Proverbs 20-31

Proverbs 20

Solomon jumps right into the chapter condemning four vices.

A. Contentious effects of alcohol (1)

  B. Offending a leader (2)

    C. Strife (3)

      D. Laziness (4)

Next, Solomon moves to proverbs dealing with discernment and integrity (5-12).

A. Real motives are deep (5)

  B. Loyalty is rare (6)

    C. Loyalty produces generational blessing (7)

    C. Good leadership produces generational blessing (8)

  B. Integrity is rare (9)

Notice that the five proverbs above beg the reader to discern the rarity, blessing, and essential nature of integrity.

We come now to a section of proverbs written between two bookends—verse 10, where it is stated the Lord detests double standards, and verse 23, where the Lord is displeased with dishonest scales. Solomon is wishing for these proverbs to regarded in light of the subject matter of the two bookends.

A. Double standards (10)

  B. Conduct proves character (11)

    C. Cautious judgment is essential for success (12)

      D. Love of ease leads to poverty (13)

        E. Don't deceive to gain a bargain (14)

        E. Wise words are the real bargain (15)

        E. Deposits are a bargain from people of poor character (16)

        E. Stolen goods are cursed bargains (17)

      D. Love of planning leads to success (18)

    C. Cautious sharing is essential to success (19)

  B. Honor proves character 20

    C. Cautiously gained inheritance is a gift from God (21)

  B. Waiting on God to vindicate proves character (22)

A. Dishonest scales (23)

Finally, Solomon ends this chapter by defining how a king is to lead.

 A. Let Yahweh provide the guidance (24)

B. Treat a promise as irrevocable (25)

  C. Separate the wicked from the good (26)

    D. Expose your motives to Yahweh (27)

      E. Grace and truth preserve the leader (28)

        F. Accumulate wisdom with age (29)

          G. Discipline disciplines the heart (30)

Day 20 Questions

Read or Listen

Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright.  Proverbs 20:11

Practice

What do your acts say about you this week?


Proverbs 21

Solomon opens this chapter revealing how God interacts with His leaders and how He directs and examines their hearts, directs their actions, and warns the king of pride.

A. The Lord directs the king’s heart (1)

 B. The Lord examines the heart (2)

A. The Lord directs the king’s actions (3)

 B. The Lord warns the king of pride (4)

Solomon now lists out nine vices that the providence of God is continually working against.

A. Covetousness (5)

 B. Dishonesty (6)

C. Insensitivity (7)

  D. Deceitfulness (8)

    E. Contentious (9)

      F. Merciless (10)

        G. Mocker (11)

          H. Corrupt (12)

            I. Heartless (13)

Next, Solomon contrasts seven different kinds of lifestyles.

A. A gift contrasted with a bribe (14)

B. Justice contrasted with favoritism (15)

 C. Wandering contrasted with death (16)

  D. Love of pleasure contrasted love of luxury (17)

E. Unfair treatment of the godly contrasted with unfair treatment of the honest (18)

    F. The solitude of the desert contrasted with a complaining wife (19)

  G. The wealth of the wise contrasted with the debt of fools (20)

Solomon now defines the outcome of right pursuits.

A. The righteous and their comfort (21)

 B. The wise and their leveling of strongholds (22)

  C. The wise and their closed mouth (23)

Solomon next looks at the outcome of unwise pursuits and attitudes.

A. The arrogance of the mocker (24)

 B. The ruin of the lazy (25)

  C. The ambition of the greedy (26)

D. The wrong motive in sacrifice (27)

    E. The future of a false witness (28)

  F. The bluff of the wicked (29)

Finally, Solomon mentions the futility of planning and preparing without God.

A. The futility of human planning (30)

B. The futility of human preparation (31)

Day 21 Questions

Read or Listen

Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteous, and honor.  Proverbs 21:21

Practice

How can you practice kindness at home today?


Proverbs 22

We come now to the end of the fourth part of the book of Proverbs, the "Prejudicial Proverbs," as we have named them. They began in chapter 16 verse 1 and will end in this chapter at verse 16.

The first proverbs deal with the subject matter of the perspective of those who are building a good name for themselves. Those seeking a good name value it more than wealth (1), showing favoritism (2), carelessness (3-5), and the neglect of child discipline (6).

