Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
We take these verses together as forming a group which begins with a proverb regarding the good and evil which flows from the tongue, and closes with a proverb regarding the treasure in which blessing is found, and that in which no blessing is found.
A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.1 A soft answer turneth away wrath,
And a bitter word stirreth up anger.
In the second line, the common word for anger (אף, from the breathing with the nostrils, Proverbs 14:17) is purposely placed, but in the first, that which denotes anger in the highest degree (חמה from יחם, cogn. חמם, Arab. hamiya, to glow, like שׁנה from ישׁן): a mild, gentle word turns away the heat of anger (excandescentiam), puts it back, cf. Proverbs 25:15. The Dagesh in רּך follows the rule of the דחיק, i.e., of the close connection of a word terminating with the accented eh, aah, ah with the following word (Michlol 63b). The same is the meaning of the Latin proverb:
Frangitur ira gravis
Quando est responsio suavis.
The דבר־עצב produces the contrary effect. This expression does not mean an angry word (Ewald), for עצב is not to be compared with the Arab. ghaḍab, anger (Umbreit), but with Arab. 'aḍb, cutting, wounding, paining (Hitzig), so that דבר מעציב is meant in the sense of Psalm 78:40 : a word which causes pain (lxx λυπηρός, Theod. πονικός), not after the meaning, a word provoking to anger (Gesenius), but certainly after its effect, for a wounding word "makes anger arise." As one says of anger שׁב, "it turns itself" (e.g., Isaiah 9:11), so, on the other hand, עלה, "it rises up," Ecclesiastes 10:4. The lxx has a third line, ὀργὴ ἀπόλλυσι καὶ φρονίμους, which the Syr. forms into a distich by the repetition of Proverbs 14:32, the untenableness of which is at once seen.
The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.The πραΰ́της σοφίας (James 3:13) commended in Proverbs 15:1 is here continued:
The tongue of the wise showeth great knowledge,
And the mouth of fools poureth forth folly.
As היטיב נגּן, Isaiah 23:16, means to strike the harp well, and היטיב לכת, Isaiah 30:29, to go along merrily, so היטיב דּעת, to know in a masterly manner, and here, where the subject is the tongue, which has only an instrumental reference to knowledge: to bring to light great knowledge (cf. 7a). In 2b the lxx translate στόμα δὲ ἀφρόνων ἀναγγέλλει κακά. From this Hitzig concludes that they read רעות as 28b, and prefers this phrase; but they also translated in Proverbs 13:16; Proverbs 14:28; Proverbs 26:11, אוּלת by κακίαν, for they interpreted the unintelligible word by combination with עולת, and in Proverbs 12:23 by ἀραῖς, for they thought they had before them אלות (from אלה).
The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.3 The eyes of Jahve are in every place,
Observing the evil and the good.
The connection of the dual עינים with the plur. of the adjective, which does not admit of a dual, is like Proverbs 6:17, cf. 18. But the first line is a sentence by itself, to which the second line gives a closer determination, as showing how the eyes of God are everywhere (cf. 2 Chronicles 16:9, after Zechariah 4:10) abroad over the whole earth, viz., beholding with penetrating look the evil and the good (צפה, to hold to, to observe, cf. ἐπιβλέποντες, Sir. 23:19), i.e., examining men whether they are good or evil, and keeping them closely before His eyes, so that nothing escapes him. This universal inspection, this omniscience of God, has an alarming but also a comforting side. The proverb seeks first to warn, therefore it speaks first of the evil.
A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.4 Gentleness of the tongue is a tree of life;
But falseness in it is a wounding to the spirit.
Regarding מרפּא, vid., at Proverbs 12:18, and regarding סלף, at Proverbs 11:3; this latter word we derive with Fleischer from סלף, to subvert, overthrow, but not in the sense of "violence, asperitas, in as far as violent speech is like a stormy sea," but of perversity, perversitas (Venet. λοξότης), as the contrast to truthfulness, rectitude, kindness. Gentleness characterizes the tongue when all that it says to a neighbour, whether it be instruction or correction, or warning or consolation, it says in a manner without rudeness, violence, or obtrusiveness, by which it finds the easiest and surest acceptance, because he feels the goodwill, the hearty sympathy, the humility of him who is conscious of his own imperfection. Such gentleness is a tree of life, whose fruits preserve life, heal the sick, and raise up the bowed down. Accordingly, שׁבר בּרוּח is to be understood of the effect which goes forth from perversity or falseness of the tongue upon others. Fleischer translates: asperitas autem in ea animum vulnerat, and remarks, "שׁבר ברוח, abstr. pro concreto. The verb שׁבר, and the n. verbale שׁבר derived from it, may, in order to render the meaning tropical, govern the prep. בּ, as the Arab. kaser baḳlby, he has broken my heart (opp. Arab. jabar baḳlaby), cf. בּפניו, Proverbs 21:29, vid., De Glossis Habichtianis, p. 18; yet it also occurs with the accus., Psalm 69:21, and the corresponding gen. שׁבר רוּח, Isaiah 65:14." In any case, the breaking (deep wounding) is not meant in regard to his own spirit, but to that of the neighbour. Rightly Luther: but a lying (tongue) makes heart-sorrow (elsewhere, a false one troubles the cheerful); Euchel: a false tongue is soul-wounding; and the translation of the year 1844: falsehood is a breach into the heart. Only for curiosity's sake are two other interpretations of 4a and 4b mentioned: the means of safety to the tongue is the tree of life, i.e., The Tor (Erachin 15b); and: perversity suffers destruction by a breath of wind, after the proverb, כל שׁישׁ בו גסות רוח רוח קימעא שׁוברתו, a breath of wind breaks a man who is puffed up
(Note: Vid., Duke's Rabbinische Blumenlese, p. 176, where the rendering is somewhat different.)
(which Meri presents for choice, vid., also Rashi, who understands רוח of the storm of judgment). The lxx translates, in 4b, a different text: ὁ δὲ συντηρῶν αὐτὴν πλησθήσεται πνεύματος; but the ישׂבּע רוּח here supposed cannot mean "to be full of spirit," but rather "to eat full of wind." Otherwise the Syr. and Targ.: and he who eateth of his own fruit is satisfied (Heb. ואכל מפּריו ישׂבּע) - an attempt to give to the phrase ישׂבע a thought correct in point of language, but one against which we do not give up the Masoretic text.
A fool despiseth his father's instruction: but he that regardeth reproof is prudent.5 A fool despiseth his father's correction;
But he that regardeth reproof is prudent.
We may with equal correctness translate: he acts prudently (after 1 Samuel 23:22); and, he is prudent (after Proverbs 19:25). We prefer, with Jerome, Venet., and Luther, the latter, against the lxx, Syr., and Targ., because, without a doubt, the יערם is so thought of at Proverbs 19:25 : the contrast is more favourable to the former. It is true that he who regardeth reproof is not only prudent, but also that he is prudent by means of observing it. With line first cf. Proverbs 1:7 and Proverbs 1:30, and with line second, Proverbs 12:1. Luther translates: the fool calumniates...; but of the meanings of abuse (properly pungere) and scorn, the second is perhaps here to be preferred.
In the house of the righteous is much treasure: but in the revenues of the wicked is trouble.6 The house of the righteous is a great treasure-chamber;
But through the gain of the wicked comes trouble.
The contrast shows that חסן does not here mean force or might (lxx, Syr., Targ., Jerome, and Venet.), which generally this derivative of the verb חסן never means, but store, fulness of possession, prosperity (Luther: in the house of the righteous are goods enough), in this sense (cf. Proverbs 27:24) placing itself, not with the Arab. ḥasuna, to be firm, fastened (Aram. ḥsn, חסן), but with Arab. khazan, to deposit, to lay up in granaries, whence our "Magazin." חסן may indeed, like חיל, have the meaning of riches, and חסן does actually mean, in the Jewish-Aram., to possess, and the Aphel אחסן, to take into possession (κρατεῖν); but the constant use of the noun חסן in the sense of store, with the kindred idea of laying up, e.g., Jeremiah 20:5, and of the Niph. נחסן, which means, Isaiah 23:18, with נאצר, "to be magazined," gives countenance to the idea that חסן goes back to the primary conception, recondere, and is to be distinguished from חסון, חסין, and other derivatives after the fundamental conception. We may not interpret בּית, with Fleischer, Bertheau, and Zckler, as accus.: in the house (cf. בּית, Proverbs 8:2), nor prepositionally as chez equals casa; but: "the house of the righteous is a great store," equivalent to, the place of such. On the contrary, destruction comes by the gain of the wicked. It is impossible that נעכּרת can have the house as the subject (Lwenstein), for בּית is everywhere mas. Therefore Abulwald, followed by Kimchi and the Venet. (ὄλεθρος), interprets נעכרת as subst., after the form of the Mishnic נברכת, a pool, cf. נחרצה, peremptorily decided, decreed; and if we do not extinguish the ב of וּבתבוּאת (the lxx according to the second translation of this doubly-translated distich, Syr., and Targ.), there remains then nothing further than to regard נעכרת either as subst. neut. overturned equals overthrow (cf. such part. nouns as מוּסדה, מוּעקה, but particularly נסבּה, 2 Chronicles 10:15), or as impers. neut. pass.: it is overthrown equals there is an overthrow, like נשׂערה, Psalm 50:3 : it is stormed equals a storm rages. The gain of the wicked has overthrow as its consequence, for the greed of gain, which does not shrink from unrighteous, deceitful gain, destroys his house, עכר בּיתו, Proverbs 15:27 (vid., regarding עצר, Proverbs 11:29). Far from enriching the house, such gain is the cause of nothing but ruin. The lxx, in its first version of this distich, reads, in 6a, בּרבות צדק (ἐν πλεοναζούσῃ δικαιοσύνῃ), and in 6b, וּבתבוּאת רשׁע נעכּר (and together with the fruit the godless is rooted out, ὁλόῤῥιζοι ἐκ γῆς ἀπολοῦνται); for, as Lagarde has observed, it confounds עכר with עקר (to root, privativ: to root up).
