Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
In the introduction, chap. 1-9, there are larger sections of interconnected thoughts having one common aim. Even in Prov 6:1-19 there are manifestly three proverbial discourses distinguished from one another, shorter indeed, yet containing one fundamental thought. Such proverbs as are primarily designed to form one completed little whole of themselves, are not here to be met with. On the contrary, the Solomonic collection which now follows consists of pure distichs, for the most part antithetical, but at the same time going over all the forms of the technical proverb, as we have already shown; vid., p. 16. Accordingly the exposition must from this point onward renounce reproduced combinations of thought. The succession of proverbs here is nevertheless not one that is purely accidental or without thought; it is more than a happy accident when three of the same character stand together; the collector has connected together proverb with proverb according to certain common characteristics (Bertheau). And yet more than that: the mass separates itself into groups, not merely succeeding one another, but because a certain connection of ideas connects together a number of proverbs, in such a way that the succession is broken, and a new point of departure is arrived at (Hitzig). There is no comprehensive plan, such as Oetinger in his summary view of its contents supposes; the progressive unfolding follows no systematic scheme, but continuously wells forth. But that the editor, whom we take also to be the arranger of the contents of the book, did not throw them together by good chance, but in placing them together was guided by certain reasons, the very first proverb here shows, for it is chosen in conformity with the design of this book, which is specially dedicated to youth:
1 A wise son maketh glad his father;
A foolish son is his mother's grief.
One sees here quite distinctly (cf. Hos 13:13) that חכם (from חכם, properly to be thick, stout, solid, as πυκνός = σοφός) is primarily a practical and ethical conception. Similar proverbs are found further on, but consisting of synonymous parallel members, in which either the father both times represents the parents, as Pro 17:21; Pro 23:24, or father and mother are separated, each being named in different members, as Pro 17:25; Pro 23:25, and particularly Pro 15:20, where 20a = 1a of the above proverb. It is incorrect to say, with Hitzig, that this contrast draws the division after it: the division lies nearer in the synonymous distichs, and is there less liable to be misunderstood than in the antithetic. Thus, from this proverb before us, it might be concluded that grief on account of a befooled son going astray in bypaths, and not coming to the right way, falls principally on the mother, as (Sir. 3:9) is often the case in unfortunate marriages. The idea of the parents is in this way only separated, and the two members stand in suppletive interchangeable relationship. ישׂמּח is the middle of the clause, and is the usual form in connection; ישׂמּח is the pausal form. תּוּגה, from הוגה (יגה), has pass. , as תּורה, act. . "The expression of the pred. 1b is like Pro 3:17; Pro 8:6; Pro 10:14.; cf. e.g., Arab. âlastaḳṣa furkat, oversharpening is dividing, i.e., effects it inquiries become or lead to separation (cf. our proverb, Allzuscharf macht scharig = too much sharpening makes full of notches); Burckhardt, Sprchw. Nr. 337" (Fl.).
There follows now a series of proverbs which place possessions and goods under a moral-religious point of view:
Treasures of wickedness bring no profit;
But righteousness delivers from death.
The lxx and Aquila translate ἀνόμους (ἀσεβεῖς). הועיל (to profit) with the accus. is possible, Isa 57:12, but אוצרות one does not use by itself; it requires a genitive designating it more closely. But also דּרשּׂיעא of the Targ., παρανόμων of Symmachus, fails; for the question still remains, to whom? Rightly Syr., Jerome, Theodotion, and the Quinta: ἀσεβείας, cf. Pro 4:17; Mic 4:10; Luk 16:9, μαμωνᾶς τῆς ἀδικίας. Treasures to which wickedness cleaves profit not, viz., him who has collected them through wickedness. On the contrary, righteousness saves from death (2b = Pro 11:4, where the parallelism makes it clear that death as a judgment is meant). In Deu 24:13 it had been already said that compassionate love is "righteousness before the Lord," the cardinal virtue of the righteousness of life. Faith (Hab 2:4) is its soul, and love its life. Therefore δικαιοσύνη and ἐεημοσύνη are interchangeable ideas; and it ought not to be an objection against the Apocrypha that it repeats the above proverb, ἐλεημοσύνη ἐκ θανάτου ῥύεται, Tob. 4:10; 12:9, Sir. 3:30; 29:12, for Dan 4:24 also says the very same thing, and the thought is biblical, in so far as the giving of alms is understood to be not a dead work, but (Psa 112:9) the life-activity of one who fears God, and of a mind believing in Him and resting in His word.
Another proverb, the members of which stand in chiastic relation to those of the preceding:
Jahve does not suffer the soul of the righteous to hunger;
But the craving of the godless He disappointeth.
The thought is the same as Pro 13:25. There, as also at Pro 6:30, the soul is spoken of as the faculty of desire, and that after nourishment, for the lowest form of the life of the soul is the impulse to self-preservation. The parallel הוּה, in which lxx and Ar. erroneously find the meaning of חיּה, life, the Syr. Targ. the meaning of הון, possession, means the desire, without however being related to אוּה (Berth.); it is the Arab. hawan, from הוה, Arab. haway, which, from the fundamental meaning χαίνειν, hiare, to gape, yawn, signifies not only unrestrained driving along, and crashing overthrow (cf. Pro 11:6; Pro 19:13), but also the breaking forth, ferri in aliquid, whence הוּה, Arab. hawan, violent desire, in Hebr. generally (here and Psa 52:9, Mich. Pro 7:3) of desire without limits and without restraint (cf. the plur. âhawâ, arbitrary actions, caprices); the meanings deduced from this important verbal stem (of which also הוה היה, accidere, and then esse, at least after the Arabic conception of speech, is an offshoot) are given by Fleischer under Job 37:6, and after Fleischer by Eth, Schlafgemach der Phantasie, ii. p. 6f. The verb הדף signifies to push in the most manifold shades, here to push forth, repellere, as Kg2 4:27 (cf. Arab. ḥadhaf, to push off = to discharge); the fut. is invariably יהדּף, like יהגּה. God gives satisfaction to the soul of the righteous, viz., in granting blessings. The desire of the wicked He does not suffer to be accomplished; it may appear for a long time as if that which was aimed at was realized, but in the end God pushes it back, so that it remains at a distance, because contrary to Him. Instead of והות רשׁעים, some editions (Plantin 1566, Bragadin 1615) have והות בּגדים, but, in opposition to all decided testimony, only through a mistaken reference to Pro 11:6.
