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HTS Theological Studies

On-line version ISSN 2072-8050Print version ISSN 0259-9422

Herv. Teol. Stud. vol.68 n.1 Pretoria Jan. 2012


The trouble of money in the hand that a fool

James Alfred LoaderI , II , III , IV

IFaculty that Theology, college of Vienna, Austria IIDepartment the Old testament and old Near eastern Studies, college of southern Africa, south Africa IIIDepartment of old Languages and also Cultures, college of Pretoria, south Africa IVFaculty the Theology, college of Pretoria, south Africa



This post focused on a solitary proverb, viz. Proverbs 17:16. The syntax and also stylistic features were analysed to demonstrate the extreme polyvalence that deserve to characterise terse aphorisms. Fifteen readings were examined and also evaluated, resulting in the distillation of 4 equally valid clusters the meaning. This notified the argument that the terseness of aphorisms is conducive to multiple legit interpretations i beg your pardon constitute the "readings". The implications were considered in regards to intentionality and also text-immanence in thorough exegesis. It was concluded the a combination of sophisticated linguistics and also stylistic sensitivity in proverb exegesis can, in the sense of Herderian and also Gunkelian "Einfiihlung" in minutiae, i found it a richness in ostensibly simple texts - which is to be differentiated from timeless methods claiming come probe "under the surface".

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A cursory analysis of Proverbs 17:16 is enough to impress upon the leader the heaviness of that is content and also at the very same time the humour by way of which major matters have the right to be expressed and even enhanced. This have the right to readily be checked out in an there was no sign literal calculation of the heat (to prevent pre-empting several of the possible interpretations): "why this a fee in the hand that a fool come buy wisdom and a heart not there."

Whatever the precise an interpretation may be, the reality that the line begins with the interrogative Tin? makes it noticeable that it consists of a question. It is additionally clear the the salvation of wisdom is the main topic the the question is about. Also a superficial familiarity through the publication of Proverbs would certainly suffice to realise that this is just about the many serious thing that have the right to be uncovered in the anthology.1 of whatever form the question may be, it contains a topic indigenous the really core the the book"s concern. Moreover, everyone who has actually read only a few chapters the the publication of i beg your pardon the heat is part, can also recognise the presence of a cluster of words for this reason characteristic that sapiential literature2 that the level of earnestness in the line can conveniently be sensed.

But we likewise hear other funny. The inquiry does not suggest an noticeable sapiential prize such as the adhering to question walk (Pr 5:20): "Why need to you it is in dazed, my son, by a strange woman or adopt the bosom of one adulteress?"

Here the intended price is obviously: "For no reason at all, dad!" yet whoever asks what reason can lurk behind a fool"s endeavour to buy wisdom, go not imply an obvious answer to the listener. Foolish shopping for the the opposite of foolishness is simply too absurd to protect against the initial reaction that a chuckle. But if the absurdity of the tiny picture additionally carries one earnest overtone, the heat cannot simply be frivolous. So over there is all the much more reason come look deeper.

Proverbs 17:16

We shall now very first consider the syntactical constituents v which the line is built up and then take a look at the poetic divisions of the stich and also its hemistichs, i beg your pardon would allow us to think about some implications.

The text and its modern-day translators

The Hebrew text reads: :לָאה־זֶּה מְחִיר בְּיַד־כְּסִיל לִקְנוֹת חָכְמָה וְלֶב־

There space multiple methods in i m sorry this can be translated:3

1. Why climate is over there purchase-money in the fool"s hand to buy wisdom, since he has no understanding?4

2. What is the use of purchase-money in the hand the the self-contented to buy wisdom? whereby there is no understanding!5

3. Why is this money in the hand that a fool to purchase wisdom as soon as he has no mind?6

4. Because that what function the price in the hand the a fool come buy wisdom when there is no heart for it?7

5. What"s the allude of a payment in a dolt"s hand come buy wisdom, as soon as he lacks a mind?8

6. Why is over there a fees in the hand that the fool come buy wisdom when he has no sense?9

7. Why in the people is over there payment in the hand of a fool to buy wisdom as soon as he has actually no volume to learn?10

8. If the fool has actually money to buy wisdom, what boots it, because he has actually no mind?11

9. Of what avail is over there a price in the fool"s hand come buy wisdom, and intellect there is none?

10. What great does it execute a fool to come dues in hand to buy wisdom as soon as he has actually no mind?12

11. Why then does the fool have a fee in his hand?

To buy wisdom as soon as he has actually no brains?13

12. Why climate is over there money in the hand of fools?

(Perhaps) come buy wisdom and also he has no understanding?14

13. Why then is there money in the fool"s hand - (perhaps) come buy wisdom if he has no understanding?15

14. Why then is over there money in the fool"s hand, (perhaps) to buy wisdom whereby there is no understanding?16

15. Why is this, the there is purchase-money in the hand that a fool? - come buy wisdom, due to the fact that he has no mind!

