Proverbs 4


Because of the grammar of the first two verses I have had some difficulty in understanding the flow of this chapter.  The second-person verbs in vss. 1 and 2 are plural.  Notice the use of the plural Children in v. 1.  Then the next two verses have no second-person verbs (except in the quotation in v. 4).  And in the fourth verse the author quotes his own father (singular second-person verbs).  After this the second-person verbs are all singular once more as in previous chapters.  What is difficult here is the determination of whether the quote in v. 4 continues for the rest of the chapter, or does the author revert to addressing only his son once more.  I have assumed the latter.  Otherwise I would have to conclude that the author is quoting his father throughout this book except in these first two verses.

שִׁמְעוּ בָנִים מוּסַר אָב וְהַקְשִׁיבוּ לָדַעַת בִּינָה׃   4:1

Prov. 4:1   Children, heed the discipline of a father,

                            and attend to knowing understanding.                             [Return to Prov. 5:23]

כִּי לֶקַח טוֹב נָתַתִּי לָכֶם תּוֹרָתִי אַל־תַּעֲזֹבוּ׃   4:2

Prov. 4:2   For I give you good instruction;

                            you must not neglect my teaching.

כִּי־בֵן הָיִיתִי לְאָבִי רַךְ וְיָחִיד לִפְנֵי אִמִּי׃   4:3

Prov. 4:3   For I was a son to my father,

                            tender and unique in the presence of my mother.

וַיֹּרֵנִי וַיֹּאמֶר לִי יִתְמָךְ־דְּבָרַי לִבֶּךָ שְׁמֹר מִצְוֺתַי וֶחְיֵה׃   4:4

Prov. 4:4   And he directed me, and said to me,

                            “Let your heart grasp my words;

                    keep my commandments and live.”

קְנֵה חָכְמָה קְנֵה בִינָה אַל־תִּשְׁכַּח וְאַל־תֵּט מֵאִמְרֵי־פִי׃   4:5

Prov. 4:5   Get wisdom, get understanding;

                            You must not forget or turn aside from the sayings of my mouth.

אַל־תַּעַזְבֶהָ וְתִשְׁמְרֶךָּ אֱהָבֶהָ וְתִצְּרֶךָּ׃   4:6

Prov. 4:6   You must not forsake it

                            and it will preserve you;

                     love it and it will keep you.

רֵאשִׁית חָכְמָה קְנֵה חָכְמָה וּבְכָל־קִנְיָנְךָ קְנֵה בִינָה׃   4:7

Prov. 4:7   The beginning of wisdom is to get wisdom;

                            yes, with all your getting, get wisdom.

סַלְסְלֶהָ וּתְרוֹמְמֶךָּ תְּכַבֵּדְךָ כִּי תְחַבְּקֶנָּה׃   4:8

Prov. 4:8   Prize it and it will exalt you;

                            it will bring honor to you when you will embrace it.

תִּתֵּן לְרֹאשְׁךָ לִוְיַת־חֵן עֲטֶרֶת תִּפְאֶרֶת תְּמַגְּנֶךָּ׃   4:9

Prov. 4:9   It will bestow a wreath of grace to your head;

                            it will deliver a crown of glory to you.

שְׁמַע בְּנִי וְקַח אֲמָרָי וְיִרְבּוּ לְךָ שְׁנוֹת חַיִּים׃   4:10

Prov. 4:10   Hear, my son, and receive my sayings,

                            that years of life will be increased for you.

בְּדֶרֶךְ חָכְמָה הֹרֵתִיךָ הִדְרַכְתִּיךָ בְּמַעְגְּלֵי־יֹשֶׁר׃   4:11

Prov. 4:11   I have taught you in the way of wisdom;

                            I have led you on tracks of uprightness.

בְּלֶכְתְּךָ לֹא־יֵצַר צַעֲדֶךָ וְאִם־תָּרוּץ לֹא תִכָּשֵׁל׃   4:12

Prov. 4:12   In your going, your step will not be cramped,

                            and if you will run, you will not stumble.

הַחֲזֵק בַּמּוּסָר אַל־תֶּרֶף נִצְּרֶהָ כִּי־הִיא חַיֶּיךָ׃   4:13

Prov. 4:13   Take a firm grasp on instruction;

                            you must not let go;

                       keep it, for it is your life.

בְּאֹרַח רְשָׁעִים אַל־תָּבֹא וְאַל־תְּאַשֵּׁר בְּדֶרֶךְ רָעִים׃   4:14

Prov. 4:14   You must not go on the path of the wicked,

                            or walk on the way of evil ones.

פְּרָעֵהוּ אַל־תַּעֲבָר־בּוֹ שְׂטֵה מֵעָלָיו וַעֲבוֹר׃   4:15

Prov. 4:15   Avoid it;

                            you must not transgress on it;

                       turn from it and pass on.

