Chapter 20: Proverbs
Prov:1:1: The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel;
Prov:1:2: To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding;
Prov:1:3: To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity;
Prov:1:4: To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.
Prov:1:5: A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:
Prov:1:6: To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.
These first verses of the book of Proverbs act as an introduction. They tell us that the purpose of this book is to give instruction in wisdom, justice, judgment, equity, subtlety, discretion, and understanding. Not only will "dark sayings" be presented, but also their interpretation.
This is a noble undertaking, and we look forward to the knowledge which this promises to impart to us!
Prov:1:7: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
In what way could fear be knowledge? Fear stems from the basic instinct of self-preservation. It is an instinct possessed by even the lowest forms of animal life. Is this truly the basis of all knowledge? Is knowledge then, simply being aware of what can harm one, and then avoiding that source of potential harm?
One could equally argue that the fear of an imaginary being is the beginning of cowardice rather than knowledge.
Prov:1:20: Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets:
Prov:1:21: She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying,
Prov:1:26: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh;
Prov:1:27: When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you.
Prov:1:28: Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me:
Prov:1:29: For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD:
Here, people are depicted as being filled with fear, yet wisdom laughs at them. So, it isn't just any fear in general which is the "beginning of wisdom"; it is only "fear of the Lord". To our disappointment, it is already becoming evident that the writer has simply equated fear of his god with "wisdom". Our high hopes for gaining all the wonderful things described in his introduction have thus already crashed. For, as we've seen, this god of the Bible has little to do with wisdom, justice, judgment, equity, subtlety, discretion, or understanding.
Prov:3:5: Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
Prov:3:6: In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
Based on the promises made in his introduction, I thought "Solomon" was going to impart his great wisdom to us in this book. But here he told us to ignore our own understanding, and simply trust that his god will direct us. What this amounts to is telling us to act without thinking, hoping that Solomon's god will somehow cause us to perform the correct action.
Of course, if we really want to hear what "god's will" is for us, a whole industry of priests, clergy, and televangelists is ready and eager to tell us exactly what their god wants us to do. Unfortunately, their pronouncements on "god's will" usually center on making donations to themselves. It was no different in Solomon's day: most of the Bible reveals that "god's word" centered on providing the priests with an ample supply of food offerings.
Prov:4:5: Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.
If I "get understanding" won't it be my understanding? Yet, "Solomon" previously instructed us not to trust our own understanding (Prov. 3:5). So, why bother to get something we have been told not to use?
Prov:5:18: Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.
Prov:5:19: Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love.
Here, "Solomon" instructed husbands to treat their wives like non-human animals, to be made use of in "satisfying" themselves. Perhaps he thought to keep them as "pets" rather than as fellow humans with equal rights in the marriage partnership.
Prov:6:1: My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger,
Prov:6:2: Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth.
What this seems to be saying is that one should never be "snared" into backing a friend. If your best friend ever comes to you and asks you to co-sign a loan, you now have a perfect excuse not to help your friend: just whip out your Bible and flip it open to this page! Naturally, this implies that you don't trust your friend, and since friendships are built on trust, you may lose your friend forever -- but at least you will have followed the Bible.
Prov:6:16: These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
Prov:6:17: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
Prov:6:18: An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
Prov:6:19: A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.
If the above is true, then the Lord must've hated Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Samson, Jephthah, David, and Solomon. All of these men either lied or shed innocent blood (or both).
Prov:9:7: He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame: and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot.
Shame on the writers of the book of Proverbs, then, for they reproved scorners:
Prov:1:22: How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?
Prov:1:23: Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.
Prov:10:1: The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.
This book started out claiming to be "the proverbs of Solomon." So, why is that in chapter 10 of "the proverbs of Solomon" it suddenly says "The proverbs of Solomon" as if in contradistinction to all that had gone before? Could this represent the work of two or more different authors, each having claimed to have the "true proverbs of Solomon"? We have seen in other books of the Bible where the compilers simply included everything they could lay their hands on, whether the writings contradicted each other or not. So, it's likely that this is what happened in this book as well.
Prov:10:7: The memory of the just is blessed: but the name of the wicked shall rot.
Does anyone remember a man by the name of Adolph Hitler? How about Attila the Hun or Stalin? It seems the names of these wicked men have not rotted away. In fact, they are remembered more than most of their "just" contemporaries.
Prov:10:12: Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.
If "covering" sins is equivalent to having them forgiven, then this is yet another way to "salvation" other than believing in Jesus: simply show love! Unfortunately, the Bible contradicts itself by insisting that belief in Jesus is the only way to salvation (Acts 4:12).
