Beginning of Wisdom

Proverbs from the Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near East

Stability in the land

Posted by jac/cdc on January 9, 2007

(Proverbs 28:2) בְּפֶשַׁע אֶרֶץ רַבִּים שָׂרֶיהָ וּבְאָדָם מֵבִין יֹדֵעַ כֵּן יַאֲרִיךְ׃

b’-FE-sha E-rets ra-BEEM sa-RE-ha u-v’-a-dam may-VEEN yo-DAY-a KAYN ya-a-REEKH

In the wrongdoing of a land its princes are many; but in a man of understanding (and) knowing right (order) will be extended.

It is unclear how this proverb should be translated, especially the second half. (The grammatical difficulty lies in the last three words: Does כֵּן ‘right’ modify יֹדֵעַ ‘knowing’ or does is it the subject of יַאֲרִיךְ ‘to extend’, which in either case must be understood as an internal Hifil, i.e., passive ‘is extended’?) The first part may refer to the numerous succession of rulers during a time of rebellion, or the spread of crime and wrongdoing during times of instability brought on by succession of many rulers in a row. In either case, the second half contrasts many princes and a land with widespread wrongdoing with the prolongation of the rule by a man of understanding and knowledge. Thus, this proverb seems to make a similar point as 29:2 (see Virtues of Leadership), that the character and actions of political leaders affect the entire realm over which they rule.

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