Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
Be not thou envious against evil men, neither desire to be with them.
After this divergence (in Proverbs 23:29-35) from the usual form of the proverb, there is now a return to the tetrastich:
1 Envy not evil men,
And desire not to have intercourse with them.
2 For their heart thinketh of violence,
And their lips speak mischief.
The warning, not to envy the godless, is also found at Proverbs 3:31; Proverbs 23:17; Proverbs 24:19, but is differently constructed in each of these passages. Regarding תּתאו with Pathach, vid., at Proverbs 23:3. אנשׁי רעה (cf. רע, Proverbs 28:5) are the wicked, i.e., such as cleave to evil, and to whom evil clings. The warning is grounded in this, that whoever have intercourse with such men, make themselves partners in greater sins and evil: for their heart broodeth (write כּי שׁד, Munach Dech) violence, i.e., robbery, plunder, destruction, murder, and the like. With שׁד (in the Mishle only here and at Proverbs 21:7, cf. שׁדּד, Proverbs 19:26) connects itself elsewhere חמס, here (cf. Habakkuk 1:3) עמל, labor, molestia, viz., those who prepare it for others by means of slanderous, crafty, uncharitable talk.
For their heart studieth destruction, and their lips talk of mischief.
Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established:
The warning against fellowship with the godless is followed by the praise of wisdom, which is rooted in the fear of God.
3 By wisdom is the house builded,
And by understanding is it established.
4 And by knowledge shall the chambers be filled
With all manner of precious and pleasant goods.
What is meant by the "building of the house" is explained at Proverbs 14:1. It is wisdom, viz., that which originates from God, which is rooted in fellowship with Him, by which every household, be it great or small, prospers and attains to a successful and flourishing state; כּונן, as parallel word to בּנה (Proverbs 3:19; Proverbs 2:12), is related to it as statuere to extruere; the Hithpal (as at Numbers 21:17) means to keep oneself in a state of continuance, to gain perpetuity, to become established. That ימּלאוּ by Athnach has not passed over into the pausal ימּלאוּ, arises from this, that the Athnach, by the poetical system of accents, has only the force of the prose accent Sakef; the clause completes itself only by 4b; the pausal form on that account also is not found, and it is discontinued, because the Athnach does not produce any pausal effect (vid., at Psalm 45:6). The form of expression in Proverbs 24:4 is like Proverbs 1:13; Proverbs 3:10. But the חדרים, of storerooms (lxx as Isaiah 26:20, ταμιεῖα), and נעים, like Proverbs 22:18; Proverbs 23:8, is peculiar to this collection.
And by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches.
A wise man is strong; yea, a man of knowledge increaseth strength.
The praise of wisdom is continued: it brings blessings in the time of peace, and gives the victory in war.
5 A wise man is full of strength;
And a man of understanding showeth great power.
6 For with wise counsel shalt thou carry on successful war;
And safety is where counsellors are not wanting.
The ב of בּעוז (thus with Pathach in old impressions, Cod. 1294, Cod. Jaman., and elsewhere with the Masoretic note לית ומלא) introduces, as that of בכּח, Psalm 24:4, the property in which a person or thing appears; the article (cf. העזבים, Proverbs 2:13, Gesen, 35, 2A) is that of gender. The parallel מאמץ כח, a Greek translates by ὑπὲρ κραταιὸν ἰσχύΐ equals מאמּיץ כּח (Job 9:4; Isaiah 40:26). But after 5a it lies nearer that the poet means to express the power which lies in wisdom itself (Ecclesiastes 7:19), and its superiority to physical force (Proverbs 21:22); the lxx, Syr., and Targ. also, it is true, translate 5a as if מעז (prae potente) were the words used. אמּץ כּח means to strengthen the strength, and that is (Nahum 2:2) equivalent to, to collect the strength (to take courage), here and at Amos 2:14, to show strong (superior) strength. The reason is gathered from Proverbs 20:18 and Proverbs 11:14. The לך here added, Hitzig is determined to read תּעשׂה: for with prudent counsel the war shall be carried out by thee. The construction of the passive with ל of the subject is correct in Heb. (vid., at Proverbs 14:20) as well as in Aram.,
(Note: Vid., Nldeke's Neusyrische Gram. p. 219, Anm., and p. 416.)
and עשׂה frequently means, in a pregnant sense: to complete, to carry out, to bring to an end; but the phrase עשׂה מלחמה means always to carry on war, and nothing further. לך is the dat. commod., as in נלחם ל, to wage war (to contend) for any one, e.g., Exodus 14:14. Instead of ברב, the lxx reads בלב; regarding γεωργίου μεγάλου for מאמץ כח, without doubt a corrupt reading, vid., Lagarde.
For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellers there is safety.
Wisdom is too high for a fool: he openeth not his mouth in the gate.
Till now in this appendix we have found only two distichs (vid., vol. i. p. 17); now several of them follow. From this, that wisdom is a power which accomplishes great things, it follows that it is of high value, though to the fool it appears all too costly.
7 Wisdom seems to the fool to be an ornamental commodity;
He openeth not his mouth in the gate.
