The Problem with Scriptural “Assists”
Translators of the Scriptures (both present and past) added (and will continue to add) text to the various translations of the Bible in an effort to make it “easier” for us laymen to understand what is being said.
Each translation has its own preferred way of letting you know when they took the liberty of adding something to “help” you understand how they think the manuscripts should be read.
The New King James translators used italics and the Stone’s translators used brackets [ ]. If you have another translation, there will likely be italics to convey an addition, or in some instances, there could be different font styles or other characters like parentheses.
These “assists” by translators are sometimes helpful, but more often than not, I’ve found them to be a huge detriment to my understanding – especially in our conventionally accepted versions of the Bible.
In the particular instance I want to discuss, additions left by translators of two different translations lead us to two different conclusions.
The New King James reads:
Surely, in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird;
But they lie in wait for their own blood, they lurk secretly for their own lives.
So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; it takes away the life of its owners.
Because the translators inserted the word “own” in two places, when we read this, we are left with the understanding that this is a “sowing and reaping” scenario, where thieves will rob and murder an individual, forfeiting their own lives in the process because, hey, greed kills.
The translators have added italicized “assists” to help drive home that point.
Because of these “assists,” and because of the way we’ve been trained, we read this verse as one complete idea and think, “Certainly the thieves (or murderers) lying in wait are the bird! The bird sees the bait in the net, falls for the trap and gets caught by the hunter!”
For people reading the Bible in English, this mistake is understandable, but this is not what Solomon wanted his son to comprehend. Remember, Solomon was richer than we can ever imagine. His son would have all the wealth he would ever need, and then some.
Solomon was also the wisest king ever.
He was supernaturally endowed with supernatural wisdom, and in the first 9 chapters of Proverbs, he’s passing on vital, God-given information to his son, who would likely succeed him as king of the nation of Israel.
Now, I’m a redneck from the backwoods. I’m not the wisest individual, but if I were passing on important information to my son, I would not waste my time with no-brainer advice like, “Son, don’t hang out with people who rob and kill.” You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that one out. It should be a “given” to any sane human being that hanging out with murderers and thieves is a bad idea.
A Whole New Story
Let’s look at the translation of Proverbs 1:17-19 without the “assists.”
Surely, in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird; but they lie in wait for their blood, they lurk secretly for their lives. So the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; it takes away the life of its owners.
Read that over a couple of times if you have to. Go ahead . . . pretend you’ve never read it before and really digest it. Now, put it within the context of the entire passage of verses 10-19.
Proverbs 1:10-19 (v. 17-19 with no assists)
My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.
Please don’t “skim” this passage. Look closer and you’ll find that with the “assists” taken out of the way, the entire perspective changes and we’re left with questions.
- Whose “blood” do the thieves lie in wait for? The victim’s or their own?
- Whose “lives” are being lurked for? The victim’s or their own?
- Who “owns” that life that is being taken away?
If you can objectively read Proverbs 1:17-19 without your “Christian-with-a-western-translation” lens, it’s a whole new tale.
Now, the Stone’s translators did a better job of translating this passage, but for reasons I will divulge very soon, I still don’t feel that they fully communicated what was being said.
For the net seems spread out with free [bait], in the eyes of every winged creature, but they wait in ambush for their blood and look for their souls. Such are the ways of all despoilers; they take the souls of [wealth’s] owners.
Stone’s translation shows the shift in focus. It’s not the robbers who will end up on the wrong end of “sowing and reaping,” it’s the innocent whose blood, life and wealth are forfeit at the hands of these “sinners.”
This idea is vastly different from the one being conveyed in the New King James and other translations. It requires us to change our understanding of the passage.
Get to the Point, Dad!
Recently, I did a “deep dive” into verses 17-19. There is no doubt that Solomon was communicating something that was hidden (especially to us) that both Stone’s and certainly all of our conventional translations failed to convey.
Let me show you what I found.
Keep in mind that Solomon is about to continue on to talk about Wisdom in the next passage and we’ve already figured out in the last two posts that his son has no need (and likely as a result, no desire) to go out and rob and kill someone.
Whatever important information Solomon is trying to convey, he has to finally get to the point, and he does so in verses 17-19.
Solomon is about to reveal to his son the truth behind this metaphor.
This is where our pitiful mainstream translations mislead us.
