Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
This proverb warns against the debauchery with which free-thinking is intimately associated.
Wine is a mocker, mead boisterous;
And no one who is overtaken thereby is wise.
The article stands with יין. Ewald maintains that in 10:1-22:6 the article occurs only here and at Pro 21:31, and that it is here, as the lxx shows, not original. Both statements are incorrect. The article is found, e.g., at Pro 19:6; Pro 18:18, Pro 18:17, and here the personification of "wine" requires it; but that it is wanting to שׁכר shows how little poetry delights in it; it stands once for twice. The effects of wine and mead (שׁכר from שׁכר, to stop, obstruct, become stupid) are attributed to these liquors themselves as their property. Wine is a mocker, because he who is intoxicated with it readily scoffs at that which is holy; mead is boisterous (cf. הומיּה, Pro 7:11), because he who is inebriated in his dissolute madness breaks through the limits of morality and propriety. He is unwise who, through wine and the like, i.e., overpowered by it (cf. Sa2 13:28), staggers, i.e., he gives himself up to wine to such a degree that he is no longer master of himself. At Pro 5:19 we read, שׁגה ב, of the intoxication of love; here, as at Isa 28:7, of the intoxication of wine, i.e., of the passionate slavish desire of wine or for wine. The word "Erpicht" [avidissimus], i.e., being indissolubly bound to a thing, corresponds at least in some degree to the idea. Fleischer compares the French: tre fou de quelque chose. Isa 28:7, however, shows that one has to think on actual staggering, being overtaken in wine.
2 A roaring as of a lion is the terror of the king;
And he that provoketh him forfeiteth his life.
Line first is a variation of Pro 19:12. The terror which a king spreads around (מלך, gen. subjecti., as, e.g., at Job 9:34 and generally) is like the growling of a lion which threatens danger. The thought here suggested is that it is dangerous to arouse a lion. Thus מתעבּרו does not mean: he who is angry at him (Venet.: χολούμενος αὐτῷ), but he who provokes him (lxx, Syr., Targ., Jerome, Luther). התעבּר signifies, as we saw at Pro 14:16, to be in a state of excessive displeasure, extreme anger. Here the meaning must be: he who puts him into a state of anger (lxx, ὁ παροξύνων αὐτόν, in other versions with the addition of καὶ ἐπιμιγνύμενος, who conducts himself familiarly towards him = מתערבו). But can mitharvo have this meaning? That the Hithpa. of transitive stems, e.g., התחגּן (Kg1 8:59) and השׁתּמּר (Mic 6:16), is construed with the accus. of that which any one performs for himself (cf. Ewald's Gramm. Arab. 180), is not unusual; but can the Hithpa. of the intrans. עבר, which signifies to fall into a passion, "express with the accusative the passion of another excited thereby" (Ewald, 282a)? There is no evidence for this; and Hitzig's conjecture, מתעבּרו (Tiphel of the Targ. תּעבור = עברה), is thus not without occasion. But one might suppose that התעבּר, as the reflexive of a Piel or Hiphil which meant to be put into a state of anger, may mean to draw forth the anger of any one, as in Arab., the VIIIth form (Hithpa.) of ḥaḍr, to be present, with the accus. as reflexive of the IVth form, may mean: sibi aliquid praesens sistere. Not so difficult is חטא with the accus. of that which is missing, vid., Pro 8:36 and Hab 2:10.
3 It is an honour to a man to remain far from strife;
But every fool showeth his teeth.
Or better: whoever is a fool quisquis amens, for the emphasis does not lie on this, that every fool, i.e., every single one of this sort, contends to the uttermost; but that whoever is only always a fool finds pleasure in such strife. Regarding התגּלּע, vid., Pro 17:14; Pro 18:1. On the contrary, it is an honour to a man to be peaceable, or, as it is here expressed, to remain far from strife. The phrase may be translated: to desist from strife; but in this case the word would be pointed שׁבת, which Hitzig prefers; for שׁבת from שׁבת means, Sa2 23:7, annihilation (the termination of existence); also Exo 21:19, שׁבתּו does not mean to be keeping holy day; but to be sitting, viz., at home, in a state of incapability for work. Rightly Fleischer: "ישׁב מן, like Arab. ḳ'ad ṣan, to remain sitting quiet, and thus to hold oneself removed from any kind of activity." He who is prudent, and cares for his honour, not only breaks off strife when it threatens to become passionate, but does not at all enter into it, keeps himself far removed from it.
4 At the beginning of the harvest the sluggard plougheth not;
And so when he cometh to the reaping-time there is nothing.
Many translators (Symmachus, Jerome, Luther) and interpreters (e.g., Rashi, Zckler) explain: propter frigus; but חרף is, according to its verbal import, not a synon. of קר and צנּה, but means gathering = the time of gathering (synon. אסיף), from חרף, carpere,
(Note: Vid., Fleischer in Levy's Chald. Wrterbuch, i. 426.)
as harvest, the time of the καρπίζειν, the plucking off of the fruit; but the harvest is the beginning of the old Eastern agricultural year, for in Palestine and Syria the time of ploughing and sowing with the harvest or early rains (חריף = יורה, Neh 7:24; Ezr 2:18) followed the fruit harvest from October to December. The מן is thus not that of cause but of time. Thus rendered, it may mean the beginning of an event and onwards (e.g., Sa1 30:25), as well as its termination and onwards (Lev 27:17): here of the harvest and its ingathering and onwards. In 4b, the Chethı̂b and Kerı̂ vary as at Pro 18:17. The fut. ישׁאל would denote what stands before the sluggard; the perf. שׁאלו places him in the midst of this, and besides has this in its favour, that, interpreted as perf. hypotheticum, it makes the absence of an object to שׁאל more tenable. The Chethı̂b, ושׁאל, is not to be read after Psa 109:10 : he will beg in harvest - in vain (Jerome, Luther), to which Hitzig well remarks: Why in vain? Amid the joy of harvest people dispense most liberally; and the right time for begging comes later. Hitzig conjecturally arrives at the translation:
"A pannier the sluggard provideth not;
Seeketh to borrow in harvest, and nothing cometh of it."
