Proverbs 15:1-33

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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)

Notes

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.