There follow two proverbs which say how one man fails and another succeeds:
He becomes poor who bears a sluggish hand;
But the hand of the diligent maketh rich.
These three proverbs, Pro 19:15; Pro 12:24, Pro 12:27, are similar. From the last two it is seen that רמיּה is a subst., as also from Psa 120:2. (לשׁון רמיּה, from a crafty tongue) that it is an adject., and from Lev 14:15. (where כּף is fem.) that it may be at the same time an adject. here also. The masc. is רמי, like טרי to טריּה ot , but neither of these occur; "the fundamental idea is that of throwing oneself down lazily, when one with unbent muscles holds himself no longer erect and stretched, Arab. taramy" (Fl.). The translation: deceitful balances (Lwenstein after Rashi), is contrary to biblical usage, which knows nothing of כף in this Mishnic meaning. But if כף is here regarded as fem., then it cannot be the subject (Jerome, egestatem operata est manus remissa), since we read עשׂה, not עשׂה. But ראשׁ also is not suitable as the subject (lxx, Syr., Targ.), for poverty is called רישׁ, רישׁ, ראשׁ; on the contrary, רשׁ, plur. רשׁים or ראשׁים, is used adjectively. Since now the adject. רשׁ, Sa1 12:14, is also written ראשׁ, it may be translated: Poor is he who... (Bertheau); but we much rather expect the statement of that which happens to such an one, thus: Poor will he be... ראשׁ, 3 praet. = רשׁ, Psa 34:11, with the same (grammatically incorrect) full writing as קאם, Hos 10:14. In the conception of the subject, כף־רמיה, after Jer 48:10, is interpreted as the accus. of the manner (Berth.: whoever works with sluggish hand); but since עשׂה רמיה (in another sense indeed: to practise cunning) is a common phrase, Psa 52:4; Psa 101:7, so also will כף־רמיה be regarded as the object: qui agit manum remissam, whoever carries or moves such a hand (Hitzig). In 4b working is placed opposite to bearing: the diligent hand makes rich, ditat or divitias parit; but not for itself (Gesen. and others: becomes rich), but for him who bears it. The diligent man is called חרוּץ, from חרץ, to sharpen, for, as in ὀξύς, acer, sharpness is transferred to energy; the form is the same as הלּוּק, smooth (for the ā is unchangeable, because recompensative), a kindred form to קטול like חמוץ, and Arab. fâ'ûl as fashawsh, a boaster, wind-bag, either of active (as חנּוּן) or (as חלוק, חרוץ, עמּוּד, שׁכּוּל) of passive signification.
There is now added a proverb which, thus standing at the beginning of the collection, and connecting itself with Pro 10:1, stamps on it the character of a book for youth:
He that gathereth in summer is a wise son;
But he that is sunk in sleep in the time of harvest is a son that causeth shame.
Von Hofmann (Schriftb. ii. 2. 403) rightly interprets בּן משׂכּיל and בּן מבישׁ, with Cocceius and others, as the subject, and not with Hitzig as predicate, for in nominal clauses the rule is to place the predicate before the subject; and since an accurate expression of the inverted relation would both times require הוא referring to the subject, so we here abide by the usual syntax: he that gathers in summer time is... Also the relation of the members of the sentence, Pro 19:26, is a parallel from which it is evident that the misguided son is called מבישׁ as causing shame, although in הבישׁ the idea to put to shame (= to act so that others are ashamed) and to act shamefully (disgracefully), as in השׂכיל the ideas to have insight and to act intelligently, lie into one another (cf. Pro 14:35); the root-meaning of השׂכיל is determined after שׂכל, which from שׂכל, complicare, designates the intellect as the faculty of intellectual configuration. בּושׁ, properly disturbari, proceeds from a similar conception as the Lat. confundi (pudore). קיץ and קציר fall together, for קיץ (from קוץ = qât, to be glowing hot) is just the time of the קציר; vid., under Gen 8:22. To the activity of a thoughtful ingathering, אגר, for a future store (vid., Pro 6:7), stands opposed deep sleep, i.e., the state of one sunk in idleness. נרדּם means, as Schultens has already shown, somno penitus obrui, omni sensu obstructo et oppilato quasi, from רדם, to fill, to shut up, to conclude; the derivation (which has been adopted since Gesenius) from the Arab. word having the same sound, rdm, stridere, to shrill, to rattle (but not stertere, to snore), lies remote in the Niph., and also contradicts the usage of the word, according to which it designates a state in which all free activity is bound, and all reference to the external world is interrupted; cf. תּרדּמה, Pro 19:15, of dulness, apathy, somnolency in the train of slothfulness. The lxx has here one distich more than the Hebr. text.
There now follow two proverbs regarding the blessings and the curses which come to men, and which flow forth from them. Here, however, as throughout, we take each proverb by itself, that it might not appear as if we had a tetrastich before us. The first of these two antithetic distichs is:
Blessings (come) on the head of the just;
But violence covereth the mouth of the godless.
Blessings are, without being distinguished, bestowed as well as prayed for from above. Regarding the undistinguished uses of לראשׁ (of a recompense of reward), בּראשׁ (of penal recompense), and על־ראשׁ (especially of punishment), vid., under Gen 49:26. If we understand, with Ewald, Bertheau, Elster, Zckler, and others, the two lines after Pro 10:11, Pro 19:28, cf. Pro 10:18 : the mouth of the wicked covers (hides under a mask) violence, inasmuch as he speaks words of blessing while thoughts of malediction lurk behind them (Psa 62:5), then we renounce the sharpness of the contrast. On the contrary, it is preserved if we interpret וּפי as object: the violence that has gone out from it covereth the mouth of the wicked, i.e., it falls back upon his foul mouth; or as Fleischer (and Oetinger almost the same) paraphrases it: the deeds of violence that have gone forth from them are given back to them in curses and maledictions, so that going back they stop, as it were, their mouth, they bring them to silence; for it is unnecessary to take פי synecdochically for פני (cf. e.g., Psa 69:8), since in בּרכות 6a are perhaps chiefly meant blessings of thankful acknowledgment on the part of men, and the giving prominence to the mouth of the wicked from which nothing good proceeds is well accounted for. The parallels do not hinder us thus to explain, since parts of proverbs repeating themselves in the Book of Proverbs often show a change of the meaning (vid., p. 24f.). Hitzig's conjecture, יכּסה (better יכסּה), is unnecessary; for elsewhere we read, as here, that חמס (violence), jure talionis, covers, יכּסּה, the wicked, Hab 2:17, or that he, using "violence," therewith covers the whole of his external appearance, i.e., gives to it the branded impress of the unrighteousness he has done (vid., Khler under Mal 2:16).
