Proverbs 191 Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity ▼
than one who is perverse in his speech ▼ and is a fool. ▼
▼ The Syriac and Tg. Prov 19:1 read “rich” instead of MT “fool.” This makes tighter antithetical parallelism than MT and is followed by NAB. However, the MT makes sense as it stands; this is an example of metonymical parallelism. The MT reading is also supported by the LXX. The Hebrew construction uses וְהוּא (vehu’), “and he [is],” before “fool.” This may be rendered “one who is perverse while a fool” or “a fool at the same time.”
2 It is dangerous ▼
▼ Heb “not good.” This is a figure known as tapeinosis (a deliberate understatement to emphasize a worst-case scenario): “it is dangerous!”to have zeal ▼
▼ The interpretation of this line depends largely on the meaning of נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) which has a broad range of meanings: (1) the breathing substance of man, (2) living being, (3) life, (4) person, (5) seat of the appetites, (6) seat of emotions and passions, (7) activities of intellect, emotion and will, (8) moral character, etc. (BDB 659-61 s.v.). In light of the synonymous parallelism, the most likely nuance here is “zeal, passion” (HALOT 713 s.v. 8). NIV takes the word in the sense of “vitality” and “drive” – “it is not good to have zeal without knowledge” (cf. NCV, TEV, and NLT which are all similar).without knowledge,
and the one who acts hastily ▼
▼ Heb “he who is hasty with his feet.” The verb אוּץ (’uts) means “to be pressed; to press; to make haste.” The verb is followed by the preposition בְּ (bet) which indicates that with which one hastens – his feet. The word “feet” is a synecdoche of part for the whole person – body and mind working together (cf. NLT “a person who moves too quickly”).makes poor choices. ▼
▼ Heb “misses the goal.” The participle חוֹטֵא (khote’) can be translated “sins” (cf. KJV, ASV), but in this context it refers only to actions without knowledge, which could lead to sin, or could lead simply to making poor choices (cf. NAB “blunders”; NASB “errs”; NCV “might make a mistake”).▼
▼ The basic meaning of the verb is “to miss a goal or the way.” D. Kidner says, “How negative is the achievement of a man who wants tangible and quick rewards” – he will miss the way (Proverbs [TOTC], 132).
3 A person’s folly ▼
▼ Heb “the folly of a man.”subverts ▼
▼ The verb סָלַף (salaf) normally means “to twist; to pervert; to overturn,” but in this context it means “to subvert” (BDB 701 s.v.); cf. ASV “subverteth.”▼
▼ J. H. Greenstone comments: “Man’s own failures are the result of his own folly and should not be attributed to God” (Proverbs, 201).his way,
▼ The clause begins with vav on the nonverb phrase “against the Lord.” While clause structure and word order is less compelling in a book like Proverbs, this fits well as a circumstantial clause indicating concession.his heart rages ▼ against the Lord.
4 Wealth adds many friends,
but a poor person is separated ▼
▼ The Niphal imperfect probably should be taken in the passive sense (the poor person is deserted by his “friend,” cf. NAB, NIV) rather than as a direct middle (the poor person deserted his friend).from his friend. ▼
▼ This proverb simply makes an observation on life: People pursue wealthy folk hoping that they can gain something from the rich, but the poor are deserted even by friends, who fear that the poor will try to gain something from them.
