Errgh. It’s been almost 2 months since my Psalms review … much more time than I had planned to take to get through Proverbs. I have no great excuse this time; this has just been one of those months (err, 2 months) where I’ve been distracted with dumb stuff. Plus I guess I did have a few really busy weekends in there where I was out doing stuff or out of town. Anyway, I’m done now. Finally.
You may recall that I wasn’t all that impressed or enthused by Psalms. I expected more out of it. Well, Proverbs, interestingly enough, wound up basically being the book that I thought Psalms was going to be. And that’s a good thing. In a sense, I feel like Proverbs is the book I’ve been waiting to get to the entire time I’ve been reading the Bible, because even though I knew to expect a hearty helping of disturbing and terrible things in the Bible, I thought there would also be more “good” stuff along the way than there has been. Finally, now, in Proverbs we’re getting some of that.
So what is the book of Proverbs about? Well, the summary of the book is pretty much all there in the title. The entirety of the book is … a long list of proverbs. 31 chapters worth, to be exact. The first chapter starts out with some proverbs attributed to Solomon. Later there’s some others that are attributed to various nameless “wise men.” There’s a few others that are attributed to someone named “Agur son of Jakeh,” and some in another chapter attributed to a guy named Lemuel (and/or his mother). Other than that, the rest of the proverbs are just listed in general, without any particular author named.
With that being the gist of the book, let’s get right to the Good and Bad stuff, shall we?
Proverbs not only has more good stuff in it than any of the previous book I’ve read, it probably has more good stuff than all the previous books I’ve read combined. A significant amount more, at that. Here are some of the highlights:
- Proverbs has many many verses about the virtues of learning, in order to gain wisdom. A few examples:
- 4:7 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.
- 10:14 The wise store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.
- 11:12 He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace. <– Uggh, if only the majority of people who love bible-thumping paid any attention to this verse.
- 12:1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.
- 16:31 Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise.
- 13:16 All who are prudent act with knowledge, but fools expose their folly.
- We also get a good helping of verses about being generous and kind to the needy, e.g.:
- 3:27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. 3:28 Do not say to your neighbor, “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”— when you already have it with you.
- 11:24 One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. 11:25 A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
- 21:13 Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.
- 29:7 The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.
- 31:8 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. 31:9 Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. <– Eh, Republicans?? Yeah?? You skipped ALL these verses didn’t ya?
- There are a number of proverbs about being an honest, fair, and trustworthy person as well:
- 3:30 Do not accuse anyone for no reason— when they have done you no harm.
- 10:9 Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.
- 12:19 Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.
- 16:8 Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice.
- 20:17 Food gained by fraud tastes sweet, but one ends up with a mouth full of gravel.
- 22:1 A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.
- 25:9 If you take your neighbor to court, do not betray another’s confidence, 25:10 or the one who hears it may shame you and the charge against you will stand.
- 28:3 A ruler who oppresses the poor is like a driving rain that leaves no crops.
- 28:16 A tyrannical ruler practices extortion, but one who hates ill-gotten gain will enjoy a long reign.
- We also get a handful of other random verses that I find interesting:
- 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
- 11:13 A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.
- 12:10 A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. <– Wow, one of the extremely rare verses where the Bible tells you to be kind to animals. What a nice change of pace.
- 12:25 Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.
- 14:13 Even in laughter the heart may ache, and rejoicing may end in grief. <– Yeesh that one’s kinda depressing. But not untrue.
- 14:30 A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.
- 16:32 Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city. <–Uhh hmm you wouldn’t know it from reading the Bible thus far.
- 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.
- 18:12 Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.
- 20:4 Sluggards do not plow in season; so at harvest time they look but find nothing. <– There are a significant number of verses in there about not being lazy.
- 23:4 Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness.
- 24:11 Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
- 25:16 If you find honey, eat just enough— too much of it, and you will vomit.
- 26:11 As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly. <– Hahah, interesting analogy on this one. Dogs be cray, amiright??
- 27:1 Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring. <– I live by this one to a neurotic extent.
