Proverbs 24 – “The Words of the Wise (Part III, Addendum) – Assorted Sayings”

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Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Proverbs 24 is a collection of assorted sayings, many delivered by a father to a son . Some of the sayings deal with laziness, sitting by idly while others suffer, pursuing wisdom, and envying the wicked.

II. Photo

Vv. 19-20 warns about envying the wicked, “Do not be vexed by evildoers; Do not be incensed by the wicked; For there is no future for the evil man; The lamp of the wicked goes out.”

III. Important Verses
vv. 10-12: If you showed yourself slack in time of trouble, Wanting in power, If you refrained from rescuing those taken off to death, Those condemned to slaughter — If you say, “We knew nothing of it,” Surely He who fathoms hearts will discern the truth, He who watches over your life will know it, And He will pay each man as he deserves.
vv. 13-14: My son, eat honey, for it is good; Let its sweet drops be on your palate. Know: such is wisdom for your soul; If you attain it, there is a future; Your hope will not be cut off.
vv. 19-20: Do not be vexed by evildoers; Do not be incensed by the wicked; For there is no future for the evil man; The lamp of the wicked goes out.
v. 26: Giving a straightforward reply Is like giving a kiss.
v. 27: Put your external affairs in order, Get ready what you have in the field, Then build yourself a home.
vv. 30-34: I passed by the field of a lazy man, By the vineyard of a man lacking sense. It was all overgrown with thorns; Its surface was covered with chickweed, And its stone fence lay in ruins. I observed and took it to heart; I saw it and learned a lesson. A bit more sleep, a bit more slumber, A bit more hugging yourself in bed, And poverty will come calling upon you, And want, like a man with a shield.

IV. Outline
1-2. Do not envy evil men
3-4. A house is built by Wisdom
5-6. Wisdom and war
7. The fool
8-9. The schemer
10-12. Do not ignore the victim
13-14. The sweetness of Wisdom
15. Warning to the wicked: stay away from the righteous
16. The righteous get up, but the wicked stay down
17-18. Do not be happy with your enemy’s failures
19-20. Do not envy evil men
21-22. Fear God and the king
23a. Introduction
23b-25. Judiciousness
26. A polite response
27. When to build a house
28-29. Do not jump to testify against another
30-34. A story about laziness

V. Comment

Proverbs 24 is a collection of assorted proverbs, many of which are delivered by a father to a son (cf. beni “my son” in vv. 13, 21). The section of admonitions called “The Words of the Wise,” which began in 22:17, comes to an end at v. 22. It is followed by an addendum which begins, “These also are by the Wise…” (v. 23) While there is no overarching theme to chapter 24, it is composed of small sections which each focus on one particular topic.

Envying a sinner is a theme which comes up twice in our chapter. Vv. 1-2 says, “Do not envy evil men; Do not desire to be with them; For their hearts talk violence, And their lips speak mischief,” and vv. 19-20 says, “Do not be vexed by evildoers; Do not be incensed by the wicked; For there is no future for the evil man; The lamp of the wicked goes out.” The admonition against envying the wicked also comes up in the book of Psalms, especially Pss. 37 and 73 where the issue is dealt with extensively. For example, Ps. 37:1-3 says, “Of David. Do not be vexed by evil men; do not be incensed by wrongdoers; for they soon wither like grass, like verdure fade away. Trust in the LORD and do good, abide in the land and remain loyal.” Murphy writes (pp. 182-183), “The good fortune of the wicked understandably was a severe trial for the just. Their obvious short-term theodicy had no ready answer. So the battle is mounted at the beginning: repress those feelings of anger and envy. At the same time there is the apparently sovereign assurance that the wicked will meet with misfortune, that their “lamp” will go out: vv 16, 20.”

While we have seen many verses which compare Wisdom to jewels and riches (e.g. 3:15, 8:11, etc.), vv. 13-14 compares it to honey: “My son, eat honey, for it is good; Let its sweet drops be on your palate. Know: such is wisdom for your soul; If you attain it, there is a future; Your hope will not be cut off.” Prov. 16:24 says the same thing about pleasant words, “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, Sweet to the palate and a cure for the body,” and Ben Sira echoes both verses, “For my memorial is sweeter than honey, and mine inheritance than the honeycomb.” Ps. 19:10-11 uses honey to describe the fear of the Lord: “The fear of the LORD is pure, abiding forever; the judgments of the LORD are true, righteous altogether, more desirable than gold, than much fine gold; sweeter than honey, than drippings of the comb.” It is interesting to note how honey plays a role in a striking passage from Ezekiel: “[God] said to me, ‘Mortal, eat what is offered you; eat this scroll, and go speak to the House of Israel.’ So I opened my mouth, and He gave me this scroll to eat, as He said to me, ‘Mortal, feed your stomach and fill your belly with this scroll that I give you.’ I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey to me.” (Ezek. 3:1-3)

V. 27 is an example of a “practical” proverb: “Put your external affairs in order, Get ready what you have in the field, Then build yourself a home.” Another example of this type of proverb is 27:23-27: “Mind well the looks of your flock; Pay attention to your herds; For property does not last forever, Or a crown for all generations. Grass vanishes, new grass appears, And the herbage of the hills is gathered in. The lambs will provide you with clothing, The he-goats, the price of a field. The goats’ milk will suffice for your food, The food of your household, And the maintenance of your maids.”

Vv. 30-34 is an “example story” similar to the one seen in ch. 7: “I passed by the field of a lazy man, By the vineyard of a man lacking sense. It was all overgrown with thorns; Its surface was covered with chickweed, And its stone fence lay in ruins. I observed and took it to heart; I saw it and learned a lesson. A bit more sleep, a bit more slumber, A bit more hugging yourself in bed, And poverty will come calling upon you, And want, like a man with a shield.” The last two verses have a nearly identical parallel in 6:10-11. The effects of laziness is a common theme in Proverbs. For example, 19:15 says, “Laziness induces sleep, And a negligent person will go hungry,” and 20:13 says, “Do not love sleep lest you be impoverished; Keep your eyes open and you will have plenty of food.” 21:25 warns how laziness can lead to death, “”The craving of a lazy man kills him, For his hands refuse to work.”

VI. Works Used

(see “commentaries” page)

Murphy, Proverbs (Word Biblical Commentary)

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