Proverbs 26:10
The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors.
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(10) The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors.—If this rendering of the passage could stand, Matthew 6:2 might be quoted in illustration of it. If fools and transgressors will set their mind upon “husks” (Luke 15:16) instead of the food God has provided for His children, He does not deny it to them; they have the reward they seek for. But the Hebrew can hardly yield this meaning. Of all the various renderings suggested, perhaps the most unobjectionable is as follows. A master (one skilled in his art), produces everything (by his own care and oversight he sees himself that it is properly done); but a fool hires (others to do his work), and he hires passers by., i.e., any casual person that comes in his way, whether skilled or not, and so the work is done badly.

Proverbs 26:10. The great God formed all things, &c. — The Hebrew text of this verse will admit of different translations, as the reader may see by the margin, and commentators are much divided in their opinions of its meaning. The Hebrew word רב, rab, here rendered great, may be applied either to God or to a prince, and the proverb may be considered as declaring either how God the Creator and Governor of the universe will deal with sinners, or how kings and princes ought to act toward their subjects. Bishop Patrick’s paraphrase, which includes both, seems to give the most probable sense of the verse, thus: “The great God, who made all things, governs them also most wisely and equally; dispensing, for instance, his punishments suitable to men’s sins, whether out of ignorance, or of wilful wickedness; whom a good prince imitates; but a bad one proves a universal grievance, by employing either fools or profane persons in his service, who vex the rest of his subjects.”

26:2. He that is cursed without cause, the curse shall do him no more harm than the bird that flies over his head. 3. Every creature must be dealt with according to its nature, but careless and profligate sinners never will be ruled by reason and persuasion. Man indeed is born like the wild ass's colt; but some, by the grace of God, are changed. 4,5. We are to fit our remarks to the man, and address them to his conscience, so as may best end the debate. 6-9. Fools are not fit to be trusted, nor to have any honour. Wise sayings, as a foolish man delivers and applies them, lose their usefulness. 10. This verse may either declare how the Lord, the Creator of all men, will deal with sinners according to their guilt, or, how the powerful among men should disgrace and punish the wicked. 11. The dog is a loathsome emblem of those sinners who return to their vices, 2Pe 2:22. 12. We see many a one who has some little sense, but is proud of it. This describes those who think their spiritual state to be good, when really it is very bad. 13. The slothful man hates every thing that requires care and labour. But it is foolish to frighten ourselves from real duties by fancied difficulties. This may be applied to a man slothful in the duties of religion. 14. Having seen the slothful man in fear of his work, here we find him in love with his ease. Bodily ease is the sad occasion of many spiritual diseases. He does not care to get forward with his business. Slothful professors turn thus. The world and the flesh are hinges on which they are hung; and though they move in a course of outward services, yet they are not the nearer to heaven. 15. The sluggard is now out of his bed, but he might have lain there, for any thing he is likely to bring to pass in his work. It is common for men who will not do their duty, to pretend they cannot. Those that are slothful in religion, will not be at the pains to feed their souls with the bread of life, nor to fetch in promised blessings by prayer. 16. He that takes pains in religion, knows he is working for a good Master, and that his labour shall not be in vain. 17. To make ourselves busy in other men's matters, is to thrust ourselves into temptation. 18,19. He that sins in jest, must repent in earnest, or his sin will be his ruin. 20-22. Contention heats the spirit, and puts families and societies into a flame. And that fire is commonly kindled and kept burning by whisperers and backbiters. 23. A wicked heart disguising itself, is like a potsherd covered with the dross of silver.The word "God" is not in the original, and the adjective translated "great" is never used elsewhere absolutely in that sense. The simplest and best interpretation is: As the archer that woundeth everyone, so is he who hireth the fool, and he who hireth every passerby. Acting at random, entrusting matters of grave moment to men of bad repute, is as likely to do mischief as to shoot arrows at everyone. 10. Various versions of this are proposed (compare Margin). Better perhaps—"Much He injures (or literally, "wounds") all who reward," &c., that is, society is injured by encouraging evil men.

transgressors—may be rendered "vagrants." The word "God" is improperly supplied.

God, who is oft called

great, as Psalm 86:10 135:5, &c., and is described by the name of

the Most High, as Psalm 9:2 21:7, &c., who created all things, and therefore observeth and governeth all men and things, will certainly give that recompence which is meet for and deserved by fools and transgressors, i.e. by such as sin either through ignorance and heedlessness, or wilfully and wickedly. Or, as it is the margin, A great man (a prince or potentate, who are called by this title, Esther 1:8 Daniel 1:3, &c.) grieveth (as this word is used, Isaiah 51:9 53:5, and elsewhere) all, (to wit, all that are subject to him, or all that stand in his way) he hireth (as this word most commonly signifies) the fools, he hireth also transgressors. So the sense is, It is the manner of many princes to vex and oppress their subjects, which because they cannot do by themselves alone, they hire others, both fools, who do not know or consider what they do, and transgressors, who are ready to execute all their commands, right or wrong, that they may be their instruments in that work.

