Chapter 22: Commentary

     Chapter 22 is a continuation of the second collection of Proverbs (10:1-24:34) attributed to Solomon. It begins (:1-16) with the mainly single verse wise saying of typical Hebrew poetry and found in this second collection to this point. But then a special section of wise sayings begins, which continues to the end of Solomon's second section (24:34).
     After an "introduction" (22:17-21) these proverbial sayings tend to be two verses combined. It is reasonable to suggest that these represent a separate collection of sayings which were added to conclude Solomon's larger second collection (see 25:1 for beginning of Solomon's third collection).
      Some have noted the similarity between the first part (22:17-23:11) and an older ancient Egyptian text called the Wisdom of Amenemope. The wise sayings of both are universal truths of good behavior in proper society – the very foundation of civilization in any culture. On that basis, it is not unreasonable that both would offer the same insights. It is even not inappropriate that some of the Egyptian wise sayings were even adapted and included in this section of Proverbs (see The Teaching of Amenemope p.994 Archaeological Study Bible [2005] Grand Rapids: Zondervan.)


22:1 A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

     A classic bumper sticker in the '80's taught the not-so-great truth "He Who has the Most Toys in the End Wins." This verse says just the opposite. It reminds us that who I am is far more important than what I have.
      As a Pastor in Frederick, Maryland during the '70s-80's, I visited in some of the county's nicest homes. They were gorgeous and it was pretty cool to be able to see inside. But the reason I was there was because the people who lived in those houses were so miserable that they were not enjoying all the wonderful things they had around them.
      So life is not about stuff - what I have - but it is all about who I am. Now 61 years old, I've been in some incredible places with some pretty special people. And, sadly, I admit that sometimes I couldn't really enjoy it, because all was not well inside of me.
      Maybe you just have to get old to appreciate this kind of thinking, but I don't think so. It's just a matter of priorities – who I am matters much more than what I have or do. That's the wisdom of Proverbs!

22:2 Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all.

     Proverbs has much to say about the poor. God makes it very clear that His eyes are on the poor and He pays attention to how others treat them. This verse notes that the rich and poor are both where they are because the LORD allowed them to be there -- at least for now!
      If you are rich, thank God, because He allowed you to be there today. Appreciate the opportunity, enjoy it and share what you have with others!
      If you are poor, know that God sees value in this for you today. He also has the power to help you experience a change in this situation at any time. He knows exactly where you are and He still has this wonderful plan for your life – but it may not include lots of money.
      Just ask around. There are plenty of rich people who will tell you that riches are not all you might think they are!

22:3 A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.

     This verse speaks of two men – the "prudent" and the "simple" – both of whom we have met before in Proverbs. The prudent is not necessarily spiritual, this is the same word used for the serpent in Genesis 3:1! But they are people who observe what goes on around them and then make appropriate decisions. Seeing the danger that is coming in this verse, they get out of harm's way. I think the ultimate illustration of the prudent can be found in Portia Nelson's There's a Hole in My Sidewalk.
      The simple, on the other hand, are not necessarily unspiritual, just those who don't pay attention, don't learn from mistakes, and don't really consider the consequences. Out of ignorance, boredom or thrill-seeking they keep right on going when danger appears and it will cost them.
      Beyond any benefits of being prudent, we need to be spiritual. The prudent person can learn to rely on their own understanding and that will only do them so much good. What we really need is a spiritual relationship to a supernatural God who helps and empowers us way beyond our own abilities.


                    THERE'S A HOLE IN MY SIDEWALK
                    Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
                    by Portia Nelson

                    Chapter One
                    I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
                     I fall in.
                     I am lost.... I am helpless.
                     It isn't my fault.
                     It takes forever to find a way out.

                     Chapter Two
                     I walk down the street.
                     There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
                     I pretend that I don't see it.
                     I fall in again.
                     I can't believe I am in this same place.
                     But, it isn't my fault.
                     It still takes a long time to get out.

                     Chapter Three
                     I walk down the same street.
                     There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
                     I see it is there.
                     I still fall in...it's a habit...but, my eyes are open.
                     I know where I am.
                     It is my fault.
                     I get out immediately

                     Chapter Four
                     I walk down the same street.
                     There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
                     I walk around it.

                     Chapter Five
                     I walk down another street.

22:4 Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honor and life.

