Book of Proverbs
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|Gabbin' with God|
The Book of Proverbs (sometimes known as the Proverbs of Solomon) is one of the books in the Bible. It takes the form of a collection of diverse advice, frequently organised as short sentences or paragraphs, many of which begin with the appellation "my son". In general, the Proverbs are concerned with wisdom and learning, based around the idea that the "fear of God" is the foundation of being a reliable member of a faith community, which is the highest from of tautological cringing.
The Proverbs do not claim to be an organized approach to knowledge, and the search for new knowledge is limited: "It is the glory of God to conceal a thing; But the glory of kings is to search out a matter" (Prov. 25:2; where "matter" relates to current events). "Wisdom" relates to social intelligence within a closed community that does not welcome intermarriage, but might have commercial transactions with outsiders. Although secrets and concealed things are mentioned from time to time, Proverbs is not a primary source for Kabbalah, but it is a source for secret Christian teachings about spanking children.
The Proverbs provide guidelines for morality which are cobbled together from copybooks used by boys in Jerusalem, Samaria, Babylon, and Alexandria to learn Hebrew, and thus are included in the "Writings" rather than the Torah, which are direct commands of the Supreme Being. The main contributor is said to be Solomon, but there are also "sayings of Solomon" that were "copied down in the days of Hezekiah" (Prov. 25) and, following the borrowings of the Egyptian Amenemope, there are sayings by the otherwise unknown Agur son of Jakeh (Prov 30), and King Lemuel (Prov 31).
For Jews the message is to learn Hebrew wherever you may be, and marry a nice Jewish girl (Eshet Ḥayil, Proverbs 31:10–31). Fundamentalist Christians take great comfort knowing that, no matter how ambiguous modern life gets, they can always turn to the Book of Proverbs to obtain such crystal clear guidance as the following:
- 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.
Thanks to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, conservative Christians know that the secret teaching of "Train up a child in the way he should go, And even when he is old he will not depart from it" (Prov. 22:6), means that you should spank your children. When the grown child blames their parents for a warped personality that they cannot "depart from", the parents will say "Can't you just get over it?"
However, non-Fundies can find some wisdom in Proverbs, such as this:
- Prov.31:6-7 Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let them drink and forget their poverty, and remember their misery no more.
Egyptian scribes learned to read and write by copying out proverbs from the Instructions of Ptah-Hotep, the Instructions of Amenemope, and other collections. The Babylonian system was to copy out lines of Hammurabi's code. The Greeks learned the Iliad and the Odyssey, while the Chinese copied out sayings of the Analects of Confucius. The Hebrew educational system follows the Egyptian pattern, and the book of Proverbs includes a section derived from the Instructions of Amenemope (the "thirty sayings of a man", Proverbs 22:17-23:11; it is difficult to split this passage up into exactly thirty sayings).
The exact authorship of the book is ambiguous, and widely disputed. The majority of the book is presumed to be roughly the work of King Solomon, the son of David, based on the presence of his name in the first chapter:-
1. The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel;
2. To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding;
3. To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity;
4. To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.
The final chapters of the book, there are references to two other authors, named Agur and Lemuel, who are apparently attributed with writing sections of Proverbs themselves, although this connection is far from clear. In some versions of Proverbs, these references have been removed by scholars who believed that they were simply veiled references to Solomon himself. It is possible that Solomon is only mentioned in the Proverbs in order to pay respect to him.