Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.1 The wisdom of the woman buildeth her house,
And folly teareth it down with its own hands.
Were it חכמות נשׁים, after Judges 5:29, cf. Isaiah 19:11, then the meaning would be: the wise among women, each of them buildeth her house. But why then not just אשּׁה חכמה, as 2 Samuel 14:2, cf. Exodus 35:25? The Syr., Targum, and Jerome write sapiens mulier. And if the whole class must be spoken of, why again immediately the individualizing in בּנתה? The lxx obliterates that by its ᾠκοδόμησαν. And does not אוּלת [folly] in the contrasted proverb (1b) lead us to conclude on a similar abstract in 1a? The translators conceal this, for they translate אולת personally. Thus also the Venet. and Luther; אוּלת is, says Kimchi, an adj. like עוּרת, caeca. But the linguistic usage does not point אויל with אוילי to any אוּל. It is true that a fem. of אויל does not occur; there is, however, also no place in which אולת may certainly present itself as such. Thus also חכמות must be an abstr.; we have shown at Proverbs 1:20 how חכמות, as neut. plur., might have an abstr. meaning. But since it is not to be perceived why the poet should express himself so singularly, the punctuation חכמות is to be understood as proceeding from a false supposition, and is to be read חכמות, as at Proverbs 9:1 (especially since this passage rests on the one before us). Fleischer says: "to build the house is figuratively equivalent to, to regulate well the affairs of a house, and to keep them in a good condition; the contrary, to tear down the house, is the same contrast as the Arab. 'amârat âlbyt and kharab albyt. Thus e.g., in Burckhardt's Sprchw. 217, harrt ṣabrt bythâ 'amârat, a good woman (ein braves Weib) has patience (with her husband), and thereby she builds up her house (at the same time an example of the use of the preterite in like general sentences for individualizing); also No. 430 of the same work: 'amârat âlbyt wla kharâbt, it is becoming to build the house, not to destroy it; cf. in the Thousand and One Nights, where a woman who had compelled her husband to separate from her says: âna âlty 'amalt hadhâ barwḥy wâkhrnt byty bnfsy. Burckhardt there makes the remark: 'amârat âlbyt denotes the family placed in good circumstances - father, mother, and children all living together happily and peacefully." This conditional relation of the wife to the house expresses itself in her being named as house-wife (cf. Hausehre [ equals honour of a house] used by Luther, Psalm 68:13), to which the Talmudic דּביתי ( equals uxor mea) answers; the wife is noted for this, and hence is called עיקר הבית, the root and foundation of the house; vid., Buxtorf's Lex. col. 301. In truth, the oneness of the house is more dependent on the mother than on the father. A wise mother can, if her husband be dead or neglectful of his duty, always keep the house together; but if the house-wife has neither understanding nor good-will for her calling, then the best will of the house-father cannot hinder the dissolution of the house, prudence and patience only conceal and mitigate the process of dissolution - folly, viz., of the house-wife, always becomes more and more, according to the degree in which this is a caricature of her calling, the ruin of the house.
He that walketh in his uprightness feareth the LORD: but he that is perverse in his ways despiseth him.2 He walketh in his uprightness who feareth Jahve,
And perverse in his ways is he that despiseth Him.
That which syntactically lies nearest is also that which is intended; the ideas standing in the first place are the predicates. Wherein it shows itself, and whereby it is recognised, that a man fears God, or stands in a relation to Him of indifference instead of one of fear and reverence, shall be declared: the former walketh in his uprightness, i.e., so far as the consciousness of duty which animates him prescribes; the latter in his conduct follows no higher rule than his own lust, which drives him sometimes hither and sometimes thither. הולך בּישׁרו .rehtih (cf. ישׁר הולך, Micah 2:7) is of kindred meaning with הולך בּתמּו, Proverbs 28:6 (הולך בּתּום, Proverbs 10:9), and הולך נכחו, Isaiah 57:2. The connection of נלוז דּרכיו follows the scheme of 2 Kings 18:37, and not 2 Samuel 15:32, Ewald, 288c. If the second word, which particularizes the idea of the first, has the reflexive suff. as here, then the accusative connection, or, as Proverbs 2:15, the prepositional, is more usual than the genitive. Regarding לוּז, flectere, inclinare (a word common to the author of chap. 1-9), vid., at Proverbs 2:15. With בּוזהוּ, cf. 1 Samuel 2:30; the suffix without doubt refers to God, for בוזהו is the word that stands in parallel contrast to 'ירא ה.
In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride: but the lips of the wise shall preserve them.3 In the mouth of the fool is a switch of pride;
But the lips of the wise preserve them.
The noun חטר (Aram. חוּטרא, Arab. khiṭr), which besides here occurs only at Isaiah 11:1, meaning properly a brandishing (from חטר equals Arab. khatr, to brandish, to move up and down or hither and thither, whence âlkhṭtâr, the brandisher, poet. the spear), concretely, the young elastic twig, the switch, i.e., the slender flexible shoot. Luther translates, "fools speak tyrannically," which is the briefer rendering of his earlier translation, "in the mouth of the fool is the sceptre of pride;" but although the Targum uses חוטרא of the king's sceptre and also of the prince's staff, yet here for this the usual Hebr. שׁבט were to be expected. In view of Isaiah 11:1, the nearest idea is, that pride which has its roots in the heart of the fool, grows up to his mouth. But yet it is not thus explained why the representation of this proceeding from within stops with חטר cf. Proverbs 11:30). The βακτηρία ὕβρεως (lxx, and similarly the other Greek versions) is either meant as the rod of correction of his own pride (as e.g., Abulwald, and, among the moderns, Bertheau and Zckler) or as chastisement for others (Syr., Targum: the staff of reviling). Hitzig is in favour of the former idea, and thinks himself warranted in translating: a rod for his back; but while גּוה is found for גּאוה, we do not (cf. under Job 41:7 : a pride are the, etc.) find גאוה for גוה, the body, or גּו, the back. But in general it is to be assumed, that if the poet had meant חטר as the means of correction, he would have written גּאותו. Rightly Fleischer: "The tongue is often compared to a staff, a sword, etc., in so far as their effects are ascribed to it; we have here the figure which in Revelation 1:16 passes over into plastic reality." Self-exaltation (R. גא, to strive to be above) to the delusion of greatness is characteristic of the fool, the אויל [godless], not the כּסיל [stupid, dull] - Hitzig altogether confounds these two conceptions. With such self-exaltation, in which the mind, morally if not pathologically diseased, says, like Nineveh and Babylon in the prophets, I am alone, and there is no one with me, there is always united the scourge of pride and of disgrace; and the meaning of 3b may now be that the lips of the wise protect those who are exposed to this injury (Ewald), or that they protect the wise themselves against such assaults (thus most interpreters). But this reference of the eos to others lies much more remote than at Proverbs 12:6; and that the protection of the wise against injury inflicted on them by words is due to their own lips is unsatisfactory, as in this case, instead of Bewahrung [custodia], we would rather expect Vertheidigung [defensio], Dmpfung [damping, extinguishing], Niederduckung [stooping down, accommodating oneself to circumstances]. But also it cannot be meant that the lips of the wise preserve them from the pride of fools, for the thought that the mouth preserves the wise from the sins of the mouth is without meaning and truth (cf. the contrary, Proverbs 13:3). Therefore Arama interprets the verb as jussive: the lips equals words of the wise mayest thou keep i.e., take to heart. And the Venet. translates: χείλη δὲ σοφῶν φυλάξεις αὐτά, which perhaps means: the lips of the wise mayest thou consider, and that not as a prayer, which is foreign to the gnome, but as an address to the hearer, which e.g., Proverbs 20:19 shows to be admissible. but although in a certain degree of similar contents, yet 3a and 3b clash. Therefore it appears to us more probable that the subject of 3b is the חכמה contained in חכמים; in Proverbs 6:22 wisdom is also the subject to תשׁמר עליך without its being named. Thus: while hurtful pride grows up to the throat of the fool, that, viz., wisdom, keeps the lips of the wise, so that no word of self-reflection, especially none that can wound a neighbour, escapes from them. The form תּשׁמוּרם is much more peculiar than ישׁפּוּטוּ, Exodus 18:26, and תעבוּרי, Ruth 2:8, for the latter are obscured forms of ישׁפּטוּ and תעברי, while on the contrary the former arises from תּשׁמרם.
