Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
This series of proverbs now turns from the fool to the separatist:
The separatist seeketh after his own pleasure;
Against all that is beneficial he showeth his teeth.
The reflexive נפרד has here the same meaning as the Rabbinical פּרשׁ מן־הצּבּוּר, to separate oneself from the congregation, Aboth ii. 5; נפרד denotes a man who separates himself, for he follows his own counsel, Arab. mnfrd (mtfrrd) brâyh, or jḥys almḥḥl (seorsum ab aliis secedens). Instead of לתּאוה, Hitzig, after Jerome, adopts the emendation לתאנה, "after an occasion" (a pretext), and by נפרד thinks of one pushed aside, who, thrown into opposition, seeks to avenge himself. But his translation of 1b, "against all that is fortunate he gnasheth his teeth," shows how much the proverb is opposed to this interpretation. נפרד denotes one who willingly (Jdg 4:11), and, indeed, obstinately withdraws himself. The construction of יבקּשׁ with ל (also Job 10:6) is explained by this, that the poet, giving prominence to the object, would set it forward: a pleasure (תאוה, as Arab. hawan, unstable and causeless direction of the mind to something, pleasure, freak, caprice), and nothing else, he goes after who has separated himself (Fl.); the effort of the separatist goes out after a pleasure, i.e., the enjoyment and realization of such; instead of seeking to conform himself to the law and ordinance of the community, he seeks to carry out a separate view, and to accomplish some darling plan: libidinem sectatur sui cerebri homo. With this 1b accords. תּוּשׁיּה (vid., at Pro 2:7) is concretely that which furthers and profits. Regarding התגּלּע, vid., at Pro 17:14. Thus putting his subjectivity in the room of the common weal, he shows his teeth, places himself in fanatical opposition against all that is useful and profitable in the principles and aims, the praxis of the community from which he separates himself. The figure is true to nature: the polemic of the schismatic and the sectary against the existing state of things, is for the most part measureless and hostile.
2 The fool hath no delight in understanding;
But only that his heart may reveal itself therein.
The verb חפץ forms the fut. יחפּץ as well as יחפּץ; first the latter from חפץ, with the primary meaning, to bow, to bend down; then both forms as intransitive, to bend oneself to something, to be inclined to something, Arab. 'ṭf. (Fl.). תּבוּנה is here the intelligence which consists in the understanding of one's own deficiency, and of that which is necessary to meet it. The inclination of the fool goes not out after such intelligence, but (כּי אם־; according to Ben-Naphtali, כי־אם) only that his heart, i.e., the understanding which he thinks that he already possesses, may reveal itself, show itself publicly. He thinks thereby to show himself in his true greatness, and to render a weighty service to the world. This loquacity of the fool, proceeding from self-satisfaction, without self-knowledge, has already, Pro 12:23, and often, been reprimanded.
The group beginning with Pro 18:3 terminates in two proverbs (Pro 18:6 and Pro 18:7), related to the concluding verse of the foregoing:
3 If a godless man cometh, then cometh also contempt;
And together with disgrace, shame.
J. D. Michaelis, and the most of modern critics, read רשׁע; then, contempt etc., are to be thought of as the consequences that follow godlessness; for that קלון means (Hitzig) disgracefulness, i.e., disgraceful conduct, is destitute of proof; קלון always means disgrace as an experience. But not only does the Masoretic text punctuate רשׁע, but also all the old translators, the Greek, Aramaic, and Latin, have done so. And is it on this account, because a coming naturally seems to be spoken of a person? The "pride cometh, then cometh shame," Pro 11:2, was in their recollection not less firmly, perhaps, than in ours. They read רשׁע, because בוּז does not fittingly designate the first of that which godlessness effects, but perhaps the first of that which proceeds from it. Therefore we adhere to the opinion, that the proverb names the fiends which appear in the company of the godless wherever he goes, viz., first בוז, contempt (Psa 31:19), which places itself haughtily above all due subordination, and reverence, and forbearance; and then, with the disgrace [turpitudo], קלון, which attaches itself to those who meddle with him (Isa 22:18), there is united the shame, הרפּה (Psa 39:9), which he has to suffer from him who has only always expected something better from him. Fleischer understands all the three words in the passive sense, and remarks, "עם־קלון חרפה, a more artificial expression for קלון וחרפה, in the Turkish quite common for the copula wāw, e.g., swylh ṭbrâk, earth and water, 'wrtylh âr, the man and the woman." But then the expression would be tautological; we understand בוז and חרפה of that which the godless does to others by his words, and קלון of that which he does to them by his conduct. By this interpretation, עם is more than the representative of the copula.
4 Deep waters are the words from a man's mouth,
A bubbling brook, a fountain of wisdom.
