wisdom ("word wisdom")

In the Tzeltal translation for the dialectal variant of Highland Tzeltal (Biblia Tzeltal yu’un Oxchuc soc Tenejapa, 2001) the translation team used three different words to translate the Hebrew term that is translated as “wisdom” in English. For the verses referenced here, it uses p’ijil c’op or “word wisdom.”

For the complete story and more background, please see wisdom (Proverbs).

incline your heart

The phrase that is translated in English versions as “incline your heart” is translated into Mam (Ostuncalco) as “throw your stomach.”

See also Seat of the Mind for traditional views of “ways of knowing, thinking, and feeling.”


The Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek that is translated as “wisdom” in English is rendered in Amganad Ifugao and Tabasco Chontal as “(big) mind,” in Bulu and Yamba as “heart-thinking,” in Tae’ as “cleverness of heart” (source for this and all above: Reiling / Swellengrebel), in Palauan as “bright spirit (innermost)” (source: Bratcher / Hatton), in Ixcatlán Mazatec as “with your best/biggest thinking” (source: Robert Bascom), and in Dobel, it is translated with the idiom “their ear holes are long-lasting” (in Acts 6:3) (source: Jock Hughes).

See also wisdom (Proverbs).

Translation commentary on Proverbs 2:2

Verse 2 continues the conditional sense from verse 1. The Hebrew verb construction marks this as a dependent clause, reflected in many English translation by the forms “making . . . inclining”, or “turning . . . applying” (New International Version). This verse adds to verse 1 by describing the attitude required of the person who obeys the commands referred to there. If you have chosen to use the conditional marker in verse 1 (rather than following the Good News Translation pattern), it would be good to repeat this marker at the beginning of verse 2.

“Making your ear attentive to wisdom”: The first part of this line is found in Psa 10.17; the sense is to give attention or listen.

“Inclining your heart to understanding”: “Incline your heart to . . .” is another idiomatic expression meaning “commit yourself to. . .” that is used in such places as Psa 119.36 and 141.4. A number of translations render the idiom as “work hard to get understanding” or “try hard to understand.” “Heart” in English and many other languages gives the impression of an emotional element. However, in the Old Testament the “heart” is the seat or center of the intellect and will. Toy comments: “the brain (not mentioned in the OT) was not regarded by the ancients as having intellectual significance.” “Understanding” renders the same root as used in 1.5.

We may translate verse 2, for example: “Listening to my words that give you wisdom and thinking about what they mean.” Or: “Paying attention to what the wise one teaches you and understanding its meaning.”

Quoted with permission from Reyburn, William D. and Fry, Euan McG. A Handbook on Proverbs. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2000. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .