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A shrewd person[a] saw[b] danger[c] and hid[d] himself,
but the naive passed on by and paid for it.[e]
The reward[f] for humility[g] and fearing the Lord[h]
is riches and honor and life.
Thorns and snares[i] are in the path of the perverse,
but the one who guards himself keeps far from them.

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  1. Proverbs 22:3 sn The contrast is between the “shrewd” (prudent) person and the “simpleton.” The shrewd person knows where the dangers and pitfalls are in life and so can avoid them; the naive person is unwary, untrained, and gullible, unable to survive the dangers of the world and blundering into them.
  2. Proverbs 22:3 tn All the verbs in this verse are perfect forms, so past tense in English. They portray events that have happened as prototypical of what commonly happens.
  3. Proverbs 22:3 tn Heb “evil,” a term that is broad enough to include (1) “sin” as well as (2) any form of “danger” (NIV, NCV, NRSV, NLT) or “trouble” (TEV, CEV). The second option is more likely what is meant here: The naive simpleton does not see the danger to be avoided and so suffers for it.
  4. Proverbs 22:3 tc The Kethib is a Niphal imperfect, while the Qere is a Niphal perfect. The perfect form matches the rest of the verbs in the verse and is followed here.
  5. Proverbs 22:3 tn The verb עָנַשׁ (ʿanash) means “to fine” specifically. In the Niphal stem it means “to be fined,” or more generally, “to be punished.” In this line the punishment is the consequence of blundering into trouble—they will pay for it.
  6. Proverbs 22:4 tn The Hebrew term עֵקֶב (ʿeqev, “reward”) is related to the term meaning “heel”; it refers to the consequences or the reward that follows (akin to the English expression “on the heels of”).
  7. Proverbs 22:4 tn “Humility” is used here in the religious sense of “piety”; it is appropriately joined with “the fear of the Lord.” Some commentators, however, make “the fear of the Lord” the first in the series of rewards for humility, but that arrangement is less likely here.
  8. Proverbs 22:4 tn Heb “the fear of the Lord.” This is an objective genitive; the Lord is the object of the fear.
  9. Proverbs 22:5 tc Because MT reading צִנִּים (tsinnim, “thorns”) does not make a very good match with “traps,” it has created some difficulty for interpreters. The word “thorns” may be obscure, but it is supported by the LXX (“prickly plants”) and an apparent cognate “thorns” in Num 33:55 and Josh 23:13. But some (including the editors of BHS) suggest changing it to צַמִּים (tsammim, “traps” changing a נ [nun] to a מ [mem]). But BDB 855 s.v. צַמִּים acknowledges that this word is a doubtful word, attested only a couple of times in Job (e.g., 18:9). W. McKane traces a development from the idea of צֵן (tsen, “basket; trap”) to support this change (Proverbs [OTL], 565). The present translation (like many other English versions) has retained “thorns,” even though the parallelism with “traps” is not very good; as the harder reading it is preferred. The variant readings have little textual or philological support, and simplify the “Thorns and snares” represent the dangers and threats to life. They would be implied comparisons (hypocatastasis): As a path strewn with thorns and traps, life for the wicked will be filled with dangers and difficulties.