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Proverbs 22:1-16

Context

22:1 A good name 1  is to be chosen 2  rather than great wealth,

good favor 3  more than silver or gold.

22:2 The rich and the poor meet together; 4 

the Lord is the creator of them both. 5 

22:3 A shrewd person 6  sees danger 7  and hides himself,

but the naive keep right on going 8  and suffer for it. 9 

22:4 The reward 10  for humility 11  and fearing the Lord 12 

is riches and honor and life.

22:5 Thorns and snares 13  are in the path of the perverse,

but the one who guards himself keeps far from them.

22:6 Train 14  a child 15  in the way that he should go, 16 

and when he is old he will not turn from it. 17 

22:7 The rich rule over 18  the poor,

and the borrower is servant 19  to the lender.

22:8 The one who sows 20  iniquity will reap trouble,

and the rod of his fury 21  will end.

22:9 A generous person 22  will be blessed, 23 

for he gives some of his food 24  to the poor.

22:10 Drive out the scorner 25  and contention will leave;

strife and insults will cease. 26 

22:11 The one who loves a pure heart 27 

and whose speech is gracious 28  – the king will be his friend. 29 

22:12 The eyes of the Lord 30  guard knowledge, 31 

but he overthrows the words of the faithless person. 32 

22:13 The sluggard says, “There is a lion 33  outside!

I will be killed in the middle of the streets!” 34 

22:14 The mouth 35  of an adulteress is like 36  a deep pit; 37 

the one against whom the Lord is angry 38  will fall into it. 39 

22:15 Folly is bound up 40  in the heart of a child, 41 

but the rod of discipline 42  will drive it far from him.

22:16 The one who oppresses the poor to increase his own gain

and the one who gives to the rich 43  – both end up only in poverty.

1 tn Heb “a name.” The idea of the name being “good” is implied; it has the connotation here of a reputation (cf. TEV, CEV, NLT).

2 tn “To be chosen rather than” is a translation of the Niphal participle with the comparative degree taken into consideration. Cf. CEV “worth much more than.”

3 tn Heb “favor of goodness.” This is a somewhat difficult expression. Some English versions render the phrase “favor is better than silver or gold” (so NASB, NRSV) making it parallel to the first colon. But if “good” is retained as an attributive modifier, then it would mean one was well thought of, or one had engaging qualities (cf. ASV “loving favor; NLT “high esteem”). This fits with the idea of the reputation in the first colon, for a good name would bring with it the favor of others.

4 tn The form of the verb is the Niphal perfect of פָּגַשׁ (pagash); it means “to meet together [or, each other]” (cf. KJV, ASV). The point is that rich and poor live side by side in this life, but they are both part of God’s creation (cf. NAB, NASB “have a common bond”). Some commentators have taken this to mean that they should live together because they are part of God’s creation; but the verb form will not sustain that meaning.

5 tn Heb “all.” The Lord is sovereign over both groups, that is, he has had the final say whether a person is rich or poor. People would do well to treat all people with respect, for God can as easily reduce the rich to poverty as raise up the poor to wealth.

6 sn The contrast is between the “shrewd” (prudent) person and the “simpleton.” The shrewd person knows where the dangers and pitfalls are in life and so can avoid them; the naive person is unwary, untrained, and gullible, unable to survive the dangers of the world and blundering into them.

7 tn Heb “evil,” a term that is broad enough to include (1) “sin” as well as (2) any form of “danger” (NIV, NCV, NRSV, NLT) or “trouble” (TEV, CEV). The second option is more likely what is meant here: The naive simpleton does not see the danger to be avoided and so suffers for it.

8 tn Heb “go on”; the word “right” is supplied in the translation to clarify the meaning: The naive person, oblivious to impending danger, meets it head on (cf. TEV “will walk right into it”).

9 tn The verb עָנַשׁ (’anash) means “to fine” specifically. In the Niphal stem it means “to be fined,” or more generally, “to be punished.” In this line the punishment is the consequence of blundering into trouble – they will pay for it.

