Proverbs 27

 

אַל־תִּתְהַלֵּל בְּיוֹם מָחָר כִּי לֹא־תֵדַע מַה־יֵּלֶד יוֹם׃   27:1

Prov. 27:1   You should not boast about a time in the future,

                                for you cannot know what time may bring.

יְהַלֶּלְךָ זָר וְלֹא־פִיךָ נָכְרִי וְאַל־שְׂפָתֶיךָ׃   27:2

Prov. 27:2   Let another praise you and not your own mouth,

                                a stranger, and not your own lips.

כֹּבֶד־אֶבֶן וְנֵטֶל הַחוֹל וְכַעַס אֱוִיל כָּבֵד מִשְּׁנֵיהֶם׃   27:3

Prov. 27:3   A stone is heavy and the sand is weighty,

                                but the vexation of a fool is heavier than both of them.

אַכְזְרִיּוּת חֵמָה וְשֶׁטֶף אָף וּמִי יַעֲמֹד לִפְנֵי קִנְאָה׃   27:4

Prov. 27:4   Wrath may be fearsome and anger torrential,

                                but who can stand in the presence of jealousy!

טֹובָה תֹּוכַחַת מְגֻלָּה מֵאַהֲבָה מְסֻתָּרֶת׃   27:5

Prov. 27:5   Better is rebuke revealed

                                than love concealed.

The Hebrew of this verse is a bit mysterious and confusing.  As a result, there are numerous variations on its

translation, but all of them go something similar to this:  “Open rebuke is better than love concealed.”  Why is my translation better?  I think the parallelism of the couplet is improved, adding to the distinctiveness of its beautiful poetry.  As to the “lesson” this verse provides, I believe it really depends on whether one loves or not.  If one loves and the object of his love’s love is concealed, then rebuke might be better.  But if one does not love, then a love concealed might be better than rebuke.

נֶאֱמָנִים פִּצְעֵי אוֹהֵב וְנַעְתָּרוֹת נְשִׁיקוֹת שׂוֹנֵא׃   27:6

Prov. 27:6   The wounds of a lover are lasting,

                                but the kisses of a hater last longer.

What does this verse tell us?  Here’s what I believe.  I think many people get over a disappointing love reasonably

quickly, but affection from one who hates can be a lasting bitterness.  By the way, my translation is almost unique

among the others.  I must admit, the words I translate as lasting and last longer are a bit of a stretch.  They are,

however, reasonable synonyms for the numerous more proper meanings, and they make good sense.  The translation liberties taken by others are much more a stretch of the Hebrew.

נֶפֶשׁ שְׂבֵעָה תָּבוּס נֹפֶת וְנֶפֶשׁ רְעֵבָה כָּל־מַר מָתוֹק׃   27:7

Prov. 27:7   A satisfied soul would reject dripping honey,

                                but a soul hungry?  Everything bitter is sweet.

כְּצִפּוֹר נוֹדֶדֶת מִן־קִנָּהּ כֵּן־אִישׁ נוֹדֵד מִמְּקוֹמוֹ׃   27:8

Prov. 27:8   As a bird wandering from its nest,

                                so is a person wandering from his place.

How to understand this verse!  Is there any profound insight we can derive from its words?  I believed I would have

to dig deeply to get something useful, much less profound.  According to some scholars, the verse says that,

whether a bird or a human, the farther one goes from one’s home, the more difficult is the move.  I not only disagree

with that interpretation, I don’t believe it’s often true.  Here’s what I believe.  A bird that wanders from its nest

becomes vulnerable to predators, and a human on the road also becomes prey for predators.  Take careful notice,

if I am correct, then the author seems to enjoy expressing his sentiments less than directly.

שֶׁמֶן וּקְטֹרֶת יְשַׂמַּח־לֵב וּמֶתֶק רֵעֵהוּ מֵעֲצַת־נָפֶשׁ׃   27:9

Prov. 27:9   The heart would rejoice of oil and perfume,

                                and of the sweetness of one's friend through advice of the soul.

רֵעֲךָ (וְרֵעֶה) [וְרֵעַ] אָבִיךָ אַל־תַּעֲזֹב וּבֵית אָחִיךָ אַל־תָּבֹוא בְּיֹום אֵידֶךָ טֹוב שָׁכֵן קָרֹוב מֵאָח    27:10

רָחֹוק׃

Prov. 27:10   You should not forsake your friend or the friend of your father,

                                or enter the house of your brother at a time of your calamity.