The great God, that formed all things,.... That made the heavens, earth, and sea, and all that are in them; who is great in the perfections of his nature, and in the works of his hands, and greatly to be praised;

both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors; according to their works; every transgression of the law receiving its just recompence of reward, whether a man transgresses it ignorantly or wilfully; as his transgressions are, whether through error or presumption, so shall his punishment be; though some understand this, as Kimchi, of the Lord's doing good in a providential way, to the wise and unwise, the righteous and the wicked: the words are by some rendered to another sense, "a great one grieveth all, and he hireth the fool, and he hireth the transgressors" (y); that is, a great man, a tyrannical prince, grieves all his good subjects; or, as Hottinger (z), from the use of the word in the Arabic tongue, changes all things, inverts their order, or administers all at his will, that is, wrongly; when he hires fools and wicked men to do those bad things for him which others would not, to the great detriment of the commonwealth; and rewards them for it, putting them into posts of honour and trust, to the great grief and trouble of all his best subjects.

(y) So Mercerus, Piscator. (z) Smegm. Oriental. l. 1. c. 2. p. 171.

{f} The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors.

(f) Meaning God.

10. The number and variety of interpretations which have been given to this verse justify the remark of R.V. marg. that “The Hebrew is obscure.”

The rendering of R.V. text is: As an archer (comp. Job 16:13, where the same Heb. word is so rendered) that woundeth all, so is he that hireth the fool and he that hireth them that pass by. But the objection to this is that instead of the fool being the main subject, as he is in all this group of proverbs, he is out of place, and the introduction of him mars the symmetry of the proverb, which should run: As an archer who wounds every one within his reach, friend and foe alike, so is a master who hires all who pass by, good workman and bad indifferently.

For this reason, if for no other, the rendering of R.V. margin is to be preferred: A master-worker formeth all things (we may supply in thought, either (1) and in order to do so makes wise choice of his instruments, or (2) he therefore is wise who employs such an one); but he that hireth the fool is as he that hireth them that pass by—every unskilled instrument that comes to his hand.

The introduction of the word God in A.V. is without authority, and the sense given by it to the proverb is less pertinent.

Verse 10. - Few passages have given greater difficulty than this verse; almost every word has been differently explained. The Authorized Version is, The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and re-wardeth transgressors; Revised Version, As an archer (Job 16:13) that woundeth all, so is he that hireth the fool and he that hireth thorn that pass by. At first sight one would hardly suppose that these could be versions of the same passage. To show the diversity that obtained in early times we quote the Greek and Latin versions. Septuagint, "All the flesh of fools is much distressed (πολλὰ χειμάζεται), for their distraction (ἔκστασις) is brought to nought;" Vulgate, "Judgment decides causes, and he who imposes silence on a fool appeases wrath." From the various interpretations of which this proverb is capable, it may be surmised that it was originally one of those hard sayings which were intended to exercise the ingenuity of auditors. It has certainly had that effect in modern times. We may at once eliminate the rendering of the Authorized Version, though the sense is good and scriptural, denoting that the great Creator recompenses the good and punishes sinners. So the medieval jingle -