Different account for different readings

Depending on just how the syntax of the line is handled, this renderings have the right to be divided into three groups. Numbers 1-10 space readings that the line as a single question (with the exception of Number 2, which nevertheless belongs come the group). Number 11-14 read it as two different questions. Number 15 reads it together a question followed by an answer. I could not find any in-depth evaluation of the construction constituents to undergird the readings presented here, not also in the usually an extremely thorough commentary by Bruce Waltke, that is an acknowledged professional on Hebrew grammar and syntax, or in the very analytic monograph top top the poetics of quick proverbs by Jürg Luchsinger (2010), who skips the verse.

Franz Delitzsch

However, in his famed 19th-century comment Franz Delitzsch (1873) pays fist to the divisions within the verse via the Masoretic accentuation signs:

With nt the question is sharpened, therefore, not: to what end is there purchase-money . .? probably to buy wisdom? - the entirety is one question, i beg your pardon substantiates itself v ןי1־ב ֣ וְ (to be for this reason accentuated once Mugrasch precedes). when one write ןי1־בוְ with maqqeph, climate one must point המכְחָ תוֹנ֖קְלִ through Tarcha Munach, due to the fact that the silluq-word go not have two syllables prior to the tone as soon as written like this. This mix of accents is uncovered in Vened. 1521. 1615. Basel 1619, whereas many editions have ןיִ ןיִ ־בלֵוְ החָ תוֹקְלִi i m sorry is wrong. Yet some manuscripts omit the maqqeph by analysis ןיִ בלוְ ןיִ בלוְ החָ תוֹקְלִ and also according come the maqqeph rules of the metric accentuation mechanism that is correct, see Thorath Emeth p. 40.17 (p. 283)

Delitzsch considers the entirety stich as one inquiry with built-in substantiation in ~ the end. In support, the eliminates the maqqeph in between the last 2 words and also points them v the conjunctive munah and silluq (ןןיאֽ בו),, which consequently makes it necessary to point the native "to purchase wisdom" (החָ תוֹקְלִ) through the disjunctive interval rebiac mugrash. Delitzsch is saying the "and there is no heart" is to it is in loosened native "to purchase wisdom", which in turn is much more closely bound to the an initial half that the verse:

Why then is there purchase-money in the fool"s hand to buy wisdom,


and there is no heart?

He says that this pointing, which he regards together "the exactly one", is attested in some manuscripts, but does not identify them. The analysis that would certainly be wrong according to the rules because that the usage of the maqqeph (retaining both maqqeph and rebiac mugrash), is uncovered in several printed editions, which Delitzsch likewise does not identify. He then reconstructs what the pointing need to be if maqqeph is to it is in retained: המכְחָ תוֹקְלִ (with tarha and also munah). Return Delitzsch does not refer to any source for this reading and offers it as a repair for what would be necessary to maintain the maqqeph in ~ the end of the verse, this is additionally the reading found in the Codex Leningradensis 19B, followed by Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia and also Biblia Hebraica Quinta. Currently munah through tarha to represent a closer clustering that the last four words and a stricter consideration of the atnah in the center of the verse. Delitzsch softens the caesura in the center by opting for the alternate pointing and therefore through disjoining "to buy wisdom" native "and there is no heart", which enables him to check out the whole line as one question.

Delitzsch does no pay as much attention come the stylistic functions of the verse. To be sure, the Masoretic considerations perform not separate strictly in between linguistic and also stylistic issues and also Delitzsch walk indirectly resolve or imply some of them due to the fact that he supplies the Masoretic pointing tradition as his orientation. That does not take into consideration the impact of softening the atnah in the middle of the verse. This is additionally a Masoretic sign and also marks a analysis with the main caesura specifically in the metric center of the verse together pointed in together 19B. Accountancy for his own reading, Delitzsch does no follow the Leningrad line, however independently opts because that his own, also at the expense of the strong divider atnah - which have the right to only be done by a reader as erudite in the details of the Hebrew message as Delitzsch. Moreover, by his syntactical fchathamtownfc.neting that the entirety line into a solitary question through circumstantial clause, the poetic units come to be unconventional. One of two people a metric pattern of 5+2 (which is irregular) or the 3+2+2 (which is additionally unconventional) would need to be assumed. A metrical arrangement of 4+3 (which is common in sapiential literature) would certainly not be feasible on Delitzsch"s submission, due to the fact that of the disjunction the המכְחָ תוֹקְלִand the isolation of ןיאֽ בו brought around by the repair of accents and elimination the maqqeph. It might be the Delitzsch on purpose opted because that a reading that provides an off-beat Qohelet-like metre essential in a verse the could additionally be read with a smooth metre. His analysis is not just possible, yet could likewise combine a bumpy metre through a bumpy content as Qohelet does. Whether or no Delitzsch plan it, that is what the in fact has done.

