Day 24 Proverbs 10 ... How to read Proverbs

Solomon had the ability to express his great wisdom in a very down-to-earth way. As a result, the book of Proverbs reads like a collection of the folksy, common-sense advice you might get from an uncle or aunt, or a godparent. The practical guidance, intended to help you make your way in the world, skips from topic to topic. It comments on small issues as well as large; blabbermouthing, wearing out your welcome with neighbors, being unbearably cheerful too early in the morning.

Anybody can find exceptions to the generalities in Proverbs. For instance, Proverbs 10:4 says "Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth." Yet, farmers who work diligently may go hungry during a drought, and lazy dreamers sometimes hit the lottery jackpot. Proverbs simply tells how life works most of the time; it gives the rule, not the exceptions. (Try to live by the exceptions, though, and you court disaster.) Normally, people who Are godly, moral, hardworking, and wise will succeed in life. Fools and scoffers, though they appear successful, will pay a long-term price for their lifestyles.

The advice in Proverbs usually takes the form of a brief-pungent "one-liner", so the book requires a different kind of reading than others in the Bible. It's hard to read several chapters in a row. The proverbs are meant to be taken in small doses, savored, digested, and gradually absorbed.

It helps to have a basic understanding of the structure of the proverbs, especially the style known as "parallelism". That word describes the tendency of Hebrew poetry to repeat a thought in a slightly different way. For example, Proverbs 10:10 uses "synonymous parallelism": "He who winks maliciously causes grief, and a chattering fool comes to ruin." The second half of the proverb underscores and embellishes the message of the first half.

Mostly, however, this chapter uses "antithetical parallelism," in which a thought is followed by it's opposite: "Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth." The word "but" often connects the two antithetical statements. In both kinds of parallelism, the trick is to compare each phrase with its pair in the other half of the proverb. For instance, in 10:4, "diligent hands" pairs with its opposite, "lazy hands", and "bring wealth" is the opposite of "make a man poor". Sometimes these comparisons bare subtle shades of meaning.

Point to Ponder: : Which of the proverbs in this chapter apply most directly to you?