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Proverbs 1:5-7 New English Translation (NET Bible)

(Let the wise also[a] hear[b] and gain[c] instruction,
and let the discerning[d] acquire guidance![e])
To discern[f] the meaning of[g] a proverb and a parable,[h]
the sayings of the wise[i] and their riddles.[j]

Introduction to the Theme of the Book

Fearing the Lord[k] is the beginning[l] of discernment,[m]
but[n] fools[o] have despised[p] wisdom and moral instruction.[q]


  1. Proverbs 1:5 tn The term “also” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation since the audience has shifted from the young and inexperienced to those already having some wisdom. As such v. 5 functions as a parenthesis in the purpose statements of 1:1-7. The book is not just for beginners; even the wise can become wiser.
  2. Proverbs 1:5 tn The verb יִשְׁמַע (yishmaʿ) functions as a jussive (rather than a imperfect, “he will hear”) as supported in conjunction with the following jussive וְיוֹסֶף (veyosef, “Let him add” or “so that he may add”).
  3. Proverbs 1:5 tn Heb “add.” Or “increase” in insight. The Hiphil verb וְיוֹסֶף (veyosef) is a jussive rather than an imperfect as the final short vowel (segol) and accent on the first syllable shows (BDB 415 s.v. יָסַף Hiph).
  4. Proverbs 1:5 tn The Niphal substantival participle נָבוֹן (navon, “discerning”), rather than the noun, is used to describe a person who is habitually characterized by discernment. 1:5 forms a striking contrast to 1:4—there was the simpleton and the youth, here the wise and discerning. Both need this book.
  5. Proverbs 1:5 tn The noun תַּחְבֻּלָה (takhbulah, “direction; counsel”) refers to moral guidance (BDB 287 s.v.). It is related to חֹבֵל (khovel, “sailor”), חִבֵּל (khibbel, “mast”) and חֶבֶל (khevel, “rope; cord”), so BDB suggests it originally meant directing a ship by pulling ropes on the mast. It is used in a concrete sense of God directing the path of clouds (Job 37:12) and in a figurative sense of moral guidance (Prov 11:14; 20:18; 24:6). Here it refers to the ability to steer a right course through life (A. Cohen, Proverbs, 2).
  6. Proverbs 1:6 tn The infinitive construct with ל (lamed) means “to discern” and introduces the fifth purpose of the book. It focuses on the benefits of proverbs from the perspective of the reader. By studying proverbs the reader will discern the hermeneutical key to understanding more and more proverbs.
  7. Proverbs 1:6 tn The phrase “the meaning of” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is implied; it is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.
  8. Proverbs 1:6 tn The noun מְלִיצָה (melitsah) means “allusive expression; enigma” in general, and “proverb, parable” in particular (BDB 539; HALOT 590). The related noun מֵלִיץ (melits) means “interpreter” (Gen 42:23). The related Arabic root means “to turn aside,” so this Hebrew term might refer to a saying that has a “hidden meaning” to its words; see H. N. Richardson, “Some Notes on לִיץ and Its Derivatives,” VT 5 (1955): 163-79.
  9. Proverbs 1:6 tn This line functions in apposition to the preceding, further explaining the phrase “a proverb and a parable.”
  10. Proverbs 1:6 tn The noun חִידָה (khidah, “riddle”) designates enigmatic sayings whose meaning is obscure or hidden, such as a riddle (Num 12:8; Judg 14:12, 19), allegory (Ezek 17:2), perplexing moral problem (Pss 49:5; 78:2), perplexing question (1 Kgs 10:1 = 2 Chr 9:1) or ambiguous saying (Dan 8:23); see BDB 295 s.v. and HALOT 309 s.v. If this is related to Arabic hada (“to turn aside, avoid”), it refers to sayings whose meanings are obscure. The sayings of the wise often take the form of riddles that must be discerned.