 A. A good name is superior to wealth (1)

B. Rich and poor come from God (2)

  C. The prudent see danger and avoid it (3)

B. Riches come from the fear of God (4)

  C. The corrupt are blind to danger and make it their path (5)

 A. A good name is built by directing your children to the right path. (6)

Solomon finishes this section of "Prejudicial Proverbs" by listing out ten qualities that preserve a good name.

 A. Recognize the dangers of debt (7)

  B. Recognize the dangers of injustice (8)

C. Recognize the dangers of neglecting the poor (9)

    D. Recognize the dangers of cynicism (10)

  E. Recognize the dangers of a harsh tone (11)

      F. Recognize the dangers of lacking experience (12)

    G. Recognize the dangers of excuse making (13)

        H. Recognize the dangers of immorality (14)

      I. Recognize the dangers of an undisciplined child (15)

          J. Recognize the dangers of abusing the poor (16)

We now enter a new section in the book of Proverbs that we have referred to as the "Piecemeal Proverbs” section in 22:17 through 31:9. We will find in this section a change of style. The proverbs move from being descriptive, for the most part, to being exhortations. We now enter the "sayings of the wise" designed to instruct young men through life.

In verses 17 through 21, the writer asks his child to listen with his/her heart; it is reminiscent of chapters 1-9. In verse 18, these words are to go so deep in the heart that they find their way to the lips. In verse 19, we discover these words are personalized and designed to create trust. In verse 20, we are told they were not just given to memory but were written down, and finally, in verse 21, we see the father’s desire for his children to be reliable messengers of truth.

In verses 22 through 28, the father turns to actions to avoid, such as oppressing the poor (22-23), befriending violent and angry people (24-25), giving unwise pledges (26-27), removing boundaries (28), and being incompetent (29).

Day 22 Questions

Read or Listen

Be not one of those who give pledges, who put up security for debts.  Proverbs 22:26

Practice

Do you make promises you know that you cannot keep?  What should you do instead?


Proverbs 23

The father has so far appealed to his children to listen (22:17-21) and has listed out things to avoid (22:22-28). He now turns his attention to giving his children instruction in how to advance in life.

First, he encourages the mastering of etiquette (1-3).

    Second, he encourages his son not to be addicted to being rich (4-7).

          Third, he discourages making intimate friends of the stingy and the fool.

                   Fourth he encourages his children not to remove the ancient boundaries set by Yahweh when they inherited the land (10-11).

                        Fifth, he makes it clear that discipling children is essential for an advancing life (12-16).

                             Sixth, he encourages his son to deal with envy with a good dose of fearing God (17-18).

He now turns to the subject of vices to avoid (19-35).

    First in his list are carousing and drunkenness (19-21).

         Second on his list is the temptation to dishonor one's parents (22-26).

              Third, he warns against sexual misconduct (27-28).

                   The writer of this portion of Proverbs concludes with a heavy warning against drunkenness, spelling out in detail the bitter consequences (29-35).

Day 23 Questions

Read or Listen

Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding.  Proverbs 23:23

Practice

How can you buy truth and wisdom at home or at church?


Proverbs 24

As we come to this chapter, we will notice verses 1 and 22 are related to the subject of the wicked and foolish. The verses in between, either directly or more indirectly, relate to this subject.

Instead of associating with the evil people, the wise build their home (3-4), find strength in wisdom instead of associations with the evil (5-6), abandon the plans of the fool (7-9), are diligent to rescue those whom the evil are seeking to destroy (10-12), find hope for their future in wisdom (13-14), and do not scheme against the righteous (15-18). The king ends the section by defining the end of the evil (19-22).

Warning against evil associations (1-2)
The prosperity advantage of wisdom (3-4)
The physical strength advantage of wisdom (5-6)
The disadvantage of the fool (7-9)
The industrious advantage of being wise to free others (10-12)
The hope advantage of wisdom (13-14)
The disadvantage of doing evil to the righteous (15-18)
Warning regarding the end of the evil (19-22)

The Appendix

Solomon begins another collection of proverbs or sayings of the wise to be added as a sort of appendix to the above material. You will find in this structure three teachings sandwiched between two observations.