Earlier, we added to hominis the supplement sc. sapientis, but then an unnecessary word would be used, and that which is necessary omitted. Rather it might be said that אישׁ is meant in an ideal sense; but thus meant, אישׁ, like גּבר, denotes the valiant man, but not man as he ought to be, or the man of honour; and besides, a man may be a man of honour without there being said of him what this proverb expresses. Ewald comes nearer the case when he translates, "deep waters are the heart-words of many." Heart-words - what an unbiblical expression! The lxx, which translates λόγος ἐν καρδίᾳ, has not read דברי לב, but דבר בלב (as Pro 20:5, עצה בלב־). But that "of many" is certainly not a right translation, yet right in so far as אישׁ (as at Pro 12:14) is thought of as made prominent: the proverb expresses, in accordance with the form of narrative proverbs which present an example, what occurs in actual life, and is observed. Three different things are said of the words from a man's mouth: they are deep waters, for their meaning does not lie on the surface, but can be perceived only by penetrating into the secret motives and aims of him who speaks; they are a bubbling brook, which freshly and powerfully gushes forth to him who feels this flow of words, for in this brook there never fails an always new gush of living water; it is a fountain or well of wisdom, from which wisdom flows forth, and whence wisdom is to be drawn. Hitzig supposes that the distich is antithetic; מים עמקּים, or rather מי מעמקּים, "waters of the deep," are cistern waters; on the contrary, "a welling brook is a fountain of wisdom." But עמק means deep, not deepened, and deep water is the contrast of shallow water; a cistern also may be deep (cf. Pro 22:14), but deep water is such as is deep, whether it be in the ocean or in a ditch. 4b also does not suggest a cistern, for thereby it would be indicated that the description, דברי פי־אישׁ, is not here continued; the "fountain of wisdom" does not form a proper parallel or an antithesis to this subject, since this much rather would require the placing in contrast of deep and shallow, of exhausted (drained out) and perennial. And: the fountain is a brook, the well a stream - who would thus express himself! We have thus neither an antithetic nor a synonymous (lxx after the phrase ἀναπηδῶν, Jerome, Venet., Luth.), but an integral distich before us; and this leads us to consider what depths of thought, what riches of contents, what power of spiritual and moral advancement, may lie in the words of a man.
5 To favour the person of the godless is not good,
And to oppress the righteous in judgment.
As Pro 18:4 has one subject, so Pro 18:5 has one predicate. The form is the same as Pro 17:26. שׂאת פּני (cf. Pro 24:23), προσωποληψία, acceptio personae, is this, that one accepts the פני, i.e. the personal appearance of any one (πρόσωπον λαμβάνει), i.e., regards it as acceptable, respectable, agreeable, which is a thing in itself not wrong; but in a judge who ought to determine according to the facts of the case and the law, it becomes sinful partiality. הטּות, in a forensic sense, with the accus. of the person, may be regarded in a twofold way: either as a turning aside, מדּין, Isa 10:2, from following and attaining unto the right, or as an oppression, for the phrase הטּה משׁפּט [to pervert justice] (cf. Pro 17:23) is transferred to the person who experiences the oppression = perversion of the law; and this idea perhaps always underlies the expression, wherever, as e.g., Mal 3:5, no addition brings with it the other. Under Pro 17:15 is a fuller explanation of לא־טוב.
6 The lips of the fool engage in strife,
And his mouth calleth for stripes.
We may translate: the lips of the fool cause strife, for בּוא ב, to come with anything, e.g., Psa 66:13, is equivalent to bring it (to bring forward), as also: they engage in strife; as one says בּוא בדמים: to be engaged in bloodshed, Sa1 25:26. We prefer this intrant (ingerunt se), with Schultens and Fleischer. יבאוּ for תּבאנה, a synallage generis, to which, by means of a "self-deception of the language" (Fl.), the apparent masculine ending of such duals may have contributed. The stripes which the fool calleth for (קרא ל, like Pro 2:3) are such as he himself carries off, for it comes a verbis ad verbera. The lxx: his bold mouth calleth for death (פיו ההמה מות יקרא); למהלמות has, in codd. and old editions, the Mem raphatum, as also at 19:29; the sing. is thus מהלוּם, like מנוּל to מנעליו, for the Mem dagessatum is to be expected in the inflected מהלם, by the passing over of the ō into ǔ.
7 The mouth of the fool is to him destruction,
And his lips are a snare to his soul.
As Pro 18:6 corresponds to Pro 17:27 of the foregoing group, so this Pro 18:7 corresponds to Pro 17:28. Regarding מחתּה־לּו, vid., Pro 13:3. Instead of פי כּסיל, is to be written פּי־כסיל, according to Torath Emeth, p. 40, Cod. 1294, and old editions.
A pair of proverbs regarding the flatterer and the slothful:
8 The words of the flatter are as dainty morsels,
And they glide down into the innermost parts.