But leaving out of view the "pannier," the meaning "to obtain something as a loan," which שׁאל from the connection may bear, is here altogether imaginary. Let one imagine to himself an indolent owner of land, who does not trouble himself about the filling and sowing of his fields at the right time and with diligence, but leaves this to his people, who do only as much as is commanded them: such an one asks, when now the harvest-time has come, about the ingathering; but he receives the answer, that the land has lain unploughed, because he had not commanded it to be ploughed. When he asks, there is nothing, he asks in vain (ואין, as at Pro 14:6; Pro 13:4). Meri rightly explains מחרף by מתחלת זמן החרישׁה, and 4b by: "so then, when he asks at harvest time, he will find nothing;" on the other hand, the lxx and Aram. think on חרף, carpere conviciis, as also in Codd. here and there is found the meaningless מחרף.
5 The purpose in the heart of a man is deep water;
But a man of understanding draweth it out.
"Still waters are deep." Like such deep waters (Pro 18:4) is that which a man hath secretly (Isa 29:15) planned in his heart. He keeps it secret, conceals it carefully, craftily misleads those who seek to draw it out; but the man of תּבוּנה, i.e., one who possesses the right criteria for distinguishing between good and bad, true and false, and at the same time has the capacity to look through men and things, draws out (the Venet. well, ἀνέλξει) the secret עצה, for he penetrates to the bottom of the deep water. Such an one does not deceive himself with men, he knows how to estimate their conduct according to its last underlying motive and aim; and if the purpose is one that is pernicious to him, he meets it in the process of realization. What is here said is applicable not only to the subtle statesman and the general, but also the pragmatical historian and the expositor, as, e.g., of a poem such as the book of Job, the idea of which lies like a pearl at the bottom of deep water.
6 Almost every one meeteth a man who is gracious to him;
But a man who standeth the test, who findeth such a one?
As ציר אמונים, Pro 13:17, signifies a messenger in whom there is confidence, and עד אמונים, Pro 14:5, a witness who is altogether truthful, so אישׁ אמוּנים is a man who remains true to himself, and maintains fidelity toward others. Such an one it is not easy to find; but patrons who make promises and awaken expectations, finally to leave in the lurch him who depends on them - of such there are many. This contrast would proceed from 6a also, if we took קרא in the sense of to call, to call or cry out with ostentation: multi homines sunt quorum suam quisque humanitatem proclamat (Schelling, Fleischer, Ewald, Zckler, and also, e.g., Meri). But אישׁ חסדּו is certainly to be interpreted after Pro 11:17, Isa 57:1. Recognising this, Hitzig translates: many a man one names his dear friend; but in point of style this would be as unsuitable as possible. Must יקרא then mean vocat? A more appropriate parallel word to מצא is קרא = קרה, according to which, with Oetinger, Heidenheim, Euchel, and Lwenstein, we explain: the greater part of men meet one who shows himself to them (to this or that man) as אישׁ חסד, a man well-affectioned and benevolent; but it is rare to find one who in his affection and its fruits proves himself to be true, and actually performs that which was hoped for from him. Luther translates, with the Syr. and Targ. after Jerome: Viel Menschen werden From gerhmbt [many men are reputed pious]; but if יקרא were equivalent to יקּרא, then אישׁ חסד ought to have been used instead of אישׁ חסדו. The lxx read רב אדם יקר אישׁ חסד, man is something great, and a compassionate man is something precious; but it costs trouble to find out a true man. The fundamental thought remains almost the same in all these interpretations and readings: love is plentiful; fidelity, rare; therefore חסד, of the right kind, after the image of God, is joined to אמת.
7 He who in his innocence walketh as one upright,
Blessed are his children after him!
We may not take the first line as a separate clause with צדּיק, as subject (Van Dyk, Elster) or predicate (Targ.); for, thus rendered, it does not appropriately fall in as parallel to the second line, because containing nothing of promise, and the second line would then strike in at least not so unconnectedly (cf. on the contrary, Pro 10:9; Pro 14:25). We have before us a substantival clause, of which the first line is the complex subject. But Jerome, the Venet., and Luther erroneously: the just man walking in his innocence; this placing first of the adj. is in opposition to the Hebr. syntax. We must, if the whole is to be interpreted as nom., regard צדיק as permutative: one walking in his innocence, a righteous one. But, without doubt, tsedek is the accus. of the manner; in the manner of one righteous, or in apposition: as one righteous; cf. Job 31:26 with Mic 2:7. Thus Hitzig rightly also refers to these two passages, and Ewald also refers to Pro 22:11; Pro 24:15. To walk in his innocence as a righteous man, is equivalent to always to do that which is right, without laying claim to any distinction or making any boast on that account; for thereby one only follows the impulse and the direction of his heart, which shows itself and can show itself not otherwise than in unreserved devotion to God and to that which is good. The children after him are not the children after his death (Gen 24:67); but, according to Deu 4:40, cf. Job 21:21, those who follow his example, and thus those who come after him; for already in the lifetime of such an one, the benediction begins to have its fulfilment in his children.
The following group begins with a royal proverb, which expresses what a king does with his eyes. Two proverbs, of the seeing eye and the necessary opening of the eyes, close it.
8 A king sitting on the seat of justice,
Scattereth asunder all evil with his eyes.
Excellently the Venet. ἐπὶ θρόνου δίκης, for כּסּא־דין is the name of the seat of rectitude (the tribunal), as the "throne of grace," Heb. 4:17, is the name of the capporeth as the seat of mercy; the seat of the judge is merely called כסא; on the other hand, כסא־דין is the contrast of כּסּא הוּות fo, Psa 94:20 : the seat from which the decision that is in conformity with what is right (cf. e.g., Jer 5:28) goes forth, and where it is sought. As little here as at Pro 20:26 is there need for a characterizing adj. to melek; but the lxx hits the meaning for it, understands such to דין: ὅταν βασιλεὺς δίκαιος καθίσῃ ἐπὶ θρόνου. By the "eyes" are we then to understand those of the mind: he sifts, dignoscit, with the eyes of the mind all that is evil, i.e., distinguishes it subjectively from that which is not evil? Thus Hitzig by a comparison of Psa 11:4; Psa 139:3 (where Jerome has eventilasti, the Vulg. investigasti). Scarcely correctly, for it lies nearer to think on the eyes in the king's head (vid., Pro 16:15); in that case: to winnow (to sift) means to separate the good and the bad, but first mediately: to exclude the bad; finally, Pro 20:26 leads to the conclusion that מזרה is to be understood, not of a subjective, but of an actual scattering, or separating, or driving away. Thus the penetrating, fear-inspiring eyes of the king are meant, as Immanuel explains: בראיית עיניו מבריחם מפניו ומפזר אותם בכל פיאה. But in this explanation the personal rendering of כּל־רע is incorrect; for mezareh, meant of the driving asunder of persons, requires as its object a plur. (cf. 26a). Col-ra is understood as neut. like Pro 5:14. Before the look of a king to whom it belongs to execute righteousness and justice (Isa 16:5), nothing evil stands; criminal acts and devices seen through, and so also judged by these eyes, are broken up and scattered to all the winds, along with the danger that thereby threatened the community. It is the command: "put away the evil" (Deu 13:6 ), which the king carries into effect by the powerful influence of his look. With col-ra there is connected the thought that in the presence of the heavenly King no one is wholly free from sin.