The lips of the wise disperse knowledge: but the heart of the foolish doeth not so.A second series which begins with a proverb of the power of human speech, and closes with proverbs of the advantages and disadvantages of wealth.
7 The lips of the wise spread knowledge;
But the direction is wanting to the heart of fools.
It is impossible that לא־כן can be a second object. accus. dependent on יזרוּ (dispergunt, not יצּרוּ, Proverbs 20:28; φυλάσσουσι, as Symmachus translates): but the heart of fools is unrighteous (error or falsehood) (Hitzig after Isaiah 16:6); for then why were the lips of the wise and the heart of the fools mentioned? לא־כן also does not mean οὐχ οὕτως (an old Greek anonymous translation, Jerome, Targ., Venet., Luther): the heart of the fool is quite different from the heart of the wise man, which spreads abroad knowledge (Zckler), for it is not heart and heart, but lip and heart, that are placed opposite to each other. Better the lxx οὐκ ἀσφαλεῖς, and yet better the Syr. lo kinı̂n (not right, sure). We have seen, at Proverbs 11:19, that כן as a participial adj. means standing equals being, continuing, or also standing erect equals right, i.e., rightly directed, or having the right direction; כּן־צדקה means there conducting oneself rightly, and thus genuine rectitude. What, after 7a, is more appropriate than to say of the heart of the fool, that it wants the receptivity for knowledge which the lips of the wise scatter abroad? The heart of the fool is not right, it has not the right direction, is crooked and perverse, has no mind for wisdom; and that which proceeds from the wise, therefore, finds with him neither estimation nor acceptance.
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight.8 The sacrifice of the godless is an abhorrence to Jahve;
But the prayer of the upright is His delight.
Although the same is true of the prayer of the godless that is here said of their sacrifice, and of the sacrifice of the righteous that is here said of their prayer (vid., Proverbs 28:9, and cf. Psalm 4:6 with Psalm 27:6), yet it is not by accident that here (line first equals Proverbs 21:27) the sacrifice is ascribed to the godless and the prayer to the upright. The sacrifice, as a material and legally-required performance, is much more related to dead works than prayer freely completing itself in the word, the most direct expression of the personality, which, although not commanded by the law, because natural to men, as such is yet the soul of all sacrifices; and the Chokma, like the Psalms and Prophets, in view of the ceremonial service which had become formal and dead in the opus operatum, is to such a degree penetrated by the knowledge of the incongruity of the offering up of animals and of plants, with the object in view, that a proverb like "the sacrifice of the righteous is pleasing to God" never anywhere occurs; and if it did occur without being expressly and unavoidably referred to the legal sacrifice, it would have to be understood rather after Psalm 51:18. than Psalm 51:20f., rather after 1 Samuel 15:22 than after Psalm 66:13-15. זבח, which, when it is distinguished from עולה, means (cf. Proverbs 7:14) the sacrifice only in part coming to the altar, for the most part applied to a sacrificial feast, is here the common name for the bloody, and, per synecdochen, generally the legally-appointed sacrifice, consisting in external offering. The לרצין, Leviticus 1:3, used in the Tra of sacrifices, is here, as at Psalm 19:15, transferred to prayer. The fundamental idea of the proverb is, that sacrifices well-pleasing to God, prayers acceptable to God (that are heard, Proverbs 15:29), depend on the relations in which the heart and life of the man stand to God.
The way of the wicked is an abomination unto the LORD: but he loveth him that followeth after righteousness.Another proverb with the key-word תועבת
An abomination to Jahve is the way of the godless;
But He loveth him who searcheth after righteousness.
The manner and rule of life is called the way. מרדּף is the heightening of רדף, Proverbs 21:21, and can be used independently in bonam, as well as in malam partem (Proverbs 11:19, cf. Proverbs 13:21). Regarding the form יאהב, vid., Fleischer in Deutsch. Morgenl. Zeitsch. xv. 382.
Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way: and he that hateth reproof shall die.10 Sharp correction is for him who forsaketh the way;
Whoever hateth instruction shall die.
The way, thus absolute, is the God-pleasing right way (Proverbs 2:13), the forsaking of which is visited with the punishment of death, because it is that which leadeth unto life (Proverbs 10:17). And that which comes upon them who leave it is called מוּסר רע, castigatio dura, as much as to say that whoever does not welcome instruction, whoever rejects it, must at last receive it against his will in the form of peremptory punishment. The sharp correction (cf. Isaiah 28:28, Isaiah 28:19) is just the death under which he falls who accepts of no instruction (Proverbs 5:23), temporal death, but that as a token of wrath which it is not for the righteous (Proverbs 14:32).
Hell and destruction are before the LORD: how much more then the hearts of the children of men?11 The underworld [Sheol] and the abyss are before Jahve;
But how much more the hearts of the children of men!
A syllogism, a minori ad majus, with אף כּי (lxx τῶς οὐχὶ καὶ, Venet. μᾶλλον οὖν), like 12:32.
(Note: In Rabbin. this concluding form is called קל וחמר (light and heavy over against one another), and דּין (judgment, viz., from premisses, thus conclusion), κατ ̓ ἐξ. Instead of the biblical אף כי, the latter form of the language has כּל־שׁכּן (all speaks for it that it is so), על־אחת כּמּה וכמּה (so much the more), אינו דּין, or also קל וחמר (as minori ad majus equals quanto magis); vid., the Hebr. Rmerbrief, p. 14.)
אבדּון has a meaning analogous to that of τάρταρος (cf. ταρταροῦν, 2 Peter 2:4, to throw down into the τάρταρος), which denotes the lowest region of Hades (שׁאול תּחתּית or תּחתּיּה 'שׁ), and also in general, Hades. If אבדון and מות are connected, Job 37:22, and if אבדון is the parallel word to קבר, Psalm 88:12, or also to שׁאול, as in the passage similar to this proverb, Job 26:6 (cf. Job 38:17): "Shel is naked before Him, and Abaddon has no covering;" since אבדון is the general name of the underworld, including the grave, i.e., the inner place of the earth which receives the body of the dead, as the kingdom of the dead, lying deeper, does the soul. But where, as here and at Proverbs 27:10, שׁאול and אבדון stand together, they are related to each other, as ᾅδης and ταρταρος or ἅβυσσος, Revelation 9:11 : אבדון is the lowest hell, the place of deepest descent, of uttermost destruction. The conclusion which is drawn in the proverb proceeds from the supposition that in the region of creation there is nothing more separated, and by a wide distance, from God, than the depth, and especially the undermost depth, of the realm of the dead. If now God has this region in its whole compass wide open before Him, if it is visible and thoroughly cognisable by Him (נגד, acc. adv.: in conspectu, from נגד, eminere, conspicuum esse) - for He is also present in the underworld, Psalm 139:8 - then much more will the hearts of the children of men be open, the inward thoughts of men living and acting on the earth being known already from their expressions. Man sees through man, and also himself, never perfectly; but the Lord can try the heart and prove the reins, Jeremiah 17:10. What that means this proverb gives us to understand, for it places over against the hearts of men nothing less than the depths of the underworld in eternity.