As for the style, the question posed in the city is plainly rhetorical because that Delitzsch, because it means the answer, "to no avail". Approaching the constituents of the poetic verse via the Masoretic pointing, Delitzsch likewise takes a stand on the syntax. The last expression ("and there is no heart") becomes a circumstantial clause embedded into a question. The verse would then rhetorically ask why - the circumstances being that the fool has no heart/mind - such a person has purchase-money in hand. Follow to Delitzsch"s analysis the an interpretation is then: In circumstances where the heart/ mind together the precondition because that wisdom is lacking, no effort to get it has any type of sense, not also for a fee. This analysis remains open to the opportunity that education and learning fees existed and could be meant at the time of the proverb"s origin, i beg your pardon is reinforced by the fact that Delitzsch clearly refers to Proverbs 4:5, 7, whereby the young pupil is advised to "acquire" wisdom and understanding (הנק the exact same verb together here, is used) and also that he have to be willing to pay any type of price (ךנינק־לכ for it. The point is as such not so much that wisdom cannot be bought for money, however that it cannot be acquired at every (even v money) if the straightforward prerequisite, the expertise faculty the the heart, is no there. Any kind of endeavour to obtain wisdom is rendered effective by low intelligence.

Arndt Meinhold

Although the translation by Arndt Meinhold is not backed up by linguistic or stylistic argument, he has made decisions in this fields. The divides his translation into two hemistichs, but ends the question beginning in the an initial hemistich in the middle of the last.18 Then complies with a 2nd sentence, which follow to Meinhold is an exclamation. So we have actually the adhering to pattern:

What is the usage of purchase-money in the hand of the self-contented to buy wisdom?


Where there is no understanding!

That "fool" (ליסכ)is below taken to it is in the self-contented person, is not of major importance for our current purpose. Yet the translation of "why?"( המל)as "what is the use" provides it clear the Meinhold bring away the an initial section as a rhetorical question implying a an unfavorable answer, namely the it is the no use. The second sentence is climate an exclamation that the reason why the question have to be taken as a explain with negative effect, viz. The the faculty of understanding is lacking in the mental make-up of such a person.

But Meinhold"s malfunction of the poetical structure differs indigenous his syntactical pattern:

What is the use of purchase-money in the hand that the self-contented


to to buy wisdom? where there is no understanding!

Although that mentions no the metrical pattern nor the strength of the atnah nor the usage of disjunctives and also conjunctives, his setup of the hemistichs respects the caesura in the city middle despite his syntactical breakdown, which soft the caesura. The an outcome is one enjambment the hemistichs superimposed on the syntactical substructure. Return this is possible, such a combination causes the syntax and also the rhythmic chathamtownfc.netanisation to stand in tension. The reader could find this an proper representation that the tension in between the fool"s desire to buy wisdom and also the impossibility because that him to perform so. An inept form, so come speak, is employed come mimic the really ineptitudo quaerens intellectum it discusses.

So the feeling of the city is very like that proposed by Delitzsch: Where understanding as the first requirement for its salvation is no present, wisdom cannot be come by.

This, again, assumes the one is no born wise and also must gain wisdom. However one is born either through or without the volume to acquire it. Back this, and not the stupidity that imagining the wisdom have the right to be had actually for money, is the an easy issue in Meinhold"s reading, that does see another question emphasize by the motif the money. It might "perhaps" be the the fool likewise thinks money can acquire him wisdom, but Meinhold find the motif interesting due to the fact that it raises the question of tuition fees in ancient Israel. Because Micah 3:11 seems to scorn the idea of info for money, the tuition fees idea seems to Meinhold (1991:291) rather unlikely. However this is quite a question posed by historic research and also not by the chathamtownfc.netanisation that the proverb (to which, in any type of event, it could be retorted that the mere truth that the idea is frowned ~ above by a critical prophetic text have the right to suggest that precisely that i m sorry is criticised was practiced).

For our objective the exciting thing is the Delitzsch and also Meinhold, return both ar "to to buy wisdom" in the an initial syntactical unit, differ in the the previous sees one question and the last a inquiry plus an exclamation in the verse. Their different approaches notwithstanding, they come at a comparable meaning for the thrust of the proverb together a whole.

Richard Clifford

The 3rd one-sentence reading is that offered by Clifford. His failure is various once again. Like Delitzsch, the takes the whole verse as one question, and also unlike Meinhold that takes "and there is no heart" together a circumstantial i (or an adverbial i of time, which is formally feasible but i can not qualify in the context) and also not as a separate sentence. Syntactically over there is just one block:

Why is this money in the hand of a fool to acquisition wisdom as soon as he has no mind?

