Saturday, August 21, 2010

Proverbs 29:11-13

“A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.”
This proverb can be illustrated by its six word structure:

All of his wind
Goes out
A fool
A wise one
Stills it

The “it” suffix of the final word is feminine singular and refers back to “wind.” Thus, the proverb begins with wind blowing – a storm. And the proverb ends with the storm being stilled.

All of the wind goes out of a fool. Like the “scoffer” who blows on his city (29:8), the fool blows wind as well. This is one of the ways a wise man turns away wrath (29:8): he holds back his temper. Actually, it is all of his “spirit” that goes out in the case of a fool.

As we noted lasted time, there is something of a reverse negative of the fool with God. God pours out His Spirit in creation and re-creation (e.g. Ps. 104:30, Jn. 14:26, 15:26).

Literally, the wise man holds/soothes his spirit. This is like God who stills the noise of the seas (Ps. 65:8, 89:10).

Dr. Leithart previously suggested that the difference between the wisdom of God who sends forth His Spirit and the fool who lets it all out is perhaps the difference between timing. Perhaps another difference is control. God sends forth His Spirit and His Spirit goes forth in perfect obedience and love, whereas the spirit of the fool goes forth as a sort of chaotic release valve.

The other obvious difference would be one of result. If 29:11 is a further explanation of 29:8, the destruction of cities is different than the establishment and renewal of cities. The Spirit of God renews and creates while the spirit of a fool destroys and tears down.

At the same time, we should not miss the similarities. There is something wild and reckless in the Spirit of God that comes upon Samson for instance. And when the Spirit came upon Jesus they said that He was out of His mind (Mk. 3:21). The ministry of the apostles also tended to stir up trouble in cities (e.g. Acts 17:5, etc.).
Literally, the proverb says that wise one stills the wind “back” or stills it “behind.” Perhaps this is a play on words giving the picture of a wise man holding his spirit behind himself. But regardless, the point is that the wise one rules his spirit, rules the wind and tames it, holding it back at his command.
This reminds us of Jesus of course who is the Wisdom of God and the one who calms the storm, who speaks to the wind and waves and they obey Him.

“If a ruler pays attention to lies, all his servants become wicked.”

Listens/pays attention
To the word of falsehood
All his ministers

This proverb intentionally suggests two readings, one emphasizing result, one emphasizing present reality. The ruler who listens to falsehood will end up with a court full of wicked servants because they will be necessarily included in the deception. But where is the ruler hearing words of falsehood? From his ministers of course, and therefore this proverb is also a statement of fact.

And if his ministers are wicked, the ruler is wicked – either as a result or again as a statement of fact.

“Words” of falsehood could be translated “speech, saying, charge, story, advice, counsel…” and this gives the proverb a fairly wide range of warning. This could include false charges, false reporting, false ideology, etc. This is the same word used in Ex. 20:16 in the ninth commandment.

Literally, this is describing the ruler who “gives attention” to words of falsehood which could be several sorts of things: This could describe a relatively good king who gives falsehood the time of day. In this scenario, the proverb warns against falsehood slowly gaining credibility through repetition. Perhaps another scenario would have a ruler who does not adequately judge against falsehood and allows his servants/ministers to believe and become wrapped up with lies. Finally, the statement of fact scenario suggests that a ruler who does not drive falsehood far from his kingdom is already in some way compromised.

Waltke notes the various ways this might play out in live political scenario: “words of falsehood” could very well be false testimonies, either in court resulting in exonerations or convictions of the wrong sorts of people or the ministers of the king merely give those judgments and pursue those policies they thing the king most desires (regardless of truth and justice).

“The poor man and the oppressor have this in common: The Lord gives light to the eyes of both.”

We should note that this proverb is sandwiched between two proverbs explicitly describing kings (29:12, 14).

And the man of oppressors
Meet together
Lighting the eyes
Of both

At the very least you have Yahweh as the Great Light Giver, the Creator, giving light and life to all men (cf. Prov. 22:2)

But this seeming obvious/simple fact also has implications for both the “poor” and the “oppressors.” If God gives life to both, this means that He is sovereign. Oppressors should beware lest their oppressing be judged and the “light of their eyes” is taken away. Conversely, the poor should not grow weary or bitter because it is Yahweh who continues to preserve them (however difficult their circumstances) and they can hope in Yahweh as the deliverer or the poor (Ps. 14:6, 22:26, 34:6, etc.).
Literally, it says “man of oppressors” which may also imply a kind of fellowship among the oppressors over against the singular “poor.” It may also describe social pressures to capitulate to the oppressive ways of some rather than to defend the poor.

The word for “meet together” is frequently used in highly emotionally charged situations: Jacob meeting Esau (Gen. 32:18, 33:8), Yahweh trying to kill Moses/his son (Ex. 4:24), David meeting Abigail (1 Sam. 25:20), meeting a she-bear robbed of cubs (Prov. 17:12). This may suggest that the proverb is insisting that both parties recognize the sovereignty of God in the moment of oppression. At the moment of conflict and oppression, both need to remember Yahwheh.

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