Proverbs 24

21My son, fear the Lord and the king; Do not associate with those given to change; 22For their calamity will rise suddenly, And who knows the ruin those two can bring?

Isn't change good for scientific progress? Why resist progress?

  • consult the commentaries on biblehub for basic queries, they will easily help you understand the meaning. Some translations use rebellious and the Targum and Syriac version, "with fools"; as all such persons are, and should be avoided as scandalous and dangerous: mix not with them. Change in such context only means trespass,, heresy, violation of God's way.
    – Michael16
    Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 17:00
  • Changing or switching allegiances, from one god to another rival deity, and from one king to one of his rivals, is (obviously) dangerous; such betrayal is usually punished by death, in case the usurpers' plot fails.
    – Lucian
    Commented Jul 28, 2021 at 2:02
  • "Isn't change good for scientific progress?" No, change just for the sake of change is not scientific (or social) progress.
    – RonJohn
    Commented Aug 23, 2023 at 16:11

3 Answers 3


There are some textual issues with this proverb.

AYB translation

In the AYB commentary, Fox suggests replacing the MT titʿārāb with titʿabbār and following the LXX in replacing MT šônîm with šenêhem.

In that case, here is an alternate version:

Maxim 30: Fear God and the king.
  24:21      Fear the Lord, my son, and the king.
     Do not anger either of them.
  22      For suddenly catastrophe will go forth from them;
     and who can understand the disaster either can cause?

Here is their explanation:

Do not anger either of them: In the MT the B-line reads: “With šonim do not mingle [titʿarab].” The first problem is šonim. The literal meaning of the word is “those who change” (intransitive) or “those who become different” (from others). Proposed solutions based on this sense (see below) do not really agree with the word’s use elsewhere or fit the present context. Also difficult is titʿarab “mingle.” It might make sense to warn against “mingling” with a king, but how could one do so with God even if he wished to? Also, if šonim refers to a third category of persons (e.g., “those who change”), then šeneyhem, lit., “the two of them,” in v 22b lacks a two-item antecedent. A very minor emendation of the consonantal text, following the LXX, yields: “Do not anger either of them” (Gemser). This produces a more meaningful text and improves the sense of v 22b; see the Textual Note.

Šônîm is commonly understood to mean “dissidents,” “revolutionaries” (Delitzsch), “those of a different view” (Clifford), or the like. But this assigns the G-stem of š-n-h a sense it does not have elsewhere and also seems rather anachronistic, as if the proverb were concerned with political dissidents. The biblical term for political rebels is môredîm, and their offense lies not in being different in viewpoint but in the act of insurrection. Šônîm could mean “different,” but different from what? Elsewhere, šôneh in this sense is followed by min (e.g., Esth 3:8; Sir 42:24 MS B [in Esth 1:7 it means “various”]). Without an explicit comparison, the terms of comparison would be implied by context, namely Yahweh and the king. But everyone is different from them. Others appeal to an Arabic etymology—saniya “to become high,” “exalted in rank”—and give šônîm the unique meaning of “nobility,” “men of rank,” or the like (D. Winton Thomas 1934: 237; Kopf 1959: 280–82). But this does not fit the context because the pupil being addressed is, ideally, headed for the royal service (Prov 22:29) and will be a man of rank. We should emend to šenêhem, “both of them” or (negated in translation) “not either.” On hitʿabbēr meaning “make oneself the object of anger,” see the Comments on 14:16 and 20:2.

Fox, M. V. (2009). Proverbs 10–31: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 18B, p. 752). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.

With this text, the proverb becomes easier to interpret.

Verse 21a is a positive formulation of the law in Exod 22:27: “Do not revile God, and do not curse a prince in your people.” The phrase “revile [lit., “bless”—a euphemism] God and king” appears in 1 Kgs 21:10 and 13; cf. Isa 8:21. It signifies a double blasphemy. Other proverbs warning of the king’s wrath are Prov 16:14; 19:12; and 20:2. Ahiqar is quoted in an Aesop’s fable as saying, “My son, above all fear God and honor the king” (Greek text in Coneybeare et al. 1913: 164). See too the words of Ahiqar on the danger of the king’s anger quoted in the Comment on 16:14. Fox, M. V. (2009). Proverbs 10–31: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 18B, pp. 751–752). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.

NICOT translation

Bruce Waltke provides a different solution for the problem of šōnîm in the NICOT commentary, yielding "officials/nobles" and thus translates as:

  21 Fear the LORD, my son, and the king;
 with [intriguing] officials do not get 
  22 Because disaster from them suddenly
and who knows what ruin the two of them 
can inflict?

