5 Trust[a] in the Lord with all your heart,[b] and do not rely[c] on your own understanding.[d] 6 Acknowledge[e] him in all your ways,[f] and he will make your paths straight.[g]
Proverbs 3:5sn The word בְּטַח (betakh, “trust”) is used in the OT in (1) literal physical sense: to physically lean upon something for support and (2) figurative sense: to rely upon someone or something for help or protection (BDB 105 s.v. I בְּטַח; HALOT 120 s.v. I בטח). The verb is often used with false securities, people trusting in things that prove to be worthless. But here the object of the secure trust is the Lord who is a reliable object of confidence.
Proverbs 3:5sn The “heart” functions as a metonymy of subject encompassing mind, emotions and will (BDB 524 s.v. לֵב 2).
Proverbs 3:5tnHeb “do not lean.” The verb שָׁעַן (shaʿan, “to lean; to rely”) is used in (1) literal physical sense of leaning upon something for support and (2) figurative sense of relying upon someone or something for help or protection (BDB 1043 s.v.). Here it functions figuratively (hypocatastasis: implied comparison); relying on one’s own understanding is compared to leaning on something that is unreliable for support (e.g., Isa 10:20).
Proverbs 3:5tnHeb “your understanding.” The term בִּינָה (binah, “understanding”) is used elsewhere in this book of insight given by God from the instructions in Proverbs (Prov 2:3; 7:4; 8:14; 9:6, 10; 23:23). Here it refers to inherent human understanding that functions in relative ignorance unless supplemented by divine wisdom (Job 28:12-28; 39:26). The reflexive pronoun “own” is supplied in the translation to clarify this point. It is dangerous for a person to rely upon mere human wisdom (Prov 14:12; 16:25).
Proverbs 3:6tnHeb “know him.” The verb יָדַע (yadaʿ) includes the meanings “to know (a fact, idea, or person), to learn or realize (to come to know something), to experience (to come to know a circumstance), to acknowledge or care for (to act in a way consistent with a person’s station, whether authority or need). That knowing, or acknowledging, God means to obey him (live in a way consistent with his authority) is clear in negative formulations; those who do not know him do not obey (Exod 5:2; 1 Sam 2:12; Ps 79:6; Jer 4:22). Other passages emphasize knowing his characteristics, and not just his authority (Jer 9:23-24). The sage is calling for a life of trust and obedience in which the disciple sees the Lord in every event, submits to, and trusts him.
Proverbs 3:6tn The term דֶרֶךְ (derekh, “way”) is figurative (hypocatastasis: implied comparison) referring to a person’s course of life, actions and undertakings (Prov 2:8; 3:6, 23; 11:5; 20:24; 29:27; 31:3; BDB 203 s.v. 5; cf. TEV “in everything you do”; NCV, NLT “in all you do”). This is a call for total commitment in trust for obedience in all things.
Proverbs 3:6tn The verb יָשָׁר (yashar) means “to make smooth; to make straight” (BDB 444 s.v.). This phrase means “to make the way free from obstacles,” that is, to make it successful (e.g., Isa 40:3). The straight, even road is the right road; God will make the way smooth for the believer.
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