Bite-Sized Exegesis: Proverbs 10:2


[mouse over words for brief parsing, click for full details]

לאׁ־יוׂעִילוּ אוׂצְרוׂת רֶשַׁע וּצְדָקָה תַּצִּל מִמָּוֶת׃


lōʾ-yôʿîlû ʾôṣərôt rešaʿ ûṣədāqāh taṣṣīl mimmāwet


The storehouses of wickedness do not profit, but righteousness snatches away from death.


* The noun רֶשַׁע (rešaʿ) often refers to criminal activity.

* This saying is about security, true and illusory. The security that appears to be had through ill-gotten gain, the wealth and full storehouses acquired through commercial activity that is either criminal (meaning in violation of established laws) or immoral (meaning technically legal but taking unfair advantage of the powerless), is not real security – it does not profit. In other words, crime doesn’t pay. True security is found in righteousness and justice, which can snatch the endangered practitioner away to safety even at the point of death. The contrast is between the appearance of enduring safety with the constant threat of destruction and the immediate threat of destruction with sudden deliverance.

* The H-stem of יָעַל (yāʿal) and the H-stem of נָצַל (nāṣal) appear to be a conventional contrasting pairing. They are found together in both poetry and prose (see 1 Sam 12:21).

* Death is depicted as a devourer, like a wild animal, who is about to swallow the one snatched away by righteousness/justice. This is a conventional depiction of death in the Ancient Near East.

* The threat of destruction to the wicked one is a this-worldly threat. There is no warrant in Proverbs for conceiving of that threat as realized only in an afterlife. The storehouses of wickedness ultimately do not profit in life.

* The proverb consists of two units, each with three emphasized syllables, arranged chiastically by part of speech/sentence (verb/predicate, subject, subject, verb/predicate).

* The phrase אוׂצְרוׂת רֶשַׁע (ʾôṣərôt rešaʿ) also occurs in Mic 6:10.

Full Parsing

לאׁ־יוׂעִילוּ – Verb, H-stem, prefix, 3rd, masculine, plural of יָעַל with negative particle לאׁ. Translated “They do not profit.”

אוׂצְרוׂת – Noun, masculine (although morphologically feminine), plural, construct of אוׄצָר. Translated “the storehouses of.”

רֶשַׁע – Noun, masculine, singular, absolute of רֶשַׁע. Translated “wickedness.”

וּצְדָקָה – Noun, feminine, singular, absolute of צְדָקָה with prefixed conjunction ו. Translated “but righteousness.”

תַּצִּל – Verb, H-stem, prefix, 3rd, feminine, singular of נָצַל. Translated “it snatches away.”

מִמָּוֶת – Noun, masculine, singular, absolute of מָוֶת with prefixed preposition מן. Translated “from death.”

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