Solomon is said to have spoken 3,000 proverbs, but this in itself would not mean that they all originated with him. (1 Kings 4:32 [5:12]) Many of them could have been the sayings of sages prior to his time, including proverbs from lands outside the borders of ancient Israel. If (in this context) the Hebrew designation massá’ is correctly understood to apply to a region in north Arabia where descendants of Abraham’s son Ishmael settled (Genesis 25:13, 14), this would mean that Agur the son of Jakeh (30:1), King Lemuel, and his mother (31:1, 4) were non-Israelites. No Israelite king was known as Lemuel (meaning “belonging to God”), and it appears questionable that, in a work that is specifically linked to Solomon, he would also be called by a name that does not appear elsewhere in the Hebrew text. In the Septuagint, the entire book of Proverbs is attributed to Solomon. There is no mention of Agur, but the reference is to what “the man says to those trusting [or believing in] God.” Instead of “words of Lemuel,” the Septuagint introduces what is the opening part of chapter 31 in the Hebrew text with the phrase, “My words have been spoken by God.” This phrase implies that Solomon received the words through divine inspiration.
The book of Proverbs did not exist as such in the time of Solomon. It appears to have been derived from collections that were made at various times in Israelite history. According to Proverbs 25:1, “men [friends (LXX)] of Hezekiah the king of Judah” copied or transcribed proverbs. These men may have been scribes or secretaries in the royal court. They did their work over 250 years after the time Solomon reigned as king.
Verses 2 through 6 of chapter 1 set forth the purpose the proverbs or wise sayings serve. From chapter 10 onward, the book of Proverbs primarily consists of brief sayings that often bear no direct relationship to one another.
The first nine chapters of the book of Proverbs are composed like lectures or discourses that a father is represented as delivering to his son. It is also possible that the fatherly admonition may be considered as being that of a teacher to a pupil or a learner. The counsel in these discourses often does not reflect what a king might say to his son. It is most unlikely that a prince would be tempted to join a violent robber band, live like an outlaw with its members, and consent to sharing a common purse with them. (1:10-19) In the time of Solomon, the palace complex was located adjacent to the temple and not on a street that would make it possible to observe the actions of a prostitute. (7:6-22)
The Septuagint rendering of the book of Proverbs departs in significant ways from the extant Hebrew text. Although there are times when the Greek wording is a literal translation of the Hebrew, this frequently is not the case. The Greek renderings can be more interpretive, with phrases that have no Hebrew parallel. Certain proverbs bear little resemblance to the Hebrew wording or are contained only in the Septuagint. Individual proverbs may also be found in sections other than those of the Hebrew text. From chapter 24 onward, entire sections appear in a different order. That the Septuagint contains both literal renderings and major departures from the Hebrew text in wording and arrangement cannot be definitively explained. Perhaps the Hebrew manuscript that served as the source text for the translator differed somewhat from the reading of the Masoretic Text. This, however, cannot be confirmed. Portions of the book of Proverbs found at Qumran are limited to fragments of wording from chapters 1, 2, 13, 14 and 15. This wording basically agrees with that of the extant Hebrew text but not with that of the Septuagint when the Greek rendering is different.
In the commentary and the accompanying “Notes” section, major differences between the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint will be considered.
The proverbs, or wise sayings that commonly express ethical principles, are ascribed to “Solomon, son of David, king of Israel” (“who reigned in Israel” [LXX]). These “proverbs of Solomon” did not necessarily originate with him. His role primarily may have been as a monarch who came to know thousands of proverbs and had many of them recorded during the course of his reign. (1:1)
The proverbs aid individuals to “know wisdom,” making it possible for them to conduct affairs of life in a manner that avoids harming themselves and others and also to apply knowledge aright in order to attain noble objectives. By means of the proverbs, people can come to know “discipline,” corrective admonition, or instruction which, if heeded, results in the enjoyment of the best way of life regardless of the circumstances in which individuals may find themselves. “To understand words of insight” would mean for one to recognize that the words are a product of insight and that they provide a dependable guide for the specific aspects of life to which they relate. (1:2)
Through the proverbs, one can receive the “discipline” or instruction to be prudent or wise in one’s dealings. This “discipline” or instruction is also in “righteousness [doing what is right] and judgment [upholding justice] and uprightness [maintaining moral rectitude in word and deed].” According to the Septuagint rendering, one can “receive the subtlety of words.” This could relate to one’s being able to discern just what the proverbs mean, accepting the instruction imparted, and then acting accordingly. The Septuagint indicates that the proverbs aid individuals “to understand true righteousness,” or what is truly right and noble, and “to direct judgment,” or to render judgment that is just. (1:3)
For the “simple,” the inexperienced, the “innocent” (LXX), or those who can be easily influenced to take a wrong course, the proverbs can provide dependable guidance. Through the proverbs, the inexperienced person can become prudent and avoid being led astray. A “youth” (“young child” [LXX]) can come into possession of “knowledge and discretion [perception and insight (LXX)],” the ability to evaluate options and to discern the right course to take. (1:4)
A wise person is responsive to sound advice, being willing to “listen” and desiring to increase in learning or to benefit from additional instruction. A “man of understanding” or a man in possession of sound judgment is one who “acquires directions,” good counsel, or guidance for directing his life. The Septuagint rendering may be understood to indicate that the wise person who listens to what is taught in the proverbs will become wiser and the one having insight “will acquire direction” or guidance. (1:5)
The man of understanding who acquires direction or guidance is one who will be led “to understand a proverb [a parable or likeness (LXX)], an enigma [a dark or obscure saying (LXX)], the words of the wise and their riddles [perplexing or puzzling sayings].” (1:6)
The “fear of YHWH” (“God” [LXX]) is the “beginning of knowledge” (“wisdom” [LXX]). This “fear” is a reverential regard for YHWH as the God who has communicated his will and purpose to humans and to whom they are accountable for their actions. The “knowledge” that has its beginning or rests on the foundation of a wholesome fear of YHWH motivates its possessors to live uprightly, to avoid bringing harm to themselves and to others, and to be active in contributing to the well-being of fellow humans. “Fools” or morally corrupt individuals have no reverential regard for YHWH, and they despise the wisdom and discipline (or instruction) that motivate upright conduct. The Septuagint includes additional text. “For all” who “practice” or apply wisdom, “understanding” is “good.” They know how to conduct themselves aright. Moreover, “piety” or reverence toward God is the “beginning of perception,” the possession of the needed discernment to live an upright life. (1:7)
At this point, a father is portrayed as admonishing his son. The son is told to listen to or to heed his father’s “discipline,” corrective words, or instruction, and not to forsake his mother’s “law” (“rules” or precepts [LXX]). In this context, “law” refers to the sound principles or precepts a mother teaches by word and example. (1:8)
When followed, a father’s discipline or instruction and a mother’s law or direction are like an attractive wreath (a “crown of graces,” favors, or elegant things) for a son’s head and “pendants” (a “gold chain” or “collar” [LXX]) for his “throat” or neck. (1:9)
The father’s admonition to his son was for him not to let “sinners,” “impious ones” (LXX), or lawless individuals seduce him to become a participant in their violent ways. He should not consent to join them. (1:10)
The father represented sinners or lawless ones as inviting the son to come with them and to share in murderous attacks to rob innocent men, lying in wait “for blood” or to shed blood (sharing in blood or bloodshed [LXX]) and doing so wantonly from a concealed place. The Septuagint refers to concealing a “righteous man unjustly in the earth” or the ground, killing him and hiding the evidence. (1:11)
Murderous lawless ones are portrayed as wanting to “swallow” innocent ones alive, doing so “like Sheol [Hades (LXX)],” or the realm of the dead, and to swallow them “whole,” “like those going down into the pit,” or into a burial place. With reference to the “righteous man,” the Septuagint quotes the impious ones as saying, “Let us eliminate his remembrance from the earth” or the land. (1:12)
The objective of violent robbers (as expressed in the fatherly admonition to the son) was to “find all precious wealth,” or all kinds of valuables, and to fill their “houses with spoil” seized from their victims. (1:13)
According to the father’s words to his son, the robbers would want to seduce him to throw in his lot with them, joining them in their murderous pursuits, and also to share one common purse (literally, “one bag”). The Septuagint represents the father as telling his son that they would say to him that all would possess one common purse and that there would only be one bag among them. (1:14)
The father admonished the son not to go with robbers in their way but to “hold back” his “foot from their path.” (1:15) There was sound reason for the son to reject involvement with them, for they misused their feet, running to commit evil and hastening to shed blood. (1:16; see the Notes section.)
The father’s words for the son to shun involvement with a robber band may be emphasized with a proverbial saying. “For in vain is the net spread before the eyes of a bird” (literally, an “owner of a wing”). The thought could be that, after seeing the net spread out, a bird will not be ensnared by it. Accordingly, as the father’s admonition had set forth clearly what would happen, the son had been made fully aware of what joining a robber band would mean for him and, therefore, should not allow himself to be seduced. If, however, the proverbial saying relates to the lawless ones, the meaning could be that, although they have seen the consequences for engaging in violent acts befall others, they are like a bird that gets caught in a net that has been spread out before its eyes. The Contemporary English Version conveys a similar interpretive meaning in the main text. “They are like a bird that sees the bait, but ignores the trap.” The alternate interpretive rendering in the footnote represents the words as admonition to the son. “Be like a bird that won’t go for the bait, if it sees the trap.” (1:17; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)
Lawless ones often end up facing a day of reckoning. Therefore, they are portrayed as lying in wait for their own blood and setting an ambush for their “souls” or their own lives. According to the Septuagint, those “participating in murder store up evils [or calamities] for themselves, and the downfall of transgressing men [is] evil” or calamitous. (1:18)
The father’s words described the “ways” of “all who make gain by violence.” Ultimately, everything that they unjustly obtain leads to their undoing. “It takes away the soul [or life] of its possessors.” The Septuagint rendering is more explicit in making the application to lawless ones and their impiety or godlessness. “These are the ways of all those carrying out lawless actions, for they take away their own soul [or life] by impiety.” (1:19)
At this point, “wisdom” is represented as speaking. The Hebrew word for “wisdom” (chokhmóth) is feminine gender. For this reason, wisdom is personified as a woman. “Wisdom cries aloud” in places that are “outside” of dwellings or in the street, “and she raises her voice in the squares” or the broad open areas. The Septuagint rendering represents wisdom as singing hymns or praises “in the egresses” or streets and as leading openly, boldly providing guidance. Wherever people could be found or where they congregated, wisdom could be perceived as conveying her teaching. In these locations, upright persons and lawless ones engaged in their activities, and the impact that their manner of life had on them was as clearly discernible as if it had been shouted out publicly. (1:20)
The Hebrew text links the position from which wisdom calls out or makes her proclamation to the participial form of the verb hamáh, which basically means to be tumultuous or in commotion. In this context, this participle appears to apply to the areas where the noise of the town or city is prominent. Accordingly, the text may be rendered, “At the head of the streets, she calls out. At the entrances of the gates, in the city, she utters her words.” The Septuagint represents wisdom as proclaiming her message from her position “on top [plural in Greek] of the walls.” The Greek text continues, “and at the gates of powerful ones [men who had authority in the city], she waits; and at the gates of the city, she speaks boldly.” In the open area near the city gate, elders would handle legal cases. Those who heard their wise and just decisions could be said to hear wisdom speak. The judgments rendered against lawless ones were like the public proclamation of wisdom heard above the sound of the noise in the streets. (1:21)
Wisdom is represented as asking simpletons, or those lacking the insight that comes from experience, how long they would continue to love their ignorant state. She is then portrayed as asking ridiculers how long they would delight in ridicule and as asking fools how long they would hate knowledge. Ridiculers are persons who mocked what is right and noble, choosing to speak and act in a manner that was morally corrupt and contrary to wisdom. The knowledge that fools hated was the knowledge that would have motivated them to abandon their lawless ways and to begin to live uprightly. (1:22; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)
Wisdom urged simpletons, ridiculers, and fools to respond to her reproof, turning away from their wrong course. She would then pour out her “spirit” on them and make known her words to them. With the “spirit” of wisdom motivating them, they would abandon their corrupt conduct. The words of wisdom would provide sound guidance, rescuing them from harming themselves and others. (1:23; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)
Despite the repeated warnings of wisdom to simpletons, ridiculers, and senseless ones, they chose to ignore them. Wisdom called out, and they refused to listen. She stretched out her hand, beckoning to them to pay attention, but no one gave heed. The Septuagint says that wisdom “would spread out words.” This could mean that she “spoke at length.” (1:24)
Simpletons, ridiculers, and fools “let go” of or rejected all the “counsel” of wisdom and did not consent to her “reproof.” According to the Septuagint rendering, senseless ones made the counsels of wisdom invalid, rejecting the admonition as not applying to them. “They disobeyed” her “reproofs.” (1:25)
When the consequences for failing to heed wisdom befell those who disregarded her, she would laugh at their calamity (“destruction” [LXX]) and would mock them when the disaster they dreaded came upon them. The Septuagint indicates that wisdom would be gleeful when they experienced ruin. (1:26) At that time, “dread” (“tumult” or “confusion” [LXX]) or what they feared, would come like a storm, and their calamity (“overthrow” [LXX]) like a whirlwind; also affliction and distress (“siege” [LXX]) would come upon them. (1:27; see the Notes section.) When these developments take place, those faced with calamity would call wisdom, wanting the guidance that would lead them out of their distress, but she would not answer. They (“evil ones” [LXX]) would seek her, wanting her aid, but they would not find her. (1:28)
The reason there would be no relief or aid for those who lived lawlessly is that “they hated knowledge” (“wisdom” [LXX]), the knowledge that would have motivated them to conduct themselves aright, “and they did not choose the fear of YHWH [the Lord (LXX)].” They refused to have reverential regard for him and disregarded his commands. (1:29) Those who hated knowledge and had no wholesome fear of God did not want the “counsel” or advice of wisdom, and they despised all her reproof. Treating the words of wisdom with contempt. (1:30)
As a consequence of the course simpletons, ridiculers, and senseless ones had pursued, they would “eat” or experience the “fruit” or consequences of their way, and they would be filled with the results of “their counsels” or their own corrupt schemes (“their [own] impiety” or godlessness [LXX]). (1:31)
The “turning away of simpletons will kill them.” By the rejection of what is right and their willfulness in choosing their own way, those acting without the good sense associated with age and experience bring about their ruin. “Complacence,” being self-satisfied and unconcerned about doing what is right or just, is what will destroy fools, persons who choose to act in a manner that is injurious to themselves and others. The Septuagint rendering focuses on the consequences for wronging “infants” or inexperienced individuals who are easily victimized. Because they wronged innocent ones, lawless persons “will be murdered, and an inquest will ruin the impious” or godless ones. A thorough examination will establish the guilt of the godless ones, and their severe punishment will follow. (1:32)
The one who listens or pays attention to wisdom will dwell in security and will enjoy a quiet or restful state without “fear of evil” or calamity. According to the Septuagint, the individual who listens to wisdom will take up his dwelling on hope. This suggests that, because of having paid attention to wisdom, the person will be confident that the ultimate outcome will be good. The individual “will be quiet” or at rest in a state of fearlessness “from all evil.” (1:33)
The Greek words in verse 16 are not found in fourth-century Codex Vaticanus and the original text of Codex Sinaiticus.
In verse 17, the Septuagint rendering of the proverbial words conveys a meaning that differs from the extant Hebrew text. “For not unjustly [or for good reason] are nets spread out for birds.” This rendering indicates that nets are spread out purposely to catch birds.
The wording of verse 22 in the Septuagint departs significantly from that of the extant Hebrew text. It indicates that, “as long as the innocent” or blameless ones continued to adhere to “righteousness,” they would not be ashamed. Their course of life would not end up plunging them into disgrace. “Fools,” individuals whose senselessness is revealed in their corrupt manner of life, are identified as those who desired “pride” or “insolence.” They were addicted to the arrogant pursuit of actions that should have been a reason for shame. Having become impious or godless, “they hated perception” or the insight that would have led them to lead a noble way of life.
In verse 23, the Septuagint indicates that, as persons who hated the perception that prompted upright conduct, “fools” or senseless ones are in line for reproofs. Wisdom is then represented as telling them that she would let go to them the speech of her “breath,” and she would teach them her “word.” Spoken words proceeding from the mouth are expressions of “breath,” for they put air in motion.
In verse 27, the Septuagint concludes with an additional phrase respecting what would befall the lawless ones (“or when ruin comes to you”).
The son is represented as receiving fatherly admonition about what he needed to do to understand the fear of YHWH and to find the knowledge of God. (2:5) He would need to accept the father’s words, acting in harmony therewith, and “treasure up,” or highly value like a deposited treasure, his father’s “commandments.” (2:1; see the Notes section for the Septuagint rendering of verses 1 and 2.)
Another requirement was for the son to make his ear attentive to wisdom, truly listening to and heeding sound counsel, and to incline his “heart” (or his mental faculties or himself in his innermost self) to insight or the needed discernment to live uprightly. His inclining his “heart” to insight would signify his choosing or desiring it. (2:2)
It was essential for the son to “cry out for understanding [wisdom (LXX)],” earnestly desiring to possess the knowledge that would serve as a dependable guide, and raise his “voice for insight,” petitioning God for discernment in relation to the course he should be taking. The Septuagint refers to seeking perception with a “loud [literally, great] voice.” (2:3)
Diligent effort would be required on the part of the son. He would need to seek for insight as he would for silver and search for it as for hidden treasures. (2:4) This would result in the son’s understanding the “fear of YHWH [the Lord (LXX)]” (the reverential regard for YHWH that should be evident in his conduct), and he would find the “knowledge of God,” or come to know God as his approved servant. (2:5)
“For YHWH [the Lord (LXX)] gives wisdom, and from his mouth” (“face” or “presence” [LXX]) come “knowledge and understanding.” These words identify YHWH as the ultimate source of the wisdom, knowledge and understanding that are vital for the enjoyment of a meaningful and praiseworthy life. As indicated in verse 5, this is the life of one having a reverential regard for YHWH and possessing a knowledge of him, or having a relationship with him, as his servant who desires to live uprightly. (2:6)
YHWH looks out for upright ones, storing up for them, or arranging for them as a treasure, the wisdom that ultimately leads to success (tushiyyáh) or a good outcome for them. According to the Septuagint, the focus is on the outcome, with the object of the “treasuring up” or “storing up” being “salvation” or “deliverance” from what would, without God’s help or guidance, prove to be injurious. The Hebrew text identifies YHWH as a “shield” or a protector for “those walking in integrity,” faithfully adhering to his commands in all aspects of life. In the Septuagint, God is portrayed as shielding the course of upright ones, suggesting that he would be making their way successful. (2:7; see the Notes section.)
For YHWH to guard the “paths of judgment” or justice may be understood to indicate that he will see to it that obstacles ultimately will not be permitted to obstruct the administration of justice and that justice will be carried out. In the Septuagint, the Hebrew word for “judgment” is the plural form of dikaíoma and here probably relates to legal rights or rightful dues. YHWH also “preserves,” or closely and continually watches over, the way of his devoted ones, assuring that those who have reverential regard for him will not be stopped from pursuing the course that is pleasing to him. (2:8)
With the wisdom, knowledge, and understanding that YHWH provides and his close watch over the way that those having his approval walk or in which they conduct themselves, the son who is being admonished “will understand righteousness” or what is right, “judgment” or justice, “and uprightness” or moral rectitude, “every good path.” The son would know the course he needed to pursue to have God’s favor and blessing. According to the Septuagint, the son would make “all good courses” (literally, “all good axles”) straight, suggesting that he would not deviate from the right paths. (2:9)
For the son, protection from following the wrong course would require that “wisdom” enter his “heart,” or become part of his inmost self (his thinking and his reasoning), and that “knowledge” (the knowledge needed for conducting himself in a divinely approved way) be pleasant to his “soul” or to him himself. The son would delight in having this knowledge and would reveal this by maintaining praiseworthy conduct. (2:10; see the Notes section.)
With the wisdom that has YHWH as its source, the son would benefit from having discretion (“good counsel” or advice [LXX]) watch over him and discernment (“holy insight” [LXX]) guard him. This would be because wisdom would make him discreet as one who heeded sound advice and discerning about the right way to live. Discretion and discernment would safeguard him from following a ruinous course. (2:11) He would be delivered from the “way of evil,” or a corrupt course of conduct that leads to calamity. The son would be delivered from the “man” (or any person) who speaks twisted things or, according to the Septuagint, who speaks “nothing trustworthy.” As one who discerns the twisted nature of the words, the son would not allow himself to be ensnared and to take up practices that could be ruinous to himself or to others. (2:12)
Corrupt ones from whom the son with godly wisdom as his guide would be delivered are described as persons who abandon the “paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness.” They reject a godly way of life and choose to engage in lawless practices that often are carried out under the cover of darkness, or secretly. (2:13; see the Notes section.) These individuals rejoice or find delight in “doing evil.” They gain satisfaction from profiting at the expense of others, completely ignoring the injury they cause. Lawless persons find delight or pleasure in the “twisted things of evil,” or in the base and corrupt things associated with badness. (2:14) Their “paths,” or the ways in which they conduct themselves, are “crooked,” not upright. “In their ways,” they are “devious,” exhibiting craftiness and cunning. The Septuagint refers to their “courses” as being “bent” or crooked, deviating from what is right. (2:15)
The designations “strange woman” and “foreign one” apply to a woman who engages in prostitution. Godly wisdom would deliver the son from such a woman. He would not permit her “smooth” or enticing words to trap him into having intercourse with her. The Septuagint rendering conveys an entirely different thought. It represents corrupt individuals as wanting the son to be far removed from the “straight way,” or the divinely approved course of life, and to be a “stranger” to righteous intention, purpose or thought. (2:16)
The immoral woman is described as one who forsakes the intimate one of her youth (the husband to whom she was united in her youth). She “has forgotten” the “covenant of her God,” disregarding the covenant or agreement that required her to be faithful to her husband. As in the previous verse, the Septuagint rendering does not relate to a woman who prostitutes herself. The “son” is admonished not to let “bad counsel” overtake or seize him — counsel that abandons the “teaching of youth,” or which he received when young, and that “has forgotten [or has disregarded] the godly [or divine] covenant.” (2:17)
Involvement with an immoral woman leads to ruin, for her “house” is represented as sinking down to death and “her tracks” to the Rephaim (a transliteration of the Hebrew expression that has commonly been rendered “shades.”) In this context, the designation Rephaim may refer to those who had descended to the realm of the dead like the very tall and powerful Rephaim warriors whom David and his men killed in battle. (2:18; compare 1 Samuel 17:4-7; 1 Chronicles 20:4-8; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)
Possibly because death from disease can be the outcome for those having intercourse with an immoral woman, it is indicated that none of those going to her (or having intercourse with her) “will come back.” They will not regain the “paths” of those who are alive. (2:19; see the Notes section.)
The purpose of the fatherly admonition is for the son to walk, or to conduct himself, “in the way of good [persons] and to keep to, or remain in, “paths of righteous ones.” When following the admonition, the son would imitate the course of godly individuals and lead an exemplary life like persons who are recognized as righteous or upright in their dealings. (2:20; see the Notes section.) His doing so would lead to his enjoying a secure life and his being safeguarded from the consequences that ultimately can result from lawless conduct — severe punishment and a premature death. “For the upright will inhabit the earth” or land, and the “complete ones,” blameless ones, or honest persons “will remain in it,” not perishing prematurely. When punitive judgment is rendered against the wicked, upright ones will continue to be secure in their portion of the land. (2:21; see the Notes section.)
“Wicked ones will be cut off from the earth” or land, “and the treacherous” (corrupt or deceitful individuals) “will be torn away from it.” Punitive judgment will befall them, removing them from the earthly scene. According to the Septuagint, the “ways” of the impious or godless ones “will perish from the earth” or land. When judgment is executed against them and they cease to have their place on the land, the corrupt ways that they followed will perish with them. The Septuagint concludes with the thought that “transgressors,” those who choose to violate God’s commands, “will be banished from the earth” or the land. (2:22)
The rendering of verses 1 and 2 in the Septuagint differs somewhat from the extant Hebrew text. “Son, when you accept the saying of my commandment you hide [it] within yourself” (keeping your father’s authoritative teaching as a precious treasure inside yourself and letting it guide you), “your ear will be responsive to wisdom [you will obey wisdom], and you will incline your heart to insight [choosing to use insight or discernment], and you will incline it for the admonition of your son.” When choosing to heed his father’s authoritative teaching, the son would be in a position to benefit his own son with the instruction that had been imparted to him.
In verse 7, there is a measure of uncertainty about how the Hebrew noun tushiyyáh may best be rendered. Possible meanings are “prudence,” “sound wisdom,” “success,” “good outcome,” or “victory.” Renderings in modern translations vary. “He stores up sound wisdom for the upright.” (NRSV) “He has counsel in store for the upright.” (NAB) “Out of his store he endows the upright with ability.” (REB) “God gives helpful advice.” (CEV) “He holds victory in store for the upright.” (NIV)
In verse 10, the Septuagint rendering of the Hebrew word for “heart” (lev) is a form of diánoia and may here be understood to refer to the reasoning or thinking faculty.
In the Hebrew text of verse 13, there is an abrupt change from the singular noun for “man” (verse 12) to the plural participle (“those abandoning the paths of uprightness”). The Septuagint rendering of verse 13 provides a smoother transition. “O those abandoning straight ways to walk in ways of darkness.”
The wording of verse 18 in the Septuagint appears to represent “bad counsel” (verse 17) as a woman who gives bad advice. She is referred to as setting “her house beside death” and “her courses” or paths “beside Hades” (the realm of the dead) “with the giants.” In this case, “giants” is the Greek rendering for the Hebrew designation that is transliterated as Rephaim.
In verse 19, the Septuagint rendering indicates that those who walk in bad counsel or follow bad advice “will not come back nor seize” or take hold of “straight paths [ways of life that avoid senseless or corrupt actions that can lead to a premature death], for they are not seized by years of life.” They will die prematurely, for years of a long life do not have them as their possession.
The Septuagint rendering of the words in verse 20 indicates how the life of those who followed “bad counsel” (verses 17 and 19) could have been different. “For if they walked good paths, they would have found smooth paths of righteousness.” Their conduct would not have been crooked or corrupt.
The wording of verse 21 in the Septuagint expresses the basic thought of the Hebrew text somewhat differently. “Kind [persons] will be inhabitants of the earth” or land, “and blameless ones will be left in it, for the upright will tent [or have their residence] on the earth” or the land, “and holy ones [those who are free from the defilement of lawless deeds] will be left in it.”
The fatherly admonition is, “My son, do not forget my law” (“laws” [LXX]) or instruction, disregarding it as if he no longer remembered it. “And my commandments [sayings or words (LXX)] let your heart keep,” guard, treasure, or observe. The commandments or principles the father had imparted to him should guide his son’s reasoning, thinking, and conduct. He should guard them as being of inestimable value in his “heart,” his mind, or his inmost self. (3:1)
For the son to remember his father’s law or instruction and to observe, guard, or treasure his commandments would benefit him greatly. Faithful adherence to the instruction and the commandments would add “length of days [existence (LXX)] and years of life and peace” to him. The son would be safeguarded from following a course that could shorten his life. As one who conducted himself aright and preserved a good conscience, he would be able to enjoy “peace,” security, or well-being. (3:2)
The son was not to let “enduring love” (chésed [mercies (LXX)]) and “truth” (’émeth) forsake him. In the Septuagint, chésed is a plural form of the noun eleemosýne, and may be rendered “mercies” (compassionate deeds). The Hebrew word chésed may denote “graciousness,” “kindness,” “loyalty,” “enduring love,” and “mercy.” It is a compassionate care and loving concern that expresses itself in action. In this context, “truth” denotes trustworthiness, faithfulness, or reliability. The corresponding word in the Septuagint is the plural of pistós and could relate to acts or dealings that are characterized by faithfulness or trustworthiness. There never was to be a time when the son would conduct himself in a manner suggesting that “enduring love,” kindness, loyalty, or mercy and “truth,” faithfulness, or dependability had abandoned him. These essential qualities were to be precious to him as if attached to a cord and worn about his neck. The son would consider them as needing to be carefully guarded like a seal used for authenticating documents. Such a seal was commonly suspended from a cord that could be worn around the neck. “Enduring love” and “truth” or faithfulness were to be part of his inmost self as if they were written on the “tablet of [his] heart,” motivating him to be compassionate and trustworthy in all his dealings. (3:3)
By not letting enduring love and truth or faithfulness forsake him as would a person who chose to live a corrupt life, the son would find “favor and good understanding before [literally, in the eyes of] God and man.” God and fellow humans would regard him favorably, and their “understanding” or estimate of him as a person would be good. (3:4; see the Notes section.)
For the son to “trust in YHWH” (“God” [LXX]) with “all” his “heart” would require him to rely on YHWH completely, never doubting that acting in harmony with his commands would result in the greatest good possible. The son was not to lean on his own understanding (“wisdom” [LXX]) as would a person who preferred to follow his own flawed judgment and deliberately chose to pursue a way of life that ignored YHWH’s commands. According to the Septuagint, the son was not to take pride in his own wisdom, exalting it by ignoring his need for God’s guidance. (3:5)
A literal reading of the Hebrew text is, “In all your ways, know him [YHWH], and he will make your paths straight.” The thought appears to be that the son should conduct himself in a manner that was consistent with his knowing YHWH as his God whose commands he wanted to follow. When the son did this, YHWH would aid him to do so, straightening the paths for him as if clearing out the obstacles that would hinder him from pursuing the right course. (3:6; see the Notes section.)
For the son not to be “wise” in his own “eyes” would mean for him not to consider his wisdom to be such as not to need God’s guidance and aid to conduct himself aright. Instead, he was to “fear YHWH,” having reverential regard for him by seeking to know his will and then conducting himself accordingly. The son would need to “turn away from evil.” According to the Septuagint rendering, the son was not to be wise or understanding to himself or in his own estimation but was to “fear God and turn away from all evil.” (3:7)
A reverential regard for YHWH and a rejection of evil benefit a person’s physical organism. “It will be healing to your navel [shor] and drink [invigoration or refreshment (care [LXX])] for your bones.” In this context, the meaning “navel” for the Hebrew word shor seems unusual. The Septuagint rendering is “body.” Possibly, in view of its central location, the navel represents the entire organism. “Dry bones” are associated with disease and weakness, and so the reference to “drink” for the bones could signify that the entire frame of the individual would be invigorated. (3:8; compare Job 21:24; Proverbs 17:22; Isaiah 58:11.)
While the temple in Jerusalem functioned, Israelites could “honor YHWH” by making contributions from their “wealth” or substance for the support of the services there. In obedient response to the law, they could also honor or show their high regard for YHWH by offering the “firstfruits” of all their produce or their crops. The Septuagint rendering relates to conduct and appears to have been altered to fit the circumstances of Israelites living in lands far from Jerusalem. “Honor the Lord with your just toils and dedicate to him from your fruits of righteousness.” (3:9)
The result from following through on the admonition set forth in the previous verse would result in blessings. Storerooms would be filled with abundance (“grain” [LXX]) from the harvest, and vats would overflow with wine (the juice from trodden grapes). (3:10)
The son is admonished not to reject or, according to the Septuagint, belittle YHWH’s discipline, training, or correction, indicating that he should be responsive to it. This discipline could come in the form of suffering that God may permit him to experience. (Compare Deuteronomy 8:2-5; Hebrews 12:4-11.) As to YHWH’s “reproof” or correction that may be distressing, the son was not to despise it or “give out” (LXX). He was not to look upon the reproof with disgust or become disheartened or weary on account of the affliction YHWH permitted him to undergo as discipline, correction, or training. Instead, he was to accept the reproof as an expression of God’ love. (3:11) This is the case because YHWH “reproves” (“disciplines” [LXX]) the one whom he loves, just as a father reproves a “son in whom he delights.” The Septuagint rendering is, “For whom the Lord loves, he disciplines, and he chastises [or punishes] every son whom he accepts.” (3:12)
“Happy,” blessed, fortunate, or in an enviable state of well-being is a “man” (an “earthling”) who finds wisdom and a man (an earthling [thnetós, a mortal (LXX)]) who gets (“recognizes” [LXX]) “understanding,” skill, or insight. His finding wisdom suggests that he looked for it, desired it as his possession, and wanted to live in a manner that harmonized with it. His understanding may be understood to apply to his recognition of what was required of him to live uprightly. (3:13)
The “gain” from wisdom and the understanding that has its source in wisdom is “better than gain from silver” and the profit from wisdom is better than “gold.” From the possession and the application of wisdom more is to be gained than from the possession and use of gold and silver. The noble conduct that the possession of wisdom promotes benefits the individual and fellow humans in ways that silver and gold cannot. According to the Septuagint, it is better to conduct trade in wisdom than in “gold and silver treasures.” The returns from wisdom in relation to the life one would live are far superior to those from the possession of gold and silver. (3:14) This makes wisdom more precious than “corals” (peniním). The Hebrew word peniním has been understood to designate “pearls,” “rubies,” “coral,” and “red coral.” In the Septuagint, the reference is to “precious stones.” Nothing one might desire or in which one might find delight can be considered as equal to wisdom. (3:15; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)
When individuals conduct themselves in harmony with the wisdom that has a proper regard for God as its basis, they are shielded from indulging in habits and actions that could lead to a premature death. They make better use of the resources available to them, and they enjoy a dignified standing among others on account of their noble conduct, including their willingness to come to the aid of those in need. Appropriately, therefore, wisdom is portrayed as having “length of days” or a long life (“length of existence and years of life” [LXX]) in its “right hand,” and “wealth and honor” in its “left hand.” (3:16; see the Notes section regarding the additional text found in the Septuagint.)
The “ways” of wisdom are “ways of pleasantness [good ways (LXX)], and all its paths” are “peace” (“in peace” [LXX]) This could mean that the way in which wisdom leads results in pleasantness or good for those following it. The paths that wisdom directs as the ones to be followed promote “peace,” a state of well-being and security and one that is free from conflict and strife. (3:17)
Wisdom is a “tree of life” to those taking hold of it. Like the fruit of a tree that provides nourishment for sustaining life, the guidance wisdom provides for those who follow it contributes to the enjoyment of a longer life by aiding them to avoid the pitfalls that can lead to a premature death. Those who hold fast to wisdom can be pronounced “happy” or fortunate. They find themselves in an enviable state of well-being and security. According to the Septuagint rendering, wisdom is “unfailing” or dependable to those who “lean” or rely on it “as on the Lord.” (3:18)
YHWH is represented as using wisdom, thereby confirming its inestimable value. “By wisdom,” he “founded the earth.” This could mean that he firmly established the land as if providing it with supports or foundations. By his understanding, insight, or discernment, he secured (“prepared” [LXX]) the “heavens.” This could refer to the formation of the celestial vault that appears like a fixed dome over the land. (3:19)
Possibly with reference to water bursting forth from subterranean sources, the “deeps” are referred to as splitting or breaking open by YHWH’s knowledge or understanding. By his knowledge, “clouds” drip down “dew,” mist, or light rain. Ancient observers perceived the dew as coming down on vegetation from above. Seemingly for this reason, “dew” (unless the reference is to “light rain”) is said to descend from the clouds. The Septuagint rendering could be translated, “And clouds discharged dews.” (3:20)
The Hebrew text begins the fatherly admonition with the expression “my son,” but the initial phrase does not identify what the son should not let “escape” from his “eyes” or his sight. In the Septuagint, this phrase could be rendered, “Son, let not flow away.” He is then told to keep or to safeguard “prudence” (tushiyyáh) and “discretion” (“thought” or insight [LXX]). This provides a basis for concluding that the son was to make sure that “prudence” and “discretion” or “insight” did not “escape” or “flow away” from him as could happen if he neglected to be watchful. (3:21)
There is a measure of uncertainty about the meaning of the Hebrew word tushiyyáh. Lexicographers have suggested that, depending on the context, tushiyyáh can mean “prudence,” “sound wisdom,” success,” “good outcome,” or “victory.” The word tushiyyáh may here designate the prudence or sound wisdom that leads to success or a good outcome. In the Septuagint, the corresponding expression for tushiyyáh is “my counsel,” meaning the father’s advice. (3:21)
The expression “life to your soul” may be understood to mean “life to you” (life to the son being addressed). In connection with the previous verse (which see for comments), the thought appears to be that, when “prudence” (the father’s “counsel” [LXX]) and “discretion” (“thought” or insight [LXX]) govern conduct, they can contribute to a longer and better life than would otherwise be the case. Additionally, they are called “grace” to the “neck,” adding a tangible favorable impression on others and one that could be compared to beautiful adornment around the neck. (3:22; see the Notes section.)
With “prudence” (the father’s “counsel” [LXX]) and “discretion” (“thought” or insight [LXX]) providing guidance, the son would “walk” in “security.” His progress in life would be free from the the calamities that attend the conduct of persons who are unwise or corrupt. According to the Septuagint, all his ways he would “walk confidently in peace” (without having to fear consequences from having pursued a foolish course). The son’s “foot” would not stumble. He would not experience even the minor problems of persons who choose not to act wisely. (3:23)
Even at night, the son could feel secure on account of letting “prudence” (the father’s “counsel” [LXX]) and “discretion” (“thought” or insight [LXX]) govern his life. (See verse 21.) Upon lying down (sitting down [LXX]), he would not be afraid. There would not come upon him some calamity on account of his own folly. Free from anxiety about possible adverse consequences from unwise or corrupt actions, the son’s sleep would be sweet or pleasant. (3:24) He would not have to fear some “sudden dread” or terror “and the ruin of wicked ones when it comes.” At the time corrupt individuals suffer deserved punishment, upright persons will have nothing to fear. (3:25; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.) This would be, as the son was told, “for YHWH will be your confidence” (the One on whom he could confidently rely for aid, guidance, and safeguarding) “and will keep your foot from capture” or the kind of entanglement that inevitably leads to harm or ruin. (3:26)
Withholding “good” from one to whom it is owing could relate to extending a favor or kindness to someone in need, for people should have a sense of obligation to come to the aid of fellow humans in distress. An obligation could also include the return of a pledge or the repayment of a debt when due. There should not be needless stalling. The Septuagint rendering specifically relates to responding to “needy ones.” Persons in a position to respond (or to provide assistance) without delay, having it “in the power of [their] hand,” should do so. (3:27) The individual who is able to extend kindly aid should not tell his neighbor or fellow to depart and to return another time, saying to him, “Tomorrow I will give,” when he could have done so right then (“when you are able to do good” [LXX]). The Septuagint adds as a reason to do good or to respond favorably, “for you do not know what the next day will bring.” Circumstances can change quickly, and the person who is in position to give may later find himself in a needy state. (3:28)
One should not scheme something evil to a neighbor or fellow, taking advantage of him when he does not suspect any possibility of being harmed (“when he is residing securely with you” [“one residing (beside you] and trusting in you” (LXX)]). (3:29) Similarly, one should not dispute with a man “without cause,” picking a fight with a man who had not harmed one. The Septuagint rendering cautions against becoming hostile toward a man, “lest he do evil” or injury “to you.” (3:30)
A wicked man seemingly may prosper. When that is the case, the admonition is, “Do not envy a man of violence,” one who attains his base objectives through violent deeds, “and do not choose any of his ways.” The Septuagint rendering warns against bringing upon oneself the “reproach” or insult of “evil men,” and concludes with the admonition not to envy (or not to be zealous for) their ways. (3:31)
To YHWH, a corrupt person is an abomination or an object of loathing or disgust. But YHWH’s “intimacy” (or close relationship like that of a confidant) is with the upright ones, persons who are desirous of conducting themselves in harmony with his will. The Septuagint says that “every transgressor is unclean” or defiled “before the Lord,” and no such impure person sits in council “among the righteous ones.” (3:32)
YHWH’s (God’s [LXX]) “curse” is “on the house [houses or homes (LXX)] of the wicked” (the impious or godless ones [LXX]), indicating that any seeming prosperity they may enjoy will not be permanent. He blesses the “abode of righteous ones,” assuring that the eventual outcome for them will be good. (3:33)
YHWH scorns scorners or treats them in keeping with their ridicule of what is right and just. According to the Septuagint, the “Lord opposes arrogant ones,” rejecting them as disapproved. He grants his “grace,” favor, or kindly attention to the “humble” or lowly ones, to persons who recognize their need for his aid and guidance. (3:34)
Wise persons, those who seek to lead upright lives as God’s devoted servants, will “inherit honor” or “glory.” God and fellow humans who observe their noble conduct will view them favorably. “Fools” (persons whose conduct is corrupt [“impious” or godless ones (LXX]) “exalt shame.” Their actions are dishonorable. By their practices, they make what is disgraceful the preferential course, exalting what is shameful above that which is honorable and thus bringing shame upon themselves. (3:35)
The Septuagint rendering of verse 4 differs from the extant Hebrew text and could be translated, “Think beforehand [on] good [things] before the Lord and men.” This may be understood as admonition to give careful consideration to what is good in the sight of God and fellow humans. It is also possible that the Greek word for “think beforehand” (a form of pronoéo) here means “provide.” In that case, the encouragement is to provide (or to do) the things that are good, noble, or right in the sight of God and fellow humans. (Compare Romans 12:17; 2 Corinthians 8:21, and 1 Timothy 5:8 [texts that contain forms of the verb pronoéo].)
In verse 6, the Septuagint rendering focuses on wisdom. The father is represented as telling the son, “In all your ways, make it known, that it may straighten your paths, [and your foot will by no means stumble].” In Greek, the pronoun here rendered “it” is feminine gender, and the antecedent for the pronoun is the feminine noun sophía (“wisdom”). The thought is that the son should conduct himself in keeping with the guidance of wisdom and thus reveal wisdom — the wisdom that would aid him to conduct himself aright as if all his paths had been straightened or cleared of obstacles that would otherwise have led to a calamitous fall from his having pursued the wrong course. There is uncertainty whether the phrase in brackets was part of the original text of the Septuagint. The words are repeated in verse 23.
After indicating that wisdom is more valuable than “precious stones,” the Septuagint rendering of verse 15 continues, “Nothing evil will [successfully] resist it. It is well-known to all who draw near to it, and anything precious [or any honor] is not worthy of it.” Wisdom will prove to be triumphant. Those who draw near to wisdom, approaching it as persons who choose to follow it, are fully acquainted with its inestimable worth. In value, it far transcends any honor or precious item.
In verse 16, the Septuagint concludes with words that are not contained in the extant Hebrew text. “From its [wisdom’s] mouth, righteousness comes forth, and it carries law and mercy on [its] tongue.” Whatever has its source in true wisdom is righteous, just, or right. Like good law, wisdom provides sound guidance for upright conduct. The application of wisdom is humane. There is no insistence on the letter of the law but, when warranted, mercy or compassion are shown after a careful evaluation of all factors that involve matters requiring the rendering of judgments.
In verse 22, the Septuagint contains additional wording that has no correspondence in the Hebrew text. “And it will be healing to your flesh and care for your bones.” The entire physical frame of the individual would be benefited.
The Septuagint rendering of the words in verse 25 differs from that of the extant Hebrew text. Its focus is on the son who is told, “And you will not fear coming alarm” or terror “nor the coming attacks of the impious” or godless ones.
“Sons” or “children” are exhorted to hear, listen, or heed a father’s “discipline,” corrective admonition, or instruction, and to be attentive. The objective is for them to “know insight,” to possess the essential understanding or discernment to live uprightly. (4:1)
Sons or children would benefit from paying attention to their father, “for” he would give them “good instruction” (a “good gift” [LXX]), or teaching that would assist them to act wisely and to avoid conduct that could harm them and others. They were admonished not to forsake his “law,” or the instruction he had imparted to them and which should have been obeyed like an authoritative command. (4:2)
The father had received teaching from his own father and, therefore, could impart vital lessons to his sons or children, lessons that would assist them to act wisely. He referred to the time when he was a “son with [his] father” or, as rendered in the Septuagint, a son “obedient to [his] father,” and “tender” (or delicate as he would have been as a young child) and the “only one,” unique one, or specially loved one like an only child “before” or in the sight of his mother. The expressions of the father indicate that he was the object of his parents’ deep affection and that he valued the teaching he received from them. According to the Septuagint rendering, the father spoke of being “beloved” before the “face” or in the sight of his mother. (4:3)
The Septuagint rendering indicates that both father and mother spoke to the son and taught him, but the extant Hebrew text focuses on the father’s role. “And he taught me and said to me.” The fatherly exhortation was, “Let your heart hold fast to my words.” In the Septuagint, the admonition relates to what both parents had taught the son. “Let our word be firmly fixed in your heart.” The father’s exhortation indicated that the son was to have the parental instruction as a permanent deposit in his “heart,” mind, or inmost being and that it should serve as a guide in his life. (4:4)
Each son or child could choose to obey or to disregard the father’s commandments. The father wanted each child to benefit from his instruction and gave the exhortation, “Keep my commandments and live.” These commandments provided sound guidance and served to protect an obedient son or child from a course that could lead to a premature death. Therefore, for a “son” or child to obey the father’s commandments contributed to a longer life than would have been the case if he foolishly chose to disregard the commandments or precepts. (4:4; see the Notes section.)
The fatherly exhortation to each son or child was, “Get wisdom; get understanding,” earnestly desiring to have the wisdom that would serve as a dependable guide for a noble life and the essential understanding or insight to make the right choices. Each son or child was admonished not to “forget” nor to “turn aside” from the “words,” instruction, or advice, that had proceeded from the “mouth” of the father. His words should not be disregarded as if there were no remembrance of what he had said. (4:5; see the Notes section.)
For a son or a child (a pupil or a learner) not to forsake wisdom would signify for the person to adhere to wisdom and to let it serve as a guide in life. Wisdom would then “keep” (hold on to or cleave to [LXX]) the one living in harmony with its guidance, preserving the individual from the calamitous consequences of senseless conduct. To love wisdom would denote to value wisdom highly as if enjoying an intimate relationship with it. When that is the case, wisdom would function as a guard or protector, shielding the person from the ruinous outcome experienced by those who pursue a foolish course of life. (4:6)
The “beginning of wisdom” is to “get wisdom.” This suggests that the acquisition of wisdom is an ongoing process that has its start with sound teaching received in youth, responsiveness to this teaching, and a desire to possess wisdom as a guide in life. The exhortation to “get wisdom” continues with the words, “and with whatever you get, get insight” (or understanding), which would include the capacity to discern the right course to take. (4:7; see the Notes section.)
For a son (a child, pupil, or learner) to “elevate” (salál) wisdom is to consider it to be of inestimable value and to conduct his life according to this high esteem. When that is the case, wisdom “will exalt” the individual, causing others to see the benefits that come to one whose life is guided by wisdom and who avoids senseless actions. In the Septuagint, the rendering for the Hebrew word salál is a form of pericharakóo, which can denote “to surround with a wall” or “to secure.” The thought appears to be that the wisdom the son had received from his father’s teaching should have a secure place in his life and should always be heeded. When wisdom is “embraced,” it will bring honor or glory to the individual who conducts himself as having wisdom as a highly esteemed and trusted companion and guide. The individual will enjoy a good reputation and noble standing in the community. According to the Septuagint rendering, wisdom may embrace the one who honors it. The act of honoring would be evident from letting wisdom function as a dependable guide like a beloved and trusted companion. (4:8)
The dignity with which wisdom favors its possessors is likened to beautiful ornamentation. Wisdom “will place a wreath of grace [or an attractive wreath] on your head,” and bestow on you a “crown of beauty.” Others would be able to see the benefits that come from having wisdom as a dependable guide for one’s life. (4:9; see the Notes section.)
The father admonished his son to “hear,” to listen, or to be responsive to and to accept his words, choosing to act accordingly. The “years of [his] life” would then “become many.” This would be because the son would shun conduct that could be ruinous to his well-being and lead to a premature death. The Septuagint concludes with two parallel expressions directed to the son. “And the years of your life will be increased, that for you the ways of existence may become many.” (4:10)
The father purposed to teach his son in the “way of wisdom,” the way in which he should live to avoid the problems and calamities that result from pursuing a foolish course. Moreover, the father had as his objective to motivate his son to “tread in the tracks of uprightness” (“strait paths” or tracks [LXX]) or to conduct himself uprightly. (4:11)
When pursuing the ways his father taught him, the son would not be cramped in his step or course of life as if he had to negotiate a narrow path in difficult mountainous terrain. The ways according to which the father taught his son to conduct himself were not treacherous. These ways were comparable to roads that were free from hazardous obstacles and on which the son could run without stumbling. According to the Septuagint, the son would “not become weary” if he ran (if he earnestly followed the ways that he had learned from his father). (4:12)
The father encouraged his son to take hold of “discipline” or instruction, not letting it go or not releasing his grip on the admonition that he should continue to follow. This “discipline” or instruction imparted wisdom of great value, and the son was to safeguard wisdom as one would guard a precious treasure. It would be “life” for him (“for [his] life” [LXX]), protecting him from engaging in senseless acts that could shorten his life. (4:13)
After having exhorted his son to let wisdom guide his life, the father admonished him not to enter the “path of wicked ones [impious or godless ones (LXX)]” and not to walk in the “way of evildoers.” He was to shun their morally corrupt course of life. According to the Septuagint, the father’s concluding exhortation may be rendered, “Do not be zealous for the ways of transgressors.” The son was not to seek the seeming success that lawless ones attained by their corrupt dealings. (4:14) Regarding the “path of wicked ones” or their debased course of life, the fatherly admonition was, “Avoid it; do not go on it. Turn away from it, and pass on” or continue leading an upright life. The Septuagint rendering represents the father as admonishing the son not to enter the place where transgressors may encamp but to “turn from them and pass by.” (4:15) The reason for the exhortation is that corrupt dealings are a way of life for godless ones or transgressors. “They cannot sleep unless they have done wrong.” Not a day passes without their plotting to take advantage of fellow humans. If they have not succeeded in causing someone to “stumble” or to suffer loss and to profit therefrom, they cannot sleep, apparently on account of being disappointed about having failed to attain their base objective. The Septuagint concludes with the thought that “sleep has been taken away” from them and that they cannot fall asleep. (4:16)
Engaging in lawless activities is like food and drink for the wicked. They consume the “bread of wickedness [impiety or godlessness (LXX)]” and drink the “wine of violent deeds [unlawful wine (LXX)].” (4:17)
The way or course upright persons follow and the way the wicked pursue ultimately end differently. In the case of the righteous, their way or course of life is like a shining light that becomes ever brighter “until the day is established,” or the zenith of brightness is attained. Illuminated by wisdom, the course of life righteous persons follow progressively becomes ever clearer to them. The direction of their life is purposeful and leads to the attainment of noble goals. According to the Septuagint, the “ways of the righteous shine like light. They advance and illuminate until the day is established.” The Septuagint rendering suggests that the righteous proceed in their course as on illuminated paths and themselves function as bearers of light from the start of the day until its end. Their words and deeds reveal that wisdom illuminates their course of life as if they were traveling well-lit paths. (4:18)
The way of the wicked is one of gloom, a way of life devoid of the sense of security and well-being that upright persons enjoy. Their course of life is one enveloped in darkness, with no prospect of an ultimate favorable outcome. “They do not know over what they stumble.” Without the guidance of wisdom, they, in their state of ignorance and moral corruption, do not recognize the obstacles in their life that can prove to be ruinous to them. The Septuagint represents the impious or godless ones as not knowing “how they stumble” or as not recognizing the things regarding their life that lead to unfavorable outcomes. (4:19)
The father exhorted the son to pay attention or to be responsive to his “words” and to incline his “ear” to his expressions, choosing to listen to and to follow the teaching that was imparted to him. (4:20)
At all times, the son should have his father’s words before him, not letting them escape “from [his] eyes” so that they would motivate him to conduct himself uprightly. In order for him to be prompted to conduct himself according to his father’s words or the lessons he had imparted to him, the son was to keep them “in the midst of [his] heart” (like a secure treasure in his mind or his inner self). (4:21; see the Notes section.)
