A Collection of Proverbs

Paraphrase and comments by Krishna Zivraj
From: http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~humm/Resources/StudTxts/4Q424.html (http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/%7Ehumm/Resources/StudTxts/4Q424.html)


A Collection of Proverbs also known as the Sapiential Work belongs to the 'Wisdom Literature' of the Dead Sea Scrolls. This cave 4 document is also known as 4Q Wisdom. This simple poetic collection, like any other 'Wisdom' texts, has the usual vocabulary of 'Judgement', 'Riches' and 'Knowledge'. However, there are two viewpoints regarding the format of this collection.


Frag. 1
2 [...] a man [...] 3[...] who decides to build a house and covers its walls with plaster. With him too [...] 4 the walls of the house will fall down when rain falls on it.[1]
It is not advisable to have any kind of legal contract with a person who is not stable. 5 Otherwise, just as a metal like lead that looks intact melts immediately when heated, the unstable person too will change his mind and not keep his word.[2]
6 Do not lay trust on a lazy man to run an important errand for you, because a lazy person will not feel responsible to do the job given to him, do not ask him to fetch something for you, 7 because he will not follow the specific orders given to him.
Do not ask a dissatisfied person [...] 8 to get any money that you need. It is not wise to trust a man with a deceitful speech [...] 9 for he will definitely manipulate your sayings and give a different meaning to your saying and decisions, for he would not care to keep the truth intact. [...] 10 the words that come out of his mouth.
Do not let a stingy man handle money; [...] 11 for he will not remain loyal and may not give back everything that actually belongs to you [...]. 12 and at the time when you need him to repay you, he will turn his face away from you [...] 13 and the short tempered man will for certain cause harm to them. A man [...]
Frag. 2
Frag. 3
[...][3] 1 an irresponsible person will not do his work carefully and according to his position or even according to his age. A person who gives his verdict before thoroughly examining the situation, and, a person who believes before looking at the evidence 2 Do not give him the power to rule over those who seek for Knowledge, 3 because he will not be able to do justice to his authoritarian position and hence, not being able to understand the judgments of the other wise people under him, he would not be able to distinguish a good man form a wicked person. 3 So he will also be contempt.
Do not send a man with a vision impairment to observe the upright[4] for [he will not be able to look deep into the situation][5]
4 Do not send a man who has a hearing impairment to give his opinion about a dispute and try to solve it, because he would not be capable of solving the problem, like someone who winnows in the wind a grain 5 that is not completely separated out. It is not helpful when it comes to talking to a ear that is not ready to listen to you or in other words, a biased person, or, a person who lacks the spirit [...]
6 It is futile to ask a person who is narrow minded or close minded, to give his judgement for he is not willing to accommodate suggestions and opinions from others and hence, his wisdom remains restricted and is not allowed to evolve, 7 and so he is not able to use his wisdom efficiently. The wise man will be understanding,[6] and he will have the ability to identify wisdom [...] 8 A man of strong [...] such a person would be zealous [...] 9 He would argue and fight against those who would deviate from the set rules and principles [...] for the right of the poor of [...]
10 [...] will care for those people who do not have wealth, the children of the good and wise people [...] 11 [...] with all the money of [...]
[1] This passage has some affinity with Jesus' parable of the house built on sand in Matt 7:27 (Wise, et al, 393).
[2] In other words, never trust a hypocrite.
[3] Eiseman and Wise consider fragment 3 as fragment 2.
[4] This phrase is translated differently by all the four translators. Wise, et al, suggest a man with blurred eyes, Eiseman and Wise say that the man has a poor eyesight, Martinez suggests that the man has tearful eyes whereas Vermes's translation simply says that the man is blind.
[5] The phrase within the brackets is my own interpretation, whereas, the original is lost.
[6] From now on, the text mentions the positive characteristics of a wise man rather than the negative qualities of a foolish man.

Works Cited

Martinez, Florentino Garcia. The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated- The Qumran Texts in English. Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1996
Vermes, Geza. The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls In English. New York: Penguin Group, 1997.

Eiseman, Robert, and Wise, Michael. The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered. Great Britain: Element Books Limited, 1992.

Wise, Michael, Abegg, Martin and Cook, Edward. The Dead Sea Scrolls- A new Translation. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1996.