Proverbs 12
Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is brutish.
Three proverbs on knowledge, the favour of God, firmness and the means thereto.

1 He loveth correction who loveth knowledge,

   And he hateth instruction who is without reason.

It is difficult in such cases to say which is the relation of the ideas that is intended. The sequence of words which lies nearest in the Semitic substantival clause is that in which the predicate is placed first; but the subject may, if it is to be made prominent, stand at the head of the sentence. Here, 1b, the placing of the subject in advance recommends itself: one who hates instruction is devoid of reason. But since we have no reason in 1a to invert the order of the words as they lie together, we take the conceptions placed first in both cases as the predicates. Thus: he who loves knowledge shows and proves that he does so by this, that he willingly puts himself in the place of a learner; and devoid of reason is he who with aversion rejects reproof, which is designed to guard him from future mistakes and false steps. Regarding the punctuation דעת אהב (with Mercha on the ante-penult. and the העמדה-sign on the penult.), vid., at Proverbs 11:26., Proverbs 1:19. In 1b the Munach in תוכחת is transformed from Mugrash (Accentssystem, xviii. 2), as in Proverbs 15:10. בּער (cf. Proverbs 30:2) is a being who is stupid as the brute cattle (בּעיר, from בּער, to graze, cattle of all kinds; Arab. b'ayr, the beast κατ ̓ ἐξ., i.e., the camel); as a homo brutus is compared to a בּהמּה (Psalm 49:21), Psalm 73:22), and is called Arab. behymt, from bahym, "shut up" (spec. dabb, a bear; thwr, an ox; ḥamâr, an ass) (Fl.).

A good man obtaineth favour of the LORD: but a man of wicked devices will he condemn.
2 A good man obtaineth favour with Jahve,

   But the man of wicked devices He condemns.

He who is an אישׁ מזמּות (Proverbs 14:17, cf. Psalm 37:7) is defined in Proverbs 24:8 : he is a man of devices, namely, that are wicked, one who contrives evil against his neighbour. The meaning of the subject-conception טוב is defined according to this, although in itself also it is clear, for טוב, used of God (e.g., Psalm 73:1; Psalm 86:5) and of men (Proverbs 13:22; Proverbs 14:14), denotes the good (bonus) in the sense of the benevolent (benignus); the Scripture truths, that God is love, that love is the essence of goodness and is the fulfilling of the law, are so conformed to reason, that they stamp themselves as immediate component parts of the human consciousness. A טוב is thus a man who acts according to the ruling motive of self-sacrificing love; such an one obtains (vid., on יפיק, educit equals adipiscitur, at Proverbs 3:13) the favour of God, He is and shows Himself kind to him, while on the contrary He condemns the wicked intriguer. Hitzig translates: the former of intrigues is punishable (as the Syr.: is condemned; Targ.: his contrivance is shattered to pieces); but to become a רשׁע equals reus הרשׁיע does not denote, but either to practise רשׁע, Job 34:12, or to set forth as רשׁע equals to condemn, Isaiah 50:9. Taken in the former signification (Jerome, impie agit), a declaration is made which is not needed, since the moral badness already lies in the reference of the subject: thus ירשׁיע will be used also of Jahve. In proof that the poet did not need to say ואת־אישׁ, Zckler rightly points to Proverbs 10:6; Job 22:29.

A man shall not be established by wickedness: but the root of the righteous shall not be moved.
3 A man does not stand by wickedness,

   But the root of the righteous remains unmoved.

In רשׁע there lies the idea of want of inward stay (vid., at Psalm 1:1); in a manner of thought and of conduct which has no stay in God and His law, there can be expected no external endurance, no solidity. The righteous, on the contrary, have their root in God; nothing can tear them from the ground in which they are rooted, they are as trees which no storm outroots. The very same thought is clothed in other words in Proverbs 10:25, and another statement regarding the root of the righteous is found at Proverbs 12:12.

A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones.
We now place together Proverbs 12:4-12. One proverb concerning the house-wife forms the beginning of this group, and four regarding the management of the house and business form the conclusion.

4 A good brave wife is the crown of her husband,

   But as rottenness in his bones is one that causeth shame.

As Proverbs 11:16 says of אושׁת חן, the pleasant wife (חן equals χάρις), that she obtaineth honour, so this proverb of אושׁת חיל, the good wife (חיל equals ἀρετή, virtus), that she raises her husband to higher honour: she is for his self-consciousness στέφανος καυχήσεως (1 Thessalonians 2:19), and is also to him such a crown of honour before the world (cf. Proverbs 31:23). On the contrary, a מבישׁה, conducting herself shamefully (cf. regarding the double meaning of this Mishle word, which only here occurs in the fem., at Proverbs 10:5), is to her husband instar cariei in ossibus. רקב (רקב, Proverbs 10:7) denotes both the caries and the worm-hole (cf. Job 41:19, עץ רקּבון, worm-eaten wood). Like as the caries slowly but continuously increases, till at last the part of the body which the bone bears and the whole life of the man falls to ruin; so an unhappy marriage gnaws at the marrow of life, it destroys the happiness of life, disturbs the pursuit, undermines the life of the husband.

The thoughts of the righteous are right: but the counsels of the wicked are deceit.
5 The thoughts of the righteous are justice,

   The counsels of the godless are deceit.

They are so, that is, in their contents and their aim. To the righteous are ascribed מחשׁבות, namely, simple and clear; to the godless, תּחבּות, carefully thought out, prudently thought through schemes and measures, but on that very account not simple, because with a tendency; for the righteous have an objective rule, namely, that which is right in the sight of God and of men, but the godless have only a selfish purpose, which they seek to attain by deceiving, and at the cost of, their neighbour.

The words of the wicked are to lie in wait for blood: but the mouth of the upright shall deliver them.
6 The word of the godless is to lie in wait for the blood of others,

   But the mouth of the upright delivereth them.

Our editions have דברי רשׁעים, but the right sequence of the accents (in Cod. 1294 and elsewhere) is דברי רשׁעים; the logical relation in this transformation, which is only rhythmically conditioned, remains the same. The vocalization wavers between ארב־, which would be imper., and ארב־, which is infin., like אמר־, Proverbs 25:7, ענשׁ־, Proverbs 21:11, אכל־, Genesis 3:11. However one punctuates it, the infin. is intended in any case, in which the expression always remains sketchy enough: the words of the godless are lying in wait for blood, i.e., they are calculated to bring others to this, into the danger of their lives, e.g., before the tribunal by false charges and false witness. דּם is the accus. of the object; for instead of ארב לדם (Proverbs 1:11), to lurk for blood, a shorter expression, ארב דּם, is used (Ewald, 282a). The suffix of יצּילם

(Note: Elias Levita, in his note to the root פה in Kimchi's Wrterbuch, reads תּצּילם, and so also do 6 codd. in Kennicot. But פּה is masculine.)

might appear, after Proverbs 11:6, to refer back to the ישׁרים; but the thought that their mouth saves the upright, that they thus know to speak themselves out of the danger, is by far less appropriate (vid., on the contrary, בדעת, Proverbs 11:9) than the thought that the mouth of the upright delivereth from danger those whose lives are threatened by the godless, as is rightly explained by Ewald, Bertheau, Elster. The personal subject or object is in the Mashal style often to be evolved from the connection, e.g., Proverbs 14:26; Proverbs 19:23.

The wicked are overthrown, and are not: but the house of the righteous shall stand.
7 The godless are overturned and are no more,

   But the house of the righteous stands.

Bertheau and Zckler explain: The wicked turn about, then are they no more; i.e., as we say: it is over with them "in the turning of a hand." The noun in the inf. absol. may certainly be the subject, like Proverbs 17:12, as well as the object (Ewald, 328c), and הפך may be used of the turning about of oneself, Psalm 78:9; 2 Kings 5:26; 2 Chronicles 9:12. That explanation also may claim for itself that הפך nowhere occurs with a personal object, if we except one questionable passage, Isaiah 1:7. But here the interpretation of the רשׁעים as the object lies near the contrast of בית, and moreover the interpretation of the הפך, not in the sense of στρέφεσθαι (lxx), but of καταστρέφειν (Syr., Targ., Jerome, Graec. Venet., Luther), lies near the contrast of יעמד. The inf. absol. thus leaves the power from which the catastrophe proceeds indefinite, as the pass. יהפפכוּ would also leave it, and the act designedly presented in a vague manner to connect with ו the certain consequences therewith, as Proverbs 25:4., as if to say: there comes only from some quarter an unparalleled overthrow which overwhelms the godless; thus no rising up again is to be thought on, it is all over with them; while, on the contrary, the house of the righteous withstands the storm which sweeps away the godless.

A man shall be commended according to his wisdom: but he that is of a perverse heart shall be despised.
8 According to the measure of his intelligence is a man praised,

   And whoever is of a perverse mind is despised.

Everywhere in the Mishle שׂכל has no other meaning than intellectus. The praise which is given to a man measures itself לפי שׂכלו (punctuate לפי־שׂכלו, according to Torath Emeth, p. 41, Accentssystem, xx. 1), i.e., according to the measure (so לפי is used in the oldest form of the language) of his intelligence, or as we may also say, of his culture; for in these proverbs, which make the fear of God the highest principle, שׂכל means also understanding of moral excellence, not merely the intellectual superiority of natural gifts. הלּל is here a relative conception of manifold gradations, but it does not mean renown in general, but good renown. Parallel with שׂכלו, לב refers to the understanding (νοῦς); the rendering of Lwenstein, "who is of false heart," is defective. נעוה (synon. of נפתּל and עקּשׁ, but nowhere else interchanging with it) means here a vero et recto detortus et aversus (Fl.). Such a man who has not a good understanding, nor any certain rule of judgment, falls under contempt (Graec. Venet. τῷ ὀντωτῇ εἰς μυσαγμόν, after the false reading of יהוה instead of יהיה), i.e., he defames himself by his crooked judgment of men, of things and their relations, and is on this account in no position rightly to make use of them.

He that is despised, and hath a servant, is better than he that honoureth himself, and lacketh bread.
9 Better is he who is lowly and has a servant,

   Than he that makes himself mighty and is without bread.

This proverb, like Proverbs 15:17, commends the middle rank of life with its quiet excellences. נקלה (like 1 Samuel 18:23), from קלה, cognate with קלל, Syr. 'kly, to despise, properly levi pendere, levem habere (whence קלון, scorn, disgrace), here of a man who lives in a humble position and does not seek to raise himself up. Many of the ancients (lxx, Symmachus, Jerome, Syr., Rashi, Luther, Schultens) explain ועבד לו by, and is a servant to himself, serves himself; but in that case the words would have been עבד לנפשׁו (Syr. דּמשׁמּשׁ נפשׁהּ), or rather ועבדּו הוּא. ועבד לו would be more appropriate, as thus pointed by Ziegler, Ewald, and Hitzig. But if one adheres to the traditional reading, and interprets this, as it must be interpreted: et cui servus (Targ., Graec. Venet.), then that supplies a better contrast to וחסר־לחם, for "the first necessity of an oriental in only moderate circumstances is a slave, just as was the case with the Greeks and Romans" (Fl.). A man of lowly rank, who is, however, not so poor that he cannot support a slave, is better than one who boasts himself and is yet a beggar (2 Samuel 3:29). The Hithpa. often expresses a striving to be, or to wish to appear to be, what the adj. corresponding to the verb states, e.g., התגּדּל, התעשּׁר; like the Greek middles, εζεσθαι, αζεσθαι, cf. התחכּם and σοφίζεσθαι. So here, where with Fleischer we have translated: who makes himself mighty, for כבד, gravem esse, is etymologically also the contrast of קלה. The proverb, Sirach 10:26: κρείσσων ἐργαζόμενος καὶ περισσεύων ἐν πᾶσιν, ἢ δοξαζόμενος καὶ ἀπορῶν ἄρτων (according to the text of Fritzsche), is a half remodelling, half translation of this before us.

A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.
10 The righteous knows how his cattle feel,

     And the compassion of the godless is cruel.

