Proverbs 17:14
The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(14) The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water.—The drops which ooze through a tiny hole in the bank of a reservoir soon swell into an unmanageable torrent; so from insignificant beginnings arise feuds which cannot be appeased. Solomon constructed large pools (Ecclesiastes 2:6) beyond Bethlehem, and is supposed to have brought the water from these by an aqueduct into Jerusalem.

Before it be meddled with.—The same expression is used at Proverbs 18:1; Proverbs 20:3. It probably means before (men) show their teeth, a metaphor from an angry dog.

Proverbs 17:14. The beginning of strife, &c. — “Those who begin a quarrel are like those who make a breach in a bank, and give an opening to the waters of a rapid river; which they can never be sure to stop before it produces the most fatal and calamitous events. This painting admirably represents the effects of lying and false reports, and supplies us with an excellent lesson to avoid the contagion, and prevent the beginnings of contentions:” see Calmet.

17:8. Those who set their hearts upon money, will do any thing for it. What influence should the gifts of God have on our hearts! 9. The way to preserve peace is to make the best of every thing; not to notice what has been said or done against ourselves. 10. A gentle reproof will enter, not only into the head, but into the heart of a wise man. 11. Satan, and the messengers of Satan, shall be let loose upon an evil man. 12. Let us watch over our own passions, and avoid the company of furious men. 13. To render evil for good is devilish. He that does so, brings a curse upon his family. 14. What danger there is in the beginning of strife! Resist its earliest display; and leave it off, if it were possible, before you begin. 15. It is an offence to God to acquit the guilty, or to condemn those who are not guilty. 16. Man's neglect of God's favour and his own interest is very absurd. 17. No change of outward circumstances should abate our affection for our friends or relatives. But no friend, except Christ, deserves unlimited confidence. In Him this text did receive, and still receives its most glorious fulfilment. 18. Let not any wrong their families. Yet Christ's becoming Surety for men, was a glorious display of Divine wisdom; for he was able to discharge the bond.The figure is taken from the great tank or reservoir upon which Eastern cities often depended for their supply of water. The beginning of strife is compared to the first crack in the mound of such a reservoir. At first a few drops ooze out, but after a time the whole mass of waters pour themselves forth with fury, and it is hard to set limits to the destruction which they cause.

Before it be meddled with - literally, "before it rolls, or rushes forward."

14. letteth … water—as a breach in a dam.

before … meddled with—before strife has become sharp, or, by an explanation better suiting the figure, before it rolls on, or increases.

Letteth out water, by cutting the bank of a river, in which case the water quickly widens the breach, and breaks in with irresistible violence and fury, and causeth great mischief and destruction.

Leave off contention, before it be meddled with; avoid the occasions and prevent the beginnings of contention.

The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water,.... As when a man makes a little hole in the bank of a river, or cuts a small passage in it, to let the water into an adjoining field; by the force of the water, the passage is widened, and it flows in, in great abundance, to the overflow and prejudice of the field; nor is it easily stopped: so a single word, spoken in anger, with some warmth, or in a way of contradiction, has been the beginning and occasion of great strife and contention. The words in the Hebrew text lie thus; "he that letteth out water is the beginning of strife" (o); which some understand of letting out water into another man's field, which occasions contentions, quarrels, and lawsuits; but the former sense is best: the Targum is,

"he that sheddeth blood as water stirreth up strifes;''

therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with; cease from it as soon as begun; leave it off before it is well entered: or "before one mixes himself" (p) with it, or is implicated with it; got so far into it, that it will be difficult to get out of it: or "before thou strivest with any openly"; which sense the word has in the Arabic language, as Schultens (q) observes; that is, before you come to open words and blows, put an end to the contention; do not suffer it to proceed so far; since it cannot be known what will be the consequence of it: or rather, leave it off, as the same learned writer in his later thoughts, in his commentary on the place, by the help of Arabism, also renders it, "before the teeth are made bare": or shown, in quarrelling, brawling, reproaching, in wrath and anger.

(o) "qui aperit aquam, vel aperiens aquas (est) principium contentionis", Pagninus, Montanus. (p) "antequam sese immisceat", Junius & Tremellius. (q) Animadv. p. 931.

