Lecture 16: Being Money-wise (part a)

Course: Proverbs

Lecture: Money Wise Part A

I. Introduction

We will look at certain texts because of the way the Proverbs are and the way they are put together. A lot of time it depends on associations that are in the Hebrew text that are not readily apparent in the English text. We will look closely at these in Hebrew. Proverbs are by nature individual pictures; there is some subjectivity in understanding the way they are put together. The connections are not always very obvious. The topical approach is more natural where people are used to the introduction of the body. Just as I believe it is okay to translate from one language to another, I also believe it is okay to translate from one form to another. Thus you can take the proverbs and group them together into a different form as long they are still true to its literary context. I will look at a few of these that go together and then I will turn to the topical approach. Proverbs 6:1-11 is one such group and then 10:1-5 is another. Then Psalm 49 is the third group, a poem located the Book of Psalms. I often think what was in the mind of Solomon and what all the associations were when he put all of this together in his mind. There are deliberate associations going in Proverbs. And in entering into these proverbs, you are entering into the mind of Solomon and understanding things that nobody else has seen. This takes careful study and understanding.

II. Proverbs 6:1-11

A. Translation

This is really an appendix to the Folly of Adultery of self-inflicted financial loss. There is an argument being made against adultery which becomes economic folly. That is to say that you are going to squander your wealth in somebody else house. So by way of association, he takes up other forms of folly that pertain to losing money. There are three parts to this and the first is the folly of becoming surety (the meaning of this a guarantor) for a stranger and thus become a potential slave. The next point is the folly of being a sluggard and thus scarcity and finally the folly of the anarchist which is disaster and this is detested by God. These are things that God hates. Proverbs 6:1-5 falls into three parts: the foolish situation or trap and there are seven imperatives on how to get out of this situation. Then there is the conclusion on how to free yourself. If you made yourself surety then you have made yourself collateral to someone else’s debt. Read the following:

My son, if you have become surety for your neighbor, if you have struck your palm for a stranger, you have been ensnared by the words of your lips; you have been captured by the words of your mouth. So do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor's hands: Go--to the point of exhaustion-- and badger your neighbors! Allow no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your pupils. Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the hand of the fowler.

B. Structure and Body

In the first verse, he doesn’t refer to the sluggard as his son here. A son is not only biological but it is also spiritual and the sluggard is not related to the father. But if you did do this, he would still own you as a son. But if you are an anarchist, he doesn’t address you as a son either. Surety is pledging oneself as a guarantee for another person’s debt. The pledge was often a garment, a symbolic substitute for the person himself. Striking the palm is like a hand shake to us, a gesture for sealing an agreement. You are putting up surety and becoming a guarantor for a person you really don’t know. This is not addressing somebody like your own family or children. The result of this is becoming ensnared and captured. You have put yourself into a trap by your own words. You have taken on a debt that can destroy you. In that economical thinking, if you default, you would become a slave and pay off the debt for six years. This is Israelite economic. You would lose your freedom if the other person stopped their repayments. One out of six in ancient Israel was slaves. This is utter folly to put yourself into this position. In Sirach 29:14, it gives the practice of becoming surety dignity, while warning of it dangers. It says not to forget the kindness of your surety, for he has given his life for you. The Proverbs is saying that this is too much kindness. Any kind of debt takes your freedom away and God’s people should be free. We should be very free with money in helping people; this is liberality to the poor. If you loan money to the poor, you shouldn’t loan people or family money with the idea of them paying you back, especially with interest. Money should be used to bring people together and not to separate them from one another. Charging interest to a person is keeping them in slavery and bondage, and interest in the ancient world was extremely high with something like twenty to forty percent.

In verse 3, we have seven imperatives. First you have to listen and then you need to free yourself. Get out of this situation because you are in a trap. It says that you have fallen into your neighbor’s hand. You have to take immediate action, you have to go. The 4h imperative is to weary yourself and it is linked to the sluggard to the point of exhaustion. You have to rush upon your neighbor and badger him boisterously. This is like the parable of the unjust judge where the woman couldn’t get justice but she kept badgering him and other people until he got tired of it. The 6th imperative is not to allow any sleep until you get out of this situation. The sooner you take care of it the sooner the guy is going to excuse you from taking on the debt. So the conclusion is to free yourself. This is the 7th imperative and the inclusion. Note that an animal will do everything they can to free themselves from the trap, so be like an animal and make every effort to get out of it.

C. Model of the Ant

Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man. Overall there is a gradual increase in wickedness here. You start with surety and sluggard is folly and the next one is wickedness.