5 A false witness ▼
▼ Heb “a witness of lies.” This expression is an attributive genitive: “a lying witness” (cf. CEV “dishonest witnesses”). This is paralleled by “the one who pours out lies.”will not go unpunished,
and the one who spouts out ▼
▼ Heb “breathes out”; NAB “utters”; NIV “pours out.”lies will not escape punishment. ▼
▼ Heb “will not escape” (so NAB, NASB); NIV “will not go free.” Here “punishment” is implied, and has been supplied in the translation for clarity.▼
6 Many people entreat the favor ▼
▼ The verb יְחַלּוּ (yekhalu) is a Piel imperfect of חָלָה (khalah) meaning “to seek favor; to entreat favor; to mollify; to appease”; cf. NIV “curry favor.” It literally means “making the face of someone sweet or pleasant,” as in stroking the face. To “entreat the favor” of someone is to induce him to show favor; the action aims at receiving gifts, benefits, or any other kind of success.▼
▼ The Hebrew verb translated “entreat the favor” is often used to express prayer when God is the one whose favor is being sought; here it is the prince who can grant requests.of a generous person, ▼
▼ Heb “the face of a generous man”; ASV “the liberal man.” The term “face” is a synecdoche of part (= face) for the whole (= person).
and everyone is the friend ▼
▼ The proverb acknowledges the fact of life; but it also reminds people of the value of gifts in life, especially in business or in politics.of the person who gives gifts. ▼
▼ Heb “a man of gifts.” This could be (1) attributive genitive: a man characterized by giving gifts or (2) objective genitive: a man who gives gifts (IBHS 146 #9.5.2b).
7 All the relatives ▼
▼ Heb “brothers,” but not limited only to male siblings in this context.of a poor person hate him; ▼
▼ Heb “hate him.” The verb שָׂנֵא (sane’) may be nuanced “reject” here (metonymy of effect, cf. CEV). The kind of “dislike” or “hatred” family members show to a poor relative is to have nothing to do with him (NIV “is shunned”). If relatives do this, how much more will the poor person’s friends do so.
how much more do his friends avoid him –
he pursues them ▼
▼ The direct object “them” does not appear in the Hebrew but is supplied in the translation for the sake of smoothness.with words, but they do not respond. ▼
▼ Heb “not they.” The last line of the verse is problematic. The preceding two lines are loosely synonymous in their parallelism, but the third adds something like: “he pursues [them with] words, but they [do] not [respond].” Some simply say it is a corrupt remnant of a separate proverb and beyond restoration. The basic idea does make sense, though. The idea of his family and friends rejecting the poor person reveals how superficial they are, and how they make themselves scarce. Since they are far off, he has to look for them “with words” (adverbial accusative), that is, “send word” for help. But they “are nowhere to be found” (so NIV). The LXX reads “will not be delivered” in place of “not they” – clearly an attempt to make sense out of the cryptic phrase, and, in the process, showing evidence for that text.
8 The one who acquires wisdom ▼ loves himself; ▼
▼ Heb “his own soul.” The expression “loves his soul” means that he is paying attention to his needs or taking care of his life (cf. NAB “is his own best friend”). This expression works with its parallel to provide the whole idea: “loving the soul” is the metonymy of the cause for prospering, and “prospering” is the metonymy of the effect (of loving).
the one who preserves understanding will prosper. ▼
▼ Heb “finds good” (similar KJV, NASB); NCV “will succeed.” The MT reads לִמְצֹא (limtso’), a Qal infinitive construct. The LXX (as well as the other major early versions) renders it as a future, which reflects a Vorlage of יִמְצָא (yimtsa’). The infinitive is used here in a modal sense, meaning “is destined to” or “is certain of” finding good in life.
9 A false witness will not go unpunished,
and the one who spouts out ▼
▼ Heb “breathes out”; NAB “utters”; NIV “pours out.”lies will perish. ▼
10 Luxury is not appropriate ▼
▼ The form נָאוֶה (na’veh) is an adjective meaning “seemly; comely” in the older English versions like KJV, ASV, “fitting” in more recent ones (e.g., NASB, NIV, NRSV). The verbal root נוֹה only occurs in the Pilel stem; but it also has the basic meaning of “being fitting; being comely.” In this sentence the form is a predicate adjective.for a fool; ▼
▼ The verse is simply observing two things that are misfits. It is not concerned with a fool who changes and can handle wealth, or a servant who changes to become a nobleman. It is focused on things that are incongruous.
