Wednesday, January 22, 2014

CCXXVIII – Proverbs 30-31 - Concluding Proverbs

In the last post we concluded the proverbs that Solomon wrote.  We will finish the book of Proverbs in this post, covering the last two chapters which are in three sections:
The Words of Agur  (30:1-33)
The Words of Lemuel  (31:1-9)
Description of a Virtuous Woman  (31:10-31)

We don’t know a lot about Agur and Lemuel, as they are mentioned nowhere else in the Bible.  But their writings, (how-be-they different from Solomon) are time-honored as both wise and thought-provoking.
The Book of Proverbs includes many family-related sayings.  In these last two chapters, the family becomes the main theme.  This includes a rather harsh condemnation of ungrateful children and then the virtues of a good and faithful wife.  Some scholars consider the studying of these two chapters is like entering into the pain and joy of family life.  I don’t share those extreme thoughts, but I can understand the reasoning.

Chapter 30 – The words of Agur

Agur opens with the acknowledgement that these words are inspired, as he confesses that he himself does not possess the level of wisdom necessary to write these sayings without the guidance from God.  After Agur’s opening words, he writes the remainder of the chapter as an acrostic poem, like the writings of some of the Psalms.  {Reminder:  An “acrostic” poem is using the first letter of each verse in the order of the Hebrew alphabet.  This was a popular way to write in those days and must have taken extra thought and time.}  In this acrostic poem, Agur repeats the fashion of beginning a subject by saying “there are three….., no, four……..”.  Rather difficult for me to explain this style, but you will notice it as you read this chapter.   
Verses 11-14 speaks of four different types of evil people, beginning with those who grossly disrespect their parents.  Agur, as other writers, shows little patience with disrespectful children, as he mentions them again in verse 17.  Agur is inclined to list four thoughts about a variety of subjects including things that are never satisfied (vss 15-16), things he cannot understand (18-19), things that amaze him (18-19), things that make the earth tremble (21-23), things that are small but impressive (24-28),  and things that are stately (29-31)

Chapter 31:1-9 – The Words of Lemuel

The name Lemuel in Hebrew means “belonging to or dedicated to God”.  As one reflects on this entire chapter, the first nine verses seem to serve as a basis for the larger section which is dedicated to the virtues of a good woman, or I believe in this case “a good mother”.  Note in the opening verses that Lemuel is saying what his mother had taught him.  In fact it goes in and out of his mother actually doing the talking, as she is preparing him to become a great king like Solomon, covering the most important subjects for him to be attentive to as he assumes a leadership position.  I am impressed as I read these verses as she tells him how important he is, being “the answer to her prayers”.  {I am always impressed when I hear a mother or a father make their offspring know how special they are.  I really tried to do that with my children, and my wife was especially good at it.}  She taught young Lemuel to beware of such things as alluring women, drinking too much, unfairness in judgement, and ignoring the poor.

Verses 10-31 – Description of a Virtuous Woman

The Book of Proverbs has presented cautionary space concerning contentious and morally weak women, but in this somewhat of an “epilogue”, it dedicates the final twenty two verses as a portrait of a “virtuous” or “honorable” woman.  Note that these verses are written in the acrostic form.  Also, bear in mind that these sayings were written in the language of the day, a paraphrase of which would be quite an adjustment but the spirit of the writing would remain.
Verse 10 opens with the fact that a totally virtuous woman is indeed a rare find.  I agree.
Verses 11 and 12 mentions how much confidence her husband has for her and shows it in his own life.  She cares for him and he cares for her out of love and respect.
Verses 13-19 tells that she works hard and smart, disregarding not even the smallest of details to make certain her family is cared for.  Even her business dealings are wise and profitable.
Verse 20 says she is kind and considerate to those less fortunate than she.  {Lemuel writes poetically and pretty.  Note that he says her lamp does not go out at night, which obviously means she works hard for her family on into the late hours of the night.  Also, in vs 21 it says she has no fear when it snows because she knows the clothes she has made for her family will protect them.}
In verse 21 it says her husband is respected at the city gate, which is where the elders of the city meet and only the most respected are given audience.  {A man’s wife has much influence on the level of respect he receives, and visa-versa.}
Verse 24 is interesting because (remember the times) the virtuous woman contributes to the income of the household.
The comment in verse 25 about her laughing at the future is repeating the thought that she has prepared her family for all potential situations, inclement weather being among them.  The passage continues on to speak on her being careful of what she says and how she says it.  She is not lazy and is always diligent in providing for her family.  She believes in God and honors His commandments.  And, because she is all of these things, her husband, her children, and all of the city speak nothing but praise and respect for her.

This concludes our study in the Book of Proverbs.  I hope it has enhanced your understanding and respect for this important book.  I have truly enjoyed sharing with you my thoughts.

Next Post  -  The Book of Ecclesiastes    

No comments:

Post a Comment