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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament
Proverbs 3



Verse 3

With this verse the doctrine begins; אל (not לא ) shows the 3a does not continue the promise of Proverbs 3:2. חסד (R. חם , stringere, afficere ) is, according to the prevailing usage of the language, well-affectedness, it may be of God toward men, or of men toward God, or of men toward one another - a loving disposition, of the same meaning as the N.T. ἀγάπη ( vid ., e.g. , Hosea 6:6). אמת (from אמנת ), continuance, a standing to one's promises, and not falsifying just expectations; thus fidelity, πίστις , in the interrelated sense of fides and fidelitas . These two states of mind and of conduct are here contemplated as moral powers (Psalms 61:8; Psalms 43:3), which are of excellent service, and bring precious gain; and 4b shows that their ramification on the side of God and of men, the religious and the moral, remains radically inseparable. The suffix ם does not refer to the doctrine and the precepts, but to these two cardinal virtues. If the disciple is admonished to bind them about his neck ( vid ., Proverbs 1:9, cf. Proverbs 3:22), so here reference is made, not to ornament, nor yet to protection against evil influences by means of them, as by an amulet

(Note: Fleischer is here reminded of the giraffe in the Jardin des Plantes, the head of which was adorned by its Arabic keeper with strings and jewels, the object of which was to turn aside the ‛ain [the bad, mischievous look] from the precious beast.)

(for which proofs are wanting), but to the signet which was wont to be constantly carried (Genesis 38:18, cf. Song of Solomon 8:6) on a string around the neck. The parallel member 3c confirms this; 3b and 3c together put us in mind of the Tephillim (phylacteries), Exodus 13:16; Deuteronomy 6:8; Deuteronomy 11:18, in which what is here a figure is presented in external form, but as the real figure of that which is required in the inward parts. לוּח (from לוּח , Arab. l'ah , to begin to shine, e.g. , of a shooting star, gleaming sword; vid ., Wetzstein, Deutsch. morgenl. Zeitschr . xxii. 151f.) signifies the tablet prepared for writing by means of polish; to write love and fidelity on the tablet of the heart, is to impress deeply on the heart the duty of both virtues, so that one will be impelled to them from within outward (Jeremiah 31:33).

Verse 4

To the admonitory imper. there follows here a second, as Proverbs 4:4; Proverbs 20:13; Amos 5:4; 2 Chronicles 20:20, instead of which also the perf. consec. might stand; the counsellor wishes, with the good to which he advises, at the same time to present its good results. שׂכל is (1 Samuel 25:3) the appearance, for the Arab. shakl means forma , as uniting or binding the lineaments or contours into one figure, σχῆμα , according to which שׂכל טוב may be interpreted of the pleasing and advantageous impression which the well-built external appearance of a man makes, as an image of that which his internal excellence produces; thus, favourable view, friendly judgment, good reputation (Ewald, Hitzig, Zöckler). But everywhere else (Proverbs 13:15; Psalms 111:10; 2 Chronicles 30:22) this phrase means good, i.e. , fine, well-becoming insight, or prudence; and שׂכל has in the language of the Mishle no other meaning than intellectus , which proceeds from the inwardly forming activity of the mind. He obtains favour in the eyes of God and man, to whom favour on both sides is shown; he obtains refined prudence, to whom it is on both sides adjudicated. It is unnecessary, with Ewald and Hitzig, to assign the two objects to God and men. In the eyes of both at the same time, he who carries love and faithfulness in his heart appears as one to whom חן and שׂכל טוב must be adjudicated.

Verses 5-8

Were “kindness and truth” (Proverbs 3:3) understood only in relation to men, then the following admonition would not be interposed, since it proceeds from that going before, if there the quality of kindness and truth, not only towards man, but also towards God, is commended:

5 Trust in Jahve with thy whole heart,

And lean not on thine own understanding.

6 In all thy ways acknowledge Him,

And He will make plain thy paths.

7 Be not wise in thine own eyes;

Fear Jahve, and depart from evil.

8 Health will then come to thy navel,

And refreshing to thy bones.

From God alone comes true prosperity, true help. He knows the right way to the right ends. He knows what benefits us. He is able to free us from that which does us harm: therefore it is our duty and our safety to place our confidence wholly in Him, and to trust not to our own judgment. The verb בּטח , Arab. baṭḥ , has the root-meaning expandere , whence perhaps, by a more direct way than that noted under Psalms 4:6, it acquires the meaning confidere , to lean with the whole body on something, in order to rest upon it, strengthened by על , if one lean wholly - Fr. se reposer sur quelqu'un ; Ital. riposarsi sopra alcuno , - like השּׁען with אל , to lean on anything, so as to be supported by it; with על , to support oneself on anything (Fl.). דעהוּ (the same in form as שׂאהוּ , Numbers 11:12) is not fully represented by “acknowledge Him;” as in 1 Chronicles 28:9 it is not a mere theoretic acknowledgment that is meant, but earnest penetrating cognizance, engaging the whole man. The practico-mystical דעהוּ , in and of itself full of significance, according to O. and N.T. usage, is yet strengthened by toto corde . The heart is the central seat of all spiritual soul-strength; to love God with the whole heart is to concentrate the whole inner life on the active contemplation of God, and the ready observance of His will. God requites such as show regard to Him, by making plain their path before them, i.e. , by leading them directly to the right end, removing all hindrances out of their way. ארחתיך has Cholem in the first syllable ( vid ., Kimchi's Lex .).

(Note: In the st. constr. Proverbs 2:19, and with the grave suff. Proverbs 2:15, ǒ instead of ō is in order; but Ben-Asher's ארחתי , Job 13:27, cf. Job 33:11, is an inconsistency.)

