Bible Book List

Proverbs 15-22 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Chapter 15

[a]A mild answer turns back wrath,
    but a harsh word stirs up anger.[b]
The tongue of the wise pours out knowledge,
    but the mouth of fools spews folly.
The eyes of the Lord are in every place,
    keeping watch on the evil and the good.
A soothing tongue is a tree of life,
    but a perverse one breaks the spirit.
The fool spurns a father’s instruction,
    but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.[c]
In the house of the just there are ample resources,
    but the harvest of the wicked is in peril.
The lips of the wise spread knowledge,
    but the heart of fools is not steadfast.[d]
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
    but the prayer of the upright is his delight.
The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
    but he loves one who pursues justice.
10 Discipline seems bad to those going astray;
    one who hates reproof will die.[e]
11 Sheol and Abaddon[f] lie open before the Lord;
    how much more the hearts of mortals!
12 Scoffers do not love reproof;
    to the wise they will not go.
13 A glad heart lights up the face,
    but an anguished heart breaks the spirit.
14 The discerning heart seeks knowledge,
    but the mouth of fools feeds on folly.[g]
15 All the days of the poor are evil,
    but a good heart is a continual feast.[h]
16 [i]Better a little with fear of the Lord
    than a great fortune with anxiety.
17 Better a dish of herbs where love is
    than a fatted ox and hatred with it.
18 The ill-tempered stir up strife,
    but the patient settle disputes.
19 The way of the sluggard is like a thorn hedge,
    but the path of the diligent is a highway.
20 A wise son gives his father joy,
    but a fool despises his mother.
21 Folly is joy[j] to the senseless,
    but the person of understanding goes the straight way.
22 Plans fail when there is no counsel,
    but they succeed when advisers are many.[k]
23 One has joy from an apt response;
    a word in season, how good it is![l]
24 The path of life leads upward for the prudent,
    turning them from Sheol below.[m]
25 The Lord pulls down the house of the proud,
    but preserves intact the widow’s landmark.
26 The schemes of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord,
    but gracious words are pure.[n]
27 The greedy tear down their own house,
    but those who hate bribes will live.[o]
28 The heart of the just ponders a response,
    but the mouth of the wicked spews evil.
29 The Lord is far from the wicked,
    but hears the prayer of the just.
30 A cheerful glance brings joy to the heart;
    good news invigorates the bones.
31 The ear that listens to salutary reproof
    is at home among the wise.[p]
32 Those who disregard discipline hate themselves,
    but those who heed reproof acquire understanding.
33 The fear of the Lord is training for wisdom,
    and humility goes before honors.

Chapter 16

Plans are made in human hearts,
    but from the Lord comes the tongue’s response.[q]
All one’s ways are pure[r] in one’s own eyes,
    but the measurer of motives is the Lord.
Entrust your works to the Lord,
    and your plans will succeed.
The Lord has made everything for a purpose,
    even the wicked for the evil day.[s]
Every proud heart[t] is an abomination to the Lord;
    be assured that none will go unpunished.
By steadfast loyalty guilt is expiated,
    and by the fear of the Lord evil is avoided.[u]
When the Lord is pleased with someone’s ways,
    he makes even enemies be at peace with them.
Better a little with justice,
    than a large income with injustice.
The human heart plans the way,
    but the Lord directs the steps.[v]
10 An oracle is upon the king’s lips,
    no judgment of his mouth is false.[w]
11 Balance and scales belong to the Lord;
    every weight in the sack is his concern.
12 Wrongdoing is an abomination to kings,
    for by justice the throne endures.
13 The king takes delight in honest lips,
    and whoever speaks what is right he loves.
14 The king’s wrath is a messenger of death,
    but a wise person can pacify it.
15 A king’s smile means life,
    and his favor is like a rain cloud in spring.[x]
16 How much better to get wisdom than gold!
    To get understanding is preferable to silver.[y]
17 The path of the upright leads away from misfortune;
    those who attend to their way guard their lives.[z]
18 Pride goes before disaster,
    and a haughty spirit before a fall.
19 It is better to be humble with the poor
    than to share plunder with the proud.
20 Whoever ponders a matter will be successful;
    happy the one who trusts in the Lord!
21 The wise of heart is esteemed for discernment,
    and pleasing speech gains a reputation for learning.
22 Good sense is a fountain of life to those who have it,
    but folly is the training of fools.
23 The heart of the wise makes for eloquent speech,
    and increases the learning on their lips.
24 Pleasing words are a honeycomb,
    sweet to the taste and invigorating to the bones.
25 Sometimes a way seems right,
    but the end of it leads to death!
26 The appetite of workers works for them,
    for their mouths urge them on.[aa]
27 Scoundrels are a furnace of evil,
    and their lips are like a scorching fire.
28 Perverse speech sows discord,
    and talebearing separates bosom friends.
29 The violent deceive their neighbors,
    and lead them into a way that is not good.
30 Whoever winks an eye plans perversity;
    whoever purses the lips does evil.[ab]
31 Gray hair is a crown of glory;
    it is gained by a life that is just.
32 The patient are better than warriors,
    and those who rule their temper, better than the conqueror of a city.
33 Into the bag the lot is cast,
    but from the Lord comes every decision.[ac]

