New English Translation
21 The king’s heart[a] is in the hand[b] of the Lord like channels of water;[c]
he turns it wherever he wants.
2 All a person’s ways seem right in his own opinion,[d]
but the Lord evaluates[e] his thoughts.[f]
3 To do righteousness and justice
is more acceptable[g] to the Lord than sacrifice.[h]
4 Haughty eyes and a proud heart—
what the wicked cultivate[i] is sin.
5 The plans of the diligent[j] lead[k] only to plenty,[l]
but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.[m]
6 Making a fortune[n] by a lying tongue is like[o] a vapor driven back and forth;[p]
they seek death.[q]
7 The violence[r] done by the wicked[s] will drag them away
because[t] they have refused to do what is right.[u]
8 The way of the guilty person[v] is devious,[w]
but as for the pure,[x] his way is upright.
9 It is better to live on a corner of the housetop[y]
than to share a house[z] with a quarrelsome wife.[aa]
10 The appetite[ab] of the wicked has desired[ac] evil;
his neighbor is shown no favor[ad] in his eyes.
11 When a scorner is punished, the naive[ae] becomes wise;
when a wise person is instructed,[af] he gains knowledge.
12 The Righteous One[ag] considers[ah] the house[ai] of the wicked;
he overthrows the wicked to their ruin.[aj]
13 The one who shuts his ears[ak] to the cry[al] of the poor,
he too will cry out and will not be answered.[am]
14 A gift given[an] in secret subdues[ao] anger,
and a bribe given secretly[ap] subdues[aq] strong wrath.[ar]
15 Doing[as] justice brings[at] joy to the righteous
and terror[au] to those who do evil.
16 The one who wanders[av] from the way of wisdom[aw]
will end up[ax] in the company of the departed.[ay]
17 The one who loves[az] pleasure[ba] will be[bb] a poor person;[bc]
whoever loves wine and anointing oil[bd] will not be rich.
18 The wicked become a ransom[be] for the righteous,
and the treacherous[bf] are taken[bg] in the place of the upright.
19 It is better to live[bh] in the wilderness[bi]
than with a quarrelsome and easily provoked[bj] woman.
20 There is desirable treasure and olive oil[bk] in the dwelling of the wise,
but a foolish person[bl] devours all he has.[bm]
21 The one who pursues righteousness and love[bn]
finds life, bounty,[bo] and honor.
22 A wise man went up against the city of the mighty
and brought down[bp] the stronghold in which they trust.[bq]
23 The one who guards his mouth and his tongue[br]
keeps his life[bs] from troubles.[bt]
24 A proud[bu] and arrogant[bv] person, whose name is “Scoffer,”[bw]
acts[bx] with overbearing pride.[by]
25 What the sluggard desires[bz] will kill him,[ca]
for his hands[cb] have refused to work.
26 All day long he has craved greedily,[cc]
but the righteous person gives and does not hold back.[cd]
27 The wicked person’s sacrifice[ce] is an abomination;
how much more[cf] when he brings it with evil intent![cg]
28 A lying witness[ch] will perish,[ci]
but the one who reports accurately speaks forever.[cj]
29 A wicked person[ck] has put on a bold face,[cl]
but as for the upright,[cm] he establishes[cn] his ways.
30 There is no wisdom and there is no understanding,
and there is no counsel against[co] the Lord.[cp]
31 A horse is prepared for the day of battle,
but the victory is from the Lord.[cq]
- Proverbs 21:1 sn “Heart” is a metonymy of subject; it signifies the ability to make decisions, if not the decisions themselves.
- Proverbs 21:1 sn “Hand” in this passage is a personification; the word is frequently used idiomatically for “power,” and that is the sense intended here.
- Proverbs 21:1 tn “Channels of water” (פַּלְגֵי, palge) is an adverbial accusative, functioning as a figure of comparison—“like channels of water.” Cf. NAB “Like a stream”; NIV “watercourse”; NRSV, NLT “a stream of water.”sn The farmer channels irrigation ditches where he wants them, where they will do the most good; so does the Lord with the king. No king is supreme; the Lord rules.
