14 Starting a quarrel[a] is like letting out water;[b] abandon strife before it breaks out![c]
Proverbs 17:14tnHeb “the beginning of a quarrel”; TEV, CEV “The start of an argument.”
Proverbs 17:14tnHeb “Someone who releases water is the beginning of a quarrel.” The Hebrew order typically places the subject, “beginning,” second. This phrase is a metaphor, but most English versions have made it a simile (supplying “like” or “as”). R. N. Whybray makes it the subject of the clause: “stealing water starts a quarrel” (Proverbs [CBC], 100). But this treats the participle as an infinitive and there is no indication that the verb means “to steal,” for which there are clearer words. Keil and Delitzsch interpret it personally “one who breaks through a water-dam… opens a sluice” (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament 6, 362). “Opening such a sluice lets loose more than one can predict, control or retreive” (Kidner, Proverbs [TOTC], 125).tc The LXX has “Giving authority to words is the beginning of strife.” This would make it a warning against thoughtless talk.
Proverbs 17:14tn Or “Forsake [it] before strife breaks out.” The Masoretic tradition takes “strife” as the object of the imperative verb, but it could also be a subjective genitive following the infinitive “to break out.” The verb גָּלַע (galaʿ) occurs only in the Hitpael, meaning “to quarrel; to break out.”
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