New English Translation
24 Do not envy evil people,[a]
do not desire[b] to be with them;
2 for their hearts contemplate violence,
and their lips speak harm.[c]
3 By[d] wisdom a house is built,[e]
and through understanding it is established;
4 by knowledge its rooms are filled
with all kinds of precious and pleasing treasures.
5 A wise warrior[f] is strong,[g]
and a man of knowledge makes his strength stronger;
6 for with guidance you wage your war,
and with numerous advisers there is victory.[h]
7 Wisdom is unattainable[i] for a fool;
in court[j] he does not open his mouth.[k]
8 The one who plans to do evil
will be called a scheming person.[l]
9 A foolish scheme[m] is sin,
and the scorner is an abomination to people.[n]
10 You have slacked off[o] in the day of trouble[p]—
your strength is small![q]
11 Deliver those being taken away to death,
and hold back those slipping to the slaughter.[r]
12 If you say, “But we did not know about this,”
won’t[s] the one who evaluates[t] hearts discern it?
Won’t the one who guards your life realize[u]
and repay each person according to his deeds?[v]
13 Eat honey,[w] my child, for it is good,
and honey from the honeycomb is sweet to your taste.
14 Likewise, know[x] that wisdom is sweet[y] to your soul;
if you have found it,[z] you have a future,[aa]
and your hope will not be cut off.
15 Do not lie in wait like the wicked[ab] against the place where the righteous live;
do not assault[ac] his home.
16 Indeed[ad] a righteous person will fall[ae] seven times, and then get up again,
but the guilty will collapse[af] in calamity.
17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,[ag]
and when he stumbles do not let your heart rejoice,
18 lest the Lord see it, and be displeased,[ah]
and turn his wrath away from him.[ai]
19 Do not fret because of evil people
or be envious of wicked people,
20 for the evil person has no future,[aj]
and the lamp of the wicked will be extinguished.[ak]
21 Fear the Lord, my child,[al] as well as the king,
and do not associate[am] with rebels,[an]
22 for suddenly their destruction will overtake them,[ao]
and who knows the ruinous judgment both the Lord and the king can bring?[ap]
Further Sayings of the Wise
23 These sayings also are from the wise:
To show partiality[aq] in judgment is terrible:[ar]
24 The one who says to the guilty,[as] “You are innocent,”[at]
peoples will curse him, and nations will denounce[au] him.
25 But there will be delight[av] for those who convict[aw] the guilty,[ax]
and a pleasing blessing[ay] will come on them.
26 Like a kiss on the lips[az]
is the one who gives an honest answer.
27 Establish your work outside and get your fields ready;
afterward build[ba] your house.[bb]
28 Do not be a witness against your neighbor without cause,[bc]
and do not deceive with your words.[bd]
29 Do not say, “I will do to him just as he has done to me;
I will pay him back[be] according to what he has done.”[bf]
30 I passed by the field of a sluggard,
by the vineyard of one who lacks sense.[bg]
31 I saw[bh] that thorns had grown up all over it,
the ground[bi] was covered with weeds,
and its stone wall was broken down.
32 Then I scrutinized[bj] it. I was putting[bk] my mind[bl] to it—
I saw;[bm] I took in a lesson:[bn]
33 “A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to relax,
34 and your poverty will come like a bandit,
and your need like an armed robber.”[bo]
- Proverbs 24:1 tn Heb “evil men,” although the context indicates a generic sense.
- Proverbs 24:1 tn The Hitpael jussive is from the verb that means “to crave; to desire.” This is more of a coveting, an intense desire.
- Proverbs 24:2 sn This nineteenth saying warns against evil associations. Evil people are obsessed with destruction and trouble. See on this theme 1:10-19; 3:31 and 23:17. D. Kidner observes that a close view of sinners is often a good antidote to envying them (Proverbs [TOTC], 153).
- Proverbs 24:3 tn The preposition ב (bet, “by; through”) in these two lines indicates means.
- Proverbs 24:3 sn The twentieth saying, vv. 3-4, concerns the use of wisdom for domestic enterprises. In Prov 9:1 wisdom was personified as a woman who builds a house, but here the emphasis is primarily on the building—it is a sign of security and prosperity (C. H. Toy, Proverbs [ICC], 442). One could still make a secondary application from this line for a household or “family” (cf. NCV, which sees this as a reference to the family).
- Proverbs 24:5 sn The twenty-first saying seems to be concerned with the need for wisdom in warfare. In line with that, the word used here is גֶּבֶר (gever), “mighty man; hero; warrior.”
