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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament
Proverbs 22



Verse 1-2

Proverbs 21:1

1 A good name has the preference above great riches;

For more than silver and gold is grace.

The proverb is constructed chiastically; the commencing word נבחר (cf. Proverbs 21:3), and the concluding word טוב , are the parallel predicates; rightly, none of the old translators have been misled to take together חן טוב , after the analogy of שׂכל טוב , Proverbs 3:14; Proverbs 13:15. שׁם also does not need טוב for nearer determination; the more modern idiom uses שׁם טוב ,

(Note: e.g. , Aboth iv. 17: there are three crowns: the crown of the Tôra, the crown of the priesthood, and the crown of royalty; but כתר שׁם טוב , the crown of a good name, excels them all.)

the more ancient uses שׁם alone ( e.g. , Ecclesiastes 7:1), in the sense of ὄνομα καλόν (thus here lxx); for being well known (renowned) is equivalent to a name, and the contrary to being nameless (Job 30:8); to make oneself a name, is equivalent to build a monument in honour of oneself; possibly the derivation of the word from שׁמה , to be high, prominent, known, may have contributed to this meaning of the word sensu eximio , for שׁם has the same root word as שׁמים . Luther translates שׁם by Das Gerücht [rumour, fame], in the same pregnant sense; even to the present day, renom , recommée , riputazione , and the like, are thus used. The parallel חן signifies grace and favour (being beloved); grace, which brings favour (Proverbs 11:16); and favour, which is the consequence of a graceful appearance, courtesy, and demeanour ( e.g. , Esther 2:15).

Proverbs 22:2

2 The rich and the poor meet together;

The creator of them all is Jahve.

From this, that God made them all, i.e. , rich and poor in the totality of their individuals, it follows that the meeting together is His will and His ordinance; they shall in life push one against another, and for what other purpose than that this relationship of mutual intercourse should be a school of virtue: the poor shall not envy the rich (Proverbs 3:31), and the rich shall not despise the poor, who has the same God and Father as himself (Proverbs 14:31; Proverbs 17:5; Proverbs 31:15); they shall remain conscious of this, that the intermingling of the diversities of station is for this end, that the lowly should serve the exalted, and the exalted should serve the lowly. Proverbs 29:13 is a variation; there also for both, but particularly for the rich, lies in the proverb a solemn warning.

Verse 3

The group of proverbs beginning here terminates at Proverbs 22:7, where, like the preceding, it closes with a proverb of the rich and the poor.

3 The prudent seeth the evil, and hideth himself;

But the simple go forward, and suffer injury.

This proverb repeats itself with insignificant variations, Proverbs 27:12. The Kerı̂ ונסתּר makes it more conformable to the words there used. The Chethı̂b is not to be read ויסתּר , for this Kal is inusit ., but ויסּתר , or much rather ויּסּתר , since it is intended to be said what immediate consequence on the part of a prudent man arises from his perceiving an evil standing before him; he sees, e.g. , the approaching overthrow of a decaying house, or in a sudden storm the fearful flood, and betimes betakes himself to a place of safety; the simple, on the contrary, go blindly forward into the threatening danger, and must bear the punishment of their carelessness. The fut. consec. 3a denotes the hiding of oneself as that which immediately follows from the being observant; the two perf. 3b, on the other hand, with or without ו , denote the going forward and meeting with punishment as occurring contemporaneously (cf. Psalms 48:6, and regarding these diverse forms of construction, at Habakkuk 3:10). “The interchange of the sing. and plur. gives us to understand that several or many simple ones are found for one prudent man” (Hitzig). The Niph . of ענשׁ signifies properly to be punished by pecuniary fine (Exodus 21:22) (cf. the post-bibl. קנס , קנס , to threaten punishment, which appears to have arisen from censere, to estimate, to lay on taxes); here it has the general meaning of being punished, viz., of the self-punishment of want of foresight.

Verse 4

4 The reward of humility is the fear of Jahve,

Is riches, and honour, and life.

As ענוה־צדק , Psalms 45:5, is understood of the two virtues, meekness and righteousness, so here the three Göttingen divines (Ewald, Bertheau, and Elster), as also Dunasch, see in ' ענוה יראת ה an asyndeton; the poet would then have omitted vav , because instead of the copulative connection he preferred the appositional (Schultens: praemium mansuetudinis quae est reverentia Jehovae ) or the permutative (the reward of humility; more accurately expressed: the fear of God). It is in favour of this interpretation that the verse following (Proverbs 22:5) also shows an asyndeton. Luther otherwise: where one abides in the fear of the Lord; and Oetinger: the reward of humility, endurance, calmness in the fear of the Lord, is...; Fleischer also interprets ' יראת ה as Proverbs 21:4, חטאת ( lucerna impiroum vitiosa ), as the accus. of the nearer definition. But then is the nearest-lying construction: the reward of humility is the fear of God, as all old interpreters understand 4a ( e.g. , Symmachus, ὕστερον πραΰ́τητος φόβος κυρίου ), a thought so incomprehensible, that one must adopt one or other of these expedients? On the one side, we may indeed say that the fear of God brings humility with it; but, on the other hand, it is just as conformable to experience that the fear of God is a consequence of humility; for actually to subordinate oneself to God, and to give honour to Him alone, one must have broken his self-will, and come to the knowledge of himself in his dependence, nothingness, and sin; and one consequence by which humility is rewarded, may be called the fear of God, because it is the root of all wisdom, or as is here said (cf. Proverbs 3:16; Proverbs 8:18), because riches, and honour, and life are in its train. Thus 4a is a concluded sentence, which in 4b is so continued, that from 4a the predicate is to be continued: the reward of humility is the fear of God; it is at the same time riches... Hitzig conjectures ' ראוּת ה , the beholding Jahve; but the visio Dei ( beatifica ) is not a dogmatic idea thus expressed in the O.T. עקב denotes what follows a thing, from עקב , to tread on the heels (Fleischer); for עקב (Arab. 'aḳib ) is the heels, as the incurvation of the foot; and עקב , the consequence (cf. Arab. 'aḳb , 'ukb , posteritas ), is mediated through the v. denom . עקב , to tread on the heels, to follow on the heels (cf. denominatives, such as Arab. batn , zahr , 'ân , עין , to strike the body, the back, the eye).