Thus, as Pro 10:6 says how it goes with the righteous and the wicked in this life, so this verse tells how it fares with them after death:
The memory of the righteous remains in blessings,
And the name of the godless rots.
The tradition regarding the writing of זכר with five (זכר) or six points (זכר) is doubtful (vid., Heidenheim in his ed. of the Pentateuch, Mer Enajim, under Exo 17:14); the Cod. 1294 and old printed copies have here זכר. Instead of לברכה, יברך might be used; the phrase היה לברכה (opp. היה לקללה, often used by Jeremiah), subordinate to the substantival clause, paraphrases the passive, for it expresses a growing to something, and thus the entrance into a state of endurance. The remembrance of the righteous endures after his death, for he is thought of with thankfulness (צל''ז = זכר צדיק לברכה, the usual appendix to the name of an honoured, beloved man who has died), because his works, rich in blessing, continue; the name of the godless, on the contrary, far from continuing fresh and green (Psa 62:1-12 :17) after his departure, becomes corrupt (רקב, from רק, to be or to become thin, to dissolve in fine parts, tabescere), like a worm-eaten decayed tree (Isa 40:20). The Talmud explains it thus, Joma 38b: foulness comes over their name, so that we call no one after their name. Also the idea suggests itself, that his name becomes corrupt, as it were, with his bones; the Mishnah, at least Ohaloth ii. 1, uses רקב of the dust of corruption.
There follows now a series of proverbs in which reference to sins of the mouth and their contrary prevails:
He that is wise in heart receives precepts;
But he that is of a foolish mouth comes to ruin.
A חכם־לב, wise-hearted, as one whose heart is חכם, Pro 23:15; in a word, a נבון, a person of understanding or judgment, Pro 16:21. Such an one does not make his own knowledge the ne plus ultra, nor does he make his own will the noli me tangere; but he takes commands, i.e., instructions directing or prohibiting, to which he willingly subordinates himself as the outflow of a higher knowledge and will, and by which he sets bounds and limits to himself. But a fool of the lips, i.e., a braggart blunderer, one pleasing himself with vain talk (Pro 14:23), falls prostrate, for he thinks that he knows all things better, and will take no pattern; but while he boasts himself from on high, suddenly all at once - for he offends against the fundamental principle of common life and of morality - he comes to lie low down on the ground. The Syr. and Targ. translate ילּבט by, he is caught (Bertheau, ensnared); Aquila, Vulgate, Luther, δαρήσεται, he is slain; Symmachus, βασανισθήσεται; but all without any support in the usage of the language known to us. Theodotion, φυρήσεται, he is confounded, is not tenable; Joseph Kimchi, who after David Kimchi, under Hos 4:14, appeals in support of this meaning (ישׁתבשׁ, similarly Parchon: יתבלבל) to the Arabic, seems to think on iltibâs, confusion. The demonstrable meanings of the verb לבט are the following: 1. To occasion trouble. Thus Mechilta, under Exo 17:14, לבטוהו, one has imposed upon him trouble; Sifri, under Num 11:1, נתלבטנו, we are tired, according to which Rashi: he fatigues himself, but which fits neither to the subj. nor to the contrast, which is to be supposed. The same may be said of the meaning of the Syr. lbt, to drive on, to press, which without doubt accords with the former meaning of the word in the language of the Midrash. 2. In Arab. labaṭ (R. lab, vid., Wnsche's Hos. p. 172), to throw any one down to the earth, so that he falls with his whole body his whole length; the passive נלבט, to be thus thrown down by another, or to throw oneself thus down, figuratively of one who falls hopelessly into evil and destruction (Fl.). The Arabic verb is also used of the springing run of the animal ridden on (to gallop), and of the being lame (to hop), according to which in the Lex. the explanations, he hurries, or he wavers hither and thither, are offered by Kimchi (Graec. Venet. πλανηθήσεται). But the former of these explanations, corruit (= in calamitatem ruit), placed much nearer by the Arabic, is confirmed by the lxx ὑποσκελισθήσεται, and by the Bershith rabba, c. 52, where לבט is used in the sense to be ruined (= נכשׁל). Hitzig changes the passive into the active: "he throws the offered לקח scornfully to the ground," but the contrast does not require this. The wanton, arrogant boasting lies already in the designation of the subj. אויל שׂפתים; and the sequel involves, as a consequence, the contrasted consequence of ready reception of the limitations and guidance of his own will by a higher.
The form of this verse is like the eighth, word for word:
He that walketh in innocence walketh securely;
But he that goeth in secret ways is known.
The full form of בּתּום does not, as Hitzig supposes, stand in causal connection with the Dech, for the consonant text lying before us is at least 500 years older than the accentuation. For הלך תּם at Pro 2:7, there is here הלך בּתּום = הלך בּדרך תום; so מעקּשׁ דּרכיו denotes, after Pro 2:15, such an one אשׁר דּרכיו עקּשׁים. Expressed in the language of the N.T., תום is the property of the ἁπλοῦς or ἀκέραιος, for the fundamental idea of fulness is here referred to full submission, full integrity. Such an one goes בּטח (Aquila, ἀμερίμνως), for there is nothing designedly concealed by him, of which he has reason to fear that it will come to the light; whoever, on the contrary, makes his ways crooked, i.e., turns into crooked ways, is perceived, or, as we might also explain it (vid., under Gen 4:15): if one (qui = si quis) makes his ways crooked, then it is known - nothing, however, stands opposed to the reference of יוּדע to the person: he is finally known, i.e., unmasked (lxx Jerome, γνωσθήσεται, manifestus fiet). Usually it is explained: he is knowing, clever, with the remark that נודע is here the passive of הודיע (Gesen., Ewald, Hitzig); Hiph. to give to feel; Niph. to become to feel, properly to be made to know (Luth.: made wise); but the passive of the Hiph. is the Hoph. Such a Niph. in which the causative (not simply transitive) signification of the Hiph. would be applied passively is without example (vid., Ewald, 133a); the meaning of Jer 31:19 also is: after I have become known, i.e., been made manifest, uncovered, drawn into the light.
