On Life and Conduct
1When you sit down to dine with a ruler,
Consider carefully what is [set] before you;
For you will put a knife to your throat
If you are a man of great appetite.
Do not desire his delicacies,
For it is deceptive food [offered to you with questionable motives].
Do not weary yourself [with the overwhelming desire] to gain wealth;
Cease from your own understanding of it.
When you set your eyes on wealth, it is [suddenly] gone.
For wealth certainly makes itself wings
Like an eagle that flies to the heavens.
Do not eat the bread of a selfish man,
Or desire his delicacies;
For as he thinks in his heart, so is he [in behavior—one who manipulates].
He says to you, “Eat and drink,”
Yet his heart is not with you [but it is begrudging the cost].
The morsel which you have eaten you will vomit up,
And you will waste your compliments.
Do not speak in the ears of a fool,
For he will despise the [godly] wisdom of your words.
Do not move the ancient landmark [at the boundary of the property]
And do not go into the fields of the fatherless [to take what is theirs],
For their Redeemer is strong and mighty;
He will plead their case against you.
Apply your heart to discipline
And your ears to words of knowledge.
Do not withhold discipline from the child;
If you [a]swat him with a reed-like rod [applied with godly wisdom], he will not die.
You shall [b]swat him with the reed-like rod
And rescue his life from Sheol (the nether world, the place of the dead).
My son, if your heart is wise,
My heart will also be glad;
Yes, my heart will rejoice
When your lips speak right things.
Do not let your heart envy sinners [who live godless lives and have no hope of salvation],
But [continue to] live in the [reverent, worshipful] fear of the Lord day by day.
Surely there is a future [and a reward],
And your hope and expectation will not be cut off.
Listen, my son, and be wise,
And direct your heart in the way [of the Lord].
Do not associate with heavy drinkers of wine,
Or with gluttonous eaters of meat,
For the heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty,
And the drowsiness [of overindulgence] will clothe one with rags.
Listen to your father, who sired you,
And do not despise your mother when she is old.
[c]Buy truth, and do not sell it;
Get wisdom and instruction and understanding.
The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice,
And he who sires a wise child will have joy in him.
Let your father and your mother be glad,
And let her who gave birth to you rejoice [in your wise and godly choices].
My son, give me your heart
And let your eyes delight in my ways,
For a prostitute is a deep pit,
And an immoral woman is a narrow well.
She lurks and lies in wait like a robber [who waits for prey],
And she increases the faithless among men.
Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaining?
Who has wounds without cause?
Whose eyes are red and dim?
Those who linger long over wine,
Those who go to taste mixed wine.
Do not look at wine when it is red,
When it sparkles in the glass,
When it goes down smoothly.
At the last it bites like a serpent
And stings like a viper.
Your [drunken] eyes will see strange things
And your mind will utter perverse things [untrue things, twisted things].
And you will be [as unsteady] as one who lies down in the middle of the sea,
And [as vulnerable to disaster] as one who lies down on the top of a ship’s mast, saying,
“They struck me, but I was not hurt!
They beat me, but I did not feel it!
When will I wake up?
I will seek more wine.”
- Proverbs 23:13 Lit smite.
- Proverbs 23:14 Lit smite.
- Proverbs 23:23 The ancient rabbis routinely assumed “truth” to refer to the Torah (Law), and they interpreted the first part of this command to mean that a student should pay a teacher to teach him the Torah if he can find no one to teach him for free. As for the second part, they said that if the student had to pay to learn, he should not view this as grounds to charge for teaching others, but should teach the Torah for free.