An "analogy, with an epexegesis in the second member" (Fl.), which is repeated in Pro 26:22. Ewald, Bertheau, Hitzig, and others, are constrained to interpret המו as introducing a contrast, and in this sense they give to מתלהמים all kinds of unwarrantable meanings. Ewald translates: a burning (להם, cogn. להב), and offers next: as whispering (להם, cogn. רעם, נהם); Ch. B. Michaelis, Bertheau, and others: as sporting (להם, cogn. להה); Hitzig: like soft airs (להם, cogn. Arab. hillam, flaccus, laxus). All these interpretations are without support. The word להם has none of all these significations; it means, as the Arab. lahima warrants, deglutire. But Bttcher's explanation also: "as swallowed down, because spoken with reserve," proceeds, like those others, from the supposed syntactically fine yet false supposition, that 8b is an antithetic "dennoch" [tamen]. In that case the poet would have written והם ירדים (cf. והוא, as the beginning of a conditional clause, Pro 3:29; Pro 23:3). But והוא, והם, with the finite following, introduces neither here nor at Deu 33:3; Jdg 20:34; Psa 95:10, cf. Gen 43:23, a conditional clause. Thus 8b continues the clause 8a by one standing on the same line; and thus we do not need to invent a meaning for כמתלהמים, which forms a contrast to the penetrating into the innermost parts. The relation of the parts of the proverb is rightly given by Luther:
The words of the slanderer are stripes,
And they go through the heart of one.
He interprets להם as transposed from הלם (Rashi and others); but stripes cannot be called מתלהמים - they are called, 6b, מהלמות. This interpretation of the word has always more support than that of Symmachus: ὡς ἀκέραιοι; Jerome: quasi simplicia; Aquila, xxvi. 22: γοητικοί; which last, as also that of Capellus, Clericus, and Schultens: quasi numine quodam afflata, seems to support itself on the Arab. âhm iv. inspirare. But in reality âhm does not mean afflare; it means deglutire, and nothing else. The Jewish lexicographers offer nothing worth considering; Kimchi's חלקים, according to which the Venet. translates μαλθακιζόμενοι, is fanciful; for the Talm. הלם, striking = hitting, suitable, standing well, furnishes no transition to "smooth" and "soft." Immanuel compares âhm = בלע; and Schultens, who is followed by Gesenius and others, has already, with perfect correctness, explained: tanquam quae avidissime inglutiantur. Thus also Fleischer: things which offer themselves to be eagerly gulped down, or which let themselves be thus swallowed. But in this way can one be truly just to the Hithpa.? The Arab. âlthm (stronger form, âltkm, according to which van Dyk translates mthl uḳam ḥlwt, like sweet morsels) means to swallow into oneself, which is not here appropriate. The Hithpa. will thus have here a passive signification: things which are greedily swallowed. Regarding נרגּן from רגן, vid., at Pro 16:28. המו refers to the words of the flatterer, and is emphatic, equivalent to aeque illa, etiam illa, or illa ipsa. ירד is here connected with the obj. accus. (cf. Pro 1:12) instead of with אל, Pro 7:27. חדרי, penetralia, we had already at Pro 7:27; the root-word is (Arab.) khdr, to seclude, to conceal, different from ḥdr, demittere, and ḥkhr (cogn. חזר), to finish, circumire. בּטן is the inner part of the body with reference to the organs lying there, which mediate not only the life of the body, but also that of the mind - in general, the internal part of the personality. The lxx does not translate this proverb, but has in its stead Pro 19:15, in a different version, however, from that it gives there; the Syr. and the Targ. have thereby been drawn away from the Hebr. text.
9 He also who showeth himself slothful in his business,
Is a brother to him who proceedeth to destroy.
The Hithpa. התרפּה signifies here, as at Pro 24:10, to show oneself slack, lazy, negligent. מלאכה is properly a commission for another, as a king has a messenger, ambassador, commissioner to execute it; here, any business, whether an undertaking in commission from another, or a matter one engages in for himself. He who shows himself slack therein, produces in his way, viz., by negligence, destruction, as truly as the בּעל משׁחית, who does it directly by his conduct. Thus one is named, who is called, or who has his own delight in it, to destroy or overthrow. Jerome, incorrectly limiting: sua opera dissipantis. Hitzig well compares Mat 12:30. In the variation, Pro 28:24, the destroyer is called אישׁ משׁחית, the connection of the words being adject.; on the contrary, the connection of בעל משׁחית is genit. (cf. Pro 22:24; Pro 23:2, etc.), for משׁחית as frequently means that which destroys = destruction. Von Hofmann (Schriftbew. ii. 2, 403) understands 'אישׁ מ of the street robber, 'בעל מ of the captain of robbers; but the designation for the latter must be 'שׂר מ, though at Kg1 11:24 he is called by the name שׂר גּדוּד. The form of the word in the proverb here is more original than at 38:24. There חבר [companion] is used, here אח [brother], a general Semitic name of him who, or of that which, is in any way related to another, cf. Job 30:29. Fleischer compares the Arab. proverb: âlshbht âkht alkhṭyât, scepticism is the sister of sin.