But unequal Delitzsch and like Meinhold, the does no soften the atnah, so the the city chathamtownfc.netanisation in hemistichs also results in an enjambment:

Why is this money in the hand the a fool


to purchase wisdom once he has no mind?

Although his syntax has affinities with Delitzsch and also his enjambment is no unlike the in Meinhold"s reading, he follows quite one more route to arrive at the definition of the verse. ~ above the grounds of such injunctions as Proverbs 4:5 and also others, he reads the verb הנק <"buy"> no as literally "purchase", but as a an allegory playing through the concept of a service transaction and meaning to "attain" wisdom.19 however the silly misunderstands the metaphor and tries to literally buy wisdom with genuine money (Clifford 1999:166). This in itself mirrors that the fool has no mind and also therefore cannot keep the wisdom which he has actually bought. It would probably be far better to formulate: i m sorry he thinks to have actually bought, for, even if he has paid genuine money and has received real instruction, no wisdom results from the companies so that it can not be claimed that he yes, really bought wisdom. Clifford"s reading might seem basic on the surface, but for these factors it in reality evokes a facility of logical implications, somewhat like Marcel Duchamp"s "Bicycle Wheel" native 1913, and also may also be dubbed a solipsism that sorts.20 for this reason the really fact that somebody arrives v money for wisdom proves that person"s i can not qualify to come to be wise, even after having been provided it.

This is a combination of the motif of the futility the the effort at wisdom by means of money and also the motif that particular people perform not have actually the volume for wisdom. In this case, the fool"s i can not qualify is evident ex article facto. However that denies the possibility of institution fees. If willingness to pay for wisdom constitutes proof of the i can not qualify to attain wisdom, then payment could not have actually been component of sapiential practise.21

Roland Murphy

Murphy construes usually the same combination of syntactic and poetic fads as Clifford. The last half of the 2nd hemistich is read as a circumstantial i that proves the basis because that the rhetorical question:

For what purpose the price in the hand of a fool come buy wisdom once there is no heart because that it?

Again the syntax leads to one enjambment of 2 stichs. Although Murphy walk not discuss it, it seems that that reads the verse according come the pointing in together 19B, especially with two hemistichs metrically chathamtownfc.netanised together 3+3:

For what purpose the price in the hand of a fool


come buy wisdom when there is no heart because that it?

According to Murphy (1998) the meaning of the verse includes the stylistic an equipment of irony, which way that the direction of its pointe is opposing of the semantic thrust. That is certainly the case, but the way in which Murphy construes it, cannot be upheld: "Even have to he possess the means to end up being wise, he will not employ them." but that would certainly deny the clear rhetorical implication that the fool does want to usage his monetary method for buying wisdom. This is additionally implied by Murphy himself as soon as he states that "there is more than likely a sarcastic implication: the silly is dumb enough to think that the salvation is just a issue of financial transaction." because of this Murphy declares the price to it is in "only metaphorical" (Murphy 1998:130).

In trying to combine every one of this, Murphy in mine opinion undermines the potential he has noticed in the verse. Firstly, if the money is just metaphorical, the fool cannot be stupid enough to shot to use actual money. Secondly, the irony he has noticed cannot at the same time be sarcastic. Irony creates a tension of opposites and also sarcasm place its intention in 1/1 terms. However Murphy has alerted us to an alert that the proverb deserve to be review as irony and that that can likewise be review in one more way, namely as sarcastic ridicule. Analysis it as irony would mean the venture of the silly to obtain wisdom is an incorrigible venture of folly. Reading it together sarcasm however method that the fool"s idea that wisdom on sale is ridiculous. This different from Clifford"s analysis in that Clifford fchathamtownfc.netes together the principles of the hopelessness that fools and the noncommercial worth of wisdom, when Murphy alerts the leader to 2 unrelated levels of definition that can legitimately be discovered in the Hebrew text. These space either: a person lacking understanding is incorrigible, or: wisdom can not be bought.

Michael Fox

Fox take away the verse together a solitary question with installed circumstantial clause:

What"s the suggest of a payment in a dolt"s hand to buy wisdom, as soon as he lacks a mind?

Poetically, the circumstantial clause provides up the last component of the 2nd hemistich, while an infinitive purpose clause precedes it in the first part that the same hemistich:

What"s the suggest of a payment in a dolt"s hand


to buy wisdom, once he lacks a mind?

Fox"s donation to the arsenal of possibilities is that he emphasize the fool"s desire to attain wisdom. This obliges the reader to think about what wisdom the dunce (as Fox phone call him) craves. If it is sagacity and prudence, he would certainly not be a fool but a יתפ one uneducated youth of the finest sort. One might support this by pointing to the reality that naïve young guys undergoing sapiential education and learning are motivated to strive after wisdom that this type (cf. Pr 1:4; 2:1; 3:1; etc.). The money together a youth has actually in hand may additionally be to acquire (הנק)) this type of wisdom and understanding (הניב,Pr 4:5, 7; 23:23). However, this cannot be the instance in our present proverb, since it is excluded by the hatchet ליסכand defined by the circumstantial clause. The stupid would quite wish to have actually the goodies the he perceives together the benefits of wisdom.

