Proverbs 22

A good name
Heb “a name.” The idea of the name being “good” is implied; it has the connotation here of a reputation (cf. TEV, CEV, NLT).
is to be chosen
“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.”
rather than great wealth,
good favor
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.
more than silver or gold.
The rich and the poor meet together;
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.

the Lord is the creator of them both.
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.

A shrewd person
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.
sees danger
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.
and hides himself,
but the naive keep right on going
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”).
and suffer for it.
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.

The reward
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”).
for humility
“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.
and fearing the Lord
Heb “the fear of the Lord.” This is an objective genitive; the Lord is the object of the fear.

is riches and honor and life.
Thorns and snares
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.
“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.
are in the path of the perverse,
but the one who guards himself keeps far from them.
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.
a child
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.
in the way that he should go,
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.

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

The rich rule over
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.
the poor,
and the borrower is servant
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).
to the lender.
The one who sows
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.
iniquity will reap trouble,
and the rod of his fury
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).
will end.
A generous person
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).
will be blessed,
The form יְבֹרָךְ (yevorakh) 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.

for he gives some of his food
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.
to the poor.
10  Drive out the scorner
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.
and contention will leave;
strife and insults will cease.
The LXX freely adds “when he sits in council (ἐν συνεδρίῳ, en sunedriō), he insults everyone.” The MT does not suggest that the setting is in a court of law; so the LXX addition is highly unlikely.

11  The one who loves a pure heart
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.

and whose speech is gracious
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.
This individual is gracious or kind in what he says; thus the verse is commending honest intentions and gracious words.
– the king will be his friend.
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.

12  The eyes of the Lord
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.
guard knowledge,
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).

but he overthrows the words of the faithless person.
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).
The proverb affirms that God in safeguarding true knowledge will frustrate deception from faithless people – what they say will not have its intended effect.

13  The sluggard says, “There is a lion
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.
I will be killed in the middle of the streets!”
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!’”

14  The mouth
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).
of an adulteress 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 deep pit;
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.

the one against whom the Lord is angry
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.
will fall into it.
Heb “will fall there.” The “falling” could refer to the curse itself or to the result of the curse.
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.

15  Folly is bound up
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).
in the heart of a child,
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.”

but the rod of discipline
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”).
will drive it far from him.
16  The one who oppresses the poor to increase his own gain
and the one who gives to the rich
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).
– both end up only in poverty.

The Sayings of the Wise

A new collection of sayings begins here, forming the fourth section of the book of Proverbs. This collection is not like that of 1:1–9:18; here the introductory material is more personal than 1:1–7, and the style differs, showing great similarity to the Instruction of Amenemope in Egypt (especially the thirty precepts of the sages in 22:17–24:22). Verses 17–21 form the introduction, and then the sayings begin in v. 22. After the thirty sayings are given, there are further sayings in 24:23–34. There is much literature on this material: see W. K. Simpson, ed., Literature of Ancient Egypt; ANET 412–425; and A. Cody, “Notes on Proverbs 22:21 and 22:23b, ” Bib 61 (1980): 418-26.
17  Incline your ear
To “incline the ear” means to “listen carefully” (cf. NCV); the expression is metonymical in that the ear is the instrument for hearing. It is like telling someone to lean over to hear better.
and listen to the words of the wise,
and apply your heart to my instruction.
Heb “knowledge” (so KJV, NASB); in this context it refers to the knowledge that is spoken by the wise, hence “instruction.”

18  For it is pleasing if
Or “when” (so NIV).
you keep these sayings
Heb “keep them,” referring to the words of the wise expressed in these sayings. The referent has been specified in the translation for clarity.
within you,
The term “and” does not appear in the Hebrew but is supplied in the translation.
they are ready on your lips.
If the teachings are preserved in the heart/mind of the disciple, then that individual will always be ready to speak what was retained.

19  So that
The form לִהְיוֹת (lihyot, “to be”) is the infinitive construct indicating the purpose (or result) of the teaching (cf. NASB, NIV, NRSV).
your confidence may be in the Lord,
I am making them known to you today
Heb “I cause you to know.” The term “today” indicates that the verb should have the instantaneous nuance, and so an English present tense is used in the translation (“am making…known”).
– even you.
20  Have I not written thirty sayings
Older English versions and a few more recent ones render this phrase as either “excellent things” following the Qere (so KJV, ASV, NASB, NKJV), “officers,” or “heretofore” [day before yesterday], following the Kethib. However (as in most recent English versions) the Qere should be rendered “thirty,” referring to the number in the collection (cf. NAB, NIV, NRSV, NLT).
for you,
The term “sayings” does not appear in the Hebrew text but is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.
of counsel and knowledge,
21  to show you true and reliable words,
Heb “to cause you to know the truth of words of truth” (NASB similar).