Verse 5

5 Thorns, snares, are on the way of the crooked;

He that guardeth his soul, let him keep far from them.

Rightly the Venet . ἄκανθαι παγίδες ἐν ὁδῷ στρεβλοῦ . The meaning of צנּים (plur. of צן , or צנּה , the same as צנינים ) and פּחים (from פּח , Arab. faḥ ), stands fast, though it be not etymologically verified; the placing together of these two words (the lxx obliterating the asyndeton: τρίβολος καὶ παγίδες ) follows the scheme שׁמשׁ ירח , Habakkuk 3:11. The עקּשׁ־לב (perverse of heart, crooked, Proverbs 17:20; Proverbs 11:20) drives his crooked winding way, corresponding to his habit of mind, which is the contrast and the perversion of that which is just, a way in which there are thorns which entangle and wound those who enter thereon, snares which unexpectedly bring them down and hold them fast as prisoners; the hedge of thorns, Proverbs 15:19, was a figure of the hindrances in the way of the wicked themselves. The thorn and snares here are a figure of the hindrances and dangers which go forth from the deceitful and the false in the way of others, of those who keep their souls, i.e. , who outwardly and morally take heed to their life (Proverbs 16:17; Proverbs 13:3, pred. here subj.), who will keep, or are disposed to keep, themselves from these thorns, these snares into which the deceitful and perverse-hearted seek to entice them.

Verse 6

6 Give to the child instruction conformably to His way;

So he will not, when he becomes old, depart from it.

The first instruction is meant which, communicated to the child, should be על־פּי , after the measure (Genesis 43:7 = post-bibl. לפי and כּפי ) of his way, i.e. , not: of his calling, which he must by and by enter upon (Bertheau, Zöckler), which דּרכּו of itself cannot mean; also not: of the way which he must keep in during life ( Kidduschin 30a); nor: of his individual nature (Elster); but: of the nature of the child as such, for דּרך נער is the child's way, as e.g. , derek col - haarets , Genesis 19:31, the general custom of the land; derek Mitsrâyim , Isaiah 10:24, the way (the manner of acting) of the Egyptians. The instruction of youth, the education of youth, ought to be conformed to the nature of youth; the matter of instruction, the manner of instruction, ought to regulate itself according to the stage of life, and its peculiarities; the method ought to be arranged according to the degree of development which the mental and bodily life of the youth has arrived at. The verb חנך is a denominative like עקב , Proverbs 22:4; it signifies to affect the taste, חך (= חנך ), in the Arab. to put date syrup into the mouth of the suckling; so that we may compare with it the saying of Horace, Ep . i. 2, 69: Quo semel est imbuta recens servabit odorem Testa diu . In the post-bibl. Heb. חנּוּך denotes that which in the language of the Church is called catechizatio ; חנוך ( לנער ) ספר is the usual title of the catechisms. It is the fundamental and first requisite of all educational instruction which the proverb formulates, a suitable motto for the lesson-books of pedagogues and catechists. ממּנּה [from it] refers to that training of youth, in conformity with his nature, which becomes a second nature, that which is imprinted, inbred, becomes accustomed. Proverbs 22:6 is wanting in the lxx; where it exists in MSS of the lxx, it is supplied from Theodotion; the Complut. translates independently from the Heb. text.

Verse 7

7 A rich man will rule over the poor,

And the borrower is subject to the man who lends.

“This is the course of the world. As regards the sing. and plur. in 7a, there are many poor for one rich; and in the Orient the rule is generally in the hands of one” (Hitzig). The fut. denotes how it will and must happen, and the substantival clause 7b, which as such is an expression of continuance (Arab. thabât , i.e. , of the remaining and continuing), denotes that contracting of debt brings naturally with it a slavish relation of dependence. לוה , properly he who binds himself to one se ei obligat , and מלוה , as Proverbs 19:17 ( vid ., l.c.), qui alterum ( mutui datione ) obligat , from לוה , Arab. lwy , to wind, turn, twist round (cog. root laff ), whence with Fleischer is also to be derived the Aram. לות , “into connection;” so אל , properly “pushing against,” refers to the radically related אלה (= ולה ), contiguum esse . אישׁ מלוה is one who puts himself in the way of lending, although not directly in a professional manner. The pred. precedes its subject according to rule. Luther rightly translates: and he who borrows is the lender's servant, whence the pun on the proper names: “Borghart [= the borrower] is Lehnhart's [= lender's] servant.”

Verse 8

The group now following extends to the end of this first collection of Solomon's proverbs; it closes also with a proverb of the poor and the rich.

8 He that soweth iniquity shall reap calamity;

And the rod of his fury shall vanish away.

“Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7); he that soweth good reapeth good, Proverbs 11:18; he that soweth evil reapeth evil, Job 4:8; cf. Hosea 10:12. עולה is the direct contrast of צדקה or ישׁר ( e.g. , Psalms 125:3; Psalms 107:42), proceeding from the idea that the good is right, i.e. , straight, rectum ; the evil, that which departs from the straight line, and is crooked. Regarding און , which means both perversity of mind and conduct, as well as destiny, calamity, vid ., Proverbs 12:21. That which the poet particularly means by עולה is shown in 8b, viz., unsympathizing tyranny, cruel misconduct toward a neighbour. שׁבט עברתו is the rod which he who soweth iniquity makes another to feel in his anger. The saying, that an end will be to this rod of his fury, agrees with that which is said of the despot's sceptre, Isaiah 14:5.; Psalms 125:3. Rightly Fleischer: baculus insolentiae ejus consumetur h. e. facultas qua pollet alios insolenter tractandi evanescet . Hitzig's objection, that a rod does not vanish away, but is broken, is answered by this, that the rod is thought of as brandished; besides, one uses כּלה of anything which has an end, e.g. , Isaiah 16:4. Other interpreters understand “the rod of his fury” of the rod of God's anger, which will strike the עוּל and יכלה , as at Ezekiel 5:13; Daniel 12:7 : “and the rod of His punishment will surely come” (Ewald, and similarly Schultens, Euchel, Umbreit). This though also hovers before the lxx: πληγὴν δὲ ἔργων αὐτοῦ ( עבדתו ) συντελέσει ( יכלּה ). But if the rod of punishment which is appointed for the unrighteous be meant, then we would have expected כּלהו . Taken in the future, the כּלות of the שׁבט is not its confectio in the sense of completion, but its termination or annihilation; and besides, it lies nearer after 8a to take the suffix of עברתו subjectively (Isaiah 14:6; Isaiah 16:6) than objectively. The lxx has, after Proverbs 22:8, a distich: -

ἄνδρα ἱλαρὸν καὶ δότην εὐλογεῖ ὁ θεὸς

ματαιότητα δὲ ἔργων αὐτοῦ συντελέσει .

The first line (2 Corinthians 9:7) is a variant translation of 9a (cf. Proverbs 21:17), the second ( ושׁוא עבדתו ) is a similar rendering of 8b.

Verse 9

9 He who is friendly is blessed;

Because he giveth of his bread to the poor.

The thought is the same as at Proverbs 11:25. טוב עין (thus to be written without Makkeph , with Munach of the first word, with correct Codd., also 1294 and Jaman), the contrast of רע עין , Proverbs 23:6; Proverbs 22:22, i.e. , the envious, evil-eyed, ungracious (post-bibl. also צר עין ), is one who looks kindly, is good-hearted, and as ἱλαρὸς δότης , shows himself benevolent. Such gentleness and kindness is called in the Mishna עין טובה ( Aboth ii. 13), or עין יפה . Such a friend is blessed, for he has also himself scattered blessings (cf. גּם־הוּא , Proverbs 11:25; Proverbs 21:13); he has, as is said, looking back from the blessing that has happened to him, given of his bread (Luther, as the lxx, with partitive genitive: seines brots = of his bread) to the poor; cf. the unfolding of this blessing of self-denying love, Isa 8. The lxx has also here another distich:

Νίκην καὶ τιμὴν περιποιεῖται ὁ δῶρα δοὺς ,

Τὴν μέντοι ψυχὴν ἀφαιρεῖται τῶν κεκτημένων .

The first line appears a variant translation of Proverbs 19:6, and the second of Proverbs 1:19, according to which selfishness, in contrast to liberality, is the subject to be thought of. Ewald translates the second line: And he (who distributes gifts) conquers the soul of the recipients. But κεκτημένος = בּעל ( בּעלים ) signifies the possessor, not the recipient of anything as a gift, who cannot also be here meant because of the μέντοι .

Verse 10

10 Chase away the scorner, and contention goeth out,

And strife and reproach rest.

If in a company, a circle of friends, a society (lxx ἔκβαλε ἐκ συνεδρίου ), a wicked man is found who ( vid ., the definition of לץ , Proverbs 21:24) treats religious questions without respect, moral questions in a frivolous way, serious things jestingly, and in his scornful spirit, his passion for witticism, his love of anecdote, places himself above the duty of showing reverence, veneration, and respect, there will arise ceaseless contentions and conflicts. Such a man one ought to chase away; then there will immediately go forth along with him dispeace ( מדון ), there will then be rest from strife and disgrace, viz., of the strife which such a one draws forth, and the disgrace which it brings on the society, and continually prepares for it. קלון is commonly understood of the injury, abuse, which others have to suffer from the scoffer, or also (thus Fleischer, Hitzig) of the opprobria of the contentious against one another. But קלון is not so used; it means always disgrace, as something that happens, an experience, vid ., at Proverbs 18:3. The praise of one who is the direct contrast of a לץ is celebrated in the next verse.

Verse 11

11 He that loveth heart-purity,

Whose is grace of lips, the king is his friend.

Thus with Hitzig, it is to be translated not: he who loveth with a pure heart - we may interpret טהור־לב syntactically in the sense of puritate cordis or purus corde (Ralbag, Ewald, after Proverbs 20:7), for that which follows אהב and is its supplement has to stand where possible as the accus. of the object; thus not: qui amat puritatem cordis, gratiosa erunt labia ejus (de Dieu, Geier, Schultens, C. B. Michaelis, Fleischer), for between heart-purity and graciousness of speech there exists a moral relation, but yet no necessary connection of sequence; also not: he who loves purity of heart, and grace on his lips (Aben Ezra, Schelling, Bertheau), for “to love the grace of one's own lips” is an awkward expression, which sounds more like reprehensible self-complacency than a praiseworthy endeavour after gracious speech. Excellently Luther:

“He who has a true heart and amiable speech,

The king is his friend.”

