Thursday, March 22, 2012

Proverbs 25.21-22 "coals of fire on his head"

The IVP Bible Background Commentary : Old Testament
 25:22. heap burning coals on his head. The Instruction of Amenemope also advises the wise person to shame fools or their enemies by pulling them out of deep water and by feeding them one’s bread until they are so full that they are ashamed. Similarly, the precepts and admonitions in Babylonian wisdom literature states that the wise man should not “return evil to the man who disputes with you” and should in fact “smile on your adversary.” This is surely the direction this proverb goes, but the metaphor of heaping burning coals on the head remains elusive. Suggestions offering cultural explanations have included the following: (1) there is an Egyptian ritual (mentioned in a late demotic text from the third century B.C.) in which a man apparently gave public evidence of his penitence by carrying a pan of burning charcoal on his head when he went to ask forgiveness of the one he had offended; (2) in the Middle Assyrian laws there is an example of a punishment in which hot asphalt was poured on the offender’s head. Both of these have difficulties. The first is in a late text and the action referred to has been variously interpreted. The second is hot tar, not coals, and is a punishment much like tarring (and feathering) in more recent history. Paul quotes this proverb in Romans 12:20.
Matthews, V. H., Chavalas, M. W., & Walton, J. H. (2000). The IVP Bible Background Commentary : Old Testament (electronic ed.) (Pr 25:22). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures
25:21-22. Kindness to one’s enemy-giving him food and water-is like heaping burning coals on his head (quoted by Paul in Rom. 12:20). Sometimes a person’s fire went out and he needed to borrow some live coals to restart his fire. Giving a person coals in a pan to carry home “on his head” was a neighborly, kind act; it made friends, not enemies. Also the kindness shown in giving someone food and water makes him ashamed of being an enemy, and brings God’s blessing on the benefactor. Compassion, not revenge, should characterize believers (cf. Prov. 24:29). Alternately, light on this passage may come from an Egyptian expiation ritual, in which a person guilty of some wrongdoing would carry a pan of burning coals on his head as a sign of his repentance. Thus treating one’s enemy kindly may cause him to repent.
Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-). The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures (Pr 25:21–22). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 15-31 by Bruce K. Waltke
21     The proverb presupposes that one has a neighbor who hates him (cf. 25:16-17).  The context of teh admonitions represents the enemy in urgent nee, concretized as being hungry (verset Aa) and thirsty (verset Ba), two sides of the same situation.  The admonitions urge the son to meet the need immediately, instantiated as to relieve his pangs of hunger by feeding him nourishing food (verset Ab) and to slake hi thirst for liquid by giving him water to drink. If [see 1:10] the one who hates you [see 25:17] is hungry [see 6:30; 10:3], give him. . . to eat [lit. "cause him to participate in eating/consuming/devouring";*  see 1:31; 25:16] food  [see 9:5].  And if signifies a hendiadys (cf. 9:5; 23:7).  He is thirsty refers to the mouth yearning for liquid to ease its unpleasant dryness just as the stomach craves for food to ease its hunger pangs.  Give him . . . to drink [lit. "cause him to participate in drinking"] water (see 9:16; 21:1).  The mention of "water" not wine, suggests that the son should meet his basic needs (cf. 9:5, 16; 25:25).**
22     Initial for signals that v. 22 gives reasons to meet the needs of your enemy.  First, you, which is tautological and so emphatic, will bring him to godly repentance for hating you (v. 22a), and second, the LORD (see I:67] will repay [see 6:31] you.  In verset A the food and water of v. 21 are implicitly compared to burning coals (see 6:28), which is placed emphatically before both subject and verb. The meaning of the phrase are taking [and heapingon the head (hoteh 'al-ro so) is debated.***  The preposition "on" supports the almost universally accepted interpretation from the days of the Septuagint translators down to the NRSV that hth means "to heap on the head."  More specifically it means t"to take/carry and [to heap] on this head," the proposition 'al assuming the delided verb of motion "to put/heap."****  The parallels in Egyptian instruction literature and i the retual of repentance substantiate this traditional understanding.  However, commentators accepting the that the meaning of the expression do not agree about its significance.  some think that heaping coals of fire on a person's head is a form of punishment and of appeasing one's need for vengeance, but the parallel, "the LORD will reward you," negates that interpretation.***** In the book of Psalms, the psalmist prays that the LORD will revenge the wrong, but he never himself pours the coal on his enemy's head.  The book of Proverbs rejects any form of personl revenge (17:13; 20;22; 24:17, 18).  Both the Old and New Testament instruct the covenant community to love, not heate, their enemies (Lev. 19:17-18; Ps.35:13; Matt. 5:43).  Most interpretators agree that "coal of fire" is a morally good deed, one pleasing to the LORD.  The LXX adds to the end of verset B agatha, "the Lord will reward you for your good." The apostle Paul uses this Septuagint text to reprove taking revenge and abstracts from it the principle to overcome evil with good (Rom 17:17-21).
Waltke, Bruce K. The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 15-31. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub., 2005. Print.

Commentary on the Old Testament
by Keil and Delitzsch
21 If thine enemy hunger, feed him with bread;
     And if he thirst, give him water to drink.
22 For thereby thou heapest burning coals on his head,
     And Jahve will recompense it to thee.
The translation of this proverb by the LXX is without fault; Paul cites therefrom Rom_12:20. The participial construction of 22a, the lxx, rightly estimating it, thus renders: for, doing this, thou shalt heap coals on his head. The expression, “thou shalt heap” (σωρεύσεις), is also appropriate; for חָתָה certainly means first only to fetch or bring fire (vid., Pro_6:27); but here, by virtue of the constructio praegnans with על, to fetch, and hence to heap up - to pile upon. Burning pain, as commonly observed, is the figure of burning shame, on account of undeserved kindness shown by an enemy (Fleischer). But how burning coals heaped on the head can denote burning shame, is not to be perceived, for the latter is a burning on the cheeks; wherefore Hitzig and Rosenmüller explain: thou wilt thus bring on him the greatest pain, and appease thy vengeance, while at the same time Jahve will reward thy generosity. Now we say, indeed, that he who rewards evil with good takes the noblest revenge; but if this doing of good proceed from a revengeful aim, and is intended sensibly to humble an adversary, then it loses all its moral worth, and is changed into selfish, malicious wickedness. Must the proverb then be understood in this ignoble sense? The Scriptures elsewhere say that guilt and punishment are laid on the head of any one when he is made to experience and to bear them. Chrysostom and others therefore explain after Psa_140:10 and similar passages, but thereby the proverb is morally falsified, and Pro_25:22 accords with Pro_25:21, which counsels not to the avenging of oneself, but to the requital of evil with good. The burning of coals laid on the head must be a painful but wholesome consequence; it is a figure of self-accusing repentance (Augustine, Zöckler), for the producing of which the showing of good to an enemy is a noble motive. That God rewards such magnanimity may not be the special motive; but this view might contribute to it, for otherwise such promises of God as Isa_58:8-12 were without moral right. The proverb also requires one to show himself gentle and liberal toward a needy enemy, and present a twofold reason for this: first, that thereby his injustice is brought home to his conscience; and, secondly, that thus God is well-pleased in such practical love toward an enemy, and will reward it; - by such conduct, apart from the performance of a law grounded in our moral nature, one advances the happiness of his neighbour and his own.
Keil, Carl Friedrich, and Franz Julius Delitzsch. Commentary on the Old Testament

No comments:

Post a Comment