- Proverbs 24:5 tn The expression בַּעוֹז (baʿoz) employs a beth essentiae, meaning he “is strong,” not “in strength.”
- Proverbs 24:6 sn The point of the saying is that wise counsel is necessary in war. Victory, strategy, and counsel are more important than mere military strength—many great armies have been destroyed because of their unwise leaders. See on this theme 11:14; 20:18; 21:22.
- Proverbs 24:7 tc The MT reads רָאמוֹת (raʾmot, “corals”)—wisdom to the fool is corals, i.e., an unattainable treasure. With a slight change in the text, removing the א (ʾalef), the reading is רָמוֹת (ramot, “high”), i.e., wisdom is too high—unattainable—for a fool. The internal evidence favors the emendation, which is followed by most English versions including KJV.
- Proverbs 24:7 tn Heb “[city] gate,” a metonymy of subject, meaning what goes on in the gate—court cases and business transactions. So it is in these assemblies that the fool keeps quiet. The term “court” has been used in the translation for clarity. Some English versions do not emphasize the forensic connotation here: NCV “in a discussion”; NLT “When the leaders gather.”
- Proverbs 24:7 sn The verse portrays a fool out of his element: In a serious moment in the gathering of the community, he does not even open his mouth (a metonymy of cause, meaning “speak”). Wisdom is too high for the fool—it is beyond his ability.
- Proverbs 24:8 tn Heb “possessor of schemes”; NAB “an intriguer.” The picture of the wicked person is graphic: He devises plans to do evil and is known as a schemer. Elsewhere the “schemes” are outrageous and lewd (e.g., Lev 18:7; Judg 20:6). Here the description portrays him as a cold, calculating, active person: “the fool is capable of intense mental activity but it adds up to sin” (W. McKane, Proverbs [OTL], 399).
- Proverbs 24:9 tn Heb “the scheme of folly” (NIV similar). The genitive functions as an attributive genitive, meaning “foolish scheme.” But it could also be interpreted as a genitive of source, the scheme that comes from folly (or from the fool if “folly” were metonymical).
- Proverbs 24:9 tn Heb “to a man”; cf. CEV “Everyone hates senseless fools.” sn This describes evil people who flout all morality and goodness; sooner or later the public will have had enough of them.
- Proverbs 24:10 tn The verb הִתְרַפִּיתָ (hitrappita) is a Hitpael perfect form of רָפָה (rafah). Most translations render the verse as a conditional statement (“if you…”) though the Hebrew lacks the term “if.” Hebrew proverbs can use the past tense to set the topic or opening premise of a proverb, and then comment on it in the second half of the proverb. English translators of proverbial sayings tend to want to make the Hebrew past time verbs into present tense in English. But this convention is difficult with second person verb forms, so the translations tend to change the sentence into an interrogative or conditional formula. The direct address in the Hebrew is more confrontational. In the Qal, the verb רָפָה (rafah) means “to become slack, limp, to wither.” In the Hitpael it means “to slack off,” “be lax,” possibly “to discourage oneself.” It has also been rendered as “give up” (NCV, CEV); “fail” (NLT); “falter” (NIV), “faint” (ASV, ESV).
- Proverbs 24:10 tn The verse employs a paronomasia to underscore the point: “trouble” is צָרָה (tsarah), literally “a bind; a strait [or, narrow] place”; “small” is צַר (tsar), with the same idea of “narrow” or “close.”
- Proverbs 24:10 sn The test of strength is adversity, for it reveals how strong a person is. Of course a weak person can always plead adverse conditions in order to quit. This is the twenty-fourth saying.
- Proverbs 24:11 tn The idea of “slipping” (participle from מוֹט, mot) has troubled some commentators. G. R. Driver emends it to read “at the point of” (“Problems in Proverbs,” ZAW 50 : 146). But the MT as it stands makes good sense. The reference would be general, viz., to help any who are in mortal danger or who might be tottering on the edge of such disaster—whether through sin, or through disease, war, or danger. Several English versions (e.g., NASB, NIV, NRSV) render this term as “staggering.”sn God holds people responsible for rescuing those who are in mortal danger. The use of “death” and “slaughter” seems rather strong in the passage, but they have been used before in the book for the destruction that comes through evil.
- Proverbs 24:12 tn Heb “Will he not?” The verb is an imperfect stative and so should be understood as future or modal. Likewise the verb in the next line.
- Proverbs 24:12 tn Heb “weighs” (so NASB, NIV, NRSV) meaning “tests” or “evaluates.”
