Though you should bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Though thou shouldest bray (i.e., pound) a fool (a self-willed, headstrong person) in a mortar among wheat with a pestle.—This would separate completely the husks from the wheat; but obstinacy has become a part of such a man’s nature, and cannot be got rid of even by such violent measures.Proverbs 27:22. Though thou shouldest bray, &c. — “The folly and wickedness of some men are so incurable, that though unto reproofs, and chidings, and threatenings, you should add stripes and blows, they would not grow a whit the wiser or better for it.” Not natural, but moral and wilful fools are here intended, who, by long continuance in sin, are hardened and stupified, and so are become incorrigible under all the means of amendment.Numbers 11:8; and as wheat beat and bruised in a mortar, or ground in a mill, retains its own nature; so, let a wicked man be used ever so roughly or severely, by words, admonitions, reproofs, and counsels; or by deeds, by corrections and punishment, by hard words or blows, whether publicly or privately; in the midst of the congregation, as the Targum and Syriac version; or of the sanhedrim and council, as the Septuagint and Arabic versions;
yet will not his foolishness depart from him; his inbred depravity and natural malignity and folly will not remove, nor will he leave his course of sinning he has been accustomed to; he is stricken in vain, he will revolt more and more, Isaiah 1:5. Anaxarchus the philosopher was ordered by the tyrant Nicocreon to be pounded to death in a stone mortar with iron pestles (q), and which he endured with great patience.Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)22. wheat] Rather, bruised corn. In the only other place in which it occurs (2 Samuel 17:19) the word is rendered ground corn, A.V., and bruised corn, R.V. See note there in this Series.
Proverbs 27:23-27. The praises of agriculture, or of pastoral life.
It well repays the diligence bestowed upon it (Proverbs 27:23), and is more reliable in its nature than other kinds of wealth, and even than a kingly crown (Proverbs 27:24). No sooner is one crop carried than another begins to grow, and the harvest of the earth is sure (Proverbs 27:25). The flocks, ever increasing, supply clothing, and equal in value the land which supports them (Proverbs 27:26), while their produce will maintain in plenty their owner and his household (Proverbs 27:27).Verse 22. - Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle. "To bray" is to pound or beat small. "Wheat," רִיפות, riphoth (only in 2 Samuel 17:19), "bruised corn." Vulgate, In pila quasi ptisanas (barley groats) feriente; Aquila and Theodotion, Ἐν μέσῳ ἐμπτισσομένων "In the midst of grains of corn being pounded." The LXX., reading, differently, has, "Though thou scourge a fool, disgracing him (ἐν μεσῳ συνεδρίου) in the midst of the congregation." Of course, the process of separating the husks from the corn by the use of pestle and mortar is much more delicate and careful than threshing in the usual clumsy way; hence is expressed the idea that the most elaborate pains are wasted on the incorrigible fool (see on Proverbs 1:20). His foolishness will not depart from him. An obstinate, self-willed, unprincipled man cannot be reformed by any means; his folly has become a second nature, and is not to be eliminated by any teaching, discipline, or severity. There is, too, a judicial blindness, when, after repeated warnings wilfully rejected and scorned, the sinner is left to himself, given over to a reprobate mind "Whoso teacheth a fool," Siracides pronounces, "is as one that glueth a potsherd together, and as he that waketh one from a sound sleep" (Ecclus. 22:7). Again, "The inner parts of a fool are like a broken vessel, and he will hold no knowledge as long as he liveth" (Ecclus. 21:14). In Turkey, we are told, great criminals were beaten to pieces in huge mortars of iron, in which they usually pounded rice. "You cannot straighten a dog's tail, try as you may," says a Telugu maxim (Lane). There is a saying of Schiller's which is quite proverbial, "Heaven and earth fight in vain against a dunce." Horace, 'Epist.,' 1:10, 24 -
"Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret." Juvenal, 'Sat.,' 13:239 -
"Tamen ad mores natura recurrit
Damnatos, fixa et mutari nescia."
He that restraineth her restraineth the wind,
And oil meeteth his right hand.
The connection of the plur. subject צפניה equals quicunque eam cohibet, with a sing. predicate, is not to be disputed (vid., Proverbs 3:18 and Proverbs 28:16, Chethı̂b); but can צפן gain from the meaning of preserving, laying up, also the meanings of keeping, of confining, and shutting up? - for these meanings we have כּלא and עצר (cf. צרר, Proverbs 30:4). In 16b it lies nearer to see in ימינו the object of the clause (oil meeteth his right hand) than the subject (his right hand meeteth oil), for the gender of ימין directs to יד (e.g., Ezekiel 15:6; cf. 6a, where נאדּרי is as to gender indifferent): it is fem., while on the contrary שׁמן is generally masc. (cf. Sol 1:3). There is no reason for regarding ימינו as an adverbial accus. (he meets oil with his right hand), or, with Hitzig, as a second subject (he meets oil, his right hand); the latter, in the order of the words lying before us, is not at all possible. We suppose that יקרא, as at Genesis 49:1, is equivalent to יקרה (Ewald, 116c), for the explanation oleum dexterae ejus praeconem agit (Cocceius, Schultens) does not explain, but only darkens: and oleum dexter su legit, i.e., colligit (Fleischer), is based on an untenable use of the word. As one may say of person to person, קרך, occurrit tibi, Numbers 25:18, so also יקרא (יקרה), of a thing that meets a man or one of his members; and if we compare לקראת and קרי, then for 16b the meaning is possible: oil meets his right hand; the quarrelsome woman is like oil that cannot be held in the hand, which struggles against that which holds it, for it always glides out of the hand. Thus also Luther: "and seeks to hold oil with his hand," as if he read יקמץ. In fact, this word was more commonly used as the expression of untenableness than the colourless and singular word יקרא, which, besides, is so ambiguous, that none of the old translators has thought on any other קרא than that which signifies "to call," "to name." The Jewish interpreters also adhere to this nearest lying קרא, and, moreover, explain, as the Syr., Targ., Aquila, Symmachus, Jerome, and the Venet., שׁמן ימינו, according to the accentuation as genit. connected, e.g., Rashi: he calls for oil to his right hand, viz., as the means of purification from leprosy, Leviticus 8:14 [Leviticus 14:16]; and Aben Ezra: even when he calls for oil to his right hand, i.e., would move them to silence with the precious anointing oil. Perhaps Proverbs 27:16 was originally an independent proverb as follows:
צפני הון צפן רוח
ושמן ימינו יקרא
He who layeth up riches in store layeth up the wind,
And he nameth them the fat of his right hand;
i.e., he sees in them that which makes his right hand fat and strong (שׁמן, as at Psalm 109:24, opp. Zechariah 11:17; cf. בּמשׁמנּיו, Isaiah 10:16, and regarding Ἐσμούν, the Phoenician god of health, at Isaiah 59:10), and yet it is only the wind, i.e., something that is worthless and transient, which he stored up (צפן, as at Proverbs 13:22, and in מצפּניו, Obad. Oba 1:6). הון is used as it frequently occurs in the Book of Proverbs, e.g., Proverbs 11:4, and the whole proverb expresses by another figure the same as Proverbs 18:11. The fact that צפון (רוח), Proverbs 25:23, and as a contrast thereto in the compass ימין (the south), hovered before the poet, may not have been without its influence on the choice of the words and expression here.
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