Because of the new heading to this chapter, the sages assumed that this chapter begins a set of chapters that extends to Proverbs Chapter 22. As you may notice, the structure of most verses seems to take on a different emphasis. Many of the verses emphasize a contrast between the first line of the couplet and its second line.
Prov. 10:1 Proverbs of Solomon:
A wise son would make a father glad,
but a foolish son is the grief of his mother.
What can you imagine this verse means? What is the contrast meant to convey? Some scholars have assumed that the mother is at home more than the father and can better witness the son’s foolishness. But wouldn’t she also better witness the son’s wisdom? I realize it may not make good poetry, but wouldn’t it have been better to include the mother in the first part of the couplet? Although it’s difficult to put in Hebrew, maybe I would have written “A wise son would make a parent glad, but ....” Unfortunately, I suspect the reality is that the author didn’t think many mothers could recognize or appreciate wisdom, only folly. [Return to Prov. 15:20]
לֹא־יוֹעִילוּ אוֹצְרוֹת רֶשַׁע וּצְדָקָה תַּצִּיל מִמָּוֶת׃ 10:2
Prov. 10:2 Treasures of wickedness would be without profit,
but righteousness will deliver from death.
לֹא־יַרְעִיב יְהוָה נֶפֶשׁ צַדִּיק וְהַוַּת רְשָׁעִים יֶהְדֹּף׃ 10:3
Prov. 10:3 The Lord will not allow the soul of a righteous one to be hungry,
but the desire of the wicked He will thrust away.
רָאשׁ עֹשֶׂה כַף־רְמִיָּה וְיַד חָרוּצִים תַּעֲשִׁיר׃ 10:4
Prov. 10:4 A worker of slack hand is a poor man,
but the hand of the diligent shall make rich.
אֹגֵר בַּקַּיִץ בֵּן מַשְׂכִּיל נִרְדָּם בַּקָּצִיר בֵּן מֵבִישׁ׃ 10:5
Prov. 10:5 A prudent son is gathering in the summer;
a shameful son sleeps through the harvest.
בְּרָכוֹת לְרֹאשׁ צַדִּיק וּפִי רְשָׁעִים יְכַסֶּה חָמָס׃ 10:6
Prov. 10:6 Blessings are for the head of a righteous one,
but the mouth of the wicked shall conceal violence.
זֵכֶר צַדִּיק לִבְרָכָה וְשֵׁם רְשָׁעִים יִרְקָב׃ 10:7
Prov. 10:7 The memory of a righteous one shall be for a blessing,
but the name of the wicked shall rot.
חֲכַם־לֵב יִקַּח מִצְוֺת וֶאֱוִיל שְׂפָתַיִם יִלָּבֵט׃ 10:8
Prov. 10:8 One wise of heart would receive commandments,
but a fool would cast aside.
The two words, אֱוִיל שְׂפָתַיִם (without the initial vav prefix), which I could have translated literally as a fool of lips, form an idiom whose translation is simply a fool. However, the words themselves imply a person who prattles away without understanding and with no consideration for others. So it’s almost preferable to translate these words literally. See also v. 10 below for the identical Hebrew words with almost the same translation, yet with a different context and meaning.
הוֹלֵךְ בַּתֹּם יֵלֶךְ בֶּטַח וּמְעַקֵּשׁ דְּרָכָיו יִוָּדֵעַ׃ 10:9
Prov. 10:9 Proceeding with integrity, one will walk securely,
but one perverting his ways will be vulnerable.
Prov. 10:10 Winking an eye may produce sorrow,
and a fool shall be cast aside.
The expression winking an eye is intended to convey a picture of someone who maliciously casts aspersions at others (see Prov. 6:12, 13, and 14). But what does this verse mean? What is the thought expressed in it? I believe it may mean that hearers of an evil gossip may be troubled by what they hear, but they would totally ignore someone prattling away with nonsense. If that is a reasonable conclusion, then I have to ask why the verse is included here in Proverbs. It seems to add no insight of any kind. I want to say, “So what!” Moreover, I’m not sure that an idle prattler would be ignored; he might also create sorrow, or at least discomfort.
