Proverbs 16

 

לְאָדָם מַעַרְכֵי־לֵב וּמֵיְהוָה מַעֲנֵה לָשֹׁון׃   16:1

Prov. 16:1   The preparations of the mind are humanity's,

                                but the response of the tongue is from the Lord.

There are a number of couplets similar in theme to this one in this chapter.  I find them, including this one, somewhat troubling.  Why does the author separate thoughts from actions?  And why does he attribute the former to us and the latter to the Lord?  Now several interpretations of this verse can be found in biblical commentaries, each offering a somewhat different perspective.  The only one I find satisfying goes something like this.  The Lord has instilled in us a measure of wisdom of the lips, so that the wise speak with words that are agreeable to the Lord.  I doubt that the author had this in mind, though, when he conceived this couplet.

כָּל־דַּרְכֵי־אִישׁ זַךְ בְּעֵינָיו וְתֹכֵן רוּחֹות יְהוָה׃   16:2

Prov. 16:2   All the ways of a person are pure in his own eyes,

                                but the Lord measures spirits.

In other words, we are capable of fooling ourselves, but not the Lord.

גֹּל אֶל־יְהוָה מַעֲשֶׂיךָ וְיִכֹּנוּ מַחְשְׁבֹתֶיךָ׃   16:3

Prov. 16:3   Open your labors to the Lord,

                                and your plans will be established.

כֹּל פָּעַל יְהוָה לַמַּעֲנֵהוּ וְגַם־רָשָׁע לְיֹום רָעָה׃   16:4

Prov. 16:4   The Lord made everything for His own reason,

                                and even wickedness -- for the day of evil.

תֹּועֲבַת יְהוָה כָּל־גְּבַהּ־לֵב יָד לְיָד לֹא יִנָּקֶה׃   16:5

Prov. 16:5   Everyone proud of heart is an abomination of the Lord.

                                Shake hands -- he shall not be held innocent.

For my remarks on the phrase I translate as Shake hands, see Prov. 11:21.

בְּחֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת יְכֻפַּר עָוֹן וּבְיִרְאַת יְהוָה סוּר מֵרָע׃   16:6

Prov. 16:6   Iniquity will be purged by mercy and truth,

                                so turning away from evil is through reverence of the Lord.

The last part of this couplet is normally translated as something like “... turning away from evil is through fear of the Lord.”  And I disagree with the thrust of this translation.  Fear of the Lord does not necessarily turn one away from evil.  In fact, if one recognizes the truth of Prov. 16:2 above, it becomes difficult to accept this as an accurate perception of human/divine interaction.  However, reverence of the Lord (and loving Him) does indeed cause us to turn away from evil.

בִּרְצֹות יְהוָה דַּרְכֵי־אִישׁ גַּם־אֹויְבָיו יַשְׁלִם אִתֹּו׃   16:7

Prov. 16:7   Upon the Lord being pleased with the ways of a person,

                                He will cause even his enemies to be at peace with him.

Unless Solomon was the one person who pleased the Lord, I can’t accept the reality expressed here.  What of David, of Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses?  Didn’t they please the Lord?  Yet they all had enemies whom they feared.

טֹוב־מְעַט בִּצְדָקָה מֵרֹב תְּבוּאֹות בְּלֹא מִשְׁפָּט׃   16:8

Prov. 16:8   A little with righteousness

                                is better than abundance of gain without justice.

לֵב אָדָם יְחַשֵּׁב דַּרְכֹּו וַיהוָה יָכִין צַעֲדֹו׃   16:9

Prov. 16:9   The mind of a human might plan his path,

                                but the Lord will direct his step.

This couplet is similar in theme to v.1 above.  I have the same thoughts about this one as I have about that one.  However, there’s a subtle difference in this one that intrigues me.  The wording of v. 16:1 may even be stretched so the same interpretation is applicable there too.  If by the phrase in the second part of the couplet, the author means the human will be directed by the Torah, I can agree with it on these terms.

קֶסֶם עַל־שִׂפְתֵי־מֶלֶךְ בְּמִשְׁפָּט לֹא יִמְעַל־פִּיו׃   16:10

Prov. 16:10   Divination on the lips of a king

                                -- his mouth would not transgress in judgment.

