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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

Proverbs 17

Verses 1-5

Proverbs 17:1

A comparative proverb with טוב , pairing with Proverbs 16:32:

5 He that mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker;

He that rejoiceth over calamity remains not unpunished.

Line first is a variation of Proverbs 14:31. God is, according to Proverbs 22:2, the creator of the poor as well as of the rich. The poor, as a man, and as poor, is the work of God, the creator and governor of all things; thus, he who mocketh the poor, mocketh Him who called him into existence, and appointed him his lowly place. But in general, compassion and pity, and not joy ( שׂמח ל , commonly with ל , of the person, e.g., Obad. Obadiah 1:12, the usual formula for ἐπιχαιρεκακία ), is appropriate in the presence of misfortune ( איד , from אוּד , to be heavily burdened), for such joy, even if he on whom the misfortune fell were our enemy, is a peccatum mortale , Job 31:29. There is indeed a hallowed joy at the actual revelation in history of the divine righteousness; but this would not be a hallowed joy if it were not united with deep sorrow over those who, accessible to no warning, have despised grace, and, by adding sin to sin, have provoked God's anger.

Verse 6

With this verse this series of proverbs closes as it began:

A diadem of the old are children's children,

And the glory of children are their parents.

Children are a blessing from God (Ps 127-128); thus, a family circle consisting of children and grandchildren (including great-grandchildren) is as a crown of glory surrounding the grey-haired patriarch; and again, children have glory and honour in their parents, for to have a man of an honoured name, or of a blessed memory, as a father, is the most effective commendation, and has for the son, even though he is unlike his father, always important and beneficial consequences. In 6b a fact of experience is expressed, from which has proceeded the rank of inherited nobility recognised among men - one may abnegate his social rights, but yet he himself is and remains a part of the moral order of the world. The lxx has a distich after Proverbs 17:4 the Vatican text places it after Proverbs 17:6: “The whole world of wealth belongs to the faithful, but to the unfaithful not even an obolus .” Lagarde supposes that ὄλος ὁ κόσμος τῶν χρημάτων is a translation of שׁפעת יתר , instead of שׂפת יתר , 7a. But this ingenious conjecture does not amount to the regarding of this distich as a variation of Proverbs 17:7.

Verses 7-10

The proverbs following, Proverbs 17:7-10, appear to be united acrostically by the succession of the letters ש שׂ שׁ ) and ת .

Proverbs 17:7

10 One reproof maketh more impression on a wise man

Than if one reckoned a hundred to the fool

One of the few proverbs which begin with a future, vid., Proverbs 12:26. It expresses what influence there is in one reproof with a wise man ( מבין , Proverbs 8:9); גּערה is the reproof expressed by the post-bibl. נזיפה .lbib , as the lowest grade of disciplinary punishment, admonitio , connected with warning. The verbal form תהת is the reading of the lxx and Syr. ( συντρίβει ἀπειλὴ καρδίαν φρονίμου ) for they read תחת גערה לב מבין , derived from חתת , and thus תּחת (from Hiph. החת ); thus Luther: reproof alarms more the intelligent, but חחת with ב of the obj. is not Hebr.; on the contrary, the reading of the lxx is in accordance with the usage of the language, and, besides, is suitable. It is, however, first to be seen whether the traditional text stands in need of this correction. As fut. Niph. תּחת , apart from the ult. accent. to be expected, gives no meaning. Also if one derives it from חתה , to snatch away, to take away, it gives no appropriate thought; besides, חתה is construed with the object. accus., and the fut. Apoc., in itself strange here, must be pointed either תּהת or תּחתּ (after יחדּ ) (Böttcher, Lehrb. ii. p. 413). Thus יחת , as at Job 21:13; Jeremiah 21:13, will be fut. Kal of &#נחת ינחת , Psalms 38:3 (Theodotion, Targ., Kimchi). With this derivation, also, תּחת is to be expected; the reference in the Handwörterbuch to Gesen. Lehrgebäude, §51, 1, Anm. 1, where, in an extremely inadequate way, the retrogression of the tone ( נסוג אחור ) is spoken of, is altogether inappropriate to this place; and Böttcher's explanation of the ult. tone from an intended expressiveness is ungrammatical; but why should not תּחת , from נחת , with its first syllable originating from contraction, and thus having the tone be Milel as well as Milra, especially here, where it stands at the head of the sentence? With ב connected with it, נחת means: to descend into anything, to penetrate; Hitzig appropriately compares altius in pectus descendit of Sallust, Jug. 11. Jerome rightly, according to the sense: plus proficit , and the Venet. ἀνεῖ (read ὀνεῖ ) ἀπειλὴ τῷ συνίοντι . In 10b מכּה (cf. Deuteronomy 25:3; 2 Corinthians 11:24) is to be supplied to מאה , not פאמים (an hundred times, which may be denoted correctly by מאה as well as מאת , Ecclesiastes 8:12). With the wise (says a Talmudic proverb) a sign does as much as with the fool a stick does. Zehner, in his Adagia sacra (1601), cites Curtius (vii. 4): Nobilis equus umbra quoque virgae regitur, ignavus ne calcari quidem concitari potest .