To find the wise sayings or words would mean to want to have them as a possession and to heed them. These sayings are “life” to those who find them, for they provide the sound guidance that promotes the well-being of all who choose to follow it. In the case of the individual, the wise words are “healing” to “all his flesh” or his entire organism, directing him away from the harmful activities that could ruin the quality of his life and lead to an untimely death and also showing him the course of conduct that would contribute to the enjoyment of a longer and better life. (4:22)
Above everything to be guarded, one should safeguard the heart, “for from it [are] the sources of life.” From the “heart,” mind, or the inmost self (when guided by wisdom) originate the promptings for the upright conduct that contributes to “life” or well-being. Therefore, the “heart” needs to be guarded from yielding to temptations that could hinder it from providing “sources of life.” One who failed to resist these temptations would ultimately suffer ruin. (4:23)
The father’s admonition to the son was for him to remove “crookedness of mouth” (a “crooked mouth” [LXX]) and to “put far away” from himself “perverseness of lips” (“unrighteous” or “unjust lips” [LXX]). His mouth and lips were not to be used to express deception and lies. (4:24)
The son’s eyes needed to be focused straight ahead of him to attain noble objectives. He should not be casting glances elsewhere, for this could lead to his being tempted to stray from a course of moral rectitude. According to the Septuagint, the son’s “eyelids” should incline to “righteous” or “just things.” (4:25) The fatherly admonition directed the son to make the “path of [his] foot” level (“make straight tracks for your feet” [LXX]), suggesting that he should remove all obstacles that could impede him from conducting himself uprightly. All his ways (or all the courses of his life) would then be “established” or secure as if he were walking on level and solid ground. According to the Septuagint, he was exhorted to “straighten” his ways. (4:26) The son was not to deviate from the right course of life, inclining or choosing to swerve to the “right or the left.” He was to turn his foot away from evil (an “evil way” [LXX]). (4:27; see the Notes section for the additional words in the Septuagint.)
In printed versions of the Septuagint, the words “keep the commandments” (verse 4 in the Hebrew text) are found in verse 5. There is no reference to getting “wisdom” and getting “understanding.” The Septuagint rendering continues, “Do not forget” (with apparent reference to the commandments) “nor disregard the expression of my mouth.”
The wording found in verse 7 of the extant Hebrew text is missing from the Septuagint.
In verse 9 of the Septuagint, the “expression” of the father’s mouth (verse 5), which imparted wisdom, appears to be the subject of the concluding phrase, “and it may protect you with a crown of delight” or an impressive crown.
In certain contexts, the Hebrew word for “eye” (‘áyin) can mean “fountain” or “spring.” This may explain why the Septuagint rendering conveys a different significance for the initial phrase of verse 21 (“that your fountains [possibly meaning sources linked to the heart (the mind or the inner self) that motivate right conduct] may not leave you.”
After the corresponding words of the extant Hebrew text in verse 27, the Septuagint continues, “for God knows the ways on the right, and twisted are those on the left.” In view of the earlier admonition to the son not to “incline to the left or to the right,” the additional text indicates that God is fully aware of the paths on the right that lead away from the course of moral rectitude and the crooked paths on the left. As to what God will do for the son if he does not turn away to the right or to the left, the Septuagint says, “He himself will make your tracks straight, and he will guide your goings in peace” (or in a manner that assures a good outcome for your course of life).
The father admonished his son to pay attention to his “wisdom” or to the teaching that reflected the wisdom he had acquired. For the son to incline his ear to his father’s understanding, insight, or “words” (LXX) meant for him to choose to listen to and to apply in his own life the lessons his father imparted to him. (5:1)
Being attentive to his father’s wise teaching and willing to heed and apply the understanding and insight that had been shared with him, the son would be able to “keep discretion” (“good insight” [LXX]). He would possess discretion or insight as his own treasure, enabling him to evaluate options and to discern the right course for him to follow. For the son’s “lips” to “safeguard knowledge” suggests that he would be able to use his lips to make expressions that reflected his having sound knowledge. His being able to say the right things would be comparable to having a depository of knowledge in his lips. The Septuagint rendering represents the father as saying, “I will command the perception of my lips to you.” This could mean that the father would authoritatively teach (as if commanding) the perceptive or insightful words that his lips were capable of expressing. (5:2)
A “strange woman” or a “worthless woman” (LXX) could be either a prostitute or an adulteress. Her enticing words are portrayed as being like the dripping or flowing of sweet honey from her lips, and her palate, when she speaks, is “smoother than oil” or is alluring. The Septuagint rendering warns the son not to pay attention to the worthless woman, “for honey drips from the lips of a harlotrous woman,” who “for a time oils your throat” or pleases your taste. (5:3)
What initially may have appeared sweet and alluring would, after an illicit relationship with a “strange woman” or a “worthless woman” (LXX), be “bitter as wormwood” and “sharp as a two-edged sword” (capable of inflicting a serious or even a mortal wound). According to the Septuagint, the son would find the aftereffect “more bitter than gall and sharper than a two-edged sword.” (5:4)
The “feet” of a prostitute or an adulteress “go down to death,” and “her steps lay hold on Sheol” (“Hades” [LXX]). These words imply that, because of where the prostituting woman’s feet are heading, the ultimate end for any man who becomes intimately involved with her can be a premature death and a descent into the realm of the dead. (5:5; see the Notes section.)
The prostitute or adulteress, as the previous verse suggests, is on her chosen path leading to death and is determined to follow it. She does not consider the “path of life,” or give any thought to pursuing a course that could mean life for her. “Her ways wander, and she does not know.” What she does not know is not identified. The meaning could be that she does not know or recognize where her wandering in her immoral ways will eventually take her. According to the Septuagint, “her paths are slippery [or deceptive] and not easily recognized,” proving to be treacherous and harmful to her and to those who are intimate with her. (5:6)
The father admonished his sons (“son” [LXX]) to “hear” or to listen to him and not to “turn aside from the words of his mouth” (not to make his “words invalid” [LXX]). They should heed the exhortations that the father’s mouth uttered, not disobediently departing from them. As indicated in the Septuagint, the “son” was not to treat the father’s words as if they did not apply to him. (5:7)
The fatherly exhortation to the son was for him to stay far from the way of a harlotrous woman and not to go near the “door of her house” (not to go near the “doors of her houses” [LXX]). Heeding this exhortation would have served to protect the son from being approached by her and confronted with her seductive words. (5:8)
If the son disregarded his father’s wise counsel, he could end up giving his “honor” or “majesty” (hohd) to others (let go his “life” [or the means essential for sustaining life] to others [LXX]) and “years [his means of life (LXX)] to the merciless [one].” In this context, the Hebrew word hohd could refer to sexual vigor and the offspring the son’s sexual vigor could produce but whose potential for generating wealth would come into possession of the man who may have used his wife for immoral purposes. Another possibility is that hohd denotes wealth or property that the husband may demand as compensation or that may be confiscated after a judicial investigation. The “merciless one” may be the injured husband who would have no pity for the man who was intimate with his wife. (5:9)
Ignoring his father’s admonition could result in the son’s having “strangers” be filled or sated with his “power,” and his “labors,” or the products of his toil, be in or go into the “house of an alien.” The son could end up expending his strength for the husband of the wife with whom he had an illicit relationship, and the husband would derive benefits from the son’s toil. Modern translations have variously rendered the text. “Lest strangers have their fill of your wealth, your hard-won earnings go to an alien’s house.” (NAB) “Strangers will batten on your wealth, and your hard-won gains pass to the family of another.” (REB [The Hebrew word for “house” is here represented as designating the “family” or household.]) “Strangers will batten on your property, and your produce go to the house of a stranger.” (NJB) “Strangers will get your money and everything else you have worked for.” (CEV) (5:10)
When a senseless son experienced the injurious results from having been involved with a harlotrous woman, he would “groan in the end” (“repent at the end” [LXX] or regret that he had been intimate with a harlotrous woman). His groaning would be on account of the suffering he would undergo. The reference to the consuming of his flesh and body (the wearing away of the “flesh of [his] body” [LXX]) could be to the wasting away of his organism from a sexually transmitted disease. (5:11) He would then regretfully acknowledge that he had “hated discipline” or instruction, and his “heart” (his mind or his inmost self) had despised reproof (“turned aside reproofs” [LXX]), refusing to listen to it and to apply it. (5:12)
As to those who taught him, a son who pursued an immoral life would say that he had not listened to the “voice of [his] teachers” and did not incline his “ear” to his instructors. He chose not to pay attention and suffered the consequences. (5:13)
The Hebrew text is not specific regarding the situation in which the senseless “son” would find himself “in the assembly and congregation” or among people of Israel who would come to know about his immoral life. In this context, the Hebrew word me‘át (“little” or “few”) preceded by a preposition could mean “in a short time.” The corresponding Greek word olígos in the Septuagint has the same significance as the Hebrew term. Modern translations vary in their rendering of me‘át and are more explicit in their wording of the text than is the Hebrew. “I was almost brought to ruin in the public assembly.” (REB) “I have come to the brink of utter ruin in the midst of the whole assembly.” (NIV) “Soon I was in dire trouble amidst the assembled congregation.” (Tanakh [JPS, l985 edition]) “And now I am disgraced in front of everyone.” (CEV) “Now I have come to nearly every kind of misery, in the assembly and in the community.” (NJB) “I have all but come to utter ruin, condemned by the public assembly!” (NAB) (5:14)
For the son to “drink water from [his own] cistern” (“vessels”[LXX]) or “flowing water from [his own] well” (“cisterns of [his own] well” [LXX]) would mean for him to enjoy marital intimacies solely with his wife. (5:15) The Hebrew text could be rendered to indicate that a son would benefit greatly from being exclusively devoted to his own wife, using his “springs” or procreative powers to father children. “Your springs will gush forth in streams in the public squares.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) The Hebrew text has also been translated as a question that focuses on the senselessness of promiscuous behavior. “Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares?” (NIV) Another way to understand the words of this text is to consider them as a warning against promiscuity. “Do not let your well overflow into the road, your runnels of water pour into the street.” (REB) “And don’t be like a stream from which just any woman may take a drink.” (CEV) According to the Septuagint, the son should not let the waters overflow from his spring but his waters should flow on his own squares. The thought may be that he should not waste the semen from his reproductive organ but that it should produce offspring that would be in his own squares or public areas. (5:16)
A man’s springs or reproductive powers were to be for him alone or for his exclusive use with his wife and not for any strangers (or women other than his wife) with him. “Save yourself for your wife and don’t have sex with other women.” (5:17, CEV)
In this context, the “fountain” (“well of water” [LXX]) may refer to the wife or to her reproductive organs. For this “fountain” to be blessed would mean for the husband to have numerous children by his wife. He was to rejoice or find pleasure in the wife he married in his young manhood. A number of modern translations are explicit in identifying the “fountain” as designating the wife. “Let your fountain, the wife of your youth, be blessed; find your joy in her.” (REB) “Be happy with the wife you married when you were young.” (CEV) (5:18)
The son should regard his wife as truly attractive to him — graceful, lovely, and sexually desirable. This is suggested by the reference to the wife as a “doe of loves” (a wife entitled to the son’s exclusive affections) and a “mountain goat of grace” or favor (a wife deserving of the son’s favor). In the Septuagint, the admonition is for the son to have the “doe of [his] affection” or “friendship” and the “foal of [his] favors” be the one to consort with him. According to the Hebrew text, the son should “at all times” be “intoxicated” or “satisfied” with his wife’s “breasts,” never seeking sexual pleasure with another woman. He should always be captivated by her love as one who is “led astray” by it. The Septuagint rendering represents the son as being admonished to have his own one (his own wife) lead him and be with him at all times. It would be through her “affection” or “friendship” that he would be “accommodated” (or “carried about”) to a great extent. Another possible meaning is that the son would be “carried about,” or completely taken up, through his wife’s affection, becoming “great” (prosperous and the father of numerous children) as a result. (5:19)
The fatherly exhortation for the son to avoid a promiscuous way of life is framed as a question. “Why, my son, should you go astray with a foreign woman [a woman other than your wife] and embrace the bosom of a stranger [a woman with whom you have no relationship]”? In the Septuagint, the admonition is for the son not to be much with a strange woman and not to hold in embraces a woman not his own. (5:20)
A man’s “ways” are “before YHWH’s [God’s (LXX)] eyes,” with nothing escaping his attention. Deeds concealed under the cover of darkness or carried out in secret (such as marital infidelity) are not hidden from him. YHWH “weighs” all the paths of a man, evaluating his conduct and rendering a judgment respecting his actions. According to the Septuagint, God watches closely all the paths of a man. (5:21)
In the case of a wicked man, his own wrongs or transgressions seize him. They prove to be his undoing and bring upon him his deserved punishment. “Cords of his sin” will take hold of him, making him a captive to their dire consequences. (5:22; see the Notes section.)
The reference to dying without discipline or instruction is to dying without having heeded discipline and, therefore, perishing as a person who refused to abandon a wayward way of life. Having chosen to disregard God’s ways, an evildoer goes astray in his own folly or in his pursuit of a senseless course of moral corruption. He remains blind to the serious consequences that his waywardness is bound to have. (5:23; see the Notes section.)
Verse 5 of the Septuagint rendering may be translated, “For the feet of folly lead those using [or dealing with] her down with death to Hades.” The expression “feet of folly” could refer either to those of a prostitute or an adulteress or to the feet of men who consort with harlots or adulteresses. These “feet of folly” move on a path that leads to death and to a descent into Hades, the realm of the dead. Moreover, the “footsteps” of a prostitute or an adulteress are not established or do not find any support and, therefore, lead to sure ruin for those who follow them.
In verse 22, the Septuagint does not refer to a wicked one but says that “transgressions ensnare a man” and that “cords of one’s sins” are what bind “each one.”
Verse 23 in the Septuagint contains an expanded text about a man who makes himself guilty of serious transgressions. “This one comes to an end with undisciplined ones. And from the abundance of his means of living he was cast forth [ripped away] and perished through folly” (his refusal to respond to discipline or corrective admonition and to abandon his wayward course). A man may have an abundance of possessions but end up losing everything and perishing as one who disregarded God’s ways and foolishly pursued a corrupt way of life.
The father advised his son on what he should do in case he had made himself responsible for the payment of another person’s debt or someone else’s financial transaction. Becoming surety for a companion or friend would mean putting up security for a personal acquaintance. Shaking the hand for a stranger could signify making an agreement with someone not in one’s circle of acquaintances and possibly doing so with a person who represented the stranger. (6:1; see the Notes section.)
If the son had been rash when making a commitment, ensnaring himself with the “words of [his] mouth” to act in a manner that would be detrimental to him or his family and trapping himself with the “words of [his] mouth” into making an agreement that would undermine his welfare or that of his family, he needed to act quickly to extricate himself from the undesirable circumstances. (6:2; see the Notes section.) “Then do this, my son” (the father counseled), “deliver yourself, for you have come into your companion’s hand” or power. Upon taking on the obligation for his companion, the son would have put himself at that one’s mercy. If his companion failed to live up to the promise to pay a debt to someone else, the son who had become surety for him would be the one who would have to pay. According to the Septuagint rendering, the son would come to be in the “hands [or power] of evils [or evil men]” through his friend. The situation would not turn out favorably for the son. Therefore, he needed to go quickly to his companion or friend, “humble” himself (literally, “trample” on himself) or assume the inferior role of a petitioner and importune him. (6:3; see the Notes section.) The son was told not to delay in this case but was advised not to give “sleep to [his] eyes and slumber to [his] eyelids.” (6:4) He should seek to deliver himself from the situation as would a “gazelle from the hand” (“from a snare” [LXX]) or from capture and “like a bird from the hand of a fowler” (“from a trap” [LXX]) (6:5)
The sluggard is told to “go to the ant” and to “consider its ways” (“be zealous for its ways” that he “sees” [LXX] or to imitate it in its diligent activity) and to “be wise” (“wiser than it” [LXX]) or to learn a vital lesson regarding diligence and to apply it. (6:6)
The ant is not forced to work, for it has no “chief, officer, or ruler.” According to the Septuagint, this insect possesses no “field” to cultivate, has no one to compel it to labor, and is not subject to a master. Yet it is diligent in engaging in essential activities. The implied message is that people should likewise be self-motivated to work and should not lead a life of indolence. (6:7; see the Notes section.)
A common ant found in Israel is the harvester ant (Messor semirufus). This ant “prepares its food in the summer,” storing up a large amount of grain when it is available for harvesting. The insect “gathers its food in the harvest” or, according to the Septuagint, makes abundant provision at the harvest. (6:8; see the Notes section.)
The lazy one is addressed with rhetorical questions that constitute a rebuke. “How long, O sluggard, will you lie [there]? When will you rise from your sleep?” The implication is that the sluggard had remained in bed far too long and should have been performing work that needed to be done. (6:9)
Instead of busying himself with work that needs to be done, the sluggard chooses a “little sleep,” a “little slumber,” and a “little folding of the hands.” After mentioning that he sleeps a little, the Septuagint says that the sits a little and slumbers a little. The point about folding the hands is expressed more explicitly in the Septuagint than in the Hebrew text. With his arms folded, the sluggard has his hands positioned over his breasts. (6:10)
For the sluggard, the unwillingness to work leads to poverty, coming upon him like a “vagabond” (a bad wanderer [LXX]) who arrives unexpectedly to steal. Want will come or assail him like an “armed man” who lives by violence and seizes what he wants. The Septuagint says that want will come upon the lazy one “like a good runner,” suggesting that it would happen swiftly. (6:11; see the Notes section.)
A base fellow (literally, a “man” or “earthling of worthlessness”), a wicked man (literally, a “man of wickedness”), goes about with “crookedness of mouth,” lying and deceiving to gain his corrupt objectives. The Septuagint refers to the individual as a “senseless and lawless man”who does not go on any good ways. (6:12)
A base fellow is described as one who “squints” or “winks” (literally, nips or pinches) “with his eyes [indicative of scorning or gloating], scrapes with his feet [possibly in a shifty manner because of his evil intent or, according to the Septuagint, makes signs with his foot], points with his fingers [perhaps to ridicule].” The Septuagint says that he “teaches” with movements of his fingers, possibly when endeavoring to influence others to act according to his corrupt ways. (6:13)
“With perversity in his heart” or being corrupt in thought and his inmost self, the base man “devises evil,” scheming to attain his ignoble aims. He continually “sows” (literally, “sends”) discord, giving rise to conflict and ruining relationships. According to the Septuagint, he plans evil at all times or at every opportunity and causes disturbances for a city. (6:14)
In view of what a corrupt man does, calamity or ruin (“destruction” [LXX]) will come upon him suddenly. At once, he will be broken “beyond healing.” (6:15; see the Notes section.)
As a literary device, the initial reference to “six things” and then “seven” in the parallel expression appears to serve to emphasize the things YHWH hates or which are abominable to him (literally, “his soul”). In the verses that follow, the seven things are identified. (6:16; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.) They are: (1) “Haughty eyes” (“eye of a haughty one” [LXX]) — eyes of persons who have an exalted view of themselves and arrogantly look down on others, (2) “tongue of falsehood” (an “unrighteous tongue” [LXX] — a tongue used to deceive and defraud others, (3) “hands that shed innocent blood” — means that corrupt individuals use to bring about the death of innocent persons to attain their evil objectives (6:17), (4) a “heart devising schemes of wickedness” or wicked schemes — a mind that plots to harm others for personal gain or profit, (5) “feet hastening to run to evil” (“feet hastening to do evil” [LXX]) — feet used to move quickly to be in a position to injure others (6:18), (6) one who “breathes out lies” as a “witness of falsehood” (a “false witness kindles lies” [LXX]) — a witness who expresses lies when testifying, and (7) “one sending discord among brothers” — one who causes conflict and alienation among brothers or kindred. According to the Septuagint rendering, the “false witness” is the one who “sends” or sows “discord in the midst brothers.” (6:19)
The “son” is admonished to “keep” his father’s “commandment” (“laws” [LXX]) or to observe the sound teaching he had received from his father, treating it as a commandment he should obey. He was also exhorted not to forsake or to disregard his mother’s “law” (“rules” or precepts [LXX]). In this context, “law” refers to the sound principles or precepts a mother teaches by word and example. (6:20)
The “son” is admonished to keep his father’s commandment and mother’s law close to him as guiding principles for his life as if always binding them on his heart (binding “them upon [his] soul [or himself] always” [LXX]) and tying them around his neck. (6:21)
For the son, faithful adherence to parental instruction would provide dependable guidance and safeguard him from pursuing a course that could prove to be ruinous to him. When he walked or moved about to engage in activity, parental instruction would lead or guide him. It would watch over him when he would lie down, for he could rest securely because of having conducted himself aright as he had been taught. When he was awake, parental instruction would “talk” to him, for he would recall the teaching he had received from his father and his mother. This teaching would be like an internal dialogue. In the Septuagint, the thought is expressed somewhat differently. “When you walk, bring it, and let it be with you; when you sleep, let it watch over you so that it may talk to you when you awake.” There was never to be a time when the son was to permit parental instruction to leave him. (6:22)
With apparent reference to the parental instruction and the dependable guidance it provides, the text continues, “For the commandment [is] a lamp, and the law [is] a light,” illuminating the course of life that should be followed. “Reproofs of discipline” (“reproof and disciple” [LXX]) are the “way of life.” The reproofs that are expressed regarding wrongs constitute discipline or training and, when heeded, serve to safeguard the individual from following a course that could lead to a premature death. Therefore, these “reproofs” prove to be a “way of life,” not a “way of death” or ruin. (6:23) The reproofs that form a part of parental discipline or training would guard or serve to protect the responsive son from the “bad woman” (a “married woman” [LXX]). A “bad woman” could be either a prostitute or an adulteress. The son would also be guarded from becoming the victim of the “smoothness” of a foreign woman’s tongue or the seductive words of a woman that is not his wife. (6:24; see the Notes section.) In his “heart” (his mind or inner self), he was not to “desire” the beauty of a prostitute or an adulteress nor to let her capture or captivate him with her “eyelids” or her seductive glances. According to the Septuagint, he should not let “desire for beauty” conquer him nor let himself be captured by his eyes, or by what he sees in the woman. Additionally, he should not let himself be “captivated by her eyelids.” (6:25)
A man might end up giving his last “loaf of bread” for a harlot, or the price for procuring the services of a harlot might be just a “loaf of bread.” Various meanings are found in modern translations. “For a prostitute will bring you to poverty.” (NLT) “The last loaf of bread will go for a harlot.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “A prostitute will treat you like a loaf of bread.” (NCV) “For a prostitute’s fee is only a loaf of bread.” (HCSB) According to the Septuagint, the “price of a harlot” is as much as about “one loaf of bread.” Intimacy with the wife of another man could lead to a man’s being put to death as an adulterer. Therefore, “another man’s wife” is referred as hunting the “soul of a man” or a man’s life (precious souls” or lives [LXX]). His illicit relationship with her could cost him everything.” (6:26)
Serious consequences for consorting with another man’s wife are inescapable. This is emphasized with two rhetorical questions. “Can a man carry fire in his bosom and his garments not be burned?” (6:27) “Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?” (6:28) So a man who “goes in to” (or has an illicit relationship with) another man’s wife will not go unpunished. (6:29; see the Notes section.)
Others may not despise a thief for stealing to “fill his soul when he is hungry” or when he desperately needs food to eat. (6:30; see the Notes section.) Even in that case, however, the thief who is caught would have to pay “sevenfold,” or pay much more than just equal compensation, and be forced to “give all of the goods of his house.” According to the Septuagint, he would only be able to rescue or ransom himself by handing over all his possessions. (6:31)
An adulterer is described as lacking “heart” or good sense, and the implication is that his action, unlike that of a thief, would be regarded as wholly inexcusable. He who commits adultery brings ruin to “his soul” or to himself. (6:32)
The adulterer will “find” or experience “blows” (singular in Hebrew) or “pains” (LXX) and “disgrace.” This could mean that he would be submitted to severe beating, doubtless by the enraged husband, and would be publicly humiliated. The adulterer’s “reproach” would never be wiped away but would remain as a permanent blot. (6:33) “For jealousy” infuriates a man (literally, “for jealousy [is] the fury of a man” or, more specifically, the fury “of her husband” [LXX]). He will not “show compassion” or spare when he takes vengeance (literally, “in the day of vengeance”) on the adulterer. (6:34)
An adulterer will not be able to buy off the husband whose wife has been violated. The husband will not accept any “ransom” or compensation. Regardless of how greatly the adulterer may “increase” the “gift” or bribe, the husband will not be appeased. According to the Septuagint, the husband will not exchange his “hatred” of the adulterer for any ransom and will not be reconciled to him by “many gifts.” (6:35)
According to the Septuagint rendering of verse 1, the son’s becoming surety for a friend would constitute giving his hand to an enemy. The unfavorable situation that could result from the friend’s failure to meet his obligation had the potential for ending the friendship, for the son would have to fulfill the obligation.
In verse 2, the Septuagint rendering somewhat differs from the extant Hebrew text. “For a strong snare [are] a man’s own lips, and he is caught by the lips of his own mouth.”
Instead of a term that may be translated “humble” yourself or “trample” upon yourself, the Septuagint (in verse 3) uses a form of the verb eklýo (“to loosen,” “to become weary” or “faint) to indicate what the son should not do. The thought may be that he should not weaken in his determination to get out of the unfavorable situation. Additionally, the friend is identified as the one for whom he had become surety.
In verse 6, the Hebrew word for “chief” or “commander” is qatsín. It may be that the Septuagint translator read this word as qatsár (“to harvest”) and, therefore, chose the rendering geórgion (“field,” “tilled land,” or “farming”).
After the comments about the ant are concluded (in verse 8), the Septuagint adds a section about the bee. “Or go to the bee and learn [what] a worker it is and [how] seriously it does its work, the toils of which [the product of its labors] kings and commoners use for [their] health. And [the bee] is desired by all and honored. Although it is weak in strength, it, having honored wisdom, was advanced.” The thought appears to be that, because of working diligently in keeping with its instinctive wisdom to produce honey, the bee came to be valued among kings and commoners. In this manner, the insect was advanced in the estimation of humans far beyond what its weak physical state suggested.
For verse 11, the Septuagint contains additional words. “If, however, you are resolute, your harvest will come like a fountain” or be abundant, “but want will desert you like a bad runner” (like one who loses the race or fails to reach his goal).
In verse 15, the Septuagint concludes with a reference to “severance and crash” coming without healing.
The wording in the Septuagint for verse 16 departs significantly from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. It identifies the senseless and lawless man as one who “rejoices in everything that the Lord hates” and who is “crushed through the impurity of soul” or who is brought to his ruin because of being corrupt or defiled by the life he has lived.
In verse 24, the Septuagint translator appears to have understood the Hebrew word for “smoothness” to refer to “slander.” The Hebrew expression that can be rendered “foreign woman” is the feminine adjective nokhrí, and the corresponding feminine adjective in the Septuagint is allotrías, meaning “belonging to another,” “foreign,” or “strange.” With the reference being to slander in the Septuagint, the concluding phrase indicates that the son would be guarded against the slanderous tongue of one who is “strange” or “foreign” (or against the “slander of a strange tongue”).
In verse 29, the act of engaging in sexual intercourse with a married woman, is referred to as “touching her,” and this is the reason for not being unpunished. The Septuagint rendering appears to represent “going in to” and “touching” the woman as two separate acts. “So the one going in to a married woman — he will not be acquitted nor [will] anyone touching her.”
In the opening phrase of verse 30, the Septuagint indicates that it is not something at which to marvel when someone is caught stealing. The reason not to be surprised is that the individual was prompted to steal to obtain something to satisfy his hunger.
The fatherly admonition to the son is, “Keep my words and treasure up [hide (LXX) for safekeeping] my commandments with you.” While “keep” can signify “heed” or “observe,” the parallel expression “treasure up” suggests that the meaning here is for the son to “retain” the words or to keep his father’s teaching in his memory at all times. The son was to value his father’s words, never forgetting them but letting them guide his life. Within himself, he was to preserve his father’s “commandments” like a precious treasure and to conduct himself accordingly. The Septuagint adds, “Son, honor the Lord, and you will be strong; and besides him, fear no one else.” (7:1)
By keeping his father’s commandments, the son would “live.” His retaining them in his memory and conducting himself in harmony with them would shield him from following a course that could harm him and lead to a premature death. The son was exhorted to keep his father’s “law” or teaching (“words” [LXX]) with the kind of concern and care that he had for safeguarding the “pupil of [his] eye [literally, eyes].” (7:2)
So that he might always have his father’s “commandments” and “law” or teaching before him to guide and to motivate him, the son was admonished to keep them close to himself as if binding them on his fingers and writing them on the “tablet of [his] heart.” The words “bind them on your fingers” may serve to emphasize that the son needed to be guided by his father’s commandments and law in all his actions or undertakings. As if written on the “tablet of [his] heart,” the son would have his father’s commandments and law as a permanent part of his memory, aiding him to conduct himself aright. (7:3)
Through the teaching his father had imparted to him, the son had gained wisdom and understanding or insight. In his course of life, he was to treat wisdom and insight like dear companions, saying to wisdom, “You [are] my sister,” and calling understanding or insight, “kinsman” (a dear relative or friend). According to the Septuagint, the son was admonished to acquire “insight” as his close friend or acquaintance. (7:4)
The son’s having wisdom and insight as dear friends would safeguard him from the “strange woman” (a prostitute or an adulteress) and from being victimized by the “smooth” sayings or seductive words of a “foreign woman” (a prostitute or an adulteress). The Septuagint indicates that insight would keep or safeguard the son from the “strange and wicked” woman when he would be put upon by her charming, appealing, or seductive words. (7:5)
Windows of ancient houses were rectangular openings in the wall, and privacy was maintained with lattices. Made with crossed strips of wood, the lattice covering a window made it possible for a person inside the home to observe activity on the street without being seen by anyone walking outside. Based on the previous verses, the father is the one who spoke of himself as having looked through the lattice while positioned at a window of his house. According to the Septuagint rendering, the adulterous woman is the one who looks “from a window of her house into the squares” of the city. (7:6)
The father’s objective in looking through the lattice was to focus his attention on the “simple,” inexperienced ones, or young men who can easily be influenced to take the wrong course. Among these “sons” or youths, he perceived one to be “in want of heart” or as lacking in good sense. The mindless state of the youth was evident from his behavior and the choice he made when he remained on the street at night. In the Septuagint, the reference is to the adulterous woman as being the one wanting to determine whether she could see among the “senseless children” a youth “lacking in [good] sense,” or a mindless young man, among the “senseless children.” His actions would reveal him to be more foolish than the others. (7:7) The senseless youth passed along on the “street near her corner,” continuing to walk toward her house (“in the passages of her houses” or “dwellings” [LXX]). (7:8)
It was “twilight, in the evening of the day” or at the start of the evening. The phrase “in the midst of night and darkness” or “gloom” could indicate that the foolish youth remained on the street when total darkness had set in, and it was then that the adulterous woman made her approach to seduce him. According to the Septuagint rendering, the foolish youth converses in the evening darkness, at a time when all is at nightly rest or quiet, and it is dark or gloomy. While the youth should have been at home prepared to go to bed, he continued roaming in the city. (7:9)
The adulterous woman came to meet him. She is described as wearing the attire of a harlot and having a “guarded heart” or a concealed intent to seduce the mindless young man. The Septuagint indicates that, by her appearance, the prostitute makes the “heart” of young men “flutter” or sexually excites them. (7:10)
The woman did not conduct herself in a dignified manner. She is described as “boisterous,” “tumultuous,” “loud,” or “rowdy” and “rebellious” (possibly meaning that she acted rebelliously toward her husband). According to the Septuagint rendering, she was “agitated,” “fickle” or in a restless state and “debauched.” Instead of staying at home and diligently caring for household duties, her “feet” were elsewhere (7:11) — “now in the street; now in the square” of the city. “At every corner,” she would lie in wait, looking for opportunities to seduce foolish young men. (7:12)
The woman took hold of a senseless young man, kissed him, assumed a bold, impudent, or “shameless” (LXX) face and said to him (7:13), “Peace offerings” (or communion sacrifices) were “upon me” (or were required of me). “Today I have paid my vows” (which would have included presenting animals for sacrifice). In the case of these sacrifices, much of the meat was for the one presenting the offerings and could be enjoyed as part of a festive meal. Accordingly, the words of the woman indicated that she had ample meat on hand to share with the young man. The availability of meat would have been something special for him, as meat was not commonly part of the daily diet. (7:14)
To seduce the youth, the woman implied that he was someone special and her preparations were meant for him. She had come out to meet him, eagerly searched for him (literally, “your face” [with longing for your face (LXX)]), and found him. (7:15)
What the woman had ready for the youth was designed to appeal to his senses — sight and smell. According to the Hebrew text, she had spread marvaddím, probably meaning layers of luxurious covers, on her couch or bed, and also costly linen cloth imported from Egypt. The linen cloth may have been multicolored and embroidered (one possible meaning for the Hebrew word chatuvóhth). (7:16; see the Notes section.) Besides having spread out fine covers, the woman said that she had sprinkled her bed with spices — myrrh (an aromatic gum resin obtained from a variety of thorny shrubs), aloes (an aromatic substance possibly obtained from eaglewood trees), and cinnamon (a product obtained from trees of the laurel family). (7:17; see the Notes section.)
The woman’s invitation to the youth was for him to spend the entire night with her in lovemaking. “Come, let us drink our fill of love until morning. Let us enjoy each other in [acts of] lovemaking [plural in Hebrew].” (7:18; see the Notes section.)
The woman assured the youth that there was no reason for concern about an unexpected arrival of her husband. He was “not in his house” but was on a journey some distance away. (7:19) Apparently so that he could be gone from his home for an extended period and in a position to procure food and lodging and make other purchases, he had taken a “bag of silver in his hand.” The man would not return to his house until the “day of the full moon.” If the words “in the midst of night and darkness” or “gloom” (in verse 9) relate to a night before the time of the new moon, the man would not be coming back until about two weeks later. The Septuagint indicates that he would be returning to his house “after many days.” (7:20)
With the “greatness” or “abundance” of her “teaching” or her seductive words, the adulterous woman “turned aside” the youth from the course he should have chosen. The Septuagint says that she led him astray “with much conversation” or persuasive talk. She compelled him to respond as she desired, doing so with the “smoothness of her lips” (the “snares of her lips” [LXX], the ensnaring words that she expressed) or the seductive words that passed her lips and which he was unable to resist. (7:21)
Suddenly or impulsively, the youth followed the woman like a bull going to the slaughter. In the Hebrew text, the next phrase describing the way he followed her is obscure. A literal rendering could be, “and as an anklet until the discipline of a fool,” possibly meaning as one put in fetters to experience the discipline that a senseless person merited. Modern translations often render the Hebrew words in keeping with emendations of the text. “He follows her … like a madman on his way to the stocks.” (NJB) “He follows her … like a fool to the stocks for punishment.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “He followed her … like a fool on the way to be punished.” (CEV) “He followed her … like a deer stepping into a noose.” (NIV) “He … bounds like a stag toward the trap.” (NRSV) “He follows her … like a stag that minces toward the net.” (NAB) According to the Septuagint, “He followed her … like a dog to bonds” or “chains.” (7:22)
The young man’s letting himself be led astray terminates at a point where an “arrow” pierces his “liver,” ending his life. In the Septuagint, his situation is likened to that of a “deer” that has an arrow shot “into the liver.” Thereafter the wording of the Septuagint is much like that of the Hebrew text. The youth is spoken of as being “like a bird” hurrying “into a trap” and not knowing or realizing that his “soul” or life is at risk. (7:23)
Having alerted his “sons” to the serious consequences that involvement with an adulterous woman would have, the father admonished them to “listen” to him, acting in harmony with his words, and being attentive to the “words of [his] mouth” or paying attention to what he had said to them. (7:24; see the Notes section.)
The fatherly counsel to the son is not to let his “heart” (his mind or inmost self) be turned aside (be inclined [LXX]) to the ways of the adulterous woman and not to “stray into her paths.” (7:25; see the Notes section.) For the son to disregard this admonition would prove to be calamitous, for, in the case of many, involvement with an adulterous woman led to their being laid low or struck down in death (“wounded and laid low” [LXX]). “Countless [are] all her slain.” She proved to be the instrument that brought about their untimely death. (7:26) The “ways to Sheol” (“roads to Hades” [LXX], the realm of the dead) are “her house” or the place to which she leads those who senselessly follow her like animals to be slaughtered. These “ways” or roads go down to the “chambers of death.” Loss of life is the ultimate end for those who follow the ways of an adulterous woman. (7:27)
In verse 16, the rendering of the Septuagint represents the woman as saying that she had spread coverings on her couch or bed and tapestry from Egypt.
According to the wording of verse 17 in the Septuagint, the woman had sprinkled her bed with “saffron” and her house with “cinnamon.”
In the Septuagint, verse 18 concludes with the words, “and let us be involved in love” (éros, love of a sexual or sensual nature).
In verse 24, the Septuagint uses the singular “son,” not the plural “my sons” (as does the extant Hebrew text) and consistently continues in the next verse with the singular.
In verse 25, the Septuagint does not include the words “do not stray into her paths.”
Wisdom is personified as a noble woman who describes the benefits she bestows on those who act in harmony with her teaching. Humans are endowed with the capacity to reason and can, therefore, perceive that “wisdom” is calling out to them and that “understanding” (or “insight” [LXX]) is raising its voice so that they might listen and act sensibly. In the rhetorical question (“Does not wisdom call out and understanding raise its voice?”) “wisdom” and “understanding” are parallel expressions. (8:1; see the Notes section.)
Wherever people are found, the voice of wisdom can be heard, for the results of following a wise course and of refusing to do so are clearly in evidence everywhere. Accordingly, wisdom is represented as stationing herself at the top of the heights, near the road, and at the crossroads. (8:2; see the Notes section.) She cries aloud in the proximity of the “gates” (or the open area adjacent to the gates where people congregate and elders sit to render judgments), at the egress (“mouth”) of the city, at the “entrance of the portals.” (8:3) Wisdom refers to herself as calling out to men and her voice is directed to the “sons of man [men (LXX)]” (the earthling) or to the people. (8:4)
Wisdom admonishes the “simple,” or those who may readily be led astray because of their inexperience, to perceive “prudence” or to learn good sense and for the foolish (the “unlearned” [LXX]) to “perceive heart” (understand the insight, discernment, or sound reasoning that is representative of the heart in its functions; “take in heart” [LXX], probably meaning “take in discernment, insight, or sound reasoning”). (8:5; also see verse 12.)
The expressions which wisdom exhorts the simple and the foolish to “hear” or to which they should listen are noble or princely things or matters of great importance (“serious” or “august things” [LXX]). With the “opening of [her] lips,” right or upright things would be made known. Wisdom would never lead anyone from the right course. (8:6)
“For my palate” (represented in its role in speaking [“throat” (LXX)]),” says wisdom, “will utter truth” (no falsehood or deception), “and wickedness [is] an abomination to my lips.” Anything of an evil or corrupt nature is abhorrent to wisdom, and would never come from her lips or have its source in her. According to the Septuagint, “false lips” (or lips that speak lies) are detestable to wisdom. (8:7) “All the words of [her] mouth” are expressed “in righteousness” or are right and, therefore, trustworthy. “In them,” nothing is “twisted or crooked.” No one will ever be deceived or harmed in any way from following the dictates of wisdom. (8:8) To one who understands the words of wisdom, they “all [are] straight,” and they are “right [or upright] to those finding knowledge” (or to those who find the knowledge that is essential for right living and who conduct themselves accordingly). (8:9) In view of the great value of the instruction that originates from her, wisdom is represented as saying, “Take my discipline [or instruction] and not silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold.” Neither silver nor gold can assure a good outcome for one’s life, but the discipline or teaching and knowledge that have their source in wisdom can effect the good results that no valuables can obtain. The Septuagint adds, “And choose perception rather than pure gold.” (8:10)
“Wisdom is better than corals” (peniním,). The Hebrew word peniním has been understood to designate “pearls,” “rubies,” “coral,” and “red coral.” In the Septuagint, the reference is to “precious stones.” In value, wisdom exceeds the worth of all material treasures, for only wisdom can provide the guidance that leads to a good outcome for one’s life. All other things that one might desire “cannot be made equal to” or “compare with” wisdom. The Septuagint indicates that nothing of value is “worthy” of wisdom or has like worth. (8:11)
Wisdom is quoted as speaking. “I, wisdom, I have resided with prudence [‘ormáh], and I find knowledge of discretion.” In other contexts, ‘ormáh can mean “craftiness,” “cleverness,” or “cunning.” But here, as also in Proverbs 1:4 and 8:5, the Hebrew word is used in a good sense, making “prudence” an appropriate rendering. As a resident with “prudence,” wisdom portrays herself as having a relationship with it. Therefore, persons who choose wisdom as their guide will be prudent or judicious, manifesting good judgment in their daily life. Although the Hebrew text does not include a conjunction after the word rendered “knowledge,” numerous translations add the conjunction “and” (“knowledge and discretion”). The Hebrew word translated “discretion” is plural. When it is linked with knowledge, the expression rendered “knowledge of discretion” could mean the knowledge that makes discreet, judicious, or sensible acts and dealings possible. As wisdom depicts herself as finding this knowledge, she has attained it, and it is available to all who choose wisdom as their guide and instructor. (8:12; see the Notes section.)
The “fear of YHWH,” or the reverential regard for him and a wholesome fear of acting contrary to his commands and will, means for one “to hate evil” or to abhor what is bad in his sight. According to the Septuagint rendering, the “fear of the Lord” (apparently with reference to one who has such a wholesome fear) “hates injustice.” (8:13)
Wisdom refers to herself as hating “arrogance,” “haughtiness,” the “way of evil” or corrupt conduct (“ways of evil ones” [LXX]), and a “mouth of perversity” (a mouth that utters twisted, corrupt, or deceptive things). The concluding phrase in the Septuagint indicates that wisdom hates the crooked ways of evildoers. (8:13)
Wisdom speaks of herself as possessing “counsel,” “prudence” (tushiyyáh), “insight” or “understanding,” and “strength.” Those who are responsive to wisdom would receive good counsel or advice and acquire prudence or sound wisdom, insight, and the strength to be steadfast in doing what is right. (8:14)
There is a measure of uncertainty about the meaning of the Hebrew word tushiyyáh. Lexicographers have suggested that, depending on the context, tushiyyáh can mean “prudence,” “sound wisdom,” success,” “good outcome,” or “victory.” The word tushiyyáh may here designate the prudence or sound wisdom that leads to success or a good outcome. In the Septuagint, the corresponding term for tushiyyáh is aspháleia, meaning “security,” “stability,” or “steadfastness.” The Septuagint rendering suggests that persons who conducted themselves in harmony with wisdom would enjoy security. (8:14)
With the aid of wisdom, “kings reign,” exercising authority in a just manner, and “rulers” or high officials decree “righteousness” or what is right. (8:15) It is also “by wisdom” that “princes” rule (“nobles” or “great ones” are made great or magnified [LXX]) and that all those judging in “righteousness” or righteous judges exercise authority. According to some Hebrew manuscripts, the reference is to “all the judges of the earth.” The Septuagint rendering concludes with the words, “and tyrants” (sovereigns or men who dominate) rule “the earth through me” (wisdom). (8:16)
Wisdom loves (has affection for [LXX]) those who love her. They are individuals who truly value wisdom and appreciate understanding and knowledge. Persons who seek wisdom, earnestly endeavoring to have her as a guide, will find her. (8:17)
With wisdom, there are “riches and glory” or “honor,” indicating that those who seek to live by wisdom will prosper. Regardless of what their situation might be, their life will be much better than that of senseless individuals in comparable circumstances. Wisdom is also represented as saying that she has “eminent [true or lasting] wealth [possession of much property (LXX)] and righteousness.” Possibly the reference to “righteousness” denotes that enduring wealth is attained by righteous or just means. (8:18)
The “fruit” or what wisdom has to offer is better than “gold, even refined gold,” or has far greater value than this precious metal that can provide no guidance for one’s life. According to the Septuagint, for one to harvest the fruit that wisdom produces is better than “gold and precious stone.” The yield of wisdom is also better than “choice silver.” (8:19)
Wisdom represents herself as walking “in the way of righteousness,” also “in the paths of judgment” or “justice.” Nothing that is corrupt or unjust has its source in wisdom, and those who let wisdom be their guide will do what is right and just. After referring to wisdom as walking “in the ways of righteousness,” the Septuagint says that wisdom “returns,” “stays,” or “conducts herself” in the “midst of the paths of justice.” (8:20) The objective of wisdom is to benefit those who follow her in doing what is right or just. By greatly appreciating her as their guide, individuals demonstrate their love for wisdom. Those who love her will find that she will reward them richly, letting them get possession of “substance” or “property” and filling their treasuries (“with good things” [LXX]). (8:21; see the Notes section.)
Wisdom first becomes evident when it is observed as being applied. God’s creative works required that wisdom be at work. Apparently for this reason, wisdom identifies herself as YHWH’s creation at the “beginning of his way, the first of his acts of old.” Without wisdom being present, creation could not have begun. The Septuagint quotes wisdom as saying, The “Lord created me as the beginning of his ways for his works,” or to have wisdom in his service from the start for the accomplishment of his creative works. (8:22)
In relation to the creation, wisdom is represented as declaring, “I was set up long ago [before the (present) age (LXX)], at the first, before the [formation] of the earth” or the land. (8:23)
At the time wisdom came into being as an active agent, no “deeps,” “abysses” (LXX), or huge basins of water existed on the earth, and there were “no springs” gushing forth water. (8:24)
Wisdom was brought forth before the “mountains” were established (literally, “were sunk down”) and “before the hills” (“before all hills” [LXX]). (8:25)
The coming into existence of wisdom was before God made the “earth” or land (“countries” or “lands” [LXX]) and the “open spaces [uninhabited spaces (LXX)],” and the “first of the dust” (or soil) of the tillable land (“and the habitable heights [that are] under heaven” or under the sky [LXX]). (8:26)
Wisdom was present when God “established the heavens” and “when he inscribed a circle on the face of the deep.” In this context, the noun “heavens” may be understood to mean the apparent celestial dome, and the inscribed circle appears to designate the horizon, which is like a fixed place between the celestial dome and the water of the “deep” or the sea. According to the Septuagint rendering,the Lord “marked out his throne on the winds,” possibly indicating that his throne is above the celestial vault and, therefore, above the location where the winds blow. (8:27)
When God made firm the “clouds above” could refer to the time he established them so that they would remain suspended above the earth. His causing the “fountains of the deep” to be strong (or “securing” them [LXX]) could mean that he strengthened the springs (“under heaven” or under the sky [LXX]) so that they would not cease to produce the water which flows into the deep or the sea. (8:28)
God’s assigning the sea “its limit so that the waters might not transgress his command” refers to his preventing the sea from overwhelming the land when its waves lash against the shore. According to Jeremiah 5:22, he set the “sand as the boundary of the sea.” The yielding sand absorbs the force of the waves, diffusing and dissipating it so that the raging sea is kept in check. (8:29; see the Notes section.)
The Hebrew verb that is linked to the “foundations of the earth” or the land is a form of chaqáq. Based on contexts in which chaqáq is used, lexicographers have defined the word to mean “mark out,” “inscribe,” “decree,” “enact,” and “command.” Translators have variously rendered the phrase about what God did in relation to the “foundations of the earth.” “I [wisdom] was there … when he marked out the foundations of the earth” (NIV), “when he fixed fast the foundations of the earth” (NAB), “when he traced the foundations of the earth” (NJB), “when he laid foundations to support the earth” (CEV). The thought could be that God firmly established the land as if placed on foundations. According to the Septuagint rendering, “he made strong the foundations of the earth” or land. (8:29)
During the time of creation, wisdom is portrayed as referring to herself as having been beside God as his “master worker” (’amóhn) or expert craftsman, the one in whom he found delight day after day. At all times, wisdom rejoiced “before his face” or before him. The Septuagint quotes wisdom as concluding with the words, “And daily I rejoiced before his face [before him or in his presence] at every time.” (8:30; see the Notes section.)
Wisdom speaks of herself as rejoicing over God’s habitable land or finding pleasure in the land where vegetation flourished and animals and humans lived. The special delight of wisdom was in the “sons of man” (the earthling) or in humans. In the Septuagint, the words that the extant Hebrew text attributes to wisdom are applied to God, indicating that “he rejoiced” at the completion of the inhabited world “and rejoiced in the sons of men” or in humans. (8:31)
Wisdom addresses her “sons” (“son” [LXX]), her children, or her pupils, calling upon them to listen to her and saying that those who keep her “ways,” or who live in harmony with them, would be happy or truly fortunate. They would enjoy an enviable state of well-being. (8:32; see the Notes section.)
Wisdom continues her exhortation. “Listen to discipline and be wise, and do not neglect [it].” Those who act in harmony with the discipline, chastening, correction, or instruction of wisdom will prove themselves to be wise in their choices and actions. Not to neglect this discipline or instruction would mean to accept it and to apply it in life. (8:33; see the Notes section.)
Wisdom appears to represent herself as being inside a house. A man who would benefit from her instruction would eagerly seek her guidance and position himself to receive it. He would listen to wisdom, daily keep awake or alert at her doors, and remain watchful at the posts of her entrances. As an individual who was responsive to wisdom, he would be happy or in a fortunate state of well-being. (8:34; see the Notes section.)
A man who finds wisdom would find “life,” coming to enjoy a meaningful life and being safeguarded from harming himself through senseless actions and conduct that could lead to a premature death. He would also gain favor from YHWH as a person whom he approves. (8:35; see the Notes section.)
Any person who misses (sins against [LXX]) wisdom, choosing not to benefit from sound guidance, wrongs (is impious to [LXX] or despises) “his soul” or does injury to himself. The ultimate end for him could be a premature death. Therefore, all those who hate wisdom “love death,” not the noble life that ultimately has a good outcome. They deliberately follow the senseless course that is headed for death. (8:36)
In verse 1, the Septuagint appears to represent the “son” whom his father counseled as the one who will “proclaim wisdom,” calling it (according to verse 4) my “sister.” “Understanding” would then respond to or be obedient to him, serving like a submissive guide in his life.
Verse 2 in the Septuagint indicates the position of wisdom to be on the “highest” or “loftiest tops” and “between the paths.”
In verse 3 of the Septuagint, wisdom is represented as being seated by the “gates of the rulers,” of those exercising authority and rendering judgments. “At the entrances, she hymns” or sings her own praises.
In verse 12, the rendering of the Septuagint differs somewhat from the Hebrew text. “I, wisdom, I resided with counsel, and I have called knowledge and insight.” In the role of summoning “knowledge and insight,” wisdom appears to portray herself as having them at her service and for the benefit of those who choose her guidance and teaching.
The Septuagint rendering of verse 21 concludes with words that are not found in the extant Hebrew text. “If I announce to you the things occurring daily, I will remember [also] to recount the things of old [or from the past age].”
Based on the manuscripts available to him in the third century CE, Origen marked the words (verse 29) about the sea as not being in the Greek text. The words are not included in the main text of Rahlfs-Hanhart Septuaginta but are contained in a footnote (“in the setting of his limit on the sea, and waters shall not go by his mouth”).
In verse 30, the Hebrew word ’amóhn is commonly understood to designate a “craftsman” or a “master workman.” This, however, is not the only possible meaning. Another suggested significance for ’amóhn is “ward,” “fosterling,” or “nursling.” The thought then could be that wisdom was like a dear child growing up in God’s presence and bringing him delight. A number of translations convey a meaning that is more in keeping with this significance. “Then I was at his side each day, his darling and delight, playing in his presence continually.” (REB) “Then I was by Him, as a nursling, and I was daily all delight, playing always before Him.” (Margolis)
In Rahlfs-Hanhart Septuaginta, the main text of verse 32 does not include the reference indicating that those who keep the ways of wisdom would be happy, but it is found in a footnote. The wording of verse 33 also is missing in the main text and a footnote includes it.
After the introductory words “happy [is] the man who will listen to me” (verse 34), the Septuagint adds a phrase that is not found in the extant Hebrew text (“and the man who will guard my ways”).
Verse 35 in the Septuagint quotes wisdom as saying, “My issues” (or all that goes out from me and of which I am the source) are “issues of life.”
Wisdom personified is portrayed as a woman who builds her house and invites all who are willing to share in the feast she has prepared for them and to benefit from her counsel. She “builds her house and has hewn out seven pillars.” According to the Septuagint rendering, the “seven pillars” serve to support the house that wisdom has built. “Seven” commonly is a number that denotes completeness, and so the “seven pillars” could indicate that the structure is well-built and spacious, providing ample accommodation for those who respond to the invitation of wisdom. (9:1)
Wisdom prepared a sumptuous feast. She slaughtered animals (literally, “slaughtered slaughtering”) for the banquet, mixed her wine (“in a bowl” [LXX]), and set the table. (9:2) Wisdom “sent out her maids” (“servants” or “slaves” [LXX]) to call out (to assemble “with a lofty proclamation” [LXX]) the invitation from the highest places in the town, making it possible for all to hear. (9:3; see the Notes section.)