                        A nearby neighbor is better than a distant brother.

This is another verse I found hard to fathom.  Studying it, I said to myself, except for the first English line, is this

really true or accurate?  I have first-hand experience concerning the situation depicted in the second and third lines,

and I’m not ready to agree with the author’s observation.  My experience might have been an exception, but I enjoyed

having my brother visit me from across the country in a time of calamity, and it worked out well, even when we

disagreed about some aspects of his difficulty.  And truth of the third line, if it is to be taken literally, must depend on

the nature of the relationship between the nearby neighbor as compared to that of the distant brother.  Then we

have the “error” indication in the parentheses, which is translated as friend [of your father].  The reality is that either

spelling, that in the parentheses or that in the brackets, is correct.  There is no error here.  I suspect the sages

identified it as an error because the first word, whose root is the same as the “error” word, is spelled without the

heh.  However, I think the first word, translated as your friend, could omit the heh because of its final chaph pronoun

suffix.

חֲכַם בְּנִי וְשַׂמַּח לִבִּי וְאָשִׁיבָה חֹרְפִי דָבָר׃   27:11

Prov. 27:11   Be wise, my son, and make glad my heart,

                                that I may answer my taunter a word.

Does this verse reveal something personal about the author’s motives?  His heart will rejoice if his son proves to be

wise, but apparently only so he can respond to anyone who taunts him about his (poor) parenting.

עָרוּם רָאָה רָעָה נִסְתָּר פְּתָאיִם עָבְרוּ נֶעֱנָשׁוּ׃   27:12

Prov. 27:12   A sensible person considers evil, he hides himself.

                                Fools transgress, they are punished.

This verse is similar to Prov. 22:3.

קַח־בִּגְדוֹ כִּי־עָרַב זָר וּבְעַד נָכְרִיָּה חַבְלֵהוּ׃   27:13

Prov. 27:13   Take one's garment if it is the surety of a stranger,

                                or his pledge is on behalf of an alien woman.

This verse is similar to Prov. 20:16.  It may also be the justification for identifying the “error” in that verse.  I can’t believe this is adequate justification.  There are too many verses similar to others but with small differences to depend on this difference as justification for modifying a different word.

מְבָרֵךְ רֵעֵהוּ בְּקוֹל גָּדוֹל בַּבֹּקֶר הַשְׁכֵּים קְלָלָה תֵּחָשֶׁב לוֹ׃   27:14

Prov. 27:14   One rising early in the morning, blessing his neighbor in a loud voice,

                                it will be accounted to him a curse.

דֶּלֶף טֹורֵד בְּיֹום סַגְרִיר וְאֵשֶׁת (מִדֹונִים) [מִדְיָנִים] נִשְׁתָּוָה׃   27:15

Prov. 27:15   A continuous dripping in a day of steady rain

                                and a woman of contention: The same!

This verse is reminiscent of Prov. 19:13.  Aside from that, the error in the parentheses is one we’ve seen now

several times.  Recall that I’ve addressed it and its “correction” at Prov. 26:21.

צֹפְנֶיהָ צָפַן־רוּחַ וְשֶׁמֶן יְמִינוֹ יִקְרָא׃   27:16

Prov. 27:16   Hiding her is to hide wind,

                                as the oil of his right hand will call out.

This verse, a continuation of the preceding verse, quips (I think jokingly) about the “smell” of a woman of contention

being hard to hide, like the smell of the wind or that of the oil or ointment on the right hand of someone who’s

rubbed it into his left hand.

בַּרְזֶל בְּבַרְזֶל יָחַד וְאִישׁ יַחַד פְּנֵי־רֵעֵהוּ׃   27:17

Prov. 27:17   By iron, iron can sharpen;

                                so a person can sharpen the face of his neighbor.

In other words, face-to-face discussion between two people can sharpen like iron sharpens iron.

נֹצֵר תְּאֵנָה יֹאכַל פִּרְיָהּ וְשֹׁמֵר אֲדֹנָיו יְכֻבָּד׃   27:18

Prov. 27:18   The watchman of a fig tree shall eat of its fruit;

                                so the protector of his master shall get honor.

This verse is also translated variously, with some misleading results.  I’m convinced that in this verse the author is comparing the reward of eating from a fig tree by its protector with the honor received by a person protecting his master.  It’s that simple.  But others have translated it into a different message or left it esoteric and without  explanatory comment.