The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
14. letteth out water] by making ever so small a hole or fissure in a dam, or in the bank of a reservoir, such as Solomon himself constructed (Ecclesiastes 2:6).

“aggeribus ruptis cum spumeus amnis

Exiit, oppositasque evicit gurgite moles,

Fertur in arva furens cumulo, camposque per omnes

Cum stabulis armenta trahit.”—Virg. Aen. ii. 496–499.

be meddled with] The Heb. word occurs only here and in Proverbs 18:1, Proverbs 20:3, in which places the rendering of A.V. is: be meddled with, intermeddleth with, will be meddling. We must, however, render, there be quarrelling, R.V. or, it waxeth warm, Gesen.

Verse 14. - The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water. The small rift in the bank of a reservoir of water, if not immediately secured, is soon enlarged and gets beyond control, occasioning widespread ruin and destruction; so from small and insignificant causes, which might at first have been easily checked, arise feuds and quarrels which extend in a wide circle, and cannot be appeased. Palestine was largely dependent upon its reservoirs for the storage of water, perennial springs being of rare occurrence. The three pools of Solomon in the neighbourhood of Bethlehem, which were connected by channels with Jerusalem, are still to be seen in all their massive grandeur; and, indeed, every town had its reservoir, or tank, as we find in India at the present time. These receptacles had to be kept in good repair, or disastrous consequences might ensue. On the tendency of a quarrel to grow to a dangerous extent, a Bengal proverb speaks of "going in a needle and coming out a ploughshare." Vulgate, Qui dimittit aquam, caput est jurgiorum, which seems to mean that the man who needlessly lets the water of a cistern run to waste gives occasion to quarrels. But St. Gregory ('Moral.,' 5:13), commenting on the passage, interprets differently: "It is well said by Solomon, 'He that letteth out water is a head of strife.' For the water is let out when the flowing of the tongue is let loose. And he that letteth out water is made the beginning of strife, in that, by the incontinency of the lips, the commencement of discord is afforded" (Oxford transl.). Probably, however, in the Latin, as in the Hebrew, the particle of comparison is suppressed, so that the clause means, "As he who lets out water, so is he who gives occasion to strife." Therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with. The last word חַתְלַֺגּלַּע is of doubtful interpretation. It occurs in Proverbs 18:1 and Proverbs 20:3, and is variously translated, "before it rushes forward," "before it grows warm," "before a man becomes wrathful." But Hitzig, Nowaek, and others take it to signify, "before men show their teeth," like angry dogs snarling at one another. The moralist advises men to subdue angry passions at once before they become exacerbated. The Vulgate seems to have quite mistaken the clause, translating, Antequam patiatur contumeliam, judicium deserit, which seems to mean that a patient, peace-loving man (in contrast with the irascible) avoids lawsuits before he is involved in a lasting quarrel. Septuagint, "The beginning (ἀρχὴ) of justice gives power to words; but discord and contention lead the way to want." The Greek commentators see here an allusion to the clepsydra, the water clock which regulated the length of the speeches in a court of law; but the reference is by no means clear. Proverbs 17:1414 As one letteth out water is the beginning of a strife;

     But cease thou from such strife ere it comes to showing teeth.

