Archive for September, 2011

Proverbs 1 (Day 629) September 21 2011

            1: The prologue does not apply to the entire book but to the first section of it. We will see that some of the proverbs are attributed to other authors, though Solomon is by far the most prominent among them. Most scholars agree that Solomon is likely not the direct author of the book. Ancient compilers attributed a number of wisdom writings to Solomon including the Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, and even the Book of Wisdom (from the Apocrypha) which was written in Greek. The central theme of the book of Proverbs is indeed wisdom, and Solomon is after all the quintessential wise king (see 1 Kings 3:5-12, 16-27; 4:29-34; 10:23-24).

            2-7: We begin with an advertisement for Solomon’s proverbs – a list of all the benefits one might expect to gain from them. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” is a statement we will read often over the next month. If we don’t understand that our very breath is taken at the pleasure of the Creator, we are and always shall be fools.

            8-19: The first instructions read like a parenting manual, and that is exactly what it is. How much anguish could be avoided if parents were diligent to teach their children to stay away from people who are so greedy for gain that they will willingly do harm to others!

            20-33: Wisdom will be personified throughout the book. Here she (and it is “she” as we shall see) calls to folks who are out and about in the city. Heed her instruction or come to ruin is the choice she offers, and she cares not which is chosen; it is entirely up to each of us.

 

Proverbs 2 (Day 630) September 22 2011

            1-15: The parenting course continues. The child is urged to seek wisdom with all due seriousness. The fear of the LORD is again upheld in verse 5 as the beginning of knowledge. The benefits of wisdom are catalogued; the primary benefit is that wisdom enables one to avoid the way of evil.

            16-19: A great deal of ink is spent on warnings about the “loose woman,” the wife who entices others to her bed. Giving in to such temptations is the certain way to ruin one’s life.

            20-22: We saw in the book of Psalms the theme develop that the fate of the wicked is sealed and that theme is carried over into the book of Proverbs. The wicked are minions of counter-creation and God will not allow them to ultimately prevail.

 

Proverbs 3 (Day 631) September 23 2011

            1-4: Loyalty and faithfulness are two qualities that are needed in every community.

            5-8: Verses 5 & 6 are familiar to every churchgoer. Following God’s ways is better than trusting in one’s own ideas of right and wrong.

            9-10: One of the first lessons has to do with honoring God by setting aside the first fruits. I think the reason such a practice helps to result in prosperity is that it establishes a simple discipline for the handling of material wealth.

            11-12: All through the book we will find the sentiment expressed that discipline – meaning disciplinary measures – are good for the character.

            13-18: Wisdom is presented as a generous companion throughout life.

            19-20: Wisdom is the principle on which God’s good creation was established; that is why the pursuit of wisdom is a necessary component of living within that created world.

            21-26: Living according to God’s wisdom enables us to live with confident hope.

            27-35: Here is a description of the effect of being guided by wisdom in our relationships. A list of five clauses that begin with “do not” is followed by a quartet of comparisons between those who are wise and those who are not. The unwise are categorized as perverse, wicked, scornful and stubborn. The wise are categorized as upright, righteous, and humble.

 

Proverbs 4 (Day 632) September 24 2011

            1-9: Another summons to listen to the wisdom of parents who were of course taught by their parents. There is an unspoken expectation (which will be spoken before the book is done) that one of the duties of parenthood is to “train up a child in the way he should go.”

            10-19: The perils of wickedness are compared to the benefits of righteousness. Underlying the comparison is the concern that one’s children keep good company.

            20-27: The parent gives more admonitions to the child to pay attention. The rewards of listening and learning are clearly spelled out.

 

Proverbs 5 (Day 633) September 25 2011

            1-6: This chapter will give you the impression that the greatest danger a young man faces in this world is a “loose woman,” and you might even begin to wonder how the author knows so much about this.

            7-14: Nevertheless the danger is real, not so much from loose women as from loose morals of men and women alike. Loss of honor is the best such a one can expect.

            15-23: The author’s advice for avoiding the pitfalls of lust and the devastation caused by adultery and prostitution is to marry and be faithful, because “human ways are under the eyes of the LORD,” and God expects his people to mirror the steadfast love and faithfulness that is God’s way of living in relationships.

 

Proverbs 6 (Day 634) September 26 2011

            1-5: More wisdom passed down from parent to child. The chapter begins with advice on how to extricate oneself from a spurious pledge. Jesus, perhaps familiar with this passage, gave similar advice for similar situations (Matthew 5:23-25).

            6-11: One of my favorite passages: the consequences of sloth – which, by the way is one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

            12-15: Advice is given on how to recognize a scoundrel and avoid such a one.

            16-19: Verse 16 is a common literary device we will see several times in the book. Deceitfulness is at the root of most of the “abominations.”

            20-22: Long after mother and father have passed away, their wisdom lives on in the life of the child.

            23-35: Adultery and prostitution are condemned, especially adultery. It is like walking on hot coals, says the author, because adulterers are subject to the angry vengeance of the wronged spouse. (By the way, Solomon was the child of an adulterous union between David and Bathsheba.)

Proverbs 7 (Day 635) September 27 2011

            1-5: More warnings against adultery, a subject that gets what seems more than its share as if it is the primary temptation and danger awaiting a youth arriving in the world of adults.

            6-9: There follows an eyewitness account of a gullible youth being lured into the bed of a married woman. First the young man is spotted, sneaking along the darkened streets of the city.

            10-20: He is accosted by a brazen prostitute who lures him into her house, but we learn in verse 19 that she is in fact a married woman deceiving her absent husband.

            21-23: He enters her house “like an ox to slaughter,” “like a stag toward the trap,” “like a bird rushing into a snare.”

            24-27: The chapter began with an address to “my child,” but now the subject matter seems to have attracted a larger audience, who are addressed as “my children.” The teacher minces no words; giving in to the allure of a married woman bent on adultery is a life-threatening mistake. That is probably meant literally, since according to the Law of Moses the penalty for adultery is death for both parties.

 

Proverbs 8 (Day 636) September 28 2011

            In contrast to the prostituting adulteress, the teacher now turns to her alter-ego, Wisdom. Wisdom is presented as the counterpart to the temptress. Many scholars see in this chapter a deliberate structure of seven sections, each containing five verses more or less, combining to give a picture of Wisdom as God’s companion in creation.

            1-5: Wisdom is located at all places human beings may wander; the heights, the open road, the crossroads, the gates, the doorways. She calls out to all who pass to stop and learn.

            6-11: In stark contrast to the words of the temptress, Wisdom’s words are righteous and true, and more valuable than wealth.

            12-16: Wisdom’s guidance is essential if kings and other rulers are to govern well.

            17-21: In contrast to the results of listening to the words of the temptress, those who love Wisdom receive enduring benefits.

            22-26: Before anything else was created, God made Wisdom. Wisdom thus became God’s first companion. Some have held that the plural references in Genesis 1:26 (“let us make human beings in our image) reflects this understanding of how God created all things.

            27-31: God and Wisdom are pictured working together: God creating, Wisdom cheering on the work.

            32-36: Since God utilized Wisdom in the creation of all things, it stands to reason that humans as created beings will do best when living in partnership with Wisdom, and so the poem ends with a warning (compare verse 32 with 7:24): “Those who shun me injure themselves.”

 

Proverbs 9 (Day 637) September 29 2011

            Chapter 9 forms the conclusion to the first part of the book of Proverbs. It may easily be divided into three sections of roughly the same length, the first and last contrasting Lady Wisdom and Madame Folly with an intervening section which repeats much of the teachings found in earlier chapters.

            1-6: Lady Wisdom’s house is ready and prepared for her guests. The table is set, the wine is poured, the meat prepared. Her servants are sent out to summon all who wish to come. I am reminded of the parable Jesus told about the King who sent servants out to summon the people to a wedding feast (Matthew 22:1-6).

            7-12: A general description is given of the benefits and dangers of practicing wisdom, the beginning of which is the fear of the LORD (compare 1:7).

            13-18: By contrast, Madame Folly has also prepared for guests, but her invitation is to the end of life as God meant it to be lived.

 

Proverbs 10 (Day 638) September 30 2011

            1-32: This chapter begins a long section labeled “the proverbs of Solomon,” which extends through 22:16. Each of the 32 verses in today’s reading can stand alone, but there are common themes. Most of the proverbs here attempt to teach concepts by contrasting the thing desired with its opposite.

Fully half of these verses (2-3, 6-7, 9, 11, 16, 20, 23-25, 27-32) draw a contrast between the wicked and the righteous. Clearly, it is desirable to have a community of righteous people! For one thing, they are the ones who can be trusted. Beyond that, they also are the ones God blesses with long life, prosperity, and the respect of others.

Other contrasting pairs are wisdom vs. folly (verses 1, 8, 13-14 and 19); diligence vs. laziness (4-5, 26); deceitfulness vs. honesty (10, 18); hatred vs. love (12); rich vs. poor (15); and obedience vs. disobedience (17). Verse 22 is a bit out of place, but it is a reminder that everything belongs to God, and the rich have no grounds upon which to hoard what they have.

 

Proverbs 11 (Day 639) October 1 2011

            1-31: The contrasts continue, and once again the primary pairing is between wickedness and righteousness (verses 3, 5-11, 18-21, 23, 27, 30-31). Other contrasting pairs are honesty vs. dishonesty (verse 1); pride vs. humility (verse 2); righteousness vs. wealth (verse 4); gossip vs. confidentiality (verses 12-13); kindness vs. cruelty (verse 17); and generosity vs. stinginess (24-26). The wisdom of seeking counsel is upheld in verse 14. The folly of assuming someone else’s debt is decried in verse 15.  Women are honored for graciousness and good sense more than for physical appearance (16, 22). Aggressiveness is valued above timidity in the area of trade. Trusting in riches is said to be folly (verse 28), and family members are advised not to be a burden on the family (verse 29).

 

Proverbs 12 (Day 640) October 2 2011

            1: An oft-expressed sentiment in Proverbs is the idea that discipline is a necessary ingredient for a good life. What the Bible calls discipline we generally think of as punishment. Punishment is not necessarily a bad thing, but to love being rebuked is a bit out there, don’t you think?

            2-3: Good (righteousness) contrasted with evil (wickedness); the major theme of this section of the book.

            4: The good wife is another theme that is mentioned a number of times; indeed, the book of Proverbs will end with a chapter extolling the virtues of the good wife.

            5-8, 10, 12-13, 21, 26, 28: More righteous/wicked comparisons.

            9: I doubt Jesus would have placed much importance on this verse.

            11, 14, 24, 27: The virtue of hard work is often extolled.

            15-16: The wise and the foolish compared.

            17-20: The subject in these verses is truth-telling.

            22: The difference between lying and acting faithfully is the subject here.

            23: The blabbermouth is excoriated.

            25: Handling anxiety and managing stress has always been a concern for people, even in those simpler days.

 

Proverbs 13 (Day 641) October 3 2011

            Most of this chapter follows the “a, but b” format, comparing one kind of life to its opposite.

            1: This verse echoes 12:1. Seeing your mistake and appreciating the one who points it out to you is indeed a sign of wisdom. Ignoring good advice is the way of the scoffer.

            2-3: Don’t be a loudmouth or talk too much.

            4: Moving cleverly from what comes out of the mouth to what goes in it, the reader is advised once again that diligence is the key to prosperity.

            5-6: The righteous and the wicked are again compared.

            7: The rich don’t always look the part. You can’t judge a book by its cover.

            8: On the other hand, being poor has its benefits.

            9: The righteous compared to the wicked again.

            10: See verse 1.

            11: Easy come, easy go.

            12: It’s a good day when things go your way.

            13-14: Take my advice: take my advice.

            15: Hmmm… the opposite of good sense is faithlessness. Interesting.

            16: A = A’; B = B’.

            17: Ditto.

            18: Once again, take my advice.

            19: This is an odd pairing, but each one stands alone nicely.

            20: “You can tell a man who boozes by the company he chooses.” Or, “Birds of a feather flock together.”

            21: Go right and you’ll never go wrong.

            22: This is why grandparents are so special.

            23: This is the way of the world, unfortunately.

            24: Contemporary parenting gurus hate this verse. I won’t argue with them, but corporal punishment was one of my best teachers.

            25: Good people are content with what they have. Bad people are never satisfied.

 

Proverbs 14 (Day 642) October 4 2011

            1: The important place of women in ancient Jewish society is obvious from the amount of attention given them in Proverbs. While a man’s character resulted in all kinds of consequences to his personal welfare, a woman’s character impacted the entire household.

            2: “Good” people are often despised by “bad” people who are threatened by their righteousness because it gives them no opportunity for devious schemes and ill-gotten gain.

            3: Another difference between the wise and the foolish is that in a legal dispute the way the wise speak sways the outcome in their favor, while the fool’s defense is unsuccessful. The unspoken advice is, of course, “seek wisdom.”

            4: It is good to have an ox.

            5: This verse is related to 3 above.

            6: You can’t learn if you don’t want to.

            7-9: The best thing you can say to a fool is, “Good-bye.”

            10: An interesting observation about human emotions and relationships.

            11: This sounds more like the threat of a king than like an observation of life.

            12: Straight is the gate and narrow the way.

            13: There is a time to laugh and a time to cry. Each has the other waiting just offstage.

            14: This is the way things ought to be.

            15: Look before you leap.

            16: Look before you leap.

            17: Wisdom counsels an even temper, and nobody likes a schemer.

            18: I must confess that I do not like the dichotomy expressed here between the “simple” and the “clever.” I tend to mistrust “clever” people, and have a great deal of sympathy for the “simple,” which I equate with childlikeness.

            19: This is how the author wishes things to be, but evidence is scarce.

            20-21: It is an unhappy but nevertheless accurate observation that everybody at least pretends to like the rich. This is not a judgment on the poor but rather on human society. There is nothing wrong with befriending the rich, but despising your neighbor and being unkind to the poor is not the way of wisdom.

            22: Being good is better than being evil.

            23: Again the benefit of hard work is extolled.

            24: “Handsome is as handsome does.”

            25: Truth and falsehood each have consequences.

            26-27: The fear of the LORD benefits the one who has it as well as the family of the one who has it.

            28: “If you want to know if you’re a leader, look behind you.”

            29: A short fuse makes it hard to consider options.

            30: Tranquility does indeed revive the flesh. Perhaps “hot-headedness” would be a better translation than “passion” is the second half of the verse.

            31: Once again we are reminded that God has a special regard for the poor.

            32: Don’t be wicked. Be righteous.

            33: The difference between folly and understanding is wisdom.

            34: What do you think: does this refer to the righteousness or sinfulness of the nation as a whole, or is the righteousness or sinfulness of the king or other leaders enough to exalt or condemn a nation?

            35: It’s good to be the king.

 

Proverbs 15 (Day 643) October 5 2011

            1, 2, 4, 7, 23: These verses contain advice about speech: speak softly with a gentle tone and only when you know what you’re talking about.

            3: God watches over us (compare Psalm 139:7).

            5: Parental instruction is still one of the keys to wisdom.

            6: We might argue with this one, for the wicked are often seen to be wealthy. The difference is between the words “treasure” and “income.” “Treasure” as applied here means that which is gathered and stored over a period of time; “income” is that which is immediate but insecure.

            8-9: No matter how extravagant the offering, it is the measure of the heart that provides the value of the gift, and because God loves those who strive to live by God’s law their offering of prayer is more valuable than any sacrifice made by the one who ignores God’s law.

            10: If you accept correction you may suffer the consequences of your mistakes but it won’t kill you.

            11: Sheol and Abaddon are words that refer to the grave and death. If God knows the mysteries of life after death, it stands to reason that God would know what lies within the human heart as well.

            12: It is a common foible of human character not to seek personal improvement, a process which requires having one’s mistakes unveiled.

            13: A self-evident observation.

            14: A fool is someone who majors in minors.

            15: Regardless of one’s economic status, a positive, cheerful attitude can make it seem better.

            16: Wealth is no substitute for character.

            17: A feast is not a feast without a spirit of love at the table.

            18: The slow temper is again honored; it is a key ingredient in successfully dealing with conflict.

            19: The sin of sloth is treated once again.

            20: Honor your mother and your father will be pleased.

            21: A better translation would be, “the person with understanding keeps walking.” One with character is not enticed to stop and enjoy foolish things.

            22: This is especially good advice for one who has much responsibility; the king, for instance.

            24: Onward and upward.

            25: The proud, those who think too highly of themselves, will come to grief, but the lowly have a special place in God’s heart.

            26: Evil plans are contrary to God’s very nature, but kindness to others as expressed in the way we speak is more like it.

             27: In Israelite law a judge could be given a gift for rendering a favorable decision; the problem was that some judges allowed the promise of a gift to sway the decision.

            28: The value of a carefully considered response is appreciated.

            29: Regardless of how things sometimes appear, believers trust that God attends the faithful more closely than the wicked.

            30-31: Eyes and ears are channels for God’s blessings to be perceived.

            32: Compare verses 10 and 12.

            33: Acquiring wisdom requires a proper respect and awe for God, and one cannot be honorable without being humble before God.

 

Proverbs 16 (Day 644) October 6 2011

            Chapters 16-21 and down to 22:16 comprise a section often referred to as the Royal Collection because of the frequent mention of God and the king.

            1-3: Consider God’s way before making your plans.

            4: Why some things exist in this world is a puzzle, but the Bible is confident that all things in God’s creation have a purpose, even wicked people (although why there has to be a “day of trouble” eludes me).

            5-6: Arrogance is a character flaw that inevitably results in a come-down, but loyalty and faithfulness have no downsides.

            7: God does have the power to make peace, but we must be receptive to that power.

            8: Lots of money doesn’t justify wrongdoing.

            9: “Man (sic) proposes, but God disposes.”

            10: Only a king could have come up with this one!

            11: Honesty in general is a reflection of God’s own nature.

            12: Amen to this one!

            13: Okay.

            14: Don’t dis the king.

            15: Only a king could have come up with this one!

            16: The fool quickly squanders his gold.

            17: Doing the right thing is in the end the safest way to live.

            18: This one is often shortened to “pride goes before a fall.”

            19: The poor are better company than the proud.

            20: Do rather than be done to. In other words, be proactive.

            21: Remember this one next time you have a talk with your teenager.

            22: The punishment of fools is their foolishness.

            23: You persuade others more effectively when you make sense …

            24: … and when you are pleasant.

            25: Look before you leap.

            26: If you want to eat, work.

            27: Compare this to the speech of the wise in verse 23.

            28: You’ve heard of “whisper campaigns?” They are carried out by perverse people.

            29: I’m not sure how a violent person can entice anyone.

            30: Stay clear of winkers and lip pursers.

            31: YES!!!

            32: Keep your cool.

            33: “Man (sic) proposes, but God disposes.”

 

Proverbs 17 (Day 645) October 7 2011

            1: A bickering household is no more pleasant in our day and time!

            2: I wonder if this happened very often in any culture that practiced slavery. Perhaps this proverb served the purpose of encouraging the slaves to “deal wisely.”

            3: Precious metals like gold and silver were purified by heating to the point of melting so that impurities which melted at different temperatures could be easily removed. That process is a metaphor for how God examines and purifies a person’s character (heart).

            4: Birds of a feather flock together.

            5: Mocking the poor is tantamount to insulting God, and if we celebrate someone else’s troubles, well, what goes around comes around.

            6: Respect for one’s elders is a hallmark of ancient society and of agrarian societies. It is often discarded in progressive cultures where individual achievement is hailed as the height of human endeavor. The older I get the more I think elders ought to be respected.

7: Fine speech is usually welcomed, but if one’s manner of speaking is incongruent with one’s character no one will believe it.

            8: Once again we have a proverb that seems to encourage bribery. Consider, however, 15:27 and 17:23, not to mention Deuteronomy 10:17, which declares that God does not accept bribes. I think what is meant in this verse is not bribery, which encourages behavior that may not be legal, but simply the art of using gifts to show appreciation.

            9: We’ve all known people who just don’t know how to let bygones be bygones.

            10: Some people never learn.

            11: “Rebellion” here is a reference to one’s relationship with God. Evil people are by definition those who defy God and God’s ways. The “cruel messenger” may represent punishment for wrongdoing or perhaps the disappointing outcome of living such a life.

            12: Well, okay, but I think I’d rather deal with the fool.

            13: This is one of the consequences of ignoring the Golden Rule.

            14: The ability to see trouble coming is essential if trouble is to be avoided.

            15: Injustice is completely contrary to God’s character and should therefore be avoided by God’s people.

            16: Oh, my! Look at all the unread books on my shelves!

            17: Friends and family are the buffers for the blows of living.

            18: Co-signing a loan is never a good idea (unless it is to help your own son or daughter to establish a credit rating, and then only if you have the funds laid aside to repay the loan).

            19: You will find a variety of renderings of this verse, especially the second part of it, because the Hebrew words are difficult to translate. The idea seems to be that people who like to break the rules create obstacles over which they eventually stumble.

            20: We were told earlier that crooked minds are an abomination to God (11:20). The tongue is the mind’s outward expression.

            21: This is perhaps a simple observation of how things are, but can also be read as an entreaty to children and youth to “get wisdom” (4:5, 7).

            22: Even 2500 years ago people knew that one’s mental attitude affects one’s health.

            23: A bribe is a gift that is given for the purpose of creating an unfair advantage or outcome. It is thus a perversion of justice.

            24: The ability to focus is a necessary attribute for acquiring wisdom.

            25: Compare verse 21.

            26: A self-evident observation: Innocence and integrity are to be rewarded, not punished.

            27-28: A wise person considers his or her words before speaking, and therefore is seldom verbose. A fool can feign wisdom by simply being quiet. “It is better to be silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and prove that you are.”

Proverbs 18 (Day 646) October 8 2011

            1: This is another hard verse to translate and, frankly, the NRSV is not a helpful rendition. The idea is that there is wisdom in community, and the one who avoids being part of the community, showing contempt for his neighbors and their ideas, is bereft of that wisdom.

            2: In a similar vein, one who refuses to listen to anyone else’s opinion reveals himself to be a fool.

            3: Is it that wickedness causes one to have contempt for others, or is it that others will have contempt for the one who is wicked?

            4: What we say is evident; it’s the underlying motives that are like deep waters. True wisdom, though, is bound to gush forth.

            5: Justice is necessary for the good health of any society.

            6-7: Here’s another definition of a fool.

            8: An interesting description of the process of being tantalized by gossip.

            9: Laziness is roundly condemned a number of times (see 6:6 for example), but nowhere more roundly than here.

            10-11: These two sayings about external threats to the city (or nation) make it clear that God is a more dependable protector than wealth.

            12: Trouble is often the parent of humility.

            13: Don’t interrupt.

            14: Physical well-being is heavily dependent on mental (and spiritual) well-being.

            15: Knowledge is neither intelligence nor wisdom, but is sought by those who are intelligent and those who are wise.

            16: Take note.

            17: Don’t make a decision until all the evidence is in.

            18: Flipping a coin is a better way to a solution than engaging in a duel.

            19: The meaning here seems to be that it is often more difficult to patch up things with a friend you’ve insulted than it is to storm a city or a barred castle.

            20-21: Studies have shown that learning to control the tongue adds years to one’s life expectancy.

            22: Amen!

            23: There is a difference in public power between the poor and the rich. No value judgment is given to this fact, but it is evidence of the corruption of human societies because God favors the poor.

            24: Some “friends” are not really friends.

 

Proverbs 19 (Day 647) October 9 2011

            1: Integrity is a virtue one should seek, regardless of whether it pays.

            2: At first glance this verse addresses two different character flaws, desire and haste. However, desire often causes one to proceed too hastily without first learning all the pros and cons of the thing desired.

            3: How often have you seen the case: someone falls onto bad times through their own ineptness and puts the blame on God?

            4, 6-7: Although God favors the poor, people do not. The wealthy have people thronging about looking for favors; the poor have trouble finding friends. The truth is that those who throng around the rich are not their friends, and those who neglect the poor are not their friends.

            5, 9: These verses are nearly identical; a double warning against those who perjure themselves in court.

            8: The main theme of the book: get wisdom, get understanding.

            10: Some things just aren’t right! And yet, they happen.

            11: An even temper and a forgiving spirit are the marks of good sense.

            12: “It’s good to be da king!”

            13: Harmony in the family is an essential ingredient of the good life.

            14: Amen to that!

            15: Acedia (sloth, laziness) is one of the 7 deadly sins.

            16: A word to the wise; a warning to the careless.

            17: Kindness to the poor is one of the marks of a right relationship with God.

            18, 20: The wording of verse 18 is a bit disturbing, but the general idea here is timely instruction. The ancients knew instinctively much of what child development theorists are only just beginning to codify. Verse 20 then turns to the youth being instructed and advises him or her to pay attention.

            19: Don’t get involved with an ill-tempered person; you’ll just get hooked over and over.

            21: God has veto power over anything we decide.

            22: The basic meaning here is that the covenants you make ought to be kept at any cost.

            23: The “fear of the LORD” leads to a right relationship with God, and that leads to an un-anxious life.

            24: This is the height of laziness. It is probably meant to be comical but the underlying truth is that laziness can prevent you from doing what is best for you.

            25: Discipline is beneficial to the simple-minded and the intelligent alike.

            26: Honor thy father and thy mother; this verse tells you why.

            27: Study, dummy!

            28: A lot of proverbs have to do with the judicial system of ancient Israel. Justice is completely dependent on the integrity of all involved parties.

            29: Jesus told us not to condemn others; nevertheless, there are those who will be condemned.

 

Proverbs 20 (Day 648) October 10 2011

            1: In other places wine is acknowledged to be a good thing, but excessive drinking never leads to anything good.

            2: Beware of the king.

            3: The quick temper has been mentioned several times. Any group that includes someone who is temperamental will have a hard time completing a task.

            4: “Go to the ant, you sluggard!” (6:6)

            5: Part of the book’s definition of intelligence includes what we might call insight and intuition.

            6: While upholding loyalty as a virtue, the author admits that, nevertheless, it is hard to find someone who is loyal.

            7: Integrity may be defined as acting and speaking in accordance with one’s stated beliefs. The Bible goes a step further and insists that integrity has to do with acting and speaking in accordance with God’s Word. Such integrity will surely influence the next generation.

            8: Here is another proverb that serves to keep the king’s subjects in line.

            9: This verse falls into the category of “rhetorical questions.”

            10: Loaded scales and slightly shortened measuring tapes are standard tools of crooked merchants. Let the buyer beware.

            11: Your reputation is set early in life.

            12: We have to answer to God for how we use our eyes and ears.

            13: You have to work if you want to prosper.

            14: This verse reminds me of the ritual of car buying in our culture. At the dealership we moan about being cheated, but then tell all our friends what a good deal we got.

            15: Intelligent conversation should be highly valued.

            16: Never co-sign a loan for someone you barely know.

            17: “Bread” is used metaphorically in this saying. The point is that if you are cheated in a deal through deceitful but sweet sounding promises, you may be pleased at first but ultimately you’ll pay the price.

            18: This verse is a rather sudden shift from the world of day-to-day business to the world of kings and generals and national security. The basic value expressed is that two heads are better than one.

            19: Use care in your choice of confidants.

            20: A warning is given to enforce the 5th commandment (Exodus 20:12). Interesting that of the 10 this one is reiterated more often in the Bible than any of the others except the 4th (keeping the Sabbath).

            21: Easy come, easy go.

            22: Don’t take the law into your own hands. To do so reveals a lack of trust in God.

            23: See verse 20. This is a rewording of the same rule.

            24: On the one hand this proverb gives assurance. On the other hand it seems to introduce an element of helplessness.

            25: In other words, you’d better be sure you know what you’re making a vow about.

            26: As translated in the NRSV this verse presents a mixed metaphor. Perhaps a better rendering would be “A wise king scatters the wicked and drives the wheel (of his chariot) over them.” In other words, do not allow the wicked to influence the king.

            27: The idea here is that there is within the human heart something that corresponds to God’s spirit and enables us to do some soul-searching.

            28: No one can rule solely by their own power. Even the king needs supporters.

            29: Amen!

            30: Physical discipline used as a means of correction is encouraged.

Proverbs 21 (Day 649) October 11 2011

            1: If the king submits to God’s rule, God will use him.

            2: The motive is as important as the deed. Does this contradict “the ends justify the means?”

            3: This sentiment is shared in many other passages in the Old Testament, particularly among the prophets. See, for example, Isaiah 1:11 and Jeremiah 6:20.

            4: The wicked follow the path lighted by their own character flaws.

            5: Hastiness, as well as laziness, is the bane of diligence. One of my old supervisors used to say, “Work smarter, not harder.”

            6: Deceit cannot be maintained; only honesty can withstand every challenge.

            7: Perhaps this is another way of saying, “He who lives by the sword dies by the sword.”

            8: Guilt causes one to continuously look for cover.

            9: The contentious wife pops up every now and then.

            10: It is God’s nature to be merciful; the wicked are by definition of another mind.

            11: I think this is another way of saying that some people have to have wisdom beaten into them while others can simply be taught. Stubborn people do seem to suffer a lot more than agreeable people.

            12: It is not clear whether the Righteous One is a reference to God or not. The main point of the proverb is that righteousness cannot ultimately abide wickedness.

            13: Closing the ear is a deliberate act. To deliberately turn away from someone in need is a sin.

            14: Some commentators think that the “concealed bribe” is equivalent to what today we would call an out-of-court settlement.

            15: I am going to agree with those who think the better way to understand this is to change the word order to something like, “The righteous take joy in doing justice, but evildoers are dismayed by it.”

            16: If you live foolishly you may as well not live at all.

            17: The frivolous life is wasted.

            18: This proverb’s meaning is obscure to say the least. It seems to imply that only so many of us can be blessed, and having wicked people helps to insure there are enough blessings to go around for those among us who are upright, but that is a point of view that goes against the very nature of God.

            19: She’s back again. Perhaps the frequent mention of the contentious wife serves a two-fold purpose: to caution young men in their choice of a wife and to encourage wives to be agreeable.

            20: The link between wisdom and wealth is another oft-sounded theme.

            21: Not only wealth, but long life and honor are rewards of wisdom.

            22: This may be a reference to one of the exploits of David or another famous soldier from the past.

            23: Much trouble can be avoided if we would simply be quiet.

            24: Here is the definition of “scoffer.” You may want to reflect again on Psalm 1:1.

            25: Laziness can be fatal.

            26: This is the difference between living with open hands and living with closed fists.

            27: God does not accept bribes. One who worships without having faith is a hypocrite.

            28: Here is another rule for the court: the witness given by a deceitful person will ultimately fail. When searching for someone to serve as a witness in a legal case, look for someone who knows how to listen, for that person is more likely to testify accurately to what they have heard.

            29: A wicked person fakes and feigns his way through life. The upright person proceeds thoughtfully.

            30: No matter how smart you are, God is in charge.

            31: If God is against you it doesn’t matter whether you win the battle or not. Eventually God’s way will prevail.

 

Proverbs 22 (Day 650) October 12 2011

            Beginning with this chapter I will stop trying to comment on every verse, and only treat those that I think will benefit from some explanation.

1: A good reputation goes a long way.

3: Remember that, in Proverbs, “clever” is a synonym for intelligent and careful.

6: You will recognize this as the old “train up a child in the way he should go” proverb.

8: Sometimes there is a reason to be angry, but seldom a good one.

11: …and thus the king encourages pure hearts and gracious speech.

15: This proverb seems to take it for granted that boys will be boys.

17: Solomon’s words ended, we begin a section called “The words of the wise,” perhaps intended as a general collection gathered from various sources. This section supposedly contains 30 proverbs, but it is difficult to delineate the next 70 verses into precisely 30 sayings.

22: Yes, but why rob anybody at all?

 

Proverbs 23 (Day 651) October 13 2011

            1-8: Restraint and moderation are definitely virtues.

            12-28: These verses are a collection of parental advice. Much of it is still applicable today, although we now know of the psychological damage that can result from carelessly applied corporal punishment.

            29-35: Some of the reasons given here for not drinking are reasons some people drink!

 

Proverbs 24 (Day 652) October 14 2011

            3-7: These verses establish the importance of wisdom on the home front and on the battle front. When deep conversations are held the fool grows silent.

            10-12: It is a sin to look the other way and pretend not to notice when someone is suffering.

            15-16: The righteous don’t always succeed, they just never give up.

            17-18: It is taken for granted that if victory is won it is because God willed it. How different from the perspective in our time!

            21-22: The king is right up there with God when it comes to dishing out disasters.

            23-26, 28-29: Honesty is necessary if justice is to be done. Too often throughout history the poor and underprivileged have fared poorly in the courts.

            27: Interesting that in an ancient agrarian culture the cultivation of the field was indeed more important than having a roof over your head.

            30-34: The observation in verses 30-32 undergirds the saying in verses 33-34, which serves to repeat and strengthen 6:10-11.

Proverbs 25 (Day 653) October 15 2011

            1-7: More proverbs of Solomon are introduced, and fittingly these first ones address the nature of the kingship. It is the King’s job to search out what God has hidden from ordinary people. Wicked people in the kingdom are like dross mixed with silver: get rid of them! Verses 6-7 form the basis for a saying of Jesus (see Luke 14:10)

            8-10: Some advice for legal matters: don’t be in haste to take it to court. We’ve forgotten this one in 21st century America!

            11-20: These verses have to do mostly with words that are spoken. Good words are like gold, like a cold front in the heat of summer, can persuade rulers and conquer adversaries. Ill-chosen words on the other hand are like rainless clouds, or sharp arrows, or a sore tooth, or vinegar in a wound or moths in the closet.

            21-22: This is the verse Paul quotes at Romans 12:20.

            23-28: These similes cover a host of human foibles; the imagery is worth taking a little time to ponder.

 

Proverbs 26 (Day 654) October 16 2011

            1-12: This is all about fools and the frustrations that arise from associating with them.

            13-16: More sayings about lazybones.

            17-28: The chapter ends with a group of proverbs having to do with relationships, the conflicts that arise within them, and advice about how to avoid quarreling. Meddling, practical jokes, gossiping, quarrelsomeness, smooth talk, dissembling and lying all contribute to the quarrels that destroy relationships and bring unnecessary suffering to innocent victims.

Proverbs 27 (Day 655) October 17 2011

            1: This proverb forms the basis for some of Jesus’ sayings – notably the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:13-21.

            2-10: Assorted proverbs dealing with relationships, most of which we have seen before in slightly different form.

            11: This verse illustrates a primary factor in Israelite culture (and in ancient cultures in general) – the importance of lineage in a family’s honor. A wise son brings honor to the family, enabling the parents to defeat any effort to sully the family’s reputation.

            13: If someone wishes to cosign a loan you make to a stranger or a foreigner, don’t let a promise suffice but rather insist on holding the collateral.

            14: Timing is everything.

            15-19: More sayings on proper –and improper – behavior in various relationships, including marriage, friendship, and servanthood.

            20: Eyes keep seeing, the grave keeps receiving.

            21: How you handle praise says as much about your character as how you handle rebuke.

            23-27: Diligence guards against changes in fortune.

 

Proverbs 28 (Day 656) October 18 2011

            2: I wonder what the ancients would have thought about the stability of a country that changes its head of state every four to eight years.

            2-10: Leadership and law are treated in these verses. Intelligent leadership influences how well the people obey the law.

            11: Sometimes what appears to be wisdom is merely the pose of pride and vanity.

            12: Perhaps nothing defines the differences between the righteous and the wicked as well as the reaction of other people when they triumph.

            21: Here is a touching acknowledgment that sometimes the poor are poor through no fault of their own and the failure of society to help them grants them immunity from punishment for certain actions that are normally crimes.

Proverbs 29 (Day 657) October 19 2011

            1: Accepting, even welcoming correction and reproof is the mark of wisdom. If you keep making the same mistakes over and over again, sooner or later you’re in for a big fall.

            2: Compare 28:12.

            3: Remember the long warning given to “my son” to beware of prostitutes and adulterous wives? The “substance” one squanders with a prostitute is intended to be understood in more ways than one.

            5: Praise and flattery are two different things.

            6: Those who do wrong must always fear being found out and punished. Those who do right have no such anxieties.

            8: The idea here is that the whole community might suffer from the stupid actions of one person.

            9: You can’t explain the law to a fool.

            12: The success of one deceitful person invites others to be deceitful.

            13: Compare 22:2.

            14: The kind treatment of the poor reveals a character that is in tune with God’s will, and thus insures God’s support over time.

            15: Could it be that a spoiled child is sometimes the result not of too much attention, but too little?

            18: The prophets are the ones who hold the people to the covenant with God. Without them the people tend to take license to do whatever they wish. Nevertheless, those who keep the law will be especially blessed.

            20-27: The chapter ends with assorted proverbs about character, the application of discipline, and the care with which relationships should be developed and maintained. Some of the proverbs are specific to cultures in which slavery was practiced and where the government is some form of monarchy, but most of them apply to nearly every culture and time.

 

Proverbs 30 (Day 658) October 20 2011

            1-6: Agur son of Jakeh is otherwise unknown, and the verses that follow are markedly different from what has gone before. They are not labeled proverbs but rather “the words of Agur,” and then we are told this is “the oracle.” Some scholars believe these verses are intended as a dialogue between two people; one whose faith is foundering, the other whose faith is strong. The difficulties presented by the text are too numerous to consider here. However, I suggest that verses 1b-4 be taken as the questioning of one who is not convinced anything can be known of God, and verses 5-6 as the response of faith.

            7-9: It has been said that these verses form the only prayer to be found in Proverbs. The author acknowledges that honesty is more important than riches and therefore asks God to provide for basic needs – “my daily bread” as some translations have it. Having more than enough tempts one to deny God. Having too little is a temptation to steal what is lacking, thus dishonoring God.

            10: In a culture that practiced indentured servanthood it was necessary to insure the security of the servants. This verse acknowledges the close relationship between master and servant, so that the word of the servant is taken over the word of an accuser.

            11-14: A list of deplorable behaviors, from mistreatment of parents to vanity to lording it over the poor.

            15-16: 15b begins a list of “three things that never satisfy,” but is preceded by something else that is never satisfied: the children of a leech (someone who habitually exploits others).

            17: Honor your father and mother!

            18-19: Poetry at its best.

            20: The adulteress makes her last appearance in Proverbs.

            21-23: Agur likes numerical proverbs, doesn’t he?

            24-28: And he likes to put them into groups of four.

            29-31: I wonder if the king appreciated being compared to a goat, a rooster and a lion.

            32-33: A vulgar platitude which basically means “curb your tongue, knave.”

 

Proverbs 31 (Day 659) 21 October 2011

            1: King Lemuel is also otherwise unknown. This last chapter of Proverbs consists of teachings supposedly given by a Queen Mother to her son who will one day ascend to the throne. Another way of looking at it is that the mother represents Lady Wisdom instructing her son, thus tying this last chapter to earlier ones that personify wisdom (see chapters 8 and 9). Note also that as the book began with a father giving advice (1:8), so it ends with the advice of a mother.

            2-9: Her instructions are simple and basic: stay away from wild women and strong drink. Defend the needy and the poor.

            10-31: Finally, she gives Lemuel advice on the kind of wife to seek, and launches into a long list of her virtues. Perhaps the activities listed here are a catalogue of her own impressive accomplishments. Notice that verse 30 echoes 1:7: the theme of “the fear of the LORD” ties the book nicely together.