The purpose of this book is stated clearly in chapter 1:2-6, and it sounds perfectly reasonable and rational. And then v 7 comes along….. “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge” – wait, what? We’re back to fear again? What is it with the emphasis on fear? The rest of the first chapter is mostly common sense, although debates could be held on some of the finer points. The gist of it – heed your parents’ advice (OK in most cases) and stay away from hoodlums. Then some warnings that fools who don’t learn from their mistakes and use common sense will live to regret it. Nothing too bad in this first chapter, except the part about the fear.
Is there a way to interpret v 2-4 that does not imply that the author is promoting education and critical thinking? That’s what it sounds like to me, and yet so many conservative Christians believe exactly the opposite – obey without question. In v 5 we’re back to the fear theme again. Then we get a number of admonitions. Take a look at v 16-19 and compare translations. First, this passage points at certain women as a bad influence. But which women? In Hebrew, these are “strange” and “alien” women who forsake the “lord of their youth”. In the KJV, these are “strange” women who forsake the “guide of their youth”. But in the NLT they become “immoral” and “promiscuous” women who “abandon their husbands”. And in the NIV, “adulterous” and “wayward” women, who leave the “partner of their youth”. Wow – a bit of a stretch, no? Gotta watch the biases of translators. Although that was likely the original intent of the words, anyway. The last 3 verses reflect a theme we frequently saw in Psalms – the wicked will be punished and only the righteous will prosper.
There’s some good stuff and some not-so-good stuff in here, and I suspect that’s how it will go throughout the book.
The good: v 13-18: You’ll recognize these verses about wisdom; they’re oft quoted. Apparently they were used in an anthem composed for Darwin’s funeral. I couldn’t find the music but the lyrics can be found in this funeral program. V 21-24: critical thinking. V 27-31: humanism.
The not-so-good: v 5-7, oft quoted by conservative Christians, and mocked by non-believers as being anti-education and anti-science. V 9-10 support the prosperity gospel theory, which entices so many of the less fortunate to part with the little they have to donate to mega-churches. (Don’t get me started.) V 11-12 might be OK if they referred to an actual loving parent, but I’m not sure exactly how “the lord” corrects anybody. V 19-20: creationism. V 25-27: wishful thinking. V 32-35: another plea for revenge.