Two proverbs, of the fortress of faith, and of the fortress of presumption:
10 A strong tower is the name of Jahve;
The righteous runneth into it, and is high.
The name of Jahve is the Revelation of God, and the God of Revelation Himself, the creative and historical Revelation, and who is always continually revealing Himself; His name is His nature representing itself, and therefore capable of being described and named, before all the Tetragramm, as the Anagramm of the overruling and inworking historical being of God, as the Chiffre of His free and all-powerful government in grace and truth, as the self-naming of God the Saviour. This name, which is afterwards interwoven in the name Jesus, is מגדּל־עז (Psa 61:4), a strong high tower bidding defiance to every hostile assault. Into this the righteous runneth, to hide himself behind its walls, and is thus lifted (perf. consec.) high above all danger (cf. ישׂגּב, Pro 29:25). רוּץ אל means, Job 15:26, to run against anything, רוץ, seq. acc., to invest, blockade anything, רוץ בּ, to hasten within; Hitzig's conjecture, ירוּם riseth up high, instead of ירוּץ, is a freak. רוץ בּ is speedily בוא בּ, the idea the same as Psa 27:5; Psa 31:21.
11 The possession of the righteous is his strong fort,
And is like a high wall in his imagination.
Line first = Pro 10:15. משׂכּית from שׂכה, Chald. סכה(whence after Megilla 14a, יסכּה, she who looks), R. שׂך, cogn. זך, to pierce, to fix, means the image as a medal, and thus also intellectually: image (conception, and particularly the imagination) of the heart (Psa 73:7), here the fancy, conceit; Fleischer compares (Arab.) tṣwwr, to imagine something to oneself, French se figurer. Translators from the lxx to Luther incorrectly think on שׂכך (סכך), to entertain; only the Venet. is correct in the rendering: ἐν φαντασίᾳ αὐτοῦ; better than Kimchi, who, after Ezr 8:12, thinks on the chamber where the riches delighted in are treasured, and where he fancies himself in the midst of his treasures as if surrounded by an inaccessible wall.
We place together Pro 18:12-19, in which the figure of a secure fortress returns:
This proverb is connected with the preceding of the rich man who trusts in his mammon.
Before destruction the heat of man is haughty;
And humility goeth before honour.
Line first is a variation of Pro 16:18, and line second is similar to Pro 15:33.
13 If one giveth an answer before he heareth,
It is to him as folly and shame.
The part. stands here differently from what it does at Pro 13:18, where it is subj., and at Pro 17:14, where it is pred. of a simple sentence; it is also here, along with what appertains to it in accordance with the Semitic idiom, subj. to 13b (one who answers ... is one to whom this...); but, in accordance with our idiom, it becomes a hypothetical antecedent. For "to answer" one also uses השׁיב without addition; but the original full expression is השׁיב דּבר, reddere verbum, referre dictum (cf. ענה דּבר, Jer 44:20, absol. in the cogn., Pro 15:28); דבר one may not understand of the word to which, but of the word with which, the reply is made. היא לו comprehends the meaning: it avails to him (ducitur ei), as well as it reaches to him (est ei). In Agricola's Fnfhundert Sprchen this proverb is given thus: Wer antwortet ehe er hret, der zaiget an sein torhait und wirdt ze schanden [he who answers before he hears shows his folly, and it is to him a shame]. But that would require the word to be יבושׁ, pudefiet; (היא לו) כּלמּה means that it becomes to him a ground of merited disgrace. "כּלמּה, properly wounding, i.e., shame (like atteinte son honneur), from כּלם (cogn. הלם), to strike, hit, wound" (Fl.). Sirach (11:8) warns against such rash talking, as well as against the rudeness of interrupting others.
14 The spirit of a man beareth his sickness;
But a broken spirit, who can bear it?
The breath of the Creator imparting life to man is spoken of as spiritus spirans, רוּח (רוּח חיּים), and as spiritus spiratus, נפשׁ (נפשׁ חיּה); the spirit (animus) is the primary, and the soul (anima) the secondary principle of life; the double gender of רוח is accounted for thus: when it is thought of as the primary, and thus in a certain degree (vid., Psychol. p. 103ff.) the manly principle, it is mas. (Gen 6:3; Psa 51:12, etc.). Here the change of gender is in the highest degree characteristic, and אישׁ also is intentionally used (cf. Sa1 26:15) instead of אדם, 16a: the courageous spirit of a man which sustains or endures (כּלכּל R. כל, comprehendere, prehendere; Luther, "who knows how to contain himself in his sufferings;" cf. Psa 51:12, "may the free Spirit hold me") the sickness [Siechthum] (we understand here "siech" in the old meaning = sick) with self-control, is generis masculini; while, on the contrary, the רוּח נכאה (as Pro 15:13; Pro 17:22), brought down from its manliness and superiority to disheartened passivity, is genere feminino (cf. Psa 51:12 with Pro 18:19). Fleischer compares the Arab. proverb, thbât âlnfs bâlghdhâ thbât alrwh balghnâ, the soul has firmness by nourishment, the spirit by music.
