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Proverbs 22:29, which speaks of a high position near the king, is appropriately followed by a hexastich referring to the slipperiness of the smooth ground of the king's court.
1 When thou sittest to eat with a ruler,
Consider well whom thou hast before thee.
2 And put thy knife to thy throat
If thou art a man of good appetite.
3 Be not lustful after his dainties,
Because it is deceitful food.
The ל of ללחום is that of end: ad cibum capiendum , thus as one invited by him to his table; in prose the expression would be לאכל לחם לחם , to eat, is poet., Proverbs 4:17; Proverbs 9:5. The fut. תּבין clothes the admonition in the form of a wish or counsel; the infin. intens. בּין makes it urgent: consider well him whom thou hast before thee, viz., that he is not thine equal, but one higher, who can destroy thee as well as be useful to thee. With ושׂמתּ the jussive construction begun by תבין is continued. Zöckler and Dächsel, after Ewald and Hitzig, translate incorrectly: thou puttest..., the perf. consec. after an imperf., or, which is the same thing, a fut. meant optatively ( e.g., Leviticus 19:18 with לא , and also Leviticus 19:34 without לא ) continues the exhortation; to be thus understood, the author ought to have used the expression שׂכּין שׂמתּ and not ושׂמת שׂכין . Rightly Luther: “and put a knife to thy throat,” but continuing: “wilt thou preserve thy life,” herein caught in the same mistake of the idea with Jerome, the Syr., and Targ., to which נפשׁ here separates itself. שׂכּין סכּין ) (Arab. with the assimilated a sikkı̂n , plur. sekâkı̂n , whence sekâkı̂ni , cutler) designates a knife (R. סך שך , to stick, vid., at Isaiah 9:10). לוע , from לוּע , to devour, is the throat; the word in Aram. signifies only the cheek, while Lagarde seeks to interpret בּלעך infinitively in the sense of (Arab.) bwlw'ak , if thou longest for (from wl'a ); but that would make 2b a tautology. The verb לוּע (cf. Arab. l'al' , to pant for) shows for the substantive the same primary meaning as glutus from glutire , which was then transferred from the inner organ of swallowing (Kimchi, בית הבליעה , Parchon; הוּשׂט , aesophagus) to the external. “Put a knife to thy throat, is a proverbial expression, like our: the knife stands at his throat; the poet means to say: restrain thy too eager desire by means of the strongest threatening of danger - threaten as it were death to it” (Fleischer). In בּעל נפשׁ נפשׁ means, as at Proverbs 13:2, desire, and that desire of eating, as at Proverbs 6:30. Rightly Rashi: if thou art greedy with hunger, if thou art a glutton; cf. Sir. 34:12 (31:12), “If thou sittest at a great table, then open not widely thy throat ( φάρυγγα ), and say not: There is certainly much on it!” The knife thus denotes the restraining and moderating of too good an appetite.
In 3a the punctuation fluctuates between תתאו ( Michlol 131a) and תתאו ; the latter is found in Cod. 1294, the Erfurt 2 and 3, the Cod. Jaman., and thus it is also to be written at Proverbs 23:6 and Proverbs 24:1; ויתאו , 1 Chronicles 11:17 and Psalms 45:12, Codd. and older Edd. ( e.g., Complut. 1517, Ven. 1515, 1521) write with Pathach. מטעמּות , from טעם , signifies savoury dishes, dainties, like (Arab.) dhwâkt , from dhâk (to taste, to relish); cf. sapores , from sapere , in the proverb: the tit-bits of the king burn the lips ( vid., Fleischer, Ali's Hundred Proverbs, etc., pp. 71, 104). With והוּא begins, as at Proverbs 3:29, a conditioning clause: since it is, indeed, the bread of deceit (the connection like עד־כּחבים , Proverbs 21:28), food which, as it were, deceives him who eats it, i.e., appears to secure for him the lasting favour of princes, and often enough herein deceives him; cf. the proverb by Burckhardt and Meidani: whoever eats of the sultan's soup burns his lips, even though it may be after a length of time (Fleischer). One must come near to a king, says Calovius, hitting the meaning of the proverb, as to a fire: not too near, lest he be burned; nor too remote, so that he may be warmed therewith.
All the forms of proverbs run through these appended proverbs. There now follows a pentastich:
4 Do not trouble thyself to become rich;
Cease from such thine own wisdom.
5 Wilt thou let thine eyes fly after it, and it is gone?
For it maketh itself, assuredly it maketh itself wings,
Like an eagle which fleeth toward the heavens.