Chapter 17

Better a dry crust with quiet
    than a house full of feasting with strife.[ad]
A wise servant will rule over an unworthy son,
    and will share the inheritance of the children.[ae]
The crucible for silver, and the furnace for gold,
    but the tester of hearts is the Lord.
The evildoer gives heed to wicked lips,
    the liar, to a mischievous tongue.
Whoever mocks the poor reviles their Maker;
    whoever rejoices in their misfortune will not go unpunished.
Children’s children are the crown of the elderly,
    and the glory of children is their parentage.
Fine words ill fit a fool;
    how much more lying lips, a noble!
A bribe seems a charm to its user;
    at every turn it brings success.[af]
Whoever overlooks an offense fosters friendship,
    but whoever gossips about it separates friends.[ag]
10 A single reprimand does more for a discerning person
    than a hundred lashes for a fool.[ah]
11 The wicked pursue only rebellion,
    and a merciless messenger is sent against them.[ai]
12 Face a bear robbed of her cubs,
    but never fools in their folly![aj]
13 If you return evil for good,
    evil will not depart from your house.[ak]
14 The start of strife is like the opening of a dam;
    check a quarrel before it bursts forth!
15 Whoever acquits the wicked, whoever condemns the just—
    both are an abomination to the Lord.
16 Of what use is money in the hands of fools
    when they have no heart to acquire wisdom?[al]
17 A friend is a friend at all times,
    and a brother is born for the time of adversity.
18 Those without sense give their hands in pledge,
    becoming surety for their neighbors.
19 Those who love an offense love a fight;
    those who build their gate high[am] court disaster.
20 The perverse in heart come to no good,
    and the double-tongued fall into trouble.[an]
21 Whoever conceives a fool has grief;
    the father of a numskull has no joy.
22 A joyful heart is the health of the body,
    but a depressed spirit dries up the bones.
23 A guilty person takes out a bribe from the pocket,
    thus perverting the course of justice.[ao]
24 On the countenance of a discerning person is wisdom,
    but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.[ap]
25 A foolish son is vexation to his father,
    and bitter sorrow to her who bore him.
26 It is wrong to fine an innocent person,
    but beyond reason to scourge nobles.
27 Those who spare their words are truly knowledgeable,
    and those who are discreet are intelligent.
28 Even fools, keeping silent, are considered wise;
    if they keep their lips closed, intelligent.[aq]

Chapter 18

One who is alienated seeks a pretext,
    with all persistence picks a quarrel.
Fools take no delight in understanding,
    but only in displaying what they think.[ar]
With wickedness comes contempt,
    and with disgrace, scorn.
The words of one’s mouth are deep waters,
    the spring of wisdom, a running brook.[as]
It is not good to favor the guilty,
    nor to reject the claim of the just.
The lips of fools walk into a fight,
    and their mouths are asking for a beating.[at]
The mouths of fools are their ruin;
    their lips are a deadly snare.
The words of a talebearer are like dainty morsels:
    they sink into one’s inmost being.
Those slack in their work
    are kin to the destroyer.
10 [au]The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
    the just run to it and are safe.
11 The wealth of the rich is their strong city;
    they fancy it a high wall.
12 Before disaster the heart is haughty,
    but before honor is humility.
13 Whoever answers before listening,
    theirs is folly and shame.[av]
14 One’s spirit supports one when ill,
    but a broken spirit who can bear?[aw]
15 The heart of the intelligent acquires knowledge,
    and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.[ax]
16 Gifts clear the way for people,
    winning access to the great.
17 Those who plead the case first seem to be in the right;
    then the opponent comes and cross-examines them.[ay]
18 The lot puts an end to disputes,
    and decides a controversy between the mighty.[az]
19 A brother offended is more unyielding than a stronghold;
    such strife is more daunting than castle gates.[ba]
20 With the fruit of one’s mouth one’s belly is filled,
    with the produce of one’s lips one is sated.[bb]
21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue;
    those who choose one shall eat its fruit.[bc]
22 To find a wife is to find happiness,
    a favor granted by the Lord.
23 The poor implore,
    but the rich answer harshly.
24 There are friends who bring ruin,
    but there are true friends more loyal than a brother.

