Reflections on the Human Condition[a]
1 An honorable name[b] is more to be desired than great riches,
and high esteem is preferable to silver and gold.
2 The rich and the poor have this in common:
all of them were made by the Lord.[c]
3 A prudent man perceives danger and seeks shelter,
while the simple[d] continue forward and pay for it.
4 The reward of humility and fear of the Lord[e]
is wealth, honor, and life.
5 Thorns and snares cover the path of the perverse;
whoever values his life will steer clear of them.
6 Train a child in the way he should go,
and he will not deviate from it, even in old age.
7 The wealthy man lords it over the poor,[f]
and the borrower becomes the slave of the lender.
8 Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity,
and the rod of his wrath will disappear.
9 One who is kindly will be blessed,[g]
for he shares his food with the poor.
10 Banish the scoffer[h] and strife will cease;
discord and abuse will come to an end.
11 The Lord loves the pure of heart;
the man of gracious speech will have the king as a friend.
12 The eyes of the Lord[i] preserve knowledge,
but he ruins the plans of the unfaithful.
13 The idler cries out, “There is a lion outside;
I will be killed if I go out on the street.”[j]
14 The mouth of an adulteress[k] is a deep pit;
the man with whom the Lord is angry will fall into it.
15 Folly is rooted deep in the heart of a child,
but the rod of correction[l] will remove it far from him.
16 A man becomes rich by crushing the poor,
but presents to the rich will only impoverish him.[m]
The Sayings of the Wise[n]
Lend Your Ear[o]
17 These are the sayings of the wise:
Incline your ear and listen to my words,
and apply your mind to the knowledge I impart.
18 They will afford pleasure if you keep them in your heart
and have all of them ready on your lips.
19 In order that your trust may be in the Lord,
I will make them known to you today.
20 Have I not written for you thirty sayings[p]
of admonition and knowledge
21 to show you what is right and true
so that you can offer sound answers to the one who sent you?
22 Do not rob the poor because they are helpless
or oppress the needy at the gate.
23 For the Lord will take up their cause[r]
and rob of life those who despoiled them.
24 Never make friends with a man prone to anger,
and do not associate with anyone who is wrathful.
25 Otherwise you may learn his ways[s]
and find yourself entangled in a snare.
26 Do not be one of those who give pledges
and become surety for another’s debts.
27 For if you have no means of paying,
your bed will be taken from under you.
28 Never remove the ancient boundary stone
that your ancestors set up.
29 If you see a man who is skilled in his work,[t]
remember that he will serve kings;
he will not stand before common people.
- Proverbs 22:1 Like the preceding chapters, this last chapter of the second part of Proverbs collects—in no particular order—observations on the life of human beings, reflections of moralists, and affirmations of believers. Thus, for better or worse and in spite of contradictions, we are presented with a certain image of the life and behavior of those who cling to true values, i.e., to the wisdom that God inspires in human beings.
- Proverbs 22:1 Honorable name: see also Prov 3:4; 10:7; Eccl 7:1. Preferable to silver and gold: the same is true of the possession of wisdom (see Prov 3:14; 16:16).
- Proverbs 22:2 See note on Prov 14:31.
- Proverbs 22:3 Simple: see note on Prov 1:4.
- Proverbs 22:4 Fear of the Lord: see note on Prov 1:7; see also Prov 15:33.
- Proverbs 22:7 The wealthy man lords it over the poor: see note on Prov 10:15.
- Proverbs 22:9 One who is kindly will be blessed: see note on Prov 11:24. Shares his food: see note on Prov 14:21.
- Proverbs 22:10 Scoffer: see note on Prov 1:22.
- Proverbs 22:12 The eyes of the Lord: see Prov 5:21; 15:3; Job 31:4; 34:21; Jer 16:17; Heb 4:13. Preserve knowledge: i.e., God watches over those who possess knowledge (see Pss 1:6; 34:16). Ruins the plans of the unfaithful: see Prov 16:19; and there is no defense against God (Prov 21:30).
- Proverbs 22:13 The idler overstates difficulties in order to escape putting forth effort (see also note on Prov 6:6).
- Proverbs 22:14 Mouth of an adulteress: i.e., her seductive words (see notes on Prov 2:16 and 5:3; see also Prov 7:5). Deep pit: this may refer to a well or to the trap laid by a hunter (see Prov 5:22; 7:22-23).
- Proverbs 22:15 Rod of correction: see note on Prov 13:24.
- Proverbs 22:16 The man who gains money by crushing the poor will inevitably lose it by paying tribute to those who are richer.
- Proverbs 22:17 This collection of sayings may have been intended for the training and reflection of persons in positions of responsibility. Critics find in it some analogies with an Egyptian book containing the wisdom of a certain Amenemope (tenth century B.C.). But unlike the latter, which could only have served as a model, our collection teaches trust in God, under whose gaze the actions of human beings, especially of the mighty, are done. This collection sought to group its proverbs into some kind of order, although it never really reached that goal. It readily dispenses its counsels and loves warning formulas: Do not rob the poor. . . . Never make friends . . . (Prov 22:22, 24).
- Proverbs 22:17 This warm invitation greatly resembles the preface to chapter 1. The sage is a happy person who places trust in God.
- Proverbs 22:20 Thirty sayings: there are thirty units in this section, most of them two or three verses long. The Wisdom of Amenemope also contains thirty sections.
- Proverbs 22:22 These are practical counsels inspired by respect for the poor, by prudence, and by the sense of justice. These virtues are essential for a responsible society. The ending remains obscure: one notes that the capable person quickly reaches the level of success, a simple fact about which no judgment is made.
- Proverbs 22:23 Will take up their cause: i.e., the cause of the poor (see Prov 23:11; Pss 12:6; 140:13; Isa 3:14-16; Mal 3:5).
- Proverbs 22:25 May learn his ways: i.e., the ways of the wicked, a theme repeated by Paul: “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Cor 15:33).
- Proverbs 22:29 Who is skilled in his work: see note on Prov 8:30.