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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 15

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament CommentaryKeil & Delitzsch

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

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 Psalms 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.

Proverbs 15:2

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 ).

Proverbs 15:3

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.

Proverbs 15:4

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., Psalms 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 Torâ ( 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 Meîri 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.

Proverbs 15:5

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.

Proverbs 15:6

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

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 (Zöckler), 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 = being, continuing, or also standing erect = 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.

Proverbs 15:8

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. Psalms 4:6 with Psalms 27:6), yet it is not by accident that here (line first = 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 Psalms 51:18. than Ps. 51:20f., rather after 1 Samuel 15:22 than after Psalms 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 Tôra of sacrifices, is here, as at Ps. 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.

Proverbs 15:9

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.

Proverbs 15:10

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).

Proverbs 15:11

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 = quanto magis ); vid., the Hebr. Römerbrief, 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 , Psalms 88:12, or also to שׁאול , as in the passage similar to this proverb, Job 26:6 (cf. Job 38:17): “Sheôl 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, Psalms 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.

Proverbs 15:12

12 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.

Proverbs 15:13

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 = 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 = 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 “ Gemüt ” [ 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.

Proverbs 15:14

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 Zöckler 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.

Proverbs 15:15

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 Zöckler) 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.

Proverbs 15:16

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, Psalms 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 = φάγαινα or ἀχορτασία ) with the Syr. יענותא , greed or insatiability.

Proverbs 15:17

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,

(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.

Proverbs 15:20

20 A wise son maketh a glad father,

And a fool of a man despiseth his mother.

Line first = 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.

Proverbs 15:21

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.

Proverbs 15:22

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 Köpfe 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 (= יסוד , cf. נוסד Psalms 2:2) means properly the being brought close together for the purpose of secret communication and counsel (cf. Arab. sâwada , to press close together = 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.

Proverbs 15:23

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.

Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Proverbs 15". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kdo/proverbs-15.html. 1854-1889.
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