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Proverbs 20 New English Translation (NET Bible)

20 Wine[a] is a mocker[b] and strong drink is a brawler;
whoever goes astray by them is not wise.[c]
The king’s terrifying anger[d] is like the roar of a lion;
whoever provokes him[e] sins against himself.[f]
It is an honor for a person[g] to cease[h] from strife,
but every fool quarrels.[i]
The sluggard will not plow[j] during the planting season,[k]
so at harvest time he asks[l] for grain[m] but has nothing.
Counsel[n] in a person’s heart[o] is like[p] deep water,[q]
but an understanding person[r] draws it out.
Many people profess their loyalty,[s]
but a faithful person[t]—who can find?[u]
The righteous person[v] behaves in integrity;[w]
blessed are his children after him.[x]
A king sitting on the throne to judge[y]
separates out[z] all evil with his eyes.[aa]
Who can say,[ab] “I have kept my heart[ac] clean;[ad]
I am pure[ae] from my sin”?
10 Diverse weights and diverse measures[af]
the Lord abhors[ag] both of them.
11 Even a young man[ah] is known[ai] by his actions,
whether his activity is pure and whether it is right.[aj]
12 The ear that hears and the eye that sees[ak]
the Lord has made them both.[al]
13 Do not love sleep,[am] lest you become impoverished;
open your eyes so that[an] you might be satisfied with food.[ao]
14 “It’s worthless! It’s worthless!”[ap] says the buyer,[aq]
but when he goes on his way, he boasts.[ar]
15 There is gold, and an abundance of rubies,
but[as] words of knowledge[at] are like[au] a precious jewel.
16 Take a man’s[av] garment[aw] when he has given security for a stranger,[ax]
and hold him[ay] in pledge on behalf of strangers.
17 Bread gained by deceit[az] tastes sweet to a person,[ba]
but afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel.[bb]
18 Plans[bc] are established by counsel,
so[bd] make war[be] with guidance.
19 The one who goes about gossiping[bf] reveals secrets;
therefore do not associate[bg] with someone who is always opening his mouth.[bh]
20 The one who curses[bi] his father and his mother,
his lamp[bj] will be extinguished in the blackest[bk] darkness.
21 An inheritance gained easily[bl] in the beginning
will not be blessed[bm] in the end.[bn]
22 Do not say,[bo] “I will pay back[bp] evil!”
Wait[bq] for the Lord, so that he may vindicate you.[br]
23 The Lord abhors[bs] differing weights,
and dishonest scales are wicked.[bt]
24 The steps of a person[bu] are ordained by[bv] the Lord
so how can anyone[bw] understand his own[bx] way?
25 It is a snare[by] for a person[bz] to rashly cry,[ca] “Holy!”
and only afterward to consider[cb] what he has vowed.[cc]
26 A wise king separates out[cd] the wicked;
he turns the threshing wheel over them.[ce]
27 The human spirit[cf] is like[cg] the lamp[ch] of the Lord,
searching all his innermost parts.[ci]
28 Loyal love and truth[cj] preserve a king,
and his throne is upheld by loyal love.[ck]
29 The glory[cl] of young men is their strength,
and the splendor[cm] of old men is gray hair.[cn]
30 Beatings and wounds cleanse away[co] evil,
and floggings cleanse[cp] the innermost being.[cq]

