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Proverbs 14:1 (ESV):

The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down.

Meanwhile in other versions (For example, NASB and NKJV respectively)

The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.

The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish pulls it down with her hands.

It seems that most other versions separate into 2 groups, the wise woman and the foolish woman, but it seems like the ESV says that the wisest of women will tear down her own house with her folly.

Am I misunderstanding the ESV or is it saying that even a wise woman will still ruin her own house?

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I agree that as it is presented. the ESV of Prov 14:1 is self-contradictory!

The key translation problem in Prov 14:1 is how to render אִוֶּלֶת (ivveleth) which is usually translated "folly" or "foolishness". The ESV is very literal, but I do not believe it conveys the meaning, but confuses the meaning.

Whatever one makes of Prov 14:1 is clearly an antithesis proverb - one that contrasts opposites. However, the ESV makes the opposites apply to the same person and thus makes it self-contradictory by making the same woman build up and tear down.

It is better to render the word אִוֶּלֶת (ivveleth) is "foolish" and thus translate:

A wise woman builds her house; but the foolish, with her own hands, pulls it down.

Now, the word אִוֶּלֶת (ivveleth) is feminine and thus it is very little stretch to actually translate (as many versions do) "foolish woman". Thus we might more helpfully render the proverb:

A wise woman builds her house; but the foolish [woman], with her own hands, pulls it down.

Here "woman" is clearly implied.

Thus, we have a contrast between the actions of a wise woman

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  • I did some more research and it looks like according to Brown-Driver-Briggs on biblehub, "׳א personified tears down house built by חַכְמוֺת נָשִׁים Proverbs 14:1;" Are they saying that the verse is intended to personify folly?
    – User2280
    Commented Jan 21 at 22:34
  • @User2280 - that is one possible interpretation as my first literal translation (above) actually suggests. Most versions add an implied "woman" to the translation to clarify.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jan 21 at 22:38
  • thank you for the reply, that clears it up!
    – User2280
    Commented Jan 22 at 4:10

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