Proverbs 2
Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee;
The first אם, with that which it introduces, Proverbs 2:1, Proverbs 2:2, is to be interpreted as an exclamation, "O that!" (O si), and then as an optative, as Psalm 81:9; Psalm 139:19. אז ...כּי, Proverbs 2:3-5, with the inserted connecting clauses, would then be confirmatory, "for then." But since this poet loves to unfold one and the same thought in ever new forms, one has perhaps to begin the conditional premisses with Proverbs 2:1, and to regard כּי אם as a new commencement. Hitzig takes this כי אם in the sense of imo: "much more if thou goest to meet her, e.g., by curious inquiry, not merely permittest her quietly to come to thee." אם would then preserve its conditional meaning; and כּי as in Job 31:18; Psalm 130:4, since it implies an intentional negative, would receive the meaning of imo. But the sentences ranged together with אם are too closely related in meaning to admit such a negative between them. כּי will thus be confirmatory, not mediately, but immediately; it is the "for equals yes" of confirmation of the preceding conditions, and takes them up again (Ewald, 356, b, cf. 330 b) after the form of the conditional clause was given up. The צפן, which in Proverbs 1:11, Proverbs 1:18, is the synonym of צפה, speculari, presents itself here, 1b, 7a, as the synonym of טמן, whence מטמנים, synon. of צפוּנים, recondita; the group of sounds, צף, צם, טם (cf. also דף, in Arab. dafan, whence dafynat, treasure), express shades of the root representation of pressing together. The inf. of the conclusion להקשׁיב, to incline (Gr. Venet. ὡς ἀκροῷτο), is followed by the accus. of the object אזנך, thine ear, for הקשׁיב properly means to stiffen (not to purge, as Schultens, nor to sharpen, as Gesenius thinks); cf. under Psalm 10:17. With חכמה are interchanged בּינה, which properly means that which is distinguished or separated, and תּבוּנה, which means the distinguishing, separating, appellations of the capacity of distinguishing in definite cases and in general; but it does not represent this as a faculty of the soul, but as a divine power which communicates itself as the gift of God (charisma).

So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding;
Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding;
Instead of כּי אם there is an old אל תקרי

(Note: Regarding this formula, see Strack's Prolegomena, pp. 66-70.)

(read not so, but thus), כי אם (if thou callest understanding mother), which supposes the phrase כי אם (lxx) as traditional. If אם were intended (according to which the Targ. in the Bibl. rabbinica, but not in Norzi's text, translates), then 3b would correspond; vid., Proverbs 7:4, cf. Job 17:14. Thus: Yea, if thou callest for understanding, i.e., callest her to thee (Proverbs 18:6), invitest her to thee (Proverbs 9:15). The ק of בּקּשׁ is, with the exception of the imper. (e.g., בּקּשׁוּ), always without the Dagesh. Proverbs 2:4 belongs to the ideas in the Book of Job found in these introductory discourses, cf. Job 3:21, as at Proverbs 2:14, Job 3:22 (Ewald, Sprche, p. 49). חפשׂ (חפּשׂ), scrutari, proceeds, as חפס shows, from the primary meaning of a ditch, and is thus in its root-idea related to חפר (to dig, search out). In the principal clause of Proverbs 2:5 the 'יראת ה, as Psalm 19:10, is the fear of Jahve as it ought to be, thus the reverence which is due to Him, the worshipping of Him as revealed. 'ה and אלהים are interchanged as קדשׁים and 'ה at Proverbs 9:10. דּעת is knowledge proceeding from practice and experience, and thus not merely cognition (Kenntnis), but knowledge (Erkenntnis). The thoughts revolve in a circle only apparently. He who strives after wisdom earnestly and really, reaches in this way fellowship with God; for just as He gives wisdom, it is nowhere else than with Him, and it never comes from any other source than from Him. It comes (Proverbs 2:6) מפּיו (lxx erroneously מפּניו ylsuoe), i.e., it is communicated through the medium of His word, Job 22:22, or also (for λὀγος and πνεῦμα lie here undistinguished from one another) it is His breath (Book of Wisdom 7:25: ἀτμὶς τῆς τοῦ Θεοῦ δυνάμεως καὶ ἀπόῤῥοια τῆς τοῦ παντοκράτορος δόξης εἰλικρινής); the inspiration (נשׁמת) of the Almighty (according to Job 32:8) gives men understanding. In Proverbs 2:7, whether וצפן (Chethı̂b) or יצפּן (Kerı̂) is read, the meaning is the same. The former is the expression of the completed fact, as ἡτοίμασεν, 1 Corinthians 2:9, and is rightly preferred by lxx and Syr., for one reluctantly misses the copula (since the thought is new in comparison with Proverbs 2:6). לישׁרם should be written with the accent Dech. The Chokma-word (besides in Proverbs and Job, found only in Micah 6:9 and Isaiah 28:29) תּוּשׁיּה is a Hiphil formation (with the passing over of into , as in תּוּגה) from הושׁה (whence the pr. names יושׁה and יושׁויה) equals (Arab.) wasy and âsy, to re-establish, to advance, Hiph. of ישׁה equals ושׁה, to stand, and thus means furtherance, i.e., the power or the gift to further, and concretely that which furthers and profits, particularly true wisdom and true fortune.