The middle state, according to Proverbs 30:8, is the best: he who troubleth himself (cf. Proverbs 28:20, hasteth) to become rich, placeth before himself a false, deceitful aim. יגע is essentially one with (Arab.) waji'a , to experience sorrow, dolere , and then signifies, like πονεῖν and κάμνειν , to become or to be wearied, to weary or trouble oneself, to toil and moil (Fleischer). The בּינה (cf. Proverbs 3:5) is just wisdom, prudence directed towards becoming rich; for striving of itself alone does not accomplish it, unless wisdom is connected with it, which is not very particular in finding out means in their moral relations; but is so much the more crafty, and, as we say, speculative. Rightly Aquila, the Venet., Jerome, and Luther: take not pains to become rich. On the contrary, the lxx reads אל תיגע להעשׁיר , stretch not thyself (if thou art poor) after a rich man; and the Syr. and Targ. אל תּגּע להעשׁיר , draw not near to the rich man; but, apart from the uncertainty of the expression and the construction in both cases, poetry, and proverbial poetry too, does not prefer the article; it never uses it without emphasis, especially as here must be the case with it not elided. These translators thought that ' בּו וגו , Proverbs 23:5, presupposed a subject expressed in Proverbs 23:4; but the subject is not העשׁיר , but the עשׁר [riches] contained in להעשׁיר . The self-intelligible it in “it maketh wings,” etc. is that about which trouble has been taken, about which there has been speculation. That is a deceitful possession; for what has been gained by many years of labour and search, often passes away suddenly, is lost in a moment. To let the eyes fly after anything, is equivalent to, to direct a (flying) look toward it: wilt thou let thine eyes rove toward the same, and it is gone? i.e., wilt thou expose thyself to the fate of seeing that which was gained with trouble and craft torn suddenly away from thee? Otherwise Luther, after Jerome: Let not thine eyes fly after that which thou cast not have; but apart from the circumstance that בּו ואיננּוּ cannot possibly be understood in the sense of ad opes quas non potes habere (that would have required באשׁר איננו ), in this sense after the analogy of ( ל נשׂא נפשׁ אל , the end aimed at would have been denoted by לו and not by בו . Better Immanuel, after Rashi: if thou doublest, i.e., shuttest (by means of the two eyelids) thine eyes upon it, it is gone, i.e., has vanished during the night; but עוף , duplicare , is Aram. and not Heb. Rather the explanation is with Chajûg, after Isaiah 8:22.: if thou veilest (darkenest) thine eyes, i.e., yieldest thyself over to carelessness; but the noun עפעפּה shows that עוף , spoken of the eyes, is intended to signify to fly (to rove, flutter). Hitzig too artificially (altering the expression to להעשׁיר ): if thou faintest, art weary with the eyes toward him (the rich patron), he is gone - which cannot be adopted, because the form of a question does not accord with it. Nor would it accord if ואיננו were thought of as a conclusion: “dost thou let thy look fly toward it? It is gone;” for what can this question imply? The ו of ואיננו shows that this word is a component part of the question; it is a question lla nakar, i.e., in rejection of the subject of the question: wilt thou cast thy look upon it, and it is gone? i.e., wilt thou experience instant loss of that which is gained by labour and acquired by artifice? On בו , cf. Job 7:8. ' עיניך וגו , “thou directest thine eyes to me: I am no more.” We had in Proverbs 12:19 another mode of designating viz. till I wink again an instant. The Chethı̂b ' התעוּף וגו is syntactically correct (cf. Proverbs 15:22; Proverbs 20:30), and might remain. The Kerı̂ is mostly falsely accentuated התּעיף , doubly incorrectly; for (1) the tone never retreats from a shut syllable terminating in î, e.g., להכין , Isaiah 40:20; בהכין , 1 Chronicles 1:4; אבין , Job 23:8; and (2) there is, moreover, wanting here any legitimate occasion for the retrogression of the tone; thus much rather the form התּעיף (with Mehuppach of the last, and Zinnorith of the preceding open syllable) is to be adopted, as it is given by Opitz, Jablonsky, Michaelis, and Reineccius.
The subject of 5b is, as of 5a, riches. That riches take wings and flee away, is a more natural expression than that the rich patron flees away - a quaint figure, appropriate however at Nahum 3:16, where the multitude of craftsmen flee out of Nineveh like a swarm of locusts. עשׂה has frequently the sense of acquirere , Genesis 12:5, with לו , sibi acquirere , 1 Samuel 15:1; 1 Kings 1:15; Hitzig compares Silius Ital. xvi. 351: sed tum sibi fecerat alas . The inf. intensivus strengthens the assertion: it will certainly thus happen.
In 5c all unnecessary discussion regarding the Chethı̂b ועיף is to be avoided, for this Chethı̂b does not exist; the Masora here knows only of a simple Chethı̂b and Kerı̂ , viz., ועוּף (read יעוּף ), not of a double one ( ועיּף ), and the word is not among those which have in the middle a י , which is to be read like ו . The manuscripts ( e.g., also the Bragadin. 1615) have ועוּף , and the Kerı̂ יעוּף ; it is one of the ten words registered in the Masora, at the beginning of which a י is to be read instead of the written ו . Most of the ancients translate with the amalgamation of the Kerı̂ and the Chethı̂b : and he (the rich man, or better: the riches) flees heavenwards (Syr., Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion, Jerome, and Luther). After the Kerı̂ the Venet. renders: ὡς ἀετὸς πτήσεται τοῖς οὐρανοῖς (viz., ὁ πλοῦτος ). Rightly the Targ.: like an eagle which flies to heaven (according to which also it is accentuated), only it is not to be translated “ am Himmel ” [to heaven], but “ gen Himmel ” [towards heaven]: השּׁמים is the accusative of direction - the eagle flies heavenward. Bochart, in the Hierozoïcon, has collected many parallels to this comparison, among which is the figure in Lucian's Timon, where Pluto, the god of wealth, comes to one limping and with difficulty; but going away, outstrips in speed the flight of all birds. The lxx translates ὥσπερ ἀετοῦ καὶ ὑποστρέφει εἰς τὸν οἶκον τοῦ προεστηκότος αὐτοῦ . Hitzig accordingly reads שׁבו לבית משׂגּבּו , and he (the rich patron) withdraws from thee to his own steep residence. But ought not οἶκος τοῦ προεστηκότος αὐτοῦ to be heaven, as the residence of Him who administers wealth, i.e., who gives and again takes it away according to His free-will?
There now follows a proverb with unequally measured lines, perhaps a heptastich:
6 Eat not the bread of the jealous,
And let not thyself lust after his dainties;
7 For as one who calculates with himself, so is he:
“Eat and drink,” saith he to thee;
But his heart is not with thee.
8 Thy morsel which thou hast enjoyed wilt thou cast up,
And hast lost thy pleasant words.
As טוב עין , Proverbs 22:9, benignus oculo , denotes the pleasantness and joy of social friendship; so here (cf. Deuteronomy 15:9; Matthew 15:15) רע עין , malignus oculo , the envy and selfishness of egoism seeking to have and retain all for itself. The lxx ἀνδρὶ βασκάνῳ , for the look of the evil eye, עין רע עינא בישׁא ( cattivo occhio ), refers to enchantment; cf. βασκαίνειν , fascinare , to bewitch, to enchant, in modern Greek, to envy, Arab. 'an , to eye, as it were, whence ma‛jûn , ma‛ı̂n , hit by the piercing look of the envious eye, invidiae , as Apuleius says, letali plaga percussus (Fleischer). Regarding תּתאו with Pathach, vid., the parallel line 3a. 7a is difficult. The lxx and Syr. read שׂער [hair]. The Targ. renders תּרעא רמא , and thus reads שׁער [fool], and thus brings together the soul of the envious person and a high portal, which promises much, but conceals only deception behind (Ralbag). Joseph ha-Nakdan reads
(Note: In an appendix to Ochla We-Ochla, in the University Library at Halle, he reads שׂער , but with פליגא [doubtful] added.)