- Proverbs 24:12 tn The imperfect of the stative verb יָדַע (yadaʿ, “to know”) means “will know/come to know,” thus “will learn, find out, realize.”
- Proverbs 24:12 sn The verse completes the saying by affirming that people will be judged responsible for helping those in mortal danger. The verse uses a series of rhetorical questions to affirm that God knows our hearts and we cannot plead ignorance.
- Proverbs 24:13 sn The twenty-sixth saying teaches that one should develop wisdom because it has a profitable future. The saying draws on the image of honey; its health-giving properties make a good analogy to wisdom.
- Proverbs 24:14 tn D. W. Thomas argues for a meaning of “seek” in place of “know” (“Notes on Some Passages in the Book of Proverbs,” JTS 38 : 400-403).
- Proverbs 24:14 tn The phrase “is sweet” is supplied in the translation as a clarification.
- Proverbs 24:14 tn The term “it” is supplied in the translation.
- Proverbs 24:14 tn Heb “there will be an אַחֲרִית (ʾakharit), which means “end, result, following period.” It suggests a future, which may imply posterity. It is sometimes connected with hope (Jer 29:11: 31:17; Prov 23:18).
- Proverbs 24:15 tn The word “wicked” could be taken as a vocative (cf. KJV, ASV, NASB, “O wicked man”), but since the next line refers to the wicked this is unlikely. It serves better as an adverbial accusative (“like the wicked”).
- Proverbs 24:15 sn The saying warns that it is futile and self-defeating to mistreat God’s people, for they survive—the wicked do not. The warning is against a deliberate, planned assault on their places of dwelling.
- Proverbs 24:16 tn The clause beginning with כִּי (ki) could be interpreted as temporal, conditional, or emphatic. It may be viewed as concessive (“although”) but a concessive force would typically arise from its context and relationship to other independent clauses. In any case, the first half of the proverb assures that the righteous keep getting up and going again.sn The righteous may suffer adversity or misfortune any number of times—seven times here—but they will “rise” for virtue triumphs over evil in the end (R. N. Whybray, Proverbs [CBC], 140).
- Proverbs 24:16 tn The verb is a Hebrew imperfect of נָפַל (nafal) which should be understood as future “will fall” or modal “may fall.” If it is future, it is exemplary and not predictive of the number of times a righteous person will metaphorically fall down. It is followed by a vav plus perfect consecutive, which either continues the force of the preceding verb, or advances it one logical step, like the apodosis of a condition.
- Proverbs 24:16 tn The Niphal of כָּשַׁל (kashal; to stumble) is typically reflexive “to collapse.” Intransitive verbs do not tend to have passive meanings, but the Niphal may refer to the resulting state, “be collapsed, fallen, brought down,” (although some take the Niphal unusually as “caused to stagger”). The imperfect verb form could be taken as a general present, but the future presents a better parallel to the first half of the proverb.
- Proverbs 24:17 sn The saying (vv. 17, 18) warns against gloating over the misfortune of one’s enemies. The prohibition is formed with two negated jussives “do not rejoice” and “let not be glad,” the second qualified by “your heart” as the subject, signifying the inner satisfaction of such a defeat.
- Proverbs 24:18 tn Heb “and [it is] evil in his eyes.”
- Proverbs 24:18 sn The judgment of God should strike a note of fear in the heart of people (e.g., Lev 19:17-18). His judgment is not to be taken lightly, or personalized as a victory. If that were to happen, then the Lord might take pity on the enemies in their calamity, for he champions the downtrodden and defeated. These are probably personal enemies; the imprecatory psalms and the prophetic oracles present a different set of circumstances for the downfall of God’s enemies—even the book of Proverbs says that brings joy to the community.
- Proverbs 24:20 tn Heb “there is no end [i.e., future] for the evil.”
- Proverbs 24:20 sn The saying warns against envying the wicked; v. 19 provides the instruction, and v. 20 the motivation. The motivation is that there is no future hope for them—nothing to envy, or as C. H. Toy explains, there will be no good outcome for their lives (Proverbs [ICC], 449). They will die suddenly, as the implied comparison with the lamp being snuffed out signifies.
- Proverbs 24:21 tn Heb “my son,” but there is no indication in the immediate context that this should be limited only to male children.
