Proverbs 18


I have to admit that even I had to take liberties with some of the Hebrew in this chapter.  It seems as if words were omitted for the sake of elegantly pithy poetry, so that it took some questionable interpretation on my part to understand what was probably intended.

לְתַאֲוָה יְבַקֵּשׁ נִפְרָד בְּכָל־תּוּשִׁיָּה יִתְגַּלָּע׃   18:1

Prov. 18:1   Separated, one would seek the longings of one's heart;

                               with every success, he would be exposed.

The second part of this couplet is difficult to understand.  I presume the separated one would become more susceptible to additional desires with each satisfactory acquisition of his longings.  Others have made a lot of this verse, many changing the meaning of much of the Hebrew.  The more or less traditional translation of the second part, although there are numerous variations, goes something like “... and rages against all sound wisdom.”  The Hebrew says nothing of the sort, the translations being the result of vivid imaginations.

לֹא־יַחְפֹּץ כְּסִיל בִּתְבוּנָה כִּי אִם־בְּהִתְגַּלּוֹת לִבּוֹ׃   18:2

Prov. 18:2   A fool would take no delight in understanding,

                               but rather in his mind exposing itself.

In other words, the fool believes he’s smart.

בְּבוֹא־רָשָׁע בָּא גַם־בּוּז וְעִם־קָלוֹן חֶרְפָּה׃   18:3

Prov. 18:3   With the arrival of a wicked person comes contempt also,

                               and with disgrace, reproach.

In the second part of this verse, the scribe may be saying that with the arrival of disgrace comes reproach.  Certainly, contempt may come with a wicked one, but isn’t disgrace itself a form of reproach? 

מַיִם עֲמֻקִּים דִּבְרֵי פִי־אִישׁ נַחַל נֹבֵעַ מְקוֹר חָכְמָה׃   18:4

Prov. 18:4   The words of the mouth of a person can be deep water,

                               a stream flowing, a fountain of wisdom.

This verse presents a picture that is somewhat confusing.  One would anticipate that deep water would be a metaphor for thoughtfulness.  Would not a fountain of wisdom come also from deep water? Is it possible that the deep water represents a silent tongue?  So maybe they’re not synonomous metaphors.  The flowing stream, however, seems straghtforward enough:  Continuous jabber!

שְׂאֵת פְּנֵי־רָשָׁע לֹא־טוֹב לְהַטּוֹת צַדִּיק בַּמִּשְׁפָּט׃   18:5

Prov. 18:5   Exalting the person of a wicked one would not be appropriate,

                               to thrust aside a righteous one in judgment.

It seems as though a word is missing here.  The second part might better start with the conjunction or,  so it would say “... or to thrust aside ....”

שִׂפְתֵי כְסִיל יָבֹאוּ בְרִיב וּפִיו לְמַהֲלֻמוֹת יִקְרָא׃   18:6

Prov. 18:6   The lips of a fool would enter into a quarrel,

                               so his mouth would call out for blows.

פִּי־כְסִיל מְחִתָּה־לוֹ וּשְׂפָתָיו מוֹקֵשׁ נַפְשׁוֹ׃   18:7

Prov. 18:7   The mouth of a fool is his ruin,

                               and his lips are the snare of his soul.

דִּבְרֵי נִרְגָּן כְּמִתְלַהֲמִים וְהֵם יָרְדוּ חַדְרֵי־בָטֶן׃   18:8

Prov. 18:8   The words of a whisperer are like morsels swallowed greedily,

                               so they will descend the innermost depths of the belly.

גַּם מִתְרַפֶּה בִמְלַאכְתּוֹ אָח הוּא לְבַעַל מַשְׁחִית׃   18:9

Prov. 18:9   Also being slack in one's occupation,

                               it could be the relative of destructive.

מִגְדַּל־עֹז שֵׁם יְהוָה בֹּו־יָרוּץ צַדִּיק וְנִשְׂגָּב׃   18:10

Prov. 18:10   The name of the Lord is a mighty tower;

                               a righteous person shall run to it,

                         and it shall be set on high.

A rare triplet!

הוֹן עָשִׁיר קִרְיַת עֻזּוֹ וּכְחוֹמָה נִשְׂגָּבָה בְּמַשְׂכִּיתוֹ׃   18:11

Prov. 18:11   The wealth of a rich one is the basis of his strength,

                               and like a wall set on high in his imagination.

The first part of this verse is repeated from Prov. 10:15.  See my remarks there about the word I translate as basis.  The second part of this verse is very different from that one, here being more revealing about the rich one’s self-image.

