Poets Feature Sampler - Page 15


Such proverbs are not like lyric poetry—that is, they probably weren’t
originally sung like the poems in Israel’s songbooks. But nevertheless,
the brevity, repetition, and imagery of the proverbs (for example, “As a
door swings back and forth on its hinges, so the lazy person turns over
in bed”) make them just as memorable as words set to music.
The biblical book of Proverbs contains six collections of such sayings. They have been gathered from named figures, including Solomon,
Agur, and Lemuel, as well as from unnamed figures known simply as
“the wise.” To introduce these collections, the book offers a series of
exhortations in poetic form, though in stanzas longer than couplets.
These poems praise the benefits of learning from the sages of the past
by feasting on the banquet of their wisdom. The book ends with an
acrostic poem (following the letters of the Hebrew alphabet) about “a
virtuous and capable wife.” This may be seen as an idealized application of the book’s overall teaching to offer an example of how the way
of wisdom might be lived out.
The collected proverbs presented throughout the book share a common vision of life. There are two paths that can be followed: that of the
“fool” (or the “wicked”) and that of the “wise” (or the “righteous”). The
proverbs appeal to experience and common sense to make the case
that, everything else being equal, the wise prosper in this life (enjoying
financial success, health, good relationships, and a good reputation
through diligence and hard work) while the foolish take shortcuts (getrich-quick schemes, shady friendships, and cutting corners) and end
up missing out.
The other wisdom books in the First Testament—Ecclesiastes and
Job—will add important qualifications to this view. But the place to
begin the journey is with the down-to-earth advice offered in the book
of Proverbs. It offers a solid presentation of wisdom that is rooted in a
right relationship with God and seeks to follow the way that leads to
the best possible kind of life.
These are the proverbs of Solomon, David’s son, king of Israel.
Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline,
to help them understand the insights of the wise.
Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful
to help them do what is right, just, and fair.
These proverbs will give insight to the simple,
knowledge and discernment to the young.
Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser.
Let those with understanding receive guidance
by exploring the meaning in these proverbs and parables,
the words of the wise and their riddles.
Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
My child, listen when your father corrects you.
Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction.
What you learn from them will crown you with grace
and be a chain of honor around your neck.
My child, if sinners entice you,
turn your back on them!
They may say, “Come and join us.
Let’s hide and kill someone!
Just for fun, let’s ambush the innocent!
Let’s swallow them alive, like the grave;
let’s swallow them whole, like those who go down to the pit
of death.
Think of the great things we’ll get!

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