Throughout the series of the book of Proverbs, Proverbs 1-9 are essentially introductory lectures. They help to establish where the Proverbs begin in chapter 10, verse 1. The ancient near easterners taught more structurally. So these are more than a collection of quotations that could be more organized. Keep in mind, arguably the wisest man on the planet at that time, Solomon puts Proverbs together.
Our present generation is interested in something other than what older Christians say. Yet, there’s a lot of wisdom to be found. Proverbs 9:12 reminds us, “If you are wise, you are wise for yourself, And if you scoff, you alone will bear it.”
Bible students/scholars organize and categorize the collection around themes. This does not suggest Solomon needed to organize the collection in a certain way; instead, they are attempting to get their arms around recurring themes. It is clear to any careful reader that the form of the material changes. The lectures are gone; we enter the staccato of sayings.
To explain this tool, we look to Proverbs 10:1. “A wise son makes a father glad, but a foolish son is a grief to his mother.” We’ve gone from wise to foolish, glad to grief, and father to mother. The parallels are two different things.
A great example here is Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling.” Pride and a haughty spirit are similar, as are destruction and stumbling. They are comparable rather than juxtaposed against one another.
Wisdom Affects Others (Proverbs 10:1)
Scripture is always deliberate. As the Proverbs begin, Solomon’s first parallel is about a child and his impact on his parents. The simple and the naive in Proverbs are like a white marker board. They have yet to embrace wisdom. The fool and the mocker are not irredeemable, but they will likely not embrace wisdom.
Derek Kinder says, “Your choice may be lonely; It cannot be private. This fact throws its own light on the problem of unmerited suffering, by its reminder that without the ties (at their best, the love) by which people are members of each other, life would be less painful, but immeasurably poorer.” Please pay attention to his first comment. When you make a decision, whether you follow after wisdom or wickedness, it may be lonely, but it’s not private.
Righteousness Always Profits (Proverbs 10:2)
In Proverbs, ill-gotten gains are hollow. They have no staying power, but righteousness not only has staying power, it is eternal. Unfortunately, our experiences in the Christian life rarely align with the truth of scripture. You can do the right thing in the right way and still have a disastrous outcome. God’s not a God of confusion. God’s word is clear. So don’t let your experience drive you.
The Lord Satisfies The Righteous (Proverbs 10:3)
This verse is antithetical—the righteous versus the wicked and hunger versus craving. The Lord is the one who satisfies your needs, not what you put in your belly. This is a big concept for most Christians. You must determine if you are satisfied in the person and work of Jesus Christ. One way to paraphrase this verse is to say God will forever fill the righteous, but the wicked will forever crave.
If you’re walking with Christ, He will fill you. Not just your belly but your life, heart, emotion, desire, and longings will be in check. Your anger toward what happened to you that was unjust will be in the right place. You’ll be filled, but the wicked will forever crave.
Diligence Produces Wealth (Proverbs 10:4)
We have a Proverb/ truism that diligence, including work, produces wealth compared to the negligent hand, slack, sloth, lazy, and lax. The negligent hand is also referred to when discussing the idea of deceit.
Diligence Demonstrates Wisdom (Proverbs 10:5)
This verse is antithetical parallelism. Solomon contrasts the one who sleeps versus the one who works. If you work hard in the right season, you’re smart. If you’re lazy, you’re not smart. Western culture does not like to use the word shameful, but when we look at the remedy to a foolish action, we can have a fruitful discussion.
Righteousness Brings Blessing (Proverbs 10:6)
This verse contrasts rewards and what happens when you live one way versus another. Here, we see that wickedness is deceitful, deceptive, and conceals violent plans. The word here for violence in Hebrew is Hamas. It is likely connected to the idea of terrorism, which is often called Hamas because it’s about violence.
Reputations (Proverbs 10:7)
Interesting construct: the blessed and the wicked’s memory are contrasted: the memory of the righteous is blessed, while the name of the wicked rots. You cannot buy your reputation, but you can soil it. The memory of the righteous is blessed in that as we recall their lives, the words are good. The memory of the wicked is not forgotten; rather, it rots away. As the Proverbs begin, there are new lessons to learn.
inContext Interview with Dr. Abner Chou
Catch up on the rest of the Proverbs series here.
Find all Proverbs resources here.