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Proverbs 14:9

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  • Proverbs 14:9

    Proverbs 14:9
    Fools make a mock at sin: but among the righteous there is favour.


    What is the correct translation of this verse? "Fools mock at sin" does not make sense to me. At best, it is ambiguous. I have seen it argued that based on the grammar, the correct translation should be that "Sin mocks at fools." Why is this not the way that most versions translate it?

  • #2
    Originally posted by Obsidian View Post
    Proverbs 14:9
    Fools make a mock at sin: but among the righteous there is favour.


    What is the correct translation of this verse? "Fools mock at sin" does not make sense to me. At best, it is ambiguous. I have seen it argued that based on the grammar, the correct translation should be that "Sin mocks at fools." Why is this not the way that most versions translate it?
    According to Bruce Waltke in The Book of Proverbs (NICNT: Eerdmans, 2004), the word for "guilt", אָשָׁם (ʾāšām) "is better taken as the object (so also Targum, Symmachus, Vulgate), not as the subject (pace Delitzsch, Proverbs, pp. 213-14, who assumes the meaning "guilt offering," and pace Meinhold, Sprüche, 1:232, who opts for personification). The cultic meaning of ʾāšām is improbable in Proverbs, and the personification is infelicitous."

    TNIV: Fools mock at making amends for sin.

    Comment by Waltke, op. cit. via Accordance:
    9 This verse is chiasically linked with v. 8 by the catchwords “folly” (ʾiwwelet)/“fools” (ʿᵉwı̂lı̂m, vv. 8b, 9a) and possibly by the assonance of hābı̂n (“give heed”) and of űbęn (“among,” vv. 8a, 9b). Fools live in deception (v. 8) and mock at guilt (v. 9; cf. 19:28). The proverb admonishes one to be upright, not a fool who does damage and refuses to make restitution. As for fools (ʿᵉwı̂lı̂m; see p. 112–113), each one mocks (see 1:22; 3:34; 19:28) at guilt (ʾāšām). ʾāšām denotes an obligation to discharge guilt by giving something (cf. 30:10, where it is rendered “become liable”). According to Jer. 51:5, ʾāšām brings punishment in the time the LORD avenges wrongdoing (e.g., Jer. 51:5), and according to Ps. 68:21(22), those who continue in their ʾāšām will certainly perish. The Mosaic law applies the term to inadvertent sin (Lev. 4:13, 22), to ceremonial uncleanness (5:2), and to moral guilt, including taking false oaths (5:4), stealing, and cheating (6:4[5:23]; cf. Ps. 10:2–11). In that levitical law the ʾāšām sacrifice, along with other reparations, discharged one’s obligations. Today it is discharged in the sacrifice of Christ, who offered his life as a guilt offering (Isa. 53:10). But among [see 6:19] upright people (p. 98) [there] is favor (see 10:32; 11:1). The opposition to “guilt” suggests that favor with God and people is meant (cf. also 11:1; 12:22); the latter is supported by the qualifying prepositional phrase “between upright people.” Mutual and divine favor and acceptance prevail among them by reason of their uprightness (cf. “pleasing to the LORD” in 16:7). Upright people do not involve themselves in situations in which they incur guilt, and if they commit wrong, they make appropriate reparations. As in v. 8, the antithetical parallelism is imperfect. “Fools” and “among the upright” are fairly precise antitheses, but “mock at guilt” and [Prov 1-15, p. 590] “find favor” are not, suggesting that each must be projected into the antithetical parallel. Fools do wrong and scoff at making reparations, but they find no divine or mutual favor and acceptance. The benevolent concord of the upright contrasts with the sneering, calculating discord among fools.

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    • #3
      Supposedly, the conjugation (or whatever) of "mocks" suggests that it is a plural subject doing the mocking. What is the response to that? Your answer was not clear.

      I can't even figure out what "mock at guilt" means. It seems to me like mocking at sin should be a good thing.

      Psalm 2:2-4
      The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying,
      Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.
      He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.