how much less for a servant to rule over princes! ▼
11 A person’s wisdom ▼
▼ Or “prudence,” the successful use of wisdom in discretion. Cf. NAB, NRSV, NLT “good sense.”makes him slow to anger, ▼
▼ The Hiphil perfect of אָרַךְ (’arakh, “to be long”) means “to make long; to prolong.” Patience and slowness to anger lead to forgiveness of sins.
and it is his glory ▼
▼ “Glory” signifies the idea of beauty or adornment. D. Kidner explains that such patience “brings out here the glowing colours of a virtue which in practice may look drably unassertive” (Proverbs [TOTC], 133).to overlook ▼
▼ Heb “to pass over” (so KJV, ASV); NCV, TEV “ignore.” The infinitive construct עֲבֹר (’avor) functions as the formal subject of the sentence. This clause provides the cause, whereas the former gave the effect – if one can pass over an offense there will be no anger.▼
▼ W. McKane says, “The virtue which is indicated here is more than a forgiving temper; it includes also the ability to shrug off insults and the absence of a brooding hypersensitivity…. It contains elements of toughness and self-discipline; it is the capacity to stifle a hot, emotional rejoinder and to sleep on an insult” (Proverbs [OTL], 530).an offense.
12 A king’s wrath is like ▼ the roar of a lion, ▼
▼ Heb “is a roaring like a lion.”
but his favor is like dew on the grass. ▼
▼ The proverb makes an observation about a king’s power to terrify or to refresh. It advises people to use tact with a king.
13 A foolish child ▼
▼ Heb “a foolish son” (so KJV, NAB, NIV, CEV); NRSV “a stupid child.”is the ruin of his father,
and a contentious wife ▼
▼ Heb “the contentions of a wife” (so KJV, NASB); NAB “the nagging of a wife.” The genitive could be interpreted (1) as genitive of source or subjective genitive – she is quarreling; or (2) it could be a genitive of specification, making the word “contentions” a modifier, as in the present translation.is like ▼ a constant dripping. ▼
14 A house and wealth are inherited from parents, ▼
▼ Heb “inheritance of fathers” (so KJV, ASV, NASB).
but a prudent wife ▼
▼ This statement describes a wife who has a skillful use of knowledge and discretion that proves to be successful. This contrasts with the preceding verse. The proverb is not concerned about unhappy marriages or bad wives (both of which exist); it simply affirms that when a marriage works out well one should credit it as a gift from God.is from the Lord.
15 Laziness brings on ▼
▼ Heb “causes to fall” or “casts”; NAB “plunges…into.”a deep sleep, ▼
and the idle person ▼
▼ The expression וְנֶפֶשׁ רְמִיָּה (venefesh remiyyah) can be translated “the soul of deceit” or “the soul of slackness.” There are two identical feminine nouns, one from the verb “beguile,” and the other from a cognate Arabic root “grow loose.” The second is more likely here in view of the parallelism (cf. NIV “a shiftless man”; NAB “the sluggard”). One who is slack, that is, idle, will go hungry.will go hungry. ▼
▼ The two lines are related in a metonymical sense: “deep sleep” is the cause of going hungry, and “going hungry” is the effect of deep sleep.
16 The one who obeys commandments guards ▼
▼ The verb שָׁמַר (shamar) is repeated twice in this line but with two different senses, creating a polysemantic wordplay: “he who obeys/keeps (ֹֹשׁמֵר, shomer) the commandment safeguards/keeps (שֹׁמֵר, shomer) his life.”his life;
the one who despises his ways ▼
▼ The expression his ways could refer either (1) to the conduct of the individual himself, or (2) to the commandments as the Lord’s ways. If the latter is the case, then the punishment is more certain.will die. ▼
▼ The Kethib is יָוְמֻת (yavmut), “will be put to death,” while the Qere reads יָמוּת (yamut, “will die”). The Qere is the preferred reading and is followed by most English versions.