A scorner loveth not one that reproveth him: neither will he go unto the wise.The scorner loveth not that one reprove him:
To wise men he goeth not; -
and by the contrast, which prevails in the Book of Proverbs, between לץ (mocker) and חכם (wise), in which we see that, at the same time with the striving after wisdom, scepticism also, which we call free thought, obtained a great ascendency in Israel. Mockery of religion, rejection of God in principle and practice, a casting away of all fear of Jahve, and in general of all δεισιδαιμονία, were in Israel phenomena which had already marked the times of David. One may see from the Psalms that the community of the Davidic era is to be by no means regarded as furnishing a pattern of religious life: that there were in it גּוים (Gentile nations) which were in no way externally inferior to them, and that it did not want for rejecters of God. But it is natural to expect that in the Solomonic era, which was more than any other exposed to the dangers of sensuality and worldliness, and of religious indifference and free-thinking latitudinarianism, the number of the לצים increased, and that scepticism and mockery became more intensified. The Solomonic era appears to have first coined the name of לץ for those men who despised that which was holy, and in doing so laid claim to wisdom (Proverbs 14:6), who caused contention and bitterness when they spake, and carefully avoided the society of the חכמים, because they thought themselves above their admonitions (Proverbs 15:12). For in the psalms of the Davidic time the word נבל is commonly used for them (it occurs in the Proverbs only in Proverbs 17:21, with the general meaning of low fellow, Germ. Bube), and the name לץ is never met with except once, in Psalm 1:1, which belongs to the post-Davidic era. One of the Solomonic proverbs (Proverbs 21:24) furnishes a definite idea of this newly formed word:
An inflated arrogant man they call a scorner (לץ),
One who acts in the superfluity of haughtiness.
By the self-sufficiency of his ungodly thoughts and actions he is distinguished from the פּתי (simple), who is only misled, and may therefore be reclaimed, Proverbs 19:25; Proverbs 21:11; by his non-recognition of the Holy in opposition to a better knowledge and better means and opportunities, he is distinguished from the כּסיל (foolish, stupid), Proverbs 17:16, the אויל (foolish, wicked), Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 7:22, and the חסר לב (the void of understanding), Proverbs 6:32, who despise truth and instruction from want of understanding, narrowness, and forgetfulness of God, but not from perverse principle. This name specially coined, the definition of it given (cf. also the similarly defining proverb PRomans 24:8), and in general the rich and fine technical proverbs in relation to the manifold kinds of wisdom (בּינה, Proverbs 16:16; מוּסר, Proverbs 1:8; תּבוּנות, Proverbs 21:30; מזמּות, Proverbs 5:2; תּחבּוּלות, Proverbs 1:5; Proverbs 12:5; the תּוּשׁיּה first coined by the Chokma, etc.), of instruction in wisdom (לקח, Proverbs 1:5; תּורה, Proverbs 4:2; Proverbs 6:23; רעה, to tend to a flock, to instruct, Proverbs 10:21; חנך, Proverbs 22:6; הוכח, Proverbs 15:12; לקח נפשׁות, to win souls, Proverbs 6:25; Proverbs 11:30), of the wise men themselves (חכם, Proverbs 12:15; נבון, Proverbs 10:13; מוכיח, a reprover, preacher of repentance, Proverbs 25:12, etc.), and of the different classes of men (among whom also אדם אחרי, one who steps backwards [retrograder], Proverbs 28:23) - all this shows that חכמה was at that time not merely the designation of an ethical quality, but also the designation of a science rooted in the fear of God to which many noble men in Israel then addicted themselves. Jeremiah places (Jeremiah 18:18) the חכם along with the כּהן (priest) and נביא (prophet); and if Ezekiel 7:26) uses זקן (old man) instead of חכם, yet by reference to Job 12:12 this may be understood. In his "Dissertation on the popular and intellectual freedom of Israel from the time of the great prophets to the first destruction of Jerusalem" (Jahrbcher, i. 96f.), Ewald says, "One can scarcely sufficiently conceive how high the attainment was which was reached in the pursuit after wisdom (philosophy) in the first centuries after David, and one too much overlooks the mighty influence it exerted on the entire development of the national life of Israel. The more closely those centuries are inquired into, the more are we astonished at the vast power which wisdom so early exerted on all sides as the common object of pursuit of many men among the people. It first openly manifested itself in special circles of the people, while in the age after Solomon, which was peculiarly favourable to it, eagerly inquisitive scholars gathered around individual masters, until ever increasing schools were formed. But its influence gradually penetrated all the other pursuits of the people, and operated on the most diverse departments of authorship." We are in entire sympathy with this historical view first advanced by Ewald, although we must frequently oppose the carrying of it out in details. The literature and the national history of Israel are certainly not understood if one does not take into consideration, along with the נבוּאה (prophecy), the influential development of the חכמה as a special aim and subject of intellectual activity in Israel.
And how was this Chokma conditioned - to what was it directed? To denote its condition and aim in one word, it was universalistic, or humanistic. Emanating from the fear or the religion of Jahve (דּרך ה, the way of the Lord, Proverbs 10:29), but seeking to comprehend the spirit in the letter, the essence in the forms of the national life, its effort was directed towards the general truth affecting mankind as such. While prophecy, which is recognised by the Chokma as a spiritual power indispensable to a healthful development of a people (בּאין חזון יפּרע עם, Job 29:18), is of service to the historical process into which divine truth enters to work out its results in Israel, and from thence outward among mankind, the Chokma seeks to look into the very essence of this truth through the robe of its historical and national manifestation, and then to comprehend those general ideas in which could already be discovered the fitness of the religion of Jahve for becoming the world-religion. From this aim towards the ideal in the historical, towards the everlasting same amid changes, the human (I intentionally use this word) in the Israelitish, the universal religion in the Jahve-religion (Jahvetum), and the universal morality in the Law, all the peculiarities of the Book of Proverbs are explained, as well as of the long, broad stream of the literature of the Chokma, beginning with Solomon, which, when the Palestinian Judaism assumed the rugged, exclusive, proud national character of Pharisaism, developed itself in Alexandrinism. Bertheau is amazed that in the Proverbs there are no warnings given against the worship of idols, which from the time of the kings gained more and more prevalence among the Israelitish people. "How is it to be explained," he asks (Spr. p. xlii.), "if the proverbs, in part at least, originated during the centuries of conflict between idolatry and the religion of Jahve, and if they were collected at a time in which this conflict reached its climax and stirred all ranks of the people - this conflict against the immorality of the Phoenician-Babylonian religion of nature, which must often have led into the same region of the moral contemplation of the world over which this book moves?!" The explanation lies in this, that the Chokma took its stand-point in a height and depth in which it had the mingling waves of international life and culture under it and above it, without being internally moved thereby. It naturally did not approve of heathenism, it rather looked upon the fear of Jahve as the beginning of wisdom, and the seeking after Jahve as implying the possession of all knowledge (Proverbs 28:5, cf. 1 John 2:20); but it passed over the struggle of prophecy against heathendom, it confined itself to its own function, viz., to raise the treasures of general religious-moral truth in the Jahve-religion, and to use them for the ennobling of the Israelites as men. In vain do we look for the name ישׂראל in the Proverbs, even the name תּורה has a much more flexible idea attached to it than that of the law written at Sinai (cf. Proverbs 28:4; Proverbs 29:18 with Proverbs 28:7; Proverbs 13:14, and similar passages); prayer and good works are placed above sacrifice, Proverbs 15:8; Proverbs 21:3, Proverbs 21:27 - practical obedience to the teaching if wisdom above all, Proverbs 28:9. The Proverbs refer with special interest to Genesis 1 and 2, the beginnings of the world and of the human race before nations took their origin. On this primitive record in the book of Genesis, to speak only of the משׁלי שׁלמה, the figure of the tree of life (perhaps also of the fountain of life), found nowhere else in the Old Testament, leans; on it leans also the contrast, deeply pervading the Proverbs, between life (immortality, Proverbs 12:28) and death, or between that which is above and that which is beneath (Proverbs 15:24); on it also many other expressions, such, e.g., as what is said in Proverbs 20:27 of the "spirit of man." This also, as Stier (Der Weise ein Knig, 1849, p. 240) has observed, accounts for the fact that אדם occurs by far most frequently in the Book of Job and in the Solomonic writings. All these phenomena are explained from the general human universal aim of the Chokma.