10 tn The Hebrew term עֵקֶב (’eqev, “reward”) is related to the term meaning “heel”; it refers to the consequences or the reward that follows (akin to the English expression “on the heels of”).

11 tn “Humility” is used here in the religious sense of “piety”; it is appropriately joined with “the fear of the Lord.” Some commentators, however, make “the fear of the Lord” the first in the series of rewards for humility, but that arrangement is less likely here.

12 tn Heb “the fear of the Lord.” This is an objective genitive; the Lord is the object of the fear.

13 tc Because MT reading צִנִּים (tsinnim, “thorns”) does not make a very good match with “traps,” it has created some difficulty for interpreters. The word “thorns” may be obscure, but it is supported by the LXX (“prickly plants”) and an apparent cognate “thorns” in Num 33:55 and Josh 23:13. But some (including the editors of BHS) suggest changing it to צַמִּים (tsammim, “traps” changing a נ [nun] to a מ [mem]). But BDB 855 s.v. צַמִּים acknowledges that this word is a doubtful word, attested only a couple of times in Job (e.g., 18:9). W. McKane traces a development from the idea of צֵן (tsen, “basket; trap”) to support this change (Proverbs [OTL], 565). The present translation (like many other English versions) has retained “thorns,” even though the parallelism with “traps” is not very good; as the harder reading it is preferred. The variant readings have little textual or philological support, and simplify the line.

sn “Thorns and snares” represent the dangers and threats to life. They would be implied comparisons (hypocatastasis): As a path strewn with thorns and traps, life for the wicked will be filled with dangers and difficulties.

14 tn The verb חָנַךְ (khanakh) means “to train up; to dedicate” (BDB 335 s.v.; HALOT 334 s.v. חנך). The verb is used elsewhere to refer to dedicating a house (Deut 20:5; 1 Kgs 8:63; 2 Chr 7:5). The related noun חֲנֻכָה (khanukhah) means “dedication; consecration” (BDB 335 s.v.; HALOT 334 s.v.), and is used in reference to the dedication or consecration of altars (Num 7:10; 2 Chr 7:9), the temple (Ps 30:1), and town walls (Neh 12:27). The related adjective חָנִיךְ (khanikh) describes “trained, tried, experienced” men (BDB 335 s.v.; Gen 14:14). In the related cognate languages the verb has similar meanings: Aramaic “to train,” Ethiopic “to initiate,” and Arabic IV “to learn; to make experienced” (HALOT 334 s.v.). This proverb pictures a child who is dedicated by parents to the Lord and morally trained to follow him. On the other hand, a popular expositional approach suggests that it means “to motivate.” This view is based on a cognate Arabic root II which (among many other things) refers to the practice of rubbing the palate of a newborn child with date juice or olive oil to motivate the child to suck. While this makes an interesting sermon illustration, it is highly unlikely that this concept was behind this Hebrew verb. The Arabic meaning is late and secondary – the Arabic term did not have this meaning until nearly a millennium after this proverb was written.

15 tn The term נַעַר (naar) is traditionally translated “child” here (so almost all English versions), but might mean “youth.” The noun can refer to a broad range of ages (see BDB 654-55 s.v.; HALOT 707 s.v.): infant (Exod 2:6), weaned child (1 Sam 1:24), young child (Jer 1:6), lad (Gen 22:12), adolescent (Gen 37:2), or young man of marriageable age (Gen 34:19). The context focuses on the child’s young, formative years. The Talmud says this would be up to the age of twenty-four.

