New English Translation
27 Do not boast[a] about tomorrow;[b]
for you do not know[c] what a day may bring forth.
2 Let another[d] praise you, and not your own mouth;[e]
someone else,[f] and not your own lips.
3 A stone is heavy and sand is weighty,
but vexation[g] by a fool is more burdensome[h] than the two of them.
4 Wrath is cruel and anger is overwhelming,[i]
but who can stand before jealousy?[j]
5 Better is open[k] rebuke
than hidden[l] love.
6 Faithful[m] are the wounds of a friend,
but the kisses[n] of an enemy are excessive.[o]
7 The one whose appetite[p] is satisfied loathes honey,
but to the hungry mouth[q] every bitter thing is sweet.
8 Like a bird that wanders[r] from its nest,
so is a person who wanders from his home.[s]
9 Ointment and incense make the heart rejoice,[t]
likewise the sweetness of one’s friend from sincere counsel.[u]
10 Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend,
and do not enter your brother’s house in the day of your disaster;
a neighbor nearby is better than a brother far away.[v]
11 Be wise, my son,[w] and make my heart glad,
so that I may answer[x] anyone who taunts me.[y]
12 A shrewd person saw[z] danger—he hid himself;
the naive[aa] passed right on by[ab]—they had to pay[ac] for it.
13 Take a man’s[ad] garment when he has given security for a stranger,
and hold him in pledge on behalf of a stranger.[ae]
14 If someone blesses[af] his neighbor with a loud voice early in the morning,[ag]
it will be counted as a curse to him.[ah]
15 A continual dripping on a rainy day—
a contentious wife[ai] makes herself like that.[aj]
16 Whoever contains her has contained[ak] the wind[al]
or can grasp[am] oil with his right hand.[an]
17 As[ao] iron sharpens[ap] iron,
so a person[aq] sharpens his friend.[ar]
18 The one who tends a fig tree[as] will eat its fruit,[at]
and whoever takes care of[au] his master will be honored.
19 As in water the face is reflected as a face,[av]
so a person’s heart[aw] reflects the person.
20 As[ax] Death and Destruction are never satisfied,[ay]
so the eyes of a person[az] are never satisfied.[ba]
21 As the crucible is for silver and the furnace is for gold,[bb]
so a person[bc] must put[bd] his praise[be] to the test.
22 If you should pound[bf] the fool in the mortar
among the grain[bg] with the pestle,
his foolishness would not depart from him.[bh]
23 Pay careful attention to[bi] the condition of your flocks,[bj]
set your mind[bk] on your herds,
24 for riches do not last[bl] forever,
nor does a crown last[bm] from generation to generation.
25 When the hay is removed and new grass appears,
and the grass from the hills is gathered in,
26 the lambs will be for your clothing,
and the goats will be for the price of a field.[bn]
27 And there will be enough goat’s milk for your food,[bo]
for the food of your household,
and for the sustenance[bp] of your servant girls.
- Proverbs 27:1 tn The form אַל־תִּתְהַלֵּל (ʾal tithallel) is the Hitpael jussive negated; it is from the common verb “to praise,” and so in this setting means “to praise oneself” or “to boast.” sn The verse rules out one’s overconfident sense of ability to control the future. No one can presume on the future.
- Proverbs 27:1 sn The word “tomorrow” is a metonymy of subject, meaning what will be done tomorrow, or in the future in general.
- Proverbs 27:1 sn The expression “you do not know” balances the presumption of the first line, reminding the disciple of his ignorance and therefore his need for humility (e.g., Matt 6:34; Luke 12:20; Jas 4:13-16).
- Proverbs 27:2 tn Heb “a stranger.” This does not necessarily refer to a non-Israelite, as has been demonstrated before in the book of Proverbs, but these are people outside the familiar and accepted circles. The point is that such a person would be objective in speaking about your abilities and accomplishments.
- Proverbs 27:2 sn “Mouth” and “lips” are metonymies of cause; they mean “what is said.” People should try to avoid praising themselves. Self praise can easily become a form of pride, even if it begins with trivial things. It does not establish a reputation; reputation comes from what others think about you.