(Note: Vid., regarding these forms with ǒ instead of the simple Sheva, Kimchi, Michlol 20ab. He also remarks that these three forms with û are all Milra; this is the case also in a remarkable manner with ישׁפּוּטוּ, vid., Michlol 21b; Livjath Chen ii. 9; and particularly Heidenheim, in his edition of the Pentateuch entitled Mer Enajim, under Exodus 18:26.)
If, according to the usual interpretation, we make שׂפתי the subject, then the construction follows the rule, Gesen. 146, 2. The lxx transfers it into Greek: χείλη δὲ σοφῶν φυλάσσει αὐτούς. The probable conjecture, that תשׁמורם is an error in transcription for תּשׁמרוּם equals תּשׁמרנה אתם (this is found also in Luzzatto's Gramm. 776; and Hitzig adduces as other examples of such transpositions of the ו Jeremiah 2:25; Jeremiah 17:23; Job 26:12, and Joshua 2:4, ותצפנו for ותצפון), we do not acknowledge, because it makes the lips the subject with an exclusiveness the justification of which is doubtful to us.
Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox.The switch and the preserving, Proverbs 14:3, may have given occasion to the collector, amid the store of proverbs before him, now to present the agricultural figure:
Without oxen the crib is empty;
But rich increase is by the strength of the plough-ox.
This is a commendation of the breeding of cattle, but standing here certainly not merely as useful knowledge, but as an admonition to the treatment in a careful, gentle manner, and with thankful recompense of the ox (Proverbs 12:10), which God has subjected to man to help him in his labour, and more generally, in so far as one seeks to gain an object, to the considerate adoption of the right means for gaining it. אלפים (from אלף, to cling to) are the cattle giving themselves willingly to the service of men (poet. equivalent to בּקרים). שׁור (תּור, Arab. thwr), Ved. sthûras, is the Aryan-Semitic name of the plough-ox. The noun אבוּס ( equals אבוּס like אטוּן, אמוּן) denotes the fodder-trough, from אבס, to feed, and thus perhaps as to its root-meaning related to φάτνη (πάτνη), and may thus also designate the receptacle for grain where the corn for the provender or feeding of the cattle is preserved - מאבוּס, Jeremiah 50:26, at least has this wider signification of the granary; but there exists no reason to depart here from the nearest signification of the word: if a husbandman is not thoughtful about the care and support of the cattle by which he is assisted in his labour, then the crib is empty - he has nothing to heap up; he needs not only fodder, but has also nothing. בּר (in pause בּר), clean (synon. נקי, cf. at Proverbs 11:26), corresponds with our baar [bare] equals bloss [nudus]. Its derivation is obscure. The בּ, 4b, is that of the mediating cause: by the strength of the plough-ox there is a fulness of grain gathered into the barn (תּבוּאות, from בּוא, to gather in, anything gathered in). רב־ is the inverted בּר. Striking if also accidental is the frequency of the א and ב in Proverbs 14:4. This is continued in Proverbs 14:5, where the collector gives two proverbs, the first of which commences with a word beginning with א, and the second with one beginning with ב:
A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies.Striking if also accidental is the frequency of the א and ב in Proverbs 14:4. This is continued in Proverbs 14:5, where the collector gives two proverbs, the first of which commences with a word beginning with א, and the second with one beginning with ב:
5 A faithful witness does not speak untruth;
But a lying witness breathes out falsehoods.
The right vocalization and sequence of the accents is בּקּשׁ לץ חכמה (ק with Tsere and the servile Mahpach, חכמה with Munach, because the following Athnach-word has not two syllables before the tone). As in 5a עד אמוּנים, so in 5b עד שׁקר is the subject. Different is the relation of subject and predicate in the second line of the parallel proverbs, Proverbs 14:25, Proverbs 19:5. With 5a cf. ציר אמוּנים, Proverbs 13:17; and regarding יפיח (one who breathes out), vid., at Proverbs 6:19; Proverbs 12:17.
A scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not: but knowledge is easy unto him that understandeth.6 In vain the scorner seeketh wisdom;
But to the man of understanding knowledge is easy.
The general sentence is concrete, composed in the common historical form. Regarding ואין, necquidquam, vid., at Proverbs 13:4. The participle נקל is here neut. for נקלּה, something which makes itself easy or light. The frivolous man, to whom truth is not a matter of conscience, and who recognises no authority, not even the Supreme, never reaches to truth notwithstanding all his searching, it remains veiled to him and far remote; but to the man of understanding, who knows that the fear of God and not estrangement from God leads to truth, knowledge is an easy matter - he enters on the right way to this end, he brings the right receptivity, brings to bear on it the clear eye, and there is fulfilled to him the saying, "To him that hath it is given."
Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge.Three proverbs regarding fools:
7 Go from the presence of a foolish man,
And surely thou hast not known lips of knowledge;
i.e., surely hast not brought into experience that he possesses lips which express experimental knowledge, or: surely thou must confess on reflection that no prudent word has come forth from his mouth. If 7b were intended to assign a motive, then the expression would be כּי בל־תּדע or וּבל־תּדע (Isaiah 44:9), according to which Aquila and Theodotion translate, καὶ οὐ μὴ γνῷς. נגד is the sphere of vision, and מנּגד denotes either away from the sphere of vision, as e.g., Isaiah 1:16, or, inasmuch as מן is used as in מעל, מתּחת, and the like: at a certain distance from the sphere of vision, but so that one keeps the object in sight, Genesis 21:16. נגד ל denotes, as the inverted expression Deuteronomy 28:66 shows, over against any one, so that he has the object visibly before him, and מנּגד ל, Judges 20:34, from the neighbourhood of a place where one has it in view. So also here: go away from the vis--vis (vis equals visûs) of the foolish man, if thou hast to do with such an one; whence, 7b, follows what he who has gone away must on looking back say to himself. בל (with the pret. as e.g., Isaiah 33:23) expresses a negative with emphasis. Nolde and others, also Fleischer, interpret 7b relatively: et in quo non cognoveris labia scientiae. If וּבל־ידע were the expression used, then it would be explained after Proverbs 9:13, for the idea of the foolish man is extended: and of such an one as absolutely knows not how to speak anything prudent. But in וּבל־ידעתּ the relative clause intended must be indicated by the added בּו: and of such an one in whom... Besides, in this case וּלא (vid., Psalm 35:15) would have been nearer than וּבל. The lxx has modified this proverb, and yet has brought out nothing that is correct; not only the Syr., but also Hitzig follows it, when he translates, "The foolish man hath everything before him, but lips of knowledge are a receptacle of knowledge" (וּכלי דּעת). It racks one's brains to find out the meaning of the first part here, and, as Bttcher rightly says, who can be satisfied with the "lips of knowledge" as the "receptacle of knowledge"?
The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way: but the folly of fools is deceit.8 The wisdom of the prudent is to observe his way,
And the folly of fools is deceit.
The nearest idea is that of self-deceit, according to which the lxx, Syr., and Jerome render the word error ("Irrsal"). But מרמה is nowhere else used of self-deception, and moreover is not the suitable word for such an idea, since the conception of the dolus malus is constantly associated with it. Thus the contrast will be this: the wisdom of the prudent shows itself in this, that he considers his conduct (הבין as Proverbs 7:7, cf. Psalm 5:2), i.e., regulates it carefully, examining and considering (Proverbs 13:16) it according to right and duty; and that on the contrary the folly of fools shows itself in this, that they aim at the malevolent deception of their neighbour, and try all kinds of secret ways for the gaining of this end. The former is wisdom, because from the good only good comes; the latter is folly or madness, because deception, however long it may sneak in darkness, yet at last comes to light, and recoils in its destructive effects upon him from whom it proceeds.