Chapter 19

Better to be poor and walk in integrity
    than rich and crooked in one’s ways.
Desire without knowledge is not good;
    and whoever acts hastily, blunders.[bd]
Their own folly leads people astray;
    in their hearts they rage against the Lord.[be]
Wealth adds many friends,
    but the poor are left friendless.
The false witness will not go unpunished,
    and whoever utters lies will not escape.[bf]
Many curry favor with a noble;
    everybody is a friend of a gift giver.
All the kin of the poor despise them;
    how much more do their friends shun them![bg]
Those who gain sense truly love themselves;
    those who preserve understanding will find success.[bh]
The false witness will not go unpunished,
    and whoever utters lies will perish.
10 Luxury is not befitting a fool;
    much less should a slave rule over princes.
11 It is good sense to be slow to anger,
    and an honor to overlook an offense.[bi]
12 The king’s wrath is like the roar of a lion,
    but his favor, like dew on the grass.[bj]
13 The foolish son is ruin to his father,
    and a quarrelsome wife is water constantly dripping.[bk]
14 Home and possessions are an inheritance from parents,
    but a prudent wife is from the Lord.
15 Laziness brings on deep sleep,
    and the sluggard goes hungry.
16 Those who keep commands keep their lives,
    but those who despise these ways will die.
17 Whoever cares for the poor lends to the Lord,
    who will pay back the sum in full.
18 Discipline your son, for there is hope;
    but do not be intent on his death.[bl]
19 A wrathful person bears the penalty;
    after one rescue, you will have it to do again.
20 Listen to counsel and receive instruction,
    that you may eventually become wise.
21 Many are the plans of the human heart,
    but it is the decision of the Lord that endures.
22 What is desired of a person is fidelity;
    rather be poor than a liar.[bm]
23 The fear of the Lord leads to life;
    one eats and sleeps free from any harm.
24 The sluggard buries a hand in the dish;
    not even lifting it to the mouth.
25 Beat a scoffer and the naive learn a lesson;
    rebuke the intelligent and they gain knowledge.
26 Whoever mistreats a father or drives away a mother,
    is a shameless and disgraceful child.[bn]
27 My son, stop attending to correction;
    start straying from words of knowledge.[bo]
28 An unprincipled witness scoffs at justice,
    and the mouth of the wicked pours out iniquity.
29 Rods are prepared for scoffers,
    and blows for the backs of fools.

Chapter 20

Wine is arrogant, strong drink is riotous;
    none who are intoxicated by them are wise.[bp]
The terror of a king is like the roar of a lion;
    those who incur his anger forfeit their lives.
A person gains honor by avoiding strife,
    while every fool starts a quarrel.[bq]
In seedtime sluggards do not plow;
    when they look for the harvest, it is not there.
The intention of the human heart is deep water,
    but the intelligent draw it forth.[br]
Many say, “My loyal friend,”
    but who can find someone worthy of trust?
The just walk in integrity;
    happy are their children after them!
A king seated on the throne of judgment
    dispels all evil with his glance.[bs]
Who can say, “I have made my heart clean,
    I am cleansed of my sin”?[bt]
10 Varying weights, varying measures,
    are both an abomination to the Lord.
11 In their actions even children can playact
    though their deeds be blameless and right.[bu]
12 The ear that hears, the eye that sees—
    the Lord has made them both.[bv]
13 Do not love sleep lest you be reduced to poverty;
    keep your eyes open, have your fill of food.
14 “Bad, bad!” says the buyer,
    then goes away only to boast.[bw]
15 One can put on gold and abundant jewels,
    but wise lips are the most precious ornament.[bx]
16 Take the garment of the one who became surety for a stranger;
    if for foreigners, exact the pledge![by]
17 Bread earned by deceit is sweet,
    but afterward the mouth is filled with gravel.
18 Plans made with advice succeed;
    with wise direction wage your war.
19 A slanderer reveals secrets;
    so have nothing to do with a babbler!
20 Those who curse father or mother—
    their lamp will go out[bz] in the dead of night.
21 Possessions greedily guarded at the outset
    will not be blessed in the end.[ca]
22 Do not say, “I will repay evil!”
    Wait for the Lord, who will help you.[cb]
23 Varying weights are an abomination to the Lord,
    and false scales are not good.
24 Our steps are from the Lord;
    how, then, can mortals understand their way?[cc]
25 It is a trap to pledge rashly a sacred gift,
    and after a vow, then to reflect.[cd]
26 A wise king winnows the wicked,
    and threshes them under the cartwheel.[ce]
27 A lamp from the Lord is human life-breath;
    it searches through the inmost being.[cf]
28 His steadfast loyalty safeguards the king,
    and he upholds his throne by justice.
29 The glory of the young is their strength,
    and the dignity of the old is gray hair.
30 Evil is cleansed away by bloody lashes,
    and a scourging to the inmost being.

