Proverbs 28

 

נָסוּ וְאֵין־רֹדֵף רָשָׁע וְצַדִּיקִים כִּכְפִיר יִבְטָח׃   28:1

Prov. 28:1   A wicked one flees though there is no pursuer,

                                while the righteous, like a lion, will feel secure.

There’s some rare grammatical peculiarities in this verse.  They constitute two unacknowledged errors.  The first word, a plural verb, has for its subject a singular noun.  The verbatim translation of the first three words is “A wicked one flee.”  Then at the end of the verse, the opposite combination occurs.  The third-from-last word is a plural subject with a singular verb.  Their verbatim translation is still as shown above, but the verb translated as will feel is singular.  Very strange!  Very strange indeed!  I don’t recall having seen such a strange combination of errors before.  Is the scribe trying to tell us something hidden?

בְּפֶשַׁע אֶרֶץ רַבִּים שָׂרֶיהָ וּבְאָדָם מֵבִין יֹדֵעַ כֵּן יַאֲרִיךְ׃   28:2

Prov. 28:2   Because of the transgression of a land,

                                there would be many princes,

                       but because of a knowledgeable, understanding man,

                                right might long continue.

I suspect one of two probable meanings for the first part of this couplet:  (1) a succession of rulers would contribute to the transgression of a land, or (2) when a land transgresses rulers arise and disappear in rapid succession.  As for the second part, I have to question what “long” means.  If it means more than the lifetime of the understanding man, I would seriously question its accuracy, simply based on history.

גֶּבֶר רָשׁ וְעֹשֵׁק דַּלִּים מָטָר סֹחֵף וְאֵין לָחֶם׃   28:3

Prov. 28:3   A strong man, poor, yet oppressing the weak:

                                A pounding rain, and there is no bread!

All the popular bibles ignore the grammar of the first two Hebrew words and translate the first five words as a poor man who oppresses the poor ....  Thus they miss the implication that the man is strong or a warrior.  That’s the parallel to the pounding rain, which destroys the crop.  Because of my translation, I see something subtle that the scribe is implying.  When someone strong oppresses the poor or weak, maybe he is destroying a crop also.  That crop might be a poor but wise man who is prevented from showing his wisdom because of the oppression.

עֹזְבֵי תוֹרָה יְהַלְלוּ רָשָׁע וְשֹׁמְרֵי תוֹרָה יִתְגָּרוּ בָם׃   28:4

Prov. 28:4   Foresakers of the Torah may praise a wicked person,

                                but keepers of the Torah will contend with them.

The latter group would argue against the former group’s praise?  Is there not more to say than that?  Would they not contend with them for their forsaking Torah?  This verse disappoints me.  Here’s how I would change it:  “Forsakers of the Torah may praise themselves, but keepers of the Torah would contend with them.”

אַנְשֵׁי־רָע לֹא־יָבִינוּ מִשְׁפָּט וּמְבַקְשֵׁי יְהוָה יָבִינוּ כֹל׃   28:5

Prov. 28:5   Those of evil would not understand justice,

                                while seekers of the Lord would understand everything.

This may be a slight exaggeration.

טוֹב־רָשׁ הוֹלֵךְ בְּתֻמּוֹ מֵעִקֵּשׁ דְּרָכַיִם וְהוּא עָשִׁיר׃   28:6

Prov. 28:6   A poor person walking in his integrity

                                is more prosperous than one with perversity of ways and who is rich.

This verse is a variation of Prov. 19:1.

נוֹצֵר תּוֹרָה בֵּן מֵבִין וְרֹעֶה זוֹלְלִים יַכְלִים אָבִיו׃   28:7

Prov. 28:7   A son who is perceptive would be keeping the Torah,

                                but a companion of the gluttonous would humiliate his father.

מַרְבֶּה הֹונֹו בְּנֶשֶׁךְ (וּבְתַרְבִּית) [וְתַרְבִּית] לְחֹונֵן דַּלִּים יִקְבְּצֶנּוּ׃   28:8

Prov. 28:8   One who would increase his wealth by interest or by usury,

                                he will be gathering it for one pitying the poor.

This verse is based on the belief that ill-gotten wealth doesn’t pass down through the generations; it is returned to the righteous (see Prov. 13:22).  Aside from this, the error identified in the parentheses is a matter of opinion.  Prepositions, such as the one in question here, the vav in the word in the parentheses, is often repeated for a succession of figures of speech (nouns, adjectives, adverbs, etc.).  So I believe this one is reasonable and doesn’t need correction by being removed as in the brackets.