Fools make a mock at sin: but among the righteous there is favour.9 The sacrificial offering of fools mocketh;
But between upright men there is good understanding
We may not give to the Hiph. הליץ any meaning which it nowhere has, as, to excuse (Kimchi), or to come to an agreement by mediation (Schultens). So we may not make אוילים the subject (Targ., Symmachus, Jerome, Luther, "fools make sport with sin"), for one is persuaded that אוילים is equivalent to כל אחר מן האוילים (Immanuel, Meri, and others), which would be more admissible if we had מליץ (vid., Proverbs 3:35), or if יליץ did not immediately follow (vid., Proverbs 28:1). Aquila and Theodotion rightly interpret the relation of the component parts of the sentence: ἄφρονας χλευάζει πλημμέλια; and this translation of אשׁם also is correct is we take πλημμέλεια in the sense of a θυσία περὶ πλημμελείας (Sir. 7:31), in which the Judaeo-Hellenic actually uses it (vid., Schleusner's Lex.). The idea of sacrificial offering is that of expiation: it is a penitential work, it falls under the prevailing point of view of an ecclesiastical punishment, a satisfactio in a church-disciplinary sense; the forgiveness of sins is conditioned by this, (1) that the sinner either abundantly makes good by restitution the injury inflicted on another, or in some other way bears temporal punishment for it, and (2) that he willingly presents the sacrifices of rams or of sheep, the value of which the priest has to determine in its relation to the offence (by a tax-scale from 2 shekels upwards). The Tor gives accurately the offences which are thus to be atoned for. Here, with reference to 9b, there particularly comes into view the offence against property (Leviticus 5:20ff.) and against female honour (Leviticus 19:20-22). Fools fall from one offence into another, which they have to atone for by the presentation of sacrificial offerings; the sacrificial offering mocketh them (הליץ with accus.-object, as Proverbs 19:28; Psalm 119:51), for it equally derides them on account of the self-inflicted loss, and on account of the efforts with which they must make good the effects of their frivolity and madness; while on the contrary, among men of upright character, רצון, a relation of mutual favour, prevails, which does not permit that the one give to the other an indemnity, and apply the Asham- [אשׁם equals trespass-offering] Tor. Symmachus rightly: καὶ ἀνάμεσον εὐθέων εὐδοκία. But the lxx confuses this proverb also. Hitzig, with the Syr., follows it and translates:
The tents of the foolish are in punishment overthrown [verfllt];
The house of the upright is well-pleasing [wolgefllt].
Is not this extravagant [ungereimt equals not rhymed] in spite of the rhyme? These אהלי [tents] extracted from אוילים, and this בית [house] formed out of בין, are nothing but an aimless and tasteless flourish.
The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy.Four proverbs of joy and sorrow in the present and the future:
10 The heart knoweth the trouble of its soul,
And no stranger can intermeddle with its joy.
The accentuation לב יודע seems to point out יודע as an adjective (Lwenstein: a feeling heart), after 1 Kings 3:9, or genit. (of a feeling heart); but Cod. 1294 and the Jemen Cod., and others, as well as the editions of Jablonsky and Michaelis, have לב with Rebia, so that this is by itself to be taken as the subject (cf. the accentuation Proverbs 15:5 and under at 16a). מרּת has the ר with Dagesh, and consequently the short Kametz (Michlol 63b), like שׁרּך Proverbs 3:8, cf. כּרתה, Judges 6:28, and on the contrary כרּת, Ezekiel 16:4; it is the fem. of mōr equals morr, from מרר, adstringere, amarum esse. Regarding לב, in contradistinction to נפשׁ, vid., Psychol. p. 251. "All that is meant by the Hellenic and Hellenistic νοῦς, λόγος, συνείδησις, θυμός, is comprehended in καρδία, and all by which the בשׂר and נפשׁ are affected comes in לב into the light of consciousness."
The first half of the proverb is clear: the heart, and only it, i.e., the man in the centre of his individuality, knows what brings bitterness to his soul, i.e., what troubles him in the sphere of his natural life and of the nearest life-circle surrounding him. It thus treats of life experiences which are of too complex a nature to be capable of being fully represented to others, and, as we are wont to say, of so delicate a nature that we shrink from uncovering them and making them known to others, and which on this account must be kept shut up in our own hearts, because no man is so near to us, or has so fully gained our confidence, that we have the desire and the courage to pour out our hearts to him from their very depths. Yet the saying, "Every one knows where the shoe pinches him" (1 Kings 8:38), stands nearer to this proverb; here this expression receives a psychological, yet a sharper and a deeper expression, for the knowledge of that which grieves the soul is attributed to the heart, in which, as the innermost of the soul-corporeal life, it reflects itself and becomes the matter-of-fact of the reflex consciousness in which it must shut itself up, but also for the most part without external expression. If we now interpret לא־יתערב as prohibitive, then this would stand (with this exception, that in this case אל instead of לא is to be expected) in opposition, certainly not intended, to the exhortation, Romans 12:15, "Rejoice with them that do rejoice," and to the saying, "Distributed joy is doubled joy, distributed sorrow is half sorrow;" and an admonition to leave man alone with his joy, instead of urging him to distribute it, does not run parallel with 10a. Therefore we interpret the fut. as potentialis. As there is a soul-sorrow of the man whose experience is merely a matter of the heart, so there is also a soul-joy with which no other (vid., regarding זר, p. 135, and cf. here particularly Job 19:27) intermeddleth (ההערב בּ like Psalm 106:35), in which no other can intermeddle, because his experience, as e.g., of blessed spiritual affection or of benevolent feeling, is purely of a personal nature, and admits of no participation (cf. on ἔκρυψε, Matthew 13:44), and thus of no communication to others. Elster well observes: "By this thought, that the innermost feelings of a man are never fully imparted to another man, never perfectly cover themselves with the feelings of another, yea, cannot at all be fully understood by another, the worth and the significance of each separate human personality is made conspicuous, not one of which is the example of a species, but each has its own peculiarity, which no one of countless individuals possesses. At the same time the proverb has the significance, that it shows the impossibility of a perfect fellowship among men, because one never wholly understands another. Thereby it is indicated that no human fellowship can give true salvation, but only the fellowship with God, whose love and wisdom are capable of shining through the most secret sanctuary of human personality." Thus also Dchsel (but he interprets 10b admonitorily): "Each man is a little world in himself, which God only fully sees through and understands. His sorrow appertaining to his innermost life, and his joy, another is never able fully to transfer to himself. Yea, the most sorrowful of all experiences, the most inward of all joys, we possess altogether alone, without any to participate with us."
The house of the wicked shall be overthrown: but the tabernacle of the upright shall flourish.11 The house of the wicked is overthrown;
But the tent of the upright flourishes.
In the cogn. proverb, Proverbs 12:7, line 2 begins with וּבית, but here the apparently firmly-founded house is assigned to the godless, and on the contrary the tent, easily destroyed, and not set up under the delusion of lasting for ever, is assigned to the righteous. While the former is swept away without leaving a trace behind (Isaiah 14:23), the latter has blossoms and shoots (הפריח as inwardly transitive, like Job 14:9; Psalm 92:14); the household of such remains not only preserved in the same state, but in a prosperous, happy manner it goes forward and upward.
There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.12 There is a way that seemeth right to one,
But the end thereof are the ways of death.
This is literally repeated in Proverbs 16:25. The rightness is present only as a phantom, for it arises wholly from a terrible self-deception; the man judges falsely and goes astray when, without regard to God and His word, he follows only his own opinions. It is the way of estrangement from God, of fleshly security; the way of vice, in which the blinded thinks to spend his life, to set himself to fulfil his purposes; but the end thereof (אחריתהּ with neut. fem.: the end of this intention, that in which it issues) are the ways of death. He who thus deceives himself regarding his course of life, sees himself at last arrived at a point from which every way which now further remains to him leads only down to death. The self-delusion of one ends in death by the sentence of the judge, that of another in self-murder; of one in loathsome disease, of another in a slow decay under the agony of conscience, or in sorrow over a henceforth dishonoured and distracted life.
Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.13 Even in the midst of laughter the heart experiences sadness;
And to it, joy, the end is sorrow.
Every human heart carries the feeling of disquiet and of separation from its true home, and of the nothingness, the transitoriness of all that is earthly; and in addition to this, there is many a secret sorrow in every one which grows out of his own corporeal and spiritual life, and from his relation to other men; and this sorrow, which is from infancy onward the lot of the human heart, and which more and more depends and diversifies itself in the course of life, makes itself perceptible even in the midst of laughter, in spite of the mirth and merriment, without being able to be suppressed or expelled from the soul, returning always the more intensely, the more violently we may have for a time kept it under and sunk it in unconsciousness. Euchel cites here the words of the poet, according to which 13a is literally true:
"No, man is not made for joy;
Why weep his eyes when in heart he laughs?"
(Note: "Nein, der Mensch ist zur Freude nicht gemacht, Darum weint sein Aug' wenn er herzlich lacht.")
