Proverbs 26 – “Assorted Sayings”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
A number of proverbs are presented about the fool, the lazy man, and the deceptive enemy.

II. Photo
The author addresses laziness: “The door turns on its hinge, and the lazy man on his bed.” (v. 14)

III. Select Verses    
1: Like snow in summer and rain at harvesttime, So honor is not fitting for a dullard.
4-5: Do not answer a dullard in accord with his folly, Else you will become like him. Answer a dullard in accord with his folly, Else he will think himself wise.
7: As legs hang limp on a cripple, So is a proverb in the mouth of dullards.
14: The door turns on its hinge, And the lazy man on his bed.
16: The lazy man thinks himself wiser Than seven men who give good advice.
17: A passerby who gets embroiled in someone else’s quarrel Is like one who seizes a dog by its ears.
21: Charcoal for embers and wood for a fire And a contentious man for kindling strife.
23: Base silver laid over earthenware Are ardent lips with an evil mind.
27: He who digs a pit will fall in it, And whoever rolls a stone, it will roll back on him.

IV. Outline
1. The fool
2. A gratuitous curse
3-12. The fool
13-16. The lazy man
17. Minding one’s business
18-19. Cheating
20-22. The querulous man
23-28. The deceptive enemy

V. Comment
Verses 4-5, which seem to contradict each other, were publicized by the Rabbis when they considered banning the book of Proverbs because of its many contradictions (b. Shabbat 30b). These two verses read as follows:

  • Do not answer a dullard in accord with his folly, Else you will become like him.
  • Answer a dullard in accord with his folly, Else he will think himself wise.

While the Rabbis attempt to resolve the contradiction by adding background information (v. 4 refers to matters of Torah, v. 5 refers to ordinary affairs), it seems that each proverb was meant to be used in different situations. Indeed, no single proverb says it all.

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Michael Fox, Proverbs 10-31 (Anchor Yale Bible 18B; New Haven: Yale, 2009).
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