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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

Proverbs 15

Verses 1-6

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.

Proverbs 15:1

The πραΰ́της σοφίας (James 3:13) commended in Proverbs 15:1 is here continued:

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 Zöckler, as accus.: in the house (cf. בּית , Proverbs 8:2), nor prepositionally as chez = 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 (Löwenstein), for בּית is everywhere mas. Therefore Abulwalîd, 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 = overthrow (cf. such part. nouns as &#מוּסדה מוּעקה , but particularly נסבּה , 2 Chronicles 10:15), or as impers. neut. pass.: it is overthrown = there is an overthrow, like נשׂערה , Psalms 50:3: it is stormed = 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).

Verses 7-17

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.

Proverbs 15:7

Another proverb with the key-word תועבת

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 quietâ ,

Ne pete grandia lautaque prandia lite repleta .

Verse 18

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).

Verse 19

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).

Verses 20-23

This collection of Solomonic proverbs began, Proverbs 10:1, with a proverb having reference to the observance of the fourth commandment,

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 (= 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.

Verse 24

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; Psalms 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 = 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 Sheôl; 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 Sheôl 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 Sheôl 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.

Verse 25

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.

Verse 26

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 = 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.

Verse 27

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.

Verse 28

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); Meîri 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.

Verse 29

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 (Psalms 145:18).

Verse 30

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 (Psalms 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 Psalms 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.

Verse 31

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.

Verse 32

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.

Verse 33

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.

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The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Proverbs 15". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. 1854-1889.