Proverbs 14

Every wise woman
Heb “wise ones of women.” The construct phrase חַכְמוֹת נָשִׁים (khakhmot nashim) features a wholistic genitive: “wise women.” The plural functions in a distributive sense: “every wise woman.” The contrast is between wise and foolish women (e.g., Prov 7:10–23; 31:10–31).
The perfect tense verb in the first colon functions in a gnomic sense, while the imperfect tense in the second colon is a habitual imperfect.
her household,
Heb “house.” This term functions as a synecdoche of container (= house) for contents (= household, family).

but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands.
The one who walks in his uprightness fears the Lord,
Heb “fear of the Lord.” The term יְהוָה (yehvah, “the Lord”) functions as an objective genitive.

but the one who is perverted in his ways
Heb “crooked of ways”; NRSV “devious in conduct.” This construct phrase features a genitive of specification: “crooked in reference to his ways.” The term “ways” is an idiom for moral conduct. The evidence that people fear the Lord is uprightness; the evidence of those who despise him is the devious ways.
despises him.
The preposition בְּ (bet) may denote (1) exchange: “in exchange for” foolish talk there is a rod; or (2) cause: “because of” foolish talk.
the speech
The noun פֶּה (peh, “mouth”) functions as a metonymy of cause for what is said (“speech, words, talk”).
of a fool is a rod for his back,
The MT reads גַּאֲוָה (gaavah, “pride”) which creates an awkward sense “in the mouth of a fool is a rod of pride” (cf. KJV, ASV). The BHS editors suggest emending the form to גֵּוֹה (“disciplining-rod”) to create tighter parallelism and irony: “in the mouth of a fool is a rod for the back” (e.g., Prov 10:13). What the fools says will bring discipline.
Heb “a rod of back.” The noun גֵּוֹה functions as a genitive of specification: “a rod for his back.” The fool is punished because of what he says.

but the words
Heb “lips.” The term “lips” is a metonymy of cause, meaning what they say. The wise by their speech will find protection.
of the wise protect them.
Where there are no oxen, the feeding trough is clean,
but an abundant harvest is produced by strong oxen.
Heb “the strength of oxen.” The genitive שׁוֹר (shor, “oxen”) functions as an attributed genitive: “strong oxen.” Strong oxen are indispensable for a good harvest, and for oxen to be strong they must be well-fed. The farmer has to balance grain consumption with the work oxen do.

A truthful witness
Heb “a witness of faithfulness.” The genitive functions in an attributive sense: “faithful witness” (so KJV, NRSV); TEV “reliable witness.”
does not lie,
but a false witness
Heb “a witness of falsehood.” The genitive functions in an attributive sense: “false witness.”
breathes out lies.
This saying addresses the problem of legal testimony: A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness does lie – naturally. The first colon uses the verb כָּזַב (kazav, “to lie”) and the second colon uses the noun כָּזָב (kazav, “lie; falsehood”).

The scorner
The “scorner” (לֵץ, lets) is intellectually arrogant; he lacks any serious interest in knowledge or religion. He pursues wisdom in a superficial way so that he can appear wise. The acquisition of wisdom is conditioned by one’s attitude toward it (J. H. Greenstone, Proverbs, 149).
seeks wisdom but finds none,
Heb “and there is not.”

but understanding is easy
The Niphal of קָלַל (qalal) means “to appear light; to appear trifling; to appear easy.”
for a discerning person.
Leave the presence of a foolish person,
Heb “a man, a stupid fellow.”

Heb “and.” The vav (ו) that introduces this clause may be understood as meaning “or….”
you will not understand
The MT reads וּבַל־יָדַעְתָּ (uval-yadata, “you did not know [the lips of knowledge]).” It must mean that one should leave the fool because he did not receive knowledge from what fools said. Tg. Prov 14:7 freely interprets the verse: “for there is no knowledge on his lips.” The LXX reflects a Hebrew Vorlage of וּכְלֵי־דַעַת (ukhele-daat, “[wise lips] are weapons of discretion”). The textual variant involves wrong word division and orthographic confusion between ב (bet) and כ (kaf). C. H. Toy emends the text: “for his lips do not utter knowledge” as in 15:7 (Proverbs [ICC], 285). The MT is workable and more difficult.
wise counsel.
Heb “lips of knowledge” (so KJV, ASV). “Lips” is the metonymy of cause, and “knowledge” is an objective genitive (speaking knowledge) or attributive genitive (knowledgeable speech): “wise counsel.”

