It is better to come face to face with a bear whose young ones have been taken away than with a foolish man acting foolishly.
Better to meet a grizzly robbed of her cubs than a fool hellbent on folly.
Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, Rather than a fool in his folly.
Let a bear robbed of her whelps meet a man, rather than a fool in his folly.
Better to meet a bear robbed of its cubs than a fool carried away with his stupidity.
It is better for a person to meet* a mother bear being robbed of her cubs, than* to encounter* a fool in his folly.*
17:12 It is better for a person to meet1484
tnHeb “Let a man meet” (so NASB); NLT “It is safer to meet.” The infinitive absolute פָּגוֹשׁ (pagosh, “to meet”) functions as a jussive of advice. The bear meeting a man is less dangerous than a fool in his folly. It could be worded as a “better” saying, but that formula is not found here.
a mother bear being robbed of her cubs,
tn The second colon begins with וְאַל (vÿ’al), “and not.” This negative usually appears with volitives, so the fuller expression of the parallel line would be “and let not a fool in his folly [meet someone].”
tn The words “to meet” are not in the Hebrew text, but are implied by the parallelism and are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.
a fool in his folly.1487
sn The human, who is supposed to be rational and intelligent, in such folly becomes more dangerous than the beast that in this case acts with good reason. As R. L. Alden comments, “Consider meeting a fool with a knife, or gun, or even behind the wheel of a car” (Proverbs, 134). See also E. Loewenstamm, “Remarks on Proverbs 17:12 and 20:27,” VT 37 (1967): 221-24. For a slightly different nuance cf. TEV “some fool busy with a stupid project.”