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Proverbs 19:16-17


19:16 The one who obeys commandments guards 1  his life;

the one who despises his ways 2  will die. 3 

19:17 The one who is gracious 4  to the poor lends 5  to the Lord,

and the Lord 6  will repay him 7  for his good deed. 8 

1 tn The verb שָׁמַר (shamar) is repeated twice in this line but with two different senses, creating a polysemantic wordplay: “he who obeys/keeps (ֹֹשׁמֵר, shomer) the commandment safeguards/keeps (שֹׁמֵר, shomer) his life.”

2 sn The expression his ways could refer either (1) to the conduct of the individual himself, or (2) to the commandments as the Lord’s ways. If the latter is the case, then the punishment is more certain.

3 tc The Kethib is יָוְמֻת (yavmut), “will be put to death,” while the Qere reads יָמוּת (yamut, “will die”). The Qere is the preferred reading and is followed by most English versions.

4 sn The participle חוֹנֵן (khonen, “shows favor to”) is related to the word for “grace.” The activity here is the kind favor shown poor people for no particular reason and with no hope of repayment. It is literally an act of grace.

5 tn The form מַלְוֵה (malveh) is the Hiphil participle from לָוָה (lavah) in construct; it means “to cause to borrow; to lend.” The expression here is “lender of the Lord.” The person who helps the poor becomes the creditor of God.

6 tn Heb “he.” The referent of the 3rd person masculine singular pronoun is “the Lord” in the preceding line, which has been supplied here in the translation for clarity.

7 sn The promise of reward does not necessarily mean that the person who gives to the poor will get money back; the rewards in the book of Proverbs involve life and prosperity in general.

8 tn Heb “and his good deed will repay him.” The word גְּמֻלוֹ (gÿmulo) could be (1) the subject or (2) part of a double accusative of the verb. Understanding it as part of the double accusative makes better sense, for then the subject of the verb is God. How “his deed” could repay him is not immediately obvious.

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