Through her “maids” or “servants” (LXX), wisdom made the proclamation, “Whoever [is] simple” (one lacking experience and easily influenced to adopt a wayward way; a “senseless one” [LXX]), “let him turn aside here.” To the one in “want of heart” or lacking in good sense, wisdom says (9:4), “Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine I have mixed” (“wine that I have mixed for you” [LXX]). (9:5)
“Leave simple ones [leave senselessness (LXX)] and live, and walk in the way of insight” or understanding. For one to stay in the company of simpletons would mean to fail to use good judgment and to pursue a way of life that is senseless. Simpletons would not provide an environment conducive to one’s continuing to make progress in abandoning foolish ways and in acting with insight. The Septuagint rendering differs somewhat from the extant Hebrew text. “Forsake senselessness, and you will live. And seek insight that you may [continue to] exist; and through knowledge, erect understanding [or keep understanding straight].” By seeking insight or truly wanting to have it and to live accordingly, individuals would continue to live a purposeful life and would not shorten their life through foolhardiness and senseless actions. With knowledge, individuals would have understanding. To erect understanding could mean to elevate it as something by which to live. To keep understanding straight through knowledge could signify to have a correct understanding through the acquisition of knowledge. (9:6)
A ridiculer does not want to change his way and arrogantly turns against anyone who would even suggest that he is in the wrong. Therefore, he who attempts to correct a scoffer will bring dishonor upon himself, opening himself up to insult and abuse. “And he who reproves a wicked man — a blemish” or defect. The relationship of the Hebrew word for “blemish” or “defect” to the rest of the phrase is not specifically expressed. The thought could be that, by his foolish attempt to correct the corrupt individual, the reprover blemishes (or brings shame to) himself. He would likely be subjected to verbal or physical abuse from the one whom he tried to reprove. Translations have commonly added words to convey a more specific meaning than does the Hebrew text. “Reprove a bad one, and you will acquire his faults.” (REB) “He who reproves a wicked man incurs opprobrium.” (NAB) “Whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse.” (NIV) “Rebuke the wicked and you attract dishonour.” (NJB) “The one who rebukes a wicked man will get hurt.” (HCSB) “And he who rebukes a wicked man only harms himself.” (NKJV) The Septuagint rendering is, “He who disciplines [or instructs] evil ones will take dishonor upon himself, and he who reproves the impious one reproaches himself.” (9:7)
A ridiculer resents and rejects any reproof that he may be given and will become hostile toward anyone who might attempt to correct him. Therefore, wisdom dictates heeding the admonition, “Do not reprove a ridiculer [evil ones (LXX)] lest he [they (LXX)] should hate you.” A wise person, on the other hand, is willing to change, humbly responds to merited reproof, and is favorably disposed toward the one who corrects him. “Reprove a wise person, and he will love you.” (9:8)
Wise persons are desirous of making advancement in conducting themselves in a manner that God approves and in a way that observers regard favorably. Therefore, one’s giving sound advice or corrective counsel to a wise person will make him wiser. For one to teach a righteous man would lead to his increasing in learning, for he would value the knowledge imparted to him and would make it his own. The Septuagint rendering somewhat differs from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. “Give opportunity to a wise person, and he will be wiser. Make [things] known to an upright man, and he will continue to receive [more].” (9:9)
The “fear of YHWH [is] the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One [literally, holy ones] [is] insight” or understanding. This “fear” is a reverential regard for YHWH as the God who has communicated his will and purpose to humans and to whom they are accountable for their actions. It is a wholesome fear that reflects itself in being concerned about not displeasing him and promotes an earnest desire to avoid wayward conduct — words and actions that are typical of senseless individuals who have no regard for God. Therefore, true wisdom has its start or its source in a reverential regard for YHWH (the “fear of the Lord” [LXX]). In the Hebrew text, the expression rendered “Holy One” is plural and may be regarded as a plural of excellence that identifies YHWH as the God who is pure or holy in the ultimate sense. One’s knowledge of him would indicate one’s having an approved relationship with him and conducting oneself in a way that results in preserving an approved standing before him. This knowledge is “insight” or “understanding,” for it involves a recognition of what constitutes divinely approved conduct and a desire to live accordingly. The Septuagint rendering preserves the plural “holy ones” and identifies the “counsel of the holy ones” to be “understanding.” Their counsel or advice is a reflection of the good understanding they possess. The Septuagint continues with wording not contained in the extant Hebrew text. “For to know the law is [characteristic of] good understanding” (or a good or sound mind). This knowing of the law includes living in harmony with it. (9:10)
Wisdom personified represents herself as providing the guidance and training that promotes a purposeful life and shields one from acting in ways that can shorten one’s life. “For by me, your days will be many [or increased], and years of life will be added to you.” The Septuagint rendering is similar, “For in this way [one’s knowing the law and obeying it], you will live a long time, and years of life will be added to you.” (9:11)
When a person becomes wise, he benefits himself (but not to the exclusion of others). The wise individual will make the right choices and will be upright in his dealings with fellow humans. According to the Septuagint rendering, neighbors, companions, or fellows will also be benefited. “Son, if you become wise for yourself, you also will be wise for [your] companions.” If, on the other hand, a person ridicules others and what is right, acting contrary to wisdom, he alone will bear the calamitous consequences to which his senselessness leads. The words directed to the “son” in the Septuagint are, “If you turn out to be evil, then you will draw evils [upon yourself] alone” or bear evils, or calamities from your bad conduct, alone. (9:12; see the Notes section.)
In the concluding section of Proverbs chapter 9, senselessness or folly is personified as an immoral woman — a prostitute or an adulteress. Lady Senselessness (literally, “woman of senselessness”) is “boisterous,” “tumultuous,” “loud,” or “rowdy,” completely lacking in the quiet dignity associated with wisdom. She is “simplicity,” a mindless simpleton, and has not come to know anything. (9:13; see the Notes section.)
Lady Senselessness “sits at the door [doors (LXX)] of her house,” and her seat is on the “heights of the town,” suggesting that she wants an audience to see her and to hear what she has to say. According to the Septuagint rendering, she is seated “openly” or “visibly” in the squares. (9:14) Unlike wisdom (9:3), Lady Folly does not send messengers with an invitation to come to a banquet. From her seat at the door of her house, she merely calls to passersby and persons who “are going straight on their paths.” Lady Senselessness wants those who “are going straight” to turn away from the right paths to share with her in her senseless ways. (9:15) She tells the “simple,” (the inexperienced ones, simpletons, or those who are easily seduced to engage in wayward conduct), to “turn aside” to her or to where she is seated. (9:16)
To the one in “want of heart” or to the one without good sense, Lady Senselessness says (9:16; see the Notes section), “Stolen waters [are] sweet, and bread [consumed] in secret is pleasant” or tastes good. The words allude to the temporary pleasure of engaging in illicit relations and doing so in secret. (9:17; see the Notes section). The one whom Lady Senselessness seduces does not “know” or realize that the “Rephaim” are there in the place to which her seduction leads and that her guests are in the “depths of Sheol” or in the lowest part of the realm of the dead. The designation “Rephaim” is a transliteration of the Hebrew word. In this context, “Rephaim” may refer to those who had descended to the realm of the dead like the very tall and powerful Rephaim warriors whom David and his men killed in battle. (9:18; compare 1 Samuel 17:4-7; 1 Chronicles 20:4-8; see the Notes section.)
In verses 2 and 3 of the Septuagint rendering, there are two occurrences of the word kratér, a noun that designates a “bowl” or a “mixing container.” In its second occurrence (verse 3), kratér possibly is to be understood to refer to the contents of a bowl, with the invitation being to a “bowl” to partake of its contents or to share in a banquet.
After the phrases that basically correspond to those in the extant Hebrew text of verse 12, the Septuagint has additional words. “He who supports himself on lies will pasture winds,” gaining nothing of a substantial or enduring nature and experiencing dire consequences comparable to destructive storms. “And he will pursue flying birds,” suggesting that he will not experience real success through his corrupt dealings. While chasing after gain with lawless means, he neglected honest labor. “For he abandoned the ways of his own vineyard and strayed from the paths of his own field.” His failure to devote himself to honest labor would have consequences comparable to his passing through a “waterless desert and a land appointed for drought.” “With his hands,” he will gather “barrenness.” There will be no crop of any value to harvest.
In verse 13, the Septuagint describes the woman as “senseless and bold,” “insolent, or “rash” and as not knowing “shame.” She is a woman who ends up lacking a morsel of food.
Verse 16 in the Septuagint says, “Who among you is most senseless, let him turn aside to me.” The senseless woman is then said to “exhort” those lacking in good sense, saying to them the words that follow.
In verse 17, the wording of the Septuagint rendering differs somewhat from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. “Take secret breads with pleasure and the sweet water of theft.”
Verse 18 of the Septuagint rendering could be translated, “But he does not know that the earth-born ones perish with her [the senseless woman], and on the tightrope [péteuron] of Hades [the realm of the dead] he meets [or comes to be].” There is considerable uncertainty about the significance of péteuron, with “tightrope,” “springboard,” and “snare” being suggested possible meanings. The Septuagint rendering continues with admonition that is not contained in the extant Hebrew text. “But hurry away; do not delay in the place nor fix your eye on her, for so you will go through strange water and cross a strange river. But abstain from strange water, and do not drink from a strange spring, that you may live a long time and years of life may be added to you.” The wise course is to run away from the seduction of the senseless woman, spending no time with her. To ignore this admonition can lead to serious trouble, comparable to having to pass through “strange water” (where the concealed dangers are not known) and to ford a “strange river,” with its unknown hazards. The strange water and the strange spring of illicit relations must be shunned so as to escape a premature death and to continue enjoying a meaningful life.
In the extant Hebrew text, the heading for this section of wise sayings is, “Proverbs of Solomon.” The book of Proverbs in its present form did not come into existence until long after Solomon’s time. As an editorial addition, the heading is not specific enough to determine whether Solomon was anciently regarded as the originator or the collector of these proverbs. In the Septuagint, the heading is not included. (10:1)
A “wise son” conducts himself in an exemplary manner and, therefore, brings joy to his father. By his lawless ways, a “senseless son” is a source of sorrow for his mother. The conduct of children can either bring joy or sadness to their parents. (10:1)
Through corrupt or fraudulent dealings, the “wicked one” (“lawless ones” [LXX]) may come into possession of “treasures” or riches. These treasures will be of no benefit when it comes to effecting deliverance from death. “Righteousness,” however, can be the means of deliverance, shielding one from death when God’s anger is expressed against evildoers. (10:2)
There are times when upright individuals experience adversity, including not having enough food to eat. In a general sense, however, the righteous one or the person who does what is right is not among those who hunger. YHWH does not let his “soul” or the individual himself “go hungry” but will sustain him in his time of need. “Wicked ones,” on the other hand, do not want a relationship with YHWH and so deprive themselves of his aid and blessing. Therefore, they cannot expect that he will grant them their desire. He will thrust it aside, giving it no consideration. According to the Septuagint, the Lord “will overthrow” or bring to ruin the “life” of the “impious” or godless ones. (10:3)
The sluggard is unwilling to use his “hand” for honest labor but wants his desires filled with the least amount of effort possible. His slack or inactive hand can lead him into poverty. The hand of a diligent person is busily engaged in work, generating income that has the potential to bring wealth. (10:4; see the Notes section.)
At harvesttime in the summer, a wise son is occupied with bringing in the yield and storing it, but the son who sleeps when he should be working is conducting himself shamefully. He is a disgraceful son and a bitter disappointment to his parents. According to the Septuagint rendering, “an intelligent” or sensible “son is delivered from heat, but blasting by wind comes to the lawless son in the harvest.” (10:5)
“Blessings [are] on the head of the righteous one.” The Septuagint identifies the “Lord” as the source of these blessings. Righteous or upright people seek to do God’s will and enjoy an approved relationship with him. The blessings they enjoy may include his help in times of need, his guidance, and his prospering their undertakings. In view of the less specific reading of the Hebrew text, the blessings could also be those of individuals who praise or commend upright persons and express gratitude for kindnesses they extended to them. (10:6)
“And the mouth of the wicked covers violence.” With deceitful words, corrupt individuals cover over or conceal their base objectives or the lawless deeds they may have committed. The Septuagint rendering could be understood to say that the Lord “will cover the mouth of the impious” or godless persons with “untimely sorrow.” Future punishment will befall them for their wrongdoing. (10:6)
The “memory of the righteous [is] for a blessing [with commendations or praises (LXX)].” Upright people are remembered in a favorable way both during their lifetime and after their death. When blessing others, individuals may refer to a righteous person as one who was blessed, expressing the thought that the ones to whom they extend well wishes would be blessed in like manner. (10:7)
The “name of the wicked will rot.” In view of the corrupt practices of the wicked, their name, reputation, or any memory of them proves to be like the stench from decaying matter. Eventually no memory of them will remain as if their name had rotted way, with no more mention being made of them. The Septuagint says that the “name of the impious” or godless ones “is extinguished” or obliterated. (10:7)
A person who is “wise of heart” would be one with both the capacity and the desire to gain knowledge. The individual would accept or be responsive to commandments or precepts that provide sound guidance for upright living. A person who is “foolish with his lips” has no desire for commandments that would enable him to conduct himself aright. His lips express senseless thoughts, and he remains unreceptive to anything that would correct his folly and lead to his gaining sound knowledge and understanding. The senselessness evident from his mindless chatter ultimately results in his coming to ruin. According to the Septuagint rendering, one who does not keep his lips in check (apparently from speaking senseless or deceptive things) “will stumble” or experience a calamitous fall as a crooked individual. (10:8)
The one who “walks in integrity,” conducting himself uprightly, “walks securely” or “confidently.” He has no fear of being exposed for having dealt in underhanded ways but is secure and confident in the knowledge that he has been honest, just, and truthful. The person whose ways are crooked “will be found out.” His deception, fraud, and lies will not remain concealed indefinitely. (10:9)
One who “winks” or “squints” (literally, nips or pinches) “with his eye” causes “hurt” or “pain.” The act of winking can be indicative of scorning, gloating, scheming, or signaling with hostile intent. In the Septuagint, the reference is to deceitful winking or signaling with the eye and suggests that the individual doing the winking may have deceptively represented himself as a friend to persons he intended to disadvantage. The result is gathering “distresses for men,” bringing grief and pain to them. (10:10)
One who is “foolish with his lips,” speaking senseless, false, or deceitful things, “will be thrust away” or come to ruin. The Septuagint rendering expresses a contrast with the person who is secretive and deceptive, winking or signaling with his eye. “But the one who reproves with boldness [or in an open manner] makes peace.” When something needs to be corrected, a frank and honest reproof can bring an end to troublesome situations, strained relationships, or conflicts. Responsiveness to the warranted reproof can then lead to restoring peace with those who may have been wronged. (10:10)
The “mouth of the righteous” is a “fountain” or source of “life.” Sound counsel and warranted reproof proceeding from the mouth of upright persons can help others to avoid a course that could be ruinous to them or may aid them to make changes that can lead to a better and longer life. So there can be life-imparting power in the words of righteous ones. (10:11; see the Notes section.)
The “mouth of the wicked conceals violence.” Corrupt individuals may feign friendship or make expressions that are designed to catch unsuspecting persons off guard. With deceptive words, they hide their true character and their base objectives. The Septuagint rendering refers to the punishment to come upon the impious or godless ones. “Destruction will cover [their] mouth.” (10:11)
“Hatred stirs up conflicts.” Individuals who hate one another will repeatedly find occasion for taking offense and lashing out against those toward whom they harbor animosity. But “love covers all offenses.” The loving person does not make a big issue when experiencing offenses or slights and does not broadcast the transgressions of others. The Septuagint rendering indicates that “friendship” or “affection” covers all who do not like, or have no fondness for, strife. Persons who love one another do not engage in senseless quarrels. (10:12)
The “lips” of a person with understanding express “wisdom,” providing sound advice and guidance for responsive ones. Senseless individuals do not wish to act wisely. Therefore, the appropriate action is represented as applying a “rod” to the back of the one who lacks “heart” or good sense. If there is a link to the expressions of wisdom from an understanding person, the “rod” could include words of severe rebuke and censure. The Septuagint rendering is specific in linking both phrases of this verse. “The one who brings forth wisdom from his lips beats a heartless man [one without heart or good sense] with a rod.” (10:13)
A wise person “hides,” “treasures up” or stores “knowledge,” concealing knowledge as if depositing it in a secure place as a valued possession. The “mouth of a fool” (a “rash” or “reckless” one [LXX]) brings “ruin” near. By failing to keep his mouth in check and persisting in senseless babbling, the foolish person invites punishment. (10:14)
A “rich man’s wealth” is “his strong city.” His riches enable him to obtain everything he may need or want and give him the kind of security that a well-fortified city provides to the inhabitants. For the poor, “their poverty” is their “ruin.” In their needy and helpless state, their life is comparable to being without the protection of a fortified city or to their having to survive in a destroyed city surrounded by devastated fields. The Septuagint expresses a different thought. “Poverty” is represented as the “ruin of the impious” or godless ones. (10:15)
Depending on the context, the Hebrew word pe‘ulláh can mean “wage,” “recompense,” “reward,” “work,” or “activity.” If the reference here is to “wage,” the thought would be that, for the “righteous one,” upright conduct leads to “life,” a purposeful life that is not cut short by corrupt or senseless actions. The Septuagint rendering is specific in its focus on work or activity. “Works of the righteous produce life.” Their works are noble works, with life (not death) being the good end to which they lead. The “yield” or “gain” of the wicked one is “sin” or the condemnation and death to which sin leads. According to the Septuagint, the “acts [literally, fruits] of impious” or godless ones produce “sins,” which would include the serious consequences to which sins lead. (10:16)
One who observes or heeds “discipline,” instruction, or admonition is a “path to life.” The individual’s good example can encourage others to begin or to continue pursuing an upright way of life that safeguards them against acting in ways that could lead to a premature death or in other ways prove to be ruinous to them. A change in the vowel pointing of the Hebrew text conveys a slightly different meaning. The one heeding discipline would be “on the path to life.” In the Septuagint, “discipline” is identified as guarding “righteous ways of life.” When needed discipline is acted on, the individual is moved to follow the upright course to which discipline points as “ways of life,” or ways leading to life. By motivating responsive ones to turn from a wrong course, discipline guards the “ways of life” as the right ways to be followed. One who leaves reproof or who rejects it causes straying. His bad example can influence others to start or to continue pursuing a wayward course. A number of translations, however, render the words to apply to the effect on the one who rejects reproof. “Neglect reproof and you miss the way.” (REB) “Reject correction, and you will miss the road.” (CEV) “He who disregards reproof goes astray.” (NAB) According to the Septuagint, “undisciplined instruction,” possibly meaning instruction that does not include the element of discipline or correction, “leads astray.” Such instruction would not serve to motivate individuals to make needed changes in their life. (10:17)
The expressions coming from “lying” or “deceitful lips” cover up or conceal hatred. With flattery and words professing friendship, individuals may hide their hostility and base objectives. According to the Septuagint rendering, “righteous lips cover hatred.” The lips of upright persons “cover” hatred or are restrained from making hateful expressions. The individual who broadcasts the faults of others, gossips, slanders, or spreads rumors is called “stupid.” His talebearing reveals him to be untrustworthy and harms those who are the subjects of his senseless gossip. The Septuagint indicates that persons who “bring forth” or “utter abuse are most foolish.” (10:18)
“In a multitude of words, transgression” will not be lacking. Whenever individuals talk too much, they are prone to speak thoughtlessly, betray a confidence, and cause offense. The Septuagint rendering is, “Through many words, you will not escape sin,” implying that much talking will ultimately result in sinning with the tongue. The person who restrains his lips, refraining from blurting out whatever might come to mind, is prudent or discreet. (10:19)
The “tongue of the righteous one” is “choice silver.” Upright persons use their tongues to give sound advice, impart valuable knowledge, and express comfort, encouragement, and commendation. In view of the good a righteous person accomplishes with the tongue, it is precious like pure silver. The “heart of the wicked,” or the mind or inmost self of corrupt persons, is of little worth. Their “heart” (as linked to the capacity for thought and motivation) has no real value, for it is not the source of anything that is good or beneficial. According to the Septuagint, the “heart of the impious will fail,” indicating that godless ones will not succeed in their ways but will come to their end. (10:20)
The “lips” of a righteous person “pasture” or “shepherd many,” and fools die for “want of heart.” A shepherd leads the flock under his care to pasture and guides and protects it. Similarly, the words proceeding from the lips of an upright individual can provide sound advice or guidance and helpful knowledge that can be like nourishment to the many who apply the advice and make good use of the imparted knowledge. The Septuagint rendering indicates that the “lips of righteous ones understand lofty things,” suggesting that their lips utter words that reflect noble or elevated thoughts and are helpful to those who give heed to them. Fools prefer to follow a wayward course. They are in “want of heart” or, by choice, are lacking in good judgment. In attitude, word, and deed, they are corrupt. According to the Septuagint, senseless ones “die in lack” or in a needy state. One major reason for their unfavorable end is that they foolishly choose to disregard God’s commands and have no desire for his aid and guidance. (10:21)
The “blessing of YHWH makes rich, and he adds no pain” or grief “with it.” With YHWH’s blessing, a person can fare well and prosper. This blessing is freely granted, with no extraordinary laborious effort being required to obtain it. It never is a “mixed blessing” that can have sorrow as an accompaniment. The Septuagint says that the “blessing of the Lord” is “upon the head of the righteous one.” This blessing “enriches him, and by no means will grief in heart be added to it.” (10:22; see the Notes section.)
For a fool, or a person who chooses to act in a wayward manner, engaging in gross wrongdoing is “like sport.” He derives amusement from his lewd conduct. According to the Septuagint, the fool practices evil “with laughter.” But a “man of understanding,” or a man who is God-fearing and who lives uprightly, finds his delight in “wisdom,” applying knowledge in a noble and beneficial manner. The Septuagint says that “wisdom gives birth to understanding in a man.” Wisdom, or the capacity to use knowledge to a successful end, must be present for one to understand the right course to take and then to choose to follow it. (10:23)
Wicked or corrupt individuals can never really feel secure, for they are aware that they may be caught or exposed as lawless persons and punished for their crimes. Therefore, what the “wicked one dreads will come upon him.” The Septuagint says that “destruction” or ruin troubles (literally, “carries about”) the “impious” or godless one. Usually, sooner or later, corrupt individuals face retribution. Righteous or upright persons, however, have noble desires and act in the interests of fellow humans. Their desire “will be granted.” In view of the earlier reference to the “blessing of YHWH” (10:22), he may be regarded as the one who grants the desire of righteous persons. Unlike the anxiety and insecurity that are commonly part of the life of corrupt individuals, upright persons enjoy a sense of security and well-being from knowing that they can rely on God’s loving care and aid in their time of need. According to the Septuagint, the “desire of the righteous one” is “acceptable.” (10:24)
Whatever seeming prosperity corrupt persons may enjoy is only temporary. There is nothing permanent in their circumstances. “When a storm passes, the wicked one [is] no more.” Whenever disaster strikes, sweeping away all that is of a material nature, corrupt individuals, even if they do not perish, are left with nothing. Everything they may have built up will be gone. The righteous or upright person, on the other hand, is “established forever.” In the case of upright persons, they retain all that is truly valuable to them. They are on a firm foundation, secure in having God’s care, help, and guidance as his approved servants. (10:25)
To those who send a lazy man on an errand or a commission, he will be “like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes.” His failure to follow through promptly and conscientiously can lead to losses or other problems for the senders. To them, he will prove to be an irritant like the sour taste of vinegar that makes teeth feel very sensitive or like the unpleasant stinging effect of smoke to the eyes. (10:26; see the Notes section.)
The “fear of YHWH will add days.” A reverential regard for YHWH, coupled with a wholesome fear of failing to live in harmony with his commands, contributes to the lengthening of a person’s life. This proper fear prompts one to act in ways that can safeguard one from dying prematurely. The “years of the wicked [impious or godless ones (LXX)],” however, “will be short [will be diminished (LXX)].” Their senseless conduct, high-risk behavior, and lawlessness can shorten their life. (10:27)
The “expectation of righteous ones” is “joy.” As persons who live their lives in harmony with God’s will and ways, the righteous can expect joy to be the ultimate outcome for them. According to the Septuagint, joy or “gladness continues with the righteous ones.” Their life is one of contentment and is not clouded by insecurity and gloom. The “hope of the wicked [the impious or godless ones (LXX)],” however, “will perish.” In the end, corrupt individuals will see the very thing they hoped for come to nothing. (10:28)
The “way of YHWH” is a “stronghold to the innocent” or “blameless one” This way is a way of life that YHWH approves, for it involves faithful adherence to his will and commands. It is like a fortress that protects upright persons from following a course that would ultimately be injurious to them. For evildoers, the “way of YHWH” means “ruin.” Their deliberate failure to choose this way leads to ruin from the consequences of their wayward conduct. The Hebrew text could also be understood to mean that YHWH is a stronghold to one whose way is blameless. The blameless or innocent one benefits from YHWH’s loving care, safeguarding, and sustaining strength as if he were surrounded by the protective walls of a fortress. As individuals meriting YHWH’s wrath, evildoers will find him to be the source of their destruction. (10:29)
The Septuagint says that the “fear of the Lord is a stronghold for the holy ones” or to those who are devoted to him. They have a reverential regard for him and a wholesome fear of displeasing him. This reverential fear is like a protective stronghold for them, restraining them from actions that could be harmful to them. The “fear of the Lord” means “ruin” for evildoers, for they conduct themselves without any regard for him and bring upon themselves the dire consequences for their vile deeds. (10:29)
For limitless time to come, the righteous or upright one will not stagger or totter (“give way” or “fail” [LXX]), experiencing a calamitous fall. As a person whom he approves, YHWH will help and sustain him. The “wicked,” however, will not be able to carry out their lawless practices indefinitely. They will not continue to reside on the earth or the land. Their senseless behavior can lead to a premature death. (10:30)
The “mouth of the righteous one brings forth [drips (LXX)] wisdom.” The words proceeding from his mouth provide sound advice and can aid those who heed them to act wisely. As a person who is upright, he will be determined to say what is helpful and beneficial. Therefore, his righteousness bears wisdom as a fruit. The “tongue of perverseness” (the “tongue of the unjust” [LXX]) or the tongue that is used to express twisted or deceptive words “will be cut off [will perish (LXX)],” for the one who uses the tongue for evil ends jeopardizes his life. (10:31)
The “lips of the righteous [righteous men (LXX])] know [drip (LXX])] favor” or “goodwill.” In view of their being used to make sincere expressions of favor or to say what is pleasing, the lips may here be referred to as knowing favor. Lips, however, are not generally associated with knowing. Therefore, a number of translations render the phrase differently. “The righteous suit words to the occasion.” (REB) “If you obey the Lord you will always know the right thing to say.” (CEV) The “mouth of the wicked [impious or godless ones (LXX)],” however, is “perverse” (a plural noun in Hebrew [“turns away” (LXX)]), indicating that corrupt individuals speak what is twisted or deceitful. According to the Septuagint, a possible meaning could be that godless individuals turn others away with their deceptive words. (10:32)
The Septuagint rendering of verse 4 differs somewhat from the extant Hebrew text. It says that “poverty humbles a man,” depriving him of dignity, and that the hands of those who are manly or vigorous are the hands that enrich. The Septuagint then adds words that are not found in the extant Hebrew text. A “son” who is “disciplined” or instructed “will be wise, and he will use the senseless one as a servant.”
According to the Septuagint rendering of verse 11, a “fountain of life” is “in the hand of the righteous one.” Upright persons use their “hand,” or their power or capacity for action, to do good for others, coming to their aid in times of need, distress, or danger. Therefore, their “hand” can function to preserve the life of fellow humans. There is, however, a possibility that the reading “hand” arose through an early transcriptional error. The Greek expressions for “in [the] hand” (en cheirí) and “in [the] lip” (en cheilei) are similar.
In verse 22 of the Septuagint, the expression “by no means” serves to convey the emphatic sense of two Greek words for “not.”
In verse 26, the Septuagint says that an “unripe grape” is “harmful to the teeth” and so is “smoke to the eyes.” Apparently the taste of an unripe grape is referred to as “harmful” because of the effect the unpleasant sour taste produced in the mouth. The concluding phrase could be translated to indicate that “lawlessness” is harmful to those who engage in it.
“False scales” were balances that had been rigged to defraud. Often fraud was committed by using other than standard weights. To YHWH, “false” or “deceitful scales” were abominable, disgusting, or loathsome. But an accurate weight (literally, a “complete stone”) was “his delight” or, according to the Septuagint, was “acceptable to him.” His law required the use of accurate scales and weights. (11:1; Leviticus 19:36)
“When insolence” or pride “comes, then comes disgrace.” The thought could be that the retribution for insolence or arrogance is humiliation. Insolent or proud individuals have an exalted view of themselves and their attainments. When their claims are exposed as exaggerations, they are disgraced. It is also possible that the reference is to the contempt insolent persons have for others. Both meanings of the Hebrew text are found in modern translations. “Pride comes first; disgrace soon follows.” (NJB) “Too much pride can put you to shame.” (CEV) “When pride comes in, in comes contempt.” (REB) “But wisdom [is] with the humble ones.” The humble ones recognize their need for God’s help and guidance, and they earnestly seek to have the wisdom that is essential for conducting themselves aright. Wisdom thus comes into their possession, and their words and deeds reflect the wisdom that has God as its ultimate source. The Septuagint says that the “mouth of the humble meditates [on] wisdom.” Before speaking, instructing, or offering advice, humble persons give careful thought to their words, endeavoring to make sure that wisdom truly is their guide. (11:2)
Integrity is what guides upright ones. They can be depended upon to do what is right and just. As for treacherous persons, their “crookedness,” or their corrupt dealings and deceitful words, will sooner or later “destroy them.” (11:3; see the Notes section.)
“In the day of wrath,” or at the time God manifests his anger, the possession of wealth will be of no benefit. “Righteousness” or uprightness in attitude, word, and deed “delivers from death” or from dying prematurely as persons who are divinely disapproved. (11:4; see the Notes section.)
For the blameless or upright one, his righteousness makes his way straight. He remains on the right course, enjoying the security and sense of well-being that result from conducting himself aright. The Septuagint focuses on the “ways,” indicating that “righteousness” makes straight (literally “cuts straight”) “unblemished ways.” This could mean that the “righteousness” or uprightness of the individual removes obstacles that could hinder him from following the right course. There is, however, no straight path associated with ungodliness, but only corrupt ways — fraud, deceit, lying, and slander. “Impiety” or ungodliness “encounters [or becomes involved with] injustice.” (11:5)
The “righteousness” of upright people “will deliver them” from the ruin that lawless persons are bound to experience. Upright ones will continue to do what is right, sparing themselves from the serious consequences to which lawlessness leads. According to the Septuagint, “lawless ones” or transgressors “are captured by their destruction,” experiencing the ruin that their corrupt conduct merits. (11:6)
The “hope” of a wicked man perishes when he dies. Everything he may have hoped for and attained perishes with him. His vile deeds could not assure that anything hoped for or expected would endure. The Septuagint rendering conveys a different meaning. When a “righteous man dies, hope does not perish, but the boasting of impious ones perishes.” The death of a righteous man does not mean that all hope has been lost. Everything in which godless persons take pride, however, will come to its end. (11:7)
A righteous or upright person may find himself in distress and then be rescued. But the wicked one would thereafter end up in the very distress from which the righteous one was delivered. Possibly the implied thought is that the wicked one gloated over the trouble that befell the righteous person. Then, upon seeing the righteous one rescued, the wicked one came to be in distressing circumstances. According to the Septuagint, the righteous one escapes from the “hunt” (an act designed to harm him); and “instead of him,” the “impious” or ungodly one “is delivered up,” apparently to be punished. (11:8)
“With his mouth, the godless man [one alienated from God] destroys” or corrupts his fellow.” His deceptive words can be injurious, but righteous or upright ones possess the knowledge to avoid being harmed. By means of their knowledge, they “are delivered” from whatever baneful effects the words of godless ones may have. (11:9; see the Notes section.)
When the righteous prosper, there is joy in the city where they reside. This is because upright individuals use their influence and authority to accomplish good, promoting the welfare of their fellows. The death of the wicked occasions jubilation. Their end brings welcome relief from the injustices, oppression, and troubles for which they were responsible. (11:10; see the Notes section.)
“By the blessing of upright ones, a city is exalted,” but the “mouth of the wicked causes its overthrow.” The presence of upright persons in a city and their words of blessing elevate a city as a place where peace and the welfare of all can flourish. With their mouth, or the deceptive and lying words proceeding from their mouth, the wicked cause the overthrow of a city. Their words can create an environment of distrust, conflict, hostility, and suspicion. (11:11; see the Notes section.)
A person lacking “heart” or devoid of good sense is one who belittles, insults, or despises his fellow (“citizens” [LXX]). He is quick to lash out against anyone whom he considers as having slighted him. A “man of understanding” or a sensible man is one who restrains himself when it comes to slights or offenses, choosing to remain silent when speaking out could give rise to needless conflict or worsen a troublesome situation. (11:12)
“One who goes about as a slanderer,” a gossip, or a talebearer “reveals secrets” or matters that should be kept in strict confidence. The person who is “trustworthy in spirit” (or loyal in his inner self) is sensitive about matters that should not be broadcast. He keeps such matters covered or to himself. According to the Septuagint, the “double-tongued man,” one whose words cannot be trusted, reveals “counsels in the assembly.” This may mean that he publicizes confidential matters that come up during the course of deliberations. The “trustworthy one conceals matters to a breath.” Possibly the thought is that the trustworthy person does not breathe a word to anyone when confidential matters are involved. (11:13)
In the absence of sound guidance, a “people falls,” experiencing calamity or ruin. The Septuagint says that those without leadership “fall like leaves.” “In the abundance of counselors [counsel or good advice (LXX)]” — many wise individuals who are willing and able to provide sound advice — there will be “salvation,” deliverance, or victory. Their good counsel will make it possible to formulate plans that lead to success. (11:14)
One who goes surety for a stranger, making himself responsible for that one’s debts, is bound to be harmed. This is because the likelihood is great that the stranger will not be conscientious about fulfilling his obligations and will fail to do so. The one who “hates handshaking” (or making agreements to give surety) will be secure, for he will avoid loss from having to pay for someone else’s debts. (11:15; see the Notes section.)
A “gracious woman [literally, a woman of grace or charm] gets honor, and violent men get wealth.” In ancient Israel, the acquisition of riches was primarily the domain of men. A woman gained a position of honor by her pleasant or agreeable disposition, her hospitable spirit, and her kindly response to those in need. According to the Septuagint rendering, a gracious woman acquires “glory” or “honor” for her husband. Men who gain riches through violent means do not procure honor for themselves. All they have is their ill-gotten gain. A number of translators have favored a rendering based on an emendation of the Hebrew text. For example, the Contemporary English Version reads, “A man must work hard to get rich.” (CEV) The Septuagint conveys yet another meaning. It says that a woman who “hates justice” or “righteousness” is a “throne of dishonor.” (11:16)
A “kind man” (literally, a “man of kindness,” “loyalty,” “faithfulness,” or “compassion” [a “merciful man” (LXX)] benefits “his soul” (“does good to his soul” [LXX]) or himself. His kindly and compassionate disposition contributes to a life of joy and contentment. A cruel man, however, “harms his flesh.” The designation “flesh” can apply to kin or to a household, but this is likely not the significance in this context. According to the Septuagint, “the merciless one destroys his body.” The Septuagint rendering indicates that the Hebrew word for “flesh” here refers to the organism of the merciless one. His hateful disposition has an adverse effect on his own well-being. (11:17)
A “wicked man” obtains “deceptive wages.” What he may acquire through corrupt or fraudulent means may be quickly lost and prove to be unsatisfying, often not providing him with what he had desired. The Septuagint says that the “impious” or ungodly one “does unjust works” or engages in dishonest practices. One who “sows righteousness,” or deals justly and honestly with others and responds compassionately to those in need, gains a “sure reward.” He preserves a clean conscience and has the assurance of God’s loving care and the lasting reward he bestows on those who are devoted to him. The Septuagint refers to the “seed of righteous ones,” or the product of their right, just, or honest dealings, as a “reward of truth” or a true wage. (11:18)
The Hebrew text is elliptical. “True righteousness — to life [plural in Hebrew], and pursuing evil — to one’s death.” The thought appears to be that upright conduct leads to life, and the pursuit of evil ends in death. In view of the elliptical nature of the Hebrew text, translators vary in their renderings. “Righteousness is a prop of life, but to pursue evil leads to death.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “Anyone set on righteousness finds life, but the pursuit of evil leads to death.” (REB) “Whoever establishes uprightness is on the way to life, whoever pursues evil, on the way to death.” (NJB) “Always do the right thing, and you will live; keep on doing wrong, and you will die.” (CEV) “The truly righteous man attains life, but he who pursues evil goes to his death.” (NIV) The Septuagint indicates that a “righteous son is engendered for life [or, on account of his upright conduct, has life in view], but the pursuit of the impious” or ungodly ones is “to death.” (11:19)
One with a “crooked heart” is corrupt in his inmost self. Individuals with a “crooked heart” are an “abomination to YHWH.” He detests their evil thoughts and dealings. “His delight” is in those who are “blameless” in their way, conducting themselves in a manner he approves. In the Septuagint, “crooked ways” are identified as an “abomination to the Lord.” “All” who are “blameless in their ways” are “acceptable to him.” (11:20)
The Hebrew words for “hand to hand” possibly relate to making an agreement by shaking hands. In this context, the words may be understood to express a certainty. “You can be sure of this.” (CEV) “Depend upon it.” (REB) “Be sure of this.” (NIV) The Septuagint refers to the one “putting hand to hands unjustly” as one who will not escape punishment. This could mean that the individual would be shaking hands with others to make an unjust or fraudulent agreement and would not be left unpunished for doing so. The extant Hebrew text says that an “evil man will not go unpunished.” “Offspring of righteous ones,” however, “will escape” or be delivered from the calamities that befall corrupt persons for their vile deeds. The Septuagint refers to the one sowing “righteousness,” or dealing honestly with others and acting according to what is right or just, as receiving a true or dependable wage or reward. (11:21)
A “gold nose ring” in a pig’s snout would be most inappropriate and a wasteful use of a precious resource. Although a woman may be beautiful, her physical attractiveness would be of little worth if she lacked good sense. The implication may be that a man who married a woman just for her looks was choosing a situation comparable to a gold ring in the snout of a pig. According to the Septuagint, the “beauty of an evil-minded woman” is like a “ring in a pig’s snout.” (11:22)
The “desire [all desire (LXX)] of righteous ones” is “only good.” As upright persons, they would desire what was in harmony with God’s will and that which would have a noble end in view. The “expectation of the wicked,” however, is “wrath.” What they hope for stands in opposition to the things God approves. Therefore, their expectation will prove to be his wrath as its ultimate end. The Septuagint says that the hope of the impious or ungodly ones “will perish.” There will be no favorable outcome for them. (11:23)
There are times when circumstances turn out otherwise than what might be expected. One who “scatters,” spends liberally or gives generously may, in the end, be well off, having increased his possessions. Someone else may hold back what he should give and yet will find himself in want. The Septuagint refers to those sowing or scattering “their own [either seed or what they possess]” and gaining an increase and to those gathering and yet having less. (11:24)
A generous person (literally, a “soul of blessing” [a person who is a blessing to others by responding to their genuine needs]) “will be made fat,” will be enriched, or will prosper. One who “waters” others would be a person who refreshes or satisfies others. In view of his generous spirit, he himself “will be watered,” refreshed, or satisfied. The Septuagint rendering may be understood in two different ways. (1) “Every blessed soul” (or person) is “sincere.” (2) “Every sincere soul” (or person) is “blessed.” The concluding phrase in the Septuagint is, “But a furious man is not graceful” or pleasing. (11:25)
The reference to one who “withholds grain” appears to be to an official who has control over the supply of grain. For whatever reason he may withhold grain from the people when they need it, they will curse him. The Septuagint says regarding the grain, “leave it to the nations.” For the one who makes grain available for purchase (distributes or shares it [LXX]), blessings would come to be on “his head” or on him from the appreciative people. (11:26)
A person who pursues “good” seeks “good will,” and to one who searches for “evil,” “it will come to him.” To pursue “good” means to be concerned about and to be active in promoting the welfare of others. The pursuer of good gains the good will or favor of others as an upright, caring, and compassionate person. The Septuagint refers to the one devising “good” as seeking “good favor.” His plans to do good for others will result in his being regarded favorably. An individual who seeks “evil,” or looks for opportunities to take advantage of others or to procure possessions through corrupt means, will find that evil or calamity will come upon him (“will overtake him” [LXX]). As a merciless person, he will then be without comfort and needed aid. (11:27)
Possessions can be lost or stolen. Everything of a material nature is transitory. Therefore, the one who trusts in riches, believing that his wealth provides security, “will fall” like a tree with a shallow root system during a severe windstorm. Righteous people, however, will flourish “like foliage.” The righteous enjoy security and flourish as persons who receive God’s favorable attention, guidance, and aid. In case of the Septuagint rendering, the meaning depends upon whether the reference is to righteous persons or to righteous things. The one who assists “righteous persons will rise,” possibly indicating that he will flourish like greenery that sprouts up or be aided to rise if he has experienced a fall. In the event the application is to “righteous things,” the meaning could be that the individual is one who supports the things that are right or just. (11:28)
One who troubles “his house” or his household (“does not accommodate [or does not deal kindly with] his own house” [LXX]), harming his family by his actions, “will inherit wind” or nothing at all. A fool, or one who fails to use good sense, will be a servant to one who is wise (literally, “wise of heart”). The troubler of the “house” could be either the father or a son. If the verb “inherit” is regarded in the literal sense, the family member would be a son. A senseless son would end up with nothing and become a servant to someone who is wise. Renderings in modern translations vary in the way the troubler of the “house” is identified. “Whoever misgoverns a house inherits the wind.” (NJB) “He who upsets his household has empty air for a heritage.” (NAB) “Fools who cause trouble in the family won’t inherit a thing. They will end up as slaves of someone with good sense.” (CEV) (11:29)
The “fruit of the righteous one” could be the sound advice that an upright person expresses or the good things he does. His good counsel can promote the well-being of individuals who follow it, and the aid he renders can save lives. Therefore, his fruit is a “tree of life.” According to the Septuagint rendering, a “tree of life” sprouts or grows “from the fruit” or product of “righteousness,” indicating that “righteousness” is the source of fruit that can sustain and preserve life. The next phrase of the Hebrew text may be rendered, “The wise one takes away souls.” His doing so would be for a good purpose, taking away “souls” or individuals from a wrong course and captivating them to follow a path of upright conduct. The Septuagint conveys a different thought. It refers to the “souls of transgressors” or transgressors themselves as being “removed,” or cut off from life, prematurely. (11:30)
“On earth,” or while alive on the land, the righteous one “will be rewarded,” repaid, or requited, often experiencing what his conduct deserves. When he errs in judgment or in the actions he takes, he is not shielded from the consequences. Therefore, it logically follows that the “wicked one and sinner” (or one who habitually acts contrary to God’s commands) will all the more so be requited for his wrongdoing. (11:31; see the Notes section.)
In verse 3, the rendering of the Septuagint differs from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. At death, the righteous person leaves “regret” behind. Others are saddened by his death. But the “destruction of the impious” or ungodly is “swift and joyous.” In view of the injurious acts of ungodly people, retribution may come quickly or unexpectedly, and the relief from fraud and oppression that their ruin would bring occasions joy.
In the Septuagint, there is no corresponding text for the wording of of verse 4 in the extant Hebrew text.
In verse 9, the Septuagint refers to the “mouth of godless ones” as a “snare to fellow countrymen.” Corrupt individuals try to ensnare or deceive others with their words. The “perception” or “knowledge” of righteous ones is described as “prosperous.” Possibly this means that, by using their knowledge for saying and doing what is right, upright persons enjoy success and help others.
In verses 10 and 11, the Septuagint indicates that a city prospers through the good deeds of the righteous but is torn down by the “mouth of the impious.” Upright individuals are deeply concerned about the well-being of others and come to the aid of those in need. As for the impious or ungodly ones, the words that come from their mouth stir up hatred and conflict. Their speaking has a ruinous effect on the city where they reside.
In verse 15, the Septuagint rendering differs from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. A “wicked man does evil whenever he meets a righteous man, and he hates the sound of security.” The thought could be that the wicked man is always prepared to take advantage of others. His attaining his base objective is more difficult when individuals are secure in their position, for they are far less likely to be ensnared than are persons in a state of insecurity. Therefore, any hint of security would be most unwelcome to the wicked man.
When viewed from the standpoint of the ancient setting at the time the Septuagint was translated, the wording of verse 31 appears to mean that the righteous one would scarcely be saved or escape the consequences of his missteps. This gives rise to the rhetorical question, “Where will the impious and sinner appear?” The implication is that the ungodly one will not appear unscathed from deserved punishment for his corrupt course of life.
In 1 Peter 4:18, the wording from the quotation of Proverbs 11:31 is like that of the Septuagint. The application of the proverb harmonizes with the spirit of the text, but the context points to a somewhat different meaning. Evidently because of the afflictions and hardships believers experience, they, as upright ones, are referred to as being scarcely saved or saved with difficulty. Their ultimate salvation, complete deliverance from sin, requires vigorous exertion in conducting themselves in a divinely approved manner in whatever circumstances they might find themselves, always relying on God and Christ for strength to endure trials. This raises the question, “Where will the impious and sinner appear?” The answer to this rhetorical question is that godless ones and those who live a life of sin will not make a favorable appearance before God.
One who “loves discipline,” correction, or instruction “loves knowledge.” Discipline can serve to correct one’s taking a wrong course or making poor decisions. By highly valuing the benefits that come from discipline, a person demonstrates his love for knowledge and grows in wisdom. One who “hates reproof” is senseless or unreasoning. Instead of correcting his ways, he stubbornly chooses to act foolishly and ultimately harms himself. (12:1)
A “good man,” a man who is compassionate, generous, and kind, “gains favor from YHWH” as one who is acceptable to him, but he “condemns a man of devices” or a corrupt schemer. According to the Septuagint, “Better is the one who finds favor with the Lord.” His circumstances are superior to those of a lawless man. A “lawless man will be passed over in silence,” suggesting that God will not extend any favor to him. (12:2)
“Wickedness,” or the practice of what is evil or corrupt, does not provide a secure foundation for one’s life. A man simply cannot be “established by wickedness” as if firmly secured thereby. The Septuagint indicates that a “man will not keep straight” or have success by that which is “lawless.” The “root [roots (LXX)] of righteous ones will not be caused to totter” or be moved. Upright persons are like trees that are firmly rooted in the ground and will not be uprooted from their secure position. (12:3)
A “good [courageous or virtuous (LXX)] wife [literally, a “woman of strength”], one who is exemplary in disposition, bearing, and responsiveness to those in need, is a “crown to her husband” or a real credit to him, contributing to his honorable standing in the community. When a woman conducts herself shamefully, she is like “rottenness” in the “bones” of her husband. Her effect on him is like that of a debilitating disease. According to the Septuagint, a woman who does what is bad proves to be destructive to her husband “like a worm in wood.” (12:4)
The “thoughts of the righteous ones” are “judgment” or “justice.” Their thoughts are right and just or in harmony with sound judgment. The deliberations or counsels of wicked persons (“impious” or “ungodly ones” [LXX]) are treacherous or deceptive. According to the Septuagint, the guiding, steering, or devising of impious ones is one of treachery or deceit. Anyone following the advice of corrupt individuals would be heading for serious trouble or ruin. The implication of the wise saying appears to be that one should choose the way of righteous ones and avoid the guidance or advice of corrupt persons, never becoming like them. (12:5)
The “words of wicked ones lie in wait for blood.” Their words are designed to deceive, defraud, misrepresent, or slander. They are words that can bring ruin to those who are victimized or led astray. The “mouth of the upright ones will save them.” Their expressions are truthful, and they recognize the words of the wicked ones as harmful. Therefore, they avoid being deceived by what the wicked say, and they are not seduced to join them in their corrupt practices. (12:6; see the Notes section.)
“Wicked ones are overthrown, and they are no more.” Both as to their person and their corrupt ways, the wicked cease to be. The Septuagint says that the “impious” or godless one disappears wherever he might turn. He will not escape punitive judgment. The “house” (“houses” [LXX]) or household of righteous persons will continue to stand or to endure. Their upright conduct assures that their household finds itself on a secure foundation. (12:7)
A “man will be praised” or commended for his “mouth of insight” or for his sound advice and the wisdom his words reflect. The individual who is crooked of “heart” or corrupt in thought and his inmost self will be despised or “mocked” (LXX). (12:8)
A man may be of humble standing, one whom others do not highly esteem, and yet he may be in position to have a servant. His circumstances are much better than those of a man who glorifies himself or boastfully represents himself as being a somebody when, in reality, he lacks bread or does not even have sufficient food to eat. According to the Septuagint rendering, a man is better off in “dishonor” (as others may see him) and yet “serving” or supporting “himself” than is a man who confers “honor on himself” and yet lacks “bread.” Based on an emendation of the Hebrew word for “slave,” numerous modern translations contain wording that is more like the rendering of the Septuagint. “It is better to be modest and earn one’s living than to play the grandee on an empty stomach.” (REB) “Better a lowly man who supports himself than one of assumed importance who lacks bread.” (NAB) (12:9)
A righteous man “knows,” understands, or “has compassion” for (LXX) the “soul” or life of “his beast” or his domestic animal. He recognizes the needs of the animal and cares for it with tenderness, never neglecting it. The “mercies of wicked ones [impious or ungodly ones (LXX)],” however, are “cruel [merciless (LXX)].” Corrupt individuals have no regard for their animals. What they consider adequate care is actually cruel and amounts to nothing more than ruthless exploitation. They give no thought to the pain and suffering of the animals they own or that are under their care. (12:10)
A man who cultivates his land “will be satisfied with bread” or have enough to eat. One who pursues “worthless things” is in “want of heart” or lacks good sense. The pursuit of meaningless or unproductive endeavors does not generate the income needed for one to be self-supporting. (12:11; see the Notes section.)
There is uncertainty about just what the “wicked one desires.” One possible significance of the Hebrew words is “hunting implement,” “net” or “snare” of “evil men.” This could indicate that the “wicked one desires” to have the “hunting equipment,” the “net,” the “snare,” or the means evil men use to obtain their base objectives. It is also possible to view the text as pointing to the ultimate outcome of the “desire” of the wicked one. He will face the serious consequences from his corrupt actions. These consequences are comparable to his being entangled in a net like prey that is trapped and then killed. A number of translations render the Hebrew words according to an emendation. “The stronghold of evil men will be demolished.” (NAB) “The stronghold of the wicked crumbles like clay.” (REB) According to the Septuagint, the “desires of impious” or “ungodly ones” are “evil things.” As corrupt individuals, they desire what is bad, for they use violent, deceptive, or fraudulent means to procure what they want. (12:12)
The “root of righteous ones” is “put” or firmly “established.” Their upright conduct has made the “root” or foundation of their life secure and stable. That “root” is like the root system of a sound tree and will endure. The Septuagint refers to the “roots” of godly individuals as being “in fortresses” or in secure locations. (12:12)
An “evil man” (a “sinner” [LXX]) or a corrupt person is ensnared (“falls into traps” or “snares” [LXX]) “by the transgression of his lips” or by the false or deceptive words he speaks. His lies and deception will eventually result in his being exposed for his wrongdoing and then severely punished. A righteous person escapes from the distress that comes upon the evil individual. (12:13; see the Notes section.)
“From the fruit [fruits or products (LXX)] of a man’s mouth, he [the soul of a man or the man himself (LXX)] is sated with good” or good things. When the words proceeding from a man’s mouth are truthful and dependable, he will come to be known as an honest and trustworthy person, and others will treat him accordingly. As a result, he will be satisfied with the good things that come to him and will enjoy a secure and contented life. There is also a recompense for what a man does with his “hands.” It “comes back to him.” He receives the reward that his labor merits. According to the Septuagint rendering, the focus continues to be on words. To the individual, the “recompense of his lips will be given.” (12:14)
In the “eyes” of a “fool,” or in the view of a person who chooses to act in a senseless manner, his “way” is “right,” not foolish. He is unwilling to accept correction or to change his course of action for the better. A person who “listens to counsel” is “wise,” for he is willing to be instructed, to follow sound advice, and to change his course in keeping with the good counsel he may be given. (12:15; see the Notes section.)