- Proverbs 21:2 tn Heb “in his own eyes.” The term “eyes” is a metonymy for estimation, opinion, evaluation. Physical sight is used figuratively for one’s point of view intellectually.
- Proverbs 21:2 tn Heb “weighs” (so NASB, NIV, NRSV); NLT “examines”; NCV, TEV “judges.” Weighing on scales is an act of examining and verifying weight for market purposes (2 Kgs 12:11) but can be used metaphorically for evaluating other things (e.g. the Lord weighs actions in (1 Sam 2:3).
- Proverbs 21:2 tn Heb “the minds.” The term לֵב (lev, “mind, heart”) is used as a metonymy of association for thoughts and motives (BDB 660-61 s.v. 6-7). sn It is easy to rationalize one’s point of view and deceive even oneself. But the Lord evaluates our thinking and motives as well (cf. Prov 16:2).
- Proverbs 21:3 tn The Niphal participle בָּחַר (bakhar, “to choose”) means “choice to the Lord” or “chosen of the Lord,” meaning “acceptable to the Lord”; cf. TEV “pleases the Lord more.”
- Proverbs 21:3 sn The Lord prefers righteousness above religious service (e.g., Prov 15:8; 21:29; 1 Sam 15:22; Ps 40:6-8; Isa 1:11-17). This is not a rejection of ritual worship; rather, religious acts are without value apart from righteous living.
- Proverbs 21:4 tc The MT reads “the tillage (נִר, nir) of the wicked.” The LXX, other versions, and some Hebrew manuscripts read “the lamp (נֵר, ner) of the wicked” (so ASV, NASB, NIV, NRSV). Both are difficult in the context.tn The MT’s נִר (nir) refers to “ground that has recently been cultivated” (HALOT 723, s.v.), hence “tillage” (NAB), or “plowing” (KJV). This image goes one step behind the metaphor of planting to the cultivating the ground, but it may still have the harvest from such work in view. What the wicked cultivate (and produce) is sin. The saying perhaps looks at their haughty attitude as the groundwork for of their actions which are sinful. The LXX’s “lamp” does not solve the difficulty of the relationship between the expressions. We would somehow need to equate haughtiness with what the wicked consider a (guiding?) light, so that it is evaluated as sin.
- Proverbs 21:5 tn The word “diligent” is an adjective used substantivally. The related verb means “to cut, sharpen, decide”; so the adjective describes one who is “sharp”—one who acts decisively. The word “hasty” has the idea of being pressed or pressured into quick actions. So the text contrasts calculated expeditiousness with unproductive haste. C. H. Toy does not like this contrast, and so proposes changing the latter to “lazy” (Proverbs [ICC], 399), but W. McKane rightly criticizes that as unnecessarily forming a pedestrian antithesis (Proverbs [OTL], 550).
- Proverbs 21:5 tn The term “lead” is supplied in the translation.
- Proverbs 21:5 tn The Hebrew noun translated “plenty” comes from the verb יָתַר (yatar), which means “to remain over.” So the calculated diligence will lead to abundance, prosperity.
- Proverbs 21:5 tn Heb “lack; need; thing needed”; NRSV “to want.”
- Proverbs 21:6 tn The first word of the verse is the noun meaning “doing, deed, work.” The BHS editors suggest reading with the LXX an active participle—“the one who makes” (cf. NAB “He who makes”). The second word means “treasure,” from the verb “lay up, store up.” It is an objective genitive here.
- Proverbs 21:6 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 21:6 tn The Hebrew הֶבֶל נִדָּף (hevel niddaf) is properly “a driven vapor” (“driven” = the Niphal participle). The point of the metaphor is that the ill-gotten gains will vanish into thin air. The LXX has “pursues” (as if reading רֹדֵף, rodef); cf. NAB “chasing a bubble over deadly snares.”
