Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
A comparative proverb with טוב, pairing with Pro 16:32 :
Better a dry piece of bread, and quietness therewith,
Than a house full of slain beasts with unquietness.
Similar to this in form and contents are Pro 15:16. and Pro 16:8. פּת חרבה is a piece of bread (פת, fem., as Pro 23:8) without savoury drink (Theodotion, καθ ̓ ἑαυτόν, i.e., nothing with it), cf. Lev 7:10, a meat-offering without the pouring out of oil. זבחים are not sacrificial gifts (Hitzig), but, as always, slain animals, i.e., either offerings or banquets of slain beasts; it is the old name of the שׁלמים (cf. Exo 18:12; Exo 24:5; Pro 7:14), part of which only were offered on the altar, and part presented as a banquet; and זבח (in contradist. to טבח, Lev 9:2; 43:16) denotes generally any kind of consecrated festival in connection with the worship of God, Sa1 20:29; cf. Gen 31:54. "Festivals of hatred" are festivals with hatred. מלא is part. with object.-accus.; in general מלא forms a constructive, מלא occurs only once (Jer 6:11), and מלאי not at all. We have already, Pro 7:14, remarked on the degenerating of the shelamı̂m feasts; from this proverb it is to be concluded that the merriment and the excitement bordering on intoxication (cf. with Hitzig, Sa1 1:13 and Sa1 1:3), such as frequently at the Kirmsen merry-makings, brought quarrels and strife, so that the poor who ate his dry bread in quiet peace could look on all this noise and tumult without envy.
2 A prudent servant shall rule over the degenerate son;
And he divides the inheritance among the brethren.
Regarding the contrasts of משׂכּיל and מבישׁ, vid., at Pro 10:5; Pro 14:35. The printed editions present בּבן־מבישׁ in genit. connection: a son of the scandalous class, which is admissible; but Cod. 1294 and Cod. Jaman,
(Note: The Cod. brought by Sapiir from Jemen, of which there is an account in the preface to the edition of Isaiah by Baer and me.)
Erf. No. 2, 3, write בּבן מבישׁ (with Tsere and Munach), and that is perhaps right, after Pro 10:5; Pro 17:25. The futures have here also a fut. signification: they say to what it will come. Grotius remarks, with reference to this: manumissus tutor filiis relinquetur; יחלק tutorio officio. But if he is a conscientious, unselfish tutor, he will not enrich himself by property which belongs to another; and thus, though not without provision, he is yet without an inheritance. And yet the supplanting of the degenerate is brought about by this, that he loses his inheritance, and the intelligent servant steps into his place. Has one then to suppose that the master of the house makes his servant a co-heir with his own children, and at the same time names him as his executor? That were a bad anachronism. The idea of the διαθήκη was, at the time when this proverb was coined, one unknown - Israelitish iniquity knows only the intestate right of inheritance, regulated by lineal and gradual succession. Then, if one thinks of the degenerate son, that he is disowned by the father, but that the intelligent servant is not rewarded during the life of his master for his true services, and that, after the death of the master, to such a degree he possesses the esteem and confidence of the family, that he it is who divides the inheritance among the brethren, i.e., occupies the place amongst them of distributor of the inheritance, not: takes a portion of the inheritance, for חלק has not the double meaning of the Lat. participare; it means to divide, and may, with בּ, mean "to give a part of anything" (Job 39:17); but, with the accus., nothing else than to distribute, e.g., Jos 18:2, where it is to be translated: "whose inheritance had not yet been distributed (not yet given to them)." Jerome, haereditatem dividet; and thus all translators, from the lxx to Luther.
3 The fining-pot for silver, and the furnace for gold;
And a trier of hearts is Jahve.
An emblematical proverb, which means that Jahve is for the heart what the smelting-pot (from צרף, to change, particularly to melt, to refine) is for silver, and what the smelting furnace (כוּר, from כּוּר, R. כר, to round, Exo 22:20) is for gold, that Jahve is for the heart, viz., a trier (בחן, to grind, to try by grinding, here as at Psa 7:10) of their nature and their contents, for which, of the proof of metals, is elsewhere (Pro 16:2; Pro 21:2; Pro 24:12) used the word (cf. בּחון, the essay-master, Jer 6:7) תּכן, weigher, or דּורשׁ, searcher (Ch1 28:9). Wherever the subject spoken of is God, the searcher of hearts, the plur. לבּות, once לבבות ecno ,, is used; the form לבבים occurs only in the status conjunctus with the suffix. In Pro 27:21 there follow the two figures, with which there is formed a priamel, as at Pro 26:3, another tertium comparationis.
4 A profligate person giveth heed to perverse lips;
Falsehood listeneth to a destructive tongue.
The meaning, at all events, is, that whoever gives ear with delight to words which are morally reprobate, and aimed at the destruction of neighbours, thereby characterizes himself as a profligate. Though מרע is probably not pred. but subj., yet so that what follows does not describe the מרע (the profligate hearkens...), but stamps him who does this as a מרע (a profligate, or, as we say: only a profligate...). מרע, for מרע, is warranted by Isa 9:16, where מרע (not מרע ton, according to which the Venet. here translates ἀπὸ κακοῦ) is testified to not only by correct codd. and editions, but also by the Masora (cf. Michlol 116b). הקשׁיב (from קשׁב, R. קש, to stiffen, or, as we say, to prick, viz., the ear) is generally united with ל or אל, but, as here and at Pro 29:12; Jer 6:19, also with על. און, wickedness, is the absolute contrast of a pious and philanthropic mind; הוּת, from הוּה, not in the sense of eagerness, as Pro 10:3; Pro 11:6, but of yawning depth, abyss, catastrophe (vid., at Psa 5:10), is equivalent to entire destruction - the two genitives denote the property of the lips and the tongue (labium nequam, lingua perniciosa), on the side of that which it instrumentally aims at (cf. Psa 36:4; Psa 52:4): practising mischief, destructive plans. שׁקר beginning the second line is generally regarded as the subj. parallel with מרע, as Luther, after Jerome, "A wicked man gives heed to wicked mouths, and a false man listens willingly to scandalous tongues." It is possible that שׁקר denotes incarnate falsehood, as רמיּה, Pro 12:27, incarnate slothfulness, cf. מרמה, Pro 14:25, and perhaps also Pro 12:17; צדק, Psa 58:2, תּוּשׁיּה, Mic 6:9; יצר סמוּך, Isa 26:13, etc., where, without supplying אישׁ (אנשׁי), the property stands instead of the person possession that property. The clause, that falsehood listeneth to a deceitful tongue, means that he who listens to it characterizes himself thereby, according to the proverb, simile simili gaudet, as a liar. But only as a liar? The punctuation before us, which represents מרע by Dechi as subj., or also pred., takes שׁקר מזין as obj. with מזין as its governing word, and why should not that be the view intended? The representation of the obj. is an inversion less bold than Isa 22:2; Isa 8:22, and that על here should not be so closely connected with the verb of hearing, as 4a lies near by this, that הקשׁיב על is elsewhere found, but not האזין על. Jewish interpreters, taking שׁקר as obj., try some other meaning of מזין than auscultans; but neither זון, to approach, nor זין, to arm (Venet. ψεῦδος ὁπλίζει), gives a meaning suitable to this place. מזין is equivalent to מאזין. As אאזין, Job 32:11, is contracted into אזין, so must מאזין, if the character of the part. shall be preserved, become מזין, mediated by מיזין.
