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1 These also are proverbs of Solomon,
Which the men of Hezekiah the king of Judah have collected.
Hezekiah, in his concern for the preservation of the national literature, is the Jewish Pisistratos, and the “men of Hezekiah” are like the collectors of the poems of Homer, who were employed by Pisistratos for that purpose. גּם־אלּה is the subject, and in Cod. 1294, and in the editions of Bomberg 1515, Hartmann 1595, Nissel, Jablonsky, Michaelis, has Dechî. This title is like that of the second supplement, Proverbs 24:23. The form of the name חזקיּה , abbreviated from יחזקיּהוּ חזקיּהוּ ), is not favourable to the derivation of the title from the collectors themselves. The lxx translates: Αὗται αἱ παιδεῖαι Σαλωμῶντος αἱ ἀδιάκριτοι (cf. James 3:17), ἃς ἐξεγράψαντο οἱ φίλοι Ἐζεκίου , for which Aquila has ἃς μετῆραν ἄνδρες ἐζεκίου , Jerome, transtulerunt . העתיק signifies, like (Arab.) nsaḥ , נסח , to snatch away, to take away, to transfer from another place; in later Heb.: to transcribe from one book into another, to translate from one language into another: to take from another place and place together; the Whence? remains undetermined: according to the anachronistic rendering of the Midrash מגניזתם , i.e., from the Apocrypha; according to Hitzig, from the mouths of the people; more correctly Euchel and others: from their scattered condition, partly oral, partly written. Vid., regarding העתיק , Zunz, in Deutsch-Morgenl. Zeitsch. xxv. 147f., and regarding the whole title, vol. i. pp. 5, 6; regarding the forms of proverbs in this second collection, vol. i. p. 17; regarding their relation to the first, and their end and aim, vol. i. pp. 25, 26. The first Collection of Proverbs is a Book for Youth, and this second a Book for the People.
It is characteristic of the purpose of the book that it begins with proverbs of the king:
It is the glory of God to conceal a thing;
And the glory of the king to search out a matter.
That which is the glory of God and the glory of the king in itself, and that by which they acquire glory, stand here contrasted. The glory of God consists in this, to conceal a matter, i.e., to place before men mystery upon mystery, in which they become conscious of the limitation and insufficiency of their knowledge, so that they are constrained to acknowledge, Deuteronomy 29:28, that “secret things belong unto the Lord our God.” There are many things that are hidden and are known only to God, and we must be contented with that which He sees it good to make known to us.
(Note: Cf. von Lasaulx, Philosophie der Geschichte, p. 128f.: “God and Nature love to conceal the beginning of things.”)
The honour of kings, on the contrary, who as pilots have to steer the ship of the state (Proverbs 11:14), and as supreme judges to administer justice (1 Kings 3:9), consists in this, to search out a matter, i.e., to place in the light things that are problematical and subjects of controversy, in conformity with their high position, with surpassing intelligence, and, in conformity with their responsibility, with conscientious zeal. The thought that it is the glory of God to veil Himself in secrecy (Isaiah 55:1-13:15; cf. 1 Kings 8:12), and of the king, on the contrary, not to surround himself with an impenetrable nimbus, and to withdraw into inaccessible remoteness - this thought does not, immediately at least, lie in the proverb, which refers that which is concealed, and its contrary, not to the person, but to a matter. Also that God, by the concealment of certain things, seeks to excite to activity human research, is not said in this proverb; for 2b does not speak of the honour of wise men, but of kings; the searching out, 2b, thus does not refer to that which is veiled by God. But since the honour of God at the same time as the welfare of men, and the honour of the king as well as the welfare of his people, is to be thought of, the proverb states that God and the king promote human welfare in very different ways - God, by concealing that which sets limits to the knowledge of man, that he may not be uplifted; and the king, by research, which brings out the true state of the matter, and thereby guards the political and social condition against threatening danger, secret injuries, and the ban of offences unatoned for. This proverb, regarding the difference between that which constitutes the honour of God and of the king, is followed by one which refers to that in which the honour of both is alike.
3 The heavens in height, and the earth in depth,
And the heart of kings are unsearchable.
This is a proverb in the priamel-form, vid., p. 13. The praeambulum consists of three subjects to which the predicate אין חקר [= no searching out] is common. “As it is impossible to search through the heavens and through the earth, so it is also impossible to search the hearts of common men (like the earth), and the hearts of kings (like the heavens)” (Fleischer). The meaning, however, is simple. Three unsearchable things are placed together: the heavens, with reference to their height, stretching into the impenetrable distance; the earth, in respect to its depth, reaching down into the immeasurable abyss; and the heart of kings - it is this third thing which the proverb particularly aims at - which in themselves, and especially with that which goes on in their depths, are impenetrable and unsearchable. The proverb is a warning against the delusion of being flattered by the favour of the king, which may, before one thinks of it, be withdrawn or changed even into the contrary; and a counsel to one to take heed to his words and acts, and to see to it that he is influenced by higher motives than by the fallacious calculation of the impression on the view and disposition of the king. The ל in both cases is the expression of the reverence, as e.g., at 2 Chronicles 9:22. וארץ , not = והארץ , but like Isaiah 26:19; Isaiah 65:17, for וארץ , which generally occurs only in the st. constr.
There now follows an emblematic ( vid., vol. i. p. 10) tetrastich:
4 Take away the dross from silver,
So there is ready a vessel for the goldsmith;
5 Take away the wicked from the king,
And his throne is established by righteousness.
The form הגו (cf. the inf. Poal הגו , Isaiah 59:13) is regarded by Schultens as showing a ground-form הגו ; but there is also found e.g., עשׂו , whose ground-form is עשׂי ; the verb הגה , R. הג (whence Arab. hajr , discedere ), cf. יגה (whence הגה , semovit , 2 Samuel 20:13 = Syr. âwagy , cf. Arab. âwjay , to withhold, to abstain from), signifies to separate, withdraw; here, of the separation of the סיגים , the refuse, i.e., the dross ( vid., regarding the plena scriptio , Baer's krit. Ausg. des Jesaia, under Proverbs 1:22); the goldsmith is designated by the word צרף , from צרף morf , to turn, change, as he who changes the as yet drossy metal by means of smelting, or by purification in water, into that which is pure. In 5a הגה is, as at Isaiah 27:8, transferred to a process of moral purification; what kind of persons are to be removed from the neighbourhood of the king is shown by Isaiah 1:22-23. Here also (as at Isa. l.c.) the emblem or figure of Proverbs 25:4 is followed in Proverbs 25:5 by its moral antitype aimed at. The punctuation of both verses is wonderfully fine and excellent. In Proverbs 25:4, ויצא is not pointed ויצא , but as the consecutive modus ויּצא ; this first part of the proverb refers to a well-known process of art: the dross is separated from the silver ( inf. absol., as Proverbs 12:7; Proverbs 15:22), and so a vessel (utensil) proceeds from the goldsmith, for he manufactures pure silver; the ל is here similarly used as the designation of the subject in the passive, Proverbs 13:13; Proverbs 14:20. In Proverbs 25:5, on the contrary, ויּכּון ויּכּן ) is not the punctuation used, but the word is pointed indicatively ויכּון ; this second part of the proverb expresses a moral demand ( inf. absol. in the sense of the imperative, Gesen. §131, 4b like Proverbs 17:12, or an optative or concessive conjunction): let the godless be removed, לפני מלך , i.e., not from the neighbourhood of the king, for which the words are מלּפני מלך ; also not those standing before the king, i.e., in his closest neighbourhood (Ewald, Bertheau); but since, in the absolute, הגה , not an act of another in the interest of the king, but of the king himself, is thought of: let the godless be removed from before the king, i.e., because he administers justice (Hitzig), or more generally: because after that Psalm (101), which is the “mirror of princes,” he does not suffer him to come into his presence. Accordingly, the punctuation is בּצּדק , not בּצדק (Proverbs 16:12); because such righteousness is meant as separates the רשׁע from it and itself from him, as Isaiah 16:5 ( vid., Hitzig), where the punctuation of בּחסד denotes that favour towards Moab seeking protection.
There now follows a second proverb with מלך , as the one just explained was a second with מלכים : a warning against arrogance before kings and nobles.
6 Display not thyself before the king,
And approach not to the place of the great.
7 For better than one say to thee, “Come up hither,”
Than that they humble thee before a prince,
Whom thine eyes had seen.
The גּדלים are those, like Proverbs 18:16, who by virtue of their descent and their office occupy a lofty place of honour in the court and in the state. נדיב ( vid., under Proverbs 8:16) is the noble in disposition and the nobleman by birth, a general designation which comprehends the king and the princes. The Hithpa. התהדּר is like the reflex forms Proverbs 12:9; Proverbs 13:7, for it signifies to conduct oneself as הדוּר or נהדּר ( vid., Proverbs 20:29), to play the part of one highly distinguished. עמד has, 6b, its nearest signification: it denotes, not like נצּב , standing still, but approaching to, e.g., Jeremiah 7:2. The reason given in Proverbs 25:7 harmonizes with the rule of wisdom, Luke 14:10.: better is the saying to thee, i.e., that one say to thee (Ewald, §304b), עלה הנּה (so the Olewejored is to be placed), προσανάβηθι ἀνώτερον (thus in Luke), than that one humble thee לפני נדיב , not: because of a prince (Hitzig), for לפני nowhere means either pro (Proverbs 17:18) or propter , but before a prince, so that thou must yield to him (cf. Proverbs 14:19), before him whom thine eyes had seen, so that thou art not excused if thou takest up the place appropriate to him. Most interpreters are at a loss to explain this relative. Luther: “which thine eyes must see,” and Schultens: ut videant oculi tui . Michaelis, syntactically admissible: quem videre gestiverunt oculi tui , viz., to come near to him, according to Bertheau, with the request that he receives some high office. Otherwise Fleischer: before the king by whom thou and thine are seen, so much the more felt is the humiliation when it comes upon one after he has pressed so far forward that he can be perceived by the king. But נדיב is not specially the king, but any distinguished personage whose place he who has pressed forward has taken up, and from which he must now withdraw when the right possessor of it comes and lays claim to his place. אשׁר is never used in poetry without emphasis. Elsewhere it is equivalent to נתנש , quippe quem , here equivalent to רפנש , quem quidem . Thine eyes have seen him in the company, and thou canst say to thyself, this place belongs to him, according to his rank, and not to thee - the humiliation which thou endurest is thus well deserved, because, with eyes to see, thou wert so blind. The lxx, Syr., Symmachus (who reads 8a, לרב , εις πλῆθος ), and Jerome, refer the words “whom thine eyes had seen” to the proverb following; but אשר does not appropriately belong to the beginning of a proverb, and on the supposition that the word לרב is generally adopted, except by Symmachus, they are also heterogeneous to the following proverb:
8 Go not forth hastily to strife,
That it may not be said, “What wilt thou do in the end thereof,
When now thy neighbour bringeth disgrace upon thee?”
9 Art thou striving with thy neighbour? strive with him,
But disclose not the secret of another;
10 That he who heareth it may not despise thee,
And thine evil name depart no more.