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 20:1 sn The drinks are wine and barley beer (e.g., Lev 10:9; Deut 14:26; Isa 28:7). These terms here could be understood as personifications, but better as metonymies for those who drink wine and beer. The inebriated person mocks and brawls.
  2. Proverbs 20:1 tn The two participles לֵץ (lets, “mocker”) and הֹמֶה (homeh, “brawler”) are substantives; they function as predicates in the sentence. Excessive use of intoxicants excites the drinker to boisterous behavior and aggressive attitudes—it turns them into mockers and brawlers.
  3. Proverbs 20:1 sn The proverb does not prohibit the use of wine or beer; in fact, strong drink was used at festivals and celebrations. But intoxication was considered out of bounds for a member of the covenant community (e.g., 23:20-21, 29-35; 31:4-7). To be led astray by their use is not wise.
  4. Proverbs 20:2 tn Heb “the terror of a king” (so ASV, NASB); The term “terror” is a metonymy of effect for cause: the anger of a king that causes terror among the people. The term “king” functions as a possessive genitive: “a king’s anger” (cf. NIV “A king’s wrath”; NLT “The king’s fury”).
  5. Proverbs 20:2 tn The verb מִתְעַבְּרוֹ (mitʿabbero) is problematic; in the MT the form is the Hitpael participle with a pronominal suffix, which is unusual, for the direct object of this verb usually takes a preposition first: “is angry with.” The LXX rendered it “angers [or, irritates].”
  6. Proverbs 20:2 sn The expression “sins against himself” has been taken by some to mean “forfeits his life” (so NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV) or “endangers his life” (cf. NCV, NLT). That may be the implication of getting oneself in trouble with an angry king (cf. TEV “making him angry is suicide”).
  7. Proverbs 20:3 tn Heb “man.”
  8. Proverbs 20:3 tn Heb “cessation” (שֶׁבֶת, shevet); NAB “to shun strife”; NRSV “refrain from strife.”sn One cannot avoid conflict altogether, but the proverb is instructing that at the first sign of conflict the honorable thing to do is to find a way to end it.
  9. Proverbs 20:3 tn Heb “breaks out.” The Hitpael of the verb גָּלַע (galaʿ, “to expose; to lay bare”) means “to break out; to disclose oneself,” and so the idea of flaring up in a quarrel is clear. But there are also cognate connections to the idea of “showing the teeth; snarling” and so quarreling viciously.
  10. Proverbs 20:4 sn The act of plowing is put for the whole process of planting a crop.
  11. Proverbs 20:4 tn Heb “from winter.” The preposition מִן (min) may designate the starting point “from winter [onward]” or the cause “due to” (so ASV “by reason of the winter”). The noun “winter” refers to the time for sowing seed and having the early growth of crops. The right time for planting was after the autumn harvest and the rainy season of autumn and winter began.
  12. Proverbs 20:4 tc The Kethib reads a Qal imperfect, while the Qere reads a vav plus Qal perfect consecutive. Both forms would be future; the Qere more overtly states this as a consequence.tn The basic meaning of the Qal verb שָׁאַל (shaʾal) is “to ask;” by extension it sometimes means “to wish for; to desire; to borrow” and perhaps “to beg.” The Piel can mean “to beg” and does not require emending the consonantal text. Because he did not plant, or did not do it at the right time, he is reduced to begging and will have nothing (cf. KJV, ASV; NASB “he begs during the harvest”).
  13. Proverbs 20:4 tn The phrase “for grain” does not appear in the Hebrew but is implied; it is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.
  14. Proverbs 20:5 sn The noun means “advice, counsel”; it can have the connotation of planning or making decisions. Those with understanding can sort out plans.
  15. Proverbs 20:5 tn The Hebrew term לֶב (lev) refers to the “mind” (NRSV) as well as the “heart” (KJV, NIV, NASB). The expression refers to unspoken thoughts.
  16. Proverbs 20:5 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.
  17. Proverbs 20:5 sn The motives or plans of a person are “difficult to fathom”; it takes someone with understanding to discover and surface them (the verb in the last colon continues the figure with the sense of bringing the plans to the surface and sorting them out).
  18. Proverbs 20:5 tn Heb “a man of understanding”; TEV “someone with insight”; NLT “the wise.”