Most interpreters take ראמות for רמות (written as at 1 Chronicles 6:58; cf. Zechariah 14:10; ראשׁ, Proverbs 10:4; קאם, Hosea 10:14), and translate, as Jerome and Luther: "Wisdom is to the fool too high;" the way to wisdom is to him too long and too steep, the price too costly, and not to be afforded. Certainly this thought does not lie far distant from what the poet would say; but why does he say חכמות, and not חכמה? This חכמות is not a numerical plur., so as to be translated with the Venet.: μετέωροι τῷ ἄφρονι αἱ ἐπιστῆμαι; it is a plur., as Psalm 49:4 shows; but, as is evident from the personification and the construction, Proverbs 1:20, one inwardly multiplying and heightening, which is related to חכמה as science or the contents of knowledge is to knowledge. That this plur. comes here into view as in chap. 1-9 (vid., vol. i. p. 34), is definitely accounted for in these chapters by the circumstance that wisdom was to be designated, which is the mediatrix of all wisdom; here, to be designated in intentional symphony with ראמות, whose plur. ending th shall be for that very reason, however, inalienable. Thus ראמות will be the name of a costly foreign bijouterie, which is mentioned in the Book of Job, where the unfathomableness and inestimableness of wisdom is celebrated; vid., Job 27:18, where we have recorded what we had to say at the time regarding this word. But what is now the meaning of the saying that wisdom is to the fool a pearl or precious coral? Jol Bril explains: "The fool uses the sciences like a precious stone, only for ornament, but he knows not how to utter a word publicly," This is to be rejected, because ראמות is not so usual a trinket or ornament as to serve as an expression of this thought. The third of the comparison lies in the rarity, costliness, unattainableness; the fool despises wisdom, because the expenditure of strength and the sacrifices of all kinds which are necessary to put one into the possession of wisdom deter him from it (Rashi). This is also the sense which the expression has when ראמות equals רמות; and probably for the sake of this double meaning the poet chose just this word, and not פנינים, גבישׁ, or any other name, for articles of ornament (Hitzig). The Syr. has incorrectly interpreted this play upon words: sapientia abjecta stulto; and the Targumist: the fool grumbles (מתרעם) against wisdom.
(Note: This explanation is more correct than Levy's: he lifts himself up (boasts) with wisdom.)
He may also find the grapes to be sour because they hang too high for him; here it is only said that wisdom remains at a distance from him because he cannot soar up to its attainment; for that very reason he does not open his mouth in the gate, where the council and the representatives of the people have their seats: he has not the knowledge necessary for being associated in counselling, and thus must keep silent; and this is indeed the most prudent thing he can do.
He that deviseth to do evil shall be called a mischievous person.
From wisdom, which is a moral good, the following proverb passes over to a kind of σοφία δαιμονιώδης:
He that meditateth to do evil,
We call such an one an intriguer.
A verbal explanation and definition like Proverbs 21:24 (cf. p. 29), formed like Proverbs 16:21 from נבון. Instead of בּעל־מזמּות [lord of mischief] in Proverbs 12:2, the expression is 'אישׁ מ (cf. at Proverbs 22:24). Regarding מזמות in its usual sense, vid., Proverbs 5:2. Such definitions have of course no lexicographical, but only a moral aim. That which is here given is designed to warn one against gaining for himself this ambiguous title of a refined (cunning, versutus) man; one is so named whose schemes and endeavours are directed to the doing of evil. One may also inversely find the turning-point of the warning in 8b: "he who projects deceitful plans against the welfare of others, finds his punishment in this, that he falls under public condemnation as a worthless intriguer" (Elster). But מזמות is a ῥῆμα μέσον, vid., Proverbs 5:2; the title is thus equivocal, and the turning-point lies in the bringing out of his kernel: מחשּׁב להרע equals meditating to do evil.
The thought of foolishness is sin: and the scorner is an abomination to men.
This proverb is connected by זמת with Proverbs 24:8, and by אויל with Proverbs 24:7; it places the fool and the mocker over against one another.
The undertaking of folly is sin;
And an abomination to men is the scorner.
Since it is certain that for 9b the subject is "the scorner," so also "sin" is to be regarded as the subject of 9a. The special meaning flagitium, as Proverbs 21:27, זמּה will then not have here, but it derives it from the root-idea "to contrive, imagine," and signifies first only the collection and forthputting of the thoughts towards a definite end (Job 17:11), particularly the refined preparation, the contrivance of a sinful act. In a similar way we speak of a sinful beginning or undertaking. But if one regards sin in itself, or in its consequences, it is always a contrivance or desire of folly (gen. subjecti), or: one that bears on itself (gen. qualitatis) the character of folly; for it disturbs and destroys the relation of man to God and man, and rests, as Socrates in Plato says, on a false calculation. And the mocker (the mocker at religion and virtue) is תועבת לאדם. The form of combination stands here before a word with ל, as at Job 18:2; Job 24:5, and frequently. but why does not the poet say directly תועבת אדם? Perhaps to leave room for the double sense, that the mocker is not only an abomination to men, viz., to the better disposed; but also, for he makes others err as to their faith, and draws them into his frivolous thoughts, becomes to them a cause of abomination, i.e., of such conduct and of such thoughts as are an abomination before God (Proverbs 15:9, Proverbs 15:26).
If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small.
The last of these four distichs stands without visible connection:
Hast thou shown thyself slack in the day of adversity,
Then is thy strength small.
The perf. 10a is the hypothetic, vid., at Proverbs 22:29. If a man shows himself remiss (Proverbs 18:9), i.e., changeable, timorous, incapable of resisting in times of difficulty, then shall he draw therefrom the conclusion which is expressed in 10b. Rightly Luther, with intentional generalization, "he is not strong who is not firm in need." But the address makes the proverb an earnest admonition, which speaks to him who shows himself weak the judgment which he has to pronounce on himself. And the paronomasia צרה and צר may be rendered, where possible, "if thy strength becomes, as it were, pressed together and bowed down by the difficulty just when it ought to show itself (viz., להרחיב לך), then it is limited, thou art a weakling." Thus Fleischer accordingly, translating: si segnis fueris die angustiae, angustae sunt vires tuae. Hitzig, on the contrary, corrects after Job 7:11, רוּחך "Klemm (klamm) ist dein Mut" [ equals strait is thy courage]. And why? Of כסה [strength], he remarks, one can say כשׁל [it is weak] (Psalm 31:11), but scarcely צר [strait, straitened]; for force is exact, and only the region of its energy may be wide or narrow. To this we answer, that certainly of strength in itself we cannot use the word כסה drow eht esu t in the sense here required; the confinement (limitation) may rather be, as with a stream, Isaiah 59:19, the increasing (heightening) of its intensity. But if the strength is in itself anything definite, then on the other hand its expression is something linear, and the force in view of its expression is that which is here called צר, i.e., not extending widely, not expanding, not inaccessible. צר is all to which narrow limits are applied. A little strength is limited, because it is little also in its expression.
