This is to say that when we have read the canonical text itself, even closely, we are only at the beginning of the journey, and we may not even be there. If we have read only in translation or without history or without culture, we may not even be on the field of play, even if we consider ourselves expert.
I bring to my work all my prejudice. Perhaps I will grow. Part of my prejudice is in my desire not to read some of the verses of this chapter of Proverbs. Some I like. Some I despise. Some I try to rephrase. Some I leave as obtuse as possible to undermine the readings that were shoved down my throat. The violence against me I knew. The violence I do to others, I may be only vaguely aware of. But though I must follow at times what others have determined is legitimate violence, I cannot justify it.
Will the stroke of a cane save a child from Sheol? JB here has it wrong anyway. The proverb reads in the KJV you will deliver his soul from hell. A preposterous imposition of later prejudice onto the text. How can it be read that some adult can, by beating up a child, deliver its soul? Only G-d delivers anything from Sheol - whatever that is supposed to mean.
So how do I deal with this one? First, I recognize that sceptre, that symbol of governance (the shepherd's staff) and belonging, can also be rendered as rod. I have never used it for this gloss. I have used rod / branch both for מטה. So the proverb is about governance of a youth. It is not about corporal punishment. Second, what is the verb? Its form is תכנו. There is no doubt that tradition has this combination of letters as derived from נכה, a doubly weak verb that loses its letters when conjugated, especially when a pronoun follows and a nun gets added for ease of pronunciation. I wondered if I could derive it from כון the hollow verb meaning prepare or establish. I could go against tradition here. Psalms 89 will do as an example where תכן refers to God establishing the heavens.
Governance is vital, and avoidance of betrayal an aspect of trust. But what power will yield such a result? Not violence. And even this limited writer eventually resorts to imponderable questions (verse 29). With respect to wine and women, the writer, clearly a male, deals with addiction and self-harm. He gets this part right, but perhaps he does not realize that the advice of verses 13-14 leads directly to this deadly and destructive result of verse 35. Do we?
Pascal's wager is in verse 18. Curious, eh? In this chapter there are 4 tri-cola, 5, 7, 31, 35. We have seen very few in the later chapters of Proverbs. Some to come in chapters 24 and 25 then none till chapter 30.
|כִּֽי־תֵ֭שֵׁב לִלְח֣וֹם אֶת־מוֹשֵׁ֑ל |
בִּ֥ין תָּ֝בִ֗ין אֶת־אֲשֶׁ֥ר לְפָנֶֽיךָ
|1||When you sit to partake with a governor, |
you will discern who is in your presence.
|וְשַׂמְתָּ֣ שַׂכִּ֣ין בְּלֹעֶ֑ךָ |
אִם־בַּ֖עַל נֶ֣פֶשׁ אָֽתָּה
|2||And put imagination in your gasp, |
if you are the husband of integrity.
|אַל־תִּ֭תְאָו לְמַטְעַמּוֹתָ֑יו |
וְ֝ה֗וּא לֶ֣חֶם כְּזָבִֽים
|3||Do not desire his tasty dishes, |
for it is the bread of lies.
|אַל־תִּיגַ֥ע לְֽהַעֲשִׁ֑יר |
|4||Do not labour to be rich. |
From your own discernment, refrain.
|הֲתָ֤עִיף עֵינֶ֥יךָ בּ֗וֹ וְֽאֵ֫ינֶ֥נּוּ |
כִּ֤י עָשֹׂ֣ה יַעֲשֶׂה־לּ֣וֹ כְנָפַ֑יִם
כְּ֝נֶ֗שֶׁר יָע֥וּף הַשָּׁמָֽיִם
|5||Do you make your eyes fly into it and it is not? |
For it has made it so. It makes for itself wings,
like an eagle that flies the heavens.
|אַל־תִּלְחַ֗ם אֶת־לֶ֭חֶם רַ֣ע עָ֑יִן |
|6||Do not partake of the bread of one with an evil eye, |
and do not desire its tasty dishes.
|כִּ֤י ׀ כְּמוֹ־שָׁעַ֥ר בְּנַפְשׁ֗וֹ כֶּ֫ן־ה֥וּא |
אֱכֹ֣ל וּ֭שְׁתֵה יֹ֣אמַר לָ֑ךְ
|7||C||For like the gate against itself, so is he. |
Eat and imbibe, he says to you,
but his heart is not with you.