“Be not wise in thine own eyes” is equivalent to ne tibi sapiens videare ; for, as J. H. Michaelis remarks, confidere Deo est sapere, sibi vero ac suae sapientiae, desipere . “Fear God and depart from evil” is the twofold representation of the εὐσέβεια , or practical piety, in the Chokma writings: Proverbs 16:6, the Mashal Psalms 34:10, Psalms 34:15, and Job 28:28 cf. Proverbs 1:2. For סר מרע , the post-biblical expression is ירא חטא .

Proverbs 3:8

The subject to תּהי ; (it shall be) is just this religious-moral conduct. The conjectural reading לבשׂרך (Clericus), לשׁרך = לשׁארך (Ewald, Hitzig), to thy flesh or body, is unnecessary; the lxx and Syr. so translating, generalize the expression, which is not according to their taste. שׁר , from שׁרר , Arab. sarr , to be fast, to bind fast, properly, the umbilical cord (which the Arabs call surr , whence the denom. sarra , to cut off the umbilical cord of the newborn); thus the navel, the origin of which coincides with the independent individual existence of the new-born, and is as the firm centre (cf. Arab. saryr , foundation, basis, Job , p. 487) of the existence of the body. The system of punctuation does not, as a rule, permit the doubling of ר , probably on account of the prevailing half guttural, i.e. , the uvular utterance of this sound by the men of Tiberias.

(Note: See my work, Physiologie u. Musik in ihrer Bedeutung für Grammatik besonders die hebräische , pp. 11-13.)

לשׁרּך here, and שׁרּך at Ezekiel 16:4, belong to the exceptions; cf. the expanded duplication in שׁררך , Song of Solomon 7:3, to which a chief form שׁרר is as little to be assumed as is a הרר to הררי . The ἅπ . γεγρ . רפאוּת , healing, has here, as מרפּא , Proverbs 4:22; Proverbs 16:24, and תּרוּפה , Ezekiel 47:12, not the meaning of restoration from sickness, but the raising up of enfeebled strength, or the confirming of that which exists; the navel comes into view as the middle point of the vis vitalis . שׁקּוּי is a Piel formation, corresponding to the abstract Kal formation רפאוּת ; the Arab. saqâ , used transit. (to give to drink), also saqqâ (cf. Pu . Job 21:24) and asqâ , like the Hebr. השׁקה ( Hiph . of שׁקה , to drink); the infin. (Arab.) saqy means, to the obliterating of the proper signification, distribution, benefaction, showing friendship, but in the passage before us is to be explained after Job 21:24 (the marrow of his bones is well watered; Arnheim - full of sap) and Proverbs 15:30. Bertheau and Hitzig erroneously regard Proverbs 3:8 as the conclusion to Proverbs 3:7, for they interpret רפאות as the subject; but had the poet wished to be so understood, he should have written וּתהי . Much rather the subject is devotion withdrawn from the evil one and turned to God, which externally proves itself by the dedication to Him of earthly possessions.

Verse 9-10

9 Honour Jahve with thy wealth,

And with the first-fruits of all thine increase:

10 Then shall thy barns be filled with plenty,

And thy vats overflow with must.

It may surprise us that the Chokma , being separated from the ceremonial law, here commends the giving of tithes. But in the first place, the consciousness of the duty of giving tithes is older than the Mosaic law, Genesis 28:22; in this case, the giving of tithes is here a general ethical expression. עשּׂר and מעשׂר do not occur in the Book of Proverbs; in the post-biblical phraseology the tithes are called חלק הגּבהּ , the portion of the Most High. כּבּד , as the Arab. waḳḳra , to make heavy, then to regard and deal with as weighty and solemn (opp. קלּל , to regard and treat as light, from קלל = Arab. hân , to be light). הון , properly lightness in the sense of aisance , opulency, forms with כּבּד an oxymoron ( fac Jovam gravem de levitate tua ), but one aimed at by the author neither at Proverbs 1:13 nor here. מן (in מהונך and ' מר , Proverbs 3:9) is in both cases partitive, as in the law of the Levitical tenths, Leviticus 27:30, and of the Challa (heave-offering of dough), Numbers 15:21, where also ראשׁית (in Hebrews 7:4, ἀκροθίνια ) occurs in a similar sense, cf. Numbers 18:12 (in the law of the Theruma or wave-offering of the priests), as also תּבוּאה in the law of the second tenths, Deuteronomy 14:22, cf. Numbers 18:30 (in the law of the tenths of the priests).

Proverbs 3:10

With ו apodosis imperativi the conclusion begins. שׂבע , satisfaction, is equivalent to fulness, making satisfied, and that, too, richly satisfied; תּירושׁ ;deif also is such an accusative, as verbs of filling govern it, for פּרץ , to break through especially to overflow, signifies to be or become overflowingly full (Job 1:10). אסם (from אסם , Chald. אסן , Syr. âsan , to lay up in granaries) is the granary, of the same meaning as the Arab. âkhzan (from khazan = חסן , Isaiah 23:18, recondere ), whence the Spanish magazen , the French and German magazin . יקב (from יקב , Arab. wakab , to be hollow) is the vat or tub into which the must flows from the wine-press ( גּת or פּוּרה ), λάκκος or ὑπολήνιον . Cf. the same admonition and promise in the prophetic statement of Malachi 3:10-12.

Verse 11-12

The contrast here follows. As God should not be forgotten in days of prosperity, so one should not suffer himself to be estranged from Him by days of adversity.

11 The school of Jahve, my son, despise thou not,

Nor loathe thou His correction;

12 For Jahve correcteth him whom He loveth,

And that as a father his son whom he loveth

Vid ., the original passage Job 5:17. There is not for the Book of Job a more suitable motto than this tetrastich, which expresses its fundamental thought, that there is a being chastened and tried by suffering which has as its motive the love of God, and which does not exclude sonship.

(Note: Here Procop. rightly distinguishes between παιδεία and τιμωρία .)

