he turns it wherever he wants.
21:3 To do righteousness and justice
21:4 Haughty eyes and a proud heart –
the agricultural product 9 of the wicked is sin.
but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. 13
they seek death. 17
but as for the pure, 24 his way is upright.
his neighbor is shown no favor 30 in his eyes.
when a wise person is instructed, 32 he gains knowledge.
he overthrows the wicked to their ruin. 36
he too will cry out and will not be answered. 39
[21:1] 3 tn “Channels of water” (פַּלְגֵי, palge) is an adverbial accusative, functioning as a figure of comparison – “like channels of water.” Cf. NAB “Like a stream”; NIV “watercourse”; NRSV, NLT “a stream of water.”
[21:1] sn The farmer channels irrigation ditches where he wants them, where they will do the most good; so does the
[21:2] 6 tn Heb “the hearts.” The term לֵב (lev, “heart”) is used as a metonymy of association for thoughts and motives (BDB 660-61 s.v. 6-7). Even though people think they know themselves, the
[21:3] 8 sn The
[21:4] 9 tn Heb “the tillage [נִר, nir] of the wicked is sin” (so NAB). The subject picks up the subjects of the first half of the verse, indicating they are equal – the tillage consists of the arrogance and pride. The word “tillage” is figurative, of course, signifying that the agricultural product (the point of the comparison) of the wicked is sin. The relationship between the ideas is then problematic. Are pride and arrogance what the wicked produce? Some (ASV, NASB, NIV, NRSV) have followed the LXX and Tg. Prov 21:4 to read “lamp” instead (נֵר, ner), but that does not solve the difficulty of the relationship between the expressions. It does, however, say that the life ( = lamp), which is arrogance and pride, is sin.
[21:5] 10 tn The word “diligent” is an adjective used substantivally. The related verb means “to cut, sharpen, decide”; so the adjective describes one who is “sharp” – one who acts decisively. The word “hasty” has the idea of being pressed or pressured into quick actions. So the text contrasts calculated expeditiousness with unproductive haste. C. H. Toy does not like this contrast, and so proposes changing the latter to “lazy” (Proverbs [ICC], 399), but W. McKane rightly criticizes that as unnecessarily forming a pedestrian antithesis (Proverbs [OTL], 550).
[21:6] 14 tn The first word of the verse is the noun meaning “doing, deed, work.” The BHS editors suggest reading with the LXX an active participle – “the one who makes” (cf. NAB “He who makes”). The second word means “treasure,” from the verb “lay up, store up.” It is an objective genitive here.
[21:6] 16 tn The Hebrew הֶבֶל נִדָּף (hevel nidaf) is properly “a driven vapor” (“driven” = the Niphal participle). The point of the metaphor is that the ill-gotten gains will vanish into thin air. The LXX has “pursues” (as if reading רֹדֵף, rodef); cf. NAB “chasing a bubble over deadly snares.”
[21:6] 17 tn The Hebrew has “seekers of death,” meaning “[they that seek them] are seekers of death,” or that the fortune is “a fleeting vapor for those who seek death.” The sense is not readily apparent. The Greek and the Latin versions have “snares of death”; the form מוֹקְשֵׁי (moqÿshe) was read instead of מְבַקְשֵׁי (mÿvaqshe). This reading does not make a more credible metaphor, and one must explain the loss of the letter ב (bet) in the textual variant. It is, however, slightly easier to interpret in the verse, and is followed by a number of English versions (e.g., NAB, NIV, NRSV, NLT). But whether the easier reading is the correct one in this case would be difficult to prove.
[21:7] 18 tn The “violence” (שֹׁד, shod) drags away the wicked, probably either to do more sin or to their punishment. “Violence” here is either personified, or it is a metonymy of cause, meaning “the outcome of their violence” drags them away.
[21:7] 20 tn The second colon of the verse is the causal clause, explaining why they are dragged away. They are not passive victims of their circumstances or their crimes. They choose to persist in their violence and so it destroys them.
[21:8] 22 tn The first line of the proverb is difficult. Since וָזָר (vazar) occurs only here it has been given much attention. The translation of “guilty” is drawn from an Arabic cognate meaning “to bear a burden” and so “to be sin laden” or “guilty” (cf. NASB, NIV, NCV, NRSV, NLT). G. R. Driver prefers to read the line as “a man crooked of ways is false [zar]” (“Problems in the Hebrew Text of Proverbs,” Bib 32 : 185). C. H. Toy adopts the meaning of “proud” (Proverbs [ICC], 400). Whatever the reading, “guilty” or “proud” or “false,” the idea is that such people are devious. Bad people are underhanded; good people are aboveboard (C. H. Toy, Proverbs [ICC], 400). Another way to analyze the line is to read it with the definition “strange, stranger”: “The way of a man and a stranger is perverse.” But this is unclear, and would form no satisfactory contrast to 8b. Another suggestion is “the way of (usual) man is changeable and strange, but the pure fellow leads a straight and even course” (J. H. Greenstone, Proverbs, 244); cf. NLT “the innocent travel a straight road.”