If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain;
Now, again, we meet with proverbs of several lines. The first here is a hexastich:
11 Deliver them that are taken to death,
And them that are tottering to destruction, oh stop them!
12 If thou sayest, "We knew not of it indeed," -
It is not so: The Weigher of hearts, who sees through it,
And He that observeth thy soul, He knoweth it,
And requiteth man according to his work.
If אם is interpreted as a particle of adjuration, then אם־תּחשׂוך is equivalent to: I adjure thee, forbear not (cf. Nehemiah 13:25 with Isaiah 58:1), viz., that which thou hast to do, venture all on it (lxx, Syr., Jerome). But the parallelism requires us to take together מטים להרג (such as with tottering steps are led forth to destruction) as object along with אם־תחשׂוך, as well as לקחים למּות (such as from their condition are carried away to death, cf. Exodus 14:11) as object to הצּל, in which all the old interpreters have recognised the imper., but none the infin. (eripere ... ne cesses, which is contrary to Heb. idiom, both in the position of the words and in the construction). אם also is not to be interpreted as an interrogative; for, thus expressed, an retinetis ought rather to have for the converse the meaning: thou shalt indeed not do it! (cf. e.g., Isaiah 29:16). And אם cannot be conditional: si prohibere poteris (Michaelis and others), for the fut. after אם has never the sense of a potential. Thus אם is, like לוּ, understood in the sense of utinam, as it is used not merely according to later custom (Hitzig), but from ancient times (cf. e.g., Exodus 32:32 with Genesis 23:13). כּי־תאמר (reminding
(Note: Vid., my hebrischen Rmerbrief, p. 14f.)
us of the same formula of the Rabbinical writings) introduces an objection, excuse, evasion, which is met by הלא; introducing "so say I on the contrary," it is of itself a reply, vid., Deuteronomy 7:17. זה we will not have to interpret personally (lxx τοῦτον); for, since Proverbs 24:11 speaks of several of them, the neut. rendering (Syr., Targ., Venet., Luther) in itself lies nearer, and זה, hoc, after ידע, is also in conformity with the usus loq.; vid., at Psalm 56:10. But the neut. זה does not refer to the moral obligation expressed in Proverbs 24:11; to save human life when it is possible to do so, can be unknown to no one, wherefore Jerome (as if the words of the text were אין לאל ידנוּ זה): vires non suppetunt. זה refers to the fact that men are led to the tribunal; only thus is explained the change of ידעתי, which was to be expected, into ידענוּ: the objection is, that one certainly did not know, viz., that matters had come to an extremity with them, and that a short process will be made with them. To this excuse, with pretended ignorance, the reply of the omniscient God stands opposed, and suggests to him who makes the excuse to consider: It is not so: the Searcher of hearts (vid., at Proverbs 16:2), He sees through it, viz., what goes on in thy heart, and He has thy soul under His inspection (נצר, as Job 7:20 : lxx καὶ ὁ πλάσας; יצרו, which Hitzig prefers, for he thinks that נצר must be interpreted in the sense of to guard, preserve; Luther rightly); He knows, viz., how it is with thy mind, He looks through it, He knows (cf. for both, Psalm 139:1-4), and renders to man according to his conduct, which, without being deceived, He judges according to the state of the heart, out of which the conduct springs. It is to be observed that Proverbs 24:11 speaks of one condemned to death generally, and not expressly of one innocently condemned, and makes no distinction between one condemned in war and in peace. One sees from this that the Chokma generally has no pleasure in this, that men are put to death by men, not even when it is done legally as punishment for a crime. For, on the one side, it is true that the punishment of the murderer by death is a law proceeding from the nature of the divine holiness and the inviolability of the divine ordinance, and the worth of man as formed in the image of God, and that the magistrate who disowns this law as a law, disowns the divine foundation of his office; but, on the other side, it is just as true that thousands and thousands of innocent persons, or at least persons not worthy of death, have fallen a sacrifice to the abuse or the false application of this law; and that along with the principle of recompensative righteousness, there is a principle of grace which rules in the kingdom of God, and is represented in the O.T. by prophecy and the Chokma. It is, moreover, a noticeable fact, that God did not visit with the punishment of death the first murderer, the murderer of the innocent Abel, his brother, but let the principle of grace so far prevail instead of that of law, that He even protected his life against any avenger of blood. But after that the moral ruin of the human race had reached that height which brought the Deluge over the earth, there was promulgated to the post-diluvians the word of the law, Genesis 9:6, sanctioning this inviolable right of putting to death by the hand of justice. The conduct of God regulates itself thus according to the aspect of the times. In the Mosaic law the greatness of guilt was estimated not externally (cf. Numbers 35:31), but internally, a very flexible limitation in its practical bearings. And that under certain circumstances grace might have the precedence of justice, the parable having in view the pardon of Absalom (2 Samuel 14) shows. But a word from God, like Ezekiel 18:23, raises grace to a principle, and the word with which Jesus (John 8:11) dismisses the adulteress is altogether an expression of this purpose of grace passing beyond the purpose of justice. In the later Jewish commonwealth, criminal justice was subordinated to the principle of predominating compassion; practical effect was given to the consideration of the value of human life during the trial, and even after the sentence was pronounced, and during a long time no sentence of death was passed by the Sanhedrim. But Jesus, who was Himself the innocent victim of a fanatical legal murder, adjudged, it is true, the supremacy to the sword; but He preached and practised love, which publishes grace for justice. He was Himself incarnate Love, offering Himself for sinners, the Mercy which Jahve proclaims by Ezekiel 18:23. The so-called Christian state ["Citivas Dei"] is indeed in manifest opposition to this. But Augustine declares himself, on the supposition that the principle of grace must penetrate the new ear, in all its conditions, that began with Christianity, for the suspension of punishment by death, especially because the heathen magistrates had abused the instrument of death, which, according to divine right, they had control over, to the destruction of Christians; and Ambrosius went so far as to impress it as a duty on a Christian judge who had pronounced the sentence of death, to exclude himself from the Holy Supper. The magisterial control over life and death had at that time gone to the extreme height of bloody violence, and thus in a certain degree it destroyed itself. Therefore Jansen changes the proverb (Proverbs 24:11) with the words of Ambrosius into the admonition: Quando indulgentia non nocet publico, eripe intercessione, eripe gratia tu sacerdos, aut tu imperator eripe subscriptionie indulgentiae. When Samuel Romilly's Bill to abolish the punishment of death for a theft amounting to the sum of five shillings passed the English House of Commons, it was thrown out by a majority in the House of Lords. Among those who voted against the Bill were one archbishop and five bishops. Our poet here in the Proverbs is of a different mind. Even the law of Sinai appoints the punishment of death only for man-stealing. The Mosaic code is incomparably milder than even yet the Carolina. In expressions, however, like the above, a true Christian spirit rules the spirit which condemns all blood-thirstiness of justice, and calls forth to a crusade not only against the inquisition, but also against such unmerciful, cruel executions even as they prevailed in Prussia in the name of law in the reign of Friedrich Wilhelm I, the Inexorable.