(Note: In the Arab. language, influenced by philosophy, rwh, the anima vitalis, and nfs, the anima rationalis, are inverted; vid., Baudissin's Translationis antiquae Arab. libri Jobi quae supersunt (1870), p. 34.)
The question מי ישּׂאנּה is like Mar 9:50 : if the salt becomes tasteless, wherewith shall one season it? There is no seasoning for the spice that has become insipid. And for the spirit which is destined to bear the life and fortune of the person, if it is cast down by sufferings, there is no one to lift it up and sustain it. But is not God the Most High the lifter up and the bearer of the human spirit that has been crushed and broken? The answer is, that the manly spirit, 14a, is represented as strong in God; the discouraged, 14b, as not drawing from God the strength and support he ought to do. But passages such as Isa 66:2 do not bring it near that we think of the רוח נכאה as alienated from God. The spirit is נשׂא, the bearer of the personal and natural life with its functions, activities, and experiences. If the spirit is borne down to powerless and helpless passivity, then within the sphere of the human personality there is no other sustaining power that can supply its place.
15 The heart of a man of understanding gaineth knowledge,
And the ear of the wise seeketh after knowledge.
נבון may be also interpreted as an adj., but we translate it here as at Pro 14:33, because thus it corresponds with the parallelism; cf. לב צדּיק, Pro 15:28, and לב חכם, Pro 16:23, where the adject. interpretation is excluded. The gaining of wisdom is, after Pro 17:16, referred to the heart: a heart vigorous in embracing and receiving it is above all necessary, and just such an one possesses the נבון, which knows how to value the worth and usefulness of such knowledge. The wise, who are already in possession of such knowledge, are yet at the same time constantly striving to increase this knowledge: their ear seeks knowledge, eagerly asking where it is to be found, and attentively listening when the opportunity is given of מצא, obtaining it.
16 The gift of a man maketh room for him,
And bringeth him before the great.
That מתּן may signify intellectual endowments, Hitzig supposes, but without any proof for such an opinion. Intellectual ability as the means of advancement is otherwise designated, Pro 22:29. But Hitzig is right in this, that one mistakes the meaning of the proverb if he interprets מתן in the sense of שׂחד (vid., at Pro 17:8): mtn is an indifferent idea, and the proverb means that a man makes free space, a free path for himself, by a gift, i.e., by this, that he shows himself to be agreeable, pleasing where it avails, not niggardly but liberal. As a proverb expresses it:
Mit dem Hut in der Hand
Kommt man durchs ganze Land
[with hat in hand one goes through the whole land], so it is said here that such liberality brings before the great, i.e., not: furnishes with introductions to them; but helps to a place of honour near the great, i.e., those in a lofty position (cf. לפני, Pro 22:29; עם, Psa 113:8). It is an important part of practical wisdom, that by right liberality, i.e., by liberal giving where duty demands it, and prudence commends it, one does not lose but gains, does not descend but rises; it helps a man over the difficulties of limited, narrow circumstances, gains for him affection, and helps him up from step to step. The ā of מתּן is, in a singular way (cf. מתּנה, מתּנת), treated as unchangeable.
17 He that is first in his controversy is right;
But there cometh another and searcheth him thoroughly -
an exhortation to be cautious in a lawsuit, and not to justify without more ado him who first brings forward his cause, and supports it by reasons, since, if the second party afterwards search into the reasons of the first, they show themselves untenable. הראשׁון בּריבו are to be taken together; the words are equivalent to אשׁר יבא בריבו בראשׁונה: qui prior cum causa sua venit, i.e., eam ad judicem defert (Fl.). הראשׁון may, however, also of itself alone be qui prior venit; and בריבו will be taken with צדיק: justus qui prior venit in causa sua (esse videtur). The accentuation rightly leaves the relation undecided. Instead of יבא (יבא) the Kerı̂ has וּבא, as it elsewhere, at one time, changes the fut. into the perf. with ו (e.g., Pro 20:4; Jer 6:21); and, at another time, the perf. with ו into the fut. (e.g., Psa 10:10; Isa 5:29). But here, where the perf. consec. is not so admissible, as Pro 6:11; Pro 20:4, the fut. ought to remain unchanged. רעהוּ is the other part, synon. with בעל דין חברו, Sanhedrin 7b, where the אזהרה לבית־דין (admonition for the court of justice) is derived from Deu 1:16, to hear the accused at the same time with the accuser, that nothing of the latter may be adopted beforehand. This proverb is just such an audiatur et altera pars. The status controversiae is only brought fairly into the light by the hearing of the altera pars: then comes the other and examines him (the first) to the very bottom. חקר, elsewhere with the accus. of the thing, e.g., ריב ,., thoroughly to search into a strife, Job 29:16, is here, as at Job 28:11, connected with the accus. of the person: to examine or lay bare any one thoroughly; here, so that the misrepresentations of the state of the matter might come out to view along with the reasons assigned by the accuser.