A foolish person, one who does not use good judgment, will quickly (literally, “in a day”) be irritated or angered over slights and insults, giving rise to quarreling and intensified hostility. The prudent individual, however, covers over or disregards “disgrace” or insult, not allowing himself to lash out against persons who are disrespectful to him. By not reacting in anger, the prudent one avoids conflicts. (12:16)
The opening phrase of the Hebrew text may literally be rendered, “One who breathes out faithfulness will make known righteousness.” In view of the mention of a witness in the next phrase, the “one who breathes out faithfulness” is a person whose testimony is trustworthy. He makes known what is right or truthful. According to the Septuagint, a righteous person declares what is trustworthy. A false or lying witness (the witness of unrighteous or unjust things [LXX]), however, speaks deceit. (12:17)
Spoken words can be hurtful. Without giving any thought to the injurious effect his words could have, a person’s rash speaking may be like the “thrusts of a sword. The Septuagint refers to individuals who, when speaking, “wound with a sword.” When used to give comfort and encouragement, however, the “tongue of wise persons” effects “healing.” (12:18)
Truth endures, for it always remains unchanged. Therefore, the “lip of truth” (or the lip used in making truthful expressions) is firmly established forever. For all time to come, the utterances of this lip will continue to be true. The Septuagint says that “true” or “truthful lips” keep “testimony” straight or give honest testimony. A “tongue of falsehood” or a lying tongue is for just a moment. The lies this tongue expresses will be exposed and cannot endure. According to the Septuagint, a “hasty witness has an unjust tongue” or a tongue that does not express what is right or honest. (12:19)
“Deceit” is in the “heart,” the reasoning, or the inner self of persons who devise “evil.” They scheme to take advantage of others and incite conflict and hostility. Individuals who “counsel peace” or promote the peace or well-being of others have joy. Their joy comes from the good effect their sound advice has on responsive ones. (12:20)
The “righteous one” will not experience the injurious effects that come from unjust and dishonest deeds. While ill of this kind “does not meet up with the righteous one,” wicked persons “are filled with bad.” They suffer the consequences from their lawless conduct. (12:21; see the Notes section.)
“Lips of falsehood” (“lying lips” [LXX]), or lips used to lie and deceive, are an “abomination to YHWH” (the “Lord” [LXX]). He loathes lies and deception, but he takes delight in those who act faithfully, conducting themselves as honest and truthful persons. (12:22)
A “prudent man covers” or conceals “knowledge.” He does not make a showy display of what he knows or try to impress others as being exceptionally wise. The “heart of senseless ones,” however, “proclaims folly.” Their failure to use their reasoning faculties aright reveals that nothing of value can be gained from them. Everything that issues from their “heart,” their mind, or their thoughts is foolishness. Others can recognize this even before senseless persons say anything. (12:23)
The “hand of diligent ones [chosen ones (LXX)] will rule [easily prevail or exercise authority (LXX)].” Diligent individuals were valuable members of their community, and their work contributed to the welfare of fellow citizens. As persons occupying a position of authority or performing essential services, they would not have been considered for conscription as forced laborers for royal projects. The slack hand, or the man who was not diligent in the use of his hand or ability, would not be needed in the community and would “come to be for forced labor.” The Septuagint rendering expresses a different thought. Deceitful persons “will come to be for plunder” or captivity (to be used as slaves). (12:24)
“Worry in the heart of a man weighs him down, and a good word gladdens him.” Anxiety has a depressing effect on a person, but a kindly word or a message conveying good news can bring cheer to one who is downcast. According to the Septuagint rendering, a “fearful word,” or a message that gives rise to fear, “disturbs the heart of a just man, but a good message gladdens him.” (12:25; see the Notes section.)
There is uncertainty about what the “righteous one” is described as doing. The Hebrew verb tur can mean “search out,” “spy out,” or “seek out,” and the Hebrew noun meré‘a designates a “friend,” “companion,” or “confidant.” That a righteous person would “spy out” a friend would be an act out of the ordinary. Therefore, renderings of this proverb commonly follow emendations. (12:26)
One emendation is to read the Hebrew noun for “friend” (meré‘a) as the noun meaning “pasture” (mir‘éh), but “spying out” or “seeking out” one’s own “pasture” would not be an activity limited to upright persons. Moreover, the emendation does not provide a contrast with the next phrase about the “way of wicked ones.” The “way of wicked ones leads them astray.” (12:26)
Many modern translations contain renderings that follow other emendations. “The just man surpasses his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.” (NAB) “A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.” (NIV) “The righteous are freed from evil, but the wicked take a path that leads astray.” (REB) “The righteous gives good advice to friends, but the way of the wicked leads astray.” (NRSV) “The upright shows the way to a friend; the way of the wicked leads them astray.” (NJB) Possibly the basic thought is that upright persons would provide good direction or advice to a friend, whereas corrupt individuals follow a way that deviates from the right course and also lead others astray. (12:26; see the Notes section.)
Depending on the context, the Hebrew word remiyyáh can relate either to “slackness” or “deceit.” According to the Septuagint, a deceitful man will not be successful in the hunt, suggesting that he will not be able to benefit from the efforts he expends to attain his objectives. Modern translations commonly render the text in keeping with the meaning “slackness.” “The lazy hunter puts up no game.” (REB) “A negligent man never has game to roast.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “The lazy man does not roast his game.” (NIV) Slackness or laziness does not produce results. The lazy man will not catch prey and, therefore, will have no game to roast. As for the diligent person — “precious wealth.” There is no verb in the Hebrew text. This accounts for various renderings in modern translations. “But the diligent man prizes his possessions.” (NIV) “Those who are diligent reap a rich harvest.” (REB) “But the wealth of the diligent man is great.” (NAB) “Diligence is anyone’s most precious possession.” (NJB) “A hard worker is a valuable treasure.” (CEV) The Septuagint rendering also requires the addition of a verb, “But a pure man — a precious possession.” (12:27)
“In the path [ways (LXX)] of righteousness — life, and the journey of its pathway — to death.” Upright conduct leads to life, shielding one from acting in ways that could lead to a premature death. The concluding phrase needs additional wording to convey a meaningful thought. Possibly the reference is to “injustice” or “badness.” The ultimate end for those who engage in corrupt deeds is death. According to the Septuagint rendering, the “ways of resentful ones [or persons who bear grudges] — to death,” indicating that their ways have death, not life, in view. (12:28)
In verse 6, the Septuagint does not include the reference to lying in wait for blood but says that the “words of the impious” or ungodly ones are “deceitful.”
After the words that correspond to those of the Hebrew text, the Septuagint text of verse 11 contains an additional proverb. The Septuagint indicates that one who takes pleasure in drinking wine “will leave behind dishonor in his fortresses.” The mention of “fortresses” suggests that the reference is to a ruler, for ordinary citizens would not possess fortresses. If a ruler did not diligently attend to the affairs of state but occupied himself in drinking and feasting, the legacy he would leave behind in his fortresses would be one of disgrace.
In verse 13 of the Septuagint rendering, there is an addition that has no corresponding words in the extant Hebrew text. “One who looks gentle [or one who is not contentious] will be shown mercy, but one who meets [others] in the gates will afflict souls.” An individual who met others in the “gates,” or in the open area adjacent to the city gates where elders handled legal cases, describes a person who was unwilling to settle differences amicably but who brought distress to the “souls” or persons with whom he had disputes that he wanted elders of the city to settle in his favor.
In verse 15, the Septuagint rendering is similar to the reading of the extant Hebrew text. The “ways of senseless ones” are “straight before them” (leading in the right direction as far as they are concerned), “but a wise person listens to counsel.”
The Septuagint rendering of the initial phrase of verse 21 differs somewhat from the extant Hebrew text. Regarding the righteous one, the Septuagint says that “nothing unjust will be pleasing” to him.
In verse 23, the Septuagint rendering differs from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. It refers to a “discerning” or an “intelligent” man as a “throne of perception,” perhaps meaning a noble source of wisdom. There is a possibility, however, that the Septuagint translator read the Hebrew verb for “cover” (kasáh) as the Hebrew noun for “throne” (kisséh; kissé’). The Septuagint concludes the verse with the thought that the “heart” of senseless persons “will meet with curses.” This would be because foolish individuals are the source of worthless or injurious things.
In verse 25 of the extant Hebrew text, there is a grammatical problem. The Hebrew words for “heart” and for “man” are masculine gender, but the pronominal suffixes are feminine gender. For this reason, the text needs to be emended to correct the grammar, and the pronominal suffix could then be understood to apply either to the “heart” or to the “man.” “Anxiety in a man’s heart depresses it, but a kindly word makes it glad.” (NAB) “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” (NIV) The Septuagint rendering provides a basis for the application to a man.
The Septuagint rendering of verse 26 differs from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. It may be translated, “A just arbitrator will be his own friend, but the decisions of impious [or ungodly] ones [are] unreasonable” or unjust. “Evils [or calamities] will pursue those sinning, and the way of impious [or ungodly] ones will lead them astray.”
A “wise son” — a “father’s discipline.” When a father disciplines, trains, or instructs his son and he is responsive, the son will prove to be wise, using good judgment and conducting himself in an exemplary manner. According to the Septuagint, an “astute son is obedient to his father.” A “ridiculer,” however, “does not listen to rebuke.” He mocks what is noble and right, disregards correction, and chooses to persist in a wayward manner of life. The Septuagint refers to an unresponsive son as “in destruction” or heading for ruin. (13:1)
“From the fruit of his mouth, a man will eat good” or good things. The “fruit” or the speech that comes from a man’s mouth can have a good effect on others, providing comfort, encouragement, sound advice, and praise or commendation. At the same time, the man whose mouth utters good or wholesome words is benefited as if partaking of good things. He derives satisfaction and joy from using his mouth in a positive way. The “soul” of treacherous ones, either their desire or they themselves, is linked to “violence.” This could mean that their “desire” is to use violent means to gain their unworthy objectives. Another possible meaning could be that they themselves live for violence, conducting themselves in a violent, ruthless, and oppressive manner. (13:2; see the Notes section.)
One who “guards his mouth” preserves his “soul” or his life. He avoids careless, hasty, and senseless speech that could give rise to conflict, hostility, or fury and thus his wise restraint can protect him from getting into serious trouble. The person whose lips are opened wide, exercising no restraint in what he says and being unprotected from anything injurious that might come into his open mouth, will come to “ruin.” According to the Septuagint, one who is “hasty” or “rash with his lips” will put himself into a state of terror, evidently as a consequence of his thoughtless words. (13:3)
The “soul of the sluggard” (either the sluggard himself or his appetite) desires but gets nothing. He puts forth no effort to obtain what he may crave and, therefore, ends up with nothing to fill his desire. The “soul of diligent ones” (either they themselves or their appetite) “will be made fat” or will be fully satisfied. The Septuagint rendering indicates that “every idle person is with desires.” These words imply that the desires of lazy individuals are not satisfied on account of their failure to busy themselves. The “hands” of diligent ones, however, are “in care.” This may imply that they are in God’s care while working industriously. (13:4)
A righteous person hates a “word of falsehood.” To him, lies and deception are repugnant. A wicked or corrupt individual has no qualms about what he says or does. The words of the Hebrew text regarding the wicked one may be variously understood, and this is reflected in the renderings of modern translations. “The wicked bring shame and disgrace.” (NIV) “The wicked man is vile and disgraceful.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “The actions of the wicked are base and disgraceful.” (REB) “Those who are evil cause shame and disgrace.” (CEV) “The wicked slanders and defames.” (NJB) The Septuagint says that the “impious” or “ungodly one” is “ashamed and will not have boldness” or the freedom to speak in an open or unrestrained manner. (13:5)
“Righteousness” is what “guards” the “innocent one” in his way (or the one whose way is innocent or honest). On account of his “righteousness” or upright conduct, the individual is protected from pursuing a course that could lead to ruin. “Wickedness,” however, causes the overthrow of one who lives a life of sin, deliberately refusing to conduct himself in a praiseworthy manner. His wickedness or flagrant moral failure will lead to a calamitous end. According to the Septuagint, “sin makes the impious” or ungodly ones “worthless.” There is nothing noble about them, for their life is one of moral corruption. (13:6)
Outward appearances can be deceptive. One person may pretend to be rich and actually have nothing, while someone else may pretend to have little but possess great wealth. The Septuagint rendering conveys a different meaning. Though “having nothing,” certain ones “enrich themselves.” Others “humble themselves in much wealth.” (13:7)
The “ransom for a man’s soul” or life is “his wealth.” A rich man may be able to buy his way out of a distressing situation or his riches may subject him to circumstances that call upon him to pay a ransom. The “poor man,” however, “has not heard a rebuke.” Perhaps because the poor person is regarded as a nobody who has nothing valuable, he does not hear any rebuke that demands action regarding material possessions. The Septuagint indicates that the poor person is not subject to threat or intimidation, apparently because he does not own anything that someone would want. (13:8)
The “light of righteous ones will rejoice, and the lamp of wicked ones [light of impious or ungodly ones (LXX)] will be extinguished.” In this context, “light” may represent life that is associated with contentment and well-being. For upright individuals, their life is like a bright light that brings joy. The “lamp of wicked ones” is not a light that continues to provide illumination, for their life and everything associated with their corrupt conduct will come to its end. According to the Septuagint, righteous persons always have light. Their life is never associated with corrupt deeds carried out under the cover of darkness. (13:9; see the Notes section.)
The manifestation of “insolence” gives rise to strife, for the insolent person is unwilling to listen to others and stubbornly rejects sound advice. According to the Septuagint, an “evil man” carries out “evil with insolence.” Persons who take counsel, weighing options and giving careful consideration to advice that is offered, demonstrate that they are in possession of wisdom or the capacity to apply knowledge to a successful end. The Septuagint refers to those who are their own judges as being “wise.” This could mean that such persons know themselves — their strengths and their limitations — and, therefore, are willing to listen to the advice of others. (13:10)
“Wealth from vanity” could refer to possessions that are quickly obtained with little effort or through lawless means. Such wealth can “dwindle away.” The Septuagint rendering is more specific than the extant Hebrew text. It indicates that “substance hastily obtained by lawlessness is diminished.” The “one gathering by the hand,” however, “will increase.” “Gathering by the hand” suggests honest laboring. The Septuagint refers to the one gathering for himself as doing it “with piety.” His noble efforts will be blessed with increase. (13:11)
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” When a person’s hope does not materialize at the expected time, the effect can be devastating. The individual can become discouraged and depressed. According to the Septuagint rendering, the one who begins to help wholeheartedly [literally, “with heart”) is better than the one who promises and leads someone to hope. A “desire fulfilled” is a “tree of life,” for the fulfillment of a desire has a strengthening and refreshing effect on the individual. The Septuagint says that a “good desire” is a “tree of life,” implying that a “good desire” is one that would be satisfied. (13:12)
One who despises a “word” will bring ruin upon himself. In this context, “word” apparently denotes sound counsel or advice. Individuals who pay no attention to good advice and stubbornly pursue a foolish course are bound to experience dire consequences. The person who respects the “commandment,” having a wholesome fear of the consequences for disregarding it and diligently seeking to live up to it, will be recompensed accordingly. He will be blessed for having adhered to God’s way. (13:13; see the Notes section.)
The “law,” “teaching,” or “instruction” of a wise person is a “fountain of life,” for such instruction promotes right conduct, contributing to a state of well-being and to the avoidance of senseless actions that can prove to be ruinous. This “law” or “teaching” can help one escape the “snares of death,” or can, when heeded, prevent one from dying prematurely from living a debauched life. According to the Septuagint, the senseless one, because of having pursued a corrupt course of life, “will die by a snare” as if trapped like an animal that is killed for food. (13:14)
“Good sense,” insight, or understanding “wins favor.” Observers will look favorably upon individuals who sensibly conduct their affairs of life and who give sound advice. The next phrase in the Hebrew text is commonly emended to indicate that the “way of the faithless” or treacherous ones leads to destruction (“is enduring” [according to the literal rendering]). According to the Septuagint, for one “to know the law is good understanding” or reveals the individual to be in possession of sound judgment. “And the ways of scorners [lead] to destruction.” (13:15)
Every shrewd, prudent, or sensible person “will act with knowledge, not rashly but thoughtfully. A “fool,” however, “will spread out folly.” The individual who chooses to conduct himself in a senseless manner will only spew forth foolish thoughts. According to the Septuagint rendering, the senseless one did “spread out his own evil,” openly displaying his corrupt acts. (13:16)
A “bad messenger” (one who is untrustworthy in getting the message to the intended party or parties in a timely manner or who distorts the message he is to convey) “will plunge into calamity.” By failing to accomplish what is required of him, he will incur the anger of the one or ones who sent him and will be held accountable for any problems or adverse consequences arising from his failure. A “faithful” or trustworthy “envoy,” however, is associated with “healing.” In the Hebrew text, there is no verb to make the relationship of the envoy to healing explicit. Modern translations commonly add the verb “brings,” and there are also translations that supply the verb “is.” “A trusty messenger brings healing.” (NJB) “A trustworthy envoy brings healing.” (NIV) “A trustworthy envoy is a healing remedy.” (NAB) The bearing of the messenger and the way in which he presents the message can lead to ending or preventing the development of conflict between parties, tribes, or nations. His disposition and words can promote healing. (13:17; see the Notes section.)
One who ignores discipline or instruction, refusing to correct his wrong course, is heading for calamity. “Poverty and disgrace” often are the result from such senseless rejection of sound instruction. According to the Septuagint, “discipline removes poverty and disgrace.” One who heeds reproof, acting on it by making the needed changes in the way he conducts himself, “will be glorified” or “honored.” (13:18)
“Desire fulfilled is sweet” or “pleasant to the soul” or the individual. There is a measure of delight in having one’s desire satisfied. Corrupt persons also have desires, but these desires are not noble. Therefore, for senseless persons to “turn away from evil” is an “abomination.” They do not want to abandon their base means to attain the fulfillment of their cravings. The Septuagint represents the desires of pious or godly ones as “sweetening,” “pleasing,” or “gladdening” the “soul.” The implication is that their good desires when fulfilled have a cheering effect on them. As for the “impious” or ungodly ones, their “works are far from knowledge.” Their corrupt acts reveal that they are not conducting themselves in keeping with the knowledge linked to upright living. (13:19)
The one who walks with wise persons or who chooses their company “will become wise.” He will learn from them and be encouraged to conduct himself uprightly. The person who associates with fools, with individuals who choose to live in a senseless and corrupt manner, will be harmed. According to the Septuagint, he will come to be known as a fool. Therefore, he will also suffer harm on account of his senseless behavior. (13:20)
Calamity pursues “sinners” or individuals who choose to live a corrupt way of life. They suffer the consequences from their dishonest dealings and deceptive words. As for righteous or upright persons, “good” will repay. The Hebrew text may be understood to indicate that “good” is the source of the repayment or that the “good” actions of upright individuals will be rewarded. Possibly there is an implication that God will repay upright individuals with good. Modern translations vary in their renderings. “Good fortune rewards the righteous.” (REB) “But prosperity rewards the righteous.” (NRSV) “But the righteous are well rewarded.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “But the just shall be recompensed with good.” (NAB) “But prosperity is the reward of the righteous.” (NIV) “But you will be rewarded if you live right.” (CEV) The Septuagint says, “Good will overtake [or come to] righteous ones.” (13:21)
The family line of a good man, or one whose conduct is praiseworthy and who comes to the aid of those in need, will continue. He will leave an inheritance to his grandsons (literally, “sons of sons”). The “wealth of a sinner [impious or ungodly ones (LXX)],” of one who habitually chooses to live contrary to God’s commands, “is laid up for the righteous one.” The things a lawless individual accumulated will be lost to him and come to benefit an upright person. (13:22)
The ground of the poor may produce “much food” and then be “swept away through judgment” or unjust judicial decisions that deprive those of little means from the product of their hard labor. Another possible meaning is that certain persons are “swept away through judgment” or an unjust judgment that is rendered against them. Translators vary in the meaning they convey with their renderings. “Even when the land of the poor produces good crops, they get cheated out of what they grow.” (CEV) “The fallow land of the poor may yield much grain, but through injustice it may be stolen.” (REB) “A lawsuit devours the tillage of the poor, but some men perish for lack of a law court.” (NAB) “Though the farms of the poor yield much food, some perish for lack of justice.” (NJB) “The tillage of the poor yields much food; but substance is swept away for lack of moderation.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) (13:23; see the Notes section.)
A man who holds back his rod, refraining from administering needed discipline, is one who “hates his son.” An undisciplined or untrained son will likely make poor choices in life, bringing harm to himself and possibly also a premature death. A man who loves his son will discipline, train, or correct him as needed. The Septuagint indicates that the man “carefully disciplines” his son. (13:24)
For the righteous person, “food” is for the “satisfying of his soul.” In this context, the designation “soul” could either apply to the person or to his appetite. The thought may be that the upright individual eats enough to be satisfied. In the case of wicked ones, they may eat but their belly is not filled. They are not satisfied. Their belly “suffers want.” According to the Septuagint, the “souls of impious” or ungodly ones “are wanting,” indicating that their appetites are not satisfied. (13:25)
In verse 2, the Septuagint rendering differs from the extant Hebrew text. A good man is represented as one who “will eat from fruits of righteousness.” The “fruits of righteousness” would be the kindly acts and upright conduct and dealings that are a product of the person’s righteousness. His right living and acting would bring rewards and blessings that would be like food for him. The “souls of transgressors” or “lawless ones,” either their lives or they themselves, will come to an untimely end.
After wording that basically corresponds to the reading of the extant Hebrew text of verse 9, the Septuagint adds, “Deceitful souls [or persons] go astray in sins, but righteous ones are compassionate and show mercy.”
The Hebrew term davár can designate a “word,” “matter,” or thing.” In verse 13, the Septuagint rendering is a form of prágma, a word that can mean “matter,” “thing,” “affair,” “deed,” or “undertaking.” The words in the Septuagint may be rendered, “One who despises a matter will be despised by it,” suggesting that the individual would suffer the consequences for his attitude toward the matter. “But [as for] the one who fears [or has respect for] the commandment, this one is healthy” or in a state of well-being. The Septuagint then continues with wording not found in the extant Hebrew text. “To a deceitful son, nothing will be good, but for a wise servant, his undertakings will prosper, and his way will be guided aright.”
If the letter aleph is deleted from the Hebrew word for “messenger,” the consonants that remain are those for the designation “king.” This appears to explain why the Septuagint contains the word for “king” in its rendering of verse 17. “A rash king will plunge into evil, but a faithful messenger will deliver him,” apparently from the difficulty that his rashness brought about. The demeanor of the messenger and the manner in which he expresses himself can counter the undesirable situation that the king’s arrogance created.
In verse 23, the Septuagint rendering differs from the extant Hebrew text. “Righteous ones may spend many years in wealth” or prosperity, “but unrighteous ones will perish speedily.”
A wise woman (literally, “wisdom of women”) “builds her house, and a senseless one tears it down with her hands.” Women in possession of wisdom use their knowledge effectively in caring well for their respective families. In this context, the building of a house would include responsibly looking after children and managing household affairs and resources properly. Through mismanagement and neglect, a senseless woman, as if by her own hands or all on her own, tears down her house, squandering the resources of her household and destroying the well-being of her family. (14:1; see the Notes section.)
The attitude of individuals toward YHWH is evident from their conduct. One who “fears YHWH,” having a reverential regard for him and a wholesome fear of acting contrary to his will, demonstrates this by walking uprightly or maintaining praiseworthy conduct. A man whose conduct is “twisted” or corrupt identifies himself as one who has contempt for YHWH. According to the Septuagint, the one who is “crooked in his ways,” living a lawless life, “will be disgraced” or will come to be exposed to shame on account of his conduct. (14:2)
“In a fool’s mouth” [is] a “rod of arrogance,” and the “lips of wise persons will guard” or protect “them.” A foolish man deliberately acts in a dishonest and deceitful manner. The expressions that come from his mouth are spoken in a prideful manner and can be as injurious as a rod. Persons who are harmed by a senseless man may be objects of his slander, fraud, deceit, or ridicule. Those who are wise know how to respond to the demeaning or deceitful expressions of senseless ones. They know what or what not to say and thus their lips shield them from the hurtful effect that the words of corrupt persons could have. (14:3)
Where there are no bovines, “the crib [is] clean.” No fodder is needed to feed the animals, and the crib would of necessity be empty. Without bovines, the stall would also remain clean. The “power of the bovine,” when available for use in plowing and other agricultural operations, contributes to abundant crops. According to the Septuagint, abundant produce makes evident the “power of a bovine.” (14:4)
A “trustworthy witness” does not lie, and a “false witness breathes out [kindles (LXX)] lies.” Falsehood and deception simply would not come out of the mouth of a faithful witness, but a false witness would be the source of nothing truthful. (14:5)
A scoffer, or one who ridicules what is noble, right, or sensible, would never be able to attain wisdom, the capacity to use knowledge for worthy ends. Any seeking of wisdom on his part would be in vain, for a scorner does not have the right spirit for it. For the discerning or understanding person, one who has the right disposition toward wisdom, knowledge comes easily. This knowledge would particularly be the knowledge needed for dealing with life’s problems and living uprightly. (14:6; see the Notes section.)
From a foolish man (literally, a “man of folly”), one does not come to know “lips of knowledge.” No wise expressions ever pass the lips of a senseless man. Nothing he says is substantive and beneficial. The imperative about what one should do regarding a fool has been variously translated. “Keep well clear of the fool.” (NJB) “Leave the presence of a fool.” (NRSV) “To avoid the foolish man, take steps!” (NAB) (14:7; see the Notes section.)
The “wisdom of a prudent man” makes it possible for him to consider his way. He can evaluate his options and give thought to where his course will lead him or whether it can enable him to reach his goal. The folly of foolish ones, individuals who refuse to conduct themselves uprightly, is “deceit.” They delude themselves, follow a wayward course, do not recognize the need to change their conduct, and try to deceive others, giving no thought to the adverse consequences to which deceit and self-deceit can lead. (14:8)
The Hebrew text is not clear about the relationship of the adjective for “foolish” and the verb for “scorn” or “ridicule” to “guilt.” Therefore, translators vary significantly in their renderings. “Fools mock at making amends for sin.” (NIV) “Fools mock at the guilt offering.” (NRSV) Fools are too arrogant to make amends.” (REB) “Fools don’t care if they are wrong.” (CEV) “Reparations mediate between fools.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “Guilt lodges in the tents of the arrogant.” (NAB) As for upright persons, there is “favor.” Also in this case, translations vary in their renderings to convey a more specific meaning than is reflected in the Hebrew text. “But favour resides among the honest.” (NJB) “But goodwill is found among the upright.” (NIV) “The upright know what reconciliation requires.” (REB) “But favor [lodges] in the house of the just.” (NAB) “But God is pleased when people do right.” (CEV) “Between the upright, good will [mediates].” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) The Septuagint rendering departs significantly from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. The “houses of lawless ones [or transgressors] will require cleansing, but houses of righteous ones [are] acceptable.” By their corrupt conduct, lawbreakers defiled their houses, requiring ceremonial cleansing for the dwellings to be regarded as clean. Righteous persons lived upright lives, and lawlessness did not pollute their homes. Their houses were “acceptable,” apparently to God. (14:9)
The “heart knows its bitterness [literally, bitterness of one’s soul or bitterness of one’s own self].” Only the individual who is affected knows within himself just how he feels. Observers cannot comprehend how the person is mentally, physically, and emotionally impacted by embittering experiences, difficulties, or affliction. Likewise no one can fully enter into his joy. Bitterness, sadness, and happiness are the individual’s unique feelings that others cannot completely understand, and his expressions cannot enable them to grasp just how he feels in his embittered or in his happy state. According to the Septuagint, the “heart of a man [is] sensitive.” He, in his thoughts or inmost self, is sensitive about the things that affect him personally. “His soul,” or he himself, is “grieved” or “pained.” “But when he rejoices, he does not mingle with arrogance.” (14:10)
Although the “house of wicked ones” (“houses of impious” or “ungodly ones” [LXX]) may appear like a well-built permanent structure, it “will be destroyed.” Those who are ungodly in their conduct will not be in a secure position and, therefore, their houses or whatever else they may own will not endure. The “tent of righteous ones,” although not a permanent structure, “will prosper.” In view of their upright conduct, righteous individuals will not come to their end at the time judgment is rendered against lawless ones. They will continue to live in a state of well-being. Therefore, their “tent” or dwelling will remain in a flourishing occupied state. (14:11)
“Before the face of a man” (“by men” [LXX]) or in his sight, a “way” seems “straight” or right. It appears to be a course of life heading in the proper direction. The human judgment, however, is seriously flawed. In the end, the way that seemed right proves to be the “ways of death.” According to the Septuagint rendering, the “terminations” of this way go to the “bottom of Hades” or to the realm of the dead. (14:12)
Outward appearances may not reflect the true inner self. Even in “laughter,” the “heart” or inner self may be in pain or deeply grieved. Mirth may end in sadness, revealing the actual inner state. (14:13; see the Notes section.)
One who is “backsliding in heart [a bold-hearted, hard-hearted, or callous person (LXX)],” or one who is unfaithful in his inner self, “will be sated with his ways.” He will experience the dire consequences from having chosen wayward courses in his life. A “good man” (one whose conduct is upright and who responds compassionately to persons in need) will be sated “from himself [literally, from upon him].” He will be satisfied from the good results of the life he has lived. The Septuagint rendering indicates that the good man will be filled “with his thoughts” or “insights,” suggesting that the right thinking which prompted appropriate and compassionate deeds will lead to his being satisfied. (14:14)
Simpletons or persons lacking experience in life are often gullible, believing “every word” and ending up being misled. They fail to evaluate what is said and to think about the possible outcome from acting on what they may be invited or urged to do. A prudent individual, however, considers his “going,” giving careful thought to the course he is following and where he is heading. According to the Septuagint rendering, a “prudent man comes to a change of mind,” doing so when he recognizes the need to alter his course. (14:15)
One who is wise “fears,” or exercises caution and has a reverential regard for God, “and turns away from badness,” continuing to live uprightly and avoiding senseless conflicts and quarrels. The foolish person, one who deliberately chooses a wayward course, becomes “enraged,” or exercises no restraint in what he says or does, and “is confident,” considering himself to be right and being determined not to change his corrupt ways. According to the Septuagint, the senseless one “trusts in himself and mingles” or associates “with a lawless person.” (14:16)
A man who is quickly infuriated “will act foolishly [acts with recklessness (LXX)].” By failing to think carefully and responding rashly in a given circumstance, the individual is bound to worsen the situation and make trouble for himself and others. (14:17)
The Hebrew expression that may be translated literally as “man of devices” is commonly considered to designate a schemer. He plans or plots to benefit himself without giving any consideration to the hurtful effects on others. Therefore, he incurs hatred. According to the rendering of the Septuagint, a “sensible man endures much.” There is also a possibility that, in this case, the Hebrew expression that may be rendered “man of devices” designates a “man of discretion” who comes to be hated by those who disagree with him or who do not appreciate or value his insight. (14:17)
“Simpletons,” or persons lacking in experience, can easily be misled, adopting a corrupt way of life. They thus end up inheriting folly. Senselessness becomes their possession and leads them astray. The Septuagint rendering could be understood to indicate that senseless ones become partakers of evil or that they end up as sharers of misfortune. “Prudent ones,” however, “are crowned with knowledge.” This knowledge is evident from their wise words and actions, resulting in honor to them as if they were wearing an impressive crown or headdress. The Septuagint indicates that prudent individuals “will take hold of perception,” making it their possession and adhering to it in conducting the affairs of life. (14:18)
Practicers of evil or wickedness can never really be secure in their position. The time can come when they are exposed as corrupt persons during a judicial investigation and they may find themselves in a subservient position after losing all their ill-gotten riches. “Evil ones will bow down [will fall, slip, or stumble [LXX]) before good people,” possibly as suppliants for favor or as defeated or humiliated persons, and “wicked ones” will bow down “at the gates of a righteous one,” perhaps doing so as individuals against whom the elders of the city expressed a condemnatory judgment. According to the Septuagint “impious” or “ungodly ones” “will serve at the gates of righteous ones” or will be at the gates as individuals to be called upon to render lowly service. (14:19)
A poor person has no resources to share and lacks power and influence. As someone who is regarded as a nobody from whom no benefit can be derived, he may be hated or not deemed deserving of friendship. Another reason for the dislike could be that the poor repeatedly beg for favors. The Septuagint says that “friends will hate poor friends.” A rich man, however, has many “friends,” many individuals who consider him as having the potential to advance their interests or who may like him because he is generous in giving. (14:20)
Whether poor or rich, all persons are members of one human family that, as God’s creation, belongs to him. Accordingly, one who arrogantly despises or dishonors his associate, fellow, or neighbor is guilty of sinning. But the person who responds compassionately to the needy, coming to their aid, is happy. He has the joy and satisfaction that comes from bringing relief to an afflicted member of God’s creation. (14:21)
Individuals who scheme to do bad will go astray, choosing a course that departs from a life of moral rectitude. The Septuagint indicates that those who wander or stray from the right course plot evil. Persons who devise good, however, do not deviate from living an upright life. Their conduct is distinguished by kindness (a compassionate concern for others and a response in harmony with that concern) and faithfulness or trustworthiness. According to the Septuagint, good people, those who live uprightly and respond kindly to needy ones, devise “mercy and truth [not deception].” The Septuagint adds additional text. “Those producing evils [or miseries] do not know mercy and truth.” Their not knowing is a matter of choice. In word and deed, they are deliberately merciless and deceptive. Persons who produce “good,” however, are merciful and trustworthy. (14:22)
“All toil” or honest labor produces tangible results and, therefore, is beneficial. A “word of the lips” or mere talk without performance accomplishes nothing and so only leads to “want” for persons who do not work. (14:23; see the Notes section.)
For the “wise,” wealth, or the things they obtain from applying wisdom in their endeavors, constitute their “crown,” or the evidence of their honorable standing in the community. The “folly of senseless ones” is “folly.” Foolishness in word and deed identifies them for what they are — senseless individuals. (14:24; see the Notes section.)
A “witness of truth,” or one whose testimony is truthful, delivers “souls” or saves lives, for truthful testimony disproves the falsehoods that could jeopardize the life of innocent people. According to the Septuagint, a “faithful witness will deliver a soul [or life] from evils,” miseries, or “evil ones.” “Deceit,” or the person who is deceptive, utters (“kindles” [LXX]) lies, the implication being that great harm is done. (14:25)
“In the fear of YHWH,” or in a reverential regard for him and a wholesome dread of acting contrary to his will, there is “strong confidence.” The person who has such fear trusts YHWH as the God who will sustain and help him in time of need or distress. To him, YHWH is like a fortress where he can enjoy a place of security. Also his “sons” or children will come to have a “refuge.” According to the Septuagint, there is “hope” for “strength” (or for divinely granted strength) “in the fear of the Lord,” and “he leaves a support to his children” or his devoted people. (14:26)
The “fear of YHWH” (an “ordinance” or “command of the Lord” [LXX]) is a “fountain of life,” aiding one to avoid the “snares of death.” One who has reverential regard for YHWH will earnestly seek to do his will and shun practices that could prove to be ruinous to him or lead to a premature loss of life. (14:27)
If a king has a “multitude of people” or many subjects, this is a “glory” to him, for it indicates that he has been able to maintain security in his realm. When, however, the population comes to be greatly reduced, this is ruinous for a ruler. The realm would then be in a state of decline and could not be successfully defended against aggressors. (14:28)
A man who is “slow to anger,” exercising restraint, reveals himself to have great understanding or discernment. He will give prior thought to what he says or to the action that he takes, avoiding the problems that arise when tempers flare. The individual who is “short of spirit,” or who becomes quickly enraged or impatient “exalts foolishness,” for his words and actions give rise to conflict or worsen troublesome situations. By yielding to an inclination that is injurious, the individual elevates senselessness as a choice to be made in a given circumstance. (14:29; see the Notes section.)
A “heart of healing” (a sound heart or a tranquil heart) is the “life of the flesh” or the body. In many contexts, the Hebrew noun for “heart” denotes the mental faculty or the inner self. Numerous modern translations render the Hebrew word as “mind” in this verse. There is a possibility, however, that the reference is to the “heart,” for it can be adversely affected by stress, giving rise to health problems. Moreover, the organ must function properly for life to continue. The Septuagint says that a man of gentle disposition is a “healer of the heart.” As a negative emotion, “jealousy” or “envy” is “rottenness to the bones” or to the entire frame or organism. Jealousy or envy is like decay that impacts the entire body, giving rise to the emotional stress that can be ruinous to a person’s physical well-being. The Septuagint expresses a different thought. It refers to a “sensitive heart” (possibly meaning a mind or inner self burdened with cares and anxieties) as being a “moth” (a destructive agent in the caterpillar stage) in the “bones.” (14:30)
God is not partial, and every living thing is his creation. The poor or lowly are part of the human family that owes its existence to the Most High. Therefore, the person who oppresses the poor or lowly is guilty of reproaching, insulting, or “provoking” (LXX) God, his Maker. On the other hand, the individual who is kind or who responds compassionately to the needy one is the one who honors God the Creator. (14:31)
On account of his “evil” or his corrupt way of life, the wicked one (“impious” or “ungodly one” [LXX]) will be thrust away, overthrown, or brought to his end. The righteous or upright person “finds refuge in his death.” This could mean that the person who maintains praiseworthy conduct has the hope of living again. In his case, death is not a terrifying prospect, for at his death he is secure in his hope just like a person who has found a refuge. Numerous translations, however, do not include the word “death” but render the Hebrew text according to an emendation. “The upright find refuge in their honesty.” (REB) “The righteous find a refuge in their integrity.” (NRSV) The Septuagint indicates that a righteous person would have trust or confidence in his own “holiness” or in the purity of his life. (14:32)
“Wisdom rests” or has a dwelling place in the “heart” (“good heart” [LXX]) of a man of “understanding.” A sensible and discerning man is in possession of wisdom. It is part of his inner self and guides his thinking and reasoning. Wisdom becomes known “in the midst of fools.” This could mean that, among individuals who choose to live senseless or corrupt lives, the great contrast between a discerning man and fools would come to be known or become readily apparent. His upright conduct would rebuke senseless persons and expose them as not having any wisdom. According to the Septuagint, one would not recognize wisdom “in the heart of senseless ones,” for it would not be there. (14:33)
“Righteousness” or justice, not wealth or military power, exalts a nation in the estimation of observers. Also where justice exists, the populace enjoys security and prospers. “Sin” or lawlessness, however, “diminishes [chésed (Masoretic Text)] peoples” of any nation. (14:34; see the Notes section.)
A wise servant will be concerned about advancing the interests of the king or ruler and, therefore, will have his approval. The king’s fury, however, will be directed against a servant who brings shame, acting in a way that undermines royal interests. A primary objective of this proverb may well have been to admonish persons in royal service to discharge their duties conscientiously and wisely. (14:35; see the Notes section.)
In verse 1, the Septuagint rendering basically corresponds to the reading of the Hebrew text. “Wise women built houses, but the senseless one tore it down with her hands.”
The Septuagint rendering of verse 6 differs from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. “You will seek wisdom alongside evil persons and not find [it], but perception is easy [to obtain] among prudent ones.”
In verse 7, the Septuagint rendering differs from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. “Everything is adverse to a senseless man, but wise lips are weapons of perception.” This could mean that everything that is noble and good is in opposition to the foolish man, one who chooses to live lawlessly. Another possibility is that a senseless man would find the right and just things repulsive. In the case of lips that expressed wisdom, the words passing them would function as weapons to protect the individual from the traps of senselessness.
In verse 13, the Septuagint rendering differs from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. There is no mention of the “heart.” “With merriments, pain” or sorrow “does not mingle, but joy, in the end, comes to grief” (or joy ends in sadness).
According to the Septuagint rendering of verse 23, everyone having concern or exercising care would have abundance, but the pleasure-seeking and senseless, unfeeling, or ruthless one would suffer want.
The Septuagint rendering of verse 24 indicates that the prudent one is a “crown of wise persons” but that the business of senseless ones is evil.
In verse 29, the Septuagint refers to a disheartened man as being “mightily foolish.”
The usual sense of the Hebrew word chésed includes such meanings as “kindness,” “goodness,” “loyalty,” and “compassion.” In the context of verse 34, however, these meanings for chésed do not fit. In a Dead Sea Scroll (4QProvb), the partially preserved Hebrew verb for “diminishes” appears, and this is also the rendering of the Septuagint (“but sins diminish tribes” or weaken them.)
In the Septuagint, the concluding phrase of verse 35 differs significantly from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. A servant, “by his good conduct,” removes dishonor. This could mean that, through his exemplary conduct, he raises himself from a lowly position to an honorable one.
A “soft,” gentle, or mild response to an angry person has the potential for turning away wrath. If, however, the response is with harsh or hurtful words (literally, a “word of pain”), the anger of the wrathful person will be stirred up or intensify. (15:1; see the Notes section.)
The “tongue of wise persons” is used for accomplishing “good” with “knowledge.” The substantive and wholesome expressions and the manner in which they are conveyed have a good effect on those who are responsive. In the Septuagint, the “tongue of the wise” is represented as knowing or understanding knowledge and, by implication, expresses words of wisdom. The “mouth of fools,” however, only “pours out folly.” Nothing beneficial can be learned from the words coming from the mouth of a senseless person. According to the Septuagint rendering, the “mouth of senseless ones will proclaim evils” or express things that are bad, corrupt, or deceptive. (15:2)
Nothing escapes YHWH’s attention. His “eyes” are “in every place,” watching both the “evil” (corrupt people), and the “good” (upright persons). The proverb implies that one should do what is right, for nothing is hidden from YHWH (the “Lord” [LXX]). (15:3)
A “healing” or “soothing tongue” is a “tree of life.” When the tongue is used to calm and comfort, the spoken words have a healing effect on a distressed person. The “tongue” brings refreshment and enlivens those who may be downcast. It is a “tree of life” in being like a tree that nourishes and strengthens persons who partake of its fruit. “Crookedness in the tongue,” or the use of the tongue in dishonest, deceptive, or hurtful ways, “crushes the spirit.” The words the “twisted tongue” expresses can dishearten, grieve, and pain others or have a crushing effect on their spirit or inner self. (15:4; see the Notes section.)
A father’s discipline, instruction, training or correction would usually be a reflection of his interest in and concern for the well-being of his son. Therefore, a son who spurns his father’s discipline would be a “fool.” The one who heeded reproof would be “prudent” as one who benefited fully from fatherly discipline. The Septuagint refers to the one who “keeps commandments” as being wiser than the one who scorns a father’s discipline. (15:5)
“In the house of the righteous one, [there is] abundant treasure.” Having been obtained honestly, everything stored there is secure. The “product,” yield, or income of the wicked one, a person whose conduct is corrupt, proves to be “troubled.” This could mean that lawless persons are in a troubled state, fearing that they may be exposed, lose everything they obtained, and be punished. Another possible significance could be that they used unworthy means to accumulate possessions, causing trouble for others through deceit, fraud, and injustice. (15:6; see the Notes section.)
The “lips of wise persons scatter knowledge.” With the words that pass their lips, the wise spread knowledge as one might sow seed. The Septuagint says that their “lips are bound by perception,” indicating that only sensible words would pass their lips. The “heart” (the thinking and reasoning faculty or the inner self) of fools is not like the lips of the wise. Senseless persons, those who choose to live corrupt lives, would never be the source of anything that is good or beneficial. The Septuagint refers to their “hearts” as not being “safe.” This could mean that nothing of a trustworthy nature could be expected from them. (15:7)
The mere act of offering a sacrifice apart from seeking to live uprightly was not acceptable to YHWH (the “Lord” [LXX]). To him, the “sacrifice of the wicked” was an “abomination” or something loathsome. He, however, is pleased with the “prayer” of upright persons. They are acceptable to him, and he answers their petitions. (15:8)
The “way [ways (LXX)] of wicked ones [impious or ungodly one [LXX],” or the corrupt manner in which ungodly individuals conduct themselves, is an “abomination” to YHWH (the “Lord” [LXX]), but he “loves” the person who pursues “righteousness,” the one who truly wants to do what is right. (15:9)
One who leaves the path would be a person who forsakes the divinely approved course of life. In the Hebrew text, the relationship of the words for “evil” or “bad” (ra‘) and “discipline” (musár) is not expressed explicitly. The supplied words in translations account for basically two different meanings for the Hebrew text. “Discipline seems bad to him who forsakes the way.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) This rendering could suggest that the one who abandoned the course of right living resented discipline and was determined not to respond to it. Another significance of the words relates to what the individual who abandoned the way would face. “Severe punishment is in store for the man who goes astray.” (NAB) “There is severe discipline for one who forsakes the way.” (NRSV) As a person who hated reproof, refusing to be responsive to it and to abandon his corrupt way of life, he would die or find himself on a path that ultimately would lead to losing his life. According to the Septuagint rendering, those who hate reproofs “die shamefully.” (15:10; see the Notes section.)
“Sheol” (“Hades” [LXX]), the realm of the dead, and “Abaddon” or “Destruction” (apparently a parallel expression for Sheol and one that relates to death) were anciently regarded as being concealed in darkness and impossible for humans to see. Sheol and Abaddon or Destruction are not hidden but are open before YHWH. Therefore, even more so, the “hearts of the sons of man [hearts of men (LXX)]” (the hearts, minds, or inmost selves of humans or earthlings), which are more accessible than the realm of the dead, are open before YHWH. He can perceive the inmost thoughts of humans. (15:11)
A “scoffer” (an “uninstructed” or “undisciplined one” [LXX]), one who ridicules what is right and noble, does not want to be corrected but is determined to continue pursuing his chosen course. Therefore, he “does not love the one reproving him,” but resents both the reproof and the person expressing it. Wise persons would correct him and, because he did not want to hear any reproof, he would not go to them (he would not “associate” with them [LXX]). (15:12)
A “glad heart,” or an inner sense of joy, is reflected in the countenance. The face takes on a “good,” pleasant, or cheerful appearance. The “pain of heart,” or an inner sense of grief or emotional hurt, results in a “crushed spirit” or a depressed state. According to the Septuagint, sorrows cause the face to look sad or downcast. (15:13)
The first two words of the Hebrew text could designate an “understanding heart” (the mental faculty for understanding or discernment) or the “heart” of one who has understanding. The corresponding expression in the Septuagint is an “upright heart” (a mind that is rightly motivated). Where understanding, discernment, or perception exist, there also will be a seeking for knowledge or a desire to increase in knowledge, especially the knowledge that is essential for living a productive and meaningful life. This knowledge is like food to a discerning person. But foolish people, persons who choose not to act wisely, feed on folly. Foolishness is like nourishment that is taken into their mouths and then effects what they do and say. The Septuagint refers to the “mouth of undisciplined” or “uninstructed ones” as coming to “know evils,” suggesting that the words proceeding from their mouths would be deceptive and hurtful. (15:14)
“All the days of the needy” or “afflicted one” are “bad.” In this context, the “needy one” would be a person who is downcast in his inner self. Therefore, every passing day would be a day of gloom, with nothing to lift the spirits of the disheartened individual. A man who is “good” at “heart” or who has a cheerful disposition enjoys a “continual feast.” His life is like a joyous banquet — a life that is not unduly affected by external circumstances nor by what he may or may not have. (15:15; see the Notes section.)
To have “fear of YHWH [the Lord (LXX)]” would mean to have a reverential regard for him and a wholesome fear of acting contrary to his will. This “fear” contributes to a sense of well-being and security that stems from an awareness of God’s loving concern and care. Therefore, it is better to have a “little” or a small portion as a person fearing YHWH than to have “great treasure,” or a storehouse filled with abundance, but trouble, turmoil, or conflict associated with it. This trouble could include the squabbling of family members over possessions. According to the Septuagint, a “small portion with the fear of the Lord” is to be preferred to “great treasures” without this wholesome fear. (15:16)
It is better to have a simple meal or an ordinary allotment of vegetables in an environment where love exists (“with friendship and kindness” [LXX]) than to have the luxury of meat from a well-fed bovine to eat in a place where hatred or hostility has replaced love. (15:17)
An “enraged [literally, “heated” or hot with anger] man stirs up strife,” hostility, or conflict, but one who is “slow to anger,” exercising restraint on his temper, “quiets quarreling,” preventing conflict to escalate. According to the Septuagint, one who is “patient” or slow to anger can have a calming or restraining effect in a situation that is about to erupt into quarreling. (15:18; see the Notes section.)
The “way of a sluggard” is like a thorny hedge. This could be variously understood. The individual’s idleness is a way that will bring injury to him as if he were trying to walk through a thorny hedge. He gets nothing done and his way of idleness is comparable to a path overgrown with thorns. A lazy man sees obstacles everywhere. His way is like a thorny hedge or barrier to his performing essential tasks. For “upright” individuals (“manly,” “courageous,” or “diligent ones” [LXX]), persons who are conscientious about performing honest labor, their way is “cast up,” level, or smooth. There are no barriers to their following the right course. (15:19)
A “wise son” makes his father rejoice. The son’s praiseworthy conduct brings honor to his father and the entire family, bringing joy to a father for a son who is known to be wise. A “senseless man” (“son” [LXX]), one who conducts himself shamefully, has contempt for his own mother. He gives no thought to the hurt he is causing to her. (15:20)
A man in “want of heart” is one who does not use good judgment, choosing to speak and act foolishly. To him, “folly” is a source of rejoicing. He finds pleasure in his senseless behavior. According to the Septuagint, the paths of one who is foolish are lacking in good sense. A man of discernment, however, pursues a straight course, not deviating from conducting himself uprightly. (15:21)
Whenever important plans are made without seeking sound advice and giving consideration to it, they will end in failure. Accomplishment or success result from a multitude of good counselors. The Septuagint indicates that individuals who “do not honor councils procrastinate deliberations,” delaying decisions that need to be made. “But counsel remains in the hearts of those taking counsel.” This could mean that those deliberating do so on the basis of the counsel that they have accepted and which remains in their heart or their thinking faculty. (15:22)
When a man believes that he has expressed himself well, he rejoices in the answer that proceeds from his mouth. “A word in its time,” or at the right time, and one that is appropriate for the occasion is truly good. (15:23; see the Notes section.)
For a discerning man, the “path of life” is “upward” or leads to success, for he uses good judgment in conducing himself. His insight shields him from following a course that would lead to his injury or premature death. Therefore, his path leads him away “from Sheol [or the realm of the dead] below.” (15:24; see the Notes section.)
YHWH disapproves of those who are haughty, persons who have an exalted view of themselves, look down contemptuously on fellow humans whom they regard as inferiors, and oppress them. Therefore, he will act against them, tearing down their house. But YHWH has concern for the needy and “will fix” or secure the “boundary of the widow.” The implication of this proverb is that, although a widow may be in a distressing situation, YHWH is the one who is aware of her situation and can cause circumstances to work out in a way that will safeguard her welfare. (15:25)
The schemes or plans of an evil or corrupt man would serve to further his base objectives through deception and fraud. To YHWH, these schemes (“unjust reasoning” or “thought” [LXX]) are abominable or loathsome. “Pleasant words,” expressions that are not harsh but kind, are “clean” or pure, suggesting that these words are divinely approved. According to the Septuagint, the words of “pure ones,” those who live upright lives, are “serious” or “reverent.” Their expressions are wholesome and benefit the ones hearing them. (15:26)
A man who makes “unjust gain,” profiting through dishonest, fraudulent, or oppressive means, troubles his house. In time, severe punishment may befall him and bring ruin to his entire household. The Septuagint says that he “destroys himself.” A man who “hates gifts,” or shuns giving or taking bribes, “will live [is delivered or saves himself (LXX)],” enjoying life as a person with an undefiled conscience. (15:27; see the Notes section.)
The “heart of a righteous person,” one who seeks to conduct himself uprightly, “meditates” or gives careful thought before responding to others. He does not speak rashly. The Septuagint indicates that the meditating or pondering is focused on “faithfulness.” From the “mouth of wicked ones,” however, “evils” (harsh, insulting, or deceptive expressions) issue forth. Their words are a reflection of their corrupt selves. (15:28; see the Notes section.)
By their course of action, wicked individuals have distanced themselves from YHWH. Therefore, he is “far away” from them (from “impious” or “ungodly ones” [LXX]), giving no attention to them regardless of the situation in which they may come to be. YHWH is attentive to righteous ones, persons who want to do his will, and “hears” their prayer, responding to them in their time of need. (15:29; see the Notes section.)
The “light of the eyes,” or the beaming of the eyes on account of a favorable development, causes the “heart” (the mind or the inner self) to rejoice. A “good report” or “good news” makes the “bones fat” or brings refreshment to the entire organism. (15:30; see the Notes section.)
An “ear that listens to reproof of life,” or the possessor of an attentive ear, resides in the midst of wise persons. Wise people listen to reproof and are willing to act on what is said, correcting what may have been amiss in their conduct. Accordingly, the reproof is one that leads to life or to the preservation of life. (15:31; see the Notes section.)