- Proverbs 27:2 tn “a foreigner”; KJV, ASV, NASB, NRSV “a stranger.”
- Proverbs 27:3 tn The subject matter is the vexation produced by a fool. The term כַּעַס (kaʿas) means “vexation” (ASV); provocation” (NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV); “anger” (KJV “wrath”) and usually refers to undeserved treatment. Cf. NLT “the resentment caused by a fool.” sn The same noun is used in 1 Sam 1:6, 16 for the “provocation” given to Hannah by Peninnah for being barren.
- Proverbs 27:3 sn The contrast is made between dealing with the vexation of a fool and physical labor (moving stones and sand). More tiring is the vexation of a fool, for the mental and emotional effort it takes to deal with it is more draining than physical labor. It is, in the sense of this passage, almost unbearable.
- Proverbs 27:4 tn Heb “fierceness of wrath and outpouring [= flood] of anger.” A number of English versions use “flood” here (e.g., NASB, NCV, NLT).
- Proverbs 27:4 tn The Hebrew term translated “jealousy” here probably has the negative sense of “envy” rather than the positive sense of “zeal.” It is a raging emotion (like “anger” and “wrath,” this word has nuances of heat, intensity) that defies reason at times and can be destructive like a consuming fire (e.g., 6:32-35; Song 8:6-7). The rhetorical question is intended to affirm that no one can survive a jealous rage. (Whether one is the subject who is jealous or the object of the jealousy of someone else is not so clear.)
- Proverbs 27:5 tn Heb “revealed” or “uncovered” (Pual participle from גָּלָה, galah). This would specify the reproof or rebuke as direct, honest, and frank, whether it was coming from a friend or an enemy.
- Proverbs 27:5 tn The Hebrew term translated “hidden” (a Pual participle from סָתַר, satar) refers to a love that is carefully concealed; this is contrasted with the open rebuke in the first line. What is described, then, is someone too timid, too afraid, or not trusting enough to admit that reproof is a genuine part of love (W. McKane, Proverbs [OTL], 610). It is a love that is not expressed in proper concern for the one loved. See also, e.g., 28:23 and 29:3.
- Proverbs 27:6 tn The Niphal participle of אָמַן (ʾaman) means “faithful; reliable; sure; trustworthy.” The word indicates that the wounds from a friend “can be trusted” (so NIV, NCV) because they are meant to correct and not to destroy (e.g., 25:12; Deut 7:9; Job 12:20).
- Proverbs 27:6 sn “Kisses” probably represents a metonymy of adjunct; the term describes any expressions or indications of affection. But coming from an enemy, they will be insincere—as indicated by their excessive number.
- Proverbs 27:6 tn The form is נַעְתָּרוֹת (naʿtarot), the Niphal participle of עָתַר (ʿatar, “to be abundant”). Contemporary translations render this rare form in a number of different ways: “deceitful” (NASB, NKJV); “profuse” (NRSV); “many” (NLT). But the idea of “excessive” or “numerous” fits very well. The kisses of an enemy cannot be trusted, no matter how often they are presented.
- Proverbs 27:7 tn Traditionally, “soul” (so KJV, ASV). The Hebrew text uses נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) here for the subject—the full appetite [“soul”]. The word refers to the whole person with all his appetites. Here its primary reference is to eating, but it has a wider application than that—possession, experience, education, and the like.
- Proverbs 27:7 tn Here the term נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh, traditionally, “soul”) is used again, now in contrast to describe the “hungry appetite” (cf. NRSV “ravenous appetite”), although “hungry mouth” might be more idiomatic for the idea. Those whose needs are great are more appreciative of things than those who are satisfied. The needy will be delighted even with bitter things.
- Proverbs 27:8 tn The form נוֹדֶדֶת (nodedet) is the Qal participle from נָדַד (nadad), “to wander; to stray; to flutter; to retreat; to depart”; cf. NIV, NRSV, NLT “strays.” It will be directly paralleled with the masculine participle in the second colon.
