Bite-Sized Exegesis: Proverbs 10:6

14

Feb

Bite-Sized Exegesis: Proverbs 10:6

Text

בְּרָכוֺת לְרֺאשׁ צַדִּיק וּפִי רְשָׁעִים יְכַסֶּה חָמָס׃

Transliteration

bərākkôt lərōʾš ṣaddîq ûpî rəšāʿîm yəkasseh ḥāmās

Translation

Blessings go toward the head of the righteous one, but the mouth of wicked people conceals violence.

Notes

* This proverb appears to stand alone.

* The form of the saying is A-B-B’-A’. A and A’ contrast blessings and the concealing of violence. B and B’ both consist of [body part] of [righteous one/wicked ones].

* The first half of the saying is a verbless clause and literally reads something like, “Blessings to the head of the righteous one.” The preposition l prefixed to rōʾš (“head”) could mean “to” or “on”, though its usage to describe “direction towards” is more common than its usage to describe “locality”, for which we might expect, especially in this case, the preposition ʿal. Therefore, “direction towards” seems more likely, making the meaning of this clause either that blessings gravitate towards the righteous man or that blessings belong to the righteous man.

* The head is the conventional place on the body for blessings to be bestowed. On the other hand, the mouth is a conventional place of origin of wicked acts.

* The phonetic parallelism is not as marked in this verse as in others. The main phonetic connection between the first and second halves of the saying is found between the words rōʾš and rəšāʿîm, both of which sit essentially in the center of their respective clauses. Otherwise, there is no phonetic parallelism obvious to my ears.

* What does it mean for a mouth to conceal or cover violence? Is this talking about lying speech to cover up violent wrongdoing? In my opinion, the more likely meaning here is that the mouth covers the place of origin of violence, the evil thoughts that, when initiated through speech-acts generate violence, which is an opposing counterpart to blessings? If the first half of the verse has to do with the way blessings move gravitate toward the righteous man, then the second half could present a contrast in motion: whereas blessings move toward the righteous man, violence comes from the wicked man.

Full Parsing

בְּרָכוֺת – Noun, feminine, plural, absolute of בְּרָכָה (I) (bərāk̠â). Translated “Blessings”
לְרֺאשׁ – Noun, masculine, singular, construct of רֺאשׁ (I) (rōʾš), with prefixed preposition ל. Translated “towards the head of …”
צַדִּיק – Substantive adjective, masculine, singular, absolute of צַדִּיק (ṣaddîq). Translated “the righteous one”
וּפִי – Noun, masculine, singular, construct of פֶּה (peh), with prefixed conjunction וּ. Translated “but the mouth of …”
רְשָׁעִים – Substantive adjective, masculine, plural, absolute of רָשָׁע (rāšāʿ). Translated “wicked ones”
יְכַסֶּה – Verb, D-stem, prefix conjugation, 3rd person, masculine, singular of כסה. Translated “it covers”
חָמָס – Noun, masculine, singular, absolute of חָמָס (ḥāmās). Translated “violence”

What do you think?