Prov:10:13: In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found: but a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding.
This would seem to indicate approval for physically abusing those who lack "understanding". As this book has already amply demonstrated, the writers equated "understanding" with a fear of their tribal god. Maybe this explains why the Israelites felt no compunction when beating the unbelieving "heathens" to death.
Prov:10:19: In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.
And just how many words are there in the Bible? A "multitude"?
Prov:10:27: The fear of the LORD prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.
Here is one of those Biblical statements which should be easy to prove. Has anyone ever done a study of the life spans of those who fear the god of the Bible compared to "wicked" people? If the above verse is true, there should be a clear correlation between this particular phobia and old age.
Prov:12:8: A man shall be commended according to his wisdom: but he that is of a perverse heart shall be despised.
Prov:12:9: He that is despised, and hath a servant, is better than he that honoureth himself, and lacketh bread.
This tells us that a man with a perverse heart shall be despised, but that it is better to be despised (i.e. "perverse") than to be honorable and poor!
Prov:6:30: Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry;
So, the book of Proverbs has a very clear message: when you are hungry it is better to be dishonorable and have a "perverse heart" and steal than to go hungry and lack a servant.
In my opinion, the above is not a very ethical stance. I think it would be more ethical for a hungry person to work or beg than to steal. But my opinion is evidently quite at odds with this book of the Bible.
Prov:12:10: A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.
This is pretty ironic. The Law of Moses has resulted in one of the cruelest forms of death for countless animals in the "kosher" trade. Instead of being instantly rendered unconscious by a captive-bolt pistol prior to slaughter, the "kosher" animal victim is first restrained, and then its throat is cut. The animal is left to stand there, terrified and helpless, as it slowly bleeds to death.
In addition, under the Mosaic Law, countless animals were senselessly killed just to provide a "savory smell" with which to propitiate the tribal god Jehovah.
Ex:29:16: And thou shalt slay the ram, and thou shalt take his blood, and sprinkle it round about upon the altar.
Ex:29:17: And thou shalt cut the ram in pieces, and wash the inwards of him, and his legs, and put them unto his pieces, and unto his head.
Ex:29:18: And thou shalt burn the whole ram upon the altar: it is a burnt offering unto the LORD: it is a sweet savour, an offering made by fire unto the LORD.
Prov:12:21: There shall no evil happen to the just: but the wicked shall be filled with mischief.
Is that a promise? So every man, woman, and child who suffered in the evil of the Holocaust must've been unjust if this verse of the Bible is true! Do you really believe that?
Prov:13:10: Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.
I think most sociologists are of the opinion that there are many sources of contention other than just pride. For example: let's say that the government wants to tear down your house to put a freeway through (in order to stimulate the economy). There could be many reasons why you would not want to be forced out of your house. There would be contention over this issue, though pride would not be the cause of it on either side.
Prov:13:13: Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed: but he that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded.
I despise "the word". I have not been destroyed (at least not yet). I personally know of people who "feareth the commandment" but whose bodies are slowly being destroyed by disease -- they have received no "reward" for their fear. Therefore, reality makes it plain that the above verse is a lie.
Prov:13:22: A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children: and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just.
If this is true, how do we account for such dynasties as the Astors? John Jacob Astor made his fortune as a "slum landlord", yet he passed his wealth on to his children. I personally know of "good men" who lost the family farm during financial hardships: they had nothing to pass on to their children. These facts of life should not have been possible if the above Bible verse were true.
Prov:13:24: He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.
I have mixed feelings on this one. Many psychologists will tell you that corporeal punishment of one's children is always a very bad idea. I agree in theory, but I have seen the types of brats this policy seems to produce. Having said that, I hasten to add that I think this opinion is probably an oversimplification; brats are often produced when lack of corporeal punishment is accompanied by total permissiveness, and it could be the latter which is really the cause. I really don't know enough about this to say.
In any case, the above Bible verse has led to a justification of child abuse for thousands of years. If one does believe in corporeal punishment, the use of a "rod" is going too far. "Sparing the rod" does not mean that a parent hates their child; it means that they refuse to engage in child abuse even when it is sanctioned by the Bible. I disagree with the Bible because I believe that one can certainly love one's children while being on either side of the issue of corporeal punishment.
Prov:13:25: The righteous eateth to the satisfying of his soul: but the belly of the wicked shall want.
This would imply that every hungry person in the world is wicked (because if they were righteous -- this verse assures us -- they would have enough to eat). This would give us a convenient excuse for not helping them; according to this verse in the Bible they must be wicked, and hence are getting exactly what they deserve.