|פִּֽתְּךָ־אָכַ֥לְתָּ תְקִיאֶ֑נָּה |
וְ֝שִׁחַ֗תָּ דְּבָרֶ֥יךָ הַנְּעִימִֽים
|8||A fragment you ate? You will disgorge it, |
and destroy your pleasant words.
|בְּאָזְנֵ֣י כְ֭סִיל אַל־תְּדַבֵּ֑ר |
כִּֽי־יָ֝ב֗וּז לְשֵׂ֣כֶל מִלֶּֽיךָ
|9||In the ears of a dullard do not speak, |
for it will hold in contempt the insight of your speeches.
|אַל־תַּ֭סֵּג גְּב֣וּל עוֹלָ֑ם |
וּבִשְׂדֵ֥י יְ֝תוֹמִ֗ים אַל־תָּבֹֽא
|10||Do not reposition the border of eras past, |
and into the fields of orphans, do not enter.
|כִּֽי־גֹאֲלָ֥ם חָזָ֑ק |
הֽוּא־יָרִ֖יב אֶת־רִיבָ֣ם אִתָּֽךְ
|11||For their redeemer is courageous. |
He it is who will contend their strife with you.
|הָבִ֣יאָה לַמּוּסָ֣ר לִבֶּ֑ךָ |
|12||Let your heart come to chastening, |
and your ears to the promise of knowledge.
|אַל־תִּמְנַ֣ע מִנַּ֣עַר מוּסָ֑ר |
כִּֽי־תַכֶּ֥נּוּ בַ֝שֵּׁ֗בֶט לֹ֣א יָמֽוּת
|13||Do not withhold from youth, chastening. |
If you strike it with a sceptre, it will not die.
|אַ֭תָּה בַּשֵּׁ֣בֶט תַּכֶּ֑נּוּ |
וְ֝נַפְשׁ֗וֹ מִשְּׁא֥וֹל תַּצִּֽיל
|14||g||You with a sceptre will strike it, |
and its integrity from Sheol you will deliver.
|בְּ֭נִי אִם־חָכַ֣ם לִבֶּ֑ךָ |
יִשְׂמַ֖ח לִבִּ֣י גַם־אָֽנִי
|15||g||My child, if wise is your heart, |
my heart is made glad, even I.
|וְתַעְלֹ֥זְנָה כִלְיוֹתָ֑י |
בְּדַבֵּ֥ר שְׂ֝פָתֶ֗יךָ מֵישָׁרִֽים
|16||And my vital centre will be exultant, |
when your lips speak uprightness.
|אַל־יְקַנֵּ֣א לִ֭בְּךָ בַּֽחַטָּאִ֑ים |
כִּ֥י אִם־בְּיִרְאַת־יְ֝הוָ֗ה כָּל־הַיּֽוֹם
|17||Let not your heart be jealous about sinners, |
but rather be in the fear of Yahweh all the day long.
|כִּ֭י אִם־יֵ֣שׁ אַחֲרִ֑ית |
וְ֝תִקְוָתְךָ֗ לֹ֣א תִכָּרֵֽת
|18||g||For if there is a latter end, |
then your expectation will not be cut off.
|שְׁמַע־אַתָּ֣ה בְנִ֣י וַחֲכָ֑ם |
וְאַשֵּׁ֖ר בַּדֶּ֣רֶךְ לִבֶּֽךָ
|19||Hear you, my child and be shrewd, |
and step your heart in the way.
|אַל־תְּהִ֥י בְסֹֽבְאֵי־יָ֑יִן |
בְּזֹלֲלֵ֖י בָשָׂ֣ר לָֽמוֹ
|20||Do not be besotted with wine, |
with those of fleshly gluttony.
|כִּי־סֹבֵ֣א וְ֭זוֹלֵל יִוָּרֵ֑שׁ |
וּ֝קְרָעִ֗ים תַּלְבִּ֥ישׁ נוּמָֽה
|21||For liquor and gluttony are possessed, |
and snoozing clothes with shreds.