Whether ריב in לריב is infin., as at Judges 21:22, or subst., as at 2 Chronicles 19:8, is not decided: ad litigandum and ad litem harmonize. As little may it be said whether in אל־תּצא [go not forth], a going out to the gate (court of justice), or to the place where he is to be met who is to be called to account, is to be thought of; in no respect is the sense metaphorical: let not thyself transgress the bounds of moderation, ne te laisse pas emporter ; יצא לרב is correlate to בּוא לרוב , Judges 21:22. The use of פּן in 8b is unprecedented. Euchel and Löwenstein regard it as an imper.: reflect upon it (test it); but פּנה does not signify this, and the interjectional הס does not show the possibility of an imper. Kal פּן , and certainly not פּן פּן ). The conj. פּן is the connecting form of an original subst. (= panj ), which signifies a turning away. It is mostly connected with the future, according to which Nolde, Oetinger, Ewald, and Bertheau explain מה indefinite, something, viz., unbecoming. In itself, it may, perhaps, be possible that פן מה was used in the sense of ne quid ( Venet. μήποτέ τι ); but “to do something,” for “to commit something bad,” is improbable; also in that case we would expect the words to be thus: פן תעשׂה מה . Thus מה will be an interrogative, as at 1 Samuel 20:10 ( vid., Keil), and the expression is brachyogical: that thou comest not into the situation not to know what thou oughtest to do (Rashi: פן תבא לידי לא תדע הם לעשׂות ), or much rather anakoluth.; for instead of saying פּן־לא תדע מה־לּעשׂות , the poet, shunning this unusual פן לא , adopts at once the interrogative form: that it may not be said at the end thereof (viz., of the strife); what wilt thou do? (Umbreit, Stier, Elster, Hitzig, and Zöckler). This extreme perplexity would occur if thy neighbour (with whom thou disputest so eagerly and unjustly) put thee to shame, so that thou standest confounded ( כלם , properly to hurt, French blesser ). If now the summons 9a follows this warning against going out for the purpose of strife: fight out thy conflict with thy neighbour, then ריבך , set forth with emphasis, denotes not such a strife as one is surprised into, but that into which one is drawn, and the tuam in causam tuam is accented in so far as 9b localizes the strife to the personal relation of the two, and warns against the drawing in of an אחר , i.e., in this case, of a third person: and expose not the secret of another אל־תּגל (after Michlol 130a, and Ben-Bileam, who places the word under the ' פ פתחין בס , is vocalized with Pathach on ג , as is Cod. 1294, and elsewhere in correct texts). One ought not to bring forward in a dispute, as material of proof and means of acquittal, secrets entrusted to him by another, or secrets which one knows regarding the position and conduct of another; for such faithlessness and gossiping affix a stigma on him who avails himself of them, in the public estimation, Proverbs 25:10; that he who hears it may not blame thee ( חסּד = Aram. חסּד , vid., under Proverbs 14:34), and the evil report concerning thee continue without recall. Fleischer: ne infamia tua non recedat i.e., nunquam desinat per ora hominum propagari , with the remark, “in דבּה , which properly means in stealthy creeping on of the rumour, and in שׁוּב lies a (Arab.) tarshyḥ ,” i.e., the two ideas stand in an interchangeable relation with a play upon the words: the evil rumour, once put in circulation, will not again retrace its steps; but, on the contrary, as Virgil says:
Mobilitate viget viresque acquirit eundo .
In fact, every other can sooner rehabilitate himself in the public estimation that he who is regarded as a prattler, who can keep no secret, or as one so devoid of character that he makes public what he ought to keep silent, if he can make any use of it in his own interest. In regard to such an one, the words are continually applicable, hic niger est, hunc tu, Romane, caveto , Proverbs 20:19. The lxx has, instead of ודבתך 10b, read ומריבתך , and translated it with the addition of a long appendix: “They quarrel, and hostilities will not cease, but will be to thee like death. Kindness and friendship deliver, let these preserve thee, that thou mayest not become one meriting reproaches (Jerome: ne exprobrabilis fias ), but guard thy ways, εὐσυναλλάκτως .”
The first emblematical distich of this collection now follows:
11 Golden apples in silver salvers.
A word spoken according to its circumstances.
The Syr. and Jerome vocalize דּבר דּבר , and the Targ. דּבר דּבר ; both are admissible, but the figure and that which is represented are not placed in so appropriate a relation as by דּבר דּבר ; the wonderfully penetrating expression of the text, which is rendered by the traditional nikkud , agrees here with the often occurring דּבר (= מדבּר ), also its passive דּבוּר . The defective writing is like, e.g., בּטח , Psalms 112:7, and gives no authority to prefer דּבּר מדבּר (Böttcher). That דּברי , corresponding to the plur. תּפּוּחי , is not used, arises from this, that דבר is here manifestly not a word without connection, but a sentence of motive, contents, and aim united. For על־אפניו , the meaning of בּעתּו presents itself from Proverbs 15:23, according to which, among the old interpreters, Symmachus, Jerome, and Luther render “at its time.” Abulwalîd compared the Arab. âiffan ( âibban , also 'iffan , whence 'aly 'iffanihi , justo tempore ), which, as Orelli has shown in his Synon. der Zeitbegriffe, p. 21f., comes from the roots af ab , to drive (from within) going out, time as consisting of individual moments, the one of which drives on the other, and thus denotes time as a course of succession. One may not hesitate as to the prep. על , for אפנים would, like עתּות , denote the circumstances, the relations of the time, and על would, as e.g., in על־פּי and על־דּברתי , have the meaning of κατά . But the form אפניו , which like חפניו , Leviticus 16:12, sounds dualistic, appears to oppose this. Hitzig supposes that אפנים may designate the time as a circle, with reference to the two arches projecting in opposite directions, but uniting themselves together; but the circle which time describes runs out from one point, and, moreover, the Arab. names for time âfaf , âifaf , and the like, which interchange with âiffan , show that this does not proceed from the idea of circular motion. Ewald and others take for אפניו the meaning of wheels (the Venet., after Kimchi, ἐπὶ τῶν τροχῶν αὐτῆς ), whereby the form is to be interpreted as dual of אפן אופן , “a word driven on its wheels,” - so Ewald explains: as the potter quickly and neatly forms a vessel on his wheels, thus a fit and quickly framed word. But דבר signifies to drive cattle and to speak = to cause words to follow one another (cf. Arab. syâḳ , pressing on = flow of words), but not to drive = to fashion in that artisan sense. Otherwise Böttcher, “a word fitly spoken, a pair of wheels perfect in their motion,” to which he compares the common people “in their jesting,” and adduces all kinds of heterogeneous things partly already rejected by Orelli ( e.g., the Homeric ἐπιτροχάδην , which is certainly no commendation). But “jesting” is not appropriate here; for what man conceives of human speech as a carriage, one only sometimes compares that of a babbler to a sledge, or says of him that he shoves the cart into the mud.
