Translation of Proverbs 12:26

Posted by Matt Postiff June 18, 2017 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Bible Texts  Translation 

Today's question:

With Prov 12:26 I am surprised how much the translations differ. What do you think would be the best translation and what do you think is the most likely meaning of this verse?

You have entered into a bit of the difficulty of translating concise Hebrew, especially without much context like we have in the Proverbs.

In my judgment, NKJV, NIV, and NET have it right. The HCSB is OK.

ESV and NASB don't seem right. I understand where they get "guide" and the overall idea of their translation, but the the second word is not correctly translated as "to his neighbor." The prefix on that word is more like "from," so it is more like "from his neighbor" or "out of his neighbor." There seems to be a careful "spying out" of who the good friends are, chose from among the whole lot of neighbors you could choose from.

The KJV seems to be the worst of the bunch. "More excellent" leans heavily upon that same prefix on the second word. There is a Hebrew idiom that uses that kind of construction to indicate a comparative idea (better than, more excellent than). But if a man has another righteous neighbor, this comparison would not work.

The verse seems to be saying "The way of the wicked misleads, but the righteous search out their neighbor for the wicked way so that the righteous are not mislead."

This is generally right. The way of the wicked is an errant path, and the righteous person wants to avoid that path, so they remain attentive to their associations.

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