Proverbs 181 One who has isolated himself ▼
▼ The Niphal participle functions substantively and has a reflexive nuance: “one who has separated himself” (cf. KJV, ASV, NASB). He is not merely anti-social; he is a problem for society since he will defy sound judgment. The Mishnah uses the verse to teach the necessity of being part of a community because people have social responsibilities and need each other (m. Avot 2:4).seeks his own desires; ▼
▼ The MT has “seeks [his own] desire[s].” The translation in the LXX represents a Hebrew Vorlage of לְתֹאֲנָה (leto’anah) instead of לְתַאֲוָה (leta’avah); this could be translated “seeks his own occasion,” that is, “his own pretext” (C. H. Toy, Proverbs [ICC], 354; cf. NAB). The MT makes sense as it stands and the emendation is not really necessary.
he rejects ▼ all sound judgment.
2 A fool takes no pleasure ▼
▼ This expression forms an understatement (tapeinosis); the opposite is the point – he detests understanding or discernment.in understanding
but only in disclosing ▼
▼ The Hitpael infinitive construct בְּהִתְגַּלּוֹת (behitgalot) functions nominally as the object of the preposition. The term means “reveal, uncover, betray.” So the fool takes pleasure “in uncovering” his heart.what is on his mind. ▼
▼ Heb “his heart.” This is a metonymy meaning “what is on his mind” (cf. NAB “displaying what he thinks”; NRSV “expressing personal opinion”). This kind of person is in love with his own ideas and enjoys spewing them out (W. McKane, Proverbs [OTL], 515). It is the kind of person who would ask a question, not to learn, but to show everyone how clever he is (cf. TEV).
3 When a wicked person ▼
▼ The MT has “a wicked [person].” Many commentators emend the text to רֶשַׁע (resha’, “wickedness”) which makes better parallelism with “shame” (W. McKane, Proverbs [OTL], 521; R. B. Y. Scott, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes [AB], 112; C. H. Toy, Proverbs [ICC], 355; cf. NAB, NIV, NRSV). However, there is no external evidence for this emendation.arrives, contempt ▼
▼ “Contempt” (בּוּז, buz) accompanies the wicked; “reproach” (חֶרְפָּה, kherpah) goes with shame. This reproach refers to the critical rebukes and taunts of the community against a wicked person.shows up with him,
and with shame comes ▼
▼ The term “comes” does not appear in the Hebrew but is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity and smoothness.a reproach.
4 The words of a person’s mouth are like ▼
▼ The comparative “like” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is implied by the metaphor; it is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.deep waters, ▼
▼ The metaphor “deep waters” indicates either that the words have an inexhaustible supply or that they are profound.
▼ There is debate about the nature of the parallelism between lines 4a and 4b. The major options are: (1) synonymous parallelism, (2) antithetical parallelism (e.g., NAB, NIV, NCV) or (3) formal parallelism. Normally a vav (ו) would begin an antithetical clause; the structure and the ideas suggest that the second colon continues the idea of the first half, but in a parallel way rather than as additional predicates. The metaphors used in the proverb elsewhere describe the wise.the fountain of wisdom ▼ is like ▼ a flowing brook. ▼
▼ The point of this metaphor is that the wisdom is a continuous source of refreshing and beneficial ideas.
5 It is terrible ▼
▼ Heb “not good.” This is a figure known as tapeinosis, a deliberate understatement to emphasize a worst-case scenario: “it is terrible!”to show partiality ▼ to the wicked, ▼
▼ Or “the guilty,” since in the second colon “righteous” can also be understood in contrast as “innocent” (cf. NRSV, TEV, NLT).
by depriving ▼
▼ Heb “to turn aside” (so ASV); NASB “to thrust aside.” The second half of the verse may illustrate this reprehensible action. The Hiphil infinitive construct לְהַטּוֹת (lehatot) may serve either (1) as result, “showing partiality…so that the righteous are turned away,” or (2) as epexegetical infinitive, “showing partiality…by turning the righteous away.” The second is preferred in the translation. Depriving the innocent of their rights is a perversion of justice.a righteous man of justice.
