Proverbs 20


לֵץ הַיַּין הֹמֶה שֵׁכָר וְכָל־שֹׁגֶה בֹּו לֹא יֶחְכָּם׃   20:1

Psal. 20:1   The wine is a mocker, strong drink troubling.

                               So anyone intoxicated by it would not be wise.

נַהַם כַּכְּפִיר אֵימַת מֶלֶךְ מִתְעַבְּרֹו חֹוטֵא נַפְשֹׁו׃   20:2

Psal. 20:2   A terrified king could be like a lion roaring.

                               Who oversteps him might be forfeiting his life.

כָּבֹוד לָאִישׁ שֶׁבֶת מֵרִיב וְכָל־אֱוִיל יִתְגַּלָּע׃   20:3

Psal. 20:3   Honor for a person might be desisting from dispute,

                               but any fool would provoke contention.

מֵחֹרֶף עָצֵל לֹא־יַחֲרֹשׁ (יִשְׁאַל) [וְשָׁאַל] בַּקָּצִיר וָאָיִן׃   20:4

Psal. 20:4   Since autumn the sluggard would not have plowed;

                               he would beg at harvest time and have nothing.

The alleged error in the parentheses appears to me to be spelled appropriately.  The correction in the brackets does nothing but add the word and or therefore, either of which is completely unnecessary to the meaning of the verse

מַיִם עֲמֻקִּים עֵצָה בְלֶב־אִישׁ וְאִישׁ תְּבוּנָה יִדְלֶנָּה׃   20:5

Psal. 20:5   Purpose in the heart of someone is deep water,

                               but an understanding one can draw it out.

I’m not sure I understand the meaning of this verse.  I may be wrong, but I must presume that a “purpose in the heart” is something hidden either to the person in whom it is harbored or to the outside world.  Then only an understanding person could cause it to be revealed either to the person or to others.  However, there’s a possibility that this verse adopts a theme that was not immediately obvious to me until I analyzed the next verse and others in this chapter.  See my remarks on the next verse.

רָב־אָדָם יִקְרָא אִישׁ חַסְדֹּו וְאִישׁ אֱמוּנִים מִי יִמְצָא׃   20:6

Psal. 20:6   An abundance of humanity would each proclaim his own goodness,

                               but a person totally trustworthy who can find?

This verse conveys a theme that is echoed in many other verses in this chapter.  This fact has permitted me to arrive at some translations that make better sense of them than the traditional translations. 

The theme is this:  We all fool ourselves and/or others.

מִתְהַלֵּךְ בְּתֻמֹּו צַדִּיק אַשְׁרֵי בָנָיו אַחֲרָיו׃   20:7

Psal. 20:7   A just person would be one who is proceeding in his own integrity.

                               Blessed would be his children after him.

מֶלֶךְ יֹושֵׁב עַל־כִּסֵּא־דִין מְזָרֶה בְעֵינָיו כָּל־רָע׃   20:8

Psal. 20:8   A king sitting on a throne of judgment

                               would be a disperser of every evil in his own eyes.

This is the second (or third) verse with the theme I identified above.  A ruling judge would see himself (falsely?) as righteous, getting rid of all evil.  Others have translated the second part of this couplet as something like “... scatters all evil with his eyes.”  That translation makes the verse say something totally different.  A judging king would be able to dispense with evil merely by seeing it.

מִי־יֹאמַר זִכִּיתִי לִבִּי טָהַרְתִּי מֵחַטָּאתִי׃   20:9

Psal. 20:9   Who could say, "I have made my heart clean;

                               I have been purified from my sin?"

This is the third (fourth) verse with the theme.  The scribe implies here that no one can honestly say this about himself -- only if he was fooling himself.

אֶבֶן וָאֶבֶן אֵיפָה וְאֵיפָה תּוֹעֲבַת יְהוָה גַּם־שְׁנֵיהֶם׃   20:10

Psal. 20:10   False weights, false measures -- an abomination of the Lord!

                               Indeed both of them are.

This verse comes close to the same theme, implying that merchants use false measures to fool their customers.

גַּם בְּמַעֲלָלָיו יִתְנַכֶּר־נָעַר אִם־זַךְ וְאִם־יָשָׁר פָּעֳלוֹ׃   20:11

Psal. 20:11   Even a child by his deeds may be acknowledged

                               if his doing is pure and if right.