Verse 11

Five proverbs of dangerous men against whom one has to be on his guard:

11 The rebellious seeketh only after evil,

And a cruel messenger is sent out against him.

It is a question what is subj. and what obj. in 11a. It lies nearest to look on מרי as subj., and this word (from מרה , stringere , to make oneself exacting against any, to oppose, ἀντιτείνειν ) is appropriate thereto; it occurs also at Ezekiel 2:7 as abstr. pro concreto. That it is truly subj. appears from this, that בּקּשׁ רע , to seek after evil (cf. Proverbs 29:10; 1 Kings 20:7, etc.), is a connection of idea much more natural than בּקּשׁ מרי to seek after rebellion. Thus אך will be logically connected with רע , and the reading אך מרי will be preferred to the reading &#אך־מרי אך (corresponding to the Arab. âinnama ) belongs to those particles which are placed before the clause, without referring to the immediately following part of the sentence, for they are much more regarded as affecting the whole sentence ( vid., Proverbs 13:10): the rebellious strives after nothing but only evil. Thus, as neut. obj. רע is rendered by the Syr., Targ., Venet., and Luther; on the contrary, the older Greek translators and Jerome regard רע as the personal subject. If now, in reference to rebellion, the discourse is of a מלאך אכזרי , we are not, with Hitzig, to think of the demon of wild passions unfettered in the person of the rebellious, for that is a style of thought and of expression that is modern, not biblical; but the old unpoetic yet simply true remark remains: Loquendi formula inde petita quod regis aut summi magistratus minister rebelli supplicium nunciat infligitque . מלאך is n. officii, not naturae. Man as a messenger, and the spiritual being as messenger, are both called מלאך . Therefore one may not understand מלאך אכזרי , with the lxx, Jerome, and Luther, directly and exclusively of an angel of punishment. If one thinks of Jahve as the Person against whom the rebellion is made, then the idea of a heavenly messenger lies near, according to Psalms 35:5., Psalms 78:49; but the proverb is so meant, that it is not the less true if an earthly king sends out against a rebellious multitude a messenger with an unlimited commission, or an officer against a single man dangerous to the state, with strict directions to arrest him at all hazards. אכזרי we had already at Proverbs 12:10; the root קש חש means, to be dry, hard, without feeling. The fut. does not denote what may be done (Bertheau, Zöckler), which is contrary to the parallelism, the order of the words, and the style of the proverb, but what is done. And the relation of the clause is not, as Ewald interprets it, “scarcely does the sedition seek out evil when an inexorable messenger is sent.” Although this explanation is held by Ewald as “unimprovable,” yet it is incorrect, because אך in this sense demands, e.g., Genesis 27:3, the perf. (strengthened by the infin. intensivus). The relation of the clause is, also, not such as Böttcher has interpreted it: a wicked man tries only scorn though a stern messenger is sent against him, but not because such a messenger is called אכזרי , against whom this “trying of scorn” helps nothing, so that it is not worth being spoken of; besides, שׁלּח or משׁלּח would have been used if this relation had been intended. We have in 11a and 11b, as also e.g., at Proverbs 26:24; Proverbs 28:1, two clauses standing in internal reciprocal relation, but syntactically simply co-ordinated; the force lies in this, that a messenger who recognises no mitigating circumstances, and offers no pardon, is sent out against such an one.

Verse 12

12 Meet a bear robbed of one of her whelps,

Only not a fool in his folly.

