Translating Truth

The Proverbs

  • Author: Solomon, Agur, Lemuel
  • Place Written: Jerusalem
  • Writing Completed: c. 715 B.C.E.
  • Time Covered: The Day of Jehovah

The Purpose of the Proverbs

1 The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel:

To know wisdom and discipline,[1] to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and uprightness; to give shrewdness to the inexperienced, to the young man knowledge and discretion.[2] Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise guidance,[3] to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles.

The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Dangers of Wicked Companions

Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and do not forsake not your mother's teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck. 10 My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. 11 If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason; 12 like Sheol swallow them alive, and whole, like those who go down to the pit; 13 we shall find all precious goods, we shall fill our houses with spoil; 14 throw in your lot among us; we will all have one purse,” 15 my son, do not walk in the way with them. Keep your feet from their path, 16 for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood. 17 For in vain is a net spread in the sight of any bird. 18 But these men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives. 19 Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the soul[4] of its possessors.

The Call of True Wisdom Publicly

20 Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the public squares she raises her voice; 21 at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she utters her sayings: 22 “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple-minded? And how long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? 23 Turn back at my reproof behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. 24 Because I called and you have refused, I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention, 25 because you have ignored all my counsel and did not want my reproof, 26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, 27 when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. 28 Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. 29 Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of Jehovah, 30 they would not accept my counsel and despised all my reproof, 31 therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and be glutted with their own schemes. 32 For the waywardness of the simple ones will kill them, and the complacency of fools destroys them; 33 “But he who listens to me shall dwell securely and he will live, without the dread of disaster.”

The Value of Wisdom

2 My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to discernment;[5] For if you cry for discernment[6] and raise your voice for understanding,

Seek Wisdom As for Hidden Treasures

if you keep seeking her like silver and searching for her as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of Jehovah and find the knowledge of God. For Jehovah gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his holy ones. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good course; 10 for wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;

Thinking Ability As a Protection

11 Discretion[7] will keep watch over you, understanding will watch over you, 12 delivering you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things, 13 from those who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness, 14 who rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil, 15 men whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways.

Immorality Brings Disaster

16 It will save you from the strange[8] woman, from the foreign[9] woman with her smooth[10] words, 17 who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God; 18 for her house sinks down to death, and her tracks lead to the dead;[11] 19 none who go to[12] her, none shall return, nor do they reach paths of life.

20 So you will walk in the way of the good men and keep to the paths of the righteous. 21 For the upright will inhabit the land,[13] and the blameless will remain in it, 22 but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the treacherous will be rooted out of it.

Trust in Jehovah with All Your Heart

3 My son, do not forget my teaching,[14] but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.

Let not loyal love[15] and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good insight[16] in the sight of God and man.

Trust in Jehovah with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear Jehovah, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body[17] and refreshment to your bones.[18]

Honor Jehovah with Your Wealth

Honor Jehovah with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; 10 then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.

11 My son, do not despise  the discipline of Jehovah or loathe his reproof, 12 for whom Jehovah loves he reproves, as a father the son in whom he delights.

Wisdom Brings Happiness

13 Happy is a man who finds wisdom, and the one who gains understanding, 14 for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. 15 She is more precious than corals,[19] and nothing you desire can compare with her. 16 Length of days[20] is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. 17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. 18 She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called happy.

Wisdom Brings Security

19 Jehovah by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; 20 by his knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew.

21 My son, do not let them depart from your eyes; keep sound wisdom and discretion,[21] 22 and they will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck. 23 Then you will walk on your way securely, and your foot will not stumble.[22] 24 If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. 25 Do not be afraid of sudden panic[23] or the storm of the wicked, when it comes, 26 for Jehovah will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.

