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Reflections of Reality

Proverbs 27:19

“As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man.”
“As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.” – ESV

A Little Complicated

Today’s proverb, especially in the King James Version, is not for the casual reader. The wording is complicated, to say the least. But even when we look at other translations, the truth of this proverb, like a flower in mid-bloom, is never fully revealed.

It seems that verse 19 is an extension of verse 17, but it takes “iron sharpeneth iron” to a deeper level, “where one is to seek out and discern good advice, but also to heed the counsel of one’s heart (as well as pray!).”[1]

There are evidently several ways to interpret this passage. The New American Commentary explains: “Some take it to mean that one sees one’s inner self reflected in the face of a companion; and others, that one comes to self-understanding by introspection.”[2] However, the explanation of this proverb may be no more complicated than the need to see ourselves for who we really are.

Exposing Reality

A friend once had some things happen that caused him to react in a very fleshly, un-Christian way. Because of the circumstances that led to his angry response to an obvious injustice, I was not going to judge him or think less of him in any way; I might have done the same thing had I been in his shoes.

But that evening, after reading Proverbs chapter 6 in preparation for the next day’s Sunday school class, my friend called me on the phone to apologize for his actions. Then, the next morning in class, as we talked about how reading the Bible exposes who we really are, my friend said, “But sometimes what I see in the reflection is not really me.”

mirrorAh, but that’s not so!” I replied. The fact, I explained, is that when we peer down into the water of God’s word, the reflection we see is the only accurate reflection available. While other mirrors show us what we want to see, the Bible reflects our reality.

“But that’s not who I want to be…I’m not that way,” he said. “Oh,” I replied, “but that is who you are…who we all are…The heart is wicked and capable of all kinds of things, and God’s word reminds us of that.”

The Point

So what’s the point? Is there any hope? Sure there is! It is only when we are able to reflect on who we really are, when we can see ourselves face-to-face, than we can move beyond the pretenses of our own pride and self-righteousness.

But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.” – Colossians  3:8-10 NLT


[1] Rowland E. Murphy, Proverbs, vol. 22, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 209.

[2] Duane A. Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, vol. 14, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 220.

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A Difficult Thought

Proverbs 26:10

“The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors.”
“Like an archer who wounds everyone is one who hires a passing fool or drunkard.” – ESV

This proverb is a challenging one because of how many different ways it could be translated. As a matter of fact, practically every scholarly commentary admits the Hebrew in this proverb is difficult to interpret. That is why I am going to quote several of them before I leave my final thought for you.

Spence-Jones (The Pulpit Commentary)

Few passages have given greater difficulty than this verse; almost every word has been differently explained. The Authorized Version is, The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors; Revised Version, As an archer (Job 16:13) that woundeth all, so is he that hireth the fool and he that hireth them that pass by. At first sight one would hardly suppose that these could be versions of the same passage. [1]

Garrett (The New American Commentary)

The Hebrew of v. 10 is almost unintelligible and thus subject to numerous interpretations, all of which are hypothetical. As the NIV has it, the verse reaffirms that one should not commit important tasks to fools (as in v. 6). Notwithstanding all the difficulties of the text, that does seem to be the main point.[2]

Friedrich and Delitzsch (Commentary on the Old Testament)

All that we have hitherto read is surpassed in obscurity by this proverb, which is here connected because of the resemblance of ושכר to שכור. We translate it thus, vocalizing differently only one word:

            Much bringeth forth from itself all; But the reward and the hirer of the fool pass away.[3]

Matthew Henry

Matthew Henry

Our translation [KJV] gives this verse a different reading in the text and in the margin; and accordingly it expresses either, 1. The equity of a good God. The Master, or Lord (so Rab signifies), or, as we read it, The great God that formed all things at first, and still governs them in infinite wisdom, renders to every man according to his work. … Or, 2. The iniquity of a bad prince (so the margin reads it): A great man grieves all, and he hires the fool; he hires also the transgressors. When a wicked man gets power in his hand, by himself, and by the fools and knaves whom he employs under him, whom he hires and chooses to make use of, he grieves all who are under him and is vexatious to them. We should therefore pray for kings and all in authority, that, under them, our lives may be quiet and peaceable.[4]

Anthony Baker (Proverbial Thought)

So, here is what I think. Feel free to quote me 200 years from now.

A man is a fool when he employs a fool to complete a task. However, the biggest fool is one who thinks God, the Almighty Archer, will miss the target when He holds the wicked accountable.

We are always under His watchful eye, but the fool is never out of His “sights.”


[1] H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., Proverbs, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 500.

[2] Duane A. Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, vol. 14, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 213.

[3] Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 6 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), 387.

[4] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994).


Foaming Angry

Proverbs 25:23

“The north wind driveth away rain: so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.”

Which Is It?

This is one of those verses in the Bible that cause interpreters and writers of commentaries to scratch their heads. One puts it this way: “This little proverb is extraordinarily beset with problems.”* According to the scholars and biblical language experts, it is hard to determine what Solomon means, exactly.