Flipping (our understanding of) the Bird
Let’s take a closer look at verse 17.
Surely, in vain the net is spread
In the sight of any bird;
In order to fully understand this passage, we must grasp WHO the bird is.
Picture again in your mind a bird flying through the air, minding its own business. It looks down and sees a bunch of free food and dives down to grab a bite to eat.
Unbeknownst to our bird, his effort to grab a free meal has placed him smack dab in the middle of a huge, hidden net. The bird doesn’t ever see the net until it’s too late.
Hypnotized by the idea of free self-satisfaction, he dips his beak into the food . . . and that’s when the trap springs. He doesn’t even perceive the net closing in around him until it’s too late.
Sooner or later, he is killed and becomes somebody’s dinner.
What happened to the bird in this story? First of all, he was “enticed.” What did we read at the beginning of this passage?
My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.
A few verses later, Solomon is says:
Surely, in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird;
Solomon is viewing his son as the entity that is being enticed, so the son is the “bird” in the NKJV (man, they missed it in this verse) or the “winged creature” according to Stone’s.
Is that a stretch for some of you? Please stick with me on this. Let me prove my case.
Birds of a Feather . . .
“Ba’al” is used 82 times in the Tanakh and is translated only one time as “bird.”
Where? You guessed it . . . right here in Proverbs 1:17.
Every other time “ba’al” is translated as the god “Ba’al,” or someone in a position of authority – “owner, husband, lord.”
The Hebrew word “kanaph” primarily means “wing,” so the Stone’s Tanakh has a fairly accurate translation here. But “kanaph” can also mean “the edge or skirts of a garment” with a heavy allusion to “protection.”
David, the “man after God’s own heart” once wrote:
Keep me as the apple of Your eye;
Hide me under the shadow of Your wings [kanaph],
From the wicked who oppress me,
From my deadly enemies who surround me.
So it’s easy to see the continuation of the analogy here in Solomon’s words.
Solomon knows the son will grow into a position of authority, whether as a future king or as a prominent member of royalty. Wherever the son finds himself, it will be his job to protect those “under his wing.”
Look, I fully admit that my understanding of the Hebrew language can’t even be considered “rudimentary,” but this is what I’ve found when I “connect-the-dots” in this passage.
In spite of my lack of experience and knowledge, I am confident that both Solomon and his son spoke, wrote and read fluent Hebrew. So, as the son was listening to his father sharing this wisdom, we can be sure that the son was fully aware of the dual meaning behind the words “ba’al kanaph.”
He knew that, whether as a “winged creature” or a “robed king,” Solomon was pointing out he (the son) would be tempted by these sinners like a bird flying over a snare laden with free goodies.
But freedom isn’t free.
The wordplay doesn’t stop there.
Solomon warned his son that the sinner would say:
Let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause [chinnam];
. . . but then continues to warn him:
Surely, in vain [chinnam] the net is spread in the sight of any bird;
If “chinnam” meant “in vain” in verse 17, why didn’t it mean “in vain” in verse 11? Why didn’t it say:
Let us lurk secretly for the innocent “in vain” [chinnam]?
Because, as we proved in an earlier post, this metaphor defines “chinnam” as “freely,” not “in vain.”
The translators changed it to “in vain” to further their “sowing and reaping” message.
It’s only natural.
Now, I’m NOT saying that the translators had any ill intent when they were translating the Scriptures; they could have had very good intentions. They were just behaving the way humans are prone to behave.
It’s only “human nature” to view and apply your own perspective through your particular worldview, especially when it comes to religion, and we have absolutely NO evidence that the translators were impartial, righteous men.
Additionally, I’m NOT trying to nullify the idea of “sowing and reaping”; it’s definitely a dynamic that the Father put into place, but in the context of this passage, we can clearly see that it is not the appropriate place for that idea.
Most of the time, when we see the word “in vain” or “vanity” in the Tanakh, it is translated from the Hebrew words “shav’’,”  “riyq,”  or “hebel,”  which are in no way etymologically related to the word “chinnam” used in this passage.
For the net seems spread out with free [bait], in the eyes of every winged creature. [ba’al kanaph]
Solomon is making another play on words here. In effect, he’s saying:
These sinners will try to lure you to join them in their pursuit of “free wisdom” and all the free stuff that comes with it, but that promised freedom is both a lie and a trap, son!