Chapter 21

A king’s heart is channeled water in the hand of the Lord;
    God directs it where he pleases.[cg]
All your ways may be straight in your own eyes,
    but it is the Lord who weighs hearts.
To do what is right and just
    is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.[ch]
Haughty eyes and a proud heart—
    the lamp of the wicked will fail.[ci]
The plans of the diligent end in profit,
    but those of the hasty end in loss.[cj]
Trying to get rich by lying
    is chasing a bubble over deadly snares.
The violence of the wicked will sweep them away,
    because they refuse to do what is right.
One’s path may be winding and unfamiliar,
    but one’s conduct is blameless and right.[ck]
It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop
    than in a mansion with a quarrelsome woman.[cl]
10 The soul of the wicked desires evil;
    their neighbor finds no pity in their eyes.
11 When scoffers are punished the naive become wise;
    when the wise succeed, they gain knowledge.
12 The Righteous One appraises the house of the wicked,
    bringing down the wicked to ruin.[cm]
13 Those who shut their ears to the cry of the poor
    will themselves call out and not be answered.
14 A secret gift allays anger,
    and a present concealed, violent wrath.[cn]
15 When justice is done it is a joy for the just,
    downfall for evildoers.[co]
16 Whoever strays from the way of good sense
    will abide in the assembly of the shades.[cp]
17 The lover of pleasure will suffer want;
    the lover of wine and perfume will never be rich.
18 The wicked serve as ransom for the just,
    and the faithless for the upright.[cq]
19 It is better to dwell in a wilderness
    than with a quarrelsome wife and trouble.
20 Precious treasure and oil are in the house of the wise,
    but the fool consumes them.
21 Whoever pursues justice and kindness
    will find life and honor.[cr]
22 The wise person storms the city of the mighty,
    and overthrows the stronghold in which they trust.
23 Those who guard mouth and tongue
    guard themselves[cs] from trouble.
24 Proud, boastful—scoffer is the name:
    those who act with overbearing pride.
25 The desire of sluggards will slay them,
    for their hands refuse to work.[ct]
26 Some are consumed with avarice all the day,
    but the just give unsparingly.
27 The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination,
    the more so when they offer it with bad intent.
28 The false witness will perish,
    but one who listens will give lasting testimony.
29 The face of the wicked hardens,
    but the upright maintains a straight course.[cu]
30 No wisdom, no understanding,
    no counsel prevail against the Lord.
31 The horse is equipped for the day of battle,
    but victory is the Lord’s.

Chapter 22

A good name is more desirable than great riches,
    and high esteem, than gold and silver.[cv]
Rich and poor have a common bond:
    the Lord is the maker of them all.
The astute see an evil and hide,
    while the naive continue on and pay the penalty.[cw]
The result of humility and fear of the Lord
    is riches, honor and life.[cx]
Thorns and snares are on the path of the crooked;
    those who would safeguard their lives will avoid them.
Train the young in the way they should go;
    even when old, they will not swerve from it.[cy]
The rich rule over the poor,
    and the borrower is the slave of the lender.[cz]
Those who sow iniquity reap calamity,
    and the rod used in anger will fail.[da]
The generous will be blessed,
    for they share their food with the poor.
10 Expel the arrogant and discord goes too;
    strife and insult cease.
11 The Lord loves the pure of heart;
    the person of winning speech has a king for a friend.
12 The eyes of the Lord watch over the knowledgeable,
    but he defeats the projects of the faithless.
13 The sluggard says, “A lion is outside;
    I might be slain in the street.”[db]
14 The mouth of the foreign woman is a deep pit;
    whoever incurs the Lord’s anger will fall into it.
15 Folly is bound to the heart of a youth,
    but the rod of discipline will drive it out.[dc]
16 Oppressing the poor for enrichment,
    giving to the rich: both are sheer loss.[dd]

IV. Sayings of the Wise[de]

17     The Words of the Wise:[df]
Incline your ear, and hear my words,
    and let your mind attend to my teaching;
18 For it will be well if you hold them within you,
    if they all are ready on your lips.
19 That your trust may be in the Lord,
    I make them known to you today—yes, to you.
20 Have I not written for you thirty sayings,
    containing counsels and knowledge,
21 To teach you truly
    how to give a dependable report to one who sends you?
22 Do not rob the poor because they are poor,
    nor crush the needy at the gate;[dg]
23 For the Lord will defend their cause,
    and will plunder those who plunder them.
24 Do not be friendly with hotheads,
    nor associate with the wrathful,
25 Lest you learn their ways,
    and become ensnared.
26 Do not be one of those who give their hand in pledge,
    those who become surety for debts;
27 For if you are unable to pay,
    your bed will be taken from under you.[dh]
28 Do not remove the ancient landmark[di]
    that your ancestors set up.
29 Do you see those skilled at their work?
    They will stand in the presence of kings,
    but not in the presence of the obscure.


