Proverbs 131 A wise son accepts ▼
▼ The term “accepts” does not appear in the Hebrew but is supplied in the translation for the sake of smoothness and clarity.his father’s discipline, ▼
▼ G. R. Driver suggested reading this word as מְיֻסַּר (meyussar, “allows himself to be disciplined”); see his “Hebrew Notes on Prophets and Proverbs,” JTS 41 (1940): 174. But this is not necessary at all; the MT makes good sense as it stands. Similarly, the LXX has “a wise son listens to his father.”▼
▼ Heb “discipline of a father.”
but a scoffer ▼
▼ The “scoffer” is the worst kind of fool. He has no respect for authority, reviles worship of God, and is unteachable because he thinks he knows it all. The change to a stronger word in the second colon – “rebuke” (גָּעַר, ga’ar) – shows that he does not respond to instruction on any level. Cf. NLT “a young mocker,” taking this to refer to the opposite of the “wise son” in the first colon.does not listen to rebuke.
2 From the fruit of his speech ▼
▼ Heb “lips” (so NIV); KJV “mouth.” The term “lips” is a metonymy of cause for what the lips produce: speech.a person eats good things, ▼
▼ Heb “he eats [what is] good.”
but the faithless ▼
▼ Heb “the desire of the faithless.” The noun “faithless” is a subjective genitive: “the faithless desire….”desire ▼ the fruit of violence. ▼
▼ Heb “violence.” The phrase “the fruit of” does not appear in the Hebrew but is implied by the parallelism. The term “violence” is probably a metonymy of cause: “violence” represents what violence gains – ill-gotten gains resulting from violent crime. The wicked desire what does not belong to them.▼
▼ The LXX reads “the souls of the wicked perish untimely.” The MT makes sense as it stands.
3 The one who guards his words ▼
▼ Heb “mouth” (so KJV, NAB). The term פֶּה (peh, “mouth”) functions as a metonymy of cause for speech.guards his life,
▼ The term “but” does not appear in the Hebrew but is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity and smoothness.whoever is talkative ▼
▼ Heb “opens wide his lips.” This is an idiom meaning “to be talkative” (BDB 832 s.v. פָּשַׂק Qal). Cf. NIV “speaks rashly”; TEV “a careless talker”; CEV “talk too much.”will come to ruin. ▼
4 The appetite ▼ of the sluggard ▼
▼ The contrast is between the “soul (= appetite) of the sluggard” (נַפְשׁוֹ עָצֵל, nafsho ’atsel) and the “soul (= desire) of the diligent” (נֶפֶשׁ חָרֻצִים, nefesh kharutsim) – what they each long for.craves ▼ but gets nothing,
but the desire of the diligent will be abundantly satisfied. ▼
▼ Heb “will be made fat” (cf. KJV, NASB); NRSV “is richly supplied.”
5 The righteous person hates anything false, ▼
▼ Heb “a word of falsehood.” The genitive “falsehood” functions as an attributive genitive. The construct noun דְּבַר (devar) means either “word” or “thing.” Hence, the phrase means “a false word” or “a false thing.”
but the wicked person acts in shameful disgrace. ▼
▼ The versions render this phrase variously: “is ashamed and without confidence” (LXX); “is ashamed and put to the blush” (Tg. Prov 13:5); “confounds and will be confounded” (Vulgate). The variety is due in part to confusion of בָּאַשׁ (ba’sh, “to stink”) and בּוֹשׁ (bosh, “to be ashamed”). Cf. NASB “acts disgustingly and shamefully.”▼
▼ Heb “acts shamefully and disgracefully.” The verb בָּאַשׁ (ba’ash) literally means “to cause a stink; to emit a stinking odor” (e.g., Exod 5:21; Eccl 10:1) and figuratively means “to act shamefully” (BDB 92 s.v.). The verb וְיַחְפִּיר (veyakhppir) means “to display shame.” Together, they can be treated as a verbal hendiadys: “to act in disgraceful shame,” or more colorfully “to make a shameful smell,” or as W. McKane has it, “spread the smell of scandal” (Proverbs [OTL], 460). W. G. Plaut says, “Unhappily, the bad odor adheres not only to the liar but also to the one about whom he lies – especially when the lie is a big one” (Proverbs, 152).