The explanation: the righteous taketh care for the life of his beast (Fl.), fails, for 10a is to be taken with Exodus 23:9; נפשׁ signifies also the state of one's soul, the frame of mind, the state of feeling; but ידע has, as in the related proverb, Proverbs 27:23, the meaning of careful cognizance or investigation, in conformity with which one acts. If the Tor includes in the law of the Sabbath (Exodus 20:10; Exodus 23:12) useful beasts and cattle, which are here especially meant, and secures to them the reward of their labour (Deuteronomy 25:4); if it forbids the mutilation, and generally the giving of unnecessary pain, to beasts; if it enjoins those who take a bird's nest to let the dam escape (Deuteronomy 22:6.) - these are the prefigurations of that דעת נפש בהמה, and as the God of the Tor thus appears at the close of the Book of Jonah, this wonderful apology (defensio) of the all-embracing compassion, the God also of the world-history in this sympathy for the beasts of the earth as the type of the righteous.

In 10b most interpreters find an oxymoron: the compassion of the godless is compassionless, the direct opposite of compassion; i.e., he possesses either altogether no compassion, or he shows such as in its principle, its expression, and in its effects is the opposite of what it ought to be (Fl.). Bertheau believes that in the sing. of the predicate אכזרי he is justified in translating: the compassion of the wicked is a tyranny. And as one may speak of a loveless love, i.e., of a love which in its principle is nothing else than selfishness, so also of a compassionless compassion, such as consists only in gesture and speech without truth of feeling and of active results. But how such a compassionless compassion toward the cattle, and one which is really cruel, is possible, it may be difficult to show. Hitzig's conjecture, רחמי, sprang from this thought: the most merciful among sinners are cruel - the sinner is as such not רחוּם. The lxx is right in the rendering, τὰ δὲ σπλάγχνα τῶν ἀσεβῶν ἀνελεήμονα. The noun רחמים means here not compassion, but, as in Genesis 43:30 (lxx ἔντερα or ἔγκατα) and 1 Kings 3:26 (lxx μήτρα), has the meaning the bowels (properly tender parts, cf. Arab. rakhuma, to be soft, tender, with rḥm), and thus the interior of the body, in which deep emotions, and especially strong sympathy, are wont to be reflected (cf. Hosea 10:8). The singular of the predicate אכזרי arises here from the unity of the subject-conception: the inwards, as Jeremiah 50:12, from the reference of the expression to each individual of the many.

He that tilleth his land shall be satisfied with bread: but he that followeth vain persons is void of understanding.
11 He that tilleth his own ground is satisfied with bread,

     And he that followeth after vain pursuits is devoid of understanding.

Yet more complete is the antithetic parallelism in the doublette, Proverbs 28:19 (cf. also Sir. 20:27a). The proverb recommends the cultivation of the field as the surest means of supporting oneself honestly and abundantly, in contrast to the grasping after vain, i.e., unrighteous means of subsistence, windy speculations, and the like (Fl.). ריקים are here not persons (Bertheau), but things without solidity and value (lxx μάταια; Aquila, Theodotion, κενά), and, in conformity with the contrast, not real business. Elsewhere also the mas. plur. discharges the function of a neut. noun of multitude, vid., נגידים, principalia, Proverbs 8:6, and זדים, Psalm 19:14 - one of the many examples of the imperfect use of the gender in Hebr.; the speaker has in ריקים, vana et inania, not אנשׁים (Judges 9:4), but דברים (Deuteronomy 32:47) in view. The lxx erroneously at Proverbs 28:19, and Symmachus and Jerome at both places understand ריקים of slothfulness.

The wicked desireth the net of evil men: but the root of the righteous yieldeth fruit.
12 The godless lusteth after the spoil of evil-doers;

     But the root of the righteous shoots forth.

This translation is at the same time an explanation, and agrees with Fleischer's "the godless strives by unrighteous gain like the wicked (Proverbs 4:14) to enrich himself, namely, as must be understood from the antithetic members of the parallelism, in vain, without thereby making progress and gaining anything certain. The preterite, as Proverbs 11:2, Proverbs 11:8, etc., places the general true proposition as a separate historic principle derived from experience. In 12b יתּן stands elliptically or pregnantly: edet, scil. quod radix edere solet, sobolem stirpis, ramorum, etc., as in the Arab. natan and ânatan are specially used without an obj. of the spontaneousness of an odour." מצוד (from צוּד, to spy, to hunt) is elsewhere the instrument of the hunt (a net), here the object and end of it. If the words had been מצוּדי רעים, then we would explain after מלאכי רעים, Psalm 78:49 (vid., comm. on), and אושׁת רע, Proverbs 6:24; but in the difference of number, רעים will not be the qualitative but the subjective personal genitive: capturam qualem mali captant. Ewald, who understands ריקים, 11b, of good-for-nothing-fellows, interprets רעים here, on the contrary, as neuter (172b): the desire of the wicked is an evil net, i.e., wherein he catches all manner of evil for himself. The lxx has here two proverbs, in which מצוד occurs in the plur. and in the sense of ὀχυρώματα; 12b of the Hebr. text is rendered: αἱ δὲ ῥίζαι τῶν εὐσεβῶν ἐν ὀχρυώμασι, which Schleusner explains immotae erunt. The Hebr. text can gain nothing from this variation. That the lxx read ושׁרשׁ צדיקים איתן is not probable, since they nowhere thus translate איתן. But Reiske and Ziegler have, like Ewald and Hitzig, combined יתּן of this proverb with יתן from איתן (Arab. wâtin), firmum, perennem esse. Hitzig translates the distich, after emending the text of 12a by the help of the lxx and the Arab.: the refuge of the wicked is crumbling clay, but the root of the righteous endures (יתן from יתן). Bttcher also reads חמר instead of חמד, and translates (vid., p. 192, l. 11): the refuge of the wicked is miry clay, but the root of the righteous holdeth fast (יתן equals Arab. wâtin). But this derivation of a verb יתן is not necessary. The Graec. Venet. rightly, ῥίζα δὲ δικαίων δώσει. The obj. is self-evident. Rashi reads מה שהוא ראוי ליתן והוא הפרי. So also Schultens. The root giveth, is equivalent to, it is productive in bringing forth that which lies in its nature. That the root of the righteous endures (Targ. נתקיּם) is otherwise expressed, Proverbs 12:3.