לִפְנֵי־שֶׁבֶר יִגְבַּהּ לֵב־אִישׁ וְלִפְנֵי כָבוֹד עֲנָוָה׃   18:12

Prov. 18:12   Before ruin the heart of a person would be haughty,

                               and before honor would be humility.

מֵשִׁיב דָּבָר בְּטֶרֶם יִשְׁמָע אִוֶּלֶת הִיא־לוֹ וּכְלִמָּה׃   18:13

Prov. 18:13   Returning a word before one would have listened,

                               it is his folly and disgrace.

רוּחַ־אִישׁ יְכַלְכֵּל מַחֲלֵהוּ וְרוּחַ נְכֵאָה מִי יִשָּׂאֶנָּה׃   18:14

Prov. 18:14   The spirit of a person can support his illness,

                               but a spirit stricken, who can support it?

לֵב נָבוֹן יִקְנֶה־דָּעַת וְאֹזֶן חֲכָמִים תְּבַקֶּשׁ־דָּעַת׃   18:15

Prov. 18:15   A discerning heart can acquire knowledge,

                               while the ear of the wise would seek discernment.

מַתָּן אָדָם יַרְחִיב לוֹ וְלִפְנֵי גְדֹלִים יַנְחֶנּוּ׃   18:16

Prov. 18:16   The gifts of a person can make a large space for him,

                               and bring him before great people.

Presumably the word for gifts is intended to mean bribes.  However, if one chooses to downplay the phrase great people, one may also imagine gifts to be personal attributes of a person who spreads joy and/or tranquility.

צַדִּיק הָרִאשֹׁון בְּרִיבֹו (יָבֹא־) [וּבָא־] רֵעֵהוּ וַחֲקָרֹו׃   18:17

Prov. 18:17   The first in his cause would seem right;

                               but his neighbor must come and examine him.

Well, here we have a “genuine” error.  The yad in the parentheses should be a vav as in the brackets.

מִדְיָנִים יַשְׁבִּית הַגֹּורָל וּבֵין עֲצוּמִים יַפְרִיד׃   18:18

Prov. 18:18   The lot can put an end to contentions,

                               and between strong arguments make a separation.

אָח נִפְשָׁע מִקִּרְיַת־עֹז (וּמְדֹונִים) [וּמִדְיָנִים] כִּבְרִיחַ אַרְמֹון׃   18:19

Prov. 18:19   A brother transgressed is more than a city of strength,

                               and objects of contention, like a bar of a fortress.

This is a tough one.  It would appear that at least one word is missing from the Hebrew.  Others have added the phrase harder to be won, so that the first part comes out as something like “A brother transgressed is harder to be won than a city of strength.”  The second part seems to be saying that matters of contention are harder to penetrate than the barred entrance to a fortress.  Incidentally, either of the words (in the parentheses or in the brackets) is correctly spelled.  There’s no error here.

מִפְּרִי פִי־אִישׁ תִּשְׂבַּע בִּטְנוֹ תְּבוּאַת שְׂפָתָיו יִשְׂבָּע׃   18:20

Prov. 18:20   From the fruit of the mouth of a person his belly may be filled;

                               of the product of his lips he will have his fill.

This verse must be a vague metaphor.  What is the scribe trying to say here?  I believe the belly is meant to refer to  a person’s sense of satisfaction or accomplishment.  The fruit would refer to the consequence of his words.

מָוֶת וְחַיִּים בְּיַד־לָשׁוֹן וְאֹהֲבֶיהָ יֹאכַל פִּרְיָהּ׃   18:21

Prov. 18:21   Death and life are in the power of the tongue,

                               and its lovers will eat its fruit.

מָצָא אִשָּׁה מָצָא טוֹב וַיָּפֶק רָצוֹן מֵיְהוָה׃   18:22

Prov. 18:22   To find a wife is to find good,

                               and elicits favor from the Lord.

Wow, this is a welcome change.  Spoken like a true bachelor?  Would Solomon have said something like this?

תַּחֲנוּנִים יְדַבֶּר־רָשׁ וְעָשִׁיר יַעֲנֶה עַזּוֹת׃   18:23

Prov. 18:23   A poor person will speak supplications,

                               but a rich person will answer strongly.

I would presume this is a reflection of their respective self-esteem.

אִישׁ רֵעִים לְהִתְרֹעֵעַ וְיֵשׁ אֹהֵב דָּבֵק מֵאָח׃   18:24

Prov. 18:24   A man might be able to break friends apart,

                               but a loving person would be sticking closer than a brother.


[Return to Proverbs Chapters]   [Prev.:  Prov. 17]   [Next:  Prov. 19]