One may say that Proverbs 3:11 expresses the problem of the Book of Job, and Proverbs 3:12 its solution. מוּסר , παιδεία , we have translated “school,” for יסּר , παιδεύειν , means in reality to take one into school. Ahndung [punishment] or Rüge [reproof] is the German word which most corresponds to the Hebr. תּוכחה or תּוכחת . קוּץ ב (whence here the prohibitive תּקץ with אל ) means to experience loathing (disgust) at anything, or aversion (vexation) toward anything. The lxx (cited Hebrews 12:5.), μηδὲ ἐκλύου , nor be faint-hearted, which joins in to the general thought, that we should not be frightened away from God, or let ourselves be estranged from Him by the attitude of anger in which He appears in His determination to inflict suffering. In 12a the accentuation leaves it undefined whether יהוה as subject belongs to the relative or to the principal clause; the traditional succession of accents, certified also by Ben Bileam, is כי את אשׁר יאהב יהוה , for this passage belongs to the few in which more than three servants (viz., Mahpach , Mercha , and three Munachs ) go before the Athnach .

(Note: Vid ., Torath Emeth , p. 19; Accentuationssystem , vi. §6; the differences between Ben-Asher and Ben-Naphtali in the Appendixes to Biblia Rabbinica ; Dachselt's Biblia Accentuata , and Pinner's Prospectus , p. 91 (Odessa, 1845).)

The further peculiarity is here to be observed, that את , although without the Makkeph , retains its Segol , besides here only in Psalms 47:5; Psalms 60:2. 12b is to be interpreted thus (cf. Proverbs 9:5): “and (that) as a father the son, whom he loves.” The ו is explanatory, as 1 Samuel 28:3 (Gesenius, §155, 1a), and ירצה (which one may supplement by אתו or בּו ) is a defining clause having the force of a clause with אשׁר . The translation et ut pater qui filio bene cupit , is syntactically (cf. Isaiah 40:11) and accentually ( vid ., 13b) not less admissible, but translating “and as a father he holds his son dear,” or with Hitzig (after Jeremiah 31:10, a passage not quite syntactically the same), “and holds him dear, as a father his son” (which Zöckler without syntactical authority prefers on account of the 2nd modus, cf. e.g. , Psalms 51:18), does not seem a right parallel clause, since the giving of correction is the chief point, and the love only the accompanying consideration (Proverbs 13:24). According to our interpretation, יוכיח is to be carried forward in the mind from 12a. The lxx find the parallel word in יכאב , for they translate μαστιγοῖ δὲ πάντα υἱὸν , ὃν παραδέχεται , and thus have read יכאב or ויכאב .

Verse 13-14

Such submission to God, the All-wise, the All-directing, who loves us with fatherly affection, is wisdom, and such wisdom is above all treasures.

13 Blessed is the man who has found wisdom,

And the man who has gained understanding;

14 For better is her acquisition than the acquisition of silver,

And her gain than fine gold.

15 More precious is she than corals;

And all thy jewels do not equal her value.

The imperfect יפיק , which as the Hiph . of פּוּק , exire , has the general meaning educere , interchanges with the perfect מצא . This bringing forth is either a delivering up, i.e. , giving out or presenting, Isaiah 58:10; Psalms 140:9; Psalms 144:13 (cf. נפק , Arab. nafaḳ , to give out, to pay out), or a fetching out, getting out, receiving, Proverbs 8:35; Proverbs 12:2; Proverbs 18:22. Thus 13a reminds one of the parable of the treasure in the field, and 13b of that of the goodly pearl for which the ἔμπορος who sought the pearl parted with all that he had. Here also is declared the promise of him who trades with a merchant for the possession of wisdom; for סחרהּ and סחר (both, as Isaiah 23:3, Isaiah 23:18; Isaiah 45:15, from סחר , the latter after the forms זרע , נטע , without our needing to assume a second primary form, סחר ) go back to the root-word סחר , to trade, go about as a trader, with the fundamental meaning ἐμπορεύεσθαι (lxx); and also the mention of the pearls is not wanting here, for at all events the meaning “pearls” has blended itself with פּנינים , which is a favourite word in the Mashal poetry, though it be not the original meaning of the word. In 14b כּסף is surpassed by חרוּץ (besides in the Proverbs, found only in this meaning in Psalms 68:14), which properly means ore found in a mine, from חרץ , to cut in, to dig up, and hence the poetic name of gold, perhaps of gold dug out as distinguished from molten gold. Hitzig regards χρυσός as identical with it; but this word (Sanskr. without the ending hir , Zench. zar ) is derived from ghar , to glitter ( vid ., Curtius). תּבוּאתהּ we have translated “gain,” for it does not mean the profit which wisdom brings, the tribute which it yields, but the gain, the possession of wisdom herself.