The individual who shuns discipline or resists sound admonition to abandon a wrong course of action is one who despises “his soul” or his own life (“hates himself” [LXX]). This is because his acting in harmony with valid discipline would have led to his avoiding a ruinous way of life. A man who listened to reproof would be one who “acquired heart,” good sense, or understanding. The Septuagint says that one who heeds reproofs “loves his soul” or himself. He would benefit from the changes in his way of life that sound reproof directed him to make. (15:32)
One who has a wholesome “fear of YHWH,” both a reverential regard for him and a fear of failing to act in harmony with his will, has the right foundation for gaining wisdom. This “fear” functions like discipline or training that promotes the wisdom needed for living a godly life. The Septuagint links “fear of God” to “discipline and wisdom,” and concludes with the words, “and the beginning of glory” or honor “will respond to it.” This could mean that individuals who respond to wisdom, seeking to be guided by it, would gain honor for themselves. (15:33)
Verse 1 in the Septuagint appears to be linked more closely to the conduct toward a king (as set forth in the concluding verse of chapter 14). “Anger destroys” or brings ruin “even to intelligent” or “prudent persons, but a reply” that reflects submissiveness “turns away fury,” whereas a “hurtful word arouses anger.”
The concluding thought of verse 4 in the Septuagint differs from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. Regarding one who guards the tongue, the Septuagint says that he “will be filled with spirit.” This may indicate that he would be enlivened and emboldened to express what is appropriate or needed in a given circumstance.
In verse 6, the Septuagint wording is longer than is that of the extant Hebrew text. There is “much strength” or real security “in superabundant righteousness.” The “impious” or “ungodly ones,” however, “will be destroyed from the earth with the whole root,” suggesting that no trace of them would be left. “In the houses of the righteous,” there is “much strength, but the fruits of impious” or “ungodly ones will perish.” All that corrupt persons obtained through base means would eventually cease to be in their possession.
In verse 10, the wording of the initial phrase in the Septuagint differs significantly from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. “Discipline of the simple [or simpletons] is known [or recognized in view of its public nature] by those passing by.”
The thought expressed in the Septuagint in verse 15 differs from that contained in the extant Hebrew text. “All the time, the eyes of the wicked ones expect evil things,” apparently fearing that they may be subjected to punishment for their wrongdoing. But good people, those whose conduct is upright and who respond compassionately to individuals in need, are “always tranquil,” enjoying a sense of security and inner peace as persons who have conducted themselves aright.
After the wording that corresponds to that of the Hebrew text in verse 18, the Septuagint adds that a “patient man will extinguish disputes,” but that an “impious” or “ungodly one” stirs them up much more.
In verse 23, the Septuagint rendering continues the reference to counsel from the previous verse. An “evil man will by no means obey it [the counsel], nor will he say anything timely [or appropriate],” not “even for the common good.” The expression “by no means” preserves the emphatic sense of two Greek words for “not.” A corrupt man does not want to change and has no intention of heeding sound counsel that encourages him to abandon his lawless course of life. As a person who is focused on attaining his base objectives, he does not say anything that would promote the common good of others.
According to the Septuagint rendering of verse 24, the “thoughts of a prudent man” are “ways of life.” His thoughts are noble and focused on what is right and just, prompting him to speak and act in a manner that is conducive to his well-being and also benefits others. He shuns corrupt conduct and so his “thoughts” turn him away from a wrong course, delivering him from Hades or making it possible for him to escape an untimely entrance into the realm of the dead.
After the words of 15:27, the Septuagint adds the basic wording of the proverb found in the extant Hebrew text of 16:6.
After wording that basically corresponds to the reading of the extant Hebrew text in verse 28, the Septuagint adds the proverb that expresses the thoughts in Proverbs 16:7 of the extant Hebrew text.
With some departure from the reading of the extant Hebrew text of Proverbs 16:8, 9, the Septuagint contains renderings for these proverbs after verse 29 of chapter 15.
The Septuagint rendering of the initial phrase in verse 30 indicates that the “heart” is made to rejoice when the “eye sees good things” (apparently in the form of favorable developments).
For verse 31 in the extant Hebrew text, there is no corresponding wording in the Septuagint.
To “man” (the “earthling”) belong the “plans of the heart” or of the mental faculties, “and the answer of the tongue” is “from YHWH.” Before beginning to speak, a man may formulate the thoughts he wants to express, but thereafter the words that proceed from his mouth may not correspond to what he intended to say. To the speaker, the difference between his thoughts and the things he actually ends up saying makes it appear that he does not have full control over his tongue. The proverb indicates that YHWH does have this control, accounting for the “answer of the tongue” or the spoken word. (16:1; see the Notes section.)
“All the ways of a man” are “pure in his eyes.” In his own estimation, a man may regard his conduct as proper or right. His view, however, may be seriously flawed. YHWH is the one who “weighs the spirits,” perceiving the actual motivations and feelings that are not evident in the outward behavior. What may outwardly appear as pure, good, or right may actually be defiled by impure motivations and selfish inclinations. (16:2; see the Notes section.)
Rolling one’s “works on YHWH,” or entrusting one’s matters to him, includes giving consideration to his will and trusting in his help and blessing. When life is lived in humble submission to God’s will, one’s “plans will be established” or will succeed. (16:3; see the Notes section.)
YHWH has made “everything for its [or his] purpose, even the wicked one for a day of calamity.” Depending on whether the meaning is “its” or “his,” everything that exists has its purpose or serves YHWH’s purpose. He has permitted wicked persons to live, and they owe their existence to him. If they continue pursuing their corrupt conduct, YHWH has determined beforehand that they would face a day of reckoning. From this standpoint, he has made them for a day of calamity or a time when his condemnatory judgment will be expressed against them. (16:4; see the Notes section.)
All arrogant ones (literally, all those “proud of heart”) are an “abomination to YHWH.” He regards them as loathsome or disgusting. According to the Septuagint, every arrogant one (literally, “arrogant-hearted one”) is “unclean” or “impure” before God. The Hebrew expression “hand to hand” could relate to making an agreement by shaking hands. In this context, it may be used to indicate certainty (“you can depend on it”; “be assured”). In the Septuagint, the reference is to putting “hand to hand unjustly.” This could denote shaking hands with others to make an unjust or fraudulent agreement. Anyone who thus obligated himself to act unjustly would not be considered “innocent” but guilty of committing a lawless act that deserved to be punished. As indicated in the Hebrew text, one who acts arrogantly, choosing to live a corrupt life, will not remain unpunished. (16:5)
“By kindness and faithfulness [literally, “truth”], iniquity is atoned for.” The thought could be that God will take into consideration the kindness, compassionate concern for others, or loyalty, and faithfulness (or steadfastness in striving to do what is right) when expressing his judgment respecting an individual’s iniquity or error. Another possible meaning may be that God’s compassion or kindness and his faithful adherence to his promises moves him to extend forgiveness, thus providing atonement for iniquity. Although atonement for iniquity is YHWH’s loving provision, one should seek to avoid sin. It is the “fear of YHWH” (a reverential regard for him and a wholesome fear of acting in a manner he disapproves) that enables one to turn away from evil. (16:6; see the Notes section.)
“When YHWH is pleased with a man’s ways, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” As one who enjoys YHWH’s favor, the man would be shielded from being victimized and from the hostility to which hatred gives rise. His enemies would be at “peace” with him, for they would not be taking any action that would harm him. (16:7; see the Notes section.)
“Better” is a “little with righteousness” than an “abundance of products,” gains, or acquisitions “with injustice.” This suggests that it is preferable to have a little gain obtained with righteous or honest means than to acquire much through unjust or fraudulent means. (16:8; see the Notes section.)
The “heart of a man” (the mind of an earthling) “may plan his way, and YHWH directs his steps.” Although a man may plan for the future, this does not in itself assure that his plans will succeed. The implication is that the outcome to a man for the steps he takes depends on YHWH’s will. (16:9; see the Notes section.)
The kind of “decision” on the “lips of a king” should be as though it was an inspired expression or an “oracle” (LXX). His “mouth” should not be “unfaithful” or untrustworthy “in judgment. The monarch’s subjects should rightly expect just and wise words to come from his mouth. According to the Septuagint, the king’s “mouth will by no means” (an emphatic expression that renders two words for “not”) “err” or go astray “in judgment.” (16:10)
YHWH has a standard for honest dealings, including the use of accurate scales and weights. A “balance and scales of judgment” or justice are attributed to him, and “all weights in the bag” are designated as “his work.” He himself adheres to the highest standard of justice and requires that those whom he approves imitate his example. The Septuagint reading indicates that an accurate weight on the balance is “righteous” in the sight of the Lord, and that “his works” are “righteous weights” or measures. (16:11)
Kings should be just in the exercise of their authority. For them to practice or to tolerate evil is an “abomination” or something disgusting. It is injurious to their subjects and destructive to the stability of the realm. A “throne” (or the royal authority a monarch exercises [the “throne of rulership” [LXX]) is established by righteousness. (16:12)
A good king will find delight in “righteous lips” or in lips that are used to express what is right. Such lips are “acceptable” (LXX) to him. He “loves” or appreciates the person who is truthful or honest in his speaking. According to the Septuagint, a king “loves straight” or honest “words.” (16:13)
The “wrath of a king” is like “messengers of death,” for he could command the execution of persons who incurred his anger. A “wise man,” by his judicious response, can pacify the king’s anger. (16:14)
The “light of a king’s face” refers to his favor or friendly disposition that is reflected in his countenance. This “light” means “life,” for the individual enjoying the king’s favor would not be a person against whom the king’s wrath would be directed. The Septuagint says that the “light of life” is the “son of the king.” This could be understood to mean that the king would find great delight in his son. Royal favor or goodwill is also “like a cloud of a spring rain,” for the cloud indicated that crops would benefit from the rain that would be watering the ground. A king’s favor would likewise herald his bestowal of good things. According to the Septuagint rendering, persons who pleased the king were “like a cloud of late [rain].” (16:15)
To acquire “wisdom” (the capacity to use knowledge for good purposes) through diligent personal effort is much better than to procure precious “gold,” and to get “understanding” is to be preferred to obtaining silver. The possession of “wisdom” and “understanding” can give purposeful direction to one’s life and aid one to avoid conduct and practices that would prove to be harmful. No amount of gold or silver can produce these positive results. In the Septuagint, the reference is to “nests of wisdom” and “nests of understanding” as being more desirable. The expressions “nests of wisdom” and “nests of understanding” may apply to places or schools of learning. Another possibility is that the word “nests” refers to “dwelling places” or environments where wisdom and understanding exist. (16:16)
The “highway” of upright persons, or the course they follow, “turns aside from evil.” They avoid corrupt practices and are spared the misery to which such practices can lead. The Septuagint says that “paths of life turn away from evils.” These are paths to be followed, for they contribute to the preservation of life by shunning all forms of badness. (16:17; see the Notes section.)
A proud man commonly does not respond to correction and sound advice but insists on blindly following his own way. Therefore, “pride” comes before a downfall from a ruinous course of life. “Haughtiness of spirit” (“ill-mindedness,” “malice,” or “folly” [LXX]), or an arrogant and hateful disposition, precedes “stumbling” or a fall into calamity or misery. (16:18)
It is better to be “lowly in spirit” or to have a humble disposition in association with lowly or afflicted persons than to “divide spoil” or abundant booty with arrogant individuals. According to the Septuagint, a mild-mannered person “with humility” is better than the one dividing spoils with arrogant ones. (16:19)
The person who is perceptive “in a matter will find” or “acquire good” (“good things” [LXX]), with his insight leading to a good outcome. Happy or truly fortunate is the person who trusts in YHWH (“God” [LXX]), for that trust will never lead to disappointment. YHWH cares for and will aid all who rely on him in their time of need. The implication of the proverb may be that there is benefit from having perception but that even greater benefit results from trust in YHWH. (16:20; see the Notes section.)
To be “wise of heart” denotes to be wise in the use of one’s mental faculties and could also include the desire to gain knowledge and the willingness to expend the needed effort to do so. A man who could be called “wise of heart” would be known as a man of “understanding” or insight, one who uses his knowledge in a manner that benefits himself and others. The individual in possession of “sweetness of lips” would be one whose speech is pleasant or agreeable. Unlike a person whose harsh or abusive speech repels others, one whose speech is pleasant would commonly elicit a favorable response. (16:21; see the Notes section.)
To its possessors, “insight” is a “fountain of life.” They are in a position to provide beneficial knowledge to others and to benefit themselves by using good judgment in handling affairs of life and avoiding senseless actions and rash words. The “discipline” or chastisement of “fools” (or persons who choose to act in senseless ways) is “foolishness.” They are bound to experience the distressing consequences of their senselessness or foolish behavior. According to the Septuagint, “discipline” or instruction of “fools” is “evil.” When fools or corrupt individuals are the source of discipline, the result is bad for those who act in harmony with it. Also any effort to instruct fools would be “evil” or worthless, accomplishing nothing beneficial. (16:22)
The “heart” or the mental faculty of a wise man causes the expressions that come from his “mouth” to reflect prudence or insight. According to the Septuagint, the “heart of the wise one” would consider what comes out of “his own mouth.” The person would not speak rashly or thoughtlessly but would express himself sensibly. With his “heart” or mind guiding his speech, a wise man would benefit from added persuasive power. This persuasiveness is linked to the “lips,” for they fill a prominent role in speaking. In the Septuagint, the “lips” are represented as bearing “prudence” or understanding. (16:23)
Pleasant or kind words have a good effect on persons who hear them. These words are like “honeycomb, sweet to the soul” (to the person or to the taste) “and healing to the bones,” bringing refreshment and renewed strength to the body or to the whole organism of the one who is encouraged, comforted, commended, or taught. The Septuagint indicates that the “sweetness” is “healing for the soul” or the individual. (16:24)
“Before the face of a man” or in his sight, a “way” (plural in LXX) seems “straight” or right. It appears to be a course of life heading in the proper direction. The human judgment, however, is seriously flawed. In the end, the way that seemed right proves to be the “ways of death.” According to the Septuagint rendering, the “terminations” of the ways “look into the depth of Hades” or into the depth of the realm of the dead. (16:25; see the Notes section.)
The “soul [or appetite] of a laborer labors for him, for his mouth” impels him. In view of his need for food, the worker finds himself compelled to toil so that he is able to satisfy his hunger. (16:26; see the Notes section.)
A “man of belial” is a scoundrel or a worthless person. In the Septuagint, he is called a “senseless one.” According to the Hebrew text, he is represented as “digging evil.” This is commonly understood to mean that he plots what is bad. The Septuagint says that he “digs evils for himself,” suggesting that he brings miseries upon himself through his senselessness. (16:27)
A “perverse man” (a “crooked man” [LXX]) “spreads strife” (“spreads evils” [LXX]), creating conflict where there had been none, and a “slanderer” alienates acquaintances or friends. His malicious words misrepresent the individuals about whom he spreads his slanderous talk, causing those who believe him to view friends and acquaintances differently and to distance themselves from them. According to the Septuagint, a crooked or corrupt man “will kindle a fire for evils with a torch of treachery, and he parts friends.” (16:28)
A “man of violence” (a man given to violent actions) “will entice his fellow,” causing him to stray from the right course and to follow a “way that is not good” (or a way that is corrupt). According to the Septuagint, a “lawless man puts friends to a test,” or leads them into temptation, and takes them into paths that are “not good.” (16:29)
In this context, “squinting” with the eyes and “compressing” the lips constitute evidence of malicious intent. Translators have variously rendered the Hebrew text. “He [the violent or lawless man] closes his eyes while meditating deception; he purses his lips while deciding upon evil.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “Whoever narrows his eyes to think up tricks and purses the lips has already done wrong.” (NJB) “When someone winks and grins behind your back, trouble is on the way.” (CEV) The Septuagint adds that the lawless man is a “furnace of evil.” (16:30)
When persons of advanced age have pursued a “way of righteousness” or a course of praiseworthy conduct, their “hoary head,” representative of age and experience, is a “crown of beauty” or “glory” (a “crown of boasting” [LXX]). (16:31)
One who is “slow to anger” or patient is better than a “mighty man” or warrior, for the patient person has the moral strength to restrain himself from acting rashly and to avoid committing deeds that he would later regret. The person who controls his “spirit” (“anger” [LXX]) or temper is better than one who “takes a city,” for ruling one’s temper is often more difficult than being victorious in warfare. (16:32)
In cases where people could not resolve conflicts or decide which course was right or better, they would cast lots. The outcome from the action of casting lots was regarded as the decision of YHWH. (16:33; see the Notes section.)
In the Septuagint, the words of verse 1 of the extant Hebrew text are missing.
The proverb of verse 2 in the Septuagint has little resemblance to the wording of the extant Hebrew text. “All the works of the lowly one are manifest to God, but the impious ones will perish in an evil day.” Nothing is hidden from God, and the lowly or humble who look to him can rest assured of his care and concern for them, but the ungodly are the ones who will perish when calamity strikes or judgment is expressed against them.
There is no corresponding wording in the Septuagint for the reading of verse 3 in the extant Hebrew text.
In the Septuagint, wording for the extant Hebrew text of verse 4 is found in verse 9, but the meaning of the proverb is not identical. “All the works of the Lord” are carried out “with righteousness, but the impious one is kept for an evil day.”
Corresponding wording in the Septuagint for verse 6 of the extant Hebrew text is not contained in this section of Proverbs. It is found after verse 27 of chapter 15. “By mercy” (plural in Greek [deeds of mercy or compassion]) “and faithfulness, sins are cleared away” or purged, “but by the fear of the Lord, everyone turns away from bad.” This rendering supports understanding mercy and faithfulness to apply to persons who may commit sin.
The Septuagint reading of verse 7 has no corresponding wording in the extant Hebrew text of this section. According to the Septuagint, the “beginning of a good way” is distinguished by doing “righteous things.” For one to do what is right or righteous is “more acceptable to God than to sacrifice sacrifices.” Outward forms of worship without the needed effort to live uprightly are unacceptable to YHWH. In the Septuagint, the basic thought of verse 7 in the Hebrew text is found in chapter 15 after verse 28. It says that the “ways of righteous men are acceptable to the Lord” and that “through them” (the righteous ways) even enemies become friends.”
The basic thought of verse 8 in the extant Hebrew text is found after verse 29 of chapter 15 in the Septuagint. “Better [is] a little return with righteousness than many products with unrighteousness” or “injustice.” The Septuagint wording of verse 8 does not have a parallel in the extant Hebrew text. “The one seeking the Lord will find knowledge with righteousness [the knowledge that will make it possible to live uprightly], and the ones seeking him aright will find peace” or well-being.
In the Septuagint, somewhat different wording for the Hebrew proverb in verse 9 is found after verse 29 in chapter 15. “Let the heart of a man consider righteous things so that his steps may be guided straight by God.” This wording indicates that the person must be focused on what is righteous or upright to benefit from God’s guidance.
After the initial phrase about the “paths of life,” the Septuagint text of verse 17 indicates that “ways of righteousness” lead to “length of life,” that the one accepting discipline “will be among the good” or will be “in good things” (or the recipient of good things), and that the one who “guards” or heeds reproofs “will be wise.” The Septuagint then concludes the verse with the words, “The one guarding his own ways preserves his own soul [or life], and the one loving his life will spare his mouth” (or use restraint when speaking).
In verse 20, the Hebrew word rendered “matter” may also mean “word.” A number of translations reflect this significance in their renderings. “Whoever listens closely to the word finds happiness.” (NJB) “Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers.” (NIV)
The Septuagint rendering of verse 21 indicates that certain ones “call wise and intelligent persons worthless.” Those who are “sweet in word” (or pleasant in speech) “will be heard more” or will more readily meet with a favorable response to their words.
The extant Hebrew text of verse 25 is identical to that of verse 12 in chapter 14. In the Septuagint, the basic thought is the same in both verses but the wording is not identical.
According to the Septuagint rendering of verse 26, the man who “labors in labors for himself” drives out his ruin. The “crooked one, however, bears ruin in his own mouth.” This suggests that the words of a corrupt individual, when exposed as false or fraudulent, will prove to be his undoing.
In verse 33, the Septuagint makes no reference to casting lots. It indicates that unrighteous persons are the recipients of retribution. “All things come upon unrighteous ones into [their] bosoms, but all righteous things [are] from the Lord.”
It is better to have a “dry piece of bread” (a “morsel” or a “bit” [LXX]) to eat in “quietness” or in a peaceful environment (“with enjoyment in peace” [LXX]) than to have a “house” full of the meat from “sacrifices of quarreling” or to feast in a house troubled by disputes. The Septuagint refers to a “house full of good things [or many possessions] and unrighteous sacrifices with conflict.” “Unrighteous sacrifices” could be sacrifices that would not have been acceptable to God, with meat from these sacrifices being used for a meal or banquet. The eating, in the midst of prosperity, would be marred by quarreling. (17:1)
A servant who conducts himself wisely could come to be in a position where he “rules” or exercises authority over a son who behaves shamefully, squandering resources and acting in a manner that dishonors him and his family. The son may find himself reduced to poverty, whereas the servant may “share the inheritance among brothers,” the brothers of the dissolute son. According to the Septuagint, a “sensible servant will rule over foolish masters, and he will divide portions among brothers.” (17:2)
Refining is necessary to obtain pure silver and gold. The ore must be subjected to the fire of a smelter or a furnace. Similarly, YHWH (the “Lord” [LXX]) “tests hearts” (“chosen hearts” [LXX]), allowing trials to reveal what the “heart” or the inner self of an individual truly is. As for the one who permits the trial to refine him, he can become a better person as a result. (17:3)
An “evildoer” pays attention to the “lip” that is used to express words that are false, deceptive, or injurious, and a “liar” listens to the “tongue” that functions to say things that are harmful or ruinous. Evildoers and liars give heed to words that further their unworthy objectives. The Septuagint says that an “evildoer listens to the tongue of lawless ones” but that the “righteous one does not give heed to lying lips.” (17:4)
God is the Creator of humans regardless of what their station in life may be. Therefore, the one who ridicules a lowly or afflicted person is guilty of insulting his Maker. The person who rejoices when seeing calamity befall others would not remain unpunished. His maliciousness would incur God’s anger. The Septuagint expresses the same basic thought but then says that the compassionate person will be shown mercy. (17:5)
Grandparents commonly take great delight in their grandchildren, and young children especially look up to their fathers. Accordingly, “sons of sons” (children’s children [LXX]) are the “crown of the aged,” also providing evidence that they have enjoyed a long life. Fathers are the “glory of sons” (the “boast of children”), the men in whom the sons or children take pride. (17:6; see the Notes section.)
It would not be appropriate for a senseless person to have a “lip of excess” or to speak excessively, especially since he has nothing of value to impart. The Hebrew word rendered “excess” could also mean “excellence.” Modern translations vary in their renderings. “Fine talk is out of place in a boor.” (REB) “Arrogant lips are unsuited to a fool.” (NIV) “It sounds strange for a fool to talk sensibly.” (CEV) The Septuagint refers to “faithful lips” or lips that are used to make trustworthy expressions. Such lips would not fit a fool, as his words would be senseless and deceptive. It would be even less fitting for a “noble,” a man exercising authority in the community, to have a “lip of falsehood” or a lip that is used to speak lies and deceitful words. In the Septuagint, the reference is to a righteous person. For a righteous man, “lying lips” would not be fitting. (17:7)
A “gift” or “bribe” is like a “stone [a precious jewel or a charm] in the eyes of its owner,” the one who can use it to obtain favors. Wherever he may turn, he enjoys success. The Septuagint rendering does not focus on a “gift” or “bribe.” It refers to “discipline” or “instruction” as a “favorable wage” for the ones applying it. “Wherever it [the discipline or instruction] turns, it will grant success.” (17:8)
To cover over transgression or offense relates to extending forgiveness and not broadcasting an erring one’s failings. This is identified as an act of seeking love, for it elicits an appreciative response from the one who is shielded from the humiliation or shame of public exposure as one who has caused offense and also from the possible consequence of alienation from acquaintances and friends. The individual who talks about a “matter,” a matter relating to transgressions or offenses, often contributes to the creation of rifts between the erring one and his close acquaintances. According to the Septuagint, the one who hates to conceal wrongs “separates friends and family members.” (17:9)
Those who are discerning or possess understanding respond to correction. A rebuke is sufficient for a discerning man to change his conduct for the better. The Septuagint says that a “threat shatters the heart of a prudent person.” In the case of a discerning or prudent individual, a “rebuke” or “threat” makes a far deeper impression than does severe punishment (comparable to the administering of a “hundred strokes”) in the case of a fool. Despite harsh punishment, the senseless man persists in his wayward course. (17:10)
An evildoer or corrupt man seeks rebellion. He is lawless, refusing to subject himself to God or to the norms of the community where he lives. Eventually he faces retribution for his deeds. The “messenger” sent against him will prove to be cruel, not sparing him from the severe punishment he is authorized to carry out or to have carried out against him. (17:11; see the Notes section.)
A bear bereaved of her cubs is ferocious and unpredictable. An encounter poses the risk of serious injury or death. Even more unpredictable is the outcome for one who meets a “stupid” or corrupt man while he is engaged in foolishness or senseless actions. One would find it preferable to encounter a bereaved bear, for the fool’s senseless actions can harm many more people. (17:12; see the Notes section.)
The person who repays “bad for good,” harming individuals who dealt honestly and kindly with him, will face retribution. “Bad” or calamity “will not move away from his house.” He will never be secure nor will his household. (17:13)
Once released after having been restrained by man-made means, water soon flows with destructive fury. The start of contention is comparable, for it will progressively intensify as it continues. Therefore, the advisable course is for one to leave before the quarrel has erupted. (17:14; see the Notes section.)
Unjust decisions respecting individuals are an abomination to YHWH. He detests it when wicked persons are pronounced righteous or guiltless and when righteous persons are pronounced wicked or condemned as guilty. According to the Septuagint, the person who does so is “unclean” or “impure” and “disgusting before God.” (17:15)
The question is raised as to why the “hand of a fool” would have the price to obtain wisdom (or the capacity to acquire it) although not having the “heart” or mind to do what is needed. Whereas wisdom is available and within reach of persons who truly desire it, the fool does not want it and has no inclination to put forth the effort to make it his possession. He chooses to persist living a corrupt and senseless life. (17:16; see the Notes section.)
A true companion or friend is loyal, always loving his friend. He does not distance himself from his friend when that one faces distress or falls on hard times. The concluding phrase could mean that the friend proves himself to be like a caring brother (a “brother born for adversity”). Another possible meaning is that a “brother” should be a person who is ready to help. The Septuagint rendering is more specific than is the extant Hebrew text. “For every time” or in every case, “you should have a friend,” but a “brother” should be “beneficial” or supportive “in tribulations,” for brothers are born for this purpose. (17:17)
A man “wanting in heart” or lacking good sense shakes hands to make an agreement to become surety, taking on the obligations of the debtor in case of that one’s failure to fulfill them. This is very risky, for it frees the debtor from personal responsibility for the repayment of his debts. (17:18; see the Notes section.)
For one to love transgression or offense is to love the strife, conflict, or hostility that inevitably will follow. Persons who have been wronged will be angry and want the transgressor to be punished. According to the Septuagint, a “lover of sin rejoices in conflicts.” Through his wrongdoing, the sinner invites trouble for himself and, therefore, can be represented as rejoicing in conflicts. One who is identified in the Hebrew text as making “his door high” is guilty of arrogantly elevating himself. Through proud self-exaltation, the individual is seeking his own ruin, for arrogance inevitably leads to a fall. (17:19; see the Notes section.)
One who has a “crooked heart” is corrupt in his thoughts, scheming and plotting to attain his base objectives. He is a person who will not “find good.” The ultimate outcome for his lawlessness is ruin, not good fortune or success. A man with a “perverse tongue” or one who uses his tongue to lie and deceive “will fall into calamity.” This will happen when he is exposed as a liar and a cheat. (17:20; see the Notes section.)
A father whose son turns out to be foolish (literally, “one begetting a fool”), a son who pursues a debased course of life, experiences grief, and a father does not rejoice when he ends up with a senseless son. The implication of the proverb appears to be that a son should avoid a wayward course of life and not grieve his father. (17:21; see the Notes section.)
A “cheerful heart” or a joyful and positive mental outlook can have a curative effect (makes for good health [LXX]) and promotes the well-being of the individual, but a “stricken” or downcast “spirit” or disposition (a depressed state) “dries up the bones” or has a debilitating effect on the whole body. According to the Septuagint, the “bones of a distressed” or sad “man dry up.” (17:22)
A bribe in the bosom designates a bribe that is concealed in the upper fold of a garment. “To pervert the ways of judgment” or justice, a wicked or corrupt man, in secret, accepts or gives a bribe that can be drawn from the bosom. The Septuagint refers to accepting “gifts” or bribes from the bosoms “unjustly” and indicates that the “ways” of the one doing so do not prosper or do not succeed. (17:23; see the Notes section.)
A discerning man has wisdom before his face, suggesting that wisdom is the object of his desire and guides him at all times. The eyes of a fool are at the “end of the earth” or everywhere other than where his attention should be. His gaze is far from wisdom and, therefore, he will never find it or have it in his possession. The Septuagint rendering could be understood to indicate that intelligence is apparent in the face or countenance of a wise man but that the eyes of the senseless one are directed to the “ends of the earth.” (17:24)
“To his father,” a foolish son, one who is wayward, is a cause of vexation, irritation, or “anger” (LXX), and he brings “bitterness” (“pain” or “grief” [LXX]) to his mother (literally, the one who bore him). The implication of the proverb may be that a son should avoid a course that would irritate or grieve his parents. (17:25)
“To impose a fine” or to punish a “righteous” or innocent man is an injustice and, therefore, “not good,” but evil. The striking of noble persons is wrong, for it would denote contempt for them and would be carried out without justification. According to the Septuagint, it is not devout to plot against righteous or just rulers. (17:26)
The individual who refrains from speaking (“uttering a harsh word” [LXX]), avoiding thoughtless or rash speech especially when provoked, reveals that he is in possession of knowledge — the knowledge that serves as a dependable guide for speaking or refraining from doing so. As one having knowledge, the person is intelligent or discreet. A “man of understanding” or a prudent man is “cool of spirit.” He is calm (or “patient” [LXX]), controlling himself from lashing out when faced with provocation. (17:27)
The things people say reveal whether they are wise or foolish. Therefore, one who is foolish may be considered wise if he remains silent, not saying anything that would expose him as a person lacking good sense. The man who closes his lips, not using them to express himself in a senseless manner, may be considered as having understanding. (17:28; see the Notes section.)
After wording that corresponds to the reading of the extant Hebrew text of verse 6, the Septuagint includes another proverb. A “whole world of riches [belongs] to the faithful one [or trustworthy one], but to the unfaithful one [or untrustworthy one] not even an obol” (an ancient Greek coin of little value).
In verse 11, the Septuagint rendering differs from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. It indicates that “every bad person stirs up controversies” but that “the Lord will send a merciless messenger [or angel] against him.”
The Septuagint makes no mention of a bear in verse 12. It refers to anxious care as befalling a perceptive man and to senseless persons as devising evil things.
The wording of verse 14 in the Septuagint differs significantly from the extant Hebrew text. “Righteous rulership gives power to words,” suggesting that what is promised will be carried out. “Insurrection and conflict precede lack” or poverty.
In the Septuagint text of verse 16, the question is, “Why should the senseless one have riches or means?” The most valuable possession is beyond his reach, for the “heartless one” (the person lacking heart or sensibleness) “will not be able to obtain wisdom.” These words are followed by another proverb that is not found here in the extant Hebrew text, but the initial phrase parallels the concluding phrase in the Hebrew text of verse 19. “One who makes his own house high [or pursues a course of self-exaltation] seeks ruin, and one who is crooked [or too twisted or corrupt] to learn will fall into evils,” calamities, or misfortunes.
The Septuagint rendering of verse 18 interprets handshaking in a way that does not relate to surety. A “senseless man claps and rejoices over himself.” The concluding phrase could mean that the one becoming surety for his friend also rejoices.
In verse 19, the Septuagint does not include the reference to making the door high.
The Septuagint text of verse 20 refers to a “hard-hearted one” or a callous person as not meeting up with good things. It concludes with the words, “A man with a changeable tongue will fall into evils” or misfortunes. The designation “changeable tongue” suggests that the words the tongue is used to express cannot be trusted. Misuse of the tongue leads to ruin.
In verse 21, the wording of the Septuagint differs from that of the extant Hebrew text. “And the heart of a senseless one [is] grief to its possessor [as a consequence of his foolish actions]. A father does not rejoice over an undisciplined son [one who is unresponsive to discipline or instruction], but a wise son brings joy to his mother.”
In their renderings of verse 23, modern translations represent the corrupt individual either as giving or accepting the bribe. “A wicked man accepts a bribe in secret.” (NIV) “Under cover of his cloak a bad man takes a gift.”(NJB) “A wicked person produces a bribe from under his cloak.” (REB) The Septuagint concludes with additional words, “And the impious” or ungodly one veers from or perverts the “ways of righteousness.”
In verse 28, the Septuagint rendering indicates that wisdom will be reckoned to one who lacks good sense if he asks for it and that everyone who remains silent or speechless will seem to be prudent.
“One who isolates himself” or cuts himself off from other people, seeks his own “desire.” Viewing his own judgment or insight as superior to theirs, he “breaks out against,” rejects, or disdains all sound judgment. (18:1; see the Notes section.)
A senseless man does not want to change his life for the better and, therefore, takes no pleasure in understanding or discernment. He is pleased with his foolish reasoning and finds delight in having his “heart uncover itself,” revealing the emptiness of his thoughts when expressing his opinions on matters he does not understand. According to the Septuagint, one without sense “has no need for wisdom, for he is rather led by senselessness.” (18:2)
Whenever a wicked man makes his entrance, “contempt comes also, and disgrace with dishonor.” This could mean that the corrupt man will inevitably express himself in an insulting and hateful manner. It is also possible that others may regard him with disdain. Dishonor accompanies disgrace, with individuals who find themselves in a position of dishonor often being disgraced with insulting words and actions. The Septuagint refers to an impious or ungodly man as coming “into a depth of evils” or the lowest state of debauchery. When that happens, he pays no attention, being without any pangs of conscience. “But dishonor and scorn come upon him.” (18:3)
The “words of a man’s mouth” are “deep waters”; a “flowing stream” is the “fountain of wisdom.” If this proverb expresses a contrast, the meaning could be that the words an ordinary man may speak are lacking in clarity. They are comparable to “deep waters” that hide whatever may lie beneath their surface. Like a flowing stream, a “fountain of wisdom” provides an unfailing source of good and clear advice and guidance. It is also possible that the “words” are being represented as coming from the “fountain of wisdom.” Both meanings can be found in translations that are more specific than is the Hebrew text. “The words from a man’s mouth are deep waters, but the source of wisdom is a flowing brook.” (NAB) “Deep waters, such are human words: a gushing stream, the utterance of wisdom.” (NJB) “Words of wisdom are a stream that flows from a deep fountain.” (CEV) The Septuagint rendering is, The “word in a man’s heart [is] deep water, and a river and a fountain of life bubble up.” (18:4)
To show partiality to a wicked, corrupt, or guilty man is “not good,” for it is a serious perversion of justice. A failure to render a just judgment for a righteous or guiltless man is likewise not good but evil. The Septuagint says that it is “not good” to flatter (literally, admire the face of) an impious or ungodly man nor is it “pure to pervert justice in judgment.” (18:5)
A fool misuses his lips to express thoughts that give rise to quarreling. His “mouth” calls for “strokes.” The senseless or deceptive words and lies that proceed from his mouth and the trouble they cause merit his being punished. According to the Septuagint, the “lips of a senseless man lead him into calamities, and his bold mouth summons death.” (18:6)
In view of the senseless words that come out of the mouth of a fool, his “mouth” is “his ruin.” The “lips” he uses to express folly, lies, and deceit are a “snare for his soul” or for him himself. His misused lips prove to be like a snare that seizes him like prey, resulting in his being punished severely. (18:7)
There are people for whom the words of a slanderer or a gossip are like tasty morsels or “things to be swallowed greedily.” To those who listen to the slander or gossip, the words come to be stored within them as if having gone down to the “innermost parts of the belly” or the body. Upon becoming a part of the individual’s memory, the slanderous words may give rise to suspicion, distrust, and hostility. (18:8; see the Notes section.)
A man who is “slack in his work” is a “brother” to one who causes ruin. As a “brother,” the lazy one is in the same class as a destructive man. The indolent man’s failure to work results in loss, for nothing is accomplished during the time he wastes in idleness. Also without needed attention, the things a lazy man may possess deteriorate. (18:9; see the Notes section.)
The expression “name of YHWH” may be understood to mean YHWH himself, the one who bears the name. For persons who look to him for aid in their time of need, he is like a “strong tower” where they can feel secure. YHWH will not fail to sustain them. A righteous man “runs” into this “tower” and receives protection (literally, “is set on high” or is protected as if having been placed in a safe position on an elevated site). When in a distressing situation, an upright man unhesitatingly turns to YHWH in prayer as if running to him for aid, and he is then given what he needs. (18:10; see the Notes section.)
For a rich man, his wealth is his “strong city.” His riches are like a well-fortified city that makes him feel secure, for his wealth enables him to obtain everything that he needs and wants. Even though riches can be lost, he imagines his wealth to be like a high “wall,” a protective wall that cannot be breached or scaled. According to the Septuagint rendering, the “glory” of his substance “casts a great shadow,” suggesting that he has many possessions. (18:11; see the Notes section.)
The “heart of a man” may be lofty or exalted. His arrogant, self-assured attitude is what may precede a “crash” or a plunge into calamity. Before “glory” or “honor” comes, there must first exist “humility.” (18:12)
It would be unwise to reply to a matter or to interrupt the one speaking without first listening to everything that is being presented. The person making a judgment on the basis of limited or insufficient information exposes himself to being considered foolish and being humiliated as an individual lacking in sound judgment. (18:13)
The “spirit of a man,” his mental outlook, or his will to live “can endure his malady” or sickness and any other kind of distress. A “broken spirit” (a downcast or depressed mental state) deprives one of sustaining strength, making it difficult to endure illness or affliction. (18:14; see the Notes section.)
The “heart” of a discerning man “acquires knowledge.” His “heart” or mental faculty imparts increased knowledge to him because he has a desire for it and is willing to expend effort to gain it. The “ear of wise ones” is used for attentive listening and, therefore, proves to be the means by which they find knowledge that they make their own. (18:15)
Anciently, to gain access to a ruler or official, one needed to bring a gift. Therefore, a “gift” is referred to as making an “opening [giving one space (LXX)],” or opening the way for one to be led before “great” or influential people. According to the Septuagint, the gift lets the individual sit among rulers. (18:16)
The first person to present his case in a legal dispute may appear to be “righteous” or in the right. Then his fellow, the other party in the dispute, comes and “searches him through” or “examines him thoroughly.” This may mean that his opponent will respond to what has been said and present testimony to the contrary. The Septuagint indicates that the “righteous one” is an “accuser of himself at the beginning of his speaking, but that “when the opponent gives attention [to the matter], he is reproved.” (18:17)
In cases of disputes that could not be settled, lots were cast to determine who was in the right. The result from casting lots was regarded as final, putting contentions to rest. Even mighty ones were parted from continuing in a state of disputing or hostility. According to the Septuagint, the lot “determines boundaries between rulers.” (18:18)
When a brother is transgressed against, the transgressor will commonly find himself facing an insurmountable barrier to restore the relationship that has been ruined. The brother will prove to be like a “strong city” — a well-fortified city that shuts out all unauthorized entrance. Quarreling can result in entrenched positions that are like the bar of a citadel (or the bar that secures the gate). The Septuagint rendering is more specific than is the extant Hebrew text in conveying a different significance. A “brother” who is “being helped by a brother” is “like a fortified and lofty city and is strong like a securely founded palace.” In view of the elliptical nature of the extant Hebrew text, modern translations convey various meanings for this proverb. “An offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city, and disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel.” (NIV) “A reluctant brother is more unyielding than a fortress, and quarrels are as stubborn as the bars of a fortress.” (REB) “Making up with a friend you have offended is harder than breaking through a city wall.” (CEV) “A brother is a better defense than a strong city, and a friend is like the bars of a castle.” (NAB) “Help your relatives and they will protect you like a strong city wall, but if you quarrel with them, they will close their doors to you.” (GNT, Second Edition) (18:19)
“From the fruit of a man’s mouth” (or the well-chosen words that proceed from his mouth and with which he is pleased), his “belly,” body, or whole being “will be satisfied.” The “yield of his lips,” or the thoughtful and meaningful expressions that pass his lips, will satisfy the man as would wholesome food. According to the Septuagint rendering, a “man fills his belly with the fruits of his mouth, and he will be satisfied with the fruits of his lips.” (18:20)
“Death and life” are in the “hand” or power of the “tongue,” and those who love the tongue “will eat its fruit.” Using the tongue to deceive, lie, misrepresent, instigate revolt or violence, or to speak rashly or thoughtlessly can create circumstances that lead to death for the one who misuses the tongue and for persons against whom his words are directed or who are aroused to react violently. The words the tongue is used to express can also save lives as when summoning needed help, providing sound advice and guidance, warning others of serious dangers or threats, and presenting truthful testimony for those who have been falsely accused. “To love” the tongue could mean to love to use the tongue to speak. Eating of its “fruit” may then mean experiencing the consequences from the things the tongue is used to express. The Septuagint rendering implies that persons who use the tongue aright are the ones who will benefit. Individuals who control the tongue are identified as the ones who “will eat of its fruits.” (18:21)
According to the context of the Hebrew text, the wife is a “good wife,” and this is the rendering in the Septuagint. A man who “has found a [good] wife” has found what is truly “good” (“favors” [LXX]). In the person of a good wife, he has a trusted companion, a helper, a mother, and a capable manager of household affairs. She proves to be a blessing to him. With YHWH being the ultimate source of blessings, the man enjoys his favor (“receives joyousness from God” [LXX]) as one who has a good wife as a divine gift. (18:22; see the Notes section.)
A poor man repeatedly finds himself in a weak and helpless position, for he is without the power and influence that commonly accompany the possession of riches. He is not in circumstances that allow him to dictate or to demand. The tone he must adopt is one of entreaty as one petitioning for help or needing to be shown mercy. A rich man, however, has power and influence. He can speak in a strong, even harsh, way, for he has everything that he needs and does not have to assume the role of a petitioner. (18:23)
The opening phrase of the Hebrew text is obscure (a “man of companions — to be broken”). It has been interpretively translated in a number of ways. “Some friends don’t help.” (CEV) “Some companions are good only for idle talk.” (REB) “There are friends who point the way to ruin.” (NJB) “Some friends bring ruin on us.” (NAB) “A man of many companions may come to ruin.” (NIV) “Some friendships do not last.” (GNT, Second edition) The proverb concludes with the thought that there is a friend who “sticks closer than a brother” or who is more loyal and devoted than a brother. (18:24)
The Hebrew text of verse 1 is somewhat obscure, and translators include additional words to convey a comprehensible meaning. In the Septuagint, the significance of the proverb is clearer than in the extant Hebrew text. A “man wanting to separate from friends seeks pretexts, but he will be reproached every time.” This suggests that his excuses are unfounded, leading to his being spoken of disapprovingly. Translators have at times adopted parts of the Septuagint rendering. Others have chosen a specific significance but indicate in footnotes that the meaning of the Hebrew text is uncertain. “In estrangement one seeks pretexts: with all persistence he picks a quarrel.” (NAB) “He who isolates himself pursues his desires; he disdains all competence.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition])“Whoever lives alone follows private whims, and is angered by advice of any kind.” (NJB) “It’s selfish and stupid to think only of yourself and to sneer at people who have sense.” (CEV)
In verse 8, the Septuagint includes a proverb that does not in any way correspond to the reading of the extant Hebrew text. “Lazy ones are cast down by fear,” suggesting that fear restrains indolent persons from busying themselves with work at hand. In their case, they see obstacles (either real or imagined) to be in their way and so they remain idle. The verse concludes with the phrase, “And the souls of unmanly ones will hunger.” They are too fearful to act to obtain what they need.
The Septuagint rendering of verse 9 differs somewhat from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. A man who does not “heal himself by his labors” is a “brother” to one who “injures himself.” The rendering “heal” apparently arose from reading the Hebrew word rapháh (to be slack) as raphá’ (to heal).
The initial phrase of verse 10 in the Septuagint refers to the “name of the Lord” as being of “majestic” or “great strength.”
The first part of verse 11 repeats the words of the initial phrase of verse 15 in chapter 10.
In verse 14, the Septuagint conveys a significance that differs from that of the extant Hebrew text. It says that a “sensible servant calms a man’s wrath.” As for a disheartened man, “who can endure [him]?”
After wording that corresponds to that of the extant Hebrew text in verse 22, the Septuagint adds that the one who “casts out a good wife casts out good things” and that the one who keeps an “adulteress” is “senseless and impious.”
The proverbs found in verses 23 and 24 of the extant Hebrew text are missing from the Septuagint.
Better is a poor man who “is walking in his integrity” (or one whose conduct is above reproach) than a man who is “twisted in his lips” or untruthful in speech and senseless, living a corrupt life as a fool. (19:1; see the Notes section.)
It is not good for a “soul” or a person to be “without knowledge,” the knowledge that is needed to make wise decisions and to avoid foolish actions. A man who is “hurrying with his feet,” acting impulsively, errs. His thoughtlessness will lead to his taking the wrong course. (19:2; see the Notes section.)
A man may ruin “his way [ways (LXX)]” or wreck his life. Even though the fault is his own, he (literally, “his heart” or he in his thoughts) becomes angry with YHWH [God (LXX)], blaming him for his troubles. (19:3)
In the case of the rich, their “wealth adds many companions” or contributes to their gaining many new friends. A lowly or poor man, however, “is separated from his companion.” Seeing no personal benefit in the relationship and not wanting to help his impoverished friend, the former companion distances himself. The Septuagint says that the poor man is forsaken even by his existing or only friend. (19:4)
A false or untruthful witness will not remain unpunished, and one who tells lies “will not escape” retribution. In the Septuagint, the concluding phrase refers to the one who “accuses unjustly” as not escaping. (19:5)
The expression “soften the face” (or “make the face pleasant”) applies to seeking to gain favorable attention. In view of the authority nobles or princes had, many entreated them. In the case of a man who gave presents, everyone wanted to be his companion or friend. (19:6; see the Notes section.)
“Brothers” of an impoverished man often distance themselves from him, selfishly choosing not to come to his aid. When failing to show love or compassion, they reveal themselves as persons who hate their brother. The poor man’s friends are even more inclined to stay far away from him. He appears to be represented as pursuing them with words, possibly with pleas for aid, but they are not there for him. (19:7; see the Notes section.)
In this context, to acquire “heart” (“prudence” [LXX]) denotes to acquire good sense. The individual doing so “loves his soul,” himself, or his life. He who “guards understanding [prudence (LXX)],” treasuring discernment and making sure that he is acting wisely, “will find good” or will prosper. (19:8)
The proverb about a false or untruthful witness is a repetition of the wording of verse 5, with the exception being the concluding verb (“will perish” instead of “will not escape”). According to the Septuagint, “whoever will kindle evil will perish by it.” (19:9)
For a fool to live in luxury is not fitting, for he will only misuse the abundance he has or waste it. It is even less fitting for a “servant to rule over princes [to rule with arrogance (LXX)],” or to exercise authority over persons who have the knowledge and experience to administer affairs justly and wisely. (19:10)
A man’s prudence or sensibleness contributes to his exercising control of his temper. He is not quick to flare up in anger over offenses or slights. Overlooking or forgiving an offense, not lashing out in rage, is to his credit. It adds to his honor or dignity in the sight of observers. There is “beauty,” glory, or something truly laudable for him not to respond in an uncontrolled way to offenses, treating them as if they had not occurred. The Septuagint says that a “merciful man,” one who is compassionate and forgiving, is patient or slow to anger, and “his boast comes upon lawless ones” or transgressors. This could mean that he triumphs over transgressors, for he does not become like them. (19:11)
When a king is enraged, the expression of his anger (“threat” [LXX]) is comparable to the roar of a lion. His favor, however, is like the dew that refreshes vegetation. (19:12)
A foolish son, one who conducts himself in a senseless and debauched manner, is the “ruin” (“disgrace” [LXX]) of his father, bringing trouble and shame into his father’s life. The quarreling of a wife is like the annoying and continual dripping from a leaking roof, with the irritation therefrom driving one away. (19:13; see the Notes section.)
The inheritance from responsible fathers is a “house and wealth.” A “prudent wife,” however, is “from YHWH .” She is a real credit to her husband and a blessing. The husband will value her highly as YHWH’s gift to him. The Septuagint says that a “woman is joined [or suited] to a man by God.” (19:14)
Laziness results in nothing being accomplished and so is comparable to causing deep sleep — a time during which there is no activity. A “slack soul” or a lazy man will go hungry, for he will have no funds for obtaining food. (19:15)
Although not specifically identified, the “commandment” may be God’s commandment or law. The one who keeps or observes it will keep or preserve his “soul” or life. A number of modern translations are more specific in their renderings than is the original Hebrew text. “Keep God’s law and you will live longer.” (GNT, Second Edition) “Obey the Lord’s teachings and you will live.” (CEV) An individual who “despises his ways,” giving no thought to the manner in which he is conducting his life, will perish. (19:16)
One who shows favor, or who responds mercifully with aid, to the lowly, poor, or afflicted person “is lending to YHWH [God (LXX)],” for God considers this as being done for him. YHWH, therefore, will repay the compassionate one (“according to his gift” [LXX]). (19:17)
While there still is hope for a son to be corrected, a father should chastise him, not withholding needed discipline when the boy is young. According to the Septuagint, the son will be hopeful if he is disciplined or instructed. A father should not let the situation deteriorate to the point where he “lifts up his soul” to put him to death. The expression about “lifting up the soul” has been variously understood, and this is reflected in the renderings of modern translations. “Do not desire his death.” (NAB) “Don’t be intent on killing him.” (HCSB) “Only be careful not to flog him to death.” (REB) “Do not get so angry as to kill him.” (NJB) “If you don’t punish them [your children], you are destroying them.” (CEV) “If you don’t [discipline your children], you are helping them destroy themselves.” (GNT, Second Edition) The Septuagint rendering directs the father not to be roused in his “soul” or in himself to “arrogance.” (19:18)
A man given to “great wrath” should bear the consequences for his outbursts of fury, paying the penalty that may be imposed upon him. Anyone who would attempt to deliver him from the troubles he brings upon himself will end up doing it repeatedly. (19:19; see the Notes section.)
Listening to counsel or sound advice and accepting discipline or instruction can make one wise “for the future” (literally, the “end” or “latter part”), conducting oneself sensibly and avoiding the problems associated with foolish behavior. In the Septuagint, the admonition is for the son to listen to the “discipline” of his father so that he may become wise in his “last” or future days. (19:20)
In his “heart” or in his thoughts, a man may have “many plans,” but this does not mean that he will have success in accomplishing what he intends to do. Everything depends upon what YHWH (the “Lord” [LXX]) may purpose or permit. His “counsel” or purpose “will stand” or be firmly established (“remains forever” [literally, “remains into the age] [LXX]). It will never fail to be fulfilled. (19:21)
The quality that is desired in a man (an “earthling”) is steadfast love, loyalty, or a compassionate concern for others. According to the Septuagint, “compassion” is a man’s “fruit,” which could mean that it is “gain” (like produce) for a man. Though a man may be poor (a “righteous poor man” [LXX]), he is better than a liar (a “rich liar” [LXX]). (19:22)
The “fear of YHWH” (or a reverential regard for him and a wholesome dread of acting contrary to his will) leads “to life.” One who has this fear is motivated to avoid corrupt and senseless behavior that can result in a premature death. As a person who is devoted to YHWH, he will be “satisfied” or content and secure, not being visited by evil, calamity, or harm. The verb that is linked to the Hebrew word for “satisfied” is lin (stay overnight, spend the night, or dwell). Modern translations vary in their renderings. “One eats and sleeps without being visited by misfortune.” (NAB) “He who is full of it [the fear of the Lord] will rest untouched by evil.” (REB) “Then one rests content, untouched by trouble.” (NIV) “It [the fear of Yahweh] brings food and shelter, without fear of evil.” (NJB) The Septuagint rendering indicates that the one without fear of the Lord “will dwell in places where knowledge does not visit” (or “does not keep guard”). This suggests that the individual would be without the vital knowledge that leads to life. (19:23)
Laziness is represented in an extreme form. The sluggard has “hidden his hand in a bowl,” suggesting that the hand is concealed by the food the bowl contains. Yet his laziness prevents him from bringing his hand to his mouth with the nourishment that is within his grasp. (19:24; see the Notes section.)
