III. FIRST SOLOMONIC COLLECTION OF SAYINGS#The Proverbs of Solomon are a collection of three hundred and seventy-five proverbs on a wide variety of subjects. No overall arrangement is discernible, but there are many clusters of sayings related by vocabulary and theme. One thread running through the whole is the relationship of the “son,” the disciple, to the parents, and its effect upon the house(hold). In chaps. 10–14 almost all the proverbs are antithetical; “the righteous” and “the wicked” (ethical), “the wise” and “the foolish” (sapiential), and “the devout, the pious” and “the irreverent” (religious). Chapters 15–22 have fewer sharp antitheses. The sayings are generally witty, often indirect, and are rich in irony and paradox.
1The Proverbs of Solomon:
A wise son gives his father joy,
but a foolish son is a grief to his mother.#The opening saying ties the whole collection to the first section, for “son,” “father,” and “mother” evoke the opening line of the first instruction, “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and reject not your mother’s teaching.” The son is the subject of parental exhortation throughout chaps. 1–9. This is the first of many sayings on domestic happiness or unhappiness, between parents and children (e.g., 15:20; 17:21) and between husband and wife (e.g., 12:4; 14:1). Founding or maintaining a household is an important metaphor in the book.Adult children represented the family (headed by the oldest married male) to the outside world. Foolishness, i.e., malicious ignorance, brought dishonor to the parents and the family. #a. [10:1] Prv 1:1; 15:20; 17:25; 19:13; 25:1; 29:15.
2Ill-gotten treasures profit nothing,
but justice saves from death.#Death: untimely, premature, or sorrowful. The word “death” can have other overtones (see Wis 1:15). #b. [10:2] Prv 11:4, 6.
3The Lord does not let the just go hungry,
but the craving of the wicked he thwarts.#The last of the three introductory sayings in the collection, which emphasize, respectively, the sapiential (v. 1), ethical (v. 2), and religious (v. 3) dimensions of wisdom. In this saying, God will not allow the appetite of the righteous to go unfulfilled. The appetite of hunger is singled out; it stands for all the appetites.
4The slack hand impoverishes,
but the busy hand brings riches.#c. [10:4] Prv 6:11; 12:24; 13:4; 20:13; 28:19.
5A son who gathers in summer is a credit;
a son who slumbers during harvest, a disgrace.
6Blessings are for the head of the just;
but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.#This saying, like several others in the chapter, plays on the different senses of the verb “to cover.” As in English, “to cover” can mean to fill (as in Is 60:2) and to conceal (as in Jb 16:18). Colon B can be read either “violence fills the mouth (= head) of the wicked” or “the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.” The ambiguity is intentional; the proverb is meant to be read both ways.
7The memory of the just serves as blessing,
but the name of the wicked will rot.#The name of the righteous continues to be used after their death in blessings such as “May you be as blessed as Abraham,” but the wicked, being enemies of God, do not live on in anyone’s memory. Their names rot with their bodies.
8A wise heart accepts commands,
but a babbling fool will be overthrown.#The wise take in instruction from their teachers but those who expel or pour out folly through their words will themselves be expelled.
9Whoever walks honestly walks securely,
but one whose ways are crooked will fare badly.
10One who winks at a fault causes trouble,
but one who frankly reproves promotes peace.
11The mouth of the just is a fountain of life,
but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
12Hatred stirs up disputes,
#d. [10:12] 1 Cor 13:4–7; 1 Pt 4:8. but love covers all offenses.#Love covers all offenses: a favorite maxim in the New Testament; cf. 1 Cor 13:7; Jas 5:20; 1 Pt 4:8. Cf. also Prv 17:9.
13On the lips of the intelligent is found wisdom,
but a rod for the back of one without sense.#An unusual juxtaposition of “lips” and “back.” Those who have no wisdom on their lips (words) are fated to feel a punishing rod on their back.
14The wise store up knowledge,
but the mouth of a fool is imminent ruin.
15The wealth of the rich is their strong city;
the ruin of the poor is their poverty.#An observation rather than a moral evaluation of wealth and poverty; but cf. 18:10–11.
16The labor of the just leads to life,
the gains of the wicked, to futility.#Wages are a metaphor for reward and punishment. The Hebrew word does not mean “sin” here but falling short, a meaning that is frequent in Proverbs. Cf. Rom 6:1: “But what profit did you get then from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.” #e. [10:16] Prv 11:18–19.
17Whoever follows instruction is in the path to life,
but whoever disregards reproof goes astray.#f. [10:17] Prv 15:10.
18Whoever conceals hatred has lying lips,
and whoever spreads slander is a fool.
19Where words are many, sin is not wanting;
but those who restrain their lips do well.#g. [10:19] Prv 17:27; Sir 20:17; Jas 1:19.
20Choice silver is the tongue of the just;
the heart of the wicked is of little worth.
21The lips of the just nourish many,
but fools die for want of sense.#The wise by their words maintain others in life whereas the foolish cannot keep themselves from sin that leads to premature death.
22It is the Lord’s blessing that brings wealth,#h. [10:22] Sir 11:22.
and no effort can substitute for it.#Human industry is futile without divine approval; cf. Ps 127:1–2; Mt 6:25–34.
23Crime is the entertainment of the fool;
but wisdom is for the person of understanding.
24What the wicked fear will befall them,
but the desire of the just will be granted.
25When the tempest passes, the wicked are no more;
but the just are established forever.
26As vinegar to the teeth, and smoke to the eyes,
are sluggards to those who send them.
27Fear of the Lord prolongs life,
but the years of the wicked are cut short.#i. [10:27] Prv 3:2; 4:10; 9:11; 14:27.
28The hope of the just brings joy,
but the expectation of the wicked perishes.#The thought is elliptical. Joy comes from fulfillment of one’s plans, which the righteous can count on. The opposite of joy thus is not sadness but unfulfillment (“perishes”).
29The Lord is a stronghold to those who walk honestly,
downfall for evildoers.
30The just will never be disturbed,
but the wicked will not abide in the land.
31The mouth of the just yields wisdom,
but the perverse tongue will be cut off.
32The lips of the just know favor,
but the mouth of the wicked, perversion.#The word used for “favor” is favor shown by an authority (God or the king), not favor shown by a peer. A righteous person’s words create a climate of favor and acceptance, whereas crooked words will not gain acceptance. In Hebrew as in English, straight and crooked are metaphors for good and wicked.