Brit-Am/Hebrew Nations Notes and Commentary
Proverbs 20:1-3 Stay in Control of Yourself!
1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler,
and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.
Scoffing is the wine, strong drink a ruckus maker,
All who stray through it will not gain wisdom.
The Sages said that small amounts of wine may be efficacious but drunkenness should be avoided.
Women especially should avoid alcohol.
2 The dread anger of a king is like the growling of a lion;
anyone who provokes him to anger forfeits life itself.
Like the growling of a young lion should the awe of the king be,
Whosoever trangresses it forfeits his life.
3 It is honourable to refrain from strife,
but every fool is quick to quarrel.
It is honorable for a man to refrain from quarrelling,
but every feckless fool exposes his own vulnerability.
Comment: When one quarrels and becomes angry it is common to loose control.
When is then liable to say or do things you would not want to and to pay dearly afterwards.
The common theme of the above three verses seems to be that one should endeavor to remain master of onesef.
Do not take drink or drugs etc that cause you to act as you would not usually want to.
Do not provoke someone who is more powerful than you especially not whom you are obliged to obey.
Do not put yourself in situations where you are liable to loose control of yourself and therefore of what happens afterwards.
Proverbs 20:4-7 In Praise of Faith and Innocence
4 The lazy person does not plough in season;
harvest comes, and there is nothing to be found.
This is a fault we all have to some degree.
We tend to put off what should be done and occupy ourselves with other matters that may also be important but are probably less pressing.
So too, metaphorically we should take heed as to what is really important in life and do what we can about it now.
5 The purposes in the human mind are like deep water,
but the intelligent will draw them out.
The word translated above as "the intelligent" is "ish tevunah" literally connoting a man of understanding.
This is a difficult sentence. Let us translate it a little more literally and see what we have.
Deep waters is advice in the heart of a man; a man of understanding will draw it out.
Often times we have problems. The answers may be somewhere within ourselves or the surroundings.
It may take a little soul-searching or hunting around but the answer is often there. It may reveal itself bit by bit or all at once.
6 Many proclaim themselves loyal,
but who can find one worthy of trust?
The above is one possibility of understanding the Hebrew.
An alternative is provided by the Gra (Eliyahu of Vilna):
Many people will be drawn to a man who does good but a man who can be trusted who can find?
7 The righteous walk in integrity
happy are the children who follow them!
ALTERNATELY, from the Hebrew:
The righteous goes about in his innocence, happy are his sons who follow after him.
The word translated as his innocence is "TUMO" from the root "tam".
This connotes innocence, integrity, wholeness.
It also indicates a lack of sophistication, without guile.
We all met a few people like this in our school days or in other places. They are rare but they exist.
They sometimes tended to be too good to be true, over-trusting and believing and easily taken in but never seeming sullied because of it.
We may have looked at them with a curious mixture of contempt, pity, and envy.
In the long run they were usually the ones who succeeded in living good, happy lives, and leaving all the others far behind.
Proverbs 20: 8-9 Need to Correct Ourselves as we can.
8 A king who sits on the throne of judgement
winnows all evil with his eyes.
The word translated above as "winnows" is mazarey which more correctly means spread out though it may also have a secondary meaning of winnowing.
The King mentioned here is understand to mean the Almighty judging the world.
The KING here apparently means God.
God sees everything.
We cannot deny what we have or where we have come short.
If a monarch [ruler, overseer] of flesh and blood were to know about us and we knew they did then we would not have the effrontery to deny it to ourselves.
This holds even more strongly in the case of God who definitely knows better than we ourselves do, what we are
God sees everything.
9 Who can say, 'I have made my heart clean;
I am pure from my sin'?
This verse could also be rendered as:
Who can say I have cleansed my heart, I am purified from my sins.
This is also more logical. Not many would seriously think themselves to have always done the right thing.
We do however tend to assume that whatever bad we may have done in the past is behinds us and that we will not be judged because of it.
This brings us back to the previous verse (20:8): Evil being spread out and judged means that what we have done in the past and what we are now in the eyes of the Almighty
is still in the here and now. For God there is no past and present in our sense.
We must keep our eyes and hearts open and correct ourselves as we can.
Proverbs 20: 10-12 Sensitivity
10 Diverse weights and diverse measures
are both alike an abomination to the Lord.