מֵסִיר אָזְנוֹ מִשְּׁמֹעַ תּוֹרָה גַּם־תְּפִלָּתוֹ תּוֹעֵבָה׃   28:9

Prov. 28:9   One who turns away his ear from hearing the Torah,

                                his prayer is also an abomination.

מַשְׁגֶּה יְשָׁרִים בְּדֶרֶךְ רָע בִּשְׁחוּתוֹ הוּא־יִפּוֹל וּתְמִימִים יִנְחֲלוּ־טוֹב׃   28:10

Prov. 28:10   Whoever would lead the upright astray,

                                in an evil way into his own pit he will fall,

                         while the wholesome will inherit good.

חָכָם בְּעֵינָיו אִישׁ עָשִׁיר וְדַל מֵבִין יַחְקְרֶנּוּ׃   28:11

Prov. 28:11   A rich person may be wise in his own eyes,

                                but an understanding poor person would find him out.

בַּעֲלֹץ צַדִּיקִים רַבָּה תִפְאָרֶת וּבְקוּם רְשָׁעִים יְחֻפַּשׂ אָדָם׃   28:12

Prov. 28:12   Much beauty is in the exultation of the righteous,

                                but with the rising of the wicked a person must search.

Can you recognize the ironic message in this verse?  I believe it is that one must search for the beauty in the righteous exulting when wickedness abounds.

מְכַסֶּה פְשָׁעָיו לֹא יַצְלִיחַ וּמוֹדֶה וְעֹזֵב יְרֻחָם׃   28:13

Prov. 28:13   One concealing his transgressions will not prosper,

                                but one who confesses and forsakes will be shown compassion.

אַשְׁרֵי אָדָם מְפַחֵד תָּמִיד וּמַקְשֶׁה לִבּוֹ יִפּוֹל בְּרָעָה׃   28:14

Prov. 28:14   The person who fears continually will be happy,

                                but who hardens his heart will fall into evil.

What does this verse tell us?  Could it be a reference to one’s sensitivity to hurting or offending others?  Surely someone who fears offending others will be extra careful.  Would his successful avoidance of offending make him happy?  Maybe at least satisfied with himself.  On the other hand, could the fear refer to fear of the Lord?  If so, I question if it would make the individual happy or even satisfied with himself.  Fear of the Lord makes us wary of any transgressions we may deliberately or inadvertently commit.  Those who fear the Lord would most likely consider any misfortune or difficulty they encounter in life as God’s retribution for sins committed.  How then could one be happy?  Only if he’s convinced he’s observant and is fortunate enough to suffer few difficulties of consequence.

אֲרִי־נֹהֵם וְדֹב שׁוֹקֵק מֹשֵׁל רָשָׁע עַל עַם־דָּל׃   28:15

Prov. 28:15   A wicked ruler over a poor people:

                                A roaring lion or a greedy bear.

נָגִיד חֲסַר תְּבוּנֹות וְרַב מַעֲשַׁקֹּות (שֹׂנְאֵי) [שֹׂנֵא] בֶצַע יַאֲרִיךְ יָמִים׃   28:16

Prov. 28:16   A leader lacking intelligence would also increase oppression;

                                a hater of unjust gain would increase days.

We have an error in this verse.  The word in the parentheses should not have the yad suffix (which makes it plural -- haters).  The correction is in the brackets.

אָדָם עָשֻׁק בְּדַם־נָפֶשׁ עַד־בּוֹר יָנוּס אַל־יִתְמְכוּ־בוֹ׃   28:17

Prov. 28:17   Anyone oppressed by the blood of a person shall flee until the pit;

                                they must not lay hold on him.

I’m inclined to agree with the sages and scholars who believe the second part of this couplet refers to supporting the guilty party.  Another possible meaning might be that the matter will be God’s responsibility.

הוֹלֵךְ תָּמִים יִוָּשֵׁעַ וְנֶעְקַשׁ דְּרָכַיִם יִפּוֹל בְּאֶחָת׃   28:18

Prov. 28:18   A wholesome walker will be delivered,

                                but one with perversity of ways will fall at once.

עֹבֵד אַדְמָתוֹ יִשְׂבַּע־לָחֶם וּמְרַדֵּף רֵקִים יִשְׂבַּע־רִישׁ׃   28:19

Prov. 28:19   The tiller of his own ground shall have more than enough bread,

                                while the chaser of vanities shall have more than enough poverty.