In this reading, no the idea that a fool"s incurability nor the un-commercial personality of wisdom makes up the pointe the the verse. Without denying the an unfavorable aspects that a fool"s mental make-up, the thrust of the rhetorical inquiry would climate be the-futility of going ~ wisdom with ulterior motives.

Robert Alter

In Alter"s case, the enjambic reading leads to yet an additional possibility:

Why is over there a fees in the hand that the fool to buy wisdom as soon as he has no sense?

The solitary sentence whereby the question is made up is presented in together a means that Alter, favor Murphy, agrees with the pointing in together 19B. He does not use a comma to different the circumstantial phrase from what precedes it, but he does existing the verse together a bicolon:

Why is over there a fee in the hand the the fool


come buy wisdom once he has no sense?

Alter"s translate into of הז־המל differs from the renderings by Murphy, Fox and also others in the he does not imply a rhetorical question. No does he exclude it, however by avoiding renderings choose "for what purpose?", "what"s the use?" (Fox) or "why in the world?" (Waltke 2005) that keeps the concern neutral. Accordingly, it deserve to be an plain question formulating the difficulty that fools can be checked out going about with money while, in terms of the nexus that deed or mindset and consequence fools room not claimed to have actually money. Why do they have wealth? Or it can indeed be a rhetorical inquiry protesting in ~ the incongruence in between the retribution idea and reality. The fool need to not have money to spend!22 In this situation the include statement that the rhetorical question would not be the fools think money can buy wisdom or the fools cannot achieve wisdom, yet that stupid should have actually no money. The is as such a difficulty for sapiential thinking that stupid do have money and pushes the borders of conventional wisdom theory. ~ above this count together well, the mere reality that the is viewed as a problem would imply a fact in which the did take place that unintelligent world paid for tuition (whether in formal schools or not). The is thus not surprising that alter - who notes to his wonderful translation are offered very sparingly - is sympathetic come the inference that some sort of payment must have actually been made for instruction through sages (Alter 2010:268).

Bruce Waltke

Waltke likewise accepts the enjambic reading:

Why in the civilization is there payment in the hand the a fool


to buy wisdom once he has no capacity to learn?

He paraphrases the המלquestion together "why in the world" to express the exasperation that the speaking sage in ~ the "absurd situation" (Waltke 2005:56). However, he also moralises the worry raised by the declare of the rhetorical question by likening the money intended to buy wisdom v the money intended to obtain a prostitute. Waltke describes Deuteronomy 23:18, however could likewise have invoked Proverbs 6:26, 7:10 or 29:3. It i do not care plausible to do this link in the light of the reality that erotic motifs are supplied in the publication of Proverbs to snapshot wisdom together a mrs to be love (e.g. Pr 4:6; 8:17) and to contrast her through Folly together a bad woman luring males by the wayside (Pr 9:13-18). Then the verse would certainly be a rhetorical inquiry with circumstantial i to express exasperation in ~ the idea that human being could think of buying wisdom from a sage together one would certainly buy sex native a prostitute.

Crawford Toy

The syntax of Toy"s literal translation represents how he analyses the Hebrew text, which is favor that that Waltke. However his included paraphrase reformulates it fully as a conditional clause v the protasis in the very first half and also the apodosis in the second fifty percent in the form of a rhetorical question to state the futility the the problem imagined through the protasis.

The literal meaning translation would certainly fit into two hemistichs:

Of what avail is over there a price in the fool"s hand come buy wisdom


and also intellect over there is none?

The pictured would additionally fit right into two hemistichs, but fully transform the structure of the proverb:

If the fool has money to buy wisdom


What boots it, because he has actually no mind?

Toy interprets this together an antithesis walking deeper 보다 "the golden proverb" that Democritus: "There are numerous who have learning without mind (νούν)" (Toy 1914:346). If the condition is met, it way nothing, for the rhetorical inquiry expects the negative answer, "nothing". That excludes the stupid from every wisdom. However it would additionally suggest a twin answer come the theoretical trouble of a fool"s having wisdom at all. Firstly, it is only stated as a possibility, no as a reality, so that the harshness of the suffer of the psalmists cited over is alleviated somewhat. But, secondly, the trouble has no gone away; thus the rhetorical apodosis offers it, claiming the money cannot buy what the fool assumed it could. So, even if a fool could have the wish and the means to pay (which is problematic in its very own right), that would also be precious nothing. The comprise theodicy has taken place. One could thus read the proverb together a explain questioning embraced mainstream views of deed and an effect (cf. Change above), or one could read it as a smoothing the end of the problem in regards to that same mainstream thinking. Toy walk not build this idea and only comment on the opportunity that "fees to be taken by Jewish teachers" (which he find doubtful). Yet he has actually alerted the leader to a possible interpretation.

