New English Translation
16 The intentions of the heart[a] belong to a man,
but the answer of the tongue[b] comes from[c] the Lord.[d]
2 All a person’s ways[e] seem right[f] in his own opinion,[g]
but the Lord evaluates[h] the motives.[i]
3 Commit[j] your works[k] to the Lord,
and your plans will be established.[l]
4 The Lord has worked[m] everything for his own ends[n]—
even the wicked for the day of disaster.[o]
5 The Lord abhors[p] every arrogant person;[q]
rest assured[r] that they will not go unpunished.[s]
6 Through loyal love and truth[t] iniquity is appeased;[u]
through fearing the Lord[v] one avoids[w] evil.[x]
7 When a person’s[y] ways are pleasing to the Lord,[z]
he[aa] even reconciles his enemies to himself.[ab]
8 Better to have a little with righteousness[ac]
than to have abundant income without justice.[ad]
9 A person[ae] plans his course,[af]
but the Lord directs[ag] his steps.[ah]
10 The divine verdict[ai] is in the words[aj] of the king,
his pronouncements[ak] must not act treacherously[al] against justice.
11 Honest scales and balances[am] are from the Lord;
all the weights[an] in the bag are his handiwork.
12 Doing wickedness[ao] is an abomination to kings,
because a throne[ap] is established in righteousness.
13 The delight of a king[aq] is righteous counsel,[ar]
and he will love the one who speaks[as] uprightly.[at]
14 A king’s wrath[au] is like[av] a messenger of death,[aw]
but a wise person appeases it.[ax]
15 In the light of the king’s face[ay] there is life,
and his favor is like the clouds[az] of the spring rain.[ba]
16 How much better it is to acquire[bb] wisdom than gold;
to acquire understanding is more desirable[bc] than silver.
17 The highway[bd] of the upright is to turn away[be] from evil;
the one who guards[bf] his way safeguards his life.[bg]
18 Pride[bh] goes[bi] before destruction,
and a haughty spirit before a fall.[bj]
19 It is better to be lowly in spirit[bk] with the afflicted
than to share the spoils[bl] with the proud.
20 The one who deals wisely[bm] in a matter[bn] will find success,[bo]
and blessed[bp] is the one who trusts in the Lord.[bq]
21 The one who is wise in heart[br] is called[bs] discerning,
and kind speech[bt] increases persuasiveness.[bu]
22 Insight[bv] is like[bw] a life-giving fountain[bx] to the one who possesses it,
but folly leads to the discipline of fools.[by]
23 A wise person’s heart[bz] makes his speech wise[ca]
and it adds persuasiveness[cb] to his words.[cc]
24 Pleasant words are like[cd] a honeycomb,[ce]
sweet to the soul and healing[cf] to the bones.
25 There is a way that seems right to a person,[cg]
but its end is the way that leads to death.[ch]
26 A laborer’s[ci] appetite[cj] has labored for him,
for his hunger[ck] has pressed[cl] him to work.[cm]
27 A wicked scoundrel[cn] digs up[co] evil,
and his slander[cp] is like a scorching fire.[cq]
28 A perverse person[cr] spreads dissension,
and a gossip separates the closest friends.[cs]
29 A violent person[ct] entices[cu] his neighbor,
and then leads him down a path that is terrible.[cv]
30 The one who winks[cw] his eyes[cx] devises[cy] perverse things,
and[cz] one who compresses his lips[da] has accomplished[db] evil.
31 Gray hair is like[dc] a crown of glory;[dd]
it is attained[de] in the path of righteousness.[df]
32 Better to be slow to anger[dg] than to be a mighty warrior,
and one who controls his temper[dh] is better than[di] one who captures a city.[dj]
33 The dice are thrown into the lap,[dk]
but their every decision[dl] is from the Lord.[dm]
- Proverbs 16:1 tn Heb “plans of the heart” (so ASV, NASB, NIV). The phrase מַעַרְכֵי־לֵב (maʿarekhe lev) means “the arrangements of the mind.” sn Humans may set things in order, plan out what they are going to say, but God sovereignly enables them to put their thoughts into words.
- Proverbs 16:1 tn Here “the tongue” is a metonymy of cause in which the instrument of speech is put for what is said: the answer expressed.