6 The lips of a fool ▼
▼ The “lips” is a metonymy of cause, meaning what the fool says. The “mouth” in the second colon is likewise a metonymy for speech, what comes out of the mouth.enter into strife, ▼
▼ “Strife” is a metonymy of cause, it is the cause of the beating or flogging that follows; “flogging” in the second colon is a metonymy of effect, the flogging is the effect of the strife. The two together give the whole picture.
and his mouth invites ▼
▼ Heb “calls for.” This is personification: What the fool says “calls for” a beating or flogging. The fool deserves punishment, but does not actually request it.a flogging. ▼
▼ Heb “blows.” This would probably be physical beatings, either administered by the father or by society (e.g., also 19:25; Ps 141:5; cf. NAB, NIV, TEV, NLT). Today, however, “a beating” could be associated with violent criminal assault, whereas the context suggests punishment. Therefore “a flogging” is used in the translation, since that term is normally associated with disciplinary action.
7 The mouth of a fool is his ruin,
and his lips are a snare for his life. ▼
▼ Heb “his soul” (so KJV, NASB, NIV).▼
▼ What a fool says can ruin him. Calamity and misfortune can come to a person who makes known his lack of wisdom by what he says. It may be that his words incite anger, or merely reveal stupidity; in either case, he is in trouble.
8 The words of a gossip ▼
▼ Or “slanderer”; KJV, NAB “talebearer”; ASV, NRSV “whisperer.”are like choice morsels; ▼
▼ The word כְּמִתְלַהֲמִים (kemitlahamim) occurs only here. It is related to a cognate verb meaning “to swallow greedily.” Earlier English versions took it from a Hebrew root הָלַם (halam, see the word לְמַהֲלֻמוֹת [lemahalumot] in v. 6) meaning “wounds” (so KJV). But the translation of “choice morsels” fits the idea of gossip better.
they go down into the person’s innermost being. ▼
▼ Heb “they go down [into] the innermost parts of the belly”; NASB “of the body.”▼
▼ When the choice morsels of gossip are received, they go down like delicious food – into the innermost being. R. N. Whybray says, “There is a flaw in human nature that assures slander will be listened to” (Proverbs [CBC], 105).
9 The one who ▼
▼ Heb “Also, the one who.” Many commentators and a number of English versions omit the word “also.”is slack ▼
▼ The form מִתְרַפֶּה (mitrappeh) is the Hitpael participle, “showing oneself slack.” The verb means “to sink; to relax,” and in the causative stem “to let drop” the hands. This is the lazy person who does not even try to work.in his work
is a brother ▼
▼ These two troubling types, the slacker and the destroyer, are closely related.to one who destroys. ▼
▼ Heb “possessor of destruction.” This idiom means “destroyer” (so ASV); KJV “a great waster”; NRSV “a vandal.”
10 The name of the Lord ▼ is like ▼ a strong tower; ▼
▼ Heb “a tower of strength,” with “strength” regarded as attributive by most English versions. The metaphor “strong tower” indicates that God is a secure refuge. The figure is qualified in the second colon.
the righteous person runs ▼ to it and is set safely on high. ▼
▼ Heb “is high” or “is inaccessible.” This military-type expression stresses the effect of the trust – security, being out of danger (see HALOT 1305 s.v. שׂגב). Other scriptures will supply the ways that God actually protects people who trust him.
11 The wealth ▼
▼ This proverb forms a contrast with the previous one. The rich, unlike the righteous, trust in wealth and not in God.of a rich person is like ▼ a strong city, ▼
▼ Heb “city of his strength”; NIV “fortified city.” This term refers to their place of refuge, what they look to for security and protection in time of trouble.
and it is like a high wall in his imagination. ▼ ▼
▼ The proverb is an observation saying, reporting a common assumption without commenting on it. The juxtaposition with the last verse is a loud criticism of this misguided faith. The final word בְּמַשְׂכִּיתוֹ (“in his imaginations”) indicates that one’s wealth is a futile place of refuge.
12 Before destruction the heart ▼
▼ The term “heart” is a metonymy of subject, referring to the seat of the spiritual and intellectual capacities – the mind, the will, the motivations and intentions. Proud ambitions and intentions will lead to a fall.of a person is proud,
but humility comes ▼
▼ Heb “[is] before honor”; cf. CEV “humility leads to honor.”before honor. ▼
13 The one who gives an answer ▼
▼ Heb “returns a word”; KJV “He that answereth a matter.”before he listens ▼
▼ Poor listening and premature answering indicate that the person has a low regard for what the other is saying, or that he is too absorbed in his own ideas. The Mishnah lists this as the second characteristic of the uncultured person (m. Avot 5:7).–
that is his folly and his shame. ▼
▼ Heb “it is folly to him and shame.” The verse uses formal parallelism, with the second colon simply completing the thought of the first.
