Saturday, May 7, 2016

Proverbs 9 - a house built on slaughter

Hey - a whole chapter of proverbs - you never know where I will go next, but I don't go backwards except to make a correction. (I never know where I'm going either. I still don't know how I got here when I started at Micah 1 this morning!)

When I started my later phase of learning in NT studies in the '90 s, the NRSV was in high demand for its gender neutral translation. It has some serious deficiencies, but in any case, I can't do that when the story is about a boy and a girl. Proverbs 9 is about two female characters: first Wisdom or shrewdness, and second a dullard of the female gender. Now not all females are dullards. And not all males are wise. But this chapter is a story about two callings, both from females, and the other character is a male, but anyone of any gender can be the male.  The first female is God in the shape of Wisdom. I strongly suspect that this portrayal of wisdom is at the root of the collection policy that lay behind putting the book of Proverbs together. The second girl is a type of stupidity. And I repeat, put your favorite boy in this role if you must, because stupid is possible.

Psalm 38:8 has the same word: For my stupidity is a thorough disgrace, and there is no completeness in my flesh. That Psalm, need I remind you, is a reminder of Psalm 6. Lord do not rebuke (reprove, correct, referee) me in your anger... (Well, if you must, do it. But it is unpleasant.)

[I don't use the word stupid very often, my elder grandson loves the feel of it on his lips.]

So I cannot translate always for gender neutrality, though I try when it is possible and when the deficiencies of my tongue allow.

This is a funny chapter - read it along with your favorite translation and compare. Some bits will make you howl with concern. If you use the variations on the traditional translations, you will find that those translators were free with their glosses. They wanted to keep the population in check and loyal to the status quo. One homonym is remarkable. רְפָאִ֣ים, rpha'im, may be glossed as shades, or healed. It is certainly not the dead, as KJV has it. 

The recurring words in this chapter are really obvious. Between verses 1 to 6 and 13 to 18: 11 words used in the same sequence. So the frame frames verses 7 to 12, a formative set of aphorisms. (Soon the book will reduce to list upon list of such.) Verses 1 to 6 are strongly tied to the middle section (7 shared roots) and verses 13 to the end are very weakly tied to the middle verses (only 1 root shared). As in all Hebrew poetry, the word recurrence pattern is key to understanding.

The music begins on the third - showing that this chapter is connected to the prior one. Verse 5 also shows a connection to the lead-up to it. Wisdom laments in verse 7, the music is high, warning against the impact of reproving the scornful. Verse 13 begins on the dominant, a strange beginning, as if mimicking verse 1. The dominant seems slightly rickety as a beginning note here. But it is quite common and occurs in more than 1000 verses (about 5%).

E.g. Psalm 6 v 9 where it has some force following the 'gap' in this sequence of poetry verses.
Depart from me, all workers of mischief,
for Yahweh has heard the voice of my weeping.