So this takes on the model of the ant. The motive is to avoid poverty. The wise ant will teach the sluggard good work habits. The ant’s work habits include those of self-motivation. This comes out of our own heart. You need to be willing to work. This is like the Book of Proverbs which is not a how-to book but it is a how-to become book. It is to make you into that kind of person. That is why we have had the first nine chapters preparing the heart for where we are going. Thus we need to pray for our children that it will be in their hearts and nature to be the kind of person they should be. So the ant has no one directing them and no ruler. So we need to do our share of things and not worry so much about the other person. In Proverbs 12:11-12, ‘he who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgement.’ And then in in Proverbs 13:11, it says, ‘dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.’ We need to work and not chase fantasies of get-rich schemes or waiting for our ship to come in. In working the land, you have to plow the land, cultivate and till it and then fertilize it. Dishonest money here includes money gotten by the lottery or gotten through injustice, such as through selling drugs. Storing things up takes patient and it is slow and timely work. So the ant has no ruler and does it out of its own nature, he stores the food up as there is no quick get rick scheme. So he gathers it which entails hard work.

III. Proverbs 10:1-5

A. Translation:

+ 1 A wise son brings joy to his father,

- but foolish son is total grief to his mother.

- 2 Treasures gained by wickedness are of no eternal 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 a poor man,

+ but diligent hands bring wealth.

+ 5 He who gathers crops in summer is a wise son,

- but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.

B. Structure and Body

Where it say that a foolish son is grief to his mother; this is total grief. This is a unity in itself and we have contrasting effects of wise and foolish son on the parents. This is different than 6-10 where that unity is about speech, but this unity is dealing with wealth. There is a stitching pattern that allows virtue to be a plus versus vice to be death. Notice that it goes plus, minus, minus, plus, plus, minus, minus, plus, plus and minus. This is not unusual. It is stitched together: a wise son is a plus where a foolish son is a minus and then you have wickedness is a minus but then you have righteousness which is a plus. In verse 3 righteousness is a plus again followed by wickedness which is a minus and lazy hands in verse 4 being a minus but diligent hands is a plus, along with gathers and then sleeps during harvest is a minus. Semantically you have the contrasting effects of a wise and foolish son to the parents within an inclusion of verse 5 because he goes back to the disgraceful son. This became a frame with the wise son and a disgraceful son at the end. The nature of Hebrew poetry here; you always put the father in the A verse set and the mother in the B verse set. It doesn’t mean that the father doesn’t get grief. A wise son brings a mother and father joy and a foolish son brings a mother and father grief, but you can’t say it like that here in Hebrew poetry and parallelism. In regards to ethics and theology in moneywise, the wicked go from treasures to hunger and righteousness go from being delivered from death to never hungry.

C. A Quatrain

There is a peculiarity with verses 2 and 3 with a form in the Hebrew language that is unusual. Let’s look a bit closer at this:

Ill-gotten treasures have no lasting value, but righteousness delivers from death.

Mi’Mavet

from death

Tatz’tzil

deliver

U’tze’dakah – nothing but righteousness

Re sha’

of wickedness

Yoilu

profit

Lo

not

Mi’Mavet---tatz’tzil -- U’tze’dakah--re sha’---- otz rot –-------yoilu ------ lo

לֹא־ י֭וֹעִילוּ אוֹצְר֣וֹת רֶ֑שַׁע וּ֝צְדָקָ֗ה תַּצִּ֥יל מִמָּֽוֶת׃

V2

  לֹֽא־ יַרְעִ֣יב יְ֭הוָה נֶ֣פֶשׁ צַדִּ֑יק וְהַוַּ֖ת רְשָׁעִ֣ים יֶהְדֹּֽף׃

V3

 Yeh Dof--Re sha ‘Im-ve hav Vat--Tzad Dik-Ne fesh--A do Nai--------Yar’Iv-----lo

Yeh Dof

does away

Re sha ‘Im

of the wicked

ve hav Vat

the substance

Tzad Dik- of righteousness

Ne fesh

the soul

A do Nai

Lord

Yar’lv

hunger

Lo

not

The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.

The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.

These two verses are a quatrain and they should be understood together as a quatrain. Notice that in verse 2 that you have wickedness and righteousness in the Hebrew in the transliteration. In verse 3, you also have righteous and wicked. You get the ethics in verse 2 of being wicked or righteousness and in verse 3, you get the theology behind the ethics so that it is the Lord who upholds it. The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry. The wicked have treasures for the moment but doesn’t profit in the final analysis because Proverbs looks at the end of the matter. It doesn’t deliver you from death. This is the practical theology, that wealth from wickedness in a temporal value. If we just had verse 3 you could see how you could misunderstand this. Often a proverb by itself is a half-truth as they often represent quatrains of two or more verses. So you have these ethical terms in verses 2 and 3 but notice in verse 5 you have the sapient terms of wise and disgraceful. These are correlative terms and if you remember I said that righteousness is disadvantaging yourself to serve other people.

D. Conclusion

Without faith you cannot please God. The Book of Proverbs is not humanistic; you have to depend upon God to uphold the book. There is a practical theology; you have to work in a timely way. So the vice results in poverty while virtue results in richness. And virtue is timely diligence which shows prudence while vice represents sleeping in the harvest. The conclusion is serving others in accordance to God’s standards yields eternal life; serving self may yield immediate gain but will yield eternal death because the Lord stands behind this moral order. A son’s industry and forethought give temporal wealth and give parents joy and to him and to them social standing. Sloth produces poverty and shame.