R.B.Y. Scott

The last example of commentators who check out the verse as one sentence is Scott"s calculation of the rhetorical concern in two totally disparate hemistichs. Syntactically, this is similar to number of others the we have actually been examining above:

What great does it perform a fool come come dues in hand to buy wisdom, once he has actually no mind?

But the break down into hemistichs is very asymmetrical:

What good does it carry out a fool to come fees in hand come buy wisdom,


once he has no mind?

This suspect a metrical setup of 5+2, which is extremely irregular. It also supposes a rearrangement the the Masoretic pointing in three ways: The maqqeph in between the last 2 words is to be eliminated, they room to it is in pointed through the conjunctive munah and silluq ןיאֽ בל֣וand the words "to buy wisdom" החָ תוֹקְלִ, room to be pointed with the disjunctive accent rebiac mugrash. But Scott - as opposed come Delitzsch (cf. Above) - contemplates nothing of the sort. That does discuss the style and also moves from over there to the historical setting. Follow to the the verse is "a sarcastic comment the a teacher handling refractory material" (Scott 1981:111). The reads that as proof that fees were certainly paid to wisdom teachers.

Without accounting for the stylistics that the verse, he gives a historical setup and reads the city in the context. The feeling would be: part fathers" boy are just too stupid to justification the cost of education - somewhat prefer the present-day gibe to "go and also ask back your institution fees!" although Scott might be faulted for disregarding too numerous technical elements of the text and although the tuition fee problem is controversial, it is a historical possibility and also his analysis of the gist that the city is legitimate.

The readings the the complying with four scholars (11-14) technique the verse in the same method and stand over against the various other readings taken into consideration so far. In all three cases the syntactical breakdown coincides with the scanning the the verse in 2 hemistichs as in together 19B and represented in the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia and the Biblia Hebraica Quinta. They take the verse as two concerns in 2 hemistichs.

William McKane

Why then does the fool have actually a dues in his hand?


To to buy wisdom once he has no brains?

The very first is no a genuine rhetorical question, but rather a sharp-witted arrival to prepare a sarcastic comment in the second, i m sorry is a rhetorical inquiry containing a circumstantial clause. McKane (1977:504-505) support Oesterley (1929:142) as far as the hypothesis of tuition fees is concerned, and this results on his reading of the city as two questions. The sketches the historical Sitz ns Leben: A ליסכ concerns a wisdom teacher with a fee, "supposing the his money is an open sesame and his career together a sage assured." This then evokes an observer"s biting criticism in the form of 2 questions. The pointe is as such not the incorrigibility of fools, yet biting criticism of people who think tuition fees guarantee understanding.

Otto Plöger

Why climate is over there money in the hand that fools?


(Perhaps) to buy wisdom and also he has no understanding?

Plöger"s syntax and also metric reading are the same as McKane"s. He does not take sides in the tuition fees debate, but does said his interpretation to the feasible historical situation. The points out that the verse can additionally be interpreted without recourse to a school instance (which, incidentally, deserve to be squared through the careful formulation offered by McKane). In that instance the fool is a "snob" (as Plöger phone call him) that thinks that money is a passport to wisdom. Plöger then goes a step additional than McKane by recognize the whole verse irony. Because the truly way cannot even contemplate a ליסכwanting wisdom, it must be irony, saying that the wish to acquire fast wisdom and without the entry of personal effort is real folly, i beg your pardon covers all various other cracks at simple wisdom, consisting of wanting to buy it. The inquiries then gravitate towards the statement: pupils that wish quick and also easy wisdom room actually fools.

Magne SaebΦ

Why then is over there money in the fool"s hand -


(perhaps) come buy wisdom if he has actually no understanding?

Saebø provides the last part of the last hemistich the protasis that a conditional i ("wenn"). Yet this de facto has the same function as a circumstantial clause. Saebø"s commentary works with teams of verses follow to connected terminology and ideas, so the his really sketchy comment on Proverbs 17:16 is not easily noticed. Yet he does discover the 2nd hemistich come be an instance that the stupid is wise in his very own eyes. He probably way that the idea of getting hold that wisdom quickly or particularly at a monetary price proves the complacency that folly. Since Saebø describes so little, his presentation the the city becomes much more open. The reasonable goes yet an additional step additional than Plöger and is unending: A fool needs wisdom - the tries to buy wisdom quickly - thereby mirroring that he yes, really is a stupid (= has actually no understanding) - he needs wisdom and also so on all over. This would certainly amount to a insurance claim that fools have the right to never gain wisdom, due to the fact that the foolish way of trying instantly leads ago to square one. The is pertained to the readings that Clifford and also Murphy, but arrives in ~ its goal follow me a quite original and an effective way.

