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Proverbs 20:17-19 New English Translation (NET Bible)

17 Bread gained by deceit[a] tastes sweet to a person,[b]
but afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel.[c]
18 Plans[d] are established by counsel,
so[e] make war[f] with guidance.
19 The one who goes about gossiping[g] reveals secrets;
therefore do not associate[h] with someone who is always opening his mouth.[i]

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 20:17 tn Heb “bread of deceit” (so KJV, NAB). This refers to food gained through dishonest means. The term “bread” is a synecdoche of specific for general, referring to anything obtained by fraud, including food.
  2. Proverbs 20:17 tn Heb “a man.”
  3. Proverbs 20:17 sn The image of food and eating is carried throughout the proverb. Food taken by fraud seems sweet at first, but afterward it is not. To end up with a mouth full of gravel (a mass of small particles; e.g., Job 20:14-15; Lam 3:16) implies by comparison that what has been taken by fraud will be worthless and useless and certainly in the way (like food turning into sand and dirt).
  4. Proverbs 20:18 tn The noun form is plural, but the verb is singular, suggesting either an abstract plural or a collective plural is being used here.
  5. Proverbs 20:18 tn The clause begins with vav (ו) on “with guidance.” But the clause has an imperative for its main verb. One could take the imperfect tense in the first colon as an imperfect of injunction, and then this clause would be also instructional. But the imperfect tense is a Niphal, and so it is better to take the first colon as the foundational clause and the second colon as the consequence (cf. NAB): If that is true, then you should do this.
  6. Proverbs 20:18 sn There have been attempts by various commentators to take “war” figuratively to mean life’s struggles, litigation, or evil inclinations. But there is no need and little justification for such interpretations. The proverb simply describes the necessity of taking counsel before going to war.
  7. Proverbs 20:19 sn The word describes a slanderer (NASB), a tale-bearer (KJV, ASV), or an informer. BDB 940 s.v. רָכִיל says the Hebrew expression “goers of slander” means slanderous persons. However, W. McKane observes that these people are not necessarily malicious—they just talk too much (Proverbs [OTL], 537).
  8. Proverbs 20:19 tn The form is the Hitpael imperfect (of prohibition or instruction) from עָרַב (ʿarav). BDB 786-88 lists six roots with these radicals. The first means “to mix,” but only occurs in derivatives. BDB 786 lists this form under the second root, which means “to take on a pledge; to exchange.” The Hitpael is then defined as “to exchange pledges; to have fellowship with [or, share].” The proverb is warning people to have nothing to do with gossips.
  9. Proverbs 20:19 tn The verb פֹּתֶה (poteh) is a homonym, related to I פָּתָה (patah, “to be naive; to be foolish”; HALOT 984-85 s.v. I פתה) or II פָּתָה (“to open [the lips]; to chatter”; HALOT 985 s.v. II פתה). So the phrase וּלְפֹתֶה שְׂפָתָיו may be understood either (1) as HALOT 985 s.v. II פתה suggests, “one opens his lips” = he is always talking/gossiping, or (2) as BDB suggests, “one who is foolish as to his lips” (he lacks wisdom in what he says; see BDB 834 s.v. II פָּתָה, noted in HALOT 984 s.v. I פתה 1). The term “lips” is a metonymy of cause for what is said: gossip. If such a person is willing to talk about others, he will be willing to talk about you, so it is best to avoid him altogether.
New English Translation (NET)

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