טהור־לב is not adjectival, but substantival; טהר־ is thus not the constr. of the mas. טהור , as Job 17:10, but of the segolate טהר , or (since the ground-form of גּבהּ , 1 Samuel 16:7, may be גּבהּ as well as גּבהּ ) of the neut. טהור , like קדשׁ , Psalms 46:5; Psalms 65:5 : that which is pure, the being pure = purity (Schultens). הן שׂפתיו (gracefulness of his lips) is the second subject with the force of a relative clause, although not exactly thus thought of, but: one loving heart-purity, gracefulness on his lips - the king is his friend. Ewald otherwise: “he will be the king's friend,” after the scheme Proverbs 13:4; but here unnecessarily refined. A counsellor and associate who is governed by a pure intention, and connects therewith a gentle and amiable manner of speech and conversation, attaches the king to himself; the king is the רעה ( רע ), the friend of such an one, and he also is “the friend of the king,” 1 Kings 4:5. It is a Solomonic proverb, the same in idea as Proverbs 16:13. The lxx, Syr., and Targ. introduce after אהב the name of God; but 11b does not syntactically admit of this addition. But it is worth while to take notice of an interpretation which is proposed by Jewish interpreters: the friend of such an one is a king, i.e. , he can royally rejoice in him and boast of him. The thought is beautiful; but, as the comparison of other proverbs speaking of the king shows, is not intended.

Verse 12

12 The eyes of Jahve preserve knowledge;

So he frustrateth the words of the false.

The phrase “to preserve knowledge” is found at Proverbs 5:2; there, in the sense of to keep, retain; here, of protecting, guarding; for it cannot possibly be said that the eyes of God keep themselves by the rule of knowledge, and thus preserve knowledge; this predicate is not in accord with the eyes, and is, as used of God, even inappropriate. On the other hand, after “to preserve,” in the sense of watching, guarding a concrete object is to be expected, cf. Isaiah 26:3. We need not thus with Ewald supply יודע ; the ancients are right that דעת , knowledge, stands metonymically for אישׁ (Meîri), or אנשׁי (Aben Ezra), or יודעי דעת (Arama); Schultens rightly: Cognitio veritatis ac virtutis practica fertur ad homines eam colentes ac praestantes . Where knowledge of the true and the good exists, there does it stand under the protection of God. 12b shows how that is meant, for there the perf. is continued in the second consec. modus ( fut. consec .): there is thus protection against the assaults of enemies who oppose the knowledge which they hate, and seek to triumph over it, and to suppress it by their crooked policy. But God stands on the side of knowledge and protects it, and consequently makes vain the words (the outspoken resolutions) of the deceitful. Regarding סלף ( סלף ), vid ., Proverbs 11:3 and Proverbs 19:3. The meaning of סלּף דּברי is here essentially different from that in Exodus 23:8; Deuteronomy 16:19 : he perverteth their words, for he giveth them a bearing that is false, i.e. , not leading to the end. Hitzig reads רעות [wickedness] for דעת , which Zöckler is inclined to favour: God keeps the evil which is done in His eyes, and hinders its success; but “to observe wickedness” is an ambiguous, untenable expression; the only passage that can be quoted in favour of this “to observe” is Job 7:20. The word דעת , handed down without variation, is much rather justified.

Verse 13

13 The sluggard saith, “A lion is without,

I shall be slain in the midst of the streets.”

Otherwise rendered, Proverbs 26:13. There, as here, the perf. אמר has the meaning of an abstract present, Gesen. §126. 3. The activity of the industrious has its nearest sphere at home; but here a work is supposed which requires him to go forth (Psalms 104:3) into the field (Proverbs 24:27). Therefore חוּץ stands first, a word of wide signification, which here denotes the open country outside the city, where the sluggard fears to meet a lion, as in the streets, i.e. , the rows of houses forming them, to meet a רצח ( מרצּח ), i.e. , a murder from motives of robbery of revenge. This strong word, properly to destroy, crush, Arab. raḍkh , is intentionally chosen: there is designed to be set forth the ridiculous hyperbolical pretence which the sluggard seeks for his slothfulness (Fleischer). Luther right well: “I might be murdered on the streets.” But there is intentionally the absence of אוּלי [perhaps] and of פּן [lest]. Meîri here quotes a passage of the moralists: ממופתי העצל הנבואה (prophesying) belongs to the evidences of the sluggard; and Euchel, the proverb העצלים מתנבאים (the sluggard's prophecy), i.e. , the sluggard acts like a prophet, that he may palliate his slothfulness.

Verse 14

14 A deep pit is the mouth of a strange woman;

He that is cursed of God falleth therein.

The first line appears in a different form as a synonymous distich, Proverbs 23:27. The lxx translate στόμα παρανόμου without certainly indicating which word they here read, whether רע (Proverbs 4:14), or רשׁע (Proverbs 29:12), or נלוז (Proverbs 3:32). Proverbs 23:27 is adduced in support of זרות ( vid ., Proverbs 2:16); זנות (harlots) are meant, and it is not necessary thus to read with Ewald. The mouth of this strange woman or depraved Israelitess is a deep ditch ( שׁוּחה עמקּה , otherwise עמקה , as Proverbs 23:27, where also occurs עמוּקה

(Note: The text to Immanuel's Comment . (Naples 1487) has in both instances עמוּקה .)

namely, a snare-pit into which he is enticed by her wanton words; the man who stands in fellowship with God is armed against this syren voice; but the ' זעוּם ה , i.e. , he who is an object of the divine זעם ( Venet . κεχολωμένος τῷ ὀντωτῇ ), indignation, punishing evil with evil, falls into the pit, yielding to the seduction and the ruin. Schultens explains ' זעום ה by, is in quem despumat indignabundus ; but the meaning despumat is not substantiated; זעם , cf. Arab. zaghm , is probably a word which by its sound denoted anger as a hollow roaring, and like pealing thunder. The lxx has, after Proverbs 22:14, three tedious moralizing lines.

Verse 15

15 Folly is bound to the heart of a child;

The rod of correction driveth it forth.

Folly, i.e. , pleasure in stupid tricks, silly sport, and foolish behaviour, is the portion of children as such; their heart is as yet childish, and folly is bound up in it. Education first driveth forth this childish, foolish nature (for, as Menander says:

Ὁ μὴ δαρεὶς ἄνθρωπος οὐ παιδεύεται ),

and if effects this when it is unindulgently severe: the שׁבט מוּסר ( vid ., Proverbs 23:13) removeth אוּלת from the heart, for it imparts intelligence and makes wise (Proverbs 29:15). The lxx is right in rendering 16a: ἄνοια ἐξῆπται (from ἐξάπτειν ) καρδίας νέου ; but the Syr. has “here mangled the lxx, and in haste has read ἀνοίᾳ ἐξίπταται : folly makes the understanding of the child fly away” (Lagarde).

Verse 16

16 Whosoever oppresseth the lowly, it is gain to him;

Whosoever giveth to the rich, it is only loss.

It is before all clear that להרבּות and למחסור , as at Proverbs 21:5, למותר and למחסור , are contrasted words, and form the conclusions to the participles used, with the force of hypothetical antecedents. Jerome recognises this: qui calumniatur pauperem, ut augeat divitias suas, dabit ipse ditiori et egebit . So Rashi, who by עשׁיר thinks on heathen potentates. Proportionally better Euchel, referring עשׁק and נתן , not to one person, but to two classes of men: he who oppresses the poor to enrich himself, and is liberal toward the rich, falls under want. The antithetic distich thus becomes an integral one - the antithesis manifestly intended is not brought out. This may be said also against Bertheau, who too ingeniously explains: He who oppresses the poor to enrich himself gives to a rich man, i.e. , to himself, the enriched, only to want, i.e. , only to lose again that which he gained unrighteously. Ralbag is on the right track, for he suggests the explanation: he who oppresses the poor, does it to his gain, for he thereby impels him to a more energetic exercise of his strength; he who gives to the rich man does it to his own loss, because the rich man does not thank him for it, and still continues to look down on him. But if one refers לּו to the poor, then it lies nearer to interpret אך למחסור of the rich: he who gives presents to the rich only thereby promotes his sleepy indolence, and so much the more robs him of activity (Elster); for that which one gives to him is only swallowed up in the whirlpool of his extravagance (Zöckler). Thus Hitzig also explains, who remarks, under 17a: “Oppression produces reaction, awakens energy, and thus God on the whole overrules events” (Exodus 1:12). Similarly also Ewald, who thinks on a mercenary, unrighteous rich man: God finally lifts up the oppressed poor man; the rich man always becoming richer, on the contrary, is “punished for all his wickedness only more and more.” But with all these explanations there is too much read between the lines. Since אך למחדור (Proverbs 11:24; Proverbs 21:5) refers back to the subject: himself to mere loss, so also will it be here; and the lxx, Symmachus, Jerome (cf. also the Syr. auget malum suum ) are right when they also refer לו , not to the poor man, but to the oppressor of the poor. We explain: he who extorts from the poor enriches himself thereby; but he who gives to the rich has nothing, and less than nothing, thereby - he robs himself, has no thanks, only brings himself by many gifts lower and lower down. In the first case at least, 17a, the result corresponds to the intention; but in this latter case, 17b, one gains only bitter disappointment.

Verses 17-19

Proverbs 22:17-21, forming the introduction to this appendix, are these Words of the Wise:

17 Incline thine ear and hear the words of the wise,

And direct thine heart to my knowledge!

18 For it is pleasant if thou keep them in thine heart;

Let them abide together on thy lips.

19 That thy trust may be placed in Jahve,

I have taught thee to-day, even thee!

20 Have not I written unto thee choice proverbs,

Containing counsels and knowledge,

21 To make thee to know the rule of the words of truth,

That thou mightest bring back words which are truth to them that send thee?

From Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16 are the “Proverbs of Solomon,” and not “The Words of the Wise;” thus the above παραίνεσις is not an epilogue, but a prologue to the following proverbs. The perfects הודעתּיך and כתבתּי refer, not to the Solomonic proverbial discourses, but to the appendix following them; the preface commends the worth and intention of this appendix, and uses perfects because it was written after the forming of the collection. The author of this preface ( vid ., pp. 23, 36, vol. i.) is no other than the author of chap. 1-9. The הט (with Mehuppach , after Thorath Emeth , p. 27) reminds us of Proverbs 4:20; Proverbs 5:1. The phrase שׁית לב , animum advertere , occurs again in the second appendix, Proverbs 24:32. נעים is repeated at Proverbs 23:8; Proverbs 24:4; but נעם with נעם is common in the preface, chap. 1-9. כּי־נעים contains, as at Psalms 135:3; Psalms 147:1, its subject in itself. כּי־תּשׁמרם is not this subject: this that thou preservest them, which would have required rather the infin. שׁמרם (Psalms 133:1) or לשׁמרם ; but it supposes the case in which appears that which is amiable and praiseworthy: if thou preservest them in thy heart, i.e. , makest them thoughtfully become thy mental possession. The suffix ēm refers to the Words of the Wise, and mediately also to לדעתּי , for the author designates his practical wisdom דעתי , which is laid down in the following proverbs, which, although not composed by him, are yet penetrated by his subjectivity. Regarding בּטן , which, from meaning the inner parts of the body, is transferred to the inner parts of the mind, vid ., under Proverbs 20:27. The clause 18b, if not dependent on כי , would begin with ויכּנוּ . The absence of the copula and the antecedence of the verb bring the optative rendering nearer. Different is the syntactical relation of Proverbs 5:2, where the infin. is continued in the fin. The fut. Niph . יכּנוּ , which, Proverbs 4:27, meant to be rightly placed, rightly directed, here means: to stand erect, to have continuance, stabilem esse . In Proverbs 22:19, the fact of instruction precedes the statement of its object, which is, that the disciple may place his confidence in Jahve, for he does that which is according to His will, and is subject to His rule. מבטחך , in Codd. and correct editions with Pathach ( vid ., Michlol 184b); the ח is as virtually doubled; vid ., under Proverbs 21:22. In 19b the accentuation הודעתיך היום is contrary to the syntax; Codd. and old editions have rightly הודעתיך היום , for אף־אתּה is, after Gesen. §121. 3, an emphatic repetition of “thee;” אף , like גּם , Proverbs 23:15; 1 Kings 21:19. Hitzig knows of no contrast which justifies the emphasis. But the prominence thus effected is not always of the nature of contrast (cf. Zechariah 7:5, have ye truly fasted to me, i.e. , to serve me thereby), here it is strong individualizing; the te etiam te is equivalent to, thee as others, and thee in particular. Also that, as Hitzig remarks, there does not appear any reason for the emphasizing of “to-day,” is incorrect: היּום is of the same signification as at Psalms 95:7; the reader of the following proverbs shall remember later, not merely in general, that he once on a time read them, but that he to-day, that he on this definite day, received the lessons of wisdom contained therein, and then, from that time forth, became responsible for his obedience or his disobedience.

