As I mentioned in my Happenings post for April, I’m saving the Psalms for every April until the end of this endeavor. There are far too many and rather than get stuck and lose motivation as I was getting close, I thought the “poems” of the Bible can stay in National Poetry Month and we’ll divert yearly. That means that we are on to Proverbs!
1The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:
2To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
3to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
4to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth—
5Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
6to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles.
7The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.
I don’t intend on repeating the same style of writing these as I had with the psalms, but I did think that this was perfect to include and leave by itself. This passage isn’t the entire first chapter of this book, but it explains it’s purpose pretty nicely. It makes sense out of why people quote the proverbs in the Bible as often as they did. They are literally hear to offer guidance and wisdom to those who fear the Lord.
This chapter actually contains three poems that are proverbs and the next one is titled The Enticement of Sinners. It basically advises the reader to listen to both of their parents and then goes on to explain the kinds of people to avoid, specifically those who wish to do harm to innocent people. It includes that people who mean harm for other inevitably bring it upon themselves.
The next one is The Call of Wisdom, which personifies the quality of wisdom. It was interesting to see that in all translations, Wisdom is given a female pronouns. The poem makes Wisdom out to be dedicated to those who listen when she calls them but entirely done with those who don’t. There’s no turning back to her once they’ve refused her, either. If you didn’t answer when she called you, she won’t listen when you try to call her. It’s an interesting concept, especially having known so many who didn’t listen to wisdom they were given and created their own downfall.
This chapter is entirely on the same subject, which is what wisdom would do for the reader. It would help them to “understand righteousness, and justice, and equity” and there are more examples of what having wisdom does. In this chapter, wisdom comes back to being more about God and what He wants of the wise than our definition of wisdom today. This is from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary online:
1a : accumulated philosophical or scientific learning : knowledgeb : ability to discern inner qualities and relationships : insightc : good sense : judgmentd : generally accepted beliefchallenges what has become accepted wisdom among many historians — Robert Darnton
This is one of those times, though, when I would ask the reader to really remember context. The Israelites and Jews up to this point have made horrible decisions on their own and brought lots of bad consequences on themselves. Though most of the proverbs are attributed to Solomon, who was king well before most of their issues, he still would have known about the lack of wisdom shown be his father’s predecessor and the lapse in wisdom that brought his mother to be with his father in the first place.
I can see how God’s knowledge and instructions are tied tightly to what is considered wise. There is a passage in this proverb that directly talks about women, specifically avoiding certain kinds:
16So you will be delivered from the forbiddena woman,
from the adulteressb with her smooth words,
17who forsakes the companion of her youth
and forgets the covenant of her God;
18for her house sinks down to death,
and her paths to the departed;c
19none who go to her come back,
nor do they regain the paths of life.
I’m not one for slamming other women, but I can see how it would be unwise for any young man to fall into the trap of a woman who betrays him. Honestly, the entire passage could be gender bent and just as true. This comes after a passage on staying away from “men whose paths are crooked”, so it’s not like women are the only gender mentioned as able to be deceitful. The only problem I really have is the lack of neutrality.
While one could argue that men were held responsible for being wise and making wise decisions, they were not the only ones preyed upon by the dishonest in ways either evil or sexual. I’d like to think that this message got to the girls too, even if it wasn’t quite written down and preserved for the generations to come as this has been.