Proverbs 31 (Bible Marathon Day 338)

VIII. Sayings of King Lemuel[a]

Chapter 31

The words of Lemuel, king of Massa,[b] the instruction his mother taught him:

What are you doing, my son![c]
    what are you doing, son of my womb;
    what are you doing, son of my vows!
Do not give your vigor to women,
    or your strength[d] to those who ruin kings.
It is not for kings, Lemuel,
    not for kings to drink wine;
    strong drink is not for princes,
Lest in drinking they forget what has been decreed,
    and violate the rights of any who are in need.
Give strong drink to anyone who is perishing,
    and wine to the embittered;
When they drink, they will forget their misery,
    and think no more of their troubles.
Open your mouth in behalf of the mute,
    and for the rights of the destitute;
Open your mouth, judge justly,
    defend the needy and the poor!

IX. Poem on the Woman of Worth[e]

10 Who can find[f] a woman of worth?
    Far beyond jewels is her value.
11 Her husband trusts her judgment;
    he does not lack income.
12 She brings him profit, not loss,[g]
    all the days of her life.
13 She seeks out wool and flax
    and weaves with skillful hands.
14 Like a merchant fleet,[h]
    she secures her provisions from afar.
15 She rises while it is still night,
    and distributes food to her household,
    a portion to her maidservants.
16 She picks out a field and acquires it;
    from her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She girds herself with strength;
    she exerts her arms with vigor.[i]
18 She enjoys the profit from her dealings;
    her lamp is never extinguished at night.[j]
19 She puts her hands to the distaff,
    and her fingers ply the spindle.[k]
20 She reaches out her hands to the poor,
    and extends her arms to the needy.
21 She is not concerned for her household when it snows—
    all her charges are doubly clothed.
22 She makes her own coverlets;
    fine linen and purple are her clothing.
23 Her husband is prominent at the city gates
    as he sits with the elders of the land.[l]
24 She makes garments and sells them,
    and stocks the merchants with belts.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity,
    and laughs at the days to come.[m]
26 She opens her mouth in wisdom;
    kindly instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over[n] the affairs of her household,
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
    her husband, too, praises her:
29 “Many are the women of proven worth,
    but you have excelled them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting;
    the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.[o]
31 Acclaim her for the work of her hands,
    and let her deeds praise her at the city gates.

Footnotes:

  1. 31:1–9Though mothers are sources of wisdom in Proverbs (1:8; 6:20), the mother of Lemuel is special in being queen mother, which was an important position in the palace. Queen mothers played an important role in ancient palace life because of their longevity, knowledge of palace politics, and loyalty to their sons; they were in a good position to offer him sound counsel. The language of the poem contains Aramaisms, a sign of its non-Israelite origin.

    The first section, vv. 3–5, warns against abuse of sex and alcohol (wine, strong drink) lest the king forget the poor. The second section, vv. 6–9, urges the use of alcohol (strong drink, wine) so that the downtrodden poorcan forget their poverty. The real subject of the poem is justice for the poor.

  2. 31:1 Massa: see note on 30:1–6.
  3. 31:2 My son: in the Septuagint, “my son, my firstborn.”
  4. 31:3 The Hebrew word here translated “strength” normally means “ways,” but the context and a cognate language support “authority” or “strength” here.
  5. 31:10–31 An acrostic poem of twenty-two lines; each line begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. As with many other acrostic poems in the Bible, the unity of the poem is largely extrinsic, coming not from the narrative logic but from the familiar sequence of letters. The topic is the ideal woman described through her activity as a wife. Some have suggested that the traditional hymn extolling the great deeds of a warrior has been transposed to extol a heroic wife; the focus is on her exploits. She runs a household distinguished by abundant food and clothing for all within, by its trade (import of raw materials and export of finished products), and by the renown of its head, her husband, in the community. At v. 28, the voice is no longer that of the narrator but of her children and husband as they praise her. The purpose of the poem has been interpreted variously: an encomium to offset the sometimes negative portrayal of women in the book, or, more symbolically (and more likely), a portrait of a household ruled by Woman Wisdom and a disciple of Woman Wisdom, i.e., he now has a worthy wife and children, a great household, renown in the community.
  6. 31:10 Who can find…?: in 20:6 and Eccl 8:1 the question implies that finding such a person is well-nigh impossible.
  7. 31:12 Profit, not loss: a commercial metaphor.
  8. 31:14 Like a merchant fleet: she has her eye on the far horizon, like the ship of a merchant ready to bring supplies into her larder. It is the only simile (“like”) in the poem.
  9. 31:17 The metaphor of clothing oneself is used to show the woman’s readiness. One can gird on weapons of war and might and splendor (Ps 69:7; Is 52:9).
  10. 31:18 Her lamp is never extinguished at night: indicates abundance of productive work and its accompanying prosperity; cf. 20:20; Jb 18:6.
  11. 31:19 The wife weaves linen cloth from flax and wool from fleece, which she cultivated according tov. 13. Distaff: staff for holding the flax, tow, or wool, which in spinning was drawn out and twisted into yarn or thread by the spindle or round stick.
  12. 31:23 The husband is mentioned for the first time since vv. 10–12 but as “her husband.” He will not be mentioned again until v. 28, where he praises her.
  13. 31:25 Laughs at the days to come: anticipates the future with joy, free of anxiety.
  14. 31:27 Watches over: Hebrew ṣopiyyâ, perhaps a pun on the Greek sophia (= wisdom). Bread of idleness: she does not eat from the table of others but from her own labors.
  15. 31:30 The true charm of this woman is her religious spirit, for she fears the Lord; cf. note on 1:7.