You see, there are issues with the “north wind”: does the verb “driveth” really mean to “drive away” or to “bring?” The verb actually means to “bring forth, as with labor pains.” Either way makes the second part hard to interpret: does an angry look come because of a “backbiting tongue,” or does the indignant tongue make the “angry countenance” go away?

If the north wind drives a cold rain away, then the parallel is that an angry look should hush up a slandering tongue. However, if the north wind brings the rain, then a slandering, backbiting tongue causes angry looks. Which one is it?

My Interpretation

One day, a long time ago, I tried to help someone. With a humble, servant-like attitude I bent over backwards to accommodate this individual, even though I knew it was going to be difficult for me. Then, that very evening, I was informed of slander being spread about me – stories that I had done the complete opposite and actually refused to help the person in need.

The word in this verse translated “angry” means “to foam at the mouth, speaking of a camel…”** Dear reader, I am not super spiritual – I am still human – so when I heard of what was being said of me, well…let’s just say I’m glad the walls of my house are made of brick. You could say I was foaming-at-the-mouth angry.

However you choose to interpret Proverbs 25:23, backbiting and slander can cause serious problems. Talking about people behind their backs simultaneously drives away showers of blessing and brings in cold rains of sorrow.

Watch your tongue and the weather will be fine.

“Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” – Psalms 34:13-14 ESV

Sources:

*Duane A. Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, vol. 14, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 209.

**Wilhelm Gesenius and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003), 250.


Nauseous Hosts

Proverbs 23:6-8

Eat thou not the bread of [him that hath] an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats: For as he thinketh in his heart, so [is] he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart [is] not with thee. The morsel [which] thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up, and lose thy sweet words.

Don’t eat with people who are stingy; don’t desire their delicacies. They are always thinking about how much it costs. “Eat and drink,” they say, but they don’t mean it. You will throw up what little you’ve eaten, and your compliments will be wasted. – NLT

Puzzling 

I have been struggling with this proverb. You must admit, it’s a little odd. I mean, what’s the deal with “dainty meats” and throwing up?

The best I can figure, the meaning of this proverbs is pretty simple once you get past the language. For one thing, don’t eat with a hypocrite. Secondly, if you do, you’ll regret anything nice you ever said.

It does seem a little strange, though. Why would someone feed you and say, “Go ahead, dear, eat all you want,” while at the same time regret you ever came to dinner?

Better to Eat Herbs

Solomon must have had an experience or two with people who wanted to entertain him with a meal. But evidently there were people who offered the best on the menu while wincing every time he took a nibble. Have you ever known anyone like that?

What makes a person sick after eating all the nice, expensive food is the guilt one is made to feel. There are some people who want to make you think they care, but then they make you feel guilty for taking advantage of their hospitality. The great Matthew Henry said,

Do not sponge upon those that are bountiful, nor make thyself burdensome to any; but especially scorn to be beholden to those that are paltry and not sincere. Better have a dinner of herbs, and true welcome, than dainty meats without it.*

Gag Reflex

Here’s the point that must be taken: don’t desire the things that belong to the wealthy, nor ask them for a free meal. Sure, there are kindly millionaires who love to give. The problem it that there are many others who love money more than people, but don’t want to seem greedy on the surface. That is why they will say, “Eat and drink,” but gag you in the end.

One commentary says that “Cultivating the friendship of the wealthy is a waste of effort,” and then goes on to say…

“For like a hair in the throat, so he is.” Just as getting a hair in the throat while eating causes a gag reflex and sometimes vomiting (v. 8), even so the wealthy man’s hospitality will leave one feeling disgusted.**

I sure hope the next rich person that takes me to dinner keeps his hair off my food.

Sources:

*Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), Pr 23:6–8.

**Duane A. Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, vol. 14, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 195-196.


Reflections of Reality

Proverbs 27:19

“As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man.”
“As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.” – ESV

A Little Complicated

Today’s proverb, especially in the King James Version, is not for the casual reader. The wording is complicated, to say the least. But even when we look at other translations, the truth of this proverb, like a flower in mid-bloom, is never fully revealed.

It seems that verse 19 is an extension of verse 17, but it takes “iron sharpeneth iron” to a deeper level, “where one is to seek out and discern good advice, but also to heed the counsel of one’s heart (as well as pray!).”[1]

There are evidently several ways to interpret this passage. The New American Commentary explains: “Some take it to mean that one sees one’s inner self reflected in the face of a companion; and others, that one comes to self-understanding by introspection.”[2] However, the explanation of this proverb may be no more complicated than the need to see ourselves for who we really are.

Recent Exposure

Recently, a friend of mine had some things happen that caused him to react in a very fleshly, un-Christian way. Because of the circumstances that led to his angry response to an obvious injustice, I was not going to judge him or think less of him in any way. I might have done the same thing, had I been in his shoes.

But that evening, after reading Proverbs chapter 6 in preparation for the next day’s Sunday school class, my friend called me on the phone to apologize for his actions. Then, the next morning in class, as we talked about how reading the Bible exposes who we really are, my friend said, “But sometimes what I see in the reflection is not really me.”

mirrorAh, but that’s not so!” I replied. The fact, I explained, is that when we peer down into the water of God’s word, the reflection we see is the only accurate reflection available. While other mirrors show us what we want to see, the Bible reflects our reality.