When James (James 3:17) says that the "wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy," his words most excellently designate the nature and the contents of the discourse of wisdom in the Solomonic proverbs, and one is almost inclined to think that the apostolic brother of the Lord, when he delineates wisdom, has before his eyes the Book of the Proverbs, which raises to purity by the most impressive admonitions. Next to its admonitions to purity are those especially to peacefulness, to gentle resignation (Proverbs 14:30), quietness of mind (Proverbs 14:33) and humility (Proverbs 11:2; Proverbs 15:33; Proverbs 16:5, Proverbs 16:18), to mercy (even toward beasts, Proverbs 12:10), to firmness and sincerity of conviction, to the furtherance of one's neighbour by means of wise discourse and kind help. What is done in the Book of Deuteronomy with reference to he law is continued here. As in Deuteronomy, so here, love is at the bottom of its admonitions, the love of God to men, and the love of men to one another in their diverse relations (Deuteronomy 12:2; Deuteronomy 15:9); the conception of צדקה gives way to that of charity, of almsgiving (δικαιοσύνη equals ἐλεημοσύνη). Forgiving, suffering love (Proverbs 10:12), love which does good even to enemies (Proverbs 25:21.), rejoices not over the misfortune that befalls an enemy (Proverbs 24:17.), retaliates not (Proverbs 24:28.), but commits all to God (Proverbs 20:22) - love in its manifold forms, as that of husband and wife, of children, of friends - is here recommended with New Testament distinctness and with deepest feeling. Living in the fear of God (Proverbs 28:14), the Omniscient (Proverbs 15:3, Proverbs 15:11; Proverbs 16:2; Proverbs 21:2; Proverbs 24:11.), to whom as the final Cause all is referred (Proverbs 20:12, Proverbs 20:24; Proverbs 14:31; Proverbs 22:2), and whose universal plan all must subserve (Proverbs 16:4; Proverbs 19:21; Proverbs 21:30), and on the other side active pure love to man - these are the hinges on which all the teachings of wisdom in the Proverbs turn. Frederick Schlegel, in the fourteenth of his Lectures on the History of Literature, distinguishes, not without deep truth, between the historico-prophetic books of the Old Testament, or books of the history of redemption, and the Book of Job, the Psalms, and the Solomonic writings, as books of aspiration, corresponding to the triple chord of faith, hope, charity as the three stages of the inner spiritual life. The Book of Job is designed to support faith amid trials; the Psalms breathe forth and exhibit hope amid the conflicts of earth's longings; the Solomonic writings reveal to us the mystery of the divine love, and the Proverbs that wisdom which grows out of and is itself eternal love. When Schlegel in the same lecture says that the books of the Old Covenant, for the most part, stand under the signature of the lion as the element of the power of will and spirited conflict glowing in divine fire, but that in the inmost hidden kernel and heart of the sacred book the Christian figure of the lamb rises up out of the veil of this lion strength, this may specially be said of the Book of Proverbs, for here that same heavenly wisdom preaches, which, when manifested in person, spake in the Sermon on the Mount, New Testament love in the midst of the Old Testament.
It is said that in the times before Christ there was a tendency to apocryphize not only the Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes, but also the Book of Proverbs, and that for the first time the men of the Great Synagogue established their canonicity on the ground of their spiritual import; they became perplexed about the Proverbs, according to b. Sabbath, 30b, on account of such self-contradictory proverbs as Proverbs 26:4-5, and according to Aboth de-Rabbi Nathan, c. 1, on account of such secular portions as that of the wanton woman, chap. 7. But there is no need to allegorize this woman, and that self-contradiction is easily explained. The theopneustic character of the book and its claim to canonicity show themselves from its integral relation to the Old Testament preparation for redemption; but keeping out of view the book as a whole, it is self-evident that the conception of a practical proverb such as Proverbs 14:4 and of a prophecy such as Isaiah 7:14 are very different phenomena of the spiritual life, and that in general the operation of the Divine Spirit in a proverb is different from that in a prophecy.
We have hitherto noted the character of the instruction set forth in the Proverbs according to the marks common to them in all their parts, but in such a way that we have taken our proofs only from the "Proverbs of Solomon" and the "Words of the Wise," with the exclusion of the introductory proverbial poems of the older editor. If we compare the two together, it cannot be denied that in the type of the instruction contained in the latter, the Chokma, of which the book is an emanation and which it has as its aim (לדעת חכמה, Proverbs 1:2), stands before us in proportionally much more distinctly defined comprehension and form; we have the same relation before us whose adumbration is the relation of the instruction of wisdom in the Avesta and in the later Minochired (Spiegel, Parsi-Grammatik, p. 182ff.). The Chokma appears also in the "Proverbs of Solomon" as a being existing in and for itself, which is opposed to ambiguous subjective thought (Proverbs 28:26); but here there is attributed to it an objectivity even to an apparent personality: it goes forth preaching, and places before all men life and death for an eternally decisive choice, it distributes the spirit of those who do not resist (Proverbs 1:23), it receives and answers prayer (Proverbs 1:28). The speculation regarding the Chokma is here with reference to Job 28 (cf. Proverbs 2:4; Proverbs 3:14., Proverbs 8:11, Proverbs 8:19), and particularly to Job 28:27, where a demiurgic function is assigned to wisdom, carried back to its source in eternity: it is the medium by which the world was created, Proverbs 3:19; it was before the creation of the world with God as from everlasting, His son of royal dignity, Proverbs 8:22-26; it was with Him in His work of creation, Proverbs 8:27-30; after the creation it remained as His delight, rejoicing always before Him, and particularly on the earth among the sons of men, Proverbs 8:30. Staudenmaier (Lehre von der Idee, p. 37) is certainly not on the wrong course, when under this rejoicing of wisdom before God he understands the development of the ideas or life-thoughts intimately bound up in it - the world-idea. This development is the delight of God, because it represents to the divine contemplation of the contents of wisdom, or of the world-idea founded in the divine understanding, in all its activities and inner harmonies; it is a calm delight, because the divine idea unites with the fresh and every young impulse of life, the purity, goodness, innocence, and holiness of life, because its spirit is light, clear, simple, childlike, in itself peaceful, harmonious, and happy; and this delight is experienced especially on the earth among the sons of men, among whom wisdom has its delight; for, as the divine idea, it is in all in so far as it is the inmost life-thought, the soul of each being, but it is on the earth of men in whom it comes to its self-conception, and self-conscious comes forth into the light of the clear day. Staudenmaier has done the great service of having worthily estimated the rich and deep fulness of this biblical theologumenon of wisdom, and of having pointed out in it the foundation-stone of a sacred metaphysics and a means of protection against pantheism in all its forms. We see that in the time of the editor of the older Book of Proverbs the wisdom of the schools in its devotion to the chosen object of its pursuit, the divine wisdom living and moving in all nature, and forming the background of all things, rises to a height of speculation on which it has planted a banner showing the right way to latest times. Ewald rightly points to the statements in the introduction to the Proverbs regarding wisdom as a distinct mark of the once great power of wisdom in Israel; for they show us how this power learned to apprehend itself in its own purest height, after it had become as perfect, and at the same time also as self-conscious, as it could at all become in ancient Israel.
Many other appearances also mark the advanced type of instruction contained in the introduction. Hitzig's view (Sprche, p. xvii.f.), that Proverbs 1:6-9:18 are the part of the whole collection which was earliest written, confutes itself on all sides; on the contrary, the views of Bleek in his Introduction to the Old Testament, thrown out in a sketchy manner and as if by a diviner, surprisingly agree with our own results, which have been laboriously reached and are here amply established. The advanced type of instruction in the introduction, chap. 1-9, appears among other things in this, that we there find the allegory, which up to this place occurs in Old Testament literature only in scattered little pictures built up into independent poetic forms, particularly in chap. 9, where without any contradiction אושׁת כּסילוּת a simple woman, Proverbs 5:13 is an allegorical person. The technical language of the Chokma has extended itself on many sides and been refined (we mention these synonyms: חכמה, דּעת, בּינה, ערמה, מזמּה, מוּסר, תּוּשׁיּה); and the seven pillars in the house of wisdom, even though it be inadmissible to think of them as the seven liberal arts, yet point to a division into seven parts of which the poet was conscious to himself. The common address, בּני [my son], which is not the address of the father to the son, but of the teacher to the scholar, countenances the supposition that there were at that time בּני חכמים, i.e., scholars of the wise men, just as there were "sons of the prophets" (נּבאים), and probably also schools of wisdom. "And when it is described how wisdom spake aloud to the people in all the streets of Jerusalem, in the high places of the city and in every favourable place, does not one feel that such sublime descriptions could not be possible unless at that time wisdom were regarded by the people as one of the first powers, and the wise men truly displayed a great public activity?" We must answer this question of Ewald's in the affirmative.
Bruch, in his Weisheitslehre der Hebraer, 1851, was the first to call special attention to the Chokma or humanism as a peculiar intellectual tendency in Israel; but he is mistaken in placing it in an indifferent and even hostile relation to the national law and the national cultus, which he compares to the relation of Christian philosophy to orthodox theology. Oehler, in his Grundzge der alttestamentl. Weisheit, which treats more especially of the doctrinal teachings of the Book of Job, judges more correctly; cf. also his comprehensive article, Pdagogik des A. T. in Schmid's Pdagogischer Encyclopdie, pp. 653-695 (partic. 677-683).