Observations concerning impartiality (24-26)
Teaching on preparation for marriage (27)
Teaching on giving testimony without a cause (28)
Teaching on seeking revenge (29)
Observations concerning slothfulness (30-34)

Day 24 Questions

Read or Listen

Be not a witness against your neighbor without a cause, and do not deceive with your lips.  Proverbs 24:28

Practice

What should you do today if you hear gossip about someone?


Proverbs 25

We come now to another group of proverbs in this piecemeal section. They, by internal identification, are Solomon's proverbs collected by the scribes of King Hezekiah (1).

In verses 2 through 5, Solomon tells future kings (leaders) how to make policy.

In verses 6 through 8, Solomon gives instruction on how one should act before a leader.

In verses 9 and 10, Solomon warns the king to be cautious not to reveal a secret and be named a gossip.

In verses 11 through 16, Solomon gives qualifications for those whom a king would use to speak for him.

A messenger must be timely in his communication (11),
he must be able to take criticism (12),
he must be trustworthy (13),
he must be one who makes good on his word (14),
and he must be soft of speech (15).

Solomon warns future kings to be

moderate (16-17),
honest (18),
and good discerners of character (19).

The future king should be careful not to celebrate personally when others are hurting (20) and careful to be a lover of his enemies (21-22).

Solomon finally ends with an array of subjects and facts such as: gossip creates anger (23); loneliness is preferred to contention (24); good news is always refreshing no matter how far removed it might be from those who hear it (25); giving into the wicked pollutes the heart of the king (26); too much honey and too much self-honor are not good (27); and the king without self-control leaves his home unguarded (28).

Day 25 Questions

Read or Listen

A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.  Proverbs 25:28

Practice

How can you practice self-control at home this weekend?


Proverbs 26

As we enter this chapter, it would seem Hezekiah's scribes have collected some proverbs concerning the understanding of certain kinds of humans.

In the first twelve verses, Solomon seeks to have future kings understand the fool.

In verse 1, a fool should never be given a place of honor.
In verse 2, a king should realize a curse remains on a victim for a reason.
In verse 3, he reminds a king that a fool is no self-starter.
In verse 4, he instructs the king not to argue with a fool.
In verse 5, he instructs the king to silence a fool.
In verse 6, he tells the king not to trust a fool to convey a message accurately.
In verse 7, he lets a king know that, even if he has a fool say something wise, it will be useless.
In verse 8, Solomon states the obvious: a fool cannot live up to your praise.
In verse 9, a fool is defined as incompetent.
In verse 10, he tells the king that employing a fool is like deliberately seeking to miss a target.
In verse 11, Solomon states the obvious: it is impossible for a fool to change.
Finally, in verse 12, Solomon gives one positive on a fool: he is better than one who thinks himself to be wise.

In verses 13 through 15, Solomon gives three humorous metaphors for being lazy.

In verse 17 through 28, Solomon is going to deal with

the damage of giving your opinion in someone else's argument (17),
lying and saying you're quitting (18-19),
quarrels (20-21),
rumors (22),
smooth talk (23-26),
and entrapment (27);
and then he concludes by defining the motive of lying and the consequence of flattery (28).

Day 26 Questions

Read or Listen

Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes?  There is more hope for a fool than for him.  Proverbs 26:12

Practice

How can you remember to grow in wisdom?


Proverbs 27

In this chapter, Hezekiah's scribes were putting together a group of Solomon’s proverbs they had discovered concerning friendship (1-10), the family (11-18), and the development of management skills (19-27).

In verses 1 through 4, Solomon gives excellent advice on those things detrimental to friendship.
In verses 1 and 2, he mentions the damage boasting can do.
In verses 3 and 4, he covers the issues of resentment and jealousy.

He moves from discussing those things that can harm friendships to those things that can foster good friendships.

In verses 5 and 6, the ability to take a rebuke is discussed.
In verse 7, he uses a metaphor to encourage one not to take friends for granted, nor to be overly picky.
In verse 8, Solomon warns his son not to wander too far from the home-like atmosphere of his friends.
In verse 9, his children are told that affectionate advice makes the stink of a bad situation smell better.
In verse 10, he calls for his children never to abandon a friend or family friend, for the friend who is near is often more valuable than the one far away.

Hezekiah's scribes now turn their attention toward those proverbs Solomon wrote concerning family.