Proverbs 30 (Bible Marathon Day 338)

VII. Sayings of Agur and Others

Chapter 30

[a]The words of Agur, son of Jakeh the Massaite:

The pronouncement of mortal man: “I am weary, O God;
    I am weary, O God, and I am exhausted.
I am more brute than human being,
    without even human intelligence;
[b]Neither have I learned wisdom,
    nor have I the knowledge of the Holy One.
Who has gone up to heaven and come down again—
    who has cupped the wind in the hollow of the hand?
Who has bound up the waters in a cloak—
    who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is that person’s name, or the name of his son?”[c]

[d]Every word of God is tested;
    he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
Add nothing to his words,
    lest he reprimand you, and you be proved a liar.

[e]Two things I ask of you,
    do not deny them to me before I die:
Put falsehood and lying far from me,
    give me neither poverty nor riches;
    provide me only with the food I need;
Lest, being full, I deny you,
    saying, “Who is the Lord?”
Or, being in want, I steal,
    and profane the name of my God.
10 Do not criticize servants to their master,
    lest they curse you, and you have to pay the penalty.
11 [f]There are some who curse their fathers,
    and do not bless their mothers.
12 There are some pure in their own eyes,
    yet not cleansed of their filth.
13 There are some—how haughty their eyes!
    how overbearing their glance!
14 There are some—their teeth are swords,
    their teeth are knives,
Devouring the needy from the earth,
    and the poor from the human race.
15 [g]The leech has two daughters:
    “Give,” and “Give.”
Three things never get their fill,
    four never say, “Enough!”
16 Sheol, a barren womb,
    land that never gets its fill of water,
    and fire, which never says, “Enough!”
17 The eye that mocks a father,
    or scorns the homage due a mother,
Will be plucked out by brook ravens;
    devoured by a brood of vultures.
18 [h]Three things are too wonderful for me,
    yes, four I cannot understand:
19 The way of an eagle in the sky,
    the way of a serpent upon a rock,
The way of a ship on the high seas,
    and the way of a man with a woman.
20 This is the way of an adulterous woman:
    she eats, wipes her mouth,
    and says, “I have done no wrong.”[i]
21 [j]Under three things the earth trembles,
    yes, under four it cannot bear up:
22 Under a slave who becomes king,
    and a fool who is glutted with food;
23 Under an unloved woman who is wed,
    and a maidservant who displaces her mistress.
24 [k]Four things are among the smallest on the earth,
    and yet are exceedingly wise:
25 Ants—a species not strong,
    yet they store up their food in the summer;
26 Badgers—a species not mighty,
    yet they make their home in the crags;
27 Locusts—they have no king,
    yet they march forth in formation;
28 Lizards—you can catch them with your hands,
    yet they find their way into kings’ palaces.
29 [l]Three things are stately in their stride,
    yes, four are stately in their carriage:
30 The lion, mightiest of beasts,
    retreats before nothing;
31 The strutting cock, and the he-goat,
    and the king at the head of his people.
32 [m]If you have foolishly been proud
    or presumptuous—put your hand on your mouth;
33 For as the churning of milk produces curds,
    and the pressing of the nose produces blood,
    the churning of anger produces strife.

