Proverbs 26:2
As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.
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(2) As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying.—Rather, As the bird (any small one, especially the sparrow) is made for wandering, and the swallow for flying (where it pleases), so the curse causeless (i.e., spoken without reason) shall not come (reach its destination). The Hebrew reads in the margin “to him,” instead of “not,” in the sense that a causeless curse, though it passes out of sight like a bird in its flight, yet returns “to him” who uttered it—an idea expressed in more than one English proverb. (Comp. Psalm 109:17-18; Isaiah 55:11.)

Proverbs 26:2. As the bird by wandering — Namely, from place to place: that is, as by its restlessness it secures itself from the fowler, that he cannot shoot at it, or spread his net over it; so the curse causeless shall not come — Namely, upon the innocent person, but he shall escape from it as the bird escapes the fowler. Or, as some interpret it, “Curses which fly out of men’s mouths causelessly, shall no more alight where they would have them, than a sparrow that wanders uncertainly, or a dove that flies away swiftly, will settle according to their direction.”

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.i. e., "Vague as the flight of the sparrow, aimless as the wheelings of the swallow, is the causeless curse. It will never reach its goal." The marginal reading in the Hebrew, however, gives" to him" instead of "not" or "never;" i. e., "The causeless curse, though it may pass out of our ken, like a bird's track in the air, will come on the man who utters it." Compare the English proverb, "Curses, like young chickens, always come home to roost." 2. Though not obvious to us,

the bird—literally, "sparrow"—and

swallow—have an object in their motions, so penal evil falls on none without a reason.

By wandering from place to place; by its perpetual restlessness it secures itself from the fowler, that he cannot shoot at it, nor spread his net over it.

Shall not come, to wit, upon the innocent person, but he shall escape from it like a bird, &c.

As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying,.... As a bird, particularly the sparrow, as the word (h) is sometimes rendered, leaves its nest and wanders from it; and flies here and there, and settles nowhere; and as the swallow flies to the place from whence it came; or the wild pigeon, as some (i) think is meant, which flies away very swiftly: the swallow has its name in Hebrew from liberty, because it flies about boldly and freely, and makes its nest in houses, to which it goes and comes without fear;

so the curse causeless shall not come; the mouths of fools or wicked men are full of cursing and bitterness, and especially such who are advanced above others, and are set in high places; who think they have a right to swear at and curse those below them, and by this means to support their authority and power; but what signify their curses which are without a cause? they are vain and fruitless, like Shimei's cursing David; they fly away, as the above birds are said to do, and fly over the heads of those on whom they are designed to light; yea, return and fall upon the heads of those that curse, as the swallow goes to the place from whence it came; it being a bird of passage, Jeremiah 8:7; in the winter it flies away and betakes itself to some islands on rocks called from thence "chelidonian" (k). According to the "Keri", or marginal reading, for here is a double reading, it may be rendered, "so the curse causeless shall come to him" (l); that gives it without any reason. The Septuagint takes in both,

"so a vain curse shall not come upon any;''

what are all the anathemas of the church of Rome? who can curse whom God has not cursed? yea, such shall be cursed themselves; see Psalm 109:17.

(h) "sicat passeris", Mercerus, Gejerus; "ut passer", Piscator; Schultens. (i) Bochart. Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 1. c. 8. (k) Vid. Strabo. Geograph. l. 14. p. 458. Dionys. Perieg. v. 506, 507. (l) "in quempiam", V. L.

As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.
2. bird] Rather, sparrow. The mention of a particular bird, the swallow, in the next clause makes it probable that a particular bird is intended here also.

come] Rather, light.

The whole proverb gains by the rendering of R.V.:

As the sparrow in her wandering, as the swallow in her flying,

So the curse that is causeless lighteth not.

The reading, “shall come to him” (who invokes it), instead of “shall not come,” which involves the change of only a single letter in the Hebrew, mars the force and beauty of the comparison. It may perhaps have been suggested by the idea that the subject of this verse—he who invokes the curse—would be “the fool,” as in the group of Proverbs , vv1-12 here.

Proverbs 26:3-12. The proverbs of this group have all of them, as has Proverbs 26:1 of the chapter, the “fool” for their subject.