6 Righteousness ▼
▼ Righteousness refers to that which conforms to law and order. One who behaves with integrity will be safe from consequences of sin.guards the one who lives with integrity, ▼
▼ Heb “blameless of way.” The term דָּרֶךְ (darekh) is a genitive of specification: “blameless in respect to his way.” This means living above reproach in their course of life. Cf. NASB “whose way is blameless”; NAB “who walks honestly.”
but wickedness ▼
▼ Righteousness and wickedness are personified in this proverb to make the point of security and insecurity for the two courses of life.overthrows the sinner.
7 There is one who pretends to be rich ▼
▼ The Hitpael of עָשַׁר (’ashar, “to be rich”) means “to pretend to be rich” (BDB 799 s.v. עָשַׁר Hithp); this is the so-called “Hollywood Hitpael” function which involves “acting” or pretending to be something one is not.and yet has nothing;
another pretends to be poor ▼
▼ The Hitpolel of רוּשׁ (rush, “to be poor”) means “to pretend to be poor” (BDB 930 s.v. Hithpolel); this is another example of the “Hollywood Hitpael” – the Hitpolel forms of hollow root verbs are the equivalent of Hitpael stem forms.and yet possesses great wealth. ▼
▼ The proverb seems to be a general observation on certain people in life, but it is saying more. Although there are times when such pretending may not be wrong, the proverb is instructing people to be honest. An empty pretentious display or a concealing of wealth can come to no good.
8 The ransom ▼
▼ As the word “ransom” (כֹּפֶר, cofer) indicates, the rich are susceptible to kidnapping and robbery. But the poor man pays no attention to blackmail – he does not have money to buy off oppressors. So the rich person is exposed to legal attacks and threats of physical violence and must use his wealth as ransom.of a person’s ▼
▼ Heb “the life of a man.”life is his wealth,
but the poor person hears no threat. ▼
▼ The term גְּעָרָה (ge’arah) may mean (1) “rebuke” (so KJV, NASB) or (2) “threat” (so NIV; cf. ASV, NRSV, NLT ). If “rebuke” is the sense here, it means that the burdens of society fall on the rich as well as the dangers. But the sense of “threat” better fits the context: The rich are threatened with extortion, but the poor are not (cf. CEV “the poor don’t have that problem”).
9 The light ▼
▼ The images of “light” and “darkness” are used frequently in scripture. Here “light” is an implied comparison: “light” represents life, joy, and prosperity; “darkness” signifies adversity and death. So the “light of the righteous” represents the prosperous life of the righteous.of the righteous shines brightly, ▼
▼ The verb יִשְׂמָח (yismah) is normally translated “to make glad; to rejoice.” But with “light” as the subject, it has the connotation “to shine brightly” (see G. R. Driver, “Problems in the Hebrew Text of Proverbs,” Bib 32 : 180).
but the lamp ▼
▼ The lamp is an implied comparison as well, comparing the life of the wicked to a lamp that is going to be extinguished.of the wicked goes out. ▼
▼ The LXX adds, “Deceitful souls go astray in sins, but the righteous are pitiful and merciful.”▼
▼ The verb דָּעַךְ (da’akh) means “to go out [in reference to a fire or lamp]; to be extinguished.” The idea is that of being made extinct, snuffed out (cf. NIV, NLT). The imagery may have been drawn from the sanctuary where the flame was to be kept burning perpetually. Not so with the wicked.
10 With pride ▼
▼ The parallelism suggests pride here means contempt for the opinions of others. The wise listen to advice rather than argue out of stubborn pride.comes only ▼
▼ The particle רַק (raq, “only”) modifies the noun “contention” – only contention can come from such a person.contention,
but wisdom is with the well-advised. ▼
▼ The Niphal of יָעַץ (ya’ats, “to advise; to counsel”) means “to consult together; to take counsel.” It means being well-advised, receiving advice or consultation (cf. NCV “those who take advice are wise”).