If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?
My son, eat thou honey, because it is good; and the honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste:
The proverb now following stands in no obvious relation with the preceding. But in both a commencement is made with two lines, which contain, in the former, the principal thought; in this here, its reason:
13 My son, eat honey, for it is good,
And honeycomb is sweet to thy taste.
14 So apprehend wisdom for thy soul;
When thou hast found it, there is a future,
And thy hope is not destroyed.
After its nearest fundamental thought, טוב, Arab. ṭejjib, means that which smells and tastes well; honey (דּבשׁ, from דּבשׁ, to be thick, consistent) has, besides, according to the old idea (e.g., in the Koran), healing virtue, as in general bitterness is viewed as a property of the poisonous, and sweetness that of the wholesome. נפתו is second accus. dependent on אכל־, for honey and honeycomb were then spoken of as different; נפת (from נפת, to pour, to flow out) is the purest honey (virgin-honey), flowing of itself out of the comb. With right the accentuation takes 13b as independent, the substantival clause containing the reason, "for it is good:" honeycomb is sweet to thy taste, i.e., applying itself to it with the impression of sweetness; על, as at Nehemiah 2:5; Psalm 16:6 (Hitzig).
In the כּן of 14a, it is manifest that Proverbs 24:13 is not spoken for its own sake. To apprehend wisdom, is elsewhere equivalent to, to receive it into the mind, Proverbs 1:2; Ecclesiastes 1:17 (cf. דעת בינה, Proverbs 4:1, and frequently), according to which Bttcher also here explains: learn to understand wisdom. But כן unfolds itself in 14bc: even as honey has for the body, so wisdom has for the soul, beneficent wholesome effects. דעה חכמה is thus not absolute, but is meant in relation to these effects. Rightly Fleischer: talem reputa; Ewald: sic (talem) scito spaientiam (esse) animae tuae, know, recognise wisdom as something advantageous to thy soul, and worthy of commendation. Incorrectly Hitzig explains אם־מצאת, "if the opportunity presents itself." Apart from this, that in such a case the words would rather have been כּי תמצא, to find wisdom is always equivalent to, to obtain it, to make it one's own, Proverbs 3:13; Proverbs 8:35; cf. Proverbs 2:5; Proverbs 8:9. דּעה
(Note: Write דּעה with Illuj after the preceding Legarmeh, like 12b, הוּא (Thorath Emeth, p. 28).)
stands for דּעה, after the form רדה; שׁבה (after Bttcher, 396, not without the influence of the following commencing sound), cf. the similar transitions of ā into ě placed together at Psalm 20:4; the form דּעה is also found, but דּעה is the form in the Cod. Hilleli,
(Note: Vid., Strack's Prolegomena critica in V.T. (1872), p. 19.)
as confirmed by Moses Kimchi in Comm., and by David Kimchi, Michlol 101b. With ישׁו begins the apodosis (lxx, Jerome, Targ., Luther, Rashi, Ewald, and others). In itself, וישׁ (cf. Genesis 47:6) might also continue the conditional clause; but the explanation, si inveneris (eam) et ad postremum ventum erit (Fleischer, Bertheau, Zckler), has this against it, that ישׁ אחרית does not mean: the end comes, but: there is an end, Proverbs 23:18; cf. Proverbs 19:18; here: there is an end for thee, viz., an issue that is a blessed reward. The promise is the same as at Proverbs 23:18. In our own language we speak of the hope of one being cut off; (Arab.) jaz'a, to be cut off, is equivalent to, to give oneself up to despair.
So shall the knowledge of wisdom be unto thy soul: when thou hast found it, then there shall be a reward, and thy expectation shall not be cut off.
Lay not wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous; spoil not his resting place:
15 Lie not in wait, oh wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous;
Assault not his resting-place.
16 For seven times doth the righteous fall and rise again,
But the wicked are overthrown when calamity falls on them.