9 Who can say I have made my heart clean,
I am pure from my sins?
It is the same thought that Solomon expresses in his prayer at the consecration of the temple, Kg1 8:46 : there is no man who sinneth not. To cleanse his heart (as Psa 73:13), is equivalent to to empty it, by self-examination and earnest effort after holiness, of all impure motives and inclinations; vid., regarding זכה, to be piercing, shining brightly, cloudlessly pure, Fleischer in Levy's Chald. Wrterbuch, i. 424. The consequence of זכּות is, becoming pure; and the consequence of זכּות לב, i.e., of the purifying of the heart, the being pure from sinful conduct: I have become pure from my sins, i.e., from such as I might fall into by not resisting temptations; the suffix is not understood as actual, but as potential, like Psa 18:24. No one can boast of this, for man's knowledge of himself and of his sins remains always limited (Jer 17:9.; Psa 19:13); and sin is so deeply rooted in his nature (Job 14:4; Job 15:14-16), that the remains of a sinful tendency always still conceal themselves in the folds of his heart, sinful thoughts still cross his soul, sinful inclinations still sometimes by their natural force overcome the moral resistance that opposes them, and stains of all kinds still defile even his best actions.
This proverb passes sentence of condemnation against gross sins in action and life.
Diverse stones, diverse measures -
An abomination to Jahve are they both.
The stones are, as at Pro 11:1; Pro 16:11, those used as weights. Stone and stone, ephah and ephah, means that they are of diverse kinds, one large and one small (the lxx, in which the sequence of the proverbs from Pro 20:10 is different, has μέγα καὶ μικρόν), so that one may be able deceitfully to substitute the one for the other. איפה (from אפה, to bake) may originally have been used to designate such a quantity of meal as supplied a family of moderate wants; it corresponds to the bath (Eze 45:11) as a measure for fluids, and stands here synecdochically instead of all the measures, including, e.g., the cor, of which the ephah was a tenth part, and the seah, which was a third part of it. 10b = Pro 17:5, an echo of Lev 19:36; Deu 25:13-16. Just and equal measure is the demand of a holy God; the contrary is to Him an abhorrence.
11 Even a child maketh himself known by his conduct,
Whether his dispostion be pure and whether it be right.
If מעלל may be here understood after the use of עולל, to play, to pass the time with anything, then גּם neht refers thereto: even by his play (Ewald). But granting that מעולל [children], synon. with נער, had occasioned the choice of the word מעלל (vid., Fleischer on Isa 3:4), yet this word never means anything else than work, an undertaking of something, and accomplishing it; wherefore Bttcher proposes מעוּליו, for מעלוּל may have meant play, in contradistinction to מעלל ot noitcni. This is possible, but conjectural. Thus gam is not taken along with b'amalalav. That the child also makes himself known by his actions, is an awkward thought; for if in anything else, in these he must show what one has to expect from him. Thus gam is after the syntactical method spoken of at Pro 17:26; Pro 19:2, to be referred to נער (also the child, even the child), although in this order it is referred to the whole clause. The verb נכר is, from its fundamental thought, to perceive, observe from an ἐναντιόσημον: to know, and to know as strange, to disown (vid., under Isa 3:9); the Hithpa. elsewhere signifies, like (Arab.) tankkar, to make oneself unknowable, but here to make oneself knowable; Symmachus, ἐπιγνωρισθήσεται, Venet. γνωσθήσεται. Or does the proverb mean: even the child dissembles in his actions (Oetinger)? Certainly not, for that would be a statement which, thus generally made, is not justified by experience. We must then interpret 11b as a direct question, though it has the form of an indirect one: he gives himself to be known, viz., whether his disposition be pure and right. That one may recognise his actions in the conduct of any one, is a platitude; also that one may recognise his conduct in these, is not much better. פּעל is therefore referred by Hitzig to God as the Creator, and he interprets it in the sense of the Arab. khulk, being created = natura. We also in this way explain יצרנוּ, Psa 103:14, as referable to God the יצר; and that poal occurs, e.g., Isa 1:31, not merely in the sense of action, but also in that of performance or structure, is favourable to this interpretation. But one would think that poal, if thus used in the sense of the nature of man, would have more frequently occurred. It everywhere else means action or work. And thus it is perhaps also here used to denote action, but regarded as habitual conduct, and according to the root-meaning, moral disposition. The N.T. word ἕργον approaches this idea in such passages as Gal 6:4. It is less probable that 11b is understood with reference to the future (Luther and others); for in that case one does not see why the poet did not make use of the more intelligible phrase אם זך וישׁר יהיה פעלו. It is like our (Germ.) proverb: Was ein Haken werden will krmmt sick bald what means to become a hook bends itself early; or: Was ein Drnchen werden will spitzt sich bei Zeiten
(Note: A similar comparison from Bereschith Rabba, vid., Duke's Rabbin. Blumenlese, p. 126.)
[what means to become a thorn sharpens itself early], and to the Aram. בוצין בוצין מקטפיה ידיע = that which will become a gourd shows itself in the bud, Berachoth 48a.
12 The hearing ear and the seeing eye -
Jahve hath created them both.