     Humility is when we take an honest look at ourselves. The fear the LORD is when we take at real good look at God.
      One of our 26 Weekly Character Qualities at Helping Up Mission, we define Humility as "realizing how God and others are actually responsible for the accomplishments in my life." When I do that, I come to understand my own limitations. It is a critical concept to seeing myself as I really am.
      "The fear of the LORD" is the result of learning how to see God as He really is. When I see and understand all His greatness, love and power – as well as His holiness, righteousness and justice – I will begin to know just how awesome He really is. At that point, we have begun to grasp what is "the fear of the LORD."
      As a result of understanding and practicing both of these concepts, we will begin experiencing some amazing things in our lives. This verse notes particularly "wealth and honor and life." Just practicing these two basic spiritual principles sets us up to have and enjoy a pretty great way of life.
      So it should not be a surprise to know that these two concepts – seeing myself as I really am and seeing God as He really is – are the Biblical basis of Steps 1 and 2 of the 12 Steps of recovery. They are the foundational starting point of an incredible spiritual journey - one day at a time.

22:5 In the paths of the wicked lie thorns and snares, but he who guards his soul stays far from them.

     This verse speaks of two very different people, "the wicked" and "he who guards his soul." By extension, it also talks about two different "paths." One path (the one the wicked takes) is the hard one with continuous obstacles – thorns and different kinds of traps. The one who guards his soul takes a different path ("is far from them").
      Two people, two roads and all are choices. We chose which kind of person we want to be and that guides our choices about which road we will take. These are every day choices. And when we are tired of being the wicked, and weary of the thorns and snares we can be a different person and take a different road.

22:6 Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

     This wise saying offers both a command and a promise. Directed to parents, the command is to "train" (also translated "dedicate") a child in "the way he should go" (literally the "mouth of his road"). The phrase clearly focuses on training at the beginning of his journey. Putting our children on the right road at the beginning of their lives will set them up to arrive at the destination to which you, as a godly parent, want them to arrive at the end of their lives.
      Parents have a responsibility, and wonderful opportunity, to provide appropriate as appropriate foundation, at the beginning of their children's life journeys. I am not sure how long this "beginning" period extends.
      The promise of this verse is that as adults, themselves, our children will not turn away from that way. I am also not sure there is a promise here that the children will not stray from that road at some points along the way. But the promise seems to be that, in the end of their lives, your now-grown children will appreciate, understand and practice the good things you taught them early.

22:7 The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.

     This wise saying reminds us what we all feel, the power of "those who have" are over "those who have-not." In this verse, "The rich" and "the lender" deal from a position of strength, while "the poor" and "the borrower" from a position of weakness.
      It is a fact of life and what this verse says is true. But it is also important to recognize what it doesn't say!
      This wise saying does not suggest that the rich or the lender are righteous or the wise ones, as opposed to "the poor" or "servant" being righteous. It also doesn't say that it is okay for the rich or lender to be unfair or unscrupulous in their dealings with the poor.
      But what Proverbs (even the whole Bible!) does say is that the righteous rich and lender should not treat the poor or the borrower inappropriately (see :9). Instead, they should be grateful for what they have and should do what they can and to be helpful, not hurtful, to those less fortunate.
     This verse is not an excuse for the powerful to be inappropriate in their dealings. Rather, it should be a reminder to all that have much at all to be thankful for what we have and be willing to share with and help those who don't have as much as we do.

22:8 Whoever sows injustice reaps calamity, and the rod they wield in fury will be broken.

     This wise saying is about bad people - "whoever sows injustice." The verse says what most of us already know - it will not got well for these folks.
      To "sow injustice" would be to do things displeasing to God and hurtful to people. Sowing is planting - if we plant bad stuff we can only expect to "reap" or harvest some of the same.
      In this case, it's "calamity." The Bible is pretty clear about all this - "we reap what we sow."
      "The rod they wield in fury" would be the inappropriate motives and actions of these folks toward others. While God is not mentioned in the verse, there's little doubt that He's the one who will make sure their rod "will be broken."
      This verse can be taken as God's promise that no one gets away with injustice or their fury. That's the good news.
      The bad news is that it applies to me, my motives and my actions, too!

22:9 A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.

     In typical Hebrew poetic parallelism, this verse is talking about a good man. First we read that he is "generous," meaning that he is willingly "shares" with others what he has. The second part of the verse indicates that his generosity particularly extends to "the poor." He shares with them what he would desire and need most – "food" to survive.
      The verse indicates that this man will be "blessed." It is a legitimate question to ask about the source of that blessing. The poor can do little to repay him, but would likely call down God's blessings on the generous man and, no doubt God will be the source of that man's blessing.
      But I want to suggest that God will bless the generous man whether the poor man offers up his own blessing or not. God absolutely sees what we do, the good and bad, and rewards us accordingly. It is a good thing to remember that God sees and keeps records. Whether anyone else sees or cares, He does and He always honors faithfulness (even just a cup of cold water; Mt 10:42).