Proverbs 3:15

As regards פּנינים , for which the Kethîb has פּניּים , the following things are in favour of the fundamental meaning “corals,” viz.: (1.) The name itself, which corresponds with the Arab. fann ; this word, proceeding from the root-idea of shooting forth, particularly after the manner of plants, means the branch and all that raises or multiplies itself branch-like or twig-like (Fleischer). (2.) The redness attributed to the פנינים , Lamentations 4:7, in contradistinction to the pure whiteness attributed to snow and milk ( vid ., at Job 28:18). The meaning of the word may, however, have become generalized in practice (lxx in loc . λίθων πολετελῶν , Graec. Venet. λιθιδίων ); the meaning “pearls,” given to it in the Job-Targum by Rashi, and particularly by Bochart, lay so much the nearer as one may have wrought also corals and precious stones, such as the carbuncle, sardius, and sapphire, into the form of pearls. יקרה , in consequence of the retrogression of the tone, has Munach on the penult ., and that as an exception, as has been remarked by the Masora, since in substantives and proper names terminating in ה the נסוג אחור , i.e. , the receding of the tone, does not elsewhere appear, e.g. , יפה היא , Genesis 12:14, בּרה היא , Song of Solomon 6:9, צרה היא , Jeremiah 30:7. חפץ is first abstr ., a being inclined to something, lust, will, pleasure in anything, then also concr ., anything in which one has pleasure, what is beautiful, precious; cf. Arab. nfı̂s , _ hyy , hence hjârt nfı̂st , precious stones” (Fleischer). שׁוה with ב means to be an equivalent (purchase-price, exchange) for anything; the most natural construction in Arab. as well as in Hebr. is that with ל , to be the equivalent of a thing ( vid ., at Job 33:27); the ב is the Beth pretii , as if one said in Arab.: biabi anta thou art in the estimate of my father, I give it for thee. One distinctly perceives in Proverbs 3:14, Proverbs 3:15, the echo of Job 28. This tetrastich occurs again with a slight variation at Proverbs 8:10-11. The Talmud and the Midrash accent it so, that in the former the expression is וכל־חפצים , and in the latter וכל־חפציך , and they explain the latter of precious stones and pearls ( אבנים טובות ומרגליות ).

Verses 16-18

That wisdom is of such incomparable value is here confirmed:

16 Length of days is in her right hand;

In her left, riches and honour.

17 Her ways are pleasant ways,

And all her paths are peace.

18 A tree of life is she to those that lay hold upon her,

And he who always holdeth her fast is blessed.

As in the right hand of Jahve, according to Psalms 16:11, are pleasures for evermore, so Wisdom holds in her right hand “length of days,” viz., of the days of life, thus life, the blessing of blessings; in her left, riches and honour (Proverbs 8:18), the two good things which, it is true, do not condition life, but, received from Wisdom, and thus wisely, elevate the happiness of life-in the right hand is the chief good, in the left the προσθήκη , Matthew 6:33. Didymus: Per sapientiae dextram divinarum rerum cognitio, ex qua immortalitatis vita oritur, significatur; per sinistram autem rerum humanarum notitia, ex qua gloria opumque abundantia nascitur . The lxx, as between 15a and 15b, so also here after Proverbs 3:16, interpolate two lines: “From her mouth proceedeth righteousness; justice and mercy she bears upon her tongue,” - perhaps translated from the Hebr., but certainly added by a reader.

Proverbs 3:17

דּרכי־נעם are ways on which one obtains what is agreeable to the inner and the outer man, and which it does good to enjoy. The parallel שׁלום is not a genitive to נתיבות to be supplied; that paths of Wisdom are themselves שׁלום , for she brings well-being on all sides and deep inwards satisfaction (peace). In regard to נתיבה , via eminens, elata , Schultens is right ( vid ., under Proverbs 1:15);

(Note: The root is not תב , to grope, but נת ; whence Arab. natt , to bubble up, natâ , to raise oneself, to swell up, etc.)

נתיבותיה has Munach , and instead of the Metheg , Tarcha , vid ., under Proverbs 1:31. The figure of the tree of life the fruit of which brings immortality, is, as Proverbs 11:30; Proverbs 15:4 (cf. Proverbs 13:12), Revelation 2:7, taken from the history of paradise in the Book of Genesis. The old ecclesiastical saying, Lignum vitae crux Christi , accommodates itself in a certain measure, through Matthew 11:19; Luke 11:49, with this passage of the Book of Proverbs. החזיק ב means to fasten upon anything, more fully expressed in Genesis 21:18, to bind the hand firm with anything, to seize it firmly. They who give themselves to Wisdom, come to experience that she is a tree of life whose fruit contains and communicates strength of life, and whoever always keeps fast hold of Wisdom is blessed, i.e. , to be pronounced happy (Psalms 41:3, vid ., under Psalms 137:8). The predicate מאשּׁר , blessed, refers to each one of the תּמכיה , those who hold her, cf. Proverbs 27:16; Numbers 24:9. It is the so-called distributive singular of the predicate, which is freely used particularly in those cases where the plur. of the subject is a participle ( vid ., under Proverbs 3:35).

Verse 19-20

This place of a mediatrix - the speaker here now continues - she had from the beginning. God's world-creating work was mediated by her:

19 Jahve hath by wisdom founded the earth,

Established the heavens by understanding.

20 By His knowledge the water-floods broke forth,

And the sky dropped down dew.

That wisdom is meant by which God planned the world-idea, and now also wrought it out; the wisdom in which God conceived the world ere it was framed, and by which also He gave external realization to His thoughts; the wisdom which is indeed an attribute of God and a characteristic of His actions, since she is a property of His nature, and His nature attests itself in her, but not less, as appears, not from this group of tetrastichs, but from all that has hitherto been said, and form the personal testimony, Proverbs 8:22., of which it is the praeludium , she goes forth as a divine power to which God has given to have life in herself. Considered apart from the connection of these discourses, this group of verses, as little as Jeremiah 10:2; Psalms 104:24, determines regarding the attributive interpretation; the Jerusalem Targum, I, when it translates, Genesis 1:1, בראשׁית by בּחוּכמא ( בּחוּכמתא ), combines Proverbs 8:22 with such passages as this before us. יסד (here with the tone thrown back) properly signifies, like the Arab. wasad , to lay fast, to found, for one gives to a fact the firm basis of its existence. The parallel Pil . of כּוּן (Arab. kân , cogn. כהן , see on Isaiah, p. 691) signifies to set up, to restore; here equivalent to, to give existence.

