Sunday, July 06, 2008

Understanding Proverbs

Isaac Hydoski offers some suggestions for understanding and applying Proverbs, including these questions (with application to a specific proverb, Proverbs 18:1: “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment”):
1. Is there action or thinking that is expressed positively or negatively in this proverb?

It would appear that the person in this proverb is removing himself from his community for selfish reasons. He has a personal and self-focused desire that has led him to separate himself from the blessing and the wisdom of his community. He has become an isolated loner in order to seek out his own desires.

2. Are there any consequences that can be discerned in this proverb?

This man, due to his selfishness, finds himself in a position of rejecting or “breaking out” from sound judgment or wisdom. He is in the position of a rebel now who opposes the wisdom of his community for selfish reasons.

3. What are the dangers I’m being warned about?

The danger or warning in this text would seem to be the rejection of wisdom. Inherent in this rebellion against wisdom is that we become fools who are deceived into believing we are wise. A wise man listens to counsel but a fool rejects it. (Proverbs 12:15).

4. Or conversely, what are the benefits held out in this proverb?

If we listen to the counsel our community provides we will possess wisdom and understanding and be protected from the deception of our own desires.

5. How does this proverb connect with the rest of the book?

Within this proverb we can see themes that are evident throughout the book. Humility, embracing instruction, community, the seeking out of wisdom, and the juxtaposition of the wise and the fool (study the context in Proverbs 18:1-21 to see this more clearly) is thread throughout this book. Making connections like this help you see the major thematic elements of the book which will, in turn, help you understand the message of Proverbs more clearly.

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