Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Proverbs 19:1-21:31


At least one of the Proverbs presents a false dichotomy:

Better the poor whose walk is blameless
   than a fool whose lips are perverse.
      (Proverbs 19:1)

Some of the Proverbs are apparent non sequiturs:

What a person desires is unfailing love;
   better to be poor than a liar.
      (Proverbs 19:22)

The book of Proverbs is not shy about recommending corporal punishment:

 Penalties are prepared for mockers,
   and beatings for the backs of fools.
      (Proverbs 19:29)

  Blows and wounds scrub away evil,
   and beatings purge the inmost being.
      (Proverbs 20:30)

Some proverbs state evident truths:

  A person’s own folly leads to their ruin,
   yet their heart rages against the LORD.
      (Proverbs 19:3)

That one reminds me of a man who did not take his blood pressure meds and, when he had a stroke, wondered why God had punished him.

Kindness to those in need is a recurring theme in Proverbs:

  Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD,
   and he will reward them for what they have done.
      (Proverbs 19:17)

Abiding by the commandments is a good idea:

Whoever keeps commandments keeps their life,
   but whoever shows contempt for their ways will die.
      (Proverbs 19:16)

Some of the proverbs deal with business practices:

  “It’s no good, it’s no good!” says the buyer—
   then goes off and boasts about the purchase.
      (Proverbs 20:14)

I am not sure what that proverb actually advises. It might be a simple observation. I'm sure that it sounds different to a seller than to a buyer.

There is more advice about the conduct of business in Proverbs 20:16:

Take the garment of one who puts up security for a stranger;
   hold it in pledge if it is done for an outsider. 

 That one should probably be tempered by this commandment:

If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge,
   return it by sunset,
      (Exodus 22:26)

Fairness in trade is a recurring theme:

The LORD detests differing weights,
   and dishonest scales do not please him.
       (Proverbs 20:23)

So is sobriety:

Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler;
   whoever is led astray by them is not wise.
      (Proverbs 20:1)

And the importance of a wife who is not quarrelsome:

Better to live on a corner of the roof
   than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.
      (Proverbs 21:9)

 Better to live in a desert
   than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.
      (Proverbs 21:19)

As I've mentioned before, the Proverbs were written for, by, and about men. I have also mentioned the Proverbs ambivalence about bribery. Receiving them is bad. Giving them, not so much.

A gift given in secret soothes anger,
   and a bribe concealed in the cloak pacifies great wrath.
      (Proverbs 21:14)

The attitude of the Proverbs toward the practice of sacrifice is like that of the prophets:

 To do what is right and just
   is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.
      (Proverbs 21:3)

 The sacrifice of the wicked is detestable—
   how much more so when brought with evil intent!
      (Proverbs 21:27)

This proverb must have been written by someone about my age:

 The glory of young men is their strength,
   gray hair the splendor of the old.
      (Proverbs 20:29)

And this one echoes the notion "Man proposes; God disposes."

  The horse is made ready for the day of battle,
   but victory rests with the LORD.
      (Proverbs 21:31)

Commenting on the Proverbs has been challenging. There is no narrative, nor any clear organizing principle. I have been trying to pick out a few of the proverbs from each day's portion that are in some way noteworthy.

Next: Proverbs 22-23

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