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Examination of מוסר in context
The Hebrew word that is often translated "instruction" is quite interesting. The ESV translates מוסר as "instruction" the majority of the time, however it is translated as "discipline" on several occasions as well (3.11; 5.12, 23; 6.23).
First one may ascertain from the usage of מוסר in Proverbs that it is something that is given verbally (cf 1.8; 4.1; 8.33). Next, this word refers to something that fools do not have, do not like, and do not attempt to take hold of (cf 1.7; 5.12, 23). מוסר also appears to have the idea of offering some type of conviction to those who have it (or potentially have it?) in 3.11 instruction is parallel with God's reproof, likewise in 6.23 the "reproofs of discipline" (ESV) are the "way of life." This is an interesting aspect of the word seen in this context. Perhaps it is simply the fact that one has kept this "instruction" that causes it to reprove those who step aside from the correct path, or alternatively, perhaps instruction itself involves reproof. This indeed may be what is indicated by the context.
Instruction is not simply hearing or even keeping, that is obeying, what is heard; perhaps instruction involves, at as part of the very definition of the word, a swat when one steps out of line in the learning process, a swat not meant to kill perhaps, but to turn the learner back towards the correct destination. מוסר is also seen as part of the package that leads to the state of being wise in 8.33.
Perhaps than a working definition of מוסר, based on the context of Proverbs 1-9, would have the following elements in it. First, it is (or at least has the possibility of being) verbal. Second, it is a requirement for those who want to become wise. Third, it involves pain, but even though it involves this pain it should not be feared.
There is one last thing that must be considered in this study of מוסר, and that is the use of this word in 7.22. This is no easy verse to translate, as attested to by the fact that each of the major translations (KJV, NKJV, NASB, ESV, HCSB and NIV) all have a slightly different translation (some more than slightly). In this passage מוסר is seen as being used on a fool. This may fit in with the third element of a definition that has already been purposed, or this may require the creation of a fourth, separate element.
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