22:10 Drive out the mocker, and out goes strife; quarrels and insults are ended.

     Here we meet "the mocker" and the collateral damage he or she brings with them through life. This is a person whose words are not kind or appropriately honest. They don't speak to help, but to hurt.
      Consequently, in the wake of being around him or her comes a steady flow of "strife," "quarrels" and "insults." While this is no way to have to live, but we really can't make them change if they aren't interested in doing so.
      But we also don't have to life with this kind of abuse, either. Our verse suggests an intervention of sorts in their life.
      To "drive out" suggests making a conscious deliberate decision - accompanied by appropriate action - to remove them from the equation. But there is no indication of doing them bodily harm (even if we want to!).
      To no one's surprise, when they are no longer in the picture all this abuse ceases.
      Unfortunately, sometimes situations are such that we just can't make them go away and we must learn to live with this one and all the confusion they bring. In such a case, the focus is on us to change some things.
      We must understand who we are dealing with and the problems that arise in dealings with them. Then we need to develop some appropriate strategies to help us: face the turmoil, address it and, then - to the best of our ability - let it go!
      Life is hard enough by itself and, if I have to deal with a "mocker," too, that's harsh. But we need to understand the situation and make our own appropriate choices. Because, in the end, I can have a good attitude - and you can't stop me!

22:11 He who loves a pure heart and whose speech is gracious will have the king for his friend.

     This proverb is not about Heaven, but a formula for success in this life. In an ancient kingdom, there would be no better position in life than "friend of the king."
      Yet, after watching TV or the movies, we might be surprised at the qualities that put one in such a position. What will make someone successful? "Loves a pure heart" for both myself and others is a great starting point!.
      Then, "gracious speech" from me to everyone else, as well as appreciating all others who do likewise. This verse says we should simply have a good attitude, speak appropriately to everyone and appreciate all others who do the same.
      Obviously, this is not a guarantee to be rich, famous, important or powerful. But we can see how it does set us up to feel good about ourselves as well as have influence with others. So, what should we do to succeed in life? Just think right thoughts and say right things – the same stuff my mom taught me 60 years ago!
      22:17-24:22 Special Section "Sayings of the Wise"
      This is a special section of the 2nd collection of Solomon's proverbs (10:1-24:22). As the New International Version (NIV) lays out the verses, up till this point, all the proverbs of this collection are single verse, individual wise sayings. Here starts the pattern we were familiar with in the first collection of Solomon's proverbs (chapters 1-9) where group of verses that make up a single proverbial saying. Verse 20 might also be translated "30 sayings" which have been proposed in multi-verse groupings through this section (22:17-24:22). See also the additional special section of 24:23-34.

22:12 The eyes of the Lord keep watch over knowledge, but he frustrates the words of the unfaithful.

     This wise saying focuses on "the LORD" and how He interacts with our world.
      The first part of the verse notes how He "keeps watch over knowledge." He knows all Truth and is on top of what we know and don't know.
      In my world, I often think about some of the hidden truths that He knows and could tell me any time. But he doesn't!
      As an archaeologist, we often discuss the possibility that something's buried in the ground - just under our feet - and that it could demonstrate important Biblical connections with our site. We'd love for Him to show us where it is and then use it to impact the world for good.
      But, so far, some pretty cool finds - but no world-shakers!
      Then, back home in everyday life, I get hung up trying to figure out what others are going to do or why. I never seem to get that information when I think I need it, either.
      So, in relation to the first part of the verse, I've come to this great theological conclusion: If He thinks I need to know something, He'll make sure I do - at just the right time!
      He really does "keep watch over knowledge."
      But the second part of the verse is an important corollary to the first. I really don't need to know what "the unfaithful" are thinking, doing or saying - because He knows...and He can handle it. He will also clue me in whenever He knows it's appropriate.
      This is a pretty good verse and it sets me up for a pretty good day. Now...if I can just remember to practice it!

22:13 The sluggard says, "There's a lion outside! I'll be killed in the public square!"

