1 Do not envy evil people,#tn Heb “evil men,” although the context indicates a generic sense.
do not desire#tn The Hitpael jussive is from the verb that means “to crave; to desire.” This is more of a coveting, an intense desire. to be with them;
2 for their hearts contemplate violence,
and their lips speak harm.#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).
3 By#tn The preposition בְּ (bet, “by; through”) in these two lines indicates means. wisdom a house is built,#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).
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#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.” is strong,#tn The expression בַּעוֹז (ba’oz) employs a beth essentiae, meaning he “is strong,” not “in strength.”
and a man of knowledge makes his strength stronger;
6 for with guidance you wage your war,
and with numerous advisers there is victory.#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; and 21:22.
7 Wisdom is unattainable#tc The MT reads רָאמוֹת (ra’mot, “corals”) – wisdom to the fool is corals, i.e., an unattainable treasure. With a slight change in the text, removing the א (alef), 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. for a fool;
in court#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.” he does not open his mouth.#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.
8 The one who plans to do evil
will be called a scheming person.#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).
9 A foolish scheme#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). is sin,
and the scorner is an abomination to people.#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.
10 If you faint#tn Heb “show yourself slack” (NASB similar). The verb רָפָה (rafah) means “to sink; to relax.” In the causative stems it means “to let slacken; to let go; to refrain; to fail; to do nothing.” In the Hitpael stem BDB 952 s.v. defines it as “to show yourself slack.” It has also been rendered as “give up” (NCV, CEV); “fail” (NLT); “falter” (NIV). The colon implies a condition, for which the second part of the verse is the apodosis. in the day of trouble,#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.”
your strength is small!#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.
11 Deliver those being taken away to death,
and hold back those slipping to the slaughter.#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.
12 If you say, “But we did not know about this,”
does not the one who evaluates#tn Heb “weighs” (so NASB, NIV, NRSV) meaning “tests” or “evaluates.” hearts consider?
Does not the one who guards your life know?
Will he not repay each person according to his deeds?#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.
13 Eat honey,#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. my child, for it is good,
and honey from the honeycomb is sweet to your taste.
14 Likewise, know#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). that wisdom is sweet#tn The phrase “is sweet” is supplied in the translation as a clarification. to your soul;
if you find it,#tn The term “it” is supplied in the translation. you will have a future,#tn Heb “there will be an end.” The word is אַחֲרִית (’akhrit, “after-part, end”). BDB 31 s.v. b says in a passage like this it means “a future,” i.e., a happy close of life, sometimes suggesting the idea of posterity promised to the righteous, often parallel to “hope.”
and your hope will not be cut off.
15 Do not lie in wait like the wicked#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”). against the place where the righteous live;
do not assault#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. his home.
16 Although#tn The clause beginning with כִּי (ki) could be interpreted as causal or conditional; but in view of the significance of the next clause it seems better to take it as a concessive clause (“although”). Its verb then receives a modal nuance of possibility. The apodosis is then “and he rises up,” which could be a participle or a perfect tense; although he may fall, he gets up (or, will get up).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). a righteous person may fall seven times, he gets up again,
but the wicked will be brought down#tn The verb could be translated with an English present tense (“are brought down,” so NIV) to express what happens to the wicked in this life; but since the saying warns against being like the wicked, their destruction is more likely directed to the future. by calamity.
17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,#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.
and when he stumbles do not let your heart rejoice,
18 lest the Lord see it, and be displeased,#tn Heb “and [it is] evil in his eyes.”
and turn his wrath away from him.#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.
19 Do not fret because of evil people
or be envious of wicked people,
20 for the evil person has no future,#tn Heb “there is no end [i.e., future] for the evil.”
and the lamp of the wicked will be extinguished.#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.
21 Fear the Lord, my child,#tn Heb “my son,” but there is no indication in the immediate context that this should be limited only to male children. as well as the king,
and do not associate#tn Heb “do not get mixed up with”; cf. TEV “Have nothing to do with”; NIV “do not join with.” The verb עָרַב (’arav) 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. with rebels,#tn The form rendered “rebellious” 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.
22 for suddenly their destruction will overtake them,#tn Heb “will rise” (so NASB).
and who knows the ruinous judgment both the Lord and the king can bring?#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.
Further Sayings of the Wise
23 These sayings also are from the wise:
To show partiality#tn Heb “to recognize faces”; KJV, ASV “to have respect of persons”; NLT “to show favoritism.” in judgment is terrible:#tn Heb “not good.” This is a figure known as tapeinosis – a deliberate understatement to emphasize a worst-case scenario: “it is terrible!”
24 The one who says to the guilty,#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. “You are innocent,”#tn Or “righteous”; the same Hebrew word may be translated either “innocent” or “righteous” depending on the context.
peoples will curse him, and nations will denounce#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). him.
25 But there will be delight#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. for those who convict#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. the guilty,#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.
and a pleasing blessing#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). will come on them.
26 Like a kiss on the lips#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”).
is the one who gives an honest answer.
27 Establish your work outside and get your fields ready;
afterward build#tn The perfect tense with vav following the imperatives takes on the force of an imperative here. your house.#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).
28 Do not be a witness against your neighbor without cause,#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 (“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.
and do not deceive with your words.#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.
29 Do not say, “I will do to him just as he has done to me;
I will pay him back#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. according to what he has done.”#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).
30 I passed by the field of a sluggard,
by the vineyard of one who lacks wisdom.#tn Heb “lacks heart”; KJV “understanding”; NAB, NASB, NLT “sense.”
31 I saw#tn The Hebrew term וְהִנֵּה (vÿhinneh, traditionally “and, lo” [KJV, ASV]) is a deictic particle that calls attention to what comes next. “And look” is too abrupt here; “I saw” calls attention to the field that was noticed. that thorns had grown up all over it,
the ground#tn Heb “its face” (so KJV, ASV). was covered with weeds,
and its stone wall was broken down.
32 When I saw this, I gave careful consideration to it;#sn Heb “I set my heart.” The “heart” represents the mind and the will combined; to “set” the mind and will means to give careful consideration to what was observed.
I received instruction from what I saw:#tn Heb “I looked, I received instruction.” There are four verbs in the two parts of this verse: “I saw…I set…I saw…I received.” It is clear that the first two verbs in each half verse are the foundation for the next two. At the beginning of the verse the form is the preterite with the vav (ו) consecutive; it can be subordinated as a temporal clause to the next verb, probably to be identified as a preterite with the vav – “when I saw, I put.” The next two verbs are both perfect tenses; their construction would parallel the first half of the verse, even though there are no conjunctions here – “[when] I saw, I received.”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.
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.”#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.