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Proverbs 14:18-20 New English Translation (NET Bible)

18 The naive have inherited[a] folly,
but the shrewd[b] will be crowned[c] with knowledge.
19 Bad people have bowed[d] before good people,
and wicked people have bowed[e] at the gates[f] of someone righteous.[g]
20 A poor person will be disliked[h] even by his neighbors,
but those who love the rich are many.[i]


  1. Proverbs 14:18 tc G. R. Driver proposed reading the verb as “are adorned” from a supposed verb חָלָה (khalah) derived from the noun חֲלִי (khali, “ornament”) (“Problems in the Hebrew Text of Proverbs,” Bib 32 [1951]: 181). A similar reading is followed by a number of English versions (e.g., NAB, NRSV, NLT).tn Or “have taken possession of.” The verb נָחֲלוּ (nakhalu) is a Qal perfect form of נָחַל (nakhal) “to inherit, to take possession, to maintain as a possession.” The tense of the translation depends on whether the verb is stative or dynamic. Morphologically it is ambiguous. Based on its lexical meaning, it appears to be a dynamic verb, though it does not occur enough times in the Qal to be certain based on its usage. (All other perfect forms are past and all its imperfect forms could be future. However, Ps 82:8 and Prov 3:35; 11:29; 28:10 could be cases of the present and these all use the imperfect, as dynamic verbs can for present tense.) As a dynamic verb, its perfect form should be understood as past time or perfective. As such the antithetic parallelism of the verse contrasts the verb tenses as well as the subjects and results. The naive have gotten folly and continue in it (unless they change). But the prudent are in a process of putting on knowledge in which they will be crowned with it. If the root is stative it could be understood as present, “The naive inherit folly.”
  2. Proverbs 14:18 tn Or “prudent” (KJV, NASB, NIV); NRSV, TEV “clever.”
  3. Proverbs 14:18 tn The meaning of יַכְתִּרוּ (yaktiru, Hiphil imperfect of כָּתַר, katar) is elusive. The noun from the same root, כֶּתֶר (keter), refers to a headdress, e.g. a turban or crown in Esther 1:11. The verbal root relates to surrounding. So the picture of wrapping on a turban, or “crowning” oneself, may be correct. However it may mean “to encompass knowledge,” i.e., possess it (parallel to the verb “inherit”).
  4. Proverbs 14:19 tn The verb שָׁחַח (shakhakh) means “to crouch, cower, bow” whether from weariness or in submission. As a dynamic verb in the perfect conjugation form, it is past or perfective. Here the sage takes the viewpoint of assuring the learner of what has happened in the past, asserting it to be prototypical of what will continue to happen. Some translations emphasize the future implication (NIV, NASB, CEV, NLT) while others opt to portray the lesson as a characteristic present (ESV, KJV, Holman).
  5. Proverbs 14:19 tn The phrase “have bowed” does not appear in this line but is implied by the parallelism; it is supplied in the translation for clarity and smoothness.
  6. Proverbs 14:19 sn J. H. Greenstone suggests that this means that they are begging for favors (Proverbs, 154).
  7. Proverbs 14:19 tn The adjective is singular. A plurality of people crouching before a single person portrays an even greater extent of difference in power between them.
  8. Proverbs 14:20 tn Heb “hated.” The verse is just a statement of fact. The verbs “love” and “hate” must be seen in their connotations: The poor are rejected, avoided, shunned—that is, hated, but the rich are sought after, favored, embraced—that is, loved.
  9. Proverbs 14:20 tn Heb “Many are the friends of the rich.” The participle of the verb אָהֵב (ʾahev, “to love”) can mean friend.
New English Translation (NET)

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