Sunday, July 19, 2009

Proverbs 17: 1-10

Contrast the Upright and the Wicked
1Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it
Than a house full of feasting with strife.
2A servant who acts wisely will rule over a son who acts shamefully,
And will share in the inheritance among brothers.
3The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold,
But the LORD tests hearts.
4An evildoer listens to wicked lips;
A liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.
5He who mocks the poor taunts his Maker;
He who rejoices at calamity will not go unpunished.
6Grandchildren are the crown of old men,
And the glory of sons is their fathers.
7Excellent speech is not fitting for a fool,
Much less are lying lips to a prince.
8A bribe is a charm in the sight of its owner;
Wherever he turns, he prospers.
9He who conceals a transgression seeks love,
But he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends.
10A rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding
Than a hundred blows into a fool.

Today's Thought Question:
  1. What proverb in today's passage spoke to you and why?

I'm picking verse 8 today, because, once again, I'm intrigued by the words. Actually, I'll admit to being quite thrown off by the words used in my choice of translation.

"A bribe is a charm in the sight of its owner; wherever he turns, he prospers." (NASB)

I don't usually think of a bribe in good terms. My S.B. says that "this refers to a bribe that brings prosperity to its recipient." It also references Proverbs 17: 23 ("A wicked man receives a bribe from the bosom to pervert the ways of justice.") and Proverbs 15: 27 (He who is greedy for unjust gain troubles his own household, but he who hates bribes will live." AMP). 'Charm' is defined as "stone of favor," which kind of brings back yesterday's post about casting lots (stones used in the casting).

Cross-references on bribe include the following:
  • Proverbs 21:14--"A gift in secret subdues anger, and a bribe in the bosom [subdues], strong wrath."
  • Isaiah 1:23--"Your rulers are rebels and companions of thieves; Everyone loves a bribe and chases after rewards. They do not defend the orphan, nor does the widow's plea come before them." And,
  • Amos 5:12--For I know your transgressions are many and your sins are great, you who distress the righteous and accept bribes and turn aside the poor in the gate."
Is this confusing to anyone else? When I bribe my kids with candy, I can see how that might be a "charm" that I pull out of my bag that allows me to prosper, because I'll get whatever it is that I'm needing from them in order to get what I want. Ultimately, though, this can't be a good thing! This can't be what Solomon is really saying.
Looking at the Hebrew word translated bribe by the NASB. "A donation (venal [corrupt, like a judge being bought for a verdict] or redemptive [referring to redemption or salvation]); gift, present, reward, bribe. Wow.... Well, that explains why some of the other translations and paraphrases have other words:
  • "A gift is as a precious stone in the eyes of him that hath it: whithersoever it turneth, it prospereth." (KJV)
  • " Receiving a gift is like getting a rare gemstone; any way you look at it, you see beauty refracted." (The Message)
  • "A bribe is like a bright, precious stone that dazzles the eyes and affects the mind of him who gives it; [as if by magic] he prospers, whichever way he turns." (AMP)
What an interesting difference when you read 'gift' in the King James or The Message. I see something completely new and wonderful. Our Father has given so many gifts! Our spiritual gifts! Our faith--"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8); "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23) Jesus is the most beautiful redemptive gift and greatest reward.

Gifts of this nature are truly precious and beautiful, no matter how you look at them. The gift of wisdom surely allows one to spiritually prosper!

But, then, check out The Amplified Bible's interpretation: "A bribe is like a bright, precious stone that dazzles the eyes and affects the mind of him who gives it; [as if by magic] he prospers, whichever way he turns." Whew...I'm right back where I was with the NASB. Bribes provide that great temporary fix for something--an eye-dazzling charm that's magically delicious.

I'm hoping you all will chime in on this one. I don't usually ask you to do that, but I get concerned when Scripture seems to be saying two things at once. Perhaps what I read from Matthew Henry's Commentary is right on:

"Those who set their hearts upon money, will do any thing for it. What influence should the gifts of God have on our hearts!"

--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

On a much clearer ending note, I must add here how much I love the last verse of our passages today:

"A rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding than a hundred blows into a fool." (vs 10)

Not that I like "taking one" anywhere, but when it comes to gaining Godly wisdom, I'd gladly take that deep blow to the heart than sustain 100 hits for no reason. I'd take a deep blow to the heart to understand verse 8 right now....


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Tomorrow's Scripture Focus and Thought Question:

Proverbs 17: 11-21
  1. What proverb in today's passage spoke to you and why?

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Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation, specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB). I will quote other sources if used in a post.
I also use Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (with notes from the King James Version).


Carmen said...

Verse 8 really stood out to me as well. We fall into temptation because the temptation is appealing in some way. We believe that somehow it will be a good thing for us. After all, would we do it if we realized the consequences ahead of time?

I think bribes are the same. Bribes can be deceptive and often don't inform the 'victim' of the consequences. We are blinded by the desire for gain, we are charmed (or under a spell). We look at the bribe from several different angles (wherever he turns, he prospers), and think it looks okay and that it won't harm anyone.

That's how I would interpret that verse.

Sue J. said...

Carmen, thank you for helping me to see this more clearly with your words. The more I looked up supporting material, the more I got lost in it all. The thought of temptation hadn't even occurred to me.

Thank you for your perspective and wisdom!