(Note: It is something different when the weaver's beam, minwâl in Arab., is metaph. for kind and manner: they are 'aly minwâl wâḥad , is equivalent to they are of a like calibre, Arab. kalib , which is derived from καλόπους ( καλοπόδιον ), a shoemaker's last.)
Is it then thus decided that אפניו is a dual? It may be also like אשׂריו , the plur. especially in the adverbial expression before us, which readily carried the abbreviation with it ( vid., Gesen. Lehrgebr. §134, Anm. 17). On this supposition, Orelli interprets אפן from אפן , to turn, in the sense of turning about, circumstances, and reminds of this, that in the post-bibl. Heb. this word is used as indefinitely as τρόπος , e.g., באופן מה , quodammodo ( vid., Reland's Analecta Rabbinica, 1723, p. 126). This late Talm. usage of the word can, indeed, signify nothing as to the bibl. word; but that אפנים , abbreviated אפנים , can mean circumstances, is warranted by the synon. אודות . Aquila and Theodotion appear to have thus understood it, for their ἐπὶ ἁρμόζουσιν αὐτῷ , which they substitute for the colourless οὕτως of the lxx, signifies: under the circumstances, in accordance therewith. So Orelli thus rightly defines: “ אפנים denote the âḥwâl , circumstances and conditions, as they form themselves in each turning of time, and those which are ascribed to דבר by the suffix are those to which it is proper, and to which it fits in. Consequently a word is commended which is spoken whenever the precise time arrives to which it is adapted, a word which is thus spoken at its time as well as at its place (van Dyk, fay mahllah ), and the grace of which is thereby heightened.” Aben Ezra's explanation, על פנים הראויים , in the approved way, follows the opinion of Abulwalîd and Parchon, that אפניו is equivalent to פניו (cf. aly wajhihi , sua ratione ), which is only so far true, that both words are derived from R. פן , to turn. In the figure, it is questionable whether by תּפּוּחי זהב , apples of gold, or gold-coloured apples, are meant (Luther: as pomegranates and citrons); thus oranges are meant, as at Zechariah 4:12. הזּהב denotes golden oil. Since כסף , besides, signifies a metallic substance, one appears to be under the necessity of thinking of apples of gold; cf. the brazen pomegranates. But (1) apples of gold of natural size and massiveness are obviously too great to make it probable that such artistic productions are meant; (2) the material of the emblem is usually not of less value than that of which it is the emblem (Fleischer); (3) the Scriptures are fond of comparing words with flowers and fruits, Proverbs 10:31; Proverbs 12:14; Proverbs 13:2; Proverbs 18:20, and to the essence of the word which is rooted in the spirit, and buds and grows up to maturity through the mouth and the lips, the comparison with natural fruits corresponds better in any case than with artificial. Thus, then, we interpret “golden apples” as the poetic name for oranges, aurea mala , the Indian name of which with reference to or (gold) was changed into the French name orange, as our pomeranze is equivalent to pomum aurantium . משׂכּיּות is the plur. of משׂכּית , already explained, Proverbs 18:11; the word is connected neither with שׂכך , to twist, wreathe (Ewald, with most Jewish interpreters)
(Note: On this proceeds also the beautiful interpretation by Maimuni in the preface to More Nebuchim: Maskiyyôth sont des ciselures réticulaires , etc., according to Munk's translation from the Arab. text, vid., Kohut's Pers. Pentateuch-Uebers. (1871), p. 356. Accordingly Jewish interpreters ( e.g., Elia Wilna) understand under אפניו the four kinds of writing: פשׁט רמז דרושׁ , and סוד , which are comprehended under the memorial word פרדס .)
nor with שׂכה , to pierce, infigere (Redslob, vid., under Psalms 73:7); it signifies medal or ornament, from שׂכה , to behold (cf. שׂכיּה , θέα = θέαμα , Isaiah 2:6), here a vessel which is a delight to the eyes. In general the Venet. rightly, ἐν μορφώμασιν ἀργύρου ; Symmachus and Theodotion, more in accordance with the fundamental idea, ἐν περιβλέπτοις ἀργύρου ; the Syr. and Targ. specially: in vessels of embossed work ( נגוּדי , from נגד , to draw, to extend); yet more specially the lxx, ἐν ὁρμίσκῳ σαρδίου , on a chain of cornelian stone, for which, perhaps, ἐν φορμίσκῳ (Jäger) ἀργυρίου , in a little silver basket, is the original phrase. Aquila, after Bereschith rabba c. 93, translates by μῆλα χρύσου ἐν δίσκοις ἀργυφίου . Jerome: in lectis argenteis , appears to have fallen into the error of taking משב for משכב , lectus . Hitzig here emends a self-made ἅπαξ λεγ . Luther's “golden apples in silver baskets” is to be preferred.
(Note: A favourite expression of Goethe's, vid., Büchmann's Geflügelte Worte, 1688.)
A piece of sculpture which represents fruit by golden little disks or points within groups of leaves is not meant - for the proverb does not speak of such pretty little apples - but golden oranges are meant. A word in accordance with the circumstances which occasion it, is like golden oranges which are handed round in silver salvers or on silver waiters. Such a word is, as adopting another figure we might say, like a well-executed picture, and the situation into which it appropriately fits is like its elegant frame. The comparison with fruit is, however, more significant; it designates the right word as a delightful gift, in a way which heightens its impression and its influences.