- Proverbs 16:1 sn The contrasting prepositions enhance the contrasting ideas—the ideas belong to people, but the words come from the Lord.
- Proverbs 16:1 sn There are two ways this statement can be taken: (1) what one intends to say and what one actually says are the same, or (2) what one actually says differs from what the person intended to say. The second view fits the contrast better. The proverb then is giving a glimpse of how God even confounds the wise. When someone is trying to speak [“answer” in the book seems to refer to a verbal answer] before others, the Lord directs the words according to his sovereign will.
- Proverbs 16:2 tn Heb “ways of a man.”
- Proverbs 16:2 sn The Hebrew term translated “right” (זַךְ, zakh) means “pure, clear, clean” (cf. KJV, NASB “clean;” NIV “innocent;” ESV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV “pure.” It is used in the Bible for pure (uncontaminated) oils or undiluted liquids. Here it means uncontaminated actions and motives. It address how people naively conclude or rationalize that their actions are fine.
- Proverbs 16:2 tn Heb “in his eyes.” Physical sight is used figuratively for insight, or one’s intellectual point of view.
- Proverbs 16:2 tn The figure (a hypocatastasis) of “weighing” signifies “evaluation” (e.g., Exod 5:8; 1 Sam 2:3; 16:7; Prov 21:2; 24:12). There may be an allusion to the Egyptian belief of weighing the heart after death to determine righteousness. But in Hebrew thought it is an ongoing evaluation as well, not merely an evaluation after death.
- Proverbs 16:2 tn Heb “spirits” (so KJV, ASV). This is a metonymy for the motives, the intentions of the heart (e.g., 21:2 and 24:2). sn Humans deceive themselves rather easily and so appear righteous in their own eyes, but the proverb says that God evaluates motives and so he alone can determine if the person’s ways are innocent.
- Proverbs 16:3 tc The MT reads גֹּל (gol, “commit”) from the root גָּלַל (galal, “to roll”). The LXX and Tg. Prov 16:3 have “reveal” as if the root were גָּלָה (galah, “to reveal”).tn Heb “roll.” The figure of rolling (an implied comparison or hypocatastasis), as in rolling one’s burdens on the Lord, is found also in Pss 22:8 ; 37:5; 55:22. It portrays complete dependence on the Lord. This would be accomplished with a spirit of humility and by means of diligent prayer, but the plan must also have God’s approval.
- Proverbs 16:3 tn The suffix on the plural noun would be a subjective genitive: “the works you are doing,” or here, “the works that you want to do.”
- Proverbs 16:3 tn The syntax of the second clause shows that there is subordination: The vav on וְיִכֹּנוּ (veyikkonu) coming after the imperative of the first clause expresses that this clause is the purpose or result. People should commit their works in order that the Lord may establish them. J. H. Greenstone says, “True faith relieves much anxiety and smoothens many perplexities” (Proverbs, 172).
- Proverbs 16:4 tn The Hebrew verb פָּעַל (paʿal) means “to work out; to bring about; to accomplish.” As the perfect form of a dynamic root, it is past or perfective. By using a past nuance, the proverb asserts that this is not just something that will work out some day. It affirms that God has done so and views this action as prototypical of what God does. Elsewhere with this verb, the preposition ל (lamed) indicates the purpose of the work (when followed by an infinitive, e.g. Exod 15:7), or who the action was for/against (when followed by a person, e.g. Isa 26:12). In the only other case where the verb פָּעַל (paʿal) has a direct object and the preposition ל (lamed) it means to make, or modify, the thing into something else (Ps 7:13). Applying that same syntax here could mean “God has turned everything to his own purpose.” God has done so by turning what was meant to harm into good (as with Joseph, Gen 50:20) and here by preparing the wicked for disaster. If it means to turn one thing into another, then the verse affirms God’s sovereignty while not making him directly responsible for evil acts chosen by the wicked.
- Proverbs 16:4 tc The Latin Vulgate implies the form לְמַעֲנֵהוּ (lemaʿanehu) “for his/its sake/purpose” rather than the Masoretic text’s לַמַּעֲנֵהוּ (lammaʿanehu) “for his/its purpose/answer.” Both are reading the same consonantal text but understanding the vowels differently. tn At the core of the phrase לַמַּעֲנֵהוּ (lammaʿanehu) in the Masoretic text, lies the word מַעֲנֶה (maʿaneh), which is proposed to mean “answer” or “purpose.” HALOT proposes that they are two homonyms (HALOT I, 614) going back to different homonymous verbal roots. If this is the noun meaning “answer,” it may imply the consequence. God ensures that everyone’s actions and the consequences of those actions correspond—certainly the wicked for the day of calamity. In God’s order there is just retribution for every act.