11 Wealth gained quickly ▼
▼ The MT reads מֵהֵבֶל (mehevel, “from vanity”). The Greek and Latin versions (followed by RSV) reflect מְבֹהָל (mevohal, “in haste”) which exhibits metathesis. MT is the more difficult reading and therefore preferred. The alternate reading fits the parallelism better, but is therefore a less difficult reading.▼
▼ Heb “wealth from vanity” (cf. KJV, ASV). The term הֶבֶל (hevel) literally means “vapor” and figuratively refers to that which is unsubstantial, fleeting, or amount to nothing (BDB 210 s.v.). Used in antithesis with the expression “little by little,” it means either “without working for it” or “quickly.” Some English versions assume dishonest gain (cf. NASB, NIV, CEV).will dwindle away, ▼
▼ Heb “will become small.” The verb מָעָט (ma’at) means “to become small; to become diminished; to become few.” Money gained without work will diminish quickly, because it was come by too easily. The verb forms a precise contrast with רָבָה (ravah), “to become much; to become many,” but in the Hiphil, “to multiply; to make much many; to cause increase.”
but the one who gathers it little by little ▼
▼ Heb “by hand”; cf. KJV, ASV, NASB “by labor.”will become rich. ▼
▼ Heb “will increase.”
12 Hope ▼
▼ The word “hope” (תּוֹחֶלֶת [tokhelet] from יָחַל [yakhal]) also has the implication of a tense if not anxious wait.deferred ▼
▼ The verb is the Pual participle from מָשַׁךְ (mashakh,“to draw; to drag”).makes the heart sick, ▼
▼ Failure in realizing one’s hopes can be depressing or discouraging. People can bear frustration only so long (W. G. Plaut, Proverbs, 153).
but a longing fulfilled ▼
▼ Heb “a desire that comes”; cf. CEV “a wish that comes true.”is like ▼
▼ The comparative “like” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is implied by the metaphor; it is supplied for the sake of clarity.a tree of life.
13 The one who despises instruction ▼
▼ Heb “the word.” The term “word” means teaching in general; its parallel “command” indicates that it is the more forceful instruction that is meant. Both of these terms are used for scripture.will pay the penalty, ▼
▼ The MT reads יֵחָבֶל (yekhavel, “he will pay [for it]”; cf. NAB, NIV) but the BHS editors suggest revocalizing the text to יְחֻבָּל (yekhubal, “he will be broken [for it]”; cf. NRSV “bring destruction on themselves”).▼
▼ Heb “will be pledged to it.” The Niphal of I חָבַל (khaval) “to pledge” means “to be under pledge to pay the penalty” (BDB 286 s.v. Niph). Whoever despises teaching will be treated as a debtor – he will pay for it if he offends against the law.
but whoever esteems instruction ▼
▼ Heb “fears a commandment”; NIV “respects a command.”will ▼
▼ Heb “he” or “that one” [will be rewarded].be rewarded. ▼
▼ The LXX adds: “A crafty son will have no good thing, but the affairs of a wise servant will be prosperous; and his path will be directed rightly.”
14 Instruction ▼
▼ The term תוֹרָה (torah) in legal literature means “law,” but in wisdom literature often means “instruction; teaching” (BDB 435 s.v.); cf. NAV, NIV, NRSV “teaching”; NLT “advice.”from the wise ▼
▼ Heb “instruction of the wise.” The term חָכָם (khakham, “the wise”) is a genitive of source.is like ▼
▼ The comparative “like” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is implied by the metaphor; it is supplied for the sake of clarity.a life-giving fountain, ▼
▼ Heb “fountain of life” (so KJV, NAB, NIV, NRSV). The genitive חַיִּים (khayyim) functions as a genitive of material, similar to the expression “fountain of water.” The metaphor means that the teaching of the wise is life-giving. The second colon is the consequence of the first, explaining this metaphor.
to turn ▼
▼ The infinitive construct with preposition לְ (lamed) gives the result (or, purpose) of the first statement. It could also be taken epexegetically, “by turning.”a person ▼
▼ The term “person” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity and smoothness.from deadly snares. ▼
▼ Heb “snares of death” (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NLT). The genitive מָוֶת (mavet) functions as an attributive adjective. The term “snares” makes an implied comparison with hunting; death is like a hunter. W. McKane compares the idea to the Ugaritic god Mot, the god of death, carrying people off to the realm of the departed (Proverbs [OTL], 455). The expression could also mean that the snares lead to death.
