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End of Major Solomonic Collection (Proverbs 22:1-16)

51. A Good Name (22:1)


52. Wealth, Poverty and a Prudent Life (22:2-5)

"TYPE: PARALLEL. The structure of this text is as follows:

"On the surface vv. 3,5 both simply state that the wise see and avoid trouble but the ignorant or headstrong plunge into it. In the context of vv. 2,4, however, this text asserts that the failure to spot danger arises precisely from the arrogance of refusal to submit to God" (NAC).

The point of verse 2 is expressed similarly in 29:13. And 22:3 is repeated in 27:12.

Proverbs 22:4 says that the path to the good life—here expressed as "riches and honor and life" (compare "life, righteousness and honor" in 21:21)—is through the fear of God. True riches, of course, does not primarily mean material wealth in the here and now. For some it may include that, and in any case God does provide for the physical comforts of His servants. Ultimately all of God's people will be blessed with co-ownership of the entire universe.

53. Various Proverbs (22:6-16)

"TYPE: INCLUSIO....Verse 6 and 15 (on disciplining children) in parallel with vv. 7 and 16 (on wealth and poverty) form an inclusio for this text of various proverbs.

"Discipline for Children (22:6, 15)" (NAC). The following is from the sidebar titled "Proverbs and Proper Training" in our free booklet Marriage and Family: The Missing Dimension:

"One verse we should consider in dealing with our children is Proverbs 22:6. It appears in the New King James Version as: 'Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.' We can draw an obvious, direct conclusion from this translation—that proper training will pay off in the long run. This is certainly valid.

"It is normal for most children to grow up with, and ultimately adopt, values and standards similar to their parents'—that is, if the parents do a reasonable job of bringing them up. Sometimes, especially when their children are teenagers, parents feel as if they're not getting through. They may wonder whether all their efforts are wasted. But experience shows that if they stick with a good game plan, they will eventually realize the desired results.

"Some Bible scholars offer an alternate explanation for the intent of this verse—that 'the way he should go' refers to each child's ability and potential. The root word for 'way,' they note, also has to do with the inclination of a tree, which can break if one tries to rebend it. They also note that the original Hebrew wording refers to 'his way'—the child's way—rather than 'the way [he should go].'

"With this in mind some would translate the verse, 'Train up a child according to his bent, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.' In other words, wise parents should recognize the aptitudes and interests of each child and train him to best use his abilities to reach his potential.

"Whether this is the intended meaning, it represents another valid approach. Parents should enable their children to develop their natural talents and abilities. Too often a father or mother will attempt to force children to do the same things they do or to be what they are.

"Sometimes parents want to live vicariously through their children as they push them to achieve what they wanted to do but couldn't. We need to recognize our children's distinct God-given abilities, then work to help them fulfill their potential

"Still others understand the latter translation to mean that if we train up a child in his own way—that is, through continually allowing him to do whatever he wants and to always get his own way—that he will be stuck in that wrong way of thinking and living for the rest of his life. The verse would then be a warning to parents against coddling and failing to discipline. This concept, too, is certainly valid" (p. 25).

The latter idea corresponds well to verse 15 (compare 29:15). Yet as explained in our introduction, verses sanctioning the rod of correction do not mean to say that a parent should employ corporal punishment as a primary means of discipline.

"Reaping What You Sow (22:8-9)" (NAC). This important principle, the negative side of which is given in verse 8, is expressed similarly elsewhere in Scripture (Hosea 8:7; Galatians 6:7-8; compare Job 4:8, where this true principle was misapplied to Job). On the positive side, Proverbs 22:9 in this context corresponds to 2 Corinthians 9:6-11.

"Words and What Comes of Them (22:10-14)....Five character types here represent five ways speech can be used. The mocker engenders quarrels (v. 10), the pure impresses even a king (v. 11), the liar [or faithless person speaking contrary to true knowledge] is undone by God (v. 12), the shiftless produces only a stream of improbable excuses (v. 13), and the prostitute [or immoral woman] uses language for seduction and entrapment (v. 14)" (NAC)—the latter harkening back to warnings in the prologue of Proverbs, where an immoral woman also represents folly in a more general sense (compare 2:16; 9:13-18; see also 23:27-28).

The mocker or scoffer (22:10) creates an uncomfortable environment for everyone around him and is also a bad influence on others. If he will not reform, expulsion from the community—a congregation, club or workplace in a modern context—is the recommended course. This will bring peace to the rest of the group, serve as a warning to others against such behavior, and possibly help the offender himself to realize the magnitude of his problem resulting in repentance.

Verse 11 implies that deception and flattery get one only so far in achieving a position of trust. Eventually such a person will be revealed for what he is. A decent, honest person will be trusted for his record of integrity. Haman and Mordecai in the book of Esther exemplify this well.

Verse 13, similarly expressed in 26:13, gives some comic relief, illustrating, as noted above, how lazy people invent excuses to avoid doing whatever needs to be done.

"Creditor and Debtor (22:7, 16)" (NAC). Verse 7 observes that debt can be a form of slavery. In fact, failure to repay debt in ancient Israel could obligate a person to suffer indentured servitude. This is part of the reason other verses caution against becoming surety for others. Verse 7 may bear on the meaning of verse 16. This last proverb in Solomon's major collection concerns social justice (as does the first proverb in the next section, verses 22-23), but the exact wording of verse 16 is disputed. Some versions, including the New King James, show an oppressor of the poor for self-enrichment and one who gives to the rich both coming to poverty. Oppressors will indeed come to poverty in the end (compare verses 22-23). Yet other translations take coming to poverty in verse 16 as referring to only the one giving to the rich.

In the latter vein, some see in verse 16 an abusive creditor-debtor relationship in this paraphrased sense: The rich oppress the poor [through such means as entangling them in high-interest loans] to make themselves even richer, / while the poor who are stuck making loan payments to the rich are made even poorer. This interpretation offers a sensible explanation of "giving" to the rich, the reason for which otherwise seems unclear. Some have suggested a futile attempt to buy the favor of the rich, but who would do this to the point of impoverishment? "Giving" here makes more sense as a matter of obligation—and this fits debt repayment. Such wisdom is not meant to totally rule out loans. There is an appropriate context for lending and borrowing if the lending is fair and the borrower is well able to repay, given reasonable consideration of the future. Yet no such arrangement should be entered into lightly.

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