From the fact that sorrow is the fundamental condition of humanity, and forms the background of laughter, it follows, 13b, that in general it is not good for man to give himself up to joy, viz., sensual (worldly), for to it, joy, the end (the issue) is sorrow. That is true also of the final end, which according to that saying, μακάριοι οἱ κλαίοντες νῦν ὅτι γελάσετε, changes laughter into weeping, and weeping into laughter. The correction אחרית השּׂמחה (Hitzig) presses upon the Mishle style an article in such cases rejected, and removes a form of expression of the Hebr. syntaxis ornata, which here, as at Isaiah 17:6, is easily obviated, but which is warranted by a multitude of other examples, vid., at Proverbs 13:4 (also Proverbs 5:22), and cf. Philippi's Status Const. p. 14f., who regards the second word, as here שׂמהה, after the Arab., as accus. But in cases like שׂנאי שׁקר, although not in cases such as Ezra 2:62, the accus. rendering is tenable, and the Arab. does not at all demand it.
(Note: Regarding the supplying (ibdâl) of a foregoing genitive or accus. pronoun of the third person by a definite or indefinite following, in the same case as the substantive, Samachschar speaks in the Mufassal, p. 94ff., where, as examples, are found: raeituhu Zeidan, I have seen him, the Zeid; marartu bihi Zeidin, I have gone over with him, the Zeid; saraftu wugûhahâ awwalihâ, in the flight I smote the heads of the same, their front rank. Vid., regarding this anticipation of the definite idea by an indefinite, with explanations of it, Fleischer's Makkar, Additions et Corrections, p. xl. Colossians 2, and Dieterici's Mutanabbi, p. 341, l. 13.)
In the old Hebr. this solutio of the st. constr. belongs to the elegances of the language; it is the precursor of the vulgar post-bibl. אחרייהּ שׂל־שׂמחה. That the Hebr. may also retain a gen. where more or fewer parts of a sentence intervene between it and its governing word, is shown by such examples as Isaiah 48:9; Isaiah 49:7; Isaiah 61:7.
(Note: These examples moreover do not exceed that which is possible in the Arab., vid., regarding this omission of the mudâf, where this is supplied from the preceding before a genitive, Samachschar's Mufassal, p. 34, l. 8-13. Perhaps לחמך, Obadiah 1:7, of thy bread equals the (men) of thy bread, is an example of the same thing.)
The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man shall be satisfied from himself.There follows a series of proverbs which treat of the wicked and the good, and of the relation between the foolish and the wise:
14 He that is of a perverse heart is satisfied with his own ways;
And a good man from himself.
We first determine the subject conception. סוּג לב (one turning aside τῆς καρδίας or τὴν καρδίαν) is one whose heart is perverted, נסוג, turned away, viz., from God, Psalm 44:19. The Book of Proverbs contains besides of this verb only the name of dross (recedanea) derived from it; סוּג, separated, drawn away, is such a half passive as סוּר, Isaiah 49:21, שׁוּב, Micah 2:8, etc. (Olsh. 245a). Regarding אישׁ טוב, vid., at Proverbs 12:2, cf. Proverbs 13:22 : a man is so called whose manner of thought and of action has as its impulse and motive self-sacrificing love. When it is said of the former that he is satisfied with his own ways, viz., those which with heart turned away from God he enters upon, the meaning is not that they give him peace or bring satisfaction to him (Lwenstein), but we see from Proverbs 1:31; Proverbs 18:20, that this is meant recompensatively: he gets, enjoys the reward of his wandering in estrangement from God. It is now without doubt seen that 14b expresses that wherein the benevolent man finds his reward. We will therefore not explain (after Proverbs 4:15, cf. Numbers 16:26; 2 Samuel 19:10): the good man turns himself away from him, or the good man stands over him (as Jerome, Venet., after Ecclesiastes 5:7); - this rendering gives no contrast, or at least a halting one. The מן of מעליו must be parallel with that of מדּרכיו. From the lxx, ἀπὸ δὲ τῶν διανοημάτων αὐτοῦ, the Syr. rightly: from the fruit (religiousness) of his soul; the Targ.: from his fruit. Buxtorf, against Cappellus, has already perceived that here no other phrase but the explanation of מעליו by ex eo quod penes se est lies at the foundation. We could, after Proverbs 7:14, also explain: from that which he perceives as his obligation (duty); yet that other explanation lies proportionally nearer, but yet no so that we refer the suffix to the backslider of 14a: in it (his fate) the good man is satisfied, for this contrast also halts, the thought is not in the spirit of the Book of Proverbs (for Proverbs 29:16 does not justify it); and in how totally different a connection of thought מעליו is used in the Book of Proverbs, is shown by Proverbs 24:17; but generally the Scripture does not use שׂבע of such satisfaction, it has, as in 14a, also in 14b, the recompensative sense, according to the fundamental principle, ὃ ἐὰν σπείρῃ ἄνθρωπος τοῦτο καὶ θερίσει (Galatians 6:7). The suffix refers back to the subject, as we say: רוּחי עלי, נפשׁי עלי (Psychol. p. 152). But considerations of an opposite kind also suggest themselves. Everywhere else מעל refers not to that which a man has within himself, but that which he carries without; and also that מעליו can be used in the sense of משּׁעליו, no evidence can be adduced: it must be admitted to be possible, since the writer of the Chronicles (2 Chronicles 1:4) ventures to use בהכין. Is מעליו thus used substantively: by his leaves (Aben Ezra and others)? If one compares Proverbs 11:28 with Psalm 1:3, this explanation is not absurd; but why then did not the poet rather use מפּריו? We come finally to the result, that ומעליו, although it admits a connected interpretation, is an error of transcription. But the correction is not וּמעלּיו (Elster) nor וּמעלליו (Cappellus), for עלּים and עללים, deeds, are words which do not exist; nor is it וּמפּעליו (Bertheau) nor וּמגּמליו (Ewald), but וּממּעלליו (which Cappellus regarded, but erroneously, as the lxx phrase); for (1) throughout almost the whole O.T., from Judges 2:19 to Zechariah 1:18, דרכים and מעללים are interchangeable words, and indeed almost an inseparable pair, cf. particularly Jeremiah 17:10; and (2) when Isaiah (Isaiah 3:10) says, אמרו צדיק כי־טוב כּי־פרי מעלליהם יאכלוּ, this almost sounds like a prophetical paraphrase of the second line of the proverb, which besides by this emendation gains a more rhythmical sound and a more suitable compass.
The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.15 The simple believeth every word;
But the prudent takes heed to his step.
We do not translate, "every thing," for "word" and faith are correlates, Psalm 106:24, and פּתי is the non-self-dependent who lets himself be easily persuaded by the talk of another: he believes every word without proving it, whether it is well-meant, whether it is true, whether it is salutary and useful, so that he is thus, without having any firm principle, and without any judgment of his own, driven about hither and thither; the prudent, on the other hand, considers and marks his step, that he may not take a false step or go astray, he proves his way (8a), he takes no step without thought and consideration (בּין or הבין with ל, to consider or reflect upon anything, Psalm 73:17, cf. Psalm 33:15) - he makes sure steps with his feet (Hebrews 12:13), without permitting himself to waver and sway by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14).
A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident.16 The wise feareth and departeth from evil;
But the fool loseth his wits and is regardless.
Our editions have ירא with Munach, as if חכם ירא were a substantive with its adjective; but Cod. 1294 has חכם with Rebia, and thus it must be: חכם is the subject, and what follows is its complex predicate. Most interpreters translate 16b: the fool is over-confident (Zckler), or the fool rushes on (Hitzig), as also Luther: but a fool rushes wildly through, i.e., in a daring, presumptuous manner. But התעבּר denotes everywhere nothing else than to fall into extreme anger, to become heated beyond measure, Proverbs 26:17 (cf. Proverbs 20:2), Deuteronomy 3:26, etc. Thus 16a and 16b are fully contrasted. What is said of the wise will be judged after Job 1:1, cf. Psalm 34:15; Psalm 37:27 : the wise man has fear, viz., fear of God, or rather, since האלהים is not directly to be supplied, that careful, thoughtful, self-mistrusting reserve which flows from the reverential awe of God; the fool, on the contrary, can neither rule nor bridle his affections, and without any just occasion falls into passionate excitement. But on the other side he is self-confident, regardless, secure; while the wise man avoids the evil, i.e., carefully goes out of its way, and in N.T. phraseology "works out his own salvation with fear and trembling."
