These are more proverbs of Solomon, compiled by the men of Hezekiah king of Judah:
King Hezekiah lived 250 years after King Solomon. Hezekiah was a good king. He served God.
Hezekiah re-established the temple, which Solomon built. King Hezekiah’s officials found some more proverbs. So they added these proverbs to Solomon’s book.
It is not known if Solomon actually wrote these proverbs. It’s quite possible that they were part of Solomon’s collection.
The style is different from that of the earlier chapters. Some of these later proverbs are longer and many of them are arranged in subject groups.
We don’t know the identity of the men who discovered them; they could perhaps have been Hezekiah’s ministers of state, Eliakim, Sheban, and Joah; or the prophets of the time, Isaiah, Micah, and Hosea: the Targum and Syriac version call them his “friends”.
Whoever they were, no doubt they were employed by Hezekiah; we know that he was careful to preserve words. This first verse is most likely, written by one of the copiers.
It amazes me to contemplate the lengths that God has gone to preserve his word. The synchronicity is incredible and to think about how it compares to other ancient documents is incredible.
2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter;
to search out a matter is the glory of kings.
3 As the heavens are high and the earth is deep,
so the hearts of kings are unsearchable.
4 Remove the dross from the silver,
and a silversmith can produce a vessel;
5 remove wicked officials from the king’s presence,
and his throne will be established through righteousness.
6 Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence,
and do not claim a place among his great men;
7 it is better for him to say to you, “Come up here,”
than for him to humiliate you before his nobles.
All of the mysteries of creation, life, the universe point to the greatness of God. We are fascinated by the perfect design of nature and its complexities and it is clear that our creator is indeed an awesome God.
In verses 2 and 3 the roles of God and the king are compared. God, whose knowledge is above all human knowledge and whose ways are unsearchable, keeps things to Himself because He needs no counsel.
The full mystery of God will not be revealed to us until we reach eternity but some things are revealed through creation, through scripture, through the fact of Jesus coming. We read a little of this in Romans 16:25-26
God is a mystery. Jesus revealed something of that mystery in coming to the earth as God in the flesh.
A king, on the other hand, tells us what he knows. It makes him appear smarter. A king has to get to the bottom of the facts so that he can judge a matter with fairness. Kings should rightly seek to know what they must know in order to rule well.
A man can never search out all the heavens and cannot go to the center of the earth, neither can he really know what is in the heart of a king. He may see what is on the surface but no one truly knows what is inside his heart. We cannot know a king’s emotions or secret thoughts. In public, the king might seem bold. But in private, he might be afraid.
The workman cannot make a beautiful vessel with impure silver. And the king cannot rule well if his government is evil. Paul taught us to pray for kings and governments (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
When extreme heat is applied to silver and it is melted down, the impurities will come to the top and can be skimmed off and leave pure silver. This is very similar to our lives. Sometimes God applies the heat (problems, issues, life circumstances) to purify us. We are purged in the fire and made pure. Just as heat is applied to the silver and the silver is made pure, so is the kingdom made pure, so is the kingdom made righteous when the wicked are removed.
The king has it in his power to remove whomever he will and to purify wickedness. This is the physical king of a nation and its also true of our eternal King.
Verses 6-7 calls us to humility and not assume that we belong in the presence of the king. Don’t think too much of myself. Self seeking and pride will bring me down. It did bring me down and God is not afraid to use the same lesson twice !!! This is similar to Jesus’ words in Luke 14:7-11.
What you have seen with your eyes
8 do not bring hastily to court,
for what will you do in the end
if your neighbour puts you to shame?
9 If you take your neighbour to court,
do not betray another’s confidence,
10 or the one who hears it may shame you
and the charge against you will stand.
11 Like apples of gold in settings of silver
is a ruling rightly given.
12 Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold
is the rebuke of a wise judge to a listening ear.
13 Like a snow-cooled drink at harvest time
is a trustworthy messenger to the one who sends him;
he refreshes the spirit of his master.
14 Like clouds and wind without rain
is one who boasts of gifts never given.
15 Through patience a ruler can be persuaded,
and a gentle tongue can break a bone.
The Biblical principle of doing all we can to resolve any disputes with our adversary before going to court is upheld in verses 8-10. All disputes are a matter of relationship and by attempting to resolve one on one we have the opportunity to grow, restore and repair the relationship. Once interventions come into play, unless they are skilfully handled without showing any favouritism then it has the potential to make matters worse. Any mediator who bring their own baggage or something of themselves into the room will do more harm than good.
Our marital counsellor is a great example of this. She really listens and directs with questions.There are none of her own issues or baggage or agenda or judgment present in the room when we talk. She is a highly skilled counsellor.
The imagery of Apples, gold and silver is an illustration of wisdom which upholds the truth and listens carefully.
Most people do not like correction. But when someone accepts correction, it is as valuable and pure as gold and silver.
Someone who is trustworthy and has integrity is as refreshing as a snow cooled drink on a hot day. The world is full of people who duck and dive in the shadows. Someone who is trustworthy, transparent and reliable really stands out.
Verse 14 contrasts the previous verse. Solomon’s land was a dry land. His people needed rain for their crops. So it would be disappointing when there were clouds in the sky but they did not bring rain.
The man in verse 14 behaved like these clouds. He did not do the things that he promised. His promises seemed genuine. But he never actually delivered what he said that he would do.
Jesus said, ‘ “Yes” means “yes”. And “no” means “no”. Any other ideas are from the devil.’ (Matthew 5:37. See also James 5:12.)
Authenticity, integrity are key words to embrace and attitudes to live by. For the last years, I was in a haze of selfishness and recklessness I lost site of such things. I didn’t do what I said on my tin.
I was good at projecting one image of myself that suited one situation and another to suit the next situation. It was bound to come crashing down at some point. The peace I feel today without all the pressure of performing and living up to the expectations of others is incredible.
Verse 15 underpins all this. A patient person can achieve great things. His gentle words may not seem as impressive as other people’s words. But the patient person will continue until he succeeds. And, in the end, his gentle words are very powerful. See James 5:7-11. A patient person does not get emotionally attached to the outcome. He trusts God. He calmly states what is true and right, he is transparent about his agenda and explains his reason “why”. It can be a catalyst for monumental change.
16 If you find honey, eat just enough—
too much of it, and you will vomit.
17 Seldom set foot in your neighbor’s house—
too much of you, and they will hate you.
Honey is good. But too much honey will make you sick. Honey is an analagy for pleasure. There is a difference between pleasure and indulgence.
Friendship is good. Enjoying the friendship is good too. It is a great blessing but we must respect boundaries.
Friends have other friends they may want to meet with, they have things to do and family etc., The proverb advises not to be in each other’s pockets or overstay our welcome. Failing to respect healthy boundaries will harm the relationship.
it seems that this Proverb is emphasizing self control as a virtue.
Pleasure is not to be indulged indiscriminately and unlimitedly. It is important to remember that everything is permissable but not everything is beneficial. Whatever pleasures exist are from God and for us to enjoy but it is important to consider the context and the spiritual condition of our own hearts. The following points may be helpful:
1. Is this pleasure one where dignity can be upheld? It is important to remember the spirituality of our nature and the immortality of our being. The parable of the rich fool springs to mind.
2. Is this pleasure beneficial in its influence. Pleasure is not for pure indulgence on its own account, but as a means toward the attainment of a higher end. The objects of pleasure are–to refresh, invigorate and energize us for the work and purpose of life. Pleasure keeps us as cheerful beings. Indulgence erodes our soulful well-being.
3. Pleasure most not violate our own conscience or the conscience of those around us. It’s a matter of love. An example may be the film’s we watch, the music we listen to, the computer games we play, the books we read.
4. Pleasure should be proportionate in their degree. God has blessed us with time. We are stewards of our time. It is a limited and finite resource. A precious commodity. Perhaps our most precious commodity. Time is too valuable to be frittered away.
I found an article about the “The world’s honey”. I don’t know who wrote it. The language looks like it may have come from a classic commentary. It seemed to resonate with these verses:
The world has its honey.
1. It has a gastric honey. What pleasures can be derived from a participation in the precious fruits of the earth!
2. It has a gregarious honey. How great the pleasure men have in mingling with their kind, merely as social animals; the pleasure of mates, parents, children.
3. It has a secular honey. Pursuit, accumulation, and use of wealth.
4. It has aesthetic honey. The beautiful in nature, art, music.
5. It has intellectual honey. Inquiry into, and discovery of, the Divine ideas that underlie all the forms, and ring through all the sounds of nature.
The world’s honey may be abused.
1. Some eat too much of the gastric honey, and become gourmands, epicures, voluptuaries.
2. Some eat too much of the gregarious honey, and become profligate debauchees, bloated animals.
3. Some eat too much of the secular honey, and become wretched misers, haunted with a thousand suspicions.
4. Some eat too much of the aesthetic honey, and grow indifferent to everything but what they consider the beautiful and harmonious.
5. Some eat too much of the intellectual honey, and they have no life but in that of observatories, laboratories, and libraries.
The world’s honey abused produces nausea.
Over-indulgence in any worldly pleasure issues in a moral sickness and disgust. There is what the French call the ennui that comes out of it–“that awful yawn,” says Byron, “which sleep cannot abate.” The intemperate use of this honey often makes life an intolerable burden.
Conclusion: Take care how you use the world. You may have too much of a good thing. There is a honey, thank God! of which you cannot take too much, which will never surfeit or sicken–that is, the honey of spiritual enjoyment; the enjoyment of studying, imitating, worshipping Him in whose presence there is fulness of joy, etc.
18 Like a club or a sword or a sharp arrow
is one who gives false testimony against a neighbor.
19 Like a broken tooth or a lame foot
is reliance on the unfaithful in a time of trouble.
20 Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day,
or like vinegar poured on a wound,
is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.
Making someone else look bad by exaggerating facts or making up lies is extremely destructive. The sword is often used in scripture in connection with words. The word of God is described as a double edged sword. Words penetrate. Cutting words really do wound and hurt.
The maul shows how it beats others down with words. False witness in judgment or in everyday conversation is destructive to relationships. We are called to speak the truth in love rather than exaggerate the truth in resentment.
I had a toothache recently. It’s the first toothache I have had since my early 20’s. Although 30 years had passed since my previous toothache I had not forgotten the pain. The constant throbbing, the difficulty sleeping, the inability to eat properly. The restlessness of it was wearing me down.
We would be hard pressed to depend upon a foot that was out of joint to get you anywhere. When you were stepping on it, it would hurt so badly you would not be able to walk.
An unfaithful man is compared to these things. A man who doesn’t do what he says on the tin will be like a broken tooth …painful and vexatious or a foot out of joint …not able to take us anywhere.
Every time we put our foot on solid ground it is too painful to stand.
We can however have confidence in God in a time of trouble. He will never forsake us or leave us and as is recorded in John 16:33, Jesus said to his disciples “In this world you will have trouble but take heart. I have overcome the world”.
The situation in verse 20 is one of insensitivity and cruelty.
Stealing a coat on a cold day is adding to the trauma of mere theft. Incorrectly pouring vinegar on a wound will sting intensely. Singing a cheerful song when someone is going through a difficult moment is incredibly insensitive.
Untimely cheerfulness is unbearable. When you have a heavy heart, you are in no mood to sing or have someone to sing to you.
To rejoice in someone else’s sorrow is cruel. Most people understand that but these words imply an indifference rather than a malicious motive. That is something that asks a different question of me.
At my lowest point my cruelty towards my wife and my family was underpinned by indifference rather than maliciousness. It’s worse.
Jesus said I would rather you be hot or cold but lukewarm is so bad you make me vomit. At the heart of indifference is a level of being self absorbed that leaves no room to consider your effect on others. It’s ugly. Very ugly. If you are malicious then at least everyone knows where they stand.
Indifference is more violent than being malicious. That sounds insane. It reminds me of a point I made in a sermon once which was an exposition of the book of Obadiah. The second of three points if I remember correctly “The violence of silence”.
21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
22 In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head,
and the Lord will reward you.
Jesus emphasised this in the sermon on the Mount as recorded in Matthew 5:43-48
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
At work we talked about a customer who was being very aggressive an unreasonable in his demands yesterday and someone in the office used the phrase “let’s kill him with kindness”.
We were not going to be a doormat and pander to his whims but we wanted to listen to him and understand and take responsibility for what we needed to do.
We didn’t want to get in the ring because in the end it wouldn’t achieve anything apart from more stress. He eventually calmed down and though he cancelled the job and said in retaliation that he would get his mate to do it for FREE … we felt great about how we handled him.
The point is that being a Christian is about living under God’s grace and mercy and about imitating that in our lives which means to love everyone! We don’t have to like them but we should love them and be intentional in that.
23 Like a north wind that brings unexpected rain
is a sly tongue—which provokes a horrified look.
24 Better to live on a corner of the roof
than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.
25 Like cold water to a weary soul
is good news from a distant land.
A sly tongue is unwelcome. To stir up trouble causes dissension, disharmony and chaos. It can undermine a whole community and erode trust. I want the truth without the drama.
Solomon’s humour about the quarrelsome wife is repeated. Perhaps with 300 wives he knew the value of the corner of the roof or the so called man cave. The corner of the roof is perhaps the equivalent to the modern day garden shed.
Good news is always welcome. So much of what is published or reported is bad news such is our broken world. To hear a heart warming story or something inspiring that gives some faith in our humanity is refreshing.
26 Like a muddied spring or a polluted well
are the righteous who give way to the wicked.
27 It is not good to eat too much honey,
nor is it honorable to search out matters that are too deep.
28 Like a city whose walls are broken through
is a person who lacks self-control.
Nobody drinks from a polluted well or spring. If we allow the wicked to influence us or control our behaviour we are that polluted well. The living water that we offer as Christians would be polluted living water. That’s not a great proposition.
It’s not good to have too much honey. It’s sickly and will be unhealthy as there will be so many more elements that honey does not give to us in our nutrition.
The Bible warns about not getting too deep. It seems to resonate with what I am learning. Filling my head with too much psychology, personality analysis although in the right proportion it has its place and is extremely valuable but to allow myself to be carried away by every twist and turn will detach me from real life. This is what can happen to introspective people.
When Solomon’s workmen built the city, they built strong walls round that city (1 Kings 9:15-19). The walls were important defences. They protected the city from attack.
Discipline is like the city walls, It is our strength against whatever wages war against our spirituality. We may encounter many problems. But we will act with wisdom if we have discipline.