Posted: 04 Apr 2011 12:00 AM PDT
SEVERAL OBSERVATIONS ON Proverbs 22:
(1) A break occurs after Proverbs 22:16, with a new heading. We now leave behind the proverbs of Solomon and begin the "Sayings of the Wise." These must have been collected and perhaps circulated independently of the next section, "Further Sayings of the Wise" (Prov. 24:23–34), which is then followed by more of Solomon's proverbs (Prov. 25:1ff.). Several cultures in the ancient Near East cherished and collected proverbs, and of course this fostered the rise of groups of "wise men" whose best utterances were preserved for posterity.
(2) The proverb "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it" (Prov. 22:6) is so well known that it cries out for comment. Recall that a proverb is neither case law nor unqualified promise (review meditation for March 23). When children go wrong, very often the careful observer can spot familial reasons that have contributed to the rebellion. But this is not always the case. Sometimes young people from evidently wonderful families kick the traces. Some return years later; some never do. Good families may produce prodigal sons. This proverb must not be treated as if it were a promise that fails periodically. Rather, it is a proverb: it tells how God has structured reality, and what we should do to conform to it. This is the principle of how families work; it includes no footnotes and mentions no exceptions.
(3) Proverbs 22:29 provides an instance of wisdom that is simply technical skill (see meditation for March 14).
(4) Once more it is worth reflecting on how many proverbs focus on social dynamics of one sort or another and on the desirability of peace, self-control, and restrained speech. "Drive out the mocker, and out goes strife; quarrels and insults are ended" (Prov. 22:10). "Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared" (Prov. 22:24–25).
(5) Several verses in this chapter encourage the reader to remember that biblical proverbs are more than good common sense of a secular sort, with a little piety thrown in. They are deeply grounded in devotion to the living God and to all the revelation he has given. Sometimes the way of framing a proverb makes this reality sing. "Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all" (Prov. 22:2). The wise saying is grounded in the doctrine of creation. "The mouth of an adulteress is a deep pit; he who is under the LORD's wrath will fall into it" (Prov. 22:14). The sexual sin everywhere condemned in this book is now seen as evidence of God's sovereign wrath.
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