It’s smart to respect the LORD
- 14:1 A wise woman builds up her family.
A foolish woman tears it down by the way she acts.
- 14:2 People who respect the LORD live good lives.
People who hate him follow a crooked path.
- 14:3 When fools speak, their words come back to beat them up.
But wise words protect the ones who speak them.
- 14:4 If you don’t have oxen,1 at least your barn is clean.
But the more oxen you have, the more you can harvest.
- 14:5 A witness you can trust is a witness who won’t lie.
A liar as a witness is a witness who will lie.
- 14:6 You don’t get smarter by making fun of wisdom.
But when you try to understand, knowledge comes easily.
- 14:7 Walk away from a fool,
If you’re looking for knowledge.
- 14:8 Wise people know where they’re going.
Fools only think they know.
- 14:9 Fools aren’t into guilt,2 and make fun of repenting.
But good people are welcomed with acceptance.
- 14:10 You alone know the bitterness you hide.
And no one else can fully understand your joy.
- 14:11 A bad person’s family3 won’t survive.
A good person’s family will blossom.
- 14:12 You might think it’s a fine idea to take a certain path,
Until you discover it’s a dead end.4
- 14:13 Laughter can hide our pain.
And joy can end in grief.
- 14:14 People who return to bad habits will get fed up with it.
Good people will be content with the result of their choices.
Fools rush in
- 14:15 Naïve people believe whatever their ears hear.
Sensible people use their brains.
- 14:16 Wise people stay away from evil.
Fools rush in, reckless as all get out.
- 14:17 People with a short temper act like jerks.
The world hates schemers.
- 14:18 Naïve people wear foolishness wherever they go.
Clever people dress themselves in knowledge.
- 14:19 Evil people will bow to good people,
On the good people’s home turf.5
- 14:20 Poor folks are hated even by their neighbors.
But who doesn’t love rich people?
- 14:21 It’s a sin to hate your neighbor.
You’ll be happy if you’re kind to the poor.
- 14:22 Can’t you see that those who go bad will get lost in evil?
People who do good will find love and loyalty.
Talking till you’re poor
- 14:23 Work will get you money.
Talk alone will get you poor.
- 14:24 Wealth is the proof of wisdom,
While a fool gets to wallow in foolishness.
- 14:25 An honest witness saves lives.
A liar speaks nothing but treachery.
- 14:26 People who respect the LORD are stronger for it.
Their children are safer, as well.
- 14:27 Respecting the LORD is like drinking from a fountain of life.
It opens your eyes to deadly traps.
- 14:28 There’s glory for the leader of a big nation.
But there’s nothing for a leader with no one to lead.
- 14:29 Patient folks rank high in understanding.
Hot-tempered people score well as fools.
Calm down and live longer
- 14:30 It’s good for your health to live easygoing.
Getting worked up will rot you to the bone.
- 14:31 To diss your Creator, abuse the poor.
To honor him, treat them kindly.
- 14:32 Bad choices of bad people bring them down.
But good people find protection in integrity.6
- 14:33 Wisdom makes itself at home in people of insight.
It’s a stranger in the house of a fool.7
- 14:34 Good and caring people make a nation great.
Disgraceful behavior disgraces a nation.
- 14:35 A king prefers a wise servant.
A shameful servant makes him mad.
Oxen were the ancient tractors. They pulled plows to break up soil before farmers planted seeds. Then they pulled wagons that brought the harvest to barns and to market.
Some scholars say this is a verse that looks damaged by time, and it’s hard to make sense of it. A more literal translation illustrates this: “Fools mock guilt, but the upright find acceptance.” The reference to “guilt,” presumably means the seldom-mentioned guilt offering (Leviticus 6:1-7).
The writer more literally compares the “house” of the bad person to the “tent” of the good person. At first glance it looks like some kind of message about a bad person’s more “permanent” home, compared to the temporary home of a good person. But to people 3,000 years ago, a tent was a home. So, many scholars say the writer was simply using parallel words to express parallel ideas. “House” was often a way of talking about the people inside. And since the writer says the house of the good person will blossom or bloom or flourish—depending on the Bible version—that’s how we describe something that’s alive, as opposed to an inanimate object like a tent.
Repeated in Proverbs 16:25.
The writer literally says in the second line, “the wicked at the gates of the righteous.” Some versions say the wicked battle the good people and make it only as far as the city gates. Others say the wicked are taken there as humiliated captives. There’s also the possibility they face a court trial there. City gates were a popular meeting place where trials were conducted by “elders at the city gate” (Deuteronomy 21:19 NCV). But many scholars say that’s not likely the meaning here.
Scholars debate whether the message is about good people being protected even after they die (“in his death,” b moto, in Hebrew), or protected by their integrity (b tummo). The Hebrew texts read the first way, but scholars argue that Jews 3,000 years ago didn’t express belief in the afterlife. So, they suggest the text may have originally read as “integrity.” When old scrolls wore out, scribes made new copies. But if some of the letters on the old scroll were worn off, scribes had to make educated guesses. A scribe may have made that honest mistake while copying an old scroll at a time when some Jews, such as the Pharisees, taught about an afterlife. But that, too, is an educated guess.
Bible experts debate if a “not” got lost from the verse somewhere along the way. The text seems to say, more literally, that wisdom is known even to fools. But some scholars say it’s more likely that the original said wisdom is “not” made known. People of understanding have it, but the fools don’t. Some Bible versions say the people of understanding are wise “and even fools recognize it” (New Century Version)—though they don’t necessarily have it.