It is generally believed that the word translated as divination is not meant here as relating to sinful communication with the dead.  It is assumed to convey a good message, one that is more like from the lips of an oracle.  In other words, a king’s proclamations carry a divine spark.  Still, I can’t agree with this one either.  What kings did the author know?  Was he familiar only with David and Solomon?  Few of the kings after them could be thought of as speaking with divinely inspired words.

פֶּלֶס וּמֹאזְנֵי מִשְׁפָּט לַיהוָה מַעֲשֵׂהוּ כָּל־אַבְנֵי־כִיס׃   16:11

Prov. 16:11   The balance and scales of justice are the Lord's;

                                all the weights of the bag are His work.

This couplet is similar in theme to v. 1 also, although it does deviate in its composition.  However, this one sounds more emphatic about the Lords’ influence on the world.  Here we are depicted as puppets, by and large.

תֹּועֲבַת מְלָכִים עֲשֹׂות רֶשַׁע כִּי בִצְדָקָה יִכֹּון כִּסֵּא׃   16:12

Prov. 16:12   Doing wrong should be an abomination of kings,

                                for on righteousness must a throne be set.

רְצֹון מְלָכִים שִׂפְתֵי־צֶדֶק וְדֹבֵר יְשָׁרִים יֶאֱהָב׃   16:13

Prov. 16:13   Lips of a righteous person must be the delight of kings,

                                and each should love the speech of the upright.

חֲמַת־מֶלֶךְ מַלְאֲכֵי־מָוֶת וְאִישׁ חָכָם יְכַפְּרֶנָּה׃   16:14

Prov. 16:14   The wrath of a king can be messengers of death,

                                but a wise person can pacify it.

בְּאֹור־פְּנֵי־מֶלֶךְ חַיִּים וּרְצֹונֹו כְּעָב מַלְקֹושׁ׃   16:15

Prov. 16:15   Life may be in the light of the face of a king,

                                and his favor, like a cloud of spring rain.

קְנֹה־חָכְמָה מַה־טֹּוב מֵחָרוּץ וּקְנֹות בִּינָה נִבְחָר מִכָּסֶף׃   16:16

Prov. 16:16   How much better than gold is the acquisition of wisdom,

                                and getting understanding is to be chosen over silver.

מְסִלַּת יְשָׁרִים סוּר מֵרָע שֹׁמֵר נַפְשֹׁו נֹצֵר דַּרְכֹּו׃   16:17

Prov. 16:17   The highway of the upright is apart from evil.

                                Keeping one's way, he becomes a guardian of his soul.

לִפְנֵי־שֶׁבֶר גָּאֹון וְלִפְנֵי כִשָּׁלֹון גֹּבַהּ רוּחַ׃   16:18

Prov. 16:18   Pride will be before ruin,

                                and haughtiness of spirit before a fall.

טֹוב שְׁפַל־רוּחַ אֶת־ (עֲנִיִּים) [עֲנָוִים] מֵחַלֵּק לָל אֶת־גֵּאִים׃   16:19

Prov. 16:19   Better a humble spirit with the lowly

                                than sharing spoil with the proud.

The “error: indicated in the parentheses is identical to several others we’ve encountered.  As before, I consider either the word in the parentheses or in the brackets to be equally correct.

מַשְׂכִּיל עַל־דָּבָר יִמְצָא־טֹוב וּבֹוטֵחַ בַּיהוָה אַשְׁרָיו׃   16:20

Prov. 16:20   He who ponders on the word shall find good,

                                and trusting in the Lord is his happiness.

לַחֲכַם־לֵב יִקָּרֵא נָבֹון וּמֶתֶק פָתַיִם יֹסִיף לֶקַח׃   16:21

Prov. 16:21   To anyone wise of heart shall be given the name Understanding,

                                and sweetness of the lips can improve teaching.

מְקֹור חַיִּים שֵׂכֶל בְּעָלָיו וּמוּסַר אֱוִלִים אִוֶּלֶת׃   16:22

Prov. 16:22   Good sense is a fountain of life to its possessor,

                                while folly is the chastisement of fools.

