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Proverbs: Chapter 24

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1

Do not envy the wicked, nor desire to be with them; 2 for their minds devise violence, and their lips talk of mischief.

3

By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; 4 by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches. 5 Wise warriors are mightier than strong ones, c Meaning of Heb uncertain and those who have knowledge than those who have strength; 6 for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory. 7 Wisdom is too high for fools; in the gate they do not open their mouths.

8

Whoever plans to do evil will be called a mischief‐maker. 9 The devising of folly is sin, and the scoffer is an abomination to all.

10

If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength being small; 11 if you hold back from rescuing those taken away to death, those who go staggering to the slaughter; 12 if you say, “Look, we did not know this”— does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it? And will he not repay all according to their deeds?

13

My child, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. 14 Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, you will find a future, and your hope will not be cut off.

15

Do not lie in wait like an outlaw against the home of the righteous; do no violence to the place where the righteous live; 16 for though they fall seven times, they will rise again; but the wicked are overthrown by calamity.

17

Do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble, 18 or else the LORD will see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from them. 19 Do not fret because of evildoers. Do not envy the wicked; 20 for the evil have no future; the lamp of the wicked will go out.

21

My child, fear the LORD and the king, and do not disobey either of them; a Gk Syr Vg Tg: Heb lacks you will say 22 for disaster comes from them suddenly, and who knows the ruin that both can bring?

23These also are sayings of the wise:

Partiality in judging is not good. 24 Whoever says to the wicked, “You are innocent,” will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations; 25 but those who rebuke the wicked will have delight, and a good blessing will come upon them. 26 One who gives an honest answer gives a kiss on the lips.

27

Prepare your work outside, get everything ready for you in the field; and after that build your house.

28

Do not be a witness against your neighbor without cause, and do not deceive with your lips. 29 Do not say, “I will do to others as they have done to me; I will pay them back for what they have done.” 30 I passed by the field of one who was lazy, by the vineyard of a stupid person; 31 and see, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. 32 Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction. 33 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, 34 and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want, like an armed warrior.

Notes:

a Meaning of Heb uncertain

b Gk Syr Vg Tg: Heb lacks you will say

Text Commentary view alone
Commentary spanning earlier chapters

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.

22.17–24.34 :

The words of the wise. This collection is closely related to the Egyptian “Instruction of Amen‐em‐ope” (ca. 1100 BCE). In contrast to the short, discrete sayings of chs 10–21 , the form here changes to longer units of second‐person address, like the Egyptian “Instruction” (cf. chs 1–9 ). Several sayings, especially in 22.17–23.11 , appear to be Hebrew adaptations of Amen‐em‐ope's teaching.

22.17–21 ::

A prologue, patterned after the introduction to the “Instruction of Amen‐em‐ope.”

20 :

Thirty sayings, Amen‐em‐ope is composed of thirty sections. It is not clear how there are thirty units in this collection.

21 :

Those who sent you, instruction equips students to serve as reliable delegates for important people (cf. v. 29; 13.17; 25.13; 26.6 ).

22 :

Priority is given here, as in Amen‐em‐ope, to concern for the poor.

28 :

Ancient landmark, not a memorial stone but a marker indicating property boundaries; see Deut 19.14; 27.17 .

23.1–3 :

Etiquette at the table of the powerful is an important topic in Amen‐em‐ope and other Egyptian instruction texts; see also Sir 31.12–18 .

4–5 :

Like an eagle, this passage is very close to Amen‐em‐ope, in which the flight of geese symbolizes fleeting wealth.

10–11 :

See 15.25n.; 22.28n.

13–14 :

See 13.24n.; Sir 22.6; 30.1–13 . Sheol, the abode of the dead.

27 :

See 2.16n.; 6.26; 7.10 .

29–35 :

A vivid description of the ill effects of drunkenness (cf. vv. 20–21; 20.1; 31.4–5 ).

34 :

The text is difficult, but the comparison is evidently to the dizziness and nausea of seasickness (cf. Ps 107.26–27 ).

24.3 :

A house is built, cf. v. 27; 9.1; 14.1 .

5–6 :

Strategy can outdo might ( 21.22 ; but contrast 21.30–31 ).

10–12 :

A good person should intervene on behalf of victims of violence. The one who weighs the heart is the LORD ( 16.2; 21.2 ).

13 :

Eat honey, a figure for acquiring wisdom (v. 14; cf. 16.24; Ps 19.10 ).

16 :

Seven times, i.e., any number of times; the righteous will rise again, in contrast to the wicked.

17 :

See Job 31.29 .

20 :

Job 18.5–6; 21.17 .

23 :

A title for another short collection (vv. 23–34 ).

23b–25 :

28.21; Lev 19.15; Deut 16.19 .

26 :

Kiss on the lips, obscure; the gesture would seem to demonstrate friendship or trustworthiness.

27 :

Literally, food comes before shelter; figuratively, any major undertaking requires proper preparation.

29 :

Cf. vv. 17–18 .

30–34 :

See 6.6–11 .

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