17 The one who is gracious ▼
▼ The participle חוֹנֵן (khonen, “shows favor to”) is related to the word for “grace.” The activity here is the kind favor shown poor people for no particular reason and with no hope of repayment. It is literally an act of grace.to the poor lends ▼
▼ The form מַלְוֵה (malveh) is the Hiphil participle from לָוָה (lavah) in construct; it means “to cause to borrow; to lend.” The expression here is “lender of the Lord.” The person who helps the poor becomes the creditor of God.to the Lord,
and the Lord ▼
▼ Heb “he.” The referent of the 3rd person masculine singular pronoun is “the Lord” in the preceding line, which has been supplied here in the translation for clarity.will repay him ▼
▼ The promise of reward does not necessarily mean that the person who gives to the poor will get money back; the rewards in the book of Proverbs involve life and prosperity in general.for his good deed. ▼
▼ Heb “and his good deed will repay him.” The word גְּמֻלוֹ (gemulo) could be (1) the subject or (2) part of a double accusative of the verb. Understanding it as part of the double accusative makes better sense, for then the subject of the verb is God. How “his deed” could repay him is not immediately obvious.
18 Discipline your child, for ▼
▼ The translation understands כִּי (ki) as causal. Some prefer to take כִּי as temporal and translate, “while there is hope” (so KJV, NASB, NCV, NRSV, NLT), meaning that discipline should be administered when the child is young and easily guided. In the causal reading of כִּי, the idea seems to be that children should be disciplined because change is possible due to their youth and the fact that they are not set in their ways.there is hope,
but do not set your heart ▼
▼ The expression “do not lift up your soul/life” to his death may mean (1) “do not set your heart” on his death (cf. ASV, NAB, NASB, NRSV), or it may mean (2) “do not be a willing partner” (cf. NIV). The parent is to discipline a child, but he is not to take it to the extreme and destroy or kill the child.on causing his death. ▼
▼ The Hiphil infinitive construct הֲמִיתוֹ (hamito) means “taking it to heart” in this line. The traditional rendering was “and let not your soul spare for his crying.” This involved a different reading than “causing his death” (J. H. Greenstone, Proverbs, 206–7).
19 A person with great anger bears the penalty, ▼
▼ The Hebrew word means “indemnity, fine”; this suggests that the trouble could be legal, and the angry person has to pay for it.
but if you deliver him from it once, you will have to do it again. ▼
▼ The second colon of the verse is very difficult, and there have been many proposals as to its meaning: (1) “If you save [your enemy], you will add [good to yourself]”; (2) “If you save [your son by chastening], you may continue [chastisement and so educate him]”; (3) “If you deliver [him by paying the fine for him once], you will have to do it again”; (4) “If you save [him this time], you will have to increase [the punishment later on].” All interpretations have to supply a considerable amount of material (indicated by brackets). Many English versions are similar to (3).
20 Listen to advice ▼
▼ The advice refers in all probability to the teachings of the sages that will make one wise.and receive discipline,
▼ The proverb is one continuous thought, but the second half of the verse provides the purpose for the imperatives of the first half.you may become wise ▼
▼ The imperfect tense has the nuance of a final imperfect in a purpose clause, and so is translated “that you may become wise” (cf. NAB, NRSV).by the end of your life. ▼
▼ Heb “become wise in your latter end” (cf. KJV, ASV) which could obviously be misunderstood.