He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly: and a man of wicked devices is hated.This verse, as if explanatory of מתעבר, connects itself with this interpretation of the contrasts, corresponding to the general usus loquendi, and particularly to the Mishle style.
One who is quick to anger worketh folly,
And a man of intrigues is hated.
Ewald finds here no right contrast. He understands אישׁ מזמּה in a good sense, and accordingly corrects the text, substituting for ישׂנא, ישׁוּא (ישׁוּא), for he translates: but the man of consideration bears (properly smooths, viz., his soul). On the other hand it is also to be remarked, that אישׁ מזמה, when it occurs, is not to be understood necessarily in a good sense, since מזמה is used just like מזמות, at one time in a good and at another in a bad sense, and that we willingly miss the "most complete sense" thus arising, since the proverb, as it stands in the Masoretic text, is good Hebrew, and needs only to be rightly understood to let nothing be missed in completeness. The contrast, as Ewald seeks here to represent it (also Hitzig, who proposes ישׁאן: the man of consideration remains quiet; Syr. ramys, circumspect), we have in Proverbs 14:29, where the μακρόθυμος stands over against the ὀξύθυμος (אף or אפּים of the breathing of anger through the nose, cf. Theocritus, i.:18: καὶ οἱ ἀεὶ δριμεῖα χολὰ ποτὶ ῥινὶ κάθηται). Here the contrast is different: to the man who is quick to anger, who suddenly gives expression to his anger and displeasure, stands opposed the man of intrigues, who contrives secret vengeance against those with whom he is angry. Such a deceitful man, who contrives evil with calculating forethought and executes it in cold blood (cf. Psalm 37:7), is hated; while on the contrary the noisy lets himself rush forward to inconsiderate, mad actions, but is not hated on that account; but if in his folly he injures or disgraces himself, or is derided, or if he even does injury to the body and the life of another, and afterwards with terror sees the evil done in its true light, then he is an object of compassion. Theodotion rightly: (ἀνὴρ δὲ) διαβουλιῶν μισηθήσεται, and Jerome: vir versutus odiosus est (not the Venet. ἀνὴρ βδελυγμῶν, for this signification has only זמּה, and that in the sing.); on the contrary, the lxx, Syr., Targum, and Symmachus incorrectly understand איש מזמות in bonam partem.
The simple inherit folly: but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.18 The simple have obtained folly as an inheritance;
But the prudent put on knowledge as a crown.
As a parallel word to נחלוּ, יכתּרוּ (after the Masora defective), also in the sense of Arab. âkthar, multiplicare, abundare (from Arab. kathura, to be much, perhaps
(Note: According to rule the Hebr. ש becomes in Arab. ṯ, as in Aram. ת; but kthar might be from ktar, an old verb rarely found, which derivata with the idea of encircling (wall) and of rounding (bunch) point to.)
properly comprehensive, encompassing), would be appropriate, but it is a word properly Arabic. On the other hand, inappropriate is the meaning of the Heb.-Aram. כּתּר, to wait (properly waiting to surround, to go round any one, cf. manere aliquem or aliquod), according to which Aquila, ἀναμενούσιν, and Jerome, expectabunt. Also הכתּיר, to encompass in the sense of to embrace (lxx κρατήσουσιν), does not suffice, since in the relation to נחלו one expects an idea surpassing this. Certainly there is a heightening of the idea in this, that the Hiph. in contradistinction to נחל would denote an object of desire spontaneously sought for. But far stronger and more pointed is the heightening of the idea when we take יכתרו as the denom. of כּרת (Gr. κίταρις, κίδαρις, Babyl. כדר, cudur, cf. כּדּוּר, a rounding, sphaera). Thus Theodotion, στεφθήσονται. The Venet. better actively, ἐστέψαντο (after Kimchi: ישׂימו הדעת ככתר על ראשם), the Targ., Jerome, Luther (but not the Syr., which translates נחלו by "to inherit," but יכתרו by μεριοῦνται, which the lxx has for נחלו). The bibl. language has also (Psalm 142:8) הכתיר in the denom. signification of to place a crown, and that on oneself; the non-bibl. has מכתיר (like the bibl. מעטיר) in the sense of distributor of crowns,
(Note: Vid., Wissenschaft, Kunst, Judenthum (1838), p. 240.)
and is fond of the metaphor כתר הדעת, crown of knowledge. With those not self-dependent (vid., regarding the plur. form of פּתי, p. 56), who are swayed by the first influence, the issue is, without their willing it, that they become habitual fools: folly is their possession, i.e., their property. The prudent, on the contrary, as Proverbs 14:15 designates them, have thoughtfully to ponder their step to gain knowledge as a crown (cf. העשׁיר, to gain riches, הפריח, 11b, to gain flowers, Gesen. 53, 2). Knowledge is to them not merely an inheritance, but a possession won, and as such remains with them a high and as it were a kingly ornament.
The evil bow before the good; and the wicked at the gates of the righteous.19 The wicked must bow before the good,
And the godless stand at the doors of the righteous.
The good, viz., that which is truly good, which has love as its principle, always at last holds the supremacy. The good men who manifest love to men which flows from love to God, come finally forward, so that the wicked, who for a long time played the part of lords, bow themselves willingly or unwillingly before them, and often enough it comes about that godless men fall down from their prosperity and their places of honour so low, that they post themselves at the entrance of the stately dwelling of the righteous (Proverbs 13:22), waiting for his going out and in, or seeking an occasion of presenting to him a supplication, or also as expecting gifts to be bestowed (Psalm 37:25). The poor man Lazarus πρὸς τὸν πυλῶνα of the rich man, Luke 16:20, shows, indeed, that this is not always the case on this side of the grave. שׁחוּ has, according to the Masora (cf. Kimchi's Wrterbuch under שׁחח), the ultima accented; the accentuation of the form סכּוּ wavers between the ult. and penult. Olsh. p. 482f., cf. Gesen. 68, Anm. 10. The substantival clause 19b is easily changed into a verbal clause: they come (Syr.), appear, stand (incorrectly the Targ.: they are judged in the gates of the righteous).
The poor is hated even of his own neighbour: but the rich hath many friends.Three proverbs on the hatred of men:
20 The poor is hated even by his neighbour;
But of those who love the rich there are many.
This is the old history daily repeating itself. Among all people is the saying and the complaint:
Donec eris felix multos numerabis amicos,
Tempora si fuerint nubilia solus eris.
(Note: Ovid, Trist. i.8.)
The Book of Proverbs also speaks of this lamentable phenomenon. It is a part of the dark side of human nature, and one should take notice of it, so that when it goes well with him, he may not regard his many friends as all genuine, and when he becomes poor, he may not be surprised by the dissolution of earlier friendship, but may value so much the higher exceptions to the rule. The connection of the passive with ל of the subject (cf. Proverbs 13:13), as in the Greek with the dative, is pure Semitic; sometimes it stands with מן, but in the sense of ἀπό, Sol 3:10, before the influence of the West led to its being used in the sense of ὑπό (Ges. 143, 2); ישּׂנא, is hated (Cod. 1294: ישּׂנא, connects with the hatred which is directed against the poor also the indifference which makes him without sympathy, for one feels himself troubled by him and ashamed.
He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.21 Whoever despiseth his neighbour committeth sin;
But whoever hath compassion on the suffering - blessings on him!
One should regard every human being, especially such as God has placed near to him, as a being having the same origin, as created in the image of God, and of the same lofty destination, and should consider himself as under obligation to love him. He who despiseth his neighbour (write בּז with Metheg, and vid., regarding the constr. with dat. object. Proverbs 6:30, cf. Proverbs 11:12; Proverbs 13:13) sins in this respect, that he raises himself proudly and unwarrantably above him; that the honour and love he shows to him he measures not by the rule of duty and of necessity, but according to that which is pleasing to himself; and in that he refuses to him that which according to the ordinance of God he owes him. In Proverbs 14:21 the Chethı̂b עניּים and the Kerı̂ ענוים (vid., at Psalm 9:13) interchange in an inexplicable way; עני is the bowed down (cf. Arab. ma'nuww, particularly of the prisoner, from 'ana, fut. ya'nw, to bow, bend), ענו (Arab. 'anin, with the art. âl'niy, from the intrans. 'aniya, to be bowed down) the patient bearer who in the school of suffering has learned humility and meekness. One does not see why the Kerı̂ here exchanges that passive idea for this ethical one, especially since, in proving himself to be מחונן (compassionate) (for which elsewhere the part. Kal חונן, Proverbs 14:31; Proverbs 19:17; Proverbs 28:8), one must be determined only by the needy condition of his neighbour, and not by his (the neighbour's) moral worthiness, the want of which ought to make him twofold more an object of our compassion. All the old translators, from the lxx to the Venet. and Luther, on this account adopt the Chethı̂b.