כִּי לֹא יִשְׁנוּ אִם־לֹא יָרֵעוּ וְנִגְזְלָה נָתָם אִם־לֹא (יִכְשֹׁולוּ) [יַכְשִׁילוּ]׃   4:16

Prov. 4:16   For they could not sleep unless they would have done evil,

                            and their sleep would be taken away unless they could cause injury.

The word in the parentheses, translated by me as they could cause injury, is misspelled in this context.  The first  vav should be a yad, as in the correction in the brackets.

כִּי לָחֲמוּ לֶחֶם רֶשַׁע וְיֵין חֲמָסִים יִשְׁתּוּ׃   4:17

Prov. 4:17   For they eat wicked bread,

                            and would drink the wine of violent ones.

וְאֹרַח צַדִּיקִים כְּאֹור נֹגַהּ הֹולֵךְ וָאֹור עַד־נְכֹון הַיֹּום׃   4:18

Prov. 4:18   Now the path of the righteous is as a moving light of illumination,

                            and it is a light until the day is established.

This verse is composed as a simile.  The path of the righteous is like the rising of the sun from beneath the horizon, until it fully illuminates the day.  To my knowledge no other source offers this literal translation.  As a result, the simile in the Hebrew text is elsewhere transformed inadvertently into an English metaphor.  Oddly enough, though, one can see it as a metaphor as well --  a simile and a metaphor.  To recognize its metaphorical nature, observe that the path is a light until the day is established.  But is the light then no longer needed?  What happens to the day if the light disappears?  Viewed this way, the last phrase of this couplet seems mysterious.  But look!  The light doesn’t go out when the day is established.  Once established, the day is itself the source of the light!  And the path of the righteous is now the day.  The day is discernment!  This is the metaphor.

דֶּרֶךְ רְשָׁעִים כָּאֲפֵלָה לֹא יָדְעוּ בַּמֶּה יִכָּשֵׁלוּ׃   4:19

Prov. 4:19   The way of the wicked is as darkness;

                            they do not know into what they might stumble.

בְּנִי לִדְבָרַי הַקְשִׁיבָה לַאֲמָרַי הַט־אָזְנֶךָ׃   4:20

Prov. 4:20   My son, pay attention to my words;

                            incline your ear to my sayings.

אַל־יַלִּיזוּ מֵעֵינֶיךָ מְרֵם בְּתֹוךְ לְבָבֶךָ׃   4:21

Prov. 4:21   They must not depart from your eyes;

                            keep them in the midst of your heart.

This verse may contain a rather subtle implication.  The author says (starting in the previous verse) his son must keep “my sayings” before his eyes.  Could this mean that the author has already written these chapters so his son may refer to them in the future?  As one might normally interpret these chapters, they seem to be written as a direct dictation to the son rather than as a future message.  But here the implication seems to be that they are to be read and reread as time goes on.  And this interpretation seems to be supported by the first two verses of this chapter as well.  However, I may be taking the words of this verse too literally.  Maybe it’s the second part of the couplet that is important here.  Is the author saying that his son should keep these sayings in his heart and in his mind’s eye?  I don’t know.

כִּי־חַיִּים הֵם לְמֹצְאֵיהֶם וּלְכָל־בְּשָׂרֹו מַרְפֵּא׃   4:22

Prov. 4:22   For they are life to those acquiring them,

                            and health to one's whole body.

מִכָּל־מִשְׁמָר נְצֹר לִבֶּךָ כִּי־מִמֶּנּוּ תֹּוצְאֹות חַיִּים׃   4:23

Prov. 4:23   Guard your heart more than anything else guarded,

                            for from it shall be the sources of life.

הָסֵר מִמְּךָ עִקְּשׁוּת פֶּה וּלְזוּת פָתַיִם הַרְחֵק מִמֶּךָּ׃   4:24

Prov. 4:24   Remove from yourself any distortion of mouth,

                            and put perversity of lips far from you.

עֵינֶיךָ לְנֹכַח יַבִּיטוּ וְעַפְעַפֶּיךָ יַיְשִׁרוּ נֶגְדֶּךָ׃   4:25

Prov. 4:25   Let your eyes look to the front,

                            and your eyelids be up ahead of you.

פַּלֵּס מַעְגַּל רַגְלֶךָ וְכָל־דְּרָכֶיךָ יִכֹּנוּ׃   4:26

Prov. 4:26   Make the track of your foot straight,

                            and let all your ways be firm.

אַל־תֵּט־יָמִין וּשְׂמֹאול הָסֵר רַגְלְךָ מֵרָע׃   4:27

Prov. 4:27   You must not turn right or left;

                            turn your foot from evil.


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