Proverbs 27

Do not boast
The form אַל־תִּתְהַלֵּל (’al-tithallel) is the Hitpael jussive negated; it is from the common verb “to praise,” and so in this setting means “to praise oneself” or “to boast.”
The verse rules out one’s overconfident sense of ability to control the future. No one can presume on the future.
about tomorrow;
The word “tomorrow” is a metonymy of subject, meaning what will be done tomorrow, or in the future in general.

for you do not know
The expression “you do not know” balances the presumption of the first line, reminding the disciple of his ignorance and therefore his need for humility (e.g., Matt 6:34; Luke 12:20; Jas 4:13–16).
what a day may bring forth.
Let another
Heb “a stranger.” This does not necessarily refer to a non-Israelite, as has been demonstrated before in the book of Proverbs, but these are people outside the familiar and accepted circles. The point is that such a person would be objective in speaking about your abilities and accomplishments.
praise you, and not your own mouth;
“Mouth” and “lips” are metonymies of cause; they mean “what is said.” People should try to avoid praising themselves. Self praise can easily become a form of pride, even if it begins with trivial things. It does not establish a reputation; reputation comes from what others think about you.

someone else,
“a foreigner”; KJV, ASV, NASB, NRSV “a stranger.”
and not your own lips.
A stone is heavy and sand is weighty,
but vexation
The subject matter is the vexation produced by a fool. The term כַּעַס (caas) means “vexation” (ASV); provocation” (NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV); “anger” (KJV “wrath”) and usually refers to undeserved treatment. Cf. NLT “the resentment caused by a fool.”
The same noun is used in 1 Sam 1:6, 16 for the “provocation” given to Hannah by Peninnah for being barren.
by a fool is more burdensome
The contrast is made between dealing with the vexation of a fool and physical labor (moving stones and sand). More tiring is the vexation of a fool, for the mental and emotional effort it takes to deal with it is more draining than physical labor. It is, in the sense of this passage, almost unbearable.
than the two of them.
Wrath is cruel and anger is overwhelming,
Heb “fierceness of wrath and outpouring [= flood] of anger.” A number of English versions use “flood” here (e.g., NASB, NCV, NLT).

but who can stand before jealousy?
The Hebrew term translated “jealousy” here probably has the negative sense of “envy” rather than the positive sense of “zeal.” It is a raging emotion (like “anger” and “wrath,” this word has nuances of heat, intensity) that defies reason at times and can be destructive like a consuming fire (e.g., 6:32–35; Song 8:6–7). The rhetorical question is intended to affirm that no one can survive a jealous rage. (Whether one is the subject who is jealous or the object of the jealousy of someone else is not so clear.)

Better is open
Heb “revealed” or “uncovered” (Pual participle from גָּלָה, galah). This would specify the reproof or rebuke as direct, honest, and frank, whether it was coming from a friend or an enemy.
than hidden
The Hebrew term translated “hidden” (a Pual participle from סָתַר, satar) refers to a love that is carefully concealed; this is contrasted with the open rebuke in the first line. What is described, then, is someone too timid, too afraid, or not trusting enough to admit that reproof is a genuine part of love (W. McKane, Proverbs [OTL], 610). It is a love that is not expressed in proper concern for the one loved. See also, e.g., 28:23 and 29:3.
The Niphal participle of אָמַן (’aman) means “faithful; reliable; sure; trustworthy.” The word indicates that the wounds from a friend “can be trusted” (so NIV, NCV) because they are meant to correct and not to destroy (e.g., 25:12; Deut 7:9; Job 12:20).
are the wounds of a friend,
but the kisses
“Kisses” probably represents a metonymy of adjunct; the term describes any expressions or indications of affection. But coming from an enemy, they will be insincere – as indicated by their excessive number.
of an enemy are excessive.
The form is נַעְתָּרוֹת (natarot), the Niphal participle of עָתַר (’atar, “to be abundant”). Contemporary translations render this rare form in a number of different ways: “deceitful” (NASB, NKJV); “profuse” (NRSV); “many” (NLT). But the idea of “excessive” or “numerous” fits very well. The kisses of an enemy cannot be trusted, no matter how often they are presented.

