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Go to Bible: Proverbs 19
“rich.” The Masoretic Hebrew text reads, “and is a fool,” but that reading most likely came about as a scribal error. There are some Hebrew manuscripts that read “rich.” (See comments by Michael Fox, The Anchor Bible: Proverbs, and Robert Alter, The Wisdom Books).(top)
“desire.” The Hebrew text reads nephesh (#05315 נָ֫פֶשׁ), which is the soul, and the products thereof, such as attitude, appetite, etc. This is a case where it is important for the translator to help the English reader, who tends to think “person” when he reads “soul.” Although it is not good for a “soul,” a person, to be without knowledge, that is not the force of the verse, which can be determined by the second half of the proverb. If the verse were to read, for example, “a soul without knowledge is not good; And he who makes haste with his feet misses the way,” what would be the connection between the soul without knowledge and the one who is in a hurry? The proverb, as a whole, would not make sense. The first part of the verse refers to “desire,” a product of the soul, without knowledge, and that desire often is accompanied by haste, but the ignorance causes the person to miss the correct way to accomplish his goal.
“makes haste with his feet sins.” This is not a “general statement of truth,” but one that is specific to the context. Lots of people do things quickly without sinning. However, the person who has a desire and then acts quickly to fulfill it without getting informed about the situation frequently makes a mistake.(top)
“but.” This is a proverb that is only understood properly if the Hebrew vav (וְ) that begins the second stanza is translated as “yet” or “but,” and not “and.” Fools ruin their own life, but do they blame themselves? No, they rage against Yahweh, whom they think should make their lives easy.(top)
|Pro 19:4||- (top)|
“will not escape.” This is one of the “ideal” statements in Proverbs, a statement that should be true on earth, but often isn’t, and hence has an eschatological overtone: it will be fully fulfilled in the future. It was always God’s intention that people would get what they deserve in this life, and that is expressed in many verses in Proverbs and the rest of the Bible. There are many prophecies and promises that would be fulfilled here on earth if our societies were ideal and godly, but since we are sinful people and live in a fallen world in which the Devil is the god of the age (2 Cor. 4:4; 1 John 5:19), our societies are not godly and ideal, and so many promises are not fulfilled now. They will be fulfilled on the Day of Judgment and/or in Christ’s Millennial Kingdom when Jesus reigns as king over the earth and there is righteousness and justice for everyone. These verses are “proverbs” because they are ideal and many of them are accurate more than they are wrong (Prov. 19:5 is an example of that). On the other hand, some of them are ideal statements that are not as true here on earth as we would like them to be. For example, Proverbs 3:10 says that the person who gives their firstfruits (tithes) will be very prosperous, but that does not happen that often here on earth but will certainly be fulfilled in the Millennial Kingdom.
There are many “ideal” prophecies like this in the Word of God (cp. Prov. 1:33; 3:10; 4:10; 10:24; 11:25, 31; 12:11, 21; 16:3; 17:2; 19:5, 23; 21:21, 28; 22:6; 28:27; 29:25; Matt. 6:33). [For more on Christ’s future reign on earth, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth”].
Part of the reason that there are as many false witnesses as there are in the court system is that we ignore God’s directive on what to do when one is caught. God said the punishment that was to be given to a false witness was that he was to receive the punishment that the person who was falsely accused would have gotten had the perjury not been discovered (Deut. 19:16-19). Therefore, a person who lied in a murder trial would be executed, while a person who lied in a trial about theft would be fined or beaten. God created humans, and loves them, and wants badly for us to have safe and just societies, and we ignore His commands to our detriment.(top)
“entreat the favor.” The Hebrew literally reads “to make the face pleasant.”
“the person who gives gifts” The Hebrew text is literally, “a man of gifts,” which is a type of genitive of production, a man who produces, or gives, gifts.” The word “man” in this context is cultural, and refer to a man or woman.(top)
“hate.” The word “hate” in the Bible does not always have the meaning it has in English, an intense feeling of animosity, anger, and hostility towards a person, group, or object. In Hebrew and Greek, the word “hate” has a large range of meanings. Here the word “hate” is used in the sense of “being disgusted or repulsed by” to the end that you would avoid your family. It is especially the case that often someone is poor because they are lazy or too arrogant to take advice, and those kinds of people generally are disgusting to, and avoided by, others. [For more on the large semantic range of “hate” and its use in the Bible, see commentary on Prov. 1:22, “hate”].
“but they are of no avail.” The masculine plural “they” agrees with the masculine plural “words.” The poor man chases his friend with words, but they are not convincing and do not win over his friend. We have to ask why this poor person is hated (or “held in contempt”) by his brothers and friends. It is often the case that poor people are poor because they have made bad decisions or are lazy, unfocused, etc.