18 The lot allayeth contentions,
And separateth between the mighty,
i.e., erects a partition wall between them - those contending (הפריד בּין, as at Kg2 2:11, cf. Arab. frḳ byn); עצוּמים are not opponents who maintain their cause with weighty arguments (עצּמות, Isa 41:21), qui argumentis pollent (vid., Rashi), for then must the truth appear in the pro et contra; but mighty opponents, who, if the lot did not afford a seasonable means of reconciliation, would make good their demands by blows and by the sword (Fl.). Here it is the lot which, as the judgment of God, brings about peace, instead of the ultima ratio of physical force. The proverb refers to the lot what the Epistle to the Heb; Heb 6:16, refers to the oath, vid., at Pro 16:33. Regarding מדינים and its altered forms, vid., p. 145.
19 A brother toward whom it has been acted perfidiously resists more than a strong tower;
And contentions are like the bar of a palace.
Luther rightly regarded the word נושׁע, according to which the lxx, Vulg., and Syr. translated frater qui adjuvatur a fratre, as an incorrect reading; one would rather expect אח מושׁיע, "a brother who stands by," as Luther earlier translated; and besides, נושׁע does not properly mean adjuvari, but salvari. His translation -
Ein verletzt Bruder helt herter denn eine feste Stad,
Und Zanck helt herter, denn rigel am Palast
[a brother wounded resisteth more than a strong city, and strife resisteth more than bolts in the palace], is one of his most happy renderings. מקּרית־עז in itself only means ὑπὲρ πόλιν ὀχυράν (Venet.); the noun-adjective (cf. Isa 10:10) to be supplied is to be understood to עז: עז הוּא or קשׁה הוא (Kimchi). The Niph. נפשׁע occurs only here. If one reads נפשׁע, then it means one who is treated falsely = נפשׁע בּו, like the frequently occurring קמי, my rising up ones = קמים עלי, those that rise up against me; but Codd. (Also Baer's Cod. jaman.) and old editions have נפשׁע, which, as we have above translated, gives an impersonal attributive clause; the former: frater perfidiose tractatus (Fl.: mala fide offensus); the latter: perfide actum est, scil. בּו in eum = in quem perfide actum. אח is, after Pro 17:17, a friend in the highest sense of the word; פשׁע means to break off, to break free, with ב or על of him on whom the action terminates. That the פּשׁע is to be thought of as אח of the אח נפשׁע is obvious; the translation, "brothers who break with one another" (Gesen.), is incorrect: אח is not collective, and still less is נפשׁע a reciprocum. The relation of אח is the same as that of אלּוּף, Pro 16:28. The Targum (improving the Peshito) translates אחא דמת עוי מן אחוי, which does not mean: a brother who renounces (Hitzig), but who is treated wickedly on the part of, his brother. That is correct; on the contrary, Ewald's "a brother resists more than..." proceeds from a meaning of פשׁע which it has not; and Bertheau gives, with Schultens, an untenable
(Note: Among the whole Heb. synon. for sinning, there exists no reflexive Niph.; and also the Arab. fsḳ has no ethical signification. נסכּל only, in the sense of fool, is found.)
reflexive meaning to the Niph. (which as denom. might mean "covered with crime," Venet. πλημμεληθείς), and, moreover, one that is too weak, for he translates, "a brother is more obstinate then...." Hitzig corrects אחז פּשׁע, to shut up sin = to hold it fettered; but that is not correct Heb. It ought to be עצר, כּבשׁ, or רדות. In 19a the force of the substantival clause lies in the מן (more than, i.e., harder = more difficult to be gained), and in 19b in the כּ; cf. Mic 7:4, where they are interchanged. The parallelism is synonymous: strifes and lawsuits between those who had been friends form as insurmountable a hindrance to their reconciliation, are as difficult to be raised, as the great bars at the gate of a castle (Fl.). The point of comparison is not only the weight of the cross-beam (from ברח, crosswise, across, to go across the field), but also the shutting up of the access. Strife forms a partition wall between such as once stood near each other, and so much thicker the closer they once stood.
With Pro 18:19, the series of proverbs which began with that of the flatterer closes. The catchword אח, which occurred at its commencement, 9b, is repeated at its close, and serves also as a landmark of the group following Pro 18:20-24. The proverb of the breach of friendship and of contentions is followed by one of the reaction of the use of the tongue on the man himself.