Prov:14:2: He that walketh in his uprightness feareth the LORD: but he that is perverse in his ways despiseth him.
Is it really "perverse" to despise a mass murderer? Does "fear" really make a person upright?
Prov:14:5: A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies.
Is this a sample of the great wisdom promised to us in the introduction of this Bible book (reputedly by Solomon: the "wisest man who ever lived")? 'A faithful witness tells the truth, and a false witness lies'. What a revelation! Now, who among us could've figured this out for themselves? What a gap in knowledge this wise Bible verse has filled!
Prov:14:15: The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.
Amen to that!
Prov:15:3: The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.
In the state in which I live it is a crime for someone who has been certified in first-aid to walk away from the scene of an accident without rendering assistance. This law simply enforces an ethical principle: it is wrong to witness evil befalling a person without trying to help as best as you are able.
In the case of the "supreme being" there could be no question of ability to render aid. The above verse tells us that the lord's eyes are everywhere, and they behold evil. Yet, evil often befalls people and no aid is given. If the above verse is true, then the god of the Bible is evidently content to watch women being raped, children being abducted, political prisoners being tortured, school children being mowed down by gunfire, and families burning to death in house fires, without feeling any desire to intervene. Yet we are expected to believe that this god of the Bible is the epitome of mercy and love!
Prov:15:27: He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts shall live.
This is not a verse you are likely to find quoted very often around Christmas.
Prov:15:29: The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.
How can the lord hear the prayer of the righteous when:
Rom:3:10: As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
Prov:16:4: The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.
Theologians will say I'm misinterpreting this verse, but it seems to me that it is clearly stating that the lord created wicked people in order that there would be a "day of evil" for the lord to enjoy!
I think the theologians have a lot of explaining to do on this one. I will leave it up to you to decide if their attempts to exonerate the god of the Bible sound like the truth or like the pathetic rationalizations of desperate men.
Prov:16:6: By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil.
"Fear of the lord" has not historically kept men from evil. Here are just three examples:
In the Middle Ages, when Christianity held secular power, people were tortured and were burned at the stake for having slightly different opinions on the interpretation of the Bible. These actions were instigated and condoned by the leaders of the Christian religion. Why did they commit such unspeakable evil? It was because they "feared the lord"! Their stated intention was to save the "heretics" from an eternity of torture at the hands of their fearsome god by submitting them to a few days of torture designed to force them to accept the "true religion"!
Why were the "holy wars" fought? It was because people "feared the lord" (and his "visible representative" the Pope). If you read any unbiased account of these "crusades" you will see that much evil was perpetrated on innocent people (especially Jews) all along the route to the "holy land" by the Christian soldiers who "feared the lord".
Why do Jehovah's Witness parents let their children die when a blood transfusion could save their lives? You can blame it on stupidity, brainwashing, misinterpreting the Bible, or fundamentalism, but the root cause of all of this is that they "fear the lord".
Prov:16:10: A divine sentence is in the lips of the king: his mouth transgresseth not in judgment.
This verse has been used to justify the notion of "the divine right of kings". Taken literally, it means that the king acts as God's earthly representative: his judgments are "divine" and cannot be mistaken! But such a view is impossible to reconcile with the facts of history.
Prov:16:33: The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.
This is exactly the sort of thinking which led to trials by ordeal. Since the Lord would determine the outcome of the casting of lots, it was natural to assume that he would miraculously indicate the guilt or innocence of a person by protecting the innocent from harm. So, to determine if a person was guilty of stealing, a coin would be thrown into a boiling caldron. The accused was then forced to reach in and extract the coin. If he suffered burns on his arm then he was guilty: if his arm remained unburned he was innocent. This was standard operating procedure for centuries in the legal courts of Christendom! Witch drownings and duels were two more of the many sad results of applying the principle of this verse. Today we see it in people with poverty-level incomes who buy lottery tickets and pray for a winning number.
Prov:17:8: A gift is as a precious stone in the eyes of him that hath it: whithersoever it turneth, it prospereth.
Here, we are told that a gift is a precious treasure. Earlier, we were instructed to "hate" gifts (Pr. 15:27). So, which is it?
Prov:18:22: Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.
The above sentiment is in complete contradiction to Paul's writings:
1Cor:7:1: Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.
1Cor:7:8: I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.
1Cor:7:27: Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.
1Cor:7:28: But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.
So, "Solomon" tells us that finding a wife is a good thing which brings the lord's favor. But Paul tells us that it is good not to touch a woman, that one should not seek a wife, and that those who do marry will experience -- not a blessing but -- "trouble"!
