Beginning of Wisdom

Proverbs from the Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near East

Lazy (Proverbs 26:14)

Posted by jac/cdc on February 14, 2007

הַדֶּלֶת תִּסֹּוב עַל־צִירָהּ וְעָצֵל עַל־מִטָּתֹו׃

ha-DE-let tis-SOV al-tsee-RA v’-a-TSAYL al-mi-ta-TO

The door turns on its hinge, and the lazy person on their bed.

This is one of those proverbs that brings a smile to your face; its definitely amusing, and that is part of the reason it caught Colin’s eye. But do we pause long enough to ponder the richness of the metaphor? What is it about a door that makes it humorous and apropos juxtaposed with the lazy person? On the one hand, there is the stationary character of both: the door never leaves its hinges and the lazy person their bed. In this way the two are alike. On the other hand, simultaneous contrast between the two, centered in the shared verb ‘turn’, creates a humorous or ironic comparison. In the case of the door turning on its hinges, this is right and proper; a door functions as it should when it turns on its hinges versus coming loose or sticking. By contrast, the lazy person turning on their bed is anything but right and proper. That the sum total of their labor should be described as no more than what a door does on its hinges is condemning in a humorous way.

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