In 20a the Chethı̂b שלשום denotes no definite date; besides, this word occurs only always along with תּמול ( עתמול ). Umbreit, Ewald, Bertheau, however, accept this “formerly (lately),” and suppose that the author here refers to a “Book for Youths,” composed at an earlier period, without one seeing what this reference, which had a meaning only for his contemporaries, here denotes. The lxx reads כתבתּ , and finds in 20a, contrary to the syntax and the usus loq ., the exhortation that he who is addressed ought to write these good doctrines thrice ( τρισσῶς ) on the tablet of his heart; the Syr. and Targ. suppose the author to say that he wrote them three times; Jerome, that he wrote them threefold - both without any visible meaning, since threefold cannot be equivalent to manchfeltiglich (Luther) [= several times, in various ways]. Also the Kerı̂ שׁלשׁים , which without doubt is the authentic word, is interpreted in many unacceptable ways; Rashi and Elia Wilna, following a Midrash explanation, think on the lessons of the Law, the Prophets, and the Hagiographa; Arama, on those which are referable to three classes of youth; Malbim (as if here the author of the whole Book of Proverbs, from 1 to 31, spake), on the supposed three chief parts of the Mishle ; Dächsel better, on chap. 1-9, as the product of the same author as this appendix. Schultens compares Ecclesiastes 4:12, and translates triplici filo nexa . Kimchi, Meîri, and others, are right, who gloss שׁלישׁים by דברים נכבדים , and compare נגידים , Proverbs 8:6; accordingly the Veneta , with the happy quid pro quo , by τρισμέγιστα . The lxx translates the military שׁלישׁ by τριστάτης ; but this Greek word is itself obscure, and is explained by Hesychius (as well as by Suidas, and in the Etymologicum ) by Regii satellites qui ternas hastas manu tenebant , which is certainly false. Another Greek, whom Angellius quotes, says, under Exodus 15:4, that τριστάτης was the name given to the warriors who fought from a chariot, every three of whom had one war-chariot among them; and this appears, according to Exodus 14:7; Exodus 15:4, to be really the primary meaning. In the period of David we meet with the word שׁלישׁים as the name of the heroes (the Gibbôrı̂m ) who stood nearest the king. The shalish -men form the élite troops that stood highest in rank, at whose head stood two triads of heroes - Jashobeam at the head of the first trias, and thus of the shalish -men generally; Abishai at the head of the second trias, who held an honourable place among the shalish -men, but yet reached not to that first trias, 2 Samuel 23:8. (= 1 Chronicles 11:11.). The name השּׁלישׁים ( Apoc . 2 Samuel 23:8, השּׁלשׁי , and 2 Samuel 23:13, 1 Chronicles 27:6, incorrectly השּׁלשׁים ) occurs here with reference to the threefold division of this principal host; and in regard to the use of the word in the time of Pharaoh, as well as in the time of the kings, it may be granted that shalish denotes the Three-man ( triumvir ), and then generally a high military officer; so that שׁלשׁים here has the same relation to נגידים , Proverbs 8:6, as ducalia to principalia . The name of the chief men (members of the chief troop) is transferred to the chief proverbs, as, James 2:8, that law which stands as a king at the head of all the others is called the “royal law;” or, as Plato names the chief powers of the soul, μέρη ἡγεμόνες . As in this Platonic word-form, so shalishim here, like negidim there, is understood neut. cf. under Proverbs 8:6, and ריקים , Proverbs 12:11; ישׁרים , Proverbs 16:13. The ב of בּמעצות (occurring at Proverbs 1:31 also) Fleischer rightly explains as the ב of uniting or accompanying: chief proverbs which contain good counsels and solid knowledge.

In the statement of the object in Proverbs 22:21, we interpret that which follows להודיעך not permutat.: ut te docerem recta, verba vera (Fleischer); but קשׁט (ground-form to קשׁט , Psalms 60:6) is the bearer of the threefold idea: rectitudinem , or, better, regulam verborum veritatis . The (Arab.) verb ḳasiṭa means to be straight, stiff, inflexible (synon. צדק , to be hard, tight, proportionately direct); and the name ḳisṭ denotes not only the right conduct, the right measure ( quantitas justa ), but also the balance, and thus the rule or the norm. In 21b, אמרים אמת (as e.g. , Zechariah 1:13; vid ., Philippi, Status Constr . p. 86f.) is equivalent to אמרי אמת ; the author has this second time intentionally chosen the appositional relation of connection: words which are truth; the idea of truth presents itself in this form of expression more prominently. Impossible, because contrary to the usus loq ., is the translation: ut respondeas verba vera iis qui ad te mittunt (Schultens, Fleischer), because שׁלח , with the accus. following, never means “to send any one.” Without doubt השׁיב and שׁלח stand in correlation to each other: he who lets himself be instructed must be supposed to be in circumstances to bring home, to those that sent him out to learn, doctrines which are truth, and thus to approve himself. The subject spoken of here is not a right answer or a true report brought back to one giving a commission; and it lies beyond the purpose and power of the following proverbs to afford a universal means whereby persons sent out are made skilful. The שׁלחים [senders] are here the parents or guardians who send him who is to be instructed to the school of the teacher of wisdom (Hitzig). Yet it appears strange that he who is the learner is just here not addressed as “my son,” which would go to the support of the expression, “to send to school,” which is elsewhere unused in Old Hebrew, and the שׁלחי of another are elsewhere called those who make him their mandatar , Proverbs 10:26; Proverbs 25:13; 2 Samuel 24:13. The reference to the parents would also be excluded if, with Norzi and other editors, לשׁלחך were to be read instead of לשׁלחיך (the Venet . 1521, and most editions). Therefore the phrase לשׁעליך , which is preferred by Ewald, recommends itself, according to which the lxx translates, τοῖς προβαλλομένοις σοι , which the Syro-Hexap. renders

