1A good name is more desirable than great riches,
and high esteem, than gold and silver.* a
2Rich and poor have a common bond:
the LORD is the maker of them all.b
3The astute see an evil and hide,
while the naive continue on and pay the penalty.* c
4The result of humility and fear of the LORD
is riches, honor and life.*
5Thorns and snares are on the path of the crooked;
those who would safeguard their lives will avoid them.
6Train the young in the way they should go;
even when old, they will not swerve from it.*
7The rich rule over the poor,
and the borrower is the slave of the lender.*
8Those who sow iniquity reap calamity,d
and the rod used in anger will fail.*
9The generous will be blessed,
for they share their food with the poor.
10Expel the arrogant and discord goes too;
strife and insult cease.
11The LORD loves the pure of heart;e
the person of winning speech has a king for a friend.
12The eyes of the LORD watch over the knowledgeable,
but he defeats the projects of the faithless.
13The sluggard says, “A lion is outside;f
I might be slain in the street.”*
14The mouth of the foreign woman is a deep pit;g
whoever incurs the LORD’s anger will fall into it.
15Folly is bound to the heart of a youth,
but the rod of discipline will drive it out.*
16Oppressing the poor for enrichment,
giving to the rich: both are sheer loss.*
IV. SAYINGS OF THE WISE*
17The Words of the Wise:*
Incline your ear, and hear my words,h
and let your mind attend to my teaching;
18For it will be well if you hold them within you,
if they all are ready on your lips.
19That your trust may be in the LORD,
I make them known to you today—yes, to you.
20Have I not written for you thirty sayings,
containing counsels and knowledge,
21To teach you truly
how to give a dependable report to one who sends you?
22Do not rob the poor because they are poor,
nor crush the needy at the gate;*
23For the LORD will defend their cause,i
and will plunder those who plunder them.
24Do not be friendly with hotheads,
nor associate with the wrathful,
25Lest you learn their ways,
and become ensnared.
26Do not be one of those who give their hand in pledge,
those who become surety for debts;j
27For if you are unable to pay,
your bed will be taken from under you.*
28Do not remove the ancient landmark*
that your ancestors set up.k
29Do you see those skilled at their work?
They will stand in the presence of kings,
but not in the presence of the obscure.
* [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.
* [22:3] The wise see dangers before they are engulfed by them whereas fools, through dullness or boldness, march right on.
* [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.
* [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.
* [22:7] An observation on money and power. One who borrows becomes poor in the sense of indebted, a slave to the lender.
* [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.
* [22:13] To avoid the effort required for action, the sluggard exaggerates the difficulties that must be overcome.
* [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.
* [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.
* [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).
* [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).
* [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.
* [22:27] Providing surety for a debtor puts one in danger of having the very basics of one’s life suddenly seized.
* [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.
d. [22:8] Jb 4:8; Sir 7:3; Hos 8:7.
j. [22:26] Prv 6:1–2; 11:15; 17:18.