Proverbs 25:13

25:13 Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest,

so is a faithful messenger to those who send him,

for he refreshes the heart of his masters.

Proverbs 25:20

25:20 Like one who takes off a garment on a cold day,

or like vinegar poured on soda,

so is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.

sn The emblem in the parallelism of this verse is the simile of the first line. Because snow at the time of harvest would be rare, and probably unwelcome, various commentators have sought to explain this expression. R. N. Whybray suggests it may refer to snow brought down from the mountains and kept cool in an ice hole (Proverbs [CBC], 148); this seems rather forced. J. H. Greenstone following Rashi, a Jewish scholar who lived a.d. 1040-1105, suggests it might refer to the refreshing breeze that comes from snow-capped mountains (Proverbs, 260). C. H. Toy suggests a snow-cooled drink (Proverbs [ICC], 464), and W. McKane an application of ice water to the forehead (Proverbs [OTL], 585). Some English versions replace “snow” with “water” (cf. TEV “cold water”; CEV “cool water”). These all attempt to explain the simile; but the point is clear enough, a faithful servant is refreshing to his master. The analogy could be hypothetical – as refreshing as the coolness of snow would be in harvest time.

tn Heb “he restores the life [or, soul] of his masters.” The idea suggests that someone who sends the messenger either entrusts his life to him or relies on the messenger to resolve some concern. A faithful messenger restores his master’s spirit and so is “refreshing.”

tc The consonants of the Hebrew text of this verse are similar to the consonants in v. 19. The LXX has a much longer reading: “Like vinegar is bad for a wound, so a pain that afflicts the body afflicts the heart. Like a moth in a garment, and a worm in wood, so the pain of a man wounds the heart” (NRSV follows much of the LXX reading; NAB follows only the second sentence of the LXX reading). The idea that v. 20 is a dittogram is not very convincing; and the Greek version is too far removed to be of help in the matter.

tn The second simile mentions pouring vinegar on soda. The LXX has “scab,” but that does not fit as a sensitive thing. The reference is to sodium carbonate (natural in Egypt) which can be neutralized with vinegar.

sn It is inappropriate and counterproductive to sing songs to a heavy heart. One needs to be sensitive to others (e.g., 1 Sam 19:9).