Proverbs from the palace
Compliments of King Solomon1Here are some wise sayings from King Solomon. Officials of Hezekiah, king of Judah, compiled them into this collection. 2God gets praise for his mysteries.
Kings get praise for their discoveries.
3Searching high heaven to deepest ocean
Is like searching the heart of a king. 
4Melt away impurities in silver
And you’ll have something fit for a silversmith.
Rules for visiting the palace5Clear the king’s palace of scummy people
And you’ll have a kingdom ruled by goodness.
6Don’t brag in front of the king.
And don’t presume it’s okay to stand near honored leaders.
7Keep in mind that it’s good to hear someone say, “Step forward.”
Not so good to get pushed back, while respected leaders are watching.
8Don’t get in a hurry to sue someone.
If you do, what will happen when the other side puts you to shame?
A brand you don’t want to wear9Argue your point with the other party.
Keep any secrets you agree to keep.
10If word gets out people can’t trust you,
You’ll wear that brand for the rest of your life.
11Golden apples framed in silver,
are like the right words spoken at the right time.
12A gold ring or gold jewelry
Is what a wise advisor is to someone willing to listen.
13A cooling snow in the summer harvest,
That’s what a reliable messenger is to the bosses.
A refreshing change of pace.
A bragging bag of wind14Blustering wind and rainless clouds,
Those are people who lie when they brag about their generosity.
15Patience can convince a ruler.
A softly spoken word can break a bone.
16You found honey? Eat just what you need.
Too much and you’ll get sick enough to see it again, recycled.
17Don’t visit your neighbors much.
If you do, they’ll grow to hate you for it.
18If you’re going to lie about your friends,
You might as well club them, stab them, stick an arrow in them and call it done.
19When you’re in trouble, if you trust someone unreliable
You’re chewing with a loose tooth and walking on a broken foot.
20Before you sing a happy song to someone sad,
Why not take off your clothes on a cold day,
Or pour vinegar onto baking soda.
Kindness makes enemies feel bad21Here’s a plan. Feed your enemies if they’re hungry.
Give them a drink if they’re thirsty.
22That’s a great way to make them feel miserable about themselves.
The LORD will reward you for it.
23Rain blows in with the north wind.
And a backstabbing mouth comes with a twisted face.
24You’re better off living in the corner of an attic
Than downstairs, in the house of a cranky woman you can never please.
25Good news from far away
Is like cold water to a worn-out body.
26When good people do nothing to stop bad people
Why not pollute the well and run the plow over the spring, too?
27It’s not a sweet idea to eat much honey.
And there’s not much honor in shopping for compliments.
28People with no boundaries to their behavior
Are like cities with broken walls.
Solomon, King David’s son, ruled the kingdom of Israel from about 970-930 BC. 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.
Solomon’s descendent, Hezekiah, ruled what had become the southern Jewish nation of Judah about 200 years after Solomon, from around 715-687 BC. The Jewish nation had split in two after Solomon died, when his son the new king promised higher taxes and forced labor for public building projects. The northern tribes split off and took the name of Israel with them.
Spoken like a king, perhaps comparing himself favorably to the mysterious God. The point may be that it’s hard to know what goes on in the mind of a king.
Many Bible experts agree this is one messed up proverb, an undecipherable remnant of the original. Some Bible experts say the line about taking off the clothes on a cold day doesn’t seem to fit with the other two images. If we drop that line, the meaning of the proverb could go in the opposite direction. Baking soda neutralizes vinegar, an acid. In other words, a happy song might work some magic with a sad person. Other scholars say the bubbling and hissing of vinegar in baking soda might describe what a happy song sounds like to a sad soul. Go figure.
Many Christians would argue that not all proverbs read like they come with God’s personal recommendation for all humans everywhere, forever.
Or a cranky man. But this parable seems to have been written for young men by elderly men who apparently had not consulted their wives in the matter. This proverb is repeated in Proverbs 21:9.
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