The name of the bear, as that of the cow, Job 21:10; Psalms 144:14, preserves its masculine form, even when used in reference to sexual relationship (Ewald, §174b); the ursa catulis orbata is proverbially a raging beast. How the abstract expression of the action פּגושׁ [to meet], here as e.g., Psalms 17:5, with the subj. following, must sound as finite ( occurrat , may always meet), follows from &#ואל ואל־יפגּשׁ ( non autem occurrat ). פּגושׁ has on the last syllable Mehuppach, and Zinnorith on the preceding open syllable (according to the rule, Accentssystem, vi. §5d).

(Note: In the Torath Emeth, p. 18, the word is irregularly represented as Milel - a closed syllable with Cholem can suffer no retrogression of the tone.)

שׁכּוּל , in the state of his folly, i.e., when he is in a paroxysm of his anger, corresponds with the conditional noun-adjective שׁכּוּל , for folly morbidly heightened is madness (cf. Hosea 11:7; Psychol. p. 291f.).

Verse 13

13 He that returneth evil for good,

From his house evil shall not depart.

If ingratitude appertains to the sinful manifestations of ignoble selfishness, how much more sinful still is black ingratitude, which recompenses evil for good! ( משׁיב , as 1 Samuel 25:21, syn. גּמל , to requite, Proverbs 3:30; Proverbs 31:12; שׁלּם , to reimburse, Proverbs 20:22). Instead of תמישׁ , the Kerı̂ reads תמוּשׁ ; but that this verb, with a middle vowel, may be ' &#י ע as well as ' &#ו ע , Psalms 55:2 shows.

Verse 14

14 As one letteth out water is the beginning of a strife;

But cease thou from such strife ere it comes to showing teeth.

The meaning of this verb פּטר is certain: it means to break forth; and transitively, like Arab. faṭr , to bring forth from a cleft, to make to break forth, to let go free (Theodotion, ἀπολύων ; Jerome, dimittit ; Venet. ἀφιείς ). The lxx, since it translates by ἐξουσίαν δίδωσι , thinks on the juristic signification, which occurs in the Chronicles: to make free, or to declare so; but here פּוטר מים ( vid., regarding the Metheg at Proverbs 14:31) is, as Luther translates, one who tears away the dam from the waters. And ראשׁית מדון is not accus. dependent on פוטר , to be supplied (Hitzig: he unfetters water who the beginning of strife, viz., unfetters); but the part. is used as at Proverbs 10:17: one who unfetters the water is the beginning of strife, i.e., he is thus related to it as when one... This is an addition to the free use of the part. in the language of the Mishna, where one would expect the infin., e.g., בּזורע (= בּזרע ), if one sows, בּמזיד (= בּזדון ), of wantonness. It is thus unnecessary, with Ewald, to interpret פוטר as neut., which lets water go = a water-outbreak; פוטר is meant personally; it represents one who breaks through a water-dam, withdraws the restraint of the water, opens a sluice, and then emblematically the proverb says: thus conditioned is the beginning of a strife. Then follows the warning to let go such strife ( הריב , with the article used in the more elevated style, not without emphasis), to break from it, to separate it from oneself ere it reach a dangerous height. This is expressed by לפני התגּלּע , a verb occurring only here and at Proverbs 18:1; Proverbs 20:3, always in the Hithpa. The Targum (misunderstood by Gesenius after Buxtorf; vid., to the contrary, Levy, under the word צדי II) translates it at Proverbs 18:1; Proverbs 20:3, as the Syr., by “to mock,” also Aquila, who has at Proverbs 20:3, ἐξυβρισθήσεται , and the lxx at Proverbs 18:1, ἐπονείδιστος ἔσται , and Jerome, who has this in all the three passages, render the Hithpa. in this sense, passively. In this passage before us, the Targ., as Hitzig gives it, translates, “before it heats itself,” but that is an error occasioned by Buxtorf; vid., on the contrary, Levy, under the word קריא ( κύριος ); this translation, however, has a representative in Haja Gaon, who appeals for גלע , to glow, to Nidda viii. 2.

(Note: Vid., Simon Nascher's Der Gaon Haja u. seine giest. Thätig. p. 15.)