- Proverbs 16:4 sn This is an example of synthetic parallelism (“A, what’s more B”). The A-line affirms a truth, and the B-line expands on it with a specific application about the wicked—whatever disaster comes their way is an appropriate correspondent for their life.
- Proverbs 16:5 tn Heb “an abomination of the Lord.” The term יְהוָה (yehvah, “the Lord”) is a subjective genitive: “the Lord abhors.”
- Proverbs 16:5 tn Heb “everyone of proud of heart.” The noun לֵב (lev, “heart, mind”) represents what one does with the לֵב, i.e., thinking and feeling, and here refers to the attitude of someone’s spirit. It acts as a genitive of specification, “proud in the heart.” The phrase refers to that class of people who are arrogant, those who set themselves presumptuously against God (e.g., 2 Chr 26:16; Ps 131:1; Prov 18:12).
- Proverbs 16:5 tn Heb “hand to hand.” This idiom means “you can be assured” (e.g., Prov 11:21).
- Proverbs 16:5 tn The B-line continues the A-line, stating the eventual outcome of the Lord’s abhorrence of arrogance—he will punish them. “Will not go unpunished” is an understatement (tapeinosis) to stress first that they will certainly be punished; whereas those who humble themselves before God in faith will not be punished.tc The LXX has inserted two couplets here: “The beginning of a good way is to do justly, // and it is more acceptable with God than to do sacrifices; // he who seeks the Lord will find knowledge with righteousness, // and they who rightly seek him will find peace.” C. H. Toy reminds the reader that there were many proverbs in existence that sounded similar to those in the book of Proverbs; these lines are in the Greek OT as well as in Sirach (Proverbs [ICC], 321-22).
- Proverbs 16:6 sn These two words are often found together to form a nominal hendiadys: “faithful loyal love.” The couplet often characterizes the Lord, but here in parallel to the fear of the Lord it refers to the faithfulness of the believer. Such faith and faithfulness bring atonement for sin.
- Proverbs 16:6 tn Heb “is atoned”; KJV “is purged”; NAB “is expiated.” The verb is from I כָּפַר (kafar, “to atone; to expiate; to pacify; to appease”; HALOT 493-94 s.v. I כפר). This root should not be confused with the identically spelled Homonym II כָּפַר (kafar, “to cover over”; HALOT 494 s.v. II *כפר). Atonement in the OT expiated sins, it did not merely cover them over (cf. NLT). C. H. Toy explains the meaning by saying it affirms that the divine anger against sin is turned away and man’s relation to God is as though he had not sinned (Proverbs [ICC], 322). Genuine repentance, demonstrated by loyalty and truthfulness, appeases the anger of God against one’s sin.
- Proverbs 16:6 tn Heb “fear of the Lord.” The term יְהוָה (yehvah, “the Lord”) functions as an objective genitive: “fearing the Lord.”
- Proverbs 16:6 tn Heb “turns away from”; NASB “keeps away from.”
- Proverbs 16:6 sn The Hebrew word translated “evil” (רַע, raʿ) can in some contexts mean “calamity” or “disaster,” but here it seems more likely to mean “evil” in the sense of sin. Faithfulness to the Lord brings freedom from sin. The verse uses synonymous parallelism with a variant: One half speaks of atonement for sin because of the life of faith, and the other of avoidance of sin because of the fear of the Lord.
- Proverbs 16:7 tn Heb “ways of a man.”
- Proverbs 16:7 tn The first line uses an infinitive in a temporal clause, followed by its subject in the genitive case: “in the taking pleasure of the Lord” = “when the Lord is pleased with.” So the condition set down for the second colon is a lifestyle that is pleasing to God.