IV. Psalms 49 – A Poem

A. Translation

Hear this, all you peoples; listen, all who live in this world, both low and high, rich and poor alike: My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the meditation of my heart will give you understanding. I will turn my ear to a proverb; with the harp I will expound my riddle: Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers surround me—those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches? No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for them—the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough — so that they should live on forever and not see decay. For all can see that the wise die, that the foolish and the senseless also perish, leaving their wealth to others. Their tombs will remain their houses forever, their dwellings for endless generations, though they had named lands after themselves. People, despite their wealth, do not endure; they are like the beasts that perish. This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings. They are like sheep and are destined to die; death will be their shepherd (but the upright will prevail over them in the morning). Their forms will decay in the grave, far from their princely mansions. But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself. Do not be overawed when others grow rich, when the splendor of their houses increases; for they will take nothing with them when they die, their splendor will not descend with them. Though while they live they count themselves blessed— and people praise you when you prosper— they will join those who have gone before them, who will never again see the light of life. People who have wealth but lack understanding are like the beasts that perish.

B. Structure and Body

This is a wisdom poem outside of proverbs. I’m convinced here that this is the subscript to the preceding Psalm. That musical notation for the director of music where the superscript identifies the author and the genre and in this case it is of the sons of Korah, a priestly clan and it is a psalm. This is wisdom literature to be sung to the stringed instrument. You would sing this psalm. The substance of it is wisdom and instruction and the style is a proverb that needs to be interpreted. It is very much like the preamble to the Book of Proverbs. I divided this into an introduction in verses 1-4 and the body of it covers verses 5-20. There can be also a Topical Approach with an outline of danger of wealth, limitations of wealth, value of wealth and how to have enduring wealth and then conclusion. The audience is everyone, but there the economic levels differ and they will hear the message differently. The low will be consoled but the high will be warned while the rich will be sobered and the poor will be comforted. So according to your socio-economic class you will hear it differently and make sense of it differently and produces different reader responses. The substance is wisdom and style is a proverb. We have sixteen verses total and they fall into two equal halves of eight verses and eight verses and they are divided by a refrain. The eight verses in each half is a refrain. In reading verses 12 and 20 you have, ‘like the beasts that perish.’ This is the refrain and the verses are much more similar in Hebrew than they are in English.

C. A Refrain - Verses 12 and 20

The word for proverb is Mashal and the verb here in verse 12 is nimshal which means ‘to liken’. The mashal is like the beasts that perish, that is the comparison. The first half, the first eight verses are saying that clinical death is certain and final for everybody, wise and foolish alike, everybody will die. That is the first half. But for those who trust in their wealth and their significance, money does give your security and it does give you significance. You trust in it and it significance; you boast in it and show it off. Thus material possessions become a god to us and people find their security in portfolios and their investments but they have never had a real security. The balance is having enough to live on but not so much that you stop trusting in God. So in verses 7-8, we see that death is certain no matter how much money you have; we all die and no amount of money can redeem us from death. In verses 9-11, it is a final death, both the wise and foolish die leaving their wealth to others. The rich and the famous name things after themselves, thinking that this is a way immortalize themselves as a social immortality, but even this doesn’t endure. So we have the refrain.

A Refrain: Verse 20 - People who have wealth but lack understanding are like the beasts that perish

אָדָ֣ם בִּ֭יקָר וְלֹ֣א יָבִ֑ין נִמְשַׁ֖ל כַּבְּהֵמ֣וֹת נִדְמֽוּ׃

adam

biqar

lo’ yabin

nimshal

kab behemoth

nidmu

man

In wealth

to undertand

he is like

the beast

perish

Note that bal and lo in yalin and yabin are synonymous negatives. So in this it means ‘does not understand’. So, those with understanding God redeems from Sheol. And ‘like beasts’ does not have understanding and so doom is eternal. So, the difference in the refrain is only one letter, and l to a b! And this is the riddle in the poem! In order to accomplish this, he is deliberately using the lo and the bal for the negatives. For those who have yabin are not destroyed forever.

D. Our Future Hope is Beyond Death

A student’s talks about the proverbs as deeply profound statements that shape our world view and some of the individual proverbs say there is no hope as we are dead. The answer from the lecturer, throughout Proverbs we must realize that our future hope is beyond death. This is revealed even here in verse 15 and other places and overall this becomes true in Proverbs. Death is not the final word for us as Christians. Even with Psalms 49, you can’t make sense of it without something being beyond the grave as with the proverbs. In 1st Timothy 6, the way we live now, we are presently building our house in eternity, so we are laying a foundation now. Our lives and the way we live it, matters now. Our foundations may be a shack or a mansion but they are foundations that are preparing us for heaven. But I am experiencing God’s goodness now but many people don’t experience it now, especially those who are suffering and hungry. No man can redeem us from death but God. This implies immortality of some sort. We will all go to the grave and for us there will be a life after the grave. Faith comes by seeing that God will redeem us from the grave.