Proverbs 23 – “The Words of the Wise (Part II) – Admonitions”

red-wineHebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Proverbs 23 is a collection of admonitions that a father gives his son. Some of the topics that the father speaks about are intoxication, gluttony, forbidden women, moving boundary markers, pursuing riches, and the disciplining of a child.

II. Photo
One of the admonitions speaks about wine, “Do not ogle that red wine As it lends its color to the cup, As it flows on smoothly; In the end, it bites like a snake; It spits like a basilisk. Your eyes will see strange sights; Your heart will speak distorted things.” (vv. 31-33)

III. Important Verses
vv. 4-5: Do not toil to gain wealth; Have the sense to desist. You see it, then it is gone; It grows wings and flies away, Like an eagle, heavenward.
vv. 10-11: Do not remove ancient boundary stones; Do not encroach upon the field of orphans, For they have a mighty Kinsman, And He will surely take up their cause with you.
vv. 13-14: Do not withhold discipline from a child; If you beat him with a rod he will not die. Beat him with a rod And you will save him from the grave.
vv. 20-21: Do not be of those who guzzle wine, Or glut themselves on meat; For guzzlers and gluttons will be impoverished, And drowsing will clothe you in tatters.
vv. 31-33: Do not ogle that red wine As it lends its color to the cup, As it flows on smoothly; In the end, it bites like a snake; It spits like a basilisk. Your eyes will see strange sights; Your heart will speak distorted things.

IV. Outline
1-3. Do not take pleasure in a ruler’s feast
4-5. Do not pursue riches
6-8. Do not eat a stingy man’s food
9. Do not speak to a fool
10-11. Do not change boundary markers
12. Encouragement
13-14. Discipline your child
15-16. Encouragement
17-18. Do not envy sinners
19. Acquire wisdom
20-21. Do not be a glutton
22-25. Listen to your parents, acquire wisdom, and they will be glad
26. Encouragement
27-28. Avoid the harlot / married woman
29-35. Avoid intoxication

V. Comment
Proverbs 23 is a collection of approximately twelve admonitions that a father gives his son (cf. the word beni “my son” in vv. 15, 19, 26). Many of the admonitions appear in couplets in which the first verse gives a warning and the second gives a rationale. For example, vv. 4-5 say, “Do not toil to gain wealth; Have the sense to desist. You see it, then it is gone; It grows wings and flies away, Like an eagle, heavenward.” As has been noted in the comment to the previous chapter, vv. 1-11 has many parallels to the Egyptian text called the Instruction of Amenemope (see comment to ch. 22).

Vv. 13-14 says, “Do not withhold discipline from a child; If you beat him with a rod he will not die. Beat him with a rod And you will save him from the grave.” This seems to be a standard view in the book of Proverbs. For example, 13:24 says, “He who spares the rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him early.” The idea that a father’s punishment is a sign of love is seen in 3:11-12: “Do not reject the discipline of the LORD, my son; Do not abhor His rebuke. For whom the LORD loves, He rebukes, As a father the son whom he favors.” Also see Ben Sira 30:1, “He that loveth his son causeth him oft to feel the rod, that he may have joy of him in the end.”

There are two sections of ch. 23 that deal with wine, and the first is vv. 20-21, “Do not be of those who guzzle wine (sove’ei yayin), Or glut themselves on meat (zolalei basar); For guzzlers and gluttons will be impoverished, And drowsing will clothe you in tatters.” The idea that self-indulgence causes poverty has been seen before. For example, 21:17 says “He who loves pleasure comes to want; He who loves wine and oil does not grow rich.” It is interesting that the words used in v. 20 are found in Deut. 21:18-21 where the pleasure-seeking son is stoned to death: “If a man has a wayward and defiant son, who does not heed his father or mother and does not obey them even after they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his town at the public place of his community. They shall say to the elders of his town, ‘This son of ours is disloyal and defiant; he does not heed us. He is a glutton (zolel) and a drunkard (sovei’).’ Thereupon the men of his town shall stone him to death. Thus you will sweep out evil from your midst.”

The second section dealing with wine focuses on intoxication (vv. 29-35). Vv. 31-34 delivers the following admonition: “Do not ogle that red wine As it lends its color to the cup, As it flows on smoothly; In the end, it bites like a snake; It spits like a basilisk. Your eyes will see strange sights; Your heart will speak distorted things. You will be like one lying in bed on high seas, Like one lying on top of the rigging.” It is interesting that Deut. 32:32-33 also describes wine with an analogy to poisonous creatures (albeit with a different vocabulary): “Ah! The vine for them is from Sodom, From the vineyards of Gomorrah; The grapes for them are poison, A bitter growth their clusters. Their wine is the venom of asps, The pitiless poison of vipers.” It should be pointed out that wine actually has a positive connotation in 9:5-6 where Woman Wisdom serves it to her guests: “‘Come, eat my food And drink the wine that I have mixed; Give up simpleness and live, Walk in the way of understanding.”

VI. Works Used
(see commentaries page)
Murphy, Proverbs (Word Biblical Commentary)
Photo taken from http://images.teamsugar.com/files/upl1/1/12981/15_2008/red-wine.jpg

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