John T. Willis

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Proverbs 10:22-27

Proverbs 10:22-27 continue with poetic contrasts except in verses 22 and 26. Verse 22 contains a synonymous parallelism in which both lines say essentially the same thing, and verse 26 contains an emblematic parallelism, here using a simile to communicate the idea the wise author wishes to convey.

Verse 22--"The blessing of the Lord makes rich,
and he adds no sorrow with it."

Verse 23--"Doing wrong is like sport to a fool,
but wise conduct is pleasure to a person of understanding."

Verse 24--"What the wicked dread will come upon them,
but the desire of the righteous will be granted."

Verse 25--"When the tempest passes, the wicked are no more,
but the righteous are established forever."

Verse 26--"Like vinegar to the teeth,
and smoke to the eyes,
so are the lazy to their employers."

Verse 27--"The fear of the Lord prolongs life,
but the years of the wicked will be short."

What are the scriptural messages these maxims emphasize?
1. Like verse 3, verse 22 affirms that blessings do not just happen accidentally or as a result of "natural laws" in the world. Rather, God actively gives blessings as he sees fit, even when they appear arbitrary to human beings. God's blessing always enriches those who receive it, and they contain no hidden, dreaded harm.
2. The spiritually wise enjoy serving God and doing his will, whereas the spiritually foolish enjoy doing wrong. Two different hearts produce two different lifestyles. Verse 23.
3. Verses 24, 25, and 27 proclaim consequences for doing good or doing evil. The wicked "put on a front" to try to make those around them believe they are courageous and bold in doing their sinful deeds, but in reality they are constantly afraid of calamities they might suffer for their wickedness. The reference to the "tempest" which passes through a community or a country leaving devastation in its path (verse 25) calls to mind Jesus' description of devastation at the end of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:24-27). "The fear [honor, respect, awe, high regard, etc.] of the Lord" (verse 27), which Deuteronomy 10:12-13 equates with walking in all God's ways, loving God, serving God with all one's heart and soul, and keeping God's commandments, is the essence of biblical faith. This is the only appropriate response to God's nature and God's mighty acts.
4. As vinegar irritates teeth, and as smoke irritates eyes, so a lazy worker irritates his/her employer (verse 26). The book of Proverbs often connects godly living with honest hard work (see already in Proverbs 10, verses 4 and 5).