- Proverbs 27:8 tn Heb “place” (so KJV, ASV); most other English versions translate as “home.”sn The reason for the wandering from the nest/place is not given, but it could be because of exile, eviction, business, or irresponsible actions. The saying may be generally observing that those who wander lack the security of their home and cannot contribute to their community (e.g., the massive movement of refugees). It could be portraying the unhappy plight of the wanderer without condemning him over the reason for the flight.
- Proverbs 27:9 sn The first line of the proverb provides the emblem to the parallel point. The emblem is the joy that anointing oil (ointment) and incense bring, and the point is the value of the advice of a friend.
- Proverbs 27:9 tn Some think the MT is unintelligible as it stands: “The sweetness of his friend from the counsel of the soul.” The Latin version has “the soul is sweetened by the good counsels of a friend.” D. W. Thomas suggests, “counsels of a friend make sweet the soul” (“Notes on Some Passages in the Book of Proverbs,” VT 15 : 275). G. R. Driver suggests, “the counsel of a friend is sweeter than one’s own advice” (literally, “more than the counsel of the soul”). He also suggests “more than of fragrant wood.” See G. R. Driver, “Hebrew Notes,” ZAW 52 (1934): 54; idem, “Suggestions and Objections,” ZAW 55 (1937): 69-70. The LXX reads “and the soul is rent by misfortunes.” The MT, for want of better or more convincing readings, may be interpreted to mean something like “[Just as] ointment and incense brings joy to the heart, [so] the sweetness of one’s friend [comes] from his sincere counsel.”
- Proverbs 27:10 sn The meaning of the verse is very difficult, although the translation is rather straightforward. It may simply be saying that people should retain family relationships but will discover that a friend who is available is better than a relative who is not. But C. H. Toy thinks that the verse is made up of three lines that have no connection: 10a instructs people to maintain relationships, 10b says not to go to a brother’s house [only?] when disaster strikes, and 10c observes that a nearby friend is better than a far-away relative. C. H. Toy suggests a connection may have been there, but has been lost (Proverbs [ICC], 485-86). The conflict between 17:17 and 10b may be another example of presenting two sides of the issue, a fairly frequent occurrence in the book of Proverbs.
- Proverbs 27:11 tn Heb “my son”; the reference to a “son” is retained in the translation here because in the following lines the advice is to avoid women who are prostitutes.
- Proverbs 27:11 tn The verb is the cohortative of שׁוּב (shuv); after the two imperatives that provide the instruction, this form with the vav will indicate the purpose or result (indirect volitive sequence).
- Proverbs 27:11 sn The expression anyone who taunts me refers to those who would reproach or treat the sage with contempt, condemning him as a poor teacher. Teachers are often criticized for the faults and weaknesses of their students, but any teacher criticized that way takes pleasure in pointing to those who have learned as proof that he has not labored in vain (e.g., 1 Thess 2:19-20; 3:8).
- Proverbs 27:12 tn All of the verbs in this verse are Hebrew perfect forms that should be understood as past tense. The proverb presents its message as events which have occurred and are prototypical of the behavior of the shrewd and the inexperienced.
- Proverbs 27:12 tn This noun is plural, while the earlier substantival adjective “shrewd” is singular. The contrast may suggest that the naive are in a group, each one doing what the others do, while insightful person had to go against the flow. That is, the naive go along with the bandwagon; but the shrewd person thinks for his/herself and makes good decisions accordingly.
- Proverbs 27:12 tn Heb “passed by”; the word “right” is supplied in the translation to clarify the meaning: The naive person, oblivious to impending danger, meets it head on.
- Proverbs 27:12 tn The Qal of the verb עָנָשׁ (ʿanash) means to impose a fine; here in the Niphal it means to have a fine imposed, or to have to pay for something. By extension it means to suffer a penalty. The English idiom “to pay for” meaning “to suffer the consequences” conveys the idea while preserving the lexical base in Hebrew. Cf. NIV, ESV “suffer for it,” NASB, TNIV “pay the penalty,” KJV, Holman “are punished.”
- Proverbs 27:13 tn Heb “his garment.”