14 A person’s spirit ▼
▼ Heb “the spirit of a man.” Because the verb of this clause is a masculine form, some have translated this line as “with spirit a man sustains,” but that is an unnecessary change.sustains him through sickness –
but who can bear ▼
▼ This is a rhetorical question, asserting that very few can cope with depression.a crushed spirit? ▼
▼ The figure of a “crushed spirit” (ASV, NAB, NCV, NRSV “a broken spirit,” comparing depression to something smashed or crushed) suggests a broken will, a loss of vitality, despair, and emotional pain. In physical sickness one can fall back on the will to live; but in depression even the will to live is gone.
15 The discerning person ▼
▼ Heb “discerning heart.” The term “heart” is a synecdoche of part (= heart) for the whole (= person); cf. TEV, NLT “intelligent people.” By paralleling “heart” and “ear” the proverb stresses the full acquisition of knowledge. The “ear” listens to instruction, and the heart considers what is heard to acquire knowledge.acquires knowledge,
and the wise person ▼
▼ Heb “the ear of the wise.” The term “ear” is a synecdoche of part (= ear) for the whole (= person): “wise person.”▼
▼ The wise continually seek more knowledge. D. Kidner says, “Those who know most know best how little they know” (Proverbs [TOTC], 129).seeks ▼
▼ This line features a mixed metaphor: The “ear” is pictured “seeking.” The “ear of the wise” actually means the wise person’s capacity to hear, and so the wise are seeking as they hear.knowledge.
16 A person’s gift ▼ makes room for him,
and leads him ▼
▼ The two verbs here show a progression, helping to form the synthetic parallelism. The gift first “makes room” (יַרְחִיב, yarkhiv) for the person, that is, extending a place for him, and then “ushers him in” (יַנְחֵנּוּ, yakhenu) among the greats.before important people.
17 The first to state his case ▼
▼ Heb “in his legal case”; NAB “who pleads his case first.”seems ▼
▼ The term “seems” does not appear in the Hebrew but is supplied in the translation for the sake of smoothness (cf. KJV “seemeth”).right,
until his opponent ▼
▼ Heb “his neighbor”; NRSV “the other.”begins to ▼
▼ Heb “comes and.” The Kethib is the imperfect יָבֹא (yavo’), and the Qere is the conjunction with the participle/perfect tense form וּבָא (uva’). The latter is reflected in most of the ancient versions. There is not an appreciable difference in the translations, except for the use of the conjunction.cross-examine him. ▼
▼ The proverb is a continuous sentence teaching that there must be cross-examination to settle legal disputes. There are two sides in any disputes, and so even though the first to present his case sounds right, it must be challenged. The verb הָקַר (haqar, translated “cross-examines”) is used for careful, diligent searching and investigating to know something (e.g., Ps 139:1).
18 A toss of a coin ▼
▼ Heb “casting the lot.” Because modern readers are not familiar with the ancient practice of casting lots, the image of the coin toss to decide an issue has been employed in the translation (cf. CEV “drawing straws”). Although the casting of lots is often compared to throwing dice, the translation “throwing dice ends disputes” in this context could be misunderstood to mean “participating in a game of dice ends disputes.”ends ▼
▼ The verb יַשְׁבִּית (yashbit) is the Hiphil imperfect from שָׁבַת (shavat), meaning “to cause to cease; to bring to an end; to end”; cf. NIV “settles disputes.” The assumption behind this practice and this saying is that providence played the determining role in the casting of lots. If both parties accepted this, then the issue could be resolved.disputes,
and settles the issue ▼ between strong opponents. ▼
▼ The word is the adjective, “mighty” (so KJV, NAB, NASB) used here substantivally as the object of the preposition.
19 A relative ▼
▼ Heb “brother,” but this is not limited to actual siblings (cf. NRSV “an ally”; CEV, NLT “friend”).offended ▼
▼ The Niphal participle from פָּשַׁע (pasha’) modifies “brother”: a brother transgressed, offended, sinned against.is harder to reach than ▼
▼ The LXX has a clear antithetical proverb here: “A brother helped is like a stronghold, but disputes are like bars of a citadel.” Accordingly, the editors of BHS propose מוֹשִׁיעַ (moshia’) instead of נִפְשָׁע (nifsha’, so also the other versions and the RSV). But since both lines use the comparison with a citadel (fortified/barred), the antithesis is problematic.▼
▼ The phrase “is harder to reach” is supplied in the translation on the basis of the comparative מִן (min). It is difficult to get into a fortified city; it is more difficult to reach an offended brother.a strong city,
and disputes are like the barred gates ▼
▼ Heb “bars,” but this could be understood to mean “taverns,” so “barred gates” is employed in the translation.of a fortified citadel. ▼
▼ The proverb is talking about changing a friend or a relative into an enemy by abuse or strife – the bars go up, as it were. And the “walls” that are erected are not easily torn down.