It is noteworthy that this verse never condemns the brothers, or the friend who distances himself from the poor person. Proverbs has verses that encourage and support people giving to the poor (cp. Prov. 19:17), so it is most likely that this verse is talking about the kind of poor person who is lazy, constantly makes bad decisions, and/or does not want to control his spending (cp. Prov. 21:17). This poor person has been helped out by his family and friends many times before but without any lasting results; he just continually needs more. Most often in those cases the poor person cannot see that they are at fault and so they constantly pursue people with words, trying to get money from them. They then get angry with the people who finally make the decision not to support them.
To be prosperous and successful, wise people must realize that poor people like the poor man in this verse can be a very real drain on one’s time, mental energy, and physical resources. The wise person is generous to the poor, but knows when he has given enough and can say “No” when it is appropriate. Furthermore, because the poor person will almost always try to make the person with resources feel guilty about not giving more, the wise person has thought and prayed about the situation and is mentally equipped to understand it spiritually, mentally, and physically, and make the sometimes hard decision to say “No” without feeling guilty about it.(top)
“sense.” The Hebrew word is leb (#03820 לֵב), which is often translated “heart,” but this is one of those cases where that translation would cause confusion. In modern English, the word “heart” usually refers to emotion or passion, but that is not its meaning here. The function of the brain was unknown in biblical times, so things that we generally assign to the brain, like thinking, attitudes, understanding, and good sense, were assigned to the heart. In this context, leb, “heart” refers to the activity of the mind that includes good sense. [For more on the Hebrew word leb and “heart,” see commentary on Prov. 15:21, “sense”].
“good.” The Hebrew could be translated as “a good thing,” and while that is certainly correct, it may be too restrictive in English, because the verse is certainly referring to more than just good “things,” but good in general. The old adage says, “The best things in life aren’t things,” and that certainly applies here, although the text also says that the discerning person will have good “things” as well.(top)
“tells.” Perhaps more literally, “breathes out” but the Hebrew also means “tells.”(top)
“Luxury is not fitting for a fool.” Luxury is not fitting for a fool for a number of reasons. He does not deserve it, he will certainly flaunt it, and he will not use his influence rightly. His increased influence will only be used to spread his foolishness. The Devil knows this, and works hard to get wealth and influence into the hands of fools.(top)
“slow to anger.” The Hebrew literally read, “makes long his nose.” The idiom might be understood better as “makes long [relaxes] his nose.” A person who is angry squinches up his face, so that his nose is short. As he relaxes, his nose becomes long again. Ancient people were extremely sensitive to facial expressions, and those expressions are recorded as idioms in the Word of God.(top)
“grass.” The Hebrew word eseb (#06212 עֵשֶׂב), translated “grass” is hard to bring into English. It was the general word for the weeds that naturally grew in any field. The biblical world did not have “grass” as we know it today, that is, large areas of lawn with grass like fescue or Kentucky bluegrass. It just had areas of weeds. Sometimes those weeds were long and thick, like a weedy field today. In other places people’s grazing animals, i.e., their sheep, goats, and cows, kept the weeds eaten down, but they were still just weeds. But translating the verse into English as “the dew upon the weeds” gives the wrong impression. To the modern English reader a “weed” is a bad thing, and that is certainly not the intended meaning of the verse. The weeds of the field were a blessing because they were the natural food that sustained the grazing animals, as well as providing some things, like mustard seed, that people could use. So even though “grass” may give the reader the wrong impression, it still seems to be the best choice for an English translation, which is why almost all English versions read “grass.” In most places the Greek word chortos (#5528 χόρτος cp. Mark 6:39) means the same thing.(top)
“leaking roof.” The Hebrew is deleph (#01812 דֶּ֫לֶף), and as the Holladay Hebrew Lexicon points out, the meaning in proverbs is “leaky roof” (cp. Waltke; Proverbs). The same word is used in Proverbs 27:15.