Proverbs 3:20

It is incorrect to understand 20a, with the Targ., of division, i.e. , separating the water under the firmament from the water above the firmament; נבקע is spoken of water, especially of its breaking forth, Genesis 7:11; Exodus 14:21, cf. Psalms 74:15, properly dividing itself out, i.e. , welling forth from the bowels of the earth; it means, without distinguishing the primordial waters and the later water-floods confined within their banks (cf. Job 38:8., Psalms 104:6-8), the overflowing of the earth for the purpose of its processes of cultivation and the irrigation of the land. תּהומות (from הוּם = המה , to groan, to roar) are chiefly the internal water stores of the earth, Genesis 49:25; Psalms 33:7. But while 20a is to be understood of the waters under the firmament, 20b is to be interpreted of those above. שׁחקים (from שׁחק , Arab. sḥaḳ , comminuere, attenuare ) properly designates the uppermost stratum of air thinly and finely stretching itself far and wide, and then poetically the clouds of heaven ( vid ., under Psalms 77:18). Another name, עריפים , comes from ערף , which is transposed from רעף (here used in 20b), Arab. r'af , to drop, to run. The טל added on the object accusative represents synecdochically all the waters coming down from heaven and fructifying the earth. This watering proceeds from above ( ורעפו ); on the contrary, the endowing of the surface of the earth with great and small rivers is a fundamental fact in creation ( נבקעו ).

Verse 21-22

From this eminence, in which the work of creation presents wisdom, exhortations are now deduced, since the writer always expresses himself only with an ethical intention regarding the nature of wisdom:

21 My son, may they not depart from thine eyes -

Preserve thoughtfulness and consideration,

22 And they will be life to thy soul

And grace to thy neck.

If we make the synonyms of wisdom which are in 21b the subject per prolepsin to אל־ילזוּ (Hitzig and Zöckler), then Proverbs 3:19-20 and Proverbs 3:21-22 clash. The subjects are wisdom, understanding, knowledge, which belong to God, and shall from His become the possession of those who make them their aim. Regarding לוּז , obliquari, deflectere , see under Proverbs 2:15, cf. Proverbs 4:21; regarding תּשׁיּה (here defective after the Masora, as rightly in Vened. 1515, 1521, and Nissel, 1662), see at Proverbs 2:7; ילזוּ for תּלזנה , see at Proverbs 3:2. The lxx (cf. Hebrews 2:1) translate without distinctness of reference: υἱὲ μὴ παραῤῥυῂς ( παραρυῇς ), let it now flow past, i.e. , let it not be unobserved, hold it always before thee; the Targ. with the Syr. render לא נזּל , ne vilescat , as if the words were אל־יזוּלוּ . In 22a the synallage generis is continued: ויהיוּ for ותהיינה . Regarding גּרגּרת , see at Proverbs 1:9. By wisdom the soul gains life, divinely true and blessed, and the external appearance of the man grace, which makes him pleasing and gains for him affection.

Verses 23-26

But more than this, wisdom makes its possessor in all situations of life confident in God:

23 Then shalt thou go thy way with confidence,

And thy foot shall not stumble.

24 When thou liest down, thou are not afraid,

But thou layest thyself down and hast sweet sleep.

25 Thou needest not be afraid of sudden alarm,

Nor for the storm of the wicked when it breaketh forth.

26 For Jahve will be thy confidence

And keep thy foot from the snare.

The לבטח (cf. our “ bei guter Laune ” = in good cheer), with ל of the condition, is of the same meaning as the conditional adverbial accusative בּטח , Proverbs 10:9; Proverbs 1:33. Proverbs 3:23 the lxx translate ὁ δὲ πούς σου οὐ μὴ προσκόψῃ , while, on the contrary, at Psalms 91:12 they make the person the subject ( μήποτε προσκόψῃς τὸν κ.τ.λ. ); here also we retain more surely the subject from 23a, especially since for the intrans. of נגף (to smite, to push) a Hithpa . התנגּף is used Jeremiah 13:16. In Proverbs 3:24 there is the echo of Job 11:18, and in Proverbs 3:25 of Job 5:21. Proverbs 3:24 is altogether the same as Job 5:24 : et decumbes et suavis erit somnus tuus = si decubueris, suavis erit . The hypothetic perf., according to the sense, is both there and at Job 11:18 (cf. Jeremiah 20:9) oxytoned as perf. consec. Similar examples are Proverbs 6:22; Genesis 33:13; 1 Samuel 25:31, cf. Ewald, §357a. ערבה (of sleep as Jeremiah 31:26) is from ערב , which in Hebr. is used of pleasing impressions, as the Arab. ‛ariba of a lively, free disposition. שׁנה , somnus ( nom. actionis from ישׁן , with the ground-form sina preserved in the Arab. lidat , vid ., Job, p. 284, note), agrees in inflexion with שׁנה , annus . אל , Proverbs 3:25, denies, like Psalms 121:3, with emphasis: be afraid only not = thou hast altogether nothing to fear. Schultens rightly says: Subest species prohibitionis et tanquam abominationis, ne tale quicquam vel in suspicionem veniat in mentemve cogitando admittatur . פּחד here means terror, as Proverbs 1:26., the terrific object; פּתאם (with the accus. om ) is the virtual genitive, as Proverbs 26:2 חנּם (with accus. am ). Regarding שׁאה , see under Proverbs 1:27. The genitive רשׁעים may be, after Psalms 37:18, the genit. subjecti , but still it lies nearer to say that he who chooses the wisdom of God as his guiding star has no ground to fear punishment as transgressors have reason to fear it; the שׁאה is meant which wisdom threatens against transgressors, Proverbs 1:27. He needs have no fear of it, for wisdom is a gift of God, and binds him who receives it to the giver: Jahve becomes and is henceforth his confidence. Regarding ב essentiae , which expresses the closest connection of the subject with the predicate which it introduces, see under Psalms 35:2. As here, so also at Exodus 18:4; Psalms 118:7; Psalms 146:6, the predicate is a noun with a pronominal suffix. כּסל is, as at Psalms 78:7; Job 31:24, cognate to מבטה and מקוה ,

(Note: According to Malbim, תּקוה is the expectation of good, and כּסל , confidence in the presence of evil.)