לֵב חָכָם יַשְׂכִּיל פִּיהוּ וְעַלשְׂ־פָתָיו יֹסִיף לֶקַח׃   16:23

Prov. 16:23   The heart of a wise person will teach his mouth,

                                and improve the teaching on his lips.

צוּף־דְּבַשׁ אִמְרֵי־נֹעַם מָתֹוק לַנֶּפֶשׁ וּמַרְפֵּא לָעָצֶם׃   16:24

Prov. 16:24   Words of kindness are the honey of a honeycomb,

                                sweet to the soul and healing to the body.

יֵשׁ דֶּרֶךְ יָשָׁר לִפְנֵי־אִישׁ וְאַחֲרִיתָהּ דַּרְכֵי־מָוֶת׃   16:25

Prov. 16:25   There may be a path seeming upright before a person,

                                but its end may be paths of death.

This couplet is identical to Prov. 14:12, in both the Hebrew and English.  A rare occurrence!

נֶפֶשׁ עָמֵל עָמְלָה לֹּו כִּי־אָכַף עָלָיו פִּיהוּ׃   16:26

Prov. 16:26   The soul of a laborer toils for him

                                when his mouth urges him on.

אִישׁ בְּלִיַּעַל כֹּרֶה רָעָה וְעַל־ (שְׂפָתָיו) [שְׂפָתוֹ] כְּאֵשׁ צָרָבֶת׃   16:27

Prov. 16:27   A scoundrel digs up evil,

                                which is on his lips like a searing flame.

Here is another “error” I don’t agree with.  In fact, in the Hebrew of some bibles, this is not identified as an error.  The word in the parentheses is spelled as a plural, translated as his lips.  The word in the brackets is singular, his lip.

אִישׁ תַּהְפֻּכֹות יְשַׁלַּח מָדֹון וְנִרְגָּן מַפְרִיד אַלּוּף׃   16:28

Prov. 16:28   A fickle person can sow contention,

                                while a whisperer can be a splitter of friendship.

I wonder if the scribe is hinting that a whisperer might be a fickle person.  He or she would pass on anything heard?

אִישׁ חָמָס יְפַתֶּה רֵעֵהוּ וְהֹולִיכֹו בְּדֶרֶךְ לֹא־טֹוב׃   16:29

Prov. 16:29   A person of violence would incite his neighbor,

                                and lead him toward an unpleasant path.

עֹצֶה עֵינָיו לַחְשֹׁב תַּהְפֻּכֹות קֹרֵץ פָתָיו כִּלָּה רָעָה׃   16:30

Prov. 16:30   One shutting his eyes may be accounted for perverse events.

                                One biting his lips could be enabling evil.

This couplet seems to say that we who close our eyes or remain silent in the face of evil are enablers of sinners and we may be considered equally responsible.  But in Chapter 20 another verse seems to contradict this interpretation.  Perhaps what is meant here is that one must keep his eyes open to evil, see it for what it is.  In addition, one should speak up about evil and not remain silent.                           [Return to Prov. 20:22]        [Return to Prov. 21:12]

עֲטֶרֶת תִּפְאֶרֶת שֵׂיבָה בְּדֶרֶךְ צְדָקָה תִּמָּצֵא׃   16:31

Prov. 16:31   Gray hair can be a crown of honor;

                                it would be attained on the path of righteousness.

Is this saying that only the righteous reach a ripe old age?  If so, I’m not sure I can agree with it.

טֹוב אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם מִגִּבֹּור וּמֹשֵׁל בְּרוּחֹו מִלֹּכֵד עִיר׃   16:32

Prov. 16:32   Being slow to anger is better than being mighty,

                                and ruling one's spirit, than capturing a city.

בַּחֵיק יוּטַל אֶת־הַגֹּורָל וּמֵיְהוָה כָּל־מִשְׁפָּטֹו׃   16:33

Prov. 16:33   One may cast the lot into the hollow,

                                but its complete disposition is from the Lord.

In this couplet the word translated as the hollow seems to refer to the hollow of one’s garment, that is, the lap.  It is generally assumed that the lot was thrust onto one’s lap.

 

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