In verse 11, notice the phrase "my son" used twenty-three times in the book. Of first importance, Solomon wants his sons wise, to gladden his heart and quell the critics. He next encourages prudence so danger and negative consequences are avoided (12). Then, he tells his children to be certain to get security on a debt from those to whom they are not related (13). He also encourages family members to be sensitive in their expressing excitement over good fortune (14). In verses 15 through 16, a complaining wife is revealed as being torturous and impossible to hold back. In verse 17, Solomon reveals that outside of family relationships, a person needs friends who share blunt words with each other to shave and sharpen their lives. In verse 18, Solomon reminds his sons that if his family is going to prosper, he must pay his workers well and reward loyalty.

The scribes now turn to some proverbs that are meant to help his children develop their management skills.

First, they are to be aware that their face reflects what is in their heart (19),
their desire will never be satisfied (20),
the praise they hear from others is a purity test (21),
and that once a person is committed to foolishness, no matter how low you bring them, they will never get to the end of their rope (22).

Finally, Solomon gets to the real matter at hand: above all, take care, manage well, and do not neglect what makes you a living. You can't be sure of an inheritance or retirement, so care diligently for what supplies your living (23-27).

Day 27 Questions

Read or Listen

Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.  Proverbs 27:2

Practice

What can you do today to remind yourself to not brag or boast?


Proverbs 28

Another section seems to appear in chapter 28. The first nine verses rehearse the subjects of the first nine chapters, and the term “torah" (law or teaching) appears five times in the same verses. Here, Hezekiah's scribes are listing the instructions of Solomon.

Notice the insecurity of a bad conscience (1), the weakness of immorality (2), the destruction of injustice (3), what is praised when the law is rejected (4-5), the preference of poverty to dishonesty (6), the shame that results from running with wild friends (7), the curse of high interest rates (8), and the useless praying of a person who ignores the law (9).

The rest of this chapter is devoted to contrasting the wicked and the righteous (10-28).

B. Those who lead astray versus the faithful (10)

 C. Rich who think they're wise versus the poor with discernment (11)

  D. The godly in charge versus the wicked in charge (12)

E. Those who conceal their sins versus those who confess (13)

    F. Those who fear to do wrong versus those who are stubborn (14)

A. Non-contrasting proverb concerning the danger of a wicked ruler (15)

B. An oppressive ruler versus the one who hates corruption (16)

A. A murderers' conscience (17)

B. The rescue of the blameless versus the destruction of the crooked (18)

 C. The hard worker versus the fantasy chaser (19)

  D. The trustworthy versus the quick-rich schemer (20)

A. No benefit to favoritism (21)

A. Lack of discernment in the head of the greedy (22)

A. The appreciation of criticism (23)

A. Stealing from parents is the same as murder (24)

B. Greed and fighting versus trust and prosperity (25)

 C. Trusting personal insight is foolish versus walking in wisdom (26)

  D. Those who give to the poor versus those who close their hearts (27)

E. Wicked in charges versus the wicked meeting disaster (28)

Day 28 Questions

Read or Listen

A greedy man stirs up strife, but the one who trusts in the Lord will be enriched.  Proverbs 28:25

Practice

How can you practice generosity this week?


Proverbs 29

From chapter 28, in the proverbs that Hezekiah's scribes collected, Solomon is continuing to contrast the wicked with the righteous.

1. The wicked who fall are contrasted with the righteous who thrive (1-2)
2. Son who squanders his father’s wealth is contrasted with a king who squanders the nation (3-4)
3. The snare of flattery is contrasted with the snare of one's own sin (5-6)
4. The righteous who care for the poor are contrasted with the unconcerned wicked (7)
5. Mockers who stir up a city contrasted with fools who stir up a courtroom (8-9)

Solomon then turns his attention to what a leader must do to make sure his government is righteous.

1. Watch those who give vent to murder and contrast them with those who give vent to their anger (10-11)
2. Don't listen to falsehood; instead, listen to both sides, and finally, be sure to listen to the one who has no advocate (12-14)
3. Solomon encourages his future leaders to be certain to discipline juvenile transgression (15) before it degenerates into uncontrolled addictions (16), and then he reminds the leader that all this discipline must begin in home with parents discipling their children (17)

Solomon ends this chapter listing out all the obstacles to social harmony:

1. Lack of vision disrupts harmony (18)
2. Using only words to discipline disrupts harmony (19)
3. Being hasty with decisions disrupts harmony (20)
4. Over-indulging the work force disrupts harmony (21)
5. Anger disrupts harmony (22)
6. Pride disrupts harmony (23)
7. Those who partner with thieves by giving no evidence they have stolen disrupts harmony (24)
8. The fear of man disrupts harmony (25)
9. To honor the leader before God disrupts harmony (26)
10. Injustice disrupts harmony (27)

Day 29 Questions

Read or Listen

A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.  Proverbs 29:11

Practice

When do you need to ask Jesus to help you hold back words of anger or frustration?


