Go from the presence of a foolish man, when you perceive not in him the lips of knowledge.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Go from the presence of a foolish man—(khesîl)—i.e. a dull, stupid one, when the time comes that you see you can do him no good; for “evil communications corrupt good manners.” Thus Samuel “came no more to see Saul,” when he saw that remonstrances were unavailing with him, though he continued to “mourn” for him, remembering from what high estate he had fallen.
when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge; when it is observed that his lips pour out foolishness, what is corrupt and unsavoury, unchaste and filthy; what does not minister grace to the hearers, nor is for the use of edifying, nor any ways improving in useful knowledge, but all the reverse: the Targum is,
"for there is no knowledge in his lips,''
in what is expressed by them; some understand this ironically, and render the words thus, "go right against a foolish man" (f); join in company with him, "and thou shalt not know the lips of knowledge", or learn anything by him; if you have a mind to be ignorant, keep company with a foolish man; so Jarchi and Gersom: or rather to this sense the words may be rendered, "go to a foolish man, seeing thou knowest not the lips of knowledge" (g), since thou dost not approve of wise and knowing men, whose lips would teach knowledge; and despisest the Gospel, and Gospel ministers the pope of Rome, as Cocceius on the text serves, and hear him, what his holiness and infallibility says; or some other false teacher.Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)7. Go from … when thou perceivest not] Rather, Go into … and thou shalt not perceive, R.V. text. Take up your position, as it were, over against him, and contemplate him carefully, and weigh his words; and your first impression of him will be confirmed, “thou shalt not perceive” &c.Verse 7. - Go from the presence of a foolish man. There is some doubt about the rendering of this passage. The Vulgate gives, vade contra stultum, which is probably to be taken in the sense of the Authorized Version. The Revised Version has, "Go into the presence of a foolish man." The Hebrew מִנֶּגֶד (minneged) may mean "from before," "over against," "in the presence of." Hence arises an ambiguity. The Authorized Version considers the sentence to be an injunction to turn away from a stupid man when you perceive that you can do him no good. The Revised Version is equivalent to "if you go into the presence," etc. When thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge; Revised Version, and thou shalt not perceive in him, etc., which embodies a truism with no special point. The whole sentence is better translated, Go forth from the presence of a foolish man, and thou hast not known the lips of knowledge; i.e., as Nowack explains, "Leave the presence of a fool, and you carry nothing away with you; after all your intercourse with him, you quit his presence without having gained any advance in true knowledge" (see on Proverbs 20:15). The LXX. presents a very different version: "All things are adverse to a foolish man; but wise lips are the arms of knowledge (αἰσθήσεως)." A foolish man, by his inconsiderate, slanderous, or bitter words, makes every one his enemy; a wise man uses his knowledge to good purposes; his words are the instruments by which he shows what he is.
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.
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