     This is the first of four verses (:13-16) all discussing the "sluggard." They get a bad rep in Proverbs - but he or she has earned every word of it!
      Virtually identical to 26:13, "the sluggard" says sometime pretty dumb. That's a regular part of their lives - regularly thinking, saying or doing inappropriate, even wrong, things. Here they just say something dumb.
      Apparently settled safely inside his house, this sluggard announces, "There's a lion outside!" The fact that the ancients lived inside walled cities with closed gates, it's pretty hard to believe this was true. Even if it was true, since we are talking about a lazy guy I'm not sure how he would even know - especially without television, radio, Facebook or twitter! But, now that he's decide this is the situation, he also declares, "I'll be killed in the public square!" Of course, if it was true, this would be a wise decision, but his character and history suggest his words should be considered suspect. I imagine the ancients used this wise saying, as a rhetorical response to something. They probably rolled their eyes and spoke this verse like the modern rhetorical response, "Is the Pope Catholic!"

22:16 One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and one who gives gifts to the rich—both come to poverty.

     This wise saying discusses two of the most mentioned characters in Proverbs - "the poor" and "the rich." The message here is that our relationship to them will make a difference in our lives.
      "One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth" talks about both actions ("oppresses the poor") and motivations ("to increase his wealth"). Neither is very good.
      "One who gives gifts to the rich" would not seem to be a bad thing. But, it's probably suggesting a selfish focus. The rich don't need any more gifts! But I may want something for myself and think giving stuff to them just might hook me up!
      So the actions discussed in this verse - toward the poor or the rich - that are for my own benefit, will do me no good. I will "come to poverty." That's certainly not be the end result for which I'd be looking.
      Admittedly, God isn't even mentioned here, But He's clearly the One watching and moving behind the scenes to deal with us, our poor motives and inappropriate actions.
      So this verse is just a good reminder that, like it might be said here in East Baltimore, -- "He be watching!"

22:17 Pay attention and listen to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach,

22:18 For it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart and have all of them ready on your lips.

22:19 So that your trust may be in the LORD, I teach you today, even you.

22:20 Have I not written thirty sayings for you, sayings of counsel and knowledge,

22:21 teaching you true and reliable words, so that you can give sound answers to him who sent you?

     This special section of Proverbs starts out with three commands (:17): 1.) "pay attention," 2.) "listen," 3.) "apply your heart." The phrase "the sayings of the wise" here is the heading for this special section of the Proverbs (22:17-24:22). In this verse, these sayings are also connected with "what I teach."
      Verse 18 notes the first of two benefits from doing this. It is a pleasing thing – for you and others – if you can have these wonderful sayings both in your heart and ready to speak with your lips. That leads to verse 19 which indicates that this leads to trusting in the LORD.
      Verses 19-21 then go on to say some things about these wise sayings that the writer offers: they are counsel and knowledge (:20), true and reliable and give sound answers (:21). He also notes that there are 30 of them (:19) or might also be translated "excellent sayings" or even "former sayings."
      The writer is going to offer a series of wise sayings, but before he does, he calls his reader to really focus and get this. If we listen, we will learn. Interestingly, the writer did not use the familiar "my son" statement, as in so much of the Proverbs – although, that statement is frequently used in this section (23:15, 19, 26; 24:13, 21).

22:24 Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered,

22:25 Or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared

     Proverbs in this section of the book are typically two verses together. Here the first verse gives two commands of what not to do, while the second offers two reasons why.
      "Hot-tempered" and "easily angered" people are generally not fun or easy to deal with. Here it says we should not "make friends with" or "associate with" them. Relationships with such people are complicated, to say the least.
      One of the stated reasons why is that we can get caught up in their drama, "learn their ways" and begin to act like they do. That won't be healthy for our own life or relationships.
      The other reason to watch out is that I may well get caught in the cross-fire of their anger problems with others and wind up as collateral damage. Or that it is only a matter of time before their anger will at some point turn on me.
      Admittedly, sometimes we just have deal with people like this – maybe because of work or family. But, if it is – we just need to understand the deal.

22:28 Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your forefathers.

     It appears this injunction to not mess with the ancient landmarks was directed at those who might move the markers for their own gain – like moving it farther into your neighbors field to give you more land and him less. The theme of messing with boundary stones is discussed in the Law, Prophets and Writings. The same command is given four times in Scripture (Deut 19:14 which includes a curse on anyone who would do it; Proverbs 15:25 says don't take advantage of widows; 23:10 which also says don't take advantage of orphans, either; and this verse), so God considers it a pretty big deal. It is just a focused version of two of the Ten Commandments – don't steal and don't envy or desire your neighbor's stuff. God will give us what we need, each day and one day at a time. If He doesn't give it to us today, we just don't need it today. To be messing around with the ancient landmarks is not only stealing from your neighbor, but also not trusting God to give me what I need when I need it.