the object and ground of confidence. That the word in other connections may mean also fool-hardiness, Psalms 49:14, and folly, Ecclesiastes 7:25 (cf. regarding כּסיל , which in Arab. as belı̂d denotes the dull, in Hebr. fools, see under Proverbs 1:22), it follows that it proceeds from the fundamental conception of fulness of flesh and of fat, whence arise the conceptions of dulness and slothfulness, as well as of confidence, whether confidence in self or in God (see Schultens l.c. , and Wünsche's Hosea , p. 207f.). לכד is taking, catching, as in a net or trap or pit, from לכד , to catch (cf. Arab. lakida , to fasten, III, IV to hold fast); another root-meaning, in which Arab. lak connects itself with nak , nk , to strike, to assail (whence al - lakdat , the assault against the enemy, Deutsch. Morgenl. Zeitsch. xxii. 140), is foreign to the Hebr. Regarding the מן of מלכד , Fleischer remarks: “The מן after the verbs of guarding, preserving, like שׁמר and נצר , properly expresses that one by those means holds or seeks to hold a person or thing back from something, like the Lat. defendere, tueri aliquem ab hostibus, a perculo .”

(Note: Hitzig rejects Proverbs 3:22-26 as a later interpolation. And why? Because chap. 3, which he regards as a complete discourse, consists of twice ten verses beginning with בּני . In addition to this symmetry other reasons easily reveal themselves to his penetration. But the discourses contained in chap. 1-9 do not all begin with בני ( vid ., Proverbs 1:20); and when it stands in the beginning of the discourse, it is not always the first word ( vid ., Proverbs 1:8); and when it occurs as the first word or in the first line, it does not always commence a new discourse ( vid ., Proverbs 1:15 in the middle of the first, Proverbs 3:11 in the middle of the fourth); and, moreover, the Hebr. poetry and oratory does not reckon according to verses terminated by Soph Pasuk , which are always accented distichs, but they in reality frequently consist of three or more lines. The rejected verses are in nothing unlike those that remain, and which are undisputed; they show the same structure of stichs, consisting for the most part of three, but sometimes also only of two words (cf. Proverbs 3:22 with Proverbs 1:9, Proverbs 1:10), the same breadth in the course of the thoughts, and the same accord with Job and Deuteronomy.)

Verse 27-28

The first illustration of neighbourly love which is recommended, is readiness to serve:

27 Refuse no manner of good to him to whom it is due

When it is in thy power to do it.

28 Say not to thy neighbour, “Go, and come again,

To-morrow I will give it,” whilst yet thou hast it.

Regarding the intensive plur. בּעליו with a sing. meaning, see under Proverbs 1:19. The form of expression without the suffix is not בּעלי but בּעל טוב ; and this denotes here, not him who does good ( בעל as Arab. dhw or ṣaḥab ), but him to whom the good deed is done (cf. Proverbs 17:8), i.e. , as here, him who is worthy of it ( בעל as Arab. âhl ), him who is the man for it (Jewish interp.: מי שׁהוא ראוי לו ). We must refuse nothing good (nothing either legally or morally good) to him who has a right to it ( מנע מן as Job 22:7; Job 31:16),

(Note: Accentuate אל־תמנע טוב , not אל־תמנע־טוב . The doubling of the Makkeph is purposeless, and, on the contrary, the separating of טוב from מבעליו by the Dechi (the separating accent subordinate to Athnach ) is proper. It is thus in the best MSS.)

if we are in a condition to do him this good. The phrase ישׁ־לאל ידי , Genesis 31:29, and frequently, signifies: it is belonging to (practicable) the power of my hand, i.e. , I have the power and the means of doing it. As זד signifies the haughty, insolent, but may be also used in the neuter of insolent conduct ( vid ., Psalms 19:14), so אל signifies the strong, but also (although only in this phrase) strength. The Keri rejects the plur. ידיך , because elsewhere the hand always follows לאל in the singular. But it rejects the plur. לרעיך (Proverbs 3:28) because the address following is directed to one person. Neither of these emendations was necessary. The usage of the language permits exceptions, notwithstanding the usus tyrannus , and the plur. לרעיך may be interpreted distributively: to thy fellows, it may be this one or that one. Hitzig also regards לרעיך as a singular; but the masc. of רעיה , the ground-form of which is certainly ra‛j , is רעה , or shorter, רע . לך ושׁוּב does not mean: forth! go home again! but: go, and come again. שׁוּב , to come again, to return to something, to seek it once more.

(Note: Thus also (Arab.) raj' is used in Thaalebi's Confidential Companion , p. 24, line 3, of Flügel's ed. Admission was prevented to one Haschmid, then angry he sought it once more; he was again rejected, then he sought it not again (Arab. flm yraj' ), but says, etc. Flügel has misunderstood the passage. Fleischer explains raj' , with reference to Proverbs 3:28, by revenir à la charge .)

The ו of ישׁו אתּך is, as 29b, the conditional: quum sit penes te, sc. quod ei des . “To-morrow shall I give” is less a promise than a delay and putting off, because it is difficult for him to alienate himself from him who makes the request. This holding fast by one's own is unamiable selfishness; this putting off in the fulfilment of one's duty is a sin of omission - οὐ γὰρ οἶδας , as the lxx adds, τὶ τέξεται ἡ ἐπιοῦσα .

Verse 29

A second illustration of neighbourly love is harmlessness:

Devise not evil against thy neighbour,

While he dwelleth securely by thee.

