Beginning of Wisdom

Proverbs from the Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near East

Spinning (Proverbs 18:17)

Posted by jac/cdc on January 25, 2007

(Proverbs 18:17) צַדִּיק הָרִאשֹׁון בְּרִיבֹו וּּבָא רֵעֵהוּ וַחֲקָרֹו׃

tsa-DEEK ha-ree-SHON b’-ree-VO u-vo-ray-ay-HU wa-cha-qa-RO

The first has a sound case until his opponent has come and cross-examined him.

I have not rendered this literally. The mention of ‘first’ makes it clear that we should take the two halves in temporal sequence (‘until’), even though there is only a simple waw conjunction (‘and’/’but’) joining the halves (following the qere). This proverb has everything to do with “spin” and getting to the truth—a fitting proverb as presidential campaigns gear up in the US. The sages value clear, honest speech, though this proverb seems to recognize without condemnation that we are all inclined to “spin” things in our own favor. What subtle selfishness is found here!

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