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Andrew Fulford Nota Bene

Bruce Waltke on Enemy Love

Dr. Bruce Waltke’s commentary on the book of Proverbs is a standard for evangelical OT scholarship. In the course of commenting on a few texts, he makes points relevant to my recent TCI series on pacifism.

[10:]12  The quatrain now probes the sources of good and bad communication to the way people perceive others who have wronged them and so points the way to reconciliation. Hatred (śinʾâ; see 1:22) is rooted in a person’s subjective revulsion toward someone, probably a transgressor, to judge from the parallel. Here personified hatred awakens (teʿôrēr; cf. Job 3:8; Song 2:7; Isa. 14:9; Zech. 9:13) personified conflicts or dissensions (medānîm; see 6:14) from dormant slumber. Now aroused and fully active, the conflicts spill over into violent clashes between the wronged and the wrongdoer. The hater, however, may feud under the guise of friendship (26:26; cf. v. 11a). By contrast, love (ʾahabâ; see 1:22; 5:19) cherishes the wrongdoer as a friend to be won, not as an enemy with whom to get even (1:22). Personified love conceals (or draws a veil over, yekasseh; see v. 11) all [or all kinds of, kol] transgressions (pešāʿîm). Pešaʿ denotes offenses against property (Exod. 22:9[8]) and persons (Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 2:1, 6), including direct violations of personal rights (e.g., Amos 1:6). It also may refer to the process of committing a crime. The verb pāšaʿ signifies a rebellion or a state of hostility between persons or states (cf. 1 K. 12:19; 1 K. 1:1; cf. 2 Chr. 10:19). Solomon’s prayer of dedication recognizes that pešāʿîm committed by Israel against the Lord can be remedied only by his mercies (cf. also Isa. 1:2; 43:27; Jer. 2:29; Ezek. 2:3; Hos. 7:13). The lover in the calculus of heaven draws the curtain down in order to conceal all transgressions, however many or bad (Jas. 5:20; 1 Pet. 4:8). Instead of placing the transgressor on stage and withdrawing the veil to expose his faults (see 17:9; 25:21–22) and so exact revenge, love endures his wrongs to reconcile him and save him from death (cf. 25:21–22; 1 Cor. 13:4–7; Jas. 5:20) and to preserve the peace (cf. Prov. 19:11). Love withdraws the burning wood of gossip (17:9; 26:20–21), but the quarrelsome and hot-tempered fuel the conflict into disastrous proportions, producing still further transgressions (26:21–22). The saying must be held in tension with the truth that a spiritual friend corrects the sinful offender (cf. Lev. 19:17; Prov. 7:6; Gal. 6:1).1

[17:]9  The final malevolent communicator is the gossip (v. 9) who destroys a community already threatened by transgression. The verse also forms a transition to the next sub-unit on proper responses to fools, laying the foundation in love. The disciple restores a community threatened by wrongdoing by drawing a veil over another’s sin to win his friendship and by not repeating his failure to avoid alienation. Verset A essentially repeats 10:12 but substitutes the concrete person for abstract “love” and adds “seeks.” “Whereas in 10:12 love—that is, good will or friendship (compare 15:17)—disposes a person to forgive an offence, here the motive for forgiveness is a desire for future friendship.” If a lover protects an offender, how much more will he promote intimacy among saints. Whoever would foster (or seek what seems inaccessible, see 2:4) love (see 1:22; 15:17) is one who covers over a transgression (see 10:12). But marks the contrast. Whoever separates a close friend repeats 16:28. If gossip spoils a close friendship, how much more does it alienate neighbors. Is one who repeats in its six other occurrences in Qal (1 Kgs. 18:34; cf. 1 Sam. 26:8; 2 Sam. 20:18; Job 29:22; Prov. 26:11; Neh 13:21) always refers to do something once more, a second time, never “again and again,” “to harp on.” Not even once does he repeat a matter (or word, dābār, see 11:13) “Matter” is a better gloss than a “word” because the parallel is “transgression.” The gossip makes future reconciliation impossible. The glory of the wise is that they do not seek vengeance (see 19:11), knowing God will deal with the guilt of others (Neh. 4:5) and sin will be punished (Prov. 11:21; 17:10, 12, 14).2

[25:]21–22  The concluding proverb pair of the partial sub-unit (vv. 16–22) instructs the son on how to resolve conflict with his neighbor that he created through his own folly. “Whereas ‘eating’ too much causes conflicts in vv. 16–17, giving to eat resolves conflict in vv. 21–22.” “For,” which introduces verse 22 gives the rationale for the admonitions of verse 21. The LXX glosses by adding “for by doing this.” Meinhold notes that like verses 18–20, this proverb pair also starts with a person’s situation of need, but whereas those verses pertain to actions involving only words, this one, like verses 11–15, requires concrete deeds. Other proverbs instructed the son not to gloat over a neighbor’s misfortune (24:17–18), to overlook injustice (10:12; 17:9; 19:11), and to renounce revenge (20:22; 24:29). This one advances to the positive admonition to show him sympathy and compassion in his plight in the very practical way of feeding him, putting the proverb in the sphere of the commandment to love your neighbor (cf. Exod. 23:4f; Lev. 19:17f.; Job 31:29–32; cf. Prov. 24:17–18). One must allow God’s justice its proper scope.3

  1. Bruce Waltke, The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 1-15 (New International Commentary on the Old Testament) (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2004), 461.
  2. Bruce Waltke, The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 15-31 (New International Commentary on the Old Testament) (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2005), 49.
  3. Bruce Waltke, The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 15-31 (New International Commentary on the Old Testament) (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2005), 329.