The ארב [lying in wait] and שׁדּד [practising violence], against which the warning is here given, are not directed, as at Proverbs 1:11; Proverbs 19:26, immediately against the person, but against the dwelling-place and resting-place (רבץ, e.g., Jeremiah 50:6, as also נוה, 3:33) of the righteous, who, on his part, does injustice and wrong to no one; the warning is against coveting his house, Exodus 20:17, and driving him by cunning and violence out of it. Instead of רשׁע, Symmachus and Jerome have incorrectly read רשׁע daer, and from this misunderstanding have here introduced a sense without sense into Proverbs 24:15; many interpreters (Lwenstein, Ewald, Elster, and Zckler) translate with Luther appositionally: as a wicked man, i.e., "with mischievous intent," like one stealthily lurking for the opportunity of taking possession of the dwelling of another, as if this could be done with a good intent: רשׁע is the vocative (Syr., Targ., Venet.: ἀσεβές), and this address (cf. Psalm 75:5.) sharpens the warning, for it names him who acts in this manner by the right name. The reason, 16a, sounds like an echo of Job 5:19. שׁבע signifies, as at Psalm 119:164, seven times; cf. מאה, Proverbs 17:10. וקם (not וקם) is perf. consec., as וחי, e.g., Genesis 3:22 : and he rises afterwards (notwithstanding), but the transgressors come to ruin; בּרעה, if a misfortune befall them (cf. Proverbs 14:32), they stumble and fall, and rise no more.
For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.
Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth:
Warning against a vindictive disposition, and joy over its satisfaction.
17 At the fall of thine enemy rejoice not,
And at his overthrow let not thine heart be glad;
18 That Jahve see it not, and it be displeasing to Him,
And He turns away His anger from Him.
The Chethı̂b, which in itself, as the plur. of category, אויביך, might be tolerable, has 17b against it: with right, all interpreters adhere to the Kerı̂ אויבך (with i from ē in doubled close syllable, as in the like Kerı̂, 1 Samuel 24:5). וּבבּשׁלו, for וּבהכּשׁלו, is the syncope usual in the inf. Niph. and Hiph., which in Niph. occurs only once with the initial guttural (as בּעטף) or half guttural (לראות). רעו is not adj. here as at 1 Samuel 25:3, but perf. with the force of a fut. (Symmachus: καὶ μὴ ἀρέσῃ ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ). The proverb extends the duty of love even to an enemy; for it requires that we do good to him and not evil, and warns against rejoicing when evil befalls him. Hitzig, indeed, supposes that the noble morality which is expressed in Proverbs 24:17 is limited to a moderate extent by the motive assigned in 18b. Certainly the poet means to say that God could easily give a gracious turn for the better, as to the punishment of the wicked, to the decree of his anger against his enemy; but his meaning is not this, that one, from joy at the misfortune of others, ought to desist from interrupting the process of the destruction of his enemy, and let it go on to its end; but much rather, that one ought to abstain from this joy, so as not to experience the manifestation of God's displeasure thereat, but His granting grace to him against whom we rejoice to see God's anger go forth.
(Note: This proverb, according to Aboth iv. 24, was the motto of that Samuel with the surname הקטן, who formulated ברכת המינים (the interpolation in the Schemone-Esre prayer directed against the schismatics): he thus distinguished between private enemies and the enemies of the truth.)
Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him.
Fret not thyself because of evil men, neither be thou envious at the wicked;
Warning against envying the godless for their external prosperity:
19 Be not enraged on account of evil-doers,
Envy not the godless;
20 For the wicked men shall have no future,
The light of the godless is extinguished.
Ver. 19 is a variation of Psalm 37:1; cf. also Proverbs 3:21 (where with בכל־דרכיו following the traditional תבחר is more appropriate than תתחר, which Hupfeld would here insert). תּתחר is fut. apoc. of התחרה, to be heated (to be indignant), distinguished from the Tiphel תּחרה, to be jealous. The ground and occasion of being enraged, and on the other side, of jealousy or envy, is the prosperity of the godless, Psalm 73:3; cf. Jeremiah 12:1. This anger at the apparently unrighteous division of fortune, this jealousy at the success in which the godless rejoice, rest on short-sightedness, which regards the present, and looks not on to the end. אחרית, merely as in the expression 'ישׁ אח, 14b (cf. Psalm 37:37), always denotes the happy, glorious issue indemnifying for past sufferings. Such an issue the wicked man has not; his light burns brightly on this side, but one day it is extinguished. In 20b is repeated Proverbs 13:9; cf. Proverbs 20:20.
For there shall be no reward to the evil man; the candle of the wicked shall be put out.
My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change:
A warning against rebellious thoughts against God and the king:
21 My son, honour Jahve and the king,
And involve not thyself with those who are otherwise disposed;
22 For suddenly their calamity ariseth,
And the end of their years, who knoweth it?
The verb שׁנה, proceeding from the primary idea of folding (complicare, duplicare), signifies transitively to do twice, to repeat, Proverbs 17:9; Proverbs 26:11, according to which Kimchi here inappropriately thinks on relapsing; and intransitively, to change, to be different, Esther 1:7; Esther 3:8. The Syr. and Targ. translate the word שׁטיי, fools; but the Kal (טעמו) שׁנה occurs, indeed, in the Syr., but not in the Heb., in the meaning alienata est (mens ejus); and besides, this meaning, alieni, is not appropriate here. A few, however, with Saadia (cf. Deutsch-Morgenlndische Zeitschr. xxi. 616), the dualists (Manichees), understand it in a dogmatic sense; but then שׁונים must be denom. of שׁנים, while much more it is its root-word. Either שׁונים means those who change, novantes equals novarum rerum studiosi, which is, however, exposed to this objection, that the Heb. שׁנה, in the transitive sense to change, does not elsewhere occur; or it means, according to the usus loq., diversos equals diversum sentientes (C. B. Michaelis and others), and that with reference to 21a: הממרים דבריהם ומצותם (Meri, Immanuel), or משׁנים מנהג החכמה (Ahron b. Joseph). Thus they are called (for it is a common name of a particular class of men) dissidents, oppositionists, or revolutionaries, who recognise neither the monarchy of Jahve, the King of kings, nor that of the earthly king, which perhaps Jerome here means by the word detractoribus ( equals detractatoribus). The Venet. incorrectly, σὺν τοῖς μισοῦσι, i.e., שׂונאים. with ב at Proverbs 14:10, התערב meant to mix oneself up with something, here with עם, to mix oneself with some one, i.e., to make common cause with him.
