Proverbs of Solomon
10 The proverbs of Solomon:
A wise son brings joy to his father,
but a foolish son brings grief to his mother.
2 Ill-gotten treasures have no lasting value,
but righteousness delivers from death.
3 The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry,
but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.
4 Lazy hands make for poverty,
but diligent hands bring wealth.
5 He who gathers crops in summer is a prudent son,
but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.
6 Blessings crown the head of the righteous,
but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked.
7 The name of the righteous is used in blessings,
but the name of the wicked will rot.
The Book of Proverbs conceals a sad story. Solomon was a wise king for most of his life. In later life he made some bad decisions. In his attempts to keep peace with his neighbours and probably an unquenchable thirst for lust, he had many wives. His wives lured him away from God and into the practices of worshipping false Gods (1 Kings 11:1-10).
Solomon wrote Proverbs 1:1 to Proverbs 9:18 for his son. He wanted his son to learn wisdom. He attempted to pass on wisdom to Rehoboam.
Rehoboam became the king when Solomon died. Rehoboam did not embrace wisdom.
When he became king, his first decision was a rebellious and stubborn refusal to obey the advice of Solomon’s wise advisors. Instead, he chose advisors who knew nothing (1 Kings 12:1-19).
Most of the people refused to serve Rehoboam. There was a revolution and a war. The nation split in two.
Solomon led a great nation. His nation was always at peace. His son, Rehoboam, led a small nation. Rehoboam was always at war (1 Kings 14:30).
The second major section in the Book of Proverbs is Proverbs 10:1, to Proverbs 22:16. This section contains 375 short poems. Most of the poems (or Proverbs) have two lines, and each poem is one verse long.
The structure of this section is unusual. Solomon did not separate the proverbs into groups. The proverbs change from one subject to another. Solomon uses an ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ order. This order is similar to a conversation. For example, one proverb might explain the previous one. Another proverb might contrast with the previous one.
Together, these proverbs are like a conversation. If we think about it in this context and imagine a group of wise men in the Middle East discussing thoughts and ideas and then commenting on them to each other you can begin to see a conversational thread.
Because of this structure, it is difficult to break it down into smaller sections. Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16 belong together. There are no chapter numbers in the original writings. Sometimes, the orders are incorrect to the original writings. For ease I have broken it into smaller chunks.
Proverbs are relative truths, not absolute truths. The reader should apply wisdom and context to each one. Wisdom is the underpinning factor of the books
Several words in verse 1 contrast with other words. ‘Wise’ contrasts with ‘foolish’. ‘Father’ contrasts with ‘mother’. ‘Joy’ contrasts with ‘pain.’
Our wisdom will help other people. For example, this verse says that wisdom will bring joy to a father.
Foolishness is living for our own pleasure. If we do this, then we are refusing God’s wisdom. Other people will suffer because of our actions. For example, this verse says that a fool will cause pain to his mother.
In verse 2 we read that ‘If you steal money, then it has no value.’ It could be argued that if someone steals money, then it can still be spent. A thief can become wealthy. Solomon argues that this wealth is worth nothing. This is true. It leaves you with nothing and certainly does not feel good spending it.
Wisdom is better than money, because wisdom can save your life. So if a poor man is wise, then he is richer than a foolish king.
In verses 3-5 God opposes those who set out to destroy others or take advantage of others. He does it on his timetable, not ours but ultimately he will ruin this person’s plans.The virtues of working hard are expressed.
In verses 6-7, our attitude and actions multiply. We are always heading in one direction or the other. A faithful attitude and the pursuit of wisdom attracts more wisdom and this expands. When we pursue our own selfish agenda this also expands and leads us further away from God, further away from wisdom and ultimately towards our own destruction.
These words resonate with me. I have lived this and taken it to it’s negative limit…or at least my limit. It’s not a path I wish to pursue again. The idea that whatever you focus on expands is frequently broadcast by self improvement guru’s but it’s not a new idea at all.
In my darkest pit I had a mental obsession with sex, passion and consuming lustful desires. I made it my business to pursue it to the point of recklessness and destruction. This was not merely falling into sin but allowing sin to devour me and within that to cause cruelty, betrayal, suffering and hurt to others on a scale I could never imagine myself capable of.
The wise in heart accept commands,
but a chattering fool comes to ruin.
9 Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.
10 Whoever winks maliciously causes grief,
and a chattering fool comes to ruin.
11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
12 Hatred stirs up conflict,
but love covers over all wrongs.
13 Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning,
but a rod is for the back of one who has no sense.
14 The wise store up knowledge,
but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.
A wise man is asserted as someone who obeys instructions, who tries to learn from other people, who shows humility.
A fool is shown as someone who only thinks his own thoughts and only hears his own words. He only does what he wants to do. A fool is proud. He thinks that he is wiser than other people. He thinks that he knows better than God. He trusts only in himself.
These verses contrast first of all the thoughts of the good and evil, then the speech of the good and evil and finally the actions of the good and evil.
It gives a picture of the life of the wise man and the life of the foolish man.
Love covers all error, every mistake. It is a powerful force for change and healing. It is the great diffuser in conflict. It diminishes the power of aggression and takes the sting from its tail.
A wise person studies. He wants to learn more knowledge. He is always learning.
So many of my ways have been foolish. I have lacked love, I have lacked humility and been consumed by my own thoughts.
15 The wealth of the rich is their fortified city,
but poverty is the ruin of the poor.
16 The wages of the righteous is life,
but the earnings of the wicked are sin and death.
17 Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life,
but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.
18 Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips
and spreads slander is a fool.
19 Sin is not ended by multiplying words,
but the prudent hold their tongues.
20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver,
but the heart of the wicked is of little value.
21 The lips of the righteous nourish many,
but fools die for lack of sense.
22 The blessing of the Lord brings wealth,
without painful toil for it.
23 A fool finds pleasure in wicked schemes,
but a person of understanding delights in wisdom.
In difficult times the wealthy can protect themselves from suffering because they have money. The poor will always suffer first. They are more vulnerable.
Wealth brings some good things, but wealth cannot give a good life. There is a spiritual wealth that gives us something more incredible and fulfilling than material wealth.
The next section talks about integrity of speech. Words are powerful, they can be extremely destructive or extremely valuable. It is important to use our words honestly to build up rather than tear down. To help people, to express beneficial things.
In verse 23 we read that the fool finds pleasure in things that ultimately are of no benefit to anyone whilst the wise man treasures wisdom itself. He lives and breathes wisdom.
I overhear conversations in the office and its very easy to be judgmental at how inane and empty of purpose they are. The truth is that most of us have our little inane escapes into pleasure, hobbies and interests. For some it’s celebrity gossip, for some it may be sport, for some it may be entertainment.We fill our lives with stuff that we hope will fill a void but the things that we pursue are going to always leave us thirsting for more. It is only through Jesus that we can fulfill our deepest needs. Jesus promised the woman at the well that her thirst will be quenched and she will never be thirsty (John 4).
24 What the wicked dread will overtake them;
what the righteous desire will be granted.
25 When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone,
but the righteous stand firm forever.
26 As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes,
so are sluggards to those who send them.
27 The fear of the Lord adds length to life,
but the years of the wicked are cut short.
28 The prospect of the righteous is joy,
but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing.
29 The way of the Lord is a refuge for the blameless,
but it is the ruin of those who do evil.
30 The righteous will never be uprooted,
but the wicked will not remain in the land.
31 From the mouth of the righteous comes the fruit of wisdom,
but a perverse tongue will be silenced.
32 The lips of the righteous know what finds favor,
but the mouth of the wicked only what is perverse.
God will always add to those that do right. In this world our goodness and selfishness is multiplied in life but the wicked and selfish activity leaves us empty handed.
There is humour in verse 27. If you send a lazy man with a message, your message may never arrive. Instead, send a wise man with the message. It will soon arrive.
The contrast of a good life will prolong life and an evil life will have our days cut short. Some religious people use words like this to express that God punishes. I don’t see it as punishment but more of cause and effect. It’s within the fabric of wisdom. It is fused into the DNA of the universe.
God is our only refuge. Like a tree we can stand firm in a storm but those whose hearts are intent on evil will be blown away.
The verse I had read at my baptism was John 16:33. “In this world you will have trouble but take heart, I have overcome the world”. It’s a poignant reminder that we are not guaranteed a smooth easy life but rather guaranteed the opposite. However in walking with God in this broken world we do become equipped to handle these days of trouble in an invigorating, purposeful and fulfilling way.