Sunday, July 20, 2014

Lecture Two: Wisdom and Poetry - Proverbs and the Song of Songs

Introduction to Wisdom Literature

Egyptian Instructional Wisdom

Ancient Egyptians collected short, usually optimistic sayings about leading a successful life. These collections are typically addressed from a teacher—called “father” or “mother”—to a student—called “child” or “son.” Egyptian instructional wisdom bears some resemblance to Proverbs.

Instructions of Ptahhotep (2450 B.C.)

“He said to his son: Do not become arrogant because of your knowledge, nor confident because you are wise. Take advice from the simple as well as the wise. You never reach your full potential, always having more to learn. Good speech is hidden like an emerald, but may be found as women grinding grain.”

“My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.” – Proverbs 2:1-5

Instructions of Amen-em-Opet (1200 B.C.)

“Give thy ears, hear what is said, Give thy heart to understand them. To put them in thy heart is worth while, See [you] these thirty chapters: They entertain; they instruct. Do not associate to thyself the heated man. Do not carry off the landmark at the boundaries of the arable land.”

“Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge . . . Have I not written for you thirty sayings of counsel and knowledge . . . Make no friendship with a man given to anger . . . Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set.” – Proverbs 22:17-28

Mesopotamian Discoursive Literature

Ancient Mesopotamians composed lengthy, usually pessimistic monologues and dialogues about the lack of justice in the world. These documents teach cosmic retribution: righteousness leads to prosperity, and wickedness leads to suffering. The problem is that nobody is righteous, and everybody suffers because of the crimes they have committed. The solution to suffering is to accept the judgment of the gods. Mesopotamian discoursive literature bears some resemblance to Job and Ecclesiastes.

Ludlul bel Nemequi (“I will praise the Lord of wisdom”):

A monologue in which a Babylonian tells about how he encountered misery in his life and how Marduk eventually restored him.

Babylonian Theodicy

“Sufferer to his friend: ‘Your opinion is like the north-wind, a pleasant breeze for everyone. Pure and choice is your advice. But I have one problem for you: those who neglect the god prosper, while those who devoutly pray become poor and weak.’”

“Then Job answered and said: . . . ‘Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power?’” – Job 21:1-7

“Friend to the sufferer: ‘When the great primeval, creator gods of the universe created humankind, they gave him twisted speech. They endowed them forever with lies and not the truth.’”

“Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said: . . . ‘For your iniquity teaches your mouth, and you choose the tongue of the crafty. Your own mouth condemns you, and not I; your own lips testify against you.’” – Job 15:5-6

Old Testament Wisdom Literature

The term “wisdom literature” comes from OT scholarship, not from the ANE. Scholars recognized a different genre in Scripture and discovered other ANE texts that were similar. The Israelites borrowed and adapted the wisdom literature of other cultures. “Wisdom” in the ANE often carried a secular or magical connotation. “Wisdom” in the OT often carries a moral or religious connotation. Proverbs 1:7, for example, states, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

There are various inflections of the word “wisdom” (hokmah) in the OT. It represents both a way of thinking and a way of living. Four biblical nuances are:

1.Skill in craft as an artisan (workers in the Pentateuch, Hiram of Tyre, goldsmiths in Jeremiah)

2.Insight into life and life’s details (skill in thinking and in intellect)

3.Way of thinking and acting morally (social conduct, private conduct, practical wisdom)

4.Philosophical/theological view of life (higher, reflective wisdom)

The goal of biblical wisdom literature is to encourage people to think and behave in covenant ways. Wisdom literature emphasizes creation theology more than covenant theology to make it simple and universal. It is also oriented for individuals more than for communities.

Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes are considered true wisdom literature. There are also a number of wisdom psalms, and Song of Songs resembles wisdom literature in function and literary form. Therefore, all the poetic books may be categorized as wisdom literature.