(Note: I was formerly in error in regarding the word as a Hophal formation, and in assigning to it the primary signification of being in a state of realized existence, of reality, in contradistinction to appearance only. The objection of J. D. Michaelis, Supplem. p. 1167, Non placent in linguis ejusmodi etyma metaphysica, etc., does not apply here, since the word is a new one coined by the Chokma, but all the shades of meaning are naturally derived from the fundamental signification "furtherance" (cf. Seneca, Deus stator stabilitorque est). "תושׁיה, from Arab. âsy and wasy, to further by word and deed, to assist by counsel and act, to render help, whence the meanings auxilium, salus, and prudens consilium, sapientia, easily follow; cf. Ali's Arab. proverb, "He furthers thee, who does not trouble himself about thee.")

The derivation from ישׁ (Proverbs 8:21) is to be rejected, because "the formation would be wholly without analogy, so much the more because the י of this word does not represent the place of the ו, as is seen from the Arab. l-ys and the Syr. lyt" (Fl.);

(Note: The Arab. ‛aysa (almost only in the negative la-ysa equals לא ישׁ), of the same signification as ישׁ, with which the Aram. אית (איתי) is associated, presupposes an ‛âsa ( equals ‛âssa), to be founded, to found, and is rightly regarded by the Arabs as an old segolate noun in which the verbal force was comprehended.)

and the derivation of ושׁה equals שׁוה, to be smooth (Hitzig), passes over without any difficulty into another system of roots.

(Note: The Arab. wsy and swy are confounded in common usage (Wetstein, Deutsch. Morgenl. Zeitschr. xxii. 19), but the roots וש and שו are different; וש and אש, on the contrary, are modifications of one root.)

In the passage under consideration (Proverbs 2:7), תּוּשׁיּה signifies advancement in the sense of true prosperity. The parallel passage 7a clothes itself in the form of an apposition: (He) a shield (מגן, n. instr. of גּנן, to cover) for הלכי תּם, pilgrims of innocence (Fl.), i.e., such as walk in the way (the object-accus., as Proverbs 6:12, for which in Proverbs 10:9 בּ) of innocence. תּם is whole, full submission, moral faultlessness, which chooses God with the whole heart, seeks good without exception: a similar thought is found in Psalm 84:12. לנצר, 8a, is such an inf. of consequence as להקשׁיב (Proverbs 2:2), and here, as there, is continued in the finite. The "paths of justice" are understood with reference to those who enter them and keep in them; parallel, "the way of His saints" (חסיד, he who cherishes חסד, earnest inward love to God), for that is just ארח־צדקה (Proverbs 12:28): they are הלכי צדקות (Isaiah 33:15). Instead of the Mugrash, the conjunctive Tarcha is to be given to ודרך.

