Hair, Thoughts and Heart - What does it mean? Proverbs 23v7

One of the key verse that may impact your life on this earth is Proverb 23:7a For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.  You are the product of your thoughts in your heart. To change your life, change your thoughts. But a study of the full verse reveals other important meanings. Find out more ....
Proverb 23:6-8
  • Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats:  v6
  • For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.  v7 
  • The morsel which thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up, and lose thy sweet words.  v8
To study the Bible nowadays is very easy and also interesting. We have all the software and internet resources for many different versions of the Bible. the concordances, the cross references, and many commentaries and dictionaries and all at the touch of your finger or a mouse. To lookup and cross reference are extremely easy. It is more about whether you have the time and energy to read them. This is very unlike the past without the computer support. We have to spend much time flipping the pages of Bibles, Concordance and Commentaries. Studying even a short passage well will take a long time. So, we buy Study Bibles instead.  Even then, we still need to flip here and there resulting on torned pages showing how studious one is as a reader of the Bible. But now, we have no excuse for not studying the Bible well. We can spend more time on the content and on meditation rather than flipping pages.

I will use a verse Proverbs 23:7, cited above, as an example for how we can benefit much from a proper study of the verse using the resources available in the internet cloud.

You are the product of your thoughts

“A man is but the product of his thoughts what he thinks, he becomes.”  ---Mahatma Gandhi 

Proverbs 23:7 is often quoted as the support for the assertion, "You are the product of your thoughts" as in "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he".  However, that quote is only the first half a verse. There is the second half of "Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee. ".  With the two halves put together, how are they linked up and still make sense? Does the first half still mean what we claim it means?

Understanding a Verse from Its Context
We must not interprete a verse out of its context. So we need to look into the whole Proverb 23 passage. For a study of the whole chapter, see The Seduction of Man & How to Prevent it - Proverb 23. For this discussion, we can find a grouping of 3 verses, 6 to 8 and they are cited at the top of this post. We can roughly understand the flow of this group of verses. It is warning us not the take the food of the one with an 'evil' eye else we will end up vomitting out what we take in. If we are to summarize it, we can say, "Never accept the favor of an evil person else you will regret it". If that is the case, then what is the real meaning of "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he" in this context that will go with the flow?

Looking Up the Other Translations:

If you look up the various translations, you will find 3 groups of translations for 23v7.
  1. Group 1 You are what you think ..... The Older Translations
    There are KJV, NASB, ASV, BBE, ISV, JPS, JUB, LITV, RV, YLT etc. e.g.:
    (NAS77) For as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, "Eat and drink!" But his heart is not with you.

    (YLT) For as he hath thought in his soul, so is he, `Eat and drink,' saith he to thee, And his heart is not with thee.
  2. Group 2 Keeping Account ...Calculating ....The Newer Translations
    ESV, NIV, HCSB, CEV, CJB, ERV, GW, GE, NLT, NET etc.  e.g,:

    (ESV) for he is like one who is inwardly calculating. "Eat and drink!" he says to you, but his heart is not with you.

    (CJB) For he is like someone who keeps accounts — "Eat! Drink!" he says to you, but he doesn't really mean it.   
    (NLT) They are always thinking about how much it costs. "Eat and drink," they say, but they don't mean it.
  3. Group 3 Eating Hairs! ....
    (Aramaic Bible in Plain English) For just as a man swallows a bristle hair, so you eat and drink with him and his mind is not with you.
    (Septuagint by Brenton) so he eats and drinks as if any one should swallow a hair, and do not bring him in to thyself, nor eat thy morsel with him:
    (Lexham English Bible)  For, like hair in his throat, so it is. "Eat and drink!" he will say to you, but his heart will not be with you. 
From 'thinking' to 'calculating' to 'eating hair" ! Which it the right one? Are they in conflict?