שׂער with sîn; and Rashi, retaining the schîn, compares the “sour figs,” Jeremiah 29:17. According to this, Luther translates: like a ghost (a monster of lovelessness) is he inwardly; for, as it appears in שׂער , the goat-like spectre שׂעיר hovered before him. Schultens better, because more in conformity with the text: quemadmodum suam ipsius animam abhorret ( i.e., as he does nothing to the benefit of his own appetite) sic ille ( erga alios multo magis ). The thought is appropriate, but forced. Hitzig for once here follows Ewald; he does not, however, translate: “like as if his soul were divided, so is it;” but: “as one who is divided in his soul, so is he;” but the verb שׁער , to divide, is inferred from שׁער , gate = division, and is as foreign to the extra-bibl. usus loq. as it is to the bibl. The verb שׁער signifies to weigh or consider, to value, to estimate. These meanings Hitzig unites together: in similitudinem arioli et conjectoris aestimat quod ignorat , perhaps meaning thereby that he conjecturally supposes that as it is with him, so it is with others: he dissembles, and thinks that others dissemble also. Thus also Jansen explains. The thought is far-fetched, and does not cover itself by the text. The translation of the Venet. also: ὡς γὰρ ἐμέτρησεν ἐν ψυχῇ οἱ οὕτως ἐστίν (perhaps: he measures to others as penuriously as to himself), does not elucidate the text, but obscures it. Most moderns (Bertheau, Zöckler, Dächsel, etc.): as he reckons in his soul, so is he (not as he seeks to appear for a moment before thee). Thus also Fleischer: quemadmodum reputat apud se, ita est ( sc. non ut loquitur ), with the remark that שׁער (whence שׁער , measure, market value, Arab. si'r ), to measure, to tax to as to determine the price, to reckon; and then like חשׁב , in general, to think, and thus also Meîri with the neut. rendering of ita est . But why this circumlocution in the expression? The poet ought in that case just to have written כי לא למו דבּר בשׂפתיו כן הוא , for he is not as he speaks with his mouth. If one read שׁער (Symmachus, εἰκάζων ), then we have the thought adapted to the portrait that is drawn; for like one calculating by himself, so is he, i.e., he is like one who estimates with himself the value of an object; for which we use the expression: he reckons the value of every piece in thy mouth. However, with this understanding the punctuation also of שׁער as finite may be retained and explained after Isaiah 26:18: for as if he reckoned in his soul, so is he; but in this the perf. is inappropriate; by the particip. one reaches the same end
(Note: We may write כּן הוּא : the Mehuppach ( Jethîb) sign of the Olewejored standing between the two words represents also the place of the Makkeph; vid., Thorath Emeth, p. 20.)
by a smoother way. True, he says to thee: eat and drink (Song of Solomon 5:1), he invites thee with courtly words; but his heart is not with thee ( בּל , like Proverbs 24:23): he only puts on the appearance of joy if thou partakest abundantly, but there lurks behind the mask of liberal hospitality the grudging niggardly calculator, who poisons thy every bite, every draught, by his calculating, grudging look. Such a feast cannot possibly do good to the guest: thy meal ( פּת , from פּתת ; cf. κλᾶν τὸν ἄρτον , Aram. פּרס לחמא , to divide and distribute bread, whence פּרנס , to receive aliment, is derived) which thou hast eaten thou wilt spue out, i.e., wilt vomit from disgust that thou hast eaten such food, so that that which has been partaken of does thee no good. פּתּך is also derived from פּתּה :
(Note: Immanuel makes so much of having recognised the verb in this פּתּך (and has he persuaded thee), that in the concluding part of his Divan (entitled Machberoth Immanuel), which is an imitation of Dante's Divina Commedia, he praises himself on this account in the paradise of King Solomon, who is enraptured by this explanation, and swears that he never meant that word otherwise.)
has he deceived thee (with his courtly words), but with this אכלתּ , which, as the Makkeph rightly denotes, stands in an attributive relation to פתך , does not agree. תקיאנּה is Hiph. of קוא , as transitive: to make vomiting; in Arab. the fut. Kal of ka terminates in î. The fair words which the guest, as the perf. consec. expresses, has lavished, are the words of praise and thanks in which he recognises the liberality of the host appearing so hospitable. Regarding the penult. accenting of the perf. consec. by Mugrasch, as Proverbs 30:9, vid., under Psalms 27:1. Pinsker ( Babyl.-Hebr. Punktationssystem, p. 134) conjectures that the line 8b originally formed the concluding line of the following proverb. But at the time of the lxx (which erroneously expresses ושׁחת ) it certainly stood as in our text.
Another case in which good words are lost:
Speak not to the ears of a fool,
For he will despise the wisdom of thy words.
To speak in the ears of any one, does not mean to whisper to him, to so to speak that it is distinctly perceived. כּסיל , as we have no often explained, is the intellectually heavy and dull, like pinguis and tardus ; Arab. balyd , clumsy, intellectually immoveable (cf. bld , the place where one places himself firmly down, which one makes his point of gravity). The heart of such an one is covered over (Psalms 119:70), as with grease, against all impressions of better knowledge; he has for the knowledge which the words spoken design to impart to him, no susceptibility, no mind, but only contempt. The construction בּוּז ל has been frequently met with from Proverbs 6:30.
The following proverb forms a new whole from component parts of Proverbs 22:28 and Proverbs 22:22.:
10 Remove not ancient landmarks;
And into the fields of orphans enter thou not.
11 For their Saviour is a mighty one;
He will conduct their cause against thee.
בּוא ב separates itself here to the meaning of injuste invadere et occupare ; French, empiéter sur son voisin , advance not into the ground belonging to thy neighbour (Fleischer). If orphans have also no goel among their kindred (Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion, ἀγχιστεύς ) to redeem by purchase (Leviticus 25:25) their inheritance that has passed over into the possession of another, they have another, and that a mighty Saviour, Redemptor, who will restore to them that which they have lost - viz. God (Jeremiah 50:34) - who will adopt their cause against any one who has unjustly taken from them.
The following proverb warrants us to pause here, for it opens up, as a compendious echo of Proverbs 22:17-Ecclesiastes :, a new series of proverbs of wisdom:
12 Apply thine heart to instruction,
And thine ear to the utterances of knowledge.
We may, according as we accent in למּוּסר the divine origin or the human medium, translate, offer disciplinae (Schultens), or adhibe ad disciplinam cor tuum (Fleischer). This general admonition is directed to old and young, to those who are to be educated as well as to those who are educated. First to the educator:
13 Withhold not correction from the child;
For thou will beat him with the rod, and he will not die.
