Good Counsel from the Bible

All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.

Sigrid Fowler

​We consult all sorts of people—friends, parents and relatives, pastors and teachers, doctors and counselors. Awhole section of the Hebrew Bible is called wisdom literature. It’s a part of the Writings—i.e., not the Law and the Prophets. An admonition early in the Book of Proverbs lays the foundation: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom / And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov 9: 10 NKJV and all).“Wisdom is the principal thing; / Therefore, get wisdom. / And in all your getting, / Get understanding” (Prov 4: 7). Solomon, to whom Proverbs is attributed, makes an impressive claim: “Hear, my son, and receive my sayings  / And the years of your life will be many” (Prov 4: 10). 

​Solomon’s do not imperatives are sometimes cast in general terms: “Do not enter the path of the wicked / And do not walk in the path of evil. / Avoid it, do not travel on it; / Turn away from it and pass on. / For they do not sleep unless they have done evil; / And their sleep is taken away unless they make someone fall” (Prov 4: 14-16). But the cautions can also be specific: “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due / When it is in the power of your hand to do so” (Prov 3: 27). “Do not envy the oppressor” (Prov 3: 31a) and “Do not devise evil against your neighbor” (Prov 3: 29a). “Do not move the ancient landmark / Which your fathers have set” (Prov 22: 28). “Do not correct a scoffer lest he hate you” (Prov 9:8a).

​Fear of God is a constant theme: “The fear of the LORDis to hate evil” (Prov 8: 13a). “The fear of the LORD is to prolong days / But the years of the wicked will be shortened” (Prov 10: 27). “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,  / But fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov 1: 7). “The fear of the LORD leads to life / And he who has it will abide in satisfaction” (Prov 19: 23a). “In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence / And his children will have a place of refuge” (Prov 14: 26). In another vein, at least one proverb deals with fear and trouble as related things: “Do not be afraid of sudden terror, / Nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes / For the LORD will be your confidence, / And will keep your foot from being caught” (Prov 3: 25-26).

​Proverbs are often imperatives but not always. Some are descriptions. Consider how Solomon contrasts the fool and the wise: “Rebuke is more effective for a wise man / Than a hundred blows on a fool” (Prov 17: 10). “To do evil is like sport to a fool / But a man of understanding has wisdom” (Prov 10: 23). “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? / There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Prov 26: 12). “He who has knowledge spares his words, / And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. / Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; / When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive” (Prov 17: 27-28).

​Many proverbs treat the use of words. “Whoever hides hatred has lying lips, / And whoever spreads slander is a fool” (Prov 10: 18). “The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, / But the mouth of the wicked what is perverse” (Prov 10: 32). “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold / In settings of silver” (Prov 25: 11). “In the multitude of words, sin is not lacking, / But he who restrains his lips is wise” (Prov 10: 19). “Do you see a man hasty in his words? / There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Prov 29: 20). The word of God is described: “Every word of God is pure; / He is a shield to those who put their trust in him. / Do not add to his words, / Lest he rebuke you, and you be found a liar” (Prov 30: 5-6).

​Hatred or enmity is contrasted with love: “Hatred stirs up strife, / But love covers all sins” (Prov 10: 12). “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, / Than a fatted calf with hatred” (Prov 15: 17). “Faithful are the wounds of a friend / But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Prov 27: 6). Darkness and light are vividly contrasted, as well: “ . . . the path of the just is like the shining sun / That shines ever brighter unto the perfect day. / The way of the wicked is like darkness; / They do not know what makes them stumble” (Prov 4: 18-19).

​ And Agur asks: “Who has ascended into heaven or descended? Who has gathered the wind in his fist? / Who has bound the waters in a garment? / Who has established all the ends of the earth? / What is his name, and what is his Son’s name, / If you know?” (Prov 30: 4).