- Proverbs 21:6 tn The Hebrew has “seekers of death,” meaning “[they that seek them] are seekers of death,” or that the fortune is “a fleeting vapor for those who seek death.” The sense is not readily apparent. The Greek and the Latin versions have “snares of death”; the form מוֹקְשֵׁי (moqeshe) was read instead of מְבַקְשֵׁי (mevaqqeshe). This reading does not make a more credible metaphor, and one must explain the loss of the letter ב (bet) in the textual variant. It is, however, slightly easier to interpret in the verse, and is followed by a number of English versions (e.g., NAB, NIV, NRSV, NLT). But whether the easier reading is the correct one in this case would be difficult to prove.
- Proverbs 21:7 tn The “violence” (שֹׁד, shod) drags away the wicked, probably either to do more sin or to their punishment. “Violence” here is either personified, or it is a metonymy of cause, meaning “the outcome of their violence” drags them away.
- Proverbs 21:7 tn Heb “violence of the wicked.” This is a subjective genitive: “violence which the wicked do.”
- Proverbs 21:7 tn The second colon of the verse is the causal clause, explaining why they are dragged away. They are not passive victims of their circumstances or their crimes. They have chosen to persist in their violence and so it destroys them.
- Proverbs 21:7 tn Heb “they refused to do מִשְׁפָּט (mishpat; justice). The noun may be an accusative of direct object “do justice” (so ASV) or an adverbial accusative of manner “act justly” or “act with justice” (so NASB).
- Proverbs 21:8 tn The first line of the proverb is difficult. Since וָזָר (vazar) occurs only here it has been given much attention. The translation of “guilty” is drawn from an Arabic cognate meaning “to bear a burden” and so “to be sin laden” or “guilty” (cf. NASB, NIV, NCV, NRSV, NLT). G. R. Driver prefers to read the line as “a man crooked of ways is false [zar]” (“Problems in the Hebrew Text of Proverbs,” Bib 32 : 185). C. H. Toy adopts the meaning of “proud” (Proverbs [ICC], 400). Whatever the reading, “guilty” or “proud” or “false,” the idea is that such people are devious. Bad people are underhanded; good people are aboveboard (C. H. Toy, Proverbs [ICC], 400). Another way to analyze the line is to read it with the definition “strange, stranger”: “The way of a man and a stranger is perverse.” But this is unclear, and would form no satisfactory contrast to 8b. Another suggestion is “the way of (usual) man is changeable and strange, but the pure fellow leads a straight and even course” (J. H. Greenstone, Proverbs, 244); cf. NLT “the innocent travel a straight road.”
- Proverbs 21:8 tn The form הֲפַכְפַךְ (hafakhpakh) is an adjective with an intensified meaning due to the duplication of the second and third radicals; it means “very devious; crooked” (from the verb “to overturn”).
- Proverbs 21:8 tn If this translation stands, then the construction is formed with an independent nominative absolute, resumed by the suffixed noun as the formal subject. It draws attention to the “pure” or “innocent” person in contrast to the previously mentioned wicked.
- Proverbs 21:9 tn English versions which translate the Hebrew term as “roof” here sometimes produce amusing images for modern readers: TEV “Better to live on the roof”; CEV “It’s better to stay outside on the roof of your house.”sn The reference is probably to a small room that would be built on the flat housetop primarily for guests (e.g., 1 Kgs 17:19; 2 Kgs 4:10). It would be cramped and lonely—but peaceful in avoiding strife.
- Proverbs 21:9 tn The phrase “than a house of company” has received numerous interpretations. The word “company” or “companionship” would qualify “house” as a place to be shared. The BHS editors propose “spacious house,” which would call for a transposition of letters (cf. NAB “a roomy house”; NLT “a lovely home”). Such an emendation makes good sense, but has no external support.
- Proverbs 21:9 tn Heb “a wife of contentions”; KJV “a brawling woman”; TEV, CEV “a nagging wife.” The Greek version has no reference to a quarrelsome wife, but instead mentions justice in a common house.