(Note: The Syr. n. fem . awchda ( אוּחדא , Psalms 49:5, Targ.) is equivalent to Heb. חידה , from (Syr.) achd , אחד = אחז , Nehemiah 7:3, to shut up, properly, to lay hold on and retain; the Arab. akhdhat means magic, incantation; as seizing and making fast.)

by להנון דאחדין לך אוחדתא yb , i.e. , to those who lay problems before thee ( vid ., Lagarde). The teacher of wisdom seeks to qualify him who reads the following proverbs, and permits himself to be influenced by them, to give the right answer to those who question him and go to him for counsel, and thus to become himself a teacher of wisdom.

Verse 22-23

After these ten lines of preliminary exhortation, there now begins the collection of the “Words of the Wise” thus introduced. A tetrastich which, in its contents, connects itself with the last proverb of the Solomonic collection, Proverbs 22:16, forms the commencement of this collection:

22 Rob not the lowly because he is lowly;

And oppress not the humble in the gate.

23 For Jahve will conduct their cause,

And rob their spoilers of life.

Though it may bring gain, as said Proverbs 22:16, to oppress the דּל , the lowly or humble, yet at last the oppressor comes to ruin. The poet here warns against robbing the lowly because he is lowly, and thus without power of defence, and not to be feared; and against doing injustice to the עני , the bowed down, and therefore incapable of resisting in the gate, i.e. , in the court of justice. These poor men have not indeed high human patrons, but One in heaven to undertake their cause: Jahve will conduct their cause ( יריב ריבם , as at Proverbs 23:10), i.e. , will undertake their vindication, and be their avenger. דּכּא ( דּכּה ), Aram. and Arab. daḳḳ (cf. דּקק , Arab. daḳḳ ), signifies to crush anything so that it becomes broad and flat, figuratively to oppress, synon. עשׁק (Fleischer). The verb קבע has, in Chald. and Syr., the signification to stick, to fix (according to which Aquila here translates καθηλοῦν , to nail; Jerome, configere ); and as root-word to קבּעת , the signification to be arched, like (Arab.) ḳab' , to be humpbacked; both significations are here unsuitable. The connection here requires the meaning to rob; and for Malachi 3:8 also, this same meaning is to be adopted, robbery and taking from one by force (Parchon, Kimchi), not: to deceive (Köhler, Keil), although it might have the sense of robbing by withholding or refraining from doing that which is due, thus of a sacrilege committed by omission or deception. The Talm. does not know the verb קבע in this meaning; but it is variously found as a dialectic word for גזל .

(Note: Thus Rosch ha-schana 26b: Levi came once to N.N. There a man came to meet him, and cried out קבען פלניא . Levi knew not what he would say, and went into the Madrash-house to ask. One answered him: He is a robber ( גזלן ) said that one to thee; for it is said in the Scriptures (Malachi 3:8), “Will a man rob God?” etc. ( vid ., Wissenschaft Kunst Judenthum , p. 243). In the Midrash, שׁוחר טוב , to Psalms 57:1-11, R. Levi says that אתה קיבע לי is used in the sense of אתה גוזל לי . And in the Midrash Tanchuma , P. תרומה , R. Levi answers the question, “What is the meaning of קבע , Malachi 3:8?” - It is an Arabic expression. An Arabian, when he wishes to say to another מה אתה גוזלני , says instead of it, מה אתה קובעני . Perhaps קבע is cogn. to קבץ ; the R. קב coincides in several groups of languages (also the Turkish ḳb ) with the Lat. capere .)

Schultens' etymological explanation, capitium injicere (after Arab. ḳab' , to draw back and conceal the head), is not satisfactory. The construction, with the double accus., follows the analogy of הכּהוּ נפשׁ and the like, Gesen. §139. 2. Regarding the sing. נפשׁ , even where several are spoken of, vid ., under Proverbs 1:19.

Verse 24-25

Another tetrastich follows:

24 Have no intercourse with an angry man,

And with a furious man go thou not;

25 Lest thou adopt his ways,

And bring destruction upon thy soul.