The reason assigned in Proverbs 24:22 is, that although such persons as reject by thought and action human and divine law may for a long time escape punishment, yet suddenly merited ruin falls on them. איד is, according to its primary signification, weighty, oppressive misfortune, vid., i. 27. In יקוּם it is thought of as hostile power (Hosea 10:14); or the rising up of God as Judge (e.g., Isaiah 33:10) is transferred to the means of executing judgment. פּיד ( equals פּוד of פוד or פיד ro פו, Arab. fâd, fut. jafûdu or jafı̂du, a stronger power of bâd, cogn. אבד) is destruction (Arab. fied, fı̂d, death); this word occurs, besides here, only thrice in the Book of Job. But to what does שׁניהם refer? Certainly not to Jahve and the king (lxx, Schultens, Umbreit, and Bertheau), for in itself it is doubtful to interpret the genit. after פיד as designating the subject, but improper to comprehend God and man under one cipher. Rather it may refer to two, of whom one class refuse to God, the other to the king, the honour that is due (Jerome, Luther, and at last Zckler); but in the foregoing, two are not distinguished, and the want of reverence for God, and for the magistrates appointed by Him, is usually met with, because standing in interchangeable relationship, in one and the same persons. Is there some misprint then in this word? Ewald suggests שׁניהם, i.e., of those who show themselves as שׁונים (altercatores) towards God and the king. In view of קמיהם, Exodus 32:25, this brevity of expression must be regarded as possible. But if this were the meaning of the word, then it ought to have stood in the first member (איד שׁניהם), and not in the second. No other conjecture presents itself. Thus שׁניהם is perhaps to be referred to the שׁונים, and those who engage with them: join thyself not with the opposers; for suddenly misfortune will come upon them, and the destruction of both (of themselves and their partisans), who knows it? But that also is not satisfactory, for after the address שׁניכם was to have been expected, 22b. Nothing remains, therefore, but to understand שׁניהם, with the Syr. and Targ., as at Job 36:11; the proverb falls into rhythms פּתאם and פּיד, שׁונים and שׁניהם. But "the end of their year" is not equivalent to the hour of their death (Hitzig), because for this פּידם (cf. Arab. feid and fı̂d, death) was necessary; but to the expiring, the vanishing, the passing by of the year during which they have succeeded in maintaining their ground and playing a part. There will commence a time which no one knows beforehand when all is over with them. In this sense, "who knoweth," with its object, is equivalent to "suddenly ariseth," with its subject. In the lxx, after Proverbs 24:22, there follow one distich of the relations of man to the word of God as deciding their fate, one distich of fidelity as a duty towards the king, and the duty of the king, and one pentastich or hexastich of the power of the tongue and of the anger of the king. The Heb. text knows nothing of these three proverbs. Ewald has, Jahrb. xi. 18f., attempted to translate them into Heb., and is of opinion that they are worthy of being regarded as original component parts of chap. 1-29, and that they ought certainly to have come in after Proverbs 24:22. We doubt this originality, but recognise their translation from the Heb. Then follows in the lxx the series of Prov; Proverbs 30:1-14, which in the Heb. text bear the superscription of "the Words of Agur;" the second half of the "Words of Agur," together with the "Words of Lemuel," stand after Proverbs 24:34 of the Heb. text. The state of the matter is this, that in the copy from which the Alexandrines translated the Appendix 30:1-31:9, stood half of it, after the "Words of the Wise" [which extend from Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:22], and half after the supplement headed "these also are from wise men" [Proverbs 24:23-34], so that only the proverbial ode in praise of the excellent matron [Proverbs 31:10] remains as an appendix to the Book of Hezekiah's collection, chap. 25-29.
For their calamity shall rise suddenly; and who knoweth the ruin of them both?
These things also belong to the wise. It is not good to have respect of persons in judgment.
The curse of partiality and the blessing of impartiality:
Respect of persons in judgment is by no means good:
24 He that saith to the guilty, "Thou art in the right,"
Him the people curse, nations detest.
25 But to them who rightly decide, it is well,
And upon them cometh blessing with good.
Partiality is either called שׂאת פנים, Proverbs 18:5, respect to the person, for the partisan looks with pleasure on the פני, the countenance, appearance, personality of one, by way of preference; or הכּר־פּנים, as here and at Proverbs 28:21, for he places one person before another in his sight, or, as we say, has a regard to him; the latter expression is found in Deuteronomy 1:17; Deuteronomy 16:19. הכּיר (vid., Proverbs 20:11) means to regard sharply, whether from interest in the object, or because it is strange. בּל Heidenheim regards as weaker than לא; but the reverse is the case (vid., vol. i. p. 204), as is seen from the derivation of this negative ( equals balj, from בּלה, to melt, to decay); thus it does not occur anywhere else than here with the pred. adj. The two supplements delight in this בל, Deuteronomy 22:29; Deuteronomy 23:7, 35. The thesis 23b is now confirmed in Proverbs 24:24 and Proverbs 24:25, from the consequences of this partiality and its opposite: He that saith (אמר, with Mehuppach Legarmeh from the last syllable, as rightly by Athias, Nissel, and Michaelis, vid., Thorath Emeth, p. 32) to the guilty: thou art right, i.e., he who sets the guilty free (for רשׁע and צדּיק have here the forensic sense of the post-bibl. חיּב and זכּי), him they curse, etc.; cf. the shorter proverb, Proverbs 17:15, according to which a partial, unjust judge is an abomination to God. Regarding נקב (קבב) here and at Proverbs 11:26, Schultens, under Job 3:8, is right; the word signifies figere, and hence to distinguish and make prominent by distinguishing as well as by branding; cf. defigere, to curse, properly, to pierce through. Regarding זעם, vid., at Proverbs 22:14. עמּים and לאמּים (from עמם and לאם, which both mean to bind and combine) are plur. of categ.: not merely individuals, not merely families, curse such an unrighteous judge and abhor him, but the whole people in all conditions and ranks of society; for even though such an unjust judge bring himself and his favourites to external honour, yet among no people is conscience so blunted, that he who absolves the crime and ennobles the miscarriage of justice shall escape the vox populi. On the contrary, it goes well (ינעם, like Proverbs 2:10; Proverbs 9:17, but here with neut. indef. subj. as ייטב, Genesis 12:13, and frequently) with those who place the right, and particularly the wrong, fully to view; מוכיח is he who mediates the right, Job 9:33, and particularly who proves, censures, punishes the wrong, Proverbs 9:7, and in the character of a judge as here, Amos 5:10; Isaiah 29:21. The genitive connection ברכּת־טוב is not altogether of the same signification as יין הטּוב, wine of a good sort, Sol 7:10, and אושׁת רע, a woman of a bad kind, Proverbs 6:24, for every blessing is of a good kind; the gen. טוב thus, as at Psalm 21:4, denotes the contents of the blessing; cf. Ephesians 1:3, "with all spiritual blessings," in which the manifoldness of the blessing is presupposed.