5 He that mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker;
He that rejoiceth over calamity remains not unpunished.
Line first is a variation of Pro 14:31. God is, according to Pro 22:2, the creator of the poor as well as of the rich. The poor, as a man, and as poor, is the work of God, the creator and governor of all things; thus, he who mocketh the poor, mocketh Him who called him into existence, and appointed him his lowly place. But in general, compassion and pity, and not joy (שׂמח ל, commonly with ל, of the person, e.g., Obad. Oba 1:12, the usual formula for ἐπιχαιρεκακία), is appropriate in the presence of misfortune (איד, from אוּד, to be heavily burdened), for such joy, even if he on whom the misfortune fell were our enemy, is a peccatum mortale, Job 31:29. There is indeed a hallowed joy at the actual revelation in history of the divine righteousness; but this would not be a hallowed joy if it were not united with deep sorrow over those who, accessible to no warning, have despised grace, and, by adding sin to sin, have provoked God's anger.
With this verse this series of proverbs closes as it began:
A diadem of the old are children's children,
And the glory of children are their parents.
Children are a blessing from God (Ps 127-128); thus, a family circle consisting of children and grandchildren (including great-grandchildren) is as a crown of glory surrounding the grey-haired patriarch; and again, children have glory and honour in their parents, for to have a man of an honoured name, or of a blessed memory, as a father, is the most effective commendation, and has for the son, even though he is unlike his father, always important and beneficial consequences. In 6b a fact of experience is expressed, from which has proceeded the rank of inherited nobility recognised among men - one may abnegate his social rights, but yet he himself is and remains a part of the moral order of the world. The lxx has a distich after Pro 17:4 the Vatican text places it after Pro 17:6 : "The whole world of wealth belongs to the faithful, but to the unfaithful not even an obolus." Lagarde supposes that ὄλος ὁ κόσμος τῶν χρημάτων is a translation of שׁפעת יתר, instead of שׂפת יתר, 7a. But this ingenious conjecture does not amount to the regarding of this distich as a variation of Pro 17:7.
The proverbs following, Pro 17:7-10, appear to be united acrostically by the succession of the letters ש (שׂ, שׁ) and ת.
7 It does not become a fool to speak loftily,
How much less do lying lips a noble!
As at Isa 32:5., נבל and נדיב are placed opposite to one another; the latter is the nobly magnanimous man, the former the man who thinks foolishly and acts profligately, whom it does not become to use lofty words, who thereby makes the impression of his vulgarity so much the more repulsive (cf. Job 2:10). שּׂפת יתר (not יתר, for the word belongs to those which retain their Pathach or Segol, in pausa) is neither elevated (soaring) (Ewald) nor diffuse (Jo. Ernst Jungius in Oetinger: lingua dicax ac sermonem ultra quam decorum verbis extendere solita), rather imperative (Bertheau), better presumptuous (Hitzig) words, properly words of superfluity, i.e., of superabundant self-consciousness and high pretension (cf. the transitive bearing of the Arab. watr with ὑβρίζειν, from ὑπέρ, Aryan upar, Job, p. 363). Rightly Meri, שׂפת נאוה ושׂררה. It produces a disagreeable impression, when a man of vulgar mind and of rude conduct, instead of keeping himself in retirement, makes himself of importance, and weighty in a shameless, impudent manner (cf. Ps. 12:9, where זלּוּת, vilitas, in a moral sense); but yet more repulsive is the contrast, when a man in whom one is justified in expecting nobility of mind, in accordance with his life-position and calling, degrades himself by uttering deceitful words. Regarding the אף כּי, concluding a minori ad majus, we have already spoken at Pro 11:31; Pro 15:11. R. Ismael, in Bereschith Rabba, at 44:8, reckons ten such conclusions a minori ad majus in the Scriptures, but there are just as many quanto magis. The right accentuation (e.g., in Cod. 1294) is here אף כי־לנדיב, transformed from אף כי־לנדיב, according to Accentuationssystem, xviii. 2.
8 The gift of bribery appears a jewel to its receiver;
Whitherso'er he turneth himself he acteth prudently.
