Thursday, August 21, 2014

Proverbs: a Book Report

The following is from a work-in-progress called "The Bible: a Book Report" in which I read each book of the Bible, summarize it in my own words, and occasionally give some commentary.  I will also include biblical artwork by famous artists.

The book of Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings (aka, proverbs), which are traditionally attributed to King Solomon.  For this report, I began by trying to paraphrase each chapter.  However, because the proverbs get quite repetitive, I ended up cutting out repetition as I went along, and instead emphasized what I felt were the most unique ideas of each chapter. This is why, in my report, some "chapters" (particularly toward the end) are very short. 

"King Solomon" by Gustave Dore


These are the proverbs of Solomon, the son of David, the king of Israel.  The purpose of these proverbs is to teach wisdom, justice, and equality.  To gain this wisdom, you must first fear God.  Fools don’t like to learn.  My son, listen to your father’s advice.  It will give you wisdom.  My son, don’t follow the ways of sinners.  If they say, let’s go hurt some innocent people, and steal, don’t follow them.  They only hurt themselves.  That’s how it goes with greed—eventually it takes away from those who seek to gain.  Wisdom is like a woman who cries out in cities, “How long will you act like fools?  Listen to me, and you will avoid calamity.  Be a good learner, or things will go bad for you.  Listen to me, and things will go well.”


My son, listen to me, try with all your heart to understand, seek wisdom more than riches, and you will find God, who is the source of all wisdom, and your life will be better.  You will avoid the pitfalls of sinners.  You will avoid the wiles of strangers, who will make you falter and eventually die.  Be a good man, live a righteous life, so you may have a full life.  Because wicked men will suffer and die.


My son, remember the law and the commandments, and keep them.  They will bring you long life and peace.  Remember to be merciful and truthful.  Trust in God, and follow His commandments.  Be humble.  Don’t consider yourself wise—trust in God.  It will bring you good health.  Remember to give back to God, the first part of your income, and you will actually be more prosperous.  Don’t get mad when God punishes you for doing wrong.  God corrects people he loves.  Wisdom brings happiness, way more than material wealth.  The wise man will live long and prosper.  He will find peace.  Wisdom is like a tree of life.  With wisdom, God created the universe.  My son, be wise, and you will find life and safety.  You will sleep well, and not be afraid.  God will give you confidence.  Be good to people, and generous.  Don’t hurt your neighbors.  Don’t be envious of those with a lot of power, because people like that tend to oppress people.  God gives his grace to humble people.  Wise people will be vindicated, fools will live in shame.


Listen up, my children.  I’m teaching you things my father taught me.  This wisdom is tried and true.  Avoid violence.  The way of the just is a shining light.  The way of the wicked is darkness.  Find wisdom, find life.  Don’t speak falsely.  Be a straight-shooter.


Son, listen up. Just as wisdom may be compared to a woman speaking virtue, foolishness may also be compared to a prostitute speaking lies.  Often, the lies sound good, but they lead to injury and death.  My children, don’t listen to that prostitute.  She will be your total ruin.  Wisdom may be compared to your virtuous young wife.  Enjoy her.  Enjoy her breasts.  She is ravishingly beautiful, and she loves you as much as you love her.  With such a beautiful, loving wife, why would you consider going to a prostitute?  Enjoy real love, not fake substitutes.


My son, don’t cheat your neighbor.  Don’t cheat your friends.  If you borrow money, pay it back right away.  Don’t be lazy.  Consider the ant, who works so diligently.  Laziness will lead to poverty.  Don’t speak falsely.  There are seven things that God really hates: arrogance, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises evil things, feet that run to mischief, a false witness who speaks lies, and a gossiper who sows discord among friends and family.  Listen to my words, my son.  They are like a lamp to light your way.  Don’t sleep with your friend’s wife.  Don’t steal.  Don’t live in jealousy.


My son, listen to this wisdom.  Avoid the prostitute of folly, as enticing as she seems.  That is the way of death, and many men have fallen.  


Instead, listen to the voice of wisdom.  She cries out in the city, “Listen up, fools!  Listen to words of truth and goodness.  It’s actually not that complicated.  Be humble, instead of arrogant.  The humble king is the good king.  Wisdom is ancient, existing before the creation of the universe.  It is eternal.  Those who find wisdom find life.  Those who do not, find death.”


People who are wise take criticism well.  Foolish people don’t.  Wisdom is sacred.