Footnotes:

  1. 30:1–6 Scholars are divided on the original literary unit. Is it vv. 1–3, 1–4, 1–5, or 1–6? The unit is probably vv. 1–6, for a single contrast dominates: human fragility (and ignorance) and divine power (and knowledge). A similar contrast is found in Jb 28; Ps 73; Is 49:1–4. The language of self-abasement is hyperbolic; cf. 2 Sm 9:8; Ps 73:21–22; Jb 25:4–6. Agur: an unknown person.Massaite: from Massa in northern Arabia, elsewhere referred to as an encampment of the Ishmaelites (Gn 25:14). But Heb. massa may not be intended as a place name; it might signify “an oracle,” “a prophecy,” as in Is 15:1; 17:1; etc.
  2. 30:3–4 Agur denies he has secret heavenly knowledge. The purpose of the denial is to underline that God directly gives wisdom to those whose conduct pleases him.
  3. 30:4 The Hebrew text has the phrase “do you know?” at the end of v. 4, which is supported by the versions. The phrase, however, does not appear in the important Greek manuscripts Vaticanus and Sinaiticus and spoils the sense, for Agur, not God, is the questioner. The phrase seems to be an addition to the Hebrew text, borrowed from Job 38:5, where it also follows a cosmic question.
  4. 30:5–6 Verse 5, like the confession of the king in Ps 18:31 (and its parallel, 2 Sm 22:31), expresses total confidence in the one who rescues from death. Agur has refused a word from any other except God and makes an act of trust in God.
  5. 30:7–9 A prayer against lying words and for sufficiency of goods, lest reaction to riches or destitution lead to offenses against God.
  6. 30:11–14 Perverted people are here classified as unfilial (v. 11), self-righteous (v. 12), proud (v. 13) and rapacious (v. 14).
  7. 30:15–16 Here begins a series of numerical sayings; the pattern is n, n + 1. The slight variation in number (two and three, three and four) is an example of parallelism applied to numbers. The poetic technique is attested even outside the Bible. Two daughters: “Give,” and “Give”: the text is obscure; as the leech (a bloodsucking worm) is insatiable in its desire for blood (v. 15), so are the nether world for victims, the barren womb for offspring, the earth for water, and fire for fuel (v. 16). Sheol: here not so much the place of the dead as a force (death) that eventually draws all the living into it; cf. 27:20; Is 5:14; Hb 2:5. Land…fire: land (especially the dry land of Palestine) always absorbs more water; fire always requires more fuel.
  8. 30:18–19 The soaring flight of the eagle, the mysterious movement upon a rock of the serpent which has no feet, the path of the ship through the trackless deep, and the marvelous attraction between the sexes; there is a mysterious way common to them all.
  9. 30:20 This verse portrays the indifference of an adulterous woman who casually dismisses her guilt because it cannot be traced.
  10. 30:21–23 Shaking heavens are part of general cosmic upheaval in Is 14:16; Jl 2:10; Am 8:8; Jb 9:6. Disturbances in nature mirror the disturbance of unworthy people attaining what they do not deserve. Glutted with food: someone unworthy ends up with the fulfillment that befits a wise person. Unloved woman: an older woman who, contrary to expectation, finds a husband.
  11. 30:24–28 The creatures may be small, but they are wise in knowing how to govern themselves—the definition of wisdom. Badgers: the rock badger is able to live on rocky heights that provide security from its enemies. Locusts: though vulnerable individually their huge swarms are impossible to deflect.
  12. 30:29–31 Four beings with an imperiousness visible in their walk. Only the lion is described in detail; the reader is expected to transpose its qualities to the others.
  13. 30:32–33 The same Hebrew verb, “to churn, shake,” is applied to milk, the nose (sometimes a symbol of anger), and wrath. In each case something is eventually produced by the constant agitation. The wise make peace and avoid strife, for strife eventually harms those who provoke it.

Proverbs 29 (Bible Marathon Day 337)