- Proverbs 24:21 tn Heb “do not get mixed up with”; cf. TEV “Have nothing to do with”; NIV “do not join with.” The verb עָרַב (ʿarav) is used elsewhere meaning “to exchange; to take on pledge.” In the Hitpael stem it means “to have fellowship; to share; to associate with.” Some English versions (e.g., KJV) interpret as “to meddle” in this context, because “to have fellowship” is certainly not what is meant.
- Proverbs 24:21 tn The form rendered “rebels” is difficult; it appears to be the Qal active participle, plural, from שָׁנָה (shanah), “to change”—“those who change.” The RV might have thought of the idea of “change” when they rendered it “political agitators.” The Syriac and Tg. Prov 24:21 have “fools,” the Latin has “detractors,” and the LXX reads, “do not disobey either of them,” referring to God and the king in the first line. Accordingly the ruin predicted in the next line would be the ruin that God and the king can inflict. If the idea of “changers” is retained, it would have to mean people who at one time feared God and the king but no longer do.
- Proverbs 24:22 tn Heb “will rise” (so NASB).
- Proverbs 24:22 tn Heb “the ruin of the two of them.” Judgment is sent on the rebels both by God and the king. The term פִּיד (pid, “ruin; disaster”) is a metonymy of effect, the cause being the sentence of judgment (= “ruinous judgment” in the translation; cf. NLT “punishment”). The word “two of them” is a subjective genitive—they two bring the disaster on the rebels. The referents (the Lord and the king) have been specified in the translation for clarity.sn The reward for living in peace under God in this world is that those who do will escape the calamities that will fall on the rebellious. Verse 21a is used in 1 Peter 2:17, and v. 22 is used in Romans 13:1-7 (v. 4). This is the thirtieth and last of this collection.
- Proverbs 24:23 tn Heb “to recognize faces”; KJV, ASV “to have respect of persons”; NLT “to show favoritism.”
- Proverbs 24:23 tn Heb “not good.” This is a figure known as tapeinosis—a deliberate understatement to emphasize a worst-case scenario: “it is terrible!”
- Proverbs 24:24 tn The word means “wicked; guilty” or “criminal”; the contrast could be “wicked—righteous” (cf. KJV, ASV, NAB, NASB) or “innocent—guilty” (cf. NIV, TEV, CEV). Since this line follows the statement about showing partiality in judgment, it involves a forensic setting. Thus the statement describes one who calls a guilty person innocent or acquitted.
- Proverbs 24:24 tn Or “righteous”; the same Hebrew word may be translated either “innocent” or “righteous” depending on the context.
- Proverbs 24:24 tn The verb means “to be indignant.” It can be used within the range of “have indignation,” meaning “loathe” or “abhor,” or express indignation, meaning “denounce” or “curse.” In this passage, in collocation with the previous term “curse,” the latter is intended (cf. NAB, NIV, NLT).
- Proverbs 24:25 tn The verb means “to be pleasant; to be delightful.” The imperfect tense promises that there “will be delight” to those who rebuke the wicked.
- Proverbs 24:25 tn The verb יָכַח (yakhakh) means “to decide; to adjudge; to prove.” This word occurs frequently in the book of Proverbs meaning “to reprove” or “to rebuke.” It deals with disputes, legal or otherwise. It can refer to a charge against someone or starting a dispute (and so rebuke); it can mean quarrel, argue; and it can mean settle a dispute. In this context the first or last use would work: (1) reproving the wicked for what they do (cf. KJV, NASB, NRSV), or (2) convicting them in a legal setting (cf. NAB, NIV, NLT). In light of the previous forensic context the second sense is preferred here.
- Proverbs 24:25 tn “The guilty” is supplied in the translation for clarity based on the preceding context. See the previous note on the word “convict”: If a non-forensic context is preferred for vv. 23-25, “wicked” would be supplied here.
- Proverbs 24:25 tn The expression is בִרְכַּת־טוֹב (birkat tov, “blessing of good”); the genitive “good” has to be an attributive genitive modifying “blessings.” The word is general enough to mean any number of things—rich, healthy, pleasing, etc. The parallelism here narrows the choice. Some English versions interpret the “blessing” here as prosperity (cf. NAB, TEV, CEV).
- Proverbs 24:26 tn Heb “the one who returns right words kisses the lips.” This is an implied comparison for giving an honest answer. Honesty is like a kiss. The kiss would signify love, devotion, sincerity, and commitment (in that culture)—an outward expression of what is in the heart. It is an apt illustration of telling the truth. Some English versions now replace the figure to avoid cultural misunderstanding (cf. TEV, CEV “a sign of true friendship”; NLT “an honor”).