With Pro 18:19, the series of proverbs which began with that of the flatterer closes. The catchword אח, which occurred at its commencement, 9b, is repeated at its close, and serves also as a landmark of the group following Pro 18:20-24. The proverb of the breach of friendship and of contentions is followed by one of the reaction of the use of the tongue on the man himself.
20 Of the fruit which a man's mouth bringeth is his heart satisfied;
By the revenue of his lips is he filled.
He will taste in rich measure of the consequences not merely of the good (Pro 12:14, cf. Pro 13:2), but of whatever he has spoken. This is an oxymoron like Mat 15:11, that not that which goeth into the mouth, but that which cometh out of it, defileth a man. As at Joh 4:34 the conduct of a man, so here his words are called his βρῶμα. Not merely the conduct (Pro 1:31; Isa 3:10), but also the words are fruit-bringing; and not only do others taste of the fruit of the words as of the actions of a man, whether they be good or bad, but above all he himself does so, both in this life and in that which is to come.
21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue;
And whoever loveth it shall eat its fruit.
The hand, יד, is so common a metaphor for power, that as here a hand is attributed to the tongue, so e.g., Isa 47:14 to the flame, and Psa 49:16 to Hades. Death and life is the great alternative which is placed, Deu 30:15, before man. According as he uses his tongue, he falls under the power of death or attains to life. All interpreters attribute, 21b, ואהביה to the tongue: qui eam (linguam) amant vescentur (יאכל, distrib. sing., as Pro 3:18, Pro 3:35, etc.) fructu ejus. But "to love the tongue" is a strange and obscure expression. He loves the tongue, says Hitzig, who loves to babble. Euchel: he who guards it carefully, or: he who takes care of it, i.e., who applies himself to right discourse. Combining both, Zckler: who uses it much, as εὐλογῶν or κακολογῶν. The lxx translates, οἱ κρατοῦντες αὐτῆς, i.e., אחזיה; but אחז means prehendere and tenere, not cohibere, and the tongue kept in restraint brings forth indeed no bad fruit, but it brings no fruit at all. Why thus? Does the suffix of ואהביה, perhaps like Pro 8:17, Chethı̂b, refer to wisdom, which, it is true, is not named, but which lies everywhere before the poet's mind? At Pro 14:3 we ventured to make חכמה the subject of 3b. Then 21b would be as a miniature of Pro 8:17-21. Or is ואהביה a mutilation of ואהב יהוה: and he who loves Jahve (Psa 97:10) enjoys its (the tongue's) fruit?
22 Whatso hath found a wife hath found a good thing,
And hath obtained favour from Jahve.
As ואהביה, 21b, reminds us of Pro 8:17, so here not only 22b, but also 22a harmonizes with Pro 8:35 (cf. Pro 12:2). A wife is such as she ought to be, as Pro 18:14, אישׁ, a man is such as he ought to be; the lxx, Syr., Targ., and Vulgate supply bonam, but "gnomic brevity and force disdains such enervating adjectives, and cautious limitations of the idea" (Fl.). Besides, אשׁה טובה in old Hebr. would mean a well-favoured rather than a good-dispositioned wife, which later idea is otherwise expressed, Pro 19:14; Pro 31:10. The Venet. rightly has γυναῖκα, and Luther ein Ehefraw, for it is a married woman that is meant. The first מצא is perf. hypotheticum, Gesen. 126, Anm. 1. On the other hand, Ecc 7:26, "I found, מוצא אני, more bitter than death the woman," etc.; wherefore, when in Palestine one married a wife, the question was wont to be asked: או מוצא מצא, has he married happily (after מצא of the book of Proverbs) or unhappily (after מוצא of Ecclesiastes) (Jebamoth 63b)?
(Note: Cf. Gendlau's Sprichwrter u. Redensarten deutsch-jdischer Vorzeit (1860), p. 235.)
The lxx adds a distich to Pro 18:22, "He that putteth away a good wife putteth away happiness; and he that keepeth an adulteress, is foolish and ungodly." He who constructed this proverb [added by the lxx] has been guided by מצא to מוציא (Ezr 10:3); elsewhere ἐκβάλλειν (γυναῖκα), Gal 4:30, Sir. 28:15, is the translation of גּרשׁ. The Syr. has adopted the half of that distich, and Jerome the whole of it. On the other hand, Pro 18:23, Pro 18:24, and Pro 19:1-2, are wanting in the lxx. The translation which is found in some Codd. is that of Theodotion (vid., Lagarde).
23 The poor uttereth suppliant entreaties;
And the rich answereth rudenesses.
