 25), feet (v. 26), and hands and feet (v. 27). Each is a synecdoche of part representing the whole; the total accumulation signifies the complete person in the process.

2 tn The Hiphil form יַלִּיזוּ (yallizu) follows the Aramaic with gemination. The verb means “to turn aside; to depart” (intransitive Hiphil or inner causative).

3 tn Or “keep” (so KJV, NIV, NRSV and many others).

4 sn The words “eyes” and “heart” are metonymies of subject representing the faculties of each. Cf. CEV “think about it all.”

5 tn Heb “to all of his flesh.”

6 tn Heb “more than all guarding.” This idiom means “with all vigilance.” The construction uses the preposition מִן (min) to express “above; beyond,” the word “all” and the noun “prison; guard; act of guarding.” The latter is the use here (BDB 1038 s.v. מִשְׁמָר).

7 sn The word תּוֹצְאוֹת (totsot, from יָצָא, yatsa’) means “outgoings; extremities; sources.” It is used here for starting points, like a fountainhead, and so the translation “sources” works well.



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