16 tn The expression in Hebrew is עַל־פִּי דַּרְכּוֹ (’al-pi darko), which can be rendered “according to his way”; NEB “Start a boy on the right road.” The expression “his way” is “the way he should go”; it reflects the point the book of Proverbs is making that there is a standard of life to which he must attain. Saadia, a Jewish scholar who lived a.d. 882-942, first suggested that this could mean the child should be trained according to his inclination or bent of mind. This may have some merit in practice, but it is not likely what the proverb had in mind. In the book of Proverbs there are only two ways that a person can go, the way of the wise or righteousness, and the way of the fool. One takes training, and the other does not. Ralbag, in fact, offered a satirical interpretation: “Train a child according to his evil inclinations (let him have his will) and he will continue in his evil way throughout life” (J. H. Greenstone, Proverbs, 234). C. H. Toy says the expression means “in accordance with the manner of life to which he is destined (Proverbs [ICC], 415). W. McKane says, “There is only one right way – the way of life – and the educational discipline which directs young men along this way is uniform” (Proverbs [OTL], 564). This phrase does not describe the concept perpetuated by a modern psychological interpretation of the verse: Train a child according to his personality trait.

17 sn The expected consequence of such training is that it will last throughout life. The sages were confident of the character-forming quality of their training. However, proverbs are not universal truths. One can anticipate positive results from careful child-training – but there may be an occasional exception.

18 sn The proverb is making an observation on life. The synonymous parallelism matches “rule over” with “servant” to show how poverty makes people dependent on, or obligated to, others.

19 tn Or “slave” (so NAB, NASB, NRSV, TEV, CEV). This may refer to the practice in Israel of people selling themselves into slavery to pay off debts (Exod 21:2-7).

20 sn The verse is making an implied comparison (a figure of speech known as hypocatastasis) between sowing and sinning. One who sins is like one who sows, for there will be a “harvest” or a return on the sin – trouble.

21 tc There is a variant reading in the LXX; instead of “the rod of his wrath” it reads “the punishment of his deeds.” C. H. Toy wishes to emend שֵׁבֶט (shevet) to שֶׁבֶר (shever), “the produce of his work” (Proverbs [ICC], 416). But the Hebrew text is not obscure, and שֶׁבֶר does not exactly mean “produce.” The expression “rod of his wrath” may not follow the imagery of 8a very closely, but it is nonetheless understandable. The “rod” is a symbol of power; “wrath” is a metonymy of cause indicating what wrath will do, and an objective genitive. The expression signifies that in reaping trouble for his sins this person will no longer be able to unleash his fury on others. The LXX adds: “A man who is cheerful and a giver God blesses” (e.g., 2 Cor 9:7).

22 tn Heb “good of eye.” This expression is an attributed genitive meaning “bountiful of eye” (cf. KJV, ASV “He that hath a bountiful eye”). This is the opposite of the “evil eye” which is covetous and wicked. The “eye” is a metonymy representing looking well to people’s needs. So this refers to the generous person (cf. NASB, NIV, NRSV, NLT).

23 tn The form יְבֹרָךְ (yÿvorakh) is a Pual imperfect (here in pause) from בָּרַךְ (barakh); the word means “blessed” in the sense of “enriched,” implying there is a practical reward for being generous to the poor.

24 sn It is from his own food that he gives to the poor. Of the many observations that could be made, it is worth noting that in blessing this kind of person God is in fact providing for the poor, because out of his blessing he will surely continue to share more.

25 sn This proverb, written in loose synonymous parallelism, instructs that the scorner should be removed because he causes strife. The “scorner” is לֵץ (lets), the one the book of Proverbs says cannot be changed with discipline or correction, but despises and disrupts anything that is morally or socially constructive.

26 tc The LXX freely adds “when he sits in council (ἐν συνεδρίῳ, ejn sunedriw), he insults everyone.” The MT does not suggest that the setting is in a court of law; so the LXX addition is highly unlikely.

27 sn The “heart” is a metonymy of subject; it represents the intentions and choices that are made. “Pure of heart” uses “heart” as a genitive of specification. The expression refers to someone who has honest and clear intentions.

28 tn Heb “grace of his lips” (so KJV, ASV). The “lips” are a metonymy of cause representing what is said; it also functions as a genitive of specification.

sn This individual is gracious or kind in what he says; thus the verse is commending honest intentions and gracious words.