  19. Proverbs 20:6 tn Heb “many a man calls/proclaims a man of his loyal love.” The Syriac and Tg. Prov 20:6 render the verb as passive: “many are called kind.” Other suggestions include: “most men meet people who will do them occasional kindnesses” (RSV); “many men profess friendship” (C. H. Toy, Proverbs [ICC], 384); “many men invite only the one who has shown them kindness.” The simplest interpretation in this context is “many proclaim [themselves to be] a kind person (= a loyal friend).” The contrast is between many who claim to be loyal friends and the one who actually proves to be faithful.
  20. Proverbs 20:6 tn The shift to the expression “a man of faithfulness[es]” in the second line indicates that of all those who claim to show faithful love, it is rare to find one who is truly reliable (as the word אֱמוּנִים [ʾemunim] indicates clearly); cf. NAB, NRSV “one worthy of trust.”
  21. Proverbs 20:6 sn The point of the rhetorical question is that a truly faithful friend is very difficult to find.
  22. Proverbs 20:7 sn Two terms describe the subject of this proverb: “righteous” and “integrity.” The first describes the person as a member of the covenant community who strives to live according to God’s standards; the second emphasizes that his lifestyle is blameless.
  23. Proverbs 20:7 tn Heb “walks in his integrity” (so NASB); cf. NIV “leads a blameless life.” The Hitpael participle of הָלַךְ (halakh) means “to walk about; to walk to and fro.” The idiom of walking representing living is intensified here in this stem. This verbal stem is used in scripture to describe people “walking with” God.
  24. Proverbs 20:7 sn The nature and the actions of parents have an effect on children (e.g., Exod 20:4-6); if the parents are righteous, the children will enjoy a blessing—the respect and the happiness which the parent reflects on them.
  25. Proverbs 20:8 tn The infinitive construct דִּין (din, “to judge”) indicates purpose (so NIV, NCV), even though it does not have a preposition with it.
  26. Proverbs 20:8 tn The second line uses the image of winnowing (cf. NIV, NRSV) to state that the king’s judgment removes evil from the realm. The verb form is מְזָרֶה (mezareh), the Piel participle. It has been translated “to sift; to winnow; to scatter” and “to separate”—i.e., separate out evil from the land. The text is saying that a just government roots out evil (cf. NAB “dispels all evil”), but few governments have been consistently just.
  27. Proverbs 20:8 sn The phrase with his eyes indicates that the king will closely examine or look into all the cases that come before him.
  28. Proverbs 20:9 sn The verse is a rhetorical question; it is affirming that no one can say this because no one is pure and free of sin.
  29. Proverbs 20:9 tn The noun לֵב (lev) commonly translated “heart” includes the “mind” and embraces both motives and thoughts.
  30. Proverbs 20:9 tn In the Qal this verb, זָכָה (zakhah), means to be (morally) “clean; pure.” Here in the Piel it is factitive to “make clean” (so NRSV) or “keep clean” (so NIV). This verb only appears 8 times in the Bible, but this phrase “to cleanse the heart/mind” also occurs in Ps 73:13, where Asaph despairs of having cleansed his heart (or kept it clean). Ps 119:9 remarks that one can keep your path clean by carefully observing God’s word. And Isa 1:16 advises cleansing oneself by putting away and ceasing to do evil. In an ultimate sense, no one has kept a clean heart in every regard. However these other passages suggest that one can repent in order to cleanse the heart and attend to God’s word to keep it clean. The question thus points out the inherent lack of purity and poses the obligation to take steps to safeguard purity. In other words, since my heart is not (natively) pure, what do I need to do to keep it pure (as in being true to God not in a sense of works adding up to purity)?
  31. Proverbs 20:9 sn The Hebrew verb (טָהֵר, taher) means to “be clean; pure” and may refer to physical cleanliness or the absence of disease, mildew, infectants, or blemishes. As a Levitical term it normally refers to cleanness from infectants or religious ceremonial cleanness (though often the two are related). The term is applied morally (specifically “clean from sin” as in this verse) in Lev 16:30 as part of the Day of Atonement. After the High Priest confesses the sins of the people and makes the sacrifice on their behalf, the people are considered “clean.” So on the one hand, the question sounds rhetorical—no one can claim to be pure on their own merit. On the other hand, the cultic answer would be those who have confessed sin and offered a sacrifice are cleansed.
  32. Proverbs 20:10 tn The construction simply uses repetition to express different kinds of weights and measures: “a stone and a stone, an ephah and an ephah.”
