New English Translation
24 Whoever shares with a thief[a] is his own enemy;[b]
he hears the oath to testify,[c] but does not talk.
25 The fear of people[d] becomes[e] a snare,[f]
but whoever trusts in the Lord will be set on high.[g]
26 Many people seek the face[h] of a ruler,
but it is from the Lord that one receives justice.[i]
- Proverbs 29:24 sn The expression shares with a thief describes someone who is an “accomplice” (cf. NAB, NIV) because he is willing to share in the loot without taking part in the crime.
- Proverbs 29:24 tn Heb “hates his soul.” The accomplice is working against himself, for he will be punished along with the thief if he is caught.
- Proverbs 29:24 tn Heb “oath” or “imprecation”; ASV “adjuration.” This amounted to an “oath” or “curse” (cf. NAB “he hears himself put under a curse”; NRSV “one hears the victim’s curse”) either by or on behalf of the victim, that any witness to the crime must testify (cf. Lev 5:1). However, in this legal setting referring to “a victim’s curse” could be misleading (cf. also KJV “he heareth cursing”), since it could be understood to refer to profanity directed against those guilty of the crime rather than an imprecation called down on a witness who refused to testify (as in the present proverb). The present translation specifies this as an “oath to testify.”sn The oath to testify was not an oath to tell the truth before a court of law in the modern sense. Instead it was a “curse” or “imprecation” expressed by the victim of the theft, or by the legal authorities, called down on any witness of the crime who kept silent or refused to testify (as here). According to Lev 5:1, if a witness does not speak up he is accountable for the crime. This person hears the adjuration, but if he speaks up he is condemned, and if he does not speak up he is guilty under the law. The proverb is an unusual one; it seems to be warning against getting mixed up in any way with the thief, for it will create a serious ethical dilemma.
- Proverbs 29:25 tn Heb “the fear of man.” This uses an objective genitive to describe a situation where fearing what people might do or think controls one’s life. There is no indication in the immediate context that this should be limited only to males, so the translation uses the more generic “people” here.
- Proverbs 29:25 tn Heb “gives [or yields, or produces]”; NIV “will prove to be.”
- Proverbs 29:25 sn “Snare” is an implied comparison; fearing people is like being in a trap—there is no freedom of movement or sense of security.
- Proverbs 29:25 sn The image of being set on high comes from the military experience of finding a defensible position, a place of safety and security, such as a high wall or a mountain. Trusting in the Lord sets people free and gives them a sense of safety and security (e.g., Prov 10:27; 12:2).
- Proverbs 29:26 sn The idiom seek the face means to try to obtain favor from someone. According to the proverb, many people assume that true justice depends on the disposition of some earthly ruler.
- Proverbs 29:26 tn Heb “but from the Lord [is] justice of a man.” The last part uses the construct state followed by the genitive, which here shows the advantage—it is justice for the person. The implication of the matter is that people should seek the Lord’s favor (rather than a human ruler’s) if they want true justice.