- Proverbs 16:7 tn The referent of the verb in the second colon is unclear. The straightforward answer is that it refers to the person whose ways please the Lord—it is his lifestyle that disarms his enemies. W. McKane comments that the righteous have the power to mend relationships (Proverbs [OTL], 491); see, e.g., 10:13; 14:9; 15:1; 25:21-22). The life that is pleasing to God will be above reproach and find favor with others. Some would interpret this to mean that God makes his enemies to be at peace with him (cf. KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NLT). This is workable, but in this passage it would seem God would do this through the pleasing life of the believer (cf. NCV, TEV, CEV).
- Proverbs 16:7 tn Heb “even his enemies he makes to be at peace with him.”
- Proverbs 16:8 sn The lines contrast the modest income with the abundant income, but the real contrast is between righteousness and the lack of justice (or injustice). “Justice” is used for both legal justice and ethical conduct. It is contrasted with righteousness in 12:5 and 21:7; it describes ethical behavior in 21:3. Here the point is that unethical behavior tarnishes the great gain and will be judged by God.
- Proverbs 16:8 sn This is another “better” saying; between these two things, the first is better. There are other options—such as righteousness with wealth—but the proverb is not concerned with that. A similar saying appears in Amenemope 8:19-20 (ANET 422).
- Proverbs 16:9 tn Heb “the mind of a man.” The term לֵב (lev, “mind, heart”) represents the person in this case (a synecdoche of a part for the whole) but highlights that faculty most relevant to the verb for planning.
- Proverbs 16:9 tn Heb “his way” (so KJV, NASB).
- Proverbs 16:9 tn The verb כּוּן (kun, “to establish; to confirm”) with צַעַד (tsaʿad, “step”) means “to direct” (e.g., Ps 119:133; Jer 10:23). This contrasts what people plan and what actually happens—God determines the latter.
- Proverbs 16:9 sn “Steps” is an implied comparison, along with “way,” to indicate the events of the plan as they work out.
- Proverbs 16:10 tn Heb “oracle” (so NAB, NIV) or “decision”; TEV “the king speaks with divine authority.” The term קֶסֶם (qesem) is used in the sense of “oracle; decision; verdict” (HALOT 1115-16 s.v.). The pronouncements of a king form an oracular sentence, as if he speaks for God; they are divine decisions (e.g., Num 22:7; 23:23; 2 Sam 14:20).
- Proverbs 16:10 tn Heb “on the lips.” The term “lips” is a metonymy of cause referring to what the king says—no doubt what he says officially.
- Proverbs 16:10 tn Heb “his mouth.” The term “mouth” is a metonymy of cause for what the king says: his pronouncements and legal decisions.
- Proverbs 16:10 sn The second line gives the effect of the first: If the king delivers such oracular sayings (קֶסֶם, qesem, translated “divine verdict”), then he must be careful in the decisions he makes. The imperfect tense then requires a modal nuance to stress the obligation of the king not to act treacherously against justice. It would also be possible to translate the verb as a jussive: Let the king not act treacherously against justice. For duties of the king, see Ps 72 and Isa 11. For a comparison with Ezek 21:23-26, see E. W. Davies, “The Meaning of qesem in Prov 16:10, ” Bib 61 (1980): 554-56.
- Proverbs 16:11 tn Heb “a scale and balances of justice.” This is an attributive genitive, meaning “just scales and balances.” The law required that scales and measures be accurate and fair (Lev 19:36; Deut 25:13). Shrewd dishonest people kept light and heavy weights to make unfair transactions.
- Proverbs 16:11 tn Heb “stones.”
- Proverbs 16:12 sn The “wickedness” mentioned here (רֶשַׁע, reshaʿ) might better be understood as a criminal act, for the related word “wicked” can also mean the guilty criminal. If a king is trying to have a righteous administration, he will detest any criminal acts.
- Proverbs 16:12 tn The “throne” represents the administration, or the decisions made from the throne by the king, and so the word is a metonymy of adjunct (cf. NLT “his rule”).
- Proverbs 16:13 tc The MT has the plural. Two Hebrew mss, the LXX, Syriac, and Targum read “a king.”
- Proverbs 16:13 tn Heb “lips of righteousness”; cf. NAB, NIV “honest lips.” The genitive “righteousness” functions as an attributive adjective. The term “lips” is a metonymy of cause for what is said: “righteous speech” or “righteous counsel.”
- Proverbs 16:13 tn The MT has the singular participle followed by the plural adjective (which is here a substantive). The editors of BHS wish to follow the ancient versions in making the participle plural, “those who speak uprightly.”