- Proverbs 27:13 tn Or “for a strange (= adulterous) woman.” Cf. KJV, ASV, NASB, NLT; NIV “a wayward woman.” The first noun זָר (zar) “stranger,” “foreigner” is masculine; the second term נָכְרִיָּה (nokhriyyah) “foreigner,” “stranger” is feminine, thus whether the stranger is a man or a woman. The terms do not have to mean a non-Israelite, just someone from outside the community and not well-known.sn This proverb is virtually identical to 20:16 which has a rare variant spelling of the initial imperative verb and has the masculine plural “strangers” as its Kethib reading, while matching 27:13 with the feminine singular “stranger” as its Qere reading.
- Proverbs 27:14 tn The verse begins with the Piel participle from בָּרַךְ (barakh). It could be taken as the subject, with the resulting translation: “Blessing…will be counted as a curse.” However, that would be rather awkward. So it is preferable to take the first line as the condition (“if someone blesses”) and the second as the consequence (“[then] it will be counted”).
- Proverbs 27:14 tn Heb “rising early in the morning” (so KJV, ASV). The infinitive explains the verb “bless,” giving the circumstances of its action. The individual rises early to give his blessing.
- Proverbs 27:14 sn The point of the proverb is that loud and untimely greetings are not appreciated. What was given as a “blessing” will be considered a “curse”—the two words being antonyms. The proverb makes the point that how, when, and why they say what they say is important too (D. Kidner, Proverbs [TOTC], 166).
- Proverbs 27:15 tn Heb “a wife of contentions” (an attributive genitive). Cf. NAB, NIV “a quarrelsome wife”; NLT “a nagging wife.”
- Proverbs 27:15 tc The form נִשְׁתָּוָה (nishtavah) may be a rare Nitpael form or a scribal error for the Niphal of the root שָׁוָה (shavah, “to be like, comparable to.” BDB classifies it as a Nitpael perfect from (BDB 1001 s.v. I שָׁוָה) with metathesis before the sibilant, a phonetic factor also known in the Hitpael. HALOT suggests that the metathesis is a scribal error such that the form should be נִשְׁוָתָה (nishvatah), a standard Niphal perfect third feminine singular. Either form should be understood with a reflexive meaning. She “makes herself like” an annoying dripping. The LXX concocts a further illustration: “Drops drive a man out of his house on a wintry day; so a railing woman also drives him out of his own house.”tn The word “that” does not appear in the Hebrew. This is structured like other metaphorical proverbs (e.g. 26:7, 9, 10) whose first line begins without the word “like,” but still functions as a comparison for the second line which begins with the conjunction vav (“and”). These are often translated as similes, using “like… so….” In this case the verb has a semantic meaning of “like,” so that has not been added at the beginning to avoid redundancy in English.
- Proverbs 27:16 tn The participle and the verb are both from the root צָפָן (tsafan) “to store up,” and by extension perhaps, “to hide” (so KJV). To “store up” wind would entail “restraining” it (so NASB, NIV, ESV, Holman) or “containing” it, a gloss which is closer to the basic meaning of the term.
- Proverbs 27:16 sn A contentious woman is uncontrollable. The wind can gust at any moment; so too the contentious woman can nag or complain without warning.
- Proverbs 27:16 sn The verb is the Qal imperfect of קָרָא (qaraʾ); BDB 895 s.v. 5.b defines it here as “call for = demand, require,” but acknowledges that it probably needs revision. R. B. Y. Scott interprets it to mean “grasping” oil in the hand, an expression he compares to the modern “butterfingers” (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes [AB], 163). The imperfect form is interpreted as modal, “can grasp,” for this context. Others have interpreted it to mean “betrays”—“ointment of his right hand betrays itself,” meaning its smell persists. However, the connection to the proverb does not seem obvious with that interpretation.
- Proverbs 27:16 tc The LXX took an etymologizing approach to the whole verse and translated it “the north wind is a severe wind, but by its name is termed auspicious.” In this rendering the Hebrew text’s “oil” became “its name,” “right hand” became “auspicious,” and “grasp” became “called.”
- Proverbs 27:17 tn The term “as” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation to clarify the comparison.