The verb חרשׁ , χαράσσειν , signifies to cut into, and is used of the faber ferrarius as well as of the τιγναριυς (Isaiah, p. 463), who with a cutting instrument ( חרשׁ , Genesis 4:22) works with metal or wood, and from his profession is called חרשׁ . But the word means as commonly to plough, i.e. , to cut with the plough, and חרשׁ is used also of a ploughman, and, without any addition to it, it always has this meaning. It is then a question whether the metaphorical phrase רעה חרשׁ signifies to fabricate evil, cf. dolorum faber, mendacia procudere , ψευδῶν καὶ ἀπατῶν τέκτων , and the Homeric κακὰ φρεὶ βυσσοδομεύειν (Fleischer and most others), or to plough evil (Rashi, Ewald, etc.). The Targ., Syriac, and Jerome translate חשׁב , without deciding the point, by moliri ; but the lxx and Graecus Venet . by τεκταίνειν . The correctness of these renderings is not supported by Ezek. 21:36, where חרשׁי משׁחית are not such as fabricate destruction, but smiths who cause destruction; also מחרישׁ , 1 Samuel 23:9, proves nothing, and probably does not at all appertain to חרשׁ incidere (Keil), but to חרשׁ silere , in the sense of dolose moliri . On the one hand, it is to be observed from Job 4:8; Hosea 10:13, cf. Psalms 129:3, that the meaning arare malum might connect itself with חרשׁ רעה ; and the proverb of Sirach 7:12, μὴ ἀροτρία ψεῦδος ἐπ ̓ ἀδελφῷ σου , places this beyond a doubt. Therefore in this phrase, if one keeps before him a clear perception of the figure, at one time the idea of fabricating, at another that of ploughing, is presented before us. The usage of the language in the case before us is more in favour of the latter than of the former. Whether ישׁב את means to dwell together with, or as Böttcher, to sit together with, after Psalms 1:1; Psalms 26:4., need not be a matter of dispute. It means in general a continued being together, whether as sitting, Job 2:13, or as dwelling, Judges 17:11.

(Note: Accentuate והוא־יושׁב לבטח . It is thus in correct texts. The Rebia Mugrash is transformed, according to the Accentuationssystem , xviii. §2.)

To take advantage of the regardlessness of him who imparts to us his confidence is unamiable. Love is doubly owing to him who resigns himself to it because he believes in it.

Verse 30

A third illustration of the same principle is peaceableness:

Contend not with a man without a cause,

When he has inflicted no evil upon thee.

Instead of תּרוּב , or as the Kerı̂ has amended it תּריב , the abbreviated form תּרב or תּרב would be more correct after אל ; רוּב or ריב (from רב , to be compact) means to fall upon one another, to come to hand-blows, to contend. Contending and quarrelling with a man, whoever he may be, without sufficient reason, ought to be abandoned; but there exists no such reason if he has done me no harm which I have to reproach him with. גּמל רעה with the accus. or dat. of the person signifies to bring evil upon any one, malum inferre , or also referre (Schultens), for גּמל (cogn. גּמר ) signifies to execute, to complete, accomplish - both of the initiative and of the requital, both of the anticipative and of the recompensing action; here in the former of these senses.

Verse 31-32

These exhortations to neighbourly love in the form of warning against whatever is opposed to it, are followed by the warning against fellowship with the loveless:

31 Be not envious toward the man of violence,

And have no pleasure in all his ways.

32 For an abhorrence to Jahve is the perverse,

But with the upight is His secret.

The conceptions of jealousy and envy lie in קנּא (derived by Schultens from קנא , Arab. ḳanâ , intensius rubere ) inseparable from each other. The lxx, which for תקנא reads תקנה ( κτήσῃ ), brings the envy into 31b, as if the words here were ואל־תּתחר , as in Psalms 37:1, Psalms 37:7 (there the lxx has μὴ παραζήλου , here μηδὲ ζηλώσῃς ). There is no reason for correcting our text in accordance with this (substituting תּתחר for תּבחר as Hitzig does), because בּכל־דּרכיו would be too vague an expression for the object of the envy, while אל־תבחר altogether agrees with it; and the contrary remark, that בּחר בּכּל is fundamentally no בחר , fails since (1) בחר frequently expresses pleasure in anything without the idea of choice, and (2) “have not pleasure in all his ways” is in the Hebrew style equivalent to “in any one of his ways;” Ewald, §323b. He who does “violence to the law” (Zephaniah 3:4) becomes thereby, according to the common course of the world, a person who is feared, whose authority, power, and resources are increased, but one must not therefore envy him, nor on any side take pleasure in his conduct, which in all respects is to be reprobated; for the נלוז , inflexus, tortuosus ( vid ., Proverbs 2:15), who swerves from the right way and goes in a crooked false way, is an object of Jahve's abhorrence, while, on the contrary, the just, who with a right mind walks in the right way, is Jahve's סוד - an echo of Psalms 25:14. סוד (R. סד , to be firm, compressed) means properly the being pressed together, or sitting together (cf. the Arab. wisâd , wisâdt , a cushion, divan, corresponding in form to the Hebr. יסוד ) for the purpose of private communication and conversation ( הוּסד ), and then partly the confidential intercourse, as here (cf. Job 29:4), partly the private communication, the secret (Amos 3:7). lxx, ἐν δὲ δικαίοις [ οὐ ] συνεδριάζει . Those who are out of the way, who prefer to the simplicity of right-doing all manner of crooked ways, are contrary to God, and He may have nothing to do with them; but the right-minded He makes partakers of His most intimate intercourse, He deals with them as His friends.

Verse 33

The prosperity of the godless, far from being worthy of envy, has as its reverse side the curse:

The curse of Jahve is in the house of the godless,

And the dwelling of the just He blesseth.