- Proverbs 16:13 sn The verse is talking about righteous kings, of course—they love righteousness and not flattery. In this proverb “righteous” and “upright” referring to what is said means “what is right and straight,” i.e., the truth (cf. NCV).
- Proverbs 16:14 sn This proverb introduces the danger of becoming a victim of the king’s wrath (cf. CEV “if the king becomes angry, someone may die”). A wise person knows how to pacify the unexpected and irrational behavior of a king. The proverb makes the statement, and then gives the response to the subject.
- Proverbs 16:14 tn The comparative “like” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is implied by the metaphor; it is supplied for the sake of clarity.
- Proverbs 16:14 tn The expression uses an implied comparison, comparing “wrath” to a messenger because it will send a message. The qualification is “death,” an objective genitive, meaning the messenger will bring death, or the message will be about death. E.g., 1 Kgs 2:25, 29-34 and 46. Some have suggested a comparison with the two messengers of Baal to the god Mot (“Death”) in the Ugaritic tablets (H. L. Ginsberg, “Baal’s Two Messengers,” BASOR 95 : 25-30). If there is an allusion, it is a very slight one. The verse simply says that the king’s wrath threatens death.
- Proverbs 16:14 tn The verb is כָּפַר (kafar), which means “to pacify; to appease” and “to atone; to expiate” in Levitical passages. It would take a wise person to know how to calm or pacify the wrath of a king—especially in the ancient Near East.
- Proverbs 16:15 tn Heb “the light of the face of the king.” This expression is a way of describing the king’s brightened face, his delight in what is taking place. This would mean life for those around him.sn The proverb is the antithesis of 16:14.
- Proverbs 16:15 tn Heb “cloud.”
- Proverbs 16:15 tn Heb “latter rain” (so KJV, ASV). The favor that this expression represents is now compared to the cloud of rain that comes with the “latter” rain or harvest rain. The point is that the rain cloud was necessary for the successful harvest; likewise the king’s pleasure will ensure the success and the productivity of the people under him. E.g., also Psalm 72:15-17; the prosperity of the land is portrayed as a blessing on account of the ideal king.
- Proverbs 16:16 tn The form קְנֹה (qenoh) is an infinitive; the Greek version apparently took it as a participle, and the Latin as an imperative—both working with an unpointed קנה, the letter ה (he) being unexpected in the form if it is an infinitive construct (the parallel clause has קְנוֹת [qenot] for the infinitive, but the ancient versions also translate that as either a participle or an imperative).
- Proverbs 16:16 tn The form is a Niphal participle, masculine singular. If it is modifying “understanding” it should be a feminine form. If it is to be translated, it would have to be rendered “and to acquire understanding is to be chosen more than silver” (cf. KJV, ASV, NASB). Many commentaries consider it superfluous. NIV and NCV simply have “to choose understanding rather than silver!”
- Proverbs 16:17 sn The point of righteous living is made with the image of a highway, a raised and well-graded road (a hypocatastasis, implying a comparison between a highway and the right way of living).
- Proverbs 16:17 tn The form סוּר (sur) is a Qal infinitive; it indicates that a purpose of the righteous life is to turn away from evil. “Evil” here has the sense of sinful living. So the first line asserts that the well-cared-for life avoids sin.
- Proverbs 16:17 sn The second half of the verse uses two different words for “guard”; this one is נֹצֵר (notser) “the one who guards his way,” and the first is שֹׁמֵר (shomer) “the one who guards his life” (the order of the words is reversed in the translation). The second colon then explains further the first (synthetic parallelism), because to guard one’s way preserves life.
- Proverbs 16:17 tc The LXX adds three lines after 17a and one after 17b: “The paths of life turn aside from evils, and the ways of righteousness are length of life; he who receives instruction will be prosperous, and he who regards reproofs will be made wise; he who guards his ways preserves his soul, and he who loves his life will spare his mouth.”
- Proverbs 16:18 sn The two lines of this proverb are synonymous parallelism, and so there are parasynonyms. “Pride” is paired with “haughty spirit” (“spirit” being a genitive of specification); and “destruction” is matched with “a tottering, falling.”
- Proverbs 16:18 tn Heb “[is] before destruction.”
