The beginning of strife [is as] when one letteth out water,
&c.] As when a man makes a little hole in the bank of a river, or cuts a small passage in it, to let the water into an adjoining field; by the force of the water, the passage is widened, and it flows in, in great abundance, to the overflow and prejudice of the field; nor is it easily stopped: so a single word, spoken in anger, with some warmth, or in a way of contradiction, has been the beginning and occasion of great strife and contention. The words in the Hebrew text lie thus; "he that letteth out water [is] the beginning of strife" F15; which some understand of letting out water into another man's field, which occasions contentions, quarrels, and lawsuits; but the former sense is best: the Targum is,
``he that sheddeth blood as water stirreth up strifes;'' therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with
cease from it as soon as begun; leave it off before it is well entered: or "before one mixes himself" F16
with it, or is implicated with it; got so far into it, that it will be difficult to get out of it: or "before thou strivest with any openly"; which sense the word has in the Arabic language, as Schultens F17
observes; that is, before you come to open words and blows, put an end to the contention; do not suffer it to proceed so far; since it cannot be known what will be the consequence of it: or rather, leave it off, as the same learned writer in his later thoughts, in his commentary on the place, by the help of Arabism, also renders it, "before the teeth are made bare": or shown, in quarrelling, brawling, reproaching, in wrath and anger.
F15 (Nwrm tyvar Mym rjwp) "qui aperit aquam, vel aperiens aquas (est) principium contentionis", Pagninus, Montanus.
F16 (elgth ynpl) "antequam sese immisceat", Junius & Tremellius.
F17 Animadv. p. 931.