Proverbs 14
June 2021

$$^{1}$$The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down. This chapter begins with a proverb about women! And not by juxtaposing men either. It’s important that I remember that wisdom - the desirable quality that so much of proverbs is about - is personified as a woman, like in chapter 9:1, Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn1 her seven pillars.

$$^{2}$$Whoever walks in uprightness fears the Lord, but he who is devious in his ways despises him. Fear is contrasted with despising, so I don’t think this is supposed to fear of violence or victimisation, but more like a feeling of reverence and profound respect. The Lord loves me, and in the previous chapter it says that parents discipline their children.

$$^{4}$$Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox. This is really interesting, the point feels modern. The rural imagery is unusual (to me) but otherwise it feels like something you might find on Instagram. What’s the lesson? Progress is messy, or doing work creates waste, don’t fret about the cleanliness of your manger if you want to have a productive farm..

$$^{5}$$A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness breathes out lies. It’s really important - don’t lie. This is a strong recurring message.

$$^{6}$$A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain, but knowledge is easy for a man of understanding. What does he understand? That scoffing is harmful to the scoffer, and what else?

$$^{7}$$Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge. It would be good to have a clearer understanding of the differences between understanding and knowledge. This proverb is very similar to modern sayings like “You become like the 5 people you spend most time with”. What are the marks of a fool? How do you know if you’re hanging out with a foolish person? They talk a lot, without thinking about their words. They are quick to become angry or emotional. They are not diligent, or consistently hard working. They don’t plan ahead (filling their barns in summer).

$$^{8}$$The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving. It’s wise, and prudent, to discern a course of action, or series of events and decisions. Discern means “recognise or find out”, I tend to use it to “look closely for additional clues about what might happen”. “Prudent” means to “act or demonstrate care and thought for the future”.

$$^{10}$$The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy. This, I think, makes total sense to an old person and seems mysterious to young people. When I first read it I thought it said something like “no-one shares its joy”, but it doesn’t. Only “stranger”. Family and close friends can share joy, but they still won’t be able to know your bitterness. I’d recommend not holding onto bitterness, and finding out how its possible to forgive because of the work that Jesus completed.

$$^{11}$$The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish. Again, don’t be wicked, it will go badly for you. If you are upright and living in a humble, fragile, vulnerable tent you can still flourish.

$$^{12}$$There is a way that seems right to a man, but it’s end is the way to death.This book doesn’t pull any punches. It’s an alarming assertion that someone can think they are doing things “right” but are in fact heading towards death. Don’t rely on your own understanding, figure out what God thinks about a thing.

$$^{13}$$Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief.At the moment I don’t have much experience of grief, but I inevitably will. I know there is sorrow so profound that it becomes physical as well as emotional, and regret that changes what it means to be alive. I guess one of the things this proverb reveals is that its ok to laugh whilst experiencing heart ache, and its natural to feel happy and sad (laughing and heart-aching) at the same time. It’s part of being alive emotionally, and shouldn’t be considered weird or broken.

14 and 15 reiterate themes I’ve noted previously.

$$^{16}$$One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless. It is wise to not do something, even if you could. You don’t have to do/see/visit all the things, even if you could. It’s ok to risk erring on the side of cautious, because if you are not cautious, you are foolish.

I guess that if you are discerning then you can perceive more clearly and what was originally partially known and therefore risky becomes less risky because there are fewer unknowns. Instead of “maybe its wrong” it can become “its almost definitely wrong, or right”

$$^{17}$$A man of quick temper acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated. Don’t lose your temper quickly. Losing it slowly is often more difficult.

$$^{18}$$The simple inherit folly, but the prudent are crowned with knowledge. You’re supposed to aspire to prudence (and more generally, wisdom). You can’t really opt out of this, because if you’re not wise then you’re a fool. If you’re not prudent, you are (too) simple. And bad things happen to fools.

$$^{19}$$The evil bow down before the good, the wicked at the gates of the righteous. It’s surprising to read such bold and simple confidence that justice would prevail. No ifs or maybes or conditions, just a simple resolution at the end.

$$^{20}$$The poor is disliked even by his neighbour, but the rich has many friends. Timeless pragmatism. This proverb is an observation, not a commendation. And look at the next proverb.

$$^{21}$$Whoever despises his neighbour is a sinner, but the blessed is he who is generous to the poor.. Be generous, not just theoretically or in your thoughts, but also in your actions and your money (see 23). Don’t despise people. Who is your neighbour?

$$^{22}$$…Those who devise good meet steadfast love and faithfulness. Steadfast love and faithfulness.

$$^{23}$$In all toil there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. It’s not enough to only talk about loving your neighbour. And don’t be convinced that any hard work you do it totally wasted, apparently it is not.

$$^{24}$$The crown of the wise is their wealth, but the folly of fools brings folly. Really? Does wealth here mean something more or different to financial wealth? (I think I asked this in a previous proverb.) Not all wise people are rich, this is certain. And many biblical heroes were financially impoverished. Is it just a wide generalization?

$$^{25}$$A truthful witness saves lives.. Literally. Though probably without knowing exactly which lives, and at what moment. Investors refer to this as second order consequences.

$$^{26}$$In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have refuge. The best that I can understand this is to read it the same as if it said “In the Lord one has strong confidence..”. What does this proverb mean that my shortened simplified version doesn’t?

$$^{27}$$The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death. Turning away is like physically repenting. A fountain of life is a source of life, and probably health and healing. It is contrasted with death traps. It would be interesting to consider the relative importance of feelings and actions in this book. Is it that feelings lead to actions, but actions are what makes the difference - the judgement between wisdom and foolishness, love and hatred, depends (only) on your actions?

$$^{28}$$In a multitude of people is the glory of a king, but without people a prince is ruined.If a king doesn’t have any subjects, what is he king of? If leaders are not followed by any people, they cannot claim to be leaders.

$$^{29}$$Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.If you have a quick temper then you are responsible for it, and you are endorsing foolishness. Being slow to anger is a sign of wisdom.

$$^{30}$$A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot. Envy is apparently really bad. Tranquility is freedom from disturbance, or being calm. It’s good for your health.

$$^{31}$$Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him. The poor mater, and have dignity, and are worthy of respect, because we are all made.

1. Hewn: chop or cut with an const