Responsibility is Sanity: Brit-Am Commentary to the Book of Proverbs chapter 14
Seek Wisdom and Achieve Sanity
Responsibility is Sanity. Try to understand and do what has to be done and wisdom will be given to you. The secrets of existence and of humanity will be made known to you.
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[Proverbs 14:1] The wise woman builds her house,
But the foolish pulls it down with her hands.
Women should put their families first and help their husbands.
2 He who walks in his uprightness fears the Lord,
But he who is perverse in his ways despises Him.
Many of the expressions in the Book of Proverbs are grammatically structured to be read forwards and backwards,
14:2 He who walks in his uprightness fears the Lord,
But he who is perverse in his ways despises Him.
May also be read as saying:
He who fears the Lord walks in his uprightness ,
But he who despises Him is perverse in his ways.
If you fear God you will be enabled to be upright.
If you despise God you will be perverse (i.e. crooked, dishonest, deceitful) in your ways.
When you despise the Bible and goodness it is as if you despise God. If your inner soul i.e. your belief and trust in God is not perfect then almost against your will you will not be able to walk upright and honestly.
The Secular Types in Israel (and perhaps elsewhere as well) used to say:
# One does not need to be religious, it is enough to be a decent person #
The problem is that such intentions can only take one so far. Someone who is not religious (i.e. who does not fear God) will not be able to act decently when it comes to the crunch.
3 In the mouth of a fool is a rod of pride,
But the lips of the wise will preserve them.
We should guard our mouth and avoid saying things that are meant to build ourselves up, especially not at the expense of others. If you nhave to say something find a subject of interest to the others present and pertinent to them.
4 Where no oxen are, the trough is clean;
But much increase comes by the strength of an ox.
The word translated as oxen above in Hebrew is Alufim connoting prize bulls or bulls that are capable of doing a lot of work. In Modern Hebrew, aloof means champion, or military general.
The word translated as ox in the second stanza is "Shor" i.e. bull.
The verse may be rendered:
4 Without champion bulls, the trough is clean;
But much is produced through the strength of a bull.
This to my mind is teaching us common sense: If you want work done you must expect the place not to be nice and tidy. This is true at the simple level but it is also pertinent in the symbolic sense. The Book of Proverbs returns to this theme in different ways a few times.
cf. Einstein: ''If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think of an empty desk?"
5 A faithful witness does not lie,
But a false witness will utter lies.
This seem obvious. Of course someone who does not lie tells the truth, and a person who lies speaks falsely. The message however is that we need to make truth part of our personality. If we have a false misleading attitude and get used to mendacity we are liable to utter falsehoods against our will.
6 A scoffer seeks wisdom and does not find it,
But knowledge is easy to him who understands.
The above translation is correct but the verse may also be understood as saying:
A mocking disbeliever seeks wisdom and does not find it,
But knowledge is easy to him who of understanding.
The point here is the possession of wisdom in the Book of Proverbs and of comprehension is not dependent on IQ but rather on the will to do the will of the Almighty.
7 Go from the presence of a foolish man,
When you do not perceive in him the lips of knowledge.
Keep away from those who speak perversely.
8 The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way,
But the folly of fools is deceit.
A prudent person will understand what they are doing. Fools often deceive themselves. They want to believe that which they knew in their hearts (or should know) is not so.
9 Fools mock at sin,
But among the upright there is favor.
The Hebrew word translated above as sin is "Asham" literally meaning guilt. It is the probably root of the English word "shame", and ashamed. Bad ways bring disgrace. They who are upright find favor and grace in the eyes of others.
10 The heart knows its own bitterness,
And a stranger does not share its joy.
11 The house of the wicked will be overthrown,
But the tent of the upright will flourish.
12 There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
13 Even in laughter the heart may sorrow,
And the end of mirth may be grief.
It may be good to laugh at time, to enjoy humor and be happy but one should be careful.
14 The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways,
But a good man will be satisfied from above.
The word translated as "will be filled" above is "Ysiba" connoting satisfy, gratify. Someone who is treacherous and deceitful may get away with it (at least superficially and for a short time) and feel pleased with themselves. Someone who is good will be rewarded by God.
15 The simple believes every word,
But the prudent considers well his steps.
The word translated as "simple" above is petty i.e. simple, gullible.