מארה (a curse), like מסלּה (a highway, from סלל ), is formed from ארר (cf. Arab. harr , detestari, abhorrere , a word-imitation of an interjection used in disagreeable experiences). The curse is not merely a deprivation of external goods which render life happy, and the blessing is not merely the fulness of external possessions; the central-point of the curse lies in continuous disquiet of conscience, and that of the blessing in the happy consciousness that God is with us, in soul-rest and peace which is certain of the grace and goodness of God. The poetic נוה (from נוה = Arab. nwy , tetendit aliquo ) signifies the place of settlement, and may be a word borrowed from a nomad life, since it denotes specially the pasture-ground; cf. Proverbs 24:15 (Fleischer). While the curse of God rests in the house of the wicked ( vid ., Köhler on Zechariah 5:4), He blesses, on the contrary, the dwelling-place of the righteous. The lxx and Jerome read יברך , but יברך is more agreeable, since God continues to be the subject.

Verse 34

His relation to men is determined by their relation to Him.

As for the scorners, He scorneth them,

But to the lowly He giveth grace.

Most interpreters render the verse thus: “If the scorner He (even He, in return) scorneth, so He (on the other hand) giveth grace to the lowly.” For the sequence of the words in the consequence, in which the precedence of the verb is usual, e.g. , Leviticus 12:5, we are referred to Proverbs 23:18, cf. Proverbs 24:14; but why had the poet placed the two facts in the relation of condition and consequence? The one fact is not the consequence but the reverse of the other, and accordingly they are opposed to each other in coordinated passages, Psalms 18:26. The Vav in such antitheses has generally the meaning of “and on the other hand,” e.g. , Job 8:20, while the lxx, Targ., Syriac, and Jerome altogether pass over the אם as if it did not exist. Ziegler translates: “Truly! the scorner He scorneth;” but an affirmative אם does not exist, the asseveration after the manner of an oath is negative. Bertheau's expedient would be more acceptable, by which he makes the whole of Proverbs 3:34 the protasis to Proverbs 3:35; but if this were intended, another subject would not enter into Proverbs 3:35. Thus 34a and 34b are two independent parallel passages; אם־ללּצים is the protasis: if as regards the scorners, i.e. , if His conduct is directed to the scorners, so He scorneth. The ל denotes relation, and in this elliptical usage is like the ל of superscription, e.g. , Jeremiah 23:9. הוּא is the emphatic αὐτός : He on the contrary, and in a decisive way (Ewald, §314ab). Instead of יליץ fo there might have been used יליצם (for הליץ , where it occurs as a governing word, has the accusative, Proverbs 19:28; Psalms 119:51), but we do not miss the object: if it relates to scorners (thus also Löwenstein translates), so it is He in return who scorneth. The lxx renders it: κύριος ὑπερηφάνοις ἀντιτάσσεται, ταπεινοῖς δὲ δίδωσι χάριν ; cf. James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5. הוּא is used as a name of God ( Deutsch. Morgenl. Zeitschr. xvi. 400), on which account it is rendered like יהוה by κύριος . A ὑπερήφανος (appearing above others, i.e. , overbearing) is the לץ , according to the definition Proverbs 21:24. the expression of the talio is generalized in ἀντιτάσσεται (resists them). For עניים the Kerı̂ has ענוים : ענו (from ענה , the ground-form ענו , Arab. 'anaw ) is the lowly ( ταπεινός ), or he who bends himself, i.e. , the gentle and humble, the patient, and the passive עני , he who is bowed down, the suffering; but the limits of the conception are moveable, since in עני is presupposed the possession of fruit-virtues gained in the school of affliction.

Verse 35

This group of the proverbs of wisdom now suitably closes with the fundamental contrast between the wise and fools:

The wise shall inherit honour,

But fools carry away shame.

If we take וּכסילים as the object, then we can scarcely interpret the clause: shame sweeps fools away (Umbreit, Zöckler, Bertheau), for הרים [ Hiph . of רוּם ] signifies (Isaiah 57:14; Ezekiel 21:31) “to raise up anything high and far,” not “to sweep away.” Preferable is the rendering: τοὺς δ ̓ ἄφρονας ὑψοῖ ἀτιμία ( Graec. Venet. , and similarly Jerome), i.e. , only to it do they owe their celebrity as warning examples (Ewald), to which Oetinger compares “whose glory is in their shame,” Philemon 3:19;

(Note: Jona Gerundi renders it otherwise: “But shame raises the fools high;” i.e. , only the infamous, he who has no sense of honour, makes much advancement out of fools.)

but קלון is the contrary of כּבוד (glory, Habakkuk 2:16), and therefore is as much an object conception as is the latter, 35a. If it is the object, then if we take מרים from מר after the form of לן , Nehemiah 13:21 = ממירים (Hosea 4:7), it might be rendered: Yet fools exchange shame (Löwenstein). But מוּר , like the Arab. mrr , transire , means properly to pass over or to wander over; it is intransitive, and only in Hiph . signifies actively to exchange. מרים thus will be the participle of הרים ; the plur. taken distributively (fools = whoever is only always a fool) is connected with the singular of the predicate. This change in the number is here, however, more difficult than at Proverbs 3:18, and in other places, where the plur. of the part. permits the resolution into a relative clause with quicunque , and more difficult than at Proverbs 28:1, where the sing. of the predicate is introduced by attraction; wherefore מרים may be an error in transcribing for מרימים or מרימי (Böttcher). J. H. Michaelis (after the Targ. and Syr.) has properly rendered the clause: “ stulti tollunt ignominiam tanquam portionem suam ,” adding “ quae derivato nomine תרומה dicitur .” הרים signifies, in the language of the sacrificial worship and of worship generally, to lift off from anything the best portion, the legitimate portion due to God and the priesthood ( vid ., at Proverbs 3:9); for which reason Rashi glosses מרים by מפרישׁ לו , and Ralbag by מגביה לו . See Proverbs 14:29. Honour is that which the wise inherit, it falls to them unsought as a possession, but fools receive shame as the offal (viz., of their foolish conduct). The fut. and part. are significantly interchanged. The life of the wise ends in glory, but fools inherit shame; the fruit of their conduct is shame and evermore shame.


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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 3:4". 1854-1889.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, June 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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