That wasn't IN THERE last time! Bible Journey Day 7

Bible Journey – Day 7 – 22 Sept 2009

Volatile! Handle with Care!

Proverbs 20:16-22:16 (all quotes from NET. translation)

The one who shuts his ears to the cry of the poor,

he too will cry out and will not be answered. A gift given in secret subdues anger,

and a bribe given secretly subdues strong wrath. Doing justice brings joy to the righteous and terror to those who do evil. (Pro 21:13-15 NET.)

Proverbs is not a book to be handled flippantly. More than almost any other book, the style and content of Proverbs can lull the unsuspecting reader into a false sense of complacency – a situation where either you feel like patting yourself on the back, or where with one glance you really think you get what Solomon is saying.

Then you encounter little groupings like the verses above, which smack you in the face and remind you that these proverbs have a historical and a literary context that is ignored only at great peril to the reader.

Most of the proverbs, we believe, were written by King Solomon, the great son of David who chose wisdom when offered a selection of wealth, glory, and wisdom. Solomon, the king with 300 wives and 700 concubines. Solomon who wants to pass along some of his wisdom to his son who will rule after him. If you know the story very well at all, you know how poorly Rehoboam heeded his father’s teaching. Nevertheless, we must not forget that most of these proverbs were written by an Ancient Near Eastern king to his son. That’s why there’s so much advice about choosing a virtuous, prudent, and wise wife and avoiding prostitutes and contentious women.

And, I submit, that’s why the proverb nestled in the middle of the paragraph above finds its way into the canon. In many other places, Solomon warns against injustice, and how a wise king will rule fairly and care for the poor. But any king ruling in the world we live in would think himself foolish if he were not to remind his son that sometimes, “greasing the wheels” can help get the job done.

Proverbs is not cotton candy, and it isn’t Aesop’s fables. The New Atheists (Chris Hitchens especially) tee off on Mother Teresa because she wasn’t all cotton candy and sweetness and light; she wasn’t above some heavy-handed actions in her service to the poorest of the poor in India.

Tell me: I’m really curious! How does Proverbs 21:14 make you feel? How do you feel about it being in Scripture? Does it have anything to suggest to us about the nature of inspiration? I tell you, it has been on my mind all day! When I read that verse this morning, I had one of those “That wasn’t IN THERE last time!” moments! How about you?

In HIS love,


About Nick Gill

orphan-poet-adoptee-soldier-prodigal-servant-husband- counselor-desperate seeker after my Father's face "I feel my body weakened by the years as people turn to gods of cruel design. Is it that they fear the pain of death, or is it that they fear the joy of life?" - Toad the Wet Sprocket

Posted on 22 September, 2009, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Nick,

    As you know I’m working on Ecclesiastes, and this whole question is strong on my mind. The first verse I’m going to read to them is: “A feast is made for laughter, and wine makes life merry, but money is the answer for everything.” (Ecclesiastes 10:19) I’m going to say that since money is the answer for everything, there is no point in doing further study. Seek money, get money and all problems will be solved.

    Then, of course, I’ll ask them if maybe, just maybe, we need to stop and think about how to read wisdom literature.

    That, of course, would really mess up our main arguments against, well, you know.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  2. Goodness, that wasn’t there when I read it last either!! 🙂 This kinda goes along with the quote: “And Moses was the most humble man on earth.” -Moses

    Why DID God allow that in the Bible?

  3. Tim,

    Thank you! when i get to that passage in Ecclesiastes, I’ll call my blog for that day, “The Gospel according to Gordon Gekko!”

    Seriously, though, I’m glad that your blog is asking challenging questions — I’m sure you’re challenging your students in the same way.

    Lisa, that is HYSTERICAL! I never even thought of that until you put the quotes around it like that! I laughed for half an hour after that.

    Wow — I just realized that WP nuked the formatting on this entry. I’ve got to fix that at some point.

  4. You (and your readers) are going to think I’m insane…or stupid…or both, but I’m going to rattle on anyway.

    Since having children, most of my thinking has been re-wired to deal with little minds inside little people who haven’t quite “got it” yet: who don’t understand the big picture and, what’s more, have little interest in such. All the same, at times, I need for them to comply with certain demands/needs/requests, i.e. cleaning up their toys, finishing their carrots, ceasing to chew on the cat’s tail (don’t ask). Those are the times when all the logic and well-thought-out argument will never do…but a cookie might…or a sucker…or an extra sticker.

    We’re all just big kids to people who are smarter, more holy, better, nicer, superior. Sometimes, there’s no talking to us and pretty green paper will do the trick. Unfortunately, it seems that the wrong people have learned about “wheel greasing,” while the right ones think it somehow morally inadequate.

    • Hey, Alicia! I’m sorry I missed this comment earlier — and I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess that nobody thinks you’re either insane or stupid!

      I actually think you’ve hit on precisely why such a proverb can be in Scripture, and why we’ve got to be careful when our preconceptions and assumptions start boxing in God’s ability to function.

      There are times on the mission field when palms will have to be greased for the mission to progress. It isn’t evil, the missionaries aren’t trying to break any laws — but we’ve got to learn how to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves in our dealings with a broken and evil generation. The parable of the shrewd manager makes no sense to a moralist, but all kinds of sense to a parent or a missionary or someone trying to serve the poor when the government would rather just throw dirt on them and pretend they aren’t there.

  5. You are right, Nick. Hebrew wisdom literature, especially Proverbs, need to be considered with great care. Approaching Proverbs from my former standpoint made me look like a fool.

    Thank you for drawing attention to this!

  1. Pingback: Ecclesiastes: Money is the answer for everything! |

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: