when the wicked rule, the people groan. 6
but one who exacts tribute 14 tears it down.
the wicked does not understand such 24 knowledge.
but those who are wise turn away wrath.
as for the upright, they seek his life. 34
but a wise person keeps it back. 36
the Lord gives light 43 to the eyes of them both.
his throne 45 will be established forever.
[29:1] 1 tn The idiom “to harden the neck” (מַקְשֶׁה־עֹרֶף, maqsheh-’oref) is the idea of resisting the rebukes and persisting in obstinacy (e.g., Exod 32:9). The opposite of a “stiff neck” would be the bending back, i.e., submission.
[29:1] 2 tn The Hebrew construction is אִישׁ תּוֹכָחוֹת (’ish tokhakhot, “a man of rebukes”), meaning “a man who has (or receives) many rebukes.” This describes a person who is deserving of punishment and who has been given many warnings. The text says, then, “a man of rebukes hardening himself.”
[29:2] 5 tn The Hebrew form בִּרְבוֹת (birvot) is the Qal infinitive construct of רָבָה (ravah) with a בּ (bet) preposition, forming a temporal clause with a subjective genitive following it. It is paralleled in the second colon by the same construction, showing the antithesis: וּבִמְשֹׁל (uvimshol), “and when the wicked rule.” Some commentators wish to change the first verb to make it parallel this more closely, e.g., רָדָה (radah, “to rule”), but that would be too neat and is completely unsupported. The contrast is between when the righteous increase and when the wicked rule. It is not hard to see how this contrast works out in society.
[29:2] 6 tn The Niphal verb אָנַח (’anakh) means “to sigh; to groan,” usually because of grief or physical and emotional distress. The word is a metonymy of effect; the cause is the oppression and distress due to evil rulers.
[29:3] 9 tn The active participle רֹעֶה (ro’eh) is from the second root רָעָה (ra’ah), meaning “to associate with.” The verb occurs only a few times, and mostly in the book of Proverbs. It is related to רֵעֶה (re’eh, “friend; companion; fellow”). To describe someone as a “companion” or “friend” of prostitutes is somewhat euphemistic; it surely means someone who is frequently engaging the services of prostitutes.
[29:3] 11 sn Wealth was seen as a sign of success and of God’s blessings, pretty much as it always has been. To be seen as honorable in the community meant one had acquired some substance and kept his reputation. It would be a disgrace to the family to have a son who squandered his money on prostitutes (e.g., Prov 5:10; 6:31).
[29:4] 12 tn The form is the Hiphil imperfect of the verb עָמַד (’amad, “to stand”), hence, “to cause to stand.” It means that the king makes the nation “stand firm,” with “standing firm” being a figure for strength, security, and stability. Cf. NCV “makes his country (the nation CEV) strong.”
[29:4] 14 tn The Hebrew text reads אִישׁ תְּרוּמוֹת (’ish tÿrumot, “a man of offerings”), which could refer to a man who “receives gifts” or “gives gifts.” Because of its destructive nature on the country, here the phrase must mean that he receives or “exacts” the money (cf. NRSV “makes heavy exactions”). This seems to go beyond the ordinary taxation for two reasons: (1) this ruler is a “man of offerings,” indicating that it is in his nature to do this, and (2) it tears down the country. The word “offerings” has been taken to refer to gifts or bribes (cf. NASB, NIV, CEV, NLT), but the word itself suggests more the idea of tribute or taxes that are demanded; this Hebrew word was used in Leviticus for offerings given to the priests, and in Ezek 45:16 for taxes. The point seems to be that this ruler or administrator is breaking the backs of the people with heavy taxes or tribute (e.g., 1 Sam 8:11-18), and this causes division and strife.
[29:5] sn The flatterer is too smooth; his words are intended to gratify. In this proverb some malice is attached to the flattery, for the words prove to be destructive.
[29:5] 17 sn The image of “spreading a net” for someone’s steps is an implied comparison (a figure of speech known as hypocatastasis): As one would literally spread a net, this individual’s flattery will come back to destroy him. A net would be spread to catch the prey, and so the idea is one of being caught and destroyed.
[29:5] 18 tn There is some ambiguity concerning the referent of “his steps.” The net could be spread for the one flattered (cf. NRSV, “a net for the neighbor’s feet”; NLT, “their feet,” referring to others), or for the flatterer himself (cf. TEV “you set a trap for yourself”). The latter idea would make the verse more powerful: In flattering someone the flatterer is getting himself into a trap (e.g., 2:16; 7:5; 26:28; 28:23).
[29:6] 19 tn The Syriac and Tg. Prov 29:6 simplify the meaning by writing it with a passive verb: “the evil man is ensnared by his guilt.” The metaphor of the snare indicates that the evil person will be caught in his own transgression.
[29:6] 20 tc The two verbs create some difficulty because the book of Proverbs does not usually duplicate verbs like this and because the first verb יָרוּן (yarun) is irregular. The BHS editors prefer to emend it to יָרוּץ (yaruts, “will rush”; cf. NAB “runs on joyfully”). W. McKane emends it to “exult” to form a hendiadys: “is deliriously happy” (Proverbs [OTL], 638). G. R. Driver suggests changing the word to יָדוֹן (yadon) based on two Hebrew
[29:7] 22 tn The form is an active participle, יֹדֵעַ (yodea’); it describes the righteous as “knowing, caring for, having sympathetic knowledge for, or considering favorably” the legal needs of the poor. Cf. NAB “has a care for”; NASB “is concerned for.”
[29:7] 23 tn The Hebrew word used here is דִּין (din), which typically means “judgment,” but can also mean “strife” and “cause.” Here it refers to the “cause” of the poor (so KJV, ASV), their plea, their case, their legal rights. A righteous person is sympathetic to this.
[29:7] 24 tn The term “such” is supplied in the translation for clarification. It is not simply any knowledge that the wicked do not understand, but the knowledge mentioned in the first colon. They do not understand the “sympathetic knowledge” or “concern” for the cause of the poor.
[29:8] 26 tn The verb means “to blow; to breathe” (BDB 806 s.v. פּוּחַ). In the Hiphil imperfect its meaning here is “to excite; to inflame” a city, as in blowing up a flame or kindling a fire. It is also used with “words” in 6:19 and 12:17 – they “puff out words.” Such scornful people make dangerous situations worse, whereas the wise calm things down (e.g., 2 Sam 20).
[29:9] 29 tn The verb שָׁפַט (shafat) means “to judge.” In the Niphal stem it could be passive, but is more frequently reciprocal: “to enter into controversy” or “to go to court.” The word is usually used in connection with a lawsuit (so many recent English versions), but can also refer to an argument (e.g., 1 Sam 12:7; Isa 43:26); cf. NAB “disputes”; NASB “has a controversy.”
[29:9] sn The proverb is saying that there will be no possibility of settling the matter in a calm way, no matter what mood the fool is in (e.g., Prov 26:4). R. N. Whybray says one can only cut the losses and have no further dealings with the fool (Proverbs [CBC], 168).
[29:10] 32 tn Heb “men of bloods.” The Hebrew word for “blood” is written in the plural to reflect the shedding of blood. So the expression “men of bloods” means people who shed blood – murderers, bloodthirsty men, or those who would not hesitate to commit murder in order to get what they want.
[29:10] 34 tn Heb “and the upright seek his life.” There are two ways this second line can be taken. (1) One can see it as a continuation of the first line, meaning that the bloodthirsty men also “seek the life of the upright” (cf. NIV, NRSV). The difficulty is that the suffix is singular but the apparent referent is plural. (2) One can take it is as a contrast: “but as for the upright, they seek his life” – a fairly straightforward rendering (cf. ASV). The difficulty here is that “seeking a life” is normally a hostile act, but it would here be positive: “seeking” a life to preserve it. The verse would then say that the bloodthirsty hate the innocent, but the righteous protect them (W. McKane, Proverbs [OTL], 637; cf. NAB, NASB, TEV).
[29:11] 35 tn Heb “his spirit.” It has been commonly interpreted to mean “his anger” (ASV, NAB, NIV, NRSV), but it probably means more than that. The fool gives full expression to his “soul,” whether it is anger or bitterness or frustration or any other emotions. He has no self-control.
[29:11] 36 tn The line is difficult. The MT has בְּאחוֹר יְשַׁבְּחֶנָּה (bÿ’khor yÿshabbÿkhennah), which literally means “steals it back.” The verb שָׁבַח (shavakh) means “to soothe; to still,” as with a storm, or here with the temper. But because אָחוֹר (’akhor) does not fit very well with this verb, most commentators offer some suggested change. C. H. Toy reads “anger” instead of “back” and translates the verb “restrain” following the LXX, which has “self-control” (Proverbs [ICC], 510). The idea of self-control is what is intended, but the changes suggested are not entirely warranted. A number of English versions have “holds it back” (e.g., NASB, NRSV, NLT), and this fits the Hebrew as well as any.
[29:12] sn Such a ruler would become known as one who could be lied to, because he paid attention to lies.
[29:12] 39 tn The verb שָׁרַת (sharat) means “to minister; to serve.” The Piel plural participle here refers to servants of the king who attend to him – courtiers and ministers (cf. NIV, NRSV, TEV, CEV “officials”; NLT “advisers”). This, his entourage, will have to resort to evil practices to gain his favor if he is swayed by such lies.
[29:12] 40 sn The servants of the monarch adjust to their ruler; when they see that court flattery and deception are effective, they will begin to practice it and in the end become wicked (e.g., Prov 16:10; 20:8; 25:2).
[29:13] 41 tn Heb “a man of oppressions”; KJV “the deceitful man.” The noun תֹּךְ (tokh) means “injury; oppression” (BDB 1067 s.v.). Such men were usually the rich and powerful. The Greek and the Latin versions have “the debtor and creditor.”
[29:13] 42 tn The verb פָּגַשׁ (pagash) means “to meet; to encounter.” In the Niphal it means “to meet each other; to meet together” (cf. KJV, ASV). The focus in this passage is on what they share in common.
[29:13] 43 sn The expression gives light to the eyes means “gives them sight” (cf. NIV). The expression means that by giving them sight the
[29:14] 44 tn The king must judge “in truth” (בֶּאֱמֶת, be’emet). Some have interpreted this to mean “faithfully” (KJV, ASV) but that is somewhat unclear. The idea is that the poor must be treated fairly and justly (cf. NIV “with fairness”; NRSV “with equity”); “truth” is that which corresponds to the standard of the law revealed by God. There must be no miscarriage of justice for these people simply because they are poor.
[29:14] 45 sn The term “throne” is a metonymy of subject; it represents the dynasty, the reign of this particular king and his descendants. The qualification of the enduring administration is its moral character. The language of this proverb reflects the promise of the Davidic Covenant (e.g., Prov 16:12; 20:28; 25:5; 31:5).
[29:15] 46 tn The word “rod” is a metonymy of cause, in which the instrument being used to discipline is mentioned in place of the process of disciplining someone. So the expression refers to the process of discipline that is designed to correct someone. Some understand the words “rod and reproof” to form a hendiadys, meaning “a correcting [or, reproving] rod” (cf. NAB, NIV “the rod of correction”).
[29:15] 50 sn The focus on the mother is probably a rhetorical variation for the “parent” (e.g., 17:21; 23:24-25) and is not meant to assume that only the mother will do the training and endure the shame for a case like this (e.g., 13:24; 23:13).