Our reading opens with a symbolic lecture on wisdom and folly in chapter 9. “Wisdom has built her house…” it begins, and folly likewise “sits at the door of her house…” Each has set the table, sent their emissaries into town, and invites “Whoever is simple” to dinner. Pay as much attention to this curious exchange as to the interlude, where the reader is warned that “Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse…” and is reminded again that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.”
A second Act begins in chapter 10, and gone is any sense of setting or conversation. While there are a few variants, many of the verses are self-contained statements of contrast. If you’re familiar with Proverbs at all, this is the style you probably expect: When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom… Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.
They are succinct and memorable, like pithy sayings that are recited by the sage and the grandparent alike. They are collected wisdom: descriptive, but not exclusive. I encourage you to take a closer look at their truth. For example: “The righteous will never be removed, but the wicked will not dwell in the land” is contrasted by the experiences of many a Psalmist who feels unfairly threatened by wicked men. Likewise, “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin” does not guarantee safety for the well-spoken, nor destruction for the brash.
In other words, these proverbs are not, it appears, of the same genre as God’s promises. Listen for elements of the law, as well as for effective advice. Listen for the presence and worship of the LORD. And listen for the writer’s hopefulness, as he envisions the world working as it should.
Our verse for this week is Psalm 119:105: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Proverbs 9 through 13. Now let’s read it!
Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.