Waltke, B. K. (2005). The Book of Proverbs, Chapters 15–31 (pp. 279–280). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Here is his justification for his own emendation and rejection of LXX:

The ancient versions did not understand the difficult Hebrew. LXX rendered verset B mētheteroi autōn apeithēseīs “do not disobey either of them” which Jaeger retroverted as ʾal šenêhem ʾal titʿabbār (= “against the two of them do not flare up”), a reading favored by Gemser (Sprüche, p. 89) and Fichtner [BHS]. Toy (Proverbs, p. 50), Meinhold (Sprüche, p. 408), et al. (cf. NAB, NJPS, NIV) invest šnh, which means “change” (intransitive), with its transitive meaning in Piel “change” (i.e., traditional ideas or systems)” or with the meaning “to be different” (Est. 1:7; 3:8) and extend to either of these meanings the notions of “dissenters” or “rebellious” (cf. Vulg. “detractors”). Either of these linguistic jumps is dubious and arbitrary. D. W. Thomas (“The Root šnh = saniya in Hebrew, II,” ZAW, 55 (1937) 174–176) more plausibly associated šônîm with Arabic saniya ‘to be high, exalted in rank’ and snʾ “sublime,” “great honour” and renders it “those of high rank (the nobility perhaps”). (Its occurrence in Ugaritic is debated.) He has been followed by G. R. Driver (“Problems in Hebrew Text,” 189), Kopf (“Arabische Etymologien und Parallelen zum Bibelwoterbuch,” VT 9 (1959) 282–283), HALOT (4.1559, s.v. III snh). The root has been detected in several OT passages (Isa. 11:1; Hab. 3:2; Ps. 68:18; Est 2:9; Dan 7:23), but Emerton (“The Meaning of šēnāʾ in Psalm cxxvii 2,” VT 24 (1974) 25f.) allows only Prov. 5:9, 14:17; 24:21–22, but the first two of these are also questionable. Thomas thinks the admonition means to keep aloof from those who move in higher social spheres, but the following verse implies that in their greed for power, they are undermining the legitimate authority to advance themselves. Gemser acknowledges šōnîm can mean “people of high rank,” but thinks it not as good as retroverted LXX. NRSV follow LXX but curiously in its footnote gives only the meaning “those who change” for šōnîm.

With this text, the interpretation then does become one of avoiding the intrigues of nobles who are trying to usurp power from the king. This does seem like a bit of stretch for proverbs, so I prefer the AYB reading.


Prov 24:21, 22 is the last of the 30 sayings as begun in Prov 22:17-21. Prov 24:21 appears tricky as judged by the variety of meanings:

  • and do not join with rebellious officials, NIV
  • do not join with those who do otherwise, ESV
  • do not associate with the rebellious, BSB, NLT, CSB, HCSB, CEV, ISV
  • Do not associate with those given to change, NKJV, NASB 1995, NASB 1977
  • Do not get involved with those of high rank, NASB

Even the respected NASB has changed its collective mind as shown above.

The problem here is how to translate שׁ֝וֹנִ֗ים from the root form of שָׁנָה (shanah) a verb meaning "change" but with a variety of wide nuances that include, "disguise", etc. However, "change" appears to be the technically correct meaning.

The translation "rebels" is entirely understandable as Ellicott notes:

literally, mix not thyself with changers, or changeable persons, that is, join not in the counsels, practices, or familiar conversation of those that love changes; that are unstable in their obedience to God, or to the king, and are prone to rebel against either of them.

Indeed, Jacob reprimanded his eldest son for as changeable as water (Gen 49:4), that is, unreliable; one whose word was not constant. The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary makes the astute observation about Prov 24:21, 22:

21, 22. A warning against impiety and resistance to lawful rule (Ro 13:1-7; 1Pe 2:17). meddle … change—(Compare Margin), literally, "mingle not yourself," avoid the society of restless persons.


Proverbs 24 New King James Version

21My son, fear the Lord and the king;
Do not associate with those given to change [H8138];
22For their calamity will rise suddenly,
And who knows the ruin those two can bring?

The Hebrew word for "change" can mean different things.

שׁ֝וֹנִ֗ים (w·nîm)
Verb - Qal - Participle - masculine plural
Strong's 8138: To fold, duplicate, to transmute

Pulpit explains:

Meddle not with them that are given to change. There is some doubt about the intepretation of the last word שׁונִים (shonim), which may mean those who change, innovators (in which transitive sense the verb does not elsewhere occur), or those who think differently, dissidents, who respect neither God nor the king. ... "those who are otherwise disposed," who have not the proper sentiments of fear and honour for God and the king. St. Jerome has, Et cum detractoribus non commiscearis, by which word he probably means what we call revolutionists, persons who disparage and despise all authority.

English Standard Version

21My son, fear the LORD and the king,
and do not join with those who do otherwise,
22for disaster will arise suddenly from them,
and who knows the ruin that will come from them both?

Basically, do not associate with those who want to change the kingship.

Isn't change good for scientific progress? Why resist progress?

It is not about scientific progress but about rebellion.

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