How 8b is to be understood is shown by Sa1 14:47, cf. Jos 1:7; the quoque se vertit, prudenter rem agit, has accordingly in both sentences the person meant by בּעליו as subject, not the gift (Hitzig), of which ישׂכּיל, "it maketh prosperous," is not said, for השׂכּיל means, used only of persons, prudent, and therefore successful, fortunate conduct. Such is said of him who has to give (Luther): he presses through with it whithersoever he turns. But the making of בּעיני the subj. does not accord with this: this means gift to one who has to give, appears to open doors and hearts, not merely as a golden key, it is truly such to him. Thus בעליו, as at Pro 3:27, will be meant of him to whom the present is brought, or to whom a claim thereto is given. But שׂחד means here not the gift of seasonable liberality (Zckler), but, as always, the gift of bribery, i.e., a gift by which one seeks to purchase for himself (Pro 17:23) preference on the part of a judge, or to mitigate the displeasure of a high lord (Pro 21:14); here (for one does not let it depend merely on the faithfulness of another to his duty) it is that by which one seeks to secure an advantage to himself. The proverb expresses a fact of experience. The gift of bribery, to which, as to a well-known approved means, השּׂחד, refers, appears to him who receives and accepts it (Targ.) as a stone of pleasantness, a charming, precious stone, a jewel (Juwl from joie = gaudium); it determines and impels him to apply all his understanding, in order that he may reach the goal for which it shall be his reward. What he at first regarded as difficult, yea, impossible, that he now prudently carries out, and brings to a successful conclusion, wherever he turns himself, overcoming the seemingly insurmountable hindrances; for the enticement of the gift lifts him, as with a charm, above himself, for covetousness is a characteristic feature of human nature - pecuniae obediunt omnia (Ecc 10:19, Vulg.).
9 He covereth transgressions who seeketh after love,
And he who always brings back a matter separateth friends.
The pred. stands first in the simple clause with the order of the words not inverted. That מכסה פשׁע is also to be interpreted here as pred. (cf. 19a) is shown by Pro 10:12, according to which love covereth all transgressions. We write מכסּה־פּשׂע with Dag. forte conjunctivum of פ (as of ב in Eze 18:6), and Gaja with the Sheva, according to the Meth.-Setzung, 37; the punctuation מכסּה פּשׁע also occurs. What the expression "to seek love" here means, is to be judged, with Hitzig, after Zep 2:3; Co1 14:1. It is in no case equivalent to seek to gain the love of another, rather to seek to preserve the love of men towards one another, but it is to be understood not after 9b, but after Pro 10:12 : he seeks to prove love who does not strike on the great bell when his neighbour has sinned however grievously against him, does not in a scandal-loving manner make much ado about it, and takes care not thereby to widen the breach between men who stand near to one another, but endeavours by a reconciling, soothing, rectifying influence, to mitigate the evil, instead of making it worse. He, on the contrary, who repeats the matter (שׁנה with ב of the obj., to come back with something, as Pro 26:11), i.e., turns always back again to the unpleasant occurrence (Theodotion, δευτερῶν ἐν λόγῳ; Symmachus, δευτερῶν λόγον, as Sir. 7:14; 19:7), divides friends (vid., Pro 16:28), for he purposely fosters the strife, the disharmony, ill-will, and estrangement which the offence produced; while the noble man, who has love for his motive and his aim, by prudent silence contributes to bring the offence and the division which it occasioned into forgetfulness.
10 One reproof maketh more impression on a wise man
Than if one reckoned a hundred to the fool
One of the few proverbs which begin with a future, vid., Pro 12:26. It expresses what influence there is in one reproof with a wise man (מבין, Pro 8:9); גּערה is the reproof expressed by the post-bibl. נזיפה .lbib, as the lowest grade of disciplinary punishment, admonitio, connected with warning. The verbal form תהת is the reading of the lxx and Syr. (συντρίβει ἀπειλὴ καρδίαν φρονίμου) for they read תחת גערה לב מבין, derived from חתת, and thus תּחת (from Hiph. החת); thus Luther: reproof alarms more the intelligent, but חחת with ב of the obj. is not Hebr.; on the contrary, the reading of the lxx is in accordance with the usage of the language, and, besides, is suitable. It is, however, first to be seen whether the traditional text stands in need of this correction. As fut. Niph. תּחת, apart from the ult. accent. to be expected, gives no meaning. Also if one derives it from חתה, to snatch away, to take away, it gives no appropriate thought; besides, חתה is construed with the object. accus., and the fut. Apoc., in itself strange here, must be pointed either תּהת or תּחתּ (after יחדּ) (Bttcher, Lehrb. ii. p. 413). Thus יחת, as at Job 21:13; Jer 21:13, will be fut. Kal of נחת = ינחת, Psa 38:3 (Theodotion, Targ., Kimchi). With this derivation, also, תּחת is to be expected; the reference in the Handwrterbuch to Gesen. Lehrgebude, 51, 1, Anm. 1, where, in an extremely inadequate way, the retrogression of the tone (נסוג אחור) is spoken of, is altogether inappropriate to this place; and Bttcher's explanation of the ult. tone from an intended expressiveness is ungrammatical; but why should not תּחת, from נחת, with its first syllable originating from contraction, and thus having the tone be Milel as well as Milra, especially here, where it stands at the head of the sentence? With ב connected with it, נחת means: to descend into anything, to penetrate; Hitzig appropriately compares altius in pectus descendit of Sallust, Jug. 11. Jerome rightly, according to the sense: plus proficit, and the Venet. ἀνεῖ (read ὀνεῖ) ἀπειλὴ τῷ συνίοντι. In 10b מכּה (cf. Deu 25:3; Co2 11:24) is to be supplied to מאה, not פאמים (an hundred times, which may be denoted correctly by מאה as well as מאת, Ecc 8:12). With the wise (says a Talmudic proverb) a sign does as much as with the fool a stick does. Zehner, in his Adagia sacra (1601), cites Curtius (vii. 4): Nobilis equus umbra quoque virgae regitur, ignavus ne calcari quidem concitari potest.
Five proverbs of dangerous men against whom one has to be on his guard:
11 The rebellious seeketh only after evil,
And a cruel messenger is sent out against him.