Other Wisdom Literature:

Story of Joseph (Genesis 37, 39-45)
Wisdom of Solomon (Apocrypha)
Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sirach (Apocrypha)
The Beattitudes (Matthew 5:3-12)
James (e.g., 1:5)


Introduction: Purpose and Theme (1:1-7)

The Author--Solomon (1:1)

1. Solomon (1:1a)

2. Son of David (1:1b)

3. King of Israel (1:1c)

The Purposes of Proverbs (1:2-6)

Summary Statement (1:2)

Moral-To Bring Skill and Corrective Instruction (1:2a)

Mental-To Discern Sayings of Understanding (1:2b)

Expanded Statements (1:3-6)

To Receive (1:3)


To Give (1:4)

Prudence to the naive
Knowledge and Discretion to Young Ones

To Increase (1:5)

In Learning

In Wise Counsel

To Understand (1:6)

A Proverb
A Figure
Sayings of the Wise
Riddles of the Wise

The Principle of Proverbs: Fearing the Lord is the first step of learning (1:7)

The Foundation of Knowledge: Fearing God is the foundation of knowledge (1:7a)

The Rejection of Wisdom: The rejection of wisdom is folly (1:7b)

Prologue: A Father's Exhortations to His Son to Embrace Wisdom (1:8–9:18)

"The first section (chapters 1–9) consists of an initial invitation to young men to take up the course of wisdom, ten "instructions", and five poems on personified Woman Wisdom."

The first unit, chapters 1–9, was probably the last to be composed, in the Persian or Hellenistic periods.

An Appeal to Heed Wisdom (1:8-9)

Lesson One: A father urges his son not to yield to the invitation of robbers and murderers, and not to reject the invitation of wisdom (1:10-33)

Evil Invitations: Refuse Evil Invitations (1:10-19)

The Admonition (1:10)

“My son, if sinful men entice you,
    do not give in to them.

The Enticement (1:11-14)

If they say, “Come along with us;
    let’s lie in wait for innocent blood,
    let’s ambush some harmless soul…”

The Results (1:15-19)

“These men lie in wait for their own blood;
    they ambush only themselves!”

Wisdom's Invitation: Do Not Refuse the Invitation of Wisdom (1:20-33)

Wisdom's Invitation (1:20-23)

“Out in the open wisdom calls aloud,
    she raises her voice in the public square…”
“How long will you who are simple love your simple ways?”
“Repent at my rebuke!
    Then I will pour out my thoughts to you,
    I will make known to you my teachings.”

The Rejection of Wisdom (1:24-30)

“…since you disregard all my advice
    and do not accept my rebuke,
in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you…”

The Results of Wisdom (1:31-33)

Lesson Two: A Father urges his son to receive his sayings on wisdom resulting in protection through discernment (2:1-22)

The Exhortations to Wisdom (2:1-4)

“My son, if you accept my words
    and store up my commands within you…”

The Results of Wisdom--Protection through Discernment (2:5-22)

“…then you will understand the fear of the Lord
    and find the knowledge of God.”
“Then you will understand what is right and just
    and fair—every good path.”
Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men…”
Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman…”

Lesson Three: A Father urges his son to trust and honor God (3:1-10)

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
    bind them around your neck,
    write them on the tablet of your heart.”

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.”

Lesson Four: A Father urges his son to understand that wisdom will bring him blessing (3:11-20)

Blessing through Discipline (3:11-12)

Blessings Enumerated (3:13-18)

Blessed are those who find wisdom…”

“Long life is in her right hand;
    in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways,
    and all her paths are peace.
 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
    those who hold her fast will be blessed.”

Lesson Five: A Father urges his son to be wise in his relationships with others (3:21-35)

An Exhortation to Keep Wisdom (3:21-26)

An Exhortation to Be Wise in Relationships (3:27-35)

An Interlude on Wisdom: A Father urges his sons to acquire wisdom as their highest priority because it has proved itself to be good (4:1-9)

A Father's Exhortation to pay attention to Wisdom (4:1-2)

A Father's Experience of the Good of Wisdom (4:3-4)

A Father's Encouragement to acquire, love and prize wisdom (4:5-9)

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
    Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
 Cherish her, and she will exalt you;
    embrace her, and she will honor you.
 She will give you a garland to grace your head
    and present you with a glorious crown.”

