New English Translation
19 Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity[a]
than one who is perverse in his speech[b] and is a fool.[c]
2 It is dangerous[d] to have zeal[e] without knowledge,
and the one who acts hastily[f] makes poor choices.[g]
3 A person’s folly[h] subverts[i] his way,
and[j] his heart rages[k] against the Lord.
- Proverbs 19:1 sn People should follow honesty even if it leads to poverty (e.g., Prov 18:23; 19:22).
- Proverbs 19:1 tn Heb “lips.” The term “lips” is a metonymy for what one says with his lips. The expression “perverse in his lips” refers to speech that is morally perverted. Some medieval Hebrew mss, the Syriac, and Tg. Prov 19:1 have “his ways” rather than “his lips” (e.g., Prov 28:6); cf. NAB.
- Proverbs 19:1 tc The Syriac and Tg. Prov 19:1 read “rich” instead of MT “fool.” This makes tighter antithetical parallelism than MT and is followed by NAB. However, the MT makes sense as it stands; this is an example of metonymical parallelism. The MT reading is also supported by the LXX. The Hebrew construction uses וְהוּא (vehuʾ), “and he [is],” before “fool.” This may be rendered “one who is perverse while a fool” or “a fool at the same time.”
- Proverbs 19:2 tn Heb “not good.” This is a figure known as tapeinosis (a deliberate understatement to emphasize a worst-case scenario): “it is dangerous!”
- Proverbs 19:2 tn The interpretation of this line depends largely on the meaning of נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) which has a broad range of meanings: (1) the breathing substance of man, (2) living being, (3) life, (4) person, (5) seat of the appetites, (6) seat of emotions and passions, (7) activities of intellect, emotion and will, (8) moral character, etc. (BDB 659-61 s.v.). In light of the synonymous parallelism, the most likely nuance here is “zeal, passion” (HALOT 713 s.v. 8). NIV takes the word in the sense of “vitality” and “drive”—“it is not good to have zeal without knowledge” (cf. NCV, TEV, and NLT which are all similar).
- Proverbs 19:2 tn Heb “he who is hasty with his feet.” The verb אוּץ (ʾuts) means “to be pressed; to press; to make haste.” The verb is followed by the preposition ב (bet) which indicates that with which one hastens—his feet. The word “feet” is a synecdoche of part for the whole person—body and mind working together (cf. NLT “a person who moves too quickly”).
- Proverbs 19:2 tn Heb “misses the goal.” The participle חוֹטֵא (khoteʾ) can be translated “sins” (cf. KJV, ASV), but in this context it refers only to actions without knowledge, which could lead to sin, or could lead simply to making poor choices (cf. NAB “blunders”; NASB “errs”; NCV “might make a mistake”). sn The basic meaning of the verb is “to miss a goal or the way.” D. Kidner says, “How negative is the achievement of a man who wants tangible and quick rewards”—he will miss the way (Proverbs [TOTC], 132).
- Proverbs 19:3 tn Heb “the folly of a man.”
- Proverbs 19:3 tn The verb סָלַף (salaf) normally means “to twist; to pervert; to overturn,” but in this context it means “to subvert” (BDB 701 s.v.); cf. ASV “subverteth.” sn J. H. Greenstone comments: “Man’s own failures are the result of his own folly and should not be attributed to God” (Proverbs, 201).
- Proverbs 19:3 tn The clause begins with vav on the nonverb phrase “against the Lord.” While clause structure and word order is less compelling in a book like Proverbs, this fits well as a circumstantial clause indicating concession.
- Proverbs 19:3 sn The “heart raging” is a metonymy of cause (or adjunct); it represents the emotions that will lead to blaming God for the frustration. Genesis 42:28 offers a calmer illustration of this as the brothers ask what God was doing to them.