OK - enough guesswork on the significance of accents - here's the text. Just look at the utter compactness of this advice in 127 words.
Proverbs 9
חָ֭כְמוֹת בָּנְתָ֣ה בֵיתָ֑הּ
חָצְבָ֖ה עַמּוּדֶ֣יהָ שִׁבְעָֽה
1 Shrewdness has built her house.
She has hewn her seven pillars.
6
8
טָבְחָ֣ה טִ֭בְחָהּ מָסְכָ֣ה יֵינָ֑הּ
אַ֝֗ף עָֽרְכָ֥ה שֻׁלְחָנָֽהּ
2 Slaughter slaughter. She has mixed her wine.
Indeed she has arranged her table.
8
6
שָֽׁלְחָ֣ה נַעֲרֹתֶ֣יהָ תִקְרָ֑א
עַל־גַּ֝פֵּ֗י מְרֹ֣מֵי קָֽרֶת
3 She has sent her lasses. She calls
to the spine of the heights of the town,
9
8
מִי־פֶ֭תִי יָסֻ֣ר הֵ֑נָּה
חֲסַר־לֵ֝֗ב אָ֣מְרָה לּֽוֹ
4 Who is simple? Turn aside, behold.
Lacking in heart, she says to him,
7
6
לְ֭כוּ לַחֲמ֣וּ בְֽלַחֲמִ֑י
וּ֝שְׁת֗וּ בְּיַ֣יִן מָסָֽכְתִּי
5 Come, partake in my bread.
Imbibe the wine that I mix.
9
8
עִזְב֣וּ פְתָאיִ֣ם וִֽחְי֑וּ
וְ֝אִשְׁר֗וּ בְּדֶ֣רֶךְ בִּינָֽה
6 Forsake simplicity and live,
and you will be happy in the way of discernment.
7
8
יֹ֤סֵ֨ר ׀ לֵ֗ץ לֹקֵ֣חַֽ ל֣וֹ קָל֑וֹן
וּמוֹכִ֖יחַ לְרָשָׁ֣ע מוּמֽוֹ
7 To chasten the scornful receives disgrace,
to reprove the wicked, a spot.
9
9
אַל־תּ֣וֹכַח לֵ֭ץ פֶּן־יִשְׂנָאֶ֑ךָּ
הוֹכַ֥ח לְ֝חָכָ֗ם וְיֶאֱהָבֶֽךָּ
8 Do not reprove the scornful lest he hate you.
Reprove the shrewd and he will love you.
9
11
תֵּ֣ן לְ֭חָכָם וְיֶחְכַּם־ע֑וֹד
הוֹדַ֥ע לְ֝צַדִּ֗יק וְי֣וֹסֶף לֶֽקַח
9 Give to the shrewd and it will increase shrewdness further.
Give knowledge to one who is righteous and it will add to receiving.
8
10
תְּחִלַּ֣ת חָ֭כְמָה יִרְאַ֣ת יְהוָ֑ה
וְדַ֖עַת קְדֹשִׁ֣ים בִּינָֽה
10 The commencement of wisdom, the fear of Yahweh.
And knowledge of holy things, discernment.
9
8
כִּי־בִ֭י יִרְבּ֣וּ יָמֶ֑יךָ
וְיוֹסִ֥יפוּ לְּ֝ךָ֗ שְׁנ֣וֹת חַיִּֽים
11 Because by me increased are your days,
and they add to the years of your life.
7
10
אִם־חָ֭כַמְתָּ חָכַ֣מְתָּ לָּ֑ךְ
וְ֝לַ֗צְתָּ לְֽבַדְּךָ֥ תִשָּֽׂא
12 If you are shrewd, you are shrewd for you.
And you are scornful, you alone assume liability.
8
8
אֵ֣שֶׁת כְּ֭סִילוּת הֹֽמִיָּ֑ה
פְּ֝תַיּ֗וּת וּבַל־יָ֥דְעָה מָּֽה
13 A dullard woman is discomfort.
She is simple and without such knowledge.
8
8
וְֽ֭יָשְׁבָה לְפֶ֣תַח בֵּיתָ֑הּ
עַל־כִּ֝סֵּ֗א מְרֹ֣מֵי קָֽרֶת
14 And she sits at the door of her house,
on a throne on the heights of the town.
8
8
לִקְרֹ֥א לְעֹֽבְרֵי־דָ֑רֶךְ
הַֽ֝מְיַשְּׁרִ֗ים אֹֽרְחוֹתָֽם
15 to call passers by the way,
those who are upright in their paths,
7
6
מִי־פֶ֭תִי יָסֻ֣ר הֵ֑נָּה
וַחֲסַר־לֵ֝֗ב וְאָ֣מְרָה לּֽוֹ
16 Who is simple? Turn aside, behold.
And the lacking of heart? And she says to him,
7
8
מַֽיִם־גְּנוּבִ֥ים יִמְתָּ֑קוּ
וְלֶ֖חֶם סְתָרִ֣ים יִנְעָֽם
17 Waters stolen are sweet,
and bread in secret is a pleasure.
8
8
וְֽלֹא־יָ֭דַע כִּֽי־רְפָאִ֣ים שָׁ֑ם
בְּעִמְקֵ֖י שְׁא֣וֹל קְרֻאֶֽיהָ
18 And he knows not that the shades are there,
in the deeps of the grave, those she calls.
9
9


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