15 Keen insight ▼
▼ Heb “good insight.” The expression שֵׂכֶל־טוֹב (sekhel-tov) describes a person who has good sense, sound judgment, or wise opinions (BDB 968 s.v. שֵׂכֶל).wins ▼
▼ Heb “gives”; NASB “produces.”favor,
but the conduct ▼
▼ Heb “way,” frequently for conduct, behavior, or lifestyle.of the unfaithful is harsh. ▼
▼ The MT reads אֵיתָן (’etan, “enduring; permanent; perennial”; BDB 450 s.v. יתן 1). Several scholars suggest that the text here is corrupt and the reading should be “harsh; hard; firm; rugged” (BDB 450 s.v. 2). G. R. Driver suggested that לֹא (lo’, “not”) was dropped before the word by haplography and so the meaning would have been not “enduring” but “passing away” (“Problems in the Hebrew Text of Proverbs,” Bib 32 : 181). The LXX, Syriac, and Tg. Prov 13:15 reflect a Hebrew Vorlage of תֹאבֵד (to’ved) “are destroyed.” The BHS editors suggest emending the text to אֵידָם (’edam) “their calamity” from אֵיד (’ed, “calamity, distress”; BDB 15 s.v.): “the way of the faithless [leads to] their calamity.” The idea of “harsh” or “hard” could also be drawn from a meaning of the word in the MT meaning “firm,” that is, enduring.
16 Every shrewd ▼
▼ The shrewd person knows the circumstances, dangers and pitfalls that lie ahead. So he deals with them wisely. This makes him cautious.person acts with knowledge,
but a fool displays ▼
▼ Heb “spreads open” [his folly]. W. McKane suggests that this is a figure of a peddler displaying his wares (Proverbs [OTL], 456; cf. NAB “the fool peddles folly”). If given a chance, a fool will reveal his foolishness in public. But the wise study the facts and make decisions accordingly.his folly.
17 An unreliable ▼
▼ Heb “bad.”messenger falls ▼
▼ The RSV changes this to a Hiphil to read, “plunges [men] into trouble.” But the text simply says the wicked messenger “falls into trouble,” perhaps referring to punishment for his bad service.into trouble, ▼
▼ Or “evil.”
but a faithful envoy ▼
▼ Heb “an envoy of faithfulness.” The genitive אֱמוּנִים (’emunim, “faithfulness”) functions as an attributive adjective: “faithful envoy.” The plural form אמונים (literally, “faithfulnesses”) is characteristic of abstract nouns. The term “envoy” (צִיר, tsir) suggests that the person is in some kind of government service (e.g., Isa 18:2; Jer 49:14; cf. KJV, ASV “ambassador”). This individual can be trusted to “bring healing” – be successful in the mission. The wisdom literature of the ancient Neat East has much to say about messengers.brings ▼
▼ The verb “brings” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is implied by the parallelism; it is supplied in the translation for the sake of smoothness.healing.
18 The one who neglects ▼
▼ The verb III פָּרַע (para’) normally means “to let go; to let alone” and here “to neglect; to avoid; to reject” (BDB 828 s.v.).discipline ends up in ▼
▼ The phrase “ends up in” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is implied by the parallelism; it is supplied in the translation for the sake of smoothness.poverty and shame,
but the one who accepts reproof is honored. ▼
▼ Honor and success are contrasted with poverty and shame; the key to enjoying the one and escaping the other is discipline and correction. W. McKane, Proverbs (OTL), 456, notes that it is a difference between a man of weight (power and wealth, from the idea of “heavy” for “honor”) and the man of straw (lowly esteemed and poor).
19 A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul,
but fools abhor ▼
▼ Heb “an abomination of fools.” The noun כְּסִילִים (kesilim, “fools”) functions as a subjective genitive: “fools hate to turn away from evil” (cf. NAB, TEV, CEV). T. T. Perowne says: “In spite of the sweetness of good desires accomplished, fools will not forsake evil to attain it” (Proverbs, 103). Cf. Prov 13:12; 29:27.turning away from evil.