The wisdom of the shrewd person
Or “the prudent [person]” (cf. KJV, NASB, NIV).
is to discern
The Hiphil infinitive construct denotes purpose. Those who are shrewd will use it to give careful consideration to all their ways.
his way,
but the folly of fools is deception.
The word means “deception,” but some suggest “self-deception” here (W. McKane, Proverbs [OTL], 466; and D. W. Thomas, “Textual and Philological Notes on Some Passages in the Book of Proverbs,” VTSup 3 [1955]: 286); cf. NLT “fools deceive themselves.” The parallelism would favor this, but there is little support for it. The word usually means “craft practiced on others.” If the line is saying the fool is deceitful, there is only a loose antithesis between the cola.

Fools mock
The noun “fools” is plural but the verb “mock” is singular. This has led some to reverse the line to say “guilty/guilt offering mocks fools” (C. H. Toy, Proverbs [ICC], 287); see, e.g., Isa 1:14; Amos 5:22. But lack of agreement between subject and verb is not an insurmountable difficulty.
at reparation,
The LXX reads “houses of transgressors will owe purification.” Tg. Prov 14:9 has “guilt has its home among fools” (apparently reading לִין לוּן, lin lun).
Heb “guilt.” The word אָשָׁם (’asham) has a broad range of meanings: “guilt; reparation.” According to Leviticus, when someone realized he was guilty he would bring a “reparation offering,” a sin offering with an additional tribute for restitution (Lev 5:1–6). It would be left up to the guilty to come forward; it was for the kind of thing that only he would know, for which his conscience would bother him. Fools mock any need or attempt to make things right, to make restitution (cf. NIV, NRSV, NCV, TEV).

but among the upright there is favor.
The word רָצוֹן (ratson) means “favor; acceptance; pleasing.” It usually means what is pleasing or acceptable to God. In this passage it either means that the upright try to make amends, or that the upright find favor for doing so.

10  The heart knows its own bitterness,
Heb “bitterness of its soul.”

and with its joy no one else
Heb “stranger” (so KJV, NASB, NRSV).
can share.
The verb is the Hitpael of II עָרַב (’arav), which means “to take in pledge; to give in pledge; to exchange.” Here it means “to share [in].” The proverb is saying that there are joys and sorrows that cannot be shared. No one can truly understand the deepest feelings of another.

11  The household
Heb “house.” The term “house” is a metonymy of subject, referring to their contents: families and family life.
Personal integrity ensures domestic stability and prosperity, while lack of such integrity (= wickedness) will lead to the opposite.
of the wicked will be destroyed,
but the tent
The term “tent” is a metonymy here referring to the contents of the tent: families.
of the upright will flourish.
12  There is a way that seems right to a person,
Heb “which is straight before a man.”
The proverb recalls the ways of the adulterous woman in chapters 1–9, and so the translation of “man” is retained. The first line does not say that the “way” that seems right is “vice,” but the second line clarifies that. The individual can rationalize all he wants, but the result is still the same. The proverb warns that any evil activity can take any number of ways (plural) to destruction.

but its end is the way that leads to death.
Heb “the ways of death” (so KJV, ASV). This construct phrase features a genitive of destiny: “ways that lead to [or, end in] death.” Here death means ruin (e.g., Prov 7:27; 16:25). The LXX adds “Hades,” but the verse seems to be concerned with events of this life.

13  Even in laughter the heart may ache,
No joy is completely free of grief. There is a joy that is superficial and there is underlying pain that will remain after the joy is gone.

and the end
Heb “and its end, joy, is grief.” The suffix may be regarded as an Aramaism, a proleptic suffix referring to “joy.”
of joy may be
The phrase “may be” is not in the Hebrew but is supplied from the parallelism, which features an imperfect of possibility.
14  The backslider
Heb “a turning away of heart.” The genitive לֵב (lev, “heart”) functions as an attributive adjective: “a backslidden heart.” The term סוּג (sug) means “to move away; to move backwards; to depart; to backslide” (BDB 690 s.v. I סוּג). This individual is the one who backslides, that is, who departs from the path of righteousness.
will be paid back
Heb “will be filled”; cf. KJV, ASV. The verb (“to be filled, to be satisfied”) here means “to be repaid,” that is, to partake in his own evil ways. His faithlessness will come back to haunt him.
from his own ways,
but a good person will be rewarded
The phrase “will be rewarded” does not appear in the Hebrew but is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity and smoothness.
for his.
15  A naive person
The contrast is with the simpleton and the shrewd. The simpleton is the young person who is untrained morally or intellectually, and therefore gullible. The shrewd one is the prudent person, the one who has the ability to make critical discriminations.
believes everything,
but the shrewd person discerns his steps.
Heb “his step”; cf. TEV “sensible people watch their step.”

