“Better is open rebuke
Than hidden love.
Are the wounds
A friend inflicts.
Profuse are the kisses of an enemy.
The sated appetite spurns honey.
But to a ravenous appetite
Even the bitter is sweet.”
Here we have a series of pithy sayings. It is better to rebuke someone than have a hidden love. A friend can inflict a wound also. The profuse kisses of an enemy are false. If you are filled and not hungry, you will turn away from honey. Apparently honey was a great delicacy. However, if you are hungry, even bitter things will seem sweet.
It is good.
The drippings of the honeycomb
Are sweet to your taste.
Know that wisdom is such to your soul.
If you find it,
You will find a future.
Your hope will not be cut off.”
There is nothing wrong with eating honey because it is good and tastes sweet. Wisdom is like honey to your soul because it is good. If you find wisdom, you will have a hopeful future.
“‘It is bad.
It is bad.’
Says the buyer.
Then he goes away.
Then he boasts.
There is gold.
There is an abundance of costly stones.
But the lips informed by knowledge
Are a precious jewel.
Take the garment of one
Who has given surety for a stranger.
Seize the pledge
Given as surety for foreigners.
Bread gained by deceit is sweet.
But afterward the mouth will be full of gravel.”
Here we have a series of business transactions. We have already seen the bad scales and measures. Now this is how people complain when they buy something, saying it is bad. However, when they go away they boast about the good bargain they just made. Although there are gold and precious stones, nothing is more precious than lips informed by knowledge. Then there is the problem of pledge and surety for loans. It is not a good idea to lend to strangers, especially if you are the stranger. You seem to be able to take their garments and pledges. Watch out for bread that you get by being deceitful, it may taste sweet at first, but afterwards it will be like a mouthful of gravel.
“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,
‘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.
“If it is well told and to the point, that is what I myself desired. If it is poorly done and mediocre, that was the best I could do. Just as it is harmful to drink wine alone or to drink water alone, but wine mixed with water is sweet and delicious. It enhances one’s enjoyment. So also I hope the style of this story delights the ears of those who read the work. Here will be the end.”
This biblical author is somewhat apologetic for not writing a better book. This was rare and even rarer today. If you like it fine, but otherwise it was the best that I could do, a rare hint of humility. It was the custom to read aloud even when reading alone because so few people had books anyway. Thus the hearing of the story is so important. The illusion to wine and water may be an attempt to speak about the Greek language of his work. Despite the opposition to Hellenization, the book was written not in Hebrew, but in Greek. Nevertheless, a little Hebrew water would add to the taste and enjoyment of all.