Proverbs 10:1-32

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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)

Notes

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.