אֹזֶן מַעַת וְעַיִן רֹאָה יְהוָה עָשָׂה גַם־שְׁנֵיהֶם׃   20:12

Psal. 20:12   A hearing ear and a seeing eye

                               -- indeed the Lord makes both of these.

In other words, these are gifts of grace from the Lord.  How many of us have them?  How can we know, if we tend to fool ourselves?

אַל־תֶּאֱהַב נָה פֶּן־תִּוָּרֵשׁ פְּקַח עֵינֶיךָ שְׂבַע־לָחֶם׃   20:13

Psal. 20:13   You must not love sleep lest you become impoverished.

                               Open your eyes, have sufficient bread.

Struggle to not fool your self.

רַע רַע יֹאמַר הַקּוֹנֶה וְאֹזֵל לוֹ אָז יִתְהַלָּל׃   20:14

Psal. 20:14   Bad, bad, would say the buyer,

                               but on his leaving, then he would praise.

A repetition of the theme of fooling others.

יֵשׁ זָהָב וְרָב־פְּנִינִים וּכְלִי יְקָר שִׂפְתֵי־דָעַת׃   20:15

Psal. 20:15   There may be gold and a multitude of rubies,

                               but lips of knowledge are a priceless thing.

A rare thing indeed -- not fooling oneself.

לְקַח־בִּגְדֹו כִּי־עָרַב זָר וּבְעַד (נָכְרִים) [נָכְרִיָּה] חַבְלֵהוּ׃   20:16

Psal. 20:16   Keep someone's garment if it is the surety of a stranger,

                               or his pledge on behalf of aliens.

The alleged error in the parentheses is no error in my opinion.  The word, translated by me as aliens, is changed in the brackets to mean an alien woman.  The apparent justification for this “correction” is the reference to the woman mentioned in Prov. 5:3 and the alien woman found in Prov. 27:13.  However, to my way of thinking these connections are invalid.  In fact, the word found in the first link (translated as female stranger) is a different word than the one in the brackets.  I fail to see an adequate reason for calling the error here when the meaning seems to be perfectly clear.

עָרֵב לָאִישׁ לֶחֶם שָׁקֶר וְאַחַר יִמָּלֵא־פִיהוּ חָצָץ׃   20:17

Psal. 20:17   Bread of deception may be pleasant to a person,

                               but later his mouth would be full of gravel.

Another verse reflecting the theme of fooling ourselves or others.

מַחֲשָׁבוֹת בְּעֵצָה תִכּוֹן וּבְתַחְבֻּלוֹת עֲשֵׂה מִלְחָמָה׃   20:18

Psal. 20:18   You should establish plans with counsel,

                               then with good advisors wage war.

To avoid being fooled!

גֹּולֶה־סֹּוד הֹולֵךְ רָכִיל וּלְפֹתֶה פָתָיו לֹא תִתְעָרָב׃   20:19

Psal. 20:19   He who is going about tale bearing would be a discloser of secret counsel,

                               so to one opening his lips you should not share.

מְקַלֵּל אָבִיו וְאִמֹּו יִדְעַךְ נֵרֹו (בְּאִישֹׁון) [בֶּאֱשׁוּן] חֹשֶׁךְ׃   20:20

Psal. 20:20   He who curses his father or his mother,

                               his lamp will be extinguished in deepest darkness.

An “error” is indicated here in the parentheses for which I fail to understand the reasoning.  I believe the word is correct while the word in the brackets is incorrect.  Maybe my ignorance is showing here, but I find the word in the parentheses (less the beth prefix) in my voluminous dictionary and I can’t find the word in the brackets (less the beth prefix) there.  But I’m deeply troubled and frustrated by this -- how could the sages have been so “wrong” to conclude this word was in error?

נַחֲלָה (מְבֻחֶלֶת) [מְבֹהֶלֶת] בָּרִאשֹׁנָה וְאַחֲרִיתָהּ לֹא תְבֹרָךְ׃   20:21

Psal. 20:21   A possession having been gained by greed at its beginning,

                               would at its end also not be blessed.