The meaning of this verb פּטר is certain: it means to break forth; and transitively, like Arab. faṭr, to bring forth from a cleft, to make to break forth, to let go free (Theodotion, ἀπολύων; Jerome, dimittit; Venet. ἀφιείς). The lxx, since it translates by ἐξουσίαν δίδωσι, thinks on the juristic signification, which occurs in the Chronicles: to make free, or to declare so; but here פּוטר מים (vid., regarding the Metheg at Proverbs 14:31) is, as Luther translates, one who tears away the dam from the waters. And ראשׁית מדון is not accus. dependent on פוטר, to be supplied (Hitzig: he unfetters water who the beginning of strife, viz., unfetters); but the part. is used as at Proverbs 10:17 : one who unfetters the water is the beginning of strife, i.e., he is thus related to it as when one... This is an addition to the free use of the part. in the language of the Mishna, where one would expect the infin., e.g., בּזורע ( equals בּזרע), if one sows, בּמזיד ( equals בּזדון), of wantonness. It is thus unnecessary, with Ewald, to interpret פוטר as neut., which lets water go equals a water-outbreak; פוטר is meant personally; it represents one who breaks through a water-dam, withdraws the restraint of the water, opens a sluice, and then emblematically the proverb says: thus conditioned is the beginning of a strife. Then follows the warning to let go such strife (הריב, with the article used in the more elevated style, not without emphasis), to break from it, to separate it from oneself ere it reach a dangerous height. This is expressed by לפני התגּלּע, a verb occurring only here and at Proverbs 18:1; Proverbs 20:3, always in the Hithpa. The Targum (misunderstood by Gesenius after Buxtorf; vid., to the contrary, Levy, under the word צדי II) translates it at Proverbs 18:1; Proverbs 20:3, as the Syr., by "to mock," also Aquila, who has at Proverbs 20:3, ἐξυβρισθήσεται, and the lxx at Proverbs 18:1, ἐπονείδιστος ἔσται, and Jerome, who has this in all the three passages, render the Hithpa. in this sense, passively. In this passage before us, the Targ., as Hitzig gives it, translates, "before it heats itself," but that is an error occasioned by Buxtorf; vid., on the contrary, Levy, under the word קריא (κύριος); this translation, however, has a representative in Haja Gaon, who appeals for גלע, to glow, to Nidda viii. 2.

(Note: Vid., Simon Nascher's Der Gaon Haja u. seine giest. Thtig. p. 15.)

Elsewhere the lxx, at Proverbs 20:3, συμπλέκεται (where Jerome, with the amalgamation of the two significations, miscentur contumeliis); Kimchi and others gloss it by התערב, and, according to this, the Venet. translates, πρὸ τοῦ συνχυθῆναι (τὴν ἔριν); Luther, "before thou art mingled therein." But all these explanations of the word: insultare, excandescere, and commisceri, are etymologically inadmissible. Bertheau's and Zckler's "roll itself forth" is connected at least with a meaning rightly belonging to the R. גל. But the Arab. shows, that not the meaning volvere, but that of retegere is to be adopted. Aruch

(Note: Vid., p. 109, note.)

for Nidda viii. 2 refers to the Arab., where a wound is designated as יכולה להגּלע ולהוציא דם, i.e., as breaking up, as it were, when the crust of that which is nearly healed is broken off (Maimuni glosses the word by להתקלף, were uncrusted), and blood again comes forth. The meaning retegere requires here, however, another distinction. The explanation mentioned there by Aruch: before the strife becomes public to thee, i.e., approaches thee, is not sufficient. The verbal stem גלע is the stronger power of גלה, and means laying bare; but here, not as there, in the Mishna of a wound covered with a crust. The Arab. jal' means to quarrel with another, properly to show him the teeth, the Pol or the tendency-stem from jali'a, to have the mouth standing open, so that one shows his teeth; and the Syr. glaṣ, with its offshoots and derivatives, has also this meaning of ringi, opening the mouth to show, i.e., to make bare the teeth. Schultens has established this explanation of the words, and Gesenius further establishes it in the Thesaurus, according to which Fleischer also remarks, "גלע, of showing the teeth, the exposing of the teeth by the wide opening of the mouth, as happens in bitter quarrels." But הריב does not agree with this. Hitzig's translation, "before the strife shows its teeth," is as modern as in Proverbs 17:11 is the passion of the unfettered demon, and Fleischer's prius vero quam exacerbetur rixa renders the Hithpa. in a sense unnecessarily generalized for Proverbs 18:1 and Proverbs 20:3. The accentuation, which separates להתגלע from הריב by Rebia Mugrash, is correct. One may translate, as Schultens, antequam dentes stringantur, or, since the Hithpa. has sometimes a reciprocal signification, e.g., Genesis 42:1; Psalm 41:8 : ere one reciprocally shows his teeth, Hitzig unjustly takes exception to the inversion הריב נטושׁ. Why should not the object precede, as at Hosea 12:1-14 :15, the נטוש, placed with emphasis at the end? The same inversion for a like reason occurs at Ecclesiastes 5:6.

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