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The next three proverbs treat of honesty, discretion, and innocence or dove-like simplicity:
1 Deceitful balances are an abomination to Jahve;
But a full weight is His delight.
The very same proverb, with slightly varied expression, is found in Proverbs 20:23; and other such like proverbs, in condemnation of false and in approbation of true balances, are found, Proverbs 20:10; Proverbs 16:11; similar predicates, but connected with other subjects, are found at Proverbs 12:22; Proverbs 15:8. “An abomination to Jahve” is an expression we have already twice met with in the introduction, Proverbs 3:32; Proverbs 6:16, cf. Proverbs 8:7; תּועבה is, like תּועה , a participial noun, in which the active conception of abhorring is transferred to the action accomplished. רצון is in post-biblical Hebr. the designation of the arbitrium and the voluntas ; but here רצונו signifies not that which God wishes, but that which He delights in having. “ מרמה (here for the first time in Proverbs), from רמה , the Piel of which means (Proverbs 26:19) aliquem dolo et fraude petere . אבן , like the Pers. sanak , sanakh , Arab. ṣajat , a stone for weight; and finally, without any reference to its root signification, like Zechariah 5:8, אבן העופרת , a leaden weight, as when we say: a horseshoe of gold, a chess-man of ivory.”
Now follows the Solomonic “Pride goeth before a fall.”
There cometh arrogance, so also cometh shame;
But with the humble is wisdom.
Interpreted according to the Hebr.: if the former has come, so immediately also comes the latter. The general truth as to the causal connection of the two is conceived of historically; the fact, confirmed by many events, is represented in the form of a single occurrence as a warning example; the preterites are like the Greek aoristi gnomici ( vid., p. 32); and the perf., with the fut. consec. following, is the expression of the immediate and almost simultaneous consequence ( vid., at Habakkuk 3:10): has haughtiness ( זדון after the form לצון , from זיד , to boil, to run over) appeared, then immediately also disgrace appeared, in which the arrogant behaviour is overwhelmed. The harmony of the sound of the Hebr. זדון and קלון cannot be reproduced in German [nor in English]; Hitzig and Ewald try to do so, but such a quid pro quo as “ Kommt Unglimpf kommt an ihn Schimpf ” [there comes arrogance, there comes to him disgrace] is not a translation, but a distortion of the text. If, now, the antithesis says that with the humble is wisdom, wisdom is meant which avoids such disgrace as arrogance draws along with it; for the צנוּע thinks not more highly of himself than he ought to think (R. צן , subsidere, demitti , Deutsch. Morgenl. Zeitsch. xxv. 185).
3 The integrity of the upright guideth them;
But the perverseness of the ungodly destroyeth them.
To the upright, ישׁרים , who keep the line of rectitude without turning aside therefrom into devious paths (Psalms 125:4.), stand opposed (as at Proverbs 2:21.) the ungodly (faithless), בּגדים , who conceal (from בּגד , to cover, whence בּגד כּסוּת ) malicious thoughts and plans. And the contrast of תּמּה , integrity = unreserved loving submission, is סלף , a word peculiar to the Solomonic Mashal, with its verb סלּף ( vid., p. 32). Hitzig explains it by the Arab. saraf , to step out, to tread over; and Ewald by lafat , to turn, to turn about (“treacherous, false step”), both of which are improbable. Schultens compares salaf in the meaning to smear (R. לף לב , ἀλείφειν ; cf. regarding such secondary formations with ש preceding, Hupfeld on Psalms 5:7), and translates here, lubricitas . But this rendering is scarcely admissible. It has against it lexical tradition (Menahem: מוטה , wavering; Perchon: זיוף , falsifying; Kimchi: עוות , misrepresentation, according to which the Graec. Venet. σκολιότης ), as well as the methodical comparison of the words. The Syriac has not this verbal stem, but the Targum has סלף in the meaning to distort, to turn the wrong way ( σκολιοῦν , στρεβλοῦν ), Proverbs 10:10, and Esther 6:10, where, in the second Targum, פּוּמהּ אסתּלף means “his mouth was crooked.” With justice, therefore, Gesenius in his Thesaurus has decided in favour of the fundamental idea pervertere , from which also the Peshito and Saadia proceed; for in Exodus 23:8 they translate (Syr.) mhapêk (it, the gift of bribery, perverts) and (Arab.) tazyf (= תּזיּף , it falsifies). Fl. also, who at Proverbs 15:4 remarks, “ סלף , from סלף , to stir up, to turn over, so that the lowermost becomes the uppermost,” gives the preference to this primary idea, in view of the Arab. salaf , invertere terram conserendi causa . It is moreover confirmed by salaf , praecedere , which is pervertere modified to praevertere . But how does סלף mean perversio (Theod. ὑποσκελισμός ), in the sense of the overthrow prepared for thy neighbour? The parallels demand the sense of a condition peculiar to the word and conduct of the godless (treacherous), Proverbs 22:12 (cf. Exodus 23:8), Proverbs 19:3, thus perversitas , perversity; but this as contrary to truth and rectitude (opp. תּמּה ), “perverseness,” as we have translated it, for we understand by it want of rectitude (dishonesty) and untruthfulness. While the sincerity of the upright conducts them, and, so to say, forms their salvus conductus , which guards them against the danger of erring and of hostile assault, the perverseness of the treacherous destroys them; for the disfiguring of truth avenges itself against them, and they experience the reverse of the proverb, “ das Ehrlich währt am längsten ” (honesty endures the longest). The Chethı̂b ושׁדם ושׁדּם ) is an error of transcription; the Kerı̂ has the proper correction, ישׁדּם ישׁדדם , Jeremiah 5:6. Regarding שׁדד (whence שׁדּי ), which, from its root-signification of making close and fast, denotes violence and destruction, vid., under Gen 17.
Three proverbs in praise of צדקה :
4 Possessions are of no profit in the day of wrath;
But righteousness delivereth from death.