[21:8] 23 tn The form הֲפַכְפַּךְ (hafakhfakh) is an adjective with an intensified meaning due to the duplication of the second and third radicals; it means “very devious; crooked” (from the verb “to overturn”).
[21:8] 24 tn If this translation stands, then the construction is formed with an independent nominative absolute, resumed by the suffixed noun as the formal subject. It draws attention to the “pure” or “innocent” person in contrast to the previously mentioned wicked.
[21:9] 25 tn English versions which translate the Hebrew term as “roof” here sometimes produce amusing images for modern readers: TEV “Better to live on the roof”; CEV “It’s better to stay outside on the roof of your house.”
[21:9] sn The reference is probably to a small room that would be built on the flat housetop primarily for guests (e.g., 1 Kgs 17:19; 2 Kgs 4:10). It would be cramped and lonely – but peaceful in avoiding strife.
[21:9] 26 tn The “house of company” has received numerous interpretations. The word “company” or “companionship” would qualify “house” as a place to be shared. The BHS editors propose “spacious house,” which would call for a transposition of letters (cf. NAB “a roomy house”; NLT “a lovely home”). Such an emendation makes good sense, but has no external support.
[21:10] 28 tn Heb “soul.” The Hebrew text uses נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh, traditionally, “soul”) as the formal subject of the sentence – “the soul of a wicked man desires.” This term has at its core the idea of appetites, and so its use here underscores that the cravings are deep-seated (BDB 660 s.v. 5), and the translation “appetite” reflects this.
[21:10] 29 sn The word has the meanings of “desire, crave, long for, lust after.” It usually has “soul” as its subject. The word is used in the Ten Commandments in the prohibition against coveting a neighbor’s house (Deut 5:18).
[21:10] 30 tn The form יֻחַן (yukhan) is a Hophal imperfect from חָנַן (khanan); it means “to be shown mercy” – here negated to mean “he will not be shown mercy.” The person who lives to satisfy his own craving for evil will not be interested in meeting the needs of others.
[21:11] 31 sn The contrast here is between the simple and the wise. The simple gain wisdom when they see the scorner punished; the wise gains knowledge through instruction. The scorner does not change, but should be punished for the benefit of the simple (e.g., Prov 19:25).
[21:11] 32 tn Heb “in the instructing of the wise.” The construction uses the Hiphil infinitive construct הַשְׂכִּיל (haskil) with a preposition to form a temporal clause (= “when”). The word “wise” (חָכָם, khakham) after it is the subjective genitive. The preposition לְ (lamed) on the form is probably dittography from the ending of the infinitive.
[21:12] 33 tn In the book of Proverbs, the Hebrew term צַּדִּיק (ysadiq) normally refers to a human being, and that is a possible translation here (cf. KJV, ASV, NAB), although it would have to refer to a righteous person who was a judge or a ruler with the right to destroy the wicked. Many commentators and English versions simply interpret this as a reference to God (cf. NIV, NRSV, TEV, NLT).
[21:12] 34 tn The form מַשְׂכִּיל (maskil) is now used with the meaning “to consider; to give attention to; to ponder.” It is the careful scrutiny that is given to the household of the wicked before judgment is poured out on them.
[21:12] 35 tn Heb “house.” This term probably means “household” here – the family. One way to read the line is that the righteous judge (human or divine) takes into consideration the wicked person’s family before judging the wicked person. The other – and more plausible – interpretation is that the judge considers the household of the wicked and then on the basis of what was observed judges them.
[21:13] 39 sn The proverb is teaching that those who show mercy will receive mercy. It involves the principle of talionic justice – those who refuse the needs of others will themselves be refused when they need help (so Luke 16:19-31).
[21:14] 40 sn The synonymous parallelism joins the more neutral term “gift” with the more specific “bribe.” D. Kidner notes that this underscores how hard it is to tell the difference between them, especially since they accomplish similar things (Proverbs [TOTC], 143).
[21:14] 41 tn The word כָּפָה (kafah) occurs only here; it means “to subdue,” but in New Hebrew it means “to overturn; to compel.” The BHS editors suggest a change to כָּבָה (kavah), “to be quenched,” based on Symmachus and Tg. Prov 21:14, but there is no substantial improvement in the text’s meaning with such a change.