- Proverbs 16:18 sn Many proverbs have been written in a similar way to warn against the inevitable disintegration and downfall of pride. W. McKane records an Arabic proverb: “The nose is in the heavens, the seat is in the mire” (Proverbs [OTL], 490).
- Proverbs 16:19 tn Heb “low of spirit”; KJV “of an humble spirit.” This expression describes the person who is humble and submissive before the Lord and therefore inoffensive. It is always necessary to have a humble spirit, whether there is wealth or not.
- Proverbs 16:19 tn Heb “than to divide plunder.” The word “plunder” implies that the wealth taken by the proud was taken violently and wrongfully—spoils are usually taken in warfare. R. N. Whybray translates it with “loot” (Proverbs [CBC], 95). The proud are in rebellion against God, overbearing and oppressive. One should never share the “loot” with them.
- Proverbs 16:20 tn Heb “he who is prudent” or “he who deals wisely” (cf. KJV). The proverb seems to be referring to wise business concerns and the reward for the righteous. One who deals wisely in a matter will find good results. R. N. Whybray sees a contrast here: “The shrewd man of business will succeed well, but the happy man is he who trusts the Lord” (Proverbs [CBC], 92). Synonymous parallelism is more appropriate.
- Proverbs 16:20 tn Or “he who gives heed to a word,” that is, “who listens to instruction” (cf. NIV, NLT).
- Proverbs 16:20 tn Heb “good” (so KJV, ASV).
- Proverbs 16:20 tn Although traditionally this word is translated “happy” (cf. KJV, ASV, NAB, NRSV, NLT), such a translation can be misleading because the word means far more than that. It describes the heavenly bliss that comes from knowing one is right with God and following God’s precepts. The “blessed” could be at odds with the world (Ps 1:1-3).
- Proverbs 16:20 tn Heb “and the one who trusts in the Lord—blessed is he.”
- Proverbs 16:21 tn Heb “wise of heart” (so NRSV).
- Proverbs 16:21 tn Heb “to the wise of heart it will be called discerning.” This means that the wise of heart, those who make wise decisions (“heart” being the metonymy), will gain a reputation of being the discerning ones.
- Proverbs 16:21 tn Heb “sweetness of lips.” The term “lips” is a metonymy of cause, meaning what is said. It is a genitive of specification. The idea of “sweetness” must be gracious and friendly words. The teaching will be well-received because it is both delightful and persuasive (cf. NIV “pleasant words promote instruction”).
- Proverbs 16:21 tn Heb “teaching” or “receptivity”; KJV “learning”; NIV “instruction.”
- Proverbs 16:22 tn The Hebrew noun שֵׂכֵל (sekhel, “prudence; insight”; cf. KJV, NASB, NIV “understanding”; NAB, CEV “good sense”) is related to the verb that means “to have insight; to give attention to; to act circumspectly [or, prudently],” as well as “to prosper; to have success.” These words all describe the kind of wise action that will be successful.
- Proverbs 16:22 tn The comparative “like” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is implied by the metaphor; it is supplied for the sake of clarity.
- Proverbs 16:22 tn Heb “fountain of life.” The point of the metaphor is that like a fountain this wisdom will be a constant provision for living in this world.
- Proverbs 16:22 tn Heb “the discipline of fools [is] folly.” The “discipline” (מוּסָר, musar) in this proverb is essentially a requital for sin (hence “punishment,” so NIV, NCV, NRSV); discipline which is intended to correct is normally rejected and despised by fools. So the line is saying that there is very little that can be done for or with the fool (cf. NLT “discipline is wasted on fools”).
- Proverbs 16:23 tn Or “mind” (cf. NCV, NRSV, NLT).
- Proverbs 16:23 tn Heb “makes wise his mouth,” with “mouth” being a metonymy of cause for what is said: “speech.”
- Proverbs 16:23 sn Those who are wise say wise things. The proverb uses synthetic parallelism: The first line asserts that the wise heart ensures that what is said is wise, and the second line adds that such a person increases the reception of what is said.
- Proverbs 16:23 tn Heb “to his lips.” The term “lips” functions as a metonymy of cause for what is said.
- Proverbs 16:24 tn The comparative “like” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is implied by the metaphor; it is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.
