Bite-Sized Exegesis, Proverbs, Proverbs 10

Bite-Sized Exegesis: Proverbs 10:5


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

אׂגֵר בַּקַּיִץ בֵּן מַשְׂכִּיל נִרדָּם בַּקָּצִיר בֵּן מֵבִישׁ׃


ʾōgēr baqqayiṣ bēn maśkîl nirdām baqqāṣîr bēn mēbîš


The one gathering in the summer is a prudent son, the one falling deeply asleep in harvest time is a shameful son.


* This proverb is more perfectly symmetrical than the previous four. The two halves are grammatically, structurally, and phonetically parallel.

* Grammatical parallelism – G-Stem ptc // N-Stem ptc as the subjects of the two halves; adverbial phrases בַּקַּיִץ (baqqayiṣ) // בַּקָּצִיר (baqqāṣîr); noun בֵּן (bēn) with H-Stem ptc in attributive position is the predicate nominative in both halves.

* Structural parallelism – Substantive Participle-Adverb-Noun-Adjectival Participle // Substantive Participle-Adverb-Noun-Adjectival Participle. No chiasm or ring structure as in previous proverbs.

* Phonetic parallelism – b-q-ṣ (בַּקַּיִץ (baqqayiṣ) // בַּקָּצִיר (baqqāṣîr)); bēn ma … î (בֵּן מַשְׂכִּיל (bēn maśkîl) // בֵּן מֵבִישׁ (bēn mabîš)).

* The meaning is straightforward: the wise person works hard during the summer harvest-time, while the foolish person takes it easy. The significance of the time-period in view is probably that work during the summer harvest is especially difficult because of the heat. Mediterranean cultures (and other agrarian cultures in hot climates) not uncommonly arrange their work day around the heat of the day, taking a mid-day siesta. This proverb may originally be a critique of abusers of the mid-day nap.

* More abstractly, this proverb contrasts diligence and delayed gratification with laziness and an unwillingness to think ahead. The proverb is, then, applicable outside of its agrarian imagery and origin, much like the English language proverb “Make hay while the sun shines.”

* Within the larger meta-narrative of Wisdom literature, hard work and diligence are traits associated with the highest virtues: wisdom and righteousness. Laziness during the harvest is not simply laziness during the harvest: it is indicative of foolishness and poor character.

* Note for further study: The contrast between מַשְׂכִּיל (maśkîl) and מֵבִישׁ (mabîš) – is this a standard antonymous pairing, or is it motivated by other factors?

Full Parsing

אׂגֵר – Substantive G-stem masculine singular active participle of אָגַר (I). Translated “the one gathering.”
בַּקַּיִץ – Noun, masculine, singular, absolute of קַיִץ with preposition ב and definite article. Translated “in the summer.”
בֵּן – Noun, masculine, singular, absolute of בֵּן. Translated “a son.”
מַשְׂכִּיל – Adjectival H-stem masculine singular participle of שָׂכַל (I). Translated “prudent.”
נִרדָּם – Substantive N-stem masculine singular participle of רָדַם. Translated “the one falling deeply asleep.”
בַּקָּצִיר – Noun, masculine, singular, absolute of קָצִיר with preposition ב and definite article. Translated “in the harvest time.”
בֵּן – Noun, masculine, singular, absolute of בֵּן. Translated “a son.”
מֵבִישׁ – Adjectival H-stem masculine singular participle of בוֺשׁ. Translated “shameful.”

What do you think?