Lwenstein, like the lxx: the ear hears and the eye sees - it is enough to refer to the contrary to Pro 20:10 and Pro 17:15. In itself the proverb affirms a fact, and that is its sensus simplex; but besides, this fact may be seen from many points of view, and it has many consequences, none of which is to be rejected as contrary to the meaning: (1.) It lies nearest to draw the conclusion, vi eminentiae, which is drawn in Psa 94:9. God is thus the All-hearing and the All-seeing, from which, on the one side, the consolation arises that everything that is seen stands under His protection and government, Pro 15:3; and on the other side, the warning, Aboth ii. 1: "Know what is above thee; a Seeing eye and a Hearing ear, and all thy conduct is marked in His book." (2.) With this also is connected the sense arising out of the combination in Psa 40:7 : man ought then to use the ear and the eye in conformity with the design which they are intended to subserve, according to the purpose of the Creator (Hitzig compares Pro 16:4); it is not first applicable to man with reference to the natural, but to the moral life: he shall not make himself deaf and blind to that which it is his duty to hear and to see; but he ought also not to hear and to see with pleasure that from which he should turn away (Isa 33:15) - in all his hearing and seeing he is responsible to the Creator of the ear and the eye. (3.) One may thus interpret "hearing" and "seeing" as commendable properties, as Fleischer suggests from comparison of Pro 16:11 : an ear that truly hears (the word of God and the lessons of Wisdom) and an eye that truly sees (the works of God) are a gift of the Creator, and are (Arab.) lillhi, are to be held as high and precious. Thus the proverb, like a polished gem, may be turned now in one direction and now in another; it is to be regarded as a many-sided fact.
13 Love not sleep, lest thou become poor;
Open thine eyes, and have enough to eat.
What is comprehended in the first line here is presented in detail in Pro 6:9-11. The fut. Niph. of רוּשׁ, to become poor (cf. Pro 10:4), is formed metaplastically from ירשׁ, Pro 23:21; Pro 30:9, as at Sa1 2:7; Hitzig compares (Arab.) ryth, which, however, means to loiter or delay, not to come back or down. The R. רש signifies either to be slack without support (cf. דּל), or to desire (cf. אבון, Arab. fkyr, properly hiscens, R. פק, as in פקח, to open widely, which here follows). Regarding the second imper. 13b, vid., Pro 3:4 : it has the force of a consequence, Las deine augen wacker sein, So wirstu brots gnug haben (Luth.) [Let thine eyes be open, so shalt thou have bread enough]. With these two proverbs of the eyes, the group beginning with Pro 20:8 rounds itself off.
The following group has its natural limit at the new point of departure at Pro 20:20, and is internally connected in a diversity of ways.
14 "Bad, bad!" saith the buyer;
And going his way, he boasteth then.
"Bad, bad!" saith one if he hath it;
But when it is gone, then he boasteth of it.
This rendering has many supporters. Geier cites the words of the Latin poet:
"Omne bonum praesens minus est, sperata videntur Magna."
Schultens quotes the proverbs τὸ παρὸν βαρύ and Praesentia laudato, for with Luther he refers ואזל לו to the present possession (אזל, as Sa1 9:7 = (Arab.) zâl, to cease, to be lost), and translates: at dilapsum sibi, tum demum pro splendido celebrat. But by this the Hithpa. does not receive its full meaning; and to extract from הקּונה the idea to which ואזל לו refers, if not unnecessary, is certainly worthless. Hakkoneh may also certainly mean the possessor, but the possessor by acquisition (lxx and the Venet. ὁ κτώμενος); for the most part it signifies the possessor by purchase, the buyer (Jerome, emptor), as correlate of מכר, Isa 24:2; Eze 4:12. It is customary for the buyer to undervalue that which he seeks to purchase, so as to obtain it as cheaply as possible; afterwards he boasts that he has bought that which is good, and yet so cheap. That is an every-day experience; but the proverb indirectly warns against conventional lying, and shows that one should not be startled and deceived thereby. The subject to ואזל לו is thus the buyer; אזל with לו denotes, more definitely even than הלך לו, going from thence, s'en aller. Syntactically, the punctuation ואזל לו [and he takes himself off] (perf. hypoth., Ewald, 357a) would have been near (Jerome: et cum recesserit); but yet it is not necessary, with Hitzig, thus to correct it. The poet means to say: making himself off, he then boasts. We cannot in German place the "alsdann" [then] as the אז here, and as also, e.g., at Sa1 20:12; but Theodotion, in good Greek: καὶ πορευθεὶς τότε καυχήσεται. We may write ואזל לו with Mercha on the antepenult, on which the accent is thrown back, cf. חונן, Pro 19:17, but not לּו; for the rule for Dagesh does not here, with the retrogression of the tone, come into application, as, e.g., in אוכל לּחמי, Psa 41:10. Singularly the Syr. and Targ. do not read רע רע, but רע לרע, and couple Pro 20:15 with 14. In the lxx, Pro 20:14-19 are wanting.
15 There is indeed gold, and many pearls;
But a precious treasure are lips full of knowledge.
In order to find a connection between this proverb and that which precedes, we need only be reminded of the parable of the merchantman who sought goodly pearls, Mat 13:45. The proverb rises to a climax: there is gold, and there are pearls in abundance, the one of which has always a higher value than the other; but intelligent lips are above all such jewels - they are a precious treasure, which gold and all pearls cannot equal. In a similar manner the N.T. places the one pearl above the many goodly pearls. So might דעת (chokma) be called the pearl above all pearls (Pro 3:15; Pro 8:11); but the lips as the organ of knowledge are fittingly compared with a precious vessel, a vessel of more precious substance than gold and pearls are.
16 Take from him the garment, for he hath become surety for another;
And for strangers take him as a pledge.