“constantly dripping.” The Hebrew is tarad (#02956 טָרַד), and the Holladay Hebrew Lexicon gives the meaning as “drip steadily” in Proverbs 19:13 and 27:15. Waltke renders the last stanza: “and a wife’s quarrellings are a leaky roof that drips constantly.” There are many things in life that are annoying, so the leaky roof is deliberately chosen for effect. Home is supposed to be a place of refuge and rest, and so when it is a place of constant annoyance it is especially hard to endure. Leaky roofs were a big problem in the biblical culture, because the roofs were generally flat, and made of beams, covered, sometimes sparsely, with boards or large sticks, which were in turn covered by clay that may or may not have been mixed with chaff, then flattened and baked by the sun. These clay roofs often grew weeds (called “grass” in biblical lingo), which did not do well in hot weather because first, no one would water it, and second, there was certainly not a lot of depth of soil. Thus, Psalm 129:6 (ESV) says: “Let them be like the grass on the housetops, which withers before it grows up.”(top)
|Pro 19:14||- (top)|
“idle.” The Hebrew word is remiyah (#07423 רְמִיָּה), and means slackness; sluggish, lax, negligent, and careless behavior. It occurs 4 times in Proverbs: Proverbs 10:4, 12:24, 27 and 19:15. See commentary on Proverbs 10:4 for more information.(top)
|Pro 19:16||- (top)|
“he will repay.” The Hebrew is shalam (#07999 שָׁלַם), and in this context it means “to be repaid or rewarded.” Yahweh will bless those who are generous to the poor (Prov. 11:17; 14:21; 22:9; 28:27) but will stand against those who oppress them (Prov. 21:13; 22:22-23).(top)
“for there is.” Although many versions treat the Hebrew as a temporal phrase, “Discipline…while there is hope,” the Hebrew text does not support that interpretation (Waltke; Proverbs). Furthermore, the Hebrew word muth (#04191 מוּת), death, is in the hiphil aspect, which is a causative action in the active voice, “to put to death.” There are times when children are such a disappointment that parents give up on them, and in the OT culture a child who was ruining the family could be executed (Deut. 21:18-21). Here is an exhortation to parents not to give up on even unruly children, but to exert an effort to discipline them and bring them back to a right path.
“long in your soul.” The Hebrew contains an idiom, and literally reads, “lift up your soul.” To lift up the soul to something is to desire it or to aspire to it. No parent would “long for” or even desire in any way, their child to die. Thus, this verse is a type of hyperbole in which if a parent does not have the godly love and resolve to discipline a child, it is as if the parent were longing for the child to die. A child who is not disciplined will become a fool and a disgrace (Prov. 22:15; 29:15).(top)
“The person with great anger.” Different versions have tried different English words to catch the sense of the Hebrew, including “hot-tempered” (NIV), “violent tempered” (NRSV) and “hothead,” (Waltke). A person who breaks into anger and wrath when things do not go his way will continue to be that way, no matter how many apologies he makes after he has calmed down, and no matter how much he says it will not happen again. There needs to be some genuine transformation, which takes great effort and almost always outside intervention and counseling.
“will bear the penalty.” Here, a “penalty” is being used by the figure of speech synecdoche for all kinds of punishment. This is the way to “wake up” an angry person. Let them bear the penalty of their action. Bailing them out of the problem they have created does not help.
“Surely if.” The Hebrew can be “for if; indeed if; surely if,” etc. Here, “surely” catches the sense of the verse (cp. Waltke; Proverbs).
“you will do it again and again.” This seems to be the sense of the Hebrew text, as shown in the versions. However, the Hebrew text may have more meaning as well, because the word translated “again” in most versions also means “to add.” Thus, the Tanakh translation by the Jewish Publication Society ends the stanza not with, “you will do it again and again,” but with “you will only make it worse,” i.e., by bailing the person out and not letting him pay the penalty, you only make the situation worse. Many counselors would concur with that, and thus the Hebrew of this proverb is a beautiful double entendre. The “helper” will have to help again, and by helping actually only makes the situation worse.(top)
|Pro 19:20||- (top)|
“will stand.” The Hebrew word is qum (#06965 קוּם), and it means to stand, to rise, be fulfilled, etc. In this context is means to stand, that is, to be fulfilled (cp. BDB Hebrew Lexicon; Waltke). The JPS Tanakh reads, “it is the LORD’s plan that is accomplished.” We humans make many plans, and some of them come to pass and some of them do not. However, the plans of Yahweh will stand, and as such, will also come to pass. That is why we can have confidence in our future everlasting life.(top)
“wicked desire is his shame.” The text of line 1 is difficult to translate as there is a Hebrew homonym chesed (#02617 חֶסֶד ) that can have more than one coherent meaning in the verse, hence the vastly different English translations. Chesed can mean either “loyalty,” that is, “covenant loyalty,” loyalty to and based on the covenant (cf. Prov. 3:3; 14:22), “loving kindness” (cf. Prov. 11:17), or “disgrace/shame” (cf. Prov. 14:34; 25:10). “Wicked” is supplied in the text because the “desires” that are being referred to are not good desires but consist of twisted desires like self-gratification, greed, power, etc. The proverb is asserting that it is better to be poor and destitute than to be corrupt (i.e., a liar) and pursue wicked desires that are shameful and displeasing to God.(top)
“sleep satisfied through the night.” Proverbs 19:23 is one of the many “ideal” promises in the Word of God. It was always God’s intention that people would get what they deserve in this life, and that is expressed in verses such as this one. This verse would be fulfilled here on earth today if we lived in a godly world with godly people, but people do not always get what they deserve. [For more on promises like this, see commentary on Prov. 19:5].
