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Question 1: How would one interpret, (not translate), Proverbs 6, in view of the linguistic construction: "Numbered Parallelism." How does "Numbered Parallelism", here, affect the interpretation of this passage?

Do the Six hated things, stand out above the 7 Abominations? Which are which? Do certain things receive emphasis, where another/others don't?

Or, perhaps, is the ambiguity itself the point of this figure of speech, to indicate that however you dice it, they are all beyond evil?

I am looking for an expert response; that is: a textual, or linguistic basis/authority for such an interpretation ...

Thank you!


Numbered Parallelism in Proverbs:

Prov. 6:16-19, NASB - 16 There are six things which the Lord hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: 17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, 19 A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.

Prov. 30:18, NASB - There are three things which are too wonderful for me, Four which I do not understand:

Prov. 30:29, NASB - There are three things which are stately in their march, Even four which are stately when they walk:

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Numbered Parallelism in Proverbs:

Prov. 6:16-19, NASB - 16 There are six things which the Lord hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: 17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, 19 A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.

Prov. 30:18, NASB - There are three things which are too wonderful for me, Four which I do not understand:

Prov. 30:29, NASB - There are three things which are stately in their march, Even four which are stately when they walk:

Proverbs is a book of comparisons between common, concrete images and life’s most profound truths.

In the example of Prov 30:18, the 3 wonderful physical things explain the deeper 4th. The eagle soars through the sky effortlessly, the snake flows like a liquid uphill on a rock, and the ship sails gracefully by the power of the wind through huge waves in the heart of the sea. These all explain the 4th, and most awesome, which is the courtship of a mighty man with an innocent young woman. Jacob slaved 7 years night and day sleeping out in the cold yet they seemed to him like a few short days because of his love for Rachel (Gen 29:20).

The example of Prov 30:29 is similar, but a little different, I think. The 3 stately animals describe the 4th, the king. Then the 4 numbered parallelisms explain the following 2 verses of how you should act before a king.

32 If thou hast done foolishly in lifting up thyself, or if thou hast thought evil, lay the hand upon thy mouth.
33 For the pressing of milk bringeth forth butter, and the pressing of the nose bringeth forth blood; and the pressing of anger bringeth forth strife.

Then we come to subject of this post: Prov 6:16-19.
The 6 things that God hates explain how bad the 7th one is.
If it had just said, The Lord hates the sending of discord among brothers, it would not have nearly the impact as it does here.

Also, the 7 things God hates explain the previous paragraph about the man of Belial:

2 A man of Belial, a wicked person, is he that goeth about with a perverse mouth;
13 he winketh with his eyes, he speaketh with his feet, he teacheth with his fingers;
14 deceits are in his heart; he deviseth mischief at all times, he soweth discords.
15 Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly: in a moment shall he be broken, and without remedy.

In the 7 numbered parallels, we have 5 body parts: eyes, tongue, hands, heart and feet.
The man of Belial is described by almost the same body parts and in a little different order: mouth, eyes, feet, fingers, heart.
Both the man of Belial, and the 7 parallelisms end with the same thing: sending forth discord. The Hebrew verb and noun are the same for both the man of Belial and the 7th parallelism.
The only thing missing is the man of Belial does not have the false witness.
The false witness actually could be the same thing as the one who sends discord among brothers. So it is 6 or 7 things that God hates.
v19 could be translated:

19 A false witness breathes out lies and is sending discord between brothers.

LXX translated that way:

LXX 19 An unjust witness kindles falsehoods, and brings on quarrels between brethren.

But LXX does not have the numbers in v16

LXX 16 For he rejoices in all things which God hates, and he is ruined by reason of impurity of soul.

So, in conclusion, we have 6 or 7 things that God hates. The 1st 5, which are all related to body parts explain the seriousness of the last 1 or 2.

In the other 2 examples of numbered parallelism, it wasn't 3 OR 4 parallelisms, but it was clearly 4, with the 4th being a deep aspect of human life, and the previous 3 from creation.