  33. Proverbs 20:10 tn Heb “an abomination of the Lord.” The phrase features a subjective genitive: “the Lord abhors.” sn Behind this proverb is the image of the dishonest merchant who has different sets of weights and measures which are used to cheat customers. The Lord hates dishonesty in business transactions.
  34. Proverbs 20:11 sn In the first nine chapters of the book of Proverbs the Hebrew term נַעַר (naʿar) referred to an adolescent, a young person whose character was being formed in his early life.
  35. Proverbs 20:11 sn The Hebrew verb נָכַר (nakhar) means “to recognize” more than simply “to know.” Certain character traits can be recognized in a child by what he does (cf. NCV “by their behavior”).
  36. Proverbs 20:11 sn Character is demonstrated by actions at any age. But the emphasis of the book of Proverbs would also be that if the young child begins to show such actions, then the parents must try to foster and cultivate them; if not, they must try to develop them through teaching and discipline.
  37. Proverbs 20:12 sn The first half of the verse refers to two basic senses that the Lord has given to people. C. H. Toy, however, thinks that they represent all the faculties (Proverbs [ICC], 388). But in the book of Proverbs seeing and hearing come to the fore. By usage, “hearing” also means obeying (15:31; 25:12), and “seeing” also means perceiving and understanding (Isa 6:9-10).
  38. Proverbs 20:12 sn The verse not only credits God with making these faculties of hearing and sight and giving them to people, but it also emphasizes their spiritual use in God’s service.
  39. Proverbs 20:13 sn The proverb uses antithetical parallelism to teach that diligence leads to prosperity. It contrasts loving sleep with opening the eyes, and poverty with satisfaction. Just as “sleep” can be used for slothfulness or laziness, so opening the eyes can represent vigorous, active conduct. The idioms have caught on in modern usage as well—things like “open your eyes” or “asleep on the job.”
  40. Proverbs 20:13 tn The second line uses two imperatives in a sequence (without the vav [ו]): “open your eyes” and then (or, in order that) you will “be satisfied.”
  41. Proverbs 20:13 tn Heb “bread” (so KJV, ASV, NRSV), although the term often serves in a generic sense for food in general.
  42. Proverbs 20:14 tn Heb “[It is] bad, [it is] bad.” Since “bad” can be understood in some modern contexts as a descriptive adjective meaning “good,” the translation uses “worthless” instead—the real point of the prospective buyer’s exclamation.
  43. Proverbs 20:14 sn This proverb reflects standard procedure in the business world. When negotiating the transaction the buyer complains how bad the deal is for him, or how worthless the prospective purchase, but then later brags about what a good deal he got. The proverb will alert the inexperienced as to how things are done.
  44. Proverbs 20:14 tn The Hitpael imperfect of הָלַל (halal) means “to praise”—to talk in glowing terms, excitedly. In this stem it means “to praise oneself; to boast.”
  45. Proverbs 20:15 tn The verse is usually taken as antithetical parallelism: There may be gold and rubies but the true gem is knowledge. However, C. H. Toy arranges it differently: “store of gold and wealth of corals and precious vessels—all are wise lips” (Proverbs [ICC], 388). But this uses the gems as metaphors for wise speech, and does not stress the contrast between wealth and wisdom.
  46. Proverbs 20:15 tn Heb “lips of knowledge.” The term “lips” is a metonymy for speaking, and “knowledge” could be either an attributive genitive or objective genitive: “knowledgeable lips.” Lips that impart knowledge are the true jewel to be sought.
  47. Proverbs 20:15 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.
  48. Proverbs 20:16 tn Heb “his garment.”
  49. Proverbs 20:16 sn Taking a garment was the way of holding someone responsible to pay debts. In fact, the garment was the article normally taken for security (Exod 22:24-26; Deut 24:10-13). People normally had few changes of clothes, so a garment represented giving a necessity as collateral. (In the case of a poor person the cloak should be returned for the nighttime to keep them warm.)