That which is new here, is only that possessions and goods ( vid., regarding הון , p. 63) are destitute of all value in the day of the μέλλουσα ὀργή ; for יום עברה , the day of wrath breaking through the limits (of long-suffering), has the same meaning as in the prophets; and such prophetic words as Isaiah 10:3; Zephaniah 1:18, and, almost in the same words, Ezekiel 7:19, are altogether similar to this proverb. The lxx, which translates ἐν ήμέρᾳ ἐπαγωγῆς , harmonizes in expression with Sir. 5:8, cf. 2:2. Theodotion translates איד , Proverbs 27:10, by ἐπαγωγή (providence, fate).
5 The righteousness of the blameless smootheth his way,
And by his own wickedness doth the wicked fall.
With the תּמים (cf. Proverbs 1:12), formed after the passive, more than with תּם , is connected the idea of the perfected, but more in the negative sense of moral spotlessness than of moral perfection. The rectitude of a man who seeks to keep his conscience and his character pure, maketh smooth ( ישּׁר , as Proverbs 3:6, not of the straightness of the line, but of the surface, evenness) his life's path, so that he can pursue his aim without stumbling and hindrance, and swerving from the direct way; while, on the contrary, the godless comes to ruin by his godlessness - that by which he seeks to forward his interests, and to make a way for himself, becomes his destruction.
6 The rectitude of the upright saveth them,
And in their own covetousness are the faithless taken.
The integrity of those who go straight forward and straight through, without permitting themselves to turn aside on crooked ways, delivers them from the snares which are laid for them, the dangers they encounter; while, on the contrary, the faithless, though they mask their intentions ever so cunningly, are ensnared in their passionate covetousness: the mask is removed, they are convicted, and are caught and lost. Regarding הוּה , abyss, overthrow, also stumbling against anything = covetousness, vid., at Proverbs 10:3, and under Psalms 5:10. The form of the expression 6b follows the scheme, “in the image of God created He man,” Genesis 9:6. The subject is to be taken from the genitive, as is marked by the accentuation, for it gives Mugrash to the וּבהוּת , as if it were the principal form, for וּבהוּה .
Three proverbs regarding destruction and salvation:
7 When a godless man dies, his hope cometh to nought,
And the expectation of those who stand in fulness of strength is destroyed.
We have already remarked in the Introduction that אדם is a favourite word of the Chokma, and the terminological distinction of different classes and properties of men ( vid., pp. 40, 42); we read, Proverbs 6:12, אדם בּליּעל , and here, as also Job 20:29; Job 27:13, אדם רשׁע , cf. Proverbs 21:29, אישׁ רשׁע , but generally only רשׁע is used. A godless man, to whom earthly possessions and pleasure and honour are the highest good, and to whom no means are too base, in order that he may appease this his threefold passion, rocks himself in unbounded and measureless hopes; but with his death, his hope, i.e., all that he hoped for, comes to nought. The lxx translate τελευτήσαντος ἀνδρὸς δικαίου οὐκ ὄλλυται ἐλπίς , which is the converse of that which is here said, 7a: the hope of the righteous expects its fulfilment beyond the grave. The lxx further translate, τὸ δὲ καύχημα ( וּתהלּת ) τῶν ἀσεβῶν ὄλλυται ; but the distich in the Hebr. text is not an antithetic one, and whether אונים may signify the wicked (thus also the Syr., Targ., Venet., and Luther), if we regard it as a brachyology for אנשׁי אונים , or as the plur. of an adj. און , after the form טוב (Elazar b. Jacob in Kimchi), or wickedness (Zöckler, with Hitzig, “the wicked expectation”), is very questionable. Yet more improbable is Malbim's (with Rashi's) rendering of this אונים , after Genesis 49:3; Psalms 78:51, and the Targ. on Job 18:12, of the children of the deceased; children gignuntur ex robore virili , but are not themselves the robur virile . But while אונים is nowhere the plur. of און fo . in its ethical signification, it certainly means in Psalms 78:51, as the plur. of און , manly strength, and in Isaiah 40:26, Isaiah 40:29 the fulness of strength generally, and once, in Hosea 9:4, as plur. of און in its physical signification, derived from its root-meaning anhelitus (Genesis 35:18, cf. Habakkuk 3:7), deep sorrow (a heightening of the און , Deuteronomy 26:14). This latter signification has also been adopted: Jerome, expectatio solicitorum ; Bertheau, “the expectation of the sorrowing;” Ewald, ”continuance of sorrow;” but the meaning of this in this connection is so obscure, that one must question the translators what its import is. Therefore we adhere to the other rendering, “fulness of strength,” and interpret אונים as the opposite of אין אונים , Isaiah 40:29, for it signifies, per metonymiam abstracti pro concr., those who are full of strength; and we gain the meaning that there is a sudden end to the expectation of those who are in full strength, and build their prospects thereon. The two synonymous lines complete themselves, in so far as אונים gains by אדם רשׁע the associated idea of self-confidence, and the second strengthens the thought of the first by the transition of the expression from the fut. to the preterite (Fl.). ותוחלת has, for the most part in recent impressions, the Mugrash; the correct accentuation, according to codices and old impressions, is ותוחלת אונים ( vid., Baer's Torath Emeth, p. 10, §4).
8 The righteous is delivered from trouble,
And the godless comes in his stead.
The succession of the tenses gives the same meaning as when, periodizing, we say: while the one is delivered, the other, on the contrary, falls before the same danger. נחלץ ( vid., under Isaiah 58:11) followed by the historical tense, the expression of the principal fact, is the perfect. The statement here made clothes itself after the manner of a parable in the form of history. It is true there are not wanting experiences of an opposite kind (from that here stated), because divine justice manifests itself in this world only as a prelude, but not perfectly and finally; but the poet considers this, that as a rule destruction falls upon the godless, which the righteous with the help of God escapes; and this he realizes as a moral motive. In itself תּחתּיו may also have only the meaning of the exchange of places, but the lxx translate αντ ̓ αὐτοῦ , and thus in the sense of representation the proverb appears to be understood in connection with Proverbs 21:18 (cf. the prophetico-historical application, Isaiah 43:4). The idea of atonement has, however, no application here, for the essence of atonement consists in the offering up of an innocent one in the room of the guilty, and its force lies in the offering up of self; the meaning is only, that if the divinely-ordained linking together of cause and effect in the realms of nature and of history brings with it evil, this brings to the godless destruction, while it opens the way of deliverance for the righteous, so that the godless becomes for the righteous the כּפר , or, as we might say in a figure of similar import, the lightning conductor.
