Better is the poor that walks in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)XIX.Proverbs 19:1-2. Better is the poor — Hebrew, רשׁ, a poor man; that walketh in his integrity — Who is upright in his words and actions; he has a better character, is in a better condition, is more beloved, lives to better purpose, and is greater and more excellent in the eyes of God, and of all wise and good men; than he that is perverse in his lips — Who is in the habit of uttering sinful and mischievous expressions, however high he may be in rank, wealth, or dignity. Also, that the soul be without knowledge — Without wisdom or prudence to discern the right way of speaking and acting, and how a person ought to conduct himself in all affairs, and on all occasions; is not good — Is of evil and pernicious consequence; and he that hasteth with his feet — That rashly and hastily rushes into actions without serious consideration; sinneth — Contracts guilt, and involves himself, and perhaps also many others, into difficulties and troubles. “Solomon, in this verse,” says Bishop Patrick, “observes two great springs of all our miscarriages; want of understanding and want of deliberation. To make too much haste in a business is the way not to speed; and to run blindly upon any thing is no less prejudicial to our undertakings. Both he that affects things without knowledge, and he that pursues what he understands without deliberation, runs into many mistakes, and commits many sins. For which Solomon shows in the next verse that he must blame none but himself, and never, in the least, reflect upon God as if he were negligent of us, or hard to us; which men are prone to think, when they have foolishly undone themselves.”
Proverbs 19:1-2 are missing in the Septuagint.
1. (Compare Pr 28:6). "Rich" for fool here. Integrity is better than riches (Pr 15:16, 17; 16:8). That walketh in his integrity; who is upright in his words and actions.
than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool; that is, than a rich man, as the Syriac and Vulgate Latin versions supply it, and as the antithesis requires; "that is perverse in his lips", or "whose ways are perverse", as the Syriac version; that acts the deceitful part both by words and actions towards those that are about him, not being honest and plain hearted as the poor man is; and who uses those beneath him very roughly; and concerning oppression speaks loftily, and lets his tongue run both against God in heaven and man on earth, by which he shows he is a fool: for his riches do not give him wisdom; and his words and actions declare he wants it; men may be poor, and yet wise; and a matt may be rich, and yet a fool: or is confident (d); that is, trusts in his riches, and is opposed to a poor man, so R. Saadiah Gaon. This verse and Proverbs 19:2 are not in the Septuagint and Arabic versions.Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)1. a fool] We are left to read in the word rich, from the contrast implied by the parallelism: upright poverty is better than perverse folly, by whatever advantages of wealth, of birth, or of rank, it may be accompanied. The proverb recurs, with variations, Proverbs 28:6.Verse 1. - Better is the poor that walkth in his integrity. The word for "poor" is, here and in vers. 7, 22, rash, which signifies "poor" in opposition to "rich." In the present reading of the second clause, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool, there seems to be a failure in antithesis, unless we can understand the fool as a rich fool. This, the repetition of the maxim in Proverbs 28:6 ("Than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich"), would lead one to admit. The Vulgate accordingly has, Quam dives torquem labia sua, et insipiens, "Than a rich man who is of perverse lips and a fool." With this the Syriac partly agrees. So that, if we take this reading, the moralist says that the poor man who lives a guileless, innocent life, content with his lot, and using no wrong means to improve his fortunes, is happier and better than the rich man who is hypocritical in his words and deceives others, and has won his wealth by such means, thus proving himself to be a fool, a morally bad man. But if we content ourselves with the Hebrew text, we must find the antithesis in the simple, pious, poor man, contrasted with the arrogant rich man, who sneers at his poor neighbour as an inferior creature. The writer would seem to insinuate that there is a natural connection between poverty and integrity of life on the one hand, and wealth and folly on the other. He would assent to the sweeping assertion, Omnis dives ant iniquus aut iniqui heres, "Every rich man is either a rascal or a rascal's heir."
And contentions are like the bar of a palace.
Luther rightly regarded the word נושׁע, according to which the lxx, Vulg., and Syr. translated frater qui adjuvatur a fratre, as an incorrect reading; one would rather expect אח מושׁיע, "a brother who stands by," as Luther earlier translated; and besides, נושׁע does not properly mean adjuvari, but salvari. His translation -
Ein verletzt Bruder helt herter denn eine feste Stad,
Und Zanck helt herter, denn rigel am Palast
[a brother wounded resisteth more than a strong city, and strife resisteth more than bolts in the palace], is one of his most happy renderings. מקּרית־עז in itself only means ὑπὲρ πόλιν ὀχυράν (Venet.); the noun-adjective (cf. Isaiah 10:10) to be supplied is to be understood to עז: עז הוּא or קשׁה הוא (Kimchi). The Niph. נפשׁע occurs only here. If one reads נפשׁע, then it means one who is treated falsely equals נפשׁע בּו, like the frequently occurring קמי, my rising up ones equals קמים עלי, those that rise up against me; but Codd. (Also Baer's Cod. jaman.) and old editions have נפשׁע, which, as we have above translated, gives an impersonal attributive clause; the former: frater perfidiose tractatus (Fl.: mala fide offensus); the latter: perfide actum est, scil. בּו in eum equals in quem perfide actum. אח is, after Proverbs 17:17, a friend in the highest sense of the word; פשׁע means to break off, to break free, with ב or על of him on whom the action terminates. That the פּשׁע is to be thought of as אח of the אח נפשׁע is obvious; the translation, "brothers who break with one another" (Gesen.), is incorrect: אח is not collective, and still less is נפשׁע a reciprocum. The relation of אח is the same as that of אלּוּף, Proverbs 16:28. The Targum (improving the Peshito) translates אחא דמת עוי מן אחוי, which does not mean: a brother who renounces (Hitzig), but who is treated wickedly on the part of, his brother. That is correct; on the contrary, Ewald's "a brother resists more than..." proceeds from a meaning of פשׁע which it has not; and Bertheau gives, with Schultens, an untenable
(Note: Among the whole Heb. synon. for sinning, there exists no reflexive Niph.; and also the Arab. fsḳ has no ethical signification. נסכּל only, in the sense of fool, is found.)
reflexive meaning to the Niph. (which as denom. might mean "covered with crime," Venet. πλημμεληθείς), and, moreover, one that is too weak, for he translates, "a brother is more obstinate then...." Hitzig corrects אחז פּשׁע, to shut up sin equals to hold it fettered; but that is not correct Heb. It ought to be עצר, כּבשׁ, or רדות. In 19a the force of the substantival clause lies in the מן (more than, i.e., harder equals more difficult to be gained), and in 19b in the כּ; cf. Micah 7:4, where they are interchanged. The parallelism is synonymous: strifes and lawsuits between those who had been friends form as insurmountable a hindrance to their reconciliation, are as difficult to be raised, as the great bars at the gate of a castle (Fl.). The point of comparison is not only the weight of the cross-beam (from ברח, crosswise, across, to go across the field), but also the shutting up of the access. Strife forms a partition wall between such as once stood near each other, and so much thicker the closer they once stood.
With Proverbs 18:19, the series of proverbs which began with that of the flatterer closes. The catchword אח, which occurred at its commencement, 9b, is repeated at its close, and serves also as a landmark of the group following Proverbs 18:20-24. The proverb of the breach of friendship and of contentions is followed by one of the reaction of the use of the tongue on the man himself.
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