- Proverbs 21:10 tn Heb “soul.” The Hebrew text uses נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh, traditionally, “soul”) as the formal subject of the sentence—“the soul of a wicked man desires.” This term has at its core the idea of appetites, and so its use here underscores that the cravings are deep-seated (BDB 660 s.v. 5), and the translation “appetite” reflects this.
- Proverbs 21:10 tn The verb אִוְּתָה (ʾivvetah) is a Piel perfect. Categorically, Piel verbs are dynamic rather than stative, so the perfect form should be understood as past or perfective. In the Qal, some verbs for “desire” are stative and some dynamic; so semantically the question could be raised whether this is a rare, or lone, stative in the Piel. If stative, it could be understood as present tense, as rendered in most translations. But it is doubtful that more recent developments in linguistics and biblical Hebrew influenced any of the translations. However, as perfective we should understand that this is what they have set their desire on, and that is ongoing, so a present time relevance is appropriate. In this proverb the first colon provides the setting as a basis, and the second colon gives the result. We may understand it as “because [he/she] has desired evil, his/her neighbor will not be shown favor.”
- Proverbs 21:10 tn The form יֻחַן (yukhan) is a Hophal imperfect from חָנַן (khanan); it means “to be shown mercy”—here negated to mean “he will not be shown mercy.” The person who lives to satisfy his own craving for evil will not be interested in meeting the needs of others.
- Proverbs 21:11 sn The contrast here is between the simple and the wise. The simple gain wisdom when they see the scorner punished; the wise gains knowledge through instruction. The scorner does not change, but should be punished for the benefit of the simple (e.g., Prov 19:25).
- Proverbs 21:11 tn Heb “in the instructing of the wise.” The construction uses the Hiphil infinitive construct הַשְׂכִּיל (haskil) with a preposition to form a temporal clause (= “when”). The word “wise” (חָכָם, khakham) after it is the subjective genitive. The preposition ל (lamed) on the form is probably dittography from the ending of the infinitive.
- Proverbs 21:12 tn In the book of Proverbs, the Hebrew term צַּדִּיק (tsaddiq) normally refers to a human being, and that is a possible translation here (cf. KJV, ASV, NAB), although it would have to refer to a righteous person who was a judge or a ruler with the right to destroy the wicked. Many commentators and English versions simply interpret this as a reference to God (cf. NIV, NRSV, TEV, NLT).
- Proverbs 21:12 tn The form מַשְׂכִּיל (maskil) is now used with the meaning “to consider; to give attention to; to ponder.” It is the careful scrutiny that is given to the household of the wicked before judgment is poured out on them.
- Proverbs 21:12 tn Heb “house.” This term probably means “household” here—the family. One way to read the line is that the righteous judge (human or divine) takes into consideration the wicked person’s family before judging the wicked person. The other—and more plausible—interpretation is that the judge considers the household of the wicked and then on the basis of what was observed judges them.
- Proverbs 21:12 tn Heb “to evil” (i.e., catastrophe); cf. NLT “to disaster.”
- Proverbs 21:13 sn The imagery means “pay no attention to” the cry for help or “refuse to help,” so it is a metonymy of cause for the effect.
- Proverbs 21:13 sn “Cry” here would be a metonymy of effect for the cause, the cause being the great needs of the poor.
- Proverbs 21:13 sn The proverb is teaching that those who show mercy will receive mercy. It involves the principle of talionic justice—those who refuse the needs of others will themselves be refused when they need help (so Luke 16:19-31).
- Proverbs 21:14 sn The synonymous parallelism joins the more neutral term “gift” with the more specific “bribe.” D. Kidner notes that this underscores how hard it is to tell the difference between them, especially since they accomplish similar things (Proverbs [TOTC], 143).