9 The wicked with his mouth prepareth destruction for his neighbour;
But by knowledge the righteous are delivered from it.
The lxx translate, ἐν στόματι ἀσεβῶν παγὶς ( רשׁת ?) πολίταις, αἴσθησις δὲ δικαίοις εὔοδος , ( יצלחו ). There is no reason for changing (with Hitzig and Ewald) the text, which in the form in which it is here translated was before all other translators (Aq., Symmachus, Theodotion, Syr., Targ., Jerome). The accentuation, which separates the two instrumental statements by greater disjunctives from that which follows, is correct. The “three” Greek versions viz. of Aquila, Theodotion, and Symmachus translate חנף by ὑποκριτής , which it means in the modern idiom; but in the ancient Hebr. it signifies, him who is resolved upon evil, as in Arab. ḥanyf , him who is resolved upon that which is right: he who turns aside to evil enters on a path far removed from that which is right. In ישׁחית one is reminded (without any etymological reason) of שׁחת (pit), and so in יחלצוּ of משּׁחיתותם (Psalms 107:20) or a similar word; but בּדּעת contains the reference, in this connection not easy to be mistaken, to the hostile purposes of the wicked masked by the words of the mouth, which are seen through by the righteous by virtue of knowledge which makes them acquainted with men. This penetrating look is their means of deliverance.
Three proverbs follow relating to the nature of city and national life, and between them two against mockery and backbiting:
10 In the prosperity of the righteous the city rejoiceth;
And if the wicked come to ruin, there is jubilation.
The בּ of בּטוּב denotes the ground but not the object, as elsewhere, but the cause of the rejoicing, like the ב 10b, and in the similar proverb, Proverbs 29:2, cf. Proverbs 28:12. If it goes well with the righteous, the city has cause for joy, because it is for the advantage of the community; and if the wicked (godless) come to an end, then there is jubilation (substantival clause for תּרן ), for although they are honoured in their lifetime, yet men breathe freer when the city is delivered from the tyranny and oppression which they exercised, and from the evil example which they gave. Such proverbs, in which the city ( civitas ) represents the state, the πόλις the πολιτεία , may, as Ewald thinks, be of earlier date than the days of an Asa or Jehoshaphat; for “from the days of Moses and Joshua to the days of David and Solomon, Israel was a great nation, divided indeed into many branches and sections, but bound together by covenant, whose life did not at all revolve around one great city alone.” We value such critical judgments according to great historical points of view, but confess not to understand why קריה must just be the chief city and may not be any city, and how on the whole a language which had not as yet framed the conception of the state (post-bibl. מדינה ), when it would described the community individually and as a whole, could speak otherwise than of city and people.
11 By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,
But by the mouth of the godless it is broken down.
This verse is related, in the way of confirming it, to Proverbs 11:10. The lxx, which omits Proverbs 11:4, here omits 10b and 11a, and combines 10a and 11b into one proverb ( vid., Lagarde). The meaning is clear: “by the benedictions and pious prayers of the upright a city rises always to a higher eminence and prosperity; while, on the contrary, the deceitful, arrogant, blasphemous talk of the godless brings ruin to it” (Fl.). The nearest contrast to “by the blessing of the upright” would be “by the cursing of the wicked,” but not in the sense of the poet, who means to say that the city raises itself by the blessing of the upright, and on the contrary, when godless men are exalted, then by their words (whose blessing is no better than their curse) it comes to ruin. קרת (= קריה ) occurs only four times in Proverbs, and in Job 29:7.
There now follow two proverbs which refer to the intercourse of private life.
He who mocketh his neighbour is devoid of understanding;
But the intelligent man remaineth silent.
Proverbs 14:21 is a proverb similarly beginning with בּז לרעהוּ , Proverbs 13:13 is another beginning with בּז לדבר . From this one sees that בּוּז ל (cf. בּזה ל , Isaiah 37:22) does not mean a speaking contemptuously in one's presence; as also from Proverbs 6:30, that contemptuous treatment, which expresses itself not in mockery but in insult, is thus named; so that we do not possess a German [nor an English] expression which completely covers it. Whoever in a derisive or insulting manner, whether it be publicly or privately, degrades his neighbour, is unwise ( חסר־לב as pred., like Proverbs 6:32); an intelligent man, on the contrary, keeps silent, keeps his judgment to himself, abstains from arrogant criticisms, for he knows that he is not infallible, that he is not acquainted with the heart, and he possesses too much self-knowledge to raise himself above his neighbour as a judge, and thinks that contemptuous rejection, unamiable, reckless condemnation, does no good, but on the contrary does evil on all sides.
13 He who goeth about tattling revealeth secrets;
But he who is of a faithful spirit concealeth a matter.
The tattler is called רכיל (intensive form of רכל ), from his going hither and thither. אנשׁי רכיל , Ezekiel 22:9, are men given to tattling, backbiters; הולך רכיל (cf. Leviticus 19:16), one of the tattlers or backbiters goes, a divulger of the matter, a tell-tale. It is of such an one that the proverb speaks, that he reveals the secret ( סוד , properly the being close together for the purpose of private intercourse, then that intercourse itself, vid., at Psalms 25:14); one has thus to be on his guard against confiding in him. On the contrary, a נאמן־רוּח , firmus ( fidus ) spiritu , properly one who is established, or reflexively one who proves himself firm and true ( vid., at Genesis 15:6), conceals a matter, keeps it back from the knowledge and power of another. Zöckler rightly concludes, in opposition to Hitzig, from the parallelism that the הולך רכיל is subject; the arrangement going before also shows that this is the “ground-word” (Ewald); in Proverbs 20:19 the relation is reversed: the revealer of secrets is rightly named (cf. Sir. 27:16, ὁ ἀποκαλύπτων μυστήρια, κ.τ.λ. ).
14 Where there is no direction a people fall
But where there is no want of counsellors there is safety.
