The Thought Behind the Proverb
WHEN the Bible proverbs were written human nature was basically the same as we find it today. The wise man observed much that was good and much that was bad. All of it was worthy of note and comment. This served to commend the good, condemn the bad and point out the correct road to the doubting person uncertain of the course of practical wisdom. When the basis for a proverb is clearly understood, its lesson is more effective. Are you aware of the thought behind the following proverbs?
“The path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established. The way of the wicked ones is like the gloom; they have not known at what they keep stumbling.”
Picture an early-morning traveler in Palestine as the sun rises in the east. When the sun first tinges the sky, objects are seen in broad outline. Gradually, under the ever-increasing illumination, everything is seen in clear detail. When the sun stands directly overhead at noon, there is no shadow ahead on the road. So is the path of God’s servants who, through constant attention to his Word, steadily increase in knowledge, wisdom and understanding of his purposes. Hazy or erroneous viewpoints, little understood doctrine and prophecies are gradually cleared up under the ever-increasing light from God’s Word, and the way to go is very clear. The wicked, on the other hand, are like the man who stumbles on in the dark at night. Having no understanding of Jehovah’s Word and purposes and not willing to accept and conform to revealed truths, the wicked stumble on in their ignorance and error, which, ironically, they are too blind to recognize or admit.
“The truly wise woman has built up her house, but the foolish one tears it down with her own hands.”
The proverb shows the influence for good or for bad that a wife can exert in the family circle. A devout, industrious and prudent wife by wise management of her household promotes the prosperity of the family. She increases the furniture, food and clothing and plays a vital role in the religious education of the children. The opposite is true of the foolish, irreverent and thriftless wife. Though her husband be industrious and frugal, his household will not prosper, because she squanders both money and time. Not only is her furniture dilapidated, the children ill-clothed and ill-fed, but their spiritual education is sadly neglected. She has in effect torn the house down on top of them! The young man seeking a wife must choose wisely if he hopes to build a happy home.
“The way of the lazy one is like a brier hedge, but the path of the upright ones is a way cast up.”
No matter what a lazy person undertakes he imagines that no end of difficulties are hindering him. If he goes on a journey, he thinks the road is thick with thorns and briers through which he cannot make his way or, at best, he does so painfully. Many of the difficulties are either the product of his own imagination or neglect of duty. The industrious, God-fearing man enjoys his work. He does not imagine all kinds of obstacles that would serve as an excuse for not laboring. By giving attention to his work he avoids many thorny stumbling blocks and complaints that would otherwise confront him. His journey of life is along a smooth road that has been built up and that is free from stones. He makes good progress and rejoices.
“The horse is something prepared for the day of battle, but salvation belongs to Jehovah.”
The Israelites had no war horses before Solomon’s time. Among the ancient peoples of Asia, oxen pulled the plow and cart, the camel and the ass carried burdens, mules and asses were used for riding, and the horse was employed only for war. Before Israel’s entry into the Promised Land, Jehovah commanded that their future king “should not increase horses for himself, nor make the people go back to Egypt in order to increase horses.” (Deut. 17:16) God would be the protection of his people; war horses would not be necessary. It made no difference how mighty the army that came against them, Jehovah would provide salvation for his obedient people. Boasting of Assyria’s military power, Rabshakeh, who headed Sennacherib’s forces, offered to give over two thousand horses if the Jews could put riders on them. They had the horses for battle, but Jehovah gave the salvation to his worshipers.—Isa. 36:8; 37:36-38.
“The refining pot is for silver, and the furnace is for gold; and an individual is according to his praise.”
The heat of the melting pot and furnace will test the quality of silver and gold, bringing scummy dross to the surface. So will praise show the quality of a man’s heart. Wise men do not seek praise nor are they puffed up by it. Vain men seek it and weak men are inflated by it. If one can bear praise without injury, remembering that anything and everything he has is actually from God, that one is sterling in the eyes of Jehovah.
“An able-bodied man that is of little means and that is defrauding the lowly ones is as a rain that washes away so that there is no food.”
A threat to residents of Palestine is the cloudburst. These sweeping rainstorms have been known to descend on summer threshing floors and sweep them bare of all precious seed, drowning cattle and taking away flocks. Even homes have been washed away. So is the oppression of the poor man who comes into power and uses his office to grab all he can from the lowly ones. He stoops to petty extortion that would not occur to a wealthy ruler. In this manner a greedy ruler or a ruler in debt could sweep away everything upon which the poor depended for their livelihood. One in authority should be free of debt, lest he be tempted to use his office for harm instead of good.
“The eye that holds a father in derision and that despises obedience to a mother—the ravens of the torrent valley will pick it out and the sons of the eagle will eat it up.”
The ravines of the torrent streams of Syria are frequented by ravens that have the reputation for attacking the eyes of living or dead animals. The raven in particular lives on dead carcasses lying in the field. Those who disrespect their parents or their heavenly Father and his motherlike organization will die a disgraceful death, unworthy of decent burial.—Rev. 19:17-21.