- Proverbs 21:14 tn The word כָּפָה (kafah) occurs only here; it means “to subdue,” but in New Hebrew it means “to overturn; to compel.” The BHS editors suggest a change to כָּבָה (kavah), “to be quenched,” based on Symmachus and Tg. Prov 21:14, but there is no substantial improvement in the text’s meaning with such a change.
- Proverbs 21:14 tn Heb “a bribe in the bosom” (so NASB). This refers to a gift hidden in the folds of the garment, i.e., given secretly (cf. NIV “a bribe concealed in the cloak”).
- Proverbs 21:14 tn The repetition of the term “subdues” in the second line is supplied in the translation.
- Proverbs 21:14 tc The LXX offers a moralizing translation not too closely tied to the MT: “he who withholds a gift stirs up violent wrath.”
- Proverbs 21:15 tn The Qal infinitive construct עֲשׂוֹת (ʿasot) functions as the subject of the sentence.
- Proverbs 21:15 tn The term “brings” is supplied in the translation; many English versions supply a simple copula (“is”).
- Proverbs 21:15 sn The noun means “terror (NAB, NASB, NIV), destruction (KJV, ASV), ruin (cf. NCV).” Its related verb means “be shattered, dismayed.” The idea of “dismay” (NRSV) or “terror” would make the better choice to contrast with “joy” in the first line, but “ruin” is also possible. Whenever justice prevails, whether in the courts or simply in society, the people who practice iniquity may be shaken into reality by fear (cf. CEV “crooks are terrified”).
- Proverbs 21:16 tn The text uses “man” as the subject and the active participle תּוֹעֶה (toʿeh) as the predicate. The image of “wandering off the path” signifies leaving a life of knowledge, prudence, and discipline.
- Proverbs 21:16 tn Or “prudence”; KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV “understanding”; NLT “common sense.”
- Proverbs 21:16 tn Heb “will remain” or “will rest.” The Hebrew word נוּחַ (nuakh) does not here carry any of the connotations of comforting repose in death that the righteous enjoy; it simply means “to remain; to reside; to dwell.” The choice of this verb might have an ironic twist to it, reminding the wicked what might have been.
- Proverbs 21:16 sn The departed are the Shades (the Rephaim). The literal expression “will rest among the Shades” means “will be numbered among the dead.” So once again physical death is presented as the punishment for folly.
- Proverbs 21:17 sn The participle “loves” (אֹהֵב, ʾohev) indicates in this context that more is involved than the enjoyment of pleasure, for which there is no problem. The proverb is looking at “love” in the sense of needing and choosing, an excessive or uncontrolled indulgence in pleasure.
- Proverbs 21:17 sn “Pleasure” is actually the Hebrew word “joy” (שִׂמְחָה, simkhah). It is a metonymy of effect, the cause being the good life that brings the joy. In the second colon, “wine” and “oil” would be metonymies of cause, the particular things in life that bring joy. Therefore the figures in the lines work together to give the complete picture.
- Proverbs 21:17 tn The phrase “will be” is supplied in the translation.
- Proverbs 21:17 tn Heb “a man of poverty”; NRSV “will suffer want.”
- Proverbs 21:17 sn In elaborate feasts and celebrations the wine was for drinking but the oil was for anointing (cf. NAB, NCV “perfume”). Both of these characterize the luxurious life (e.g., Pss 23:5; 104:15; Amos 6:6).
- Proverbs 21:18 sn The Hebrew word translated “ransom” (כֹּפֶר, kofer) normally refers to a penalty paid in place of some other punishment or the price paid to free a prisoner. But since it seems out of place to suggest that the just face a punishment that they need a ransom for, the proverb remains obscure. Similar wording is reflected in Isa 43:3-4 where God substitutes Egpyt as Judah’s “ransom” and Ethiopia and Seba “in place of” Judah. In that passage Judah is not just, but has been punished and is now being redeemed. Another application reported by R. Murphy is that punishment intended for a group may take the wicked from that group, who then serve metaphorically as a ransom for the righteous (R. Murphy, Proverbs [WBC] 161), but as Murphy points out this is an application rather than the assertion of the proverb. R. N. Whybray (Proverbs [CBC], 121) similarly suggests it may taken to mean that the wicked suffers the evil he has prepared for the righteous, which harmonizes with Proverbs elsewhere (e.g., 11:8). When Haman is taken in place of Mordecai (Esth 7:9-10) would illustrate an application where the righteous escape and the wicked suffer in their place.