כַּמַּיִם הַפָּנִים לַפָּנִים כֵּן לֵב־הָאָדָם לָאָדָם׃   27:19

Prov. 27:19   The face to a face is like water.

                                The heart of the human is the same to a human.

This verse makes better sense when one realizes that water can be a mirror.  Alternatively, water can also be unfathomable.  And the heart can be too.

שְׁאֹול (וַאֲבַדֹּה) [וַאֲבַדֹּו] לֹא תִשְׂבַּעְנָה וְעֵינֵי הָאָדָם לֹא תִשְׂבַּעְנָה׃   27:20

Prov. 27:20   The netherworld and its dying can never be satisfied,

                                and the eyes of the human can never be satisfied.

The word in the parentheses is identified as an error, the reason being that its pronoun suffix (the heh) is feminine. 

The antecedent of the pronoun is the first word, translated as netherworld.  Here again I have a problem, because

the antecedent is one of those nouns that can be feminine or masculine.  The “correction” in the brackets replaces

the heh with a vav, which is a masculine pronoun suffix.  No error here as far as I am concerned.  But aside from this, what does the verse mean?  Is the author comparing the netherworld with a person’s eyes?  Maybe.  But I don’t completely believe this verse.  I may agree that the netherworld is always “pleased” receiving more dead, but I don’t agree that a person must always be desirous of things.  I know a number of fortunate people who are so satisfied with their relationship with the Lord that they seem to desire nothing more.  But maybe that’s not quite accurate and I’m wrong.  They may indeed hunger for a deeper relationship with their Maker.

מַצְרֵף לַכֶּסֶף וְכוּר לַזָּהָב וְאִישׁ לְפִי מַהֲלָלוֹ׃   27:21

Prov. 27:21   A crucible is to silver and a furnace is to gold

                                and a person, his praise, is to the mouth.

The last two Hebrew words of this verse are extremely difficult to translate.  So the second line of the translation has

more than nine different variations in popular bibles, only one of which comes close to this translation.   And most of

them ignore the Hebrew grammar, as difficult as it seems to be, and some of them fail to make much sense.  Let’s

examine what the verse seems to be stating.  The major topic, the one being compared, is refining.  Refining of

silver, of gold, and of the mouth of a person.  How is the mouth of a person refined?  By the praise he earns for his

words.  That’s what I believe this verse is telling us.

אִם תִּכְתּוֹשׁ־אֶת־הָאֱוִיל בַּמַּכְתֵּשׁ בְּתוֹךְ הָרִיפוֹת בַּעֱלִי לֹא־תָסוּר מֵעָלָיו אִוַּלְתּוֹ׃   27:22

Prov. 27:22   Although you might pound any fool with a mortar

                                together with the grains in a pestle,

                         his foolishness could not be separated from him.

יָדֹעַ תֵּדַע פְּנֵי צֹאנֶךָ שִׁית לִבְּךָ לַעֲדָרִים׃   27:23

Prov. 27:23   Know to discern the faces of your flock,

                                set your understanding to the herds.

This verse and the remaining verses seem to be advice to the son about farming, his expected or actual occupation.

כִּי לֹא לְעֹולָם חֹסֶן וְאִם־נֵזֶר לְדֹור (דֹור) [וָדֹור]׃   27:24

Prov. 27:24   If wealth is not forever,

                                then would the crown be for generation to generation?

The word in the parentheses needs the vav prefix shown in the brackets.  This is a reasonably genuine error.  And the verse?  Is the author questioning his faith?  Or is he ignoring the covenant of the Lord with David, promising him an everlasting throne.

גָּלָה חָצִיר וְנִרְאָה־דֶשֶׁא וְנֶאֶסְפוּ עִשְּׂבוֹת הָרִים׃   27:25

Prov. 27:25   Remove the green grass so vegetation can be seen,

                                and let the herbs of the hills be gathered;

כְּבָשִׂים לִלְבוּשֶׁךָ וּמְחִיר שָׂדֶה עַתּוּדִים׃   27:26

Prov. 27:26    the sheep will be for your clothing

                                and the rams will be the price of a field,

וְדֵי חֲלֵב עִזִּים לְלַחְמְךָ לְלֶחֶם בֵּיתֶךָ וְחַיִּים לְנַעֲרוֹתֶיךָ׃   27:27

Prov. 27:27   and there will be enough of milk of the goats for your food,

                                for the food of your house,

                         and of activities for your maidens.

Lastly, it will keep his daughters out of mischief.  No metaphors here in these last five verses, just practical advice.

 

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