The one whose appetite
Traditionally, “soul” (so KJV, ASV). The Hebrew text uses נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) here for the subject – the full appetite [“soul”]. The word refers to the whole person with all his appetites. Here its primary reference is to eating, but it has a wider application than that – possession, experience, education, and the like.
is satisfied loathes honey,
but to the hungry mouth
Here the term נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh, traditionally, “soul”) is used again, now in contrast to describe the “hungry appetite” (cf. NRSV “ravenous appetite”), although “hungry mouth” might be more idiomatic for the idea. Those whose needs are great are more appreciative of things than those who are satisfied. The needy will be delighted even with bitter things.
every bitter thing is sweet.
Like a bird that wanders
The form נוֹדֶדֶת (nodedet) is the Qal participle from נָדַד (nadad), “to wander; to stray; to flutter; to retreat; to depart”; cf. NIV, NRSV, NLT “strays.” It will be directly paralleled with the masculine participle in the second colon.
from its nest,
so is a person who wanders from his home.
Heb “place” (so KJV, ASV); most other English versions translate as “home.”
The reason for the wandering from the nest/place is not given, but it could be because of exile, eviction, business, or irresponsible actions. The saying may be generally observing that those who wander lack the security of their home and cannot contribute to their community (e.g., the massive movement of refugees). It could be portraying the unhappy plight of the wanderer without condemning him over the reason for the flight.

Ointment and incense make the heart rejoice,
The first line of the proverb provides the emblem to the parallel point. The emblem is the joy that anointing oil (ointment) and incense bring, and the point is the value of the advice of a friend.

likewise the sweetness of one’s friend from sincere counsel.
Some think the MT is unintelligible as it stands: “The sweetness of his friend from the counsel of the soul.” The Latin version has “the soul is sweetened by the good counsels of a friend.” D. W. Thomas suggests, “counsels of a friend make sweet the soul” (“Notes on Some Passages in the Book of Proverbs,” VT 15 [1965]: 275). G. R. Driver suggests, “the counsel of a friend is sweeter than one’s own advice” (literally, “more than the counsel of the soul”). He also suggests “more than of fragrant wood.” See G. R. Driver, “Hebrew Notes,” ZAW 52 (1934): 54; idem, “Suggestions and Objections,” ZAW 55 (1937): 69-70. The LXX reads “and the soul is rent by misfortunes.” The MT, for want of better or more convincing readings, may be interpreted to mean something like “[Just as] ointment and incense brings joy to the heart, [so] the sweetness of one’s friend [comes] from his sincere counsel.”

10  Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend,
and do not enter your brother’s house in the day of your disaster;
a neighbor nearby is better than a brother far away.
The meaning of the verse is very difficult, although the translation is rather straightforward. It may simply be saying that people should retain family relationships but will discover that a friend who is available is better than a relative who is not. But C. H. Toy thinks that the verse is made up of three lines that have no connection: 10a instructs people to maintain relationships, 10b says not to go to a brother’s house [only?] when disaster strikes, and 10c observes that a nearby friend is better than a far-away relative. C. H. Toy suggests a connection may have been there, but has been lost (Proverbs [ICC], 485–86). The conflict between 17:17 and 10b may be another example of presenting two sides of the issue, a fairly frequent occurrence in the book of Proverbs.

11  Be wise, my son,
Heb “my son”; the reference to a “son” is retained in the translation here because in the following lines the advice is to avoid women who are prostitutes.
and make my heart glad,
so that I may answer
The verb is the cohortative of שׁוּב (shuv); after the two imperatives that provide the instruction, this form with the vav will indicate the purpose or result (indirect volitive sequence).
anyone who taunts me.
The expression anyone who taunts me refers to those who would reproach or treat the sage with contempt, condemning him as a poor teacher. Teachers are often criticized for the faults and weaknesses of their students; but any teacher criticized that way takes pleasure in pointing to those who have learned as proof that he has not labored in vain (e.g., 1 Thess 2:19–20; 3:8).

12  A shrewd person sees danger 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.
and suffer for it.
13  Take a man’s
Heb “his garment.”
garment when he has given security for a stranger,
and when he gives surety for a stranger,
Or “for a strange (= adulterous) woman.” Cf. KJV, ASV, NASB, NLT; NIV “a wayward woman.”
hold him in pledge.
This proverb is virtually identical to 20:16.

14  If someone blesses
The verse begins with the Piel participle from בָּרַךְ (barach). It could be taken as the subject, with the resulting translation: “Blessing…will be counted as a curse.” However, that would be rather awkward. So it is preferable to take the first line as the condition (“if someone blesses”) and the second as the consequence (“[then] it will be counted”).
his neighbor with a loud voice early in the morning,
Heb “rising early in the morning” (so KJV, ASV). The infinitive explains the verb “bless,” giving the circumstances of its action. The individual rises early to give his blessing.

it will be counted as a curse to him.
The point of the proverb is that loud and untimely greetings are not appreciated. What was given as a “blessing” will be considered a “curse” – the two words being antonyms. The proverb makes the point that how, when, and why they say what they say is important too (D. Kidner, Proverbs [TOTC], 166).

