Courtly Proverbs— Proverbs 25-27

Today’s reading begins in Proverbs 25, which begins what is sometimes called the courtly proverbs. They are proverbs of the inspired Solomon that were added to the original book by scribes of Hezekiah’s time: “These also are proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah, transcribed.” Proverbs 25:1 —  Perhaps you’ve noticed: the first 9 chapters were more or less thematically organized around the themes of wisdom v. folly and exhortations to avoid the adultress, and chapters 10-24 were mostly one-lines organized in generally random order; but these proverbs (25-31) tend to be grouped mostly thematically and have a lot to do with wise behavior in specific social or courtly situations. With those hopefully helpful observations out of the way, let’s look at some of the proverbs that sort of jumped out at me.

“Do not claim honor in the presence of the king, And do not stand in the place of great men; For it is better that it be said to you, “Come up here,” Than for you to be placed lower in the presence of the prince, Whom your eyes have seen.” Proverbs 25:6, 7 — If this proverb sounds familiar, it sort of is — Jesus said something like this in Luke 14:7-11. Humility is better than arrogance.

“Like apples of gold in settings of silver Is a word spoken in right circumstances.” Proverbs 25:11 — The right word at the right time in the right place is priceless: words of encouragement, words of praise, words of gentle correction, words of kindness and generosity. We all know how valuable they are to ourselves; let’s offer them to others.

“Like clouds and wind without rain Is a man who boasts of his gifts falsely.” Proverbs 25:14 — Clouds and rain often come before rains which bless the land. So also are those who make lots of promises that they can’t keep. It’s disappointing to those who expected something and embarrassing to those who didn’t come through.

“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;” Proverbs 25:21 — This proverb is also quoted in the New Testament, Romans 12:20, by Paul who was making a strong point about dealing with persecutors and enemies.

“The north wind brings forth rain, And a backbiting tongue, an angry countenance.” Proverbs 25:23 — Should we really be surprised at the reaction that biting words bring? And yet we often are. This proverbs tell us that such as reaction is a predictable as a what a north wind will bring in Israel.

“Like the legs which are useless to the lame, So is a proverb in the mouth of fools.” Proverbs 26:7 — In other words, you can preach at a person who refuses to seek good until “the cows come home”, but they’ll never use it.

“Like a dog that returns to its vomit Is a fool who repeats his folly.” Proverbs 26:11 — And yet both dogs and fools do it again and again — doing the same thing again and again expecting to get a different result. Revolting and you don’t want to watch.

“Like one who takes a dog by the ears Is he who passes by and meddles with strife not belonging to him.” Proverbs 26:17 — Meddling in other people’s affairs is just looking for trouble.

“Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth.” Proverbs 27:1 — Does sound like something else you’ve heard in the New Testament — like James 4:13-16? “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.”

“Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 — It great, even essential for people to have other people in their lives to bounce things off of, provide a reality check, build on another person’s good idea

“The crucible is for silver and the furnace for gold, And each is tested by the praise accorded him.” Proverbs 27:21 — So what is the praise in your life revealing about you? Pride or humility?

See you tomorrow, Lord willing.

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About parklinscomb

I'm a minister for the church of Christ in Manchester NH where I've worked since the 1970's. I'm a big fan of my family, archaeology, the Bible, the Lord's church, and Gander Brook Christian Camp.
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