מְקוֹר חַיִּים פִּי צַדִּיק וּפִי רְשָׁעִים יְכַסֶּה חָמָס׃ 10:11
Prov. 10:11 The righteous mouth will be a fountain of life,
but the mouth of the wicked will conceal violence.
שִׂנְאָה תְּעוֹרֵר מְדָנִים וְעַל כָּל־פְּשָׁעִים תְּכַסֶּה אַהֲבָה׃ 10:12
Prov. 10:12 Hatred will incite contentiousness;
love will cover over all transgressions.
Here we encounter another aphorism whose meaning and benefit could be questioned. I believe the author may be trying to highlight the difference between hate and love in a clever way, but it falls flat for me initially. Where’s the contrast? Both parts of the couplet may be true, but they seem to have little to do with one another. I would be happier with the following: Hatred will pinpoint the sins or shortcomings (of someone hated), love will ignore or excuse all transgressions (of someone loved).” Doesn’t that better highlight the significant difference? It does for me. Yet the possibility for a more elaborate interpretation may be derivable. Maybe the word translated as contentiousness is meant to convey criticism of another’s (the hated one) sins or transgressions. That would make the couplet complete. Hatred, criticism; love, excuse!
בְּשִׂפְתֵי נָבוֹן תִּמָּצֵא חָכְמָה וְשֵׁבֶט לְגֵו חֲסַר־לֵב׃ 10:13
Prov. 10:13 Wisdom can be found on the lips of a discerning one,
but the rod is for the back of one lacking understanding.
חֲכָמִים יִצְפְּנוּ־דָעַת וּפִי־אֱוִיל מְחִתָּה קְרֹבָה׃ 10:14
Prov. 10:14 The wise would treasure knowledge,
but the mouth of a fool is imminent ruin.
Prov. 10:15 The wealth of a rich man is the basis of his strength;
the weakness of the poor is their poverty.
This verse contains two words I have translated liberally. First, the third word, which is normally translated as the city of, I have translated as the basis of. My reasoning was that (1) the translation city of implies something I suspect may not have been intended, that the rich man owns the city in which he lives, and (2) one’s city can be considered a base of operations. Second, the third from last word, which is translated most often as ruin or destruction, doesn’t seem to provide a good contrast. So I substituted weakness. [Return to Prov. 18:11]
פְּעֻלַּת צַדִּיק לְחַיִּים תְּבוּאַת רָשָׁע לְחַטָּאת׃ 10:16
Prov. 10:16 The reward of a righteous one is to live;
the yield of a wicked one is to sin.
אֹרַח לְחַיִּים שׁוֹמֵר מוּסָר וְעוֹזֵב תּוֹכַחַת מַתְעֶה׃ 10:17
Prov. 10:17 The path to life is heeding instruction,
so forsaking correction is an error.
מְכַסֶּה שִׂנְאָה שִׂפְתֵי־שָׁקֶר וּמוֹצִא דִבָּה הוּא כְסִיל׃ 10:18
Prov. 10:18 Hiding hatred is of lying lips,
but delivering slander, it is foolish.
I get the following from this verse: If someone hates another and hides it, he is a liar. But on the other hand, if someone delivers slander (expresses his hatred?), he is foolish. The upshot is that hatred is bad for you.
בְּרֹב דְּבָרִים לֹא יֶחְדַּל־פָּשַׁע וְחֹשֵׂךְ שְׂפָתָיו מַשְׂכִּיל׃ 10:19
Prov. 10:19 One cannot stop transgression with a multitude of words,
so whoever restrains his lips is prudent.