If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;
Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.
For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.
He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly.
He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints.
Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path.
With the אז repeated, the promises encouraging to the endeavour after wisdom take a new departure:

9 Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and justice,

   And uprightness; every way of good.

10 For wisdom will enter into thine heart,

   And knowledge will do good to thy soul;

11 Discretion will keep watch over thee,

   Understanding will keep thee.

Regarding the ethical triad מישׁרים [righteousness, rightness], משׁפּט [judgment], and צדק [rectitude], vid., Proverbs 1:3. Seb. Schmid is wrong in his rendering, et omnis via qua bonum aditur erit tibi plana, which in comparison with Isaiah 26:7 would be feebly expressed. J. H. Michaelis rightly interprets all these four conceptions as object-accusatives; the fourth is the summarizing asyndeton (cf. Psalm 8:7) breaking off the enumeration: omnem denique orbitam boni; Jerome, bonam: in this case, however, טוב would be genitive (vid., Proverbs 17:2). מעגּל is the way in which the chariot rolls along; in עגל there are united the root-conceptions of that which is found (גל) and rolling (גל). Whether כּי, Proverbs 2:10, is the argumentative "because" (according to the versions and most interpreters) or "for" ("denn," J. H. Michaelis, Ewald, and others), is a question. That with כּי equals "for" the subject would precede the verb, as at Proverbs 2:6, Proverbs 2:21, and Proverbs 1:32 (Hitzig), determines nothing, as Proverbs 2:18 shows. On the one hand, the opinion that כּי equals "because" is opposed by the analogy of the כּי, Proverbs 2:6, following אז, Proverbs 2:5; the inequality between Proverbs 2:5-8 and Proverbs 2:9. if the new commencement, Proverbs 2:9, at once gives place to another, Proverbs 2:10; the relationship of the subject ideas in Proverbs 2:10, Proverbs 2:11, which makes Proverbs 2:11 unsuitable to be a conclusion from Proverbs 2:10. On the contrary, the promise not only of intellectual, but at the same time also of practical, insight into the right and the good, according to their whole compass and in their manifoldness, can be established or explained quite well as we thus read Proverbs 2:10, Proverbs 2:11 : For wisdom will enter (namely, to make it a dwelling-place, Proverbs 14:33; cf. John 14:23) into thine heart, and knowledge will do good to thy soul (namely, by the enjoyment which arises from the possession of knowledge, and the rest which its certainty yields). דּעת, γνῶσις, is elsewhere fem. (Psalm 139:6), but here, as at Proverbs 8:10; Proverbs 14:6, in the sense of τὸ γνῶναι, is masc. In Proverbs 2:11 the contents of the אז תבין (Proverbs 2:9) are further explained. שׁמר על, of watching (for Job 16:16 is to be interpreted differently), is used only by our poet (here and at Proverbs 6:22). Discretion, i.e., the capacity of well-considered action, will hold watch over thee, take thee under protection; understanding, i.e., the capacity in the case of opposing rules to make the right choice, and in the matter of extremes to choose the right medium, will be bestowed upon thee. In תּנצרכּה, as in Psalm 61:8; Psalm 140:2, Psalm 140:5; Deuteronomy 33:9, etc., the first stem letter is not assimilated, in order that the word may have a fuller sound; the writing כּה for ך is meant to affect the eye.

(Note: For the right succession of the accents here, see Torath Emeth, p. 49, 5; Accentuationssystem, xviii. 3.)

When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul;
Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee:
To deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things;
As in Proverbs 2:10, Proverbs 2:11, the אז תּבּין ("then shalt thou understand," Proverbs 2:5) is expanded, so now the watching, preserving, is separately placed in view:

12 To deliver thee from an evil way,

     From the man who speaks falsehood;

13 (From those) who forsake the ways of honesty

     To walk in ways of darkness,

14 Who rejoice to accomplish evil,

     Delight in malignant falsehood -

15 They are crooked in their paths,

     And perverse in their ways.