20 The one who associates ▼
▼ Heb “walks.” When used with the preposition אֶת (’et, “with”), the verb הָלַךְ (halakh, “to walk”) means “to associate with” someone (BDB 234 s.v. הָלַךְ II.3.b; e.g., Mic 6:8; Job 34:8). The active participle of הָלַךְ (“to walk”) stresses continual, durative action. One should stay in close association with the wise, and move in the same direction they do.with the wise grows wise,
but a companion of fools suffers harm. ▼
▼ The verb form יֵרוֹעַ (yeroa’) is the Niphal imperfect of רָעַע (ra’a’), meaning “to suffer hurt.” Several have attempted to parallel the repetition in the wordplay of the first colon. A. Guillaume has “he who associates with fools will be left a fool” (“A Note on the Roots רִיע, יָרַע, and רָעַע in Hebrew,” JTS 15 : 294). Knox translated the Vulgate thus: “Fool he ends that fool befriends” (cited by D. Kidner, Proverbs [TOTC], 104).
21 Calamity ▼
▼ Heb “evil.” The term רָעָה (ra’ah, “evil”) here functions in a metonymical sense meaning “calamity.” “Good” is the general idea of good fortune or prosperity; the opposite, “evil,” is likewise “misfortune” (cf. NAB, NIV, NRSV) or calamity.pursues sinners,
but prosperity rewards the righteous. ▼
▼ This statement deals with recompense in absolute terms. It is this principle, without allowing for any of the exceptions that Proverbs itself acknowledges, that Job’s friends applied (incorrectly) to his suffering.
22 A benevolent ▼
▼ Heb “good.”person leaves an inheritance ▼
▼ In ancient Israel the idea of leaving an inheritance was a sign of God’s blessing; blessings extended to the righteous and not the sinners.for his grandchildren, ▼
▼ Heb “the children of children.”
but the wealth of a sinner is stored up for the righteous. ▼
23 There is abundant food in the field ▼
▼ Heb “fallow ground” (so NASB). The word נִיר (nir) means “the tillable [or untilled; or fallow] ground.” BDB 644 s.v. says this line could be rendered: “abundant food [yields] the fallow ground of poor men” (i.e., with the Lord’s blessing).of the poor,
but it is swept away by injustice. ▼
▼ The MT reads “there is what is swept away because [there is] no justice” (וְיֵשׁ נִסְפֶּה בְּלֹא מִשְׁפָּט, veyesh nispeh belo’ mishpat). The LXX reads “the great enjoy wealth many years, but some men perish little by little.” The Syriac reads “those who have no habitation waste wealth many years, and some waste it completely.” Tg. Prov 13:23 reads “the great man devours the land of the poor, and some men are taken away unjustly.” The Vulgate has “there is much food in the fresh land of the fathers, and for others it is collected without judgment.” C. H. Toy says that the text is corrupt (Proverbs [ICC], 277). Nevertheless, the MT makes sense: The ground could produce enough food for people if there were no injustice in the land. Poverty is unnecessary as long as there is justice and not injustice.
24 The one who spares his rod ▼ hates ▼
▼ The importance of parental disciplining is stressed by the verbs “hate” and “love.” “Hating” a child in this sense means in essence abandoning or rejecting him; “loving” a child means embracing and caring for him. Failure to discipline a child is tantamount to hating him – not caring about his character.his child, ▼
▼ Heb “his son.”
but the one who loves his child ▼
▼ Heb “him”; the referent (his child) is specified in the translation for clarity.is diligent ▼
▼ Heb “seeks him.” The verb שָׁחַר (shahar, “to be diligent; to do something early”; BDB 1007 s.v.) could mean “to be diligent to discipline,” or “to be early or prompt in disciplining.” See G. R. Driver, “Hebrew Notes on Prophets and Proverbs,” JTS 41 (1940): 170.in disciplining ▼
▼ The noun מוּסָר (musar, “discipline”) functions as an adverbial accusative of reference: “he is diligent in reference to discipline.”him.
25 The righteous has enough food to satisfy his appetite, ▼
▼ The noun נֶפֶשׁ (traditionally “soul”; cf. KJV, ASV) here means “appetite” (BDB 660 s.v. 5.a).
but the belly of the wicked lacks food. ▼
▼ Heb “he will lack.” The term “food” is supplied in the translation as a clarification. The wicked may go hungry, or lack all they desire, just as the first colon may mean that what the righteous acquire proves satisfying to them.
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