A few proverbs

Thu, 06/09/2007 - 14:54 -- James Oakley

The discerning sets his face toward wisdom, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth. (Proverbs 17:24 )

Ends of the earth becomes a messianic / new covenant church ambition in Isaiah and Acts. We are to set our eyes on the ends of the earth. Yet here, the fool does this, whereas the discerning sets his face towards wisdom. Wisdom trumps ambition. God’s pathway through life wins over strategy. We forget this to our peril. We will take God’s salvation to the ends of the earth only in his way.

The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him. (Proverbs 18:17)

How true that is. Hear an argument. Very persuasive. Until you hear a counter-argument. So the fool will be persuaded by everything he hears. The wise person will seek out other opinions and make an informed and more careful decision on things. So you read a book you like the sound of. How do you respond? (a) Persuaded. (b) Read the critical reviews then decide if you’re persuaded.

When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the LORD. (Proverbs 19:3)

How we love to blame God for the messes we get ourselves in. In amongst all the arguments as to how predestination, freedom, will, and responsibility fit together, we need to remember that human nature will be to pin our mistakes on God. That side of our nature makes sense of a lot of the things that get said in this area

Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence; reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge. (Proverbs 19:25)

Interesting, because Proverbs (as a whole) would say that it’s not worth reproving a scoffer. We risk becoming like him if we do. But here is a reason why it is worth doing – the simple will learn prudence. Taking the trouble to correct those who do nothing but scoff is worthwhile because those who are keen to learn life’s lessons will grow prudent and wise as a result.

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Neil Jeffers's picture


Not having done any work on context or anything else etc., I read 19:25 differently. Could it be a contrast between the two halves? If you strike the scoffer all he'll learn is to keep his trap shut when you're around, whereas if you reprove a man of understanding, he'll actually learn something worthwhile. Therefore, like the rest of Proverbs, rebuking the scoffer is worth little, though it does mean you'll get a quiet life.

Is there any mileage there?

James Oakley's picture
Submitted by James Oakley on

You may be right - we certainly have to take the two halves of the proverb together. The issue is what is meant by "the simple will learn prudence".

Prudence seems to be paralleled to "wisdom" in Proverbs a lot of the time. "A fool will..., but a prudent man will..." Which suggests there is more to prudence than just "knows when to shut up".

"The simple" is a neutral group. In the early chapters of Proverbs, both wisdom and folly are depicted as standing on the street corner and offering guidance to the simple. These are people yet to learn wisdom, and they will learn true or false wisdom depending on the choices they make.

So the suggestion is that these people who are yet to learn how to live one way or the other will learn prudence (as opposed to folly) if the scoffer is struck.

That doesn't settle the question of whether these "simple" ones are (i) the scoffers just mentioned, or (ii) others who are watching. Given the hardness of heart demonstrated by the scoffer elsewhere in Proverbs, I instinctively jumped for (ii), but (i) is possible.

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