Proverbs 21


פַּלְגֵי־מַיִם לֶב־מֶלֶךְ בְּיַד־יְהוָה עַל־כָּל־אֲשֶׁר יַחְפֹּץ יַטֶּנּוּ׃   21:1

Prov. 21:1   The heart of a king is in the "hand" of the Lord.

                                Channels of water, according to all that He might "desire" they must turn.

I’m not sure I can accept the literal meaning of this verse.  My objection to it is the same as my objection to other similar statements, that is, those that put the Lord in the role of a puppeteer.  I’ve remarked about this before.  As I see it, God is either a Puppeteer, or He permits us free will.  And I firmly believe that the gift of free will is God’s most important gift to humanity.  I believe He intervenes only in three circumstances:  (1) when some turn of events would forever subvert His plan,  (2) when He grants grace to one of His saints, and (3) when He answers a prayer.

כָּל־דֶּרֶךְ־אִישׁ יָשָׁר בְּעֵינָיו וְתֹכֵן לִבּוֹת יְהוָה׃   21:2

Prov. 21:2   Every way of a person may be right in his eyes,

                                but the Lord weighs hearts.

עֲשֹׂה צְדָקָה וּמִשְׁפָּט נִבְחָר לַיהוָה מִזָּבַח׃   21:3

Prov. 21:3   Producing righteousness and justice

                                is more preferable to the Lord than sacrifice.

רוּם־עֵינַיִם וּרְחַב־לֵב נִר רְשָׁעִים חַטָּאת׃   21:4

Prov. 21:4   Arrogance and greed

                                are the fertile soil of sinful wickedness.

מַחְשְׁבוֹת חָרוּץ אַךְ־לְמוֹתָר וְכָל־אָץ אַךְ־לְמַחְסוֹר׃   21:5

Prov. 21:5   The thoughts of a diligent person will be only for abundance,

                                while of every one impulsive will be only toward poverty.

פֹּעַל אוֹצָרוֹת בִּלְשׁוֹן שָׁקֶר הֶבֶל נִדָּף מְבַקְשֵׁי־מָוֶת׃   21:6

Prov. 21:6   The acquisition of treasures with a deceiving tongue

                                is a vanity driving seekers of death.

שֹׁד־רְשָׁעִים יְגוֹרֵם כִּי מֵאֲנוּ לַעֲשׂוֹת מִשְׁפָּט׃   21:7

Prov. 21:7   The violence of the wicked will drag them away,

                                because they refuse to act justly.

הֲפַכְפַּךְ דֶּרֶךְ אִישׁ וָזָר וְזַךְ יָשָׁר פָּעֳלוֹ׃   21:8

Prov. 21:8   The manner of a criminal is crooked,

                                but one pure, his doing is straight.

טוֹב לָשֶׁבֶת עַל־פִּנַּת־גָּג מֵאֵשֶׁת מִדְיָנִים וּבֵית חָבֶר׃   21:9

Prov. 21:9   It is better to dwell on the corner of a roof

                                than a quarrelsome wife and a house shared.              [Return to Prov. 25:24]

נֶפֶשׁ רָשָׁע אִוְּתָה־רָע לֹא־יֻחַן בְּעֵינָיו רֵעֵהוּ׃   21:10

Prov. 21:10   The soul of a wicked person craves evil.

                                His neighbor can find no favor in his eyes.

בַּעְנָשׁ־לֵץ יֶחְכַּם־פֶּתִי וּבְהַשְׂכִּיל לְחָכָם יִקַּח־דָּעַת׃   21:11

Prov. 21:11   By the punishment of a scorner a simpleton may become wiser,

                                but on the giving of instruction to a wise one, he will acquire knowledge.

This verse is an echo of Prov. 19:25.

מַשְׂכִּיל צַדִּיק לְבֵית רָשָׁע מְסַלֵּף רְשָׁעִים לָרָע׃   21:12

Prov. 21:12   A righteous one should be giving attention to a wicked house,

                                subverting an evil one's wickedness.

The “righteous one” in this verse has been understood by some sages and bible commentators to be a reference to the Lord.  The justification for this interpretation is assumed to be the words translated as “One of mighty righteousness” in Job 34:17, which is unquestionably a reference to God.  But because the Hebrew helping verb for should be is not included in this verse, one has to assume what it might possibly be.  I can imagine the following additional translations:  Must be, shall be, or is (plus equivalent variations on these).  The only one that may identify the “righteous one” as the Lord is the word is, possibly shall be as well.  But as far as I am concerned, the link to Job is a weak one, and it’s perfectly feasible to assume this verse is addressing the same theme as Prov. 16:30.

אֹטֵם אָזְנוֹ מִזַּעֲקַת־דָּל גַּם־הוּא יִקְרָא וְלֹא יֵעָנֶה׃   21:13

Prov. 21:13   One shutting his ear from the cry of a poor person,

                                he also would cry out and not be answered.

מַתָּן בַּסֵּתֶר יִכְפֶּה־אָף וְשֹׁחַד בַּחֵק חֵמָה עַזָּה׃   21:14

Prov. 21:14   Anonymous giving can pacify anger,

                                but a present in the bosom, fierce rage.

This is an interesting couplet.  I suppose it could be accurate under the right circumstances, but I imagine it’s a bit excessive in its claim.  Fierce rage, after all, is not easy to pacify.

