Proverbs 19-21

Chapter 19

This chapter contains some nice little witticisms; how about “Wealth makes many ‘friends’; poverty drives them all away.” (v 4) But then we get to this zinger: “A foolish child is a calamity to a father; a quarrelsome wife is as annoying as constant dripping” (v 13) Wow – attack your whole family at once!

And take a look at v 18 – another example of how societal norms influence translators. From Hebrew – English it says “Chasten thy son, for there is hope; but set not thy heart on his destruction”. But the KJV says “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.” I don’t think that’s the same thought. The first suggests discipline your kids but don’t injure them; the second suggests inflicting harm is OK. The NLT sounds closer to the original intent: “Discipline your children while there is hope. Otherwise you will ruin their lives.” And the NIV is just weird: “Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death.” WTF? Regardless, each of these translations holds a slightly different connotation, so you can make this verse mean just about anything you want about parenting. The next few verses are mostly positive, but then we end with this lovely thought: “Punishment is made for mockers, and the backs of fools are made to be beaten.” (v 29)

proverb 20 Chapter 20

This one begins with a diatribe against alcohol. And then it returns to the regularly scheduled one-liners. V 20 “If you insult your father or mother, your light will be snuffed out in total darkness” may be a reference to Exodus 21:17? I have to say I disagree with the advice in v 22 – it seems designed to thwart social justice. V 24 sounds like an anti-science position to me – like, we can’t know everything, so why even bother to ask questions? V 26 incites violence in every translation I can see; there’s no attempt to even gloss over it. And the grand finale, v 30 – well, there are just no words to adequately describe the horror. I’ll get my morality elsewhere, thanks. (And again – there appears to be no bible verse so horrible that some apologist won’t create a meme from it.)

Chapter 21

contains some nice little gems – how about v 9 “It’s better to live alone in the corner of an attic than with a quarrelsome wife in a lovely home”; or v 14 “a bribe under the table pacifies fury”; or v 19 “It’s better to live alone in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining wife.” This is where we learn ethics and ‘family values’? Seriously?


We’re two-thirds of the way through Proverbs and I think I’ve read enough already to get the point. Do I really have to finish this book?

The Book of Proverbs is supposed to be a source of morality, ethics, and wisdom. So is it? There’s some good advice and some astute observations about human nature in here, but you have to read carefully and sort out the good from the bad and the ugly; fact from wishful thinking; right from wrong. In short, you have to cherry-pick. I’m tired of having to do that.

  • I’m tired of hearing fear described as a positive character trait. It’s useful if it deters people from danger, but I don’t think that living in constant fear is something to be desired – in fact, it’s emotionally crippling.
  • I’m tired of the emphasis on submission to correction – there’s a definite slant in this book that directs people to mind their place, keep their mouth shut, avoid asking questions, and obey their ‘superiors’.
  • I’m tired of hearing that there’s no point in trying to seek justice or make the world a better place now; instead trust god to deal with evildoers in the next life.
  • I’m tired of rants against women, be they ‘strange’ or loose or evil or promiscuous or rebellious or quarrelsome.
  • I’m tired of rants against ‘fools’. There is no concern or acknowledgement that ‘foolish’ behavior may be due to physical or mental illness, injury, or developmental delay.
  • Foolish people are viewed as worthless.
  • I’m tired of the acceptance of violence and corporal punishment.
  • And I’m tired of the lack of nuance or allowance for differing situations. Some of the advice in Proverbs might be helpful under many or most circumstances, but not all. And there’s just no room allowed for discussion.

So how do I feel about the wisdom of the Book of Proverbs? The picture says it all.

sweet corn


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