|שְׁמַ֣ע לְ֭אָבִיךָ זֶ֣ה יְלָדֶ֑ךָ |
וְאַל־תָּ֝ב֗וּז כִּֽי־זָקְנָ֥ה אִמֶּֽךָ
|22||Hear your father, this one that begot you, |
and do not despise your mother when she is aged.
|אֱמֶ֣ת קְ֭נֵה וְאַל־תִּמְכֹּ֑ר |
חָכְמָ֖ה וּמוּסָ֣ר וּבִינָֽה
|23||Truth acquire, and do not sell, |
wisdom, or chastening, or discernment.
|גִּ֣יל יָ֭גִיל אֲבִ֣י צַדִּ֑יק |
וְיוֹלֵ֥ד חָ֝כָ֗ם יִשְׂמַח־בּֽוֹ
|24||B||Overjoyed, the parent of a righteous one will rejoice, |
and who begets one who is wise will be glad in it.
|יִֽשְׂמַח־אָבִ֥יךָ וְאִמֶּ֑ךָ |
|25||Your father and your mother will be glad, |
and she who gave you birth will rejoice.
|תְּנָֽה־בְנִ֣י לִבְּךָ֣ לִ֑י |
וְ֝עֵינֶ֗יךָ דְּרָכַ֥י תִּצֹּֽרְנָה
|26||Give my child your heart to me, |
and let your eyes observe my ways.
|כִּֽי־שׁוּחָ֣ה עֲמֻקָּ֣ה זוֹנָ֑ה |
וּבְאֵ֥ר צָ֝רָ֗ה נָכְרִיָּֽה
|27||For a deep ditch is harlotry, |
and precise trouble, an alien woman.
|אַף־הִ֭יא כְּחֶ֣תֶף תֶּֽאֱרֹ֑ב |
וּ֝בוֹגְדִ֗ים בְּאָדָ֥ם תּוֹסִֽף
|28||Indeed she, as one who confiscates, lies in wait, |
and adds betrayals against humanity repeatedly.
|לְמִ֨י א֥וֹי לְמִ֪י אֲב֡וֹי לְמִ֤י מִדְיָנִ֨ים ׀ לְמִ֥י שִׂ֗יחַ לְ֭מִי פְּצָעִ֣ים חִנָּ֑ם |
לְ֝מִ֗י חַכְלִל֥וּת עֵינָֽיִם
|29||Whose is woe? whose is appetite? whose is dissension? whose is blather? whose are inflicted wounds for nothing? |
whose are flushed eyes?
|לַֽמְאַחֲרִ֥ים עַל־הַיָּ֑יִן |
לַ֝בָּאִ֗ים לַחְקֹ֥ר מִמְסָֽךְ
|30||They that follow after the wine, |
they that come to examine mixture.
|אַל־תֵּ֥רֶא יַיִן֮ כִּ֪י יִתְאַ֫דָּ֥ם |
כִּֽי־יִתֵּ֣ן בַּכּ֣וֹס עֵינ֑וֹ
|31||Do not stare at wine when it is ruddy, |
when it gives in the cup its eye,
walking with uprightness.
|אַ֭חֲרִיתוֹ כְּנָחָ֣שׁ יִשָּׁ֑ךְ |
|32||g||Its followers, like a snake, it bites, |
like an anaconda, it punctures.
|עֵ֭ינֶיךָ יִרְא֣וּ זָר֑וֹת |
וְ֝לִבְּךָ֗ יְדַבֵּ֥ר תַּהְפֻּכֽוֹת
|33||g||Your eyes will see strange women, |
and your heart will speak waywardness.
|וְ֭הָיִיתָ כְּשֹׁכֵ֣ב בְּלֶב־יָ֑ם |
וּ֝כְשֹׁכֵ֗ב בְּרֹ֣אשׁ חִבֵּֽל
|34||g||Then you will be as one laid out in the heart of the sea, |
or as one laid out at the top of a rope.
|הִכּ֥וּנִי בַל־חָלִיתִי֮ הֲלָמ֗וּנִי בַּל־יָ֫דָ֥עְתִּי |
א֝וֹסִ֗יף אֲבַקְשֶׁ֥נּוּ עֽוֹד
|35||They struck me. I am not ill. They have smitten me. I do not know. |
When will I awaken?
I will repeatedly seek it yet more.