The same proverb Pro 27:13, where קח, with the usual aphaeresis, here interchanges with it the fuller form לקח, which is also found at Eze 37:16. To this imperative חבלהוּ is parallel: take him as a pledge (Theodotion, Jerome, the Venet. and Luther); it is not a substantive: his pledge (Targ.), which would require the word חבלתו (חבלו); nor is it to be read with the Syr. חבלהוּ, one pledges him; but it is imperative, not however of the Piel, which would be חבלהוּ, and would mean "destroy him;" but, as Aben Ezra rightly, the imperative of Kal of חבל, to take as a pledge, Exo 22:25, for חבלהוּ without any example indeed except חננני, Psa 9:14; cf. Psa 80:16. The first line is clear: take his garment, for he has become good for another (cf. Pro 11:15), who has left him in the lurch, so that he must now become wise by experience. The second line also is intelligible if we read, according to the Chethı̂b, נכרים (Jerome, the Venet.), not נכריּם, as Schultens incorrectly points it, and if we interpret this plur. like בנים, Gen 21:7, with Hitzig following Luther, as plur. of the category: take him as a pledge, hold fast by his person, so as not to suffer injury from strange people for whom he has become surety. But the Kerı̂ requires נכריּה (according to which Theodotion and the Syr., and, more distinctly still than these, the Targ. translates), and thus, indeed, it stands written, Pro 27:13, without the Kerı̂, thus Bathra 173b reads and writes also here. Either נכריּה is a strange woman, a prostitute, a maitresse for whom the unwise has made himself surety, or it is neut. for aliena res (lxx Pro 27:13, τὰ ἀλλότρια), a matter not properly belonging to this unwise person. We regard נכרים in this passage as original. בעד coincides with Pro 6:26 : it does not mean ἀντὶ, but ὑπέρ; "for strange people" is here equivalent to for the sake of, on account of strange people" is here equivalent to for the sake of, on account of strange people (χάριν τῶν ἀλλοτρίων, as the Venet. translates it).
17 Sweet to a man is the bread of deceit;
Yet at last his mouth is full of gravel.
"Bread of deceit" is not deceit itself, as that after which the desire of a man goes forth, and that for which he has a relish (thus, e.g., Immanuel and Hitzig); but that which is not gained by labour, and is not merited. Possession (vid., Pro 4:17) or enjoyment (Pro 9:17) obtained by deceit is thus called, as לחם כּזבים, Pro 23:3, denotes bread; but for him who has a relish for it, it is connected with deceit. Such bread of lies is sweet to a man, because it has come to him without effort, but in the end not only will he have nothing to eat, but his tongue, teeth, and mouth will be injured by small stones; i.e., in the end he will have nothing, and there will remain to him only evil (Fleischer). Or: it changes itself (Job 20:14) at last into gravel, of which his mouth is filled full, as we might say, "it lies at last in his stomach like lead." חצץ is the Arab. ḥaṭny, gravel (Hitzig, grien = gries, coarse sand, grit), R. חץ, scindere. Similarly in Arab. ḥajar, a stone, is used as the image of disappointed expectations, e.g., the adulterer finds a stone, i.e., experiences disappointment.
18 Plans are established by counsel,
And with prudent government make war.
From the conception of a thought, practically influencing the formation of our own life and the life of the community, to its accomplishment there is always a long way which does not lead to the end unless one goes forward with counsel and strength combined, and considers all means and eventualities. The Niph. of כּוּן means, in a passive sense: to be accomplished or realized (Psa 141:2). The clause 18a is true for times of war as well as for times of peace; war is disastrous, unless it is directed with strategic skill (vid., regarding תּחבּות, Pro 1:5). Grotius compares the proverb, Γνῶμαι πλέον δρατοῦσιν ἢ σθένος χειρῶν. In Pro 24:6, the necessity of counsel is also referred to the case of war. Ewald would read [the infin.] עשׂה, or עשׂה: with management it is that one carries on war. But why? Because to him the challenge to carry on war appears to be contrary to the spirit of proverbial poetry. But the author of the proverb does certainly mean: if thou hast to carry on war, carry it on with the skill of a general; and the imper. is protected by Pro 24:6 against that infin., which is, besides, stylistically incongruous.
19 He that goeth out gossiping revealeth a secret;
And the babbler have nothing to do.
Luther otherwise (like Hitzig) -
Be not complicated with him who revealeth a secret,
And with the slanderer, and with the false (better: loquacious) mouth,
so that ל and the warning apply to the threefold description, a rendering which Kimchi also, and Immanuel, and others at least suggest. But in connection with Pro 11:13, the first line has the force of a judicium, which includes the warning to entrust nothing to a babbler which ought to be kept silent. Write גּולה סּוד, as found in Codd. and old Edd., with Munach on the penultima, on which the tone is thrown back, and Dagesh to ס, after the rule of the דחיק (Gesen. 20, 2a), altogether like קונה לב, Pro 15:32. 19b the Venet. translates after the first meaning of the word by Kimchi, τῷ ἀπαταιῶνι τοῖς χείλεσι, to him who slanders and befools, for it thus improves Theodotion's τῷ ἀπατῶντι τὰ χείλη αὐτοῦ. But פּתה means, Job 5:2 - cf. Hos 7:11 - not him who befools another, but him who is befooled, is slandered, by another (Aben Ezra: שׁיפתוהו אחרים), with which שׂפתיו here does not agree. But now he who is easily befooled is called פּתה, as being open to influence (susceptible), patens; and if this particip. is used, as here, transitively, and, on account of the object שׂפתיו standing near cannot possibly be equivalent to מפתּה, the usage of the language also just noticed is against it, then it means patefaciens or dilatans (cf. הפתּה, Gen 9:27, Targ. אפתּי = הרחיב), and places itself as synon. to פשׂק, Pro 13:3; thus one is called who does not close his mouth, who cannot hold his mouth, who always idly babbles, and is therefore, because he can keep nothing to himself, a dangerous companion. The Complut. rightly translates: μετὰ πλατύνοντος τὰ ἑαυτοῦ μὴ μίχθητι χείλη.
The following group begins, for once more the aim of this older Book of Proverbs becomes prominent, with an inculcation of the fourth
(Note: i.e., The fifth according to the arrangement of the Westminster Confession.)
20 He that curseth his father and his mother,
His light is extinguished in midnight darkness.