- Proverbs 27:17 tn BDB classifies the verb in the first colon as a Qal apocopated jussive of I חָדָה (khadah, “to grow sharp”; BDB 292 s.v.), and the verb in the second half of the verse (יַחַד, yakhad) as a Hiphil apocopated jussive. The difference would be: “let iron by means of iron grow sharp, and let a man sharpen the countenance of his friend.” But it makes more sense to take them both as Hiphil forms, the first being in pause. Other suggestions have been put forward for the meaning of the word, but the verb “sharpens” fits the context the best, and is followed by most English versions. The verb may be a shortened form of the imperfect rather than a jussive.
- Proverbs 27:17 tn Heb “and a man,” although the context does not indicate this should be limited to males only.
- Proverbs 27:17 tn Heb “sharpens the face of his friend.” The use of the word “face” (cf. KJV, ASV “countenance”) would here emphasize that it is the personality or character that is being sharpened. Constructive criticism sharpens character. Use of the wits in interaction that makes two people sharp as a razor (W. McKane, Proverbs [OTL], 615); another example, from the Talmud, is that of two students sharpening each other in the study of the Torah (b. Ta’anit 7a).
- Proverbs 27:18 sn Tending fig trees requires closer attention than other plants; so the point here would be the diligent care that is required.
- Proverbs 27:18 sn The principle is established in the first line with the emblem: Those who faithfully serve will be rewarded in kind. The second half of the proverb makes the point from this illustration.
- Proverbs 27:18 sn The Hebrew participle translated “takes care of” (שֹׁמֵר, shomer) describes a careful watching over or looking after, a meticulous service, anticipating the needs and safeguarding the charge. Such a servant need not worry about his efforts going unrecognized and unrewarded (e.g., Prov 22:29; 2 Tim 2:6, 15).
- Proverbs 27:19 tn The verse is somewhat cryptic and so has prompted many readings. The first line in the MT has “As water the face to the face.” The simplest and most probable interpretation is that clear water gives a reflection of the face (cf. NASB, NIV, NRSV, NLT). One creative but unconvincing suggestion is that of L. Kopf, who suggests the idea is “water of face” (a construct) and that it means shame or modesty, i.e., a face is not really human without shame, and a man without a heart is not human (“Arabische Etymologien und Parallelen zum Bibelwörterbuch,” VT 9 : 260-61).
- Proverbs 27:19 tn The second line has “so the heart of a man to a man” (cf. KJV, ASV). The present translation (along with many English versions) supplies “reflects” as a verb in the second line to emphasize the parallelism. sn In the parallelism this statement means that a person’s heart is the true reflection of that person. It is in looking at the heart, the will, the choices, the loves, the decisions, the attitudes, that people come to self-awareness.
- Proverbs 27:20 tn The term “as” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation in light of the analogy.
- Proverbs 27:20 sn Countless generations of people have gone into the world below; yet “death” is never satisfied—it always takes more. The line personifies Death and Destruction. It forms the emblem in the parallelism.
- Proverbs 27:20 tn Heb “eyes of a man.” This expression refers to the desires—what the individual looks longingly on. Ecclesiastes Rabbah 1:34 (one of the rabbinic Midrashim) says, “No man dies and has one-half of what he wanted.”
- Proverbs 27:20 tc The LXX contains a scribal addition: “He who fixes his eye is an abomination to the Lord, and the uninstructed do not restrain their tongues.” This is unlikely to be original.
- Proverbs 27:21 tn Heb “A crucible is for silver. A furnace is for gold. A person is for his [word of] praise.” The analogy is implicit and represented in translation by the comparatives “as” and “so.” A crucible and furnace are used to melt the metals, refining them or verifying their purity. Likewise, every person should test their praise.
- Proverbs 27:21 tn The Hebrew term אִישׁ (ʾish) often refers to a male, but can also mean a person, whether male or female.