The word used here for weight (and meaning stone) in Hebrew is "even". The Hebrews used stones as weights. Two things of the same weight were "even".
The English word "even" meaning "level, equal" etc probably comes from this source.
cf. Conventional etymology
Old English efen "level," also "equal, like; calm, harmonious; equally; quite, fully; namely," from Proto-Germanic *ebnaz (cognates: Old Saxon eban, Old Frisian even "level, plain, smooth," Dutch even, Old High German eban, German eben, Old Norse jafn, Danish jaevn, Gothic ibns). The adverb is Old English efne "exactly, just, likewise." Modern adverbial sense (introducing an extreme case of something more generally implied) seems to have arisen 16c. from use of the word to emphasize identity ("Who, me?" "Even you").
Etymologists are uncertain whether the original sense was "level" or "alike." Used extensively in Old English compounds, with a sense of "fellow, co-" (as in efeneald "of the same age;" Middle English even-sucker "foster-brother"). Of numbers, from 1550s. Sense of "on an equal footing" is from 1630s. Rhyming reduplication phrase even steven is attested from 1866; even break (n.) first recorded 1907. Even-tempered from 1712. To get even with "retaliate upon" is attested by 1833.
Old English efnan "to make even, to make level; liken, compare" (see even (adj.)). Intransitive sense of "become even" is attested from early 13c. Related: Evened; evening.
We should not be prejudiced against others.
We should also be fair.
As grown-ups we have probably learned to live with occasional injustices and being discriminated against from time to time.
This is life. We ourselves may well make mistakes in such matters without realizing it.
Children however are much more sensitive in these matters.
Educators and parents should be especially careful to treat all their charges equally.
It may be impossible to be equally good to them all. Nevertheless, at the least try not to punish or rebuke one more than another when they are both culpable.
On top of that by trying to be good and likeable in general our other shortcomings may be overlooked.
11 Even children make themselves known by their acts,
by whether what they do is pure and right.
There is much truth in this.
Parents especially should be allowed as much leeway as possible in deciding how to raise their children.
The parent might recognize in their offspring tendencies that they have in themselves and that outsiders overlook.
One would think that this is obvious but it is not.
12 The hearing ear and the seeing eye,
the Lord has made them both
God sees and hears everything.
HE also gave us the ability to see and hear.
We should be sensitive towards our surroundings.
Proverbs 20: 13-15 Keep Your Eyes Open!
13 Do not love sleep, or else you will come to poverty;
open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread.
If you sleep instead of working you will not earn anything.
This is obvious. By extension however it means that when there is a problem and something needs to be done do not hold yourself back. Do what you can. In most cases this should prove to be more than enough.
14 'Bad, bad', says the buyer,
then goes away and boasts.
Someone who wants something from you may belittle the cost to yourself.
Alternately, when one needs to achieve something the effort may make it seem hardly worth it. Once the gain is gotten however we exult.
Rashi applies this point to learning the Torah.
15 There is gold, and abundance of costly stones;
but the lips informed by knowledge are a precious jewel.
We value gold and jewels. There are quite a lot of these in the world though not necessarily in the pockets of us all.
The Hebrew word translated above as knowledge is Daat. This means KNOWING.
Someone who really knows something and can express it may be harder to find than a bag of diamonds on a rainy day.
We should value knowledge in the sense of KNOWING when we come across it.
New Psychological Findings confirm the Message of the Biblical Book of Proverbs written by Solomon son of David, King of Israel. Think Positively and things will get better.
Duration: 7.39 minutes
Proverbs 20: 16-18 Positive Rational Intention
16 Take the garment of one who has given surety for a stranger;
seize the pledge given as surety for a foreign woman.
The above verse is not clear to me. Here is an explanation based on a very literal (and possibly mistaken) understanding:
One should be careful not to be guarantors of those who are not faithful.
Part of being good means acting responsibly.
God wants you to do well. If you act foolishly you are already on the verge of going against the will of the Almighty.
Take a breathe, say a prayer, humble yourself and do what you know should be done. It may be that our pride prevents us from seeing things clearly.
Metaphorically placing matters in the hands of stranger or a foreign woman resembles loss of control.
17 Bread gained by deceit is sweet,
but afterwards the mouth will be full of gravel.
Honesty is the best policy even from a practical point of view.