Regarding תּחבּות , vid., at Proverbs 1:5. There it means rules of self-government; here, rules for the government of the people, or, since the pluralet. denotes a multiplicity in unity, circumspect κυβέρνησις . With 14b, Proverbs 24:6 (where direction in war, as here in peace, is spoken of, and the meaning of the word specializes itself accordingly) agrees; cf. also Proverbs 15:22. Hitzig criticises the proverb, remarking, “we who have the longest resorted to many counsellors, as a consequence of the superabundance have learned to say, 'Too many cooks spoil the broth,' and, 'He who asks long, errs.'” But the truth of the clause 14b is in modern times more fully illustrated in the region of ecclesiastical and political affairs; and in general it is found to be true that it is better with a people when they are governed according to the laws and conclusions which have resulted from the careful deliberation of many competent and authorized men, than when their fate is entrusted unconditionally to one or to a few. The proverb, it must be acknowledge, refers not to counsellors such as in Isaiah 3:3, but as in Isaiah 1:26.
There follow now two proverbs regarding kindness which brings injury and which brings honour:
It fares ill, nothing but ill, with one who is surety for another;
But he who hateth suretyship remaineth in quietness.
More closely to the original: It goes ill with him; for the proverb is composed as if the writer had before his eyes a definite person, whom one assails when he for whom he became security has not kept within the limits of the performance that was due. Regarding ערב with the accus. of the person: to represent one as a surety for him, and זר as denoting the other (the stranger), vid., at Proverbs 6:1. The meaning of רע ירוע is seen from Proverbs 20:16. ירוע is, like Proverbs 13:20, the fut. Niph. of רעע , or of רוּע רעע , after the forms ימּול יעור (Olsh. §265e). The added רעע has, like עריה , Habakkuk 3:9, the same function as the inf. absol. ( intensivus); but as the infin. form רע could only be inf. constru. after the form שׁך , Jeremiah 5:26, the infinitive absol. must be רוע : Thus רע is an accus., or what is the same, an adverbial adj.: he is badly treated (maltreated) in a bad way, for one holds him to his words and, when he cannot or will not accomplish that which is due in the room of him for whom he is bail, arrests him. He, on the contrary, who hates תוקעים has good rest. The persons of such as become surety by striking the hands cannot be meant, but perhaps people thus becoming surety by a hand-stroke - such sureties, and thus such suretyship, he cannot suffer; תוקעים approaches an abstract “striking hands,” instead of “those who strike hands” in connection with this שׂנא , expressing only a strong impossibility, as חבלים , Zechariah 2:7, 14, means uniting together in the sense of combination.
16 A gracious woman retaineth honour,
And strong men retain riches.
The lxx had אשׁת חן (not אשׁת חיל ton( א ) in view: γυνὴ εὐχάριστος ἐγείρει ἀνδρὶ δόξαν , - this ἀνδρί is an interpolation inserted for the sake of the added line, θρόνος δὲ ἀτιμίας γυνὴ μισοῦσα δίκαια . The proverb thus expanded is on both sides true: an amiable woman ( gratiosa ) brings honour to her husband, gives him relief, while one who hates the right (that which is good, gentle) is a disgraceful vessel (opp. כּסּא כּבוד , Isaiah 22:23), which disfigures the household, makes the family unloved, and lowers it. But the commencing line, by which 16b is raised to an independent distich, is so much the more imperfect: πλούτου ὀκνηροὶ ἐνδεεῖς γίνονται ; for that the negligent (idle) bring it not to riches, is, as they are wont in Swabia to call such truisms, a Binsenwahrheit . But it is important that the translation of 16b, οἱ δὲ ἀνδρεῖοι ἐρείδονται πλούτῳ (the Syr. has “knowledge” for riches), presupposes the phrase וחרוּצים (cf. Proverbs 10:4, lxx), and along with it this, that יתמכו עשׁר is so rendered as if the words were יסמכוּ בעשׁר , is to be regarded as unhistorical. If we now take the one proverb as it is found in the Hebr. text, then the repetition of the תמך in the two lines excites a prejudice in favour of it. The meaning of this otherwise difficult תמך is missed by Löwenstein and Zöckler: a gracious woman retaineth honour (Symm. ἀνθέξεται δόξης ); for (1) תמך חיל would better agree with this predicate, and (2) it is evident from Proverbs 29:23 that תמך כבוד is not to be understood in the sense of firmiter tenere , but in the inchoative sense of consequi honorem , whence also the ἐγείρει ἀνδρί of the lxx. It is true that Proverbs 31:30 states that “grace ( חן ) is nothing,” and that all depends on the fear of God; but here the poet thinks on “grace” along with the fear of God, or he thinks on them as not separated from each other; and since it is boldly true, which is moreover besides this true, that a wife of gracious outward appearance and demeanour obtains honour, her company is sought, she finds her way into the best society, they praise her attractive, pleasant appearance, and that the husband also of such a wife participates to some extent in this honour. Experience also confirms it, that the עריצים , strong men, obtain riches (cf. Isaiah 49:25); and this statement regarding the עריצים fits better as a contrast to 16a, as a like statement regarding the חרוצים , diligent, for the עריץ (from ערץ , to place in terror, Psalms 10:18), whose power consists in terrorism or violence, is the most direct contrast of a wife, this σκεῦος ἀσθενέστερον , who by heart-winning attraction makes yet better conquests: she thereby obtains a higher good, viz., honour, while the former gains only riches, for “a name” (viz., a good one) “is better than great riches,” Proverbs 22:1. If we read חרוצים , this thoughtful contrast is lost.
Three proverbs regarding benevolence:
17 The benevolent man doeth good to his own soul,
And the violent man brings trouble on his own flesh.