“visited by evil.” To not be “visited” by evil means that the person will not experience evil. [For more on God “visiting,” see commentary on Exod. 20:5].(top)
“lazy.” See commentary on Prov. 6:6, “lazy one”(top)
“strike.” The Hebrew verb is nakah (#05221 נָכָה), and it is a hiphil (causative) imperfect (uncompleted action), so “strike” here does not refer to a single blow. At the very least it refers to a beating, which may involve many blows or lashes. It may be more than one beating, as the behavior of the fool demands. This verse never says the mocker will change his thinking, and this verse is not about changing a mocker even though usually even a mocker will not repeat the thing that caused him to be beaten just so he avoids getting beaten again. However, when the mocker is beaten, the simple learn. And learn they must, or society goes into a downward spiral, with each generation being more foolish, godless and cruel than the last. Corporal punishment such as flogging may seem cruel to some, but the Word of God sets it forth as an important part of having a godly society.(top)
|Pro 19:26||- (top)|
“cease.” This verse is satire. The word “cease” is an imperative in Hebrew, Thus, “Stop!” The father is instructing his son by using satire, or irony. He is elevating the value of listening to instruction by telling his son to stop listening, to stray from knowledge. The Hebrew is more literally: “Stop listening to instruction!, my son, to stray from the words of knowledge.” The satire is meant to catch the attention of the reader: “Is he serious? Why would he instruct his son that way? Oh, he’s using satire.” [For more on satire and the way Proverbs is written, see commentary on Prov. 1:6, “obscure expression”].(top)
“witness of Belial.” A witness in league with Belial, the Devil. For more on Belial, see commentary on 1 Sam. 2:12. Although most versions say “worthless witness,” or “corrupt witness,” or something similar, treating “worthless” as an adjective, the word beliya`al (#01100 בְּלִיַּ֫עַל) is a singular noun. The Hebrew reads, “a witness of Belial.”
“devours.” The Hebrew verb is bala (#01104 בָּלַע), and means to swallow down, but in the piel aspect (the intensive form of the verb) it is intensified, and means to gulp down or devour greedily. This proverb has several interpretations. The wicked gulp down their lies [and the lies of others] as if they were tasty morsels, they do not choke on their lies. These people can look you in the eye and lie in a way that no one would ever suspect it. Also, “wickedness” is put by the figure metonymy for all the food and other good things that criminals get as a result of lying and winning (cp. 4:17; Job 20:12). Also, by gulping down wickedness, they seem to make it disappear. Good liars are now called “spin doctors,” who make good seem evil and evil seem good. That kind of thing has been going on for millennia (cp. Isa. 5:20-24).(top)
“Judgments.” The word “judgments” is put by metonymy for the punishments that are the just consequences that mockers receive for their evil actions. The Bible could simply say, “Punishments have been prepared,” and while that would be true, it would not reveal to the reader that we have a righteous and just God who does not punish anyone without due cause and due process. God prepared “judgments” for people who defy Him, and punishment will come as a result of a just judgment for evil and ungodly behavior.
“prepared.” The Hebrew verb is kun (#03559 כּוּן), and it means “to be established, to be steadfast, to be sure, to be completed, to be arranged, to be permanent, to be ready, to be made ready, to be prepared, to be stable.” The verb occurs 20 times in Proverbs, and the dominant meaning is “to be established.” “Prepared” or “established” is the meaning here. Wise people “prepare” and establish punishments for mockers, and a society should have a set of equitable laws with punishments that fit certain crimes. More serious is that God has prepared and established punishments for people who mock and defy Him, and evil people will not escape God’s justice. Waltke (Proverbs, Vol. 2, p. 126) notes that “punishments are part of God’s fixed, immutable, eternal order,” and that fits with the scope of Scripture.
Jesus made it clear that people who did not take their life and godliness seriously were wicked (Matt. 25:26). God did not create us so we could disobey Him or choose our own lifestyle without consequence. People have a moral obligation to obey God, and to mature in the Lord (Hebrews 5:12; the Greek word often translated “ought” refers to a moral obligation). An important part of God’s “established” justice is that some of it is remedial, designed to train, correct, and instruct; and some of it is retributive, a just punishment for a given crime. The ultimate example of God’s retributive justice is Gehenna. No one “learns” in Gehenna. It is retributive justice in its purest form; an equitable punishment for a life of sin. The death penalty is mankind’s purest form of retributive justice. Some people are so hardened in their foolishness that they will not reform their thinking. They are punished for their crimes in just manner and also so that others will learn.
The death penalty was established by God and is important if we are to have a godly society. See, John Schoenheit, The Death Penalty: Godly or Ungodly (Christian Educational Services, Indianapolis, IN).(top)