Beginning of Wisdom

Proverbs from the Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near East

A Perverse Mind (Proverbs 11:20)

Posted by jac/cdc on January 26, 2007

(Proverbs 11:20) תֹּועֲבַת יְהוָה עִקְּשֵׁי־לֵב וּרְצֹונֹו תְּמִימֵי דָרֶךְ׃

to-a-vot-a-do-NEYE i-k’-shay-LAYV u-r-tso-NO t’-mee-may-DA-rech

An abomination to Yahweh is those who have a perverse mind, but his delight is those who’s way is blameless.

As in Proverbs 15:1, this proverb contrasts an “abomination to Yahweh” and “his delight.” The images of the two characters described here are held together by an underlying association with ‘path’ or ‘way.’ ‘Upright’ (יָשָׁר and the related root תֹּם) is very frequently associated in some way with this metaphor of ‘way’ throughout the Hebrew Bible (e.g., Psa 101:2, 6). The most striking examples in Proverbs are 11:5, the righteousness of the blameless (תָּמִים) makes their way straight, and 28:18, whoever walks uprightly (תָּמִים) will be safe, but whoever perverts (וְנֶעְקַשׁ) (their) paths will fall into a pit. Chap. 2 of Proverbs provides an extended speech based on this metaphor of path, underscoring that life is a journey, the prudent will make wisdom their guide and avoid the perverse and crooked paths of the wicked.

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