15  A continual dripping on a rainy day
and a contentious wife
Heb “a wife of contentions” (an attributive genitive). Cf. NAB, NIV “a quarrelsome wife”; NLT “a nagging wife.”
are alike.
The form נִשְׁתָּוָה (nishtavah) is classified by BDB as a Nitpael perfect from the root שָׁוָה (shavah, “to be like; to resemble”; BDB 1001 s.v. I שָׁוָה). The form also has metathesis before the sibilant. The LXX interprets it as “Drops drive a man out of his house on a wintry day; so a railing woman also drives him out of his own house.”

16  Whoever hides her hides the wind
The participle and verb both are from the root צָפַן (tsafan, “to hide”). This combination could be translated “hiding her is [like] hiding the wind.”
A contentious woman is uncontrollable. The wind can gust at any moment; so too the contentious woman can nag or complain without warning. If anyone can hide the wind he can hide her.

or grasps
The verb is the Qal imperfect of קָרָא (qara’); BDB 895 s.v. 5.b defines it here as “call for = demand, require,” but acknowledge that it is probably corrupt. R. B. Y. Scott interprets it to mean “grasping” oil in the hand, an expression he compares to the modern “butterfingers” (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes [AB], 163). Others have interpreted it to mean “betrays” – “ointment of his right hand betrays itself,” meaning its smell persists. However, the connection to the proverb does not seem obvious with that interpretation.
oil with his right hand.
The LXX took an etymologizing approach to the whole verse and translated it “the north wind is a severe wind, but by its name is termed auspicious.” In this rendering the Hebrew text’s “oil” became “its name,” “right hand” became “auspicious,” and “grasp” became “called.”

17  As
The term “as” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation to clarify the comparison.
iron sharpens
BDB classifies the verb in the first colon as a Qal apocopated jussive of I חָדָה (khadah, “to grow sharp”; BDB 292 s.v.), and the verb in the second half of the verse (יַחַד, yakhad) as a Hiphil apocopated jussive. The difference would be: “let iron by means of iron grow sharp, and let a man sharpen the countenance of his friend.” But it makes more sense to take them both as Hiphil forms, the first being in pause. Other suggestions have been put forward for the meaning of the word, but the verb “sharpens” fits the context the best, and is followed by most English versions. The verb may be a shortened form of the imperfect rather than a jussive.
so a person
Heb “and a man,” although the context does not indicate this should be limited to males only.
sharpens his friend.
Heb “sharpens the face of his friend.” The use of the word “face” (cf. KJV, ASV “countenance”) would here emphasize that it is the personality or character that is being sharpened. Constructive criticism sharpens character. Use of the wits in interaction that makes two people sharp as a razor (W. McKane, Proverbs [OTL], 615); another example, from the Talmud, is that of two students sharpening each other in the study of the Torah (b. Ta’anit 7a).

18  The one who tends a fig tree
Tending fig trees requires closer attention than other plants; so the point here would be the diligent care that is required.
will eat its fruit,
The principle is established in the first line with the emblem: Those who faithfully serve will be rewarded in kind. The second half of the proverb makes the point from this illustration.

and whoever takes care of
The Hebrew participle translated “takes care of” (שֹׁמֵר, shomer) describes a careful watching over or looking after, a meticulous service, anticipating the needs and safeguarding the charge. Such a servant need not worry about his efforts going unrecognized and unrewarded (e.g., Prov 22:29; 2 Tim 2:6, 15).
his master will be honored.
19  As in water the face is reflected as a face,
The verse is somewhat cryptic and so has prompted many readings. The first line in the MT has “As water the face to the face.” The simplest and most probable interpretation is that clear water gives a reflection of the face (cf. NASB, NIV, NRSV, NLT). One creative but unconvincing suggestion is that of L. Kopf, who suggests the idea is “water of face” (a construct) and that it means shame or modesty, i.e., a face is not really human without shame, and a man without a heart is not human (“Arabische Etymologien und Parallelen zum Bibelwörterbuch,” VT 9 [1959]: 260-61).

so a person’s heart
The second line has “so the heart of a man to a man” (cf. KJV, ASV). The present translation (along with many English versions) supplies “reflects” as a verb in the second line to emphasize the parallelism.
In the parallelism this statement means that a person’s heart is the true reflection of that person. It is in looking at the heart, the will, the choices, the loves, the decisions, the attitudes, that people come to self-awareness.
reflects the person.
20  As
The term “as” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation in light of the analogy.
Death and Destruction are never satisfied,
Countless generations of people have gone into the world below; yet “death” is never satisfied – it always takes more. The line personifies Death and Destruction. It forms the emblem in the parallelism.

so the eyes of a person
Heb “eyes of a man.” This expression refers to the desires – what the individual looks longingly on. Ecclesiastes Rabbah 1:34 (one of the rabbinic Midrashim) says, “No man dies and has one-half of what he wanted.”
are never satisfied.
The LXX contains a scribal addition: “He who fixes his eye is an abomination to the Lord, and the uninstructed do not restrain their tongues.” This is unlikely to be original.

21  As the crucible is for silver and the furnace is for gold,
Once again this proverb uses emblematic parallelism. The crucible and the furnace are used to refine and thus reveal the pure metals. The analogy is that praise will reveal the person because others will examine and evaluate what an individual has done in order to make the public acclamation.

so a person
Heb “and a man,” but the context does not indicate this is limited only to males.
is proved
The verb “is proved” was supplied in the translation in view of the analogy. Many English versions supply “tested” for the same reason.
The proverb is saying that public praise is usually a good measure of the qualities and contributions of a person. The other side of it is that righteousness is often denounced, but the proverb is not addressing everything that people say.
by the praise he receives.
Heb “by [the] praise of him.” The pronominal suffix is an objective genitive, meaning “the praise about him” (= “the praise he receives”). Some commentators would take the suffix as a subjective genitive, meaning “the praise he gives”; this would mean people stand revealed by what they praise (D. Kidner, Proverbs [TOTC], 168). That does not seem to work as well with the emblem of the first line which indicates being tested. The LXX adds a couplet: “The heart of the transgressor seeks evil; but the upright heart seeks knowledge.”

22  If you should pound
The verb means “to pound” in a mortar with a pestle (cf. NRSV “Crush”; NLT “grind”). The imperfect is in a conditional clause, an unreal, hypothetical condition to make the point.
the fool in the mortar
among the grain
The Hebrew term רִיפוֹת (rifot) refers to some kind of grain spread out to dry and then pounded. It may refer to barley groats (coarsely ground barley), but others have suggested the term means “cheeses” (BDB 937 s.v.). Most English versions have “grain” without being more specific; NAB “grits.”
with the pestle,
his foolishness would not depart from him.
The LXX contains this paraphrase: “If you scourge a fool in the assembly, dishonoring him, you would not remove his folly.” This removes the imagery of mortar and pestle from the verse. Using the analogy of pounding something in a mortar, the proverb is saying even if a fool was pounded or pulverized, meaning severe physical punishment, his folly would not leave him – it is too ingrained in his nature.

23  Pay careful attention to
The sentence uses the infinitive absolute and the imperfect from יָדַע (yada’, “to know”). The imperfect here has been given the obligatory nuance, “you must know,” and that has to be intensified with the infinitive.
the condition of your flocks,
Heb “the faces of your flock.”

give careful attention
The idiom is “place [it on] your heart” or “take to heart.” Cf. NLT “put your heart into.”
The care of the flock must become the main focus of the will, for it is the livelihood. So v. 23 forms the main instruction of this lengthy proverb (vv. 23–27).
to your herds,
24  for riches do not last
Heb “riches are not forever” (so KJV, NASB); TEV “wealth is not permanent.” The term “last” is supplied in the translation for clarity.
nor does a crown last
The conjunction and the particle indicate that the same nuance continues here in the second colon, and so “last” has been supplied here as well.
from generation to generation.
25  When the hay is removed and new grass appears,
and the grass from the hills is gathered in,
26  the lambs will be for your clothing,
and the goats will be for the price of a field.
Verse 25 is the protasis and v. 26 the apodosis. The two verses say that when the harvest is taken in, then the grass will grow, and they can sell and use their livestock. The lambs will provide clothing, and the goats when sold will pay for land.

27  And there will be enough goat’s milk for your food,
This part of the proverb shows the proper interplay between human labor and divine provision. It teaches people to take care of what they have because it will not last forever.

for the food of your household,
and for the sustenance
Heb “life”; KJV, NAB “maintenance”; NRSV “nourishment.”
of your servant girls.
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