Many interpreters reverse the relation of subject and predicate (Targ. only in 17b, after the phrase ודמוביד , for which the Syr. has only ומובד ): qui sibi ipsi benefacit, is quidem erga alios quoque benignus praesumitur, quum caritas ordinata a se ipsa incipiat; qui vero carnem suam male habet, est crudelis erga alios (Michaelis). But this cannot be established; for certainly it occurs that whoever does good to himself does good also to others, and that whoever is hard against himself also judges and treats others harshly; but in by far the greatest number of cases the fact is this, that he who does not deny anything to himself is in relation to others an egoist, and this is not a “benevolent man;” and, on the contrary, that he who denies to himself lawful enjoyments is in relation to others capable of self-denial and self-sacrifice, and thus is the contrast of a “violent man.” The word of Sirach, 14:5, ὁ πονηρὸς ἑαυτῷ τίνα ἀγαθὸς ἔσται , to which Bertheau appeals, alludes to the niggard, and it is true indeed that this עכר שׁארו , but not every עכר שׁארו , is a niggard. Thus the “benevolent man” and the “violent man” will be the two subject conceptions, and as it is said of the benevolent ( חסר as e.g., Hosea 6:6, of a more restricted sense, as Isaiah 57:1) that he does good ( גּמל , viz., טוב , Proverbs 31:12), so of the violent (unmerciful) ( אכזרי as Proverbs 12:20; Jeremiah 6:23; Jeremiah 50:42) that he brings evil on his own flesh (lxx αὐτοῦ σῶμα ); for שׁארו as a parallel word to נפשׁו (cf. p. 141) signifies not blood-relations (Symm., Jerome, Luther, and Grotius), but it has here, as at Micah 3:2, its nearest signification, from which it then comes to signify those who are of our flesh and blood. But for that reason the meaning of the poet cannot be that given by Elster: “he who exercises benevolence toward others creates within himself a determination which penetrates his whole being with generous and fruitful warmth, as on the other hand the feeling of hatred deprives the heart of him who cherishes it of the true fountain of life.” If this were meant, then soul and spirit, not soul and flesh, would stand in parallelism. The weal and woe refers thus to the divine retribution which requites the conduct of a man toward his neighbours, according to its character, with reward or punishment (Hitzig, Zöckler).
Man consists of body and soul. In regard to both, benevolence brings its reward, and hatred its punishment.
The godless acquires deceptive gain;
But he that soweth righteousness, a true reward.
Jerome makes 18b an independent clause, for he translates it as if the word were written וּלזרע ; the Syr. and Targ. also, as if אמתּו שׂכרו (his fidelity is his reward). But according to the text as it stands, עשׂה extends its regimen to both parts of the verse; to make is here equivalent to, to work out, to acquire, περιποιεῖσθαι , as Genesis 31:1; Jeremiah 17:1, etc. The labour of the godless has selfishness as its motive, and what he acquires by his labour is therefore “delusive gain,” - it is no blessing, it profits him not (Proverbs 10:2), and it brings him no advantage (Proverbs 10:16). He, on the contrary, acquires truth, i.e., a truly profitable and enduring reward, who sows right-doing, or better: good-doing, by which we also, as the biblical moral in צדקה , think principally of well-doing, unselfish activity and self-sacrificing love. Hosea 10:12 speaks of sowing which has only צדקה as the norm; and how צדקה is understood is seen from the parallel use of חסד [piety]. The “true reward” is just the harvest by which the sowing of the good seed of noble benevolent actions is rewarded.
19 Genuine righteousness reaches to life,
And he who pursues evil does it to his death.
The lxx translate υἱὸς δίκαιος , and the Syrian follows this unwarrantable quid pro quo; the Bible uses the phrase בן־עולה and the like, but not בן־צדקה . The Graec. Venet. (translating οὕτω ) deprives the distich of its supposed independence. The Targ. renders כּן with the following ו as correlates, sic ... uti ; but כן in comparative proverbs stands naturally in the second, and not in the first place ( vid., p. 10). Without doubt כן is here a noun. It appears to have a personal sense, according to the parallel וּמרדּף , on which account Elster explains it: he who is firm, stedfast in righteousness, and Zöckler: he who holds fast to righteousness; but כן cannot mean “holding fast,” nor does מכונן ; - “fast” does not at all agree with the meaning of the word, it means upright, and in the ethical sense genuine; thus Ewald better: “he who is of genuine righteousness,” but “genuine in (of) righteousness” is a tautological connection of ideas. Therefore we must regard כן as a substantival neuter, but neither the rectum of Cocceius nor the firmum of Schultens furnishes a naturally expressed suitable thought. Or is כּן a substantive in the sense of 2 Kings 7:31? The word denotes the pedestal, the pillar, the standing-place; but what can the basis refer to here (Euchel)? Rather read “aim” (Oetinger) or “direction” (Löwenstein); but כן does not take its meaning from the Hiph. הכין . One might almost assume that the Chokma -language makes כּן , taliter , a substantive, and has begun to use it in the sense of qualitas (like the post-bibl. איכוּת ), so that it is to be explained: the quality of righteousness tendeth to life. But must we lose ourselves in conjectures or in modifications of the text (Hitzig, כּנּס , as a banner), in order to gain a meaning from the word, which already has a meaning? We say דּבּר כּן , to speak right (Numbers 27:7), and עשׂות כּן , to do right (Ecclesiastes 8:10); in both cases כּן means standing = consisting, stedfast, right, recte . The contrast is לא־כן , 2 Kings 7:9, which is also once used as a substantive, Isaiah 16:6: the unrighteousness of his words. So here כן is used as a substantive connected in the genitive, but not so that it denotes the right holding, retaining of righteousness, but its right quality - שׁל־צדקה אמתּה , as Rashi explains it, i.e., as we understand it: genuineness, or genuine showing of righteousness, which is not mere appearance without reality. That כּנים denotes such people as seek to appear not otherwise than what they truly are, is in favour of this interpretation. Such genuine righteousness as follows the impulse of the heart, and out of the fulness of the heart does good, has life as its result (Proverbs 19:23), an inwardly happy and externally a prosperous life; on the other hand, he who wilfully pursues evil, and finds in it satisfaction, brings death upon himself: he does it to his death, or if we make (which is also possible) רדּף the subject: it tends to his death. Thus in other words: Love is life; hatred destroys life.
The following proverbs are especially directed, as connected with this כן , against the contradiction of the external appearance and of the masked internal nature.
20 An abomination to Jahve are the crookedly dishonest of heart,
And they who are of honest walk are his delight.
We read, Proverbs 2:15; Proverbs 8:8, עקּשׁ (the form of the transgressions); but here, where the “crookedness” is transferred to the heart, we require another word, which renders the idea of falseness, the contrary of directness, lying in it, without any mixture of the fundamental conception flexuosus or tortuosus . תּמימי דרך are not only those whose walk is externally without offence and blameless, but, in conformity with the contrast, those whose manner of conduct proceeds from a disposition that is pure, free from deception and concealment. Jerome, et voluntas ejus in iis qui qimpliciter ambulant . But the word is not bit|mymy; they the upright are themselves His רצון (Proverbs 11:1) delight: He regards them, and only them, with satisfaction.
