The Word Made Fresh
1Here are some other proverbs of Solomon: King Hezekiah of Judah had his officials copy them:
2It is God’s privilege to conceal things;
it is the king’s privilege to search for them.
3As the heavens are high, and the earth is deep,
the mind of kings is unsearchable.
4Remove the impurities from the silver,
and the silversmith has material to work with.
5Remove evildoers from the king’s presence,
and the throne will be secure.
6Don’t step forward in the king’s presence
or stand with those who are important to the king.
7It is better to be invited to come up
than to be sent down in the presence of a nobleman.
Don’t hurry to bring into court what you’ve seen;
8for what then will you do when your neighbor shames you?
9Argue your case with your neighbor in private
and don’t reveal secrets held by another;
10for someone else may hear you and put you to shame
and your reputation will be tarnished.
11A word spoken well and at the right time
is like a golden apple set in silver.
12A wise reprimand given at the right time
is like a golden ornament.
13Faithful messengers are like snow at harvest time;
for their message refreshes their master’s spirits.
14The boast of a gift never given
is like clouds and wind without rain.
15A ruler may be persuaded with patience;
a soft reply can be powerful.
16If you find honey, eat only enough for yourself;
you will be sick if you have too much.
17Don’t enter your neighbor’s house too often,
or your neighbor will become weary with you.
18One who lies about a neighbor
is like a club, or sword, or sharp arrow.
19Trusting in an undependable person in a time of trouble
is like having a bad tooth or a lame foot.
20Singing songs to one with a heavy heart
is like pouring vinegar on a wound.
Sorrow makes the heart ache
like a moth infesting one’s clothes or a worm gnawing at wood.
21If your enemies are hungry, give them bread.
If they are thirsty give them water.
22It will be like piling fiery coals on their heads,
and you will be rewarded by the LORD.
23The north wind produces rain.
An accusing tongue produces angry looks.
24It is better to reside in a corner of the roof
than to live in a house with a contentious spouse.
25Good news from a far country
is like cold water to a thirsty soul.
26The good people who shrink before the wicked
are like muddy puddles or dirty fountains.
27Do not eat too much honey;
and don’t constantly seek honor upon honor.
28Those who lack self-control
are like cities whose walls have been breached.
1-7: More proverbs of Solomon are introduced, and fittingly these first ones address the nature of the kingship. It is the king’s job to search out what God has hidden from ordinary people. Wicked people in the kingdom are like dross mixed with silver: get rid of them! Verses 6-7 form the basis for a saying of Jesus (see Luke 14:10)
8-10: Some advice for legal matters: don’t be in haste to take it to court. We’ve forgotten this one in 21st century America!
11-20: These verses have to do mostly with words that are spoken. Good words are like gold, like a cold front in the heat of summer, and can persuade rulers and conquer adversaries. Ill-chosen words on the other hand are like rainless clouds, or dull arrows, or a sore tooth, or vinegar in a wound or moths in the closet.
21-22: This is the verse Paul quotes at Romans 12:20.
23-28: These similes cover a host of human foibles; the imagery is worth taking a little time to ponder.
These rules for living feel a little strange to us because we’re reading about life in Israel 2500 years ago. But it is fascinating that, as foreign as they are, they still contain a lot of wisdom for living in America in the 21st century.