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!
Proverbs 9 - 13
9:1 Wisdom has built her house;
she has hewn her seven pillars.
She has slaughtered her beasts; she has mixed her wine;
she has also set her table.
She has sent out her young women to call
from the highest places in the town,
“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
To him who lacks sense she says,
“Come, eat of my bread
and drink of the wine I have mixed.
Leave your simple ways, and live,
and walk in the way of insight.”
Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse,
and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury.
Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;
reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
For by me your days will be multiplied,
and years will be added to your life.
If you are wise, you are wise for yourself;
if you scoff, you alone will bear it.
The woman Folly is loud;
she is seductive and knows nothing.
She sits at the door of her house;
she takes a seat on the highest places of the town,
calling to those who pass by,
who are going straight on their way,
“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
And to him who lacks sense she says,
“Stolen water is sweet,
and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”
But he does not know that the dead are there,
that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.
10:1 The proverbs of Solomon.
A wise son makes a glad father,
but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.
Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit,
but righteousness delivers from death.
The LORD does not let the righteous go hungry,
but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.
A slack hand causes poverty,
but the hand of the diligent makes rich.
He who gathers in summer is a prudent son,
but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.
Blessings are on the head of the righteous,
but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
The memory of the righteous is a blessing,
but the name of the wicked will rot.
The wise of heart will receive commandments,
but a babbling fool will come to ruin.
Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.
Whoever winks the eye causes trouble,
and a babbling fool will come to ruin.
The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
Hatred stirs up strife,
but love covers all offenses.
On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found,
but a rod is for the back of him who lacks sense.
The wise lay up knowledge,
but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near.
A rich man's wealth is his strong city;
the poverty of the poor is their ruin.
The wage of the righteous leads to life,
the gain of the wicked to sin.
Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life,
but he who rejects reproof leads others astray.
The one who conceals hatred has lying lips,
and whoever utters slander is a fool.
When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.
The tongue of the righteous is choice silver;
the heart of the wicked is of little worth.
The lips of the righteous feed many,
but fools die for lack of sense.
The blessing of the LORD makes rich,
and he adds no sorrow with it.
Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool,
but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding.
What the wicked dreads will come upon him,
but the desire of the righteous will be granted.
When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more,
but the righteous is established forever.
Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes,
so is the sluggard to those who send him.
The fear of the LORD prolongs life,
but the years of the wicked will be short.
The hope of the righteous brings joy,
but the expectation of the wicked will perish.
The way of the LORD is a stronghold to the blameless,
but destruction to evildoers.
The righteous will never be removed,
but the wicked will not dwell in the land.
The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom,
but the perverse tongue will be cut off.
The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable,
but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse.
11:1 A false balance is an abomination to the LORD,
but a just weight is his delight.
When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with the humble is wisdom.
The integrity of the upright guides them,
but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.
Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
but righteousness delivers from death.
The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight,
but the wicked falls by his own wickedness.
The righteousness of the upright delivers them,
but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust.
When the wicked dies, his hope will perish,
and the expectation of wealth perishes too.
The righteous is delivered from trouble,
and the wicked walks into it instead.
With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor,
but by knowledge the righteous are delivered.
When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices,
and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness.
By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,
but by the mouth of the wicked it is overthrown.
Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense,
but a man of understanding remains silent.
Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets,
but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.
Where there is no guidance, a people falls,
but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.
Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer harm,
but he who hates striking hands in pledge is secure.
A gracious woman gets honor,
and violent men get riches.
A man who is kind benefits himself,
but a cruel man hurts himself.
The wicked earns deceptive wages,
but one who sows righteousness gets a sure reward.
Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live,
but he who pursues evil will die.
Those of crooked heart are an abomination to the LORD,
but those of blameless ways are his delight.
Be assured, an evil person will not go unpunished,
but the offspring of the righteous will be delivered.
Like a gold ring in a pig's snout
is a beautiful woman without discretion.
The desire of the righteous ends only in good,
the expectation of the wicked in wrath.
One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;
another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
and one who waters will himself be watered.
The people curse him who holds back grain,
but a blessing is on the head of him who sells it.
Whoever diligently seeks good seeks favor,
but evil comes to him who searches for it.
Whoever trusts in his riches will fall,
but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.
Whoever troubles his own household will inherit the wind,
and the fool will be servant to the wise of heart.
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
and whoever captures souls is wise.
If the righteous is repaid on earth,
how much more the wicked and the sinner!
12:1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but he who hates reproof is stupid.
A good man obtains favor from the LORD,
but a man of evil devices he condemns.
No one is established by wickedness,
but the root of the righteous will never be moved.
An excellent wife is the crown of her husband,
but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.
The thoughts of the righteous are just;
the counsels of the wicked are deceitful.
The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood,
but the mouth of the upright delivers them.
The wicked are overthrown and are no more,
but the house of the righteous will stand.
A man is commended according to his good sense,
but one of twisted mind is despised.
Better to be lowly and have a servant
than to play the great man and lack bread.
Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast,
but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.
Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread,
but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.
Whoever is wicked covets the spoil of evildoers,
but the root of the righteous bears fruit.
An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips,
but the righteous escapes from trouble.
From the fruit of his mouth a man is satisfied with good,
and the work of a man's hand comes back to him.
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
but a wise man listens to advice.
The vexation of a fool is known at once,
but the prudent ignores an insult.
Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence,
but a false witness utters deceit.
There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Truthful lips endure forever,
but a lying tongue is but for a moment.
Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil,
but those who plan peace have joy.
No ill befalls the righteous,
but the wicked are filled with trouble.
Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD,
but those who act faithfully are his delight.
A prudent man conceals knowledge,
but the heart of fools proclaims folly.
The hand of the diligent will rule,
while the slothful will be put to forced labor.
Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down,
but a good word makes him glad.
One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor,
but the way of the wicked leads them astray.
Whoever is slothful will not roast his game,
but the diligent man will get precious wealth.
In the path of righteousness is life,
and in its pathway there is no death.
13:1 A wise son hears his father's instruction,
but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.
From the fruit of his mouth a man eats what is good,
but the desire of the treacherous is for violence.
Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life;
he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.
The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing,
while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.
The righteous hates falsehood,
but the wicked brings shame and disgrace.
Righteousness guards him whose way is blameless,
but sin overthrows the wicked.
One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing;
another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.
The ransom of a man's life is his wealth,
but a poor man hears no threat.
The light of the righteous rejoices,
but the lamp of the wicked will be put out.
By insolence comes nothing but strife,
but with those who take advice is wisdom.
Wealth gained hastily will dwindle,
but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself,
but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded.
The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life,
that one may turn away from the snares of death.
Good sense wins favor,
but the way of the treacherous is their ruin.
Every prudent man acts with knowledge,
but a fool flaunts his folly.
A wicked messenger falls into trouble,
but a faithful envoy brings healing.
Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction,
but whoever heeds reproof is honored.
A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul,
but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools.
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,
but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
Disaster pursues sinners,
but the righteous are rewarded with good.
A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children,
but the sinner's wealth is laid up for the righteous.
The fallow ground of the poor would yield much food,
but it is swept away through injustice.
Whoever spares the rod hates his son,
but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite,
but the belly of the wicked suffers want.