16  A wise person is cautious
Heb “fears.” Since the holy name (Yahweh, translated “the Lord”) is not used, it probably does not here mean fear of the Lord, but of the consequences of actions.
and turns from evil,
but a fool throws off restraint
The Hitpael of עָבַר (’avar, “to pass over”) means “to pass over the bounds of propriety; to act insolently” (BDB 720 s.v.; cf. ASV “beareth himself insolently”).
and is overconfident.
The verb בָּטַח here denotes self-assurance or overconfidence. Fools are not cautious and do not fear the consequences of their actions.

17  A person who has a quick temper
The proverb discusses two character traits that are distasteful to others – the quick tempered person (“short of anger” or impatient) and the crafty person (“man of devices”). C. H. Toy thinks that the proverb is antithetical and renders it “but a wise man endures” (Proverbs [ICC], 292). In other words, the quick-tempered person acts foolishly and loses people’s respect, but the wise man does not.
does foolish things,
and a person with crafty schemes
Heb “a man of devices.”
is hated.
The LXX reads “endures” (from נָשָׂא, nasa’) rather than “is hated” (from שָׂנֵא, sane’). This change seems to have arisen on the assumption that a contrast was needed. It has: “a man of thought endures.” Other versions take מְזִמּוֹת (mezimmot) in a good sense; but antithetical parallelism is unwarranted here.

18  The naive inherit
G. R. Driver, however, proposed reading the verb as “are adorned” from הלה (“Problems in the Hebrew Text of Proverbs,” Bib 32 [1951]: 181). A similar reading is followed by a number of English versions (e.g., NAB, NRSV, NLT).
The proverb anticipates what the simple will receive, assuming they remain simpletons.
but the shrewd
Or “prudent” (KJV, NASB, NIV); NRSV, TEV “clever.”
are crowned
The meaning of יַכְתִּרוּ (yakhtiru, Hiphil imperfect of כָּתַר, katar) is elusive. It may not mean “to be crowned” or “to crown themselves,” but “to encircle” or “to embrace.” BDB 509 s.v. כָּתַר Hiph suggests “to throw out crowns” (throw out knowledge as a crown) or “to encompass knowledge,” i.e., possess it (parallel to inherit).
with knowledge.
19  Those who are evil will bow
Many versions nuance the perfect tense verb שָׁחַח (shakhakh) as a characteristic perfect. But the proverb suggests that the reality lies in the future. So the verb is best classified as a prophetic perfect (cf. NASB, NIV, CEV, NLT): Ultimately the wicked will acknowledge and serve the righteous – a point the prophets make.
before those who are good,
and the wicked will bow
The phrase “will bow” does not appear in this line but is implied by the parallelism; it is supplied in the translation for clarity and smoothness.
at the gates
J. H. Greenstone suggests that this means that they are begging for favors (Proverbs, 154).
of the righteous.
20  A poor person is disliked
Heb “hated.” The verse is just a statement of fact. The verbs “love” and “hate” must be seen in their connotations: The poor are rejected, avoided, shunned – that is, hated; but the rich are sought after, favored, embraced – that is, loved.
even by his neighbors,
but those who love the rich are many.
21  The one who despises his neighbor sins,
but whoever is kind to the needy is blessed.
22  Do not those who devise
The verb חָרַשׁ (kharash) means (1) literally: “to cut in; to engrave; to plow,” describing the work of a craftsman; and (2) figuratively: “to devise,” describing the mental activity of planning evil (what will harm people) in the first colon, and planning good (what will benefit them) in the second colon.
evil go astray?
But those who plan good exhibit
The term “exhibit” does not appear in the Hebrew, but is supplied in the translation for clarity and smoothness.
faithful covenant love.
Heb “loyal-love and truth.” The two terms חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת (khesed veemet) often form a hendiadys: “faithful love” or better “faithful covenant love.”