The wicked is snared by the transgression of his lips: but the just shall come out of trouble.
Proverbs regarding injurious and beneficial words, wise hearing and prudent silence.

13 In the transgression of the lips there lies a dangerous snare;

     The righteous escapeth from trouble.

The consecutive modus (ויּצא) is here of greater weight than e.g., at Proverbs 11:8, where the connection follows without it (ויּבא) from the idea of the change of place. The translation: but the righteous ... restores ויצא (ויצא), and ignores the syllogistic relation of the members of the proverb, which shows itself here (cf. the contrary, Proverbs 11:9) to a certain degree by ויּצא. Ewald displaces this relation, for he paraphrases: "any one may easily come into great danger by means of inconsiderate words; yet it is to be hoped that the righteous may escape, for he will guard himself against evil from the beginning." He is right here in interpreting צרה and מוקשׁ רע as the designation of danger into which one is betrayed by the transgressions of his lips, but "inconsiderate words" are less than פּשׁע שׂפתים. One must not be misled into connecting with פּשׁע the idea of missing, or a false step, from the circumstance that פּשׁע means a step; both verbs have, it is true, the common R. פש with the fundamental idea of placing apart or separating, but פּשׁע has nothing to do with פּשׁע (step equals placing apart of the legs), but denotes (as Arab. fusuwḳ fisḳ, from the primary meaning diruptio, diremtio) a sinning, breaking through and breaking off the relation to God (cf. e.g., Proverbs 28:24), or even the restraints of morality (Proverbs 10:19). Such a sinning, which fastens itself to, and runs even among the righteous, would not be called פשׁע, but rather חטּאת (Proverbs 20:9). According to this the proverb will mean that sinful words bring into extreme danger every one who indulges in them - a danger which he can with difficulty escape; and that thus the righteous, who guards himself against sinful words, escapes from the distress (cf. with the expression, Ecclesiastes 7:18) into which one is thereby betrayed. רע is the descriptive and expressive epithet to מוקשׁ (cf. Ecclesiastes 9:12): a bad false trap, a malicious snare, for מוקשׁ is the snare which closes together and catches the bird by the feet. This proverb is repeated at Proverbs 29:6, peculiarly remodelled. The lxx has after Proverbs 12:13 another distich:

He who is of mild countenance findeth mercy;

He who is litigious oppresseth souls.

(נפשׁות, or rather, more in accordance with the Hebrew original: oppresseth himself, נפשׁו.)

A man shall be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth: and the recompence of a man's hands shall be rendered unto him.
14 From the fruit which the mouth of the man bringeth forth is he satisfied with good,

     And what the hands of the man accomplish returns back to him.

The proverb finds its final verification in the last judgment (cf. Matthew 12:37), but it is also illustrated in the present life. If the mouth of a man bringeth forth fruit - namely, the fruit of wholesome doctrine, of right guidance, of comforting exhortation, of peace-bringing consolation for others - this fruit is also to his own advantage, he richly enjoys the good which flows out of his own mouth, the blessing he bestows is also a blessing for himself. The same also is the case with the actions of a man. That which is done, or the service which is rendered by his hands, comes back to him as a reward or as a punishment. גּמוּל signifies primarily accomplishment, execution, and is a twofold, double-sided conception: a rendering of good or evil, and merit on the side of men (whether merited reward or merited punishment), as well as recompense, requital on the side of God. The first line is repeated, somewhat altered, at Proverbs 13:2; Proverbs 18:20. The whole proverb is prophetically echoed in Isaiah 3:10. The Kerı̂ ישׁיב has Jahve as the subject, or rather the subject remains undefined, and "one requites him" is equivalent to: it is requited to him. The Chethı̂b seems to us more expressive; but this use of the active with the undefined subject, instead of the passive, is certainly as much in the Mishle style (cf. Proverbs 13:21) as the development of the subject of the clause from a foregoing genitive.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.
15 The way of the fool is right in his own eyes,

     But the wise listeneth to counsel.

Other proverbs, like Proverbs 16:2, say that generally the judgment of a man regarding his character does not go beyond a narrow subjectivity; but there are objective criteria according to which a man can prove whether the way in which he walks is right; but the fool knows not other standard than his own opinion, and however clearly and truly one may warn him that the way which he has chosen is the wrong way and leads to a false end, yet he obstinately persists;

(Note: Vid., kindred proverbs by Carl Schulze, Die bibl. Sprichwrter der deutschen Sprache (1860), p. 50, and M. C. Wahl's Das Sprichwort in der heb.-aram. Literatur, u.s.w. (1871), p. 31.)

while a wise man is not so wise in his own eyes (Proverbs 3:7) as not to be willing to listen to well-meant counsel, because, however careful he may be regarding his conduct, yet he does not regard his own judgment so unerring as not to be inclined ever anew to try it and let it stand the test. Ewald has falsely construed: yet whoever hears counsel is wise. In consequence of the contrast, אויל and חכם are the subject ideas, and with ושׁמע לעצה is brought forward that which is in contrast to the self-complacency of the fool, the conduct of the wise man.

A fool's wrath is presently known: but a prudent man covereth shame.
The relations of the subject and the predicate are the same as in the preceding verse.

The fool makes known his vexation on the same day [at once],

On the contrary, the prudent man hideth the offence.