Striking a ridiculer or punishing him can serve to teach a simpleton (or one who is inexperienced in life and easily influenced) to avoid like conduct. Upon seeing the scoffer punished, the person lacking in knowledge and experience can thus “learn prudence,” becoming sensible in his behavior. A person who does have understanding should still be reproved if he errs seriously. The valid reproof will make it possible for the individual to gain knowledge [literally, “discern knowledge”], the knowledge needed to correct his course. It is also possible that the expression “discern knowledge” indicates that the reproved one will understand the reason for and the appropriateness of the reproof. (19:25; see the Notes section.)
Disregard for parents is shameful and disgraceful. For a son to mistreat his father or to drive his mother away from her place “causes shame and brings disgrace.” The Septuagint says that “he will be disgraced and reproached.” (19:26)
For a son to stop listening to correction or instruction would lead to his straying from “words of knowledge” or from the sound advice that had been imparted to him. The resultant wayward conduct would prove to be ruinous. According to the Septuagint, a son who failed to guard the discipline, correction, or instruction of his father would meditate on “evil sayings.” With his thoughts focused on things that are bad or corrupt, he would conduct himself in a lawless manner. (19:27)
A “witness of belial” is one whose testimony is false. Through his lying words, he would make himself guilty of mocking justice. The “mouth of wicked ones swallows trouble.” For corrupt individuals, the trouble they bring upon others is like eagerly consumed nourishment to them. According to the Septuagint, the “mouth of impious” or “ungodly ones will swallow judgments,” possibly indicating that they will fight against justice. (19:28; see the Notes section.)
Condemnatory “judgments” (“whips” [LXX]) are “established” or “prepared” (LXX) for ridiculers (“licentious ones” [LXX]). In view of their scoffing at what is right and acting in corrupt ways, they merit being punished. Fools, or individuals who choose to act senselessly and lawlessly, also deserve punishment (“flogging for [their] backs”). (19:29)
The proverbs found in verses 1 and 2 in the extant Hebrew text are missing in the Septuagint.
In verse 6, the Septuagint refers to many as attending to the “faces [or persons] of kings.” It concludes with the words, “But every evil man becomes an insult to a man” (or becomes another man’s object of reproach).
In verse 7, the concluding phrase about the pursuit with words is obscure in the Hebrew text. This has resulted in a variety of renderings in modern translations. “The man who picks his words keeps to the point.” (REB) “He goes in search of words, but there are none to be had.” (NJB) “He who pursues words — they are of no avail.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “Though he pursues them with pleading, they are nowhere to be found.” (NIV) “When you really need them [your relatives and friends], they are not there.” (CEV) The rendering of the Septuagint departs considerably from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. “Everyone who hates a poor brother also will be far from friendship. Good insight comes near to the ones perceiving it, and a sensible man will find it. Whoever does much evil completes evil, and the one who incites [quarrels] with words will not be delivered.”
The concluding phrase of the Septuagint in verse 13 does not correspond to the reading of the extant Hebrew text. It says that “vows” paid from the “hire of a prostitute” are “not pure.”
The opening words of verse 15 in the Septuagint do not mention laziness. It says that “cowardice” or fear “restrains the soul [or person] of an unmanly one.”
In verse 19 of the Septuagint, the reference is to an “evil-minded” or malicious man as one to be punished severely. If he causes harm, “he will even add his soul.” This could mean that he would jeopardize his life.
The Septuagint rendering of verse 25 does not focus on laziness. It refers to one who unjustly hides his hands in his bosom (or the upper fold of his garment). This may relate to one who conceals a bribe. Regarding the hands, the Septuagint continues, “not even in any way” will he “bring them to [his] mouth.” The certainty is expressed in the Greek text with two words for “not,” and the thought could be that his hands will not reveal whatever may be hidden.
The wording of verse 25 in the Septuagint expresses the basic thought of the extant Hebrew text somewhat differently. “When a pest [a pestilent person] is being whipped, a fool will become more prudent. But if you reprove a sensible man, he will acquire perception.”
The initial phrase of verse 28 in the Septuagint departs significantly from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. It says that the one giving surety for a foolish child despises right or justice. His senseless action would be contrary to doing what is right or just.
In an intoxicated state, people often behave in a senseless manner, saying and doing things that they would never do when sober. With overindulgence in drinking causing them to make fools of themselves, wine is rightly designated as a ridiculer (something that is intemperate or unrestrained [LXX]). When drunk, individuals often get involved in noisy quarrels or fights. From this standpoint, “strong drink” is a brawler (something that is insolent [LXX]). Anyone who goes astray from liquor or on account of excessive drinking is “not wise,” for the outcome can never be good. (20:1)
The “dread” or “terror” that can originate from a king is like the frightening roar of a lion. According to the Septuagint, a “king’s threat does not differ from the fury of a lion,” for both are terrifying. One who incites a king to anger “sins against his soul” or forfeits his own life. (20:2)
The honorable course for a man is to cease from disputing or getting involved in strife. “All” senseless individuals “will burst out” in it. They are quick to take offense and to speak rashly. (20:3; see the Notes section.)
When plowing should be done after the precipitation during the rainy season has softened the soil, the lazy man does not do it, probably excusing his idleness because of the cold weather. Therefore, at the time of the harvest, he will have nothing to reap. (20:4; see the Notes section.)
“Deep waters” conceal what lies beneath the surface. Likewise, the “counsel,” advice, intent, or purpose in the “heart of a man” or in his thoughts may be hidden from others. A discerning man, however, is one who can draw it out or cause it to be revealed. He is able to evaluate what is and is not said and may use specific questions to ascertain previously concealed thoughts. (20:5)
“Many a man” (an “earthling”) will proclaim himself to be loyal, kind, or compassionate, but the claim is often an expression of mere words without the support of deeds. The question is, “Who can find a faithful” or trustworthy man?” This question implies that a man deserving of trust is hard to find. The Septuagint rendering represents a “man” as “great,” a “compassionate man” as “precious,” and the dependable or trustworthy man as a “job to find” or difficult to locate among men. (20:6)
A “righteous man walks” or conducts himself “in integrity” or in an upright manner. His praiseworthy conduct has a good effect on his offspring. His “sons after him” are “happy,” blessed, or fortunate, enjoying a state of security and well-being. The Septuagint says that the one who “behaves blamelessly in righteousness” would be leaving his children “happy,” blessed, or fortunate. (20:7)
Seated on the “throne of judgment,” the “king scatters” or “winnows all evil with his eyes.” He discerns guilt and scatters evil. By having lawless individuals punished, he scatters them as if blowing them away like chaff before a wind. The Septuagint refers to a “righteous king” and indicates that no evil can resist “before his eyes” or in his presence, suggesting that he will not tolerate bad. (20:8)
All humans are sinful, falling short of the divine standard of blamelessness. Therefore, no one has a valid basis for saying, “I have purified my heart [my inmost self or thought]; I am clean from my sin.” (20:9; see the Notes section.)
In business transactions, dishonest persons used a larger than standard weight or dry measure when buying and a smaller one when selling. The use of different weights (literally, “stone and a stone” [“a large and a small weight” (LXX)] and dry measures (literally, “ephah and an ephah” [c. 22 liters or c. 20 dry quarts]; “double measure” [LXX]) are an “abomination to YHWH” or something loathsome to him. (20:10)
By his acts, a boy makes known whether “his work” is “pure and upright.” The thought could be that what a youngster does as a child reveals what his behavior will be in the future, whether it will be honest and right. (20:11; see the Notes section.)
YHWH has made the “hearing ear” and the “seeing eye.” The implied thought may be that he is fully aware of all human activity, for he, as the Creator of the faculties of hearing and seeing, hears and sees everything. It is also possible that the implied intent of the proverb is to admonish people to act in harmony with the purpose of the ear and the eye, listening to what is true and promotes upright conduct and seeing or perceiving what is the wise course to pursue. (20:12)
To “love sleep” is an evidence of laziness, for the sluggard prolongs the time spent in bed beyond what is essential for rest. Excessive sleep wastes the time that could be spent in productive work. Therefore, the lover of sleep is headed for poverty. To open the eyes appears to mean to be awake and alert in order to work so as to possess the means for obtaining food and thus to be “satisfied with bread.” (20:13; see the Notes section.)
Apparently the buyer says to the seller, “bad, bad,” intending to obtain the item he wants for much less than the seller’s desired price. Then, after purchasing the item and leaving, the buyer boasts, probably because of having made a good buy. (20:14; see the Notes section.)
The costly item besides “gold” is referred to as peniním in the extant Hebrew text. This Hebrew word has been understood to designate “pearls,” “rubies,” “coral,” and “red coral.” The proverb appears to indicate that, although “gold” and abundant pearls, rubies, coral, or red coral are precious, “lips of knowledge,” or lips that impart vital knowledge, have even greater value. They are designated as a “precious vessel.” (20:15)
A man who made himself responsible for the indebtedness of others in case of their failure to fulfill their obligations placed himself at great risk. The consequence of loss for this foolhardy action is expressed with the imperative, “Take his garment.” This imperative suggests a permanent seizure (unlike the case of a man who gave his garment as a pledge but to whom it had to be returned every evening [Exodus 22:25, 26; Deuteronomy 24:12, 13]). In the next phrase, the meaning depends on whether the qere reading or that of the main text is chosen. According to the qere reading, the reference is to a foreign woman or a harlot, and the reading of the main text is the plural “foreigners” or “strangers.” The difference in the meaning of the text is reflected in the varying renderings of modern translations. “Take his garment, for he has put up security for a stranger; get collateral if it is for foreigners.” (HCSB) “Take the coat of someone who promises to pay a stranger’s debts, and keep it until he pays what the stranger owes.” (NCV) “Take the garment of anyone who pledges his word for a stranger; hold it as security for the unknown person.” (REB) “Take the garment of one who puts up security for a stranger; hold it in pledge if he does it for a wayward woman.” (NIV) “Seize his garment, for he stood surety for another; take it as a pledge, [for he stood surety] for an unfamiliar woman.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) (20:16)
Bread or food obtained by deceit may be sweet or pleasurable to a man. He may be delighted about having gained a benefit through corrupt means. The final outcome, however, can be very different, for he is subject to being exposed as dishonest and punished. Therefore, what initially appeared pleasurable to his taste can, in the end, be comparable to having his mouth filled with grit. (20:17)
“By counsel” or by good advice, “plans are established,” having been formulated on a sound basis after careful deliberation. For waging warfare, wise guidance was needed to bring the conflict to a successful conclusion. (20:18)
A gossip or slanderer “reveals secrets,” private talk, or matters that should be kept confidential. In view of the problems caused by one who “opens” his lips or who exercises no restraint in what he says, a person must avoid associating with him. (20:19)
Anyone who curses his father and his mother will have his “lamp extinguished” in deep darkness. This could indicate that his future would be dark, with his life ending without any posterity to continue his line of descent. According to the Septuagint (20:9a), the “pupils of his eyes will see darkness” or no bright prospects. (20:20)
An “inheritance” that is obtained “hastily” in the “beginning” may designate possessions that are quickly or greedily acquired or gained through corrupt means and which the individual intends to be passed on to his offspring. In the end, however, this inheritance would not be “blessed,” suggesting that it would not prosper but would dwindle. At the end, there would not be much, if anything, left for the descendants to inherit. Another possibility is that the reference is to an inheritance that is acquired prematurely but is soon squandered. (20:21 [20:9b (LXX)])
The admonition is for one to avoid trying to get even. Instead of saying, “I will repay evil [my enemy (LXX])],” a person should put his hope in, or wait upon, YHWH (the Lord [LXX]) to act, and he will effect deliverance or provide help. (20:22 [20:9c (LXX)])
This proverb, like the one in verse 10 focuses on fraudulent business practices. Two different weights (a “stone and a stone” [a “double weight” (LXX)]), one for buying and one for selling, are an “abomination to YHWH [the Lord (LXX)].” A “false” or rigged balance is “not good [before him (LXX)],” for he regards it as abhorrent. (20:23)
Humans do not have full control over their life or over the outcome of their plans. The proverb emphasizes that YHWH is the one who does. He is represented as directing or guiding a man’s steps. In view of his lack of control and the uncertainties a man faces, the question is, “How can a man [an earthling (a mortal [LXX])] understand his way [ways (LXX)]” (or know the course his life will take)? (20:24)
To designate something as devoted to God, a man may rashly cry out, “Holy!” After making his vows, he may give thought to what he has done and realize that it will be very difficult to fulfill what he has obligated himself to do. Accordingly, his rash vowing (“hastily sanctifying anything of his own” [LXX]) will prove to be a “snare” for him. The Septuagint says that “regret comes.” (20:25)
A “wise king” does not tolerate wicked individuals. He “scatters” or winnows them (the “impious” or ungodly ones [LXX]), punishing them in a manner that is comparable to what happens to chaff when the wind blows it away. The reference to his turning a “wheel over them” may apply to his punishing them as if threshing them. Harvested grain could be threshed by repeatedly rolling a sledge with wheels over it. (20:26)
The “breath of man” (the “earthling”) is the “lamp of YHWH [light of the Lord (LXX)], searching all parts of the belly.” “Breath” or the “life breath” animates every part of a person. As the “lamp of YHWH,” the breath appears to be represented as the means by which YHWH can search or examine every part of a man, with nothing being hidden. (20:27)
“Loyalty,” kindness, or compassionate concern (“mercy” [LXX]) and “truth,” faithfulness, or trustworthiness are qualities that preserve a king. When evident in a ruler’s administration of governmental affairs, “loyalty” and “truth” contribute to the preservation of stability throughout the realm. A king’s “throne” or royal authority is upheld by “loyalty,” kindness, or compassionate concern. According to the Septuagint rendering, “mercy” and “truth” will encircle the king’s throne “with righteousness,” assuring that all subjects can expect to be treated justly and kindly. (20:28)
Physical strength distinguishes young men and is their glory or a basis for pride. The “beauty” or splendor of old men is their “gray hair,” for it is representative of the wisdom and experience acquired over a period of many years. In the Septuagint, the focus is not on the “strength” of young men but the reference is to “wisdom” as being their “ornament.” (20:29)
Evil deeds merit punishment, and this can serve to restrain the punished person from repeating the serious wrongdoing and to change his life for the better. Inflicted “wounds” can purge “evil,” and “strokes” the “innermost parts of the belly” or can have a beneficial effect on the inner self of the individual. (20:30; see the Notes section.)
In verse 3, the Septuagint rendering differs somewhat from the extant Hebrew text. “For a man” it is “glory” or “honor” “to turn from reproaching,” not permitting the reviling to affect him adversely. Every “fool” is closely joined to or involved with such matters.
The Septuagint rendering of verse 4 refers to a lazy person as not being ashamed when reproached (apparently for his idleness). This is also the case with a man who borrows grain at the time of the harvest or when he should have had grain from his own crop.
In the Septuagint, the proverbs found in verses 20 through 22 in the extant Hebrew text are found after verse 9.
In verse 11, the initial phrase of the Septuagint continues the thought about deceptive weights and measures. It says that the one who makes these “will be bound by his practices.” This could mean that he will encounter serious difficulties in his business transactions, for sooner or later he will be exposed as dishonest. The Septuagint then continues with wording that somewhat parallels the extant Hebrew text but expresses the basic thought differently. In the case of a young man who acts according to a “holy,” undefiled, or blameless person, his way or course of life “will be straight,” not fraught with obstacles and not deviating from what is right.
The Septuagint rendering of verse 13 departs significantly from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. “Do not love [or make it a habit] to speak evil [of others], so that you not be removed [or perish]. Open your eyes and be filled with loaves of bread.”
The proverbs in the extant Hebrew text of verses 14 through 19 are missing in the Septuagint.
In verse 30, the Septuagint rendering differs from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. “Evil men” meet with “bruises and breaks,” apparently from severe beatings that result in wounds and broken bones. “Plagues,” blows, or calamities come “into the chambers” or “inmost parts of the belly,” affecting the inmost self of the individual.
A king’s “heart,” or his faculty of thinking and reasoning, is like “streams of water” that provide growing crops with needed moisture wherever they are directed to flow. In his hand or under his control, the “heart,” mind, thinking or reasoning of the king may be turned in a manner that YHWH desires for the accomplishment of his purpose. According to the Septuagint, God will incline the king’s heart to wherever he decides to turn it. (21:1)
“In his eyes” or view, a man may regard his “way” (or the course he pursues) to be right. According to the Septuagint, he “seems righteous to himself.” This, however, is often not the case. YHWH is the one who sees what a man truly is in his inner life, for he “weighs” or examines the “heart” — the inmost self, motivation, and thoughts of the individual. The Septuagint says that the “Lord guides hearts.” (2l:2)
Offering a sacrifice may merely have been an outward act and not a genuine expression of devotion to God. To YHWH, therefore, action that springs from “righteousness and judgment” or justice (“to do right [or just] things and to be truthful” [LXX]) is more acceptable or pleasing than sacrifice (“blood of sacrifices” [LXX]). (21:3)
The “lamp of the wicked [impious or ungodly ones (LXX)]” is pride — “haughty eyes” and an “arrogant heart.” They act according to a contemptuous view of others and are arrogant at heart or haughty in thought and in their inmost selves. Therefore, their “lamp” is “sin,” for the course of life their arrogance illuminates for them is corrupt. (21:4; see the Notes section.)
Diligent persons are willing to work honestly to attain their objectives. Therefore, their plans commonly work out to their benefit. Individuals who are hasty, not giving careful consideration to their course in life, and who greedily seek to gain as much as possible for the least amount of effort or through corrupt means, are headed for want or the loss of everything they may have acquired. (21:5; see the Notes section.)
A man who acquires “treasures” or riches with a “false tongue” or with deceitful words may lose them when he is exposed as a liar and a cheat. At that time, the “treasures” will be like a puff of air that is driven away and disappears. In view of the retribution that befalls liars, they are described as persons “seeking death.” (21:6; see the Notes section.)
The “despoiling” or “robbing” in which wicked persons (the “impious” or ungodly ones) engage “will drive them away” to their ruin. This is the inevitable consequence for their unwillingness to deal justly (“ruin will be hosted by impious ones” [LXX]). According to the Septuagint, ungodly persons do not want to do righteous or just things. (21:7)
The “way of a guilty [wazár] man” (or the life course he pursues) is “crooked” or deviates markedly from what is right and just. A man who is “pure” or blameless maintains “straight” or upright conduct. (21:8; see the Notes section.)
It would be “better to live in a corner of a roof [in the open (LXX)],” or alone and exposed to the elements, than to share a house with a “contentious woman,” having to endure continual nagging and quarreling. The Septuagint rendering does not mention a “contentious woman.” It identifies the more distressing situation to be that of one’s residing in “plastered [rooms] with injustice,” or where unrighteousness exists, and in a “shared house.” (21:9)
The “soul of a wicked man,” or he himself, desires evil or whatever, though harmful to others, is to his seeming advantage. His “neighbor” or fellow will find no favor or compassion “in his eyes.” The Septuagint says that the “soul of the impious one,” or the ungodly person, “will not be shown mercy by anyone of men.” (21:10)
When a ridiculer is punished, the “simpleton,” a person without the benefit of age and experience, becomes wise, for it makes him aware of the serious consequences to which senseless conduct leads. A “wise man,” when instructed, “gains knowledge,” for he values the instruction, makes it his own, and lets it guide him. (21:11; see the Notes section.)
In the Hebrew text, the expression for “righteous one” is an adjective. It is commonly translated to apply to God, the “Righteous One,” who observes the “house of the wicked one” and also hurls “wicked ones to ruin.” A righteous person would not be in a position to overthrow wicked ones, but a just ruler could do so. Therefore, it is possible that the reference is to a righteous ruler. When the expression “righteous one” is understood to apply to any upright person, the reference to overthrowing wicked ones could be interpreted to indicate that the righteous person knows that God is the one who would do this. “The just man appraises the house of the wicked: there is one who brings down the wicked to ruin.” (NAB) According to the Septuagint, the reference is to a “righteous person,”and the translation departs significantly from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. A “righteous person understands the heart of the impious ones,” knowing the nature of their thoughts and objectives. “He despises the impious ones in [their] evils” or on account of their corrupt practices. (21:12)
A man who is in position to come to the aid of those in need but who “closes his ear to the cry of the poor,” refusing to help them, “will himself cry out and not be heard” when he comes to be in a distressing situation. People who know about the individual’s callous disregard for the afflicted will not be inclined to render assistance, and God will not listen to his pleas for help. The Septuagint indicates that there will not be anyone listening to him. (21:13)
There were times when “gifts” or “bribes” served one as a means for deliverance from a distressing or an unfavorable situation. A “secret gift” could allay anger, and a “bribe in the bosom, strong [or fierce] rage.” The bribe would be concealed in the upper fold of a garment and be given to the angry party privately. With the giving of the present or the bribe taking place in secret, no one would know the reason for the change in the attitude of the angered person, and there would be no embarrassment about what had taken place. The Septuagint says that the one who is “sparing with gifts arouses strong rage.” (21:14)
To render justice is a joy for the “righteous one”; and to evildoers, it causes dismay. Upright individuals found delight in doing what was just or right. To evildoers, justice was something terrifying, for it was contrary to their objectives. The Septuagint concludes with the thought that a “holy,” pure, or blameless person was someone “unclean to evildoers.” (21:15)
A man (an “earthling”) who strays “from the way of understanding,” engaging in senseless conduct, will inevitably or prematurely “rest” or find himself “in the assembly of the dead” (literally, the Rephaim). In this context, the designation Rephaim may refer to those who had descended to the realm of the dead like the very tall and powerful Rephaim warriors whom David and his men killed in battle. (Compare 1 Samuel 17:4-7; 1 Chronicles 20:4-8.) The Septuagint refers to the “assembly of giants.” (21:16)
A man who “loves pleasure,” or is extravagant in spending his resources to satisfy his sensual desires, will end up in poverty. One who “loves wine and oil,” engaging in sumptuous feasting and drinking and anointing himself with costly ointments, “will not be rich.” His hedonistic way of life will diminish whatever resources he may have. The Septuagint appears to indicate why a man may find himself in poverty. A “needy man loves merriment,” or having a good time, “being fond of wine and oil in abundance [literally, in wealth].” (21:17)
Corrupt individuals have no regard for others and are willing to destroy upright people whenever it is to their advantage. Therefore, at the time divine judgment is executed, the life of righteous ones is preserved at the cost of the lives of the wicked. This appears to be the thought expressed in the proverb. The “wicked” are a “ransom for the righteous, and the faithless,” untrustworthy, or dishonest one, “for the upright one.” According to the Septuagint, the “lawless one” is a “ransom [or the refuse left from a cleansing process] for the righteous one.” (21:18)
It is “better to live in a wilderness,” or in isolation and discomfort, than with a “contentious and vexatious [quarrelsome, babbling, and short-tempered (LXX)] woman.” It would be far worse for a man to be continually faced with quarreling, complaining, nagging, and angry outbursts. (21:19)
A wise man makes good use of his resources and is industrious. Therefore, “precious treasure and oil” are in his residence. He lacks nothing. In the case of the “foolish man,” he “swallows” or wastes whatever he may have. (21:20; see the Notes section.)
One who pursues “righteousness and loyalty,” kindness, compassionate concern, or “mercy” (LXX), or earnestly seeks to conduct himself in an upright, kind, compassionate, and trustworthy manner, “will find life, “righteousness, and honor.” His active concern for others will contribute to the preservation of his life and make it truly meaningful. His righteous or just dealings with fellow humans will contribute to his being treated justly or honestly and honorably. The Septuagint says that a “way of righteousness and mercy will find life and glory” or honor. (21:21)
A “wise man,” applying his fund of knowledge effectively, was able to scale a “city of mighty ones” or warriors (“fortified cities” [LXX]) and to bring down the stronghold of [their] trust, or the stronghold on which they (the “impious” or ungodly ones [LXX]) relied for protection. This indicates that wisdom is stronger than might. (21:22)
The man who “keeps,” guards, or controls “his mouth and his tongue keeps his soul” or himself “out of troubles.” He does not say senseless things nor express himself in ways that insult and anger others. (21:23)
The “name” given to a “haughty, insolent” man is “scoffer,” identifying him as a person who has contempt for others and who ridicules whatever or whoever is not to his liking. According to the Septuagint, an “insolent,” “stubborn,” and “boastful” man “is called a pest,” or a pestilent fellow, and one who bears grudges, a “transgressor” or a lawbreaker. The final phrase in the Hebrew text could be understood to refer to the haughty, insolent man as one who acts with the “fury of arrogance,” quickly taking offense and lashing out in anger. Modern translations vary in their renderings. He “acts in a frenzy of insolence.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “Overweening conceit marks all he does.” (REB) He “acts with scornful effrontery.” (NAB) (21:24)
A sluggard may have a “desire,” or a need that must be filled, but he is unwilling to use his hands to labor. According to the Septuagint, “his hands prefer not to do anything.” Therefore, unfulfilled “desire” (“desires” [LXX]) “kills” him. (21:25)
Based on the previous verse, the sluggard desires earnestly (literally, “desires desire”) “all the day” or continually. He has many wants but does not do anything to meet his pressing needs, and he has nothing to give to the poor. The Septuagint says that the “impious” or ungodly one “desires evil desires the whole day.” He is continually focused on trying to satisfy his corrupt cravings. The righteous person, however, is in a position to give to the needy and holds nothing back. According to the Septuagint, the righteous one has mercy and is unsparingly compassionate. (21:26)
To the “Lord” [LXX], the “sacrifice [sacrifices [LXX]) of the wicked” (the impious or ungodly ones [LXX]) is an abomination or something loathsome, for they displease him. No sacrifice of theirs is acceptable. The Septuagint indicates the reason for God’s disapproval as being that ungodly individuals bring their sacrifices unlawfully, not complying with his law regarding acceptable offerings. According to the extant Hebrew text, it would be even more abhorrent if the individual presented a sacrifice while engaging in corrupt practices or while scheming to act unjustly to advance his base objectives. (21:27)
A “lying witness will perish,” for he would be subjected to the punishment that would be inflicted on the innocent party if his lying testimony had been believed. (Deuteronomy 19:16-21) A “man who listens will speak in perpetuity.” This could mean that a man who truly pays attention to what he hears will testify truthfully, and his words will endure as trustworthy testimony. The Hebrew text, however, does not express this thought explicitly. Therefore, translators vary in their interpretive renderings. “One who really heard will testify with success.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “A good listener will testify successfully.” (NRSV) “A truthful witness will speak on.” (REB) “He who listens will finally have his say.” (NAB) “No one who knows how to listen will ever be silenced.” (NJB) “Only a reliable witness can do the job.” (CEV) “Whoever listens to him [a false witness] will be destroyed forever.” (NIV) According to the Septuagint, an “obedient man” is cautious in his speaking, exercising care in what he says. (21:28)
A wicked man is shameless and deceptive, putting on a bold or brazen face, resorting to bluff and bluster to conceal his base objectives. According to the Septuagint, an “impious” or ungodly “man resists boldly [or impudently] with his face.” What the upright person does in relation to “his ways” depends on which reading of the Hebrew text is followed and whether the “ways” are regarded as those of the upright person or those of the wicked man. The upright person could be considered as understanding the direction that the wicked man is following and is not deceived. Another possible meaning is that the upright man “will establish his ways” or will be secure in the course that he is determined to pursue. It could also be that an upright man is being represented as giving careful consideration to his ways before starting out on a particular course of action. Renderings of translations vary in the meanings they convey. “The upright man discerns his course.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “An upright man gives thought to his ways.” (NIV) “One who is upright looks to his ways.” (REB) “The honest it is whose steps are firm.” (NJB) The Septuagint says that an “upright man himself understands his ways.” He knows where he is going or heading. (21:29)
There is “no wisdom, no understanding [no courage (LXX)], no counsel, before YHWH.” Nothing that is of human origin can succeed if it is in opposition to him or to his purpose. The Septuagint rendering may be understood to indicate that the impious or ungodly ones are without wisdom, courage, and counsel. (21:30)
Anciently, horses were used extensively in warfare. Therefore, the “horse” is referred to as being prepared for the “day of battle.” The Israelites, however, were not to rely on horses for their security but were to put their trust in YHWH, for “salvation” or “deliverance” is from him. According to the Septuagint rendering, “help is from the Lord.” (21:31)
The Septuagint rendering of verse 4 focuses on the individual. A “high-minded” or haughty man is “bold-hearted” or self-reliant in “arrogance.”
The text of verse 5 is not included in the Septuagint.
In verse 6, the Septuagint refers to the deceitful individual as pursuing emptiness “into the snares of death.”
There is uncertainty about the meaning of the Hebrew adjective wazár that is commonly rendered as “guilty” and only appears in verse 8 and nowhere else in the extant Hebrew text. This adjective has also been thought to modify the Hebrew noun for “way.” “The way of a man may be tortuous and strange.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) In the Septuagint, the wording relates to what God does. To persons who are “crooked,” engaging in lawless practices, “God sends crooked ways,” letting them experience the calamitous results to which their acts lead. His “works,” however, are “pure and straight” or upright. Whatever God does or may permit will never be defiled but will always be right.
In verse 11, the rendering of the Septuagint departs from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. “When an intemperate man is punished, the guileless” or blameless one “becomes more prudent,” benefiting from seeing the consequences from wayward conduct. “But by understanding, a wise man will receive knowledge.” Being open to learning and valuing knowledge, the wise man will obtain it.
The wording in verse 20 of the Septuagint rendering differs from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. A “desirable treasure will rest upon the mouth of the wise one, but foolish men will swallow it.” The “desirable treasure” could be the sound advice that proceeds from the mouth of a wise man and that treasure is always available for use. That treasure does not benefit senseless men, for they swallow it like food and do not retain it for future application or use.
A (“fine” [LXX]) “name” or an excellent reputation is a more desirable choice than abundant wealth. “Good (LXX) favor,” or for one to be favorably regarded as a noble person, is “better than silver and gold.” Wealth and precious metals cannot buy a good reputation nor earn the favorable view of others. (22:1)
In the daily affairs of life, a rich man and a poor man meet, and outwardly the difference between them becomes readily apparent. Indicating that YHWH (the “Lord” [LXX]) does not regard the men differently (as humans commonly do) and cares about them, he is identified as “making them all [both (LXX)].” (22:2)
A prudent man sees calamity or a threatening situation and wisely hides himself from danger. The simpleton, however, does not take any precaution, passes where the troublesome situation is developing, and suffers the consequences. (22:3; see the Notes section.)
The words about the “reward” or “consequence for humility” are not linked to the rest of the proverb with a verb or a conjunction. If the conjunction “and” is understood to follow the Hebrew word for “humility,” the thought would be that humility and a “fear of YHWH [the Lord (LXX)],” or a reverential regard for him and a wholesome dread of acting contrary to his will, lead to having “wealth” (from wise use of resources and diligent labor), “glory” or honor (from living uprightly), and “life” (a meaningful life and the avoidance of a premature death from senseless acts or corrupt conduct). If the supplied verb after “humility” is understood to be “is,” the meaning would be that having a “fear of YHWH” leads to additional benefits — “wealth and glory and life.” The Septuagint identifies the “fear of the Lord and wealth and glory and life” to be the “generation,” offspring, or products of wisdom.” (22:4)
In the “way” or in the course that a “crooked” or corrupt person pursues, there are “thorns [and] snares.” It is a very hazardous way of life, for thorns can be hurtful and snares can capture and kill. The Septuagint refers to “thistles and snares” as being “in crooked ways.” The man who “guards his soul” or himself “will keep far away” from injurious thorns and harmful snares that are inherent in the course of lawless individuals. He is not tempted to adopt their evil practices. (22:5)
Usually, a boy who is trained in the way he should go or in the right way for him to conduct himself will not depart from it even when he is old. Once he recognizes the rightness of a particular course and the benefit from following it, he will not allow himself to be persuaded to change direction, adopting an injurious way of life in later years. (22:6; see the Notes section.)
In view of their power and influence, the rich rule over the poor, often having them perform menial service for them. Similarly, a borrower is a slave to the lender, for he is under obligation to him to repay the debt, placing him in an inferior position and subjecting him to the unfavorable consequences that could result if circumstances made it impossible for him to fulfill his obligation. The Septuagint expresses the concluding thought differently. “Servants will lend to their own masters.” (22:7)
One who sows “unrighteousness” or injustice “will reap emptiness,” worthlessness, or calamity, for nothing good can come from wrongdoing. Although a wrongdoer may be infuriated, the “rod of his anger will fail.” His hateful, oppressive, or corrupt dealings will not have abiding success. Retribution will inevitably catch up with him. (22:8; see the Notes section.)
The individual who is “good of eye,” looking upon needy ones compassionately, “will be blessed.” Besides having pity, he responds compassionately with aid, generously giving “his bread” to the lowly, poor, or afflicted one. (22:9; see the Notes section.)
With insults, a ridiculer provokes quarrels and fights. Therefore, driving him away can end contention, legal disputes, and abuse. The thought expressed in the Septuagint departs somewhat from the wording of the extant Hebrew text. “Expel a pest [or pestilent fellow] from the assembly, and with him quarreling will depart, for when he sits in the assembly he insults everyone.” (22:10)
To “love purity of heart” denotes to desire to be undefiled in thought, motivation, and the inmost self. A just king or ruler would choose an honest, trustworthy man as his companion for the “grace of his lips” or the gracious, thoughtful, and praiseworthy words his lips would be used to express. (22:11; see the Notes section.)
The “eyes of YHWH [the Lord (LXX)] safeguard knowledge.” His focus is on the use of knowledge for the accomplishment of his purpose. This applied knowledge is safeguarded from failing to attain the predetermined objective. YHWH overthrows the “words of the treacherous one,” not permitting that one’s expressed intentions to succeed. The treacherous individual’s plans or schemes are doomed. According to the Septuagint, a “transgressor” or lawless person “despises words,” suggesting that the individual has contempt for insightful words that would call upon him to abandon his corrupt way of life. (22:12)
A sluggard comes up with preposterous excuses to avoid work. He is represented as claiming that a lion is loose on the streets and as maintaining that he risks being killed in the squares of the city. The Septuagint quotes him as saying that a “lion [is] on the roads and murderers [are] in the squares.” (22:13)
In this context, the expression “strange women” designates women who prostitute themselves. Their “mouth” (or the seductive speech that proceeds from the mouth) is a “deep pit,” for a man who yields to the seduction is bound to experience injury. A man with whom YHWH is angry or whom he has rejected will fall into this “deep pit,” for he will experience the bitter consequences from involvement with a woman who is not his wife. (22:14; see the Notes section.)
In view of his inexperience and curiosity about forbidden things, a boy may be inclined to engage in foolish and risky behavior. “Foolishness is bound up in [his] heart,” or the inclination to act senselessly may have a strong hold on his inner self. The “rod of discipline,” or the needed and appropriate correction, “will drive [foolishness] far from him.” (22:15; see the Notes section.)
For a time, men who commit fraud or who oppress others may have a measure of success. Eventually, however, they may be exposed and suffer serious consequences for their dishonesty. Possibly the proverb relates to this. A man who “oppresses” a lowly or poor individual to make gain or to acquire possessions for himself and the one who gives to the rich to procure advantages for himself will in time experience “lack.” This and other meanings are reflected in the renderings of modern translations. “He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives gifts to the rich — both come to poverty.” (NIV) “Cheat the poor to make profit or give gifts to the rich — either way you lose.” (CEV) “To profit by withholding what is due [possibly their wages] to the poor is like making gifts to the rich — pure loss.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “Oppression of the poor brings gain, but giving to the rich leads only to penury.” (REB) “He who oppresses the poor to enrich himself will yield up his gains to the rich as sheer loss.” (NAB) The Septuagint says that the man who “oppresses the needy one makes many things his own but gives to a rich person” to make them (the things he made his own) “less” or to make them at the expense of the needy one. (22:16)
The “words of wise persons” can benefit one, for the knowledge the wise impart can provide valuable guidance for one’s life. Therefore, the admonition of the proverb is, “Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge.” To apply the “heart” would mean to give full attention to the knowledge the wise teacher possessed and imparted. (22:17; see the Notes section.)
The man who kept the words of wise persons “in his belly” or his inner self would find this to be pleasant, for he wold be guided to conduct himself in a manner that would promote his well-being. Moreover, he, in turn, could share the beneficial knowledge with others, for the words of wise persons would be “established upon his lips” (as if residing there and always ready to be expressed). Regarding the “words of wise persons,” the Septuagint says, “If you put them into your heart [or your inmost self], they will gladden you at the same time upon your lips,” giving rise to the joy that comes from being able to share with others knowledge that can benefit them. (22:18)
The wise teacher imparted knowledge so that the one accepting it would come to have his trust (“hope” [LXX]) in YHWH (the Lord [LXX]), looking to him for aid and guidance. According to the Septuagint, God “may make known to you his way” or the course that he approves and that will never lead to disappointment. (22:19)
The wise teacher had committed proverbial sayings to writing, imparting “admonitions and knowledge.” If an emended reading of the Hebrew text is followed, the reference is to the writing of “thirty sayings.” The extant Hebrew text could be translated “three days ago,” which is commonly considered to mean that the writing had already been completed. Translations vary in their renderings. “Here I have written out for you thirty sayings, full of knowledge and wise advice.” (REB) “I have written thirty sayings filled with sound advice.” (CEV) “Indeed, I wrote down for you a threefold lore, wise counsel.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) The Septuagint directs the admonition to the one being taught, “But you also write them [the words of wise persons] for yourself threefold for counsel and knowledge upon the surface of your heart.” (22:20)
The wise teacher gave the reason for his having written thoughts that imparted “admonitions and knowledge.” It was to show the trustworthiness of truth, equipping the instructed one “to bring back words of truth” (a “true report” [REB]; a “true answer” [NRSV]; “the right words” [CEV])to those who had sent him on a mission. In the Septuagint, the wise teacher is represented as saying, “Therefore, I teach you a true saying and good knowledge to obey” and “to reply with words of truth to the ones questioning you.” (22:21)
Ruthless men often took advantage of lowly or poor individuals, depriving them of the little they had. Therefore, the admonition of the proverb is that one should not rob the needy one in his destitute or vulnerable state (or because he is poor) nor should one “crush the afflicted one in the gate.” In the open area near the city gate, elders functioned as judges. To crush the afflicted one would have meant to render an unjust judgment against him. The Septuagint says, “Do not do violence to someone poor, for he is needy, and do not dishonor a weak [or afflicted] person at the gates.” (22:22)
Those who defraud a poor person will have to face God in his capacity as judge. YHWH is the one who is represented as pleading the cause of the poor. Individuals who “rob” the needy are the ones from whom YHWH will “rob” their “soul” or their life, depriving them of existence. Although the Septuagint refers to the Lord as arguing the needy one’s case, it continues with the words, “and you will deliver your soul [or life] from reprisal.” (22:23)
Association with anyone given to anger or with a man known for outbursts of rage should be avoided. (22:24) Keeping company with a short-tempered man can lead to one’s adopting “his ways,” being quick to lash out in anger. The companionship will prove to be a snare for a man’s “soul,” for him as a person, or for his life. (22:25)
The “striking of hands” or the shaking of hands served to make agreements. This was to be avoided when it involved making oneself responsible for the repayment of someone else’s loan. According to the Septuagint, one was not to let oneself be shamed (literally, “shaming the face”) into going surety. (22:26) When repayment is demanded at a future time, the man who agreed to provide security may find himself without the required funds. Therefore, the lender would take away his bed (“the bed under [his] ribs” [LXX]). (22:27)
Moving or removing the ancient boundary marker that forefathers had set up was a method used to steal land. The proverb is directed against this dishonest practice. (22:28)
A skilled craftsman is in high demand. Therefore, kings or rulers would choose him to work on their projects. Instead of being a laborer for commoners, he would stand “before the face of kings” or in the presence of kings. According to the Septuagint, an “observant man and one skilled in his works should stand beside kings [or serve them] and should not stand beside [or serve] lazy men.” (22:29)
In verse 3, the Septuagint rendering differs from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. A “prudent person, seeing a wicked person severely punished is himself disciplined,” instructed, or corrected, “but the senseless ones, passing by [or taking no note], suffered loss.”
The Septuagint does not include a rendering for the words of verse 6 of the extant Hebrew text.
According to verse 8 in the Septuagint, the sower of worthlessness, besides reaping bad or injurious things, “will complete the plague of his works” or experience the unmitigated calamitous consequences of his corrupt deeds. The Septuagint then adds wording that is not found in the extant Hebrew text. “God blesses a happy and generous man, but the worthlessness,” emptiness, or vanity of “his works he will end.” This could mean that God would bring an end to any deeds of the generous man that could be worthless or accomplish nothing beneficial.
In verse 9, the Septuagint adds additional words after mentioning that the one showing mercy to the poor would himself be nourished in view of his giving his “own bread loaves to the poor.” “The one giving gifts gains victory” or success “and honor” (probably because of his generosity). One possible meaning for the concluding phrase about removing the “soul of the ones possessing” is that, through purchase, the “soul” or life is taken from its possessors.
The primary focus of verse 11 in the Septuagint is on God, and it then concludes with a reference to a king. The “Lord loves holy [or pure] hearts, and all blameless ones are acceptable to him. A king shepherds with [his] lips,” providing guidance for his subjects with the words his lips express.
In verse 14, the Septuagint does not mention “strange women.” It refers to the mouth of a “transgressor” or “lawless person” as being a “deep pit.” After wording that basically corresponds to that of the extant Hebrew text, the Septuagint adds, “Bad ways are before a man, and he does not love to be turned away from them, although it is necessary to turn away from a crooked and bad way.”
The Septuagint rendering of verse 15 refers to the reason for the adherence of foolishness to the heart of a boy. “But the rod and discipline [are] far away from him.”
In verse 17, the rendering of the Septuagint differs somewhat from the wording of the extant Hebrew text. “Incline your ear to the words of the wise and hear my word, and apply your heart so you may know that they are good.” The one giving heartfelt attention to the wise words would come to recognize their value.
If a person were invited to dine with a king, a ruler, or a high official, he should think about what is before him, not letting his appetite for the sumptuous meal control his eating. (23:1) The admonition is, “Put a knife to your throat if you are an owner of soul” (or a person with an inordinate appetite). (23:2; see the Notes section.) The dainties on the table may be enticing, but the advice is, “Do not crave [them],” for they are “food of lies.” The real purpose of the invitation to the meal or banquet is unrelated to eating a sumptuous meal. The invited one is under observation, with his conduct and words being carefully scrutinized. According to the Septuagint, there is a “false life” associated with the delicacies. It is a life that is not as desirable as it appears to one who does not have the means for sumptuous fare. (23:3)
The prime object in life should not be to toil for the acquisition of wealth, for ultimately the end result will be disappointing. The expression that may be literally translated “to cease from understanding” could mean to abandon one’s understanding about the value of gaining riches and to stop the inordinate striving after wealth. Modern translations vary in their renderings. “Do not slave to get wealth; be sensible, and desist.” (REB) “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint.” (NIV) “Do not wear yourself out in quest of wealth, stop applying your mind to this.” (NJB) “Toil not to gain wealth, cease to be concerned about it.” (NAB) The Septuagint expresses a different thought. “If you are poor, do not compare yourself with a rich person; but, in your insight, stay at a distance” (or restrain yourself from thinking in this manner). (23:4)
Based on the context, the implied object of what the “eyes light upon” is wealth. It can quickly disappear just when the eyes focus on it. Wealth can speedily vanish as if it, for itself, made wings like those of an eagle and flew away toward the sky. (23:5; see the Notes section.)
The expression that may be rendered literally as “evil eye” refers to the ungenerous and miserly disposition of its possessor. The proverbial counsel is not to eat with the individual nor to desire the dainties or delicacies on his table. (23:6) He is like one who is calculating, keeping account of what is eaten and the cost involved. Although he may say, “Eat and drink,” he does not mean it. “His heart is not with you.” In his thought or within himself, he begrudges whatever may be eaten. (23:7; see the Notes section.)
Upon coming to recognize the real motivation of the stingy person, the invited one will feel like vomiting out the morsel he had eaten and will perceive that he had wasted his “pleasant words” or complimentary expressions. (23:8; see the Notes section.)
A fool, a person who chooses to live a senseless or corrupt life, would not be responsive to any admonition that called upon him to make changes in his conduct. The proverb counsels that one should not speak “into the ears of a fool, for he will despise” the “wise words” directed to him, disregarding them and treating them with contempt. (23:9)
The initial phrase about not removing the ancient boundary marker repeats the words found in verse 28 of chapter 22. A person who engaged in this dishonest practice thus stole property from a neighboring field. For one to enter the fields of fatherless ones or orphans appears to have meant to seize their property, taking advantage of their vulnerable state. The proverb instructed that this should not be done. (23:10)
Persons who did take the property of orphans would have to face God’s judgment. As the redeemer, avenger, or vindicator of orphans, he is “strong,” assuring that he has the power and the determination to render justice. He is the one who will plead the cause of orphans. (23:11)
To give or to apply the “heart to discipline” would mean to be mentally inclined to accept needed discipline and to benefit from it. For one to apply the “ear” to “words of knowledge” would signify to listen and to give heed to instructive speech. The admonition in the Septuagint is, “Prepare your ears for words of knowledge,” readying yourself to be receptive to sound teaching. (23:12)
When a boy needs to be corrected, a parent should not “hold back discipline.” The use of a rod to administer punishment for bad behavior will not kill him. “A stroke of the cane is not likely to be fatal.” (NJB) In view of the proverb in the next verse, the meaning of the words “he will not die” may relate to the benefit from the use of the rod. The significance could be that the discipline will correct the boy so that he does not grow up to be an undisciplined, disrespectful, and debauched person who may be executed as a hardened criminal or who dies prematurely on account of his wayward conduct. “Take the stick to him, and save him from death.” (REB) (23:13) Using the rod on him “may deliver his soul [or him himself] from Sheol,” the realm of the dead. The Septuagint refers to the deliverance of the youngster (literally, “his soul”) as being “from death.” (23:14)
The “heart” can designate the mental faculty or the deep inner self. For a son’s “heart” to be “wise” indicates that he is conducting himself uprightly and shunning senseless and risky behavior. This would bring rejoicing to the “heart” or the inner self of his father. (23:15) When a son’s lips “speak uprightness” or what is true, honest, or right, the “kidneys” of his father “will be jubilant.” Translators commonly render the Hebrew word for “kidneys” according to what appears to be the contextual significance (“inmost self” [NJB]; “inmost being” [NIV]; “all my soul” [REB]). (23:16; see the Notes section.)
“Sinners,” or persons who are deceptive, fraudulent, oppressive, or cruel in their dealings with others, may prosper for a time. Therefore, the admonition given to the son is for his “heart” not to be envious of them, not letting his mind or inner self look upon prosperous corrupt individuals as enjoying a better life than his own. Instead of yielding to envy, he should be “in fear of YHWH [the Lord (LXX)] all the day,” or continually have a reverential regard for him and a wholesome dread of acting contrary to his will. This would include trusting in YHWH to bring wrongdoers to justice by whatever means he may choose or allow to act against them. (23:17)
The son’s having a wholesome fear of YHWH would assure his having a future and a hope for betterment in his circumstances. It would be a hope that “will not be cut off” or will not fail to be fulfilled. According to the Septuagint, the son would have “offspring” if he followed the admonition that had been given to him. (23:18)
There is no object for the verb “hear” or “listen,” but the implication is for the son to listen to the sound instruction and advice being given to him. His paying attention would lead to his becoming wise. The son’s leading his “heart in the way” would require his focusing his mind on following the right course of life. In the Septuagint, the reference is to directing the “reasonings of [his] heart” or his mental faculty. (23:19)
The son was exhorted to shun a debauched way of life. He was not to be found in the company of heavy drinkers of wine and gluttonous eaters of meat. The Septuagint rendering may be understood to instruct the son not to yearn (literally, “stretch out”) for meals with meat nor for marketplaces, probably to purchase meat. (23:20)
A “drunkard and a glutton will come to poverty,” for his life of dissipation will waste whatever resources he may have and prevent him from being a productive worker. “Drowsiness will clothe with rags,” for the man stupefied from drink will be drowsy and unable to earn the needed funds for clothing and other necessities. The Septuagint says that “every drunkard and whoremonger will become poor, and every drowsy one will put on torn and ragged clothing.” (23:21)
A son should listen to his father, heeding his admonition and correction. This is only right, for his father was responsible for his coming into existence. The son should also continue to have deep appreciation for his mother, never looking down upon or despising her when or because she is old. (23:22)
To “buy truth” may be understood to mean to put forth the effort to acquire that which is trustworthy and enduring because it is right or true. Once “truth” is acquired, it should not be “sold,” indicating that it should be kept as a highly valued possession. Closely associated with “truth” or what is true, right, or dependable are wisdom (the capacity to use knowledge aright), discipline (correction, training, or instruction), and understanding (the capacity to recognize what is right and to act accordingly). Like “truth,” knowledge, discipline, and understanding are also to be bought or acquired. (23:23; see the Notes section.)
When his child proves to be righteous or upright, a father will rejoice (literally, “rejoice to rejoice”). It will bring him pleasure and satisfaction to see his offspring living a laudable life that brings honor to him and the whole family. Having become the father of a wise son, “he will be glad in him.” The father will delight in having a son who shuns senseless and reckless behavior and who acts sensibly and makes wise decisions. According to the Septuagint, a “righteous father rears [his offspring] well, and his soul [or he himself] rejoices in a wise son.” (23:24)
When a child turns out to be exemplary in life, both the father and the mother will have reason to be delighted. The mother, as the one who gave birth, will rejoice, for her previous labor pains led to a blessed result in the form of a noble and wise child. (23:25)
For a son to give his “heart” to his father could include being devoted to him and granting him his undivided attention. The son would be moved to be responsive to his father’s instruction and good advice. For the “eyes” of the son to delight in his father’s ways would be evident from his being focused on imitating his father’s good example in the various aspects of life. (23:26)
A “prostitute” is a “deep pit,” for involvement with her poses a serious risk to a man’s well-being or life. His ruin would be comparable to a person’s falling into a deep pit. The designation “foreign” or “strange” with reference to a woman also refers to one who prostitutes herself. She is likened to a “narrow well.” As clay jars were lowered and raised to obtain water, they could strike against the sides of the narrow well and break. Similarly, a man could head for ruin when becoming involved with a prostitute. (23:27; see the Notes section.)
A prostitute is portrayed as lying in wait like a robber and increasing treacherous or faithless dealings among men (literally, “man” or the earthling). In this context, the treacherous acts appear to be those committed by men who had relations with prostitutes, thereby proving themselves to be disloyal to their wives. With seeming reference to a man who yields to the seduction of a prostitute, the Septuagint rendering may be understood to indicate that he “will perish speedily.” The Septuagint then concludes with the phrase, “and every transgressor” or lawbreaker “will be destroyed.” (23:28)
Regarding a person who overindulges in drinking wine, the questions are raised, “Who” has “woe,” trouble, or misery? “Who” has “pain,” sorrow, or remorse (“trouble” or “confusion” [LXX])? “Who” has “contentions” (“judgment,” condemnation, or disputing [LXX]) or brawls? “Who” has “complaint” or anxiety (“unpleasantness and gossip” [LXX])? “Who” has “wounds for nothing” (or does not know how or why he got wounds and bruises)? “Who” has “dullness of eyes” or “bloodshot eyes” (“pale eyes” [LXX])? (23:29) The answer is, “Those lingering over wine,” spending prolonged periods in drinking, and “going after mixed drink.” They eagerly look for opportunities to partake of intoxicants or, according to the Septuagint, track down venues where drinking takes place. (23:30)
Overindulgence in drinking has serious consequences. Therefore, the exhortation is, “Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup” (turn your eyes away when the wine looks very inviting and the temptation is strong to partake repeatedly). Once it enters the mouth, the wine “goes down smoothly” or easily. The Septuagint says, “Do not get drunk with wine, but keep company with righteous men” (not with winebibbers), and keep company in the public walkways” (where meaningful conversations take place). “If you should give your eyes to bowls or cups” (filled with wine), “you will walk about afterward more naked than a pestle” (probably when it is not in use and completely bare). (23:31)
Drinking wine or other intoxicants may be pleasurable, but overindulgence leads to very serious problems. The aftereffect can be comparable to a serpent’s bite and a viper’s venom (literally, “it stings like a viper”). (23:32; see the Notes section.)
Under the influence of wine or other intoxicants, a person’s “eyes will see strange things” or experience hallucinations. Without self-control and dulled inhibitions, the “heart” or the impaired mental faculty will cause “perverse,” twisted, or distorted thoughts to be expressed. (23:33; see the Notes section.)