5. The Alexandrian Translation of the Book of Proverbs
Of highest interest for the history of the Book of Proverbs is the relation of the lxx to the Hebrew text. One half of the proverbs of Agur (30 of the Hebrew text) are placed in it after Proverbs 24:22, and the other half after Proverbs 24:34; and the proverbs of King Lemuel (Proverbs 31:1-9 of the Hebrew text) are placed after the proverbs of Agur, while the acrostic proverbial poem of the virtuous woman is in its place at the end of the book. That transposition reminds us of the transpositions in Jeremiah, and rests in the one place as well as in the other on a misunderstanding of the true contents. The translator has set aside the new superscription, Proverbs 10:1, as unsuitable, and has not marked the new beginning, Proverbs 22:17; he has expunged the new superscription, Proverbs 24:23, and has done the same to the superscription, "The words of Agur" (Proverbs 30:1), in two awkward explanations (λόγον φυλασσόμενος and τοὺς ἐμοὺς λόγους φοβήθητι), and the superscription, "The words of Lemuel" (Proverbs 31:1), in one similar (οἱ ἐμοὶ λόγι εἴρηνται ὑπὸ Θεοῦ), so that the proverbs of Agur and of Lemuel are without hesitation joined with those of Solomon, whereby it yet remains a mystery why the proverbs beginning with "The words of Agur" have been divided into two parts. Hitzig explains it from a confounding of the columns in which, two being on each page, the Hebrew MS which lay before the translator was written, and in which the proverbs of Agur and of Lemuel (names which tradition understood symbolically of Solomon) were already ranked in order before chap. 25. But besides these, there are also many other singular things connected with this Greek translation interesting in themselves and of great critical worth. That it omits Proverbs 1:16 may arise from this, that this verse was not found in the original MS, and was introduced from Isaiah 59:7; but there are wanting also proverbs such as Isaiah 21:5, for which no reason can be assigned. But the additions are disproportionately more numerous. Frequently we find a line added to the distich, such as in Proverbs 1:18, or an entire distich added, as Proverbs 3:15; or of two lines of the Hebrew verse, each is formed into a separate distich, as Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 11:16; or we meet with longer interpolations, extending far beyond this measure, as that added to Proverbs 4:27. Many of these proverbs are easily re-translated into the Hebrew, as that added to Proverbs 4:27, consisting of four lines:
כי דרכי מימינים ידע יהוה
ועקשׁים דרכי משׂמאילים
הוא יפלם מעגלותיך
ארחותיך בשׂלום יצלית
But many of them also sound as if they had been originally Greek; e.g., the lines appended to Proverbs 9:10; Proverbs 13:15; the distich, Proverbs 6:11; the imperfect tristich, Proverbs 22:14; and the formless train, Proverbs 25:10. The value of these enlargements is very diverse; not a few of these proverbs are truly thoughtful, such as the addition to Proverbs 12:13 -
He who is of mild countenance findeth mercy;
He who is litigious crushes souls
and singularly bold in imagery, as the addition to Proverbs 9:12 -
He who supports himself by lies hunts after (רעה) the wind,
He catches at fluttering birds;
For he forsakes the ways of his own vineyard,
And wanders away from the paths of his own field,
And roams through arid steppes and a thirsty land,
And gathers with his hand withered heath.
The Hebrew text lying before the Alexandrian translators had certainly not all these additions, yet in many passages, such as Proverbs 11:16, it is indeed a question whether it is not to be improved from the lxx; and in other passages, where, if one reads the Greek, the Hebrew words naturally take their place, whether these are not at least old Hebrew marginal notes and interpolations which the translation preserves. But this version itself has had its gradual historical development. The text, the κοινή (communis), proceeds from the Hexaplar text edited by Origen, which received from him many and diverse revisions; and in the times before Christ, perhaps (as Hitz. supposes), down to the second century after Christ, the translation itself, not being regarded as complete, as in the progress of growth, for not unfrequently two different translations of one and the same proverb stand together, as Proverbs 14:22; Proverbs 29:25 (where also the Peshito follows the lxx after which it translates), or also interpenetrate one another, as Proverbs 22:8-9. These doubled translations are of historical importance both in relation to the text and to the interpretation of it. Along with the Books of Samuel and Jeremiah, there is no book in regard to which the lxx can be of higher significance than the Book of Proverbs; we shall seek in the course of our exposition duly to estimate the text
(Note: Cf. also J. Gottlob Jger's Observationes in Proverbiorum Salomonis Versionem Alexandrinam, 1788; de Lagarde's Anmerkungen zur griech. Ueberstezung der Proverbien, 1863; M. Heidenheim's Zur Textkritik der Proverbien, in his Quarterly Journal for German and English Theological Criticism and Investigation, No. VIII (1865), and IX, XI (1866). The text of the lxx (cf. Angelo Mari's Classici Auctores, t. ix.) used by Procopius in his Ἡρμηνεία εἰς τὰς παροιμίας is peculiar, and here and there comes near to the Hebrew original. The scholion of Evagrius in the Σχόλια εἰς τὰς παροιμίας of Origen, edited by Tischendorf in his Notitia, 1860, from a MS of Patmos, shows how soon even the Hexaplar text became ambiguous.)
as adopted by Bertheau (1847) and Hitzig (1858) in their commentaries, and by Ewald in his Jahrb. xi. (1861) and his commentary (2nd ed. 1867). The historical importance of the Egyptian text-recension is heightened by this circumstance, that the old Syrian translator of the Solomonic writings had before him not only the original text, but also the lxx; for the current opinion, that the Peshito, as distinguished from the Syro-Hexaplar version, sprang solely from the original text with the assistance of the Targum, is more and more shown to be erroneous. In the Book of Proverbs the relation of the Peshito and Targum is even the reverse; the Targum of the Proverbs, making use of the Peshito, restores the Masoretic text - the points of contact with the lxx showing themselves here and there, are brought about
(Note: Cf. Dathe, De ratione consensus Versionis Syriacae el Chaldaicae Proverbiorum Salomonis (1764), edited by Rosenmller in his Opuscula. Maybaum, in the Treatise on the Language of the Targum to the Proverbs and its relation to the Syriac, in Merx's Archiv, ii.-66-93, labours in vain to give the priority to that of the Targum: the Targum is written from the Peshito, and here and there approaches the Hebrew text; the language is, with few differences, the Syriac of the original.)
by the Peshito. But that Jerome, in his translation of the Vulgate according to the Hebraea veritas, sometimes follows the lxx in opposition to the original text, is to be explained with Hitzig from the fact that he based his work on an existing Latin translation made from the lxx. Hence it comes that the two distichs added in the lxx to Proverbs 4:27 remain in his work, and that instead of the one distich, Proverbs 15:6, we have two: - In abundanti (after the phrase בּרב instead of בּית of the Masoretic text) justitia virtus maxima est, cogitationes autem impiroum eradicabuntur. Domus (בּית) justi plurima fortitudo, et in fructibus impii conturbatio; for Jerome has adopted the two translations of the lxx, correcting the second according to the original text.
(Note: The Ethiopic translation, also, is in particular points, as well as on the whole, dependent on the lxx, for it divides the Book of Proverbs into proverbs (παροιμίας), chap. 1-24, and instructions (παιδεῖαι) of Solomon, chap. 25-31. Vid., Dillmann in Ewald's Jahrb. v. 147, 150.)
The fragments of the translations of Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion, etc., contained in Greek and Syrian sources, have been recently collected, more perfectly than could have been done by Montfaucon, by Fried. Field, in his work Origenis Hexaplorum quae supersunt, etc. (Oxonii, 1867, 4). Of special interest is the more recent translation of the original text, existing only in a MS laid up in the Library of St. Mark at Venice, executed in bold language, rich in rare and newly invented words, by an unknown author, and belonging to an age which has not yet been determined (Graecus Venetus): cf. d'Ansse de Villoison's nova versio Graeca Proverbiorum, Ecclesiastis, Cantici Canticorum, etc., Argentorati, 1784; and also the Animadversiones thereto of Jo. Ge. Dahler, 1786.
Proverbs 15:1212 The scorner liketh not that one reprove him,
To wise men he will not go.
The inf. absol., abruptly denoting the action, may take the place of the object, as here (cf. Job 9:18; Isaiah 42:24), as well as of the subject (Proverbs 25:27, Job 6:25). Thus הוכיח is (Proverbs 9:7) construed with the dat. obj. Regarding the probable conclusion which presents itself from passages such as Proverbs 15:12 and Proverbs 13:20, as to the study of wisdom in Israel, vid., p. 39. Instead of אל, we read, Proverbs 13:20 (cf. Proverbs 22:24), את־; for לכת את־ means to have intercourse with one, to go a journey with one (Malachi 2:6, cf. Genesis 5:24, but not 2 Samuel 15:22, where we are to translate with Keil), according to which the lxx has here μετὰ δὲ σοφῶν οὐχ ὁμιλήσει. The mocker of religion and of virtue shuns the circle of the wise, for he loves not to have his treatment of that which is holy reproved, nor to be convicted of his sin against truth; he prefers the society where his frivolity finds approbation and a response.
A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.13 A joyful heart maketh the countenance cheerful;
But in sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.