so that you may give accurate answers
Heb “to return true words”; NAB “a dependable report”; NIV “sound answers.”
to those who sent you?
22  Do not exploit
Two negated jussives form the instruction here: אַל־תִּגְזָל (’al-tigzal, “do not exploit”) and וְאַל־תְּדַכֵּא (veal-tedakke’, “do not crush”).
Robbing or oppressing the poor is easy because they are defenseless. But this makes the crime tempting as well as contemptible. What is envisioned may be in bounds legally (just) but out of bounds morally.
a poor person because he is poor
and do not crush the needy in court,
Heb “in the gate” (so KJV); NAB, NASB, NRSV “at the gate.” The “gate” of the city was the center of activity, the place of business as well as the place for settling legal disputes. The language of the next verse suggests a legal setting, so “court” is an appropriate translation here.

23  for the Lord will plead their case
The construction uses the verb יָרִיב (yariv) with its cognate accusative. It can mean “to strive,” but here it probably means “to argue a case, plead a case” (cf. KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV). How the Lord will do this is not specified – either through righteous people or by direct intervention.

and will rob those who are robbing
The verb קָבַע (qava’, “to rob; to spoil; to plunder”) is used here in both places to reflect the principle of talionic justice. What the oppressors did to the poor will be turned back on them by the Lord.
24  Do not make friends with an angry person,
Heb “possessor of anger.” This expression is an idiom for “wrathful person” or “an angry person” (cf. NAB “a hotheaded man”; NLT “short-tempered people”). These are people characterized by anger, meaning the anger is not a rare occurrence with them.

and do not associate with a wrathful person,
25  lest you learn
The verb פֶּן־תֶּאֱלַף (pen-teelaf) is translated “lest you learn.” The idea is more precisely “become familiar with his ways.” The construction indicates that if one associates with such people he will become like them (cf. TEV “you might learn their habits”).
his ways
and entangle yourself in a snare.
The warning in this proverb is to avoid associating with a hothead because his influence could be fatal (a similar idea is found in the Instruction of Amenemope, chap. 9, 11:13–14 [ANET 423]).

26  Do not be one who strikes hands in pledge
or who puts up security for debts.
27  If you do not have enough to pay,
your bed
The “bed” may be a metonymy of adjunct, meaning the garment that covers the bed (e.g., Exod 22:26). At any rate, it represents the individual’s last possession (like the English expression “the shirt off his back”).
will be taken
Heb “If you cannot pay, why should he take the bed from under you?” This rhetorical question is used to affirm the statement. The rhetorical interrogative לָמָּה (lamah, “why?”) appears in MT but not in the ancient versions; it may be in the Hebrew text by dittography.
right out from under you!
The third saying deals with rash vows: If people foolishly pledge what they have, they could lose everything (e.g., 6:1–5; 11:15; 17:18; 20:16; there is no Egyptian parallel).

28  Do not move an ancient boundary stone
Moving a boundary stone was (and still is) a major problem. The boundaries that were established by the forefathers were to be preserved, but no law would stop such violations if people lacked integrity (e.g., Deut 19:14; 27:17; 1 Kgs 21:16–19). Boundaries in Israel were sacred because God owned the land and he apportioned the property to the tribes. To extend one’s property illegally by moving a neighbor’s boundary marker was a violation of covenant and oath. Of course, disputes could arise when both sides claim their ancestors established a boundary.

which was put in place by your ancestors.
Heb “your fathers” (so NAB, NASB).
The fourth saying deals with respect for property that belongs to other people (cf. Instruction of Amenemope, chap. 6, 7:12–13 [ANET 422]).

29  Do you see a person skilled
The word translated “skilled” is general enough to apply to any crafts; but it may refer to a scribe or an official (R. N. Whybray, Proverbs [CBC], 134).
in his work?
He will take his position before kings;
he will not take his position
The verb form used twice here is יִתְיַצֵּב (yityatsev), the Hitpael imperfect of יָצַב (yatsav), which means “to set or station oneself; to take one’s stand” in this stem. With the form לִפְנֵי (life) it means “to present oneself before” someone; so here it has the idea of serving as a courtier in the presence of a king.
before obscure people.
The fifth saying affirms that true skill earns recognition and advancement (cf. Instruction of Amenemope, chap. 30, 27:16–17 [ANET 424]).

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