Chapter 29

Those stiff-necked in the face of reproof
    in an instant will be shattered beyond cure.[a]
When the just flourish, the people rejoice;
    but when the wicked rule, the people groan.[b]
Whoever loves wisdom gives joy to his father,
    but whoever consorts with harlots squanders his wealth.
By justice a king builds up the land;
    but one who raises taxes tears it down.[c]
Those who speak flattery to their neighbor
    cast a net at their feet.[d]
The sin of the wicked is a trap,
    but the just run along joyfully.
The just care for the cause of the poor;
    the wicked do not understand such care.[e]
Scoffers enflame the city,
    but the wise calm the fury.
If a wise person disputes with a fool,
    there is railing and ridicule but no resolution.
10 The bloodthirsty hate the blameless,
    but the upright seek his life.[f]
11 Fools give vent to all their anger;
    but the wise, biding their time, control it.
12 If rulers listen to lying words,
    their servants all become wicked.
13 The poor and the oppressor meet:
    the Lord gives light to the eyes of both.
14 If a king is honestly for the rights of the poor,
    his throne stands firm forever.
15 The rod of correction gives wisdom,
    but uncontrolled youths disgrace their mothers.
16 When the wicked increase, crime increases;
    but the just will behold their downfall.[g]
17 Discipline your children, and they will bring you comfort,
    and give delight to your soul.
18 Without a vision the people lose restraint;
    but happy is the one who follows instruction.[h]
19 Not by words alone can servants be trained;
    for they understand but do not respond.[i]
20 Do you see someone hasty in speech?
    There is more hope for a fool!
21 If servants are pampered from childhood
    they will turn out to be stubborn.
22 The ill-tempered stir up strife,
    and the hotheaded cause many sins.
23 Haughtiness brings humiliation,
    but the humble of spirit acquire honor.[j]
24 Partners of a thief hate themselves;[k]
    they hear the imprecation but do not testify.
25 Fear of others becomes a snare,
    but the one who trusts in the Lord is safe.
26 Many curry favor with a ruler,
    but it is from the Lord that one receives justice.
27 An abomination to the just, the evildoer;
    an abomination to the wicked, one whose way is straight.

Footnotes:

  1. 29:1 The idiom “to stiffen one’s neck” occurs in a context of not heeding a message in Dt 10:16and 2 Kgs 17:14. To stiffen one’s neck in this sense risks having it broken, as in 1 Sm 4:18.
  2. 29:2 Popular response to a just or unjust ruler is expressed in sound—shouts of joy or groans of anguish. “Rejoice” can mean to express one’s joy, i.e., joyous shouts.
  3. 29:4 In Hebrew as in English high and low are metaphors for prosperity and depression. A king who is just “causes the land to stand up,” i.e., to be prosperous, and one who makes taxes high brings a country low.
  4. 29:5 When one addresses deceptive words to someone’s face, one equivalently throws a net at their feet to snare them.
  5. 29:7 As in 12:10 (on care for animals), the righteous care for those who are without a voice and often treated like animals. Colon B has a double meaning: the wicked have no such knowledge (care for the poor) and they have no knowledge (wisdom), for they are fools.
  6. 29:10 An enigmatic saying in that “seek one’s life” is a common idiom for killing. The saying probably plays on the idiom, interpreting “to seek the life of another” not as killing but as caring for another (as in 11:30).
  7. 29:16 When the wicked grow numerous they sow the seeds of their own destruction, for there is a corresponding increase in offenses calling down divine retribution.
  8. 29:18 This much-cited proverb has been interpreted in several different ways. “Vision” and “instruction” mean authoritative guidance for the community. People are demoralized without credible leadership, but any individual heeding traditional instruction can still find happiness. As in15:15 wisdom enables an individual to surmount days of trouble.
  9. 29:19 The give and take of reproving is not possible for servants or slaves. Ancient custom dictated silent acquiescence for them. There is no open and free dialogue, which is part of ancient discipline.
  10. 29:23 One’s prideful height brings one down and one’s lowly state brings glory.
  11. 29:24 Hate themselves: because they not only incur guilt as accomplices but, by their silence, bring down on themselves the curse invoked on the unknown guilty partner. Such a case is envisioned in Lv 5:1. After a theft, a public proclamation was made, enforced by a curse. No one in a town or city could avoid hearing it. The curse hung over the accomplice. By doing nothing, neither directly stealing nor confessing, accomplices put themselves in serious danger.

Proverbs 28 (Bible Marathon Day 337)