The expression of the countenance, as well as the spiritual habitus of a man, is conditioned by the state of the heart. A joyful heart maketh the countenance טוב, which means friendly, but here happy-looking equals cheerful (for טוב ro is the most general designation of that which makes an impression which is pleasant to the senses or to the mind); on the contrary, with sorrow of heart (עצּבת, constr. of עצּבת, Proverbs 10:10, as חטאת equals חטּאת, from חטּאה) there is connected a stricken, broken, downcast heart; the spiritual functions of the man are paralyzed; self-confidence, without which energetic action is impossible, is shattered; he appears discouraged, whereby רוּח is thought of as the power of self-consciousness and of self-determination, but לב, as our "Gemt" [animus], as the oneness of thinking and willing, and thus as the seat of determination, which decides the intellectual-corporeal life-expression of the man, or without being able to be wholly restrained, communicates itself to them. The ב of וּבעצּבת is, as Proverbs 15:16., Proverbs 16:8; Proverbs 17:1, meant in the force of being together or along with, so that רוּח נכאה do not need to be taken separate from each other as subject and predicate: the sense of the noun-clause is in the ב, as e.g., also Proverbs 7:23 (it is about his life, i.e., it concerns his life). Elsewhere the crushed spirit, like the broken heart, is equivalent to the heart despairing in itself and prepared for grace. The heart with a more clouded mien may be well, for sorrow has in it a healing power (Ecclesiastes 7:3). But here the matter is the general psychological truth, that the corporeal and spiritual life of man has its regulator in the heart, and that the condition of the heart leaves its stamp on the appearance and on the activity of the man. The translation of the רוח נכאה by "oppressed breath" (Umbreit, Hitzig) is impossible; the breath cannot be spoken of as broken.
The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge: but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness.14 The heart of the understanding seeketh after knowledge,
And the mouth of fools practiseth folly.
Luther interprets רעה as metaphor. for to govern, but with such ethical conceptions it is metaphor. for to be urgently circumspect about anything (vid., Proverbs 13:20), like Arab. ra'y and r'âyt, intentional, careful, concern about anything. No right translation can be made of the Chethib פני, which Schultens, Hitzig, Ewald, and Zckler prefer; the predicate can go before the פּני, after the Semitic rule in the fem. of the sing., 2 Samuel 10:9, cf. Job 16:16, Chethib, but cannot follow in the masc. of the sing.; besides, the operations of his look and aspect are ascribed to his face, but not spiritual functions as here, much more to the mouth, i.e., to the spirit speaking through it. The heart is within a man, and the mouth without; and while the former gives and takes, the latter is always only giving out. In Proverbs 18:15, where a synonymous distich is formed from the antithetic distich, the ear, as hearing, is mentioned along with the heart as appropriating. נבון is not an adj., but is gen., like צדיק, 28a (opp. ופי). חכם, Proverbs 16:23. The φιλοσοφία of the understanding is placed over against the μωρολογία of the fools. The lxx translates καρδία ὀρθὴ ζητεῖ αἲσθησιν (cf. Proverbs 14:10, καρδία ἀδρὸς αἰσθητική); it uses this word after the Hellenistic usus loq. for דעת, of experimental knowledge.
All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.15 All the days of the afflicted are evil;
But he who is of a joyful heart hath a perpetual feast.
Regarding עני (the afflicted), vid., 21b. They are so called on whom a misfortune, or several of them, press externally or internally. If such an one is surrounded by ever so many blessings, yet is his life day by day a sad one, because with each new day the feeling of his woe which oppresses him renews itself; whoever, on the contrary, is of joyful heart (gen. connection as Proverbs 11:13; Proverbs 12:8), such an one (his life) is always a feast, a banquet (not משׁתּה, as it may be also pointed, but משׁתּה and תּמיד thus adv., for it is never adj.; the post-bib. usage is תּמידין for עולות תּמיד). Hitzig (and also Zckler) renders 15b: And (the days) of one who is of a joyful heart are.... Others supply לו (cf. Proverbs 27:7), but our rendering does not need that. We have here again an example of that attribution (Arab. isnâd) in which that which is attributed (musnad) is a condition (hal) of a logical subject (the musnad ilêhi), and thus he who speaks has this, not in itself, but in the sense of the condition; the inwardly cheerful is feasts evermore, i.e., the condition of such an one is like a continual festival. The true and real happiness of a man is thus defined, not by external things, but by the state of the heart, in which, in spite of the apparently prosperous condition, a secret sorrow may gnaw, and which, in spite of an externally sorrowful state, may be at peace, and be joyfully confident in God.
Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith.16 Better is little with the fear of Jahve,
Than great store and trouble therewith.
The ב in both cases the lxx rightly renders by μετά. How מהוּמה (elsewhere of wild, confused disorder, extreme discord) is meant of store and treasure, Psalm 39:7 shows: it is restless, covetous care and trouble, as the contrast of the quietness and contentment proceeding from the fear of God, the noisy, wild, stormy running and hunting about of the slave of mammon. Theodotion translates the word here, as Aquila and Symmachus elsewhere, by words which correspond (φαγέδαινα equals φάγαινα or ἀχορτασία) with the Syr. יענותא, greed or insatiability.
Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.17 Better a dish of cabbage, and love with it,
Than a fatted ox together with hatred.
With בו is here interchanged שׁם, which, used both of things and of persons, means to be there along with something. Both have the Dag. forte conj., cf. to the contrary, Deuteronomy 30:20; Micah 1:11; Deuteronomy 11:22; the punctuation varies, if the first of the two words is a n. actionis ending in ה. The dish (portion) is called ארחה, which the lxx and other Greek versions render by ξενισμός, entertainment, and thus understand it of that which is set before a guest, perhaps rightly so, for the Arab. ârrakh (to date, to determine), to which it is compared by Gesenius and Dietrich, is equivalent to warrh, a denom. of the name of the moon. Love and hatred are, according to circumstances, the disposition of the host, or of the participant, the spirit of the family:
Cum dat oluscula mensa minuscula pace quiet,
Ne pete grandia lautaque prandia lite repleta.
A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife.Two proverbs of two different classes of men, each second line of which terminates with a catchword having a similar sound (וארך, וארח).
18 A passionate man stirreth up strife,
And one who is slow to anger allayeth contention.
Proverbs 28:25 and Proverbs 29:22 are variations of the first line of this proverb. The Pih. גּרה occurs only these three times in the phrase גּרה מדון, R. גר, to grind, thus to strike, to irritate, cogn. to (but of a different root from) the verb עורר, to excite, Proverbs 10:12, and חרחר, to set on fire, Proverbs 26:21, cf. שׁלּח, Proverbs 6:14. Regarding חמה, vid., Proverbs 15:1; we call such a man a "hot-head;" but the biblical conception nowhere (except in the Book of Daniel) places the head in connection with spiritual-psychical events (Psychologie, p. 254). Regarding ארך אפּים, vid., Proverbs 14:29; the lxx (which contains a translation of this proverb, and after it of a variation) translates μακρόθυμος δὲ καὶ τὴν μέλλουσαν καταπρᾳύνει, i.e., (as the Syr. render it) he suppresses the strife in its origin, so that it does not break out. But both are true: that he who is slow to anger, who does not thus easily permit himself to become angry, allayeth the strife which one enters into with him, or into which he is drawn, and that he prevents the strife, for he places over against provoking, injurious conduct, patient gentleness (מרפּא, Ecclesiastes 10:4).
The way of the slothful man is as an hedge of thorns: but the way of the righteous is made plain.19 The way of the slothful is as hedged with thorns;
But the path of the righteous is paved.
Hitzig misses the contrast between אצל (slothful) and ישׁרים (upright), and instead of the slothful reads עריץ, the tyrannical. But is then the slothful ישׁר? The contrast is indeed not that of contradiction, but the slothful is one who does not act uprightly, a man who fails to fulfil the duty of labour common to man, and of his own special calling. The way of such an one is כּמשׂכת חדק, like a fencing with thorns (from חדק, R. חד, to be pointed, sharp, distinguished from Arab. hadḳ, to surround, and in the meaning to fix with the look, denom. of khadaḳt, the apple of the eye), so that he goes not forwards, and sees hindrances and difficulties everywhere, which frighten him back, excusing his shunning his work, his remissness of will, and his doing nothing; on the contrary, the path of those who wait truly and honestly on their calling, and prosecute their aim, is raised up like a skilfully made street, so that unhindered and quickly they go forward (סלוּלה, R. סל, aggerare, cf. Jeremiah 18:15 with Isaiah 49:11 and Isaiah 49:4 :8, סלסל, which was still in use in the common language of Palestine in the second cent., Rosch haschana, 26b).
A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish man despiseth his mother.This collection of Solomonic proverbs began, Proverbs 10:1, with a proverb having reference to the observance of the fourth commandment,
(Note: The fifth commandment of the Westminster Shorter Catechism is named as the fourth in Luther's catechism.)
and a second chief section, Proverbs 13:1, began in the same way. Here a proverb of the same kind designates the beginning of a third chief section. That the editor was aware of this is shown by the homogeneity of the proverbs, Proverbs 15:19; Proverbs 12:28, which form the conclusion of the first and second sections. We place together first in this new section, Proverbs 15:20-23, in which (with the exception of Proverbs 15:25) the ישׂמח [maketh glad] of the first (Proverbs 10:1) is continued.
20 A wise son maketh a glad father,
And a fool of a man despiseth his mother.