  50. Proverbs 20:16 tc The Kethib has the masculine plural form, נָכְרִים (nokhrim), suggesting a reading “strangers.” But the Qere has the feminine form נָכְרִיָּה (nokhriyyah), “strange woman” or “another man’s wife” (e.g., 27:13). The parallelism would suggest “strangers” is the correct reading, although theories have been put forward for the interpretation of “strange woman” (see below).tn M. Dahood argues that the cloak was taken in pledge for a harlot (cf. NIV “a wayward woman”). Two sins would then be committed: taking a cloak and going to a prostitute (“To Pawn One’s Cloak,” Bib 42 [1961]: 359-66; also Snijders, “The Meaning of זָר,” 85-86). In the MT the almost identical proverb in 27:13 has a feminine singular form here.sn The one for whom the pledge is taken is called “a stranger” and “foreign.” These two words do not necessarily mean that the individual or individuals are non-Israelite—just outside the community and not well known.
  51. Proverbs 20:16 tn Or “hold it” (so NIV, NCV).
  52. Proverbs 20:17 tn Heb “bread of deceit” (so KJV, NAB). This refers to food gained through dishonest means. The term “bread” is a synecdoche of specific for general, referring to anything obtained by fraud, including food.
  53. Proverbs 20:17 tn Heb “a man.”
  54. Proverbs 20:17 sn The image of food and eating is carried throughout the proverb. Food taken by fraud seems sweet at first, but afterward it is not. To end up with a mouth full of gravel (a mass of small particles; e.g., Job 20:14-15; Lam 3:16) implies by comparison that what has been taken by fraud will be worthless and useless and certainly in the way (like food turning into sand and dirt).
  55. Proverbs 20:18 tn The noun form is plural, but the verb is singular, suggesting either an abstract plural or a collective plural is being used here.
  56. Proverbs 20:18 tn The clause begins with vav (ו) on “with guidance.” But the clause has an imperative for its main verb. One could take the imperfect tense in the first colon as an imperfect of injunction, and then this clause would be also instructional. But the imperfect tense is a Niphal, and so it is better to take the first colon as the foundational clause and the second colon as the consequence (cf. NAB): If that is true, then you should do this.
  57. Proverbs 20:18 sn There have been attempts by various commentators to take “war” figuratively to mean life’s struggles, litigation, or evil inclinations. But there is no need and little justification for such interpretations. The proverb simply describes the necessity of taking counsel before going to war.
  58. Proverbs 20:19 sn The word describes a slanderer (NASB), a tale-bearer (KJV, ASV), or an informer. BDB 940 s.v. רָכִיל says the Hebrew expression “goers of slander” means slanderous persons. However, W. McKane observes that these people are not necessarily malicious—they just talk too much (Proverbs [OTL], 537).
  59. Proverbs 20:19 tn The form is the Hitpael imperfect (of prohibition or instruction) from עָרַב (ʿarav). BDB 786-88 lists six roots with these radicals. The first means “to mix,” but only occurs in derivatives. BDB 786 lists this form under the second root, which means “to take on a pledge; to exchange.” The Hitpael is then defined as “to exchange pledges; to have fellowship with [or, share].” The proverb is warning people to have nothing to do with gossips.
  60. Proverbs 20:19 tn The verb פֹּתֶה (poteh) is a homonym, related to I פָּתָה (patah, “to be naive; to be foolish”; HALOT 984-85 s.v. I פתה) or II פָּתָה (“to open [the lips]; to chatter”; HALOT 985 s.v. II פתה). So the phrase וּלְפֹתֶה שְׂפָתָיו may be understood either (1) as HALOT 985 s.v. II פתה suggests, “one opens his lips” = he is always talking/gossiping, or (2) as BDB suggests, “one who is foolish as to his lips” (he lacks wisdom in what he says; see BDB 834 s.v. II פָּתָה, noted in HALOT 984 s.v. I פתה 1). The term “lips” is a metonymy of cause for what is said: gossip. If such a person is willing to talk about others, he will be willing to talk about you, so it is best to avoid him altogether.
  61. Proverbs 20:20 tn The form is the Piel participle of קָלַל (qalal), which means “to be light”; in the Piel stem it means “to take lightly; to treat as worthless; to treat contemptuously; to curse.” Under the Mosaic law such treatment of parents brought a death penalty (Exod 21:17; Lev 20:9; Deut 27:16).
  62. Proverbs 20:20 tn “His lamp” is a figure known as hypocatastasis (an implied comparison) meaning “his life.” Cf. NLT “the lamp of your life”; TEV “your life will end like a lamp.”sn For the lamp to be extinguished would mean death (e.g., 13:9) and possibly also the removal of posterity (R. N. Whybray, Proverbs [CBC], 115).
  63. Proverbs 20:20 tc The Kethib, followed by the LXX, Syriac, and Latin, has בְּאִישׁוֹן (beʾishon), “in the pupil of the eye darkness,” the dark spot of the eye. But the Qere has בֶּאֱשׁוּן (beʾeshun), probably to be rendered “pitch” or “blackest,” although the form occurs nowhere else. The meaning with either reading is approximately the same—deep darkness, which adds vividly to the figure of the lamp being snuffed out. This individual’s destruction will be total and final.