- Proverbs 21:18 tn The verb בָּגַד (bagad), here a participle, means “to act treacherously, with duplicity, or to betray.”
- Proverbs 21:18 tn The phrase “are taken” does not appear in the Hebrew but is implied by the parallelism; it is supplied in the translation for smoothness.
- Proverbs 21:19 tn The Hebrew form שֶׁבֶת (shevet) is the infinitive construct of יָשַׁב (yashav), functioning as the subject of the sentence.
- Proverbs 21:19 sn A wilderness (מִדְבָּר, midbar) is too dry for permanent settlements since it receives less than twelve inches of rain annually. It may be able to support enough vegetation for bedouin to use on a temporary basis. In this context it represents a harsh environment, but a quiet place. Cf. 21:9 and 25:24.
- Proverbs 21:19 tn The Hebrew noun כַּעַס (kaʿas) means “vexation; anger.” The woman is not only characterized by a quarrelsome spirit, but also anger—she is easily vexed (cf. NAB “vexatious”; NASB “vexing”; ASV, NRSV “fretful”). The translation “easily-provoked” conveys this idea well.
- Proverbs 21:20 tn The mention of “olive oil” (שֶׁמֶן, shemen) is problematic in the line—how can a fool devour it? Several attempts have been made to alleviate the problem. The NIV interprets “treasure” as “choice food,” so that food and oil would make more sense being swallowed. C. H. Toy (Proverbs [ICC], 406) suggests dropping “oil” altogether based on the reading in the LXX, but the Greek is too general for any support: It has “precious treasure will rest on the mouth of the sage.” W. McKane wants to change “oil” to an Arabic word “expensive” to read “desirable and rare wealth” (Proverbs [OTL], 552), but this idea does not match the metaphor any better. The figure of “devouring” in the second line simply means the fool uses up whatever he has.
- Proverbs 21:20 tn Heb “a fool of a man.”
- Proverbs 21:20 tn Heb “he swallows it.” The imagery compares swallowing food with consuming one’s substance. The fool does not prepare for the future.
- Proverbs 21:21 sn These two attributes, “righteousness” (צְדָקָה, tsedaqah) and “loyal love” (חֶסֶד, khesed) depict the life style of the covenant-believer who is pleasing to God and a blessing to others. The first term means that he will do what is right, and the second means that he will be faithful to the covenant community.
- Proverbs 21:21 sn The Hebrew term translated “bounty” is צְדָקָה (tsedaqah) again, so there is a wordplay on the term in the verse. The first use of the word had the basic meaning of “conduct that conforms to God’s standard”; this second use may be understood as a metonymy of cause, indicating the provision or reward (“bounty”) that comes from keeping righteousness (cf. NIV “prosperity”; NCV “success”). The proverb is similar to Matt 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.”
- Proverbs 21:22 tn This proverb uses the perfect verb form in the first colon and the preterite form in the second colon. These are past time references. The proverb portrays something which has happened as prototypical, as in the English proverb “curiosity killed the cat.” That wisdom can prevail over brute strength or difficult odds is not an abstract concept but a proven fact.
- Proverbs 21:22 tn Heb “the strength of its confidence” or “its trusted strength.” The word “strength” may refer by metonymy to the place of strength, i.e., “the stronghold.”sn In a war the victory is credited not so much to the infantry as to the tactician who plans the attack. Brilliant strategy wins wars, even over apparently insuperable odds (e.g., Prov 24:5-6; Eccl 9:13-16; 2 Cor 10:4).