This verse contains another proverb, similarly formed, parallel with the half of Pro 10:8 :
He that winketh with the eye causeth trouble;
And a foolish mouth comes to ruin.
Regarding the winking or nipping, i.e., the repeated nipping of the eyes (cf. nictare, frequent. of nicere), as the conduct of the malicious or malignant, which aims at the derision or injury of him to whom it refers, vid., under Pro 6:13; there קרץ was connected with ב of the means of the action; here, as Psa 35:19, cf. Pro 16:30, it is connected with the object accus. He who so does produces trouble (heart-sorrow, Pro 15:13), whether it be that he who is the butt of this mockery marks it, or that he is the victim of secretly concerted injury; יתּן is not here used impersonally, as Pro 13:10, but as Pro 29:15, cf. Lev 19:28; Lev 24:20, in the sense of the cause. 10b forms a striking contrast to 10a, according to the text of the lxx: ὁ δὲ ἐλεγχων μετὰ παῤῥησίας εἰρηνοποιεῖ, contrary to the Syr., by the Hebrew text, which certainly is older than this its correction, which Ewald and Lagarde unsuccessfully attempt to translate into the Hebrew. The foolish mouth, here understood in conformity with 10a, is one who talks at random, without examination and deliberation, and thus suddenly stumbles and falls over, so that he comes to lie on the ground, to his own disgrace and injury.
Another proverb, similar to the half of Pro 10:6 :
A fountain of life is the mouth of the righteous;
But the mouth of the godless hideth violence.
If we understand 11b wholly as 6b: os improborum obteget violentia, then the meaning of 11a would be, that that which the righteous speaks tends to his own welfare (Fl.). But since the words spoken are the means of communication and of intercourse, one has to think of the water as welling up in one, and flowing forth to another; and the meaning of 11b has to accommodate itself to the preceding half proverb, whereby it cannot be mistaken that חמס (violence), which was 6b subj., bears here, by the contrast, the stamp of the obj.; for the possibility of manifold windings and turnings is a characteristic of the Mashal. In the Psalms and Prophets it is God who is called מקור חיּים, Psa 36:10; Jer 2:13; Jer 17:13; the proverbial poetry plants the figure on ethical ground, and understands by it a living power, from which wholesome effects accrue to its possessor, Pro 14:27, and go forth from him to others, Pro 13:14. Thus the mouth of the righteous is here called a fountain of life, because that which he speaks, and as he speaks it, is morally strengthening, intellectually elevating, and inwardly quickening in its effect on the hearers; while, on the contrary, the mouth of the godless covereth wrong (violentiam), i.e., conceals with deceitful words the intention, directed not to that which is best, but to the disadvantage and ruin of his neighbours; so that words which in the one case bring to light a ground of life and of love, and make it effectual, in the other case serve for a covering to an immoral, malevolent background.
Another proverb of the different effects of hatred and of love:
Hate stirreth up strife,
And love covereth all transgressions.
Regarding מדנים, for which the Kerı̂ elsewhere substitutes מדינים, vid., under Pro 6:14. Hatred of one's neighbour, which is of itself an evil, has further this bad effect, that it calls forth hatred, and thus stirreth up strife, feuds, factions, for it incites man against man (cf. ערר, Job 3:8); on the contrary, love covers not merely little errors, but also greater sins of every kind (כּל־פּשׁעים), viz., by pardoning them, concealing them, excusing them, if possible, with mitigating circumstances, or restraining them before they are executed. All this lies in the covering. James, however, gives it, Jam 5:20, another rendering: love covers them, viz., from the eyes of a holy God; for it forgives them to the erring brother, and turns him from the error of his way. The lxx improperly translate πάντας δὲ τοὺς μὴ φιλονεικοῦντας κελόπτει φιλία; but Peter (Pe1 4:8) as well as James, but none of the Greek versions; ἡ ἀγάπη καλύψει πλῆθος ἁμαρτιῶν. The Romish Church makes use of this passage as a proof for the introduction of the fides formata, viz., caritate, in justification, which is condemned in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession; and, indeed, the multitudo peccatorum is not meant of the sins of him who cherishes love, but of the sins of the neighbour. Sin stirs up hatred in men in their relation to one another; but love covers the already existing sins, and smooths the disturbances occasioned by them.
There follow now two other proverbs on the use and abuse of speech:
On the lips of the man of understanding wisdom is found;
And the rod for the back of the fool.
With Lwenstein, Hitzig, and others, it is inadmissible to regard ושׁבט as a second subject to תּמּצא. The mouth itself, or the word of the mouth, may be called a rod, viz., a rod of correction (Isa 11:4); but that wisdom and such a rod are found on the lips of the wise would be a combination and a figure in bad taste. Thus 13b is a clause by itself, as Luther renders it: "but a rod belongs to the fool's back;" and this will express a contrast to 13a, that while wisdom is to be sought for on the lips of the man of understanding (cf. Mal 2:7), a man devoid of understanding, on the contrary, gives himself to such hollow and corrupt talk, that in order to educate him to something better, if possible, the rod must be applied to his back; for, according to the Talmudic proverb: that which a wise man gains by a hint, a fool only obtains by a club. The rod is called שׁבט, from שׁבט, to be smooth, to go straight down (as the hair of the head); and the back גּו, from גּוה, to be rounded, i.e., concave or convex.
14 Wise men store up knowledge;
But the mouth of the fool is threatening destruction.
Ewald, Bertheau, Hitzig, Oetinger: "The mouth of the fool blunders out, and is as the sudden falling in of a house which one cannot escape from." But since מחתּה is a favourite Mishle-word to denote the effect and issue of that which is dangerous and destructive, so the sense is perhaps further to be extended: the mouth of the fool is for himself (Pro 13:3) and others a near, i.e., an always threatening and unexpectedly occurring calamity; unexpectedly, because suddenly he blunders out with his inconsiderate shame-bringing talk, so that such a fool's mouth is to every one a praesens periculum. As to יצפּנוּ, it is worthy of remark that in the Beduin, Arab. dfn, fut. i, signifies to be still, to be thoughtful, to be absorbed in oneself (vid., Wetstein on Job, p. 281). According to Codd. and editions, in this correct, וּפי־ is to be written instead of אויל uwpiy; vid., Baer's Torath Emeth, p. 40.