Another “error” here in the parentheses for which I again fail to understand the reasoning!  The word in the parentheses is translated by me as gained by greed, whereas the word in the brackets (in which the cheth is replaced by a heh) must be translated as any variation of gotten hastily or gotten by terror  Why would the correction be deemed more valid than the original?  As it stands, it implies conformity with the chapter’s consistent theme.   Here is says  Don’t fool yourself into believing greed is good.

אַל־תֹּאמַר אֲשַׁלְּמָה־רָע קַוֵּה לַיהוָה וְיֹשַׁע לָךְ׃   20:22

Psal. 20:22   You should not say, "I will repay evil."

                               Wait for the Lord and He will be your Helper.

I must say that this verse made me think about its meaning and its seeming contradiction with a previous verse.  It also made me return to the verse I had previously thought about without coming to a conclusion that was satisfying to me.  That verse is Prov. 16:30.  Now I have reached a satisfactory conclusion there with the help of this verse.  Recall what I said there, or return to it by clicking on the link.

תֹּועֲבַת יְהוָה אֶבֶן וָאָבֶן וּמֹאזְנֵי מִרְמָה לֹא־טֹוב׃   20:23

Psal. 20:23   False weights are an abomination of the Lord,

                               and scales of deceit are not good.

Another verse with the theme of fooling ourselves or others.

מֵיְהוָה מִצְעֲדֵי־גָבֶר וְאָדָם מַה־יָּבִין דַּרְכֹּו׃   20:24

Psal. 20:24   The steps of a man are from the Lord.

                               Then how can a human foresee his path?

This may be another verse with the recurrent theme.  The implication may be that we might fool ourselves into thinking we can foretell what will happen, when in reality only the Lord can.

מֹוקֵשׁ אָדָם יָלַע קֹדֶשׁ וְאַחַר נְדָרִים לְבַקֵּר׃   20:25

Psal. 20:25   Carelessly saying "Holy!" is a snare of humanity,

                               as is questioning after vows.

This verse seems to caution against using the term holy carelessly, and vowing hastily with little thought of the consequence.  It may also be implying the recurrent theme again -- fooling ourselves (and others) by our seeming holiness and/or our ability to make good on a vow.

מְזָרֶה רְשָׁעִים מֶלֶךְ חָכָם וַיָּשֶׁב עֲלֵיהֶם אֹופָן׃   20:26

Psal. 20:26   A wise king is dispersing the wicked

                               and turns a wheel over them.

The phrase I translate as turns a wheel is possibly an agricultural metaphor.  However, a threshing wheel may be intended (as suggested by some bible translators).  I suspect that such an interpretation is faulty, though, as it  makes the second line virtually the opposite of the first line.  Why would a wise king disperse the wicked (first line) and then try to crush them (second line)?  Another possibility, which I see as the most reasonable, is that the author is intending to portray the king driving a chariot to disperse the wicked and runs over those that he reaches.

נֵר יְהוָה נִשְׁמַת אָדָם חֹפֵשׂ כָּל־חַדְרֵי־בָטֶן׃   20:27

Psal. 20:27   The spirit of a human is a lamp of the Lord,

                               examining all the innermost parts of the body.

He can see when we’re fooling ourselves or others.

חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת יִצְּרוּ־מֶלֶךְ וְסָעַד בַּחֶסֶד כִּסְאֹו׃   20:28

Psal. 20:28   Mercy or truth may preserve a king,

                               but by mercy his throne will be strengthened.

תִּפְאֶרֶת בַּחוּרִים כֹּחָם וַהֲדַר זְקֵנִים שֵׂיבָה׃   20:29

Psal. 20:29   The splendor of young men is their strength,

                               and the honor of old men is gray hair.

חַבֻּרֹות פֶּצַע (תַּמְרִיק) [תַּמְרוּק] בְּרָע וּמַכֹּות חַדְרֵי־בָטֶן׃   20:30

Psal. 20:30   The bruises of a wound are a remedy to evil,

                               as are blows of the innermost parts of the body.

The word in the parentheses is misspelled.  The yad should be a vav, as shown in the brackets.  As spelled in the parentheses, the word is a verb meaning to scour or to scrub, but it should be a noun meaning a remedy as spelled  in the brackets.  Meanwhile I’m not sure I agree with this proverb.


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