Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Reading Through the Proverbs #3 (Chapters 22-31)

ProberbsWe complete this reading through the Book of Proverbs, accompanied by the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes & Song of Songs, The College Press NIV Commentary, by Dave Bland. The final sections of the book of Proverbs include “the sayings of the wise,” “proverbs of Solomon collected by Hezekiah’s men,” the “words” of Agur and Lemuel, and closes with a poem of praise to the “wisdom woman.” 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…

Proverbs 22.17 begins a new section (22.17-chapter 24) of the book entitled The Sayings of the Wise. It contains "30 sayings" designed to train young leaders in ethics, wisdom, and prioritizing their lives in accordance to what YHWH wants them to be. It describes the pitfalls of wealth and greed, laziness, pleasure etc. and how to minister to the needy and use wealth and power wisely. 

The process of growing in wisdom...is subtly embedded in verses 17 and 18. The initial phase involves the ear: “pay attention and listen,” says the teacher. Then the student engages the mind, apply your heart to what I teach. That which is reflected on is also committed to memory, keep them in your heart. Finally, the lips are brought into service: and have all of them ready on your lips. Wisdom involves hearing, memorizing, reflecting, and speaking with rhetorical sensitivity. Proverbs 22.17-18, 204–205

The goal of the punishment is not the venting of parental anger and frustration but the saving of a youth’s life from untimely death. In Proverbs, the rod is always administered in the context of a loving family environment (13:24b). This admonition to parents should be read in light of the succeeding instruction in verses 15–16, which speaks of the affection a father has for his son.  Proverbs 23.13-16, 210

All through Proverbs, those who are wise learn to respect their enemies (17:13; 20:22; 24:29). The enemy must not only be respected, he is to be treated with kindness (25:21–22). This is a principle taught in the Old Testament (Exod 23:4–5). Proverbs 24.17-18, 217

Chapter 25 begins a section of proverbs of Solomon collected and edited by the "men of Hezekiah." 25-27 are a collection of analogical proverbs which encourage us to observe life closely to better understand how to apply words and actions of wisdom. Wisdom is built on the foundation of God's revelation, but is worked out practically in daily life through research, observation, hard work, developing good habits, listening to good advice and figuring out how God's creation works. 

The more fundamental difficulty in this couplet, however, is not the meaning of burning coals but the admonition to actually practice doing good to those who hate you. To love one’s enemies is a recurring theme found in Proverbs. Proverbs 25.21-22, 230

These verses describe the contextual nature of words and actions. According to Van Leeuwen, such a concern is a hermeneutical one: “Wisdom, to a very large extent, is a matter of interpreting people, events, situations, actions in relation to norms for existence.”  Proverbs 26.1-12, 234

Human life is lived in a constant state of change. The sages, however, did not respond with a fatalistic attitude; they did not live in a state of anxiety, wringing their hands in despair. Instead they offer a vignette of a hard-working farmer who goes about his task responsibly and carefully in the face of an uncertain tomorrow. The farmer cares for the creation over which God has placed him. He cares for his family and loved ones. Through such responsible caring, he finds wisdom, satisfaction, and fulfillment in life. Proverbs 27.23-27, 251

Chapters 28-29 contain antithetic proverbs which contrast thinking and behavior of wise and evil, righteous and wicked people, and the outcomes of those lifestyles. The qualities of the wise and righteous include humility, confession of sin, openness to rebuke and advice, hard work, generosity to the poor, fair treatment of others, integrity, resistance to greed, self-control, gentle in words and actions, and submissive to God's revelation. Societies with this kind of people, especially that are led by wise, righteous leaders, will be healthy and productive and tend to last longer.

The lines are clearly drawn between those who contribute to society and those who dehumanize society. There is no middle ground. In a pluralistic culture, such clear demarcations do not sit well, but to make such distinctions is essential to the health of the nation in which one lives. God calls his church to represent these qualities of righteousness in its body life. Proverbs 28, 252

The evil find themselves entrapped by their own destructive lifestyle. But the righteous face the snares and temptations of life confidently, knowing that they will overcome. Proverbs 29.6, 262

Proverbs ends with four sections. First the words of Agur show that wisdom takes into account the limitations of humans and the limitlessness of God. Chapter 30 the concludes with several numerical sayings that contain wise observations about human behavior. The words of King Lemuel (31.1-9) recall his mother's wise advice about how a righteous king should rule. Finally, Proverbs concludes with an acrostic praise song to wisdom personified as a woman. If one "marries" wisdom they will tend to have a prosperous and successful life.

Verses 1–9 reflect a worshipful reverence to God. In the face of the uncertainties of life, the worshiper comes to rely on God’s word (vv. 5–6) and on God for the necessities of life (vv. 7–9). Trusting in God enables the worshiper ultimately to accept human limitations. Proverbs 30.1-9, 273

The virtue highlighted in this instruction is central to the life of the wise, and that is self-control. The specific thought is that foolish behavior, especially uncontrolled speech, will produce nothing but negative consequences. Trouble follows those who create it. Proverbs 30.10-33, 280

The queen mother calls for her son to take action for the cause of the poor. He must speak out for the rights of all who are destitute. Once again, the focus of the admonition is not on the privileges the son receives as king, but on his responsibilities. Proverbs 31.1-9, 282

Chapter 31:10–31 complements the Woman Wisdom described in chapters 1–9...Placed at the end of the book, the “woman of noble character” represents the culmination of a life lived by wisdom. She is wisdom incarnate. The house she builds is the goal toward which all strive (cf. 9:1; 14:1; 24:3–4). Proverbs 31.10-31, 283

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