14 Thou beatest him with the rod,
And with it deliverest his soul from hell.
The exhortation, 13a, presupposes that education by word and deed is a duty devolving on the father and the teacher with regard to the child. In 13b, כּי is in any case the relative conjunction. The conclusion does not mean: so will he not fall under death (destruction), as Luther also would have it, after Deuteronomy 19:21, for this thought certainly follows Proverbs 23:14; nor after Proverbs 19:18: so may the stroke not be one whereof he dies, for then the author ought to have written אל־תּמיתנּוּ ; but: he will not die of it, i.e., only strike if he has deserved it, thou needest not fear; the bitter medicine will be beneficial to him, not deadly. The אתּה standing before the double clause, Proverbs 23:14, means that he who administers corporal chastisement to the child, saves him spiritually; for שׁאול does not refer to death in general, but to death falling upon a man before his time, and in his sins, vid., Proverbs 15:24, cf. Proverbs 8:26.
The following proverb passes from the educator to the pupil:
15 My son, if thine heart becometh wise,
My heart also in return will rejoice;
16 And my reins will exult
If thy lips speak right things.
Wisdom is inborn in no one. A true Arab. proverb says, “The wise knows how the fool feels, for he himself was also once a fool;”
(Note: The second part of the saying is, “But a fool knows not how a wise man feels, for he has never been a wise man.” I heard this many years ago, from the mouth of the American missionary Schaufler, in Constantinople.)
and folly is bound up in the heart of a child, according to Proverbs 22:15, which must be driven out by severe discipline. 15b, as many others, cf. Proverbs 22:19, shows that these “words of the wise” are penetrated by the subjectivity of an author; the author means: if thy heart becomes wise, so will mine in return, i.e., corresponding to it (cf. גּם , Genesis 20:6), rejoice. The thought of the heart in Proverbs 23:15 repeats itself in Proverbs 23:16, with reference to the utterance of the mouth. Regarding מישׁרים , vid., Proverbs 1:5. Regarding the “reins,” כּליות (perhaps from כּלה , to languish, Job 19:21), with which the tender and inmost affections are connected, vid., Psychologie, p. 268f.
The poet now shows how one attains unto wisdom - the beginning of wisdom is the fear of God:
17 Let not thine heart strive after sinners,
But after the fear of Jahve all the day.
18 Truly there is a future,
And thy hope shall not come to naught.
The lxx, Jerome, the Venet., and Luther, and the Arab. interpreters, render 17b as an independent clause: “but be daily in the fear of the Lord.” That is not a substantival clause (cf. Proverbs 22:7), nor can it be an interjectional clause, but it may be an elliptical clause (Fleischer: from the prohibitive אל־תקנא is to be taken for the second parallel member the v. subst. lying at the foundation of all verbs); but why had the author omitted היה dettim ? Besides, one uses the expressions, to act ( עשׂה ), and to walk ( הלך ) in the fear of God, but not the expression to be ( היה ) in the fear of God. Thus בּיראת , like בחטּאים , is dependent on אל־תּקנּא ; and Jerome, who translates: Non aemuletur cor tuum peccatores, sed in timore Domini esto tota die , ought to have continued: sed timorem Domini tota die ; for, as one may say in Latin: aemulari virtutes , as well as aemulari aliquem , so also in Heb. קנּא ב , of the envying of those persons whose fortune excites to dissatisfaction, because one has not the same, and might yet have it, Proverbs 3:31; Proverbs 24:1, Proverbs 24:19, as well as of emulation for a thing in which one might not stand behind others: envy not sinners, envy much rather the fear of God, i.e., let thyself be moved with eager desire after it when its appearance is presented to thee. There is no O.T. parallel for this, but the Syr. tan and the Greek ζηλοτυποῦν are used in this double sense. Thus Hitzig rightly, and, among the moderns, Malbim; with Aben Ezra, it is necessary to take ביראת for באישׁ יראת , this proverb itself declares the fear of God to be of all things the most worthy of being coveted.
In Proverbs 23:18, Umbreit, Elster, Zöckler, and others interpret the כּי as assigning a reason, and the אם as conditioning: for when the end (the hour of the righteous judgment) has come; Bertheau better, because more suitable to the ישׁ and the אחרית : when an end (an end adjusting the contradictions of the present time) comes, as no doubt it will come, then thy hope will not be destroyed; but, on the other hand, the succession of words in the conclusion ( vid., at Proverbs 3:34) opposes this; also one does not see why the author does not say directly כי ישׁ אחרית , but expresses himself thus conditionally.
(Note: The form כּי אם־ does not contradict the connection of the two particles. This use of the Makkeph is general, except in these three instances: Genesis 15:4; Numbers 35:33; Nehemiah 2:2.)
If אם is meant hypothetically, then, with the lxx ἐὰν γὰρ τηρήσῃς αὐτὰ ἔκγονα , we should supply after it תּשׁמרנּה , that had fallen out. Ewald's: much rather there is yet a future (Dächsel: much rather be happy there is...), is also impossible; for the preceding clause is positive, not negative. The particles כּי אם , connected thus, mean: for if ( e.g., Lamentations 3:32); or also relatively: that if ( e.g., Jeremiah 26:15). After a negative clause they have the meaning of “unless,” which is acquired by means of an ellipsis; e.g., Isaiah 55:10, it turns not back thither, unless it has watered the earth (it returns back not before then, not unless this is done). This “unless” is, however, used like the Lat. nisi , also without the conditioning clause following, e.g., Genesis 28:17, hic locus non est nisi domus Dei . And hence the expression כי אם , after the negation going before, acquires the meaning of “but,” e.g., 17b: let not thy heart be covetous after sinners, for thou canst always be zealous for the fear of God, i.e., much rather for this, but for this. This pleonasm of אם sometimes occurs where כי is not used confirmatively, but affirmatively: the “certainly if” forms the transition, e.g., 1 Kings 20:6 ( vid., Keil's Comm. l.c.), whose “if” is not seldom omitted, so that כי אם has only the meaning of an affirmative “certainly,” not “truly no,” which it may also have, 1 Samuel 25:34, but “truly yes.” Thus כי אם is used Judges 15:7; 2 Samuel 15:21 (where אם is omitted by the Kerı̂ ); 2 Kings 5:20; Jeremiah 51:14; and thus it is also meant here, 18a, notwithstanding that כי אם , in its more usual signification, “besides only, but, nisi ,” precedes, as at 1 Samuel 21:6, cf. 5. The objection by Hitzig, that with this explanation: “certainly there is a future,” Proverbs 23:18 and Proverbs 23:17 are at variance, falls to the ground, if one reflects on the Heb. idiom, in which the affirmative signification of כי is interpenetrated by the confirmative. אחרית used thus pregnantly, as here (Proverbs 24:14), is the glorious final issue; the word in itself designates the end into which human life issues (cf. Psalms 37:37.); here, the end crowning the preceding course. Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29:11) in this sense connects אחרית ותקוה [end and expectation]. And what is here denied of the תּקיה , the hope (not as certain Jewish interpreters dream, the thread of life) of him who zealously strives after the fear of God, is affirmed, at Psalms 37:38, of the godless: the latter have no continuance, but the former have such as is the fulfilling of his hope.
