1

2 Samuel 13:3 (DRB):

Now Amnon had a friend, named Jonadab the son of Semmaa the brother of David, a very wise man:

  1. ולאמנון רע ושׁמו יונדב בן־שׁמעה אחי דוד ויונדב אישׁ חכם מאד

How does the Hebrew text describe Jonadab as "אישׁ חכם מאד׃" which means "a very wise man"?

Shouldn't he described as "a very cunning man" (in Hebrew), or some words like that?

Actually there are many non literal translations which translated " חכם " as cunning, subtle, shrewd and words like that.

2

The Hebrew חָכָם (chakam) occurs about 137 times in the OT and is variously translated:

  • "wise" Gen 41:8, 33, 39, Ex 7:11, etc
  • "skilful", Ex 28:3, 31:6, 35:10, 25, etc
  • "cunning" 2 Chron 2:13, 14
  • "shrewd", 2 Sam 13:3
  • "wise hearted", Prov 11:29

More exhaustively, the word is translated (NASB): expert (1), men who are skillful (1), sage (1), shrewd (2), skilled (2), skilled men (3), skilled men and with those (1), skilled* (1), skillful (1), skillful man* (1), skillful men (1), skillful men* (1), skillful persons* (1), skillful* (3), unwise* (1), wailing women (1), who (1), who are wise (1), wise (64), wise man (21), wise man's (2), wise men (22), wise son (1), wisehearted (1), wiser (2), wisest (1).

Brown-Driver-Briggs gives the following:

1 skilful in technical work; artificers Isaiah 3:3; sailors Ezekiel 27:8, so (probably) Ezekiel 27:9; mourning women Jeremiah 9:16; artisans of tabernacle and temple and their furniture Exodus 28:3; Exodus 31:6; Exodus 35:10; Exodus 36:1,2,4,8 (P), 1 Chronicles 22:15; 2Chron 2:6; 2 Chronicles 2:12; 2 Chronicles 2:13 (twice in verse); women in spinning Exodus 35:25 (P); goldsmiths and other artisans Jeremiah 10:9; makers of idol-images Isaiah 40:20.

2 wise in the administration of affairs: Joseph in Egypt Genesis 41:33,39 (E); heads of tribes Deuteronomy 1:13,15; Judges 16:19; David 2 Samuel 14:20, of Solomon 1 Kings 2:9; 1 Kings 3:12; 1 Kings 5:21 2Chron 2:11; the prince of Tyre, in satire Ezekiel 28:3; of kings in General Proverbs 20:26; class of political advisers of Judah Isaiah 29:14; Jeremiah 18:18, apparently also Isaiah 5:21; of Egypt Isaiah 19:11 (twice in verse); Isaiah 19:12, Edom Obadiah 8, the nations Jeremiah 10:7; so of God Isaiah 31:2.

3 shrewd, crafty, cunning: Jonadab 2 Samuel 13:3; the princesses Judges 5:29; אשׁה חכמה wise woman 2 Samuel 14:2; 2 Samuel 20:16; Generally, Jeremiah 9:22; intelligent animals Proverbs 30:24; בערמם ׳לכד ח taking the cunning in their craft Job 5:13; חכם בעיני wise in one's own eyes Proverbs 3:7; Proverbs 26:5,12,16; Proverbs 28:11; חכמי לב wise of mind (in their own mind) Job 37:24.

4 plural class of learned and shrewd men, including astrologers, magicians and the like, of Egypt Genesis 41:8 (E), Exodus 7:11 (P; compare Isaiah 19:11 (twice in verse); Isaiah 19:12); Babylon Isaiah 44:25; Jeremiah 50:35; Jeremiah 51:57; Persia Esther 1:13; Esther 6:13.

5 prudent, towards king Proverbs 16:14; in controversies Proverbs 11:29; Proverbs 29:8,9,11; religious affairs Hosea 13:13; Hosea 14:10; Jeremiah 4:22; Jeremiah 8:8,9; Deuteronomy 4:6; Deuteronomy 32:6; Psalm 107:43; אישׁ ׳ח Jeremiah 9:11.

6 wise, ethically and religiously,. in Wisdom Literature: a. as adjective, חֲכַם לֵב wise of mind Proverbs 10:8; Proverbs 16:21; לֵב חָכָם Ecclesiastes 8:5; of the son Proverbs 10:1 = Proverbs 15:20; Proverbs 13:1; Proverbs 23:24; Ecclesiastes 2:19; ׳ילד ח Ecclesiastes 4:13 wise boy; ׳גבר ח Job 34:34 wise man; ׳מוכיח ח wise reprover Proverbs 25:12.

b. = substantive: (1) as a wise learner in school of wisdom, he fears God and departs from evil Proverbs 14:16; is silent Proverbs 17:28; hearkens to counsel Proverbs 12:15; hears and increases in learning Proverbs 1:5; his ear seeketh knowledge Proverbs 18:15; he receives it Proverbs 21:11; and stores it up Proverbs 10:14; his ears hearken to the reproof which giveth life Proverbs 15:31; and he becomes wiser through it Proverbs 9:8,9. (2) as a wise teacher, a sage, he does not answer with windy knowledge Job 15:2; he tells the experience of the past Job 15:48; has knowledge Job 34:2; teaches it Ecclesiastes 12:9; disperses it Proverbs 15:7; his tongue is health Proverbs 12:18; it utters knowledge aright Proverbs 15:2; his mind instructs his mouth and adds learning to his lips Proverbs 16:23; his words are gracious Ecclesiastes 10:12; it is good to hear his rebuke Ecclesiastes 7:5; his instruction is a fountain of life Proverbs 13:14; one walking with him becomes wiser Proverbs 13:20. The חכמים recall the Greek σόφοι, having their schools, pupils (בֵן), discipline (מוּסָר), principles and collections of wisdom, דברי חכמים Proverbs 1:6; Proverbs 22:17 (compare Proverbs 24:23), Ecclesiastes 9:17; Ecclesiastes 12:11; God himself is חכם לבב Job 9:4. (3) the wise are prosperous: true, in sceptical view of Ecclesiastes, they have no advantage over the fool Ecclesiastes 6:8; but die as the fool Ecclesiastes 2:16 (twice in verse); Psalm 49:11; they will not be able to find the works of God Ecclesiastes 8:17; like others are in the hands of God Ecclesiastes 9:1; they do not secure bread Ecclesiastes 9:11; but elsewhere reverse is true: precious treasure is in his dwelling Proverbs 21:20; his lips preserve him Proverbs 14:3; they inherit glory Proverbs 3:35; wealth is their crown Proverbs 14:24; the wise man is strong Proverbs 24:5; Ecclesiastes 7:19; his eyes are in his head Ecclesiastes 2:14; his mind is at his right hand Ecclesiastes 10:2; he interprets things Ecclesiastes 8:1 (4) the wise man is a blessing to others: he wins men Proverbs 11:30; scales the city of the mighty Proverbs 21:22; though poor he delivers the city Ecclesiastes 9:15; is a reproof to scorners Proverbs 15:12; his mind is in the house of mourning Ecclesiastes 7:4; injustice makes him foolish Ecclesiastes 7:7; Job finds no wise men among his cruel friends Job 17:10.

CONCLUSION

I agree that in 2 Sam 13:3, "shrewd" is probably the best translation.

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