Reflections on Proverbs 10

Chapters 19 urges us to to choose the way of wisdom for our lives ... resulting in righteous behaviour.

From Chapter 10 onwards, Proverbs laid out wisdom for various life situations in the form of couplets ... the second line contrasts, compares, or completes the idea expressed in the first line.

Many of the couplets seem to stand on their own, unrelated to what immediately precedes or follows in the context.

10:1,4-5 "A wise son makes a father glad" (10:1) but who is a wise son? A son who gathers in summer acts wisely (10:5).

10:5 advocates gathering/storing/saving in time of plenty in anticipation of time of need ... when it is time for work, work hard; don't be a slacker! (10:4)
10:2-3 "Ill-gotten gains do not profit" (10:2); what are ill-gotten gains? Wealth obtained illegally or by improper means (e.g., by violence in 1:11-14)

Another reason not to resort to ill-gotten gains ... "The LORD will not allow the righteous to hunger" (10:3). However, this does not nullify the need for action ... for diligence as "the hand of the diligent makes rich" (10:4). Faith (in God) and works go hand in hand.
10:6,11 What two things are being contrasted and how are they different?

(1) The righteous - recipients of blessings - on the head (obvious to all?)
(2) The wicked - source of violence - the mouth (concealing what's in the heart)

(3) The mouth of the righteous - a fountain of life ... bubbling up to the surface ... not hidden ... it refreshes and nourishes instead of destroying (10:11)
10:7 We may have heard a eulogy during a funeral/memorial service ... where praise was given in tribute to the deceased. What's important is not what is said but what is thought. What would our family and friends think of us? What would be their memories of us ... happy or detestable? The memory of the righteous is blessed but the name of the wicked will rot. What will you leave behind?
10:8,17 The wise will accept commands, instructions and rebuke hence (implied?) will stand firm but the babbling fool (who loves to talk and not listen?) will be thrown down.

He who heeds instruction is on the path of life (10:17 c.f., 6:23).
10:9-10 He who walks with integrity will be secured ... nothing to hide therefore no fear of being found out ... securely ≡ safely ... will not be thrown down. But he who perverts his ways (instead of walking the straight path) ... lives with insecurity (implied?) ... afraid that his unrighteousness will be laid bare ... and it will be!

He who winks with his eye ... indicating insincere speech and evil intentions (c.f., 6:12-14) ... causes trouble. What kind of trouble? Strife?? Also will be thrown down (c.f., 6:15) just like a babbling fool??
On the lips of the discerning, wisdom is found,
but on the back of the fool, a rod is found.

The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver (10:20) because wisdom is found on it! Wisdom found there can feed many others (10:21) ... wisdom is not for oneself (c.f., 9:12) but for the benefit of others as well.

The mouth of the wicked brings forth what is perverted (10:32) and the perverted tongue will be cut out (10:31) ... Physically cut out?? There will be punishment?? (c.f., 10:16b)
10:14 Wise men (listen and) store up knowledge,
but fools babble incessantly ... ruin is at hand (c.f., 10:19)
10:15 Wealth is a good thing - it can be a fortress against the needs and storms of life.
Caveat (18:11) - don't think that the walls of a fortress cannot be broken down!

The ruin of the poor is their poverty - no way out ... except by hard work (10:4).

I can support Singapore PM Lee's idea of "workfare" - Workfare is based on the idea that the work ethic is the best way to help the poor. The majority who can work, must work. They must not become dependent on the government for handouts. Welfare should be restricted only to those who really cannot work and do not have family support (c.f., 1 Tim 5:8).
10:16 The wages of the righteous is life,
but the wages of the wicked is punishment ... death?? (c.f., Rom 6:23)
10:18 He who conceals hatred has lying lips ... Does this encourage one to be transparent about one's hatred??

Hate leads to lying (about one's true feelings) and spreading slander (about the person who is the object of our hate).
10:19 Reminds me of "It is better to be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt."

Heed the wisdom on "restraining one's lips" (10:19b) especially when you are angry!
10:22 Wealth without sorrow - a blessing from the LORD. But what about wealth with sorrow?? Job had great wealth and much suffering!
10:23 How is doing wickedness like a sport to a fool? Fun and enjoyable?? In the same way, a man of understanding finds great pleasure in wisdom.
These proverbs are saying that the LORD will reward the righteous and punish the wicked and that the righteous will dwell in security and with hope.
10:26 How is a lazy "messenger" like vinegar to the teeth (or smoke to the eyes) of the "sender"? Here "messenger" is probably anyone who has been given a task to carry out.

Here's an exercise to feel the impact of this proverb. Go and brush your teeth with some toothpaste. Done that? Now cut an orange and eat a slice. A lazy person who did not carry out his assigned task leaves a "bitter taste/feeling" in the "sender" just like the orange did to your teeth. Both orange juice and vinegar are acidic.

Like smoke to the eyes ... a lazy messenger irritates.
10:27 The fear of the LORD adds length to life ... a repetition of earlier proverbs (3:2 and 9:11)

Alan's Gleanings | Copyright © October 2005 by Alan S.L. Wong

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