Lecture 9: Value of Wisdom and Its Application to Neighbors (3:13-35) | Free Online Biblical Library

Lecture 9: Value of Wisdom and Its Application to Neighbors (3:13-35)

Course: Proverbs

Lecture: The Value of Wisdom and Its Application to Neighbors 3:13-35

I. Lesson 4 - Blessed in the Person who Finds Wisdom – Proverbs 3:13-35

A. The Translation

So we are up to the 4th lecture or lesson of the parents to the child. We have already noted that the instructions are also coming from the mother. The 1st lesson was 1:8-19 and the 2nd lesson was chapter 2 while the 3rd lesson was 3:1-10 and now we are up to 3:13-35 of the chapter. It starts off with a blessing to the ‘adam, translated as a human being who is earth bound, restricted and limited human. The NRSV translates it as a mortal. This works to some extent but it doesn’t represent the full idea. In verse 14, it talks about the profit or trading of her. This is an ambiguity and we don’t know whether it is in gain of her or what rather what she gives. This is the ambiguous. I put in, the profit she gives or the gain of getting her is better than the profit that silver gives or the gaining of silver. ‘She is more precious than corals; all desirable things cannot compare with her.’ Many translations would use a dynamic equivalent because coral isn’t that valuable today. They can’t use rubies since they don’t appear in literature until 6th AD. ‘Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her ways are shalom [peace and prosperity]. 18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed. By wisdom the LORD laid the earth's foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the watery depths were split open, and the clouds drip dew. My son, do not let them [wisdom and understanding] out of your sight, guard sound judgment and discretion; so that they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you fall asleep, your sleep will be sweet. 25 Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that will overtake the wicked, for the LORD will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared. Do not withhold [doing] good from those to whom it is due, when you have the power to do [good]. Do not say to your neighbor, come back tomorrow and I'll give it to you"— when you already have it with you. Do not envy a violent person, or choose any of his ways. For the LORD detests the devious but takes the upright into his confidence. The LORD's curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the abode of the righteous. He mocks mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed. The wise inherit honor, but fools get only shame.

There are two parts; one is an exhortative, a poem of praise. There is also an exhortative to the value of wisdom. Then there is a lesson to the covenant obligations to your neighbor which is the practical application of wisdom. Remember the hesed or loving kindness that may never leave you in 3:27-33. In regards to the value of wisdom, there are three paragraphs with admonition, motivation and basis with the Lord upholding the teaching. Notice verse 3:13, blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for it is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. The first part of this represents the value of wisdom to humanity. This is covered in verses 13 to 18 which is a chiasmic concentric pattern that shows wisdom and understanding in verse 13. Then in 19-20 wisdom and understanding is still being talked about but this time it is the value and understanding to the creator. So you have the value of wisdom to humanity in general, the value of wisdom to the Lord and then you have the value of wisdom to the son. This is the broad outline before the lesson.

B. The Value of Wisdom to Humanity

There is a chiasmic concentric pattern in 3:13-18 which deals with the value of wisdom to man and in ‘adam; this is a concentric pattern of A B B’ A’. The A is verse 13, the blessedness to Adam, and then in verse 18 the Adam finds wisdom and A’ with all who grasp wisdom are blessed. There is an inclusion or wrapping up here, normally we can’t do this but this is one of the few cases we get it in Hebrew. The first word is ‘ashre or blessed. The last word is blessed. This envelops the entire paragraph. They are the first and last word in the Hebrew text. Verses 13 and 18 deals with blessed to Adam and all humanity. In between B and B’ in verse 14 and 15, wisdom is superior to jewels and B’ where the superiority of wisdom is specified. In 3:13 and 14, you have silver, gold and corals and these are all desirable things. We are talking about long life and riches, honor, pleasantness, peace and prosperity. These things are much better than anything of value. Gold and silver can put food on the table but it can’t put fellowship around the table. It can give you a house but it can’t give you a home. It can give woman jewelry but it can’t give her the love that she wants. That is why wisdom is better. There is an escalation to this Chiasmic pattern. It finds, it gains, it takes hold, it holds fast, it doesn’t let it out of sight and it guards.

Proverbs 3:13-18 A Chiasmic Concentric Pattern - ‘ashre

3:13

Blessed is ‘adam [the human being] who finds wisdom, ‘adam [the human being] who gains understanding,

A

 

Adam (human being) is blessed

3:14

For the profit she gives/the gain of her is better than the profit/the gain of silver and her revenue is better than gold.

 

B

Those who grasped are blessed

3:15

She is more precious than corals; All desirable things cannot compare with her.

 

B’

Superior to Jewels

3:18

She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be ‘ashre [blessed].

A’

 

Superiority is specified

C. Blessed and Rewarded

The word ‘blessed’ is very difficult to translate. Many people translate it as ‘happy’ in modern translations. I think it is much too trivial for this word. My own conclusion is that the word ‘ashre means ‘how rewarding’ referring to future rewards based on a present relationship with God. Like in the beatitudes, you can be blessed even though you are suffering. But people who are suffering are not happy. So perhaps a better translation would be, ‘how rewarding is this way of life’ with the reason of having a relationship with God and thus a reward in the future. It really looks to the future. One of the statements of Eliphaz in Job 5:17 will give you an idea of this word. ‘Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.’ So I don’t think happy would fit very well in this verse. But how rewarding is the one who God corrects because there is a future. Even though he is being disciplined at the moment, there are rewards coming in the future. So I think ‘ashre refers to the reward of a present relationship with God. It doesn’t mean that you are happy right now. The difference between blessed and to bless is barak in Hebrew which has a different meaning. Here, when God blessed, means he filled them with the potency for life and for victory. So that when he blessed the creation, he filled it with fertility and life. When he blessed Abraham, he blessed him by given him offspring’s like the stars in the sky. But in the new dispensation, when Jesus blessed the disciples, it was a blessing in the spiritual dimension. The church is blessed to grow and reproduce itself spiritually. The emphasis is on having spiritual children. So the old dispensation was more physical, more carnal and more typical of the new situation which is more spiritual. So the blessed is to be rewarded.

She puts food on the table and fellowship around the table. Wisdom gives you a house as well as a home. It gives you the good things of life as well as the love we really want. This is why wisdom is so superior to everything else. Emerson says that rings and jewels are not gifts but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of yourself; what we really want is for the other person to give themselves to us. A class student asks, why is it so much easier to give gifts than yourself? One involves an object whereas another involves time. We are so self-centered in regards to time and thus hesitate to give it up. We like living our own lives instead of living someone else’s life. The closest equivalent of wisdom to Egyptian thinking is ma’at, a created order. She is a goddess and is represented by holding an ankh sign in the left hand and a wasp sign and represents an immovability of the pillars of the heavens and of dominion in right. This ankh sign is like a male female sign that indicates life. It is a sign of long life and she is carrying that sign. Ma’at is carried in the left hand and in the other hand she carried a staff, called a wasp which stands for stability and longevity. In this imagery, long life may not be a blessing without riches and honor. Normally here, the right hand has superiority because the left hand is the word for sinister and is a negative word. In her left hand are riches and honor which says that you have social weight in the community.

For example, in honoring your parents, you give them social weight in terms of esteem and value. The word ‘honor’ is related to the word ‘liver’ because the heaviest organ in the body is the liver and Kabed means to be heavy. Out of the word heavy, comes weight and then esteem. For the prodigal son, he shamed his father and shamed here means to risk yourself for something. The conclusion is, she is the tree of life that was lost in the Garden of Eden can now be laid hold of again in Proverbs. You can go back into the Garden. Note that in the Genesis account, you eat the fruit but here you hold onto the tree of life that brings you into the next world because you earn mortality. This is an ancient near eastern background. This is an expression of wisdom and in accepting this you are going to accept Christ who is the fullest expression of wisdom. So if you accept the shadow, you will certainly accept the reality which is so much greater.

D. The Value of Wisdom to the Creator

Wisdom was the instrument use to create the cosmos in verse 19-20, ‘By wisdom the LORD laid the earth's foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the watery depths were split open, and the clouds drip dew.’ He takes earth and heaven and splits it. This is a figure of speech called merism where in rhetoric merism is the combination of two contrasting words, to refer to an entirety. And so when you say summer and winter, you mean the whole year. So in this, heavens and earth, it includes the entire universe. God created the heavens and earth means that he created the entire organized universe. In poetry those compounds are split apart. The value of wisdom to the creator was to create the cosmos. In verse 20, it was the instrument to sustain life on earth because water is used for sustaining and the values of this book were used in the creation. And these values can be ours and the creation endures. The value of the wisdom to the son with the inclusion of guarding by the son and keeping by the Lord; he will keep your foot from being ensnared in verse 26. He is dealing with body parts where he talks about sight, your neck, your foot and your side, etc.