Line first equals Proverbs 10:1. The gen. connection of כּסיל אדם (here and at Proverbs 21:20) is not superlative the most foolish of men, but like פּרא אדם, Genesis 16:12; the latter: a man of the wild ass kind; the former: a man of the fool kind, who is the exemplar of such a sort among men. Piety acting in willing subordination is wisdom, and the contrary exceeding folly.
Folly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom: but a man of understanding walketh uprightly.21 Folly is joy to him that is devoid of understanding;
But a man of understanding goeth straight forward.
Regarding חסר־לב, vid., at Proverbs 6:32 (cf. libı̂b, which in the Samaritan means "dearly beloved," in Syr. "courageous," in Arab. and Aethiop. cordatus); אישׁ תּבוּנה, Proverbs 10:23, and ישּׁר, with the accus. of the way, here of the going, Proverbs 3:6 (but not Proverbs 11:5, where the going itself is not the subject). In consequence of the contrast, the meaning of 21a is different from that of Proverbs 10:23, according to which sin is to the fool as the sport of a child. Here אוּלת is folly and buffoonery, drawing aside in every kind of way from the direct path of that which is good, and especially from the path of one's duty. This gives joy to the fool; he is thereby drawn away from the earnest and faithful performance of the duties of his calling, and thus wastes time and strength; while, on the contrary, a man of understanding, who perceives and rejects the vanity and unworthiness of such trifling and such nonsense, keeps the straight direction of his going, i.e., without being drawn aside or kept back, goes straight forward, i.e., true to duty, prosecutes the end of his calling. לכת is accus., like Proverbs 30:29, Micah 6:8.
Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellers they are established.22 A breaking of plans where no counsel is;
But where many counsellors are they come to pass.
On the other side it is also true according to the proverbs, "so viel Kpfe so viel Sinne" [quot homines, tot sententiae], and "viel Rath ist Unrath" [ne quid nimis], and the like. But it cannot become a rule of morals not to accept of counsel that we may not go astray; on the contrary, it is and remains a rule of morals: not stubbornly to follow one's own heart (head), and not obstinately to carry out one's own will, and not in the darkness of wisdom to regard one's own plans as unimproveable, and not needing to be examined; but to listen to the counsel of intelligent and honest friends, and, especially where weighty matters are in hand, not affecting one's own person, but the common good, not to listen merely to one counsellor, but to many. Not merely the organism of the modern state, but also of old the Mosaic arrangement of the Israelitish community, with its representative organization, its courts and councils, rested on the acknowledged justice and importance of the saying uttered in Proverbs 11:14, and here generalized. הפר, infin. abs. Hiph. of פּרר, to break, with the accus. following, stands here, like הפוך, Proverbs 12:7, instead of the finite: the thoughts come to a fracture (failure), irrita fiunt consilia. סוד ( equals יסוד, cf. נוסד Psalm 2:2) means properly the being brought close together for the purpose of secret communication and counsel (cf. Arab. sâwada, to press close together equals to walk with one privately). The lxx: their plans are unexecuted, οἱ μὴ τιμῶντες συνέδρια, literally Symmachus, διασκεδάζονται λογισμοὶ μὴ ὄντος συμβουλίου. תּקוּם has, after Jeremiah 4:14; Jeremiah 51:29, מחשׁבות as subject. The lxx (besides perverting ברב [by a multitude] into בלב ἐν καρδίαις]), the Syr. and Targ. introduce עצה (Proverbs 19:21) as subject.
A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!23 A man has joy by the right answer of his mouth;
And a word in its season, how fair is it!
If we translate מענה only by "answer," then 23a sounds as a praise of self-complaisance; but it is used of true correspondence (Proverbs 29:19), of fit reply (Job 32:3, Job 32:5), of appropriate answer (cf. 28a, Proverbs 16:1). It has happened to one in his reply to hit the nail on its head, and he has joy from that (שׂמחה ב after שׂמח בּ, e.g., Proverbs 23:24), and with right; for the reply does not always succeed. A reply like this, which, according to circumstances, stops the mouth or bringeth a kiss (Proverbs 24:26), is a fortunate throw, is a gift from above. The synonymous parallel line measures that which is appropriate, not to that which is to be answered, but from a general point of view as to its seasonableness; עת ( equals עדת from יעד) is here "the ethically right, becoming time, determined by the laws of wisdom (moral)" (vid., Orelli, Synonyma der Zeit u. Ewigkeit, p. 48), cf. על־אפניו (translated by Luther 'in its time"), Proverbs 25:11. With מה־טּוב, cf. Proverbs 16:16; both ideas lie in it: that such a word is in itself well-conditioned and successful, and also that it is welcome, agreeable, and of beneficial influence.
The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath.Four proverbs of fundamentally different doctrines:
24 The man of understanding goeth upwards on a way of life,
To depart from hell beneath.
The way of life is one, Proverbs 5:6; Psalm 16:11 (where, notwithstanding the want of the article, the idea is logically determined), although in itself forming a plurality of ארחות, Proverbs 2:19. "A way of life," in the translation, is equivalent to a way which is a way of life. למעלה, upwards (as Ecclesiastes 3:21, where, in the doubtful question whether the spirit of a man at his death goes upwards, there yet lies the knowledge of the alternative), belongs, as the parallel משּׁאול מטּה shows, to ארח חיּים as virtual adj.: a way of life which leads upwards. And the ל of למשׂכּיל is that of possession, but not as of quiet possession (such belongs to him), but as personal activity, as in דּרך לו, he has a journey equals he makes a journey, finds himself on a journey, 1 Kings 18:27; for למען סוּר is not merely, as לסוּר, Proverbs 13:14; Proverbs 14:27, the expression of the end and consequence, but of the subjective object, i.e., the intention, and thus supposes an activity corresponding to this intention. The O.T. reveals heaven, i.e., the state of the revelation of God in glory, yet not as the abode of saved men; the way of the dying leads, according to the O.T. representation, downwards into Shel; but the translations of Enoch and Elijah are facts which, establishing the possibility of an exception, break through the dark monotony of that representation, and, as among the Greeks the mysteries encouraged ἡδυστέρας ἐλπίδας, so in Israel the Chokma appears pointing the possessor of wisdom upwards, and begins to shed light on the darkness of Shel by the new great thoughts of a life of immortality, thus of a ζωὴ αἰώνιος (Proverbs 12:28) (Psychologie, p. 407ff.), now for the first time becoming prominent, but only as a foreboding and an enigma. The idea of the Shel opens the way for a change: the gathering place of all the living on this side begins to be the place of punishment for the godless (Proverbs 7:27; Proverbs 9:18); the way leading upwards, εἰς τὴν ζωὴν, and that leading downwards, εἰς τὴν ἀπωλειαν (Matthew 7:13.), come into direct contrast.
The LORD will destroy the house of the proud: but he will establish the border of the widow.25 The house of the proud Jahve rooteth out,
And He establisheth the landmark of the widow.
The power unnamed in יסּחוּ, Proverbs 2:22 (cf. Proverbs 14:11), is here named יסּח יהוה (thus to be pointed with Mercha and Pasek following). יצּב is the abbreviated fut. form which the elevated style, e.g., Deuteronomy 32:8, uses also as indic. - a syntactical circumstance which renders Hitzig's correction ויּצּב superfluous. It is the border of the land-possession of the widows, removed by the גּאים (lxx ὑβριστῶν), that is here meant. The possession of land in Israel was secured by severe punishment inflicted in him who removed the "landmark" (Deuteronomy 19:14; Deuteronomy 27:17), and the Chokma (Proverbs 22:28; Proverbs 24:2) as well as the prophets (e.g., Hosea 5:10) inculcate the inviolability of the borders of the possession, as the guardian of which Jahve here Himself appears.
The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the LORD: but the words of the pure are pleasant words.26 An abomination to Jahve are evil thoughts;
But gracious words are to Him pure.
Not personally (Luther: the plans of the wicked) but neutrally is רע here meant as at Proverbs 2:14, and in אושׁת רע, Proverbs 6:24 (cf. Pers. merdi nı̂ku, man of good equals good man), vid., Friedr. Philippi's Status Constr. p. 121. Thoughts which are of a bad kind and of a bad tendency, particularly (what the parallel member brings near) of a bad disposition and design against others, are an abomination to God; but, on the contrary, pure, viz., in His eyes, which cannot look upon iniquity (Habakkuk 1:13), are the אמרי־נעם, words of compassion and of friendship toward men, which are (after 26a) the expression of such thoughts, thus sincere, benevolent words, the influence of which on the soul and body of him to whom they refer is described, Proverbs 16:24. The Syr., Targ., Symmachus, Theodotion, and the Venet. recognise in וּטהורים the pred., while, on the contrary, the lxx, Jerome, and Luther (who finally decided for the translation, "but the pure speak comfortably") regard it as subject. But that would be an attribution which exceeds the measure of possibility, and for which אמרים or דברי must be used; also the parallelism requires that טהורים correspond with 'תועבת ה. Hence also the reference of וטהורים to the judgment of God, which is determined after the motive of pure untainted law; that which proceeds from such, that and that only, is pure, pure in His sight, and thus also pure in itself.