The divine law, Exo 21:17; Lev 20:9, condemns such an one to death. But the proverb does not mean this sentence against the criminal, which may only seldom be carried into execution, but the fearful end which, because of the righteousness of God ruling in history, terminates the life of such an unnatural son (Pro 30:17). Of the godless, it has already been said that their light is extinguished, Pro 13:9, there is suddenly an end to all that brightened, i.e., made happy and embellished their life; but he who acts wickedly (קלּל, R. קל, levem esse, synon. הקלה, Deu 27:16), even to the cursing of his father and mother, will see himself surrounded by midnight darkness (Symmachus, σκοτομήνῃ, moonless night), not: he will see himself in the greatest need, forsaken by divine protection (Fleischer), for Jansen rightly: Lux et lucerna in scripturis et vitae claritatem et posteritatem et prosperitatem significat. The apple of the eye, אישׁון, of darkness (vid., Pro 7:9), is that which forms the centre of centralization of darkness. The Syr. renders it correctly by bobtho, pupil of the eye, but the Targ. retains the אשׁוּן of the Kerı̂, and renders it in Aram. by אתוּן, which Rashi regards as an infin., Parchon as a particip. after the form ערוּך; but it may be also an infin. substantive after the form עזוּז, and is certainly nothing else than the abbreviated and vocally obscured אישׁון. For the Talm. אשׁן, to be hard, furnishes no suitable idea; and the same holds true of אשׁוּני, times, Lev 15:25 of the Jerusalem Targ.; while the same abbreviation and the same passing over of o into u represents this as the inflected אישׁון (= עת). There is also no evidence for a verb אשׁן, to be black, dark; the author of Aruch interprets אשׁונא, Bereschith Rabba, c. 33, with reference to the passage before us, of a dark bathing apartment, but only tentatively, and אישׁון is there quoted as the Targ. of צל, Gen 19:8, which the text lying before us does not ratify. Ishon means the little man (in the eye), and neither the blackness (Buxtorf and others) nor the point of strength, the central point (Levy) of the eye.
(Note: Vid., Fleischer in Levy's Chald. Wrterbuch, i. 419.)
21 An inheritance which in the beginning is obtained in haste,
Its end will not be blessed.
The partic. מבחל may, after Zac 11:8, cf. Syr. bhlaa', nauseans, mean "detested," but that affords here no sense; rather it might be interpreted after the Arab. bajila, to be avaricious, "gotten by avarice, niggardliness," with which, however, neither נחלה, inheritance, nor, since avarice is a chronic disease, בּראשׁונה agrees. On the contrary, the Kerı̂ מבהלת [hastened] perfectly agrees, both linguistically (vid., Pro 28:22; cf. Pro 13:11) and actually; for, as Hitzig remarks, the words following Pro 20:20 fully harmonize with the idea of an inheritance, into the possession of which one is put before it is rightly due to him; for a son such as that, the parents may live too long, and so he violently deprives them of the possession (cf. Pro 19:26); but on such a possession there rests no blessing. Since the Piel may mean to hasten, Est 2:9, so מבהל may mean hastened = speedy, Est 8:14, as well as made in haste. All the old interpreters adopt the Kerı̂; the Aram. render it well by מסרהבא, from מסרהב, overturned; and Luther, like Jerome, haereditas ad quam festinatur.
22 Say not: I will avenge the evil;
Hope in Jahve, so will He help thee.
Men ought always to act toward their neighbours according to the law of love, and not according to the jus talionis, Pro 24:29; they ought not only, by requiting good with evil (Pro 16:13; Psa 7:5, Psa 35:12), not to transgress this law of requital, but they ought to surpass it, by also recompensing not evil with evil (vid., regarding שׁלּם, and synon. to Pro 17:13); and that is what the proverb means, for 22b supposes injustice suffered, which might stir up a spirit of revenge. It does not, however, say that men ought to commit the taking of vengeance to God; but, in the sense of Rom 12:17-19; Pe1 3:9, that, renouncing all dependence on self, they ought to commit their deliverance out of the distress into which they have fallen, and their vindication, into the hands of God; for the promise is not that He will avenge them, but that He will help them. The jussive וישׁע (write וישׁע, according to Metheg-setzung, 42, with Gaja as העמדה, with the ע to secure distinct utterance to the final guttural) states as a consequence, like, e.g., Kg2 5:10, what will then happen (Jerome, Luther, Hitzig) if one lets God rule (Gesen. 128, 2c); equally possible, syntactically, is the rendering: that He may help thee (lxx, Ewald); but, regarded as a promise, the words are more in accordance with the spirit of the proverb, and they round it off more expressively.
23 An abomination to Jahve are two kinds of weights;
And deceitful balances are not good.
A variant to Pro 20:10, Pro 11:1. The pred. לא־טוב (Pro 17:26; Pro 18:5; Pro 19:3) is conceived of as neut.; they are not good, much rather bad and pernicious, for the deceiver succeeds only in appearance; in reality he fails.
24 The steps of a man depend on Jahve;
And a man - how can he understand his way?
Line first is from Psa 37:23, but there, where the clause has the verbal predicate כּוננוּ, the meaning is that it is the gracious assistance of God, by virtue of which a man takes certain steps with his feet, while here we have before us a variation of the proverb "der Mensch denkt, Gott lenkt" = man proposes, God disposes, Pro 16:9, Jer 10:23; for מן, as at Sa2 3:37; Psa 118:23, denotes God in general as conditioning, as the ultimate cause. Man is indeed free to turn himself hither or thither, to decide on this course of conduct or on that, and is therefore responsible for it; but the relations co-operating in all his steps as the possible and defining conditions are God's contrivance and guidance, and the consequences which are connected with his steps and flow therefrom, lie beyond the power of man - every one of his steps is a link of a chain, neither the beginning nor the end of which he can see; while, on the other hand, God's knowledge comprehends the beginning, middle, and end, and the wisdom of God ruling in the sphere of history, makes all human activity, the free action of man, subservient to his world-plan. The question, which has a negative answer, is applicable to man: what, i.e., how shall he understand his way? מה is like, e.g., Exo 10:26; Job 9:2; Job 19:28, accus., and fluctuates between the functions of a governed accusative: What does he understand... (Job 11:8) and an adv.: how, i.e., how so little, how even not, for it is the מה of the negative question which has become in (Arab.) mâ a word of negation. The way of a man is his life's-course. This he understands in the present life only relatively, the true unravelling of it remains for the future.
25 It is a snare to a man to cry out hastily "holy;"
And first after vows to investigate.