A pair of proverbs regarding possession and gain.
The rich man's wealth is his strong city;
The destruction of the poor is their poverty.
The first line = Pro 18:11. One may render the idea according to that which is internal, and according to that which is external; and the proverb remains in both cases true. As עז may mean, of itself alone, power, as means of protection, or a bulwark (Psa 8:3), or the consciousness of power, high feeling, pride (Jdg 5:21); so קרית עזּו may be rendered as an object of self-confidence, and מחתּה, on the contrary, as an object of terror (Jer 48:39): the rich man, to whom his estate (vid., on הון, p. 63) affords a sure reserve and an abundant source of help, can appear confident and go forth energetically; on the contrary, the poor man is timid and bashful, and is easily dejected and discouraged. Thus e.g., Oetinger and Hitzig. But the objective interpretation is allowable, and lies also much nearer: the rich man stands thus independent, changes and adversities cannot so easily overthrow him, he is also raised above many hazards and temptations; on the contrary, the poor man is overthrown by little misfortunes, and his despairing endeavours to save himself, when they fail, ruin him completely, and perhaps make him at the same time a moral outlaw. It is quite an experienced fact which this proverb expresses, but one from which the double doctrine is easily derived: (1) That it is not only advised, but also commanded, that man make the firm establishing of his external life-position the aim of his endeavour; (2) That one ought to treat with forbearance the humble man; and if he always sinks deeper and deeper, one ought not to judge him with unmerciful harshness and in proud self-exaltation.
The gain of the righteous tendeth to life;
The income of the godless to sin.
Intentionally, that which the righteous received is called פּעלּה (as Lev 19:13), as a reward of his labour; that which the godless receives is called תּבוּאה, as income which does not need to be the reward of labour, and especially of his own immediate labour. And with לחיּים, לחטּאת runs parallel, from the supposition that sin carries the germ of death in itself. The reward of his labour serves to the righteous to establish his life, i.e., to make sure his life-position, and to elevate his life-happiness. On the contrary, the income of the godless serves only to ruin his life; for, made thereby full and confident, he adds sin to sin, whose wages is death. Hitzig translates: for expiation, i.e., to lose it again as atonement for past sins; but if חיים and חטאת are contrasted with each other, then חטאת is death-bringing sin (Pro 8:35.).
The group of proverbs now following bring again to view the good and bad effects of human speech. The seventeenth verse introduces the transition:
17 There is a way to life when one gives heed to correction;
And whoever disregards instruction runs into error.
Instead of ארח חיּים (Pro 5:6), there is here ארח לחיים; and then this proverb falls into rank with Pro 10:16, which contains the same word לחיים. The accentuation denotes ארח as subst.; for ארח way, road = ארח [a wayfarer, part. of ארח] would, as שׁסע, Lev 11:7, נטע, Psa 94:9, have the tone on the ultima. It is necessary neither to change the tone, nor, with Ewald, to interpret ארח as abstr. pro concreto, like הלך, for the expression "wanderer to life" has no support in the Mishle. Michaelis has given the right interpretation: via ad vitam est si quis custodiat disciplinam. The syntactical contents, however, are different, as e.g., Sa1 2:13, where the participle has the force of a hypothetical clause; for the expression: "a way to life is he who observes correction," is equivalent to: he is on the way to life who...; a variety of the manner of expression: "the porch was twenty cubits," Ch2 3:4, particularly adapted to the figurative language of proverbial poetry, as if the poet said: See there one observant of correction - that (viz., the שׁמר [שׁמר, to watch] representing itself in this שׁמר) is the way to life. מוּסר and תּוכחת are related to each other as παιδεία and ἔλεγχος; עזב [עזב, to leave, forsake] is equivalent to בּלתּי שׁמר. מתעה would be unsuitable as a contrast in the causative sense: who guides wrong, according to which Bertheau understands 17a, that only he who observes correction can guide others to life. We expect to hear what injuries he who thinks to raise himself above all reproach brings on himself. Hitzig, in his Commentary (1858), for this reason places the Hithpa. מתּעה (rather write מתּעה) in the place of the Hiph.; but in the Comm. on Jeremiah (1866), 42:20, he rightly remarks: "To err, not as an involuntary condition, but as an arbitrary proceeding, is suitably expressed by the Hiph." In like manner הוסיף, הגּיע (to touch), הרחיק (to go to a distance), denote the active conduct of a being endowed with reason; Ewald, 122, c. Jewish interpreters gloss מתעה by supplying נפשׁו; but it signifies only as inwardly transitive, to accomplish the action of the תּעות.
18 He that hideth hatred is a mouth of falsehood;
And he that spreadeth slander is a fool.
The lxx, καλύπτουσιν ἔχθραν χεῖλα δίκαια, which Ewald prefers, and which has given occasion to Hitzig to make a remarkable conjecture ("He who conceals hatred, close lips," which no one understands without Hitzig's comment. to this his conjecture). But (1) to hide hatred (cf. Pro 10:11, Pro 26:24) is something altogether different from to cover sin (Pro 10:12, Pro 17:9), or generally to keep anything secret with discretion (Pro 10:13); and (2) that δίκαια is a corrupt reading for ἄδικα (as Grabe supposes, and Symmachus translates) or δόλια (as Lagarde supposes, and indeed is found in Codd.). Michaelis well remarks: odium tectum est dolosi, manifesta sycophantia stultorum. Whoever conceals hateful feelings behind his words is שׂפתי־שׂקר, a mouth of falsehood (cf. the mouth of the fool, Pro 10:14); one does not need to supply אישׁ, but much rather has hence to conclude that a false man is simply so named, as is proved by Psa 120:3. There is a second moral judgment, 18b: he who spreadeth slander (וּמוצא, according to the Masoretic writing: he who divulges it, the correlate to הביא, to bring to, Gen 37:2) is a Thor fool, stupid, dull, כּסיל (not a Narr fool, godless person, אויל); for such slandering can generally bring no advantage; it injures the reputation of him to whom the דבּה, i.e., the secret report, the slander, refers; it sows discord, has incalculable consequences, and finally brings guilt on the tale-bearer himself.