Chapter 28

The wicked flee though none pursue;
    but the just, like a lion, are confident.
If a land is rebellious, its princes will be many;
    but with an intelligent and wise ruler there is stability.[a]
One who is poor and extorts from the lowly
    is a devastating rain that leaves no food.[b]
Those who abandon instruction[c] praise the wicked,
    but those who keep instruction oppose them.
The evil understand nothing of justice,[d]
    but those who seek the Lord understand everything.
Better to be poor and walk in integrity
    than rich and crooked in one’s ways.
Whoever heeds instruction is a wise son,
    but whoever joins with wastrels disgraces his father.
Whoever amasses wealth by interest and overcharge[e]
    gathers it for the one who is kind to the poor.
Those who turn their ears from hearing instruction,
    even their prayer is an abomination.
10 Those who mislead the upright into an evil way
    will themselves fall into their own pit,
    but the blameless will attain prosperity.
11 The rich are wise in their own eyes,
    but the poor who are intelligent see through them.
12 When the just triumph, there is great glory;
    but when the wicked prevail, people hide.[f]
13 Those who conceal their sins do not prosper,
    but those who confess and forsake them obtain mercy.[g]
14 Happy those who always fear;[h]
    but those who harden their hearts fall into evil.
15 A roaring lion or a ravenous bear
    is a wicked ruler over a poor people.
16 The less prudent the rulers, the more oppressive their deeds.
    Those who hate ill-gotten gain prolong their days.
17 Though a person burdened with blood guilt is in flight even to the grave,
    let no one offer support.
18 Whoever walks blamelessly is safe,
    but one whose ways are crooked falls into a pit.
19 Those who cultivate their land will have plenty of food,
    but those who engage in idle pursuits will have plenty of want.
20 The trustworthy will be richly blessed;
    but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.
21 To show partiality is never good:
    for even a morsel of bread one may do wrong.[i]
22 Misers hurry toward wealth,
    not knowing that want is coming toward them.[j]
23 Whoever rebukes another wins more favor
    than one who flatters with the tongue.
24 Whoever defrauds father or mother and says, “It is no sin,”
    is a partner to a brigand.
25 The greedy person stirs up strife,
    but the one who trusts in the Lord will prosper.
26 Those who trust in themselves are fools,
    but those who walk in wisdom are safe.
27 Those who give to the poor have no lack,
    but those who avert their eyes, many curses.
28 When the wicked prevail, people hide;
    but at their fall the just abound.

Footnotes:

  1. 28:2 The first line expresses the paradox that rebellion, far from doing away with rulers, actually multiplies them. The second line is corrupt.
  2. 28:3 The reference may be to tax farmers who collected taxes and took a commission. The collectors’ lack of wealth was the cause of their oppression of poor farmers. They are like a rain too violent to allow crops to grow.
  3. 28:4 Instruction: torah; the word is used both for the teaching of the wise and the law of Moses.
  4. 28:5 Understanding nothing of justice plays on the twofold sense of justice as righteousness and as punishment that comes on the wicked. On the other hand, those who seek the Lordunderstand everything, i.e., that the Lord punishes the wicked and rewards the righteous (themselves).
  5. 28:8 Interest and overcharge were strictly forbidden in the old law among Israelites because it was presumed that the borrower was in distress; cf. Ex 22:25; Lv 25:35–37; Dt 23:20; Ps 15:5; Ez 18:8. Divine providence will take the offender’s wealth; cf. Eccl 2:26.
  6. 28:12 People react in opposite ways to the triumph of good and evil. To the triumph of good, they react by public display, public celebration, and to the triumph of evil, by hiding.
  7. 28:13 Concealing the faults of another is a good thing in Proverbs (17:9), but concealing one’s own sins is not. Ps 32:1–5 expresses the anguish caused by concealing one’s sins rather than bringing them to light so they can be healed by God.
  8. 28:14 Fear is a different verb than in the phrase “to fear (or revere) the Lord.” In its only other biblical occurrence (Is 51:13), the verb means to dread an oppressor. The saying states a paradox: those who fear in the sense of being cautious are declared happy, whereas those who are fearless will fall into traps they did not “fear.” In short, there is good fear and bad fear.
  9. 28:21 Cf. 24:23. Verse 21b warns that even in a light matter one must remain impartial.
  10. 28:22 “Bad of eye” is the Hebrew idiom for miserly. Misers fail to see that poverty is hurrying toward them because of their wrong attitude toward wealth. Because misers are “bad of eye,” they do not see the danger.

Proverbs 27 (Bible Marathon Day 337)

