posted on Mar, 22 2019 @ 06:01 PM
The collector of the Old Testament Proverbs makes his purpose clear from the beginning.
“That men may know wisdom and instruction, understand words of insight” (ch1 v2).
Then he further defines this wisdom as “fear of the Lord” (v7). This phrase, when used in the Bible, means respect and willingness to obey.
I’m studying the different characters of Proverbs, as one way of organising and understanding the teaching.
In principle, since wisdom lies in fearing the Lord, the Wise Man can be identified with the Righteous Man.
But the phrase is applied in Proverbs chiefly to the man who is teaching wisdom to others.
Of course, he must first learn it himself;
“He whose ear heeds wholesome admonition will abide among the wise” (ch15 v31).
“He who gives heed to the word will prosper, and happy is he who trusts in the Lord” (ch16 v20).
The most common route is to listen to those who have Wisdom already.
“On the lips of him who has understanding wisdom is to be found” (ch10 v13).
“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom for the future”- ch19 v20
“He who walks with wise men will become wise”, while the companion of fools will suffer harm (ch13 v20).
Having received wisdom, he will then pass it on;
“The tongue of the wise dispenses knowledge, but the mouth of the fool pours out folly” (ch15 v2).
“The mouth of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil things” (ch15 v28).
We may note the contrast between the wise or righteous man who stops to think about what he should say, and the wicked fool who pours out his words in
an endless flow without even stopping to breathe.
In consequence, the wise man’s words are going to be more convincing;
“The wise of heart is called a man of discernment, and pleasant speech increases persuasiveness…
“The mind of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips” (ch16 vv21-23).
Persuasiveness is important, because the Wise man will also be required to rebuke any falling away from righteousness.
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reproof to a listening ear” (ch25 vv11-12).
A rebuke is an apparently hurtful act which benefits the one who receives it;
“Blows that wound cleanse away evil, strokes make clean the innermost part” (ch20 v30).
That is why giving a rebuke is an act of love, whatever it feels like.
While flattering a man, telling him there is nothing wrong with his conduct, is the act of a false friend, whatever it feels like;
“Better is open rebuke than hidden love.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend,; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (ch27 vv5-6).
“He who rebukes a man will afterwards find more favour than one who flatters with his tongue” (ch28 v23).
That’s why listening to these rebukes and taking them seriously is wisdom in itself;
“A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool” (ch17 v10).
Anyone who heeds instruction is placing himself on “the path to life”, while the man who rejects reproof will go astray (ch10v17).
But a man who fails to speak up when rebuke is required is contributing to the wickedness of the world;
“He who winks the eye [ignoring what is evil] plans perverse things, he who compresses the lips [keeps them shut] brings evil to pass” (ch16
“He who winks the eye causes trouble, but he who boldly reproves makes peace” (ch10 v10).
When he is giving clear, righteous guidance “The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters, the fountain of wisdom is a gushing stream” (ch18
However, the righteous man who “gives way before the wicked” and indulges their behaviour is like “a muddied stream or a polluted fountain”
Only as a fearless critic of evil can he benefit the world at large;
“He who says to the wicked ‘You are innocent’ will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations.
But those who rebuke the wicked will have delight and a good blessing will be upon them.
He who gives the right answer kisses the lips” (ch24 vv23-26).
In short, the words of a wise man are satisfying to those who hear them;
“Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body”(ch16 v24)
But there is also reward for the man who delivers them;
“From the fruit of his words, a man is satisfied with good, and the work of a man’s hand come back to him” (ch12 v14).
“To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is” (ch15 v23).
He knows the satisfaction that a good teacher feels when the lesson has been understood.
“The lips of the righteous feed many” (ch10 v21).
He does this by helping them to follow the path of righteousness, which in turn gives them access to the life which comes from God.
That is why “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, that one may escape the snares of death” (ch13 v14).