Very frequently in these proverbs the first line is only defined by the adducing of the second, or the second holds itself in the light of the first. A post-bibl. proverb says that a man is known by three things: by his כוס (his behaviour in drinking), his כיס (his conduct in money transactions), and his כעס (his conduct under deep inward excitement). So here: he is a fool who, if some injury is done to him, immediately shows his vexation in a passionate manner; while, on the contrary the prudent man maintains silence as to the dishonour that is done to him, and represses his displeasure, so as not to increase his vexation to his own injury. Passionless retaliation may in certain cases be a duty of self-preservation, and may appear to be necessary for the protection of truth, but passionate self-defence is always of evil, whether the injury which is inflicted be justifiable or unjustifiable. Regarding ערוּם, callidus, vid., p. 56; Schultens' comparison of the Greek γεγυμνασμένος is only a conceit in want of better knowledge. Regarding כּסה (only here and at Proverbs 12:23) with מכסּה, as שׁחר (only Proverbs 11:27) with משׁחר, vid., Ewald, 170a. בּיּום signifies on the self-same day equals without delay, immediately, and is well translated by the lxx αὐθήμερον. With another object, 16b is repeated in 23a.

He that speaketh truth sheweth forth righteousness: but a false witness deceit.
Most of the remaining parables of this section refer to the right use and the abuse of the tongue.

17 He that breathes the love of truth, utters that which is right;

     But a lying tongue, deceit

This verse is similar in meaning to Proverbs 14:5 (where 5b equals Proverbs 6:19); the second line of the distich equals Proverbs 14:25. Everywhere else יפיח כּזבים stand together, only here יפיח is joined to אמוּנה; vid., regarding this יפיח forming an attributive clause, and then employed as an adjective, but with distinct verbal force, at Proverbs 6:19. Viewed superficially, the proverb appears tautological; it is not so, however, but places in causal connection the internal character of men and their utterances: whoever breathes אמוּנה, truth or conscientiousness (the property of the אמוּן, vid., at Psalm 12:2), i.e., lets the voice of this be heard in his utterances, such an one speaks צדק, i.e., uprightness, integrity, that which is correct, right (Isaiah 45:19, cf. Isaiah 41:26), in relation to truth in general, and to the present case in particular; but he who עד שׁקרים, i.e., he who, against better knowledge and the consciousness of untruth, confirms by his testimony (from עוּד, revertere, to say again and again), therewith gives utterance to his impure character, his wicked intention, proceeding from delight in doing evil or from self-interest, and diverted towards the injury of his neighbour. As אמונה and מרמה correspond as statements of the contents of the utterances, so צדק and שקרים as statements of their motive and aim. מרמה is obj. accus. of the יגּיד (from הגּיד, to bring to light, cf. נגד, visibility) to be supplied, not the pred. nom. dolorum structor, as Fleischer poetically finds.

There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.
18 There is that babbleth like the thrusts of a sword,

     But the tongue of the wise is healing.

The second (cf. Proverbs 11:24) of the proverbs beginning with ישׁ. The verb בּטה (בּטא), peculiar to the Hebr., which in the modern Hebr. generally means "to speak out" (מבטא in the grammar: the pronunciation) (according to which the lxx, Syr., and Targ. translate it by אמר), means in biblical Hebr., especially with reference to the binding of oneself by an oath (Leviticus 5:4), and to solemn protestations (Numbers 30:7, Numbers 30:9, according to which Jerome, promittit): to utter incautiously in words, to speak without thought and at random, referred erroneously by Gesenius to the R. בט, to be hollow, probably a word imitative of the sound, like the Greek βατταρίζειν, to stammer, and βαττολογεῖν, to babble, which the lexicographers refer to a talkative person of the name of Βάττος, as our "salbadern" [ equals to talk foolishly] owes its origin to one Jenaer Bader on the Saal. Theod. and the Graec. Venet. give the false reading בּוטח (πεποιθώς). כּמדקרות חרב stands loco accusativi, the כּ being regarded as a noun: (effutiens verba) quae sunt instar confossionum gladii (Fl.). We also call such a man, who bridles his loquacity neither by reflection nor moderates it by indulgent reference to his fellow-men, a Schwertmaul (sword-mouth) or a Schandmaul (a mouth of shame equals slanderer), and say that he has a tongue like a sword. But on the other hand, the tongue of the wise, which is in itself pure gentleness and a comfort to others, since, far from wounding, rather, by means of comforting, supporting, directing exhortation, exercises a soothing an calming influence. Regarding רפא, whence מרפּא, Dietrich in Gesenius' Lex. is right. The root-meaning of the verb רפא (cognate רפה, to be loose, Hiph. to let go, Hithpa. Proverbs 18:9, to show oneself slothful) is, as the Arab. kindred word rafâ, rafa, raf, rawf (râf) shows, that of stilling, softening, soothing, whence arises the meaning of healing (for which the Arab. has ṭabb and 'alkh); the meaning to repair, to mend, which the Arab. rafâ and rafa have, does not stand in a prior relation to to heal, as might appear from Job 13:4, but is a specializing of the general idea of reficere lying in mitigare, just as the patcher is called ἀκέστρια equals ἠπήτρια,

(Note: Whether ῥάπτειν, explained neither by Curtius nor by Flick, stands in a relation to it, we leave out of view.)

from ἀκέομαι, which means equally to still and to heal. Since thus in רפא the meanings of mitigating and of healing are involved, it is plain that מרפא, as it means healing (the remedy) and at the same time (cf. θεραπεία, Revelation 22:2) the preservation of health, Proverbs 4:22; Proverbs 6:15; Proverbs 16:24; Proverbs 29:1, so also may mean mildness (here and Proverbs 15:4), tranquillity (Proverbs 14:30; Ecclesiastes 10:4, calm patience in contrast to violent passion), and refreshing (Proverbs 13:17). Oetinger and Hitzig translate here "medicine;" our translation, "healing (the means of healing)," is not essentially different from it.

The lip of truth shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment.
19 The lip of truth endures for ever,

     But the lying tongue only while I wink with the eye.