The intoxicated person will be vulnerable and find himself in very hazardous circumstances, situations that are comparable to “lying down in the heart [or the midst] of the sea,” tossed by wind and waves. The precarious state of the individual will be like that of one lying down at the top of the mast of a ship. No one could remain in that position without being hurled down to the deck or into the sea. (23:34; see the Notes section.)
With the senses dulled, the intoxicated man does not become sick from having been struck, and he does not feel (literally, “does not know”) the pain from having been beaten. The drunkard is represented as asking when he would wake up (from his stupor). On waking or sobering up, the man will again seek to satisfy his craving for alcohol. (23:35; see the Notes section.)
In verses 1 and 2, the Septuagint sets forth the reason for carefully observing what is set before one when invited to dine with “rulers.” “Put out your hand,” with the knowledge that “you must make preparations for such things.”
The Septuagint wording of verse 5 differs somewhat from that of the extant Hebrew text. “If you set your eye upon him, he will by no means appear [or show himself], for there are prepared for him wings like those of an eagle, and he returns to the house of his superior.” The closest antecedent for the pronoun translated “him” is “rich one” or rich person, but it is not clear what the “house of the superior” would be. If “God” is the one intended, there is a question as to why the rich person is represented as returning to God’s house.
In verse 7, the Septuagint differs significantly from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. It refers to a “bewitching” or envious man as eating and drinking like a person who “swallows a hair.”
Although the wording of the Septuagint in verse 8 is similar to that of the extant Hebrew text, the application is different. The admonition is not to invite the bewitching or envious man and not to eat one’s morsel with him, “for he will vomit it out and distort your good [or pleasant] words.”
In verse 16, the Septuagint rendering differs significantly from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. If the son’s lips are upright, being used to express what is true or right, the “words of [his] “lips will spend time with” his father’s “lips,” or he will converse with his father.
The Septuagint does not contain corresponding wording for that of verse 23 in the extant Hebrew text.
In verse 27, the feminine Hebrew adjective for “strange” or “foreign” does not appear with the noun for “woman.” This may explain the Septuagint rendering that refers to a “strange house” (probably a house of prostitution) as being a “pierced vessel” (one that can hold no water) and to a “narrow well” as being “strange” (or a “strange well” as being “narrow”).
According to the Septuagint reading of verse 32, the intoxicated person “stretches himself out like one struck” or bitten by a serpent and is like one in whom the poison of a horned viper diffuses.
In verse 33, the Septuagint refers to the “eyes” as seeing a “strange woman.” When this happens, the “mouth will speak twisted things.”
After the reference in verse 34 to lying down “as in the heart of the sea,” the Septuagint describes the position as being like that of a “navigator in a great wave” or swell.
The rendering of verse 35 in the Septuagint differs from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. “And you will say, ‘They struck me, and I did not have pain; and they mocked me, but I did not know [it]. When will it be dawn, that I may come and seek one with whom I will go [ or come] together [to drink]?’”
Evil or corrupt men, with deceptive, fraudulent, oppressive, or cruel means, become rich and acquire a powerful or influential position in the community. This may cause others to look enviously upon what they have achieved. Therefore, the exhortation of the proverb is, “[Son (LXX)], do not be envious of evil men, and do not desire to be with them,” the apparent intent being to enjoy like prosperity. (24:1)
The “meditating” or plotting of the “heart” of wicked men is on violence or ruin (on “lies” [LXX); gaining their base objectives through deception). Their “heart” or mental faculty is focused on how they can take advantage of others. They bring ruin to those whom they intend to exploit. “Their lips speak trouble,” for the words their lips express injure others. (24:2)
A “house” or “household” is built by wisdom. Sensible use of resources and diligent labor contribute to prosperity and a stable household. The “house” is established with “understanding.” It rests on a solid foundation when responsible persons have a good grasp of what is required to manage household affairs and are conscientious about doing so. (24:3)
With “knowledge” the “storerooms” of a house or household “are filled with precious and pleasing wealth” or with valuable possessions. Sound knowledge, when applied in caring for household affairs, leads to prosperity. (24:4)
The Hebrew text regarding a “wise man” is somewhat elliptical. It literally reads, “A wise man in strength and a man of knowledge having strong strength.” This could mean that one who is “wise in strength” or exceptionally wise is a man in the true sense of the word, and a man in possession of knowledge and who uses it aright is indeed strong. Various meanings are conveyed in translations. “Wisdom prevails over strength, knowledge over brute force.” (REB) “Wisdom brings strength, and knowledge gives power.” (CEV) “Anyone wise is mighty in force, knowledge confirms someone’s strength.” (NJB) “A wise man is strength; a knowledgeable man exerts power.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “Wise warriors are mightier than strong ones, and those who have knowledge than those who have strength.” (NRSV) “A wise man has great power, and a man of knowledge increases strength.” (NIV) “A wise man is more powerful than a strong man, and a man of knowledge than a man of might.” (NAB) According to the Septuagint, “better is a wise man than a strong one, and a man of insight [or an intelligent man] than one who has extensive tilled land.” (24:5)
Success in waging war depends on skillful direction or good strategic planning. A multitude of counselors or many expert advisers contribute to victory or “deliverance” from enemy threat. The Septuagint says that help comes from a “counseling heart” or a mental faculty capable of formulating sound advice. (24:6)
There is uncertainty about the meaning of the Hebrew word ra’mόhth. It has been linked to the verb rum, meaning “lift up” or “exalt,” and the noun ra’mόhth is commonly understood to designate “corals.” When ra’mόhth is thought to relate to being “lifted up,” the meaning of the initial phrase would be that “wisdom” is lifted up above the fool or is too lofty for him and out of his reach. Corals were anciently viewed as very precious. A senseless person, however, would not recognize their value. From this standpoint, wisdom would have been like corals to him, for he had no appreciation for wisdom or its inestimable worth. (24:7; see the Notes section.)
Anciently, in the open area adjacent to the city gate, elders handled legal cases, and business transactions were conducted there. It was a location where sound judgment and good reasoning were in evidence, and a fool would not “open his mouth,” for he had nothing of significance to say and his expressions would not be tolerated among sensible men. (24:7)
A man who schemes to do bad will be called a “master of intrigues” or one who is skilled in devising corrupt plans. (24:8; see the Notes section.)
Devising foolishness (or planning to engage in senseless or hurtful practices) is identified as “sin,” a failure to live up to accepted norms or to God’s will. A ridiculer, or a person who mocks what is right, sensible, or noble, is an “abomination” to people (literally, to “man” [the earthling]). (24:9; see the Notes section.)
If, in a day of distress (a time of difficulty or hardship), one becomes faint or disheartened, one’s strength will be limited. There will be little capacity for enduring prolonged affliction. (24:10; see the Notes section.)
When witnessing injustices and finding oneself in a position to render aid to persons being victimized, one should feel morally obligated to do so. “Rescue the ones being taken away to death; hold back those stumbling to slaughter.” The reference may be to individuals who have been unjustly condemned to be executed and whose innocence can be established before they are led away to be put to death. In the Septuagint, the admonition is to “buy back” or to secure the freedom of those about to be slaughtered, not sparing oneself from taking action or delaying to do so. (24:11)
Many may be inclined not to get involved and to justify their inaction, saying, “Look! We did not know this,” insisting that they neither knew the victims nor about their unjust condemnation. God, however, is fully aware of what individuals know and the reason for their failure to act. He “weighs hearts” or, according to the Septuagint, the “Lord knows the hearts of all.” God discerns what the thoughts and motivations of the inner self really are. He, as the one observing the “soul” or the individual (the one “forming the breath in everyone” [LXX]), knows the true situation (“knows everything” [LXX]). God will repay a man (an “earthling”) “according to his work,” including his failure to act when he is morally accountable to do so. (24:12)
Honey is a quick-energy food, and the proverb encourages eating it. “Eat honey, my son, for it is good” (the “honeycomb” is “good” [LXX]), and honey from the comb is “sweet to [the] palate” or the taste. The Septuagint refers to honeycomb as sweetening the “throat.” (24:13)
Wisdom, the capacity to use knowledge aright, safeguards one from senseless actions that can lead to ruin or a premature death. “Know” or recognize that “wisdom to your soul” or for yourself (provided “you find it” and have it in your possession) assures a “future, and your hope will not be cut off.” One’s hope will not come to disappointment, with gloom setting in and eclipsing any expectation for brighter prospects. The Septuagint says, “Your end will be good, and hope will not abandon you.” (24:14)
The exhortation is to refrain from any thought of doing injury to upright persons. “Do not lie in wait like a wicked man against the dwelling of the righteous one. Do no violence to his resting place” or his home, ravaging it. (24:15; see the Notes section.)
Like everyone else, a righteous man may experience reverses and calamities during his life. Although he may fall “seven times” or multiple times (a complete number), he will get up again. His will not be a crash from which recovery will be impossible. The wicked ones, however, will be overthrown by calamity, with no restoration in sight. According to the Septuagint rendering, the “impious” or ungodly ones “will become weak in miseries [literally, bad things].” (24:16)
The fall or misfortune of others should not be an occasion for glee. When an “enemy falls,” one should not rejoice; and “when he stumbles” or is brought low, one’s “heart” or inner self should not be glad. No one’s suffering should occasion malicious delight. (24:17) For YHWH (the “Lord” [LXX]) to see rejoicing over the fall of one’s enemy would displease him, leading to his turning his anger away from the enemy. (24:18)
One should not allow oneself to be irritated, riled up, or robbed of inner peace because of evildoers, whether it be upon witnessing their seeming success or their corrupt ways. The Septuagint says, “Do not rejoice over evildoers,” with the possible reason being their misfortune. The concluding exhortation is not to be envious of the wicked (“sinners,” persons who choose to conduct themselves lawlessly [LXX]). This admonition would apply particularly when corrupt individuals appear to be thriving and succeeding in attaining their objectives. (24:19)
There is no good or valid reason to become upset over corrupt individuals or to envy them, “for there is no future for an evil man”; or, according to the Septuagint, wicked ones will by no means come of have posterity that continues. The “lamp of the wicked [impious ones [LXX] will be extinguished.” For corrupt individuals, their future will be dark, with their life ending without any offspring to continue their line of descent. (24:20)
The “son” is exhorted to “fear YHWH” (“God” [LXX]) and the “king,” maintaining a respectful, submissive attitude and a wholesome fear of incurring their displeasure through wrong action. One way for the son to demonstrate this fear included avoiding association with those who were determined to effect a change, undermining the authority of the king. The Septuagint rendering directs the son not to disobey God nor the king. (24:21)
For people to disregard God or the king would lead to punishment. Suddenly, from either one of them, disaster or ruin would come upon rebellious ones. In the Hebrew text, this thought is framed as a question, “And who knows the ruin from them both?” According to the Septuagint, God and the king suddenly will let the impious or ungodly ones pay. “And who will know the punishments of both?” (24:22; see the Notes section.)
The next section is introduced with the words, “These also to [or from] sages.” In the Hebrew text, there is no verb and, depending on the context, the preposition preceding the noun rendered “sages” can have various meanings. Translators usually complete the thought to indicate that the wise are the source of the sayings that follow. The Septuagint, however, makes the application to wise persons. “And these things, I say to you, sages, [for you] to know.” (24:23)
The first proverbial saying is, “To show partiality [literally, to regard faces] in judgment [is] not good.” When giving preferential treatment to others on the basis of their station in life, wealth, authority, or any other factor leads to a perversion of justice. (24:23) Peoples (‘amím) will curse one who pronounces a wicked or guilty individual (an “impious” or “ungodly one” [LXX]) as innocent, and peoples (’umím) will denounce him. According to the Septuagint, the partial judge will be “despicable to nations” or peoples. (24:24) Those who rebuke individuals who deserve censure “will have delight” or will fare well (will appear as the better ones [LXX]), and a “good blessing will come upon them.” They will be held in high regard and enjoy a favorable standing in the community. (24:25)
As one kissing the lips in expression of friendship or affection is the person who “gives right words.” This could apply to a judge who renders just decisions. The proverb could also be translated to apply in a general sense. “Giving a straightforward reply is like giving a kiss.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) According to the Septuagint, “they [people] will kiss the lips” that reply with “good words.” (24:26)
The admonition in the proverb is to give priority to work that is essential for the maintenance of a household. In an agricultural society as existed in ancient Israel, work “outside” (care for animals) and “in the field” (plowing, harrowing, sowing, and harvesting) came first. Establishing a home (or building a house) followed after a man had made preparation for the support of a household or a wife and family. (24:27; see the Notes section.)
When no valid reason exists, one should not be a witness against one’s associate or neighbor. According to the Septuagint, the exhortation is, “Do not be a lying witness against your fellow countryman.” Not to make one’s “lips wide” could mean not to resort to misrepresentation, gossip, slander, or deceit. (24:28)
A person should not have a vengeful or vindictive spirit. One should not say and be determined to carry out, “I will do to him as he has done to me. I will pay the man back for what he has done.” The Septuagint rendering is similar in the wording about what one should not say, “In the manner he treated me, I will treat him, and I will pay him back for the wrong he did to me.” (24:29)
The teacher referred to himself as passing by the “field of a sluggard” and by the “vineyard of a man [an earthling] without [good] sense [literally, lacking heart].” While using many of the same words in the Greek rendering, the Septuagint conveys a different significance. A “foolish man” is “like a cultivated field,” and a “senseless man” is “like a vineyard.” Perhaps the thought is that the individual needs to be acted upon and does not himself undertake any work. (24:30)
The sluggard’s field “was all overgrown with weeds.” Either the surface of the field or that of the vineyard “was covered with nettles, and “its stone wall” (probably the wall that surrounded the vineyard) “was broken down.” Nothing had been cultivated or tended, and the wall had not been repaired. With seeming reference to the vineyard, the Septuagint says that, “if you let it go, it will become barren,” “completely overgrown” and “neglected, and its stone fences will be broken down.” (24:31)
Upon seeing the neglected condition of the sluggard’s field and vineyard and taking it to “heart,” or giving it careful consideration, the teacher did look, apparently with reflective intent, and received discipline or acquired a valuable lesson. (24:32; see the Notes section.) When, instead of performing essential work, the choice is idleness (“a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands [over the breast (LXX)] to rest” [24:33]), “poverty” is sure to come marching and “wants like a man with a shield” or like an armed man who seizes everything he desires and leaves nothing of value behind. The Septuagint indicates that lack would come quickly, “like a good runner.” (24:34)
The Septuagint rendering of verse 7 departs significantly from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. It represents wisdom and good reasoning as being at the gates of the wise. “Wise persons do not turn away from the mouth of the Lord” or from the words or commands that are the expressions of his mouth.
In verse 8 of the Septuagint, the initial phrase continues with words about the wise. Instead of turning away from the expressions that come from the Lord’s mouth, “they consider [them] in the assemblies.” A new thought then follows. “Death meets undisciplined ones [or uninstructed ones].”
According to the Septuagint rendering of verse 9, the “senseless one dies in sins,” or he perishes on account of his lawless ways. A “pestilent man will be defiled by uncleanness” or as a result of his corrupt behavior and dealings.
With reference to a pestilent man, the Septuagint continues (in verse 10) that his defilement will be “in an evil day and in a day of distress, until he perishes.”
In verse 15, the Septuagint rendering departs significantly from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. It instructs that one not lead the “impious one to the pasture of righteous ones,” possibly the implied intent is not to bring the ungodly one into a position where he can do harm. The concluding admonition is not be deceived by a full belly. This deception could be a sense of satisfaction and reliance on self that ignores God and fails to recognize him as the source of all blessings. (Compare Deuteronomy 32:15.)
After wording that corresponds to that of the extant Hebrew text of verse 22, the Septuagint adds other proverbs and then continues with a rendering of words from verses 1 through 14 of chapter 30 in the Hebrew text. The additional proverbs are: “A son who observes the word will be free from destruction, for he accepted [the word] with responsiveness. From a tongue, let no lie be spoken to a king, and let no lie by any means proceed from his tongue.” A “king’s tongue” is a “sword and not of flesh” (not a literal sword). “And anyone who is delivered up” to the condemnation his tongue expresses “will be crushed.” For when the wrath of a king “is sharpened” or intensifies, “men” or people are destroyed along with their “sinews” or “muscles.” “And it [the king’s tongue or the condemnation his tongue expresses] devours the bones of men and burns them up like a flame, so that they are inedible for the young of eagles.”
The Septuagint rendering of verse 27 includes much of the wording of the extant Hebrew text, but the application of the words differs. “Ready your works for departure, and prepare for the field” (or for labor in the field), and follow after me” (possibly meaning to imitate my example as your instructor), “and you will rebuild your house.”
In verse 32 of the Septuagint, the teacher represents himself as having changed his mind. He looked, apparently focusing on what he saw “to choose discipline” or “instruction.” Based on what he observed, he gained a vital lesson about the consequences of laziness.
The section of proverbs that follows is attributed to Solomon. He may have been regarded as the originator, collector, or speaker of these proverbs. Over 250 years after the time of Solomon and during the reign of King Hezekiah of Judah, his “men” (“friends” [LXX]), possibly secretaries or scribes in his court, transcribed them. This may mean that they obtained and wrote down the proverbs from a number of sources to produce one collection. (25:1; see the Notes section.)
The concealment of matters from humans for his purpose is a manifestation of God’s glory, for it reveals him to be the source of knowledge or wisdom that is completely beyond their capacity to acquire without his choosing to disclose it to them. Secretiveness in the case of kings, or a lack of clarity in their expressions or proclamations that results in hiding or obscuring knowledge, would not be considered as being to their credit. They gain “glory,” honor, or praise by searching things out and making matters understandable to their subjects. According to the Septuagint, the “glory of kings honors matters,” which could indicate that it brings glory or praise to kings when they highly esteem affairs of state and carry them out or direct them to be conducted in a laudable manner. (25:2)
The “heavens” or the skies are high above humans, and the earth or land “in depth,” or all that lies below the surface of the land, is far beneath their feet. In a comparable relationship to the subjects of kings is their “heart,” for the thoughts and plans of their “heart” or mental faculty are “unsearchable” or unfathomable — not readily apparent until rulers speak or take action. (25:3)
When dross is removed from silver, the precious metal remaining is suitable for a smith to fashion into a vessel. The Septuagint indicates that striking “unrefined silver” will result in its being purified or refined to complete purity. (25:4) Similarly, when the “wicked” (impious or ungodly ones [LXX]) are removed “from the presence [literally; before the face (slain from the face or presence [LXX])] of the king,” “his throne will be established in righteousness.” The foundation on which his royal authority rests will be one of justice, and his subjects will be treated impartially. This contributes to stability in the realm. (25:5)
In the presence of (literally, “before the face” of) a “king” or ruler, “do not [boast (LXX)] honor yourself,” endeavoring to impress him, and do not position yourself “in the place of great ones” or persons in high station. Assuming that one has an elevated status among others can lead to humiliation. (25:6; compare Luke 14:7-11.) It is better for one to be told to “come up here” (“to me” [the king], LXX) than to be given a lower position before the “face” of or in front of a “prince” or high official whom one’s “eyes have seen.” (25:7; see the Notes section.)
One should not be hasty in initiating legal action against someone, for this can have an unfavorable result. In the end, one’s associate, fellow, or “friend” (LXX) may put one to shame as a person who is in the wrong. (25:8; see the Notes section.)
Instead of making a matter public, the proverb advises arguing one’s own case with an associate, settling it with him and not disclosing a confidence to other parties. (25:9; see the Notes section.) The recommended course would avoid bringing disgrace upon one from the person who hears the things that have been disclosed (apparently the individual adversely affected by the disclosure of the confidence), and it would prevent the development of the bad repute that would not end or that could not be recalled. (25:10; see the Notes section.)
A “word spoken” at the right time and one that is suited to the circumstances is “like apples of gold in a setting of silver,” beautiful, pleasing, and precious. The Septuagint refers to the saying of a “word,” evidently one that is appropriate or wise, as being like a “golden apple in a small necklace of sardius stone” (a precious stone, commonly reddish in color). (25:11)
Words of reproof from a wise person are “like a gold ring or an ornament of gold to a listening [or obedient] ear.” The individual who is responsive will take the reproof to heart and make the needed changes in his conduct. Therefore, in relation to him, the reproof is precious like a costly ornament. The thought in the Septuagint is similar. “In a gold earring, a costly sardius stone is set [literally, bound]; a wise word in an obedient ear.” This indicates that the wise word is heeded and proves to be like a precious ornament in the responsive ear. (25:12)
The “time of harvest” is a warm season of the year and would not be one when it snows. Therefore, the “cold” or coolness of snow would be something (possibly cold water) that would bring one refreshing coolness when it is hot. A faithful messenger, one who was dependable in carrying out his commission, would have this effect on those sending him. He would refresh the “soul of his masters” or the person of his masters. (25:13; see the Notes section.)
“Clouds and wind” that do not bring rain, especially when it is needed for growing crops, are like a “man who boasts of a gift he does not give.” The “clouds and wind” suggest that it may rain, but the hope for rain does not materialize. A man who claims that he will give something but then does not follow through is likewise a source of disappointment for having given rise to a false hope. According to the Septuagint, persons “boasting over a false gift” or a present they will not give are as evident (or exposed for what they are) as “winds and clouds and rains.” (25:14)
“With patience, a ruler may be persuaded” to change his view, intention, plan, or course of action. The Septuagint says that, with patience, kings come to have a good way or success. A “soft” or gentle tongue, or a tongue used to express thoughts in a reasonable and non-challenging manner, “will break a bone [breaks bones (LXX)],” exerting sufficient strength to motivate a person in authority to abandon an entrenched position. (25:15)
Too much even of something good can be injurious. “If you have found honey [from wild bees], eat only sufficient for you.” Otherwise, you may become “sated with it and vomit it.” (25:16)
The proverb advises against wearing out one’s welcome. “Let your foot be seldom” in entering “your fellow’s house, lest he become weary of you and hate [or come to dislike] you.” (25:17)
A man who acts as a false or lying “witness against his fellow” is like one who scatters (like a “club” or a weapon [according to an emendation and the Septuagint rendering]), a “sword,” or a “sharp arrow.” He proves himself to be a person making himself responsible for bringing harm to his associate. (25:18)
In a time of trouble or distress, a faithless, undependable, or untrustworthy man would not be of any help. Trust in him would be like reliance on a bad or broken tooth that would only be a source of pain, or on an unstable foot (a foot that would cause one to slip). The Septuagint expresses a different thought. The “tooth (“way [according to another reading]) of the “wicked person and the foot of a lawbreaker will perish in an evil day” or in a time of calamity or judgment. (25:19)
Certain actions are inappropriate because they do not fit the circumstances. Taking off a garment on a cold day would be senseless. Pouring vinegar on alkali would cause it to fizz and ruin it. Both actions are as unsuitable as singing cheerful songs to a person with a “heavy heart” or one in a downcast state. (25:20; see the Notes section.)
Responding with kindness to an enemy will, in the end, prove to be a rewarding course of action. “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.” (25:21) Acts of compassion or kindness will be like heaping “coals of fire on his head, and YHWH will reward you.” The compassionate response to his need may have an impact on him comparable to the adding of fiery coals on top of ore that is being refined. He may come to be ashamed about his hateful treatment. Instead of continuing to be hostile, his good qualities may come to the fore, leading to repentance and a changed disposition. Regardless of how he may later react, one’s showing kindness is the course YHWH approves and rewards. The Septuagint says, “The Lord will reward you with good things.” (25:22; see Romans 12:17-21.)
In the land where the proverb originated, the “north wind” brings rain (raises clouds [LXX]). A “tongue of secrecy,” or a tongue that discloses confidences, gives rise to indignation that becomes evident in the face or countenance (an angry look). According to the Septuagint, a “brazen face stirs up the tongue” or leads to quarreling. (25:23)
It would be “better to live in a corner of a roof,” or alone and exposed to the elements, than to share a house with a “contentious woman,” having to endure continual nagging and quarreling. The wording of the extant Hebrew text is basically the same as that of verse 9 of chapter 21, but the Septuagint rendering of both verses is not identical. In the Septuagint, the preferable situation would be to live in a corner of a roof rather than in a shared house “with an abusive woman” or wife. (25:24)
To a “faint soul” or thirsty person, cold water would be refreshing. Similar refreshment and invigoration would result upon receiving “good news from a distant country,” a country where friends or relatives may be residing or engaging in commercial activities. (25:25)
A “righteous man” who “totters,” gives way, or yields “before the face” or the person of a wicked individual comes to be “like a muddied spring and a polluted fountain.” His reputation as an upright man is tarnished or ruined. The Septuagint says that it is as improper for a righteous person to “fall before the impious one” as it would be to stop up a fountain and to pollute an “outlet of water.” (25:26)
It is not “good to eat much honey.” Excesses need to be avoided. Similarly, when it comes to “glory,” the inordinate seeking thereof is not really glory or honor. The Septuagint concludes with a different thought. It says that “honorable” or noble “words” should be esteemed. (25:27)
A “city broken through,” or with its defenses breached, and “left without walls” is vulnerable. Its situation is like that of a man without “control of his spirit” or his temper. Lacking self-control, the man is easily provoked and prone to speak and act rashly. In the Septuagint, the individual is described as a man who acts without “counsel” or sound advice. He would be one who conducts his affair without thoughtful prior consideration. (25:28)
In the Septuagint, the section of Proverbs 25:1-28 appears after the proverbs that are found in chapter 30, verses 15 through 33, and chapter 31, verses 1 through 9, of the Hebrew text. Verse 1 of this section refers to instructive or educational principles of Solomon. They are designated as adiákritoi. In other contexts, this adjective is understood to mean “impartial,” “nonjudgmental,” or “unwavering.” These lexical definitions, however, do not fit here. Among the suggested meanings for the Greek adjective in Proverbs 25:1 are “mixed” and “miscellaneous.”
In verse 7, the Septuagint makes a different application of the phrase about what the eyes have seen. It says, “Tell what your eyes have seen.” Numerous modern translations also do not link these words to the prince who was seen at the time a high position was assumed. These translations render the words as an introduction to the thoughts that follow. “What you have witnessed be in no hurry to tell everyone, or it will end in reproaches from your friend.” (REB) “What your eyes have seen do not hastily bring into court.” (NRSV)
The Septuagint rendering of verse 8 cautions against getting involved in a dispute so that one might not regret it in the end. Then follows a phrase that is completed in verse 10. “Whenever your friend reproaches,” disgraces, or insults “you” (25:8), “retreat to the rear; do not show contempt [for it or him]” (25:9), lest your friend reproach you and your conflict and hostility will not cease but will be comparable to death for you. Favor and friendship are liberating. Safeguard them for yourself, that you may not become an object of reproach, but guard your ways” in a conciliatory manner. (25:10)
In verse 13, the Septuagint translator rendered the words in a manner that does not fit the season of the year. “As the descent [literally, exit) of snow at harvesttime is beneficial against the heat, so a faithful messenger [benefits] those who sent him, for he benefits the souls of the ones [the persons] who deal with him.”
In verse 20, the Septuagint contains no reference to removing a garment, expresses a different thought regarding vinegar, and contains wording that is not found in the extant Hebrew text. As vinegar causes a “festering wound” to hurt, “so trouble that befalls the body grieves the heart” or the inner self. “Like a moth to a garment and a worm to wood, so grief harms the heart of a man.” A number of modern translations include elements of the Septuagint wording in their renderings. “Like vinegar on a wound is one who sings songs to a heavy heart. Like a moth in clothing or a worm in wood, sorrow gnaws at the human heart.” (NRSV) “Like one who dresses a wound with vinegar, so is the sweetest of singers to the heavy-hearted.” (REB) “Singing to someone in deep sorrow is like pouring vinegar in an open cut.” (CEV) “Decaying tooth, lame foot, such is the fickle when trusted in time of trouble: as well take off your coat in bitter weather. You are pouring vinegar on a wound when you sing songs to a sorrowing heart.” (25:19, 20, NJB)
Summer is no time for “snow (“dew” [LXX]), and rain at harvesttime would be unseasonable. Likewise, bestowing honor on a fool (a person who chooses a senseless and corrupt way of life) is unfitting. (26:1)
“Like a bird [or a sparrow] in its fluttering and a swallow in its flying, so a causeless curse will not alight.” The thought appears to be that the bird keeps on fluttering and the swallow continues to fly without landing on a perch or at the nesting site. Similarly, a baseless or an unwarranted curse will not come upon or affect the person or persons against whom it is directed. Numerous modern translations are more specific in their renderings than is the Hebrew text. “Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, groundless abuse gets nowhere.” (REB) “A curse you don’t deserve will take wings and fly away like a sparrow or a swallow.” (CEV) “As the sparrow escapes, and the swallow flies away, so the undeserved curse will never hit its mark.” (NJB) (26:2)
A whip was used to control a horse, and a bridle [goad (LXX)] a donkey. To strike the back of fools (senseless individuals who chose to act defiantly and lawlessly) was deemed appropriate. (26:3)
Not to answer a fool (a senseless and corrupt person) “according to his foolishness” could include not placing oneself on his level with abusive retorts and ridicule. (26:4) Answering a fool “according to his foolishness” could include exposing the folly of his reasoning and establishing that his contentions do not support the facts. At the right time, an appropriate reproof of a foolish man can stop him from viewing himself as wise. (26:5)
To send a “word” or message “by the hand [or through the agency] of a fool” (a senseless and irresponsible person) is folly, for the individual cannot be trusted to accomplish the task. Sending a fool is comparable to cutting off one’s legs or feet and “drinking violence,” or choosing to injure oneself. According to Rahlfs’ printed Greek text, the one sending a fool “will drink reproach from his own feet.” Codex Vaticanus, Codex Sinaiticus, and Codex Alexandrinus, however, read “from his own ways,” indicating that the individual will experience the consequences from his senseless actions. (26:6)
The legs of a lame man prevent him from descending the steps of a cistern to draw water or to perform other tasks effectively. Similarly, a “proverb in the mouth of fools” is useless, for they do not understand it nor can they apply it correctly. The Septuagint rendering suggests that taking away from someone’s legs the ability to travel or move is like taking a proverb (“transgression” [Codices Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, and Alexandrinus]) from “the mouth of fools” (senseless persons from whom nothing beneficial can be learned). (26:7; see the Notes section.)
Bestowing “glory” or “honor” on a fool (a person who chooses to live a senseless and lawless life), praising him or elevating him to a high station, is comparable to “binding a stone in a sling [margemáh].” If the binding denotes attaching the stone to a sling so that it cannot be released, it would signify doing something that is contrary to the use of a sling and would injure the person employing it in the customary way. The binding could also mean positioning the stone in the sling to secure it until it is released when the sling is used. Accordingly, the honor given to the foolish man would be like the stone with which he can injure others. (26:8)
A “proverb in the mouth of fools” (persons who live a senseless and corrupt life by choice) is like a “thorn going up into the hand of a drunkard.” An intoxicated man is not in control of his senses and can harm others with a thorny plant in his hand. Similarly, fools would make use of a proverb to inflict injury, using it to insult and humiliate others. A number of modern translations are more specific in their renderings than is the Hebrew text. “Like a thorn-stick brandished by a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.” (REB) “A thorn branch in a drunkard’s hand, such is a proverb in the mouth of fools.” (NJB) “A thornbush waved around in the hand of a drunkard is no worse than a proverb in the mouth of a fool.” (CEV) The Septuagint conveys a different significance. “Thorns grow in the hand of a drunkard, but slavery in the hand of fools.” This could mean that intoxication results in harm comparable to one’s having piercing thorns sprouting from the hand and that the actions of fools lead to bondage. Another possible significance may be that a drunkard can cause injury as if thorns were in his hand and that involvement with fools and their ways can result in enslavement. (26:9)
Literally translated, the Hebrew text reads, “A great man wounding all [or everyone], and hiring a fool and hiring ones passing by.” According to one emendation of the text, the thought is that the man who hires a fool and passersby is like an archer who indiscriminately pierces anyone that comes within range. Extensive harm would result, and the purpose for the hiring would be completely defeated. (26:10)
In view of the obscurity of the Hebrew text and a number of possible emendations, translations vary in their renderings. “A master can produce anything, but he who hires a dullard is as one who hires transients.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “Like an archer who shoots at any passer-by is one who hires a fool or a drunkard.” (REB) “Like an archer who wounds at random is he who hires a fool or any passer-by.” (NIV) “Like an archer who wounds everybody is one who hires a passing fool or drunkard.” (NRSV) “An archer wounding everyone, such is he who hires the passing fool and drunkard.” (NJB) “It’s no smarter to shoot arrows at every passerby than it is to hire a bunch of worthless nobodies.” (CEV) The Septuagint rendering bears no resemblance to any of the wording of the extant Hebrew text. “All flesh of fools suffers much, for their entrancement [being beside themselves or out of their minds] is wrecked.” Their foolish words and actions (which they, in their deluded state, imagine to be wise) prove to be ruinous to them. (26:10)
A fool who returns to his foolishness, or repeats his senseless course of action, is like a “dog that returns to its vomit,” licking it as if enjoying it. Similarly, senseless ones, persons who choose to act in a corrupt manner, derive pleasure from their lawless ways and continue to pursue them. To upright people, their behavior is as repulsive as that of a dog licking its own vomit. The Septuagint adds that a dog comes to be hated when returning to its vomit, as also does the fool when, through “his own badness, he returns to his own sin.” (26:11; see the Notes section.)
A man who is “wise in his own eyes” does not see any need to change his course of action and will continue to pursue his chosen, though undesirable, course. Therefore, there is “more hope for a fool than for him.” A foolish man is more likely eventually to come to recogize the error of his ways. (26:12)
The sluggard comes up with preposterous reasons for his idleness. His excuses are comparable to claiming that he would be facing the risk of encountering a young lion on the road or a lion in the squares. According to the Septuagint, a sluggard who is “being sent on the way,” responds with the words, “A lion [is] in the ways,” indicating that he is unwilling to go on account of the claimed danger. (26:13)
A lazy man stays in bed as long as he can. “Like a door turns on its hinge, a sluggard [turns without getting up or remains] on his bed.” (26:14)
The sluggard is portrayed as being too lazy even to feed himself. Although his “hand” is “hidden” or buried in the bowl of food (his “bosom” [LXX], or the upper fold of his garment), he is too exhausted “to bring it back to his mouth.” (26:15)
There is virtually no hope that the sluggard will change his course of idleness. He is “wiser in his eyes than seven men who can respond sensibly,” or a complete number of men who can give sound reasons for their actions. The lazy man, however, is quite pleased with his preposterous explanations for not working, regarding them as evidence of his being wiser than persons who labor. (26:16; see the Notes section.)
Meddling in someone else’s quarrel is certain to have negative consequences for anyone who is foolish enough to do so. It is comparable to taking hold of the “ears of a dog,” which would surely lead to being bitten. According to the Masoretic Text, the participle for “passing” applies to the one who passes by and “becomes furious in a quarrel not his own.” This is reflected in the renderings of a number of modern translations. “A passerby who gets embroiled in someone else’s quarrel is like one who seizes a dog by its ears.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “Like one who seizes a dog by the ears is a passer-by who meddles in a quarrel not his own.” (NIV) Other translations depart from the indicated break in the Masoretic Text and render the words to designate a “passing dog” or a “stray dog.” “Like the man who seizes a passing dog by the ears is he who meddles in a quarrel not his own.” (NAB) “Like someone who seizes a stray cur by the ears is he who meddles in a quarrel not his own.” (REB) The Septuagint rendering likens the act of taking hold of the “tail of a dog” to taking on a cause or a legal dispute that is not any of one’s concern. (26:17; see the Notes section.)
Like a reckless or deranged man “shooting missiles, arrows, and death [or deadly missiles and deadly arrows],” seriously injuring and killing innocent victims (26:18; see the Notes section), is the man who “deceives his fellow” and, after his deceit is discovered, claims that he was just joking. (26:19; see the Notes section.)
“For lack of wood” or fuel, a “fire goes out.” Without a whisperer, talebearer, or slanderer to stir up hurt feelings or hostility, “quarreling ceases.” The Septuagint says, “With much wood a fire rages,” but where there is no one who is confrontational, “conflict is quieted.” (26:20)
“Like charcoal to embers [to keep them glowing] and wood to fire [for it to continue burning], so is a contentious man for kindling strife,” inciting and continuing quarrels and fights. According to the Septuagint, the “hearth” is for “coals and wood for fire, but an abusive man is for stirring up conflict.” (26:21)
For certain people, the words of a slanderer or a gossip are like tasty morsels, or things to be swallowed greedily. To individuals who listen to the slander or gossip, the words can end up being stored within them as if having gone down to the “innermost part of the belly” or the body. Upon becoming a part of the person’s memory, the slanderous words may give rise to suspicion, distrust, and hostility. In the Septuagint, the wording departs significantly from that of the extant Hebrew text. It says that the “words” of one who relates tales (literally, a “monkey man”) are “soft.” Possibly this means that the words appear to be innocuous, but they are not harmless. “They strike into the chambers of the entrails,” or they come to lodge in the innermost recesses of the body and influence the thoughts and emotions. (26:22; see the Notes section.)
The overlay on the earthenware is referred to as “silver of dross.” Although having the appearance of silver, it has neither its value nor its enduring quality. “Silver of dross” on pottery is like “burning” or fervent “lips and an evil heart.” The words may be kindly, friendly, and pleasant, but they conceal corrupt thoughts and evil intentions toward the persons to whom they are spoken. The Septuagint says that “silver given with deceit” should be considered “like a potsherd,” or like nothing of value. “Smooth lips [lips that are used to express pleasant words] conceal a grieving heart [or a sorrowful inner self]” or hide a “heart” or inner disposition that causes grief. (26:23)
A man who harbors hatred may dissemble with his lips and hide his feelings and objectives, disguising his real self with the words his lips express. Within himself, he “sets deceit,” firmly determined to take advantage of or to harm those whom he deceives with his words. As if sharing sorrow, an “enemy,” according to the Septuagint, “assents to everything with weeping” in the expressions that pass his lips, “but in the heart [or his inner self] he contrives deceit” or treachery. (26:24)
“When [an enemy] speaks graciously, do not believe him.” The words conceal what is in his heart” or his inner self. There are “seven abominations [evils (LXX)]” or a complete number of disgusting things stored within him. He is ever alert and prepared to carry out his evil plans. The admonition in the Septuagint is for one not to yield to the enemy’s beseeching with a loud voice, “for there are seven evils in his soul” or within him. (26:25)
A man’s hatred may be “covered” or hidden with deceit or dissimulation, but it cannot be concealed indefinitely. “His badness [or hateful intentions, treachery, and enticements to follow a ruinous course] will be exposed in the assembly” or come to light in the community for all to see. The Septuagint indicates that one who hides enmity promotes, strengthens, or contrives deceit; but, as one well-known in the assemblies, “he exposes his own sins.” (26:26)
He who “digs a pit [for his neighbor (LXX)] will fall into it,” and he who “rolls a stone away — to him it will return [rolls it upon himself (LXX)].” The man who seeks to gain by taking advantage of others usually will, in time, have to face the consequences for his wrongdoing. Future retribution will be comparable to his falling into the pit he intended for trapping others and having the large stone he rolled away come rolling back to him. (26:27)
A “lying tongue hates” the ones it oppresses or afflicts (“hates truth” [LXX]), “and a flattering mouth causes an overthrow.” A man who uses his tongue to utter falsehood has no sympathy for the ones whom he harms with his misrepresentations and lies. Flattery may be used to hide base objectives, and the one who is taken in by it may be defrauded, deceived, or harmed in other ways on account of his misplaced trust in the flatterer. The Septuagint concludes with the words, An “unguarded mouth [literally, a mouth without a roof] creates disturbances,” disorders, rebellions, instabilities, or insurrections. (26:28)
In verse 7, the extant Hebrew text contains a form of the verb daláh, meaning “draw” (water). Many modern translations, however, render the word according to an emendation (the Hebrew verb dalál [“hang down” or “dangle”]). In the context of verse 7, the emended text indicates that the lame person’s legs hang down or dangle uselessly. “Unreliable as the legs of the lame, so is a proverb in the mouth of fools.” (NJB) “A proverb in the mouth of a fool hangs limp, like crippled legs.” (NAB) “Like a lame man’s legs that hang limp is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.” (NIV) “A proverb in the mouth of fools dangles helpless as the legs of the lame.” (REB) “A fool with words of wisdom is like an athlete with legs that can’t move.” (CEV) If the Septuagint rendering of ancient extant codices is followed, the proverb indicates that wrongdoing is as characteristic of words that come from a fool’s mouth as walking is to the legs.
There is a measure of uncertainty about the significance of the Hebrew word margemáh (in verse 8). The meaning “sling” has the support of the Septuagint, the Peshitta, and the Targum. On the basis of Arabic, another suggested meaning is “heap of stones.” To place a stone, especially a precious stone, in a pile of stones would be a useless or senseless act.
In verse 11, the Septuagint, after wording that parallels the extant Hebrew text, includes a proverb that is also found in Sirach 4:21. There is a “shame that produces sin,” and there is a “shame that is glory and favor.” The “shame” that is looked upon honorably and with favor could include being ashamed of having committed sin and manifesting lowliness, humility, or modesty. When one is ashamed of his position in life or external factors that have no bearing on one’s merits as a person, this can lead to sin (an effort to conceal the truth through misrepresentation).
According to the Septuagint wording of verse 16, the sluggard considers himself to be wiser than “one who brings back a message in satisfaction” or fullness. It is possible that the Septuagint translator read the Hebrew word shiv‘ah (“seven”) as siv‘ah (“satiety” or “fullness”). The Septuagint rendering could be understood to indicate that the person is one who brought back the complete message accurately.
The reference to a “dog” in verse 17 appears to be to one of the wild dogs that roamed in cities and were primarily scavengers. (See 1 Kings 14:11; 16:4; 21:19, 23, 24; 22:38; 2 Kings 9:10, 35, 36; Jeremiah 15:3.) There is no indication that the Israelites in ancient times used domesticated dogs. The book of Job (30:1) quotes Job as mentioning “dogs of [his] flock,” but he was not an Israelite.
The rendering of verse 18 in the Septuagint bears no resemblance to the extant Hebrew text. “Like the ones doing healing throw out words to men but the first to encounter [their] word will be tripped up [26:18], so are all the ones lying in wait for their own friends” to take advantage of them. Then whenever they are exposed, they say, “I did it in jest.” (26:19) The obscure wording about the “ones doing healing” could indicate that the healers make many claims about the cures they can effect but that the first one to rely on what they say will be bitterly disappointed.
The wording of verse 22 in the extant Hebrew text is identical to that of verse 8 in chapter 18. In the Septuagint, however, the proverb in 18:8 is entirely different and does not correspond to the text of 26:22.
It is impossible to know what the future may hold or what one may be able to accomplish. Therefore, the admonition of the proverb is, “Do not boast about tomorrow” (as if you can control what may or may not happen or what you will be able to do the next day), “for you do not know what a day may bring.” To boast about the things one will accomplish reflects a self-reliant attitude that disregards life’s uncertainties and ignores God’s providential leading and his permissive will. Even the best-laid plans may be frustrated on account of completely unexpected developments. At the same time, procrastination is unwise. At a later time, postponed tasks or unfulfilled duties may be far more difficult and even impossible to perform. (27:1)
The wise course is to avoid self-praise, preserving a modest view of oneself and one’s accomplishments. A person’s conduct, words, and deeds should be such as to gain the favorable view of others. “Let a stranger praise you and not your mouth; a foreigner and not your lips.” Instead of self-praise from one’s own mouth or one’s own lips, the praise that is more meaningful and impartial comes from others — strangers who have nothing to gain from their favorable comments. This proverb should not be regarded as discounting the value of sincere praise from acquaintances, for they are able to observe laudable conduct and actions on a regular basis. The Septuagint rendering includes the desirability of praise from associates. “Let a neighbor [or a person near to you] praise you and not your mouth.” (27:2)
A large stone or boulder is very heavy, and so is a load of sand. For one to be subjected to the vexation or anger of a fool is “heavier than both.” A senseless man quickly unleashes his vicious temper with unrestrained fury against others over the most insignificant slights or provocations. (27:3)
“Wrath” is “cruel” (“merciless” [LXX]) toward those against whom it is expressed. There is also a “flood of anger” (“sharp” or “passionate” anger) or the force of unleashed anger that is comparable to a raging torrent. Jealousy, however, is even stronger, for it can be coupled with rage resulting from love that was betrayed by an illicit sexual relationship or from having been unjustifiably dishonored. When the right to exclusive devotion is threatened, jealousy is directed against anyone who would undermine that right. It is more difficult to withstand jealousy than the force of anger, for jealousy is less likely to be mitigated. (27:4)
“Better is open reproof than concealed love.” A warranted reproof, though initially painful, can lead to good results when heeded. It is far better to experience the unpleasant effect of the rebuke that can be beneficial than to be left unaware of a love that would leave one with a pleasant feeling. Open expressions from others are to be preferred to the emotions and feelings that they may choose to hide. (27:5)
“Wounds” in the form of discipline or reproof may initially be painful. When they result from the actions of a friend, they are “faithful” or trustworthy. This is because these “wounds” are an evidence of his deep concern for the welfare of his friend. The “kisses of an enemy” may be profuse, but they are feigned expressions of kindly feelings. They cannot be trusted as indicating a change in the relationship, for they can serve to conceal hatred and evil intentions. The Septuagint conveys a more specific comparative meaning of the words than does the Hebrew text. “More trustworthy are the wounds of a friend than willing kisses of an enemy.” (27:6)
For a “sated soul” or person, any additional food, regardless of how tasty it may otherwise be, is unwanted. Before reaching the point of satiety, the individual may have regarded honey as a desirable treat. After he had his fill, however, honey would cease to be appealing. His reaction toward it could be likened to his “trampling” upon it or rejecting it as undesirable. For a hungry or famished “soul” or person, just any food to satisfy hunger is welcome. Therefore, everything that may be “bitter” appears “sweet” to him. (27:7)
For a bird, the nest is a location of security as also is the home for a man. A forced departure for a bird from its nest is like the forced departure of a man from his home, with both coming to be in a vulnerable state — the bird as fluttering about away from the nest and the man as wandering far from his former home. (27:8; see the Notes section.)
Oil or ointment, when applied to the skin can be soothing and refreshing, and incense may fill the surroundings with a pleasant aroma. Accordingly, “oil and incense gladden the heart” or can bring pleasure to a person’s inner self. There is also the “sweetness” or pleasantness of a person’s associate or friend “from the counsel of the soul.” Possibly the expression “counsel of the soul” refers to the good advice of a friend and which the recipient considers to be pleasingly acceptable. The Septuagint conveys a very different meaning. “With ointments and wines and incenses the heart is delighted, but the soul is ripped apart by mishaps [or misfortunes],” causing great distress for the person. Modern translations incorporate aspects of the Septuagint wording in their renderings or, in other ways, convey a variety of meanings that are not apparent from the extant Hebrew text. “The pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel.” (NIV) “The sweetness of a friend is better than one’s own counsel.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “The soul is torn by trouble.” (NRSV) “By grief the soul is torn asunder.” (NAB) “Cares torment one’s very soul.” (REB) “The sweetness of friendship [gladden the heart] rather than self-reliance.” (NJB) (27:9)
Friendship should be highly valued. One should not leave, ignore, or forget about an associate or friend or one’s father’s associate or friend. Longtime friends are precious and often are a source of comfort and aid in times of need or trouble. The preferable course may be to turn to them instead of going to the house of a brother on the day of one’s calamity or ruin. “Better is a [concerned] neighbor [friend (LXX)] nearby than a brother far away,” either a brother living a long distance away or one who is distant on account of estrangement. (27:10)
The father’s exhortation is, “Be wise, my son, and gladden my heart, that I may answer the one who is taunting me.” When heeding his father’s admonition, the son would use good judgment and conduct himself in a laudable manner. His exemplary life would bring joy to his father’s heart or his father’s inmost self. This would also put the father in a position to silence anyone who disparaged him, for he could call attention to the fine conduct of his son, pointing to it as evidence that he had been a good father who properly taught his son. The son would also come to the defense of his father. In the Septuagint, the concluding phrase directed to the son is, “and turn reviling words away from you.” (27:11)
Upon becoming aware of calamity, a dangerous or risky situation, an unfavorable circumstance, or a tumult, a prudent person does what he can to shield himself from the possibility of harm, seizing any available opportunity to hide himself. The Septuagint says that the prudent person hid himself from approaching evils. Simpletons or foolish individuals exercise no caution but blindly go on their way and suffer the consequences (“will pay a penalty” [LXX] from coming to be in a dangerous or hazardous situation). (27:12; see the Notes section.)
A man who pledged himself to put up security for a stranger placed himself in a risky situation, for he would be held responsible for the repayment of the debt if the debtor failed to do so. The consequence of loss for this foolhardy action is expressed with the imperative, “Take his garment.” The imperative suggests a permanent seizure (unlike the case of a man who gave his garment as a pledge but to whom it had to be returned every evening [Exodus 22:25, 26; Deuteronomy 24:12, 13]). In the case of a foreign woman (probably a prostitute), a pledge was to be taken from the man. The pledge could be for what the man owed for her services or for money he had borrowed to procure her services. (27:13; see the Notes section.)
In the case of one who “blesses” or greets his fellow or “friend” (LXX) with a loud voice in the morning, the blessing will be reckoned to him as a curse (“will not seem to differ from one cursing”). For a person who is not fully awake or alert, a loud blessing or greeting would be annoying and as unpleasant as the utterance of a malediction. Moreover, if a blessing is intended, the morning is too early to know what may yet happen during the course of the day to warrant a loud proclamation as if the blessing was certain to be fulfilled. (27:14)
A leaky roof that drives one away [from one’s house (LXX)] on a day of steady rain, and a contentious, nagging, quarrelsome or abusive (LXX) woman (or wife) are comparable. Both create unpleasant circumstances that a person would want to escape. The Septuagint says that the abusive woman or wife would drive the man or husband “from his own house.” (27:15) Whoever would try to hide her or cover up her actions would not be successful. Any attempt to control or restrain her would be as fruitless as an effort to control the wind and trying to grasp an object covered with oil. According to the Hebrew text, it would be as if the individual’s right hand encountered oil (literally, “will call for oil”) (27:16; see the Notes section.)
“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens the face [the person] of [his] companion.” An iron tool can be sharpened with an iron implement. Likewise, by communicating and sharing knowledge, one man “sharpens” or enlightens his companion, with the interchange resulting in mutual benefit. (27:17)
The one “guarding” or tending (who “plants” [LXX]) a fig tree will be rewarded with a good crop and, therefore, “will eat its fruit.” He who “guards his master will be honored.” The servant who conscientiously cares well for the interests of his master will be honored and rewarded by him. (27:18)
“As face corresponds to face in water, so the heart of a man [an earthling] to a man [an earthling].” The reflection of a face on the surface of water mirrors the appearance of the actual face. Similarly, in the “heart,” or the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of another person, one can see a reflection of one’s own heart or a commonality with one’s own inner self. The thought expressed in the Septuagint is the opposite. It says that faces are not alike nor are the “hearts of men” or people. (27:19)
“Sheol [Hades (LXX)] and Abaddon [Destruction] are not satisfied, and the eyes of a man [an earthling] are not satisfied.” No limit exists for the number of people who can enter the realm of the dead. There always remains ample room for more, as if the appetite of Sheol can never be satisfied. The realm of the dead is also a place of destruction, for the corpses decompose. In the case of the eyes, what they see can create desires within a person to want to possess or to experience, and those desires cannot all be satisfied. (27:20)
To obtain pure silver or gold, the base ore must be smelted or purified in a crucible or furnace. Therefore, the proverb refers to a “crucible” or smelter “for silver” and a “furnace for gold.” With apparent application to the testing of a man, the proverb continues, “and a man according to his praise.” This suggests that the praise a man may receive can reveal just what his true self is. Praise can contribute to motivating him to be conscientious about living up to his good reputation and to be concerned about speaking and conducting himself in a manner that honors God. It can also have the opposite effect, giving rise to feelings of superiority and arrogance and prompting him to continue pursuing a way of life that brings wealth and prestige but is gained through dishonorable means. The Septuagint represents the “mouth” of those doing the lauding as testing the man in the way silver and gold are proved or assayed by fire. This rendering indicates that a man’s character may be discerned from the sort of people who praise him. (27:21)
Certain individuals are determined to continue stubbornly and defiantly following a senseless and corrupt way of life. Nothing seems to sway them from their chosen course of folly. Regarding a “fool” of this type, the proverb indicates that he could be submitted to treatment comparable to being placed in a mortar with grain and pounded with a pestle, “but his folly will not depart from him.” The Septuagint says that, “if you whip a fool in the midst of the assembly, disgracing [him], his folly will by no means be removed.” The emphatic sense is conveyed in the Greek text by two words for “not” and is here rendered “by no means.” (27:22)
The concluding verses of chapter 27 contain admonition to be diligent about caring for domestic animals and the benefits resulting from doing so. “Know well the faces,” appearance, condition or “souls” (LXX) of “your flock.” “Set your heart on the herds.” Being thoroughly familiar with the condition of the sheep and goats in the flock would include knowing what each animal needed and attending to each one according to this need. To set the “heart” on the “herds” means to give thought to the animals, caring well for them. (27:23)
When sheep, goats, and cattle are given good care, they will remain healthy and reproductive. For the owner this means increased value. Other kinds of possessions do not reproduce and are more likely to be lost or to decrease in value over the course of time. “Wealth” does not remain for limitless time, and neither does a “crown” from “generation to generation.” According to the Septuagint, a man’s “might and strength” do not endure forever (literally, “into the age”), and he cannot hand it over “from generation to generation.” Based on the Septuagint rendering, the reference to “crown” in the Hebrew text could apply to the prominence, influence, or elevated standing a wealthy man may have in the community. (27:24)
Nourishment for flocks and herds is a renewable resource. After grass is cut for feed and greenery is gathered from hillsides and mountain slopes, new grass or vegetation grows. The admonition in the Septuagint is to care for the greenery in the field so as to be able to cut it for fodder and to gather the grass growing on the hills or mountains. (27:25)
Sheep provide wool for making clothing. Goats may be sold. With the proceeds from the sale, a field may be obtained. The Septuagint does not mention goats, but encourages valuing the plain (apparently as a productive area), looking after it, so that one may have more lambs. (27:26)
Another benefit from caring well for goats is having them as a source of milk for the entire household, with even maidservants (anciently regarded as having the lowest position as servants) receiving their share. (27:27)
The Septuagint concludes with a summary that differs from the extant Hebrew text. “Son, from me you have strong [substantive] sayings for your life, and for the life of your attendants.” The instruction his father provided would be valuable guidance for the son throughout his life and for all who would come to be part of his household, including servants. (27:27)
In verse 8, the Septuagint rendering differs from the reading of the Masoretic Text. “As when a bird flies down from its own nest, so a man becomes enslaved when he is driven from his own places.”