  64. Proverbs 20:21 tc The Kethib reads מְבֻחֶלֶת (mebukhelet), “gotten by greed” (based on a cognate Syriac verb, “to be greedy”), but the Qere is מְבֹהֶלֶת (mevohelet), “gotten hastily [or, quickly].” A large number of mss and the ancient versions read with the Qere (cf. KJV, ASV “gotten hastily”; NAB “gained hastily”; NIV “quickly gained”; NRSV “quickly acquired”).sn If the inheritance is obtained quickly, it could mean prematurely (e.g., Luke 15:12) or cruelly (Prov 19:26). The inheritance is gained without labor or without preparation.
  65. Proverbs 20:21 tn The form is the Pual imperfect, “will not be blessed,” suggesting that divine justice is at work. sn The Hebrew verb means “enriched, made fruitful, prospered.” Whatever the inheritance was, it will not reach its full potential or even remain permanent.
  66. Proverbs 20:21 tn Heb “in its end”; KJV, ASV “the end thereof.”
  67. Proverbs 20:22 tn The verse is directly instructive; it begins with the negated jussive in the first colon, and follows with the imperative in the second. It warns that the righteous should not take vengeance on the wicked, for only God can do that.
  68. Proverbs 20:22 tn The form is the Piel cohortative of resolve—“I am determined to pay back.” The verb שָׁלֵם (shalem) means “to be complete; to be sound.” In this stem, however, it can mean “to make complete; to make good; to requite; to recompense” (KJV, ASV). The idea is “getting even” by paying back someone for the evil done.
  69. Proverbs 20:22 sn To “wait” (קַוֵּה, qavveh) on the Lord requires faith in him, reliance on divine justice, and patience. It means that the wrongs done to a person will have to be endured for a time.
  70. Proverbs 20:22 tn After the imperative, the jussive is subordinated in a purpose or result clause: “wait for the Lord so that he may deliver you.” The verb יֹשַׁע (yoshaʿ) means “to save (KJV, ASV, NASB); to deliver (NIV); to give victory”; in this context it means “deliver from the evil done to you,” and so “vindicate” is an appropriate connotation. Cf. NCV “he will make things right.”
  71. Proverbs 20:23 tn Heb “an abomination of the Lord.” This expression features a subjective genitive: “the Lord abhors.”
  72. Proverbs 20:23 tn Heb “not good.” This is a figure known as tapeinosis—a deliberate understatement to emphasize a worst-case scenario: “it is wicked!” (e.g., 11:1; 20:10).
  73. Proverbs 20:24 tn Heb “the steps of a man,” but “man” is the noun גֶּבֶר (gever, in pause), indicating an important, powerful person. BDB 149-50 s.v. suggests it is used of men in their role of defending women and children; if that can be validated, then a translation of “man” would be appropriate here. But the line seems to have a wider, more general application. The “steps” represent (by implied comparison) the course of life (cf. NLT “the road we travel”).
  74. Proverbs 20:24 tn Heb “from the Lord”; NRSV “ordered by the Lord”; NIV “directed by the Lord.”sn To say that one’s steps are ordained by the Lord means that one’s course of actions, one’s whole life, is divinely prepared and sovereignly superintended (e.g., Gen 50:26; Prov 3:6). Ironically, man is not actually in control of his own steps.
  75. Proverbs 20:24 tn The verse uses an independent nominative absolute to point up the contrast between the mortal and the immortal: “and man, how can he understand his way?” The verb in the sentence would then be classified as a potential imperfect; and the whole question rhetorical. It is affirming that humans cannot understand very much at all about their lives.
  76. Proverbs 20:24 tn Heb “his way.” The referent of the third masculine singular pronoun is unclear, so the word “own” was supplied in the translation to clarify that the referent is the human individual, not the Lord.
  77. Proverbs 20:25 sn It would be a “snare” because it would lead people into financial difficulties; Leviticus 27 talks about foolish or rash vows.
  78. Proverbs 20:25 tn Heb “a man.”
  79. Proverbs 20:25 tn The verb is from לוּע (luʿ) or לָעַע (laʿaʿ); it means “to talk wildly” (not to be confused with the homonym “to swallow”). It occurs here and in Job 6:3. sn This refers to speaking rashly in dedicating something to the sanctuary by calling it “Holy.”
  80. Proverbs 20:25 tn Heb “reflect on.” The person is to consider the vows before making them, to ensure that they can be fulfilled. Too many people make their vow or promise without thinking, and then later worry about how they will fulfill their vows.