That דּרך רע is not genitival, via mali, but adjectival, via mala, is evident from דרך לא־טוב, Proverbs 16:29. From the evil way, i.e., conduct, stands opposed to the false words represented in the person of the deceiver; from both kinds of contagium wisdom delivers. תּהפּכות (like the similarly formed תּחבּות, occurring only as plur.) means misrepresentations, viz., of the good and the true, and that for the purpose of deceiving (Proverbs 17:20), fallaciae, i.e., intrigues in conduct, and lies and deceit in words. Fl. compares Arab. ifk, a lie, and affak, a liar. להצּילך has Munach, the constant servant of Dech, instead of Metheg, according to rule (Accentssystem, vii. 2). העזבים (Proverbs 2:13) is connected with the collective אישׁ (cf. Judges 9:55); we have in the translation separated it into a relative clause with the abstract present. The vocalization of the article fluctuates, yet the expression העזבים, like Proverbs 2:17 העזבת, is the better established (Michlol 53b); העזבים is one of the three words which retain their Metheg, and yet add to it a Munach in the tone-syllable (vid., the two others, Job 22:4; Job 39:26). To the "ways of honesty" (Geradheit) (cf. the adj. expression, Jeremiah 31:9), which does not shun to come to the light, stand opposed the "ways of darkness," the ἔργα τοῦ σκότους, Romans 13:12, which designedly conceal themselves from God (Isaiah 29:15) and men (Job 24:15; Job 38:13, Job 38:15).

Who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness;
Who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked;
In this verse the regimen of the מן, 12b, is to be regarded as lost; the description now goes on independently. Whoever does not shrink back from evil, but gives himself up to deceit, who finally is at home in it as in his own proper life-element, and rejoices, yea, delights in that which he ought to shun as something destructive and to be rejected. The neut. רע is frequently an attributive genit., Proverbs 6:24; Proverbs 15:26; Proverbs 28:5; cf. טוב, Proverbs 24:25, which here, since תּהפּכות are those who in themselves are bad, does not separate, but heightens: perversitates non simplices aut vulgares, sed pessimae et ex omni parte vitiosae (J. H. Michaelis). With אשׁר (οἵτινες), Proverbs 2:15, this part is brought to a conclusion. Fleischer, Bertheau, and others interpret ארחתיהם, as the accus. of the nearer definition, as σκολιὸς τὸν νοῦν, τὰς πράξεις; but should it be an accus., then would we expect, in this position of the words, עקּשׁוּ (Isaiah 59:8; Proverbs 10:8, cf. Proverbs 9:15). עקּשׁים is the pred.; for ארח, like דּרך, admits of both genders. וּנלוזים carries in it its subject הם; לוּז, like the Arab. l'd, l'dh, is a weaker form of לוּץ, flectere, inclinare, intrans. recedere: they are turned aside, inclined out of the way to the right and left in their walk (בּ as Proverbs 17:20).

Whose ways are crooked, and they froward in their paths:
To deliver thee from the strange woman, even from the stranger which flattereth with her words;
With the resumption of להצּילך, the watchful protection which wisdom affords to its possessors is further specified in these verses:

16 To save thee from the strange woman,

     From the stranger who useth smooth words;

The subject here continued is the fourfold wisdom named in Proverbs 2:10, Proverbs 2:11. זר signifies alienus, which may also be equivalent to alius populi, but of a much wider compass - him who does not belong to a certain class (e.g., the non-priestly or the laity), the person or thing not belonging to me, or also some other than I designate; on the other hand, נכרי, peregrinus, scarcely anywhere divests itself of the essential mark of a strange foreign origin. While thus אשּׁה זרה is the non-married wife, נכריּה designates her as non-Israelitish. Prostitution was partly sanctioned in the cultus of the Midianites, Syrians, and other nations neighbouring to Israel, and thus was regarded as nothing less than customary. In Israel, on the contrary, the law (Deuteronomy 23:18.) forbade it under a penalty, and therefore it was chiefly practised by foreign women (Proverbs 23:27, and cf. the exception, Ruth 2:10),