  1. 15:1–7 These verses form a section beginning and ending with the topic of words.
  2. 15:1 Paradoxically, where words are concerned soft is powerful and hard is ineffective.
  3. 15:5 One becomes wise by keeping and foolish by rejecting. One must accept the tradition of the community.
  4. 15:7 “Lips” and “heart” are a fixed pair, in Proverbs signifying, respectively, expression and source. The wise disseminate what they have in their heart, but the wicked are unsound even in the source of their words, their hearts.
  5. 15:10 Discipline, always a good thing in Proverbs, seems bad to those deliberately wandering from justice.
  6. 15:11 Sheol and Abaddon: terms for the abode of the dead, signifying the profound obscurity which is open nevertheless to the sight and power of God; cf. 27:20.
  7. 15:14 The contrasts include heart (organ of reflection) and mouth (organ of expression), and the wise and fools. One type feeds its mind with wisdom and the other feeds its face with folly.
  8. 15:15 Good heart does not refer to good intentions but to an instructed mind. Wisdom makes poverty not only bearable but even joyful like the joy of feast days.
  9. 15:16–17 The sages favor wealth over poverty—but not at any price; cf. Ps 37:16.
  10. 15:21 The word “joy” occurs in the first line of vv. 20, 21, and 23. The state of folly is joy to a fool but the wise person is totally absorbed in keeping on the right or straight road.
  11. 15:22 Failure to consult makes it likely a plan will not succeed. The point is nicely made by contrasting the singular number in the first line (“no counsel”) with the plural number in the second line (“many advisers”).
  12. 15:23 Conversation is the art of saying the right thing at the right time. It gives pleasure to speaker and hearer alike.
  13. 15:24 Death is personified as Sheol, the underworld. “Up” and “down” in Hebrew as in English are metaphors for success and failure (see Dt 28:43). One who stays on the path of life need not fear the punishment that stalks sinners.
  14. 15:26 “Pure” here means acceptable. The language of ritual (acceptable or pure) is applied to ordinary human actions. “Gracious words” are words that bring peace to the neighbor.
  15. 15:27 The same lesson as the opening scene of Proverbs (1:8–19): one cannot build a house by unjust gain. Injustice will come back upon a house so built.
  16. 15:31 To become wise, one must hear and integrate perspectives contrary to one’s own, which means accepting “reproof.” Wisdom does not isolate one but places one in the company of the wise.
  17. 16:1 Words, like actions, often produce results different from those which were planned, and this comes under the agency of God.
  18. 16:2 “Pure” in a moral sense for human action is found only in Job and Proverbs. As in v. 1, the contrast is between human intent and divine assessment.
  19. 16:4 Even the wicked do not lie outside God’s plan.
  20. 16:5 Proud heart: lit., “high of heart.” To forget one is a fallible human being is so basic an error that one cannot escape exposure and punishment.
  21. 16:6 As v. 5 used the language of worship to express what is acceptable or not to God, so this saying uses similar language to declare that lovingly loyal conduct undoes the effects of sin.
  22. 16:9 As in vv. 1–3, the antithesis is between human plans and divine disposal. The saying uses the familiar metaphor of path for the course of life.
  23. 16:10 Six sayings on the king and his divine authority begin here, following the series of sayings about the Lord’s governance in 15:33–16:9, in which “Lord” was mentioned nine times.
  24. 16:15 The last of six sayings about the king. In the previous verse, royal wrath means death; in this verse royal favor means life. It is significant that royal favor is compared to something not under human control—the clouds preceding the spring rains.
  25. 16:16 The point of comparison is the superiority of the pursuit of wisdom and gold, not the relative merits of wealth and wisdom.
  26. 16:17 In the metaphor of the two ways, the way of the righteous is protected and the way of the wicked is unprotected. Since the path of the righteous leads therefore away from trouble, one’s task is to stay on it, to “attend to” it.
  27. 16:26 The adage puzzled ancient and modern commentators. The meaning seems to state the paradox that a person does not toil to feed the gullet but that the gullet itself “toils” in the sense that it forces the person to work. As often in Proverbs, the sense organ stands for the faculty by metonymy. Cf. Eccl 6:7.
  28. 16:30 A restless or twitching eye or lip betrays the condition of the heart (cf. 6:13).
  29. 16:33 Dice were given meanings of “yes” or “no” and then cast for their answer. What came out was the decision. Here the saying interprets the sequence of actions: a human being puts the dice in the bag but what emerges from the bag is the Lord’s decision.
  30. 17:1 A “better than” saying, stating the circumstances when a dry crust is better than a banquet. Peace and fellowship give joy to a meal, not the richness of the food. For a similar thought, see 15:16 and 16:8.
  31. 17:2 Ability is esteemed more highly than ties of blood.
  32. 17:8 An observation on the effect of the bribe upon the bribe-giver: it gives an intoxicating feeling of power (“seems”). In v. 23 the evil effects of a bribe are noted.
  33. 17:9 A paradox. One finds (love, friend) by concealing (an offense), one loses (a friend) by revealing (a secret). In 10:12 love also covers over a multitude of offenses.
  34. 17:10 A wonderful comment on the openness and sensitivity of the wise and the foolish. One type learns from a single word and for the other one hundred blows are not enough.
  35. 17:11 The irony is that such people will meet up with what they so energetically pursue—in the form of an unrelenting emissary sent to them.
  36. 17:12 Humorous hyperbole. An outraged dangerous beast poses less danger than a fool.
  37. 17:13 The paradox is that to pay out evil for good means that the evil will never leave one’s own house.
  38. 17:16 The exhortation to acquire or purchase wisdom is common in Proverbs. Fools misunderstand the metaphor, assuming they can buy it with money. Their very misunderstanding shows they have no “heart” = mind, understanding. Money in the hand is no good without such a “heart” to store it in.
  39. 17:19 Build their gate high: a symbol of arrogance.
  40. 17:20 The saying employs the familiar metaphors of walking = conducting oneself (“fall into trouble”), and of straight and crooked = right and wrong (“perverse,” “double-tongued”).
  41. 17:23 A sharp look at the sly withdrawing of a bribe from the pocket and a blunt judgment on its significance.
