On what basis does Proverbs 24:11 KJV (and some others) translate môṭ as “those that are ready?”

Proverbs 24:11 (emphasis added),

If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain;

Masoretic Text:

הַצֵּל לְקֻחִים לַמָּוֶת וּמָטִים לַהֶרֶג אִם־תַּחְשֽׂוֹךְ׃

Most translations render the word stagger, stumble or slip.

Does this come down to simply using different source material than most translations or is there more going on here?

I am not a scholar nor do I read Hebrew.

Edit: this comes from reading BlueLetterBible.org's interlinear tool for this verse:

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2 Answers 2


Basically, the KJV "ready" is equivalent to the JPS "condemned." Ready had a different since in the KJV. It means they were in line to be slaughtered, not that the people were ready to die. Apparently, because "ready to be slain" was confusing to the modern reader, NKJV went with "stumbling to the slaughter."

The issue is translating the word וּמָטִ֥ים. This is variation on how to translate it and even an issue about whether the root is מָטֶה or מוֹט. Considering the English of the KJV, it is actually similar to the JPS translation. The poetic language doesn't help.

The senses of the verb from Logos Bible Software.

enter image description here

מוֹט ... vb. totter, shake, slip (usually poet.)...Pt. מָט Pr 25:26; pl. מָטִים Pr 24:11;... -- Brown, F., Driver, S. R., & Briggs, C. A. (1977). Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (p. 556). Oxford: Clarendon Press.


   If you refrained from rescuing those taken off to death, 
  Those condemned to slaughter
              (Prov. 24:11, JPS Tanakh)

  Rescue those who are being taken away to death; 
  hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. 
          (Prov. 24:11, ESV)

        If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death,
  And those that are ready to be slain;
                 (Prov. 24:11, KJV)

ῥῦσαι ἀγομένους εἰς θάνατον καὶ ἐκπρίου [you are sawed off] κτεινομένους, μὴ φείσῃ, (Prov. 24:11)

erue eos qui ducuntur ad mortem et qui trahuntur [he is dragged/hauled] ad interitum liberare ne cesses (Prov. 24:11, Vulgate)

Deliver those who are drawn toward death,
And hold back those stumbling to the slaughter.
               (Prov. 24:11, NKJV)

      Rescue those being led away to death; 
     hold back those staggering toward slaughter. 
                (Prov. 24:11, NIV84)

    Libra a los que son llevados a la muerte; 
   no dejes de librar a los que van tambaleando [staggering] a la matanza. 
                (Prov. 24:11, RVA)

      Save those who are being led to their death;
  rescue those who are about to be killed.
                (Prov. 24:11, NCB)
  • Good catch. That is RVA = Santa Biblia: Reina-Valera Actualizada.
    – Perry Webb
    Aug 25, 2021 at 23:33
  • Thank you for taking the time to answer. So this has nothing to do with competing translations?
    – pbarney
    Aug 26, 2021 at 17:13
  • Does the summary added at the beginning help?
    – Perry Webb
    Aug 26, 2021 at 18:02
  • Yes, I think it did, although I'm not sure what "KLV" refers to.
    – pbarney
    Aug 26, 2021 at 20:36
  • 1
    Sorry, I fixed the typo.
    – Perry Webb
    Aug 26, 2021 at 20:47

The KJV is not translating mot as "ready", it is translating the expression וּמָטִ֥ים לַ֝הֶ֗רֶג as "ready to be slaughtered", because umatim means "tottering"[1], as in something loosend and about to fall down and thus the sense of the two words umatim lahereg is someone on the verge of being killed. Thus the KJV chose more of a sense translation in this case, as in English "tottering to be slaughtered" does not make any sense.

NICOT's translation is

Deliver those being taken to death, and hold back those who are swaying and being led to slaughter. Waltke, B. K. (2005). The Book of Proverbs, Chapters 15–31 (p. 270). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

With explanatory notes:

Those swaying signifies that they are rocking and shaking and about to fall off a secure base.

[1] per TDOT, interpretations of mot are:

  • Totter, Become Unsteady.
  • Be Unable to Maintain Oneself

Baumann, A. (1997). מוט. G. J. Botterweck, H. Ringgren, & H.-J. Fabry (Eds.), D. W. Stott (Trans.), Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (Revised Edition, Vol. 8, p. 154). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

  • Thank you. I modified the question to show where I was getting "those that are ready." I think your answer clarifies that KJV is choosing to make the phrase less "poetic," using "those that are ready to be slain" rather than "those tottering/falling into slaughter." But I think "ready" causes it seem more intentional on someone's part rather than upon their unsure footing (or such). Thank you for taking the time to answer, @Robert!
    – pbarney
    Aug 25, 2021 at 15:45

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