Do they not err that devise evil? but mercy and truth shall be to them that devise good.The proverb terminating (Proverbs 14:21) with אשׁריו (cf. Proverbs 16:20) is now followed by one not less singularly formed, commencing with הלא (cf. Proverbs 8:1).
Will they not go astray who devise evil,
And are not mercy and truth to those who devise good?
The part. חרשׁ signifies both the plougher and the artisan; but on this account to read with Hitzig both times חרשׁי, i.e., machinatores, is nothing less than advisable, since there is connected with this metaphorical חרשׁ, as we have shown at Proverbs 3:29, not only the idea of fabricating, but also that of ploughing. Just so little is there any reason for changing with Hitzig, against all old translators, יתעוּ into ירעוּ: will it not go ill with them...; the fut. יתעו (cf. Isaiah 63:17) is not to be touched; the perf. תעו (e.g., Psalm 58:4) would denote that those who contrive evil are in the way of error, the fut. on the contrary that they will fall into error (cf. Proverbs 12:26 with Job 12:24). But if הלא יתעו is the expression of the result which shall certainly come to such, then 22b stands as a contrast adapted thereto: and are not, on the contrary, mercy and truth those who contrive that which is good, i.e., (for that which befalls them, as Proverbs 13:18, cf. Proverbs 14:35, is made their attribute) are they not an object of mercy and truth, viz., on the part of God and of men, for the effort which proceeds from love and is directed to the showing forth of good is rewarded by this, that God and men are merciful to such and maintain truth to them, stand in truth to them; for חסד ואמת is to be understood here, as at Proverbs 3:3, neither of God nor of men exclusively, but of both together: the wicked who contrive evil lose themselves on the way to destruction, but grace and truth are the lot of those who aim at what is good, guarded and guided by which, they reach by a blessed way a glorious end.
In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury.There now follows a considerable series of proverbs (Proverbs 14:23-31) which, with a single exception (Proverbs 14:24), have all this in common, that one or two key-words in them begin with מ.
23 In all labour there is gain,
But idle talk leadeth only to loss.
Here the key-words are מותר and מחסור (parallel Proverbs 21:5, cf. with Proverbs 11:24), which begin with מ. עצב is labour, and that earnest and unwearied, as at Proverbs 10:22. If one toils on honestly, then there always results from it something which stands forth above the endeavour as its result and product, vid., at Job 30:11, where it is shown how יתר, from the primary meaning to be stretched out long, acquires the meaning of that which hangs over, shoots over, copiousness, and gain. By the word of the lips, on the contrary, i.e., purposeless and inoperative talk (דּבר שׂפתים as Isaiah 36:5, cf. Job 11:2), nothing is gained, but on the contrary there is only loss, for by it one only robs both himself and others of time, and wastes strength, which might have been turned to better purpose, to say nothing of the injury that is thereby done to his soul; perhaps also he morally injures, or at least discomposes and wearies others.
The crown of the wise is their riches: but the foolishness of fools is folly.24 It is a crown to the wise when they are rich;
But the folly of fools remains folly.
From Proverbs 12:4, 31; Proverbs 17:6, we see that עטרת חכמים is the predicate. Thus it is the riches of the wise of which it is said that they are a crown or an ornament to them. More than this is said, if with Hitzig we read, after the lxx, ערמם, their prudence, instead of עשׁרם. For then the meaning would be, that the wise need no other crown than that which they have in their prudence. But yet far more appropriately "riches" are called the crown of a wise man when they come to his wisdom; for it is truly thus that riches, when they are possessed along with wisdom, contribute not a little to heighten its influence and power, and not merely because they adorn in their appearance like a crown, or, as we say, surround as with a golden frame, but because they afford a variety of means and occasions for self-manifestation which are denied to the poor. By this interpretation of 24a, 24b comes out also into the light, without our requiring to correct the first אוּלת, or to render it in an unusual sense. The lxx and Syr. translate the first אולת by διατριβή (by a circumlocution), the Targ. by gloria, fame - we know not how they reach this. Schultens in his Com. renders: crassa opulentia elumbium crassities, but in his Animadversiones he combines the first אולת with the Arab. awwale, precedence, which Gesen. approves of. But although the meaning to be thick (properly coalescere) appertains to the verbal stem אול as well as the meaning to be before (Arab. âl, âwila, wâl), yet the Hebr. אוּלת always and everywhere means only folly,
(Note: Ewald's derivation of אויל from און equals אוין, null, vain, is not much better than Heidenheim's from אולי: one who says "perhaps" equals a sceptic, vid., p. 59, note.)
from the fundamental idea crassities (thickness). Hitzig's אוּלת (which denotes the consequence with which the fool invests himself) we do not accept, because this word is Hitzig's own invention. Rather לוית is to be expected: the crown with which fools adorn themselves is folly. But the sentence: the folly of fools is (and remains) folly (Symmachus, Jerome, Venet., Luther), needs the emendation as little as Proverbs 16:22, for, interpreted in connection with 24a, it denotes that while wisdom is adorned and raised up by riches, folly on the other hand remains, even when connected with riches, always the same, without being either thereby veiled or removed - on the contrary, the fool, when he is rich, exhibits his follies always more and more. C. B. Michaelis compares Lucian's simia est simia etiamsi aurea gestet insignia.
A true witness delivereth souls: but a deceitful witness speaketh lies.25 A witness of truth delivereth souls;
But he who breathes out lies is nothing but deception.
When men, in consequence of false suspicions or of false accusations, fall into danger of their lives (דיני נפשׁות is the designation in the later language of the law of a criminal process), then a tongue which, pressed by conscientiousness and not deterred by cowardice, will utter the truth, saves them. But a false tongue, which as such (vid., Proverbs 14:5) is a יפח כזבים (after the Masora at this place ויפח, defective), i.e., is one who breathes out lies (vid., regarding יפיח at Proverbs 6:19), is mere deception (lxx, without reading מרמּה [as Hitzig does]: δόλιος). In Proverbs 12:17 מרמה is to be interpreted as the object. accus. of יגיד carried forward, but here to carry forward מצּיל (Arama, Lwenstein) is impracticable - for to deliver deceit equals the deceiver is not expressed in the Hebr. - מרמה is, as possibly also Hebrews 12:16 (lxx δόλιος), without אישׁ or עד being supplied, the pred. of the substantival clause: such an one is deception (in bad Latin, dolositas), for he who utters forth lies against better knowledge must have a malevolent, deceitful purpose.
In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge.26 In the fear of Jahve lies a strong ground of confidence,
And the children of such an one have a refuge.
The so-called בּ essentiae stands here, as at Psalm 68:5; Psalm 55:19; Isaiah 26:4, before the subject idea; the clause: in the fear of God exists, i.e., it is and proves itself, as a strong ground of confidence, does not mean that the fear of God is something in which one can rely (Hitzig), but that it has (Proverbs 22:19; Jeremiah 17:7, and here) an inheritance which is enduring, unwavering, and not disappointing in God, who is the object of fear; for it is not faith, nor anything else subjective, which is the rock that bears us, but this Rock is the object which faith lays hold of (cf. Isaiah 28:16). Is now the וּלבניו to be referred, with Ewald and Zckler, to 'ה? It is possible, as we have discussed at Genesis 6:1.; but in view of parallels such as Proverbs 20:7, it is not probable. He who fears God entails in the Abrahamic way (Genesis 18:19) the fear of God on his children, and in this precious paternal inheritance they have a מחסה (not מחסה, and therefore to be written with Masoretic exactness מחסּה), a fortress or place of protection, a refuge in every time of need (cf. Psalm 71:5-7). Accordingly, ולבניו refers back to the 'ירא ה, to be understood from 'ביראת ה (lxx, Luther, and all the Jewish interpreters), which we find not so doubtful as to regard on this account the explanation after Psalm 73:15, cf. Deuteronomy 14:1, as necessary, although we grant that such an introduction of the N.T. generalization and deepening of the idea of sonship is to be expected from the Chokma.
The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.27 The fear of Jahve is a fountain of life,
To escape the snares of death.