Among the virtues which flow from the fear of God, temperance is made prominent, and the warning against excess is introduced by the general exhortation to wisdom:
19 Hear thou, my son, and become wise,
And direct thy heart straight forward on the way.
20 And be not among wine-drinkers,
And among those who devour flesh;
21 For the drunkard and glutton become poor,
And sleepiness clotheth in rags.
The אתּה , connected with שׁמע , imports that the speaker has to do with the hearer altogether by himself, and that the latter may make an exception to the many who do not hear (cf. Job 33:33; Jeremiah 2:31). Regarding אשּׁר , to make to go straight out, vid., at Proverbs 4:14; the Kal, Proverbs 9:6, and also the Piel, Proverbs 4:14, mean to go straight on, and, generally, to go. The way merely, is the one that is right in contrast to the many byways. Fleischer: “the way sensu eximio , as the Oriental mystics called the way to perfection merely (Arab.) âlaṭryḳ ; and him who walked therein, âlsâlak , the walker or wanderer.”
(Note: Rashi reads בדרך לבך (walk), in the way of thy heart (which has become wise), and so Heidenheim found it in an old MS; but בדרך is equivalent to בדרך בינה , Proverbs 9:6.)
אל־תּתי ב , as at Proverbs 22:26, the “Words of the Wise,” are to be compared in point of style. The degenerate and perverse son is more clearly described, Deuteronomy 21:20, as זולל וסבא . These two characteristics the poet distributes between 20a and 20b. סבא means to drink (whence סבא , drink = wine, Isaiah 1:22) wine or other intoxicating drinks; Arab. sabâ , vinum potandi causa emere . To the יין here added, בּשׂר in the parallel member corresponds, which consequently is not the fleshly body of the gluttons themselves, but the prepared flesh which they consume at their luxurious banquets. The lxx incorrectly as to the word, but not contrary to the sense, “be no wine-bibber, and stretch not thyself after picknicks ( συμβολαῖς ), and buying in of flesh ( κρεῶν τε ἀγορασμοῖς ),” whereby זללי is translated in the sense of the Aram. זבני (Lagarde). זלל denotes, intransitively, to be little valued (whence זולל , opp. יקר , Jeremiah 15:19), transitively to value little, and as such to squander, to lavish prodigally; thus: qui prodigi sunt carnis sibi ; למו is dat. commodi. Otherwise Gesenius, Fleischer, Umbreit, and Ewald: qui prodigi sunt carnis suae , who destroy their own body; but the parallelism shows that flesh is meant wherewith they feed themselves, not their own flesh ( בּשׂר למו , like חמת־למו , Psalms 58:5), which, i.e., its health, they squander. זולל also, in phrase used in Deuteronomy 21:20 (cf. with Hitzig the formula φάγος καὶ οἰνοπότης , Matthew 11:19), denotes not the dissolute person, as the sensualist, πορνοκόπος (lxx), but the συμβολοκόπος (Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion), κρεωβόρος ( Venet.), זלל בּסר (Onkelos), i.e., flesh-eater, ravenous person, glutton, in which sense it is rendered here, by the Syr. and Targ., by אסוט אסיט ), i.e., ἄσωτος . Regarding the metaplastic fut. Niph. יוּרשׁ (lxx πτωχεύσει ), vid., at Proverbs 20:13, cf. Proverbs 11:25. נוּמה (after the form of בּוּשׁה דּוּגה צוּרה ) is drowsiness, lethargy, long sleeping, which necessarily follows a life of riot and revelry. Such a slothful person comes to a bit of bread (Proverbs 21:17); and the disinclination and unfitness for work, resulting from night revelry, brings it about that at last he must clothe himself in miserable rags. The rags are called קרע and ῥάκος , from the rending (tearing), Arab. ruk'at , from the patching, mending. Lagarde, more at large, treats of this word here used for rags.
The parainesis begins anew, and the division is open to question. Proverbs 23:22-Jeremiah : can of themselves be independent distichs; but this is not the case with Proverbs 23:25, which, in the resumption of the address and in expression, leans back on Proverbs 23:22. The author of this appendix may have met with Proverbs 23:23 and Proverbs 23:24 (although here also his style, as conformed to that of Proverbs 1:9, is noticeable, cf. 23b with Proverbs 1:2), but Proverbs 23:22 and Proverbs 23:25 are the form which he has given to them.
Thus Proverbs 23:22-Lamentations : are a whole: -
22 Hearken to thy father, to him who hath begotten thee,
And despise not thy mother when she has grown old.
23 Buy the truth, and sell it not,
Wisdom and discipline and understanding.
24 The father of a righteous man rejoiceth greatly;
(And) he that is the father of a wise man - he will rejoice.
25 Let thy father and thy mother be glad;
And her that bare thee exult.