  42. 17:24 Wisdom is visible on the countenance (i.e., mouth, lips, tongue) of the wise person; its ultimate source is the heart. Fools have no such source of wisdom within them, a point that is nicely made by referring to the eye of the fool, roving over the landscape.
  43. 17:28 Related to v. 27. Words provide a glimpse into the heart. In the unlikely event that fools, who usually pour out words (15:2), were to say nothing, people would not be able to see their folly and would presume them intelligent. Alas, the saying is contrary to fact.
  44. 18:2 One grows in wisdom by listening to others, but fools take delight in expounding the contents of their minds.
  45. 18:4 Words express a person’s thoughts (“deep waters”), which in turn become accessible to others. Cf. 20:5a.
  46. 18:6 The bold personification of lips and mouth is similar to Ps 73:9, “They set their mouths against the heavens, their tongues roam the earth.” Careless words can lead one into serious trouble.
  47. 18:10–11 Contrast this judgment with the observation in 10:15.
  48. 18:13 To speak without first listening is characteristic of a fool; cf. 10:14; Sir 11:8.
  49. 18:14 The paradox is that something as slight as a column of air offers protection against the encroachment of death. If it is stilled, nothing, no matter how powerful, can substitute for it.
  50. 18:15 “Knowledge” here refers to what one knows, not knowledge in itself. The mind acquires and stores it, the ear strains toward it.
  51. 18:17 A persuasive speech in court can easily make one forget there is another side to the question. When the other party speaks, people realize they made a premature judgment. The experience at court is a lesson for daily life: there are two sides to every question.
  52. 18:18 See note on 16:33.
  53. 18:19 The Greek version, followed by several ancient versions, has the opposite meaning: “A brother helped by a brother is like a strong and lofty city; it is strong like a well-founded palace.” The Greek is secondary as is shown by the need to supply the phrase “by a brother”; further, the parallelism is inadequate. The Hebrew is to be preferred.
  54. 18:20 Fruit from the earth is our ordinary sustenance, but “the fruit of one’s lips,” i.e., our words, also affect our well-being. If our words and our deeds are right, then we are blessed, our “belly is filled.”
  55. 18:21 This enigmatic saying has provoked many interpretations, e.g., judicious speech brings a reward; those who love the tongue in the sense of rattling on must face the consequences of their loquacity. This translation interprets the verb “love” in colon B in its occasional sense of “choose” (e.g., 12:1; 20:13; Dt 4:37) and interprets its pronominal object as referring to both death and life in colon A. Death and life are set before every person (cf. Dt 30:15–20) and we have the power to choose either one by the quality of our deeds. Words (= “the tongue”) are regarded here as the defining actions of human beings.
  56. 19:2 When not guided by wisdom, appetite—or desire—is not good. “Running feet” (so the Hebrew) miss the mark, i.e., do not reach their destination.
  57. 19:3 One’s own folly destroys one’s life. It is an indication of that folly that one blames God rather than oneself.
  58. 19:5 The punishment fits the crime: those who abuse the legal system will be punished by the same system. They will not be acquitted.
  59. 19:7 Closely related to vv. 4 and 6. An observation, not without sympathy, on the social isolation of poor people.
  60. 19:8 Wisdom benefits the one who practices it.
  61. 19:11 The paradox is that one obtains one thing by giving up another.
  62. 19:12 An observation on the exercise of royal power. Both images suggest royal attitudes are beyond human control. Colon A is a variant of 20:2a and colon B of 16:15b.
  63. 19:13 One of many sayings about domestic happiness. The perspective is male; the two greatest pains to a father is a malicious son and an unsuitable wife. The immediately following saying is on the noble wife, perhaps to make a positive statement about women.
  64. 19:18 The pain of disciplining the young cannot be compared with the danger no discipline may bring. The chief reason for disciplining the young is their capacity to change; excluded thereby are revenge and punishment.
  65. 19:22 The proverb has been read in two ways: (1) “Desire (greed) is a shame to a person,” which assumes the rare Hebrew word for “shame” is being used; (2) “What is desired in a person is fidelity.” The second interpretation is preferable. The context may be the court: better to forego money (a bribe) than perjure oneself.
  66. 19:26 Children who disgrace the family equivalently plunder their father’s wealth and expel their mother from the home.
  67. 19:27 The meaning was disputed even in antiquity. The interpretation that most respects the syntax is to take it as ironic advice as in 22:6: to stop (listening) is to go (wandering).
  68. 20:1 The cause stands for its effect (wine, drunken behavior). In Proverbs wine is a sign of prosperity and a symbol of feasting (3:10; 4:17; 9:2, 5) but also a potential threat to wisdom as in 20:1; 21:17; 23:29–35.
  69. 20:3 The honor that one might seek to gain from fighting comes of itself to the person who refrains from fighting.
  70. 20:5 The heart is where human plans are made and stored; they remain “deep water” until words reveal them to others. The wise know how to draw up those waters, i.e., express them. Cf. 18:4.
  71. 20:8 The royal throne is established in justice and the king is the agent of that justice.
  72. 20:9 A claim to sinlessness can be merely self-deception; see 16:2; cf. also 15:11.
  73. 20:11 The verb in colon A can mean either “to make oneself known” or “to play another person” (as in Gn 42:7 and 1 Kgs 14:5, 6). The second meaning makes a better parallel to colon B. The meaning is that if a child can playact, an adult can do so even more. Actions do not always reveal character.
  74. 20:12 Human judgments are not ultimate; the Lord expects proper use of these faculties.
  75. 20:14 Bartering invites playacting and masking one’s true intent. The truth of words depends on their context.
  76. 20:15 Wisdom is said to be preferable to gold in 3:14; 8:10, 19; 16:16. Colon B suggests that the gold and jewelry here are ornaments for the face (cf. Gn 24:53; Ex 3:22; Is 61:10). Wise lips are the most beautiful adornment, for they display the wisdom of the heart.
  77. 20:16 The text is not clear. See 27:13. Caution in becoming surety is always advised (cf. 6:1–3), and it is especially advisable with strangers.
  78. 20:20 Their lamp will go out: misfortune, even death, awaits them; cf. 13:9; Ex 21:17.