A wise son makes his father happy.  A foolish son makes his mother suffer.  If you gain by doing evil, you gain nothing.  If you gain by doing good, you do well.  Wise people are not lazy.  They work hard.  The wise man gains blessing.  The foolish man incites violence.  A good man is remembered with fondness.  A bad man is remembered with scorn.  The wise man speaks, and his words bring life.  The fool speaks, and his words bring violence and harm.  Hate begets hate.  Love begets love.  


Deal fairly with everyone.  Don’t be a hypocrite.  When you act with wisdom, the whole community benefits.  Conversely, when you act with malice, the whole community suffers.  People who lack wisdom do not care about their neighbors.  When you do good, it is good for your soul.   Conversely, when you do bad, it troubles you.  Do not be deceitful.  Goodness is life.  Evil is death.  Be liberal and generous with what you have.  Don’t place too much confidence in material wealth.  It is fleeting.


Love knowledge.  Be a good man, and God will favor you.  Take good care of animals.  Work for yourself, and work hard.  Fools tend to think highly of themselves; they are wrong.  Truth and goodness are intimately linked.  So too are lies and evil.  Good words can heal.  Evil words can harm.


Some people are materially rich, but spiritually poor.  Conversely,  some people are materially poor, but spiritually rich.  If you gain by lying, you gain nothing.  Hope deferred makes the heart sick.  When you get what you desire, it’s a tree of life.  Wisdom is a fountain of life.  If you hang out with fools, you will become a fool.


Wise people build things.  Fools tear them down.  Flee from fools.  Wise people are self-aware.  They understand pain, even in laughter.  Fools believe everything they hear.  Wise people do their research.  If you have mercy on poor people, you will be happy.  Fools speak; wise people act.  Be slow to anger, and you will have greater understanding.  If you oppress the poor, you offend God.  If you want to honor God, have mercy on the poor.


When someone speaks to you in anger, respond with gentleness.  God sees everything, both the good and the evil.  God sees even into the hearts of people.  A small, humble meal made with love is better than a rich feast made without love.  It is good to listen to the counsel of others.  The right words spoken at the right time can do immense good.  


We may consider ourselves good, but God knows the truth.  When you act wisely, you will make peace even with your enemies.  People make plans, but God leads us.  Be just in all your dealings.  Wisdom is better than gold and silver.  Pride comes before a fall.  It is much better to be humble. 


If you mock the poor, you mock God.  If you laugh at other’s misfortune, you will experience misfortune.  Grandchildren are the crown of grandparents.  Forgiveness is an essential part of love and friendship.  If you seek to justify evil, or if you condemn good—you offend God.  A friend loves at all times.  A cheerful heart is good medicine.  A broken heart is like illness.  Fools are into bribery.


Let desire be your guide into wisdom.  Before you make up your mind on something, listen to the full story.  Language has the power to kill or to give life.  Some friends are closer to us than brothers.


Kindness is important.


Be careful about drinking too much—it can make you say stupid things and become violent.


God prefers justice to animal sacrifices.  If you cover your ears to the cries of the poor, don’t expect people to help you when you are in need.  Sometimes giving someone a secret gift goes a long way.


It’s better to have a good name than great riches.  Rich and poor, God made them both.


It’s okay to beat children, to correct them.  (I have a problem with this one, for obvious reasons).  


Don’t gloat when your enemy falls.


If your enemy is hungry, give him food.  If his is thirsty, give him water.  


It’s okay to whip fools. (I also have a problem with this one).  


People can make each other better, like iron sharpens iron.


Evil people can become paranoid.  Good people have peace.  Don’t cause good people to go astray.  If you try to hide your sins, it won’t work.  It’s better to be honest.  Don’t harden your heart.  Get-rich-quick schemes are usually a bad idea.  Don’t rob your family.


Avoid flattery.  A good leader listens to the poor.  Don’t be too hasty to speak.  Think about your words.  Don’t hang out with thieves.


Here are some words by a guy named Agur: “I am a fool.  But I found wisdom in God’s words.  I learned to avoid vanity and lies, and to be content with a simple life.  There are still many things I don’t understand, however.  I learned a lot from watching different animals, and how they behave.”


Here are some words by a king named Lemuel that he learned from his mother: “Don’t drink alcohol.  It will impair your judgement.  Judge righteously, and do not neglect the poor and the needy.  Try to find a virtuous wife, who is wise and strong, compassionate and  kind.  Her children will love her, and bless her.”

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