The Explanation:
A check with the commentaries give us the answer:

Pulpit Commentary
Verse 7. - For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he. The verb here used is שָׁעַר (shaar), "to estimate, ....to calculate," and the clause is best rendered, For as one that calculates with himself, so is he. The meaning is that this niggardly host watches every morsel which his guest eats, and grudges what he appears to offer so liberally. In the Authorized Version the word "heart" occurs twice in this verse, but the Hebrew words are different. The first is nephesh, "breath," equivalent to "mind;" the second is leb, "heart." The Vulgate paraphrases the clause, Quoniam in similitudinem arioli et conjectoris, aestimat quod ignorat, "For like a soothsayer or diviner he conjectures that of which he is ignorant." Eat and drink, saith he to thee. He professes to make you welcome, and with seeming cordiality invites you to partake of the food upon his table. But his heart is not with thee. He is not glad to see you enjoy yourself, and his pressing invitation is empty verbiage with no heart in it. The Septuagint, pointing differently, translates, "For as if one should swallow a hair, so he eats and drinks." The Greek translators take the gnome to apply to one who invites an envious man to his table, and finds him eating his food as if it disgusted him. They go on, "Bring him not in to thee, nor eat thy morsel with him; for (ver. 8) he will vomit it up, and outrage thy fair words." In agreement with the gnome above, we find in the Talmud, "My son, eat not the bread of the covetous, nor sit thou at his table. The bread of the covetous is only pain and anguish; the bread of the generous man is a source of health and joy." 

You can see that while the translations are different, the meaning are essentially the same. 

Gill gives a better understanding of the phrase "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he", 
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he,.... He is not the man his mouth speaks or declares him to be, but what his heart thinks; which is discovered by his looks and actions, and by which he is to be judged of, and not by his words; 

The Chinese Mind Interpretation
The Chinese has a famous saying, "知人知面不知心", you only know a person by his face but not realy his heart, meaning you only know him on the surface and that is not the real him. The real him is his heart which you cannot see.  So we can easily grasp the intention of the author of the Proverb 23v7. He said that a person is what he think inside his heart and [not the external words and actions that he show you]. If we add in the those words in bracket to show the meaning better, than the whole verse make good sense. What we see from the outside, his welcoming smiles, his inviting words, are just but a disguise of his internal calculative and scheming intention. There is no free lunch. He gives you to get more from you. His favors have condictons tied to them. The moment you eat his offer, you owe him. He will one day ask you pay back with interests! So we can see that "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he" is a general truth or principle and is being used in this particular context as a warning for us not to take thing on the surface as real. It will be, of course, much better if we can find other verses in the Bible that support this truth. With the easy cross-referencing provided in the internet, it takes me little time to come out with the following mind-map to support the case.

A good book to read on this topic is As A Man Thinketh by James Allen.

May we be deligent in guarding our heart through the thoughts we allow to enter into our mind. May we develop a God fearing mindset and to fill our mind with good thoughts and good thinking mindset. May be confidence to search our thoughts for the UGB Ungodly beliefs that bind us. Replace them with Godly thoughts that we may be freed to live a victorious life that glorify God.

Lim Liat (c) 14 July 2015


Jonathan Brown said...

Thank you for posting this. I notice you mentioned "As a Man Thinketh," which is indeed an excellent book. If you'd like to read an updated paraphrase of "As a Man Thinketh" for twenty-first century men and women, look at "Seeds of Thought." It's available for download free of charge on Amazon between July 24 and 27.


If you like it, please leave a review!

Adele said...

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Maybe one in a thousand women knows how to do this instinctively, and they usually rise to unbelievable levels of influence and fame.

But most women, or men for that matter, don’t even know it exists.

On the other hand, when you have this 1 simple secret...

You won’t believe the shocking effect you have on the men in your life.

Here’s a video I discovered that shows you exactly what I’m talking about:

==> Here’s what I’m talking about: <=========> He’ll give his heart to the first woman who does THIS...