The Hebrew text of verse 12 repeats the wording of Proverbs 22:3. In the Septuagint, the rendering of verse 3 of chapter 22 differs both from the Hebrew text and the wording of verse 12 in chapter 27.
Verse 13 of the Hebrew text basically repeats Proverbs 20:16. For the phrase about the woman, a number of modern translations follow the Hebrew text but others render the words according to an emendation. “Hold it [the garment] in pledge if he does it for a wayward woman.” (NIV) “Take it as a pledge, [for he stood surety] for an unfamiliar woman.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “Hold it [the garment] as security for the unknown person.” (REB) “Take a pledge from him, for persons unknown.” (NJB) The Septuagint does not include the wording of Proverbs 20:16. Here in verse 13 of chapter 27, a different thought is expressed. “Remove his garment, for he went by, [he] ̶ an arrogant man who ruins things [belonging to] strangers.”
In verse 16, the Septuagint rendering differs from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. A “north wind” is “hard” or harsh, “but, by name, is called appropriate.”
On account of a guilty conscience and an awareness that, at any time, they may face retribution for their evil deeds, the “wicked [impious or ungodly (LXX)] flee [out of fear of being apprehended and punished] when no one is pursuing.” Righteous persons are not troubled by fear of retribution, for they deal honestly with others and maintain exemplary conduct. This enables them to live confidently, with the boldness characteristic of a lion. (28:1)
“When a land transgresses,” or a country is troubled by lawlessness and rebellion, this leads to instability, with rulers being quickly and repeatedly replaced by others or with numerous chieftains or warlords seizing power and warring with one another. According to the Septuagint, “disputes arise” on account of the “sins” of impious or ungodly people. Stability exists under the leadership of a man (or men) with “understanding and knowledge” that is reflected in the just administration of affairs. The Septuagint says that a prudent man “extinguishes” or puts an end to disputes. (28:2)
A man of limited means may come to be an oppressor of persons who have even less. When a poor man (either on his own or for a wealthy landowner) “oppresses the poor,” the effect is like a torrential rain that ruins crops and so “leaves no food” for persons with the greatest need. (28:3; see the Notes section.)
The reference to the “Torah” or “law” could be either to God’s law or to instruction in wisdom (as contained in the book of Proverbs). Individuals who “forsake the law,” or who choose to live corrupt lives, “praise the wicked,” being fully supportive of their lawless practices. Persons who “keep the law” contend with the wicked or take a stand against them for their evil deeds. (28:4; see the Notes section.)
“Evil men do not understand judgment” or justice. They live corrupt or debauched lives and, therefore, have no understanding of what it means to act in a just, honest, or upright manner. Persons who “seek YHWH [the Lord (LXX)],” earnestly desiring his approval and striving to do what is pleasing in his sight, “understand all,” or everything that is related to “judgment” or justice. Their complete understanding is apparent from their upright conduct. (28:5)
A poor man who walks in integrity, or who conducts himself in blamelessness, is better than a rich man who is corrupt “in his ways,” dealing deceitfully and fraudulently with others. The Septuagint refers to the poor person who “walks in truth” or in honesty as being better than a “rich liar.” (28:6)
A wise son is one who “keeps the law” (either God’s law or the instruction in wisdom [as set forth in the book of Proverbs]). A son who ignores the law, as a “companion of gluttons [as one who tends debauchery (LXX)],” sharing with them in their dissipated way of life, “dishonors his father.” The father is disgraced when his son pursues a debauched course of life, acting contrary to God’s law or the wise teaching he imparted to him. (28:7)
The one who “increases his wealth through interest and usury gathers it” for the person “showing favor,” kindness, or compassion to the poor. In view of the probability of retribution for an oppressor, his ill-gotten gain is represented as a temporary possession that will pass into the hands of a compassionate person. (28:8)
The person who “turns his ear away from hearing the law, even his prayer [is] an abomination.” A deliberate refusal to give heed to God’s law or instruction in wisdom makes a person’s prayers unacceptable. These prayers will not be answered, for they are disgusting in God’s sight as petitions from a person who has rejected adherence to the law or sound teaching. According to the Septuagint, the one turning away from listing to the law “has made his prayer loathsome.” (28:9)
The person who causes the upright to “stray into a bad way will fall into his own pit.” If it should be that an upright individual is deceived into taking a wrong or injurious course, the one responsible for the leading him in the wrong direction will himself experience the harmful consequences, comparable to plunging into a pit (“ruin” [LXX]). Blameless persons, however, will come into possession of good (or a good inheritance). According to the Septuagint, lawless persons will not share in a goodly inheritance. They “will pass through good things, but they will not gain entrance to them” or come to have them as their possession. (28:10)
A “rich man is wise in his own eyes,” imagining that his superior insight has made him wealthy or made it possible for him to maintain and increase his riches. The lowly man, because of possessing discernment, has the capacity to determine whether the rich man is truly wise, conducting himself in a sensible and upright manner. An insightful man, though poor, can see right through the rich man and is not deceived by outward appearances. (28:11)
When righteous persons rejoice or have sound reason for exultation, “great glory” or honor exists wherever they may be. The people in the towns, cities, regions, or lands will also be joyful, content, and prosperous in a stable environment. According to the Septuagint, abundant “glory” or honor comes to be “through the help of the righteous.” The active role of upright persons in the affairs of a community contributes to its having an honorable standing or a good reputation. When, however, evil or corrupt men rise or gain the ascendancy, a man (an earthling [a collective singular]) will hide himself, maintaining a low profile so as to avoid becoming a target for unjust treatment. The Septuagint says that, in the “places” of impious or ungodly persons “men” or people are “captured,” or seized for unjust punishment or exploitation. (28:12)
A man who “covers” or tries to hide “his transgressions” (“impiety” or “ungodliness” [LXX]), endeavoring thereby to escape deserved punishment, “will not prosper” or succeed. The man who “confesses and forsakes” his transgressions, acknowledging his wrongdoing and discontinuing it, will be shown mercy. According to the Septuagint, the persons expressing “reproofs” (apparently to those guilty of wrongs and injustices) “will be loved.” (28:13)
A man (an “earthling”) is pronounced “happy,” blessed, or fortunate because he “fears always” or continually. This could mean that he has a wholesome fear of God and of taking a wrong course that could lead to ruin. The Septuagint rendering suggests that this fear is based on discretion, respect, or reverence. A man who “hardens his heart” or stubbornly persists in conducting himself in a lawless manner “will fall into calamity” or suffer the consequences for his corrupt deeds. (28:14)
A “wicked ruler over a poor people,” one who is harsh and oppressive, is like a “roaring lion and a charging bear.” He acts mercilessly like an unreasoning and conscienceless beast. The Septuagint refers to a man who is himself poor and tyrannizes over a needy nation as being like a “hungry lion and a thirsty wolf.” (28:15)
A ruler (a “king” [LXX]) who “lacks understanding [revenue (LXX)]” also is “great in extortions” or very oppressive in dealing with his subjects. One who “hates unjust” or “ill-gotten gain will lengthen his days” or live a long time. In the case of a ruler, his administration will be stable during his lifetime. (28:16)
A man who is “burdened with the blood of a soul,” or who is bloodguilty, “will flee,” with the apparent intent of escaping merited punishment. He will be heading for the “pit,” either to hide himself or inevitably to reach the ultimate destiny or the realm of the dead. One should not lay hold of him or prevent him from taking to flight, for this would be a flight with a ruinous end in view. The Septuagint says that one who goes surety for a man accused of murder will come to be a “fugitive and not in security.” (28:17; see the Notes section.)
One who walks blamelessly “will be delivered,” or will be kept safe from the pitfalls that are associated with a wayward course of life. The Septuagint says that one whose walk is righteous “has been helped” (apparently in time of need). One who is “twisted” or corrupt “in his ways will fall.” Depending on which reading of the Hebrew text is followed, the fall could be into a pit or be sudden or unexpected. The Septuagint refers to the person as becoming “entangled.” Modern translations vary in their renderings. “A rogue will fall into a pit.” (REB) “He who is crooked in his ways will fall all at once.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “He whose ways are perverse will suddenly fall.” (NIV) “Whoever wavers between two ways falls down in one of them.” (NJB) (28:18)
One who cultivates his land “will be sated with bread.” The individual will have ample food to eat from the ripe produce. One who pursues valueless or worthless things (“idleness” [LXX]), imagining to make profits without much effort or by questionable means, “will be sated with poverty.” His pursuits will lead to results other than those he expected, leaving him with nothing. (28:19)
A man of faithful deeds, or one who does what is right (a “trustworthy man” [LXX]), will receive many blessings (“will be much lauded” [LXX]). One who hastens to gain wealth (an “evil man” [LXX]) “will not remain innocent [will not be unpunished].” His inordinate desire to be rich will cause him to resort to less than honorable means to attain his objective, and he will not go unpunished for it. (28:20)
To have “regard for faces” denotes to show partiality. This is identified as being “not good,” for showing partiality constitutes a serious failure to act justly or to administer justice. In a situation of dire need, a man “will do wrong for a piece of bread.” Perhaps the thought is that he might steal some food to satisfy his hunger and that, although he should not be treated with partiality, his desperate need should be considered as a mitigating factor when rendering a judgment about the penalty for his deed. The rendering of the Septuagint conveys a different meaning. It says that the one who does not have respect for (literally, “feel shame before”) the “faces [or person] of the righteous” is “not good,” for upright persons are deserving of being shown high regard. The man who lacks proper regard for righteous ones is willing to hand over another man (or sell him) for a “piece of bread” or practically nothing of value. Modern translations vary in the way they render the Hebrew text. “For even a morsel of bread a man may do wrong.” (NAB) “People will do wrong for a mouthful of bread.” (NJB) “Some people can be bribed with only a piece of bread.” (CEV) (28:21)
The expression “evil of eye” refers to an eye with evil or unkindly intent. In this context, a “man of evil eye” is one who is greedy and covetous or envious, hastening to gain wealth by whatever means he possibly can. He is so consumed by his inordinate desire for riches that he “does not know” or is unaware that his course can lead to “want” or poverty coming upon him. According to the Septuagint, the envious man “does not know that a compassionate man will prevail over him.” (28:22)
In the Hebrew text, the words about “reproving a man” are followed by an expression that has the literal meaning “after me.” This significance does not fit the context, and a common rendering is “afterward” or “in the end.” The man who reproves another person (“reproves the ways of a man” [LXX]) for valid reasons will gain more favor than the individual who “flatters with his tongue.” While the flattery may initially give rise to positive and pleasant feelings, these are soon nullified when the flattered person recognizes that the praise was insincere. When the one reproved is motivated to make changes that benefit him, he will appreciate the person who reproved him. (28:23)
A man who “robs his father and mother” (possibly reasoning that what they have would come to be his possession eventually or that he is entitled to whatever they may own) and who claims that he has done no wrong is a companion of a man who causes ruin. In his disregard for his parents, he is just like a man who inflicts physical harm or destroys property. According to the Septuagint, one who drives away or rejects his father or mother and thinks that he is not sinning is a companion to an impious or ungodly man (or just like him). (28:24)
A person who is “wide of soul,” has an insatiable appetite for more, or is greedy or covetous “stirs up strife.” His insatiable desire for more leads him to engage in corrupt practices that harm others and incur their anger. He is not restrained by a reverential fear of God, for he does not trust him as the ultimate provider of all that is needed. In the end, greediness does not enable a man to prosper. The person who “trusts in YHWH,” looking to him as the one who will bless his efforts to care for his personal needs and those of his family, “will be made fat” or will prosper and enjoy contentment. (28:25; see the Notes section.)
For a man to trust in his “heart” (a “bold heart” [LXX]) would mean for him to rely on his own reasoning, evaluation, or judgment in life without any regard for God and his will. A person who does this is a fool, for he senselessly rejects the wise guidance that has God as its ultimate source. The person who “walks in wisdom,” conducting himself in harmony with God’s law and the sound teaching of godly persons, “will escape,” or be delivered from, the kind of troubles that befall those who pursue a senseless course. (28:26)
The person who compassionately gives to the poor will not come to be needy. Whoever turns his eyes away from them, refusing to relieve their distress, “will be much cursed.” The text does not identify from whom the curses come. It could be from God whose disfavor the callous person comes to have or from those who are mercilessly left in their state of suffering. The Septuagint says that the one who turns his eye away from the poor “will be in much distress.” (28:27)
“When the wicked rise,” come to power, or gain the ascendancy, a “man” hides, maintaining a low profile and doing good in secret. Whenever oppressive individuals wield power, one’s coming to the aid of victims of injustice must be done in secret to be successful and to escape attention. The Septuagint says that the “righteous groan” in the places of the impious or ungodly ones. When wicked men cease to be in a controlling position because of having perished, righteous persons become many. They cease to be in hiding, and so there presence and good deeds become increasingly noticeable as if their number had significantly grown. (28:28)
In verse 3, the Septuagint rendering is, “With impious [ungodly or corrupt] deeds, a strong man harasses the poor.” The next phrase (“Like a fierce and useless rain” [rain that is destructive and not beneficial]) is completed in verse 4 (“so the ones forsaking the law praise impiety [or ungodliness], but the ones loving the law put a wall around themselves” guarding themselves as with a protective wall so as not to transgress.
After some wording that corresponds to the extant Hebrew text of verse 17, the Septuagint adds, “Discipline your son, and he will love you and give an ornament to your soul [or to you]. By no means obey a lawless nation.” The emphatic sense of the two Greek words for “not” is preserved with the rendering “by no means.”
In verse 25, the rendering of the Septuagint differs significantly from that of the reading of the extant Hebrew text. It indicates that an “insatiable” or “greedy” man (or, according to another reading, an “unfaithful” or “untrustworthy” man) “judges arbitrarily” or “rashly.” “But the one who trusts in the Lord will be in care” or will be a caring, careful, or attentive person.
A “man of reproofs,” or a man who is repeatedly reproved, and “stiffens his neck,” stubbornly resisting and rejecting warranted correction, “will suddenly be broken” and that “without healing.” He will suffer the serious consequences for his foolish words and actions and not recover from the calamity he has brought upon himself. In the context of the Septuagint rendering, a “man of reproofs” is a man who reproves those who commit wrongs. He is identified as being better than a man with a hard neck or one who is stubborn and defiant. The stubborn man is “suddenly set ablaze,” and there is no healing or remedy for him. It is also possible that the Septuagint could be understood to indicate that the man sets himself ablaze, erupting with fiery emotion, agitation, or anger. In that case, there will be no recovery from the dire consequences for his volatile and senseless conduct. (29:1)
When the “righteous become great [are praised (LXX) or are favorably acknowledged for the good they do],” or come to have positions of influence and authority, the “people rejoice.” They are happy and content in a stable environment where justice prevails. When someone wicked rules (impious or ungodly ones rule [LXX]), the “people [men (LXX)] groan” (on account of injustices and oppression). (29:2)
A man who “loves wisdom” is one who demonstrates that love through laudable words and actions. As one who uses sound judgment and conducts himself uprightly, he makes his father rejoice. The father is pleased to have such an exemplary wise son. One who associates with prostitutes, however, “destroys wealth,” squandering either his own substance or that which he received from his father. (29:3)
“By justice,” a king makes a “land stand,” creating stability in a country, elevating it, and causing it to be strong. A “man” (one who exercises authority or, according to the Septuagint, a lawless man or a transgressor) who exacts gifts or bribes “tears down” or undermines the stability of a land. (29:4)
A man who “flatters his companion” is one who “spreads a net for his feet.” The flattery is designed to make his associate vulnerable to be ensnared by an ignoble scheme. It is also possible that the flatterer is like a man who forgot where he positioned the snare and ends up being entangled in his own net. This is the meaning conveyed in the Septuagint. The one who prepares a “net against the face,” or person, “of his friend spreads it for his own feet.” (29:5)
“In the transgression” that a “bad man” commits, there is a “snare,” for he is at risk of being exposed and punished for his lawless deeds. The Septuagint refers to a “great snare” as being for a “sinning man.” The righteous man, one whose conduct is exemplary, preserves a clean conscience and enjoys inner peace. Therefore, he can jubilate and rejoice. (29:6)
A righteous man “knows” or recognizes the legal claim of lowly or poor individuals and, when in a position to act, sees to it that justice is rendered. According to the Septuagint, a righteous person “knows” what it means “to judge for the poor.” One who is wicked [the impious or ungodly one (LXX)] “does not understand knowledge.” He does not recognize the rights of lowly people and has no understanding as to why he should be concerned about their legal claim. The Septuagint concludes with a phrase which may mean that “thought of an arbitrator” does not exist for a poor person, suggesting that the wicked individual would leave the lowly one without any recourse for justice. (29:7)
“Men of scoffing,” or people who ridicule and downgrade what is right and noble, set a city or community ablaze, giving rise to dissatisfaction, unrest, and rebellion. The Septuagint refers to these men as a “pest.” Wise men, however, are never the source of upheaval. With sound reasoning and sensible words, they “turn away wrath.” (29:8)
If a “wise man” becomes involved in a controversy with a “fool” (a man who chooses to speak and act in a senseless manner), the outcome will not be good. The wise man will be faced with raging and laughing or scoffing, there will be no “rest” or quiet. In the Septuagint, a different thought is expressed. A “wise man judges nations, but a worthless man, raging, is derided, and [still] he does not fear.” (29:9)
“Bloodthirsty men hate a person who is blameless.” Their hurtful actions toward him are carried out with hatred, for they have no regard for him. Upright persons “seek his soul,” possibly meaning that they seek to preserve or protect the life of the blameless individual. Modern translations vary in their renderings, and these renderings are more specific than is the wording of the Hebrew text. “Bloodthirsty men hate the honest man, but the upright show concern for his life.” (NAB) “The bloodthirsty hate the honest, but the upright seek them out.” (NJB) “Bloodthirsty men hate a man of integrity and seek to kill the upright.” (NIV) (29:10)
A “fool,” a person who chooses to be senseless in his conduct, is quick to take offense and to become enraged. He lets “all his spirit [rage (LXX)]” out, exercising no restraint on his fury. A wise man controls himself or calms his spirit or temper, not permitting it to erupt in unrestrained anger. According to the Septuagint, a wise man, in part, keeps his rage in reserve. (29:11)
“If a ruler listens to falsehood,” not verifying whether accusations are valid and then accepting slanderous words as being true, “all his ministers will be wicked [lawless ones or transgressors (LXX)].” They will be corrupt persons who resort to slander and backbiting to further their own interests.(29:12)
A poor man and a man guilty of oppression “have met together” or have encountered one another. YHWH is the one identified as “lighting up the eyes of both.” They owe their life to him. This may be an implied warning to the oppressor that the poor man, as a human, is the creation of God and should be treated justly. The Septuagint identifies the men meeting one another as a creditor and a debtor and says that the “Lord makes an examination of both.” (29:13)
“If a king judges lowly ones” or the poor “in truth” or according to what is right and just, “his throne will be established for all time” (“for a testimony [a good or favorable testimony]” [LXX]). His position as king will be secure, his realm will be stable, and his subjects will be content.(29:14)
The “rod” (for punishing bad behavior [“blows” (LXX)]) and “reproof” (for discipline, correction, training, and instruction [“reproofs” (LXX)]) “give wisdom,” impressing upon the disciplined youngster the desirable course to be followed. A boy left to himself or to his own devices and without restraint or discipline (a “boy going astray” [LXX]) will bring “shame to his mother [his parents (LXX)]” (on account of his bad conduct). (29:15)
When the “wicked [impious or ungodly ones (LXX)] become great [or many],” attaining positions of influence or authority, “transgression becomes great [or increases].” Injustices will be committed at the highest levels, and corrupt individuals will use bribery and other dishonest, even violent, means to attain their base objectives. The wicked, however, will not be able to continue in their lawless course indefinitely. The “righteous will look upon their downfall,” witnessing their having to face retribution. According to the Septuagint, the righteous will become fearful when the ungodly ones fall, possibly because of having impressed upon them how very serious the consequences for lawlessness can be. (29:16)
For children to make the right decisions in life and to conduct themselves properly, they need discipline or correction. The admonition of the proverb is, “Chastise [or discipline] your son, and he will give you rest and give delight to your soul [you yourself].” A well-trained son does not cause grief and trouble for his parents. Instead of experiencing turmoil on account of a son’s wayward conduct, parents will enjoy a sense of calmness about their exemplary son and find delight in him. The Septuagint says regarding the son, “He will give adornment to your soul” (or be a credit to you like a precious ornament). (29:17)
Where “no vision” exists, or there is no dependable guidance as was divinely provided through the prophets, the “people cast off restraint,” losing sight of their accountability to God and forsaking the course of life that he approves. With two Greek words for “not,” the Septuagint rendering is emphatic in saying that an “expounder” (or interpreter of dreams, visions, or prophecies) “will by no means exist for a lawless nation.” People who observe the “law,” faithfully doing what the law of God requires, are “blessed,” “happy,” or fortunate, finding themselves in the enviable position of persons whom God approves and for whom he cares. (29:18)
“By words,” a “servant” (a “hard” or “stubborn servant” [LXX]), one who has a slavish disposition, “will not be corrected.” He may fully understand what is said to him, but he will not obey. (29:19)
A man who is “hasty with his words” gives no thought to what he says nor to the effect his words have on others. As one who is habituated to rash speaking, he is less likely to change for the better than is a person who uses poor judgment. Accordingly, there is “more hope for a senseless one than for him.” (29:20)
If, instead of becoming accustomed to performing demanding tasks, a servant is “pampered from youth,” this will lead to disappointment for his master. The Hebrew word indicating what the servant will become later in life is manóhn. Suggested definitions of lexicographers include “arrogant,” “insolent,” “rebellious,” “thankless,” and a “despiser.” The Septuagint says that one who lives wastefully from youth will be a “domestic servant and, at the end, will grieve over himself.” (29:21)
A “man of wrath” or a man who becomes quickly infuriated “stirs up [digs up (LXX)] strife,” causing tempers to flare. A “man of anger” or one who is given to anger “causes much transgression [digs out sin (LXX)].” In a wrathful state, he would be prone to speak and to act rashly and even become violent. (29:22)
A “man’s pride will bring him low” or humble him. His elevated view of himself will cause him to reject sound advice and to speak and act without good judgment. He will also be self-reliant, trusting in his own abilities and giving no thought to his need for God’s guidance and aid. His arrogance will prove to be his downfall. The man who is “humble in spirit,” not thinking more of himself than he reasonably should and recognizing his limitations and need for God’s help and direction in his life, “will obtain glory” or honor. According to the Septuagint, the Lord is the one who supports him with “glory,” granting him honor and enabling him to maintain an honorable standing before him. (29:23)
A man who “partners with a thief” is one who “hates his soul,” himself or his life. By doing so, he brings trouble upon himself as an accomplice. Moreover, in violation of the law that required upholding justice and disclosing serious wrongdoing (Leviticus 5:1), the accomplice “discloses nothing” when “he hears the curse,” the solemn adjuration of the judge that calls for a curse on the guilty party. Therefore, the partner of a thief also brings a curse upon himself when choosing not to say anything. (29:24)
“Fear of man sets a snare.” It can trap one into condoning and engaging in corruption and lawlessness, defrauding, deceiving, misrepresenting, lying, and failing to uphold justice. The person who trusts in YHWH will not give in to the fear of man, for he recognizes that faithful adherence to what is right and not yielding to group pressure to commit wrong is the course that leads to ultimate blessings. Therefore, the individual is safe or protected from the snare that fear of man brings. In the Septuagint, the fear is linked to the failure to disclose wrong when obligated to do so (“… having been made afraid and been shamed by men, they were tripped up”). The Septuagint then continues, “But the one who trusts in the Lord will rejoice. Impiety in a man makes him stumble [literally, gives a man a stumble], but one who trusts in the Master will be delivered.” (29:25)
Many are the ones who “seek the face [or person] of a ruler,” wanting his favor, help, or consideration for their legal case. The Septuagint rendering could indicate that many are accommodating to the “faces [or persons] of leaders” or rulers. A man’s “judgment,” justice, or right, however, comes from YHWH (the “Lord” [LXX]). In the ultimate sense, YHWH is the source of final justice, and his judgment is flawless. (29:26)
An “unjust man” is one who is an “abomination” to righteous persons, and one who is “straight in his way” or who is upright in his conduct is an “abomination” to an evil man. Righteous persons strongly disapprove of injustice and oppression. Therefore, upright persons find an unjust man to be abominable to them on account of his corrupt ways. A wicked man has a loathing for a person who lives uprightly, for he finds himself reproved by that individual’s good example. According to the Septuagint, a “straight way” or an upright course of life is an abomination to a lawless person. (29:27)
Nothing is known about “Agur,” to whom the “words” that follow are attributed. He is identified as the “son of Jakeh,” a man concerning whom nothing else is known. The Hebrew word massá’ may designate the territory of Massa in northern Arabia where descendants of Abraham’s son Ishmael are thought to have lived. (Genesis 25:12-14) If Massa is the name of a location, Jakeh was from there. It is also possible that, in this context, massá’ is not a proper noun but indicates the “words of Agur” to be an “oracle, a “pronouncement,” a “declaration,” or a “message.” They may have been the words that the “man” Agur spoke to Ithiel and to Ucal. There is no way to determine whether Ithiel and Ucal were sons or disciples of Agur or what their relationship to him may have been. (30:1)
Translations that do not follow the vowel points of the Masoretic Text in this case, do not render Ithiel and Ucal as proper names. “The pronouncement of mortal man: ‘I am not God; I am not God, that I should prevail.’” (NAB) This is the great man’s very word: I am weary, God, I am weary and worn out.” (REB) The Septuagint includes no mention of Agur Jakeh, Ithiel, and Ucal. (30:1; see the Notes section.)
Using hyperbole, Agur represented himself as basically knowing nothing (less than any other man), particularly as his knowledge related to God. He referred to himself as if he lacked the reasoning faculty of a man and did not have the “understanding of a man.” According to the Septuagint, he spoke of himself as the “most senseless of all men” or people and not having the “understanding of men” in him. (30:2) Agur said that he had not learned “wisdom” and did not “know the knowledge of the Holy One.” The thought may be that the knowledge of God, the “Holy One,” is incomprehensibly great and went beyond anything that Agur felt he knew, and what he did know was so limited that he referred to himself as not having learned “wisdom,” the capacity to use knowledge effectively. (30:3; see the Notes section.)
To indicate just how limited his knowledge was, Agur raised rhetorical questions for which he had no answer. “Who has ascended to the heavens and come down? Who has gathered the wind in the hollow of his hands [bosom or the upper fold of his garment (LXX)]? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends [or the boundaries] of the earth? What is his name, and what is the name of his son, if you know [what name (is given) to his children that you may know (them) (LXX)]?” The thought appears to be that anyone who would have done the things to which Agur’s questions related must have been known by name and must also have had an outstanding son, and so the final question related to his name and that of his son (children [LXX]). The Contemporary English Version is more explicit in conveying this basic meaning than is the Hebrew text. “If you know of any who have done such things, then tell me their names and their children’s names.” (30:4)
“Every saying of God is refined.” It is pure, not tainted with error in any way and, therefore, always trustworthy. Those who rely on him and what he has revealed or promised, taking refuge in him like a secure fortress, will find him to be like a protective shield in their time of need. The Septuagint says that God is the one who shields those who venerate or revere him. (30:5)
With every revelation, promise, or declaration that originates with God being “refined” or pure, his words should not be altered with additions or in any other way. One doing so would put himself in line for God’s “reproof” and being found a “liar.” (30:6)
Agur petitioned God for “two things,” asking that they not be denied him before he died. According to the Septuagint, the request was, “May you not remove my favor [the favor that had been divinely bestowed] before I die.” (30:7)
The two things pertained to (1) his being honest or truthful and (2) having enough in resources to meet his needs. He asked that “falsehood and lying” (a “vain and false word” [LXX]) be put far away from him and that he not be given (or not placed in a position of being in) poverty and not be given riches. He just wanted to be nourished with the food that he needed (the things “necessary and sufficient” for him [LXX]). (30:8)
Agur wanted to be protected from the moral risks that poverty and riches could pose. With riches, he could be satisfied to the point of forgetting about his need for God. He could deny God, ceasing to look to him as the one whose help and guidance he desired and even say dismissively, “Who [is] YHWH?” The Septuagint indicates that, with riches, his being filled could lead to his becoming a “liar” and saying (as one not accountable to God), “Who sees me?” Poverty could lead him to steal to obtain necessities and to profane the name of God, blaming God for his destitute state and crying out against him. (30:9)
After the admonition not to “slander a servant to his master,” the probable result is set forth, “lest he curse you and you be held guilty.” The one pronouncing the curse would likely be the slandered servant. A number of translations are specific in indicating this in their renderings. “Don’t tell a slave owner something bad about one of his slaves. That slave will curse you, and you will be in trouble.” (CEV) (30:10)
The next sayings relate to four groups of people, with each being called a “generation” (“evil offspring” or “evil generation” [LXX]) and whose distinguishing traits are bad. One “generation” has no regard for parents. These are individuals who curse their father and do not bless the mother who gave birth to them and cared for them in their most vulnerable period of life. (30:11) Another “generation” is “pure in its own eyes [judges itself righteous (LXX),” but the persons in this group are defiled in their thoughts, words, and actions, and they are likened to individuals who have not been cleansed from the filth or excrement clinging to them (30:12) An arrogant “generation” is described as having exceptionally “lofty” eyes and eyelids that are “lifted up.” They look down disdainfully on all whom they regard as far beneath them. (30:13) The “generation” of oppressors who deal with lowly ones like vicious beasts are portrayed as having “teeth” like “swords” and “incisors” like “knives” and using these to “devour the poor from off the land and the needy from among the people” (literally, “man” or the “earthling” [a collective singular]). (30:14)
The “leech” is mentioned as an example of greed. Its “two daughters” possibly designate the two suckers, one at each end of the leech’s body. Their greedy desire for blood appears to be represented by the cry, “Give, give.” The Septuagint refers to “three daughters” of the leech that were loved with love, “and these three did not fill her.” The “fourth” daughter was not satisfied so as to say, “Enough.” In the Hebrew text, the mention of “three things” and then “four” appears to function for emphasis. “Three things are not satisfied; four do not say, ‘Enough.’” (30:15)
The four things are (1) “Sheol” (“Hades” [LXX]), or the realm of the dead, (2) “restraint of a womb” or a womb from which no babies are born, (3) “land not sated with waters” or arid land that is always in need of water, and (4) “fire” that does not say, “Enough.” A raging fire will continue to burn, consuming everything within its path. In the Septuagint, the listing is different and is not limited to four things. “Hades and love [or passion] of a woman and Tartarus and land not filled [or satisfied] with water; and water and fire” that would not say, “It is enough.” (30:16)
The “eye” that mocks a father” is the eye of a person who looks down with disdain upon a father and makes light of him. This “eye” is also referred to as scorning obedience (or refusing the obedience that is owing) to a mother. The eye belonging to such a ridiculer or scorner is portrayed as becoming food for “ravens of the wadi” and being eaten by “eagles” or “vultures.” In this manner, the individual is depicted as an unburied corpse from which ravens peck out the eyes and on which eagles or vultures feed. (30:17; see the Notes section.)
As in verse 15, the stylistic expression “three things” and “four” appears in this verse, with the apparent objective being to emphasize the number. Agur referred to “three things” as “too marvelous,” too extraordinary, too difficult, or “impossible” for him to comprehend (LXX), and “four” things (the “fourth” one [LXX]) he did not “know” or understand. (30:18)
The “four” things are (1) the “way of an eagle in the heavens” or in the sky, (2) the “way of a serpent on a rock,” (3) the “way of a ship in the heart [or the midst] of the sea” or on the high seas, and (4) the “way of a man with a maiden.” An eagle soars effortlessly in the sky, not leaving any evidence where it has flown. No trace remains of the movement of a serpent on a rock. Likewise, once a ship has passed a certain point in the sea, there is nothing to indicate where it previously traveled. The “way of a man with a maiden” may refer to the manner in which he wins her affection and ultimately seduces her to become intimate with him. Afterward no trace remains of the process that eventually led from their first meeting to his intimate relationship with her. (30:19; see the Notes section.)
The “way of an adulterous woman” is portrayed in terms of eating. It is as if she views her sexual practices as no different than eating and then wiping her mouth, with no trace remaining of her seduction. Afterward she claims, “I have done no wrong.” In the Septuagint, the reference to her adulterous course is more direct than it is the Hebrew text. After she has engaged in the adulterous act, she will wash herself and say that she has done nothing improper. (30:20)
As in previous verses, the stylistic expression “three things” and “four” appears again. The “three things” set the “earth” or land in upheaval, and then “under four it cannot endure.” (30:21)
The “four” things are (1) a “slave when he rules as king” (a man with a slavish disposition who is unqualified to administer royal affairs and, therefore, unjust and oppressive), (2) a senseless person who is filled with food, becoming intolerably arrogant on account of his prosperity (30:22), (3) a “hated” or hateful “woman” when she gets a husband (a “good man” [LXX]), for she will make his life intolerable, and (4) a maid when she supplants her mistress (with her haughtiness bringing much grief and pain to the one she displaced in the husband’s affection) (30:23; see the Notes section.)
The next four things are described as “small” on “earth” or on the land and exceptionally wise (literally, “wiser than the wise”). What these creatures do instinctively appears wise. (30:24)
In relation to humans and many other creatures, ants are very small. Living together in colonies, these small insects are appropriately called a “people not strong.” What appears wise is their “preparing their food in summer,” or gathering and storing it when it would otherwise be hard to find (as in winter). The reference is probably to harvester ants (Messor semirufus). They are known to gather a large supply of grain during the spring and summer. (30:25)
The Hebrew noun shaphán is thought to designate the “rock badger” or “hyrax” and has been classified as Procavia syriaca or Heterohyrax syriacus. Hyraxes look somewhat like large rabbits but have rounded and much shorter ears, practically no tail, and short legs. The four toes of the front feet terminate in hooflike endings, as do the three toes of the hind feet. In their native habitat, numerous hyraxes may be found in rocky areas. Described as a “people not mighty,” these animals instinctively display what appears as wisdom when making their home “in rock” or in a rocky area where they can readily find safety from predators. (30:26)
Locusts have no “king” or leader to follow in their forward movement as a swarm and which movement is comparable to the advance of an organized army. What looks like an organized advance of groups of locusts as part of a huge swarm, although instinctive, appears as if it were a manifestation of wisdom. The Septuagint refers to the locust as marching in an orderly manner at “one command.” (30:27)
The Hebrew word semamíth and the corresponding noun in the Septuagint (kalabótes) are commonly understood to designate a kind of lizard and, more specifically, the gecko. Although one can grasp this creature in one’s hands, it is able to get into the “palaces of a king.” The implied aspect of its seeming wisdom is its ability to make its way into royal palaces, locations that would be inaccessible to most humans and many other animals. In the Septuagint, the expanded wording of the text refers to the lizard as supporting itself with its hands, being easily caught, and [yet] dwelling in the “fortresses of a king.” (30:28)
This is the final use of the combination “three” and “four” that appears to function as a stylistic idiom of emphasis. Three things are described as “doing well” in their “march” or “pacing” and “doing well” in their “going” or “stride.” (30:29)
The four remarkable creatures in their movement are: (1) a lion (a “young lion” [LXX]), the “strongest among beasts” and which “does not turn back” before any creature (literally, “before the faces of all”). (30:30; see the Notes section), (2) an animal that cannot be positively identified (zarzír mothnayím, “girded loins”), (3) a “he-goat” (leading a flock of goats [LXX]), and (4) a “king” with a “band of soldiers” (a king addressing a nation [LXX]). (30:31; see the Notes section)
The admonition for one who has been foolish by exalting himself and by devising (or in scheming to do bad) is for him to “put [his] hand on [his] mouth.” To put the hand on one’s mouth appears to be an idiomatic way of saying to stop what one was doing. The Septuagint expresses a different thought. “If you should let yourself go [or abandon yourself] in merriment and stretch out your hand for a fight, you will be dishonored.” (30:32)
The reason for stopping the wrongs referred to in the previous verse is illustrated by the effects that certain actions produce. “For churning [literally, pressing] milk produces butter” or curds, and pressing [twisting or hitting] the nose produces blood [or causes it to bleed], and [or so] the pressing out of [or giving vent to] anger produces quarreling.” In the Septuagint, the wording is somewhat different. “Churn [literally, milk out or squeeze out] milk, and there will be butter, and if you squeeze the nostrils, blood will come out, and if you draw out words [or incite provocative speech], legal disputes and fights will erupt.” (30:33)
In the Septuagint, the words of chapter 30, verses 1 through 14, are found after verse 22 of chapter 24 of the Hebrew text. These words are followed by verses 23 through 34 in chapter 24 of the Hebrew text and then by verse 15 through 33 of chapter 30. The introductory words of verse 1 of chapter 30 differ significantly from the wording of the extant Hebrew text. “Son, my words fear [or hold in high regard], and repent upon receiving them. Thus says the man to those who believe [or trust] in God, and I cease [speaking].”
Verse 3 in the Septuagint expresses a meaning of the words that is the opposite of that in the extant Hebrew text. “God has taught me wisdom, and I know [or am in possession of] the knowledge of holy things.” In the Hebrew text, the noun “holy,” which is commonly understood to refer to God as the “Holy One” or the “Most Holy One” is plural and regarded as a plural of excellence or majesty. While “knowledge of the Holy One” could refer to knowledge about God, the expression could also refer to knowledge of which he is the ultimate source. Another possibility is to follow the Septuagint rendering (“knowledge of holy things” [or “holy ones” (men having exceptional wisdom; sages)]).
In verse 17, the Septuagint refers to the eye as “dishonoring the old age of a mother.” This is also the rendering found in a number of modern translations. “The eye that mocks a father or scorns a mother’s old age will be plucked out by the ravens of the valley or eaten by young vultures.” (REB) “The eye that mocks a father, or scorns an aged mother, will be plucked out by the ravens in the valley; the young eagles will devour it.” (NAB)
In verse 19, the Septuagint does not mention a “maiden” but refers to the “ways of a man in youth.” The four things mentioned are used as illustrating an aspect of the “way of an adulterous woman.” (Verse 20)
In verse 23, the Septuagint reverses the third and fourth descriptions as contained in the extant Hebrew text. The Septuagint refers to the female servant as casting out her mistress.
In verse 30, the Septuagint adds that a young lion does not fear any beast or animal.
The Hebrew words zarzír mothnayím (verse 31) have been linked to a variety of animals. One animal thought to fit the description of being “girded in” at the “loins” or hips is the greyhound on account of its slender lumbar region and its ability to run swiftly. Other conjectural identifications, often on the basis of cognate languages, include the “horse,” “zebra,” “starling,” and “cricket.” The Septuagint rendering is aléktor (“rooster”), with the rooster being described as “confidently” or proudly moving among hens (literally, “females”).
No Israelite king was known as Lemuel (meaning “belonging to God”), and it seems questionable that, in a work that is specifically linked to Solomon, he would also be called by a name that does not appear elsewhere in the Hebrew text. The Septuagint makes no reference to Lemuel. It opens the words of chapter 31 with the phrase, “My words have been spoken by God,” indicating that the words were divinely inspired. If the Hebrew word massá’ here designates the territory of Massa in northern Arabia where descendants of Abraham’s son Ishmael are thought to have lived (Genesis 25:12-14), Lemuel was the king in that region. It is also possible that, in this context, massá’ is not a proper noun but indicates the “words” to be an “oracle, a “pronouncement,” a “declaration,” or a “message” that Lemuel’s mother taught him. The Septuagint rendering could be understood to refer to an “inspired response of a king whom his mother instructed.” (31:1)
Lemuel’s mother is quoted as identifying him as “my son,” “son of my belly” (or the son who came from her womb) and the “son of my vows,” indicating that she had made vows when petitioning God for a son. The Septuagint contains additional words. “What, child, will you observe? What? The sayings of God. O firstborn, I am speaking to you, son. What, child of my belly? What, child of my vows? These questions suggest that the mother was concerned that her son would be one who heeded the “sayings of God.” (31:2)
The mother admonished Lemuel not to give his “strength to women,” not giving himself over to a life of dissipation for sexual pleasure. According to the Septuagint, he was exhorted not to give his “wealth to women.” The next exhortation could be understood to be for Lemuel to shun “ways” that lead to the ruin of kings. In view of a measure of obscurity in the Hebrew text, translations vary in their renderings, with some making use of an emendation. “Give not your vigor to women, nor your strength to those who ruin kings.” (NAB) “Do not give the vigour of your manhood to women, or consort with women who bring down kings.” (REB) “Don’t waste your life chasing after women! This has ruined many kings.” (CEV) “Do not expend your energy on women nor your wealth on those who ruin kings.” (NJB) The concluding thought of the Septuagint could be understood to indicate that the king was not to give his mind and means of living for something he would later regret. (31:3)
Kings needed to be in full possession of their senses, not dulling them with intoxicants. Lemuel’s mother taught him that it was “not for kings to drink wine and for rulers [to want] strong drink.” (31:4; see the Notes section.) Rulers should use restraint respecting intoxicants so that they do not forget “what is decreed” (or fail to follow what is set forth in the law [forget wisdom (LXX)]) and pervert the rights of all the afflicted (literally, “sons of affliction”) or, according to the Septuagint, “not be able to judge the weak [or powerless] aright.” (31:5; see the Notes section.)
In certain cases, the ancients considered the dulling of the senses as appropriate. “Give strong drink to one who is perishing [or about to die (those in sorrows [LXX])] and wine to those bitter of soul [or persons who have lost all hope (those in pains [LXX])].” (31:6) Under the influence of intoxicants, they would forget their poverty and no longer remember their misery or trouble. (31:7)
The king was to “open [his] mouth,” or speak out, for the “speechless one,” the helpless person who had no voice to make a defense, and for the rights of “all sons of passing away” (persons whose dire circumstances were such as to appear as though they were about to perish). According to the Septuagint, the admonition is, “Open your mouth [with or for] a word of God” (or a divine word), “and judge all fairly [or soundly].” (31:8) The directive to the king continued, “Open your mouth [or speak up]; judge righteously and [defend] the rights of the poor one and the needy one [weak or powerless one (LXX)].” (31:9; see the Notes section.)
The rhetorical question is, “Who can find a woman of strength [a strong or vigorous woman (LXX)]?” Based on the context, “a woman of strength” is a wife who has strength of character and is outstanding in caring for the family and managing household affairs. She is industrious, dependable, compassionate, and exemplary in her conduct. Her value is represented as being greater than the precious items to which the Hebrew word peniním is applied and has been variously understood to designate “pearls,” “rubies,” “coral,” or “red coral.” The Septuagint rendering is “precious stones.” (31:10)
The “owner” or husband of a “woman of strength” trusts her completely. This trust is linked to his “heart,” suggesting that it is a trust that is bound up with his inmost self. His trust is not misplaced, for she benefits him and does not contribute to loss or disappointment. “No gain” is lacking from the manner in which she cares for her responsibilities. According to the Septuagint, this vigorous woman would have no lack of “good spoils” or good returns from her labors. (31:11) “All the days of her life,” or throughout her life as a married woman, she does “good” for her husband, always benefiting him, and never doing “bad” or harm to him. (31:12; see the Notes section.)
The “woman of strength” procures (literally, “seeks”) “wool and flax.” With fabrics from wool and linen, she makes clothing and other needed items for the household. The Hebrew expression for “delight of her hands” suggests that she finds joy and satisfaction from everything she does. The Septuagint refers to her as “spinning wool and flax,” apparently making the yarn into something useful “with her hands.” (31:13)
The “woman of strength” puts forth effort to obtain “bread” or food for the household. She is represented as being “like ships of a merchant,” bringing her “bread” or food from far away. The Septuagint refers to the woman as becoming like a ship used for distant commercial activities and gathering the means of living or livelihood. (31:14)
While it is still “night,” or early in the morning before sunrise, the industrious wife rises to be prepared to give “bread” or food to her household and that which is allotted to the maidens, the young female servants in the large household. That which is allotted or prescribed could refer to their portion of the food or to their assigned tasks. According to the Septuagint, the wife gives her female servants work to do. (31:15)
The astute wife recognizes the worth of good land, and she “considers” a certain “field,” apparently one that she finds suitable for her purposes, and then acquires it. “From the fruit of her hands,” either with her own labors or with the earnings from her work, she plants a vineyard, apparently on the purchased land. The Septuagint rendering indicates that she did planting on the acquired possession. (31:16)
The industrious wife is willing to exert herself as a woman who prepares herself to labor, girding her “loins” or hips with strength and making her arms strong (“for work” [LXX]). (31:17)
The capable wife “tastes” or perceives that her business is “good” or that all the work she does is profitable. According to the Septuagint, she “tastes” that it “is good to work.” Even after the sun sets, she does not stop laboring. “Her lamp [fueled with olive oil] does not go out at night [the whole night (LXX)],” providing her with the needed illumination to perform her chosen tasks before finally going to bed. (31:18)
The industrious wife busies herself in spinning yarn. “She puts her hands to the distaff.” From the distaff, she pulls the loosely attached wool, flax, or tow and, with her fingers, attaches the material to the spindle. (31:19; see the Notes section.)
The exemplary wife is compassionate and generous. She extends her open “palm” to give something to the poor person (“opens her hands to the poor one” [LXX]) and “reaches out her hands [her fruit (LXX)] to the needy one.” (31:20)
The industrious wife has no fear or anxious concern about whether members of her household will be dressed warm enough in the winter when it snows. All members of her household “are clothed in scarlet.” Based on a departure from the vowel pointing of the Masoretic Text, a number of translations do not contain the rendering “scarlet” or “crimson” but variously read “doubly clothed” (NAB), “wrapped in double cloaks” (REB), and “warmly clothed” (NJB). According to the Septuagint, her husband does not concern himself with matters of the house whenever he spends time somewhere outside the home, “for all” who are with her “are being clothed.” This rendering suggests that his wife is caring well for everyone and that her husband has no reason for concern when he is away from the house. (31:21)
The wife has made “coverlets” (“coverings for her bed” [NIV], “bed coverings” [REB], “quilts” [NJB]) for herself. Her clothing is made of “linen and scarlet.” The Septuagint says that “she makes double garments for her husband and clothes of linen and purple for herself.” (31:22)
The husband (literally, “owner”) of the noble wife is “known in the gates,” the open area near the gates where important business and legal matters were handled by the elders of the community. As one of the elders, the husband would seat himself with the “elders of the land” or the area. The Septuagint says that the man “is admired in the gates.” (31:23)
The industrious wife has made linen garments and sells them, and she provides traders with girdles, belts, or sashes. In Hebrew, the term that means “traders” in this context is the proper noun Canaanites, and this is the rendering of the Septuagint (“and girdles for the Chananites [Canaanites]”). (31:24)
The ideal wife has “strength and dignity” as her clothing. This could mean that her outstanding abilities and dignified bearing are like splendid attire for her. She has prepared herself well for the future and, therefore, is represented as laughing at a future day or time or as looking to the future with joyous confidence and having no anxiety about what might develop. The Septuagint says that “she rejoices in the last days.” (31:25 [31:26, LXX])
The expressions that come from the mouth of a noble wife are words of “wisdom,” and the “law of kindness” is on her tongue. This “law” probably consists of the wife’s instruction that promotes having compassionate concern for others. According to the Septuagint, “she opened her mouth heedfully and lawfully,” exercising care in what she says and in how she expresses herself to make sure that she does not err when speaking. She “set order on her tongue” or exercised control over it. (31:26 [31:25, LXX])
The capable wife “watches over the ways [or the conduct and affairs] of her house” or household, making sure that everything is in good order. She does not “eat the bread of laziness,” never idling away her time but proving herself to be a diligent and productive worker. (31:27; see the Notes section.)
The children of the ideal wife and mother stand up and declare her to be “blessed,” happy, or fortunate. Also her husband (literally, “owner”) stands up and praises her. (31:28; see the Notes section.) The appreciative husband lauds her with the words, “Many daughters [or women] have done admirably [more literally, acted with strength], but you have surpassed them all.” According to the Septuagint, the words of praise are, “Many daughters acquired wealth; many did mighty things [or impressive things], but you have surpassed and excelled [them] all.” (31:29)
Impressive accomplishments, however, are not what primarily distinguish the ideal wife and mother. “Charm” or graciousness can be a “deception,” concealing what a woman may really be in her inmost self. The Septuagint indicates that a desire to please may be “false.” “Beauty” (“beauty of a woman” [LXX]) is “vain,” empty or fleeting. The truly noble woman is praised for having the “fear of YHWH,” a reverential regard for him and an earnest desire to do his will. In the Septuagint, the thought is expressed differently. “For a prudent woman is lauded, but let her praise the fear of the Lord.” (31:30)
To the ideal wife and mother, the “fruit of her hands” or the reward of her labors should be given. In view of her diligence, her works would become known far and wide. Therefore, in the open area at the city gates (in the most public location), her “works” should be praised. The Septuagint concludes with the words, “Let her husband be praised in the gates.” (31:31)
In verse 4, the Septuagint contains wording that is not found in the extant Hebrew text. “Do everything with counsel; with counsel, drink wine” (or be guided by the sound counsel you have been given when drinking wine). “Mighty ones [those exercising authority or rulers] are prone to anger, and let them not drink wine.”
In verse 5, the Greek verb translated “be able” is preceded by two words for “not,” giving it an emphatic sense and could be rendered “by no means be able.”
In the Septuagint, verse 9 is followed by the material of chapters 25 through 29 of the Hebrew text and then with that of verses 10 through 31 of chapter 31.
From verse 10 onward, each verse of the Hebrew text begins with a different letter, starting with aleph, continuing in consecutive order through the 22 Hebrew consonants, with taw as the last letter. This arrangement probably served as a memory aid, and no attempt was made by the Septuagint translator to follow the acrostic style.
In verse 12, the Septuagint only mentions the wife’s doing good things for or benefiting her husband and makes no reference to “bad.” Fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus, however, reads “good and not bad.”
The wording of the Septuagint in verse 19 differs from that of the extant Hebrew text. There is no reference to the distaff, but the woman is represented as stretching out her forearm to profitable things and strengthening “her hands for the spindle” or for doing spinning.
Verse 27 in the Septuagint could be understood to indicate that the wife managed household affairs carefully (“sheltered are the ways of life at her houses” [a possible literal translation]).
In verse 28, the Septuagint contains additional wording that is much like that of the initial phrase of verse 25. “But she opens the mouth wisely and lawfully, and her compassion raised up her children, and they became rich, and her husband praised her.”