Lesson Six: A father urges his son to follow the right path of uprightness and to avoid the wrong path of the wicked (4:10-19)

Reminder of Past Guidance--The Right Path (4:10-12)

Reminder to Stay on the Right Path (4:13-19)

Keep Instruction (4:13)
Avoid the Path of the Wicked (4:14-17)
Follow the Path of the Righteous (4:18-19

The path of the righteous is like the morning sun,
    shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
 But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
    they do not know what makes them stumble.”

Lesson Seven: A father urges his son to discipline himself by watching his motives and actions (4:20-27)

An Exhortation to Heed the Father's Words for Life and Health (4:20-22)

An Exhortation to Guard Motives and Actions (4:23-27)

Guard Your Heart (4:23)
Guard Your Mouth (4:24)
Guard Your Eyes (4:25)
Guard Your Feet (4:26-27)

Lesson Eight: A father warns his son about the temptations and costs of sexual immorality with the adulteress (5:1-14)

First Exhortation--Heed Wisdom, the Adulteress is Destructive (5:1-6)

For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey,
    and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall,
    sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death;
    her steps lead straight to the grave. She gives no thought to the way of life;
    her paths wander aimlessly, but she does not know it.”

Second Exhortation--Heed Wisdom, the Consequences are Destructive (5:7-14)

“Keep to a path far from her,
    do not go near the door of her house,
 lest you lose your honor to others
    and your dignity to one who is cruel…”

Lesson Nine: A father urges his son to enjoy his wife because of the consequences of doing evil (5:15-23)

Exhortation (5:15-19)

“Drink water from your own cistern,
    running water from your own well.
 Should your springs overflow in the streets,
    your streams of water in the public squares?
 Let them be yours alone,
    never to be shared with strangers.
 May your fountain be blessed,
    and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
 A loving doe, a graceful deer—
    may her breasts satisfy you always,
    may you ever be intoxicated with her love.
 Why, my son, be intoxicated with another man’s wife?
    Why embrace the bosom of a wayward woman?”

Reasons (5:20-23)

"For your ways are in full view of the Lord,
    and he examines all your paths."

Lesson Ten: A father urges his son to avoid the company of evil people like strangers in debt, sluggards, and worthless people (6:1-19)

The Stranger in Debt (6:1-5)

The Sluggard (6:6-11)

“Go to the ant, you sluggard;
    consider its ways and be wise!
 It has no commander,
    no overseer or ruler,
 yet it stores its provisions in summer
    and gathers its food at harvest.”

"How long will you lie there, you sluggard?
    When will you get up from your sleep?
 A little sleep, a little slumber,
    a little folding of the hands to rest—
 and poverty will come on you like a thief
    and scarcity like an armed man.”

The Worthless Person (6:12-19)

There are six things the Lord hates,
    seven that are detestable to him:
         haughty eyes
         a lying tongue
         hands that shed innocent blood
         a heart that devises wicked schemes
         feet that are quick to rush into evil
         a false witness who pours out lies
         and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.”

Lesson Eleven: A father urges his son to avoid the adulteress (6:20-35)

Exhortation to Heed Parents' Teachings (6:20-21)

Reason--Blessings and Protection from the Evil Woman (6:22-35)

Blessings (6:22-23a)

Protection (6:23b-35)

“Can a man scoop fire into his lap
    without his clothes being burned?
 Can a man walk on hot coals
    without his feet being scorched?
 So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife;
    no one who touches her will go unpunished.”
“For jealousy arouses a husband’s fury,
    and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge.
 He will not accept any compensation;
    he will refuse a bribe, however great it is.”