Chapter 27

Do not boast about tomorrow,
    for you do not know what any day may bring forth.
Let another praise you, not your own mouth;
    a stranger, not your own lips.
Stone is heavy, and sand a burden,
    but a fool’s provocation is heavier than both.
Anger is cruel, and wrath overwhelming,
    but before jealousy who can stand?[a]
[b]Better is an open rebuke
    than a love that remains hidden.
Trustworthy are the blows of a friend,
    dangerous, the kisses of an enemy.[c]
One who is full spurns honey;
    but to the hungry, any bitter thing is sweet.
Like a bird far from the nest
    so is anyone far from home.[d]
Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart,
    but by grief the soul is torn asunder.
10 Do not give up your own friend and your father’s friend;
    do not resort to the house of your kindred when trouble strikes.
Better a neighbor near than kin far away.[e]
11 Be wise, my son, and bring joy to my heart,
    so that I can answer whoever taunts me.[f]
12 The astute see an evil and hide;
    the naive continue on and pay the penalty.
13 Take the garment of the one who became surety for a stranger;
    if for a foreign woman, exact the pledge![g]
14 Those who greet their neighbor with a loud voice[h] in the early morning,
    a curse can be laid to their charge.
15 For a persistent leak on a rainy day
    the match is a quarrelsome wife;
16 Whoever would hide her hides a stormwind
    and cannot tell north from south.
17 Iron is sharpened by iron;
    one person sharpens another.[i]
18 Those who tend a fig tree eat its fruit;
    so those attentive to their master will be honored.
19 As face mirrors face in water,
    so the heart reflects the person.
20 Sheol and Abaddon can never be satisfied;
    so the eyes of mortals can never be satisfied.[j]
21 The crucible for silver, the furnace for gold,
    so you must assay the praise you receive.
22 Though you pound fools with a pestle,
    their folly never leaves them.
23 [k]Take good care of your flocks,
    give careful attention to your herds;
24 For wealth does not last forever,
    nor even a crown from age to age.
25 When the grass comes up and the new growth appears,
    and the mountain greens are gathered in,
26 The lambs will provide you with clothing,
    and the goats, the price of a field,
27 And there will be ample goat’s milk for your food,
    food for your house, sustenance for your maidens.

Footnotes:

  1. 27:4 Anger generally subsides with time but jealousy coolly calculates and plots revenge.
  2. 27:5–6 Verses 5 and 6 are concerned with true friendship. “Better than” sayings often declare one thing superior to another in view of some value, e.g., 15:17, vegetables are better than meat in view of a milieu of love. In v. 5, a rebuke is better than an act of affection in view of discipline that imparts wisdom.
  3. 27:6 The present translation is conjectural. The meaning seems to be that a friend’s rebuke can be life-giving and an enemy’s kiss can be deadly (like the kiss of Judas in Mt 26:48).
  4. 27:8 The bird symbolizes vulnerability as it flees before danger as in Is 10:14; 16:2; and Ps 11:1. For the importance of place in human life, see Jb 20:8–9. People are defined by their place, but, tragically, war, poverty, or illness can force them from it.
  5. 27:10 The adage is about the difference between friends and kin in a crisis. Two admonitions are grounded in one maxim (colon C). The same Hebrew word means both “one who is near” and “friend.” The whole proverb urges the reader to cultivate old family friends and neighbors and not to rely exclusively on kin in times of trouble, for kin may not be there for us.
  6. 27:11 A father’s command to a son to be wise, another way of saying that sons or daughters bring joy or shame to their parents.
  7. 27:13 See note on 20:16.
  8. 27:14 One interpretation takes the proverb as humorous and the other takes it as serious: (1) an overly loud and ill-timed greeting (lit., “blessing”) invites the response of a curse rather than a “blessing” (greeting); (2) the loud voice suggests hypocrisy in the greeting.
  9. 27:17 Iron sharpens the “face” (panim = surface, edge) of iron, and a human being sharpens the “face” (panim = face, words) of another. Human beings learn from each other and grow in wisdom by conversing.
  10. 27:20 Sheol, the underworld abode of the dead, is personified as a force that is never satisfied and always desires more. Cf. Is 5:14 and Hos 13:14. The saying is applicable to modern consumerism.
  11. 27:23–27 A little treatise on farming in the form of admonitions. It proposes the advantages of field and flock over other forms of wealth. Herds are the most productive wealth, for their value does not diminish; they are a source of money, clothing, and food. The thought is conservative and traditional but the development is vivid and concrete.

Proverbs 26 (Bible Marathon Day 336)

Chapter 26[a]

