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Proverbs 29:2-4 New English Translation (NET Bible)

When the righteous become numerous,[a] the people rejoice;
when the wicked rule, the people groan.[b]
The man[c] who loves wisdom brings joy to his father,[d]
but whoever associates[e] with prostitutes wastes[f] his wealth.[g]
A king brings stability to[h] a land[i] by justice,
but one who exacts tribute[j] tears it down.


  1. Proverbs 29:2 tn The Hebrew form בִּרְבוֹת (birvot) is the Qal infinitive construct of רָבָה (ravah) with a ב (bet) preposition, forming a temporal clause with a subjective genitive following it. It is paralleled in the second colon by the same construction, showing the antithesis: וּבִמְשֹׁל (uvimshol), “and when the wicked rule.” Some commentators wish to change the first verb to make it parallel this more closely, e.g., רָדָה (radah, “to rule”), but that would be too neat and is completely unsupported. The contrast is between when the righteous increase and when the wicked rule. It is not hard to see how this contrast works out in society.
  2. Proverbs 29:2 tn The Niphal verb אָנַח (ʾanakh) means “to sigh; to groan,” usually because of grief or physical and emotional distress. The word is a metonymy of effect; the cause is the oppression and distress due to evil rulers.
  3. Proverbs 29:3 tn Heb “a man.” Here “man” is retained in the translation because the second colon mentions prostitutes.
  4. Proverbs 29:3 tn Or “causes his father to rejoice”; NAB “makes his father glad.”
  5. Proverbs 29:3 tn The active participle רֹעֶה (roʿeh) is from the second root רָעָה (raʿah), meaning “to associate with.” The verb occurs only a few times, and mostly in the book of Proverbs. It is related to רֵעֶה (reʿeh, “friend; companion; fellow”). To describe someone as a “companion” or “friend” of prostitutes is somewhat euphemistic; it surely means someone who is frequently engaging the services of prostitutes.
  6. Proverbs 29:3 tn The Hebrew verb יְאַבֶּד (yeʾabbed) means “destroys”; it is the Piel imperfect of the verb that means “to perish.”
  7. Proverbs 29:3 sn Wealth was seen as a sign of success and of God’s blessings, pretty much as it always has been. To be seen as honorable in the community meant one had acquired some substance and kept his reputation. It would be a disgrace to the family to have a son who squandered his money on prostitutes (e.g., Prov 5:10; 6:31).
  8. Proverbs 29:4 tn The form is the Hiphil imperfect of the verb עָמַד (ʿamad, “to stand”), hence, “to cause to stand.” It means that the king makes the nation “stand firm,” with “standing firm” being a figure for strength, security, and stability. Cf. NCV “makes his country (the nation CEV) strong.”
  9. Proverbs 29:4 tn Or “country.” This term functions as a metonymy of subject for the people in the land.
  10. Proverbs 29:4 tn The Hebrew text reads אִישׁ תְּרוּמוֹת (ʾish terumot, “a man of offerings”), which could refer to a man who “receives gifts” or “gives gifts.” Because of its destructive nature on the country, here the phrase must mean that he receives or “exacts” the money (cf. NRSV “makes heavy exactions”). This seems to go beyond the ordinary taxation for two reasons: (1) this ruler is a “man of offerings,” indicating that it is in his nature to do this, and (2) it tears down the country. The word “offerings” has been taken to refer to gifts or bribes (cf. NASB, NIV, CEV, NLT), but the word itself suggests more the idea of tribute or taxes that are demanded; this Hebrew word was used in Leviticus for offerings given to the priests, and in Ezek 45:16 for taxes. The point seems to be that this ruler or administrator is breaking the backs of the people with heavy taxes or tribute (e.g., 1 Sam 8:11-18), and this causes division and strife.
New English Translation (NET)

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