Since Christians claim that the Bible is the guidebook for our lives, let's put it to use. Let's say I'm a young man or woman trying to decide if I should get married. I turn to the Bible for guidance, and I happen to read this proverb, and the above verses of First Corinthians. How would this guide me? Should I marry or not?
This is another example of how the Bible fails miserably as a guidebook. All it can do is add confusion. However, unscrupulous people have found it to be a powerful manipulative tool! Parents who want their children to get married can simply refer to the Proverb and ignore Paul. Those who want to convince their children to stay single can quote Paul, and ignore the Proverb. This is really how the Bible has been used throughout history. On a larger scale it has been a welcome tool of the powerful, who have used it in the same way to manipulate the common people.
Prov:22:15: Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.
So, according to the Bible, if your children do something foolish, rather than verbally instructing them, you should beat them with a rod. Does this sound like an ethical, emotionally healthy way to bring up your children?
Prov:22:16: He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want.
We have already discussed the example of John Jacob Astor. He is one example of a man who oppressed the poor to increase his riches. He surely did not "come to want". He died a wealthy man and passed his fortune down to his children. So, surely this verse of the Bible is in error.
Prov:22:22: Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate:
The writer probably didn't mean this the way it came out: 'don't rob the poor, because they're poor.' In other words, one wouldn't get much from robbing a poor person: the rich are the ones to rob! I am joking; I don't believe the writer really intended to convey this message anymore than he meant to imply that one should oppress the afflicted outside the gate; it's just that it could be taken that way, and we needed a little comic relief.
Prov:23:13: Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.
Prov:23:14: Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.
This is false. Children have died from parental beatings delivered by their Christian parents. A case of this happened recently in a family of Jehovah's Witnesses who took this verse as God's unerring word.
Do you still maintain that this book is the moral guidebook for our lives?
Prov:24:17: Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth:
Prov:24:18: Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him.
One is not to rejoice at the adversity of one's enemies. But this is not out of empathy for the suffering of a fellow human being. It is only for fear that such rejoicing would displease the lord and he would stop visiting his wrath on your enemy!
"Solomon's" instruction to not rejoice under such circumstances is in direct contradiction to another verse in the Bible:
Ps:58:10: The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.
So, which is it? Are we to rejoice or not? Is the Bible our guidebook or not?
Prov:24:21: My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change:
Prov:24:22: For their calamity shall rise suddenly; and who knoweth the ruin of them both?
Can you imagine such verses being read from the pulpits of the American colonies when revolution against British rule was being considered? If the Bible were truly the foundation of the United States of America (as some conservative Christians claim), then this country would still be an English colony!
People need to question and evaluate their leaders. It makes no sense for a multitude of people to suffer at the hands of a despot or a corrupt aristocracy. The American and especially the French revolution were necessary reactions to oppressive governments. But, according to the above Bible verses, the people should've continued to suffer their injustices in silence. No wonder those in power have encouraged the spread of Christianity; it helps them keep their positions of power!
Prov:25:1: These are also proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied out.
Here, we evidently come to a third book posing as the writings of "Solomon". If these were truly "copied out" by King Hezekiah's anonymous "men", then at least 254 years would've passed between Solomon's having written these proverbs and these men having copied them out. This would be equivalent to my claiming to have just today found Benjamin Franklin's original Poor Richard's Almanacs (assuming no one had ever heard of them from their writing in the mid 1700's to today). You can bet that such a claim would undergo intense scientific scrutiny. Such methods were not known in King Hezekiah's time, of course. Not that anyone cared; back then authors were always signing some famous or legendary person's name to their works.
Prov:26:3: A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool's back.
Abuse animals and men. Is this more of the good moral advice from the Bible?
Prov:26:4: Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.
Prov:26:5: Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.
So, which is it? Are we to answer "a fool according to his folly" or not?
Prov:30:1: The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, even the prophecy: the man spake unto Ithiel, even unto Ithiel and Ucal,
It appears that the "Book of the Proverbs of King Solomon" contains yet a fourth book, and this one is not even claimed to have been written by Solomon. No one knows who this "Agur" was, or why his "words" appear in this book.
Prov:30:2: Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man.
Prov:30:3: I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy.
With such an introduction, why would we care to read what he had to say? Why would we value the writings of a brutish man with no understanding, wisdom, or knowledge of the holy? Why would we include his words in a book known as "God's Word"?
Prov:31:1: The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.
And here we come upon yet a fifth book contained with the book of Proverbs. This one also is not claimed to have been written by Solomon, but rather an Ishmaelite king from northern Arabia. Despite the verse above, it contains no prophecy whatsoever.