- Proverbs 16:24 sn The metaphor of honey or the honeycomb is used elsewhere in scripture, notably Ps 19:10 . Honey was used in Israel as a symbol of the delightful and healthy products of the land—“a land flowing with milk and honey” (Deut 6:3).
- Proverbs 16:24 sn Two predicates are added to qualify the metaphor: The pleasant words are “sweet” and “healing.” “Soul” includes in it the appetites, physical and spiritual; and so sweet to the “soul” would summarize all the ways pleasant words give pleasure. “Bones” is a metonymy of subject, the boney framework representing the whole person, body and soul. Pleasant words, like honey, will enliven and encourage the whole person. One might recall, in line with the imagery here, how Jonathan’s eyes brightened when he ate from the honeycomb (1 Sam 14:27).
- Proverbs 16:25 tn Heb “which is straight before a man.”
- Proverbs 16:25 tn Heb “the ways of death.” See note at the identical saying in 14:12.
- Proverbs 16:26 sn The words for “laborer” (עָמֵל; ʿamel) and “labored” (עָמַל; ʿamal) are less common Hebrew terms for work. The root idea refers to exertion, or toil, and sometimes to anxiety. In Eccl. 2:11 the Preacher refers to all his many building projects with this verb for hard work. This proverb pictures hard work being done of necessity rather than for the satisfaction of doing the work itself.
- Proverbs 16:26 tn Heb “soul.” The term נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) here means “appetite,” functioning as a metonymy; the “inner soul” of a person representing his appetite (BDB 660 s.v. 5a; see, e.g., Pss 63:6; 107:9; Prov 13:25; 16:24; 27:7; Isa 56:11; 58:10; Jer 50:19; Ezek 7:19). This is suggested by the parallelism with “hunger.”
- Proverbs 16:26 tn Heb “his mouth” (so KJV, NAB). The term “mouth” is a metonymy for hunger or eating. The idea of the proverb is clear—the need to eat drives people to work.
- Proverbs 16:26 tn This verb, אָכַף (ʾakaf), occurs only here in the Hebrew Bible. Cognate languages associate it with saddling an animal or pressing. A similar English idiom might be “to spur on.” The verbs in the proverb are past time, noting a pattern which has been observed and is prototypical.
- Proverbs 16:26 tc The LXX has apparently misread פִּיהוּ (pihu) and inserted the idea of “ruin” for the laborer: “he drives away ruin.” This influenced the Syriac to some degree; however, its first clause understood “suffering” instead of “labor”: “the person who causes suffering suffers.”sn This theme is taught elsewhere (e.g., Eccl 6:7; Eph 4:28; 6:7; 2 Thess 3:10-12).
- Proverbs 16:27 tn Heb “a man of belial.” This phrase means “wicked scoundrel.” Some translate “worthless” (so ASV, NASB, CEV), but the phrase includes deep depravity and wickedness (C. H. Toy, Proverbs [ICC], 125-26).
- Proverbs 16:27 tn Heb “digs up” (so NASB). The “wicked scoundrel” finds out about evil and brings it to the surface (Prov 26:27; Jer 18:20). What he digs up he spreads by speech.
- Proverbs 16:27 tn Heb “on his lips” (so NAB) The term “lips” is a metonymy of cause. To say that “evil” is on his lips means that he talks about the evil he has dug up.
- Proverbs 16:27 sn The simile stresses the devastating way that slander hurts people. W. McKane says that this one “digs for scandal and…propagates it with words which are ablaze with misanthropy” (Proverbs [OTL], 494).
- Proverbs 16:28 tn Heb “a man of perverse things”; NAB “an intriguer.” This refers to someone who destroys lives. The parallelism suggests that he is a “slanderer” or “gossip”—one who whispers and murmurs (18:8; 26:20, 22).
- Proverbs 16:28 tn The term אַלּוּף (ʾalluf) refers to a “friend” or “an intimate associate.” The word has other possible translations, including “tame” or “docile” when used of animals. Rashi, a Jewish scholar who lived a.d. 1040-1105, took it in the later sense of “prince,” saying that such speech alienates the Prince, namely God. But that is a forced interpretation of the line.
- Proverbs 16:29 tn Heb “man of violence.” He influences his friends toward violence. The term חָמָס (khamas, “violence”) often refers to sins against society, social injustices, and crimes.