Do Good to Others

27 Do not withhold good from its owners,[24] when it is in your power to do it.

28 Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it,” when you have it with you. 29 Do not plan harm against your neighbor, who dwells trustingly beside you. 30 Do not contend with a man for no reason, when he has done you no harm. 31 Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways, 32 for the devious man is an abomination to Jehovah, but those who are upright are his confidence. 33 Jehovah's curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous. 34 Toward those who scorn, he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor. 35 The wise will inherit honor, but the stupid ones glorify dishonor.[25]

A Father's Wise Instruction

4 Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father, and be attentive, that you may know understanding, for I give you good instruction; do not forsake my teaching. When I was a son with my father, tender, the only son in the sight of my mother, he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live. Acquire wisdom, acquire understanding; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will guard you; love her, and she will safeguard you.

Above All Acquire Wisdom

The beginning of wisdom is this: Acquire wisdom, and with all you acquire, acquire understanding. Prize her, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a garland of grace; she will bestow on you a crown of beauty.”

10 Hear, my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many. 11 In the way of wisdom I have taught you; I have led you in the paths of uprightness. 12 When you walk, your step will not be hampered, and if you run, you will not stumble. 13 Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.

Shun Wicked Paths

14 Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil men. 15 Avoid it; do not pass by it; turn away from it and pass on. 16 For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong; they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble. 17 For they eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence. 18 But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. 19 The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.

20 My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. 21 Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart. 22 For they are life to him who finds them, and a healing to all his flesh.

Safeguard Your Heart

23 Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. 24 Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. 25 Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your gaze be straight ahead of you. 26 Make level[26] the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. 27 Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil.

Warning Against Immoral Women

5 My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, that you may keep discretion,[27] and your lips may guard knowledge. For the lips of a strange woman[28] drip honey, and smoother than oil is her mouth, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold of Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it.

And now, O sons, listen to me, and do not depart from the words of my mouth. Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless, 10 lest strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of a foreigner, 11 and you groan at your end, when your flesh and body are consumed, 12 and you say, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! 13 I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. 14 I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.”

Rejoice With Your Wife

15 Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. 16 Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? 17 Let them be for you alone, and not for strangers with you. 18 Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, 19  a loving doe, a graceful mountain goat. Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; be intoxicated always in her love. 20 Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a strange woman and embrace the bosom of a foreigner? 21 For a man's ways are before the eyes of Jehovah, and he examines all his paths. 22 The errors[29] of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held in the cords of his sin. 23 He will die for lack of discipline, and because of his great foolishness he will go astray.

Practical Warnings

6 My son, if you have become surety for your neighbor, have given your pledge for a stranger, if you are snared in the words of your mouth, caught in the words of your mouth, Do this then, my son, and deliver yourself, for you have come into the palm of your neighbor: go, humble yourself, plead with your neighbor. Give no sleep to your eyes nor slumber to your eyelids; Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, and like a bird from the hand of the fowler.

Go to the Ant You Lazy One

Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, She prepares her bread in summer and gathers her sustenance in harvest. How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? 10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, 11 your poverty will come upon you like a robber, and your want like an armed man.

A Useless and Wicked Man

12 A worthless man, a wicked man, goes about with crooked speech,[30] 13 winks with his eyes, scrapes[31] with his feet, points with[32] his finger, 14 with perverted heart devises evil, continually sowing[33] discord; 15 therefore calamity will come upon him suddenly; in a moment he will be broken beyond healing.

Seven Things God Hates

16 There are six things that Jehovah hates, seven that are an abomination of his soul: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that quickly to run to evil, 19 a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.