20 From the fruit of a person’s mouth ▼
▼ Two images are used in this proverb: the fruit of the mouth and the harvest of the lips. They are synonymous; the first is applied to the orchard and the second to the field. The “mouth” and the “lips” are metonymies of cause, and so both lines are speaking about speech that is productive.his stomach is satisfied, ▼
▼ Heb “his midst.” This is rendered “his stomach” because of the use of שָׂבַע (sava’, “to be satisfied; to be sated; to be filled”), which is usually used with food (cf. KJV, ASV “belly”).▼
▼ Productive speech is not just satisfying – it meets the basic needs of life. There is a practical return for beneficial words.
with the product of his lips is he satisfied.
21 Death and life are in the power ▼
▼ Heb “in the hand of.”of the tongue, ▼
▼ What people say can lead to life or death. The Midrash on Psalms shows one way the tongue [what is said] can cause death: “The evil tongue slays three, the slanderer, the slandered, and the listener” (Midrash Tehillim 52:2). See J. G. Williams, “The Power of Form: A Study of Biblical Proverbs,” Semeia 17 (1980): 35-38.
and those who love its use ▼
▼ The referent of “it” must be the tongue, i.e., what the tongue says (= “its use”). So those who enjoy talking, indulging in it, must “eat” its fruit, whether good or bad. The expression “eating the fruit” is an implied comparison; it means accept the consequences of loving to talk (cf. TEV).will eat its fruit.
22 The one who finds ▼
▼ The verb מָצָא (matsa’, translated “finds”) is used twice in the first colon. It is paralleled by the verb פּוּק (puq, translated “receives”) in the second colon, which carries the same nuance as the preceding verbs. The first perfect tense verb might function in a hypothetical or conditional sense: “If a man finds…then he finds.” But taken as a principle the nuances of the verbs would be gnomic or characteristic.a wife finds what is enjoyable, ▼
and receives a pleasurable gift ▼
▼ Heb “what is pleasant.” The noun רָצוֹן (ratson, “what is pleasing”) is often interpreted in a religious-theological sense here: “receives favor from the Lord” (cf. KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV). However, this term is probably referring to the pleasure that a person enjoys in marriage, so it should be understood in a nonreligious, marital sense: “pleasure” (e.g., Esth 1:8; HALOT 1282 s.v. 1); cf. CEV “she is a gift from the Lord.”▼
▼ The parallelism is formal; the second line of the verse continues the first but explains it further: Finding a spouse, one receives a pleasurable gift from God.from the Lord. ▼
▼ The LXX adds this embellishment to complete the thought: “Whoever puts away a good wife puts away good, and whoever keeps an adulteress is foolish and ungodly.”
23 A poor person makes supplications, ▼
▼ Heb “speaks supplications”; NIV “pleads for mercy.” The poor man has to ask for help because he has no choice (cf. CEV). The Hebrew term תַּחֲנוּן (takhanun) is a “supplication for favor” (related to the verb חָנַן [khanan], “to be gracious; to show favor”). So the poor man speaks, but what he speaks is a request for favor.
but a rich man answers harshly. ▼
▼ The rich person responds harshly to the request. He has hardened himself against such appeals because of relentless demands. The proverb is an observation saying; it simply describes the way the world generally works, rather than setting this out as the ideal.
24 A person who has friends ▼
▼ The construction is “a man of friends” (cf. NASB) meaning a man who has friends (a genitive of the thing possessed). C. H. Toy, however, suggests reading יֵשׁ (yesh) instead of אִישׁ (’ish), along with some of the Greek mss, the Syriac, and Tg. Prov 18:24. It would then say “there are friends” who are unreliable (Proverbs [ICC], 366); cf. NLT. However, the MT should be retained here.may be harmed by them, ▼
▼ The text simply has לְהִתְרֹעֵעַ (lehitro’ea’), which means “for being crushed” or “to be shattered” (but not “to show oneself friendly” as in the KJV). What can be made of the sentence is that “a man who has [many] friends [may have them] for being crushed” – the infinitive giving the result (i.e., “with the result that he may be crushed by them”).
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
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