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משלי 14:9 Hebrew OT: Westminster Leningrad Codex אֱ֭וִלִים יָלִ֣יץ אָשָׁ֑ם וּבֵ֖ין יְשָׁרִ֣ים רָצֹֽון׃

Proverbs 14:9 (New American Standard Bible 1995)

9 Fools mock at [a]sin, But among the upright there is [b]good will.

Proverbs 14:9 (English Standard Version)

9 Fools mock at the guilt offering, but the upright enjoy acceptance.[a]

Proverbs 14:9 (New King James Version)

9 Fools mock at [a]sin, But among the upright there is favor.

Proverbs 14:9 (Amplified Bible)

9 Fools mock sin [but sin mocks the fools], But among the upright there is good will and the favor and blessing of God.

משלי 14:9 Hebrew OT: Westminster Leningrad Codex אֱ֭וִלִים יָלִ֣יץ אָשָׁ֑ם וּבֵ֖ין יְשָׁרִ֣ים רָצֹֽון׃

Here are some excerpts from the Biblehub ( https://biblehub.com/commentaries/proverbs/14-9.htm ) commentaries:

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Fools make a mock at sin,.... At sinful actions, their own or others; they make light of them, a jest of them, call evil good, and good evil; take pleasure in doing them themselves, and in those that do them; yea, sport themselves with the mischief that arises from them unto others; they make a mock at reproofs for them, and scoff at those that instruct and rebuke them; and laugh at a future state, and an awful judgment they are warned of, and in a scoffing manner say, "where is the promise of his coming?" ....more.......more.......more.......more...

"Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible" and "MacLaren's Expositions" seem to be reciprocal:

MacLaren's Expositions

.................... I. Sin mocks us by its broken promises.

The object immediately sought by any wrong act may be attained. In sins of sense, the appetite is gratified; in other sins, the desire that urged to them attains its end. But what then? The temptation lay in the imagination that, the wrong thing being done, an inward good would result, and it does not; for even if the immediate object be secured, other results, all unforeseen, force themselves on us which spoil the hoped for good. ....more.......more.......more.......more...

I'm trying to get a more elaborate understanding of what Proverbs 14:9a states about "fools" and "sin"

  1. "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible" and "MacLaren's Expositions" seem to be reciprocal which is interesting. I say reciprocal because:
  • a) "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible" implies that fools trivialize the consequences of indulging in sin

  • b) while "MacLaren's Expositions" implies that sin mocks the fools who indulge in it because ultimately at the end of the day the fools are still Unsatisfied despite indulging in sin.

Therefore, could we say that the Old Testament(OT) Hebrew uses some kind of Ancient OT Hebrew literary device that emphasizes a reciprocity relationship (which in this case would be between "fools" and "sin")?

  1. Is there anything more that we can elaborate when it comes to what Proverbs 14:9a says about "fools" and "sin"?
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  • Great question. +1.
    – Dottard
    May 7, 2022 at 22:57

1 Answer 1

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The matter is the translation of the first three words of Prov 14:9:

אֱ֭וִלִים יָלִ֣יץ אָשָׁ֑ם

Does this mean: "Fools mock sin/guilt", or, "Sin/guilt mocks fools"?

Either is grammatically possible but the fact that the hiphil verb "mock" is singular, and sin/guilt is singular, and fool is plural, tends to lend weight to the second option as Ellicott, Maclaren, Cambridge, Pulpit, Jamieson-Fausset-Brown, and Keil and Delitzsch commentaries suggest.

Most versions translate the Hebrew as the standard Subject-verb-object word order but this not essential nor universal and the clash of grammatical number militates against it. Despite this, most versions and respected commentators such as Poole, Gill, and Benson make "fools" the subject.

The implied anti-parallelism with the second three words of the proverb is no help as it contains no verb (except the implied, absent verb "to be").

My suggestion

Here is my suggestion for how Prov 14:9 could be understood. The grammatical number of verb and subject suggests that the meaning is:

Sin/guilt mocks fools, but among upright [is] favor/goodwill.

However, based on the notorious and frequently intended ambiguity of terse proverbs (in all languages including Hebrew), I would not completely exclude the alternate (slightly less grammatical) meaning of "Fools mock sin" but this is a stretch.

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