Verse 2. - As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying. "Bird" (tsippor) is the sparrow, which is found throughout Palestine; "swallow" (deror), the free flier. The Authorized Version hardly gives the sense. The line should be rendered, as the sparrow in (in respect of) its wandering, as the swallow in its flying. The point of comparison is the vagueness and aimlessness of the birds' flight, or the uselessness of trying to catch them in their course. So the curse causeless shall not come. It shall, as it were, spend its force in the air, and fall not on the head on which it was invoked. A causeless curse is that which is uttered against one who has done nothing to deserve such denunciation. Septuagint, "As birds and sparrows fly, so a causeless (ματαία) curse shall come upon no one" (comp. 1 Samuel 17:43; Nehemiah 13:2.) Bailey, 'Festus' -

"Blessings star forth forever; but a curse
Is like a cloud - it passes."
Closely connected with the superstition that dreads a curse is that which is alarmed by omens. Against this irrational fear we find some Eastern proverbs directed; e.g., "The jackal howls: will my old buffalo die?" "The dog barks - still the caravan passes: will the barking of the dog reach the skies?" (Lane). Instead of ללֺא, "not," the Keri reads לו, "to him." This makes the proverb say that the unprovoked curse shall return upon him who uttered it. But this reading is not to be accepted, as it does not suit the terms of comparison, though it seems to have been used by St. Jerome, who translates, Sic maledictum frustra prolatum in quempiam superveniet. This retributive justice is often alluded to elsewhere; e.g., ver. 27 (where see note). So we find in various languages proverbs to the same effect. Thus in English, "Harm watch, harm catch;" Spanish, "Who sows thorns, let him not walk barefoot;" Turkish, "Curses, like chickens, always come home to roost;" Yoruba, "Ashes always fly back in the face of him that throws them" (Trench). Proverbs 26:2This verse is formed quite in the same way as the preceding:

As the sparrow in its fluttering, as the swallow in its flying,

So the curse that is groundless: it cometh not.

This passage is one of those fifteen (vid., under Psalm 100:3) in which the לא of the text is changed by the Kerı̂ into לו; the Talm., Midrash, and Sohar refer this לּו partly to him who utters the curse himself, against whom also, if he is a judge, such inconsiderate cursing becomes an accusation by God; partly to him who is cursed, for they read from the proverb that the curse of a private person also (הדיוט, ἰδιώτης) is not wont to fall to the ground, and that therefore one ought to be on his guard against giving any occasion for it (vid., Norzi). But Aben Ezra supposes that לא and לו interchange, as much as to say that the undeserved curse falls on him (לו) who curses, and does not fall (לא) on him who is cursed. The figures in 2a harmonize only with לא, according to which the lxx, the Syr., Targ., Venet., and Luther (against Jerome) translate, for the principal matter, that the sparrow and the swallow, although flying out (Proverbs 27:8), return home again to their nest (Ralbag), would be left out of view in the comparison by לו. This emphasizes the fluttering and flying, and is intended to affirm that a groundless curse is a פּרח בּאוּיר, aimless, i.e., a thing hovering in the air, that it fails and does not take effect. Most interpreters explain the two Lameds as declaring the destination: ut passer (sc. natus est) ad vagandum, as the sparrow, through necessity of nature, roves about... (Fleischer). But from Proverbs 25:3 it is evident that the Lamed in both cases declares the reference or the point of comparison: as the sparrow in respect to its fluttering about, etc. The names of the two birds are, according to Aben Ezra, like dreams without a meaning; but the Romanic exposition explains rightly צפּור by passereau, and דּרור by hirondelle, for צפור (Arab. 'uṣfuwr), twitterer, designates at least preferably the sparrow, and דרור the swallow, from its flight shooting straight out, as it were radiating (vid., under Psalm 84:4); the name of the sparrow, dûrı̂ (found in courtyards), which Wetstein, after Saadia, compares to דרור, is etymologically different.

(Note: It is true that the Gemara to Negam, Proverbs 14:1, explains the Mishnic צפרים דרור, "house-birds," for it derives דרור from דור, to dwell.)

Regarding חנּם, vid., under Proverbs 24:28. Rightly the accentuation separates the words rendered, "so the curse undeserved" (קללת, after Kimchi, Michlol 79b, קללת), from those which follow; לא תבא is the explication of כן: thus hovering in the air is a groundless curse - it does not come (בוא, like e.g., Joshua 21:43). After this proverb, which is formed like Proverbs 26:1, the series now returns to the "fool."

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