The octastich begins with a call to childlike obedience, for שׁמע ל , to listen to any one, is equivalent to, to obey him, e.g., Psalms 81:9, Psalms 81:14 (cf. “hearken to his voice,” Psalms 95:7). זה ילדך is a relative clause (cf. Deuteronomy 32:18, without זה or אשׁר ), according to which it is rightly accentuated (cf. on the contrary, Psalms 78:54). 22b, strictly taken, is not to be translated neve contemne cum senuerit matrem tuam (Fleischer), but cum senuerit mater tua , for the logical object to אל־תּבוּז is attracted as subj. of זקנה (Hitzig). There now follows the exhortation comprehending all, and formed after Proverbs 4:7, to buy wisdom, i.e., to shun no expense, no effort, no privation, in order to attain to the possession of wisdom; and not to sell it, i.e., not to place it over against any earthly possession, worldly gain, sensual enjoyment; not to let it be taken away by any intimidation, argued away by false reasoning, or prevailed against by enticements into the way of vice, and not to become unfaithful to it by swimming with the great stream (Exodus 23:2); for truth, אמת , is that which endures and proves itself in all spheres, the moral as well as the intellectual. In 23b, in like manner as Proverbs 1:3; Proverbs 22:4, a threefold object is given to קנה instead of אמת : there are three properties which are peculiar to truth, the three powers which handle it: חכמה is knowledge solid, pressing into the essence of things; מוּסר is moral culture; and בּינה the central faculty of proving and distinguishing ( vid., Proverbs 1:3-Deuteronomy :). Now Proverbs 23:24 says what consequences are for the parents when the son, according to the exhortation of Proverbs 23:23, makes truth his aim, to which all is subordinated. Because in אמת the ideas of practical and theoretical truth are inter-connected. צדּיק and חכם are also here parallel to one another. The Chethı̂b of 24a is גּול יגוּל , which Schultens finds tenable in view of (Arab.) jal , fut jajûlu (to turn round; Heb. to turn oneself for joy) but the Heb. usus loq. knows elsewhere only גּיל יגיל , as the Kerı̂ corrects. The lxx, misled by the Chethı̂b , translates καλῶς ἐκτρέφει (incorrect ἐκτρυφήσει ), i.e., גּדּל יגדּל . In 24b, וישׂמח is of the nature of a pred. of the conclusion (cf. Genesis 22:24; Psalms 115:7), as if the sentence were: has one begotten a wise man, then (cf. Proverbs 17:21) he has joy of him; but the Kerı̂ effaces this Vav apodosis, and assigns it to יולד as Vav copul. - an unnecessary mingling of the syntactically possible, more emphatic expression. This proverbial whole now rounds itself off in Proverbs 23:25 by a reference to Proverbs 23:22 - the Optative here corresponding to the Impr. and Prohib. there: let thy father and thy mother rejoice (lxx εὐφρανέσθω ), and let her that bare thee exult (here where it is possible the Optat. form ותגל ).
This hexastich warns against unchastity. What, in chap. 1-9, extended discourses and representations exhibited to the youth is here repeated in miniature pictures. It is the teacher of wisdom, but by him Wisdom herself, who speaks:
26 Give me, my son, thine heart;
And let thine eyes delight in my ways.
27 For the harlot is a deep ditch,
And the strange woman a narrow pit.
28 Yea, she lieth in wait like a robber,
And multiplieth the faithless among men
We have retained Luther's beautiful rendering of Proverbs 23:26,
(Note: The right punctuation of 26a is תּנה־בני לבּך , as it is found in the editions: Ven. 1615; Basel 1619; and in those of Norzi and Michaelis.)
in which this proverb, as a warning word of heavenly wisdom and of divine love, has become dear to us. It follows, as Symmachus and the Venet., the Chethı̂b תּרצנה (for תרצינה , like Exodus 2:16; Job 5:12), the stylistic appropriateness of which proceeds from Proverbs 16:7, as on the other hand the Kerı̂ תּצּרנה (cf. 1 Samuel 14:27) is supported by Proverbs 22:12, cf. Proverbs 5:2. But the correction is unnecessary, and the Chethı̂b sounds more affectionate, hence it is with right defended by Hitzig. The ways of wisdom are ways of correction, and particularly of chastity, thus placed over against “the ways of the harlot,” Proverbs 7:24. Accordingly the exhortation, Proverbs 23:26, verifies itself; warning, by Proverbs 23:27, cf. Proverbs 22:14, where עמקּה was written, here as at Job 12:22, with the long vowel עמוּקה עמקה ). בּאר צרה interchanges with שׁוּחה עמוקה , and means, not the fountain of sorrow (Löwenstein), but the narrow pit. בּאר is fem. gen., Proverbs 26:21., and צר means narrow, like étroit (old French, estreit ), from strictus . The figure has, after Proverbs 22:14, the mouth of the harlot in view. Whoever is enticed by her syren voice falls into a deep ditch, into a pit with a narrow mouth, into which one can more easily enter than escape from. Proverbs 23:28 says that it is the artifice of the harlot which draws a man into such depth of wickedness and guilt. With אף , which, as at Judges 5:29, belongs not to היא but to the whole sentence, the picture of terror is completed. The verb חתף (whence Arab. ḥataf , death, natural death) means to snatch away. If we take חתף as abstr.: a snatching away, then it would here stand elliptically for חתף בּעל אישׁ , which in itself is improbable ( vid., Proverbs 7:22, עכס ) and also unnecessary, since, as מלך עבד הלך , etc. show, such abstracta can pass immediately into concreta, so that חתף thus means the person who snatches away, i.e., the street robber, latro (cf. חטף .fc( , Arab. khaṭaf , Psalms 10:9, rightly explained by Kimchi as cogn.). In 28b, תוסיף cannot mean abripit (as lxx, Theodotion, and Jerome suppose), for which the word תּספּה תּאסף ) would have been used.
(Note: The Targ. translates 28b (here free from the influence of the Peshito) in the Syro-Palestinian idiom by וצאד אבניּא שׁברי , i.e., she seizes thoughtless sons.)
But this verbal idea does not harmonize with the connection; תוסיף means, as always, addit ( auget ), and that here in the sense of multiplicat . The same thing may be said of בּוגדים as is said (Proverbs 11:15) of תּוקעים . Hitzig's objection, “ הוסיף , to multiply, with the accusative of the person, is not at all used,” is set aside by Proverbs 19:4. But we may translate: the faithless, or: the breach of faith she increases. Yet it always remains a question whether בּאדם is dependent on בוגדים , as Ecclesiastes 8:9, cf. 2 Samuel 23:3, on the verb of ruling (Hitzig), or whether, as frequently בּאדם , e.g., Psalms 78:60, it means inter homines (thus most interpreters). Uncleanness leads to faithlessness of manifold kinds: it makes not only the husband unfaithful to his wife, but also the son to his parents, the scholar to his teacher and pastor, the servant (cf. the case of Potiphar's wife) to his master. The adulteress, inasmuch as she entices now one and now another into her net, increases the number of those who are faithless towards men. But are they not, above all, faithless towards God? We are of opinion that not בוגדים , but תוסיף , has its complement in באדם , and needs it: the adulteress increases the faithless among men, she makes faithlessness of manifold kinds common in human society. According to this, also, it is accentuated; ובוגדים is placed as object by Mugrasch, and באדם is connected by Mercha with תוסיף .