21 There are many plans ▼
▼ The plans (from the Hebrew verb חָשַׁב [khashav], “to think; to reckon; to devise”) in the human heart are many. But only those which God approves will succeed.in a person’s mind, ▼
▼ Heb “in the heart of a man” (cf. NAB, NIV). Here “heart” is used for the seat of thoughts, plans, and reasoning, so the translation uses “mind.” In contemporary English “heart” is more often associated with the seat of emotion than with the seat of planning and reasoning.
but it ▼
▼ Heb “but the counsel of the Lord, it will stand.” The construction draws attention to the “counsel of the Lord”; it is an independent nominative absolute, and the resumptive independent pronoun is the formal subject of the verb.is the counsel ▼
▼ The antithetical parallelism pairs “counsel” with “plans.” “Counsel of the Lord” (עֲצַת יְהוָה, ’atsat yehvah) is literally “advice” or “counsel” with the connotation of “plan” in this context (cf. NIV, NRSV, NLT “purpose”; NCV “plan”; TEV “the Lord’s will”).▼
▼ The point of the proverb is that the human being with many plans is uncertain, but the Lord with a sure plan gives correct counsel.of the Lord which will stand.
22 What is desirable ▼
▼ Heb “the desire of a man” (so KJV). The noun in construct is תַּאֲוַת (ta’avat), “desire [of].” Here it refers to “the desire of a man [= person].” Two problems surface here, the connotation of the word and the kind of genitive. “Desire” can also be translated “lust,” and so J. H. Greenstone has “The lust of a man is his shame” (Proverbs, 208). But the sentence is more likely positive in view of the more common uses of the words. “Man” could be a genitive of possession or subjective genitive – the man desires loyal love. It could also be an objective genitive, meaning “what is desired for a man.” The first would be the more natural in the proverb, which is showing that loyal love is better than wealth.for a person is to show loyal love, ▼
▼ Heb “[is] his loyal love”; NIV “unfailing love”; NRSV “loyalty.”
and a poor person is better than a liar. ▼
▼ The second half of the proverb presents the logical inference: The liar would be without “loyal love” entirely, and so poverty would be better than this. A poor person who wishes to do better is preferable to a person who makes promises and does not keep them.
23 Fearing the Lord ▼
▼ Heb “the fear of the Lord.” This expression features an objective genitive: “fearing the Lord.”leads ▼
▼ The term “leads” does not appear in the Hebrew but is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity and style.to life, ▼
▼ Here “life” is probably a metonymy of subject for “blessings and prosperity in life.” The plural form often covers a person’s “lifetime.”
and one who does so will live ▼
▼ The subject of this verb is probably the one who fears the Lord and enjoys life. So the proverb uses synthetic parallelism; the second half tells what this life is like – it is an abiding contentment that is not threatened by calamity (cf. NCV “unbothered by trouble”).satisfied; he will not be afflicted ▼
▼ Heb “he will not be visited” (so KJV, ASV). The verb פָּקַד (paqad) is often translated “visit.” It describes intervention that will change the destiny. If God “visits” it means he intervenes to bless or to curse. To be “visited by trouble” means that calamity will interfere with the course of life and change the direction or the destiny. Therefore this is not referring to a minor trouble that one might briefly experience. A life in the Lord cannot be disrupted by such major catastrophes that would alter one’s destiny.by calamity.
24 The sluggard plunges ▼
▼ Heb “buries” (so many English versions); KJV “hideth”; NAB “loses.”his hand in the dish,
and he will not even bring it back to his mouth! ▼
▼ This humorous portrayal is an exaggeration; but the point is that laziness can overcome hunger. It would have a wider application for anyone who would start a project and then lack the interest or energy to finish it (R. N. Whybray, Proverbs [CBC], 111). Ibn Ezra proposes that the dish was empty, because the sluggard was too lazy to provide for himself.
