These are my notes from reading Proverbs, one of the books in the bible. Almost the entire book is a collection of proverbs - short sayings that are generally true. I presume there is some structure and themes in their arrangement, taking notes should help these become clearer and hopefully also help me remember and apply them better.
The book is split up into chapters, which are quite short sections of the book. It would probably take about a minute or two to read each one. The chapters are further split up into verses. In Proverbs each verse seems to be one sentence.
Numbering the text like this is useful because it lets you refer precisely to a part of the book. Proverbs does have a few headings, but they are too far apart to provide enough structure on their own, I think.
I’ve read this book a couple of times before, and appreciated it even when I could feel that I was missing most of the wisdom in it. The book is quite easy to read - the sentences are short and the analogies seem simple enough.
It’s refreshing to read something that has existed for thousands of year, has withstood criticisms, and feels approachable. It’s practical, despite being old and written in a completely different cultural context. I find this comforting.
Each proverb contrasts justice and injustice using a variety of phrases and images. Pride and humility, integrity and crookedness, righteousness and wickedness.
In the context of these qualities, various situations are described: a false balance, disgrace, wisdom, riches.
The proverbs are somewhat exaggerated, which seems reasonable given that they are self contained single sentences tasked with defining and then resolving a problem. The imagery is clear, it does not rely on subtlety.
The biggest themes are that honesty, integrity, righteousness are to be valued, and their opposites are to be avoided at all costs. Each of these qualities are in fact actions, not sentiments, and the consequences of these actions are reliable and consistent, and inevitable. The advice to “love your neighbor like yourself” is a good summary of many of the proverbs.
Its clarity and confidence is encouraging. Do good and good things will happen, do evil and the consequences are inevitably bad for you.
- The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise - the first part sounds wonderful. Who wouldn’t want to produce life? The second part is surprising. What is the “capturing souls”?
- The desire of the righteous ends only in good, the expectation of the wicked in wrath. - this is encouraging
- One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. - counter-intuitive
- Like a gold ring a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion - this doesn’t seem to fit in with any proverbs around it. Is this the only mention of a woman in this section? Why is it important enough to be included? Does this imply that beauty is discreet? There is surely a big cultural gap between Amsterdam in 2021 and where ever this was first written.
- A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself. - this is good to know
- Don’t lie, cheat, steal or plot. Treat people like you yourself would want to be treated.
- Make an effort to do good and increase justice, and things will go well for you.
- God delights in blameless people, and he abhors people with crooked hearts.
- Beauty without discretion is an incongruous waste.