The second part of the verse may be rendered alternately as saying,
But the prudent will understand from the foundations, i.e. thoroughly.
The Hebrew allows the verse to be turned around as if to say:
Someone who believes every word they hear is irresponsibly gullible.
A prudent person will examine the matter thoroughly.
This is something we should be aware of. The media and the wicked sometimes present believers in the Bible as ignorant and naive. Such a phenomenon does exist. On the whole however it is the atheist types who are stupid. Once one gets to know them one realizes that underneath what may be an intellectual educated veneer there lies stupidity and belief in such nonsense that no Biblically minded person would ever get near to!
16 A wise man fears and departs from evil,
But a fool rages and is self-confident.
17 A quick-tempered man acts foolishly,
And a man of wicked intentions is hated.
18 The simple inherit folly,
But the prudent are crowned with knowledge.
19 The evil will bow before the good,
And the wicked at the gates of the righteous.
20 The poor man is hated even by his own neighbor,
But the rich has many friends.
This is a fact of life, like it or not. We too, may be afflicted with us trait without necessarily being conscious of it.
It is true at the simple literal level, a poor person is kept away from.
Symbolically someone who is rich in good deeds, worth traits, and Biblical Knowledge will be sought after by others.
21 He who despises his neighbor sins;
But he who has mercy on the poor, happy is he.
22 Do they not go astray who devise evil?
But mercy and truth belong to those who devise good.
Do good and good will come unto you. This includes having good intentions and wanting the good of others.
23 In all labor there is profit,
But idle chatter leads only to poverty.
You should work whenever you can or at least always make an effort in the right direction.
This verse has a double message (or rather a manifold one like all of the Book of Proverbs).
It can also from the Hebrew be understood as implying.
In all effort there will be some superfluity but speech will cause lack, i.e. it is better to do something than just talk about it.
Regarding the first part of this verse, In all labor there is profit [be-Col Etsev yihi motar] it may also (in light of the Commentaries be understood as saying, "all effort brings results". Idle Chatter however leads only to lacking i.e. poverty. If there is no substance nothing will come of it.
24 The crown of the wise is their riches,
But the foolishness of fools is folly.
This could also be rendered:
The wisdom of the wise is their crown the equivalent of riches.
The foolishness of fools causes foolishness.
Do not tolerate criminal stupidity in yourself and expect good to come of it.
25 A true witness delivers souls,
But a deceitful witness speaks lies.
26 In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence,
And His children will have a place of refuge.
When and if your children or grandchildren are ever in trouble they may be helped due to the fear of God that you had.
27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
To turn one away from the snares of death.
28 In a multitude of people is a king's honor,
But in the lack of people is the downfall of a prince.
Rashi explains this verse using the terms "king" and "prince" as synonymous. When a ruler has many subjects it gives him glory but if he losses the support of the people his rulership may come to an end.
29 He who is slow to wrath has great understanding,
But he who is impulsive exalts folly.
It happens often that we misinterpret matters and get angry when it is not justified. Even when anger may be justified it is liable to cause us to loose control and do or say things that are simply stupid, self-defeating, and harmful to ourself and others.
30 A sound heart is life to the body,
But envy is rottenness to the bones.
The word translated above as "sound" in Hebrew is "marpeh" meaning healing i.e. a healing heart. Strive to have a good heart, seek the good of others, be optimistic and encouraging and this will give you physical vitality.
31 He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker,
But he who honors Him has mercy on the needy.
We all have a tendency not to respect those who appear to have lost it. This is a mistake. God wants you to respect others.
32 The wicked is banished in his wickedness,
But the righteous has a refuge in his death.
33 Wisdom rests in the heart of him who has understanding,
But what is in the heart of fools is made known.
34 Righteousness exalts a nation,
But sin is a reproach to any people.
The word translated as "reproach" in Hebrew is "Chesed". This usually means kindness. Rashi explains it to refer to the heathen nations who unjustly take from one to give to another. The word translated as "sin" is "Chatat" which may also connote "misplaced". This verse could be used as an argument against socialism but Capitalism may also have a lot of things wrong with it.
35 The king's favor is toward a wise servant,
But his wrath is against him who causes shame.
Here the king could represent the Almighty. In a sense we are all servants of the Almighty. Sometimes we might not be pleased with this position but if circumstances have thrust it upon us we should live up to it as well as we can.