Are there any other numbered parallelism where it is n OR n+1 items? Where 2 items could be counted as 2 OR 1?
I don't know of others in the Old Testament.
In the New Testament there is Rev 17:10-11

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It keeps me annoyed why Bible translators are too motivated to provide their interpretation rather than giving a faithful translation.

  1. שש הנה
    These six

    שנא יי
    the LORD hates

    ושבא תועבות
    and seven abominations

    תועבת נפשו
    His breath/soul abhors

  2. עינים רמות
    lofty eyes

    לשון שקר
    tongue of falsehood

    וידים שפכות דם נקי
    and hands draining innocent blood

  3. לב חרש מחשבות און
    heart silently plotting wickedness

    רגלים ממהרות לרוץ לרעה
    legs/feet haste to run towards evil

  4. יפיח כזבים
    inspiring lies

    עד שקר
    false witness

    ומשלח מדנים בין אחים
    and promoting disagreements between brothers


Are there 6, 7 or 8?

Is it
  1. lofty eyes speaking falseness
  2. and hands that drain innocent blood

  3. heart silently plotting wickedness

  4. legs that hastily run towards evil

  5. inspiring lies

  6. false witness

  7. promoting disagreements between brothers

Or is it
  1. lofty eyes
  2. speaking falseness
  3. and hands that drain innocent blood

  4. heart silently plotting wickedness

  5. legs that hastily run towards evil

  6. inspiring lies of false witness

  7. promoting disagreements between brothers


I think the passage actually intended to say,

Among here are six things the LORD hates, and are seven abominations which His soul abhors.

  1. lofty eyes speaking falseness and hands that drain innocent blood heart silently plotting wickedness legs hastily running towards evil inspiring lies of false witness promoting disagreements between brothers

Rabbis say, the Torah is a continuum, intrapolated between the words.

Similarly we can say, seven being a "perfect" number, actually signifies a continuum of evil. Of which most of them is easily recognised by humans, since humans were created on the 6th day. That is to say, the passage deliberately demonstrates there is a blur line delineating types of evil. You can easily recognise most of them. But there is evil that you have to look intently to recognise.

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  • Why can't your English translations translate as "soul of the LORD"? Is it because your religion says the LORD has no soul since He should have a spirit. The LORD having a soul and a spirit would break the trinity, and so your Bibles have to mistranslate to ensure the trinity is reflected "accurately"? – Cynthia Avishegnath May 7 '15 at 12:10
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    The word נפש occurs 757 times (more or less) in the Hebrew Bible. In the NASB quoted by the OP, the word ‘soul' occurs 303 times. The vast majority of the discrepancies have nothing to do with the LORD. The reason it isn’t translated as “soul” is (I presume) because the Hebrew usage is broader than the English usage, yes, particularly for Christians who tend to assign 'soul' a particular meaning based on New Testament usage. That doesn’t reflect a corruption in translation, just an appreciation of the semantic range of the English word for its readers. – Susan May 7 '15 at 15:07
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    Who makes the call that "the Hebrew usage is broader than the English usage"? Still, the "soul of the LORD". – Cynthia Avishegnath May 7 '15 at 16:18
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    It's just descriptive of usage (which may be different among an English-speaking community that is bilingual with Hebrew). If you have a lexicon that indicates a 1:1 correspondence, I'd be interested. For reference: JPS 1917 (1985 also doesn’t use ’soul’ in 6:16). – Susan May 7 '15 at 16:53
  • I don't care about the JPS. What you are implying is, the books after Malakhi are the solid foundation. The Hebrew of the books between Genesis and Malakhi are indefinite language, and therefore must be interpreted/modified according to the books located after Malakhi. Whereas, my position is, the language of the books between Genesis to Malakhi are definite, and the veracity of the books after Malakhi must be judged from the foundation of the books between Genesis and Malakhi. – Cynthia Avishegnath May 8 '15 at 13:00

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