21 Assuredly the hand to it the wicked remaineth not unpunished,
But the seed of the righteous is delivered.
The lxx render here, as Proverbs 16:5, where the יד ליד repeats itself, χειρὶ χεῖρας ἐμβαλὼν ἀδίκως , which is not to be understood, as Evagrius supposes, of one that can be bribed, but only of a violent person; the Syr. and Targ. have the same reference; but the subject is certainly רע , and a governing word, as נשׂא (2 Samuel 20:21), is wanting, to say nothing of the fact that the phrase “one hand against the other” would require the words to be יד ביד . Jerome and the Graec. Venet., without our being able, however, to see their meaning. The translation of the other Greek versions is not given. The Jewish interpreters offer nothing that is worthy, as e.g., Immanuel and Meîri explain it by “immediately,” which in the modern Hebr. would require מיּד , and besides is not here suitable. The Midrash connects with 21a the earnest warning that he who sins with the one hand and with the other does good, is nevertheless not free from punishment. Schultens has an explanation to give to the words which is worthy of examination: hand to hand, i.e., after the manner of an inheritance per posteros (Exodus 20:5), resting his opinion on this, that Arab. yad (cf. יד , Isaiah 56:5) is used among other significations in that of authorizing an inheritance. Gesenius follows him, but only urging the idea of the sequence of time (cf. Pers. dest bedest , hand to hand = continuing after one another), and interprets יד ביד as Fleischer does: ab aetate in aetatem non ( i.e., nullo unquam tempore futuro ) erit impunis scelestus, sed posteri justorum salvi erunt . According to Böttcher, “hand to hand” is equivalent to from one hand to another, and this corresponds to the thought expressed in Plutarch's de sera numinis vindicta : if not immediately, yet at last. We may refer in vindication of this to the fact that, as the Arab. lexicographers say, yad , used of the course of time, means the extension ( madd ) of time, and then a period of time. But for the idea expressed by nunquam , or neutiquam , or tandem aliquando , the language supplied to the poet a multitude of forms, and we do not see why he should have selected just this expression with its primary meaning alternatim not properly agreeing with the connection. Therefore we prefer with Ewald to regard יד ליד as a formula confirmation derived from the common speech of the people: hand to hand ( ל as in לידי , Job 17:3), i.e., the hand for it I pledge it, guarantee it (Bertheau, Hitzig, Elster, Zöckler). But if 21a assures by the pledge of the hand, and as it were lays a wager to it, that the wicked shall not go unpunished, then the genitive in זרע צדּיקים is not that of dependence by origin, but, as Isaiah 65:23; Isaiah 1:4, the genitive of apposition, for זרע here, as דּור , Psalms 24:6; Psalms 112:2, denotes a oneness of like origin and of like kind, but with a preponderance of the latter. נמלט is the 3rd pret., which by the preceding fut. retains the reference to the future: the merited punishment comes on the wicked, but the generation of the righteous escapes the judgment. רּע has the ר dagheshed ( Michlol 63d) according to the rule of the דחיק , according to which the consonant first sounded after the word terminating in an accented a or é is doubled, which is here, as at Proverbs 15:1, done with the ר .
22 A golden ring in a swine's snout -
A fair woman and without delicacy.
This is the first instance of an emblematical proverb in which the first and second lines are related to each other as figure and its import, vid., p. 9. The lxx translates rhythmically, but by its ὥσπερ ... οὕτως it destroys the character of this picture-book proverbial form. The nose-ring, נזם , generally attached to the right nostril and hanging down over the mouth ( vid., Lane's Manners, etc.) is a female ornament that has been in use since the time of the patriarchs (Genesis 24:47). If one supposes such a ring in a swine's snout, then in such a thing he has the emblem of a wife in whom beauty and the want of culture are placed together in direct contrast. טעם is taste carried over into the intellectual region, the capability of forming a judgment, Job 12:20, and particularly the capability of discovering that which is right and adapted to the end in view, 1 Samuel 25:33 (of Abigail), here in accordance with the figure of a beast with which the ideas of uncleanness, shamelessness, and rudeness are associated, a mind for the noble, the fine, the fitting, that which in the higher and at the same time intellectual and ethical sense we call tact (fine feeling); סרת ( alienata ) denotes the want of this capacity, not without the accompanying idea of self-guilt.
23 The desire of the righteous is nothing but good,
The expectation of the godless is presumption.
This is usually explained with Fleischer: If the righteous wish for anything, their wish reaches to no other than a fortunate issue; but if the godless hope for anything, then there is to them in the end as their portion, not the good they hoped for, but wrath (Proverbs 10:28, cf. Proverbs 11:4). However, that עברה is at once to be understood thus, as in יום עברה , and that the phrase is to be rendered: the hope of the godless is God's wrath, is doubtful. But עברה denotes also want of moderation, and particularly in the form of presumption, Proverbs 21:24, Isaiah 16:6; and thus we gain the thought that the desire of the righteous is directed only to that which is good, and thus to an object that is attainable because well-pleasing to God, while on the contrary the hope of the godless consists only in the suggestions of their presumption, and thus is vain self-deceit. The punctuation תאות צדיקים is contrary to rule; correct texts have תאות צדיקים , for Dechî stands before Athnach only if the Athnach -word has two syllables ( Torath Emeth, p. 43; Accentssystem, xviii. §4).
Three proverbs regarding giving which is not loss but gain.
24 There is one who giveth bounteously, and he increaseth still more;
And (there is) one who withholdeth what is due, only to his loss.
