Saturday, May 06, 2017

Reading Through the Proverbs #2 (Chapters 10-21)

ProberbsWe continue through the Book of Proverbs, accompanied by the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes & Song of Songs, The College Press NIV Commentary, by Dave Bland. The middle section of the book of Proverbs is a collection of the “proverbs of Solomon.” I have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

Chapters 10-15 begin the Proverbs of Solomon. These chapters mainly focus on the differences between the righteous, wise lifestyle and the wicked lifestyle by means of antithetic parallelism. When one thinks, speaks, acts righteously one develops good character which generally leads to success. Wickedness, deception, manipulation and other acts that proceed from sinful character generally lead to disaster. The wise life is worth living.

These proverbs emphasize that the choice one makes has far reaching consequences. There is an intrinsic order to the way in which the universe runs. Actions have consequences. For the wicked, there is poetic justice; the punishment fits the crime. In contrast, the lives of the righteous stand secure. This is the “elementary” teaching of wisdom. Proverbs 10, 117

In Proverbs, pride is the fundamental sin of the fool. Humility is the fundamental virtue of the wise. These proverbs speak of the results of living a righteous life. According to verse 3, the internal character of the upright governs their life (cf. 6:22–23). Character is viewed not as a single act, but as a habit. Proverbs 11, 119.

The righteous are individuals who treat all of God’s creation with care. In contrast, the wicked make it a practice to exploit others. The proverb in verse 11 highlights an essential quality of the wise person, and that is discipline. The wise one exercises diligence in all that he does. He is not fickle, pursuing worthless dreams. Proverbs 12, 127

With emphasis on diligence and discipline, the sage is cautious about anyone who gains wealth quickly. This is the basis of verse 11. Get rich quick schemes usually involve fraud. On the other hand, wealth that is slowly acquired will last. Proverbs 13.11,  132

The majority of antithetic sayings in these chapters express a simple belief: God rewards those who choose the right path, but he punishes those who deliberately choose another way. Choices in life are clear and simple. The sages seem to oversimplify life. Yet in the midst of what appears to be a dogmatic perspective, the sages themselves acknowledge their limitation (v. 12). Anyone can be misled by what appears to be the right path. Humans cannot always know what is appropriate. Proverbs 14.12, 137

Wisdom expresses its fundamental character in saying and doing the right thing at the right time (cf. 16:24; 18:13; 25:11, 15; 24:26). Proverbs 15, 148

With Proverbs chapter 16 we move into a different style of Proverbs. 10-15 has given us the basics with antithetic proverbs contrasting good and evil. The next few chapters tend more toward synonymous parallelism and "better than" sayings. These bring out the ambiguous nature of life and the need for wisdom in navigating life in a world where corrupt officials or unexpected events may negate the good rewards that come from wisdom. One emphasis is that good character, wisdom and righteousness are their own reward, and a better reward than wealth, honor or power.

Typically humans plan and then work the plan. However, here the process is inverted. Humans work, but their plans fail unless God establishes them...The proverb is not a formula for unfailing success but only a reminder that success does not ultimately lie in human hands. Proverbs 16.3, 153

Quarreling is a major enemy of the community. Like water, it erodes the foundations upon which relationships exist. It undercuts the mutual respect necessary to hold a people together. Proverbs 17.14, 164

Gossip is compared to junk food. It is quite tasty. Nonetheless when absorbed into the blood stream, it remains a permanent part of the person. Once absorbed, it destroys character. Proverbs 18.8, 169

When internal desires and external actions are not informed by reflective thought (wisdom), they will not achieve their goals. This is a fitting proverb for an anti-intellectual climate, which sometimes exists in the church (cf. also 17:16). Proverbs 19.2, 174

Wisdom is realistic about human nature. On the one hand, it sees humans with great potential accomplish much through wise planning and implementing. On the other hand, wisdom sees every human involved in sin. No one escapes its clutches. Proverbs 20.9, 182–183

Life is more ambiguous than at first glance. The righteous do not always prosper. This proverb pair acknowledges human limitation and calls on the wise to accept such limitations. Such is the nature of true wisdom...The proverb concludes, in the second line, with the element of surprise. A third party enters the picture, Yahweh. He is the one who really determines the result. Proverbs 21.30-31, 196–197

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