Elsewhere the lxx, at Proverbs 20:3, συμπλέκεται (where Jerome, with the amalgamation of the two significations, miscentur contumeliis ); Kimchi and others gloss it by התערב , and, according to this, the Venet. translates, πρὸ τοῦ συνχυθῆναι ( τὴν ἔριν ); Luther, “before thou art mingled therein.” But all these explanations of the word: insultare, excandescere , and commisceri , are etymologically inadmissible. Bertheau's and Zöckler's “roll itself forth” is connected at least with a meaning rightly belonging to the R. גל . But the Arab. shows, that not the meaning volvere , but that of retegere is to be adopted. Aruch

(Note: Vid., p. 109, note.)

for Nidda viii. 2 refers to the Arab., where a wound is designated as יכולה להגּלע ולהוציא דם , i.e., as breaking up, as it were, when the crust of that which is nearly healed is broken off (Maimuni glosses the word by להתקלף , were uncrusted), and blood again comes forth. The meaning retegere requires here, however, another distinction. The explanation mentioned there by Aruch: before the strife becomes public to thee, i.e., approaches thee, is not sufficient. The verbal stem גלע is the stronger power of גלה , and means laying bare; but here, not as there, in the Mishna of a wound covered with a crust. The Arab. jal' means to quarrel with another, properly to show him the teeth, the Poël or the tendency-stem from jali'a , to have the mouth standing open, so that one shows his teeth; and the Syr. glaṣ , with its offshoots and derivatives, has also this meaning of ringi , opening the mouth to show, i.e., to make bare the teeth. Schultens has established this explanation of the words, and Gesenius further establishes it in the Thesaurus, according to which Fleischer also remarks, “ גלע , of showing the teeth, the exposing of the teeth by the wide opening of the mouth, as happens in bitter quarrels.” But הריב does not agree with this. Hitzig's translation, “before the strife shows its teeth,” is as modern as in Proverbs 17:11 is the passion of the unfettered demon, and Fleischer's prius vero quam exacerbetur rixa renders the Hithpa. in a sense unnecessarily generalized for Proverbs 18:1 and Proverbs 20:3. The accentuation, which separates להתגלע from הריב by Rebia Mugrash, is correct. One may translate, as Schultens, antequam dentes stringantur , or, since the Hithpa. has sometimes a reciprocal signification, e.g., Genesis 42:1; Psalms 41:8: ere one reciprocally shows his teeth, Hitzig unjustly takes exception to the inversion הריב נטושׁ . Why should not the object precede, as at Hosea 12:1-14:15, the נטוש , placed with emphasis at the end? The same inversion for a like reason occurs at Ecclesiastes 5:6.

Verse 15

15 He that acquitteth the guilty and condemneth the righteous -

An abomination to Jahve are they both.

The proverb is against the partisan judge who is open to bribery, like Proverbs 24:24, cf. Isaiah 5:23, where, with reference to such, the announcement of punishment is emphatically made. רשׁע and צדּיק , in a forensic sense, are equivalent to sons ( reus ) and insons . גּם (cf. the Arab. jmy'na , altogether, but particularly the Pers. ham and the Turkish dkhy standing wholly thus in the numeral) is here, as at Genesis 27:45, equivalent to יחדּיו , Jeremiah 46:12 (in its unions = united). Whoever pronounces sentence of justification on the guilty, appears as if he must be judged more mildly than he who condemns the guiltless, but both the one and the other alike are an abhorrence to God.

Verses 16-21

We take Proverbs 17:16-21 together. This group beings with a proverb of the heartless, and ends with one of the perverse-hearted; and between these there are not wanting noticeable points of contact between the proverbs that follow one another.

Proverbs 17:16

The first three parts of the old Solomonic Book of Proverbs ((1) Prov 10-12; (2) 13:1-15:19; (3) 15:20-17:20) are now followed by the fourth part. We recognise it as striking the same keynote as Proverbs 10:1. In Proverbs 17:21 it resounds once more, here commencing a part; there, Proverbs 10:1, beginning the second group of proverbs. The first closes, as it begins, with a proverb of the fool.

21 He that begetteth a fool, it is to his sorrow;

And the father of a fool hath no joy.