He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts shall live.27 Whoever does service to [servit] avarice troubleth his own house;
But he that hateth gifts shall live.
Regarding בּצע בּצע, vid., at Proverbs 1:19, and regarding עכר בּיתו, Proverbs 11:29, where it is subject, but here object.; Proverbs 28:16 is a variation of 27b. מתּנות are here gifts in the sense of Ecclesiastes 7:7, which pervert judgment, and cause respect of persons. The lxx from this point mingles together a series of proverbs with those of the following chapter.
The heart of the righteous studieth to answer: but the mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things.Two proverbs regarding the righteous and the wicked:
28 The heart of the righteous considereth how to answer right,
And the mouth of the godless poureth forth evil.
Instead of לענות, the lxx (Syr. and Targ.) imagines אמוּנות πίστεις; Jerome translates, but falsely, obedientiam (from ענה, to bend oneself); Meri thinks on לענה, wormwood, for the heart of the righteous revolves in itself the misery and the vanity of this present life; Hitzig corrects this verse as he does the three preceding: the heart of the righteous thinks on ענוות, a plur. of verb ענוה, which, except in this correction, does not exist. The proverb, as it stands, is, in fineness of expression and sharpness of the contrast, raised above such manglings. Instead of the righteous, the wise might be named, and instead of the godless, fools (cf. 2b); but the poet places the proverb here under the point of view of duty to neighbours. It is the characteristic of the righteous that he does not give the reins to his tongue; but as Luther has translated: the heart of the righteous considers [tichtet from dictare, frequently to speak, here carefully to think over] what is to be answered, or rather, since מה־לּענות is not used, he thinks thereupon to answer rightly, for that the word ענות is used in this pregnant sense is seen from 23a. The godless, on the contrary, are just as rash with their mouth as the righteous are of a thoughtful heart: their mouth sputters forth (effutit) evil, for they do not first lay to heart the question what may be right and just in the case that has arisen.
The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.29 Jahve is far from the godless;
But the prayer of the righteous He heareth.
Line second is a variation of 8b. God is far from the godless, viz., as Polychronius remarks, non spatii intercapedine, sed sententiae diversitate; more correctly: as to His gracious presence - חלץ מהם, He has withdrawn Himself from them, Hosea 10:6, so that if they pray, their prayer reaches not to Him. The prayer of the righteous, on the contrary, He hears, He is graciously near to them, they have access to Him, He listens to their petitions; and if they are not always fulfilled according to their word, yet they are not without an answer (Psalm 145:18).
The light of the eyes rejoiceth the heart: and a good report maketh the bones fat.Two proverbs regarding the eye and the ear:
30 The light of the eye rejoiceth the heart,
And a good message maketh the bones fat.
Hitzig corrects also here: מראה עינים, that which is seen with the eyes, viz., after long desire; and certainly מראה עינים can mean not only that which the eyes see (Isaiah 11:3), but also this, that the eyes do see. But is it true what Hitzig says in justification of his correction, that מאור never means light, or ray, or brightness, but lamp (φωστήρ)? It is true, indeed, that מאור עינים cannot mean a cheerful sight (Luther) in an objective sense (lxx θεωρῶνὀφθαλμὸς καλά), as a verdant garden or a stream flowing through a landscape (Rashi), for that would be מראה מאיר עינים, and "brightness which the eyes see" (Bertheau); the genitive connection certainly does not mean: the מאור is not the light from without presenting itself to the eyes, but, like אור עינים (Psalm 38:11) and similar expressions, the light of the eye itself [bright or joyous eyes]. But מאור does not mean alone the body of light, but also the illumination, Exodus 35:14 and elsewhere, not only that which (ὄ, τι) gives light, but also this, that (ὄτι) light arises and is present, so that we might translate it here as at Psalm 90:8, either the brightness, or that which gives light. But the clear brightness of one's own eye cannot be meant, for then that were as much as to say that it is the effect, not that it is the cause, of a happy heart, but the brightness of the eyes of others that meet us. That this gladdens the heart of him who has a sight of it is evident, without any interchanging relation of the joy-beaming countenance, for it is indeed heart-gladdening to a man, to whom selfishness has not made the χαίρειν μετὰ χαιρόντων impossible, to see a countenance right joyful in truth. But in connection with Proverbs 16:15, it lies nearer to think on a love-beaming countenance, a countenance on which joyful love to us mirrors itself, and which reflects itself in our heart, communicating this sense of gladness. The ancient Jewish interpreters understand מאור עינים of the enlightening of the eye of the mind, according to which Euchel translates: "clear intelligence;" but Rashi has remarked that that is not the explanation of the words, but the Midrash. That, in line second of this synonymous distich, שׁמוּעה טובה does not mean alloquium humanum (Fl.), nor a good report which one hears of himself, but a good message, is confirmed by Proverbs 25:25; שׁמוּעה as neut. part. pass. may mean that which is heard, but the comparison of ישׁוּעה, שׁבוּעה, stamps it as an abstract formation like גּאלּה, גּדלּה (גּדוּלה), according to which the lxx translates it by ἀκοή (in this passage by φήμη). Regarding דּשּׁן, richly to satisfy, or to refresh, a favourite expression in the Mishle, vid., at Proverbs 11:25; Proverbs 13:4.
The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise.31 An ear which heareth the doctrine of life
Keeps itself in the circle of the wise.
As, Proverbs 6:33, תוכחות מוסר means instructions aiming at discipline, so here תּוכחת חיּים means instructions which have life as their end, i.e., as showing how one may attain unto true life; Hitzig's חכם, for חיים, is a fancy. Is now the meaning this, that the ear which willingly hears and receives such doctrine of life will come to dwell among the wise, i.e., that such an one (for אזן is synecdoche partis pro persona, as Job 29:11) will have his residence among wise men, as being one of them, inter eos sedem firmam habebit iisque annumerabitur (Fl.)? By such a rendering, one is surprised at the harshness of the synecdoche, as well as at the circumstantiality of the expression (cf. Proverbs 13:20, יחכּם). On the contrary, this corresponds with the thought that one who willingly permits to be said to him what he must do and suffer in order that he may be a partaker of life, on this account remains most gladly in the circle of the wise, and there has his appropriate place. The "passing the night" (לין, cogn. ליל, Syr. Targ. בּוּת, Arab. bât) is also frequently elsewhere the designation of prolonged stay, e.g., Isaiah 1:21. בּקרב is here different in signification from that it had in Proverbs 14:23, where it meant "in the heart." In the lxx this proverb is wanting. The other Greek translations have οὖς ἀκοῦον ἐλέγχους χωῆς ἐν μέσῳ σοφῶν αὐλισθήσεται. Similarly the Syr., Targ., Jerome, Venet., and Luther, admitting both renderings, but, since they render in the fut., bringing nearer the idea of prediction (Midrash: זוכה לישׁב בישׁיבת חכמים) than of description of character.
He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding.Two proverbs with the catchword מוּסר:
32 He that refuseth correction lightly values his soul;
But he that heareth reproof getteth understanding.
Regarding פּורע מוּסר, vid., Proverbs 13:18, cf. Proverbs 1:25, and מואס נפשׁו, Proverbs 8:36. נפשׁו contains more than the later expression עצמו, self; it is equivalent to חיּיו (Job 9:21), for the נפשׁ is the bond of union between the intellectual and the corporeal life. The despising of the soul is then the neglecting, endangering, exposing of the life; in a word, it is suicide (10b). Proverbs 19:8 is a variation derived from this distich: "He who gains understanding loves his soul," according to which the lxx translate here ἀγαπᾷ ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ. לב the Midrash explains by חכמה שׁנתונה בלב; but the correct view is, that לב is not thought of as a formal power, but as operative and carried into effect in conformity with its destination.
The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility.33 The fear of Jahve is a discipline to wisdom,
And before honour is humility.
We may regard 'יראת ה (the fear of Jahve) also as pred. here. The fear of Jahve is an educational maxim, and the end of education of the Chokma; but the phrase may also be the subject, and by such a rendering Luther's parallelism lies nearer: "The fear of the Lord is discipline to wisdom;" the fear of God, viz., continually exercised and tried, is the right school of wisdom, and humility is the right way to honour. Similar is the connection מוּסר השׂכּל, discipline binds understanding to itself as its consequence, Proverbs 1:3. Line second repeats itself, Proverbs 18:12, "Pride comes before the fall." Luther's "And ere one comes to honour, he must previously suffer," renders עני rather than ענוה. But the Syr. reverses the idea: the honour of the humble goeth before him, as also one of the anonymous Greek versions: προπορεύεται δὲ ταπεινοῖς δόξα. But the δόξα comes, as the above proverb expresses it, afterwards. The way to the height lies through the depth, the depth of humility under the hand of God, and, as ענוה expresses, of self-humiliation.