Lesson Twelve: A father urges his son to avoid the adulteress and to follow wisdom (7:1-8:36)

     Avoid the Adulteress: A father urges His son to avoid the seductive adulteress (7:1-27)

          Exhortation--Heed Your Parents' Words to Identify with Wisdom to Keep from the flattering Adulteress (7:1-5)

          The Dramatization of the Naive and the Adulteress (7:6-23)

               The Naivete of the Victim (7:6-9)

               A Description of the Adulteress (7:10-21)

                         The Character of the Adulteress (7:10-12)

                         The Tactics of the Adulteress (7:13-21)

               The Fall of the Victim (7:22-23)

          The Concluding Plea (7:24-27)

               Exhortation-Listen and Steer Clear (7:24-25)

                         “Do not let your heart turn to her ways
                             or stray into her paths."

               Reason-Death (7:26-27)

                          "Many are the victims she has brought down;
                             her slain are a mighty throng.
                          Her house is a highway to the grave,
                             leading down to the chambers of death.”

     Follow Wisdom: A father draws his sons's attention to the invitations of wisdom (8:1-36)

          The Public Call of Wisdom (8:1-3)

          The Words of Wisdom (8:4-36)

               Wisdom's Virtues (8:4-11)

“To you, O people, I call out;
    I raise my voice to all mankind.”

               Wisdom's Rewards (8:12-21)

               Wisdom's Role in Creation (8:22-31)

The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works,
    before his deeds of old;
 I was formed long ages ago,
    at the very beginning, when the world came to be.
 When there were no watery depths, I was given birth,
    when there were no springs overflowing with water;
 before the mountains were settled in place,
    before the hills, I was given birth,
 before he made the world or its fields
    or any of the dust of the earth.
 I was there when he set the heavens in place,
    when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
 when he established the clouds above
    and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,
 when he gave the sea its boundary
    so the waters would not overstep his command,
and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
     Then I was constantly at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
    rejoicing always in his presence,
 rejoicing in his whole world
    and delighting in mankind.”

               Wisdom's Concluding Plea--Pursue Wisdom for Blessing and to Avoid Injury (8:32-36)

Summary of the Lessons--Contrasting Two Rival Women, Two Rival Minds & Two Disparate Results (9:1-19)

The Woman of Wisdom: Wisdom like an honorable woman invites the naive to her feast of life (9:1-12)

The Preparation for the Naive (9:1-3)

“Wisdom has built her house;
    she has set up its seven pillars.
 She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine;
    she has also set her table.
 She has sent out her servants, and she calls
    from the highest point of the city..."

The Invitation (9:4-6)

     "‘Let all who are simple come to my house!’
To those who have no sense she says,
     ‘Come, eat my food
    and drink the wine I have mixed.
 Leave your simple ways and you will live;
    walk in the way of insight.’”

The Lesson--The Wise and The Scoffer Contrasted (9:7-12)

The Scoffer's Closed Mind--Abuses Reprovers and Hates Reproof (9:7-8a)
The Wise Man's Teachable Mind--Loves Learning, Increases in Learning, Fears the Lord & Lives Long (9:8b-11)
Summary: The wise man benefits from wisdom, but the scoffer can blame only himself (9:12)

The Woman of Folly: Folly like an adulterous woman invites the naive to her feast of Death (9:13-18)

Her Character-Noisy, Simple, & Ignorant (9:13)

Folly is an unruly woman;
    she is simple and knows nothing."

Her Position-Religious (9:14)

 "She sits at the door of her house,
    on a seat at the highest point of the city..."

Her Appeal to the Righteous (9:15)

 "...calling out to those who pass by,
    who go straight on their way..."

Her Invitation to the Naive (9:16)

     "‘Let all who are simple come to my house!’
To those who have no sense she says..."

Her Enticement-Evil is Good (9:17)

     "‘Stolen water is sweet;
    food eaten in secret is delicious!’"

Her Fate-Death! (9:18)

 "But little do they know that the dead are there,
    that her guests are deep in the realm of the dead.”

Proverbs of Solomon (10:1–22:16)

The second unit, chapters 10–22:16, carries the superscription "the proverbs of Solomon", which may have encouraged its inclusion in the Hebrew canon.