It is a question what is subj. and what obj. in 11a. It lies nearest to look on מרי as subj., and this word (from מרה, stringere, to make oneself exacting against any, to oppose, ἀντιτείνειν) is appropriate thereto; it occurs also at Eze 2:7 as abstr. pro concreto. That it is truly subj. appears from this, that בּקּשׁ רע, to seek after evil (cf. Pro 29:10; Kg1 20:7, etc.), is a connection of idea much more natural than בּקּשׁ מרי to seek after rebellion. Thus אך will be logically connected with רע, and the reading אך מרי will be preferred to the reading אך־מרי; אך (corresponding to the Arab. âinnama) belongs to those particles which are placed before the clause, without referring to the immediately following part of the sentence, for they are much more regarded as affecting the whole sentence (vid., Pro 13:10): the rebellious strives after nothing but only evil. Thus, as neut. obj. רע is rendered by the Syr., Targ., Venet., and Luther; on the contrary, the older Greek translators and Jerome regard רע as the personal subject. If now, in reference to rebellion, the discourse is of a מלאך אכזרי, we are not, with Hitzig, to think of the demon of wild passions unfettered in the person of the rebellious, for that is a style of thought and of expression that is modern, not biblical; but the old unpoetic yet simply true remark remains: Loquendi formula inde petita quod regis aut summi magistratus minister rebelli supplicium nunciat infligitque. מלאך is n. officii, not naturae. Man as a messenger, and the spiritual being as messenger, are both called מלאך. Therefore one may not understand מלאך אכזרי, with the lxx, Jerome, and Luther, directly and exclusively of an angel of punishment. If one thinks of Jahve as the Person against whom the rebellion is made, then the idea of a heavenly messenger lies near, according to Psa 35:5., Psa 78:49; but the proverb is so meant, that it is not the less true if an earthly king sends out against a rebellious multitude a messenger with an unlimited commission, or an officer against a single man dangerous to the state, with strict directions to arrest him at all hazards. אכזרי we had already at Pro 12:10; the root קש חש means, to be dry, hard, without feeling. The fut. does not denote what may be done (Bertheau, Zckler), which is contrary to the parallelism, the order of the words, and the style of the proverb, but what is done. And the relation of the clause is not, as Ewald interprets it, "scarcely does the sedition seek out evil when an inexorable messenger is sent." Although this explanation is held by Ewald as "unimprovable," yet it is incorrect, because אך in this sense demands, e.g., Gen 27:3, the perf. (strengthened by the infin. intensivus). The relation of the clause is, also, not such as Bttcher has interpreted it: a wicked man tries only scorn though a stern messenger is sent against him, but not because such a messenger is called אכזרי, against whom this "trying of scorn" helps nothing, so that it is not worth being spoken of; besides, שׁלּח or משׁלּח would have been used if this relation had been intended. We have in 11a and 11b, as also e.g., at Pro 26:24; Pro 28:1, two clauses standing in internal reciprocal relation, but syntactically simply co-ordinated; the force lies in this, that a messenger who recognises no mitigating circumstances, and offers no pardon, is sent out against such an one.
12 Meet a bear robbed of one of her whelps,
Only not a fool in his folly.
The name of the bear, as that of the cow, Job 21:10; Psa 144:14, preserves its masculine form, even when used in reference to sexual relationship (Ewald, 174b); the ursa catulis orbata is proverbially a raging beast. How the abstract expression of the action פּגושׁ [to meet], here as e.g., Psa 17:5, with the subj. following, must sound as finite (occurrat, may always meet), follows from ואל = ואל־יפגּשׁ (non autem occurrat). פּגושׁ has on the last syllable Mehuppach, and Zinnorith on the preceding open syllable (according to the rule, Accentssystem, vi. 5d).
(Note: In the Torath Emeth, p. 18, the word is irregularly represented as Milel - a closed syllable with Cholem can suffer no retrogression of the tone.)
שׁכּוּל, in the state of his folly, i.e., when he is in a paroxysm of his anger, corresponds with the conditional noun-adjective שׁכּוּל, for folly morbidly heightened is madness (cf. Hos 11:7; Psychol. p. 291f.).
13 He that returneth evil for good,
From his house evil shall not depart.
If ingratitude appertains to the sinful manifestations of ignoble selfishness, how much more sinful still is black ingratitude, which recompenses evil for good! (משׁיב, as Sa1 25:21, syn. גּמל, to requite, Pro 3:30; Pro 31:12; שׁלּם, to reimburse, Pro 20:22). Instead of תמישׁ, the Kerı̂ reads תמוּשׁ; but that this verb, with a middle vowel, may be 'י'ע as well as 'ו'ע, Psa 55:2 shows.
14 As one letteth out water is the beginning of a strife;
But cease thou from such strife ere it comes to showing teeth.
The meaning of this verb פּטר is certain: it means to break forth; and transitively, like Arab. faṭr, to bring forth from a cleft, to make to break forth, to let go free (Theodotion, ἀπολύων; Jerome, dimittit; Venet. ἀφιείς). The lxx, since it translates by ἐξουσίαν δίδωσι, thinks on the juristic signification, which occurs in the Chronicles: to make free, or to declare so; but here פּוטר מים (vid., regarding the Metheg at Pro 14:31) is, as Luther translates, one who tears away the dam from the waters. And ראשׁית מדון is not accus. dependent on פוטר, to be supplied (Hitzig: he unfetters water who the beginning of strife, viz., unfetters); but the part. is used as at Pro 10:17 : one who unfetters the water is the beginning of strife, i.e., he is thus related to it as when one... This is an addition to the free use of the part. in the language of the Mishna, where one would expect the infin., e.g., בּזורע (= בּזרע), if one sows, בּמזיד (= בּזדון), of wantonness. It is thus unnecessary, with Ewald, to interpret פוטר as neut., which lets water go = a water-outbreak; פוטר is meant personally; it represents one who breaks through a water-dam, withdraws the restraint of the water, opens a sluice, and then emblematically the proverb says: thus conditioned is the beginning of a strife. Then follows the warning to let go such strife (הריב, with the article used in the more elevated style, not without emphasis), to break from it, to separate it from oneself ere it reach a dangerous height. This is expressed by לפני התגּלּע, a verb occurring only here and at Pro 18:1; Pro 20:3, always in the Hithpa. The Targum (misunderstood by Gesenius after Buxtorf; vid., to the contrary, Levy, under the word צדי II) translates it at Pro 18:1; Pro 20:3, as the Syr., by "to mock," also Aquila, who has at Pro 20:3, ἐξυβρισθήσεται, and the lxx at Pro 18:1, ἐπονείδιστος ἔσται, and Jerome, who has this in all the three passages, render the Hithpa. in this sense, passively. In this passage before us, the Targ., as Hitzig gives it, translates, "before it heats itself," but that is an error occasioned by Buxtorf; vid., on the contrary, Levy, under the word קריא (κύριος); this translation, however, has a representative in Haja Gaon, who appeals for גלע, to glow, to Nidda viii. 2.
(Note: Vid., Simon Nascher's Der Gaon Haja u. seine giest. Thtig. p. 15.)
Elsewhere the lxx, at Pro 20:3, συμπλέκεται (where Jerome, with the amalgamation of the two significations, miscentur contumeliis); Kimchi and others gloss it by התערב, and, according to this, the Venet. translates, πρὸ τοῦ συνχυθῆναι (τὴν ἔριν); Luther, "before thou art mingled therein." But all these explanations of the word: insultare, excandescere, and commisceri, are etymologically inadmissible. Bertheau's and Zckler's "roll itself forth" is connected at least with a meaning rightly belonging to the R. גל. But the Arab. shows, that not the meaning volvere, but that of retegere is to be adopted. Aruch
(Note: Vid., p. 109, note.)
for Nidda viii. 2 refers to the Arab., where a wound is designated as יכולה להגּלע ולהוציא דם, i.e., as breaking up, as it were, when the crust of that which is nearly healed is broken off (Maimuni glosses the word by להתקלף, were uncrusted), and blood again comes forth. The meaning retegere requires here, however, another distinction. The explanation mentioned there by Aruch: before the strife becomes public to thee, i.e., approaches thee, is not sufficient. The verbal stem גלע is the stronger power of גלה, and means laying bare; but here, not as there, in the Mishna of a wound covered with a crust. The Arab. jal' means to quarrel with another, properly to show him the teeth, the Pol or the tendency-stem from jali'a, to have the mouth standing open, so that one shows his teeth; and the Syr. glaṣ, with its offshoots and derivatives, has also this meaning of ringi, opening the mouth to show, i.e., to make bare the teeth. Schultens has established this explanation of the words, and Gesenius further establishes it in the Thesaurus, according to which Fleischer also remarks, "גלע, of showing the teeth, the exposing of the teeth by the wide opening of the mouth, as happens in bitter quarrels." But הריב does not agree with this. Hitzig's translation, "before the strife shows its teeth," is as modern as in Pro 17:11 is the passion of the unfettered demon, and Fleischer's prius vero quam exacerbetur rixa renders the Hithpa. in a sense unnecessarily generalized for Pro 18:1 and Pro 20:3. The accentuation, which separates להתגלע from הריב by Rebia Mugrash, is correct. One may translate, as Schultens, antequam dentes stringantur, or, since the Hithpa. has sometimes a reciprocal signification, e.g., Gen 42:1; Psa 41:8 : ere one reciprocally shows his teeth, Hitzig unjustly takes exception to the inversion הריב נטושׁ. Why should not the object precede, as at Hos 12:1-14 :15, the נטוש, placed with emphasis at the end? The same inversion for a like reason occurs at Ecc 5:6.
15 He that acquitteth the guilty and condemneth the righteous -
An abomination to Jahve are they both.
The proverb is against the partisan judge who is open to bribery, like Pro 24:24, cf. Isa 5:23, where, with reference to such, the announcement of punishment is emphatically made. רשׁע and צדּיק, in a forensic sense, are equivalent to sons (reus) and insons. גּם (cf. the Arab. jmy'na, altogether, but particularly the Pers. ham and the Turkish dkhy standing wholly thus in the numeral) is here, as at Gen 27:45, equivalent to יחדּיו, Jer 46:12 (in its unions = united). Whoever pronounces sentence of justification on the guilty, appears as if he must be judged more mildly than he who condemns the guiltless, but both the one and the other alike are an abhorrence to God.
We take Pro 17:16-21 together. This group beings with a proverb of the heartless, and ends with one of the perverse-hearted; and between these there are not wanting noticeable points of contact between the proverbs that follow one another.
16 Why the ready money in the hand of the fool;
To get wisdom when he has yet no heart?
The question is made pointed by זה, thus not: why the ready money when...? Is it to obtain wisdom? - the whole is but one question, the reason of which is founded in לבו אין (thus to be accented with Mugrash going before).
(Note: If we write ולב־ with Makkeph, then we have to accentuate לקנות חכמה with Tarcha Munach, because the Silluk word in this writing has not two syllables before the tone. This sequence of accents if found in the Codd. Ven. 1521, 1615, Basel 1619, while most editions have לקנות חכמה ולב־אין, which is false. But according to MSS we have ולב without Makkeph, and that is right according to the Makkeph rules of the metrical Accentuationssystem; vid., Torath Emeth, p. 40.)
The fool, perhaps, even makes some endeavours, for he goes to the school of the wise, to follow out their admonitions, קנה חכמה (Pro 4:5, etc.), and it costs him something (Pro 4:7), but all to no purpose, for he has no heart. By this it is not meant that knowledge, for which he pays his honorarium, remains, it may be, in his head, but goes not to his heart, and thus becomes an unfruitful theory; but the heart is equivalent to the understanding, in the sense in which the heart appears as the previous condition to the attainment of wisdom (Pro 18:15), and as something to be gained before all (Pro 15:32), viz., understanding, as the fitting intellectual and practical habitus to the reception, the appropriation, and realization of wisdom, the ability rightly to comprehend the fulness of the communicated knowledge, and to adopt it as an independent possession, that which the Greek called νοῦς, as in that "golden proverb" of Democrates: πολλοὶ πολυμαθέες νοῦν οὐκ ἔχουσι, or as in Luk 24:25, where it is said that the Lord opened τὸν νοῦν of His disciples to understand the Scriptures. In the lxx a distich follows Pro 17:16, which is made up of 19b and 20b, and contains a varied translation of these two lines.
17 At all times the right friend shows himself loving;
And as a brother is he born for adversity.
Brother is more than friend, he stands to one nearer than a friend does, Psa 35:14; but the relation of a friend may deepen itself into a spiritual, moral brotherhood, Psa 18:24, and there is no name of friend that sounds dearer than אחי, Sa2 1:26. 17a and 17b are, according to this, related to each other climactically. The friend meant in 17a is a true friend. Of no other is it said that he loves בּכל־עת, i.e., makes his love manifest; and also the article in הרע not only here gives to the word more body, but stamps it as an ideal-word: the friend who corresponds to the idea of such an one.
(Note: The Arab. grammarians say that the article in this case stands, l'astfrâgh khsânas âljnas, as an exhaustive expression of all essential properties of the genus, i.e., to express the full ideal realization of the idea in that which is named.)
The inf. of the Hiph., in the sense "to associate" (Ewald), cannot therefore be הרע, because רע is not derived from רעע, but from רעה. Thus there exists no contrast between 17a and 17b, so that the love of a friend is thought of, in contradistinction to that of a brother, as without permanency (Fl.); but 17b means that the true friend shows himself in the time of need, and that thus the friendship becomes closer, like that between brothers. The statements do not refer to two kinds of friends; this is seen from the circumstance that אח has not the article, as הרע has. It is not the subj. but pred., as אדם, Job 11:12 : sooner is a wild ass born or born again as a man. The meaning of הוּלד there, as at Psa 87:5., borders on the notion of regenerari; here the idea is not essentially much less, for by the saying that the friend is born in the time of need, as a brother, is meant that he then for the first time shows himself as a friend, he receives the right status or baptism of such an one, and is, as it were, born into personal brotherly relationship to the sorely-tried friend. The translation comprobatur (Jerome) and erfunden [is found out] (Luther) obliterates the peculiar and thus intentional expression, for נולד is not at all a metaphor used for passing into the light - the two passages in Proverbs and in Job have not their parallel. לצרה is not equivalent to בּצרה (cf. Psa 9:10; Psa 10:1), for the interchange of the prep. in 17a and 17b would then be without any apparent reason. But Hitzig's translation also: as a brother he is born of adversity, is impossible, for ל after נודל and ילּד always designates that for which the birth is an advantage, not that from which it proceeds. Thus ל will be that of the purpose: for the purpose of the need, - not indeed to suffer (Job 5:7) on account of it, but to bear it in sympathy, and to help to bear it. Rightly Fleischer: frater autem ad aerumnam (sc. levandam et removendam) nascitur. The lxx gives this sense to the ל: ἀδελφοὶ δὲ ἐν ἀνάγκαις χρήσιμοι ἔστωσαν, τοῦτο γὰρ χάριν γεννῶνται.
18 A man void of understanding is he who striketh hands,
Who becometh surety with his neighbour.
Cf. Pro 6:1-5, where the warning against suretyship is given at large, and the reasons for it are adduced. It is incorrect to translate (Gesen., Hitzig, and others) לפני רעהוּ, with the lxx, Jerome, the Syr., Targ., and Luther, "for his neighbour;" to become surety for any one is ערב ל, Pro 6:1, or, with the object. accus. Pro 11:15, another suitable prep. is בּעד; but לפני never means pro (ὑπέρ), for at Sa1 1:16 it means "to the person," and Sa2 3:31, "before Abner's corpse (bier)." רעהוּ is thus here the person with whom the suretyship is entered into; he can be called the רע of him who gives bail, so much the more as the reception of the bail supposes that both are well known to each other. Here also Fleischer rightly translates: apud alterum (sc. creditorem pro debitore).
19 He loveth sin who loveth strife;
He who maketh high his doors seeketh destruction.
A synthetic distich. Bttcher finds the reason of the pairing of these two lines in the relationship between a mouth and a door (cf. Mic 7:6, פּתחי פיך). Hitzig goes further, and supposes that 19b figuratively expresses what boastfulness brings upon itself. Against Geier, Schultens, and others, who understand פּתחו directly of the mouth, he rightly remarks that הגדּיל פה is not heard of, and that הגדּיל פה taht dn would be used instead. But the two lines harmonize, without this interchangeable reference of os and ostium. Zanksucht [quarrelsomeness] and Prunksucht [ostentation] are related as the symptoms of selfishness. But both bear their sentence in themselves. He who has pleasure in quarrelling has pleasure in evil, for he commits himself to the way of great sinning, and draws others along with him; and he who cannot have the door of his house high enough and splendid enough, prepares thereby for himself, against his will, the destruction of his house. An old Hebrew proverb says, כל העוסק בבנין יתמסכן, aedificandi nimis studiosus ad mendicitatem redigitur. Both parts of this verse refer to one and the same individual, for the insanum aedificandi studium goes only too often hand in hand with unjust and heartless litigation.
20 He that is of a false heart findeth no good;
And he that goeth astray with his tongue falleth into evil.
Regarding עקּשׁ־לב, vid., Pro 11:20. In the parallel member, נהפּך בּלשׁונו is he who twists or winds (vid., at Pro 2:12) with his tongue, going about concealing and falsifying the truth. The phrase ונהפּך (the connecting form before a word with a prep.) is syntactically possible, but the Masora designates the word, in contradistinction to ונהפּך, pointed with Pathach, Lev 13:16, with לית as unicum, thus requires ונהפּך, as is also found in Codd. The contrast of רעה is here טוב, also neut., as Pro 13:21, cf. Pro 16:20, and רע, Pro 13:17.
The first three parts of the old Solomonic Book of Proverbs ((1) Prov 10-12; (2) 13:1-15:19; (3) 15:20-17:20) are now followed by the fourth part. We recognise it as striking the same keynote as Pro 10:1. In Pro 17:21 it resounds once more, here commencing a part; there, Pro 10:1, beginning the second group of proverbs. The first closes, as it begins, with a proverb of the fool.
21 He that begetteth a fool, it is to his sorrow;
And the father of a fool hath no joy.
It is admissible to supply ילדו, developing itself from ילד, before לתוּגה לו (vid., regarding this passive formation, at Pro 10:1, cf. Pro 14:13), as at Isa 66:3, מעלה (Fl.: in maerorem sibi genuit h. e. ideo videtur genuisse ut sibi maerorem crearet); but not less admissible is it to interpret לתוגה לו as a noun-clause corresponding to the ולא־ישׂמח (thus to be written with Makkeph): it brings grief to him. According as one understands this as an expectation, or as a consequence, ילד, as at Pro 23:24, is rendered either qui gignit or qui genuit. With נבל, seldom occurring in the Book of Proverbs (only here and at Pro 17:7), כּסיל, occurring not unfrequently, is interchanged. Schultens rightly defines the latter etymologically: marcidus h. e. qui ad virtutem, pietatem, vigorem omnem vitae spiritualis medullitus emarcuit; and the former: elumbis et mollitie segnitieve fractus, the intellectually heavy and sluggish (cf. Arab. kasal, laziness; kaslân, the lazy).
(Note: Nldeke's assertion (Art. Orion in Schenkel's Bibel-Lexicon) that the Arab. kasal corresponds to the Hebr. כּשׁל proceeds from the twofold supposition, that the meaning to be lazy underlies the meaning to totter (vid., also Dietrich in Gesenius' Heb. Wrterbuch), and that the Hebr. ס must correspond with the Arab. š. The former supposition is untenable, the latter is far removed (cf. e.g., כּסּא and kursı̂, ספר and sifr, מסכּן and miskı̂n). The verb כּשׁל, Aram. תּקל, is unknown in the Arab.)
22 A joyful heart bringeth good recovery;
And a broken spirit drieth the bones.
The heart is the centre of the individual life, and the condition and the tone of the heart communicates itself to this life, even to its outermost circumference; the spirit is the power of self-consciousness which, according as it is lifted up or broken, also lifts up or breaks down the condition of the body (Psychol. p. 199), vid., the similar contrasted phrases לב שׂמח and רוּח נכאה, Pro 15:13. The ἄπ. λεγ. גּהה (here and there in Codd. incorrectly written גּיהה) has nothing to do with the Arab. jihat, which does not mean sight, but direction, and is formed from wjah (whence wajah, sight), like עדה, congregation, from ועד (יעד). The Syr., Targ. (perhaps also Symmachus: ἀγαθύνει ἡλικίαν; Jerome: aetatem floridam facit; Luther: makes the life lstig [cheerful]) translate it by body; but for this גּוה (גּויּה) is used, and that is a word of an entirely different root from גּהה. To what verb this refers is shown by Hos 5:13 : ולא־יגהה מכּם מזור, and healed not for you her ulcerous wound. מזור is the compress, i.e., the bandage closing up the ulcer, then also the ulcer-wound itself; and גּהה is the contrary of עלה, e.g., Jer 8:22; it means the removing of the bandage and the healing of the wound. This is confirmed by the Syr. gho, which in like manner is construed with min, and means to be delivered from something (vid., Bernstein's Lex. Syr. to Kirsch's Chrestomathie). The Aethiop. quadriliteral gâhgěh, to hinder, to cause to cease, corresponds to the causative Syr. agahish. Accordingly גּהה means to be in the condition of abatement, mitigation, healing; and גּהה (as synonym of כּהה, Neh 3:19, with which Parchon combines it), levamen, levatio, in the sense of bodily healing (lxx εὐεκτεῖν ποιεῖ; Venet., after Kimchi, ἀγαθυνεῖ θεραπείαν); and היטיב גּהה (cf. Pro 15:2) denotes, to bring good improvement, to advance powerfully the recovery. Schultens compares the Arab. jahy, nitescere, disserenari, as Menahem has done ננהּ, but this word is one of the few words which are explained exclusively from the Syriac (and Aethiop.). גּרם (here and at Pro 25:15) is the word interchanging with עצם, Pro 15:30; Pro 16:24.
23 Bribery from the bosom the godless receiveth,
To pervert the ways of justice.
Regarding שׂחד, vid., Pro 17:8. The idea of this word, as well as the clause containing the purpose, demand for the רשׁע a high judicial or administrative post. The bosom, חק (חיק), is, as Pro 16:23, that of the clothing. From the bosom, מחק, where it was kept concealed, the gift is brought forth, and is given into the bosom, בּחק, Pro 21:14, of him whose favour is to be obtained - an event taking place under four eyes, which purposely withdraws itself from the observation of any third person. Since this is done to give to the course of justice a direction contrary to rectitude, the giver of the bribe has not right on his side; and, under the circumstances, the favourable decision which he purchases may be at once the unrighteous sentence of a צדיק, accusing him, or accused by him, Pro 18:5.
24 The understanding has his attention toward wisdom;
But the eyes of a fool are on the end of the earth.
Many interpreters explain, as Euchel:
"The understanding finds wisdom everywhere;
The eyes of the fool seek it at the end of the world."
Ewald refers to Deu 30:11-14 as an unfolding of the same thought. But although it may be said of the fool (vid., on the contrary, Pro 15:14) that he seeks wisdom, only not at the right place, as at Pro 14:6, of the mocker that he seeks wisdom but in vain, yet here the order of the words, as well as the expression, lead us to another thought: before the eyes of the understanding את־פּניע, as Gen 33:18; Sa1 2:11, and frequently in the phrase 'את־פני ה, e.g., Sa1 1:22) wisdom lies as his aim, his object, the end after which he strives; on the contrary, the eyes of the fool, without keeping that one necessary thing in view, wander in alia omnia, and roam about what is far off, without having any fixed object. The fool is everywhere with his thoughts, except where he ought to be. Leaving out of view that which lies nearest, he loses himself in aliena. The understanding has an ever present theme of wisdom, which arrests his attention, and on which he concentrates himself; but the fool flutters about fantastically from one thing to another, and that which is to him precisely of least importance interests him the most.
The series of proverbs, v. 25-18:2, begins and closes in the same way as the preceding, and only Pro 17:26 stands by itself without apparent connection.
This verse begins connecting itself with Pro 17:21 :
A grief to his father is a foolish son,
And a bitter woe for her that bare him.
The ἅπ. λεγ. ממר is formed from מרר (to be bitter, properly harsh), as מכס from כּסס. The Syr. and Targ. change the subst. into participles; some codd. also have ממר (after the forms מחל, מסב, מפר, מרע), but as may be expected in 25a, מבעיס. The dat. obj. instead of the accus. may be possible; the verse immediately following furnishes a sufficient example of this.
