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On life. One learning curve at a time on the path to becoming a renaissance man.

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Translating Proverbs 24:6: "With Cunning You Shall Wage War"
In my "Estonia: information warfare and lessons learned" talk -- often dubbed "The First Internet War" -- I end with a quote from the Bible, Proverbs 24:6. I use it in the stead of Sun Tzu's "All warfare is based on deception".

The often-quoted original Hebrew is:
('בתחבולות תעשה לך מלחמה" (משלי כ"ד, ו"

The full original verse is longer:
"כִּי בְתַחְבֻּלוֹת, תַּעֲשֶׂה-לְּךָ מִלְחָמָה; וּתְשׁוּעָה, בְּרֹב יוֹעֵץ."

I sought a good English translation I can use rather than my own translation in Modern Hebrew, but they all seem wrong. Here is an example from the King James Bible:
"For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellors there is safety."

They speak of having wise counsel, which is false. The second part about many advisers seems reasonably translated.

Other translations can be found here:

Using Twitter, Facebook and IM, I enlisted the help of some friends.

Ely Levy helped me search the web for any possible translation which makes more sense. We didn't succeed.

A dictionary translation for the word TACHBULOT comes up with multiple translations surrounding the English words Cunning and Tricks, and none for wise counsel. Yet, modern Hebrew is not exactly the same as Bible Hebrew.

My best translation was (see note on grammar below):
"In cunning and trickery you shall wage war"

A literal translation would be:
"In cunning and trickery you will make war."

If pressed to use one word, I'd make the translation:
"In cunning you shall wage war"

Another friend, Josh Brown, used his old Yeshiva (religious academy) education to seek interpretations for the verse, helping me with due diligence.

Josh checked through several traditional sources (Rashi, Ibn Ezra, etc.) as well as the explanation published by Mossad HaRav Kook, and he agrees with my initial translation, and doesn't see where they would pull "advisers" from for the first part of the verse. It almost seems like they short-handed the translation. Ely checked the Malbim interpretation which also agrees with what Josh said.

Josh's freehand translation is:
"For with cunning, you should wage war, and salvation through many advisers."

I can't argue with Josh's translation to the second part of the verse, but this shifted the discussion to why the word "should" is there, as it indicates intent.

Apparently, most commentary on the subject ties this verse into the constant war that Man wages against his inner evil urge (יצר הרע), and therefore say that this verse does infer intention.

Taking this into account, I believe the word "shall" rather than "make" shows some intent, and yet doesn't necessarily decide it that way.

Josh's translation brought on a short grammatical debate as to which preposition would be grammatically correct to start the verse with: In, With or By. "In" was immediately ruled out, "By" suggests it is The Way. "With" seems like a weaker "By" in this context, as A Way, and is a good compromise.

My translation is now:
[For] "with cunning you shall wage war," [and salvation through many advisers.]

We are not Biblical, Linguistic, Etymological or Hebrew experts, but that is what research is for. If anyone can help us with more information, we would naturally appreciate the help.

Ronit Goldstand sent me a message on twitter with the following URL:
http://he.wikisource.org/wiki/%D7%91%D7%99%D7%90%D7%95%D7%A8:%D7%AA%D7%97%D7%91%D7%95%D7%9C%D7%95%D7%AA (Hebrew)

In it, the word TACHBULOT is equated with tactics and strategies:
"TACHBULA - A plan of action for all possible eventualities, a strategy". It doesn't seem a likely usage to me, but who am I to argue with Wikipedia? :)

Update 2:
Assaf Dekel pointed me to Young's Literal Translation of the verse:
"For by plans thou makest for thyself war, And deliverance is in a multitude of counsellors."

Gadi Evron,


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