Proverbs 10:1–22:16 contains 375 sayings and consists of two parts.

Proverbs Which Contrast Righteous (Wise) with Wicked (Foolish) Living (10:1-15:33)

Assorted Proverbs Which Exalt Righteous Living (16:1-22:16)

Thirty Sayings of the Wise (22:17–24:22)

An Adapted Egyptian Instruction

The third unit is headed, "bend your ear and hear the words of the wise": a large part of it is a recasting of a second-millennium Egyptian work, the Instructions of Amenemopet, and may have reached the Hebrew author(s) through an Aramaic translation.

Introductory Prelude--Exhortation to Apply Your Mind (22:17-21)

The purpose of the sayings is for the reader to trust in the Lord and to have a ready response to life.

1. Warning Not to Rob the Poor (22:22-23)
2. Warning Not to Associate with the Hot-Tempered (22:24-25)
3. Warning Not to Cosign for Debts (22:26-27)
4. Warning Not to Move Ancient Boundaries (22:28)
5. Advice to Be Skillful (22:29)
6. Warning Not to be a Glutton before a King (23:1-3a)
7. Warning Not to Be Materialistic (23:4-5)
8. Warning Not to Eat with a Selfish Person (23:6-8)
9. Warning Not to Converse with a Fool (23:9)
10. Warning Not to Move Ancient Boundaries (23:10-11)

Introductory Prelude to Sayings 11-30--Exhortations to Apply Your Mind (23:12)

11. Warning Not to Withhold Child Discipline (23:13-14)
12. Advice to Be Wise and Upright (23:15-16)
13. Warning Not to Envy Sinners and Advice to Fear the Lord (23:17-18)
14. Advice to Be Wise and Warning Not to Associate with Drunkards and Gluttons (23:19-21)
15. Advice to Listen to Your Father, and Warning Not to Despise Your Elderly Mother (23:22-23)
16. Advice to Be Wise (23:24-25)
17. Advice to Follow a Father's Ways and Warning to Avoid the Adulteress (23:26-28)
18. Warning Not to Be a Drunkard (23:29-35)
19. Warning Not to Envy Sinners (24:1-2)
20. Indirect Advice to Be Wise (24:3-4)
21. Indirect Advice to Get Wise Counsel (24:5-6)
22. Indirect Warning Not to Be a Fool (24:7)
23. Indirect Warning Not to Plan Sin (24:8-9)
24. Indirect Advice to Be Strong (24:10)
25. Advice to Help People Who Are Victimized (24:11-12)
26. Advice to Get Wisdom Which Is Sweet to the Soul (24:13-14)
27. Warning Not to Rob a Godly Person's House (24:15-16)
28. Warning Not to Be Glad When an Enemy Falls (24:17-18)
29. Warning Not to Envy Sinners (24:19)
30. Advice to Fear the Lord and Warning to Avoid Renegades (24:21-22)

Further Sayings of the Wise (24:23-34)

Chapter 24:23 begins a new section and source with the declaration, "these too are from the wise." 

1. Warning Not to Show Favoritism in Court (24:23-25)
2. Advice to Give an Honest and Forthright Answer (24:26)
3. Advice to Cultivate Your Field (24:27)
4. Warning Not to Give a False Witness in Court (24:28)
5. Warning Not to Avenge Yourself (24:29)
6. Indirect Warning Not to Be Lazy (24:30-34)

More Proverbs of Solomon (chs. 25–29)

The next section at chapter 25:1 has a superscription to the effect that the following proverbs were transcribed "by the men of Hezekiah", indicating at face value that they were collected in the reign of Hezekiah in the late 8th century BCE.

Chapters 25–29, attributed to editorial activity of "the men of Hezekiah," contrasts the just and the wicked and broaches the topic of rich and poor.

Section One-Miscellaneous Proverbs (25:1-27:27) 

Introduction (25:1)

Proverbs Concerning Kings (25:2-7)

Proverbs Concerning Court Cases (25:8-10)

Proverbs Concerning Words (25:11-15)

Proverbs Concerning Excesses (25:16-17)

Proverbs Concerning Unreliability (25:18-20)

Proverbs Concerning Enemies (25:21-22)

Proverbs Concerning Backbiting (25:23-24)

Proverbs Concerning Cool Water and Muddy Springs (25:25-26)

Proverbs Concerning Self-Pride and Self-Control (25:27-28)

Proverbs Concerning Fools (26:1-12)

“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.”

Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.”

Sending a message by the hands of a fool is like cutting off one’s feet or drinking poison.”

“A thorn got stuck in a drunkard’s hand, and a proverb in the mouth of a fool.”

The "wise fool" (or the "sophomore") explained...

"The drunkard in question here has fallen to the ground and, groping about on all fours, has gotten a thorn or a thistle stuck in his hand. In similar fashion - that is, quite by accident and through no personal virtue - a proverb may end up in the mouth of a fool, but the fact that he has acquired it, does not mean that he has actually learned its truth and internalized it. It just ended up with him by chance, with no more effort or conscious intention than that of the mindless drunkard. So just because you hear someone spouting words of ancient wisdom, this proverb asserts, don't think that the person in question really understands what he is saying."

As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.”

Proverbs Concerning Sluggards (26:13-16)

“A sluggard says, “There’s a lion in the road,
    a fierce lion roaming the streets!”
 As a door turns on its hinges,
    so a sluggard turns on his bed.
 A sluggard buries his hand in the dish;
    he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth.
 A sluggard is wiser in his own eyes
    than seven people who answer discreetly.”

Proverbs Concerning Talkers (26:17-28)

Proverbs Concerning Interpersonal Problems (27:1-5)

Proverbs Concerning Friends (27:6-10)

Proverbs Concerning Relationships (27:11-22)

Proverbs Concerning Farming (27:3-27)

Section Two-Proverbs Concerning Contrasts between the Wicked and the Righteous (28:1-29:27)

Proverbs Which Contrast Wicked and Righteous Attitudes (28:1-28)

Proverbs Which Contrast Wicked and Righteous Relationships (29:1-27)

Sayings of Agur (ch. 30)

Chapters 30 and 31 (the "words of Agur," the "words of Lemuel," and the description of the ideal woman) are a set of appendices, quite different in style and emphasis from the previous chapters.

The "sayings of Agur", introduces creation, divine power, and human ignorance.

Introduction (30:1)

The Supremacy of Knowing God (30:2-9)

"Surely I am only a brute, not a man;
    I do not have human understanding.

I have not learned wisdom,
    nor have I attained to the knowledge of the Holy One.

Who has gone up to heaven and come down?
    Whose hands have gathered up the wind?

Who has wrapped up the waters in a cloak?
    Who has established all the ends of the earth?

What is his name, and what is the name of his son?
    Surely you know!"

“Two things I ask of you, Lord;
    do not refuse me before I die:
 Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
    give me neither poverty nor riches,
    but give me only my daily bread.
 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
    and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
    and so dishonor the name of my God.”

Proverbs Which Relate Things That Are Alike (30:10-33)

Advice Not to Tattle on a Slave (30:10)

Four Kinds of Sinners (30:11-14)

“There are those who curse their fathers
    and do not bless their mothers;

those who are pure in their own eyes
    and yet are not cleansed of their filth;

those whose eyes are ever so haughty,
    whose glances are so disdainful;

those whose teeth are swords
    and whose jaws are set with knives

to devour the poor from the earth
    and the needy from among mankind."

Four Things Never Satisfied (30:15-16)

“There are three things that are never satisfied,
    four that never say, ‘Enough!’: the grave, the barren womb,
    land, which is never satisfied with water,
    and fire, which never says, ‘Enough!’”