The oriental proverbial poetry furnishes many parallels to this. It delights in the description of the contrast between a suppliant poor man and the proud and avaricious rich man; vid., e.g., Samachschari's Goldene Halsbnder, No. 58. תּחנוּנים, according to its meaning, refers to the Hithpa. התחנּן, misericordiam alicujus pro se imploravit; cf. the old vulgar "barmen," i.e., to seek to move others to Erbarmen [compassion] (רחמים). עזּות, dura, from עז (synon. קשׁה), hard, fast, of bodies, and figuratively of an unbending, hard, haughty disposition, and thence of words of such a nature (Fl.). Both nouns are accus. of the object, as Job 40:27, תחנונים with the parallel רכּות. The proverb expresses a fact of experience as a consolation to the poor to whom, if a rich man insults him, nothing unusual occurs, and as a warning to the rich that he may not permit himself to be divested of humanity by mammon. A hard wedge to a hard clod; but whoever, as the Scripture saith, grindeth the poor by hard stubborn-hearted conduct, and grindeth his bashful face (Isa 3:15), challenges unmerciful judgment against himself; for the merciful, only they shall obtain mercy, αὐτοὶ ἐλεηθήσονται (Mat 5:7).
24 A man of many friends cometh off a loser;
But there is a friend more faithful than a brother.
Jerome translates the commencing word by vir, but the Syr., Targ. by אית, which is adopted by Hitzig, Bttcher, and others. But will a German poet use in one line "itzt" [same as jetzt = now], and in the next "jetzt"? and could the Hebrew poet prefer to ישׁ its rarer, and her especially not altogether unambiguous form אישׁ (cf. to the contrary, Ecc 7:15)? We write אישׁ, because the Masora comprehends this passage, with Sa2 14:19; Mic 6:10, as the סבירין ישׁ 'ג, i.e., as the three, where one ought to expect ישׁ, and is thus exposed to the danger of falling into error in writing and reading; but erroneously אשׁ is found in all these three places in the Masora magna of the Venetian Bible of 1526; elsewhere the Masora has the defectiva scriptio with like meaning only in those two other passages. While אישׁ = ישׁ, or properly ישׁ, with equal possibility of אשׁ,
(Note: One sees from this interchange how softly the י was uttered; cf. Wellhausen's Text der B. Samuel (1871) (Preface). Kimchi remarks that we say אקטל for אקטל, because we would otherwise confound it with יקטל.)
and it makes no material difference in the meaning of 24a whether we explain: there are friends who serve to bring one to loss: or a man of many friends comes to loss, - the inf. with ל is used in substantival clauses as the expression of the most manifold relations, Gesen. 132, Anm. 1 (cf. at Hab 1:17), here in both cases it denotes the end, as e.g., Psa 92:8, to which it hastens with many friends, or with the man of many friends. It is true that אישׁ (like בּעל) is almost always connected only with genitives of things; but as one says אישׁ אלהים: a man belongs to God, so may one also say אישׁ רעים: a man belongs to many friends; the common language of the people may thus have named a man, to whom, because he has no definite and decided character, the rule that one knows a man by his friends is not applicable, a so-called every-man's-friend, or all-the-world's-friend. Theodotion translates ἀνὴρ ἑταιριῶν τοῦ ἑταιρεύσασθαι; and thus also the Syr., Targ., and Jerome render (and among the moderns, Hitzig) התרעע as reflexive in the sense of to cherish social intercourse; but this reflexive is התרעה, Pro 22:24. That התרועע is either Hithpa. of רוּע, to exult, Psa 60:10; 65:14, according to which the Venet. translates (contrary to Kimchi) ὥστε ἀλαλάζειν: such an one can exult, but which is not true, since, according to 24b, a true friend outweighs the many; or it is Hithpa. of רעע, to be wicked, sinful (Fl.: sibi perniciem paraturus est); or, which we prefer, warranted by Isa 24:19, of רעע, to become brittle (Bttcher and others) - which not only gives a good sense, but also a similar alliteration with רעים, as Pro 3:29; Pro 13:20. In contradistinction to רע, which is a general, and, according to the usage of the language (e.g., 17b), a familiar idea, the true friend is called, in the antithetical parallel member, אהב (Pro 27:6); and after Pro 17:17, דּבק מאח, one who remains true in misfortune. To have such an one is better than to have many of the so-called friends; and, as appears from the contrast, to him who is so fortunate as to have one such friend, there comes a blessing and safety. Immanuel has given the right explanation: "A man who sets himself to gain many friends comes finally to be a loser (סופו להשּׁבר), for he squanders his means, and is impoverished in favour of others." And Schultens: At est amicus agglutinatus prae fratre. Rarum et carum esse genus insinuatur, ac proinde intimam illam amicitiam, quae conglutinet compingatque corda, non per multos spargendam, sed circumspecte et ferme cum uno tantum ineundam. Thus closes this group of proverbs with the praise of friendship deepened into spiritual brotherhood, as the preceding, Pro 18:19, with a warning against the destruction of such a relation by a breach of trust not to be made good again.