Two other interpretations of the first line have been proposed. The snare of a man devours, i.e., destroys the holy; but then מוקשׁ אדם must be an expression of an action, instead of an expression of an endurance, which is impossible. The same is true against the explanation: the snare of a man devours, i.e., consumes, eats up the holy, which as such is withdrawn from common use. Jerome with his devotare sanctos, and Luther with his das Heilige lestern [to calumniate the holy], give to לוּע = בּלע a meaning which loses itself in the arbitrary. Accordingly, nothing is to be done with the meaning καταπίεται (Aquila, the Venet.). But ילע will be the abbreviated fut. of לוּע (from ילוּע), or לעע (ילע), Job 6:3 = (Arab.) laghâ temere loqui (proloqui); and קדשׁ (after Hitzig: consecration, which is contrary to usage) is like κορβᾶν, Mar 7:11, the exclamation to which one suddenly gives utterance, thereby meaning that this or that among his possessions henceforth no longer belongs to him, but is consecrated to God, and thus ought to be delivered up to the temple. Such a sudden vow and halting deference to the oath that has been uttered is a snare to a man, for he comes to know that he has injured himself by the alienation of his property, which he has vowed beyond that which was due from him, or that the fulfilling of his vow is connected with difficulties, and perhaps also to others, with regard to whom its disposal was not permitted to him, is of evil consequences, or it may be he is overcome by repentance and is constrained to break his oath. The lxx hits the true meaning of the proverb with rare success: Παγὶς ἀνδρὶ ταχύ τι τῶν ἰδίων ἁγιάσαι, μετὰ δὲ τὸ εὔξασθαι μετανοεῖν γίνεται. נדרים is plur. of the category (cf. 16b Chethı̂b), and בקּר, as Kg2 16:15, Arab. baḳr, examinare, inquirere, means to subject to investigation, viz., whether he ought to observe, and might observe, a vow such as this, or whether he might not and ought not rather to renounce it (Fleischer). Viewed syntactically, 25a is so difficult, that Bertheau, with Hitzig, punctuates ילע; but this substantive must be formed from a verb ילע (cf. Hab 3:13), and this would mean, after (Arab.) wala', "to long eagerly for," which is not suitable here. The punctuation shows ילע as the 3rd fut. What interpreters here say of the doubled accent of the word arises from ignorance: the correct punctuation is ילע, with Gaja to ע, to give the final guttural more force in utterance. The poet appears to place in the foreground: "a snare for a man," as a rubrum; and then continuing the description, he cries out suddenly "holy!" and after the vow, he proceeds to deliberate upon it. Fleischer rightly: post vota inquisiturus est (in ea) = יהיה לבקּר; vid., at Hab 1:17, which passage Hitzig also compares as syntactically very closely related.
26 A wise king winnoweth the godless,
And bringeth over them the wheel.
A variant to Pro 20:8, but here with the following out of the figure of the winnowing. For אופן with מזרה is, without doubt, the wheel of the threshing-cart, עגלה, Isa 28:27.; and thus with מזרה, the winnowing fork, מזרה is to be thought of; vid., a description of them along with that of the winnowing shovel, רחת, in Wetzstein's Excursus to Isa., p. 707ff. We are not to think of the punishment of the wheel, which occurs only as a terrible custom of war (e.g., Amo 1:3). It is only meant that a wise king, by sharp and vigorous procedure, separates the godless, and immediately visits them with merited punishment, as he who works with the winnowing shovel gives the chaff to the wind. Most ancient interpreters think on אופן (from אפן, vertere) in its metaphorical meaning: τρόπος (thus also Lwenstein, he deals with them according to merit), or the wheel of fortune, with reference to the constellations; thus, misfortune (Immanuel, Meri). Arama, Oetinger, and others are, however, on the right track.
With a proverb of a light that was extinguished, Pro 20:20 began the group; the proverb of God's light, which here follows, we take as the beginning of a new group.
27 A candle of Jahve is the soul of man,
Searching through all the chambers of the heart.
If the O.T. language has a separate word to denote the self-conscious personal human spirit in contradistinction to the spirit of a beast, this word, according to the usage of the language, as Reuchlin, in an appendix to Aben Ezra, remarks, is נשׁמה; it is so called as the principle of life breathed immediately by God into the body (vid., at Gen 2:7; Gen 7:22). Indeed, that which is here said of the human spirit would not be said of the spirit of a beast: it is "the mystery of self-consciousness which is here figuratively represented" (Elster). The proverb intentionally does not use the word נפשׁ, for this is not the power of self-consciousness in man, but the medium of bodily life; it is related secondarily to nshmh (רוח), while נשׁמת חיים (רוח) is used, נפשׁ חיים is an expression unheard of. Hitzig is in error when he understands by נשׁמה here the soul in contradistinction to the spirit, and in support of this appeals to an expression in the Cosmography of Kazwni: "the soul (Arab. âl-nefs) is like the lamp which moves about in the chambers of the house;" here also en-nefs is the self-conscious spirit, for the Arab. and post-bibl. Heb. terminology influenced by philosophy reverses the biblical usage, and calls the rational soul נפשׁ, and, on the contrary, the animal soul נשׁמה, רוח (Psychologie, p. 154). חפשׂ is the particip. of חפּשׂ, Zep 1:12, without distinguishing the Kal and Piel. Regarding חדרי־בטן, lxx ταμιεῖα κοιλίας, vid., at Pro 18:8 : בּטן denotes the inner part of the body (R. בט, to be deepened), and generally of the personality; cf. Arab. bâtn âlrwh, the interior of the spirit, and Pro 22:18, according to which Fleischer explains: "A candle of Jahve, i.e., a means bestowed on man by God Himself to search out the secrets deeply hid in the spirit of another." But the candle which God has kindled in man has as the nearest sphere of illumination, which goes forth from it, the condition of the man himself - the spirit comprehends all that belongs to the nature of man in the unity of self-consciousness, but yet more: it makes it the object of reflection; it penetrates, searching it through, and seeks to take it up into its knowledge, and recognises the problem proposed to it, to rule it by its power. The proverb is thus to be ethically understood: the spirit is that which penetrates that which is within, even into its many secret corners and folds, with its self-testing and self-knowing light - it is, after Mat 6:22, the inner light, the inner eye. Man becomes known to himself according to his moral as well as his natural condition in the light of the spirit; "for what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him?" says Paul, Co1 2:11. With reference to this Solomonic proverb, the seven-branched candlestick is an ancient symbol of the soul, e.g., on the Jewish sepulchral monuments of the Roman vi Portuensis. Our texts present the phrase נר יהוה; but the Talm. Pesachim 7b, 8a, the Pesikta in part 8, the Midrash Othijoth de-Rabbi Akiba, under the letter נ, Alphasi (יף''ר) in Pesachim, and others, read נר אלהים; and after this phrase the Targum translates, while the Syr. and the other old versions render by the word "Lord" (Venet. ὀντωτής), and thus had יהוה before them.