Warnings Against Adultery

20 My son, My child, keep the commandment of your father, and forsake not the teaching[34] of your mother. 21 Bind them on your heart continually; tie them around your neck. 22 When you walk, she[35] will lead you; when you lie down, she will watch over you; and when you awake, she will talk with you. 23 For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, 24 to preserve you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the immoral woman.[36] 25 Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes;[37] 26 for because of a prostitute, a man is reduced to a loaf of bread, but a wife of another man hunts down a precious soul.[38] 27 Can a man carry[39] fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned? 28 Or can a man walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? 29 So is he who goes in to his neighbor's wife; none who touches her will go unpunished. 30 Men[40] do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his soul when he is hungry. 31 But if he is found, he must pay sevenfold; he will give all the valuables of his house. 32 He who commits adultery with a woman is in want of heart; he who does it is bringing his own soul to destruction. 33 Wounds and dishonor he will find, and his disgrace will not be wiped away. 34 For jealousy enrages a man, and he will not spare in the day of vengeance. 35 He will not accept any ransom;[41] nor will he be willing[42] though you give many gifts.[43]

Warning Against the Adulteress

7 My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live; keep my teachings[44] as the pupil of your eye;[45] bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” and call understanding[46] one who is known,[47] to keep you from a strange woman,[48] from the adulteress with her smooth words.

A Naive Young Man Seduced

For at the window of my house I looked out through my lattice, and I saw among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man in want of heart,[49] passing along the street near her corner, and he takes the road to her house, in the twilight, in the evening of the day, at the midst[50] of night and darkness.

10 And look, a woman comes to meet him, dressed as a prostitute,[51] and guarded in heart.[52] 11 She is loud and rebellious; her feet do not stay at home; 12 now in the street, now in the square, and at every corner she lies in wait. 13 She seizes him and kisses him, and with bold face she says to him,[53] 14 “I had to offer peace offerings, and today I have paid my vows; 15 so now I have come out to meet you, to seek your face, and I have found you. 16 I have spread my couch with coverings, colored linens from Egyptian linen; 17 I have sprinkled[54] my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. 18 Come, let us drink our fill of love until morning; let us delight ourselves with love. 19 Because the man[55] is not in his house; he has gone on the road far off;[56] 20 he took a bag of silver[57] in his hand; at full moon he will come home.”

21 She persuades him with much seductive words; with her smooth lips she compels him.

Like an Ox to the Slaughter

22 Suddenly he goes after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, like a fool to be punished in the fetters 23 till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his soul.[58]

24 And now, O sons, listen to me, and be attentive to the words of my mouth. 25 Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths. 26 For many are the fatally wounded[59] she has made fall,[60] and all her slain are a mighty throng. 27 Her house is the way to Sheol, descending to the chambers of death.

The Blessings of Wisdom

8 Does not wisdom call? Does not understanding give forth[61] her voice? On the heights beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the city, at the entrance of doors she cries aloud: “To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the sons of men. O simple ones, learn shrewdness; O fools, an understanding heart.[62] Listen, for I will speak noble things, and from the opening of my lips right things, for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them. They are all straight to him who understands, and right to those who find knowledge. 10 Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold, 11 for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.

12 “I, wisdom, dwell with shrewdness, and I find knowledge and thinking ability.[63] 13 The fear of Jehovah is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and the perverted mouth I hate. 14 I have counsel and sound wisdom;[64] I have insight; I have strength.[65] 15 By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just; 16 by me princes rule, and nobles, all who govern justly.[66] 17 I love those who love me,[67] and those who seek me diligently find me. 18 Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness. 19 My fruit is better than gold, even refined gold,[68] and my yield than choice silver. 20 I walk in the way of righteousness, in the midst of paths of justice, 21 endowing those who love me with wealth, and their treasuries I will fill.

Wisdom at Creation

22 “Jehovah created me at the beginning of his way, the first of his acts of old. 23 From everlasting, I wasestablished, before the beginning of the earth. 24 When there were nodepths I wasbrought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. 25 Before the mountainshad been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth, 26 before he had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world.

[1] Or instruction

[2] Or thinking ability; the ability to give wise and careful attention (study) of a matter, based on accurate or full knowledge

[3] Or skillful direction

[4] I.e. life

[5] The Hebrew word rendered here as “discernment” (tevunah) is related to the word binah, translated “understanding.” Both appear at Proverbs 2:3.

[6] See 2.2 ftn.

