Have You Ever Wondered about Proverbs?

For those of us who believe that the Bible as originally given, was to holy men of God who were moved by the holy spirit of God to write the inerrant Word of God, we’ve got to consider what the story is with some of the statements in the book of Proverbs.  A case in point is the following:

Proverbs 10: 4 He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich.

Is this statement true? Is it absolutely true? Do the slothful always become poor and the diligent rich? Would you agree that the above verse is good wisdom, describing the general case, but that it is not an absolute truth without exception? If the Bible is God’s Word, given by revelation, how can it contain statements that are not necessarily always true? The answer to this question relative to the book of Proverbs lies in an understanding of the overall presentation of the book.

Let’s take a look at how the book begins.

Proverbs 1:1 The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel;

Obviously, what follows are the proverbs of Solomon. The same truth is again stated in Proverbs 10:1.

Proverbs 10: The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.

What is a proverb? Below is the definition from Strong’s lexicon of the Hebrew word here translated, “proverbs”.

4912 mashal {maw-shawl}
Meaning: 1) proverb, parable 1a) proverb, proverbial saying, aphorism 1b) byword 1c) similitude, parable 1d) poem 1e) sentences of ethical wisdom, ethical maxims

Origin: apparently from 04910 in some original sense of superiority in mental action; TWOT – 1258a; n m

Usage: AV – proverb 19, parable 18, byword 1, like 1; 39

Basically, “proverb” as it is used in God’s Word, means “a wise saying”. Revelation from God is absolute truth. There will be no exceptions to the revelation. The revelation in the book of proverbs is that these are wise sayings. The sayings are not revelation, true without exception; but it is true without exception that these are all wise sayings. Do you see the difference?

Let’s take a look at how this plays out in practical application. Sayings from the book of Proverbs are some times misused. It is easy to quote proverbs that seem to back up your opinion. I have no problem with that, but it is still just your own opinion, not what the Word of God absolutely says.

Here is an example. I recently read an article in which the author decried the current administration’s dramatic increase of the national debt. He was concerned in part because much of that debt will be to China. So far, I agreed with the author; just my opinion, not God’s Word. The author went a step (a very big step) further, however, and declared that the Bible tells us that amassing massive debt to China will bring us into bondage to that nation. He quoted Proverbs 22: 7

Proverbs 22:7 The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.

I may agree with the author that massive debt to China is poor policy, but I could be wrong. There might be other considerations I am not intimately familiar with that make this move the lesser of evils when considering all possible options. And I must disagree that the Bible says the U.S. should not be doing this. What the Bible says is that “the borrower is servant to the lender” is a wise saying. Knowing this, I feel much more comfortable with policies that tend to reduce our national debt. I am likely to vote for people who pledge to do so. I believe that my general view on this is informed by God’s Word. But what I must not do is make that next huge leap and claim that the Bible says our nation must do or not do thus and so regarding this matter. It doesn’t.

When Christians overstep the authority of the Scriptures, they open the door for personal humiliation and worse yet, invite derision of the things of God by those who are constantly looking for a basis to do so. Going to the Scriptures only to find documentation for something one already believes, frequently results in making claims that the Scriptures say things they do not. What happens when our nation or a friend or whoever goes directly contrary to what we recklessly said was the Word of God and later in hindsight the decision turns out to have been the best way to go? Let’s stay out of the soup. Let’s Just say what God’s Word says: nothing more, nothing less.

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