Another proverb continues the commendation of the effective word; for it represents, in emblem, the interchangeable relation of speaker and hearer:
A golden earring and an ornament of fine gold -
A wise preacher to an ear that heareth;
i.e., as the former two ornaments form a beautiful ensemble, so the latter two, the wise preacher of morality and an attentive ear, form a harmonious whole: על , down upon, is explained by Deuteronomy 32:2. נזם , at Proverbs 11:12, standing along with באף , meant a ring for the nose; but here, as elsewhere, it means an earring (lxx, Jerome, Venet.), translated by the Syr. and Targ. by קדשׁא , because it serves as a talisman. A ring for the nose
(Note: Vid., Gieger's Zeitschrift, 1872, pp. 45-48, where it is endeavoured to be shown that נזם , as an earring, is rejected from the later biblical literature, because it had become “an object used in the worship of idols,” and that the word was used only of a ring for the nose as a permissible ornament, while עגיל was used for the earring. But that does not apply to the Solomonic era; for that, in the passage under review, נזם signifies a ring for the nose, is only a supposition of Geiger's, because it accords with his construction of history.)
cannot also be here thought of, because this ornament is an emblem of the attentive ear: willingly accepted chastisement or instruction is an ear-ornament to him who hears (Stier). But the gift of the wise preacher, which consists in rightly dividing the word of truth, 2 Timothy 2:15, is as an ornament for the neck or the breast חלי (= Arab. khaly , fem. חליה = ḥilyt ), of fine gold ( כּתם , jewel, then particularly precious gold, from כּתם , Arab. katam , recondere ).
(Note: Hitzig compares Arab. kumêt ; but this means bayard, as Lagarde remarks, the Greek κόμαιθος ; and if by כתם gold foxes (gold money) are to be thought of, yet they have nothing whatever to do with bayards (red-brown horses); cf. Beohmer, de colorum nominibus equinorum , in his Roman. Stud. Heft 2, 1872, p. 285.)
The Venet. well: κόσμος ἀπυροχρύσου (fine gold); on the contrary (perhaps in want of another name for gold), כתם is translated, by the lxx and Syr., by sardine; by the Targ., by emerald; and by Jerome, by margaritum.
(Note: Another Greek translates πίνωσις χρυσῆ . This πίνωσις is a philological mystery, the solution of which has been attempted by Bochart, Letronne, and Field.)
It looks well when two stand together, the one of whom has golden earrings, and the other wears a yet more precious golden necklace - such a beautiful mutual relationship is formed by a wise speaker and a hearer who listens to his admonitions.
The following comparative tristich refers to faithful service rendered by words:
Like the coolness of snow on a harvest day
Is a faithful messenger to them that send him:
He refresheth the soul of his master.
The coolness ( צנּה from צנן צנן , to be cool) of snow is not that of a fall of snow, which in the time of harvest would be a calamity, but of drink cooled with snow, which was brought from Lebanon or elsewhere, from the clefts of the rocks; the peasants of Damascus store up the winter's snow in a cleft of the mountains, and convey it in the warm months to Damascus and the coast towns. Such a refreshment is a faithful messenger ( vid., regarding ציר , Proverbs 13:17, here following קציר as a kind of echo) to them that send him ( vid., regarding this plur. at Proverbs 10:26, cf. Proverbs 22:21); he refreshes, namely ( ו explicativum, as e.g., Ezekiel 18:19, etenim filius , like the ו et quidem , Malachi 1:11, different from the ו of conditional clause Proverbs 23:3), the soul of his master; for the answer which he brings to his master refreshes him, as does a drink of snow-cooled water on a hot harvest day.
This proverb relates to the word which promises much, but remains unaccomplished:
Clouds and wind, and yet no rain -
A man who boasteth with a false gift.
Incorrectly the lxx and Targ. refer the predicate contained in the concluding word of the first line to all the three subjects; and equally incorrectly Hitzig, with Heidenheim, interprets מתּת שׁקר , of a gift that has been received of which one boasts, although it is in reality of no value, because by a lying promise a gift is not at all obtained. But as לחם כזבים , Proverbs 23:3, is bread which, as it were, deceives him who eats it, so מתת שׁקר is a gift which amounts to a lie, i.e., a deceitful pretence. Rightly Jerome: vir gloriosus et promissa non complens . In the Arab. ṣaliḍ , which Fleischer compares, the figure 14a and its counterpart 14b are amalgamated, for this word signifies both a boaster and a cloud, which is, as it were, boastful, which thunders much, but rains only sparsely or not at all. Similar is the Arab. khullab , clouds which send forth lightning, and which thunder, but yet give no rain; we say to one, magno promissor hiatu : thou art (Arab.) kabaraḳn khullabin , i.e., as Lane translates it: “Thou art only like lightning with which is no rain.” Schultens refers to this proverbial Arabic, fulmen nubis infecundae . Liberality is called (Arab.) nadnay , as a watering, cf. Proverbs 11:25. The proverb belongs to this circle of figures. It is a saying of the German peasants, “ Wenn es sich wolket, so will es regnen ” [when it is cloudy, then there will be rain]; but according to another saying, “ nicht alle Wolken regnen ” [it is not every cloud that yields rain]. “There are clouds and wind without rain.”
Three proverbs follow, which have this in common, that they exhort to moderation:
15 By forbearance is a judge won over,
And a gentle tongue breaketh the bone.
קצין ( vid., Proverbs 6:7) does not denote any kind of distinguished person, but a judge or a person occupying a high official position. And פּתּה does not here mean, to talk over or delude; but, like Jeremiah 20:7, to persuade, to win over, to make favourable to one; for ארך אפּים ( vid., Proverbs 14:29) is dispassionate calmness, not breaking out into wrath, which finally makes it manifest that he who has become the object of accusation, suspicion, or of disgrace, is one who nevertheless has right on his side; for indecent, boisterous passion injures even a just cause; while, on the contrary, a quiet, composed, thoughtful behaviour, which is not embarrassed by injustice, either experienced or threatened, in the end secures a decision in our favour. “Patience overcomes” is an old saying. The soft, gentle tongue (cf. רך , Proverbs 15:1) is the opposite of a passionate, sharp, coarse one, which only the more increases the resistance which it seeks to overcome. “Patience,” says a German proverb, “breaks iron;” another says, “Patience is stronger than a diamond.” So here: a gentle tongue breaketh the bone ( גּרם עצם , as at Proverbs 17:22), it softens and breaks to pieces that which is hardest. Sudden anger makes the evil still worse; long-suffering, on the contrary, operates convincingly; cutting, immoderate language, embitters and drives away; gentle words, on the contrary, persuade, if not immediately, yet by this, that they remain as it were unchangeable.
Another way of showing self-control:
Hast thou found honey? eat thy enough,
Lest thou be surfeited with it, and vomit it up.
Honey is pleasant, salutary, and thus to be eaten sparingly, Proverbs 24:13, but ne quid nimis . Too much is unwholesome, 27a: αὐτοῦ καὶ μέλιτος τὸ πλέον ἐστὶ χολή , i.e., even honey enjoyed immoderately is as bitter as gall; or, as Freidank says: des honges süeze erdruizet sô mans ze viel geniuzet [the sweetness of honey offends when one partakes too much of it]. Eat if thou hast found any in the forest or the mountains, דּיּךּ , thy enough (lxx τὸ ἱκανόν ; the Venet. τὸ ἀρκοῦν σοι ), i.e., as much as appeases thine appetite, that thou mayest not become surfeited and vomit it out ( והקאתו with Tsere, and א quiesc., as at 2 Samuel 14:10; vid., Michlol 116a, and Parchon under קוא ). Fleischer, Ewald, Hitzig, and others, place Proverbs 25:16 and Proverbs 25:17 together, so as to form an emblematic tetrastich; but he who is surfeited is certainly, in Proverbs 25:16, he who willingly enjoys, and in 17, he to whom it is given to enjoy without his will; and is not, then, Proverbs 25:16 a sentence complete in itself in meaning? That it is not to be understood in a purely dietetic sense (although thus interpreted it is a rule not to be despised), is self-evident. As one can suffer injury from the noblest of food if he overload his stomach therewith, so in the sphere of science, instruction, edification, there is an injurious overloading of the mind; we ought to measure what we receive by our spiritual want, the right distribution of enjoyment and labour, and the degree of our ability to change it in succum et sanguinem , - else it at last awakens in us dislike, and becomes an evil to us.
This proverb is of a kindred character to the foregoing. “If thy comrade eats honey,” says an Arabic proverb quoted by Hitzig, “do not lick it all up.” But the emblem of honey is not continued in this verse:
Make rare thy foot in thy neighbour's house,
Lest he be satiated with thee, and hate thee.
To make one's foot rare or dear from a neighbour's house is equivalent to: to enter it seldom, and not too frequently; הוקר includes in itself the idea of keeping at a distance (Targ. כּלה רגלך ; Symmachus, ὑπόστειλον ; and another: φίμωσον πόδα σου ), and מן has the sense of the Arab. 'an , and is not the comparative, as at Isaiah 13:12: regard thy visit dearer than the house of a neighbour (Heidenheim). The proverb also is significant as to the relation of friend to friend, whose reciprocal love may be turned into hatred by too much intercourse and too great fondness. But רעך is including a friend, any one with whom we stand in any kind of intercourse. “Let him who seeks to be of esteem,” says a German proverb, “come seldom;” and that may be said with reference to him whom his heart draws to another, and also to him who would be of use to another by drawing him out of the false way and guiding on the right path - a showing of esteem, a confirming of love by visiting, should not degenerate into forwardness which appears as burdensome servility, as indiscreet self-enjoyment; nor into a restless impetuosity, which seeks at once to gain by force that which one should allow gradually to ripen.
This group of proverbs has the word רע in each of them, connecting them together. The first of the group represents a false tongue:
The above proverb, which connects itself with Proverbs 25:18, not only by the sound רע , but also by שׁן , which is assonant with שׁנון , is followed by another with the catchword רע :
21 If thine enemy hunger, feed him with bread;
And if he thirst, give him water to drink.
22 For thereby thou heapest burning coals on his head,
And Jahve will recompense it to thee.
The translation of this proverb by the lxx is without fault; Paul cites therefrom Romans 12:20. The participial construction of 22a, the lxx, rightly estimating it, thus renders: for, doing this, thou shalt heap coals on his head. The expression, “thou shalt heap” ( σωρεύσεις ), is also appropriate; for חתה certainly means first only to fetch or bring fire ( vid., Proverbs 6:27); but here, by virtue of the constructio praegnans with על , to fetch, and hence to heap up - to pile upon. Burning pain, as commonly observed, is the figure of burning shame, on account of undeserved kindness shown by an enemy (Fleischer). But how burning coals heaped on the head can denote burning shame, is not to be perceived, for the latter is a burning on the cheeks; wherefore Hitzig and Rosenmüller explain: thou wilt thus bring on him the greatest pain, and appease thy vengeance, while at the same time Jahve will reward thy generosity. Now we say, indeed, that he who rewards evil with good takes the noblest revenge; but if this doing of good proceed from a revengeful aim, and is intended sensibly to humble an adversary, then it loses all its moral worth, and is changed into selfish, malicious wickedness. Must the proverb then be understood in this ignoble sense? The Scriptures elsewhere say that guilt and punishment are laid on the head of any one when he is made to experience and to bear them. Chrysostom and others therefore explain after Psalms 140:10 and similar passages, but thereby the proverb is morally falsified, and Proverbs 25:22 accords with Proverbs 25:21, which counsels not to the avenging of oneself, but to the requital of evil with good. The burning of coals laid on the head must be a painful but wholesome consequence; it is a figure of self-accusing repentance (Augustine, Zöckler), for the producing of which the showing of good to an enemy is a noble motive. That God rewards such magnanimity may not be the special motive; but this view might contribute to it, for otherwise such promises of God as Isaiah 58:8-12 were without moral right. The proverb also requires one to show himself gentle and liberal toward a needy enemy, and present a twofold reason for this: first, that thereby his injustice is brought home to his conscience; and, secondly, that thus God is well-pleased in such practical love toward an enemy, and will reward it; - by such conduct, apart from the performance of a law grounded in our moral nature, one advances the happiness of his neighbour and his own.
The next group of proverbs extends from Proverbs 25:23 to Proverbs 25:28.
23 Wind from the north produceth rain;
And a secret tongue a troubled countenance.