19 In a multitude of words transgression is not wanting;
But he who restrains his lips shows wisdom.
We do not, with Bertheau, understand 19a: by many words a transgression does not cease to be what it is; the contrast 19b requires a more general condemnation of the multitude of words, and חדל not only means to cease from doing (to leave off), and to cease from being (to take away), but also not at all to do (to intermit, Eze 3:11; Zac 11:12), and not at all to be (to fail, to be absent), thus: ubi verborum est abundantia non deest peccatum (Fl.). Michaelis suitably compares πολυλογία πολλὰ σφάλματα ἒχει by Stobus, and כל המרבה דברים מביא חטא in the tractate Aboth i. 17, wherewith Rashi explains the proverb. פּשׁע is not here, as elsewhere, e.g., Psa 19:14, with special reference to the sin of falling away from favour, apostasy, but, like the post-biblical עברה, generally with reference to every kind of violation (פשׁע = Arab. fsq dirumpere) of moral restraint; here, as Jansen remarks, peccatum sive mendacii, sive detractionis, sive alterius indiscretae laesionis, sive vanitatis, sive denique verbi otiosi. In 19b it is more appropriate to regard משׂכּיל as the present of the internal transitive (intelligenter agit) than to interpret it in the attributive sense (intelligens).
20 Choice silver is the tongue of the righteous;
But the heart of the godless is little worth.
Choice silver is, as Pro 8:19, cf. 10, pure, freed from all base mixtures. Like it, pure and noble, is whatever the righteous speaks; the heart, i.e., the manner of thought and feeling, of the godless is, on the contrary, like little instar nihili, i.e., of little or no worth, Arab. yasway kâlyla (Fl.). lxx: the heart of the godless ἐκλείψει, i.e., ימעט, at first arrogant and full of lofty plans, it becomes always the more dejected, discouraged, empty. But 20a leads us to expect some designation of its worth. The Targ. (according to which the Peshito is to be corrected; vid., Levy's Wrterbuch, ii. 26): the heart of the godless is מחתא (from נחת), refuse, dross. The other Greek versions accord with the text before us.
21 The lips of the righteous edify many;
But fools die through want of understanding.
The lxx translate 21a: the lips of the righteous ἐπίσταται ὑψηλά, which would at least require ידעו רבות. רעה is, like the post-bibl. pir
Three proverbs which say that good comes from above, and is as a second nature to the man of understanding:
22 Jahve's blessing - it maketh rich;
And labour addeth nothing thereto
Like 24a, היא limits the predicate to this and no other subject: "all depends on God's blessing." Here is the first half of the ora et labora. The proverb is a compendium of Psa 127:1-2. 22b is to be understood, according to Psa 127:2 of this Solomonic psalm, not that God adds to His blessing no sorrow, much rather with the possession grants at the same time a joyful, peaceful mind (lxx, Targ., Syriac, Jerome, Aben-Ezra, Michaelis, and others), which would require the word עליה; but that trouble, labour, i.e., strenuous self-endeavours, add not (anything) to it, i.e., that it does not associate itself with the blessing (which, as the Jewish interpreters rightly remark, is, according to its nature, תוספת, as the curse is חסרון) as the causa efficiens, or if we supply quidquam, as the complement to עמּהּ along with it: nothing is added thereto, which goes along with that which the blessing of God grants, and completes it. Thus correctly Rashi, Luther, Ziegler, Ewald, Hitzig, Zckler. the now current accentuation, לאו יוסף עצב עמּהּ, is incorrect. Older editions, as Venice 1525, 1615, Basel 1618, have ולא־יוסף עצב עמה, the transformation of ולא־יוסף עצב. Besides, עצב has double Segol (vid., Kimchi's Lex.), and יוסף is written, according to the Masora, in the first syllable plene, in the last defective.
23 Like sport to a fool is the commission of a crime;
And wisdom to a man of understanding.
Otherwise Lwenstein: to a fool the carrying out of a plan is as sport; to the man of understanding, on the contrary, as wisdom. זמּה, from זמם, to press together, mentally to think, as Job 17:11, and according to Gesenius, also Pro 21:27; Pro 24:9. But זמּה has the prevailing signification of an outrage against morality, a sin of unchastity; and especially the phrase עשׂה זמּה is in Jdg 20:6 and in Ezekiel not otherwise used, so that all the old interpreters render it here by patrare scelus; only the Targum has the equivocal עבד עבידתּא; the Syriac, however, 'bd bı̂_taa'. Sinful conduct appears to the fool, who places himself above the solemnity of the moral law, as sport; and wisdom, on the contrary, (appears as sport) to a man of understanding. We would not venture on this acceptation of כּשׂחוק if שׂחק were not attributed, Pro 8:30., to wisdom itself. This alternate relationship recommends itself by the indetermination of חכמהו, which is not favourable to the interpretation: sed sapientiam colit vir intelligens, or as Jerome has it: sapientia autem est viro prudentia. The subjects of the antithesis chiastically combine within the verse: חכמה, in contrast to wicked conduct, is acting in accordance with moral principles. This to the man of understanding is as easy as sporting, just as to the fool is shameless sinning; for he follows in this an inner impulse, it brings to him joy, it is the element in which he feels himself satisfied.
24 That of which the godless is afraid cometh upon him,
And what the righteous desires is granted to him.