  81. Proverbs 20:25 tn Heb “the vows” (so NASB); CEV “promises.”
  82. Proverbs 20:26 tn Heb “winnows” (so NAB, NASB, NRSV). The sage draws on the process of winnowing to explain how the king uncovers and removes wickedness. The verb from which the participle מְזָרֶה (mezareh) is derived means “to separate; to winnow; to scatter”; the implied comparison means that the king will separate good people from bad people like wheat is separated from chaff. The image of winnowing is also used in divine judgment. The second line of the verse uses a detail of the process to make the point. Driving a wheel over the wheat represents the threshing process; the sharp iron wheels of the cart would easily serve the purpose (e.g., Isa 28:27-28).
  83. Proverbs 20:26 tn The king has the wisdom/ability to destroy evil from his kingdom. See also D. W. Thomas, “Proverbs 20:26, ” JTS 15 (1964): 155-56.
  84. Proverbs 20:27 sn The expression translated “the human spirit” is the Hebrew term נִשְׁמַת (nishmat), a feminine noun in construct. This is the inner spiritual part of human life that was breathed in at creation (Gen 2:7) and that constitutes humans as spiritual beings with moral, intellectual, and spiritual capacities.
  85. Proverbs 20:27 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.
  86. Proverbs 20:27 tn The “lamp” is the metaphor in the line; it signifies that the human spirit functions as a conscience, enabling people to know and please God, and directing them in choices that will be life-giving. E. Loewenstamm unnecessarily reads נִיר (nir, “to plow”) instead of נֵר (ner, “lamp”) to say that God plows and examines the soul (“Remarks on Proverbs 17:12 and 20:27, ” VT 37 [1967]: 233). The NIV supplies a verb (“searches”) from the second half of the verse, changing the emphasis somewhat.
  87. Proverbs 20:27 tn Heb “all the chambers of the belly.” This means “the inner parts of the body” (BDB 293 s.v. חֶדֶר); cf. NASB “the innermost parts of his being.”
  88. Proverbs 20:28 tn The first line uses two Hebrew words, חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת (khesed veʾemet, “loyal love and truth”), to tell where security lies. The first word is the covenant term for “loyal love; loving-kindness; mercy”; and the second is “truth” in the sense of what is reliable and dependable. The two words often are joined together to form a hendiadys: “faithful love.” That a hendiadys is intended here is confirmed by the fact that the second line uses only the critical word חֶסֶד.
  89. Proverbs 20:28 sn The emphasis is on the Davidic covenant (2 Sam 7:11-16; Ps 89:19-37). It is the Lord and his faithful love for his covenant that ultimately makes the empire secure. But the enjoyment of divine protection requires the king to show loyal love as well.
  90. Proverbs 20:29 tn The Hebrew term תִּפְאֶרֶת (tifʾeret) means “beauty; glory”; in a context like this it means “honor” in the sense of glorying or boasting (BDB 802 s.v. 3.b).
  91. Proverbs 20:29 tn The Hebrew term הֲדַר (hadar), the noun in construct, means “splendor; honor; ornament.” The latter sense is used here, since grey hair is like a crown on the head.
  92. Proverbs 20:29 sn Gray hair is a metonymy of adjunct; it represents everything valuable about old age—dignity, wisdom, honor, experience, as well as worry and suffering of life. At the very least, since they survived, they must know something. At the most, they were the sages and elders of the people.
  93. Proverbs 20:30 tc The verb מָרַק (maraq) means “to polish; to scour”; in the Hiphil it means “to cleanse away,” but it is only attested here, and that in the Kethib reading of תַּמְרִיק (tamriq). The Qere has תַּמְרוּק (tamruq, “are a means of cleansing”). The LXX has “blows and contusions fall on evil men, and stripes penetrate their inner beings”; the Latin has “the bruise of a wound cleanses away evil things.” C. H. Toy suggests emending the text to read “stripes cleanse the body, and blows the inward parts” or “cosmetics purify the body, and blows the soul” (Proverbs [ICC], 397). Cf. CEV “can knock all of the evil out of you.”
  94. Proverbs 20:30 tn The term “cleanse” does not appear in this line but is supplied in the translation in the light of the parallelism.
  95. Proverbs 20:30 sn Physical punishment may prove spiritually valuable. Other proverbs say that some people will never learn from this kind of punishment, but in general this may be the only thing that works for some cases.
New English Translation (NET)