The Piel רעה , Judges 14:20, signifies to make or choose any one as a friend or companion ( רעה , רע ); the Hithpa . התרעה (cf. at Proverbs 18:24), to take to oneself (for oneself) any one as a friend, or to converse with one; אל־תּתרע sounds like אל־תּשׁתּע , Isaiah 41:10, with Pathach of the closed syllable from the apocope. The angry man is called בּעל אף , as the covetous man בּעל נפשׁ , Proverbs 23:2, and the mischievous man בּעל מזמּות , Proverbs 24:8; vid ., regarding בּעל at Proverbs 1:19 and Proverbs 18:9. אישׁ חמות is related superlat. to אישׁ חמה , Proverbs 15:18 (cf. Proverbs 29:22), and signifies a hot-head of the highest degree. לא תבוא is meant as warning (cf. Proverbs 16:10). בּוא את , or בוא עם , Psalms 26:4, to come along with one, is equivalent to go into fellowship or companionship with one, which is expressed by הלך את , Proverbs 13:20, as בוא ב means, Joshua 23:7, Joshua 23:12, to enter into communion with one, venire in consuetudinem . This בוא את is not a trace of a more recent period of the language. Also תּאלף , discas , cannot be an equivalent for it: Heb. poetry has at all times made use of Aramaisms as elegancies. אלף , Arab. אלף , ילף , Arab. âlifa , signifies to be entrusted with anything = to learn ( Piel אלּף , to teach, Job 15:15, and in Elihu's speeches), or also to become confidential with one (whence אלּוּף , companion, confidant, Proverbs 2:17); this אלף is never a Heb. prose word; the bibl. אלּוּף is only used at a later period in the sense of teacher. ארחות .reh are the ways, the conduct (Proverbs 2:20, etc.), or manner of life (Proverbs 1:19) which any one enters upon and follows out, thus manners as well as lot, condition. In the phrase “to bring destruction,” לקח is used as in our phrase Schaden nehmen [to suffer injury]; the ancient language also represented the forced entrance of one into a state as a being laid hold on, e.g. , Job 18:20, cf. Isaiah 13:8; here מוקשׁ is not merely equivalent to danger (Ewald, falsely: that thou takest not danger for thy soul), but is equivalent to destruction, sin itself is a snare (Proverbs 29:6); to bring a snare for oneself is equivalent to suffer from being ensnared. Whosoever comes into a near relation with a passionate, furious, man, easily accommodates himself to his manners, and, hurried forward by him and like him to outbreaks of anger, which does that which is not right before God, falls into ruinous complications.

Verse 26-27

A third distich follows:

26 Be not among those who strike hands,

Among those who become surety for loans.

27 If thou hast nothing to pay,

Why shall he take away thy bed from under thee?

To strike hands is equivalent to, to be responsible to any one for another, to stake one's goods and honour for him, Proverbs 6:1; Proverbs 11:15; Proverbs 17:18 - in a word, ערב , seq. acc ., to pledge oneself for him (Genesis 43:9), or for the loan received by him, משּׁאה , Deuteronomy 24:10 (from השּׁה , with ב , of the person and accus. of the thing: to lend something to one on interest). The proverb warns against being one of such sureties (write בּערבים with Cod. 1294, and old impressions such as the Venice, 1521), against acting as they do; for why wouldest thou come to this, that when thou cast not pay ( שׁלּם , to render a full equivalent reckoning, and, generally, to pay, Proverbs 6:31),

(Note: After Ben-Asher, the pointing is אם־אין־לך ; while, on the contrary, Ben-Naphtali prefers אם־אין לך ; vid ., my Genesis (1869), pp. 74 (under Genesis 1:3) and 81. So, without any bearing on the sense, Ben-Asher points למּה with Tarcha , Ben-Naphtali with Mercha .)

he (the creditor) take away thy bed from under thee? - for, as Proverbs 20:16 says, thus improvident suretyships are wont to be punished.

Verse 28

A fourth proverb - a distich - beginning with the warning אל :

28 Remove not the perpetual landmark

Which thy ancestors have set up.

28a = Proverbs 23:10. Regarding the inviolability of boundaries established by the law, vid ., at Proverbs 15:25. גּבוּל עולם denotes “the boundary mark set up from ancient times, the removal of which were a double transgression, because it is rendered sacred by its antiquity” ( Orelli , p. 76). נסג = סוּג signifies to remove back, Hiph . to shove back, to move away. אשׁר has the meaning of ( ὅριον ) ὅ , τι , quippe quod . Instead of עולם , the Mishna reads, Pea v. 6, עולים , which in the Jerusalem Gemara one Rabbi understands of those brought up out of Egypt, another of the poor; for “to rise” (in the world) is a euphemism ( לשׁון כבוד ) for “to come down” (be reduced in circumstances).

(Note: As an analogical example, סגּי נהור , seeing clearly = blind.)

Verse 29

After these four proverbs beginning with אל , a new series begins with the following tristich:

29 Seest thou a man who is expert in his calling -

Before kings may he stand;

Not stand before obscure men;

i.e. , he can enter into the service of kings, and needs not to enter into the service of mean men = he is entitled to claim the highest official post. חזית , in Proverbs 26:12 = Proverbs 29:20, interchanging with ראית , is perf. hypotheticum (cf. Proverbs 24:10; Proverbs 25:16): si videris ; the conclusion which might begin with דּע כּי expresses further what he who sees will have occasion to observe. Rightly Luther: Sihestu einen Man endelich ( vid ., at Proverbs 21:5) in seinem geschefft, u.s.w . = seest thou a man expert in his business, etc.. מהיר denotes in all the three chief dialects one who is skilful in a manner not merely by virtue of external artistic ability, but also by means of intellectual mastery of it. התיצּב לפני , to enter on the situation of a servant before any one; cf. Job 1:6; Job 2:1. עמד לפני , 1 Samuel 16:21; 1 Kings 10:8. Along with the pausal form יתיצּב , there is also found in Codd. the form יתיצּב (the ground-form to יתיצּב , whence that pausal form is lengthened), which Ben-Bileam defends, for he reckons this word among “the pathachized pausal forms.” חשׁכּים , in contrast to מלכים , are the obscuri = ignobiles . The Targ. translate the Heb. דּל and אביון by חשׁיך and חשׁוך . Kimchi compares Jeremiah 39:10, where העם הדּלּים is translated by חשׁיכיּא (cf. 2 Kings 24:14; 2 Kings 25:12). חלכּה ( חלכּה ) is the old Heb. synonym in Ps 10. The poet seems here to transfer the Aram. usus loq . into the Heb.


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The Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.

Bibliography Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Proverbs 22:4". 1854-1889.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, November 28th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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