23  In all hard work
The Hebrew term עֶצֶב (’etsev, “painful toil; labor”) is first used in scripture in Gen 3:19 to describe the effects of the Fall. The point here is that people should be more afraid of idle talk than of hard labor.
there is profit,
but merely talking about it
Heb “word of lips.” This construct phrase features a genitive of source (“a word from the lips”) or a subjective genitive (“speaking a word”). Talk without work (which produces nothing) is contrasted with labor that produces something.
only brings
The term “brings” does not appear in the Hebrew, but is supplied in the translation for clarity and smoothness.
The noun מַחְסוֹר (makhsor, “need; thing needed; poverty”) comes from the verb “to lack; to be lacking; to decrease; to need.” A person given to idle talk rather than industrious work will have needs that go unmet.

24  The crown of the wise is their riches,
C. H. Toy suggests that this line probably means that wealth is an ornament to those who use it well (Proverbs [ICC], 269). J. H. Greenstone suggests that it means that the wisdom of the wise, which is their crown of glory, constitutes their wealth (Proverbs, 155).

but the folly
The MT reads אִוֶלֶת (’ivelet, “folly”). The editors of BHS propose emending the text to וְלִוְיַת (velivyat, “but the wealth”), as suggested by the LXX. See M. Rotenberg, “The Meaning of אִוֶּלֶת in Proverbs,” Les̆ 25 (1960–1961): 201. A similar emendation is followed by NAB (“the diadem”) and NRSV (“the garland”).
of fools is folly.
25  A truthful witness
Heb “a witness of truth”; cf. CEV “an honest witness.”
rescues lives,
The noun נְפָשׁוֹת (nefashot) often means “souls,” but here “lives” – it functions as a metonymy for life (BDB 659 s.v. נֶפֶשׁ 3.c).
The setting of this proverb is the courtroom. One who tells the truth “saves” (מַצִּיל [matsil, “rescues; delivers”]) the lives of those falsely accused.

but the one who breathes lies brings
The term “brings” does not appear in the Hebrew but is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity. Also possible, “is deceitful.”
Several commentators suggest emending the text from the noun מִרְמָה (mirmah, “deception”) to the participle מְרַמֶּה (merameh, “destroys”). However, this revocalization is not necessary because the MT makes sense as it stands: A false witness destroys lives.

26  In the fear of the Lord one has
Heb “In the fear of the Lord [is] confidence of strength.” The phrase “one has” does not appear in the Hebrew but is supplied in the translation for the sake of smoothness.
strong confidence,
Heb “confidence of strength.” This construct phrase features an attributive genitive: “strong confidence” (so most English versions; NIV “a secure fortress”).

and it will be a refuge
The fear of the Lord will not only provide security for the parent but will also be a refuge for children. The line recalls Exod 20:5–6 where children will reap the benefits of the righteous parents. The line could also be read as “he [= God] will be a refuge for the children.”
for his children.
27  The fear of the Lord
The verse is similar to Prov 13:14 except that “the fear of the Lord” has replaced “the teaching of the wise.”
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.”

to turn
The infinitive construct with prefixed ל (lamed) indicates the purpose/result of the first line; it could also function epexegetically, explaining how fear is a fountain: “by turning….”
The term “people” does not appear in the Hebrew but is supplied in the translation for the sake of smoothness.
from deadly snares.
Heb “snares of death” (so KJV, NAB, NIV, NRSV, NLT); CEV “deadly traps.”

28  A king’s glory is
The preposition serves as the beth essentiae – the glory is the abundant population, not in it.
the abundance of people,
but the lack of subjects
Heb “people.” Cf. NLT “a dwindling nation.”
is the ruin
The word means “ruin; destruction,” but in this context it could be a metonymy of effect, the cause being an attack by more numerous people that will bring ruin to the ruler. The proverb is purely a practical and secular saying, unlike some of the faith teachings in salvation history passages.
of a ruler.
29  The one who is slow to anger has great understanding,
but the one who has a quick temper
Heb “hasty of spirit” (so KJV, ASV); NRSV, NLT “a hasty temper.” One who has a quick temper or a short fuse will be evident to everyone, due to his rash actions.
The participle “exalts” (מֵרִים, merim) means that this person brings folly to a full measure, lifts it up, brings it to the full notice of everybody.
30  A tranquil spirit
Heb “heart of healing.” The genitive מַרְפֵּא (marpe’, “healing”) functions as an attributive adjective: “a healing heart.” The term לֵב (lev, “heart”) is a metonymy for the emotional state of a person (BDB 660 s.v. 6). A healthy spirit is tranquil, bringing peace to the body (J. H. Greenstone, Proverbs, 158).
revives the body,
Heb “life of the flesh” (so KJV, ASV); NAB, NIV “gives life to the body.”

