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Bible: What Does Proverbs 25-26 Teach Us About the Tongue, Foolishness, and Sluggards?
Solomon's Words of Wisdom
Proverbs 25-26: Contrasting "Glories"; The Power of the Tongue; Character Flaws; "Foolology" and "Sluggardry"
Glory of God Vs. Glory of Human King
Hezekiah—who lived about 700 B.C.—commissioned his scribes to copy some of Solomon's proverbs in order to preserve them for posterity (v. 1).
One of the four wise sayings chosen contrasts an aspect of a king's prerogative and position with that of God’s. Solomon first sets up a contrast between the "glory" of God and the "glory" of human rulers.
Regarding any given affair or matter about life and/or the universe, God, by virtue of Who He is and what He knows, has the exclusive prerogative to keep full understanding of the facts hidden from man.
Kings, on the other hand, have the exclusive responsibility (“glory” means “weight”) to investigate matters of import (v. 2).
A second proverb favorably compares the immensity and depth of the heavens and earth to the heart of kings.
[Is this just a hyperbolic expression, or is it a revealed insight into the nature of human beings (v. 3?)]
Politically, Solomon understood that if the wicked should be removed from positions of influence in the government, society would improve.
He compares the dross in silver to the wicked before him.
[Could he be referring to his own evil counselors who usurped high positions in the government and whom he needed to demote in order to preserve order (vv. 4-7; cf. Lk. 14:7-11)]?
As for legal matters, the king advises against issuing hasty lawsuits, and for trying to resolve serious interpersonal conflicts privately (vv. 8-10; cf. Mt. 18: 15-20).
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Temperance and Moderation
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The Power of the Tongue
Solomon continues to emphasize the power of the tongue for both good and evil.
Employing three consecutive similes, he demonstrates the value to hearers of one who speaks wisely (vv. 11-13).
A fourth figure points out the emptiness, even the meaninglessness, of boasting (v. 14).
Gentle speech, on the other hand, is often a powerfully persuasive tool (v. 15).
Still another figure appears in verse 18: the author compares the words of a false witness to a deadly weapon.
Backbiting is malicious speech about an absent party; sometimes the one “bitten” learns of his enemy's malice and expresses anger toward him "facially" (v. 23).
Two verses call for temperance/moderation; here overindulgence and over-familiarity breed sickness and contempt, respectively (vv. 16-17).
Solomon also pictures two troubling situations and two poor solutions.
Expecting to receive help from the unfaithful is, at best, a painful condition (v. 19), and singing a happy song to a sad person makes matters worse (v. 20).
However, rendering good deeds to an enemy is effective behavior worthy of divine reward (vv. 21-22; cf. Rom. 12:20).
The author continues to share his wisdom about apparently unrelated topics, using similes and other comparative devices to teach.
Living in a little space, poor and alone, is better than having a big space with someone always fighting with you (v. 24).
Verse 25 serves as a contrast of sorts with verses 19-20. Here Solomon devises appropriate solutions to different troubles.
Fitting remedies satisfy both physical and emotional needs.
The last three verses warn about character flaws: hypocrisy, self-glorification, and lack of self-control.
Comparing the saint's life to water, Solomon sees blatant sin as muddying one's testimony (v. 26).
Eating too much honey results in nausea and vomiting; seeking your own glory leads to a similar emptiness (v. 27; cf. 25:16).
Mental anarchy and disarray reign in an unrestrained soul (v. 28).
"Foolology" and "Sluggardry"
Solomon instructs his audience in “foolology” (vv. 1, 3-12) and “sluggardry” (vv. 13-16).
First, honoring a fool should never occur (v. 1); like a stubborn animal, he deserves punishment instead (v. 3).
Second, when dealing with fools, you should not agree with him or try to find sense in what he says (v. 4); instead, you should point out his error to him (v. 5).
Since fools are, by nature, untrustworthy, it is counterproductive and even dangerous to use one as a courier (v. 6).
Lame legs are useless or powerless; so is the work of a proverb in the life of a fool when he speaks it.
He voices the proverb, but it does not make him wiser; his inherent stupidity prevents him from benefiting from its wisdom (v. 7).
Just as the sling throws the stone away, so the fool will get rid of or contemptuously treat the honor you pay him (v. 8).
A thorn has little effect upon a drunkard when it pierces his flesh; in like manner, a fool speaking a proverb makes no lasting impression upon him (v. 9; cf. 26:7).
God, the great Creator, nevertheless, shows mercy by providing even for fools and transgressors in His plan (v. 10; cf. NIV and NASB for variant interpretations of the Hebrew).
The fool does not permanently reject the thing that caused him pain and sickness, but he tries it again (v. 11; cf. 2 Peter 2:22 referring to apostate teachers).
Yet the self-deceived are even more hopeless than the fool; the latter may still repent of his ways (v. 12).
A different category of fool is the sluggard (vv. 13-16). This man typically
(1) offers outrageously “over the top” reasons for not leaving his home to go to work (v. 13; cf. 22:13);
(2) sleeps too much (v. 14),
(3) eats too much, and is out of shape and weak (v. 15; cf. 19:24), yet
(4) thinks he is the wisest man on earth (v. 16; cf. 26:12).
Solomon resumes his speech theme (v. 17), first warning against trying to be a peacemaker when the conflict is none of your business.
The one you oppose will "bite" you.
Second, playing mischievous practical jokes and then covering them with deceptive words are potentially dangerous practices (vv. 18-19).
Third, you should keep quiet about rumors or damaging stories you hear about others.
Quash the gossip; for if you don’t, it will deeply affect people's opinions (vv. 20, 22).
Fourth, you should not contend habitually (be rude in defending your views).
You should not cause strife among others just to get your way or to exalt yourself (v. 21).
Perhaps the key to verse 23's interpretation lies in vv. 24-26.
The symbol "earthenware" may refer to a human being, since God, the Potter, made man from the ground.
When the silver dross (deceit that issues from fervent lips [v. 24] and a wicked heart [v. 25]) is removed, everyone will see his wickedness (v. 26).
Liars hate and flatterers destroy those they despise (v. 28).
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