It is admissible to supply ילדו , developing itself from ילד , before לתוּגה לו ( vid., regarding this passive formation, at Proverbs 10:1, cf. Proverbs 14:13), as at Isaiah 66:3, מעלה (Fl.: in maerorem sibi genuit h. e. ideo videtur genuisse ut sibi maerorem crearet ); but not less admissible is it to interpret לתוגה לו as a noun-clause corresponding to the ולא־ישׂמח (thus to be written with Makkeph): it brings grief to him. According as one understands this as an expectation, or as a consequence, ילד , as at Proverbs 23:24, is rendered either qui gignit or qui genuit . With נבל , seldom occurring in the Book of Proverbs (only here and at Proverbs 17:7), כּסיל , occurring not unfrequently, is interchanged. Schultens rightly defines the latter etymologically: marcidus h. e. qui ad virtutem, pietatem, vigorem omnem vitae spiritualis medullitus emarcuit ; and the former: elumbis et mollitie segnitieve fractus , the intellectually heavy and sluggish (cf. Arab. kasal , laziness; kaslân , the lazy).

(Note: Nöldeke's assertion (Art. Orion in Schenkel's Bibel-Lexicon) that the Arab. kasal corresponds to the Hebr. כּשׁל proceeds from the twofold supposition, that the meaning to be lazy underlies the meaning to totter ( vid., also Dietrich in Gesenius' Heb. Wörterbuch), and that the Hebr. ס must correspond with the Arab. š . The former supposition is untenable, the latter is far removed (cf. e.g., כּסּא and kursı̂ , ספר and sifr , מסכּן and miskı̂n ). The verb כּשׁל , Aram. תּקל , is unknown in the Arab.)

Verse 22

22 A joyful heart bringeth good recovery;

And a broken spirit drieth the bones.

The heart is the centre of the individual life, and the condition and the tone of the heart communicates itself to this life, even to its outermost circumference; the spirit is the power of self-consciousness which, according as it is lifted up or broken, also lifts up or breaks down the condition of the body ( Psychol. p. 199), vid., the similar contrasted phrases לב שׂמח and רוּח נכאה , Proverbs 15:13. The ἄπ. λεγ . גּהה (here and there in Codd. incorrectly written גּיהה ) has nothing to do with the Arab. jihat , which does not mean sight, but direction, and is formed from wjah (whence wajah , sight), like עדה , congregation, from &#ועד יעד ). The Syr., Targ. (perhaps also Symmachus: ἀγαθύνει ἡλικίαν ; Jerome: aetatem floridam facit ; Luther: makes the life lüstig [cheerful]) translate it by body; but for this &#גּוה גּויּה ) is used, and that is a word of an entirely different root from גּהה . To what verb this refers is shown by Hosea 5:13: ולא־יגהה מכּם מזור , and healed not for you her ulcerous wound. מזור is the compress, i.e., the bandage closing up the ulcer, then also the ulcer-wound itself; and גּהה is the contrary of עלה , e.g., Jeremiah 8:22; it means the removing of the bandage and the healing of the wound. This is confirmed by the Syr. gho , which in like manner is construed with min , and means to be delivered from something ( vid., Bernstein's Lex. Syr. to Kirsch's Chrestomathie). The Aethiop. quadriliteral gâhgěh , to hinder, to cause to cease, corresponds to the causative Syr. agahish . Accordingly גּהה means to be in the condition of abatement, mitigation, healing; and גּהה (as synonym of כּהה , Nehemiah 3:19, with which Parchon combines it), levamen, levatio , in the sense of bodily healing (lxx εὐεκτεῖν ποιεῖ ; Venet., after Kimchi, ἀγαθυνεῖ θεραπείαν ); and היטיב גּהה (cf. Proverbs 15:2) denotes, to bring good improvement, to advance powerfully the recovery. Schultens compares the Arab. jahy , nitescere, disserenari , as Menahem has done ננהּ , but this word is one of the few words which are explained exclusively from the Syriac (and Aethiop.). גּרם (here and at Proverbs 25:15) is the word interchanging with עצם , Proverbs 15:30; Proverbs 16:24.

Verse 23

23 Bribery from the bosom the godless receiveth,

To pervert the ways of justice.

Regarding שׂחד , vid., Proverbs 17:8. The idea of this word, as well as the clause containing the purpose, demand for the רשׁע a high judicial or administrative post. The bosom, &#חק חיק ), is, as Proverbs 16:23, that of the clothing. From the bosom, מחק , where it was kept concealed, the gift is brought forth, and is given into the bosom, בּחק , Proverbs 21:14, of him whose favour is to be obtained - an event taking place under four eyes, which purposely withdraws itself from the observation of any third person. Since this is done to give to the course of justice a direction contrary to rectitude, the giver of the bribe has not right on his side; and, under the circumstances, the favourable decision which he purchases may be at once the unrighteous sentence of a צדיק , accusing him, or accused by him, Proverbs 18:5.