- Proverbs 21:23 sn “Mouth” and “tongue” are metonymies of cause, signifying what one says (cf. NCV, TEV, CEV).
- Proverbs 21:23 tn This part could also be translated “keeps himself” (so NIV), for נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) often simply means “the whole person.” The participle שֹׁמֵר (shomer) is repeated from the first line in the parallelism—to guard what is said is to guard against difficulty.
- Proverbs 21:23 sn The “troubles” (צָרוֹת, tsarot) here could refer to social and legal difficulties into which careless talk might bring someone (e.g., 13:3; 18:21). The word means “a strait, a bind, difficulty.” Careless and free talking could get the person into a tight spot.
- Proverbs 21:24 tn The word זֵד (zed, “proud”) comes from the verb זִיד (zid, “to boil up; to seethe; to act proudly [or, presumptuously].” Just as water boiling up in a pot will boil over, so the presumptuous person “oversteps” the boundaries.
- Proverbs 21:24 tn The word יָהִיר (yahir) means “haughty,” that is, to be or show oneself to be presumptuous or arrogant.
- Proverbs 21:24 tn Heb “proud haughty scorner his name” (KJV similar). There are several ways that the line could be translated: (1) “Proud, arrogant—his name is scoffer” or (2) “A proud person, an arrogant person—‘Scoffer’ is his name.” BDB 267 s.v. זֵד suggests, “A presumptuous man, [who is] haughty, scoffer is his name.”
- Proverbs 21:24 tn Heb “does.” The Qal active participle “does” serves as the main verb, and the subject is “proud person” in the first line.
- Proverbs 21:24 tn The expression בְּעֶבְרַת זָדוֹן (beʿevrat zadon) means “in the overflow of insolence.” The genitive specifies what the overflow is; the proud deal in an overflow of pride. Cf. NIV “overweening pride”; NLT “boundless arrogance.”sn The portrait in this proverb is not merely of one who is self-sufficient, but one who is insolent, scornful, and arrogant.
- Proverbs 21:25 tn Heb “the desire of the sluggard” (so ASV, NASB). This phrase features a subject genitive: “what the sluggard desires.” The term תַּאֲוַת (taʾavat, “desire; craving”) is a metonymy of cause. The craving itself will not destroy the sluggard, but what will destroy him is what the craving causes him to do or not to do. The lazy come to ruin because they desire the easy way out.
- Proverbs 21:25 tn The verb תְּמִיתֶנּוּ (temitennu) is the Hiphil imperfect with a suffix: “will kill him.” It is probably used hyperbolically here for coming to ruin (cf. NLT), although it could include physical death.
- Proverbs 21:25 sn “Hands” is figurative for the whole person, but “hands” is retained in the translation because it is often the symbol to express one’s ability of action.
- Proverbs 21:26 tn The construction uses the Hitpael perfect tense הִתְאַוָּה (hitʾavvah) followed by the cognate accusative תַאֲוָה (taʾavah). While the Piel verb means “to desire, wish for,” the reflexive meaning of the Hitpael appears to mean to encourage or build one’s desire. An English idiom might be to fan the flames of desire. It is not inherently immoral (the king will build desire for his bride in Ps 45:11) but often more often refers to a greedy craving or lust. This verse has been placed with the preceding because of the lexical connection with “desire/craving.”
- Proverbs 21:26 sn The additional clause, “and does not hold back,” emphasizes that when the righteous gives he gives freely, without fearing that his generosity will bring him to poverty. This is the contrast with the one who is self-indulgent and craves for more.
- Proverbs 21:27 tn Heb “the sacrifice of the wicked” (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV). This is a subjective genitive. The foundational clause states that ritual acts of worship brought by the wicked (thus a subjective genitive) are detestable to God. The “wicked” refers here to people who are not members of the covenant (no faith) and are not following after righteousness (no acceptable works). But often they participate in sanctuary ritual, which amounts to hypocrisy.
