1. The wording in this chapter of Proverbs has been difficult; and this verse in particular.
2. Consider the radical differences in translations on verse 10:
a. KJV: The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors.
b. Darby: A master roughly worketh every one: he both hireth the fool and hireth passers-by.
c. NET: Like an archer who wounds at random, so is the one who hires a fool or hires any passer-by.
d. Young’s Literal: Great is the Former of all, And He is rewarding a fool, And is rewarding transgressors.
3. The second part of the proverb is the main point of the proverb.
a. The main point of the proverb has to do with the folly of hiring people randomly and indiscriminately.
4. However, the first part (the illustration) in which the language is not clear… at least to me and to the translators and commentators.
a. As we noted, the translations differ wildly… and so do the commentators.
5. The discrepancy in translation does not arise from a textual issue.
a. Rather, it is a matter of words that have several possible meanings… as in English.
b. I have chosen to use the most common meaning of each Hebrew word in question.
c. That does not mean that it is the meaning that Solomon intended, but where two different meanings both make sense, choosing the most common usage is probably the safest.
1. “The great God”
a. Note that the word God is italicized in our English version.
b. It was added by the translators and italicized to let us know that this word was not in the Hebrew text but was their personal interpretation.
c. Thus, for a subject, we are left with the word “great.”
• This term (rab) can mean “much; many; abundance; multitude”
1. This is awkward as a subject because it does not tell us many of what.
• One Hebrew dictionary defined it as captain or chief.
• But most Hebrew dictionaries listed archer as its first and most common definition.
» It is translated archer in Jer. 50:29; Job 16:13; etc.
» Archer seems to make most sense with the meaning of the verb.
2. “That formed all things”
a. The word “formed” also has several meanings.
b. A couple of dictionaries defined it as “rampart; trench; or wall.
c. Most Hebrew dictionaries defined this word as “bore; pierce; pierce through; wound; slay; etc.
d. It is often translated that way:
• Ps. 109:22 – “My heart is pierced within me…
• Ezek 32:26 – “slain by a sword” or “pierced by a sword”
e. Taking the common definition of “pierce” or “wound” seems to best fit with the most common definition for “great”, namely, archer. An archer pierces or wounds.
f. Thus, so far, the first part of the proverb speaks of an archer who wounds.
3. “All things”
a. The KJV has it right here – everything.
b. “All” is clearly the most common meaning for this term.
4. Thus, putting our terms together we have an “archer who pierces all” or an “archer who shoots at everything.”
a. This is why some translators chose the word “randomly” to speak of the way the archer shot.
b. He shoots at everything… meaning, randomly shooting at whatever he sees.
c. This also fits well with the second part of the proverb.
d. The first part of the proverb speaks of an archer shooting at everything he sees.
e. This is foolish behavior—and this too fits nicely in a chapter that has been all about foolish behavior so far (vs.1-9).
f. Thus, this translation fits the most common definition of terms, fits the context, and fits well with the clear meaning in the second part of the proverb.
1. In this part of the proverb Solomon speaks about one who rewards a fool and transgressor.
a. This term means to hire; to pay; to reward for work done; paying wages for services done.
3. The fool: This is a term we have seen many times—especially in this chapter. This chapter has been all about foolish behavior:
a. Vs. 1 – Honor is not fitting for a fool. (like snow in summer)
b. Vs. 3 – The rod is for the fool’s back.
c. Vs. 4-5 – The quandary of whether to answer a fool or not.
d. Vs. 6 – Sending a message by a fool.
e. Vs. 7 – A parable in the mouth of fools.
f. Vs. 8 – Giving honor to a fool.
g. Vs. 9 – A parable in the mouth of a fool is like a thorn in the flesh.
h. Vs. 10a – The folly of an archer shooting at everything—in light of the fact that he has a limited number of arrows.
4. Thus, in the second part of the proverb (10b) Solomon speaks about another foolish thing: the folly of HIRING just anyone… namely, a fool or a transgressor.
a. Transgressor: One who has crossed the line; transgressor of the law; one who has stepped over the line of good morals, or good judgment.
b. Hiring a fool or one who has crossed over the line (sin; morals; good judgment; etc) is like an archer who shoots his arrows randomly at everything… indiscriminately.
c. This is a foolish thing for an employer to do.
d. Don’t just hire anybody! You will regret it down the road.
5. There are MANY ways in which this could be applied in everyday life.
a. The most obvious is to the employer – one whose responsibility it is to hire workers or employees.
• An employer may have five positions to fill at his company… like an archer that has five arrows in his quiver.
• The archer should want to use those five arrows with great care. He certainly doesn’t want to shoot at anything that moves. He wants to choose his targets carefully.
• In the same way, an employer wants to choose his employees carefully. He doesn’t want to hire the first warm body that walks through the door. That could prove disastrous later on.
• You may end up hiring a fool… and that can make YOU look like a fool.
b. This principle would apply to anyone who places someone in a position.
• Perhaps someone who works in personnel department and has to place people into various positions. Don’t shoot randomly. Be careful who you place and where. Take your time and do a little research.
c. You could even apply this in choosing a mate—especially if you have been waiting for a while.
• Don’t jump and say “I will” to the first person that shows an interest in you.
• Take your time. Make sure he or she is not a “fool” or a “transgressor.”
• Choosing a mate is not exactly “hiring” someone, but the principle of using caution and care in placing someone in a position certainly applies.
• Wait for God’s choice. That’s always worth waiting for.
d. In the local church care needs to be exerted in placing people in various ministries.
• Jas. 3:1 – Be careful about putting someone in a teaching ministry.
• I Tim. 3:6 – Paul warns against placing a “novice” in the office of an elder. That could result in much trouble. He lists many qualifications to look for before “hiring” someone in that position.
• This certainly applies in appointing a pastor. Take your time. Don’t rush. Don’t shoot your arrow at just anything.
• You don’t want fools and transgressors appointed to positions of ministry in the local church.
e. We could also apply this to the political arena.
• We don’t exactly “hire” our senators, governors, and presidents, but we do vote.
• In a sense, we are doing our part in placing a person in an important position.
• Just as it is foolish for an archer to shoot randomly at anything… it is also foolish for us to vote for just anybody without doing a little research.
• We could end up with a fool or a transgressor in an office that enables the fool or transgressor to make laws that will affect our lives.
• Just as an archer should be careful with his arrows, we should be careful with our votes.
f. Hiring a fool or voting for a fool is foolish because it encourages more folly.
• Others will see what you’ve done and may try to imitate the foolish tactics that got the person the job or the election.
• They will assume that that is what you are looking for in an employee or a candidate.
6. Any time we are in a position that involves making a choice to hire, include, vote for, associate with, become a partner with, accept someone, to appoint someone, etc.—don’t be random! Don’t shoot at anything like a berserk archer!
a. The choice of personnel you make can have long lasting effects.
b. And the choice you make can reflect poorly on YOU if you choose someone who turns out to be a fool or a transgressor.
c. Be careful whom you choose. Do your homework.
d. A little research up front enables you to avoid a lot of trouble later.
e. Don’t be like the thoughtless archer who wastes his arrows by shooting at anything and everything. Be discriminating… selective… discerning…