The first of the proverbs with ישׁ (there is), which are peculiar to the first collection ( vid., p. 32). The meaning is, that the possessions of the liberal giver do not decrease but increase, and that, on the contrary, the possessions of the niggardly do not increase but decrease. מפזּר is not to be understood after Psalms 112:9. Instead of ונוסף עוד the three Erfurt codd. have ונוסף (with retrogression of the tone?), which Hitzig approves of; but the traditional phrase which refers ( et qui augetur insuper ) ונוסף not to the possession of him who scattereth, but to himself, is finer in the expression. In the characteristic of the other, מיּשׁר is commonly interpreted comparatively: plus aequo (Cocceius) or justo (Schelling). But מן after חשׂך is to be regarded as governed by it, and ישׁר denotes not competence, riches, as Arab. yusr (Bertheau, Zöckler), also not uprightness = beneficence (Midrash, מן הצדקה ), but duty, uprightness, as Job 33:23, where it denotes that which is advantageous to man, as here that which befits him: he who holds back, namely himself, from that which is due to himself, and thus should permit to himself, such an one profits nothing at all by this ἀφειδία (17b, Colossians 2:23), but it tends only to loss to him, only to the lessening of that which he possesses. We shall meet with this ( למחסּור אך למחסור Proverbs 14:23, and frequently again - it is a common Mashal formula (cf. καὶ τόσῳ μᾶλλον ὑστερεῖται , Sir. 11:11). The cause of the strange phenomenon that the liberal gains and the niggardly loses is not here expressed, but the following proverb gives the explanation of it:
25 A liberal soul [soul of blessing] is made fat,
And he that watereth others is also watered.
A synonymous distich ( vid., p. 7). A soul of blessing is one from whom blessings go out to others, who is even a blessing to all with whom he comes into fellowship; בּרצה denotes also particularly the gifts of love, 1 Samuel 25:27, בּרך denotes, if the Arab. is right, which derives it from the fundamental idea “to spread out:” to cause to increase and prosper by means of word and deed. The blessing which goes out from such a soul comes back again to itself: תדשּׁן (as Proverbs 13:4; Proverbs 28:25), it is made fat, gains thereby sap and strength in fulness; the Pual refers to the ordinance of God; Proverbs 22:9 is kindred in meaning to this anima benefica pinguefiet . In 25b יורא is the Aramaic form of writing, but without the Aramaic vocalization (cf. Proverbs 1:10. תּבא , Isaiah 21:12 ויּתא ). Perhaps the א makes it noticeable that here a different word from יורה , morning rain, is used; however, Symm. translates πρωΐνός , and the Graec. Venet. (Kimchi following it) ὑετός . As a rule, we do not derive יורא from ירה , of which it would be the Hophal (= יוּרה , as הודע , Leviticus 4:23, = הוּדע ) (Ewald, §131f.); for the idea conspergitur , which the Ho. of the Hiph. יורה , Hosea 6:3, expresses, is, as correlate to מרוה , as a parallel word to תדשּׁן , one not of equal force. Jerome was guided by correct feeling, for he translates: et qui inebriat ipse quoque inebriabitur . The stem-word is certainly רוה , whether it is with Hitzig to be punctuated יוּרא ירוה , or with Fleischer we are to regard יורא as derived per metathesin from ירוה , as for Arab. ârây (to cause to see) is used
(Note: Hitzig's comparison of rawaâ , finem respicere , as transposed from waray is incorrect; the former verb, which signifies to consider, thus appears to be original.)
the vulgar Arab. ârway (in the Syr. Arab.) and âwray (in the Egypt. Arab.). We prefer the latter, for the passing of יורה (from ירוה ) into יורה is according to rule, vid., at Proverbs 23:21.
26 Whoso withholdeth corn, him the people curse;
But blessing is on the head of him that selleth it.
This proverb is directed against the corn-usurer, whose covetousness and deceitful conduct is described in Amos 8:4-8. But whilst it is there said that they cannot wait till the burdensome interruption of their usurious conduct on account of the sacred days come to an end, the figure here is of a different aspect of their character: they hold back their stores of corn in the times of scarcity, for they speculate on receiving yet higher prices for it. בּר (from בּרר , to purify, to be pure) is thrashed grain, cf. Arab. burr , wheat, and naḳḳy of the cleaning of the grain by the separation from it of the tares, etc. (Fl.); the word has Kametz, according to the Masora, as always in pause and in the history of Joseph. מנע has Munach on the syllable preceding the last, on which the tone is thrown back, and Metheg with the Tsere as the sign of a pause, as Proverbs 1:10 בּצע ( vid., p. 67). משׁבּיר , qui annonam vendit , is denom. of שׁבר , properly that which is crushed, therefore grain (Fl.). לאמּים , which we would understand in the Proph. of nations, are here, as at Proverbs 24:24, the individuals of the people. The בּרצה which falls on the head of the charitable is the thanks of his fellow-citizens, along with all good wishes.
That self-sacrificing endeavour after the good of others finds its regard in the thought encircling the following proverbs.
27 He that striveth after good, seeketh that which is pleasing;
And he that searcheth after evil, it shall find him.
Here we have together three synonyms of seeking: בּקּשׁ (R. בק , findere ), which has the general meaning quaerere , from the root-idea of penetrating and pressing forwards; דּרשׁ (R. דר .R( , terere ), which from the root-idea of trying (proving) corresponds to the Lat. studere ; and שׁחר (whence here שׁחר instead of משׁחר , as דּבר instead of מדבּר ), which means mane , and thus sedulo quaere ( vid., at Proverbs 1:28). From 27b, where by רעה is meant evil which one prepares for another, there arises for טוב the idea of good thoughts and actions with reference to others. He who applies himself to such, seeks therewith that which is pleasing, i.e., that which pleases or does good to others. If that which is pleasing to God were meant, then this would have been said (cf. Proverbs 12:2); the idea here is similar to Proverbs 10:32, and the word יבקּשׁ is used, and not ימצא , because reference is not made to a fact in the moral government of the world, but a description is given of one who is zealously intent upon good, and thus of a noble man. Such an one always asks himself (cf. Matthew 7:12): what will, in the given case, be well-pleasing to the neighbour, what will tend to his true satisfaction? Regarding the punctuation here, שׁחר , vid., at Proverbs 11:26. The subject to תבואנּוּ , which, Proverbs 10:24, stands as the fundamental idea, here follows from the governed רעה , which may be the gen. (Psalms 38:13) as well as the accus.
28 He that trusteth in his riches shall fall,
And the righteous shall flourish like the green leaf.