אִישׁ אֱמוּנוֹת רַב־בְּרָכוֹת וְאָץ לְהַעֲשִׁיר לֹא יִנָּקֶה׃   28:20

Prov. 28:20   One of steadfastness is abounding in blessings,

                                but one hasty to enrich himself will not go unpunished.

הַכֵּר־פָּנִים לֹא־טוֹב וְעַל־פַּת־לֶחֶם יִפְשַׁע־גָּבֶר׃   28:21

Prov. 28:21   Respecting of persons is not appropriate:

                                Even a strong man may transgress for a morsel of bread.

נִבֳהָל לַהוֹן אִישׁ רַע עָיִן וְלֹא־יֵדַע כִּי־חֶסֶר יְבֹאֶנּוּ׃   28:22

Prov. 28:22   An evil eyed individual hastens for riches,

                                and does not know that poverty will come upon him.

מוֹכִיחַ אָדָם אַחֲרַי חֵן יִמְצָא מִמַּחֲלִיק לָשׁוֹן׃   28:23

Prov. 28:23   One who rebukes another will find more favor afterwards

                                than one with a flattering tongue.

גּוֹזֵל אָבִיו וְאִמּוֹ וְאֹמֵר אֵין־פָּשַׁע חָבֵר הוּא לְאִישׁ מַשְׁחִית׃   28:24

Prov. 28:24   A robber of his father or his mother

                                and he would say, "It is no transgression,"

                         he is a companion to a destroyer.

This verse has some subtle implications that raise questions in my mind.  Is it the denying of the transgression that makes a robber of one’s parent a companion to a destroyer?  Or is it the robbing itself?  If it is the former, then is robbing while knowing it’s a transgression not a companion to destroying?  If it is the latter, then why add the denial, which only creates confusion?  Moreover, isn’t any robber, not just a robber of one’s parent, a companion to a destroyer?  I wonder, is there something else at work here?  Unfortunately, none of the comments on this verse I’ve found offer any useful observations or clues.  In spite of my misgivings, I’m inclined to view this verse as a less than illuminating puzzle.  On the other hand, though, is the scribe trying to tell us that a robber of his parent who also denies he is sinning a double sinner, and thus is equivalent to one who destroys without regard?  This may work for me.

רְחַב־נֶפֶשׁ יְגָרֶה מָדוֹן וּבוֹטֵחַ עַל־יְהוָה יְדֻשָּׁן׃   28:25

Prov. 28:25   A greedy one will stir up strife,

                                while one trusting on the Lord will be well fed.

The scribe seems to be equating trusting in the Lord with not being greedy.  This seems reasonable.  He may also be saying that one who is not greedy will be satisfied with what he receives, and so will presume to be well fed (content).

בּוֹטֵחַ בְּלִבּוֹ הוּא כְסִיל וְהוֹלֵךְ בְּחָכְמָה הוּא יִמָּלֵט׃   28:26

Prov. 28:26   He who trusts in his own heart is arrogant,

                                while who walks wisely, he shall be delivered.

I have a problem with this verse.  As far as I am concerned, even one who walks wisely must trust in his own heart at times.  Is he then arrogant?  Not necessarily.  As I see it, even a person who trusts and follows the Torah must do so because he believes it in his own heart.  Ultimately, the decision to follow the Torah or not to follow the Torah must be made by every Jew, and that decision must depend to some extent on the inclination of one’s heart.  I believe what the scribe is implying here is that trusting one’s heart -- as opposed to trusting in the Lord -- is arrogant.  I can agree with that interpretation.

נוֹתֵן לָרָשׁ אֵין מַחְסוֹר וּמַעְלִים עֵינָיו רַב־מְאֵרוֹת׃   28:27

Prov. 28:27   He who gives to any poor person will lack nothing,

                                while he who conceals his eyes will be abounding in curses.

בְּקוּם רְשָׁעִים יִסָּתֵר אָדָם וּבְאָבְדָם יִרְבּוּ צַדִּיקִים׃   28:28

Prov. 28:28   With the rising up of the wicked,

                                a person will hide himself,

                         and with their destruction,

                                the righteous would increase.

In this verse, it seems we are being told that when wickedness increases, one who is not wicked will hide himself; thus righteousness doesn’t increase.  The righteous increase only when there is less or no wickedness.

 

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