28 Love and truth guard the king;
And he supports his throne by love.
We have not in the German [nor in the Eng.] language a couple of words that completely cover חסד ואמת; when they are used of God, we translate them by grace and truth [Gnade u. Wahrheit], Psa 40:12 (יצּרוּני); when of men, by love and truth [Liebe u. Treue], Pro 16:6; and when of the two-sided divine forces, by kindness and truth, Pro 3:3. Love and truth are the two good spirits that guard the king. If it is elsewhere said that the king's throne is supported "with judgment and with justice," Isa 9:6 ; here, on the other side, we see that the exercise of government must have love as its centre; he has not only to act on the line of right, שׁוּרת הדּין; but, as the later proverb says, in such a way, that within this circle his conduct is determined by the central motive of love. In this sense we give the king not only the title of Grossmchtigster [most high and mighty], but also that of "Allergndigster" most gracious, for the king can and ought to exercise grace before other men; the virtue of condescension establishes his throne more than the might of greatness.
29 The ornament of young men is their strength;
And the honour of the old is grey hairs.
Youth has the name בּחוּר (different from בּחוּר, chosen), of the maturity (R. בחר, cogn. בכר, בגר, whence Mishn. בּגרוּת, manhood, in contradistinction to נערוּת) into which he enters from the bloom of boyhood; and the old man is called זקן (Arab. dhikn, as Schultens says, a mento pendulo, from the hanging chin זקן, (Arab.) dhakan, chin, beard on the chin). To stand in the fulness of fresh unwasted strength is to youth, as such, an ornament (תּפארת, cf. פּארוּר, blooming colour of the countenance); on the contrary, to the old man who has spent his strength in the duties of his office, or as it is said at Pro 16:31, "in the way of righteousness," grey hairs (שׂיבה, from שׂב, Arab. shâb, canescere) give an honourable appearance (הדר, from הדר, turgidum, amplum esse, vid., at Isa 63:1).
30 Cutting wounds cleanse away evil,
And reach the inner parts of the body.
The two words for wounds in line first stand in the st. constr.; חבּוּרה (from חבר, to be bound around with stripes, to be striped) is properly the streak, the stripe; but is here heightened by פּצע (from פּצע, to cleave, split, tear open), beyond the idea of the stripe-wound: tearing open the flesh, cuts tearing into the flesh. The pred. is after the Kerı̂ תּמרוּק; but this substantive, found in the Book of Esther, where it signifies the purification of the women for the harem (according to which, e.g., Ahron B. Joseph explains כמו תמרוק לנשׁים שׁהוא יפה להם), is syntactically hard, and scarcely original. For if we explain with Kimchi: wounds of deep incision find their cleansing (cure) by evil, i.e., by means which bring suffering (according to which, probably the Venet. μώλωπες τραύματος λάμψουσιν ἐν κακῷ), then תמרוקן, with the pronoun pointing back, one would have expected. But the interpretation of בּרע, of severe means of cure, is constrained; that which lies nearest, however, is to understand רע of evil. But if, with this understanding of the word, we translate: Vibices plagarum sunt lustratio quae adhibetur malo (Fleischer), one does not see why בּרע, and not rather gen. רע, is used. But if we read after the Chethı̂b תּמריק, then all is syntactically correct; for (1.) that the word ימריקוּ, or תּמרקנה, is not used, is in accordance with a well-known rule, Gesen. 146. 3; and (2.) that המריק is connected, not directly with an accus. obj., but with ב, has its analogy in התעה ב, Jer 42:2, השׁרישׁ בּ, Job 31:12, and the like, and besides has its special ground in the metaphorical character of the cleansing. Thus, e.g., one uses Syr. 't'aa' of external misleading; but with Syr. k of moral misleading (Ewald, 217, 2); and Arab. '_ of erecting a building; but with Arab. b of the intellectual erection of a memorial (monument). It is the so-called Bâ̇âlmojâz; vid., de Sacy's Chrest Arab. i. 397. The verb מרק means in Talm. also, "to take away" (a metaph. of abstergere; cf. Arab. marak, to wipe off)
(Note: Vid., Dozy's Lettre M. Fleischer (1871), p. 198.)
and that meaning is adopted, Schabbath 33a, for the interpretations of this proverb: stripes and wounds a preparedness for evil carries away, and sorrow in the innermost part of the body, which is explained by דרוקן (a disease appearing in diverse forms; cf. "Drachenschuss,"; as the name of an animal disease); but granting that the biblical מרק may bear this meaning, the ב remains unaccountable; for we say מרק עצמו לעברה, for to prepare oneself for a transgression (sin of excess), and not בעברה. We have thus to abide by the primary meaning, and to compare the proverb, Berachoth 5a: "afflictive providences wash away all the transgressions of a man." But the proverb before us means, first at least, not the wounds which God inflicts, but those which human educational energy inflicts: deep-cutting wounds, i.e., stern discipline, leads to the rubbing off of evil, i.e., rubs it, washes it, cleanses it away. It may now be possible that in 30b the subject idea is permutatively continued: et verbera penetralium corporis (thus the Venet.: πληγαὶ τῶν ταμιείων τοῦ γαρστρός), i.e., quorum vis ad intimos corporis et animi recessus penetrat (Fleischer). But that is encumbered, and חדרי־בטן (cf. Pro 20:27, Pro 18:8), as referring to the depths to which stern corporal discipline penetrates, has not its full force. וּמכּות is either a particip.: and that is touching (ferientes) the inner chambers of the body, or חדרי־בטן is with the ב, or immediately the second object of תמריק to be supplied: and strokes (rub off, cleanse, make pure) the innermost part. Jerome and the Targ. also supply ב, but erroneously, as designating place: in secretioribus ventris, relatively better the lxx and Syr.: εἰς ταμιεῖα κοιλίας. Luther hits the sense at least, for he translates:
One must restrain evil with severe punishment,
And with hard strokes which one feels.