‘By wisdom the LORD laid the earth's foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the watery depths were split open, and the clouds drip dew.’ Wisdom overcomes chaos by separation and demarcation. It is to separate yourself from the wicked man and woman and this entails making boundaries. So we see that wisdom and understanding were essential for the creation and for sustaining the creation because you need to water to sustain the creation. The watery depths from ancient cosmology included the water deep underground that split open and formed the lakes. So this is water from below and from above. Interestingly as water falls from the clouds, its shape is actually spherical and as it falls, it keeps dividing up and by the time it reaches the ground, it is very small thus doing very little damage.

E. The Value of Wisdom to the Son and the Neighbor

‘My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, guard sound judgment and discretion.’ This is an exegesis of 3:21-26 with the admonition or preserving the teaching with the motivation of security and with the Lord upholding that teaching. He is to guard them for they will be life and an ornament of grace for your neck. This leads to security which will be his motivation, thus there will be safety for you and your sleep will be sweet and there will be no fear. This only works because the Lord will uphold it. He makes it work. I’m not trusting in some impersonal order of things; my hope is in God who sustains this. The Lord will be at your side and he will keep you stable in your walking and protect you from being snared.

For the neighbor in 3:27-33, these are good neighbors that we are dealing with here. A neighbor is a person with whom one is brought into contact and with whom one must live on account of life’s circumstances. Jesus defined it as one with whom we are brought into contact in need of help. You should take care of a good and needy neighbor. Do not withhold material good from a needy neighbor. The Hebrew says, from those who own it. This is somewhat ambiguous, but I think that it is saying not to hold good from the morally good. The NIV says, ‘to those whom it is due.’ But don’t get into debt to do good, only when you have the power to do good. You only do good when you have the power to do good. You need to do it immediately, not tomorrow, but now. For a trusting neighbor, you do not do harm to them, nor accuse anyone for no reason when they have done you no harm. In Galatians 6:10, ‘Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.’ In regards to a violent person in verse 31; the Hebrew word for violent is chamas or hamas. And we have all heard about Hamas in Palestine. That means terror and violence toward others, out of greed and hate. Do not envy anyone who takes money wrongfully and creates terror for the Lord detests it. In verses 32-35, for the LORD detests the devious but takes the upright into his confidence. The LORD's curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the abode of the righteous. He mocks mockers but shows favor to the humble and the oppressed. The wise inherit honor, but fools get only shame. Devious means to inflict harm by deception, humiliating, and /or defrauding. Detest escalates to curse and counsel escalates to blessing and a curse involves sterility and death. The Lord’s curse in on the house of the wicked; as blessing are for life, the curse is for sterility and death.

II. Lesson 5 – Folly of Adultery Part A – Proverbs 5:1-23

(Note that Chapters 5, 6 and 7 deals with the wicked woman.)

A. Translation

‘My son, pay attention to my wisdom, turn your ear to my words of insight, that you may maintain discretion and your lips may guard knowledge.’ This reminds me of Deuteronomy 6 where it says, repeat it, repeat it; teach it with a bite. Your lips may guard knowledge, must be figure of speech. I think the lips refer to the proverbs. You have all these proverbs on your lips and therefore you can resist the lips of the adulterous because you have the Word of God on your lips. ‘For the lips of the unchaste wife drip honey, and her palate is smoother than oil; but in the end she is as bitter as wormwood, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet are going down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths meander aimlessly, but she does not know it. 7 Now then, sons, listen to me; do not turn aside from what I say. Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your splendor to others and your dignity to one who is cruel, lest strangers feast on your strength and your toil enriches the house of another. And at the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent. You will say how I hated instruction! How my heart spurned correction! And I would not obey my teachers or turn my ear to my instructors. I was soon in serious trouble in the congregation and assembly. Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well; should your springs overflow in the streets? Your streams of water in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, and get pleasure from the wife of your youth. A lovemaking doe, a graceful mountain goat-- may her breasts drench you at all times, may you ever be intoxicated with her caresses.’ So may your wife be like a mountain goat. ‘Why, my son, be intoxicated with an unchaste wife? Why embrace the bosom of an unfaithful woman? For a man’s ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all his paths. His evil deeds will ensnare them; with the cords of his sins he will be held fast. For lack of instruction he will die, led astray by his own great folly.

B. The Structure of the Lesson

First of all this lesson should be divided into three parts: the introduction Verses 1-6, the main lesson and then the conclusion that the Lord upholds the moral order. God stands behind each of these poems. Verses 1-6 deal with the address, aims, admonition and the motivation where the address, aim and admonition are in verses 1-2. The lesson really falls into two parts: the folly of adultery in verses 7-14 and the wisdom of marriage in verses 15-20. The folly of adultery will lead to social and economic loss to foreigners, and then social and economic loss within your own community. The Wisdom of marriage is the admonition to have the privacy of marriage. In verses 18-20 we have the father’s prayer for the son. The prayer goes like this, ‘may your fountain be blessed, and get pleasure from the wife of your youth. A lovemaking doe, a graceful mountain goat-- may her breasts drench you at all times, may you ever be intoxicated with her caresses. Why, my son, be intoxicated with an unchaste wife? Why embrace the bosom of an unfaithful woman?’ Basically, may your wife be really sexy; you don’t usually hear that prayer. It is indeed an unusual prayer. Then we have the conclusion in verses 21-23 where the Lord upholds the moral order.

C. The Introduction

The Introduction in 5:1-6 as I have said deals with the address, admonition and aim. So how old is his son? Josiah and Amnon married at the ages of fourteen and sixteen. Egyptian girls married at the age of twelve while the boys married at the age of fifteen. It is at the age of eighteen when biological drives and social responsibility conflict. The motivation of this represents the tension between the vertical and hierarchical authority and that of the generational and horizontal authority of when the boy becomes a man. Let’s skip forward to chapter 7 entitled warning against the adulterous woman in lesson 7, Proverbs 7:1-5, where we have a picture of her smooth words. ‘My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you. Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. Say to wisdom, you are my sister, and to insight, you are my relative. They will keep you from the adulterous woman, from the wayward woman with her seductive words.’

D. The Unfolding Scene and Encounter

Now we come to the unfolding scene in 7:6 ‘At the window of my house she looked down through the lattice.’ She is looking down at the simpleton, a youth who had no sense. There are two different world views here, his and hers and there is a distance between them. Verses 6-9, ‘I saw among the simple, I noticed among the young men, a youth who had no sense. He was going down the street near her corner, walking along in the direction of her house at twilight, as the day was fading, as the dark of night set in.’ He is in the red light section walking down the street. Walking here is as intense as if marching. It was twilight, not yet dark but near and quickly becoming.

Now there is an encounter in verses 10-13, ‘Then out comes the woman to meet him, dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent. (She is unruly and defiant, her feet never stay at home; now in the street, now in the square, at every corner she lurks.) She took hold of him and kissed him and with a brazen face. She was dressed like a prostitute which is so garish I don’t understand how it attracts anybody. It is the same today. She is unruly and defiant walking everywhere with a brazen face. She took hold of him and kissed him. Here are her smooth words, ‘with a brazen face she said, today I fulfilled my vows, and I have food from my fellowship offering at home.’ She must be a Canaanite with a Canaanite religion. She would sacrifice her offering and then take the meat home and have a celebratory meal. ‘So I came out to meet you; I looked for you and have found you! I have covered my bed with colored linens from Egypt. I have perfumed by bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.’ These things are very expensive coming from distant lands. The myrrh is of the balsam tree from Southern Arabia while the aloes are from the eaglewood tree of Southeast Asia and India and the cinnamon was from Shri Lanka. ‘Come, let’s drink deeply of love till morning; let’s enjoy ourselves with love! My husband is not at home: he has gone on a long journey. He took his purse filled with money and will not be home till full moon.’ That offering was made at New Moon so it will be two weeks before he comes home. Of course, this is not a faithful person, not to her husband. The situation continues in verse 21-23, with persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk. All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose till an arrow pierces his liver, like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life.’

E. Father’s Admonition

The father admonishes his son now, ‘Now then, my sons, listen to me; pay attention to what I say. Do not let your heart turn to her ways or stray into her paths. Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death (Verses 24-27). All of this is the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. She has invested all this effort and expense for one night of pleasure. When she tells him that her husband wasn’t at home; this is Satan’s lie, you will not die. The liberal lie here is that there is no judgement; there is no eternal death. That’s the lie. So he is thinking with his glands, not his brain. He is like an ox, a handsome stag. His liver is like a seat of life and like a speedy bird.