The north is called צפון , from צפן , to conceal, from the firmament darkening itself for a longer time, and more easily, like the old Persian apâkhtara , as (so it appears) the starless, and, like aquilo , the north wind, as bringing forward the black clouds. But properly the “fathers of rain” are, in Syria, the west and the south-west; and so little can צפון here mean the pure north wind, that Jerome, who knew from his own experience the changes of weather in Palestine, helps himself, after Symmachus ( διαλύει βροχήν ), with a quid pro quo out of the difficulty: ventus aquilo dissipat pluvias ; the Jewish interpreters (Aben Ezra, Joseph Kimchi, and Meîri) also thus explain, for they connect together תחולל , in the meaning תמנע , with the unintelligible חלילה (far be it!). But צפון may also, perhaps like ζόφος ( Deutsch. Morgenl. Zeitsch. xxi. 600f.), standing not without connection therewith, denote the northwest; and probably the proverb emphasized the northern direction of the compass, because, according to the intention of the similitude, he seeks to designate such rain as is associated with raw, icy-cold weather, as the north wind (Proverbs 27:16, lxx, Sir. 43:20) brings along with it. The names of the winds are gen. fem., e.g., Isaiah 43:6. תּחולל (Aquila, ὠδίνει ; cf. Proverbs 8:24, ὠδινήθην ) has in Codd., e.g., the Jaman., the tone on the penult., and with Tsere Metheg ( Thorath Emeth, p. 21) serving as העמדה . So also the Arab. nataj is used of the wind, as helping the birth of the rain-clouds. Manifestly פנים נזעמים , countenances manifesting extreme displeasure ( vid., the Kal זעם , Proverbs 24:24), are compared to rain. With justice Hitzig renders פנים , as e.g., John 2:6, in the plur. sense; because, for the influence which the tongue slandering in secret (Psalms 101:5) has on the slandered, the “sorrowful countenance” would not be so characteristic as for the influence which it exercises on the mutual relationships of men: the secret babbler, the confidential communication throwing suspicion, now on this one and now on that one, behind their backs, excites men against one another, so that one shows to another a countenance in which deep displeasure and suspicion express themselves.
24 Better to sit on the top of a roof,
Than a quarrelsome woman and a house in common.
A repetition of Proverbs 21:9.
25 Fresh water to a thirsty soul;
And good news from a far country.
Vid., regarding the form of this proverb, vol. i. p. 9; we have a similar proverb regarding the influence of good news at Proverbs 15:30. Fresh cold water is called at Jeremiah 18:14 מים קרים ; vid., regarding קר , 18:27. “ עיף , cogn. יעף , and עוּף , properly to become darkened, therefore figuratively like (Arab.) gushiya 'alyh , to become faint, to become feeble unto death, of the darkness which spreads itself over the eyes” (Fleischer).
This proverb, with the figure of “fresh water,” is now followed by one with the figure of a “fountain”:
26 A troubled fountain and a ruined spring -
A righteous man yielding to a godless man.
For the most part, in מט one thinks of a yielding in consequence of being forced. Thus e.g., Fleischer: as a troubled ruined spring is a misfortune for the people who drink out of it, or draw from it, so is it a misfortune for the surrounding of the righteous, when he is driven from his dwelling or his possession by an unrighteous man. And it is true: the righteous can be compared to a well ( מעין , well-spring, from עין , a well, as an eye of the earth, and מקור , fountain, from קוּר , R. קר כר , to round out, to dig out), with reference to the blessing which flows from it to its surroundings (cf. Proverbs 10:11 and John 7:38). But the words “yielding to” (contrast “stood before,” 2 Kings 10:4, or Joshua 7:12), in the phrase “yielding to the godless,” may be understood of a spontaneous as well as of a constrained, forced, wavering and yielding, as the expression in the Psalm בּל־אמּוט [ non movebor , Psalms 10:6] affirms the certainty of being neither inwardly nor outwardly ever moved or shaken. The righteous shall stand fast and strong in God without fearing the godless (Isaiah 51:12.), unmoveable and firm as a brazen wall (Jeremiah 1:17.). If, however, he is wearied with resistance, and from the fear of man, or the desire to please man, or from a false love of peace he yields before it, and so gives way - then he becomes like to a troubled fountain ( רפשׂ , cogn. רמס , Ezekiel 34:18; Isaiah 41:25; Jerome: fans turbatus pede ), a ruined spring; his character, hitherto pure, is now corrupted by his own guilt, and now far from being a blessing to others, his wavering is a cause of sorrow to the righteous, and an offence to the weak - he is useful no longer, but only injurious. Rightly Lagarde: “The verse, one of the most profound of the whole book, does not speak of the misfortunate, but of the fall of the righteous, whose sin compromises the holy cause which he serves, 2 Samuel 12:14.” Thus also e.g., Löwenstein, with reference to the proverb Sanhedrin 92b: also in the time of danger let not a man disown his honour. Bachja, in his Ethics, referring to this figure, 26a, thinks of the possibility of restoration: the righteous wavers only for the moment, but at last he comes right ( מתמוטט ועולה ). But this interpretation of the figure destroys the point of the proverb.
