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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Song of a Valiant Women: 7

Kindness. We're back at kindness again. Proverbs 31:26.

    She openeth her mouth with wisdom;
    and the law of kindness is on her tongue. JPS
To be kind means to emulate God. It is an equal opportunity virtue. We should be kind because God is kind. Here are Dr. Waltke's notes on the phrase "law of kindness" or "loving teaching" as he translates it. (The TNIV has "faithful instruction")

    The ambiguous gen. torat-hesed is interpreted as an attributive genitive like "true [not false] instruction" in Mal. 2:6. Possibly also it is an objective genitive "instruction about lovingkindness," and/or a genitive of species, "the law, kindness."

    Specifically lovingkindness is on her tongue probably signifies that her teaching is informed by her own lovingkindness. If so, her generous sacrificing of herself to help those in need models her instruction. Without that sublimity, notes Delitzsch, her industry is without virtue. But the phrase could also be rendered "the law of kindness" as either a reference to a particular body of teaching about kindness or as a metonymy of adjunct for all her speech. Her teaching is informed by the content of Proverbs. [Some references are deleted from this quote.] Waltke.

It's tough to have to decide between whether she teaches the law of kindness or she lets kindness govern her speech. Obviously one could hardly do the first without the latter. She also opens her mouth in wisdom. It's the same puzzle that turns up in Greek all the time - is it an objective genitive or an attributive one.

I can only say that we need to be aware of this problem. A translation can only supply one or the other of these two meanings. That is the problem with a translation. But kindness is associated with strength and wisdom. It is not about pleasing people but about being loyal and providing for others in caring and practical ways.


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