      Proverbs 2:25-26
      But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof:
      I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh

      On the other hand, if "mock at guilt" means something along the lines of "mock at God's law," then it seems like the parable could have just said "law" instead of sin and been way more clear. If "sin" can mean "righteousness," then the parable sets itself up for two contradictory interpretations.

      If the correct translation is "sin mocks at fools," then it would be similar to the parable that says "wine is a mocker." Sin harms fools.
      Last edited by Obsidian; 02-21-2014, 01:11 PM.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Obsidian View Post
        Supposedly, the conjugation (or whatever) of "mocks" suggests that it is a plural subject doing the mocking. What is the response to that? Your answer was not clear.
        Actually, the "answer" I posted is entirely that of Waltke, who noted differing interpretations by Delitzsch and Meinhold that are more in line with your preferred interpretation.

        With regard to 'the conjugation (or whatever) of "mocks" suggests that it is a plural subject doing the mocking', I guess you are alluding to the fact that ― in the interpretation presented by Waltke ― the verb יָלִיץ (yālı̂ṣ) [scorn, mock, deride] is singular, whereas the subject אֱוִלִים (ʾᵉwilı̂m) [fools] is plural. The explanation for the lack of concordance between the subject and the verb in the interpretation espoused by Waltke, NIV, etc. is presented by Waltke in a footnote to Prov. 14:1:
        The switch from plural topic to singular verb suggests that the initial phrase functions as a nominative absolute with the expected resumptive singular form elided (IBHS, page 76, §4.7b). Moreover, "the plural of persons ... is sometimes construed with the singular of the predicate, when instead of the whole class of individuals, each severally is to be represented as affected by the statement" (GKC, #1451 [n]; cf. Prov. 3:18).

        Originally posted by Obsidian View Post
        I can't even figure out what "mock at guilt" means. It seems to me like mocking at sin should be a good thing.
        Walte et al explain the meaning by means of alternative words or paraphrases: for instance, NIV: Fools mock at making amends for sin; ESV: Fools mock at the guilt offering.

        Waltke: "The proverb admonishes one to be upright, not a fool who does damage and refuses to make restitution. As for fools (ʿᵉwı̂lı̂m; see p. 112–113), each one mocks (see 1:22; 3:34; 19:28) at guilt (ʾāšām). ʾāšām denotes an obligation to discharge guilt by giving something (cf. 30:10, where it is rendered “become liable”)."

        The English word "restitution" is one of the glosses given for ʾāšām (guilt, restitution) in HALOT.
        אָשָׁם ‏אשׁם‎; ? Ug. (Kellerman ZAW 76:319ff); MHb., > JArm.tg ‏אֲשָׁמָא; Arb. ʾaṯām debt, fine, < Hb. ?: ‏אֲשָׁמוֹ, אֲשָׁמָיו: — 1. guilt Gn 2610 Jr 515 Ps 6822 Pr 149 (:: רָצוֹן, → Gemser): —2. restitution Nu 57f; —3. guilt-offering Lv 56–25 610 71f.5.7.37 1412–28 1921f Nu 612 189 2K 1217 Ezk 4039 4213 4429 4620 cj. Ezr 1019 Sir 731 (‏ים‎[‏מ‎]‏לחם אש ?) 4. gift of atonement, compensation 1S 63f.8.17 Is 5310 (→ Eichrodt 2:314f); → חַטָּאת Dussaud Orient. 134ff; Gray Legacy 57ff; Koehler Theol. 177f; Cazelles VT 8:312ff; Snaith 15, 73ff; RGG 4:1645; 6:509. †

        Originally posted by Obsidian
        If the correct translation is "sin mocks at fools," then it would be similar to the parable that says "wine is a mocker." Sin harms fools.
        Given the ambiguity of the text and the varying interpretations given by competent scholars, I would not venture to claim to know ― or to be able to ascertain ― "the correct translation".

        That said, I do find Waltke's exegesis and the TNIV rendering to be satisfying to my mind. YMMV.
        Last edited by John Reece; 02-21-2014, 09:47 PM.

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