Proverbs 18 – “Assorted Sayings”

01Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Proverbs 18 is a collection of twenty-four assorted wisdom sayings. While topics such as wisdom/folly and pride/humility come up more than once, the chapter does not seem to have an overarching theme.

II. Photo

Verse 22 speaks about the happiness of finding a wife, “He who finds a wife has found happiness And has won the favor of the LORD.”

III. Important Verses
v. 7: The fool’s speech is his ruin; His words are a trap for him.
v. 10: The name of the LORD is a tower of strength To which the righteous man runs and is safe.
v. 12: Before ruin a man’s heart is proud; Humility goes before honor.
v. 13: To answer a man before hearing him out Is foolish and disgraceful.
v. 14: A man’s spirit can sustain him through illness; But low spirits — who can bear them?
v. 17: The first to plead his case seems right Till the other party examines him.
v. 18: The lot puts an end to strife And separates those locked in dispute.
v. 22: He who finds a wife has found happiness And has won the favor of the LORD.

IV. Outline
1. Isolation
2. The foolish
3. The wicked
4. Wise words
5. Judging
6-7. A fool’s speech
8. An instigator’s speech
9. Laziness
10. The righteous
11. Wealth
12. Pride
13. Empathy
14. Depression
15. The wise seek knowledge
16. Giving gifts (possibly a bribe)
17. Judicial first impressions
18. Settling disputes with by lottery
19. Familial strife
20-21. words
22. Finding a wife
23. The wealthy/poor and speech
24. Friends

V. Comment
Like the two chapters that precede it, Proverbs 18 does not seem to have any overarching themes or unified sections. However, the topic of speaking/listening comes up in quite a number of verses (e.g. vv. 4, 6, 8, 13, 15, 20, 21, 23), and a few of the sayings are linked by catchwords (e.g. the words ‘oz and nisgav in vv. 10-11). The comment will now focus on the sayings of chapter 18 and their parallels in the rest of Tanach.

V. 10 says, “The name of the LORD is a tower of strength (migdal ‘oz) To which the righteous man runs and is safe.” The concept of trusting in God is not foreign to Scripture: the speaker of Ps. 61:4 says, “For You have been my refuge, a tower of strength (migdal ‘oz) against the enemy,” and the speaker of Ps. 20:8 declares, “They [call] on chariots, they [call] on horses, but we call on the name of the LORD our God.” Finally, Prov. 29:25 describes how trust in God can allay one’s fears: “A man’s fears become a trap for him, But he who trusts in the LORD shall be safeguarded.”

V. 12 speaks about the “pride before a fall”: “Before ruin a man’s heart is proud; Humility goes before honor.” This is a popular idea in Proverbs. For instance, Prov. 16:18 says, “Pride goes before ruin, Arrogance, before failure,” and 11:2 says, “When arrogance appears, disgrace follows, But wisdom is with those who are unassuming.” Like our verse, Prov. 29:23 speaks of both pride and humility: “A man’s pride will humiliate him, But a humble man will obtain honor.”

V. 13 speaks about the opposite of listening empatheticaly, “To answer a man before hearing him out Is foolish and disgraceful.” While there aren’t many parallels in Proverbs, Ben Sira 11:8 says, “Answer not before thou hast heard the cause: neither interrupt men in the midst of their talk.”

V. 14 speaks about the crippling effect of depression: “A man’s spirit can sustain him through illness; But low spirits (ruach nekh’eah) — who can bear them?” Prov. 17:22 also speaks of depression, “A joyful heart makes for good health; Despondency (ruach nekh’eah) dries up the bones.” Also see Prov. 15:13, “A joyful heart makes a cheerful face; A sad heart makes a despondent mood (ruach nekh’eah).”

V. 17 speaks about the importance of hearing both sides of the story: “The first to plead his case seems right Till the other party examines him.” It is possible that this proverb was directed at judges, and if that is the case, then it follows the message of Deut. 1:16, “I charged your magistrates at that time as follows, ‘Hear out your fellow men, and decide justly between any man and a fellow Israelite or a stranger.’” A few other proverbs seem to be directed at judges, especially 17:15, “To acquit the guilty and convict the innocent — Both are an abomination to the LORD,” and 17:26, “To punish the innocent is surely not right, Or to flog the great for their uprightness.”

V. 18 is interesting: “The lot puts an end to strife And separates those locked in dispute.” While the extent to which lots were used in ancient Israel remains unclear (were they used to settle court cases?), the concept appears again in 16:33, but it is God – not chance – who decides the outcome: “Lots are cast into the lap; The decision depends on the LORD.” Other places in which lots were used are Lev. 16:8, “and [the high priest] shall place lots upon the two goats, one marked for the LORD and the other marked for Azazel,” and Num. 26:55, “The land, moreover, is to be apportioned by lot; and the allotment shall be made according to the listings of their ancestral tribes.” Also, Haman used lots in his plot against the Jews in the book of Esther.

VI. Works Used

See “Commentaries” page.

Photo taken from http://www.wpja.org/contests/2004_2/15/images/01.jpg

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