  11. Proverbs 1:7 tn Heb “fear of the Lord.” In this expression (יִרְאַת יְהוָה, yirʾat yehvah) “the Lord” functions as an objective genitive. He is the object of fear and wonder. The term יִרְאָה(yirʾah) comes from the root יָרֵא (yareʾ), the common root for fear in the OT which has a basic three-fold range of meanings: (1) “be in dread or terror” (Deut 1:29; Jonah 1:10), (2) “to stand in awe” (1 Kgs 3:28), (3) “to revere; to respect” (Lev 19:3). With the Lord as the object, it captures the tension of shrinking back in fear and drawing close in awe and adoration. Both categories of meaning appear in Exod 20:20 (where the Lord descended upon Sinai amidst geophysical convulsions). Moses encouraged the Israelites to not be afraid of God striking them dead for no reason (“Do not fear!”) but informed the people that the Lord revealed himself in such a terrifying manner to scare them from sinning (“God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him in you so that you do not sin”). The fear of the Lord is expressed in reverential submission to his will—the characteristic of true worship. The fear of the Lord is the foundation for wisdom (9:10) and the discipline leading to wisdom (15:33). It is expressed in hatred of evil (8:13) and avoidance of sin (16:6), and so results in prolonged life (10:27; 19:23).
  12. Proverbs 1:7 tn The noun רֵאשִׁית (reʾshit) has a two-fold range of meaning (BDB 912 s.v.): (1) “beginning” = first step in a course of action (e.g., Ps 111:10; Prov 17:14; Mic 1:13) or (2) “chief thing” as the principal aspect of something (e.g., Prov 4:7). So fearing the Lord is either (1) the first step in acquiring moral knowledge or (2) the most important aspect of moral knowledge. The first option is preferred because 1:2-6 focuses on the acquisition of wisdom.
  13. Proverbs 1:7 tn Heb “knowledge.” The noun דָּעַת (daʿat, “knowledge”) refers to experiential knowledge, not just cognitive knowledge, including the intellectual assimilation and practical application (BDB 394). It is also used in v. 4 with the nuance “discernment” and the variation of this motto in Prov 9:10 substitutes חָכְמָה (khokhmah, “wisdom, moral skill”) at this point.
  14. Proverbs 1:7 tn The conjunction “but” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is implied by the antithetical parallelism. It is supplied in the translation for clarity. Note, however that the Hebrew word order is “wisdom and instruction—fools have despised.” Without a conjunction the clash or contrast is held poetically until the end.
  15. Proverbs 1:7 tn The term אֱוִיל (ʾevil, “fool”) refers to a person characterized by moral folly (BDB 17 s.v.). Fools lack understanding (10:21), do not store up knowledge (10:14), fail to attain wisdom (24:7), and refuse correction (15:5; 27:22). They are arrogant (26:5), talk loosely (14:3) and are contentious (20:3). They might have mental intelligence but they are morally foolish. In sum, they are stubborn and “thick-brained” (J. H. Greenstone, Proverbs, 6).
  16. Proverbs 1:7 tn The verb בָּזָה (bazah, “despise”) means to treat things of value with contempt, as if they were worthless (BDB 102 s.v.). The classic example is Esau who despised his birthright and sold it for lentil stew (Gen 25:34). The perfect verb places the life that fools have lived in contrast with the beginning of moral knowledge. Here is the way of wisdom; fools have gone a different way. Now by implication—what is your choice? The translation of the perfect verb depends on whether the verb’s root is stative or dynamic. Stative verbs (verbs that describe a state) may be present time in the perfect and so can have gnomic force (cf. KJV, NASB, ESV, NIV). Dynamic verbs (verbs that describe actions) in the Hebrew perfect form are past or perfective. They may describe a past action which is prototypical of ongoing behavior. This type of root does not have a morphological test to distinguish if it is stative or dynamic. But the meaning “to treat with” despite suggests that it is dynamic, making the perfective translation “have despised” preferred.
  17. Proverbs 1:7 sn Heb “wisdom and instruction fools have despised.” Placing “wisdom and moral instruction” first makes this the focus. The reader is not asked to think primarily about the nature of fools but about the choice regarding wisdom. The pair of terms echoes v. 2a, perhaps forming an inclusio.
New English Translation (NET)

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