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Proverbs 20 New International Version (NIV)

20 Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler;
    whoever is led astray by them is not wise.

A king’s wrath strikes terror like the roar of a lion;
    those who anger him forfeit their lives.

It is to one’s honor to avoid strife,
    but every fool is quick to quarrel.

Sluggards do not plow in season;
    so at harvest time they look but find nothing.

The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters,
    but one who has insight draws them out.

Many claim to have unfailing love,
    but a faithful person who can find?

The righteous lead blameless lives;
    blessed are their children after them.

When a king sits on his throne to judge,
    he winnows out all evil with his eyes.

Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure;
    I am clean and without sin”?

10 Differing weights and differing measures—
    the Lord detests them both.

11 Even small children are known by their actions,
    so is their conduct really pure and upright?

12 Ears that hear and eyes that see—
    the Lord has made them both.

13 Do not love sleep or you will grow poor;
    stay awake and you will have food to spare.

14 “It’s no good, it’s no good!” says the buyer—
    then goes off and boasts about the purchase.

15 Gold there is, and rubies in abundance,
    but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel.

16 Take the garment of one who puts up security for a stranger;
    hold it in pledge if it is done for an outsider.

17 Food gained by fraud tastes sweet,
    but one ends up with a mouth full of gravel.

18 Plans are established by seeking advice;
    so if you wage war, obtain guidance.

19 A gossip betrays a confidence;
    so avoid anyone who talks too much.

20 If someone curses their father or mother,
    their lamp will be snuffed out in pitch darkness.

21 An inheritance claimed too soon
    will not be blessed at the end.

22 Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!”
    Wait for the Lord, and he will avenge you.

23 The Lord detests differing weights,
    and dishonest scales do not please him.

24 A person’s steps are directed by the Lord.
    How then can anyone understand their own way?

25 It is a trap to dedicate something rashly
    and only later to consider one’s vows.

26 A wise king winnows out the wicked;
    he drives the threshing wheel over them.

27 The human spirit is[a] the lamp of the Lord
    that sheds light on one’s inmost being.

28 Love and faithfulness keep a king safe;
    through love his throne is made secure.

29 The glory of young men is their strength,
    gray hair the splendor of the old.

30 Blows and wounds scrub away evil,
    and beatings purge the inmost being.

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 20:27 Or A person’s words are
New International Version (NIV)

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