The author passes from the sin of uncleanness to that of drunkenness; they are nearly related, for drunkenness excites fleshly lust; and to wallow with delight in the mire of sensuality, a man, created in the image of God, must first brutalize himself by intoxication. The Mashal in the number of its lines passes beyond the limits of the distich, and becomes a Mashal ode.
29 Whose is woe? Whose is grief?
Whose are contentions, whose trouble, whose wounds without cause?
Whose dimness of eyes?
30 Theirs, who sit late at the wine,
Who turn in to taste mixed wine.
31 Look not on the wine as it sparkleth red,
As it showeth its gleam in the cup,
Glideth down with ease.
32 The end of it is that it biteth like a serpent,
And stingeth like a basilisk.
33 Thine eyes shall see strange things,
And thine heart shall speak perverse things;
34 And thou art as one lying in the heart of the sea,
And as one lying on the top of a mast.
35 “They have scourged me-it pained me not;
They have beaten me - I perceived it not.
When shall I have wakened from sleep?
Thus on I go, I return to it again.”
The repeated למי
(Note: We punctuate למי אוי , for that is Ben Asher's punctuation, while that of his opponent Ben Naphtali is למי־אוי . Vid., Thorath Emeth, p. 33.)
asks who then has to experience all that; the answer follows in Proverbs 23:30. With אוי , the אבוי occurring only here accords; it is not a substantive from אבה (whence אבון ) after the form of צחק , in the sense of egestas ; but, like the former [ אוי ], an interjection of sorrow ( Venet. τίνι αἲ, τίνι φεῦ ). Regarding מדינים ( Chethı̂b מדונים ), vid., at Proverbs 6:14. שׂיח signifies ( vid., at Proverbs 6:22) meditation and speech, here sorrowful thought and sorrowful complaint (1 Samuel 1:16; Psalms 55:18; cf. הגה הגיג ), e.g., over the exhausted purse, the neglected work, the anticipated reproaches, the diminishing strength. In the connection פּצעים חנּם (cf. Psalms 35:19) the accus. adv. חנם (French gratuitement ) represents the place of an adjective: strokes which one receives without being in the situation from necessity, or duty to expect them, strokes for nothing and in return for nothing (Fleischer), wounds for a long while (Oetinger). חכללוּת עינים is the darkening (clouding) of the eyes, from חצל , to be dim, closed, and transferred to the sensation of light: to be dark ( vid., at Genesis 49:12; Psalms 10:8); the copper-nose of the drunkard is not under consideration; the word does not refer to the reddening, but the dimming of the eyes, and of the power of vision. The answer, Proverbs 23:30, begins, in conformity with the form of the question, with ל (write למאחרים , with Gaja to ל , according to Metheg-Setzung, §20, Michlol 46b): pain, and woe, and contention they have who tarry late at the wine (cf. Isaiah 5:11), who enter (viz., into the wine-house, Ecclesiastes 2:4, the house of revelry) “to search” mingled drink ( vid., at Proverbs 9:2; Isaiah 5:22). Hitzig: “they test the mixing, as to the relation of the wine to the water, whether it is correct.” But לחקור is like גּבּרים , Isaiah 5:22, meant in mockery: they are heroes, viz., heroes in drinking; they are searchers, such, namely, as seek to examine into the mixed wine, or also: thoroughly and carefully taste it (Fleischer).
The evil consequences of drunkenness are now registered. That one may not fall under this common sin, the poet, Proverbs 23:31, warns against the attraction which the wine presents to the sight and to the sense of taste: one must not permit himself to be caught as a prisoner by this enticement, but must maintain his freedom against it. התאדּם , to make, i.e., to show oneself red, is almost equivalent to האדים ; and more than this, it presents the wine as itself co-operating and active by its red play of colours (Fleischer). Regarding the antiptosis ( antiphonesis): Look not on the wine that is..., vid., at Genesis 1:3; yet here, where ראה means not merely “to see,” but “to look at,” the case is somewhat different. In 31b, one for the most part assumes that עינו signifies the eye of the wine, i.e., the pearls which play on the surface of the wine (Fleischer). And, indeed, Hitzig's translation, after Numbers 11:7: when it presents its appearance in the cup, does not commend itself, because it expresses too little. On the other hand, it is saying too much when Böttcher maintains that עין never denotes the mere appearance, but always the shining aspect of the object. But used of wine, עין appears to denote not merely aspect as such, but its gleam, glance; not its pearls, for which עיני would be the word used, but shining glance, by which particularly the bright glance, as out of deep darkness, of the Syro-Palestinian wine is thought of, which is for the most part prepared from red (blue) grapes, and because very rich in sugar, is thick almost like syrup. Jerome translates עינו well: ( cum splenduerit in vitro ) color ejus . But one need not think of a glass; Böttcher has rightly said that one might perceive the glittering appearance also in a metal or earthen vessel if one looked into it. The Chethı̂b בכיס is an error of transcription; the Midrash makes the remark on this, that בּכּיס fits the wine merchant, and בּכּוס the wine drinker. From the pleasure of the eye, 31c passes over to the pleasures of the taste: (that, or, as it) goeth down smoothly (Luther); the expression is like Ecclesiastes 7:10. Instead of הלך (like jâry , of fluidity) there stands here התהלך , commonly used of pleasant going; and instead of למישׁרים with ל , the norm בּמישׁרים with ב of the manner; directness is here easiness, facility (Arab. jusr ); it goes as on a straight, even way unhindered and easily down the throat.
(Note: The English version is, “when it moveth itself aright,” which one has perceived in the phenomenon of the tears of the wine, or of the movement in the glass. Vid., Ausland, 1869, p. 72.)