Verse 24

24 The understanding has his attention toward wisdom;

But the eyes of a fool are on the end of the earth.

Many interpreters explain, as Euchel:

“The understanding finds wisdom everywhere;

The eyes of the fool seek it at the end of the world.”

Ewald refers to Deuteronomy 30:11-14 as an unfolding of the same thought. But although it may be said of the fool ( vid., on the contrary, Proverbs 15:14) that he seeks wisdom, only not at the right place, as at Proverbs 14:6, of the mocker that he seeks wisdom but in vain, yet here the order of the words, as well as the expression, lead us to another thought: before the eyes of the understanding את־פּניע , as Genesis 33:18; 1 Samuel 2:11, and frequently in the phrase ' את־פני ה , e.g., 1 Samuel 1:22) wisdom lies as his aim, his object, the end after which he strives; on the contrary, the eyes of the fool, without keeping that one necessary thing in view, wander in alia omnia , and roam about what is far off, without having any fixed object. The fool is everywhere with his thoughts, except where he ought to be. Leaving out of view that which lies nearest, he loses himself in aliena . The understanding has an ever present theme of wisdom, which arrests his attention, and on which he concentrates himself; but the fool flutters about fantastically from one thing to another, and that which is to him precisely of least importance interests him the most.

Verse 25

The series of proverbs, v. 25-18:2, begins and closes in the same way as the preceding, and only Proverbs 17:26 stands by itself without apparent connection.

This verse begins connecting itself with Proverbs 17:21:

A grief to his father is a foolish son,

And a bitter woe for her that bare him.

The ἅπ. λεγ. ממר is formed from מרר (to be bitter, properly harsh), as מכס from כּסס . The Syr. and Targ. change the subst. into participles; some codd. also have ממר (after the forms ממחל מסב מפר מרע ), but as may be expected in 25a, מבעיס . The dat. obj. instead of the accus. may be possible; the verse immediately following furnishes a sufficient example of this.

Verse 26

26 Also to inflict punishment on the righteous is not good;

This, that one overthrows the noble on account of his rectitude.

Does the גּם [also] refer to a connection from which the proverb is separated? or is it tacitly supposed that there are many kinds of worthless men in the world, and that one from among them is brought forward? or is it meant, that to lay upon the righteous a pecuniary punishment is also not good? None of all these. The proverb must have a meaning complete in itself; and if pecuniary punishment and corporeal punishment were regarded as opposed to one another, 26b would then have begun with אף כּי ( quanto magis percutere ingenuos ). Here it is with גם as at Proverbs 20:11, and as with אך at 11a, and רק at Proverbs 13:10: according to the sense, it belongs not to the word next following, but to לצּדּיק ; and ענשׁ (whence inf. ענושׁ , as Proverbs 21:11, with the ǎ in ע , cf. also עבד , Proverbs 11:10, for אבד ) means here not specially to inflict a pecuniary fine, but generally to punish, for, as in mulctare, the meaning is generalized, elsewhere with the accus., Deuteronomy 22:19, here to give to any one to undergo punishment. The ruler is the servant of God, who has to preserve rectitude, εἰς ὀργὴν τῷ τὸ κακὸν πράσσοντι (Romans 13:14). It is not good when he makes his power to punish to be felt by the innocent as well as by the guilty.