None of the old translators understood the phrase ועד־ארגּיעה; the Venet. also, which follows Kimchi's first explanation, is incorrect: ἕως ῥήξεως, till I split (shatter) it (the tongue). Abulwald is nearer the correct rendering when he takes ארגיעה as a noun equals רגע with He parag. Ahron b. Joseph is better in rendering the phrase by: until I make a רגע, and quite correct if רגע (from רגע equals Arab. raj', which is used of the swinging of the balance) is taken in the sense of a twinkling of the eye (Schultens: vibramen); cf. Orelli's Die hebr. Synonyme der Zeit und Ewigkeit, p. 27f., where the synonyms for a twinkling of the eye, a moment, are placed together. עד (properly progress) has in this phrase the meaning, while, so long as, and the cohortative signifies, in contradistinction to ארגיע, which may also denote an unwilling movement of the eyelids, a movement proceeding from a free determination, serving for the measurement of a short space of time, Ewald, 228a. ארגיעה, Jeremiah 49:19; Jeremiah 50:44, where Ewald takes כי ארגיעה (when I...) in the same sense as אד־ארגיעה here, which is more appropriate than the explanation of Hitzig, who regards כי as opening the principal clause, and attaches to הרגיע the quite too pregnant signification "to need (for an action) only a moment." The lip of truth, i.e., the lip which speaketh truth, endures for ever (for truth, אמת equals אמנתּ, is just the enduring); but the tongue of falsehood is only for a moment, or a wink of the eye, for it is soon convicted, and with disgrace brings to silence; for a post-bibl. Aram. proverb says: קוּשׁטא קאי שׁקרא לא קאי, the truth endures, the lie endures not (Schabbath 104a), and a Hebrew proverb: השּׁקר אין לו רגלים, the lie has no feet (on which it can stand).

(Note: Vid., Duke's Rabbin. Blumenlese (1844), p. 231.)

Deceit is in the heart of them that imagine evil: but to the counsellers of peace is joy.
20 Deceit is in the heart of him who deviseth evil,

     But those who devise peace cause joy.

Regarding the figure of forging, fabricating (lxx, Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, τεκταίνειν), or of ploughing, which underlies the phrase חרשׁ רע, moliri malum, vid., at Proverbs 3:29. That deceit is in the heart of him who deviseth evil (בּלב־חרשׁי רע, as is correctly punctuated e.g., by Norzi) appears to be a platitude, for the חרשׁ רע is as such directed against a neighbour. But in the first place, 20a in itself says that the evil which a man hatches against another always issues in a fraudulent, malicious deception of the same; and in the second place, it says, when taken in connection with 20b, where שׂמחה is the parallel word to מרמה, that with the deception he always at the same time prepares for him sorrow. The contrast to חרשׁי רע is יועצי שׁלום si ח, and thus denotes not those who give counsel to contending parties to conclude peace, but such as devise peace, viz., in reference to the neighbour, for יעץ means not merely to impart counsel, but also mentally to devise, to resolve upon, to decree, 2 Chronicles 25:16; Isaiah 32:7.; cf. יעץ על, Jeremiah 49:30. Hitzig and Zckler give to שׁלום the general idea of welfare (that which is salutary), and interpret the שׂמחה as the inner joy of the good conscience. Certainly שלום (R. של, extrahere, in the sense of deliverance from trouble) means not only peace as to the external relationship of men with each other, but also both internal and external welfare. Thus it is here meant of external welfare; Hitzig rightly compares Jeremiah 29:11 with Nahum 1:11 to the contrast between שׁלום and רע. But as מרמה is not self-deception, but the deception of another, so also שׂמחה is not the joy of those who devise the device in their hearts for the deception of others, but the joy they procure for others. Thoughts of peace for one's neighbour are always thoughts of procuring joy for him, as thoughts of evil are thoughts of deceit, and thus of procuring sorrow for him. Thus וליועצי is an abbreviated expression for ובלב יועצי.

There shall no evil happen to the just: but the wicked shall be filled with mischief.
21 No evil befalls the righteous,

     But the godless are full of evil.

Hitzig translates און "sorrow," and Zckler "injury;" but the word signifies evil as ethical wickedness, and although it may be used of any misfortune in general (as in בּן־אוני, opp. בּנימין); thus it denotes especially such sorrow as is the harvest and product of sin, Proverbs 22:8; Job 4:8; Isaiah 59:4, or such as brings after it punishment, Habakkuk 3:7; Jeremiah 4:15. That it is also here thus meant the contrast makes evident. The godless are full of evil, for the moral evil which is their life-element brings out of itself all kinds of evil; on the contrary, no kind of evil, such as sin brings forth and produces, falls upon the righteous. God, as giving form to human fortune (Exodus 21:13), remains in the background (cf. Psalm 91:10 with Psalm 5:1.); vid., regarding אנה, the weaker power of ענה, to go against, to meet, to march against, Fleischer, Levy's Chald. Wrterbuch, 572.

Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight.
22 Lying lips are an abhorrence to Jahve,

     And they that deal truly are His delight.

The frame of the distich is like Proverbs 11:1, Proverbs 11:20. אמוּנה is probity as the harmony between the words and the inward thoughts. The lxx, which translates ὁ δὲ ποιῶν πίστεις, had in view עשה אמונים (עשׂה אמוּנים, cf. Isaiah 26:2); the text of all other translations agrees with that commonly received.

A prudent man concealeth knowledge: but the heart of fools proclaimeth foolishness.
23 A prudent man conceals knowledge,

     And a heart-fool proclaims imbecility.

In 23a Proverbs 12:16 is repeated, only a little changed; also 16a corresponds with 23a, for, as is there said, the fool knows not how to keep his anger to himself, as here, that a heart-fool (cf. the lying mouth, 22a) proclaims (trumpets forth), or as Proverbs 13:16 says, displays folly without referring to himself the si tacuisses. To this forward charlatan blustering, which intends to preach wisdom and yet proclaims in the world mere folly, i.e., nonsense and imbecility, and thereby makes itself troublesome, and only to be laughed at and despised, stands in contrast the relation of the אדם ערוּם, homo callidus, who possesses knowledge, but keeps it to himself without bringing it forth till an occasion presents itself for setting it forth at the right place, at the right time, and to the right man. The right motive also regulates such silence as well as modesty. But this proverb places it under the point of view of prudence.

The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute.
We take Proverbs 12:24-28 together as a group. In these verses the subject is the means of rising (in the world), and the two ways, the one of which leads to error, and the other to life.

24 The land of the diligent attains to dominion,

     But slothfulness will become tributary.