but envy
The term קִנְאָה (qinah, “envy”) refers to passionate zeal or “jealousy” (so NAB, NCV, TEV, NLT), depending on whether the object is out of bounds or within one’s rights. In the good sense one might be consumed with zeal to defend the institutions of the sanctuary. But as envy or jealousy the word describes an intense and sometimes violent excitement and desire that is never satisfied.
is rottenness to the bones.
Heb “rottenness of bones.” The term “bones” may be a synecdoche representing the entire body; it is in contrast with “flesh” of the first colon. One who is consumed with envy finds no tranquility or general sense of health in body or spirit.

31  The one who oppresses
The verb עָשַׁק (’ashaq) normally means “to oppress” (as in many English versions). However, here it might mean “to slander.” See J. A. Emerton, “Notes on Some Passages in the Book of Proverbs,” JTS 20 (1969): 202-22.
the poor insults
In the Piel this verb has the meaning of “to reproach; to taunt; to say sharp things against” someone (cf. NIV “shows contempt for”). By oppressing the poor one taunts or mistreats God because that person is in the image of God – hence the reference to the “Creator.” To ridicule what God made is to ridicule God himself.
his Creator,
but whoever shows favor
The phrase “shows favor” is contrasted with the term “oppresses.” To “show favor” means to be gracious to (or treat kindly) those who do not deserve it or cannot repay it. It is treatment that is gratis. This honors God because he commanded it to be done (Prov 14:21; 17:5; 19:17).
to the needy honors him.
32  The wicked will be thrown down in his trouble,
The prepositional phrase must be “in his time of trouble” (i.e., when catastrophe comes). Cf. CEV “In times of trouble the wicked are destroyed.” A wicked person has nothing to fall back on in such times.

but the righteous have refuge
The righteous have hope in a just retribution – they have a place of safety even in death.
even in the threat of death.
The LXX reads this as “in his integrity,” as if it were בְּתוּמּוֹ (betumo) instead of “in his death” (בְּמוֹתוֹ, bemoto). The LXX is followed by some English versions (e.g., NAB “in his honesty,” NRSV “in their integrity,” and TEV “by their integrity”).
Heb “in his death.” The term “death” may function as a metonymy of effect for a life-threatening situation.

33  Wisdom rests in the heart of the discerning;
it is known
The LXX negates the clause, saying it is “not known in fools” (cf. NAB, NRSV, TEV, NLT). Thomas connects the verb to the Arabic root wd` and translates it “in fools it is suppressed.” See D. W. Thomas, “The Root ידע in Hebrew,” JTS 35 (1934): 302-3.
The second line may be ironic or sarcastic. The fool, eager to appear wise, blurts out what seems to be wisdom, but in the process turns it to folly. The contrast is that wisdom resides with people who have understanding.
even in the heart
Heb “in the inner part”; ASV “in the inward part”; NRSV “in the heart of fools.”
of fools.
34  Righteousness exalts
The verb תְּרוֹמֵם (teromem, translated “exalts”) is a Polel imperfect; it means “to lift up; to raise up; to elevate.” Here the upright dealings of the leaders and the people will lift up the people. The people’s condition in that nation will be raised.
a nation,
but sin is a disgrace
The term is the homonymic root II חֶסֶד (khesed, “shame; reproach”; BDB 340 s.v.), as reflected by the LXX translation. Rabbinic exegesis generally took it as I חֶסֶד (“loyal love; kindness”) as if it said, “even the kindness of some nations is a sin because they do it only for a show” (so Rashi, a Jewish scholar who lived a.d. 1040–1105).
to any people.
35  The king shows favor
Heb “the favor of a king.” The noun “king” functions as a subjective genitive: “the king shows favor….”
to a wise
The wise servant is shown favor, while the shameful servant is shown anger. Two Hiphil participles make the contrast: מַשְׂכִּיל (maskil, “wise”) and מֵבִישׁ (mevish, “one who acts shamefully”). The wise servant is a delight and enjoys the favor of the king because he is skillful and clever. The shameful one botches his duties; his indiscretions and incapacity expose the master to criticism (W. McKane, Proverbs [OTL], 470).
but his wrath falls
Heb “is” (so KJV, ASV).
on one who acts shamefully.
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