In 26b, instead of הכּות , the proverb is continued with &#להכּות לא־טוב , which is to be supplied, takes the inf. alone when it precedes, and the inf. with ל when it follows, Proverbs 18:5; Proverbs 28:21; Proverbs 21:9 (but cf. Proverbs 21:19). הכּות is the usual word for punishment by scourging, Deuteronomy 25:1-3, cf. 2 Corinthians 11:24, N.T. μαστιγοῦν , δίρειν , Rabb. מכּות , strokes, or מלקוּת from לקה , vapulare , to receive stripes. נדיבים are here those noble in disposition. The idea of נדיב fluctuates between generosus in an outward and in a moral sense, wherefore על־ישׁר , or rather עלי־ישׁר , is added; for the old editions, correct MSS, and e.g., also Soncin. 1488, present עלי ( vid., Norzi). Hitzig incorrectly explains this, “against what is due” ( ישׁר , as Proverbs 11:24); also Psalms 94:20, עלי־חק does not mean κατὰ προστάγματος (Symmachus), but ἐπὶ προστάγματι (lxx and Theod.), on the ground of right = praetextu juris (Vatabl.). Thus עלי־ישׁר means here neither against nor beyond what is due, but: on the ground of honourable conduct, making this (of course mistakenly) a lawful title to punishment; Aquila, ἐπὶ εὐθύτητι , cf. Matthew 5:10, ἕνεκεν δικαιοσύνης . Besides, for על after הכּה , the causal signification lies nearest Numbers 22:32, cf. Isaiah 1:5 ( על־מה , on account of anything). If the power of punishment is abused to the punishing of the righteous, yea, even to the corporeal chastisement of the noble, and their straight, i.e., conscientious, firm, open conduct, is made a crime against them, that is not good - it is perversion of the idea of justice, and an iniquity which challenges the penal rectitude of the Most High (Ecclesiastes 5:7 [8]).

Verse 27

27 He that keepeth his words to himself hath knowledge,

And the cool of temper is a man of understanding.

The first line here is a variation of Proverbs 10:19. The phrase ידע דּעת (here and at Daniel 1:4) means to possess knowledge ( novisse ); more frequently it is בּינה ידע , e.g., Proverbs 4:1, where ידע has the inchoative sense of noscere . In 27b the Kerı̂ is יקר־רוח . Jerome translates it pretiosi spiritus , the Venet. τίμιος τὸ πνεῦμα . Rashi glosses יקר here, as at 1 Samuel 3:1, by מנוע (thus to be read after codd.), retentus spiritu ; most interpreters remark that the spirit here comes into view as expressing itself in words. It is scarcely correct to say that יקר דּברים could designate one who is sparing in his words, but יקר־רוּח is, according to the fundamental conception of the verb יקר , gravis spiritu (Schultens), of a dignified, composed spirit; it is a quiet seriousness proceeding from high conscientiousness, and maintaining itself in self-control, which is designated by this word. But the Chethı̂b וקר־רוּח presents almost the same description of character. קר from קרר (of the same root as יקר ) means to be firm, unmoveable, καρτερὸν εἶναι , hence to be congealed, frozen, cold (cf. frigus with rigere , rigor ), figuratively to be cold-blooded, passionless, quiet, composed (Fl.); cf. post-bibl. קרת רוּח (Arab. ḳurrat‛ain ), cooling = refreshing, ἀνάψυξις (Acts 3:20).

(Note: “He has made my eye glowing” ( askhn , cf. שׁחין ) is in Arab. equivalent to “he has deeply troubled me.” The eye of the benevolent is bârid , and in the Semitic manner of expression, with deep psychological significance, it is said that the tears of sorrow are hot, but those of joy cold.)

Whether we read יקר or קר , in any case we are not to translate rarus spiritu , which, apart from the impossibility of the expression, makes 27b almost a tautological repetition of the thought of 27a. The first line recommends bridling of the tongue, in contrast to inconsiderate and untimely talk; the second line recommends coldness, i.e., equanimity of spirit, in contrast to passionate heat.

Verse 28

Ver. 28 continues the same theme, the value of silence:

Even a fool, when he keeps silence, is counted wise;

When he shutteth his mouth, discreet.

The subj. as well as the pred. of the first line avail for the second. אטם , obturare, occludere , usually of the closing the ear, is here transferred to the mouth. The Hiph. החרישׁ means mutum agere (cf. Arab. khrs , mutum esse ), from חרשׁ , which, like κωφός , passes from the meaning surdus to that of mutus (Fl.). The words of Job 13:5, and also those of Alexander: si tacuisses sapiens mansisses , are applicable to fools. An Arab. proverb says, “silence is the covering of the stupid.” In the epigrammatical hexameter,

πᾶς τις ἀπαίδευτος φρονιμώτατός ἐστι σιωπῶν,

the word σιωπῶν has the very same syntactical position as these two participles.

(Note: Cf. C. Schultze's Die bibl. Sprichwörter (1860), p. 60f.)

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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 17". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. 1854-1889.