He that saith unto the wicked, Thou art righteous; him shall the people curse, nations shall abhor him:
But to them that rebuke him shall be delight, and a good blessing shall come upon them.
Every man shall kiss his lips that giveth a right answer.
Then follows a distich with the watchword נצחים:
26 He kisseth the lips
Who for the end giveth a right answer.
The lxx, Syr., and Targ. translate: one kisseth the lips who, or: of those who...; but such a meaning is violently forced into the word (in that case the expression would have been שׂפתי משׁיב or שׂפתים משׁיבים). Equally impossible is Theodotion's χείλεσι καταφιληθήσεται, for ישּׁק cannot be the fut. Niph. Nor is it: lips kiss him who... (Rashi); for, to be thus understood, the word ought to have been למשׁיב. משׁיב is naturally to be taken as the subj., and thus it supplies the meaning: he who kisseth the lips giveth an excellent answer, viz., the lips of him whom the answer concerns (Jerome, Venet., Luther). But Hitzig ingeniously, "the words reach from the lips of the speaker to the ears of the hearer, and thus he kisses his ear with his lips." But since to kiss the ear is not a custom, not even with the Florentines, then a welcome answer, if its impression is to be compared to a kiss, is compared to a kiss on the lips. Hitzig himself translates: he commends himself with the lips who...; but נשׁק may mean to join oneself, Genesis 41:40, as kissing is equivalent to the joining of the lips; it does not mean intrans. to cringe. Rather the explanation: he who joins the lips together...; for he, viz., before reflecting, closed his lips together (suggested by Meri); but נשׁק, with שׂפתים, brings the idea of kissing, labra labris jungere, far nearer. This prevails against Schultens' armatus est (erit) labia, besides נשׁק, certainly, from the primary idea of connecting (laying together) (vid., Psalm 78:9), to equip (arm) oneself therewith; but the meaning arising from thence: with the lips he arms himself... is direct nonsense. Fleischer is essentially right, Labra osculatur (i.e., quasi osculum oblatum reddit) qui congrua respondet. Only the question has nothing to do with a kiss; but if he who asks receives a satisfactory answer, an enlightening counsel, he experiences it as if he received a kiss. The Midrash incorrectly remarks under דּברים נצחים, "words of merited denunciation," according to which the Syr. translates. Words are meant which are corresponding to the matter and the circumstances, and suitable for the end (cf. Proverbs 8:9). Such words are like as if the lips of the inquirer received a kiss from the lips of the answerer.
Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house.
Warning against the establishing of a household where the previous conditions are wanting:
Set in order thy work without,
And make it ready for thyself beforehand in the fields, -
After that then mayest thou build thine house.
The interchange of בּחוּץ and בּשּׂדה shows that by מלאכת השּׂדה field-labour, 1 Chronicles 27:26, is meant. הכין, used of arrangement, procuring, here with מלאכה, signifies the setting in order of the word, viz., the cultivation of the field. In the parallel member, עתּדה, carrying also its object, in itself is admissible: make preparations (lxx, Syr.); but the punctuation עתּדהּ (Targ., Venet.; on the other hand, Jerome and Luther translate as if the words were ועתדה השּׂדה) is not worthy of being contended against: set it (the work) in the fields in readiness, i.e., on the one hand set forward the present necessary work, and on the other hand prepare for that which next follows; thus: do completely and circumspectly what thy calling as a husbandman requires of thee - then mayest thou go to the building and building up of thy house (vid., at Proverbs 24:3, Proverbs 14:1), to which not only the building and setting in order of a convenient dwelling, but also the bringing home of a housewife and the whole setting up of a household belongs; prosperity at home is conditioned by this - one fulfils his duty without in the fields actively and faithfully. One begins at the wrong end when he begins with the building of his house, which is much rather the result and goal of an intelligent discharge of duty within the sphere of one's calling. The perf., with ו after a date, such as אחר, עוד מעט, and the like, when things that will or should be done are spoken of, has the fut. signification of a perf. consec., Genesis 3:5; Exodus 16:6., Proverbs 17:4; Ewald, 344b.
Be not a witness against thy neighbour without cause; and deceive not with thy lips.
Warning against unnecessary witnessing to the disadvantage of another:
Never be a causeless witness against thy neighbour;
And shouldest thou use deceit with thy lips?
The phrase עד־חנּם does not mean a witness who appears against his neighbour without knowledge of the facts of the case, but one who has no substantial reason for his giving of testimony; חנּם means groundless, with reference to the occasion and motive, Proverbs 3:30; Proverbs 23:29; Proverbs 26:2. Other designations stood for false witnesses (lxx, Syr., Targ.). Rightly Jerome, the Venet., and Luther, without, however, rendering the gen. connection עד־חנם, as it might have been by the adj.