25 Flog ▼
▼ The Hiphil imperfect תַּכֶּה (takeh) is followed by another imperfect. It could be rendered: “strike a scorner [imperfect of instruction] and a simpleton will become prudent.” But the first of the parallel verbs can also be subordinated to the second as a temporal or conditional clause. Some English versions translate “beat” (NAB “if you beat an arrogant man”), but this could be understood to refer to competition rather than physical punishment. Therefore “flog” has been used in the translation, since it is normally associated with punishment or discipline.a scorner, and as a result the simpleton ▼
▼ Different people learn differently. There are three types of people in this proverb: the scorner with a closed mind, the simpleton with an empty mind, and the discerning person with an open mind (D. Kidner, Proverbs [TOTC], 135). The simpleton learns by observing a scoffer being punished, even though the punishment will have no effect on the scoffer.will learn prudence; ▼
correct a discerning person, and as a result he will understand knowledge. ▼
▼ The second half begins with הוֹכִיחַ (hokhiakh), the Hiphil infinitive construct. This parallels the imperfect tense beginning the first half; it forms a temporal or conditional clause as well, so that the main verb is “he will understand.”▼
▼ The discerning person will learn from verbal rebukes. The contrast is caught in a wordplay in the Midrash: “For the wise a hint [r’mizo], for the fool a fist [kurmezo]” (Mishle 22:6).
26 The one who robs ▼
▼ The construction joins the Piel participle מְשַׁדֶּד (meshaded, “one who robs”) with the Hiphil imperfect יַבְרִיחַ (yavriakh, “causes to flee” = chases away). The imperfect given a progressive imperfect nuance matches the timeless description of the participle as a substantive.his father ▼
▼ “Father” and “mother” here represent a stereotypical word pair in the book of Proverbs, rather than describing separate crimes against each individual parent. Both crimes are against both parents.and chases away his mother
is a son ▼
▼ The more generic “child” does not fit the activities described in this verse and so “son” is retained in the translation. In the ancient world a “son” was more likely than a daughter to behave as stated. Such behavior may reflect the son wanting to take over his father’s lands prematurely.who brings shame and disgrace.
27 If you stop listening to ▼
▼ Heb “Stop listening…!” The infinitive construct לִשְׁמֹעַ (lishmoa’) functions as the direct object of the imperative: “stop heeding [or, listening to].” Of course in this proverb which shows the consequences of doing so, this is irony. The sage is instructing not to stop. The conditional protasis construction does not appear in the Hebrew but is supplied in the translation.instruction, my child,
you will stray ▼
▼ The second line has an infinitive construct לִשְׁגוֹת (lishgot), meaning “to stray; to go astray; to err.” It indicates the result of the instruction – stop listening, and as a result you will go astray. The LXX took it differently: “A son who ceases to attend to discipline is likely to stray from words of knowledge.” RSV sees the final clause as the purpose of the instructions to be avoided: “do not listen to instructions to err.”from the words of knowledge.
28 A crooked witness ▼
▼ Heb “a witness who is worthless and wicked” (עֵד בְּלִיַּעַל, ’ed beliyya’al). Cf. KJV “an ungodly witness”; NAB “an unprincipled witness”; NCV “an evil witness”; NASB “a rascally witness.”▼
▼ These are crooked or corrupt witnesses who willfully distort the facts and make a mockery of the whole legal process.scorns justice,
and the mouth of the wicked devours ▼
▼ The parallel line says the mouth of the wicked “gulps down” or “swallows” (יְבַלַּע, yevala’) iniquity. The verb does not seem to fit the line (or the proverb) very well. Some have emended the text to יַבִּיעַ (yavia’, “gushes”) as in 15:28 (cf. NAB “pours out”). Driver followed an Arabic balaga to get “enunciates,” which works well with the idea of a false witness (W. McKane, Proverbs [OTL], 529). As it stands, however, the line indicates that in what he says the wicked person accepts evil – and that could describe a false witness.iniquity.
29 Judgments ▼
▼ Some (cf. NAB) suggest emending the MT’s “judgments” (from שָׁפַט, shafat) to “rods” (from שָׁבַט, shavat); however, this is not necessary if the term in the MT is interpreted figuratively. The LXX “scourges” might reflect a different Vorlage, but it also could have been an interpretive translation from the same text. “Judgments” is a metonymy of cause and refers to the punishment that the scoffer is to receive.are prepared for scorners,
and floggings for the backs of fools.
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