29 tn The syntax of the line is somewhat difficult, because “grace of his lips” seems to be intruding on the point of the verse with little explanation. Therefore the LXX rendered it “The Lord loves the pure in heart; all who are blameless in their ways are acceptable to him.” This has very little correspondence with the Hebrew; nevertheless commentators attempt to reconstruct the verse using it, and the NAB follows the first clause of the LXX here. Some have suggested taking “king” as the subject of the whole verse (“the king loves…”), but this is forced.

30 sn The “eyes of the Lord” is an anthropomorphic expression; the omniscience of God is the intended meaning. When scripture uses the “eyes” of the Lord, it usually means evaluation, superintending, or safeguarding.

31 tn There is a slight difficulty in that the abstract noun “knowledge” is used nowhere else in the book of Proverbs with the word “watch.” C. H. Toy (Proverbs [ICC], 418) wants to make a major change to read “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,” but there is no support for this and it reduces the line to a common idea. D. W. Thomas suggests changing the word “knowledge” to “lawsuit” based on an Arabic cognate (“A Note on דַּעַת in Proverbs 22:12,” JTS 14 [1963]: 93-94).

32 tn The object of the verb is the “words of the traitor” (בֹגֵד דִּבְרֵי, divre voged); cf. NASB “the words of the treacherous man.” What treacherous people say is treachery. In this context “traitor, treacherous” refers to one who is “unfaithful” (cf. NIV).

sn The proverb affirms that God in safeguarding true knowledge will frustrate deception from faithless people – what they say will not have its intended effect.

33 sn The proverb humorously describes the sluggard as making ridiculous excuses for not working – he might be eaten by a lion (e.g., 26:13). It is possible that “lion” is figurative, intended to represent someone who is like a lion, but this detracts from the humor of the exaggeration.

34 tc The LXX changes the phrase to read “murderers in the street” to form a better parallelism, possibly because the verb רָצַח (ratsakh) is used only of humans, not wild animals. The NIV attempts to solve the problem by making the second line a separate claim by the sluggard: “or, ‘I will be murdered in the streets!’”

35 sn The word “mouth” is a metonymy of cause; it refers to the seductive speech of the strange woman (e.g., 2:16-22; and chs. 5, 7).

36 tn The comparative “like” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is implied by the metaphor; it is supplied for the sake of clarity.

37 sn The point of the metaphor is that what the adulteress says is like a deep pit. The pit is like the hunter’s snare; it is a trap that is difficult to escape. So to succumb to the adulteress – or to any other folly this represents – is to get oneself into a difficulty that has no easy escape.

38 tn Heb “the one who is cursed by the Lord” (cf. NASB). The construction uses the passive participle in construct with Yahweh. The “Lord” is genitive of agency after the passive form. The verb means “be indignant, express indignation.” So it is talking about one against whom the Lord is angry.

39 tn Heb “will fall there.” The “falling” could refer to the curse itself or to the result of the curse.

sn The proverb is saying that the Lord will use the seductive, deceptive words of the adulteress to bring about the downfall of one who is inclined to such folly.

40 sn The passive participle is figurative (implied comparison with “binding”); it means that folly forms part of a child’s nature (J. H. Greenstone, Proverbs, 238).

41 tn The “heart of a child” (לֶב־נָעַר, lev-naar) refers here to the natural inclination of a child to foolishness. The younger child is meant in this context, but the word can include youth. R. N. Whybray suggests that this idea might be described as a doctrine of “original folly” (Proverbs [CBC], 125). Cf. TEV “Children just naturally do silly, careless things.”

42 tn The word “rod” is a metonymy of adjunct; it represents physical chastening for direction or punishment, to suppress folly and develop potential. The genitive (“discipline”) may be taken as an attributive genitive (“a chastening rod”) or an objective genitive, (“a rod [= punishment] that brings about correction/discipline”).

43 tn Heb “oppressing the poor, it is gain; giving to the rich, it is loss.” The Hebrew is cryptic, but two sins are mentioned here that will be punished by poverty: extortion and bribery. Perhaps the proverb is simply saying it is easy to oppress the poor for gain, but it is a waste of money to try to buy or bribe a patron (D. Kidner, Proverbs [TOTC], 149).



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