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Proverbs: Chapter 10

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1

The proverbs of Solomon.

A wise child makes a glad father, but a foolish child is a mother's grief. 2 Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death. 3 The LORD does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked. 4 A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. 5 A child who gathers in summer is prudent, but a child who sleeps in harvest brings shame. 6 Blessings are on the head of the righteous, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. 7 The memory of the righteous is a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot. 8 The wise of heart will heed commandments, but a babbling fool will come to ruin. 9 Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever follows perverse ways will be found out. 10 Whoever winks the eye causes trouble, but the one who rebukes boldly makes peace. a Heb lacks instruction 11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. 12 Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. 13 On the lips of one who has understanding wisdom is found, but a rod is for the back of one who lacks sense. 14 The wise lay up knowledge, but the babbling of a fool brings ruin near. 15 The wealth of the rich is their fortress; the poverty of the poor is their ruin. 16 The wage of the righteous leads to life, the gain of the wicked to sin. 17 Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but one who rejects a rebuke goes astray. 18 Lying lips conceal hatred, and whoever utters slander is a fool. 19 When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but the prudent are restrained in speech. 20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the mind of the wicked is of little worth. 21 The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense. 22 The blessing of the LORD makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it. a Heb shades 23 Doing wrong is like sport to a fool, but wise conduct is pleasure to a person of understanding. 24 What the wicked dread will come upon them, but the desire of the righteous will be granted. 25 When the tempest passes, the wicked are no more, but the righteous are established forever. 26 Like vinegar to the teeth, and smoke to the eyes, so are the lazy to their employers. 27 The fear of the LORD prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be short. 28 The hope of the righteous ends in gladness, but the expectation of the wicked comes to nothing. 29 The way of the LORD is a stronghold for the upright, but destruction for evildoers. 30 The righteous will never be removed, but the wicked will not remain in the land. 31 The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, but the perverse tongue will be cut off. 32 The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked what is perverse.

Notes:

b Heb lacks instruction

c Heb shades

Text Commentary view alone

10.1–22.16 : Proverbial sayings.

The originally separate sayings in this collection are often bound together by catchwords and thematic associations. There is a general equation between wise and righteous on the one hand, fool and wicked on the other. Antithetical parallelism is characteristic of chs 10–15; chs 16–22 favor synonymous or synthetic parallelism in which the second line repeats or extends the thought of the first.

10.1 :

Proverbs of Solomon, see Introduction. This opening proverb takes up the motif of father‐son instruction from chs 1–9 ( 15.20; Sir 3.1–16 ).

2–3 :

These two sayings assume that divine retribution occurs in the present life. Misfortune, including an early or unhappy death, is punishment for sin, while righteousness is rewarded with long and prosperous life (cf. 3.2,16; 9.11; 10.27; 13.21 ). Other proverbs complicate this doctrine of divine reward and punishment (e.g., 15.16; 16.8 ), and the books of Job and Ecclesiastes challenge it profoundly.

4–5 :

see 6.6–11 .

10 :

Winks the eye, cf. 6.13; Sir 27.22 .

11 :

Fountain of life, an image repeatedly associated with the wise and wisdom (see 13.14; 14.27; 16.22 ).

15–16 :

V. 15 is a neutral observation about the reality of wealth and poverty; v. 16 adds ethical comment on the gain of the wicked. Cf. 11.28 and 18.11 , where the protection of wealth is declared to be illusory.

18–21 :

Proper speech is a frequent topic in wisdom literature (e.g., 2.12; 12.13–14,17–19,22–23; 13.3; Sir 19.4–12; 23.7–11 ).

25 :

Tempest, a divine manifestation; see Job 27.20; Hos 8.7 .

11.1 :

On dishonest trade, cf. 16.11; 20.10,23; Lev 19.35–37; Deut 25.13–16 .

2 :

The humble are closely associated with the wise ( 15.33; 18.12; 22.4; Sir 3.17–24 ).

12–13 :

A pair of proverbs contrasting indiscreet speech with the virtue of the silent and the trustworthy ( 20.19; 25.9; Sir 27.16–17 ).

15 :

Cf. 6.1–5 .

22 :

This saying, arresting for its imagery and its male‐centered point of view, is best taken as criticism of superficial esteem for beauty (see 31.30 ).

24–26 :

The paradox of v. 24 is explained by v. 25 : A generous person inspires others to reciprocate (cf. v. 17 ). In contrast, those who hold back grain (especially in time of scarcity, to maximize personal gain), receive a curse.

27 :

Divine favor is chiefly meant here (cf. 8.35; 12.2; 18.22 ).

28,30 :

Cf. Ps 1.3; 92.12–14 .

12.1 :

The wise cultivate discipline, and listen to criticism ( 13.1 ).

4 :

The original addressees of the book were principally young men, for whom the choice of a good wife was an acute interest (cf. 18.22; 19.13–14; 31.10–31; Sir 26.1–3,13–18 ).