- Proverbs 24:27 tn The perfect tense with vav following the imperatives takes on the force of an imperative here.
- Proverbs 24:27 sn If the term “house” is understood literally, the proverb would mean that one should be financially secure before building a house (cf. NLT). If “house” is figurative for household (metonymy of subject: children or family), the proverb would mean that one should have financial security and provision before starting a family. Some English versions suggest the latter meaning by using the word “home” for “house” (e.g., TEV, CEV).
- Proverbs 24:28 sn The legal setting of these sayings continues with this warning against being a false accuser. The “witness” in this line is one who has no basis for his testimony. “Without cause” is the adverb from חָנָן (khanan), which means “to be gracious.” The adverb means “without a cause; gratis; free.” It is also cognate to the word חֵן (khen), “grace” or “unmerited [or, undeserved] favor.” The connotation is that the opposite is due. So the adverb would mean that there was no cause, no justification for the witness, but that the evidence seemed to lie on the other side.
- Proverbs 24:28 tn Heb “lips.” The term “lips” is a metonymy of cause; it means “what is said.” Here it refers to what is said in court as a false witness.
- Proverbs 24:29 tn Heb “repay to the man.” The verb is שׁוּב (shuv), which in the Hiphil stem means “to restore; to repay; to return” (cf. TEV, CEV, NLT “I’ll get even”). The idea is that of repaying someone for what he did.
- Proverbs 24:29 sn Rather than give in to the spirit of vengeance, one should avoid retaliation (e.g., Prov 20:22; Matt 5:43-45; Rom 12:9). According to the Talmud, Hillel said, “Do not do to others what you would not have them do unto you” (b. Sanhedrin 31a).
- Proverbs 24:30 tn Heb “lacking of heart.” The term לֵב (lev, “mind, heart”) refers by metonymy to thinking, and by extension to discernment, wisdom, good sense.
- Proverbs 24:31 tn The Hebrew term וְהִנֵּה (vehinneh, traditionally “and, lo” [KJV, ASV]) is a deictic particle that calls for attention. Frequently it shifts the point of view to that of the speaker. Translating with “I saw” moves us into the sage’s point of view and calls attention to the field that was noticed.
- Proverbs 24:31 tn Heb “its face” (so KJV, ASV).
- Proverbs 24:32 tn The verb וָאֶחֱזֶה (vaʾekhezeh) is a preterite of אָחַז (ʾakhaz) “to look at.” In context the sage looked with analytic thinking, hence “scrutinized.” As a preterite verb, it gives a successive action in past time. This preterite links back to the perfect verb “I passed by” in v. 30 (whereas the three perfect verbs in v. 31 were each controlled by the opening הִנֵּה [hinneh] as simultaneous conditions with the perfective nuance). The following verbs in this verse are simultaneous to this preterite and do not advance the timeline.
- Proverbs 24:32 tn The verb אָשִׁית (ʾashit) is an imperfect form of a dynamic root in a past time setting. The previous verb, a preterite, is part of establishing the past time setting. Because this is a long prefixed form (spelled with the mater lectionis yod), it is not written as a preterite and should be understood as imperfective. Typically an imperfect in a narrative background clause is habitual (which could not work in this context) or past progressive. It may however be an abilitive modal expression “I was able to set my mind to it.” In either case this verb does not advance the timeline but expresses something happening while the sage scrutinized the field.
- Proverbs 24:32 tn The word לֵב (lev) is often translated “heart” but the word also means the “mind.” The Hebrew idiom “to set/put the לֵב (lev)” transfers well to English when rendering with “mind” and indicates careful consideration to what was observed.
- Proverbs 24:32 tn The verb רָאִיתִי (raʾiti) is a perfect verb meaning “to see” and by extension “to understand.” It could refer to the looking that the sage was doing, or to realizing the lesson. Together with the previous imperfect and following perfect verb, it is part of the past tense time frame established by the preterite verb beginning the verse. If רָאִיתִי refers to the looking, then within the preterite’s time frame this verb represents an onset while the next verb represents a conclusion to the act of pondering. If this verb refers to realizing, then together with the next verb it represents the conclusion of the act of pondering.
- Proverbs 24:32 sn The teacher makes several observations of the state of the sluggard that reveal that his continued laziness will result in poverty. The reminiscence used here may be a literary device to draw a fictional but characteristically true picture of the lazy person.
- Proverbs 24:34 tn Heb “a man of shield.” This could refer to an armed warrior (so NRSV) but in this context, in collocation with the other word for “robber” in the previous line, it must refer to an armed criminal.