This verse, as it stands, is scarcely to be understood. The Venet. translates 27b literally: ἔρευνά τε δόξας αὐτῶν δόξα ; but what is the reference of this כּבדם ? Euchel and others refer it to men, for they translate: “to set a limit to the glory of man is true glory;” but the “glory of man” is denoted by the phrase כּבד אדם , not by כּבדם ; and, besides, חקר does not mean measure and limit. Oetinger explains: “To eat too much honey is not good; whereas the searching after their glory, viz., of pleasant and praiseworthy things, which are likened to honey, is glory, cannot be too much done, and is never without utility and honour;” but how can כּבדם be of the same meaning as כּבד הדברים אשׁר or הנמשׁלים כּדּבשׁ - such an abbreviation of the expression is impossible. Schultens, according to Rashi: vestigatio gravitatis eorum est gravitas , i.e., the searching out of their difficulty is a trouble; better Vitringa (since כבוד nowhere occurs in this sense of gravitas molesta ac pondere oppressura ): investigatio praestantiae eorum est gloriosa ; but Vitringa, in order to gain a connection to 27a, needs to introduce etiamsi , and in both explanations the reference of the כּבדם is imaginary, and it by no means lies near, since the Scripture uses the word כבוד of God, and His kingdom and name, but never of His law or His revelation. Thus also is an argument against Bertheau, who translates: the searching out of their glory (viz., of the divine law and revelation) is a burden, a strenuous occupation of the mind, since חקר does not in itself mean searching out, and is equivocally, even unintelligibly, expressed, since כבוד denotes, it is true, here and there, a great multitude, but never a burden (as כּבד ). The thought which Jerome finds in 27b: qui scrutator est majestatis opprimetur a gloria , is judicious, and connects itself synonym. with 27a; but such a thought is unwarranted, for he disregards the suff. of כּבדם , and renders כבוד in the sense of difficulty (oppression). Or should it perhaps be vocalized כּבדם (Syr., Targ., Theodotion, δεδοξασμένα = נכבּדות )? Thus vocalized, Umbreit renders it in the sense of honores ; Elster and Zöckler in the sense of difficultates ( difficilia ); but this plur., neither the biblical, nor, so far as I know, the post-bibl. usage of the word has ever adopted. However, the sense of the proverb which Elster and Zöckler gain is certainly that which is aimed at. We accordingly translate:
To surfeit oneself in eating honey is not good,
But as an inquirer to enter on what is difficult is honour.
We read כּבדם instead of כּבדם . This change commends itself far more than כּבד מכּבוד וחקר ), according to which Gesenius explains: nimium studium honoris est sine honore - impossible, for חקר does not signify nimium studium , in the sense of striving, but only that of inquiry: one strives after honour, but does not study it. Hitzig and Ewald, after the example of J. D. Michaelis, Arnoldi, and Ziegler, betake themselves therefore to the Arabic; Ewald explains, for he leaves the text unchanged: “To despise their honour (that is, of men) is honour (true, real honour);” Hitzig, for he changes the text like Gesenius: “To despise honour is more than honour,” with the ingenious remark: To obtain an order [ insigne ordinis ] is an honour, but not to wear it then for the first time is its bouquet. Nowhere any trace either in Hebrew or in Aramaic is to be found of the verb חקר , to despise (to be despised), and so it must here remain without example.
(Note: The Hebrew meaning investigare , and the equivalent Arabic ḥaḳr , contemnere ( contemtui esse ), are derivations from the primary meaning (R. חק ): to go down from above firmly on anything, and thus to press in (to cut in), or also to press downward.)
Nor have we any need of it. The change of כּבדם into כּבדם is enough. The proverb is an antithetic distich; 27a warns against inordinate longing after enjoyments, 27b praises earnest labour. Instead of דּבשׁ הרבּות , if honey in the mass were intended, the words would have been דּבשׁ הרבּה (Ecclesiastes 5:11; 1 Kings 10:10), or at least הרבּות דּבשׁ (Amos 4:9); הרבות can only be a n. actionis, and אכל דּבשׁ its inverted object (cf. Jeremiah 9:4), as Böttcher has discerned: to make much of the eating of honey, to do much therein is not good (cf. Proverbs 25:16). In 27b Luther also partly hits on the correct rendering: “and he who searches into difficult things, to him it is too difficult,” for which it ought to be said: to him it is an honour. כּבדם , viz., דברים , signifies difficult things, as ריקים , Proverbs 12:11, vain things. The Heb. כּבד , however, never means difficult to be understood or comprehended (although more modern lexicons say this),
(Note: Cf. Sir. 3:20f. with Ben-Sira's Heb. text in my Gesch. der jüd. Poesie, p. 204 (vv. 30-32); nowhere does this adj. כבד appears here in this warning against meditating over the transcendental.)
but always only burdensome and heavy, gravis , not difficilis . כבדם are also things of which the חקר , i.e., the fundamental searching into them (Proverbs 18:17; Proverbs 25:2.), costs an earnest effort, which perhaps, according to the first impression, appears to surpass the available strength (cf. Exodus 18:18). To overdo oneself in eating honey is not good; on the contrary, the searching into difficult subjects is nothing less than an eating of honey, but an honour. There is here a paronomasia. Fleischer translates it: explorare gravia grave est ; but we render grave est not in the sense of molestiam creat , but gravitatem parit (weight = respect, honour).
This verse, counselling restraint as to the spirit, is connected with the foregoing, which counsels to self-control as to enjoyment:
A city broken through, now without walls -
A man without self-control over his spirit.
A “city broken down” is one whose wall is “broken,” 2 Chronicles 32:5, whether it has met with breaches ( פּרצים ), or is wholly broken; in the former case also the city is incapable of being defended, and it is all one as if it had no wall. Such a city is like a man “who hath no control over his own spirit” (for the accentuation of the Heb. words here, vid., Thorath Emeth, p. 10): cujus spiritui nulla cohibitio (Schultens), i.e., qui animum suum cohibere non potest (Fleischer: עצר , R. צר , to press together, to oppress, and thereby to hold back). As such a city can be plundered and laid waste without trouble, so a man who knows not to hold in check his desires and affections is in constant danger of blindly following the impulse of his unbridled sensuality, and of being hurried forward to outbreaks of passion, and thus of bringing unhappiness upon himself. There are sensual passions ( e.g., drunkenness), intellectual ( e.g., ambition), mingled ( e.g., revenge); but in all of these a false ego rules, which, instead of being held down by the true and better ego, rises to unbounded supremacy.
(Note: Vid., Drbal's Empirische Psychologie, §137.)
Therefore the expression used is not לנפשׁו , but לרוּחו ; desire has its seat in the soul, but in the spirit it grows into passion, which in the root of all its diversities is selfishness ( Psychol. p. 199); self-control is accordingly the ruling of the spirit, i.e., the restraining (keeping down) of the false enslaved ego-life by the true and free, and powerful in God Himself.
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Proverbs 25". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13