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Proverbs 22:5-7 New English Translation (NET Bible)

Thorns and snares[a] are in the path of the perverse,
but the one who guards himself keeps far from them.
Train[b] a child[c] in the way that he should go,[d]
and when he is old he will not turn from it.[e]
The rich rule over[f] the poor,
and the borrower is servant[g] to the lender.

Footnotes:

  1. 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 line.sn “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.
  2. Proverbs 22:6 tn The verb חָנַךְ (khanakh) means “to train up; to dedicate” (BDB 335 s.v.; HALOT 334 s.v. חנך). The verb is used elsewhere to refer to dedicating a house (Deut 20:5; 1 Kgs 8:63; 2 Chr 7:5). The related noun חֲנֻכָה (khanukhah) means “dedication; consecration” (BDB 335 s.v.; HALOT 334 s.v.), and is used in reference to the dedication or consecration of altars (Num 7:10; 2 Chr 7:9), the temple (Ps 30:1), and town walls (Neh 12:27). The related adjective חָנִיךְ (khanikh) describes “trained, tried, experienced” men (BDB 335 s.v.; Gen 14:14). In the related cognate languages the verb has similar meanings: Aramaic “to train,” Ethiopic “to initiate,” and Arabic IV “to learn; to make experienced” (HALOT 334 s.v.). This proverb pictures a child who is dedicated by parents to the Lord and morally trained to follow him. On the other hand, a popular expositional approach suggests that it means “to motivate.” This view is based on a cognate Arabic root II which (among many other things) refers to the practice of rubbing the palate of a newborn child with date juice or olive oil to motivate the child to suck. While this makes an interesting sermon illustration, it is highly unlikely that this concept was behind this Hebrew verb. The Arabic meaning is late and secondary—the Arabic term did not have this meaning until nearly a millennium after this proverb was written.
  3. Proverbs 22:6 tn The term נַעַר (naʿar) is traditionally translated “child” here (so almost all English versions), but might mean “youth.” The noun can refer to a broad range of ages (see BDB 654-55 s.v.; HALOT 707 s.v.): infant (Exod 2:6), weaned child (1 Sam 1:24), young child (Jer 1:6), lad (Gen 22:12), adolescent (Gen 37:2), or young man of marriageable age (Gen 34:19). The context focuses on the child’s young, formative years. The Talmud says this would be up to the age of twenty-four.
  4. Proverbs 22:6 tn The expression in Hebrew is עַל־פִּי דַּרְכּוֹ (ʿal pi darko), which can be rendered “according to his way”; NEB “Start a boy on the right road.” The expression “his way” is “the way he should go”; it reflects the point the book of Proverbs is making that there is a standard of life to which he must attain. Saadia, a Jewish scholar who lived a.d. 882-942, first suggested that this could mean the child should be trained according to his inclination or bent of mind. This may have some merit in practice, but it is not likely what the proverb had in mind. In the book of Proverbs there are only two ways that a person can go, the way of the wise or righteousness, and the way of the fool. One takes training, and the other does not. Ralbag, in fact, offered a satirical interpretation: “Train a child according to his evil inclinations (let him have his will) and he will continue in his evil way throughout life” (J. H. Greenstone, Proverbs, 234). C. H. Toy says the expression means “in accordance with the manner of life to which he is destined (Proverbs [ICC], 415). W. McKane says, “There is only one right way—the way of life—and the educational discipline which directs young men along this way is uniform” (Proverbs [OTL], 564). This phrase does not describe the concept perpetuated by a modern psychological interpretation of the verse: Train a child according to his personality trait.
  5. Proverbs 22:6 sn The expected consequence of such training is that it will last throughout life. The sages were confident of the character-forming quality of their training. However, proverbs are not universal truths. One can anticipate positive results from careful child-training—but there may be an occasional exception.
  6. Proverbs 22:7 sn The proverb is making an observation on life. The synonymous parallelism matches “rule over” with “servant” to show how poverty makes people dependent on, or obligated to, others.
  7. Proverbs 22:7 tn Or “slave” (so NAB, NASB, NRSV, TEV, CEV). This may refer to the practice in Israel of people selling themselves into slavery to pay off debts (Exod 21:2-7).
New English Translation (NET)

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