יפּול ( plene after the Masora) as well as the figure וכעלה (cf. for the punctuation וכעשׁן , Proverbs 10:26) are singular, but are understood if one observes that in 28a a withered tree, and in 28b a tree with leaves ever green, hovers before the imagination of the poet (cf. Psalms 1:4; Jeremiah 17:8). The proud rich man, who on the ground of his riches appears to himself to be free from danger, goes on to his ruin ( יפול as Proverbs 11:5, and frequently in the Book of Proverbs), while on the contrary the righteous continues to flourish like the leaf - they thus resemble the trees which perennially continue to flourish anew. Regarding עלה as originally collective (Symm. θάλλος ), vid., at Isaiah 1:30, and regarding פּרח (R. פר , to break), here of the continual breaking forth of fresh-growing leaf-buds, vid., at Isaiah 11:1. The apostolic word names this continual growth the metamorphosis of believers, 2 Cor. 2:18. The lxx has read וּמעלה (approved by Hitzig): and he who raiseth up the righteous.
29 He that troubleth his own household shall inherit the wind,
And a fool becomes servant to the wise in heart.
Jerome well translates: qui conturbat domum suam , for עכר closely corresponds to the Lat. turbare ; but with what reference is the troubling or disturbing here meant? The Syr. translates 29a doubly, and refers it once to deceit, and the second time to the contrary of avarice; the lxx, by ὁ μὴ συμπεριφερόμενος τῷ ἑαυτοῦ οἴκῳ , understands one who acts towards his own not unsociably, or without affability, and thus not tyrannically. But עכר שׁארו Proverbs 11:17, is he who does not grudge to his own body that which is necessary; עכר ישׂראל is applied to Elijah, 1 Kings 18:17, on account of whose prayer there was a want of rain; and at Proverbs 15:27 it is the covetous who is spoken of as עכר בּיתו . The proverb has, accordingly, in the man who “troubles his own house” (Luth.), a niggard and sordid person (Hitzig) in view, one who does not give to his own, particularly to his own servants, a sufficiency of food and of necessary recreation. Far from raising himself by his household arrangements, he shall only inherit wind ( ינחל , not as the Syr. translates, ינחיל , in the general signification to inherit, to obtain, as Proverbs 3:35; Proverbs 28:10, etc.), i.e., he goes always farther and farther back (for he deprives his servants of all pleasure and love for their work in seeking the prosperity of his house), till in the end the reality of his possession dissolves into nothing. Such conduct is not only loveless, but also foolish; and a foolish person ( vid., regarding אויל at Proverbs 1:7) has no influence as the master of a house, and generally is unable to maintain his independence: “and the servant is a fool to him who is wise of heart.” Thus the lxx (cf. also the lxx of Proverbs 10:5), Syr., Targ., Jerome, Graec. Venet., Luth. construe the sentence. The explanation, et servus stulti cordato (sc. addicitur ), i.e., even the domestics of the covetous fool are at last partakers in the wise beneficence (Fl.), places 29b in an unnecessary connection with 29a, omits the verb, which is here scarcely superfluous, and is not demanded by the accentuation (cf. e.g., Proverbs 19:22).
30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
And the wise man winneth souls.
The lxx translate, ἐκ καρποῦ δικαιοσύνης φύεται δένδρον ζωῆς ; Hitzig takes thence the word צדק ; but this translation discredits itself by the unnatural reversal of the relation of fruit and tree. The fruit of the righteous is here not the good which his conduct brings to him, as Isaiah 3:10; Jeremiah 32:19, but his activity itself proceeding from an internal impulse. This fruit is a tree of life. We need to supplement פּרי [fruit] as little here as ארח [a traveller] at Proverbs 10:17; for the meaning of the proverb is, that the fruit of the righteous, i.e., his external influence, itself is a tree of life, namely for others, since his words and actions exert a quickening, refreshing, happy influence upon them. By this means the wise (righteousness and wisdom come together according to the saying of the Chokma, Proverbs 1:7) becomes a winner of souls ( לקח as Proverbs 6:25, but taken in bonam partem ), or, as expressed in the N.T. (Matthew 4:19), a fisher of men, for he gains them not only for himself, but also for the service of wisdom and righteousness.
31 Lo, the righteous findeth on earth his reward;
How much more the godless and the sinner!
The particles אף כּי signify properly, interrogatively: Shall it yet be said that...; it corresponds to the German “ geschweige denn ” [ nedum ] (Fl.). הן is already in bibl. Hebr. in the way of becoming a conditional particle; it opens, as here, the antecedent of a gradatio a minori ad majus introduced by אף כי , Job 15:15., Proverbs 25:5., cf. הן הנה ) with ואיך following, Genesis 44:8; 2 Samuel 12:18. 2 Samuel 13:13 presents itself as the nearest parallel to שׁלּם , where it means, to be rewarded. It is a vocabulum anceps, and denotes full requital, i.e., according to the reference, either righteous reward or righteous punishment. If 30a is understood of reward, and 30b of punishment, then the force of the argument in the conclusion consists in this, that the righteous can put forth no claim to a recompense, because his well-doing is never so perfect as not to be mingled with sin (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Psalms 143:2); while, on the contrary, the repression of the wicked, who, as רשׁע as to his intention, and חוטא as to his conduct, actually denies his dependence on God, is demanded by divine holiness. But the conclusion is not stringent, since in the relation of God to the righteous His dispensation of grace and faithfulness to promises also come into view, and thus in both cases ישׁלּם appears to require the same interpretation: if the righteous does not remain unrevenged, so much more shall not the godless and the sinner remain..., or how much less shall the godless and the sinner remain so. Thus the Graec. Venet., Θεῷ ὁ δίκαιος ἐν τῇ γῇ ἀποτιθήσεται ; thus also Luther, and among the moderns Löwenstein and Elster. Of the proverb so understood the lxx version, εἰ ὁ μὲν δίκαιος μόλις ( μόγις ) σώζεται, ὁ ἀσεβὴς καὶ ἁμαρτωλὸς ποῦ φανεῖται (cf. 1 Peter 4:18) may be a free translation, for in the ישׁלם there certainty lies, according to the sense, a כּמעט יוּשׁע . Also ישׁלם has the principal tone, not בארץ . The thought: even on this side (on earth), lies beyond the sphere of the O.T. consciousness. The earth is here the world of man.
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Proverbs 11". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany