There was already a huge list of proverbs by Solomon but they were apparently recorded differently, perhaps simply at a different time. This set opens in the first verse with that these were copied by Hezekiah. You might remember him from Kings. For the others, click here.
I just wanna take a moment to point out how much I love the Bible’s use of words like reprover and rebuke. I tend to think of them with bad connotations, like people who do that are shameful, but that doesn’t seem so. Not only does it look like each person’s responsibility to do these things, but our duty to listen when rebuked. These may seem harsh, but sometimes people are harsh with us when we are doing those things that we most need to stop.
Toward the end of the chapter we finally come upon a mention of any kind of woman, this time it’s another quarrelsome wife:
24It is better to live in a corner of the housetop
than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.
The “corner of the housetop” is also translated in a few other ways that sum up to the attic or on the roof. I can’t help but agree, though for me it would be a quarrelsome husband. I’m not sure what they expect this person to do with his quarrelsome wife, it’s not like divorce was a big thing at the time but I can almost see it used as an excuse.
For the record, quarrelsome means “inclined to argument” which should not be confused with “having a bad day” or “mad at you for a reason”. I’ve known some people who have a tendency to mix that up when it comes to their spouses and spend half the work day complaining about how mad their spouse was at them for doing something distasteful or irresponsible. I don’t particularly like being around quarrelsome people, so I get it. I do believe wife is only specified because of the expected gender and sexual orientation of the expected audience.
Nothing directly talking about women in this one but there was this pairing that struck me a little weird:
4Answer not a fool according to his folly,
lest you be like him yourself.
5Answer a fool according to his folly,
lest he be wise in his own eyes.
I went to the explanation in my study Bible and found the explanation interesting. Because they’re next to each other, it’s supposed to be obvious that these are warning for two types of situations that the wise person should be able to discern between.
First there’s this:
5Better is open rebuke
than hidden love.
which I know to be a plot point in way too many movies and irritatingly true in real life. I understand being nervous or shy toward the person you secretly love, really, but it doesn’t get either person anywhere. I thought it was interesting to find this right here.
13Take a man’s garment when he has put up security for a stranger,
and hold it in pledge when he puts up security for an adulteress.b
Yeah, there’s no explanation for this. Are these not both securities? Why is the stranger better than the adulteress when it comes to money? I checked the other translations and it got less clear. Instead of adulteress, some had outsider, foreigner, wayward woman, strange woman and even alien woman. Perhaps this is actually meant to be the difference between someone you don’t know but who is a part of your community vice someone that no one knows or has been outcast by the community for whatever reason. Perhaps this reason has to do with that person no longer being trustworthy enough to pay their debts or carry out their contracts.
Maybe. Not sure.
There is only one mention of any kind of woman in this chapter and its not about us, not really.
24Whoever robs his father or his mother
and says, “That is no transgression,”
is a companion to a man who destroys.
Again, there is just one mention and it’s in the v. 15:
15The rod and reproof give wisdom,
but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.
The rod is frowned upon in polite society these days and some areas of the US even find reproof to be bad parenting but those giving advice in ancient times clearly disagreed. While the jury on this is still out academically, many parents already have solid opinions that are not up for debate on what they stand on this. Personally, I’m all about reproof and agree that I would feel shame if my son acted out however he felt was appropriate without being able to take a little reproof.
This ends the second set of Solomon proverbs
At this point the whole format goes off the rails and the writer of the proverb asks and answers questions and starts a set of poetics that seem like they would could have been included in the psalms just as easily as this book.
During the more poetic beginning, there is this lovely prayer. It doesn’t actually have to do wit this project, but I loved it so much that I wanted to share it anyway:
7Two things I ask of you;
deny them not to me before I die:
8Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
9lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the LORD?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God.
I love the balance it strives for. That’s about where I want to be in life. Not too much, not too little.
Shortly after, there begins a series of acknowledgements and beginning with this one:
Yep, this hasn’t changed.
Then there’s a strange mention of two daughters being named Give and Give in a verset that isn’t cohesive with that verse. It’s weird. The series of versets that come after it all have three things and then four. In three sets, there is one thing that is female derived. Here is a summary of those:
- Things that are never satisfied – a barren womb (v. 16)
included with the way fire always consumes, the land continues to take water, and Sheol (the place where the dead go), I see that this is never satisfied in that it doesn’t produce anything. While sad and heartbreaking, it’s also pretty accurate.
2. Things the author does not understand – the way of a man with a virgin (v. 19)
while this is the thing he doesn’t understand in this set, it’s listed among the things that are too wonderful for him to understand. So it reinforces the importance of virginity, putting up beside ships at sea and eagles in the sky. What doesn’t make sense is that the other things are in the act of their freeing and virginity isn’t typically spoken of as something to be broken free of but preserved. Then again, it works when we presume that the man with the virgin is her husband and he is maybe getting her pregnant and taking her from a status that could be compared to a ship at harbor to one that is compared with a ship at sea. I get how it might seem flattering from an older point of view.
3. Things the earth cannot bear up – an unloved woman when she gets a husband and a maidservant when she displaces her mistress (v. 23)
this set mostly exemplifies what I would consider underdog type stories. These women are matched with a slave who becomes a king and a fool who is filled with food. They are the unlikely stories that happen against all odds. Three of these things are supposed to make the earth tremble. I took it as uplifting stories that were earth-shattering. But then I checked the study section of my Bible and it said that these are listed as unbearable because they haven’t earned what they had or didn’t have the capacity to handle wisely what they had been given. While this may be true in some cases, I think it could be just as true as the underdog stories I was thinking of. Sometimes a slave is fit to be a king, like Joseph had been. Love isn’t the only thing holds up a marriage, either. There is a whole history of arranged marriages that worked despite a lack of love, particularly in the beginning.
Mixed in with these three and four versets were a few stand alone proverbs, one mentions the eye that “scorns to obey a mother” being “eaten by the vultures” (v. 17) and the other an adulteress who doesn’t see what she’s done wrong (v. 20). There’s a note in my study section that the first one is actually a curse, which makes more sense.
This chapter is kind of a garbled set of things but were organized as all being from the same author rather than distributed to places that the styles would have been more cohesive with.