In 28b, Chajg derives והפתּית from פּתת, to break in pieces, to crumble; for he remarks it might stand, with the passing over of into , for והפתּות [and thou wilt whisper]. But the ancients had no acquaintance with the laws of sound, and therefore with naive arbitrariness regarded all as possible; and Bttcher, indeed, maintains that the Hiphil of פתת may be הפתּית as well as הפתּות; but the former of these forms with could only be metaplastically possible, and would be הפתּית (vid., Hitzig under Jeremiah 11:20). And what can this Hiph. of פתת mean? "To crumble" one's neighbours (Chajg) is an unheard of expression; and the meanings, to throw out crumbs, viz., crumbs of words (Bttcher), or to speak with a broken, subdued voice (Hitzig), are extracted from the rare Arab. fatâfit (faṭafiṭ), for which the lexicographers note the meaning of a secret, moaning sound. When we see והפתית standing along with בּשׂפתיך, then before all we are led to think of פתה [to open], Proverbs 20:19; Psalm 73:36. But we stumble at the interrog. ה, which nowhere else appears connected with ו. Ewald therefore purposes to read והפתּית [and will open wide] (lxx μηδὲ πλατύνου): "that thou usest treachery with thy lips;" but from הפתה, to make wide open, Genesis 9:27, "to use treachery" is, only for the flight of imagination, not too wide a distance. On וה, et num, one need not stumble; והלוא, 2 Samuel 15:35, shows that the connection of a question by means of ו is not inadmissible; Ewald himself takes notice that in the Arab. the connection of the interrogatives 'a and hal with w and f is quite common;
(Note: We use the forms âwa, âba, âthûmm, for we suppose the interrogative to the copula; we also say fahad, vid., Mufaṣsal, p. 941.)
and thus he reaches the explanation: wilt thou befool then by thy lips, i.e., pollute by deceit, by inconsiderate, wanton testimony against others? This is the right explanation, which Ewald hesitates about only from the fact that the interrog. ה comes in between the ו consec. and its perf., a thing which is elsewhere unheard of. But this difficulty is removed by the syntactic observation, that the perf. after interrogatives has often the modal colouring of a conj. or optative, e.g., after the interrog. pronoun, Genesis 21:7, quis dixerit, and after the interrogative particle, as here and at 2 Kings 20:9, iveritne, where it is to be supplied (vid., at Isaiah 38:8). Thus: et num persuaseris (deceperis) labiis tuis, and shouldest thou practise slander with thy lips, for thou bringest thy neighbour, without need, by thy uncalled for rashness, into disrepute? "It is a question, âl'nakar (cf. Proverbs 23:5), for which 'a (not hal), in the usual Arab. interrogative: how, thou wouldest? one then permits the inquirer to draw the negative answer: "No, I will not do it" (Fleischer).
Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work.
The following proverb is connected as to its subject with the foregoing: one ought not to do evil to his neighbour without necessity; even evil which has been done to one must not be requited with evil:
Say not, "As he hath done to me, so I do to him:
I requite the man according to his conduct."
On the ground of public justice, the talio is certainly the nearest form of punishment, Leviticus 24:19.; but even here the Sinaitic law does not remain in the retortion of the injury according to its external form (it is in a certain manner practicable only with regard to injury done to the person and to property), but places in its stead an atonement measured and limited after a higher point of view. On pure moral grounds, the jus talionis ("as thou to me, so I to thee") has certainly no validity. Here he to whom injustice is done ought to commit his case to God, Proverbs 20:22, and to oppose to evil, not evil but good; he ought not to set himself up as a judge, nor to act as one standing on a war-footing with his neighbour (Judges 15:11); but to take God as his example, who treats the sinner, if only he seeks it, not in the way of justice, but of grace (Exodus 34:6.). The expression 29b reminds of Proverbs 24:12. Instead of לאדם, there is used here, where the speaker points to a definite person, the phrase לאישׁ. Jerome, the Venet., and Luther translate: to each one, as if the word were vocalized thus, לאישׁ (Psalm 62:13).
I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding;
A Mashal ode of the slothful, in the form of a record of experiences, concludes this second supplement (vid., vol. i. p. 17):
30 The field of a slothful man I came past,
And the vineyard of a man devoid of understanding.
31 And, lo! it was wholly filled up with thorns;
Its face was covered with nettles;
And its wall of stones was broken down.
32 But I looked and directed my attention to it;
I saw it, and took instruction from it:
33 "A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to rest.
34 Then cometh thy poverty apace,
And thy want as an armed man."
The line 29b with לאישׁ is followed by one with אישׁ. The form of the narrative in which this warning against drowsy slothfulness is clothed, is like Psalm 37:35. The distinguishing of different classes of men by אישׁ and אדם (cf. Proverbs 24:20) is common in proverbial poetry. עברתּי, at the close of the first parallel member, retains its Pathach unchanged. The description: and, lo! (הנּהו, with Pazer, after Thorath Emeth, p. 34, Anm. 2) it was... refers to the vineyard, for נדר אבניו (its stone wall, like Isaiah 2:20, "its idols of silver") is, like Numbers 22:24; Isaiah 5:5, the fencing in of the vineyard. עלה כלּו, totus excreverat (in carduos), refers to this as subject, cf. in Ausonius: apex vitibus assurgit; the Heb. construction is as Isaiah 5:6; Isaiah 34:13; Gesen. 133, 1, Anm. 2. The sing. קמּשׁון of קמּשׁונים does not occur; perhaps it means properly the weed which one tears up to cast it aside, for (Arab.) kumâsh is matter dug out of the ground.
(Note: This is particularly the name of what lies round about on the ground in the Bedouin tents, and which one takes up from thence (from ḳamesh, cogn. קבץ קמץ, ramasser, cf. the journal המגיד, 1871, p. 287b); in modern Arab., linen and matter of all kinds; vid., Bocthor, under linge and toffe.)
And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.
Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction.
Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:
So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.