So yeah, as you can see, the “Good Stuff” section in Proverbs is by far the best one we’ve gotten so far. For the first time, I’m actually finding a decent number of things in here that are making me say, “Oh yeah I agree with that,” or “That’s interesting advice.” Nice change of pace to feel like I’m actually getting helpful moral guidance from this thing.
Ok now that we feel sufficiently warm and fuzzy after finishing the Good Stuff section, I’m going to go ahead and ruin the positive vibe now by listing all the bad shiz. And the questionable stuff. Let’s get right to it.
- “1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge …” Umm, I mean, is it though?? There are a lot of verses like that in here. Even within the verses I like about how knowledge is so important, many of them have this slant to them that’s like, well, you should gain knowledge, BUT …. only on God’s terms and only what God says is correct. Putting boundaries on learning seems pretty counterintuitive to me. But that’s how the Bible rolls.
- Chapter 1 also talks about what God will do to “fools” who “disregard all [his] advice” and “do not accept [his] rebuke”: “26, I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you; I will mock when calamity overtakes you.” “28. Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me, 29. since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord.” Ok God, chillax, we get it. Vindictive, much?
- “5:3 For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; 5:4 but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. 5:5 Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave.” There are a LOT of proverbs in here about adulterous women, and how horrible they are. They are presented as these evil predators, just searching out innocent little doe-eyed men to destroy and eat. Interestingly, there’s no mention in this book of the perils of adulterous men. The Bible’s woman problem continues. Shock.
- HAHA this one’s funny too: “6:26 For a prostitute can be had for a loaf of bread, but another man’s wife preys on your very life.” Sooo … is this a recommendation in favor of using prostitutes??
- Speaking of the Bible’s woman problem, we also get a lot of verses in Proverbs like this one: “21:9 Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.” And this one: “21:19 Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.” Hmm, oddly, I can’t seem to find anything in here about what to do with a shitty no-good husband.
- “10:3 The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.” So, good people always prosper and bad people never do. Sure, that’s definitely what I’ve observed in real life, what about you?
- “13: 24 Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” You’ve heard the saying, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” Here’s where it comes from. This is just one of several verses in Proverbs that give advice to beat your children with a rod.
- There are also a few verses in here that seem to be laughably obvious instructions directly from the king that you need to obey him or else: “16:14 A king’s wrath is a messenger of death, but the wise will appease it. 16:15 When a king’s face brightens, it means life; his favor is like a rain cloud in spring.” Ohhh my, I’ve never wanted anything more than to bring brightness to the king’s face! Squee!!
- “19:29 Penalties are prepared for mockers, and beatings for the backs of fools.”
- “20:30 Blows and wounds scrub away evil, and beatings purge the inmost being.” Whaaat the … ?? First rule of Fight Club …
- “25:17 Seldom set foot in your neighbor’s house- too much of you, and they will hate you.” HAHA, I marked that as questionable in my notes because it’s so harsh, but now that I think of it, I actually kinda love it. No one likes a clingy friend.
- “26:18 Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows of death 26:19 is one who deceives their neighbor and says, ‘I was only joking!'” BWAHA! Does this mean you’re not ever allowed to play practical jokes? Sweet, now we have an excuse to send Ashton Kutcher to hell.
- “29:19 Servants cannot be corrected by mere words; though they understand, they will not respond. 29:21 A servant pampered from youth will turn out to be insolent.” So you’re not only supposed to beat your kids for misbehaving, but you should beat your servants as well. Check.
- “30:17 The eye that mocks a father, that scorns an aged mother, will be pecked out by the ravens of the valley, will be eaten by the vultures.” Uhhh … yikes.
There are a good number of other gems in here too, but you get the idea by now. Some of the proverbs are good, and some are not so good. I can appreciate the simplicity of this book because it makes my summary of it a lot easier. So how would I rate Proverbs overall? Hmmmm. I would say …
I’m gonna go ahead and go with 6.5/10 on this one. I felt that the good outweighed the bad, but that there was still enough bad in here to avoid scoring it super high. So … 6.5 it is. Next up we have Ecclesiastes. 12 chapters, YES!! After 150 chapters of Psalms and 31 chapters of Proverbs, 12 chapters is gonna feel like a dream come true. Ahhhh.