The formation of the clause 24a is like the similar proverb, Pro 11:27; the subject-idea has there its expression in the genitival annexum, of which Gen 9:6 furnishes the first example; in this passage before us it stands at the beginning, and is, as in Pro 10:22, emphatically repeated with היא. מגורה, properly the turning oneself away, hence shrinking back in terror; here, as Isa 66:4, of the object of fear, parallel to תּאוה, wishing, of the object of the wish. In 24b Ewald renders יתּן as adj. from יתן (whence איתן ecne), after the form פּקּח, and translates: yet to the righteous desire is always green. But whether יתּן is probably formed from יתן, and not from נתן, is a question in Pro 12:12, but not here, where wishing and giving (fulfilling) are naturally correlata. Hitzig corrects יתּן, and certainly the supplying of 'ה is as little appropriate here as at Pro 13:21. Also a "one gives" is scarcely intended (according to which the Targ., Syr., and Jerome translate passively), in which case the Jewish interpreters are wont to explain יתן, scil. הנותן; for if the poet thought of יתן fo with a personal subject, why did he not rescue it from the dimness of such vague generality? Thus, then, יתן is, with Bttcher, to be interpreted as impersonal, like Pro 13:10; Job 37:10, and perhaps also Gen 38:28 (Ewald, 295a): what the righteous wish, that there is, i.e., it becomes actual, is fulfilled. In this we have not directly and exclusively to think of the destiny at which the godless are afraid (Heb 10:27), and toward which the desire of the righteous goes forth; but the clause has also truth which is realized in this world: just that which they greatly fear, e.g., sickness, bankruptcy, the loss of reputation, comes upon the godless; on the contrary that which the righteous wish realizes itself, because their wish, in its intention, and kind, and content, stands in harmony with the order of the moral world.
There now follows a series of proverbs, broken by only one dissimilar proverb, on the immoveable continuance of the righteous:
25 When the storm sweeps past, it is no more with the wicked;
But the righteous is a building firm for ever.
How Pro 10:25 is connected with Pro 10:24 is shown in the Book of Wisdom 5:15 (the hope of the wicked like chaff which the wind pursues). The Aram., Jerome, and Graec. Venet. interpret כ of comparison, so that the destruction of the godless is compared in suddenness and rapidity to the rushing past of a storm; but then רוּח ought to have been used instead of סוּפה; and instead of ואין רשׁע with the ו apodosis, a disturbing element in such a comparison, would have been used יחלף רשׁע, or at least רשׁע אין. The thought is no other than that of Job 21:18 : the storm, which is called סופה, from סוּף, to rush forth, is meant, as sweeping forth, and כ the temporal, as Exo 11:4 (lxx παραπορευομένης καταιγίδος), with ו htiw ,)עןה apod. following, like e.g., after a similar member of a temporal sentence, Isa 10:25. סופה is a figure of God-decreed calamities, as war and pestilence, under which the godless sink, while the righteous endure them; cf. with 25a, Pro 1:27; Isa 28:18; and with 25b, Isa 3:25, Hab 2:4; Psa 91:1. "An everlasting foundation," since עולם is understood as looking forwards, not as at Isa 58:12, backwards, is a foundation capable of being shaken by nothing, and synecdoch. generally a building. The proverb reminds us of the close of the Sermon on the Mount, and finds the final confirmation of its truth in this, that the death of the godless is a penal thrusting of them away, but the death of the righteous a lifting them up to their home. The righteous also often enough perish in times of war and of pestilence; but the proverb, as it is interpreted, verifies itself, even although not so as the poet, viewing it from his narrow O.T. standpoint, understood it; for the righteous, let him die when and how he may, is preserved, while the godless perishes.
This proverb stands out of connection with the series:
As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes,
So is the sluggard to them who gives him a commission.
A parabolic proverb (vid., p. 9), priamel-like in its formation (p. 13). Here and there לשּׁנּים is found with Mugrash, but in correct texts it has Reba-magnum; the verse is divided into two by Athnach, whose subordinate distributive is (Accentssystem, xi. 1) Reba-magnum. Smoke makes itself disagreeably perceptible to the sense of smell, and particularly to the eyes, which it causes to smart so that they overflow with tears; wherefore Virgil speaks of it as amarus, and Horace lacrimosus. חמץ (from חמץ, to be sour, harsh) signifies properly that which is sour, as acetum, ὄξος; here, after the lxx ὄμφαξ, the unripe grapes, but which are called בּסר (בּסר) (vid., under Job 15:33), by which the Syr., here following the lxx, translates, and which also in the Talmud, Dema i. 1, is named חמץ, after a doubtful meaning (vid., Aruch, and on the other side Rashi), thus: vinegar, which the word commonly means, and which also accords with the object of the comparison, especially if one thinks of the sharp vinegar-wine of the south, which has an effect on the teeth denoted by the Hebr. verb קהה, as the effect of smoke is by כהה (Fl.). The plur. לשׁלחיו is that of the category, like Pro 22:21; Pro 25:13; the parallel אדניו of the latter passage does not at least make it necessary to regard it, like this, as a plur. excellentiae (Bertheau, Hitzig, Ewald). They who send a sluggard, i.e., who make him their agent, do it to their own sorrow; his slothfulness is for them, and for that which they have in view, of dull, i.e., slow and restrained, of biting, i.e., sensibly injurious operation.
From this point the proverbs fall into the series connecting themselves with Pro 10:25 :
27 The fear of Jahve multiplies the days of life;
But the years of the godless are shortened.
This parable, like Pro 10:25, also corresponds with the O.T. standpoint, having in view the present life. The present-life history confirms it, for vice destroys body and soul; and the fear of God, which makes men contented and satisfied in God, is truly the right principle of longevity. But otherwise also the pious often enough die early, for God carries them away מפני הרעה from the face of the evil, Isa 57:1.; or if they are martyrs for the truth (Psa 44:23, cf. Psa 60:6), the verification of the above proverb in such cases moves forward (Wisd. 4:7ff.) into eternity, in which the life of the pious continues for ever, while that of the godless loses itself with his death in the state of everlasting death. Pro 9:11, cf. Pro 3:2, resembles 27a. Instead of תּקצרנה, תקצרנה was to be expected; but the flexion does not distinguish the transitive קצר (Arab. ḳaṣara) and intransitive קצר (Arab. ḳaṣura) as it ought.
28 The expectation of the righteous is gladness
And the hope of the godless comes to nothing.
תּוחלת as well as תּקוה proceed on the fundamental idea of a strained earnest looking back upon something, the same fundamental idea which in another view gives the meaning of strength (חיל, Arab. ḥayl; ḳuwwat, kawiyy, cf. גּדל, Arab. jdl, plectere, and גּדול, strong and strength). The substantival clause 28a denotes nothing more than: it is gladness (cf. Pro 3:17, all their steps are gladness), but which is equivalent to, it is that in its issue, in gaudium desinit. Hitzig's remark that תוחלת is the chief idea for hope and fear, is not confirmed by the usage of the language; it always signifies joyful, not anxious, expectation; cf. the interchange of the same two synonyms Pro 13:7, and תּאות, Psa 112:10, instead of תּקות (here and Job 8:13). While the expectation of the one terminates in the joy of the fulfilment, the hope of the other (אבד, R. בד, to separate) perishes, i.e., comes to nothing.