Like snow in summer, like rain in harvest,
    honor for a fool is out of place.[b]
Like the sparrow in its flitting, like the swallow in its flight,
    a curse uncalled-for never lands.[c]
The whip for the horse, the bridle for the ass,
    and the rod for the back of fools.
[d]Do not answer fools according to their folly,
    lest you too become like them.
Answer fools according to their folly,
    lest they become wise in their own eyes.
Those who send messages by a fool
    cut off their feet; they drink down violence.
[e]A proverb in the mouth of a fool
    hangs limp, like crippled legs.
Giving honor to a fool
    is like entangling a stone in the sling.
A thorn stuck in the hand of a drunkard
    is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
10 An archer wounding all who pass by
    is anyone who hires a drunken fool.
11 As dogs return to their vomit,
    so fools repeat their folly.
12 You see those who are wise in their own eyes?
    There is more hope for fools than for them.
13 [f]The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the street,
    a lion in the middle of the square!”
14 The door turns on its hinges
    and sluggards, on their beds.
15 The sluggard buries a hand in the dish,
    too weary to lift it to the mouth.
16 In their own eyes sluggards are wiser
    than seven who answer with good judgment.
17 Whoever meddles in the quarrel of another
    is one who grabs a passing dog by the ears.
18 Like a crazed archer
    scattering firebrands and deadly arrows,
19 Such are those who deceive their neighbor,
    and then say, “I was only joking.”
20 [g]Without wood the fire dies out;
    without a talebearer strife subsides.
21 Charcoal for coals, wood for fire—
    such are the quarrelsome, enkindling strife.
22 The words of a talebearer are like dainty morsels:
    they sink into one’s inmost being.[h]
23 Like a glazed finish on earthenware
    are smooth lips and a wicked heart.[i]
24 With their lips enemies pretend,
    but inwardly they maintain deceit;
25 When they speak graciously, do not trust them,
    for seven abominations[j] are in their hearts.
26 Hatred can be concealed by pretense,
    but malice will be revealed in the assembly.[k]
27 Whoever digs a pit falls into it;
    and a stone comes back upon the one who rolls it.
28 The lying tongue is its owner’s enemy,
    and the flattering mouth works ruin.

Footnotes:

  1. 26:1–28 Concrete images describe the vices of fools (vv. 1–12), of sluggards (vv. 13–16), of meddlers (vv. 17–19), of talebearers (vv. 20–22), and of flatterers (vv. 23–28).
  2. 26:1 There is no fit (“out of place”) between weather and agricultural season.
  3. 26:2 The point is the similarity of actions: a hovering bird that never lands, a groundless curse that never “lands.” It hangs in the air posing no threat to anyone.
  4. 26:4–5 There is no contradiction between these two proverbs. In their answers, the wise must protect their own interests against fools. Or perhaps the juxtaposition of the two proverbs suggests that no single proverb can resolve every problem in life.
  5. 26:7–9 Fools either abuse or are unable to use whatever knowledge they have. A thorn: a proverb is “words spoken at the proper time” (25:11). Fools have no sense of the right time; their statements are like thorns that fasten on clothing randomly.
  6. 26:13–16 Each verse mentions the sluggard, whom Proverbs regards with derision. The criticism is not against low energy but failure to act and take responsibility. Proverbs’ ideal is the active person who uses heart, lips, hands, feet to keep to the good path. The verses are examples of the sardonic humor of the book.
  7. 26:20–22 The three proverbs have a common theme—the destructive power of slanderous words. Certain words are repeated: wood and fire, talebearer.
  8. 26:22 Malicious gossip is compared to delicious food that is swallowed and lodges in the deepest recesses of one’s body. Negative comments are seldom forgotten. Prv 18:8 is a duplicate.
  9. 26:23 Heart = what is within, and lips (words) = what is expressed, are compared to an earthenware jar covered with glaze.
  10. 26:25 Seven abominations: many evil intentions.
  11. 26:26 Hate may be concealed for a time, but it will eventually issue in a deed and become known in the public assembly. There is a play on words: the consonants of the word “hatred” (ś’n) are literally concealed in the word “pretense” (mś’n).

Proverbs 25 (Bible Marathon Day 336)

VI. Second Solomonic Collection, Collected Under King Hezekiah[a]

Chapter 25

These also are proverbs of Solomon. The servants of Hezekiah,[b] king of Judah, transmitted them.

[c]It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,
    and the glory of kings to fathom a matter.[d]
Like the heavens in height, and the earth in depth,
    the heart of kings is unfathomable.
[e]Remove the dross from silver,
    and it comes forth perfectly purified;
Remove the wicked from the presence of the king,
    and his throne is made firm through justice.
[f]Claim no honor in the king’s presence,
    nor occupy the place of superiors;
For it is better to be told, “Come up closer!”
    than to be humbled before the prince.
What your eyes have seen
    do not bring forth too quickly against an opponent;
For what will you do later on
    when your neighbor puts you to shame?
[g]Argue your own case with your neighbor,
    but the secrets of others do not disclose;
10 Lest, hearing it, they reproach you,
    and your ill repute never ceases.
11 Golden apples in silver settings
    are words spoken at the proper time.
12 A golden earring or a necklace of fine gold—
    one who gives wise reproof to a listening ear.
13 Like the coolness of snow in the heat of the harvest
    are faithful messengers for those who send them,
    lifting the spirits of their masters.
14 Clouds and wind but no rain—
    the one who boasts of a gift not given.
15 By patience is a ruler persuaded,
    and a soft tongue can break a bone.
16 [h]If you find honey, eat only what you need,
    lest you have your fill and vomit it up.
17 Let your foot be seldom in your neighbors’ house,
    lest they have their fill of you—and hate you.
18 A club, sword, or sharp arrow—
    the one who bears false witness against a neighbor.
19 A bad tooth or an unsteady foot—
    a trust betrayed in time of trouble.[i]
20 Like the removal of clothes on a cold day, or vinegar on soda,
    is the one who sings to a troubled heart.
21 [j]If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat,
    if thirsty, give something to drink;
22 For live coals you will heap on their heads,
    and the Lord will vindicate you.
23 The north wind brings rain,
    and a backbiting tongue, angry looks.
24 It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop
    than in a mansion with a quarrelsome wife.[k]
25 Cool water to one faint from thirst
    is good news from a far country.
26 A trampled fountain or a polluted spring—[l]
    a just person fallen before the wicked.
27 To eat too much honey is not good;
    nor to seek honor after honor.[m]
28 A city breached and left defenseless
    are those who do not control their temper.