- Proverbs 21:27 sn This rhetorical device shows that if the act is abomination, the wicked heart is an even greater sin. It argues from the lesser to the greater.
- Proverbs 21:27 tn The noun זִמָּה (zimmah) means “plan; device; wickedness”; here it indicates that the person is coming to the ritual with “sinful purpose.” Some commentators suggest that this would mean he comes with the sacrifice as a bribe to pacify his conscience for a crime committed, over which he has little remorse or intent to cease (cf. NLT “with ulterior motives”). In this view, people in ancient Israel came to think that sacrifices could be given for any reason without genuine submission to God.
- Proverbs 21:28 tn Heb “a witness of lies,” an attributive genitive.
- Proverbs 21:28 tn The Hebrew verb translated “will perish” (יֹאבֵד, yoʾved) could mean that the false witness will die, either by the hand of God or by the community. But it also could be taken in the sense that the false testimony will be destroyed. This would mean that “false witness” would be a metonymy of cause—what he says will perish (cf. NCV “will be forgotten”).
- Proverbs 21:28 tn Heb “but a man who listens speaks forever.” The first part of it may mean (1) a true witness, one who reports what he actually hears. But it may also refer to (2) someone who listens to the false testimony given by the false witness. The NIV follows the suggestion of a homonym for the Hebrew word with the meaning “will perish/be destroyed”: “will be destroyed forever.” This suggests a synonymous pair of ideas rather than a contrast. Others accept antithetical parallelism. C. H. Toy suggested an idea like “be established” to contrast with “will perish” (Proverbs [ICC], 411). W. McKane suggested it meant the truthful witness “will speak to the end” without being put down (Proverbs [OTL], 556). It is simpler to interpret the words that are here in the sense of a contrast. The idea of speaking forever/to the end would then be hyperbolic.
- Proverbs 21:29 tn Heb “a wicked man.”
- Proverbs 21:29 tn Heb “he has strengthened his face.” The Hifil of עָזַז (ʿazaz) “to cause to be strong” is used idiomatically with “face” meaning to show boldness. Similarly the seductress in Prov 7:13 had put on a bold/impudent face. This person makes a show of confidence, either to be persuasive or to divert their own attention from the substance of a matter. Their confidence is not backed up by reality.
- Proverbs 21:29 tn The “upright” is an independent nominative absolute; the pronoun becomes the formal (emphatic) subject of the verb.
- Proverbs 21:29 tc The Kethib is the imperfect of כּוּן (kun), “he establishes.” This reading has the support of the Syriac, Latin, and Tg., and is followed by ASV and NASB. The Qere is the imperfect tense of בִּין (bin), “he understands; he discerns.” It has the support of the LXX and is followed by NIV, NCV, NRSV, NLT. The difficulty is that both make good sense in the passage and both have support. The contrast is between the wicked who [merely] puts up a bold front and the upright who either [actually] discerns his ways (Qere) or makes his ways solid (Kethib). And whichever reading is chosen, the meaning of the other is implied. It would not make sense for the verse to talk about someone who understands but does not act accordingly; on the other hand, to make his/her way solid, the upright person must understand it.
- Proverbs 21:30 tn The form לְנֶגֶד (leneged) means “against; over against; in opposition to.” The line indicates they cannot in reality be in opposition, for human wisdom is nothing in comparison to the wisdom of God (J. H. Greenstone, Proverbs, 232).
- Proverbs 21:30 sn The verse uses a single sentence to state that all wisdom, understanding, and advice must be in conformity to the will of God to be successful. It states it negatively—these things cannot be in defiance of God (e.g., Job 5:12-13; Isa 40:13-14).
- Proverbs 21:31 tn Heb “of the Lord.” The victory being “of the Lord” means that it is accomplished by him. Ultimate success comes from the Lord and not from human efforts. The faithful have acknowledged this down through the ages, even though they have been responsible and have prepared for the wars. Without this belief there would have been no prayer on the eve of battle (e.g., Pss 20:7; 33:17).
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