Proverbs 29:1-27

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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)