9 :

The “better” saying, a favorite form of speech of the sages, conveys insight through paradox ( 15.16–17; 16.8,19,32; 17.1,12; 19.1,22; 21.9,19; 22.1; 25.24; 27.5,10c; 28.6; Eccl 4.6,13; 7.1–3; 9.4 ). On this saying, cf. Sir 10.27 .

10 :

Cf. 27.23 . The second line is an oxymoron; what passes for mercy with the wicked is cruel.

11 :

Cf. 28.19 .

13–23 :

See 10.18–21n.

17 :

The setting is the law court (cf. 14.25; 25.18 ).

25 :

Cf. 15.13; 17.22 .

27 :

Some are too lazy to cook their own food, or even to hunt for game in the first place (cf. 13.4; 19.24 ).

13.2 :

Good words bring good results ( 12.14 ).

7–8 :

A pair of proverbs that plays on ambiguities of the rich and poor. V. 8b suggests that the poor are not subject to criminal threats such as robbery and blackmail.

9 :

Light and lamp are symbols of life ( 20.20; 24.20; Job 3.20; Ps 97.11 ).

12 :

Tree of life, as in 3.18; 11.30 ; a symbol of the fullness of life.

13 :

Word and commandment here originally referred to the teaching of the sages, but soon came to be understood also as references to the Torah (Deut 30.11,14; Sir 24.23; Bar 4.1 ).

14 :

See 10.11n.

17 :

The messenger played a vital role in the ancient world (cf. 22.21; 25.13,25; 26.6 ).

21–22 :

A proverb pair teaching that prosperity as a reward for righteousness carries over from one generation to the next.

24 :

Spare the rod, the sages oppose cruelty (even against animals, cf. 12.10 ), but they take physical punishment for granted as a necessary means of discipline (cf. 22.15; 23.13–14; 26.3; 29.15; Sir 22.6; 30.1–13 ).

14.1 :

Builds her house might refer to personified Wisdom ( 9.1; cf. 24.3–4 ).

2 :

Beginning with ch 14, proverbs that mention the Lord appear with increasing frequency.

6–12 :

Several proverbs in this section concern discernment, which can be a matter of life and death (cf. 12.15; 16.25 ).

13 :

Cf. Eccl 7.2–4 .

20–21 :

A proverb pair: V. 20 observes a social reality (cf. 19.4–7; Sir 6.8–12); v. 21 applies to it a moral evaluation (cf. v. 31; 17.5 ).

27 :

See 10.11n.

29–30 :

Self‐control is a primary virtue in wisdom thought (e.g., 12.16; 15.18; 19.19; 20.3; 25.28; Sir 28.8,11–12 ). Here “passion” refers not to sexual passion but to strong, unregulated emotions of any sort.

31 :

Cf. 22.16; 28.3 . The same view is often found in the prophets (e.g., Ezek 22.29; Am 4.1; Zech 7.10 ).

35 :

Cf. 16.14; 19.12 .

15.8 :

Sincerity in worship is essential (v. 29; 21.3,27 ).

11 :

Sheol, the underworld, and Abaddon (lit. “Destruction”) are the place and state of the dead (cf. 1.12; for v. 11b, cf. 20.27; Sir 42.18 ).

16–17 :

A proverb pair that puts into question the value of prosperity (cf. 16.8; 17.1 ). Dinner of vegetables, simple fare in contrast to the luxury of a fatted ox.

23 :

A prized goal of the sages (cf. 25.11 ).

25 :

Boundaries, the markers that indicate the extent of a field (see 22.28; Deut 19.4 ). Since the powerful might attempt to encroach on the land of widows and orphans (Job 24.2–3 ), these persons were held to be under special divine protection (see 23.10–11 ).

27 :

Cf. 17.23; Sir 20.29 .

16.1 :

No human activity escapes divine providence (vv. 9,33; 19.21; 20.24; 21.30–31 ).

2 :

see 17.3; 21.2; 24.12 .

4 :

Everything belongs to the LORD's purposes (see Sir 33.7–15; 39.16–35 ).

6 :

Loyalty and faithfulness might refer to human or divine actions (see 3.3; 14.22 ).

10–15 :

A small collection of sayings concerning the king.

10 :

Inspired decisions, the king speaks with indisputable authority ( 20.8 ).

11 :

See 11.1n.

14 :

King's wrath, cf. 19.12; 20.2 .

15 :

Royal favor is compared to life‐giving sunshine (Num 6.25; Hos 6.3 ).

18 :

See 11.2 .

22 :

See 10.11n.

25 :

Also 14.12 .

29 :

Cf. 1.10–19 .

30 :

see 6.12–15; 10.10 .

31 :

Gray hair is prized as evidence of a long life, the reward of the wise and virtuous ( 20.29; Sir 25.3–6 ).

33 :

Nothing happens by chance; even the fall of the lot ( 18.18 ) is determined by God.

17.1 :

Cf. 15.16–17 .

3 :

Cf. 27.21; Sir 2.5 .

5 :

Cf. 14.31 .

8 :

A bribe works (see 18.16; 21.14 ); elsewhere bribery is condemned (cf. v. 23 ).