There springs up a life which makes him who carries in himself (cf. John 4:14, ἐν αὐτῷ) this welling life, penetrating and strong of will to escape the snares (write after the Masora ממּקשׁי defective) which death lays, and which bring to an end in death - a repetition of Proverbs 13:4 with changed subject.
In the multitude of people is the king's honour: but in the want of people is the destruction of the prince.28 In the multitude of the people lies the king's honour;
And when the population diminishes, it is the downfall of his glory.
The honour or the ornament (vid., regarding הדר, tumere, ampliari, the root-word of הדר and הדרה at Isaiah 63:1) of a king consists in this, that he rules over a great people, and that they increase and prosper; on the other hand, it is the ruin of princely greatness when the people decline in number and in wealth. Regarding מחתּה, vid., at Proverbs 10:14. בּאפס signifies prepositionally "without" (properly, by non-existence), e.g., Proverbs 26:20, or adverbially "groundless" (properly, for nothing), Isaiah 52:4; here it is to be understood after its contrast בּרב־: in the non-existence, but which is here equivalent to in the ruin (cf. אפס, the form of which in conjunction is אפס, Genesis 47:15), lies the misfortune, decay, ruin of the princedom. The lxx ἐν δὲ ἐκλείψει λαοῦ συντριβὴ δυνάστου. Certainly רזון (from רזן, Arab. razuna, to be powerful) is to be interpreted personally, whether it be after the form בּגוד with a fixed, or after the form יקושׁ with a changeable Kametz; but it may also be an abstract like שׁלום ( equals Arab. selâm), and this we prefer, because in the personal signification רזן, Proverbs 8:15; Proverbs 31:4, is used. We have not here to think of רזון (from רזה), consumption (the Venet. against Kimchi, πενίας); the choice of the word also is not determined by an intended amphibology (Hitzig), for this would be meaningless.
He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.29 He that is slow to anger is rich in understanding;
But he that is easily excited carries off folly.
ארך אפּים (constr. of ארך) is he who puts off anger long, viz., the outbreak of anger, האריך, Proverbs 19:11, i.e., lets it not come in, but shuts it out long (μακρόθυμος equals βραδὺς εἰς ὀργήν, James 1:19); and קצר־רוּח, he who in his spirit and temper, viz., as regards anger (for רוּח denotes also the breathing out and snorting, Isaiah 25:4; Isaiah 33:11), is short, i.e., (since shortness of time is meant) is rash and suddenly (cf. quick to anger, praeceps in iram, 17a) breaks out with it, not ὀλιγόψυχος (but here ὀξύθυμος), as the lxx translate 17a. The former, who knows how to control his affections, shows himself herein as "great in understanding" (cf. 2 Samuel 23:20), or as a "man of great understanding" (Lat. multus prudenti); the contrary is he who suffers himself to be impelled by his affections into hasty, inconsiderate action, which is here expressed more actively by מרים אוּלת. Does this mean that he bears folly to the view (Luther, Umbreit, Bertheau, Elster, and others)? But for that idea the Mishle style has other expressions, Proverbs 12:23; Proverbs 13:16; Proverbs 15:2, cf. Proverbs 14:17. Or does it mean that he makes folly high, i.e., shows himself highly foolish (lxx, Syr., Targum, Fleischer, and others)? But that would be expressed rather by הגדּיל or הרבּה. Or is it he heightens folly (Lwenstein, Hitzig)? But the remark that the angry ebullition is itself a gradual heightening of the foolish nature of such an one is not suitable, for the choleric man, who lets the evenness of his disposition be interrupted by a breaking forth of anger, is by no means also in himself a fool. Rashi is right when he says, מפרישה לחלקו, i.e., (to which also Fleischer gives the preference) aufert pro portione sua stultitiam. The only appropriate parallel according to which it is to be explained, is Proverbs 3:35. But not as Ewald: he lifts up folly, which lies as it were before his feet on his life's path; but: he takes off folly, in the sense of Leviticus 6:8, i.e., he carries off folly, receives a portion of folly; for as to others, so also to himself, when he returns to calm blood, that which he did in his rage must appear as folly and madness.
A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.30 A quiet heart is the life of the body,
But covetousness is rottenness in the bones.
Heart, soul, flesh, is the O.T. trichotomy, Psalm 84:3; Psalm 16:9; the heart is the innermost region of the life, where all the rays of the bodily and the soul-life concentrate, and whence they again unfold themselves. The state of the heart, i.e., of the central, spiritual, soul-inwardness of the man, exerts therefore on all sides a constraining influence on the bodily life, in the relation to the heart the surrounding life. Regarding לב מרפּא, vid., at Proverbs 12:18. Thus is styled the quiet heart, which in its symmetrical harmony is like a calm and clear water-mirror, neither interrupted by the affections, nor broken through or secretly stirred by passion. By the close connection in which the corporeal life of man stands to the moral-religious determination of his intellectual and mediately his soul-life - this threefold life is as that of one personality, essentially one - the body has in such quiet of spirit the best means of preserving the life which furthers the well-being, and co-operates to the calming of all its disquietude; on the contrary, passion, whether it rage or move itself in stillness, is like the disease in the bones (Proverbs 12:4), which works onward till it breaks asunder the framework of the body, and with it the life of the body. The plur. בּשׂרים occurs only here; Bttcher, 695, says that it denotes the whole body; but בּשׂר also does not denote the half, בשׂרים is the surrogate of an abstr.: the body, i.e., the bodily life in the totality of its functions, and in the entire manifoldness of its relations. Ewald translates bodies, but בשׂר signifies not the body, but its material, the animated matter; rather cf. the Arab. âbshâr, "corporeal, human nature," but which (leaving out of view that this plur. belongs to a later period of the language) has the parallelism against it. Regarding קנאה (jealousy, zeal, envy, anger) Schultens is right: affectus inflammans aestuque indignationis fervidus, from קנא, Arab. ḳanâ, to be high red.
He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.31 He who oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker;
And whosoever is merciful to the poor, it is an honour to him.
Line first is repeated in Proverbs 17:5 somewhat varied, and the relation of the idea in 31b is as Proverbs 19:17, according to which וּמכבּדו is the predicate and חונן אביון the subject (Symmachus, Targ., Jerome, Venet., Luther), not the reverse (Syr.); חונן is thus not the 3 per. Po. (lxx), but the part. Kal (for which 21b has the part. Po. מחונן). The predicates חרף עשׂהוּ (vid., regarding the perf. Gesen. 126, 3) and ומכבדו follow one another after the scheme of the Chiasmus. עשׁק has Munach on the first syllable, on which the tone is thrown back, and on the second the העמדה sign (vid., Torath Emeth, p. 21), as e.g., פּוטר, Proverbs 17:14, and אהב, Proverbs 17:19. The showing of forbearance and kindness to the poor arising from a common relation to one Creator, and from respect towards a personality bearing the image of God, is a conception quite in the spirit of the Chokma, which, as in the Jahve religion it becomes the universal religion, so in the national law it becomes the human. Thus also Job 31:15, cf. Proverbs 3:9 of the Epistle of James, which in many respects has its roots in the Book of Proverbs. Mat 25:40 is a New Testament side-piece to 31b.
The wicked is driven away in his wickedness: but the righteous hath hope in his death.This verse also contains a key-word beginning with מ, but pairs acrostically with the proverb following:
When misfortune befalls him, the godless is overthrown;
But the righteous remains hopeful in his death.