18 Plans are established by taking advice;
wage war by following wise guidance.
Plans are set right by taking advice
and by stratagems wage war.
Proverbs 20:19-21 Behave with Responsibility
19 A gossip reveals secrets;
therefore do not associate with a babbler.
This may alternately be rendered from the Hebrew original as saying:
Do not mix in with someone who reveals secrets, goes around gossiping and speaks irresponsibly.
20 If you curse father or mother,
your lamp will go out in utter darkness.
Someone who curses his father and his mother will have his lamp extinguished in the depths of darkness.
Not everyone is always pleased with their parents.
Nevertheless they should be respected as far as possible.
At the least avoid saying bad and nasty things to them.
21 An estate quickly acquired in the beginning
will not be blessed in the end.
An estate gained hastily at first will end without being blessed.
The Commentator Rashi applies this verse to the Tribes of Gad and Reuben who were eager to acquire their inheritance east of the Jordan but were also the first of the Tribes to be taken away from it in the Assyrian Exile.
Proverbs 20: 22-24 Recognize the BOSS!
22 Do not say, 'I will repay evil';
wait for the LORD, and he will help you.
Do not hurry to react every time someone does something to you.
Forbearance can be a virtue.
23 Differing weights are an abomination to the Lord,
and false scales are not good.
Be fair. Do not cheat others, and do not be prejudiced against them.
24 All our steps are ordered by the LORD;
how then can we understand our own ways?
Alternate (more literal) translation:
# From the ALMIGHTY are the steps of a male,
and how then may a man understand his own way? #
We should realize that GOD is in charge.
That should be the bottom line.
We can plan and strive and do what we have to do, BUT we should always remember where the final decision lies.
Duration 3.13 minutes
Proverbs 20: 25-27 Honor Your Divine Soul!
25 It is a snare for one to say rashly, 'It is holy',
and begin to reflect only after making a vow.
The upshot of this is not to make rash judgments whose effects may be irrevocable.
26 A wise king winnows the wicked,
and drives the wheel over them.
Good government eliminates corruption and crime. There is no evading it. Bad eggs need to be dealt with. Evil practices must be stopped. The wise king represents those responsible for the well-being of society. They have an obligation to ensure equity for all.
27 The human spirit is the lamp of the Lord,
searching every inmost part.
The words translated here as " The human spirit" in Hebrew are Nishmat-Adam i.e. the Soul (Neshamah) of Man.
We are own judges. God wants us to be good for our own good.
We all have subconscious desires and instincts.
Some of these may not be the most desirable.
We should be aware of this. Not hide from it.
Being aware however does not mean telling all and sundry our private yearnings.
Some things are best dealt with alone despite what others say.
Proverbs 20: 28-30. Good is a reward for goodness and vice-versa.
Duration: 4.07 minutes
28 Loyalty and faithfulness preserve the king,
and his throne is upheld by righteousness.
From the Hebrew this is better translated as saying:
Kindness and Truth guard [or form, Hebrew "Yatsru"] the King;
For by kindness is his throne supported.
The Hebrew words are Chesed [Kindness] ve-Emet [and truth]
The King represents Government in general.
The Hebrew word "Yatsru" from the root "Yatsar" can connote guard, preserve, or form i.e. create. It could be that the ambiguity here is deliberate. The Government should have its aims to be helping the people, doing good to them and being fair and just i.e. guided by truth. If it so acts it shall be not only preserved but its good deeds shall be what makes it what it is.
If you do good, in the end it becomes part of you. It makes you what you are.
Kindness is Truth i.e. doing good to others has an element of righteousness in it. It is what we can do.
A lot of criticism m\ay be made against the Scandinavian countries but for many decades their social services worked very well and they were successful. This may have been in part because their leadership was imbued (relatively speaking) with the idea of serving the people and that this was the right thing to do.
29 The glory of youths is their strength,
but the beauty of the aged is their grey hair.
We all get old.
Do what you can while you can with what you have.
Perhaps the message is that someone should be themself.
Do not try to be like someone else especially when what you really are may be worth much more.
30 Blows that wound cleanse away evil;
beatings make clean the innermost parts.
Sufferings can purify a person.
The Sages seem to have rendered the message something like the following:
Blows that wound and attacks agaisnt the innermost parts of your body are the result of evil indulgences.