10 :

A hundred blows, the law limits corporal punishment to forty blows (Deut 25.3 ).

12 :

She‐bear, cf. 2 Sam 17.8; Hos 13.8 .

14 :

Letting out water, as when a dam is breached, the torrent is unstoppable.

16 :

Price in hand, perhaps a reference to tuition paid to wisdom teachers.

18 :

Cf. 6.1–5; 11.15; 20.16 .

19 :

Builds a high threshold, a “cause and effect” proverb. Just as a badly built (and perhaps ostentatious) threshold invites problems, so does transgression serve as an invitation to conflict.

23 :

Cf. v. 8; 15.27; Sir 20.29 .

24 :

The eyes of a fool seek unattainable goals.

27–28 :

A proverb pair on the ambiguity of silence (cf. 10.19; Sir 20.5–6 ).

18.4 :

Deep waters, an ambiguous metaphor: Speech can be profound and life‐giving, or it can be dangerous (v. 21; 10.11 ). By the first alternative, the two lines would be synonymous, otherwise antithetical.

8 :

Some people take in slander with relish; it affects them deeply (also 26.22 ).

10–11 :

A proverb pair: The name of the Lord is reliable (Ps 61.3; 124.8 ); the protection of wealth may prove to be imaginary ( 10.15–16; 11.4 ).

13 :

Cf. v. 2; Sir 11.8 .

17–18 :

Both sides of a case must be heard; intractable disputes are settled by casting the lot (i.e., seeking the LORD's decision, see 16.33 ).

19 :

The Heb text is poorly preserved, but the point is that quarreling prevents reconciliation, like the bars of a castle.

23 :

Cf. Sir 13.3 .

19.1 :

Better the poor, see 15.16–17; 16.8; 17.1; 28.6 .

4 :

The poor are left friendless, see vv. 6–7; 14.20; Eccl 9.16; Sir 6.8–12; 13.21 .

5 :

The false witness is a frequent topic (see v. 9; 6.19; 12.17; 14.5,25; 21.28; 25.7c–10, 18; Ex 20.16; 23.1–3, 7 ).

10 :

The sages sometimes reflect the perspective of the upper classes ( 30.22; Eccl 10.6–7 ).

13–14 :

This teaching patently occupies the viewpoint of the male head of household ( 18.22; 21.9,19; 25.24; 27.15 ).

16 :

The commandment, of the parent or sage, but ultimately also of the LORD (see 13.13 ).

17 :

See 14.31; 17.5; 28.27 .

18 :

While there is hope, during childhood, when lasting formation can occur ( 22.6 ).

21 :

See 16.1,9,33; 21.30–31 .

24 :

One can be too lazy even to eat (v. 15; 12.27; 13.4; 26.15 ).

20.1 :

Caution concerning wine and strong drink ( 23.19–21,29–35; 31.4–5; Sir 19.2; 31.25–26,29–30 ).

2 :

Royal anger is a threat to the king's subjects ( 16.14–15; 19.12 ).

4 :

See 6.6–11 .

5 :

Like deep water, see 18.4 .

8 :

Winnows, by his sharp judgment (v. 26 ).

10 :

See v. 23; 11.1n.

14 :

In the bargaining process, the buyer claims to be losing, even when the deal is a good one.

16 :

See 6.1–5; 27.13 . The stranger or foreigner, with no ties of kinship in the community, makes a poor security risk.

17 :

Full of gravel, see Lam 3.16 .

20 :

Lamp will go out, see 13.9 .

21 :

Estate quickly acquired, not properly inherited.

25 :

A sacred vow (see Lev 27.1–25 ) should not be made casually (Eccl 5.1–6 ).

26 :

The wheel, a threshing implement (v. 8; Isa 28.27 ).

29 :

See 16.31n. 21.1 : Even the mind of a king is controlled by God (vv. 30–31 ).

2 :

See 16.2 .

3 :

See 15.8,29; 28.9,13; 1 Sam 15.22; Hos 6.6; Mic 6.6–8 .

9 :

In a corner of the housetop, i.e., in a small room constructed there (cf. 2 Kings 4.10); See 19.13–14n.

14 :

See 17.8n.

18 :

The meaning of ransom here is obscure; perhaps it means that trouble befalls the wicked instead of the righteous, as in 11.8 .

19 :

See 19.13–14n.

22 :

One wise person, see Eccl 9.14–15 .

28 :

See 19.5n.

30–31 :

Such sayings indicate that the sages recognized the limitations of human wisdom, in view of the LORD's greater wisdom and providence (cf. 16.1,9,33; 19.21; 20.18,24 ).

22.1 :

On the value of a good name, see Eccl 7.1; Sir 41.12–13 .

2 :

See 29.13; Job 31.15 .

7 :

The borrower is the slave, not only a figurative expression; debt slavery was a reality in ancient Israel (Ex 21.2–7; 2 Kings 4.1; Neh 5.5 ).

13 :

See 26.13 .

14 :

see 2.16–19; 7.10–27 .

15 :

See 13.24n.

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