Footnotes:

  1. 25:1–29:27Chaps. 25–29 make up the fifth collection in the book, and the third longest. King Hezekiah reigned in Judah in 715–687 B.C. According to 2 Kgs 18–20and 2 Chr 29–32, he initiated political and religious reforms after the destruction of the Northern Kingdom in 722 B.C. Such reforms probably included copying and editing sacred literature such as Proverbs. Prv 25:1 is an important piece of evidence about the composition of the book, suggesting this collection was added to an already-existing collection also attributed to Solomon. The older collection is probably 10:1–22:16 (or part of it). By the end of the eighth century B.C., therefore, there existed in Israel two large collections of aphorisms.

    Chap. 25 has two general themes: (1) social hierarchy, rank, or position; (2) social conflict and its resolution.

  2. 25:1 The servants of Hezekiah: presumably scribes at the court of Hezekiah. Transmitted: lit., “to move, transfer from,” hence “to collect,” and perhaps also to arrange and compose.
  3. 25:2–7 The topic is the king—who he is (vv. 2–3) and how one is to behave in his presence (vv. 4–7).
  4. 25:2 God and king were closely related in the ancient world and in the Bible. The king had a special responsibility for divine justice. Hence, God would give him special wisdom to search it out.
  5. 25:4–5 Wisdom involves virtue as well as knowledge. As in Ps 101 the king cannot tolerate any wickedness in the royal service.
  6. 25:6–7 An admonition with a practical motive for putting the teaching into practice. Pragmatic shrewdness suggests that we not promote ourselves but let others do it for us. See Lk 14:7–11.
  7. 25:9–10 Another admonition on the use of law courts to settle personal disputes. Speak privately with your opponent lest others’ personal business become public and they resent you.
  8. 25:16–17 The two admonitions are complementary, expressing nicely the need to restrain the inclination for delightful things, whether for honey or friendship.
  9. 25:19 “A time of trouble” defeats all plans (cf. 10:2; 11:4). At such times human resources alone are like a tooth that falls out as one bites or a foot that goes suddenly lame.
  10. 25:21–22 A memorable statement of humanity and moderation; such sentiments could be occasionally found even outside the Bible, e.g., “It is better to bless someone than to do harm to one who has insulted you” (Egyptian Papyrus Insinger). Cf. Ex 23:4 and Lv 19:17–18. Human beings should not take it upon themselves to exact vengeance, leaving it rather in God’s hands. This saying has in view an enemy’s vulnerability in time of need, in this case extreme hunger and thirst; such a need should not be an occasion for revenge. The motive for restraining oneself is to allow God’s justice to take its own course, as in 20:22 and 24:17–19. Live coals: either remorse and embarrassment for the harm done, or increased punishment for refusing reconciliation. Cf. Mt 5:44. Rom 12:20 cites the Greek version and interprets it, “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.”
  11. 25:24 A humorous saying about domestic unhappiness: better to live alone outdoors than indoors with an angry spouse. Prv 21:9 is identical and 21:19 is similar in thought.
  12. 25:26 “Spring” is a common metaphor for source. The righteous should be a source of life for others. When they fail, it is as if a spring became foul and its water undrinkable. It is not clear whether the righteous person yielded to a scoundrel out of cowardice or was simply defeated by evil. The latter seems more likely, for other proverbs say the just person will never “fall” (lit., “be moved,” 10:30; 12:3). The fall, even temporary, of a righteous person is a loss of life for others.
  13. 25:27 Nor…honor: the text is uncertain.