Berend Gemser

Apart from proposing a metaphorical understanding23 and doubting Oesterley"s tuition fees hypothesis, Gemser uses no further comment on the verse. Yet his translation and the presentation the the stich chathamtownfc.netanisation are rather illuminating. He also reads the verse in two clearly differentiated hemistichs, however the second one acquires yet another interpretive possibility.

Why climate is over there money in the fool"s hand,


(perhaps) come buy wisdom whereby there is no understanding?

There space two questions, however the second differs from the other proposals. Although not saying so, Gemser appears to take it the conjunctive munah at הכח in addition to the adhering to waw as the indication of one adverbial i of location. Walk the fool try to purchase wisdom wherein there is no understanding? that is, the second question is rhetorical, stating that the silly goes trying to find wisdom where none is to it is in found. Due to the fact that Gemser thinks the money is only a an allegory for any type of scheme come get quick wisdom, his reading suggests that a stupid may try anywhere that likes, the just businesses that have his type of commodity in stock room the ones who don"t store real wisdom/ understanding. Gemser does not expound this reading, but his presentation has said it (to adapt his own terminology: nahelegen).

My very own proposal

I would imply that the city be read as two sentences (vis α-vis readings 1-10 above), yet that these space respectively one genuine question and also one direct answer in the kind of a statement (vis-a-vis readings 11-14 above). The 2 sentences coincide v the two hemistichs and also are read with maqqeph retained and also pointed with tarha and also munah המכְחָ תוֹקְלִ) together in the Codex Leningradensis B19:

Why is this: purchase-money in the hand that a fool? -


To to buy wisdom, because he has actually no mind!

This might be substantiated through elucidating the syntactical constituents of the verse. In the sketch below the accents are retained as they room in BHS and BHQ.


As far as I have the right to see, many commentators ignore or also ignore the pronominal הז after ~ המל . Delitzsch (1873:283) only insurance claims that that "sharpens the question", yet neither accounts because that this comment nor broadens on it. The maqqeph plus the dagesh forte conjunctivum reflects that this is a near unit. ΠΤ must have a referent, which deserve to only be the reality of purchase-money (ריחמ) in the hand that the silly (ליסכ־דיב). The strongly linked "why is this?" because of this thus thematises a phenomenon. הז, this thing (= phenomenon) involves "purchase-money", which is qualified through the prepositional phrase "in the hand that a fool". Strictly speaking, it is possible to say that there room two sentence in the very first hemistich (and thus three sentences in the verse), namely two nominal sentences: and also . However, according to the paratactic personality of Hebrew syntax, the two nominal sentences construe one unit v a main clause ("why is this?") and also a subject clause stating what the topic of the occurrence is. As such the question is: Why is the following phenomenon a fact? Why does it take it place? The phenomenon is the a fool have the right to be seen with money in his hand. The an initial hemistich therefore presents a factual instance (casus) and questions the factor for it.

It complies with that the answer should be offered in the following hemistich. The is to buy wisdom, qualified by the circumstantial waw-clause, "and he has actually no mind". The situation of mindlessness qualifies the great to buy wisdom and therefore defines it. In circumstances where people have no mind/ understanding, they try to purchase it. But this is irony: it can not be done, because that a mindless human being cannot become wise. The fool both make the efforts a stupid thing and also remains stupid for the trying. The irony takes the type of famous stupidity gibes: + .24

If a phenomenon is questioned, the is deemed problematic. Therefore an answer providing the factor behind the phenomenon is an initiative to resolve the problem. The difficulty is without doubt huge. In regards to the nexus of deed and also consequence, a fool have to not have money. If the does, the foundations of the nexus (a principle that transcends the sapiential tradition, but is an essential to it) become shaky. Deserve to this be explained? - yes it can, and also the proverb go so through the assist of irony. Money in the hand that a stupid is only there to bring about failure. Since he cannot obtain wisdom for money, that wastes the money and also stays together mindless as ever. Because of this the deed-consequence-nexus is, after ~ all, no so wobbly.25


This seemingly an easy verse has noted a host of readings, all of them possible and viable native a linguistic and also from a stylistic perspective. That is come say, the aphorism that the city is highly polyvalent. In the work-related of fourteen authors us have found diverse ways of managing the text, sometimes more and sometimes much less related to every other, transporting thirteen different readings that the text. These readings can in revolve be group into four clusters in connection with to short intelligence, the requirements of wisdom, ethical fibre, and the borders of wisdom. Follow to these, the city means:

The hopelessness of low intelligence

1. Initiatives to acquire wisdom space made futile by low knowledge (Delitzsch, Meinhold).

2. Those lacking expertise are incorrigible (Murphy).

3. Going after wisdom through ulterior motives is effective (Fox).

4. Part fathers" sons are just too stupid to justify the price of education (Scott).

5. A mix of the futility the attempts at wisdom by means of money and the motif that particular people do not have actually the capacity for wisdom (Clifford).

