Prosperity and adversity (Eccl 7:13-7:14)

“Consider the work of God!

Who can make straight

What he has made crooked?

In the day of prosperity

Be joyful!

In the day of adversity

Consider!

God has made the one

As well as the other.

Thus mortals may not find out anything

That will come after them.”

Qoheleth wants us to look at the work of God. Can anyone make a crooked way straight? Remember that God has made both the days of prosperity and the days of adversity. Mortals would like to know about the future, but only God knows what will come after the life of a mortal.

The wise Qoheleth (Eccl 1:15-1:18)

“‘What is crooked cannot be made straight.

What is lacking cannot be counted.’

I said to myself.

‘I have acquired great wisdom.            

My wisdom surpasses all

Who were over Jerusalem before me.

My mind has had great experience of wisdom.

My mind has had great experience of knowledge.

I applied my mind to know wisdom.

I applied my mind to know madness.

I applied my mind to know folly.

I perceived that this also is but a chasing after wind.

In much wisdom

Is much vexation.

Those who increases knowledge

Increase sorrow.’”

This book once again has the first person singular of Qoheleth speaking. He points out, quite correctly, that the crooked cannot be made straight. However, you can come close. On the other hand, there is no doubt that you cannot count something that is not there. Then Qoheleth gets quite personal. He explains that he has great wisdom and knowledge, greater than anyone whoever was in Jerusalem before him. He knows the difference between wisdom, madness, and folly. In a kind of reversal of the Proverbs, he seems to imply that that with all this wisdom, he is still like chasing after the wind. More problems and vexation come with wisdom. There is an increase in sorrow that comes with more knowledge. Wisdom is not the be all and end all like in Proverbs.

A good person (Prov 12:2-12:3)

“The good person obtains favor from Yahweh.

But those who devise evil,

Yahweh condemns.

No one finds security by wickedness.

But the root of the righteous

Will never be moved.”

Good people find favor with Yahweh. On the other hand, Yahweh condemns those who devise evil ways. You cannot find security in wickedness. The root of the good or righteous person cannot be moved. They are as steady as a rock. The root is what keeps trees and humans straight.

The foolish woman (Prov 9:13-9:18)

“The foolish woman is loud.

She is ignorant.

She knows nothing.

She sits at the door of her house.

She takes a seat at the high places of the town.

She calls to those who pass by.

They go straight on their way.

‘You who are simple,

Turn in here!’

To those without sense,

She says.

‘Stolen water is sweet.

Bread eaten in secret is pleasant.’

But they do not know that the dead are there.

Her guests are in the depths of Sheol.”

Now we are back to the foolish woman. She is the loud, ignorant, and stupid woman who sits at her door or at the high places in town. She tries to get those passing by her to turn into her house. However, they go straight past her. Her sales pitch is that stolen water is sweet and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. This is a subtle form of seduction. Thus this first introduction to the proverbs ends with this admonition to avoid the evil ladies, as if men had nothing to do with it, as if men were not interested in sex without this enticement.

Lady wisdom speaks (Prov 8:1-8:11)

“Does not wisdom call?

Does not understanding raise her voice?

On the heights,

Beside the way,

At the crossroads,

She takes her stand.

Beside the gates

In front of the town,

At the entrance of the portals,

She cries out.

‘To you!

O people!

I call!

My cry is to all that live.

O simple ones!

Learn prudence!

Acquire intelligence!

You who lack it!

Hear!

I will speak noble things,

From my lips

Will come what is right.

My mouth will utter truth.

Wickedness is an abomination to my lips.

All the words of my mouth are righteous.

There is nothing twisted or crooked in them.

They are all straight to one who understands.

They are right to those who find knowledge.

Take my instruction instead of silver.

Take my knowledge rather than choice gold.

Wisdom is better than jewels.

All that you may desire cannot compare with her.’”

Lady wisdom is calling. Unlike the prostitute or adulterous woman, you should listen to her. Lady wisdom is all over the place. She raises her voice at the heights, at the crossroads, beside the town gates, and at the town entrance. There is no reason to miss her.   Her cry is to all who live, not a particular person. The simpletons were to learn prudence and intelligence. She was going to speak noble things that were right and true. There would be no wickedness, but only righteousness. Nothing is crooked, since everything is straight. You should value her instructions and knowledge more than silver, gold, or jewels. Nothing can compare with lady wisdom.

The loose woman (Prov 5:1-5:6)

“My child!

Be attentive to my wisdom!

Incline your ear to my understanding!

Thus you may hold on to prudence.

Thus your lips may guard knowledge.

The lips of a loose woman drip honey.

Her speech is smoother than oil.

But in the end

She is as bitter as wormwood.

She is as sharp as a two-edged sword.

Her feet go down to death.

Her steps follow the path to Sheol.

She does not keep straight on the path of life.

Her ways wander.

She does not know it.”

Once again, we have a parental warning, but this time it is about the loose or strange woman also mentioned in chapter 2. There is the usual admonition to pay attention and listen to his words of wisdom and understanding. He wanted his children to have prudence and knowledge. Then he went into a description of this loose or strange woman. Her lips were sweeter than honey and her speech smoother than oil. However she was bitter like wormwood, some kind of bitter plant. She also was a sharp two edged sword that would lead to death in Sheol. She did not keep to the straight and narrow path of life. She was a wanderer, but did not know it. There does not seem to be any sexual overtones, but a mere unflattering portrayal of this loose or strange woman.

Keep on the straight and narrow (Prov 4:20-4:27)

“My child!

Be attentive to my words!

Incline your ear to my sayings.

Do not let them escape from your sight.

Keep them within your heart!

They are life to those who find them.

They are healing to all their flesh.

Keep your heart with all vigilance!

The springs of life flow from your heart.

Put away from you crooked speech!

Put devious talk far from you!

Let your eyes look directly forward.

Your gaze should be straight before you.

Keep straight the path of your feet!

Then all your ways will be sure.

Do not swerve to the right or to the left!

Turn your foot away from evil!”

The parental fatherly advice concludes this chapter. They are to keep on the straight and narrow path. Once again, he asks his children to be attentive and listen to his words. They are not to let his words escape, but rather keep them in their hearts. If they do that, then they will have life and healing. The heart is where all life comes from, so that your heart had to be vigilant. They were not to have crooked or devious speech. Their eyes should always be looking forward with a gaze straight ahead. They had to keep their feet on the straight path, never swerving to the right or the left. They were, of course, to stay away from evil.

Wisdom will save you from evil people (Prov 2:10-2:15)

“When wisdom comes into your heart,

Then knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.

Prudence will watch over you.

Understanding will guard you.

It will save you

From the way of evil.

It will save you

From those who speak perversely.

It will save you

From those who forsake the paths of uprightness.

They walk in the ways of darkness.

They rejoice in doing evil.

They delight in the perverseness of evil.

Their paths are crooked.

They are devious in their ways.”

Things will go better for you if you have wisdom in your heart. Your soul will be pleased with its knowledge, prudence, and understanding. On the other hand, wisdom will save you from evil ways and perverse speech. It will help you keep on the straight and narrow. Wisdom will keep you away from those who walk in darkness or do perverse evil on crooked paths in their devious ways.

Yahweh as teacher (Ps 27:11-27:12)

“Teach me your way!

Yahweh!

Lead me on a level path,

Because of my enemies!

Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries!

False witnesses have risen against me.

They are breathing out violence.”

Yahweh was to be his teacher. Yahweh would lead him through a level path because of his enemies. He did not want to be given up to his adversaries. These false witnesses had risen up in violence against him. He wanted Yahweh to teach him the ways of the straight level path.

Worship in the Temple (Ps 5:7-5:8)

“But I will enter your house,

Through the abundance of your steadfast love.

I will bow down toward your holy temple.

I will be in awe of you.

Lead me!

Yahweh!

In your righteousness.

Because of my enemies

Make your way straight before me.”

Now David made his case for why he was not wicked. Mainly, because he was loved by Yahweh, he was able to enter the house of God. He would bow down before the Temple because he was in awe of Yahweh. He wanted Yahweh to lead him in the path of righteousness. He wanted Yahweh to make the path straight for him. Out of God’s love he wanted to follow the straight way of Yahweh.