Questions From Readers
● What is the meaning of Proverbs 14:17? The rendering in the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures differs from that of other translations.—L. A., United States.
Proverbs 14:17 reads, according to the New World Translation: “He that is quick to anger will commit foolishness, but the man of thinking abilities is hated.” The King James Version says: “He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly: and a man of wicked devices is hated.” Now, there is no doubt that “he that is quick to anger will commit foolishness” or that “he that is soon angry dealeth foolishly.” But, what about the phrase “a man of wicked devices is hated”? Various translations agree with the King James Version in this rendering, whereas the New World Translation seems to give a different thought in saying, “but the man of thinking abilities is hated.”
First, let us take note of this phrase as rendered by certain modern translators. James Moffatt’s version reads: “but a prudent man will be patient.” Lamsa’s translation from the Peshitta says: “but a wise man is moderate.” An American Translation reads: “But a man of discretion is patient.” The Revised Standard Version also says: “but a man of discretion is patient.” Noteworthy, however, is its footnote on the word “patient,” which shows that the Hebrew says “is hated.” Yet it is seen that these modern translations speak of “a prudent man,” “a wise man” and “a man of discretion.” The underlying thought is quite similar to that found in the New World Translation, which speaks of a “man of thinking abilities.”
The expression “thinking abilities” is rendered from the Hebrew word mezimmáh in the plural number. Mezimmáh means “a plan, usually evil (machination), sometimes good (sagacity).” So the Hebrew word can be used in a good sense, which is allowed by the expression “thinking abilities.”
Well, then, is a man of thinking abilities even in a good way hated? Actually, the world in general is not particularly fond of persons who exercise thinking abilities. Thinking persons who are true intellectuals are now sometimes called “eggheads.” This term has often been applied in a disparaging manner to those who really use their thinking faculties properly and productively. They are frowned upon because they exercise their minds. Some persons are too lazy to think, for thinking is hard work. Hence they look unfavorably upon those who utilize mental abilities, who show industry in employing the mind. It often occurs, therefore, that thinking persons are hated.
Reflecting a rather general view is the following quotation from the book The Age of Conformity, by Alan Valentine, pages 105 and 106: “Einstein was another kind of national hero in a more remote way; almost no one understood him but nearly everyone accepted the experts’ verdict that he was a tremendous adventurer on the exalted heights of mathematics. But when he began to express opinions on public issues his admirers diminished. To think independently is to challenge the democratic norm, and ‘highbrow’ and ‘theorist’ are not complimentary terms. ‘I’d rather be a bonehead than an egghead,’ is simply the latest slogan to defend the commonplace.”
There are, of course, those who only pretend to think. Proverbs 14:17 is not referring to these pseudo-intellectuals. They have not really attained the position of true intellectuals, thinking persons who show they have real intelligence. The pseudo-intellectual who acts and talks in a manner intended to impress may actually exhaust others instead and may repulse them. But he is not the type of person that is “the man of thinking abilities” who is hated. In the case of the sham intellectual the truthfulness of 1 Corinthians 8:1 is demonstrated: “knowledge puffs up.”
That a man of real thinking abilities is hated, however, is evident as far as Jehovah’s witnesses are concerned. They exercise their minds regarding God’s purposes and they walk with God. (Mic. 6:8) They take in and act upon knowledge of God’s Word and do not conform to this system of things. (Rom. 12:1, 2) As thinking persons who follow Christ as their exemplar and who do the divine will they are hated. In this they are unlike worldlings. And no wonder, for they are no part of this world! They show this by thinking, by exercising their mental faculties, and then by acting in harmony with the righteous principles of God’s Word.—John 15:19.
The expression “thinking abilities” at Proverbs 14:17 could, of course, cover malicious thinking. A man who devises evil or who is malicious is hated. So either application given to “thinking abilities” is possible. Yet there is really no escaping the fact that Christians who use their minds, who exercise their thinking abilities regarding God, his Word and his purposes, and who walk with Jehovah are hated by this world, which “is lying in the power of the wicked one.”—1 John 5:19; Isa. 30:20, 21.