  79. 20:21 By definition, an inheritance is not gained by one’s own efforts but is received as a gift. If, when one first receives the inheritance, one drives everyone away, one treats it as if one acquired it by one’s own efforts. In an agricultural society, an inheritance would often be a field that would require God’s blessing to be fertile.
  80. 20:22 Appointing oneself an agent of divine retribution is dangerous. Better to wait for God to effect justice. Cf. 24:17–18.
  81. 20:24 An indication of the Lord’s inscrutable providence; cf. Jer 10:23; see Prv 21:2; cf. also 14:12.
  82. 20:25 This verse cautions against making vows without proper reflection; cf. Dt 23:22–25; Eccl 5:4–5.
  83. 20:26 The king is responsible for effecting justice. Judgment is portrayed in agricultural imagery—exposing grain to a current of air so that the chaff is blown away, and passing a wheel over the cereal to break the husk. Winnowing as image for judgment is found throughout the Bible.
  84. 20:27 A parallel is drawn between the life-breath that is God’s gift (Jb 32:8; 33:2) coursing through the human body (Is 2:22) and the lamp of God, which can be a symbol of divine scrutiny. In Zep 1:12, God declares, “And in that day I will search through Jerusalem with lamps.”
  85. 21:1 “Channeled water” in Is 32:2 and Prv 5:16 is water that fertilizes arid land. It takes great skill to direct water, whether it be water to fertilize fields or cosmic floods harnessed at creation, for water is powerful and seems to have a mind of its own. It also requires great skill to direct the heart of a king, for it is inscrutable and beyond ordinary human control.
  86. 21:3 External rites or sacrifices do not please God unless accompanied by internal worship and right moral conduct; cf. 15:8; 21:27; Is 1:11–15; Am 5:22; Mal 1:12.
  87. 21:4 Heart and eyes depict, respectively, the inner and the outer person. “Haughty eyes” peering out from a “proud heart” show a thoroughly arrogant person. How can such a person flourish! Their lamp, which signifies life, will go out.
  88. 21:5 The antitheses are diligent and impetuous. The metaphor characterizing each type is taken from the world of commerce. Planning is important; bustle leads to waste.
  89. 21:8 One cannot always read others’ hearts from their behavior. Unconventional conduct need not indicate evil motives.
  90. 21:9 In Proverbs, two great obstacles to a happy household are foolish children and quarrelsome spouses. The nagging wife is also mentioned in 19:13 and 27:15; 25:24 is a duplicate.
  91. 21:12 It is difficult to ascertain the subject of the saying. Some hold it is the Lord, the “Righteous One,” who is normally the executor of justice in Proverbs. Others believe it is the just person who is the agent of divine justice. “Righteous One” is a title for God in Is 24:16. The best argument for making God the subject of the verb is that elsewhere in Proverbs righteous human beings never do anything to the wicked; only God does.
  92. 21:14 Proverbs offers several remedies for anger—a soft word (15:1), patience, and a bribe. The last remedy implies a certain disdain for the disordered passion of anger, for it can be so easily assuaged by a discreetly offered “gift.”
  93. 21:15 The second line is a duplicate of 10:29b.
  94. 21:16 Assembly of the shades: those who dwell in Sheol.
  95. 21:18 In this bold paradox, the ransom that protects the righteous is the wicked person who attracts, like a lightning rod, the divine wrath that might have been directed at the righteous.
  96. 21:21 The paradox is that one comes upon something other than what one pursued. The way to (long and healthy) life and honor is the vigorous pursuit of virtue.
  97. 21:23 Themselves: see note on 13:3. To guard your “self” (lit., “throat,” the moist and breathing center of the body, by metonymy, “life”), you must guard your tongue. Speech in Proverbs is the quintessential human activity and often has a meaning broader than speech alone; it can stand for all human activity. Acting rightly is the best way to protect yourself from evil.
  98. 21:25 Desire, or appetite, is the impulse toward food and drink (see Ps 42:3) which spurs animals and human beings into action. But sluggards cannot lift hand to mouth; they bury their hand in the dish (19:24), and so their appetite is thwarted.
  99. 21:29 The wicked cannot deter the righteous from walking the straight path, i.e., from practicing virtue.
  100. 22:1 “Good name” (Heb. shem) and “high esteem” (Heb. chen) are declared to be of more value than great riches. Human beings belong to a community and without the acceptance of that community, which is built on esteem and trust, human life is grievously damaged. Riches are less essential to the human spirit.
  101. 22:3 The wise see dangers before they are engulfed by them whereas fools, through dullness or boldness, march right on.
  102. 22:4 Humiliation can be an occasion for knowing one’s place in God’s world. Such knowledge is part of fear (or revering) of the Lord. Revering the Lord brings the blessings of wealth, honor, and long life. The saying is perhaps meant to counter the view that humiliation is an unmixed evil; something good can come of it.
  103. 22:6 One of the few exhortations in the collection (cf. 14:7; 16:3; 19:18, 20). “Way” in the first colon has been taken in two different senses: (1) the morally right way, “according to the way one ought to go”; (2) personal aptitude, i.e., the manner of life for which one is destined, as “the way of Egypt” (Is 10:24). Neither interpretation, however, accounts for the pronoun in the Hebrew phrase, lit., “his own way.” The most natural solution is to take the whole as ironic advice (like 19:27): yes, go ahead and let the young do exactly what they want; they will become self-willed adults.
  104. 22:7 An observation on money and power. One who borrows becomes poor in the sense of indebted, a slave to the lender.
  105. 22:8 Agricultural metaphors express the failure of malicious actions. In the first line, bad actions are seeds yielding trouble. In the second line, “the rod” is a flail used to beat grains as in Is 28:27.
  106. 22:13 To avoid the effort required for action, the sluggard exaggerates the difficulties that must be overcome.
  107. 22:15 Folly is attached to children as the husk is attached to the grain. “Rod” here, as in v. 8, seems to be the flail. Discipline is the process of winnowing away the folly.
  108. 22:16 A difficult saying. One possibility is to take it as a seemingly neutral observation on the plight of the poor: taking money from the poor is relatively easy for the powerful but it is dangerous as the poor have the Lord as their defender (24:22–23), who will punish their oppressors. Giving to the rich, perhaps to win their favor by presents and bribes, is equally a waste of money, for the rich will always do what they please in any case.
  109. 22:17–24:22