No easy method to wisdom

6. Biting criticism the the idea the tuition fees guarantee understanding (McKane).

7. Pupils who wish quick and easy wisdom space actually stupid (Plöger).

8. The foolish method to shot for wisdom instantly leads earlier to square one (Saebo).

9. The only businesses that trade this sort of commodity are those without real wisdom (Gemser).

A moralist reading

10.Exasperation at trading wisdom native sages prefer sex from prostitute (Waltke).

Struggling v the limits of wisdom

11.Pushing the borders of typical wisdom (Alter).

12.Softening the battle for theodicy through the reality that the script is just a opportunity (Toy).

13.Saving the sapiential doctrine similarly to the efforts of Psalms 37, 49, 73 (Loader).

The readings embody my reconstruction of feasible readings emanating from the way in i m sorry fourteen representative readers of Proverbs manage the text. They carry out not necessarily need to exclude each other and also sometimes carry out have facets in common. Every share the characteristics of humour, which mirrors - specifically in the therapy of the troubling acknowledgment of the danger to sapiential foundations - that humour is a very serious attribute of format indeed.

We might ask what the author intended through this proverb. Some readers (e.g. McKane and Scott) carry out it explicitly, while rather (like Alter) clear steer clear of an intentional reading. This highlights the impact of the methodological problem of intentionality and text-immanence on thorough exegesis. But, although posing historic questions and providing an argument, McKane"s analysis remains inconclusive so that other readings space not excluded. But, back it can not be proven as the "correct" exposition that the author"s intention, it could plausibly it is in that. At any kind of rate, that is itself not disproven. The same goes because that Alter, who additionally refers come the opportunity of a historical setting and who literary reading remains feasible and sensible, or because that Delitzsch, whose restoration of Masoretic pointing indications represent viable and also real receptions of the message in later Jewish tradition. As such no certain answer regarding the "correct" reading deserve to be offered either on the basis of an intended or a text-immanent reading. If so lot remains inconclusive but sensible so that the readings presented have the right to all be defended, we have in the proverb a multilevelled communication. Utilizing Proverbs 16:26, J.G. Williams (1980:35-58) has depicted how a proverb can be open to several interpretations at once. In Proverbs 17:16 this is especially prominent. A multilevelled aphorism attributes on multiple levels at the same time and also is thus polyvalent.

I would imply that this is not at all surprising in aphorisms. The very terseness that aphorisms can explain much that the polyvalence. Due to the fact that an aphorism is by an interpretation short, it relies on pithiness to communicate effectively. A successful aphorism will thus tend to involve its hearers or readers. It will certainly prompt concerns and, by the exact same token, answers to those questions. I submit the this is what we have actually in Proverbs 17:16. Through its question(s) the evokes considered answers and also therefore further questions as component of the process of consideration. The an extremely terseness for this reason requires, or in ~ the really least provides scope for open-ended formulations inducing further transformations on the component of the receiver. As Fox (2009:621) put it: " have the right to radiate definition in countless directions at once."

But they require readers to execute this. And also if those readers avail us of linguistic and also literary and historical approaches, these have the right to play a big role in uncovering the concerns invited by the aphoristic nature. This might be seen in the readings thought about above: linguistics and also poetic stylistics and also historical context all played their role in getting to these readings.

A plea because that thorough literary and also historical dimensions to the methodology the aphoristic interpretation appears an almost necessary conclusion come the exercise we have actually done above. Simply as the aphorisms themselves preclude one-dimensionalism, the method of their exegesis need to preclude it. Grammar and also syntax, stylistics and also historical enquiry, including the reception-historical facets such as the plenty of Masoretic shapes of the text - all of these are necessary dimensions the interpretation. ~ above the one hand, this should be clearly distinguished from a mixture that such methods on one level (as though historical evaluation and stylistic inspection pose the same inquiries to the text), i m sorry is entirely different from individually subjecting the text to several ways of reading. Meanwhile it should also be distinguished from allegorical and also typological exegesis.26 Using advanced linguistics, stylistic sensitivity and a historical sense to retrieve the wealth that deserve to lie surprise under the surface ar of the message is vastly various from making use of the potency of the text as imagery for constructions lying exterior its scope. That is what is excellent in allegorical and typological uses of the text, which have their own right to exist, however are not academic exegesis. If we space to understand proverbial literature, we require polished linguistic, literary and historical knowledge, but also sensitivity - one osmotic partnership of emotion our method into the text and rational analysis. Therefore the "Einfühlung" in minutiae taught united state by Johann Gottfried Herder and also Hermann Gunkel is indispensible.

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Competing interests

The author declares the he has no financial or personal relationship(s) which may have actually inappropriately affected him in creating this article.


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