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All a person’s ways[a] seem right[b] in his own opinion,[c]
but the Lord evaluates[d] the motives.[e]

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  1. Proverbs 16:2 tn Heb “ways of a man.”
  2. Proverbs 16:2 sn The Hebrew term translated “right” (זַךְ, zakh) means “pure, clear, clean” (cf. KJV, NASB “clean;” NIV “innocent;” ESV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV “pure.” It is used in the Bible for pure (uncontaminated) oils or undiluted liquids. Here it means uncontaminated actions and motives. It address how people naively conclude or rationalize that their actions are fine.
  3. Proverbs 16:2 tn Heb “in his eyes.” Physical sight is used figuratively for insight, or one’s intellectual point of view.
  4. Proverbs 16:2 tn The figure (a hypocatastasis) of “weighing” signifies “evaluation” (e.g., Exod 5:8; 1 Sam 2:3; 16:7; Prov 21:2; 24:12). There may be an allusion to the Egyptian belief of weighing the heart after death to determine righteousness. But in Hebrew thought it is an ongoing evaluation as well, not merely an evaluation after death.
  5. Proverbs 16:2 tn Heb “spirits” (so KJV, ASV). This is a metonymy for the motives, the intentions of the heart (e.g., 21:2 and 24:2). sn Humans deceive themselves rather easily and so appear righteous in their own eyes, but the proverb says that God evaluates motives and so he alone can determine if the person’s ways are innocent.