You might have noticed a shift in rhythm around chapter 15, which is almost fully completed today. By chapter 18, Proverbs designed around contrast have become rare and have been replaced by many that are built around a reinforcing redundancy. For example: “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape,” or “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” Notice that the first line makes an assertion, and the second either reinforces it, focuses it, or propels it.
These are mixed with straightforward observations such as “The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death,” and “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.” This makes at least three styles of proverb with which you’ve become familiar.
Today there are a few recurring themes to attend to. Personal relationships fill the conversation today, with fathers, sons, husbands, and friends receiving advice and encouragement. Remember, as I’ve said before, that proverbs are descriptive, observational: they come from the pen of those who have “been around the block,” who have observed the world and come to certain conclusions.
This descriptive nature is highlighted by verse 14 of chapter 21: A gift in secret averts anger, and a concealed bribe, strong wrath. Is this making a righteous recommendation, or is it simply making an observation? Taken as a prescription, you could argue that bribery is an acceptable option; taken as an observation, you could easily confirm that, “Yes, this is how the world works.” The next verse offers some context, with: “When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers,” but this still doesn’t really answer the bribery question. That the Bible offers proverbs such as these, without exposition, is one more mark of its remarkable character.
Our verse for this week is Psalm 119:105: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Proverbs 18 through 21. Now let’s read it!
Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.