Warning Not to Disrespect Your Parents (30:17)

Four Incomprehensible Things (30:18-19)

“There are three things that are too amazing for me,
    four that I do not understand:
 the way of an eagle in the sky,
    the way of a snake on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
    and the way of a man with a young woman.”

Warning to Avoid the Adulteress (30:20)

Four Unfair Things (30:21-23)

“Under three things the earth trembles,
    under four it cannot bear up:
 a servant who becomes king,
    a godless fool who gets plenty to eat,
 a contemptible woman who gets married,
    and a servant who displaces her mistress.”

Four Wise though Small Animals (30:24-28)

“Four things on earth are small,
    yet they are extremely wise:
Ants are creatures of little strength,
    yet they store up their food in the summer;

hyraxes are creatures of little power,
    yet they make their home in the crags;

locusts have no king,
    yet they advance together in ranks;

a lizard can be caught with the hand,
    yet it is found in kings’ palaces.

Four Strutting Beings (30:29-31)

“There are three things that are stately in their stride,
    four that move with stately bearing:

a lion, mighty among beasts,
    who retreats before nothing;

a strutting rooster, a he-goat,
    and a king secure against revolt."

Advice to Avoid Pride and Anger (30:32-33)

Sayings of King Lemuel (31:1-9)

There was no King Lemuel of Israel, so we don't really know who this king is, but he may have been Arabian or Assyrian.

“…an inspired utterance his mother taught him.”

“It is not for kings, Lemuel
    it is not for kings to drink wine,
    not for rulers to crave beer, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed,
    and deprive all the oppressed of their rights. Let beer be for those who are perishing,
    wine for those who are in anguish!
 Let them drink and forget their poverty
    and remember their misery no more.”

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
    for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly;
    defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

Epilogue: The Wife of Noble Character (31:10-31)

Proverbs ends very much where it began, with a personification of Wisdom as a woman - more specifically, the wife of noble character. The conclusion of the father's advice to his sons seems then to be that a great way to go about attaining wisdom, or marrying yourself to that "Woman Wisdom," is to actually marry a real woman who has the same attributes of the "Woman Wisdom."

Verses 10-31 are an acrostic poem

Each verse begins with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

“A wife of noble character who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies.
 Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.
 She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.”

“Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
 ‘Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.’
 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”

The Song of Songs

Also known as “The Song of Solomon.”

It's sometimes called "The Song of Solomon" because Solomon is mentioned in it, however, the main man in the poem is probably not Solomon since he talks about his devotion towards this one woman over any kind of interest over other beautiful women... which doesn't sound like Solomon, the man with 700 wives and 300 concubines, at all.

It’s about sex…

Three Hebrew words for love…

Raya = Friendship

"You're beautiful from head to toe, my dear raya, beautiful beyond compare, absolutely flawless."

Ahava = Deep affection and commitment

"Ahava is as strong as death; many rivers cannot quench ahava."

Dod = Physical and sexual passion

"Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth; for your dod is more delightful than wine."

Brief Illustration…

How beautiful you are, my darling!
    Oh, how beautiful!
    Your eyes behind your veil are doves.

Your hair is like a flock of goats
    descending from the hills of Gilead.

Your teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn,
    coming up from the washing.
Each has its twin;
    not one of them is alone.

Your lips are like a scarlet ribbon;
    your mouth is lovely.

Your temples behind your veil
    are like the halves of a pomegranate.

Your neck is like the tower of David,
    built with courses of stone;
on it hang a thousand shields,
    all of them shields of warriors.

Your breasts are like two fawns,
    like twin fawns of a gazelle
    that browse among the lilies.

Until the day breaks
    and the shadows flee,
I will go to the mountain of myrrh
    and to the hill of incense.
You are altogether beautiful, my darling;
    there is no flaw in you.

-- Song of Songs 4:1-7

Group Discussion: Is it okay for Christians to talk about sex?

Why did God create us as sexual beings?

Why are many Christians afraid or embarrassed to talk about sex?

Is it harmful not to talk about sex?

Should we embrace our sexuality? If so, how can that be done appropriately?


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