[b-hebrew] Proverbs 17:8

Reinier de Blois rdeblois at www.biblesocieties.org
Mon May 17 15:05:49 EDT 2004

Many English translations render )EBEN-XEN as "charm" in the sense of a magic 
stone. I wonder why. It is true that XEN can mean "beauty, elegance" and 
therefore translating it with "precious stone" is acceptable. But "charm" in 
the sense of a magical object suddenly jumps into a totally different 
semantic domain. This is possible in English where "charm" has both meanings. 
But is it possible in biblical Hebrew? I wonder about that.

Reinier de Blois

>The question here centres on the word that is translated as 'gift' and
>'bribe'; and also on the 'object' of the proverb either as 'the person' 
>who is the recipient of the 'gift/bribe' or the 'it' ie the gift/bribe 
>Personally speaking I favour 'gift' even though this word is often
>translated as bribe elswhere, this is very much linked to the somewhat 
>esthetical sense of the word 'stone of grace' and its position in the 
>sentence?. Anyway please elucidate me with your grammatical intuitions. 
>I learn good things from these heated debates.
HH: "Stone of grace" probably implies a jewel (NASB: "precious 
stone") or charm (NRSV: "magic stone"). The verses on either side of 
Prov 17:8, which may not be related to it, concern evil. The Hebrew 
word here, $+D ("gift/bribe"). almost always refers to something 
evil. There's not a completely unambiguous example of a positive 
meaning for the word in the OT, it seems to me. Also, the verse 
suggests a somewhat negative meaning for $+D because it apparently 
aims to bring success to the one who possesses it. A true gift is 
given for the joy that it will bring to the recipient, not for the 
success it will bring to the giver. So I would lean towards the bribe 
Harold Holmyard
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