שִׂמְחָה לַצַּדִּיק עֲשׂוֹת מִשְׁפָּט וּמְחִתָּה לְפֹעֲלֵי אָוֶן׃   21:15

Prov. 21:15   Acts of justice are a joy to a righteous person,

                                but a ruin to the perpetrators of iniquity.

אָדָם תּוֹעֶה מִדֶּרֶךְ הַשְׂכֵּל בִּקְהַל רְפָאִים יָנוּחַ׃   21:16

Prov. 21:16   Someone straying from the path of comprehension

                                shall remain in the assembly of ghosts.

אִישׁ מַחְסוֹר אֹהֵב שִׂמְחָה אֹהֵב יַיִן־וָשֶׁמֶן לֹא יַעֲשִׁיר׃   21:17

Prov. 21:17   A lover of pleasure shall be a needy person.

                                The lover of wine and oil shall not become rich.

כֹּפֶר לַצַּדִּיק רָשָׁע וְתַחַת יְשָׁרִים בּוֹגֵד׃   21:18

Prov. 21:18   One who is wicked shall be ransom for one who is righteous,

                                and for the sake of the upright, one who is deceitful.

טֹוב שֶׁבֶת בְּאֶרֶץ־מִדְבָּר מֵאֵשֶׁת (מְדֹונִים) [מִדְיָנִים] וָכָעַס׃   21:19

Prov. 21:19   Dwelling in an uninhabited land

                                is better than a quarrelsome and angry wife.

The error in the parentheses is corrected in the brackets by replacing the incorrect vav with a yad.  Note that the word identical to the correction appears in v. 21:9 above.

אוֹצָר נֶחְמָד וָשֶׁמֶן בִּנְוֵה חָכָם וּכְסִיל אָדָם יְבַלְּעֶנּוּ׃   21:20

Prov. 21:20   Treasure to be desired and oil may be in the dwelling of a wise person,

                                but a stupid human would swallow it down.

רֹדֵף צְדָקָה וָחָסֶד יִמְצָא חַיִּים צְדָקָה וְכָבוֹד׃   21:21

Prov. 21:21   A pursuer of righteousness and mercy

                                would find life, prosperity, and honor.

עִיר גִּבֹּרִים עָלָה חָכָם וַיֹּרֶד עֹז מִבְטֶחָה׃   21:22

Prov. 21:22   A wise person ascends a city of the mighty

                                and can bring down its trusted strength.

שֹׁמֵר פִּיו וּלְשׁוֹנוֹ שֹׁמֵר מִצָּרוֹת נַפְשׁוֹ׃   21:23

Prov. 21:23   A guardian of his mouth and his tongue

                                guards his soul from troubles.

זֵד יָהִיר לֵץ שְׁמוֹ עוֹשֶׂה בְּעֶבְרַת זָדוֹן׃   21:24

Prov. 21:24   Pride, arrogance: Scorn is its name,

                                dealing in an outpouring of insolence.

תַּאֲוַת עָצֵל תְּמִיתֶנּוּ כִּי־מֵאֲנוּ יָדָיו לַעֲשׂוֹת׃   21:25

Prov. 21:25   The desire of a sluggard would bring him an early death,

                                for his hands refuse to produce.

כָּל־הַיּוֹם הִתְאַוָּה תַאֲוָה וְצַדִּיק יִתֵּן וְלֹא יַחְשֹׂךְ׃   21:26

Prov. 21:26   One desires the longing of one's heart all the time,

                                so the righteous person will give, and hold nothing back.

זֶבַח רְשָׁעִים תּוֹעֵבָה אַף כִּי־בְזִמָּה יְבִיאֶנּוּ׃   21:27

Prov. 21:27   A sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination.

                                How much more when they would bring with an evil purpose!

עֵד־כְּזָבִים יֹאבֵד וְאִישׁ שׁוֹמֵעַ לָנֶצַח יְדַבֵּר׃   21:28

Prov. 21:28   A testimony of lies will disappear,

                                but an obedient person will speak enduringly.

הֵעֵז אִישׁ רָשָׁע בְּפָנָיו וְיָשָׁר הוּא (יָכִין) [יָבִין] (דְּרָכָיו) [דַּרְכֹּו]׃    21:29

Prov. 21:29   A wicked person makes firm his face,

                                but an upright one, he will make firm his ways.

The two alleged errors in this verse are both inappropriately so identified.  The word in the first parentheses translates properly (in the second English line) to will make firm, contributing to the poetry (and cleverness) of the verse.  The “correction” in the brackets changes the gist of the verse, because it can be translated as will discern, will understand, or will observe.  The word in the second parentheses is spelled as plural, and is translated as his ways.  The “correction” in the second brackets makes it singular, his way.  I claim either term is appropriate.

אֵין חָכְמָה וְאֵין תְּבוּנָה וְאֵין עֵצָה לְנֶגֶד יְהוָה׃   21:30

Prov. 21:30   There is no wisdom, and there is no understanding,

                                and there is no counsel to contradict the Lord.

סוּס מוּכָן לְיֹום מִלְחָמָה וְלַיהוָה הַתְּשׁוּעָה׃   21:31

Prov. 21:31   A horse may be prepared for the day of battle,

                                but victory will be the Lord's.


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