    This collection consists of an introduction (22:17–21) urging openness and stating the purpose of the Words and diverse admonitions, aphorisms, and counsels. It is written with faith in the Lord, shrewdness, and a satirical eye. The first part seems aimed at young people intent on a career (22:22–23:11); the second is taken up with the concerns of youth (23:12–35); the third part is interested in the ultimate fate of the good and the wicked (24:1–22). The whole can be described as a guidebook of professional ethics. The aim is to inculcate trust in the Lord and to help readers avoid trouble and advance their careers by living according to wisdom. Its outlook is very practical: avoid bad companions because in time you will take on some of their qualities; do not post bond for others because you yourself will be encumbered; do not promote yourself too aggressively because such promotion is self-defeating; do not abuse sex or alcohol because they will harm you; do not emulate your peers if they are wicked (23:14; 24:1, 19) because such people have no future. Rather, trust the vocation of a sage (22:29–23:9).

    The Egyptian Instructions of Amenemope (written ca. 1100 B.C.) was discovered in 1923. Scholars immediately recognized it as a source of Prv 22:17–23:11. The Egyptian work has thirty chapters (cf. Prv 22:20); its preface resembled Prv 22:17–21; its first two admonitions matched the first two in Proverbs (Prv 22:22–25). There are many other resemblances as well, some of which are pointed out in the notes. The instruction of a father to his son (or an administrator to his successor) was a well-known genre in Egypt; seventeen works are extant, spanning the period from 2500 B.C. to the first century A.D. The instructions aimed to help a young person live a happy and prosperous life and avoid mistakes that cause difficulties. They make concrete and pragmatic suggestions rather than hold up abstract ideals. Pragmatic though they were, the instructions were religious; they assumed that the gods implanted an order in the world (Egyptian maat), which is found both in nature and in the human world. Amenemope represents a stage in the development of the Egyptian genre, displaying a new inwardness and quest for serenity while still assuming that the practice of virtue brings worldly success. Proverbs borrows from the Egyptian work with great freedom: it does not, for example, import as such the Egyptian concept of order; it engages the reader with its characteristic wit, irony, and paradox (e.g., 22:26–27; 23:1–3).

  110. 22:17–23:35 The maxims warn against: robbing the poor and defenseless (22:22–23), anger (22:24–25), giving surety for debts (22:26–27), advancing oneself by socializing with rulers (23:1–2), anxiety for riches (23:4–5), forcing oneself on a grudging host (23:6–8), intemperance in food and drink (23:19–21, 29–35), and adultery (23:26–28). They exhort to: careful workmanship (22:29), respect for the rights of orphans (23:10–11), correction of the young (23:13–14), filial piety (23:15–16, 22–25), and fear of the Lord (23:17–18).
  111. 22:22 At the gate: of the city, where justice was administered and public affairs discussed; cf. Ru 4:1. Cf. also Ps 69:13; 127:5; Prv 24:7; 31:23, 31. The Lord will personally avenge those who have no one to defend them.
  112. 22:27 Providing surety for a debtor puts one in danger of having the very basics of one’s life suddenly seized.
  113. 22:28 Landmark: marks the boundary of property. To remove it is the equivalent of stealing land. A similar warning is contained in 23:10.
New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.


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