(Note: In Talmudic Heb. ארמית (Aramean) has this meaning for the Biblical נכריּה.)

an inveterate vice, which spread itself particularly from the latter days of Solomon, along with general ungodliness, and excusing itself under the polygamy sanctioned by the law, brought ruin on the state. The Chokma contends against this, and throughout presents monogamy as alone corresponding to the institution and the idea of the relation. Designating marriage as the "covenant of God," it condemns not only adulterous but generally promiscuous intercourse of the sexes, because unhallowed and thus unjustifiable, and likewise arbitrary divorce. Regarding the ancient ceremonies connected with the celebration of marriage we are not specially informed; but from Proverbs 2:17, Malachi 2:14 (Ewald, Bertheau, Hitzig, but not Khler), it appears that the celebration of marriage was a religious act, and that they who were joined together in marriage called God to witness and ratify the vows they took upon themselves. The perf. in the attributive clause אמריה החליקה proceeds on the routine acquired in cajoling and dissembling: who has smoothed her words, i.e., learned to entice by flattering words (Fl.).

Which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God.
17 Who forsakes the companion of her youth,

     And forgets the covenant of her God;

18 For she sinks down to death together with her house,

     And to the shadow of Hades her paths -

19 All they who go to her return not again,

     And reach not the paths of life

אלּוּף, as here used, has nothing to do with the phylarch-name, similar in sound, which is a denom. of אלף; but it comes immediately from אלף, to accustom oneself to a person or cause, to be familiar therewith (while the Aram. אלף, ילף, to learn, Pa. to teach), and thus means, as the synon. of רע, the companion or familiar associate (vid., Schultens). Parallels such as Jeremiah 3:4 suggested to the old interpreters the allegorical explanation of the adulteress as the personification of the apostasy or of heresy. Proverbs 2:18 the lxx translate: ἔθετο γὰρ παρὰ τῷ θανάτῳ τὸν οἶκον αὐτῆς: she (the dissolute wife) has placed her house beside death (the abyss of death). This שׁחה [ἔθετο] is perhaps the original, for the text as it lies before us is doubtful, though, rightly understood, admissible. The accentuation marks בּיתהּ as the subject, but בּית is elsewhere always masc., and does not, like the rarer ארח, Proverbs 2:15, admit in usage a double gender; also, if the fem. usage were here introduced (Bertheau, Hitzig), then the predicate, even though ביתה were regarded as fem., might be, in conformity with rule, שׁח, as e.g., Isaiah 2:17. שׁחה is, as in Psalm 44:26, 3rd pr. of שׁוּח, Arab. sâkh, to go down, to sink; the emendation שׁחה (Joseph Kimchi) does not recommend itself on this account, that שׁחה and שׁחח mean, according to usage, to stoop or to bend down; and to interpret (Ralbag, השׁפילה) שׁחה transitively is inadmissible. For that reason Aben Ezra interprets ביתה as in apposition: to death, to its house; but then the poet in that case should say אל־שׁאול, for death is not a house. On the other hand, we cannot perceive in ביתה an accus. of the nearer definition (J. H. Michaelis, Fl.); the expression would here, as 15a, be refined without purpose. Bttcher has recognised ביתה as permutative, the personal subject: for she sinks down to death, her house, i.e., she herself, together with all that belongs to her; cf. the permutative of the subject, Job 29:3; Isaiah 29:23 (vid., comm. l.c.), and the more particularly statement of the object, Exodus 2:6, etc. Regarding רפאים, shadows of the under-world (from רפה, synon. חלה, weakened, or to become powerless), a word common to the Solomonic writings, vid., Comment. on Isaiah, p. 206. What Proverbs 2:18 says of the person of the adulteress, Proverbs 2:19 says of those who live with her ביתה, her house-companions. בּאיה, "those entering in to her," is equivalent to בּאים אליה; the participle of verbs eundi et veniendi takes the accusative object of the finite as gen. in st. constr., as e.g., Proverbs 1:12; Proverbs 2:7; Genesis 23:18; Genesis 9:10 (cf. Jeremiah 10:20). The ישׁוּבוּן, with the tone on the ult., is a protestation: there is no return for those who practise fornication,

(Note: One is here reminded of the expression in the Aeneid, vi. 127-129:

Revocare gradum superasque evadere ad auras,

Hoc opes, hoc labor est.

See also an impure but dreadful Talmudic story about a dissolute Rabbi, b. Aboda zara, 17a.)

and they do not reach the paths of life from which they have so widely strayed.

(Note: In correct texts ולא־ישיגו has the Makkeph. Vid., Torath Emeth, p. 41; Accentuationssystem, xx. 2.)

For her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead.
None that go unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life.
That thou mayest walk in the way of good men, and keep the paths of the righteous.
With למען there commences a new section, coordinating itself with the להצּילך ("to deliver thee") of Proverbs 2:12, Proverbs 2:16, unfolding that which wisdom accomplishes as a preserver and guide:

20 So that thou walkest in the good way,

     And keepest the right paths.

21 For the upright shall inhabit the land,

     And the innocent shall remain in it.

22 But the godless are cut off out the land,

     And the faithless are rooted out of it.

Wisdom - thus the connection - will keep thee, so that thou shalt not fall under the seductions of man or of woman; keep, in order that thou... למען (from מען equals מענה, tendency, purpose) refers to the intention and object of the protecting wisdom. To the two negative designations of design there follows, as the third and last, a positive one. טובים (contrast to רעים, Proverbs 14:19) is here used in a general ethical sense: the good (Guten, not Gtigen, the kind). שׁמר, with the object of the way, may in another connection also mean to keep oneself from, cavere ab (Psalm 17:4); here it means: carefully to keep in it. The promise of Proverbs 2:21 is the same as in the Mashal Psalm 37:9, Psalm 37:11, Psalm 37:22; cf. Proverbs 10:30. ארץ is Canaan, or the land which God promised to the patriarchs, and in which He planted Israel, whom He had brought out of Egypt; not the earth, as Matthew 5:5, according to the extended, unlimited N.T. circle of vision. יוּתרוּ (Milel) is erroneously explained by Schultens: funiculis bene firmis irroborabunt in terra. The verb יתר, Arab. watar, signifies to yoke (whence יתר, a cord, rope), then intrans. to be stretched out in length, to be hanging over (vid., Fleischer on Job 30:11); whence יתר, residue, Zephaniah 2:9, and after which the lxx here renders ὑπολειφθήσονται, and Jerome permanebunt. In 22b the old translators render יסּחוּ as the fut. of the pass. נסּח, Deuteronomy 28:63; but in this case it would be ינּסחוּ. The form יסּחוּ, pointed יסּחוּ, might be the Niph. of סחח, but סחח can neither be taken as one with נסח, of the same meaning, nor with Hitzig is it to be vocalized יסּחוּ (Hoph. of נסח); nor, with Bttcher (1100, p. 453), is יסּחוּ to be regarded as a veritable fut. Niph. יסּחוּ is, as at Proverbs 15:25; Psalm 52:7, active: evellant; and this, with the subj. remaining indefinite (for which J. H. Michaelis refers to Hosea 12:9), is equivalent to evellentur. This indefinite "they" or "one" ("man"), Fleischer remarks, can even be used of God, as here and Job 7:3 - a thing which is common in Persian, where e.g., the expression rendered hominem ex pulvere fecerunt is used instead of the fuller form, which would be rendered homo a Deo ex pulvere factus est. בּוגדים bears (as בּגד proves) the primary meaning of concealed, i.e., malicious (treacherous and rapacious, Isaiah 33:1), and then faithless men.

(Note: Similar is the relation in Arab. of labbasa to libâs (לבוּשׁ); it means to make a thing unknown by covering it; whence telbı̂s, deceit, mulebbis, a falsifier.)

For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it.
But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it.
Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch [1857-78].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

Bible Hub
Proverbs 1
Top of Page
Top of Page