Proverbs 30

We now come to the appendix of the book (31). Agur is the author, prophet, poet, and moralist, and he lays out God's truth. He refers to his words as being an oracle (1) or a prophetic declaration. Agur knows what he is penning is God's inspired voice.

In verses 1 through 6, Agur claims his own humility and inability to really know the "Holy One" (1-3). To punctuate the genuineness of his humility, he lays out five questions, and the answer to each of these questions makes it clear that Agur is merely a temporal mortal and God is the All-Powerful Lord (3-6).

After reminding himself of his own humility, he then does what any humble man would do: he humbles himself again (7-9).

Agur's Wisdom

1. Don't slander a servant (10)
2. Don't curse parents (11)
3. Don't think too highly of yourself (12)
4. Don't ever use your power or influence against the poor (13)

We now come to the most enjoyable part of Agur's work, if not the most enjoyable part of the Proverbs, “the Numerical Sayings." While there are independent proverbs, the ones that stand out are the “numeric" ones.

1. Three, even four, things that are insatiable (15-16)

  A. Those who mock and dishonor parents are cursed (17)

2. Three, even four, things that are incomprehensible (18-19)

  A. The way of the adulterous (20)

3. Three, even four, things that are intolerable (21-23)

4. Three, even four, things that overcome their insignificance with wisdom (24-28)

5. Three, even four, things that can seem bigger and more powerful than they are (29-31)

Agur's Final Advice (32-33)

Exercise restraint and do not seek to create conflict or contention, for as sure as churning milk creates butter and pressing the nose makes blood, so anger produces a quarrel and division.

Day 30 Questions

Read or Listen

Every word of God proves true; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.  Proverbs 30:5

Practice

Where can you learn the words of God this week?


Proverbs 31

We come now to the last chapter of Proverbs attributed to the author King Lemuel (1). Little is known of him, but he was likely a foreign king with a godly mother whose advice he honored enough to write down that it might be remembered. A king's mother was often respected more than a king's wives, likely due to a king’s having only one mother, which was not necessarily true of his wives.

He opens his proverbs with a call to refrain from immoral behavior and sexual impulses (2-3). Next, he calls to his son to conquer addiction to alcohol. This appeal applies to any leader, not to give him/herself to alcohol yet to practice sensitivity in relationship to those who perish, for their need of drink is obvious (4-7). Lastly, she calls for him to be a defender of the poor and helpless, to make sure they are not taken advantage of (8-9).

After giving a great deal of attention to unfaithful women, the Proverbs ends with what a faithful wife looks like. This portion of the book is twenty-two verses in length, each verse beginning with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet; thus it is in an acrostic form lost to the English reader.

Some consider this section to be a handbook for a husband on finding a good wife or for a wife on becoming a good wife, while still others consider the wife here to be a metaphor for wisdom.

While there are many ways to look at this portion of Proverbs, let me simply arrange it in a chiasmus for easy contrast and comparison, for certainly the subjects are repeated in the first and bottom half of this acrostic.

A. A good wife is of great value (10)

B. A husband is enriched by a good wife (11-12)

 C. A virtuous wife is industrious and works hard (13-19)

  D. A virtuous wife is kind to the poor (20)

E. She has no fear of present difficulties (21)

    F. She dresses herself with beauty (22)

  G. Her husband is respected (23)

    F. She dresses others for profit (24)

E. She has no fear of future unpredictability (25)

  D. A virtuous wife is kind with her words (20)

 C. A virtuous wife suffers nothing due to laziness (27)

B. A husband praises her (29-29)

A. A good wife should be greatly rewarded (30-31)

Day 31 Questions

Read or Listen

Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.  Proverbs 31:9

Practice

How can you defend the poor and the needy around you?