- Proverbs 16:29 tn Or “will entice.” The verb in the first colon is an imperfect, and the form in the second is a vav plus perfect consecutive. The imperfect verb may be either present or future and implies customary or habitual behavior. The perfect consecutive continues the habitual force of the first verb. The first verb, “to persuade, seduce, entice,” is the metonymy of cause; the second verb, “to lead,” is the metonymy of effect, the two together forming the whole process.
- Proverbs 16:29 tn Heb “not good” (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV); NLT “a harmful path.” The expression “a way that is not good” is an example of tapeinosis—a deliberate understatement for the sake of emphasis: It is terrible. This refers to crime and violence. The understatement is used to warn people away from villains and to remind them to follow a good path.
- Proverbs 16:30 tn Or “who shuts.” HALOT suggests the idiom “to screw up the eyes” (HALOT I, 866) for this hapax legomenon (word which only occurs one time). The precise gesture is not certain.
- Proverbs 16:30 sn The participle עֹצֶה (ʿotseh) describes one as shutting his eyes (cf. KJV, ASV). This could mean simply “closing the eyes,” or it could refer to “winking” (so many English versions). The proverb is saying that facial expressions often reveal if someone is plotting evil (e.g., 6:13-14).
- Proverbs 16:30 tc Heb “to devise perversity.” The Hebrew text implies a verbal element before the infinitive “[does so] to devise perversity,” while the LXX uses a finite verb, which suggests an imperfect verb.
- Proverbs 16:30 tn The conjunction “and” does not appear in the Hebrew but is implied by the synonymous parallelism.
- Proverbs 16:30 tn The participle קֹרֵץ (qorets) indicates that the person involved is pinching, compressing, or biting his lips (cf. NIV “purses his lips”).
- Proverbs 16:30 tn The verb is a Piel perfect; it means “to complete, finish, bring to an end.” A full understanding of the proverb requires certainty about what the gestures are and how they functioned in that culture. BDB classifies the use of this verb, כִּלָּה (killah), as “to accomplish in thought” meaning “to determine” something (BDB 478). The proverb appears to advise how to spot if someone is devising evil or if someone has either finished plotting evil or has finished doing evil.
- Proverbs 16:31 tn The comparative “like” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is implied by the metaphor; it is supplied for the sake of clarity.
- Proverbs 16:31 sn The proverb presents the ideal, for it is not concerned with old people who may be evil. The KJV tried to qualify the interpretation by making the second half of the verse a conditional clause (“if it be found in the way of righteousness”). This is acceptable but unnecessary. The book of Proverbs is simply laying out the equity of longevity for righteousness and premature death for wicked people. In this line “gray hair” is a metonymy of adjunct/effect, representing old age; and the “glorious crown” (taking the genitive as attributive) provides a fitting metaphor to compare the hair on the head with a crown.
- Proverbs 16:31 tn Heb “it is found” (so NASB) or “it will be found.”
- Proverbs 16:31 sn While the proverb presents a general observation, there is a commendable lesson about old people who can look back on a long walk with God through life and can anticipate unbroken fellowship with him in glory.
- Proverbs 16:32 tn One who is “slow to anger” is a patient person (cf. NAB, NIV, NLT). This is explained further in the parallel line by the description of “one who rules his spirit” (וּמֹשֵׁל בְּרוּחוֹ, umoshel berukho), meaning “controls his temper.” This means the person has the emotions under control and will not “fly off the handle” quickly.
- Proverbs 16:32 tn Heb “who rules his spirit” (so NASB).
- Proverbs 16:32 tn The phrase “is better than” does not appear in this line in the Hebrew text, but is implied by the parallelism.
- Proverbs 16:32 sn The saying would have had greater impact when military prowess was held in high regard. It is harder, and therefore better, to control one’s passions than to do some great exploit on the battlefield.
- Proverbs 16:33 tn Heb “the lot is cast.” Because the ancient practice of “casting lots” is unfamiliar to many modern readers, the imagery has been updated to “throwing dice.”sn The proverb concerns the practice of seeking divine leading through casting lots. For a similar lesson, see Amenemope (18, 19:16-17, in ANET 423).
- Proverbs 16:33 tn Heb “all its decision.”
- Proverbs 16:33 sn The point concerns seeking God’s will through the practice. The Lord gives guidance in decisions that are submitted to him.