“But that’s not who I want to be…I’m not that way,” he said. “Oh,” I replied, “but that is who you are…who we all are…The heart is wicked and capable of all kinds of things, and God’s word reminds us of that.”

The Point

So what’s the point? Is there any hope? Sure there is! It is only when we are able to reflect on who we really are, when we can see ourselves face-to-face, than we can move beyond the pretenses of our own pride and self-righteousness.

But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.” – Col 3:8-10 NLT


[1] Rowland E. Murphy, Proverbs, vol. 22, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 209.

[2] Duane A. Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, vol. 14, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 220.


A Difficult Thought

Proverbs 26:10

“The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors.”
“Like an archer who wounds everyone is one who hires a passing fool or drunkard.” – ESV

This proverb is a challenging one because of how many different ways it could be translated. As a matter of fact, practically every scholarly commentary admits the Hebrew in this proverb is difficult to interpret. That is why I am going to quote several of them before I leave my final thought for you.

Spence-Jones (The Pulpit Commentary)

Few passages have given greater difficulty than this verse; almost every word has been differently explained. The Authorized Version is, The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors; Revised Version, As an archer (Job 16:13) that woundeth all, so is he that hireth the fool and he that hireth them that pass by. At first sight one would hardly suppose that these could be versions of the same passage. [1]

Garrett (The New American Commentary)

The Hebrew of v. 10 is almost unintelligible and thus subject to numerous interpretations, all of which are hypothetical. As the NIV has it, the verse reaffirms that one should not commit important tasks to fools (as in v. 6). Notwithstanding all the difficulties of the text, that does seem to be the main point.[2]

Friedrich and Delitzsch (Commentary on the Old Testament)

All that we have hitherto read is surpassed in obscurity by this proverb, which is here connected because of the resemblance of ושכר to שכור. We translate it thus, vocalizing differently only one word:

            Much bringeth forth from itself all; But the reward and the hirer of the fool pass away.[3]

Matthew Henry

Matthew Henry

Our translation [KJV] gives this verse a different reading in the text and in the margin; and accordingly it expresses either, 1. The equity of a good God. The Master, or Lord (so Rab signifies), or, as we read it, The great God that formed all things at first, and still governs them in infinite wisdom, renders to every man according to his work. … Or, 2. The iniquity of a bad prince (so the margin reads it): A great man grieves all, and he hires the fool; he hires also the transgressors. When a wicked man gets power in his hand, by himself, and by the fools and knaves whom he employs under him, whom he hires and chooses to make use of, he grieves all who are under him and is vexatious to them. We should therefore pray for kings and all in authority, that, under them, our lives may be quiet and peaceable.[4]

Anthony Baker (Proverbial Thought)

So, here is what I think. Feel free to quote me 200 years from now.

A man is a fool when he employs a fool to complete a task. However, the biggest fool is one who thinks God, the Almighty Archer, will miss the target when He holds the wicked accountable.

We are always under His watchful eye, but the fool is never out of His “sights.”


[1] H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., Proverbs, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 500.

[2] Duane A. Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, vol. 14, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 213.

[3] Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 6 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), 387.

[4] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994).


Foaming Angry

Proverbs 25:23

“The north wind driveth away rain: so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.”

Which Is It?

This is one of those verses in the Bible that cause interpreters and writers of commentaries to scratch their heads. One puts it this way: “This little proverb is extraordinarily beset with problems.”* According to the scholars and biblical language experts, it is hard to determine what Solomon means, exactly.

You see, there are issues with the “north wind”: does the verb “driveth” really mean to “drive away” or to “bring?” The verb actually means to “bring forth, as with labor pains.” Either way makes the second part hard to interpret: does an angry look come because of a “backbiting tongue,” or does the indignant tongue make the “angry countenance” go away?

If the north wind drives a cold rain away, then the parallel is that an angry look should hush up a slandering tongue. However, if the north wind brings the rain, then a slandering, backbiting tongue causes angry looks. Which one is it?

My Interpretation

One day, a long time ago, I tried to help someone. With a humble, servant-like attitude I bent over backwards to accommodate this individual, even though I knew it was going to be difficult for me. Then, that very evening, I was informed of slander being spread about me – stories that I had done the complete opposite and actually refused to help the person in need.

The word in this verse translated “angry” means “to foam at the mouth, speaking of a camel…”** Dear reader, I am not super spiritual – I am still human – so when I heard of what was being said of me, well…let’s just say I’m glad the walls of my house are made of brick. You could say I was foaming-at-the-mouth angry.

However you choose to interpret Proverbs 25:23, backbiting and slander can cause serious problems. Talking about people behind their backs simultaneously drives away showers of blessing and brings in cold rains of sorrow.

Watch your tongue and the weather will be fine.

“Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” – Psalms 34:13-14 ESV

Sources:

*Duane A. Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, vol. 14, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 209.

**Wilhelm Gesenius and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003), 250.