As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying.—Rather, As the bird (any small one, especially the sparrow) is made for wandering, and the swallow for flying (where it pleases), so the curse causeless (i.e., spoken without reason) shall not come (reach its destination). The Hebrew reads in the margin “to him,” instead of “not,” in the sense that a causeless curse, though it passes out of sight like a bird in its flight, yet returns “to him” who uttered it—an idea expressed in more than one English proverb. (Comp. Psalm 109:17-18; Isaiah 55:11.)Proverbs 26:2. As the bird by wandering — Namely, from place to place: that is, as by its restlessness it secures itself from the fowler, that he cannot shoot at it, or spread his net over it; so the curse causeless shall not come — Namely, upon the innocent person, but he shall escape from it as the bird escapes the fowler. Or, as some interpret it, “Curses which fly out of men’s mouths causelessly, shall no more alight where they would have them, than a sparrow that wanders uncertainly, or a dove that flies away swiftly, will settle according to their direction.”
the bird—literally, "sparrow"—and
swallow—have an object in their motions, so penal evil falls on none without a reason.By wandering from place to place; by its perpetual restlessness it secures itself from the fowler, that he cannot shoot at it, nor spread his net over it.
Shall not come, to wit, upon the innocent person, but he shall escape from it like a bird, &c.
so the curse causeless shall not come; the mouths of fools or wicked men are full of cursing and bitterness, and especially such who are advanced above others, and are set in high places; who think they have a right to swear at and curse those below them, and by this means to support their authority and power; but what signify their curses which are without a cause? they are vain and fruitless, like Shimei's cursing David; they fly away, as the above birds are said to do, and fly over the heads of those on whom they are designed to light; yea, return and fall upon the heads of those that curse, as the swallow goes to the place from whence it came; it being a bird of passage, Jeremiah 8:7; in the winter it flies away and betakes itself to some islands on rocks called from thence "chelidonian" (k). According to the "Keri", or marginal reading, for here is a double reading, it may be rendered, "so the curse causeless shall come to him" (l); that gives it without any reason. The Septuagint takes in both,
"so a vain curse shall not come upon any;''
what are all the anathemas of the church of Rome? who can curse whom God has not cursed? yea, such shall be cursed themselves; see Psalm 109:17.
(h) "sicat passeris", Mercerus, Gejerus; "ut passer", Piscator; Schultens. (i) Bochart. Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 1. c. 8. (k) Vid. Strabo. Geograph. l. 14. p. 458. Dionys. Perieg. v. 506, 507. (l) "in quempiam", V. L.As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)2. bird] Rather, sparrow. The mention of a particular bird, the swallow, in the next clause makes it probable that a particular bird is intended here also.
come] Rather, light.
The whole proverb gains by the rendering of R.V.:
As the sparrow in her wandering, as the swallow in her flying,
So the curse that is causeless lighteth not.
The reading, “shall come to him” (who invokes it), instead of “shall not come,” which involves the change of only a single letter in the Hebrew, mars the force and beauty of the comparison. It may perhaps have been suggested by the idea that the subject of this verse—he who invokes the curse—would be “the fool,” as in the group of Proverbs , vv1-12 here.
Proverbs 26:3-12. The proverbs of this group have all of them, as has Proverbs 26:1 of the chapter, the “fool” for their subject.Verse 2. - As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying. "Bird" (tsippor) is the sparrow, which is found throughout Palestine; "swallow" (deror), the free flier. The Authorized Version hardly gives the sense. The line should be rendered, as the sparrow in (in respect of) its wandering, as the swallow in its flying. The point of comparison is the vagueness and aimlessness of the birds' flight, or the uselessness of trying to catch them in their course. So the curse causeless shall not come. It shall, as it were, spend its force in the air, and fall not on the head on which it was invoked. A causeless curse is that which is uttered against one who has done nothing to deserve such denunciation. Septuagint, "As birds and sparrows fly, so a causeless (ματαία) curse shall come upon no one" (comp. 1 Samuel 17:43; Nehemiah 13:2.) Bailey, 'Festus' -
"Blessings star forth forever; but a curse
Is like a cloud - it passes." Closely connected with the superstition that dreads a curse is that which is alarmed by omens. Against this irrational fear we find some Eastern proverbs directed; e.g., "The jackal howls: will my old buffalo die?" "The dog barks - still the caravan passes: will the barking of the dog reach the skies?" (Lane). Instead of ללֺא, "not," the Keri reads לו, "to him." This makes the proverb say that the unprovoked curse shall return upon him who uttered it. But this reading is not to be accepted, as it does not suit the terms of comparison, though it seems to have been used by St. Jerome, who translates, Sic maledictum frustra prolatum in quempiam superveniet. This retributive justice is often alluded to elsewhere; e.g., ver. 27 (where see note). So we find in various languages proverbs to the same effect. Thus in English, "Harm watch, harm catch;" Spanish, "Who sows thorns, let him not walk barefoot;" Turkish, "Curses, like chickens, always come home to roost;" Yoruba, "Ashes always fly back in the face of him that throws them" (Trench).
Than a quarrelsome woman and a house in common.
A repetition of Proverbs 21:9.
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