In Proverbs 10:4 רמיּה was adj., but to כּף standing beside it; here it is to be regarded as adj. to יד (sluggish hand) supplied from 24a, but may be equally regarded as a subst. (slothfulness) (vid., at Proverbs 12:27). Regarding חרוּץ, vid., p. 211. מס signifies tribute and service, i.e., tributary service rendered to a master. In Proverbs 11:29 עבד stands for it. It is still the experience of to-day, as it was of Solomon's time, that slothfulness (indolence) brings down to a state of servitude, if not even deeper, but that vigorous activity raises to dominion or to the position of a master, i.e., to independence, wealth, respect, and power.

Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad.
25 Trouble in the heart of a man boweth it down,

     And a friendly word maketh it glad.

The twofold anomaly that דּאגה is construed as masc. and לב as fem. renders the text doubtful, but the lxx, Syr., Targum, which introduce another subject, φοβερὸς λόγος (דּבר מדאיג?), do not improve it; Theodotion's is preferable, who translates μέριμνα ἐν καρδίᾳ ἀνδρὸς κατίσχει αὐτόν, and thus reads ישׁחנּוּ. But the rhyme is thereby lost. As כּבוד, Genesis 49:6, so also may לב be used as fem., for one thereby thinks on נפשׁ; the plur. לבּות (לבבות), according to which in Ezekiel 16:30 we find the sing. לבּה, may also conform to this. And ישׁחנה as pred. to דאגה follows the scheme Proverbs 2:10, perhaps not without attractional co-operation after the scheme קשׁת גברים חתים, 1 Samuel 2:4. השׁחה, from שׁחה, occurs only here; but השׁח, from שׁחח, occurs only twice. דּבר טוב designates in the book of Joshua and in Kings (1 Kings 8:56) the divine promise; here it is of the same meaning as 1 Kings 12:7 : an appeasing word. Who has not in himself had this experience, how such a word of friendly encouragement from a sympathizing heart cheers the sorrowful soul, and, if only for a time, changes its sorrow into the joy of confidence and of hope!

The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour: but the way of the wicked seduceth them.
26 The righteous looketh after his pastures,

     But the way of the godless leadeth them into error.

In 26a no acceptable meaning is to be gained from the traditional mode of vocalization. Most of the ancients translate יתר as part. to יתר, as it occurs in post-bibl. Hebr., e.g., חבּה יתרה, prevailing, altogether peculiar love. Thus the Targum, טב מן הבריהּ; Venet. πεπερίττευται (after Kimchi); on the other hand, Aquila, active: περισσεύων τὸν πλησίον (making the neighbour rich), which the meaning of the Kal as well as the form יתר oppose; Luther, "The righteous man is better than his neighbour," according to which Fleischer also explains, "Probably יתר from יתר, πλεονάζειν, has the meaning of πλέον ἔχων, πλεονεκτῶν, he gains more honour, respect, riches, etc., than the other, viz., the unrighteous." Yet more satisfactory Ahron b. Joseph: not the nobility and the name, but this, that he is righteous, raises a man above others. In this sense we would approve of the praestantior altero justus, if only the two parts of the proverb were not by such a rendering wholly isolated from one another. Thus יתר is to be treated as the fut. of התיר. The Syr. understands it of right counsel; and in like manner Schultens explains it, with Cocceius, of intelligent, skilful guidance, and the moderns (e.g., Gesenius) for the most part of guidance generally. Ewald rather seeks (because the proverb-style avoids the placing of a fut. verb at the commencement of the proverb but cf. Proverbs 17:10) to interpret יתר as a noun in the sense of director, but his justification of the fixed ā is unfounded. And generally this sense of the word is exposed to many objections. The verb תּוּר signifies, after its root, to go about, "to make to go about," but is, however, not equivalent to, to lead (wherefore Bttcher too ingeniously derives יתר equals יאתר from אתר equals אשׁר); and wherefore this strange word, since the Book of Proverbs is so rich in synonyms of leading and guiding! The Hiph. התיר signifies to send to spy, Judges 1:23, and in this sense the poet ought to have said יתר לרעהוּ: the righteous spies out (the way) for his neighbour, he serves him, as the Targum-Talmud would say, as תּיּר. Thus connected with the obj. accus. the explanation would certainly be: the righteous searches out his neighbour (Lwenstein), he has intercourse with men, according to the maxim, "Trau schau wem." But why not רעהוּ, but מרעהוּ, which occurs only once, Proverbs 19:7, in the Mishle, and then for an evident reason? Therefore, with Dderlein, Dathe, J. D. Michaelis, Ziegler, and Hitzig, we prefer to read מרעהוּ; it is at least not necessary, with Hitzig, to change יתר into יתר, since the Hiphil may have the force of the intens. of the Kal, but יתר without the jussive signification is a poetic licence for יתיר. That תור can quite well be used of the exploring of the pasture, the deriv. יתוּר, Job 39:18, shows. Thus altered, 26a falls into an appropriately contrasted relation to 26b. The way of the godless leads them into error; the course of life to which they have given themselves up has such a power over them that they cannot set themselves free from it, and it leads the enslaved into destruction: the righteous, on the contrary, is free with respect to the way which he takes and the place where he stays; his view (regard) is directed to his true advancement, and he looketh after his pasture, i.e., examines and discovers, where for him right pasture, i.e., the advancement of his outer and inner life, is to be found. With מרעהוּ there is a combination of the thought of this verse with the following, whose catch-word is צידו, his prey.

The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious.
27 The slothful pursues not his prey;

     But a precious possession of a man is diligence.