Proverbs 23:32 shows how it issues with the wine, viz., with those who immoderately enjoy it. Is אחריתו [its end] here the subject, as at Proverbs 5:4? We must in that case interpret ישּׁך and יפרשׁ as attributives, as the Syr. and Targ. translate the latter, and Ewald both. The issue which it brings with it is like the serpent which bites, etc., and there is nothing syntactically opposed to this (cf. e.g., Psalms 17:12); the future, in contradistinction to the participle, would not express properties, but intimations of facts. But the end of the wine is not like a serpent, but like the bite of a serpent. The wine itself, and independent of its consequences, is in and of itself like a serpent. In accordance with the matter, אחריתו may be interpreted, with Hitzig (after Jerome, in novissimo ), as acc. adverb. = באחריתו , Jeremiah 17:11. But why did not the author more distinctly write this word ' בא ? The syntactic relation is like Proverbs 29:21: אחריתו is after the manner of a substantival clause, the subject to that which follows as its virtual predicate: “its end is: like a serpent it biteth = this, that it biteth like a serpent.” Regarding צפעני , serpens regulus (after Schultens, from צפע = (Arab.) saf' , to breathe out glowing, scorching), vid., at Isaiah 7:8. The Hiph. הפרישׁ Schultens here understands of the division of the liver, and Hitzig, after the lxx, Vulgate, and Venet., of squirting the poison; both after the Arab. farth. But הפרישׁ , Syr. afrês , also signifies, from the root-idea of dividing and splitting, to sting, poindre, pointer , as Rashi and Kimchi gloss, whence the Aram. פּרשׁ , an ox-goad, with which the ancients connect פרשׁ (of the spur), the name for a rider, eques , and also a horse (cf. on the contrary, Fleischer in Levy, W.B. ii. 574); a serpent's bite and a serpent's sting (Lat. morsus, ictus , Varro: cum pepugerit colubra ) are connected together by the ancients.
(Note: However, we will not conceal it, that the post-bibl. Heb. does not know הפרישׁ in the sense of to prick, sting (the Midrash explains the passage by יפרישׁ בין לחיים , i.e., it cuts off life); and the Nestorian Knanishu of Superghan, whom I asked regarding aphrish , knew only of the meanings “to separate” and “to point out,” but not ”to sting.”)
The excited condition of the drunkard is now described. First, Proverbs 23:33 describes the activity of his imagination as excited to madness. It is untenable to interpret זרות here with Rashi, Aben Ezra, and others, and to translate with Luther: “so shall thine eyes look after other women” ( circumspicient mulieres impudicas , Fleischer, for the meaning to perceive, to look about for something, to seek something with the eyes, referring to Genesis 41:33). For זרות acquires the meaning of mulieres impudicae only from its surrounding, but here the parallel תּהפּכות (perverse things) directs to the neut. aliena (cf. Proverbs 15:28, רעות ), but not merely in the sense of unreal things (Ralbag, Meîri), but: strange, i.e., abnormal, thus bizarre, mad, dreadful things. An old Heb. parable compares the changing circumstances which wine produces with the manner of the lamb, the lion, the swine, the monkey; here juggles and phantoms of the imagination are meant, which in the view and fancy of the drunken man hunt one another like monkey capers. Moreover, the state of the drunken man is one that is separated from the reality of a life of sobriety and the safety of a life of moderation, 34a: thou act like one who lies in the heart of the sea. Thus to lie in the heart, i.e., the midst, of the sea as a ship goes therein, Proverbs 30:19, is impossible; there one must swim but swimming is not lying, and to thing on a situation like that of Jonah; Jonah 1:5, one must think also of the ship; but שׁכב does not necessarily mean “to sleep,” and, besides, the sleep of a passenger in the cabin on the high sea is of itself no dangerous matter. Rightly Hitzig: on the depth of the sea (cf. Jonah 2:4) - the drunken man, or the man overcome by wine (Isaiah 28:7), is like one who has sunk down into the midst of the sea; and thus drowned, or in danger of being drowned, he is in a condition of intellectual confusion, which finally passes over into perfect unconsciousness, cut off from the true life which passes over him like one dead, and in this condition he has made a bed for himself, as שׁכב denotes. With בלב בּראשׁ stands in complete contrast: he is like one who lies on the top of the mast. חבּל , after the forms דּבּר שׁלּם , is the sail-yard fastened by ropes, חבלים ,sepo (Isaiah 33:23). To lay oneself down on the sail-yard happens thus to no one, and it is no place for such a purpose; but as little as one can quarter him who is on the ridge of the roof, in the 'Alîja, because no one is able to lie down there, so little can he in the bower [ Mastkorb ] him who is here spoken of (Böttcher). The poet says, but only by way of comparison, how critical the situation of the drunkard is; he compares him to one who lies on the highest sail-yard, and is exposed to the danger of being every moment thrown into the sea; for the rocking of the ship is the greater in proportion to the height of the sail-yard. The drunkard is, indeed, thus often exposed to the peril of his life; for an accident of itself not great, or a stroke, may suddenly put an end to his life.
The poet represents the drunken man as now speaking to himself. He has been well cudgelled; but because insensible, he has not felt it, and he places himself now where he will sleep out his intoxication. Far from being made temperate by the strokes inflicted on him, he rejoices in the prospect, when he has awaked out of his sleep, of beginning again the life of drunkenness and revelry which has become a pleasant custom to him. חלה means not only to be sick, but generally to be, or to become, affected painfully; cf. Jeremiah 5:3, where חלוּ is not the 3rd pl. mas. of חיל , but of חלה . The words מתי אקיץ are, it is true, a cry of longing of a different kind from Job 7:4. The sleeping man cannot forbear from yielding to the constraint of nature: he is no longer master of himself, he becomes giddy, everything goes round about with him, but he thinks with himself: Oh that I were again awake! and so little has his appetite been appeased by his sufferings, that when he is again awakened, he will begin where he left off yesterday, when he could drink no more. מתי is here, after Nolde, Fleischer, and Hitzig, the relative quando ( quum ); but the bibl. usus loq. gives no authority for this. In that case we would have expected הקיצותי instead of אקיץ . As the interrog. מתי is more animated than the relat., so also אוסיף אבקשׁנּוּ is more animated (1 Samuel 2:3) than אוסיף לבקּשׁ . The suffix of אבקשׁנו refers to the wine: raised up, he will seek that which has become so dear and so necessary to him.
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Proverbs 23". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12