"Ante Dei vultum nihil unquam restat inultum." God is not in the Hebrew, and rab, "great," is never used absolutely as equivalent to "God." Nor is the word used elsewhere to mean "head workman;" so the Revised Version margin, "a master worker formeth all things," is suspicious. Some translate, "A great man woundeth [equivalent to 'punisheth'] all; he renders their due to fools and to transgressors." One does not see why this should be attributed to the great man; it certainly is not generally true. Rosenmuller, "The mighty man causes terror; so does he who hires the fool and the transgressor;" but it is not clear why the hiring of a fool should occasion terror. The rendering in the Revised Version, or something very similar, has found favour with many modern commentators, though quite unknown to the mere ancient versions. According to this interpretation, the proverb says that a careless, random way of doing business, taking into one's service fools, or entrusting matters of importance to any chance loiterer, is as dangerous as shooting arrows about recklessly without caring whither they flew or whom they wounded. To this view Nowack objects that it is unparalleled to present an archer as a picture of what is unusual and profitless; that it does not explain why "hireth" is twice repeated; that the connection between shooter and the hire of fool and loiterer is net obvious; and that עברים does not mean "vagabonds" or "passers by." None of these objections are of much importance; and this interpretation still holds its ground. There is also much to be said for the rendering of the Revised Version margin, which is virtually that of Gesenius, Fleischer, Wordsworth, Nutt, and others: A skilful man, a master workman, produces, makes, everything by his own care and superintendence; but he that hires a fool to do his work hires, as it were, any casual vagabond who may know nothing of the business. One objection to this interpretation is that the verb חולל, does not elsewhere have the meaning here attributed to it. Considering all the above interpretations unsatisfactory, Hitzig, after Umbreit, followed herein by Delitzsch and Nowack, translates, "Much bringeth forth all," which means that he who possesses much can do anything, or, as St. Matthew 13:12, "Whosoever hath, to him shall be given" (comp. Proverbs 1:5). But the second hemistich comes in rather lamely, "But he who hires a fool is as one who hires a vagabond." Hence Delitzsch reads וּשְׂכַד for the first וְשכֵר, and renders, "But the hire and the hirer of the fool pass away," i.e. what the fool gets as wages is soon squandered, and the person who took him into his service is ruined by his incapacity. In this case the connection of the two clauses would be this: A rich man, in the nature of things, grows richer; but there are exceptions to this rule; for he who employs stupid and incapable people to do his business suffers for it in property, reputation, and probably in person also; and the incompetent person derives no benefit from the connection. It is impossible to give a decided preference to any of these expositions; and the passage must be left as a crux. It is most probable that the Hebrew text is defective. This would account for the great variations in the versions. Proverbs 26:10All that we have hitherto read is surpassed in obscurity by this proverb, which is here connected because of the resemblance of ושכר to שכור. We translate it thus, vocalizing differently only one word:

Much bringeth forth from itself all;

But the reward and the hirer of the fool pass away.

The lxx translates πολλὰ χειμάζεται πᾶσα σὰρξ ἀφρόνων (all the flesh of fools suffers much), συντριβήσεται γὰρ ἧ ἔκστασις αὐτῶν, which is in Hebrew:

רב מחולל כל בּשׂר כסיל

ישּׁבר עברתם

An unfortunate attempt so to rectify the words that some meaning might be extracted from them. The first line of this translation has been adopted by the Syr. and Targ., omitting only the כל, in which the self-condemnation of this deciphering lies (for כל בשׂר means elsewhere, humanity, not the whole body of each individual); but they translate the second line as if the words were:

ישׁכּר עבר ים

i.e., and the drunken man sails over the sea (עברים is separated into עבר ים, as בבקרים, Amos 6:12, is to be separated into בּבּקר ים); but what does that mean? Does it mean that to a drunkard (but שׁכּור, the drunken man, and not סבא, the drunkard, is used) nothing remains but to wander over the sea? or that the drunken man lets his imagination wander away over the sea, while he neglects the obligation that lies upon him? Symmachus and Theodotion, with the Midrash (Rashi) and Saadia (Kimchi), take שׂכר in 10b equals סגר (like Isaiah 19:10, שׂכר equals embankment, cf. סכּרין, Kelim, Proverbs 23:5); the former translates by καὶ ὁ φράσσων ἄφρονα ἐμφράσσει τὰς ὀργὰς αὐτοῦ, the latter by καὶ φιμῶν ἄφρονα φιμοῖ χόλους, yielding to the imagination that עברים, like עברות, may be the plur. of עברה, anger. Jerome punctuates רב as, Proverbs 25:8, רב, and interprets, as Symmachus and Theodotion, שׂכר both times equals סגר, translating: Judicium determinat causas, et qui imponit stulto silentium iras mitigat; but רב does not mean judicium, nor מחולל determinat, nor כל causas. As Gussetius, so also Ralbag (in the first of his three explanations), Meri, Elia Wilna interpret the proverb as a declaration regarding quarrelsome persons: he causeth woe to all, and hireth fools, hireth transgressors, for his companions; but in that case we must read רב for רב; מחולל, bringing woe, would be either the Po. of חלל, to bore through, or Pilel of חיל (חוּל), to put into distress (as with pangs); but עברים, transgressors equals sinners, is contrary to the O.T. usus loq., Proverbs 22:3 (Proverbs 27:12) is falsely cited in its favour; besides, for רב there should have been at least אישׁ רב and why שׂכרו is repeated remains inexplicable. Others take מחולל־כל as the name of God, the creator of all men and things; and truly this is the nearest impression of these two words, for חולל is the usual designation for divine production, e.g., Psalm 90:2. Accordingly Kimchi explains: The Lord is the creator of all, and He gives to fools and to transgressors their maintenance; but עברים, transgressors, is Mishnic, not bibl.; and שׂכר means to hire, but not to supply with food. The proverb is thus incapable of presenting a thought like Matthew 5:45 (He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good). Others translate: "The Lord is creator of all, and takes fools, takes idlers, into His service." Thus rendered, the proverb is offensive; wherefore Rashi, Moses Kimchi, Arama, and others regard the Mashal as in the mouth of fools, and thus they take Proverbs 26:9 and Proverbs 26:10 together as a tetrastich. Certainly this second collection of proverbs contains also tetrastiches; but Proverbs 26:9 and Proverbs 26:10 cannot be regarded as together forming a tetrastich, because רב (which is valid against Kimchi also) cannot mean God the Lord: רב, Lord, is unheard of in bibl. Heb., and at least the word הרב must be used for God. The Venet. on this account does not follow Kimchi, but translates, Ἄρχων πλάττει πάντα, καὶ μισθοῦται μωρὸν καὶ μισθοῦται ὡς παραβάτης (ought to have been παραβάτας); but who could this cunning man be? Perhaps the Venet. is to be understood, after Gecatilia (in Rashi): a great (rich) man performs all manner of things; but if he hires a fool, it is as if he hired the first best who pass along the way. But that חולל is used in the general sense of to execute, to perform, is without example, and improbable. Also the explanation: a ruler brings grief, i.e., severe oppression, upon all (Abulwald, Immanuel, Aben Ezra, who, in his smaller grammar, explains רב equals רב after Isaiah 49:9; C. B. Michaelis: dolore afficit omnes), does not recommend itself; for חולל, whether it be from חלל, Isaiah 51:9 (to bore through), or from חיל, Psalm 29:9 (to bring on the pangs of birth), is too strong a word for hurting; also the clause, thus generally understood, is fortunately untrue. Translated as by Euchel: "the prominent persons destroy all; they keep fools in pay, and favour vagabonds," - it sounds as if it had been picked up in an assembly of democrats. On the other hand, the proverb, as translated by Luther:

A good master maketh a thing right;

But he who hireth a bungler, by him it is spoiled,

is worthy of the Book of Proverbs. The second line is here freely rendered, but it is also appropriate, if we abide closer by the words of the text, in this connection. Fleischer: Magister (artifex peritus) effingit omnia (i.e., bene perficit quaecunque ei committuntur); qui autem stultum conducit, conducit transeuntes (i.e., idem facit ac si homines ignotos et forte transeuntes ad opus gravius et difficilius conduceret). Thus also Gesenius, Bttcher, and others, who all, as Gecatilia above, explain עברים, τοὺς τυχόντας, the first best. But we are reluctantly constrained to object to this thought, because רב nowhere in bibl. Hebrew signifies a master; and the ו of the second ושׂכר dno cannot bear that rendering, ac si. And if we leave it out, we nevertheless encounter a difficulty in חולל, which cannot be used of human production. Many Christian interpreters (Cocceius, Schultens, Schelling, Ewald, Bertheau, Stier, Zckler) give to רב a meaning which is found in no Jewish interpreter, viz., sagittarius, from רבב (רבב), Genesis 49:23 (and perhaps Psalm 18:15), after the forms צר, שׂר, the plur. of which, רבּים, is found at Job 16:13; Jeremiah 50:29, but in a connection which removes all doubt from the meaning of the word. Here also רב may be more closely defined by מחולל; but how then does the proverb stand? "an archer who wounds everything, and he who hires a fool, and hires passers-by" (Ewald: street-runners), i.e., they are alike. But if the archer piercing everything is a comic Hercules furens, then, in order to discover the resemblance between the three, there is need of a portion of ingenuity, such as is only particularly assigned to the favoured. But it is also against the form and the usage of the word to interpret עברים simply of rogues and vagabonds. Several interpreters have supposed that רב and כל must stand in a certain interchangeable relation to each other. Thus, e.g., Ahron b. Josef: "Much makes amazement to all, but especially one who hires a fool...." But this "especially" (Before all) is an expression smuggled in. Agreeing with Umbreit and Hitzig, we translate line first; but in translating line second, we follow our own method:

Much bringeth all out of it;

i.e., where there is much, then one has it in his power, if he begins right, to undertake everything. רב has by כּל the definition of a neuter, so as to designate not only many men, Exodus 19:21, but also much ability in a pecuniary and facultative sense (cf. the subst. רב, Isaiah 63:7; Psalm 145:7); and of the much which bringeth forth all out of itself, effects all by itself, חולל with equal right might be used, as Proverbs 25:23, of the north wind. The antithesis 10b takes this form:


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