[7] Or thinking ability; the ability to give wise and careful attention (study) of a matter, based on accurate or full knowledge

[8] I.e. one morally estranged from God

[9] Or immoral; one morally alienated from God

[10] Or seductive

[11] (Heb. Rephaim; the spirits of the departed) People who are no longer living

[12] I.e. having relations with

[13] Or earth

[14] Or law

[15] Or steadfast love, kindness

[16] Lit understanding

[17] Lit Healing shall be to your navel

[18] Lit and drink for your bones

[19] Or jewels

[20] I.e. Long life

[21] Or thinking ability; the ability to give wise and careful attention (study) of a matter, based on accurate or full knowledge

[22] Lit strike your foot

[23] Or fear, dread, terror

[24] Or from those to whom it is due

[25] Lit raise high dishonor

[26] Or Weigh carefully; Ponder

[27] Or thinking ability; the ability to give wise and careful attention (study) of a matter, based on accurate or full knowledge

[28] Or forbidden woman

[29] Error: (Heb., ʿāwōn; Gr. anomia, paranomia) The Hebrew word awon essentially relates to erring, acting illegally or wrongly. This aspect of sin refers to committing a perverseness, wrongness, lawlessness, law breaking, which can also include the rejection of the sovereignty of God. It also focuses on the liability or guilt of one’s wicked, wrongful act. This error may be deliberate or accidental; either willful deviation of what is right or unknowingly making a mistake. (Lev. 4:13-35; 5:1-6, 14-19; Num. 15:22-29; Ps 19:12-13) Of course, if it is intentional; then, the consequence is far more serious. (Num. 15:30-31) Error is in opposition to the truth, and those willfully sinning corrupt the truth, a course that only brings forth flagrant sin. (Isa 5:18-23) We can be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.–Ex 9:27, 34-35; Heb. 3:13-15.

[30] I.e. deceitful or dishonest speech

[31] I.e. signals with his feet

[32] Lit instructs with

[33] Lit sends out

[34] Or law

[35] Or they will; I.e. the commandment of your father and the teaching or law of your mother (3xs this verse)

[36] Lit foreign woman

[37] I.e. alluring eyes

[38] I.e. life

[39] Lit snatch up

[40] Lit They do not … Men is used in place of the third person plural pronoun, they.

[41] Lit lift up the face of any

[42] Or satisfied

[43] Or bribes

[44] Or law; instructions

[45] Or apple of your eye; I.e., something precious

[46] Or insight

[47] I.e. intimate friend; that is to know, which is often used as a euphemism for secual intercourse

[48] Or wayward woman

[49] I.e. lacking good sense

[50] Lit pupil (of the eye)

[51] Or whore

[52] Or secret of heart; I.e. a cunning heart

[53] Lit She makes bold her face and says

[54] I.e. perfumed

[55] Or my husband is not at home

[56] I.e. a long journey

[57] Or money

[58] Or he does not know that it will cost him his life

[59] Or the victims

[60] Or laid low or cast down

[61] Or raise

[62] I.e. pay attention

[63] Thinking Ability: (Heb. mezimmah) In the evil sense, this can mean wicked plans, evil ideas, schemes, and devices. In the favorable sense, it can mean shrewdness, perceptiveness, discretion, and prudence. In the favorable sense, it is the ability to judge wisely and objectively. Mezimmah, therefore, the human mind and thoughts can be used for an admirable and upright end, or for evil purposes. – Ps 10:2; Pro. 1:4; 2:10-12; 5:1-2.

[64] Or judgment

[65] Lit I insight to me and strength

[66] Most Hebrew manuscripts read govern justly; some Hebrew manuscripts and the Septuagint read govern the earth.

[67] The marginal note in the Masoretic text, the Aramaic Targums, the Septuagint, the Syriac Peshitta and the Latin Vulgate have “those who love me,” but the main text of the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS) has “those who love her.” Almost all English translations follow the marginal note of the Masoretic text, “those who love me.”

[68] Or pure gold