In an effort to have you dig a little deeper, I just want to briefly mention that the Hebrew word “Chinnam” is derived from the Hebrew word “chen,”  which means “grace” and “mercy.” Selah.
It’s all about Blood and Souls.
Solomon goes on to reveal to his son the true motive behind this group of sinners’ efforts to assimilate the son into their numbers.
The sinners promised:
“. . . we shall find all kinds of precious possessions, we shall fill our houses with spoil; cast in your lot among us, let us all have one purse. . . .”
. . . but Solomon reveals:
“. . . but they wait in ambush for their blood [dam] and look for their souls. [nephesh]
For this group of sinners, it’s not really about the “stuff.”
It’s all about “blood” and “souls.”
What does the Torah say about the blood of a living being?
For the life [nephesh] of the flesh is in the blood [dam] . . .
What exactly is a “nephesh?”
The Strong’s Concordance translates the Hebrew word “nephesh” as “soul, self, life, creature, person, appetite, mind, living being, desire, emotion, passion.”
Basically a “nephesh” is everything that makes you “YOU,” apart from your physical body. It is your life force. It is your uniqueness.
The “nephesh” reflects your metaphoric heart.
But the kind of “nephesh” spoken of in this passage belongs to “the innocent.”
This group lying in wait wants to take by force everything that gives life to and characterizes “the innocent” (those who walk the path of Wisdom) and say and act like it’s theirs.
Let us swallow them alive like Sheol, and whole, like those who go down to the Pit;
They want to “consume” . . . or internalize . . . what rightfully belongs to those who put the correct building blocks in place in order to attain “the knowledge of (Israel’s) God.”
Notice what Solomon is relaying here – he’s saying, “They promise you a share in temporal gratification (stuff, spoil, possessions), but this is a lie, my son! This is all about souls to them! Their goal is to take the life force of the righteous and pretend that it’s theirs. They want to reap the benefits of a righteous walk without actually having to be righteous!“
The Treasures of Those Who Walk With Wisdom
Did I lose some of you there?
When we read in verse 13:
We shall find all kinds of precious possessions,
We shall fill our houses with spoil;
. . . our materialistic, Western thoughts immediately gravitate to the obvious. We think “stuff,” “goodies,” and things that contribute to immediate gratification. But clearly, something deeper is being conveyed here.
While material possessions may find those who walk the path of Wisdom, the treasures with true value transcend the physical. In fact, the book of Proverbs says the following of Wisdom:
Length of days is in her right hand,
In her left hand riches and honor.
Riches and honor are with me,
Enduring riches and righteousness.
Notice how Solomon puts the intangible on the same level as the tangible?
You may be able to hold riches in the palm of your hand, but honor? Length of days? Righteousness? These are the intangible treasures that those pursuing wisdom long to possess. These are the true riches that will sustain them and draw them ever closer to “the knowledge of [Israel’s] God.”
But make no mistake about it, the “sinners” in this analogy are on the same quest. They not only pursue the knowledge of God, they want both the tangible and intangible treasures that sustain the righteous along the path.
They want to consume everything that the innocent carry with them on the path of Wisdom.
Let us swallow them alive like Sheol, and whole [tamiym], like those who go down to the Pit;
Do you remember from our last post what “tamiym” means? It not only means “whole,” it also means “without blemish, perfect, upright, without spot, uprightly.”
This group wants it all and they want to get it “freely.”
Identifying the Proverbial Sinner
So this is our introduction to the “sinners” that Solomon was warning his son would come to entice him. Obviously, they are not just general “sinners” that you encounter every day, and they are not your run-of-the-mill murderers and thieves.
They have an agenda and goal – to take what rightfully belongs to those who traverse the path of Wisdom.
What does this have to do with the Strange Woman? . . . Everything.
For a whore is a deep ditch; and a strange woman is a narrow pit. She also lieth in wait as for a prey, and increaseth the transgressors among men.
-  H1167 – ba’al – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (KJV) –
-  H3671 – kanaph – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (KJV) –
-  H7723 – shav’ – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (KJV) –
-  H7385 – riyq – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (KJV) –
-  H1892 – hebel – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (KJV) –
-  H2580 – chen – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (KJV) –