29 Jahve's way is a bulwark to the righteous;
But ruin to those that do evil.
Of the two meanings which מעז (מעוז) has: a stronghold from עזז, and asylum (= Arab. m'adz) from עוּז, the contrast here demands the former. 'דּרך ה and 'יראת ה, understood objectively, are the two O.T. names of true religion. It means, then, the way which the God of revelation directs men to walk in (Psa 143:8), the way of His precepts, Psa 119:27, His way of salvation, Psa 67:3 (4); in the N.T. ἡ ὁδὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ, Mat 22:16; Act 18:25.; cf. ἡ ὁδός simply, Act 9:2; Act 24:14. This way of Jahve is a fortress, bulwark, defence for innocence, or more precisely, a disposition wholly, i.e., unreservedly and without concealment, directed toward God and that which is good. All the old interpreters, also Luther, but not the Graec. Venet., translate as if the expression were לתּם; but the punctuation has preferred the abstr. pro concreto, perhaps because the personal תּם nowhere else occurs with any such prefix; on the contrary, תּם is frequently connected with ב, כ, ל. לתם דרך, integro viae (vitae), are by no means to be connected in one conception (Ziegler, Umbr., Elster), for then the poet ought to have written מעז יהוה לתם־דרך. 29b cannot be interpreted as a thought by itself: and ruin (vid., regarding מחתּה, ruina, and subjectively consternatio, Pro 10:16) comes to those who do evil; but the thought, much more comprehensive, that religion, which is for the righteous a strong protection and safe retreat, will be an overthrow to those who delight only in wickedness (vid., on און, p. 143), is confirmed by the similarly formed distich, Pro 21:15. Also almost all the Jewish interpreters, from Rashi to Malbim, find here expressed the operation of the divine revelation set over against the conduct of men - essentially the same as when the Tora or the Chokma present to men for their choice life and death; or the gospel of salvation, according to Co2 2:15, is to one the savour of life unto life, to another the savour of death unto death.
30 The righteous is never moved;
But the godless abide not in the land.
Love of home is an impulse and emotion natural to man; but to no people was fatherland so greatly delighted in, to none was exile and banishment from fatherland so dreadful a thought, as it was to the people of Israel. Expatriation is the worst of all evils with which the prophets threatened individuals and the people, Amo 7:17, cf. Isa 22:17.; and the history of Israel in their exile, which was a punishment of their national apostasy, confirms this proverb and explains its form; cf. Pro 2:21., Psa 37:29. בּל is, like Pro 9:13, the emphatic No of the more elevated style; נמוט, the opposite of נכון, Pro 12:3; and שׁכן signifies to dwell, both inchoative: to come to dwell, and consecutive: to continue to dwell (e.g., Isa 57:15, of God who inhabiteth eternity). In general, the proverb means that the righteous fearlessly maintains the position he takes; while, on the contrary, all they who have no hold on God lose also their outward position. But often enough this saying is fulfilled in this, that they, in order that they may escape disgrace, became wanderers and fugitives, and are compelled to conceal themselves among strangers.
For the third time the favourite theme already handled in three appendixes is taken up:
The mouth of the righteous bringeth forth wisdom,
And the tongue of falsehood shall be rooted up.
Regarding the biblical comparison of thoughts with branches, and of words with flowers and fruits, vid., my Psychol. p. 181; and regarding the root נב (with its weaker אב), to swell up and to spring up (to well, grow, etc.), vid., what is said in the Comm. on Genesis on נביא, and in Isaiah on עוב. We use the word נוּב of that which sprouts or grows, and נבב of that which causes that something sprout; but also נוב may, after the manner of verbs of being full (Pro 3:10), of flowing (Gesen. 138, 1, Anm. 2), take the object accus. of that from which anything sprouts (Pro 24:31), or which sprouting, it raises up and brings forth (cf. Isa 57:19). The mouth of the righteous sprouts, brings forth (in Psa 37:30, without a figure, יהגּה, i.e., utters) wisdom, which in all relations knows how to find out that which is truly good, and suitable for the end intended, and happily to unriddle difficult complications. The conception of wisdom, in itself practical (from חכם, to be thick = solid, firm), here gains such contents by the contrast: the tongue - whose character and fruit is falsehood, which has its delight in intentional perversions of fact, and thus increaseth complications (vid., regarding תּהפּכות, Pro 2:12) - is rooted up, whence it follows as regards the mouth of the righteous, that it continues for ever with that its wholesome fruit.
32 The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable;
But the mouth of the godless is mere falsehood.
Hitzig, instead of ידעוּן, reads יבּעוּן; the ἀποστάζει [they distil or send forth] of the lxx does not favour this, for it is probably only a corruption of ἐπίσταται, which is found in several MSS the Graec. Venet., which translates ποιμανοῦσι, makes use of a MS which it sometimes misreads. The text does not stand in need of any emendations, but rather of a corrected relation between the clauses, for the relation of 31a with 32b, and of 32a with 31b, strongly commends itself (Hitzig); in that case the explanation lies near: the lips of the righteous find what is acceptable, viz., to God. But this thought in the Mashal language is otherwise expressed (Pro 12:2 and paral.); and also 32a and 32b fit each other as contrasts, if by רצון, as Pro 11:27; Pro 14:9, is to be understood that which is acceptable in its widest generality, equally then in relation to God and man. It is a question whether ידעון means that they have knowledge of it (as one e.g., says ידע ספר, to understand writing, i.e., the reading of it), or that they think thereupon (cf. Pro 27:23). Fundamentally the two ideas, according to the Hebrew conception of the words, lie in each other; for the central conception, perceiving, is biblically equivalent to a delighted searching into or going towards the object. Thus: the lips of the righteous think of that which is acceptable (רצון, cogn. to חן, gracefulness; χάρις, Col 4:6); while the mouth of the godless is mere falsehood, which God (the wisdom of God) hates, and from which discord on all sides arises. We might transfer ידעון to 32b; but this line, interpreted as a clause by itself, is stronger and more pointed (Fl.).