The lxx, Syr., Targ., and Jerome render יחרך in the sense of obtaining or catching, but the verbal stem חרך nowhere has this meaning. When Fleischer remarks, חרך, ἅπ. λεγ., probably like לכד, properly to entangle in a noose, a net, he supports his opinion by reference to חרכּים, which signifies lattice-windows, properly, woven or knitted like a net. But חרך, whence this חרכים, appears to be equivalent to the Arab. kharḳ, fissura, so that the plur. gives the idea of a manifoldly divided (lattice-like, trellis-formed) window. The Jewish lexicographers (Menahem, Abulwald, Parchon, also Juda b. Koreish) all aim at that which is in accord with the meaning of the Aram. חרך, to singe, to roast ( equals Arab. ḥark): the slothful roasteth not his prey, whether (as Frst presents it) because he is too lazy to hunt for it (Berth.), or because when he has it he prepares it not for enjoyment (Ewald). But to roast is צלה, not דרך, which is used only of singeing, e.g., the hair, and roasting, e.g., ears of corn, but not of the roasting of flesh, for which reason Joseph Kimchi (vid., Kimchi's Lex.) understands צידו of wild fowls, and יחרך of the singeing of the tips of the wings, so that they cannot fly away, according to which the Venet. translates οὐ μενεῖ ... ἡ θήρα αὐτοῦ. Thus the Arab. must often help to a right interpretation of the ἅπ. λεγ.. Schultens is right: Verbum ḥarak, חרך, apud Arabes est movere, ciere, excitare, κινεῖν generatim, et speciatim excitare praedam e cubili, κινεῖν τήν θήραν. The Lat. agitare, used of the frightening up and driving forth of wild beasts, corresponds with the idea here, as e.g., used by Ovid, Metam. x. 538, of Diana:

Aut pronos lepores aue celsum in cornua cervum

Aut agitat damas.

Thus יחרך together with צידו gains the meaning of hunting, and generally of catching the prey. רמיּה is here incarnate slothfulness, and thus without ellipse equivalent to אישׁ רמיה. That in the contrasted clause חרוץ does not mean ἀποτόμως, decreed (Lwenstein), nor gold (Targ., Jerome, Venet.), nor that which is excellent (Syr.), is manifest from this contrast as well as from Proverbs 10:4; Proverbs 12:24. The clause has from its sequence of words something striking about it. The lxx placed the words in a difference order: κτῆμα δὲ τίμιον ἀνὴρ καθαρὸς (חלוץ in the sense of Arab. khâlaṣ). But besides this transposition, two others have been tried: הון אדם חרוץ יקר, the possession of an industrious man is precious, and הון יקר אדם חרוץ, a precious possession is that (supply הון) of an industrious man. But the traditional arrangement of the words gives a better meaning than these modifications. It is not, however, to be explained, with Ewald and Bertheau: a precious treasure of a man is one who is industrious, for why should the industrious man be thought of as a worker for another and not for himself? Another explanation advanced by Kimchi: a valuable possession to men is industry, has the twofold advantage that it is according to the existing sequence of the words, and presents a more intelligible thought. But can חרוּץ have the meaning of חריצוּת (the being industrious)? Hitzig reads חרוץ, to make haste (to be industrious). This is unnecessary, for we have here a case similar to Proverbs 10:17, where שׁמר for שׁומר is to be expected: a precious possession of a man is it that, or when, he is industrious, חרוּץ briefly for היותו חרוּץ rof yl. The accentuation fluctuates between והון־אדם יקר (so e.g., Cod. 1294), according to which the Targum translates, and והון־אדם יקר, which, according to our explanation, is to be preferred.

In the way of righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof there is no death.
28 In the path of righteousness is life,

     And the way of its path is immortality.

All the old versions to the Venet. give אל־ instead of אל־, and are therefore under the necessity of extracting from ודּרך נתיבה a meaning corresponding to this, εἰς θάνατον, in which they are followed by Hitzig: "a devious way leadeth to death." But נתיב (נתיבה) signifies step, and generally way and street (vid., at Proverbs 1:15), not "devious way," which is expressed, Judges 5:6, by ארחות עקלקלות. And that אל is anywhere punctuated thus in the sense of אל is previously improbable, because the Babylonian system of punctuation distinguishes the negative אל with a short Pathach, and the prepositional אל (Arab. ilâ) with a short Chirek, from each other (vid., Pinsker, Einl. p. xxii.f.); the punctuation 2 Samuel 18:16; Jeremiah 51:3, gives no support to the opinion that here אל is vocalized thus in the sense of אל, and it is not to be thus corrected. Nothing is more natural than that the Chokma in its constant contrast between life and death makes a beginning of expressing the idea of the ἀθανασία, which Aquila erroneously read from the אל־מות, Psalm 48:15. It has been objected that for the formation of such negative substantives and noun-adjectives לא (e.g., לא־אל, לא־עם) and not אל is used; but that אל also may be in close connection with a noun, 2 Samuel 1:13 shows. There אל־טל is equivalent to אל יהי טל, according to which it may also be explained in the passage before us, with Luther and all the older interpreters, who accepted אל in its negative signification: and on (the בּ governing) the way ... is no death. The negative אל frequently stands as an intensifying of the objective לא; but why should the Chokma, which has already shown itself bold in the coining of new words, not apply itself to the formation of the idea of immortality?: the idol name אליל is the result of a much greater linguistic boldness. It is certain that אל is here not equivalent to אל; the Masora is therefore right in affirming that נתיבה is written with He raphatum pro mappicato (vid., Kimchi, Michlol 31a, and in the Lex.), cf. 1 Samuel 20:20, vid., Bttcher, 418. Thus: the way of their step is immortality, or much rather, since דּרך is not a fixed idea, but also denotes the going to a distance (i.e., the journey), the behaviour, the proceeding, the walk, etc.: the walking (the stepping over and passing through) of their way is immortality. Rich in synonyms of the way, the Hebrew style delights in connecting them with picturesque expressions; but דּרך always means the way in general, which divides into ארחות or נתיבות (Job 6:18; Jeremiah 18:5), and consists of such (Isaiah 3:16). The distich is synonymous: on the path of righteousness (accentuate בארח צדקה) is life meeting him who walks in it, and giving itself to him as a possession, and the walking in its path is immortality (cf. Proverbs 3:17; Proverbs 10:28); so that to go in it and to be immortal, i.e., to be delivered from death, to be exalted above it, is one and the same thing. If we compare with this, 1 Samuel 14:32, it is obvious that the Chokma begins (vid., Psychol. p. 410) to break through the limits of this present life, and to announce a life beyond the reach of death.

Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch [1857-78].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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