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The Masoretic text for Proverbs 11:7 is:

בְּמוֹת אָדָם רָשָׁע תֹּאבַד תִּקְוָה וְתוֹחֶלֶת אוֹנִים אָבָֽדָה׃

About half of the English translations (including King James and RSV) translate אָוֶן ('āven) as some variant of 'unjust men'; about half (including New American Standard and New International) as a variant of 'strong men'; a few (including Common English Bible) as 'wealth'. I don't know how to reconcile this unless the translation came from different texts; can anyone provide additional information?

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This is almost weird! I am at a loss to understand why some versions render אוֹנִ֣ים (lexical form אָוֶן) as "strength", or "wealth", etc.

The listed BDB meaning for אָוֶן is "(1) trouble, sorrow, (2) idolatry, (3) trouble of iniquity, wickedness."

The Complete Word Study Dictionary of OT meaning is "nothingness, trouble, sorrow, evil, mischief. The primary meaning is emptiness and vanity ..."

The word occurs 78 times in the OT and always suggests one of the above listed meanings. Thus, Green translates Prov 11:7 as:

In the death of the wicked man, his expectation shall perish and the hope of the unjust shall be lost.

The LXX translates the same word in Prov 11:7 as ἀσεβῶν = "ungodly"

The Aramaic Bible in Plain English translates this verse as:

Whenever an evil man has died, his hope has perished, and the hope of the evil perishes.

The Latin translates the word as sollicitorum = "solicitous", but not wealth or strength. [Just have this translation occurred is almost as mysterious!]

Therefore, I would agree with those similar to the NKJV which gives:

When a wicked man dies, his expectation will perish, And the hope of the unjust perishes.

This translation is confirmed by two things:

  1. "unjust" or "evil" is parallel to the first half of the proverb
  2. The same word is rendered "evil/unjust" in other places in Proverbs, namely, 6:12, 18, 10:29, 12:21, 17:4, 19:28, 21:15, 30:20.
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  • +1 Good information here. Based on the possible meanings for that root word (Heb. shoresh), one wonders if "mischievous" might be a possible translation. However, "mischief" was not merely a prank in the days of the KJV, nor would it be here; "wicked" or "ungodly" might be other possibilities, but these words probably come from separate shoreshim.
    – Biblasia
    Commented Jul 11, 2023 at 23:45
  • please see my answer for an explanation for the mystery. Rightly or wrongly some translators believe אָוֶןl is a scribal accretion. Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 0:30
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Are they translating אָוֶן ('āven) differently or interpreting the verse to be speaking about something else? Some have concluded that אָוֶן is not part of the original.

Based on the previous verses, especially 11:4 - "Wealth is useless on a day of wrath, but justice saves from death" - the sage is speaking about the futility of wealth and human power. The NABRE translation leaves out the "'aven" altogether and explains why in a footnote.

When a person dies, hope is destroyed;
    expectation pinned on wealth is destroyed.

The footnote explains: "11:7 An ancient scribe added 'wicked' to person in colon A, for the statement that hope ends at death seemed to deny life after death... The aphorism is the climax of the preceding six verses; human resources cannot overcome mortality."

If the translations mentioned in the OP take this view, it explains why they speak of wealth or strength rather than wickness.

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  • Interesting theory. Many of the standard commentaries try to make out that "aven" means "wealth" or "strength" which is also mystifying.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 0:56
  • Further, How would the Catholic scholars know this information. If "wicked" is removed, then we end up with " ... and expectation in perishes". It appears they have indulged in conjectural emendation of the text.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 1:15
  • My purpose was to answer the OPs request for more info... What's clear is that the NABRE and probably others who do not include "evil" to describe the person who has died think that the poem is not about evildoers per se but about people of wealth and power, evil or not. That interpretation does fit with the context, but I can't say that I think there is ample reason to change the text unless there is better textual evidence. Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 2:37
  • Well stated. Agreed.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 3:15

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