When the subject is רעה connected with רשׁע (the godless), then it may be understood of evil thought and action (Ecclesiastes 7:15) as well as of the experience of evil (e.g., Proverbs 13:21). The lxx (and also the Syr., Targ., Jerome, and Venet.) prefers the former, but for the sake of producing an exact parallelism changes במותו [in his death] into בתמּו [in his uprightness], reversing also the relation of the subject and the predicate: ὁ δὲ πεποιθὼς τῇ ἑαυτοῦ ὁσιότητι (the Syr.: in this, that he has no sin; Targ.: when he dies) δίκαιος. But no Scripture word commends in so contradictory a manner self-righteousness, for the verb חסה never denotes self-confidence, and with the exception of two passages (Judges 9:15; Isaiah 30:2), where it is connected with בּצל, is everywhere the exclusive (vid., Psalm 118:8.) designation of confidence resting itself in God, even without the 'בה, as here as at Psalm 17:7. The parallelism leads us to translate ברעתו, not on account of his wickedness, but with Luther, in conformity with במותו, in his misfortune, i.e., if it befall him. Thus Jeremiah (Jeremiah 23:12) says of the sins of his people: בּאפלה ידּחוּ, in the deep darkness they are driven on (Niph. of דחח equals דחה), and Proverbs 24:16 contains an exactly parallel thought: the godless stumble ברעה, into calamity. Ewald incorrectly: in his calamity the wicked is overthrown - for what purpose then the pronoun? The verb דחה frequently means, without any addition, "to stumble over heaps," e.g., Psalm 35:5; Psalm 36:13. The godless in his calamity is overthrown, or he fears in the evils which befall him the intimations of the final ruin; on the contrary, the righteous in his death, even in the midst of extremity, is comforted, viz., in God in whom he confides. Thus understood, Hitzig thinks that the proverb is not suitable for a time in which, as yet, men had not faith in immortality and in the resurrection. Yet though there was no such revelation then, still the pious in death put their confidence in Jahve, the God of life and of salvation - for in Jahve
(Note: Vid., my Bibl.-prophet. Theol. (1845), p. 268, cf. Bibl. Psychologie (1861), p. 410, and Psalmen (1867), p. 52f., and elsewhere.)
there was for ancient Israel the beginning, middle, and end of the work of salvation - and believing that they were going home to Him, committing their spirit into His hands (Psalm 31:6), they fell asleep, though without any explicit knowledge, yet not without the hope of eternal life. Job also knew that (Job 27:8.) between the death of those estranged from God and of those who feared God there was not only an external, but a deep essential distinction; and now the Chokma opens up a glimpse into the eternity heavenwards, Proverbs 15:24, and has formed, Proverbs 12:28, the expressive and distinctive word אל־מות, for immortality, which breaks like a ray from the morning sun through the night of the Sheol.
Wisdom resteth in the heart of him that hath understanding: but that which is in the midst of fools is made known.33 Wisdom rests in the heart of the man of understanding;
But the heart of fools it maketh itself known.
Most interpreters know not what to make of the second line here. The lxx (and after it the Syr.), and as it appears, also Aquila and Theodotion, insert οὐ; the Targ. improves the Peshito, for it inserts אוּלת (so that Proverbs 12:23; Proverbs 13:16, and Proverbs 15:2 are related). And Abulwald explains: in the heart of fools it is lost; Euchel: it reels about; but these are imaginary interpretations resting on a misunderstanding of the passages, in which ידע means to come to feel, and הודיע to give to feel (to punish, correct). Kimchi rightly adheres to the one ascertained meaning of the words, according to which the Venet. μέσον δὲ ἀφρόνων γνωσθήσεται. So also the translation of Jerome: et indoctos quosque (quoque) erudiet, is formed, for he understands the "and is manifest among fools" (Luther) not merely, as C. B. Michaelis, after the saying: opposita juxta se posita magis elucescunt, but of a becoming manifest, which is salutary to these. Certainly בּקרב can mean among equals in the circle, of Proverbs 15:31; but if, as here and e.g., Jeremiah 31:31, בקרב is interchanged with בלב, and if חכמה בקרב is the subject spoken of, as 1 Kings 3:28, then בקרב does not mean among (in the midst of), but in the heart of the fool. According to this, the Talmud rightly, by comparison with the current proverb (Meza 85b): אסתירא בלגינא קישׁ קישׁ קריא, a stater in a flaggon cries Kish, Kish, i.e., makes much clatter. In the heart of the understanding wisdom rests, i.e., remains silent and still, for the understanding feels himself personally happy in its possession, endeavours always the more to deepen it, and lets it operate within; on the contrary, wisdom in the heart of fools makes itself manifest: they are not able to keep to themselves the wisdom which they imagine they possess, or the portion of wisdom which is in reality theirs; but they think, as it is said in Persius: Scire tuum nihil est nisi scire hoc te sciat alter. They discredit and waste their little portion of wisdom (instead of thinking on its increase) by obtrusive ostentatious babbling.
Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.Two proverbs follow regarding the state and its ruler:
34 Righteousness exalteth a nation,
And sin is a disgrace to the people.
The Hebr. language is richer in synonyms of "the people" than the German. גּוי (formed like the non-bibl. מוי, water, and נוי, corporealness, from גּוה, to extend itself from within outward; cf. Proverbs 9:3, גּפּי, Proverbs 10:13, גּו) is, according to the usus loq., like natio the people, as a mass swollen up from a common origin, and עם, 28a (from עמם, to bind), the people as a confederation held together by a common law; לאם (from לאם, to unite, bind together) is the mass (multitude) of the people, and is interchanged sometimes with גוי, Genesis 25:23, and sometimes with עם, Proverbs 14:28. In this proverb, לאמּים stands indeed intentionally in the plur., but not גוי, with the plur. of which גּוים, the idea of the non-Israelitish nations, too easily connects itself. The proverb means all nations without distinction, even Israel (cf. under Isaiah 1:4) not excluded. History everywhere confirms the principle, that not the numerical, nor the warlike, nor the political, nor yet the intellectual and the so-called civilized greatness, is the true greatness of a nation, and determines the condition of its future as one of progress; but this is its true greatness, that in its private, public, and international life, צדקה, i.e., conduct directed by the will of God, according to the norm of moral rectitude, rules and prevails. Righteousness, good manners, and piety are the things which secure to a nation a place of honour, while, on the contrary, חטּאת, sin, viz., prevailing, and more favoured and fostered than contended against in the consciousness of the moral problem of the state, is a disgrace to the people, i.e., it lowers them before God, and also before men who do not judge superficially or perversely, and also actually brings them down. רומם, to raise up, is to be understood after Isaiah 1:2, cf. Proverbs 23:4, and is to be punctuated תּרומם, with Munach of the penult., and the העמדה-sign with the Tsere of the last syllable. Ben-Naphtali punctuates thus: תּרומם. In 34b all the artifices of interpretation (from Nachmani to Schultens) are to be rejected, which interpret חסד as the Venet. (ἔλεος δὲ λαῶν ἁμαρτία) in its predominant Hebrew signification. It has here, as at Leviticus 20:17 (but not Job 6:14), the signification of the Syr. chesdho, opprobrium; the Targ. חסדּא, or more frequently חסּוּדא, as among Jewish interpreters, is recognised by Chanan'el and Rashbam. That this חסד is not foreign to the Mishle style, is seen from the fact that חסּד, Proverbs 25:10, is used in the sense of the Syr. chasedh. The synon. Syr. chasam, invidere, obtrectare, shows that these verbal stems are formed from the R. הס, stringere, to strike. Already it is in some measure perceived how חסד, Syr. chasadh, Arab. hasada, may acquire the meaning of violent love, and by the mediation of the jealousy which is connected with violent love, the signification of grudging, and thus of reproach and of envy; yet this is more manifest if one thinks of the root-signification stringere, in the meaning of loving, as referred to the subject, in the meanings of disgrace and envy, as from the subject directed to others. Ewald (51c) compares חסל and חסר, Ethiop. chasra, in the sense of carpere, and on the other side חסה in the sense of "to join;" but חסה does not mean to join (vid., Psalm 2:12) and instead of carpere, the idea more closely connected with the root is that of stringere, cf. stringere folia ex arboribus (Caesar), and stringere (to diminish, to squander, strip) rem ingluvie (Horace, Sat. i. 2. 8). The lxx has here read חסר (Proverbs 28:22), diminution, decay, instead of חסד (shame); the quid pro quo is not bad, the Syr. accepts it, and the miseros facit of Jerome, and Luther's verderben (destruction) corresponds with this phrase better than with the common traditional reading which Symmachus rightly renders by ὄνειδος.
The king's favour is toward a wise servant: but his wrath is against him that causeth shame.35 The king's favour is towards a prudent servant,
And his wrath visits the base.
Regarding the contrasts משׂכּיל and מבישׁ, vid., at Proverbs 10:5; cf. Proverbs 12:4. The substantival clause 35a may mean: the king's favour has (possesses)..., as well as: it is imparted to, an intelligent servant; the arrangement of the words is more favourable to the latter rendering. In 35b the gender of the verb is determined by attraction after the pred., as is the case also at Genesis 31:8; Job 15:31, Ewald, 317c. And "his wrath" is equivalent to is the object of it, cf. 22b, Proverbs 13:18. The syntactical character of the clause does not permit the supplying of ל from 35a. Luther's translation proceeds only apparently from this erroneous supposition.