26 Also to inflict punishment on the righteous is not good;
This, that one overthrows the noble on account of his rectitude.
Does the גּם [also] refer to a connection from which the proverb is separated? or is it tacitly supposed that there are many kinds of worthless men in the world, and that one from among them is brought forward? or is it meant, that to lay upon the righteous a pecuniary punishment is also not good? None of all these. The proverb must have a meaning complete in itself; and if pecuniary punishment and corporeal punishment were regarded as opposed to one another, 26b would then have begun with אף כּי (quanto magis percutere ingenuos). Here it is with גם as at Pro 20:11, and as with אך at 11a, and רק at Pro 13:10 : according to the sense, it belongs not to the word next following, but to לצּדּיק; and ענשׁ (whence inf. ענושׁ, as Pro 21:11, with the ǎ in ע, cf. also עבד, Pro 11:10, for אבד) means here not specially to inflict a pecuniary fine, but generally to punish, for, as in mulctare, the meaning is generalized, elsewhere with the accus., Deu 22:19, here to give to any one to undergo punishment. The ruler is the servant of God, who has to preserve rectitude, εἰς ὀργὴν τῷ τὸ κακὸν πράσσοντι (Rom 13:14). It is not good when he makes his power to punish to be felt by the innocent as well as by the guilty.
In 26b, instead of הכּות, the proverb is continued with להכּות; לא־טוב, which is to be supplied, takes the inf. alone when it precedes, and the inf. with ל when it follows, Pro 18:5; Pro 28:21; Pro 21:9 (but cf. Pro 21:19). הכּות is the usual word for punishment by scourging, Deu 25:1-3, cf. Co2 11:24, N.T. μαστιγοῦν, δίρειν, Rabb. מכּות, strokes, or מלקוּת from לקה, vapulare, to receive stripes. נדיבים are here those noble in disposition. The idea of נדיב fluctuates between generosus in an outward and in a moral sense, wherefore על־ישׁר, or rather עלי־ישׁר, is added; for the old editions, correct MSS, and e.g., also Soncin. 1488, present עלי (vid., Norzi). Hitzig incorrectly explains this, "against what is due" (ישׁר, as Pro 11:24); also Psa 94:20, עלי־חק does not mean κατὰ προστάγματος (Symmachus), but ἐπὶ προστάγματι (lxx and Theod.), on the ground of right = praetextu juris (Vatabl.). Thus עלי־ישׁר means here neither against nor beyond what is due, but: on the ground of honourable conduct, making this (of course mistakenly) a lawful title to punishment; Aquila, ἐπὶ εὐθύτητι, cf. Mat 5:10, ἕνεκεν δικαιοσύνης. Besides, for על after הכּה, the causal signification lies nearest Num 22:32, cf. Isa 1:5 (על־מה, on account of anything). If the power of punishment is abused to the punishing of the righteous, yea, even to the corporeal chastisement of the noble, and their straight, i.e., conscientious, firm, open conduct, is made a crime against them, that is not good - it is perversion of the idea of justice, and an iniquity which challenges the penal rectitude of the Most High (Ecc 5:7 ).
27 He that keepeth his words to himself hath knowledge,
And the cool of temper is a man of understanding.
The first line here is a variation of Pro 10:19. The phrase ידע דּעת (here and at Dan 1:4) means to possess knowledge (novisse); more frequently it is בּינה ידע, e.g., Pro 4:1, where ידע has the inchoative sense of noscere. In 27b the Kerı̂ is יקר־רוח. Jerome translates it pretiosi spiritus, the Venet. τίμιος τὸ πνεῦμα. Rashi glosses יקר here, as at Sa1 3:1, by מנוע (thus to be read after codd.), retentus spiritu; most interpreters remark that the spirit here comes into view as expressing itself in words. It is scarcely correct to say that יקר דּברים could designate one who is sparing in his words, but יקר־רוּח is, according to the fundamental conception of the verb יקר, gravis spiritu (Schultens), of a dignified, composed spirit; it is a quiet seriousness proceeding from high conscientiousness, and maintaining itself in self-control, which is designated by this word. But the Chethı̂b וקר־רוּח presents almost the same description of character. קר from קרר (of the same root as יקר) means to be firm, unmoveable, καρτερὸν εἶναι, hence to be congealed, frozen, cold (cf. frigus with rigere, rigor), figuratively to be cold-blooded, passionless, quiet, composed (Fl.); cf. post-bibl. קרת רוּח (Arab. ḳurrat‛ain), cooling = refreshing, ἀνάψυξις (Act 3:20).
(Note: "He has made my eye glowing" (askhn, cf. שׁחין) is in Arab. equivalent to "he has deeply troubled me." The eye of the benevolent is bârid, and in the Semitic manner of expression, with deep psychological significance, it is said that the tears of sorrow are hot, but those of joy cold.)
Whether we read יקר or קר, in any case we are not to translate rarus spiritu, which, apart from the impossibility of the expression, makes 27b almost a tautological repetition of the thought of 27a. The first line recommends bridling of the tongue, in contrast to inconsiderate and untimely talk; the second line recommends coldness, i.e., equanimity of spirit, in contrast to passionate heat.
Ver. 28 continues the same theme, the value of silence:
Even a fool, when he keeps silence, is counted wise;
When he shutteth his mouth, discreet.
The subj. as well as the pred. of the first line avail for the second. אטם, obturare, occludere, usually of the closing the ear, is here transferred to the mouth. The Hiph. החרישׁ means mutum agere (cf. Arab. khrs, mutum esse), from חרשׁ, which, like κωφός, passes from the meaning surdus to that of mutus (Fl.). The words of Job 13:5, and also those of Alexander: si tacuisses sapiens mansisses, are applicable to fools. An Arab. proverb says, "silence is the covering of the stupid." In the epigrammatical hexameter,
πᾶς τις ἀπαίδευτος φρονιμώτατός ἐστι σιωπῶν,
the word σιωπῶν has the very same syntactical position as these two participles.
(Note: Cf. C. Schultze's Die bibl. Sprichwrter (1860), p. 60f.)