כֶּסֶף נִבְחָר לְשׁוֹן צַדִּיק לֵב רְשָׁעִים כִּמְעָט׃ 10:20
Prov. 10:20 A wise tongue is choice silver;
the heart of the wicked is like something of little worth.
שִׂפְתֵי צַדִּיק יִרְעוּ רַבִּים וֶאֱוִילִים בַּחֲסַר־לֵב יָמוּתוּ׃ 10:21
Prov. 10:21 The lips of a righteous one can feed many,
but fools can kill through lack of understanding.
בִּרְכַּת יְהוָה הִיא תַעֲשִׁיר וְלֹא־יוֹסִף עֶצֶב עִמָּהּ׃ 10:22
Prov. 10:22 The blessing of the Lord, it will make rich,
and toil will add nothing beside it.
I think the author is saying in this verse that if someone becomes rich because the Lord blesses him, he can do nothing to add to it. The Lord’s blessing is all it takes. So one who is blessed that way is free of anxiety.
כִּשְׂחוֹק לִכְסִיל עֲשׂוֹת זִמָּה וְחָכְמָה לְאִישׁ תְּבוּנָה׃ 10:23
Prov. 10:23 To a fool, doing wickedness is sport,
as is wisdom to one of understanding.
The author seems to be equating foolishness with wickedness. I believe he assumes that anyone who is wicked has no wisdom and understanding.
מְגוֹרַת רָשָׁע הִיא תְבוֹאֶנּוּ וְתַאֲוַת צַדִּיקִים יִתֵּן׃ 10:24
Prov. 10:24 The fear of a wicked one, it shall come upon him,
while the desire of the righteous shall be granted.
כַּעֲבֹור סוּפָה וְאֵין רָשָׁע וְצַדִּיק יְסֹוד עֹולָם׃ 10:25
Prov. 10:25 Like the passing of a whirlwind,
then there will be none wicked,
while the righteous one shall be an everlasting foundation.
כַּחֹמֶץ לַשִּׁנַּיִם וְכֶעָשָׁן לָעֵינָיִם כֵּן הֶעָצֵל לְשֹׁלְחָיו׃ 10:26
Prov. 10:26 As vinegar to the teeth and as smoke to the eyes,
so is the sluggard to his directors.
יִרְאַת יְהוָה תּוֹסִיף יָמִים וּשְׁנוֹת רְשָׁעִים תִּקְצֹרְנָה׃ 10:27
Prov. 10:27 Reverence of the Lord will increase days,
but the years of the wicked will be shortened.
תּוֹחֶלֶת צַדִּיקִים שִׂמְחָה וְתִקְוַת רְשָׁעִים תֹּאבֵד׃ 10:28
Prov. 10:28 The hope of the righteous is joy,
but the expectation of the wicked will perish.
מָעוֹז לַתֹּם דֶּרֶךְ יְהוָה וּמְחִתָּה לְפֹעֲלֵי אָוֶן׃ 10:29
Prov. 10:29 The way of the Lord is a stronghold for one of integrity,
but is ruin for the workers of iniquity.
צַדִּיק לְעוֹלָם בַּל־יִמּוֹט וּרְשָׁעִים לֹא יִשְׁכְּנוּ־אָרֶץ׃ 10:30
Prov. 10:30 Righteousness shall never be dislodged,
so the wicked shall not establish the land.
This is encouraging if you believe it.
פִּי־צַדִּיק יָנוּב חָכְמָה וּלְשׁוֹן תַּהְפֻּכוֹת תִּכָּרֵת׃ 10:31
Prov. 10:31 A righteous mouth shall bear fruit of wisdom,
while the perverse tongue will be cut off.
שִׂפְתֵי צַדִּיק יֵדְעוּן רָצוֹן וּפִי רְשָׁעִים תַּהְפֻּכוֹת׃ 10:32
Prov. 10:32 The lips of one righteous will know the acceptable,
but the mouth of the wicked will be of perverse things.