A book for getting smarter
Saying from Solomon1 This is a collection of wise sayings—solid advice from Solomon, son of David and king of Israel.
2 This book will teach you wisdom and self-control.
It’ll give you the tools you need to understand deep words of insight.
3 It’ll teach you how to behave yourself by living smart.
I’m talking about treating others right, fairly, and impartially. Give everyone a fair shake.
4 Naïve folks are going to get their eyes opened.
Young people will get an education in knowledge and common sense.
5 The smart get smarter.
The savvy get some savvy-plus.
6 They learn how to dissect proverbs and other sayings,
Along with insights of sages, and riddles the sages tell.
7 Wisdom starts with respect for the LORD.
Fools hate wisdom. They don’t want anyone teaching them anything.
Don’t get suckered into crime8 Listen up, kids, when your dad is talking. You can learn something if you pay attention.
And don’t forget what your mom has taught you.
9 Wear their teachings like a helmet on your head
And dog tags around your neck.
10 Children, if someone who doesn’t give a rip about God tries talking you into sin,
Don’t let them.
11 If they say, “Come on.
We’re going to jump someone and splash some blood.
We’ll ambush a random person for no reason. Just because. It doesn’t matter if they don’t deserve it.
12 We’re going to eat them alive and swallow them like Death.
We’ll choke them down whole, like dropping them into a grave.
13 Buddy, we’re going to get rich.
We’re going to fill our houses with stolen stuff.
14 Come on, join us.
We’ll split everything even up.”
15 My child, don’t do it.
Don’t walk that path.
16 Those people run head-first into trouble.
They’re in a hurry to draw blood.
17 It’s ridiculous to set a baited net for birds
When the birds are watching you.
18 These people are going to get caught in their own trap. They want blood. It’ll be their blood.
They’re ambushing themselves.
19 That’s what happens to crooks who violently take what they want.
They pay for it with their lives.
When the Lady shouts, listen up20 Wisdom is a lady shouting in the street.
She raises her voice in public places.
21 Right downtown in City Square she yells above all the clamor.
At the very entrance to the city center, she’s speaking her piece.
22 “Dimwits, when are you going to get some sense?
Critics of anything and everything, when are you going to shut up?
Fools, how long are you going to boycott intelligence?
23 Take my advice.
I’m all in on you, and right here with you.
I’ll tell you everything I know to help you.
24 Yeah, but that’s not going to happen. You refused.
I reached out to you, and got nothing from you.
25 You trashed my advice.
You didn’t want to hear it.
26 So, I’m going to laugh at your trouble.
I’ll taunt you when it’s time,
27 When the storm attacks,
When the cyclone blows,
When fear and terror swallow you.
28 That’s when you’ll call me.
Well, I won’t answer.
You’ll look for me everywhere.
You won’t find me anywhere.
29 Intelligence wasn’t on your mind.
You showed no respect for the LORD, either.
30 You didn’t want my advice before.
You took my words and tossed them in the trash.
31 People, you’re going to eat the rotten fruit you picked.
What you intended for others, you'll have to keep for yourself. Bon Appetit.
32 Ignorant people destroy themselves with bad decisions.
They get so comfortable that their complacency kills them.
33 Those of you who listen to me, Lady Wisdom, will stay safe and secure.
You’ll live in a No Fear zone, protected from disaster.”
In the original language of Hebrew, the word more literally means “proverb” or “parable.” Many of these sayings are short and snappy. They read like a mini-sermon stuffed into a fortune cookie.
Students of the Bible, for a long time, said Solomon wrote Proverbs. They were encouraged by 1 Kings 3:6-12. There’s where God promised to answer the new king’s prayer for wisdom by making him wiser than anyone who had ever lived. And 1 Kings 4:32 says Solomon wrote 3,000 proverbs. The Book of Proverbs has less than 1,000. Solomon starts off reigning with lots of wisdom, but he ends up worshiping idols of his too-many wives (1 Kings 11). Some of the proverbs come from other sources, as the proverbs themselves report. For example, some otherwise unknown king named Lemuel reportedly wrote Proverbs 31. Actually, it sounds like his mother wrote it for him. He credits her with the insight. Some scholars would credit her with the words, given what is said about women.
The more literal phrase is “fear of the LORD.” This phrase shows up in Proverbs more than any other book in the Bible. “Fear,” most scholars say, doesn’t mean terror or fright. In Proverbs, it means reverence for God—devotion expressed in obedient behavior. Someone who fears the LORD is someone who lives in a way they believe pleases God. They know the rules, they value the rules, and they live by the rules. If they do this, sages promise God will give them a long and successful life (10:27; 14:27). Sages didn’t always get it right, not literally. But we should probably recognize their poetic license since they are expressing their ideas in the form of Hebrew poems. In which case, exaggeration is allowed.
Ancient wisdom literature often speaks of wisdom as a good person, usually as a righteous woman. We do the same thing today when we personify as women: ships, countries, and visiting mothers-in-law sitting in our recliner every evening.
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