- Proverbs 27:21 tn The Hebrew saying lacks a verb. The verbal phrase “must put to the test” was supplied in the translation in view of the analogy of testing or refining precious metals. Many English versions (NASB, NIV, ESV, NRSV) supply “is tested by” for the same reason. Whether the person is testing his praise or being tested by it depends on the structure of the saying and the prepositional phrase. The prepositional phrase says that the person is לְפִי (lefi), “for the mouth of” his praise. The noun פֶּה (peh) “mouth” can stand for “word,” i.e., what is spoken by the mouth, hence “the [spoken] word of his praise.” But also, the combination of ל (lamed) with פֶּה (peh) can mean “according to.” The other translations take the concept of testing from the first part of the line and join it to the gloss for לְפִי “according to.” However, לְפִי only means “according to” in the sense of “proportionate to” (cf. Exod 12:4; 16:16; Lev 27:16), not instrumentally, as in “by [means of].” Additionally, the proverb has three parts, each with noun plus lamed plus noun (or noun phrase). It is structurally consistent to view the crucible, the furnace, and the person as all having the same role of testing what follows the preposition lamed.
- Proverbs 27:21 tn Heb “his praise.” The pronominal suffix could be an objective genitive (about him, i.e., the praise he receives) or a subjective genitive (by him, i.e., the praise he gives). If intended to be an objective genitive, the proverb could mean two things. A person must test, sift through and evaluate, the praise he or she receives. Or a person must prove, verify by being worthy of, the word of praise he or she receives. If it is a subjective genitive, it means a person must refine, make valuable, the praise that he or she gives. Some commentators interpret a subjective genitive to mean that people stand revealed by what or how they praise (D. Kidner, Proverbs [TOTC], 168). But the structure of the saying positions the person as one performing a test, along with the crucible and the furnace.
- Proverbs 27:22 tn The verb means “to pound” in a mortar with a pestle (cf. NRSV “Crush”; NLT “grind”). The imperfect is in a conditional clause, an unreal, hypothetical condition to make the point.
- Proverbs 27:22 tn The Hebrew term רִיפוֹת (rifot) refers to some kind of grain spread out to dry and then pounded. It may refer to barley groats (coarsely ground barley), but others have suggested the term means “cheeses” (BDB 937 s.v.). Most English versions have “grain” without being more specific; NAB “grits.”
- Proverbs 27:22 tn The LXX contains this paraphrase: “If you scourge a fool in the assembly, dishonoring him, you would not remove his folly.” This removes the imagery of mortar and pestle from the verse. Using the analogy of pounding something in a mortar, the proverb is saying even if a fool was pounded or pulverized, meaning severe physical punishment, his folly would not leave him—it is too ingrained in his nature.
- Proverbs 27:23 tn The sentence uses the infinitive absolute and the imperfect from יָדַע (yadaʿ, “to know”). The imperfect here has been given the obligatory nuance, “you must know,” and that has to be intensified with the infinitive.
- Proverbs 27:23 tn Heb “the faces of your flock.”
- Proverbs 27:23 tn לֵב (lev) means “mind, heart” and by extension can refer to aspects of thinking or the will. The Hebrew idiom “set the mind (לֵב) on” or “put the mind (לֵב) to” transfers easily to English and is another way of saying to pay careful attention to something.sn The care of the flock must become the main focus of the will, for it is the livelihood. So v. 23 forms the main instruction of this lengthy proverb (vv. 23-27).
- Proverbs 27:24 tn Heb “riches are not forever” (so KJV, NASB); TEV “wealth is not permanent.” The term “last” is supplied in the translation for clarity.
- Proverbs 27:24 tn The conjunction and the particle indicate that the same nuance continues here in the second colon, and so “last” has been supplied here as well.
- Proverbs 27:26 sn Verse 25 is the protasis and v. 26 the apodosis. The two verses say that when the harvest is taken in, then the grass will grow, and they can sell and use their livestock. The lambs will provide clothing, and the goats when sold will pay for land.
- Proverbs 27:27 sn This part of the proverb shows the proper interplay between human labor and divine provision. It teaches people to take care of what they have because it will not last forever.
- Proverbs 27:27 tn Heb “life”; KJV, NAB “maintenance”; NRSV “nourishment.”