Another named author, King Lemuel takes over for the last chapter. Or possibly half of it, not sure.
There’s speculation Lemuel is another name for Solomon, which would make the opening warning from his mother, Bathsheba, not to waste his energy on women just too rich in irony, given the trajectories of both their lives.
The advice on drinking which follows is really wise. I’ve been challenged about it since working for the Salvos, which are an unfashionably temperate organisation.
The gist of the passage is that drunkenness is inconsistent with a king’s responsibility.
There’s also lots of good reasons why Salvos too would want a strong hedge around alcohol, given the work they do particularly with addicted people. In an era where church hypocrisy is being constantly exposed, it’s a sign of commitment, sincerity and being set apart.
It’s a barrier to how deeply in the movement I can participate, but I’ve been very welcomed. I feel there is room for me.
The passage is honest about what excessive drink is good for… It neither glamourises or judges it:
Let beer be for those who are perishing,
wine for those who are in anguish!
Let them drink and forget their poverty
and remember their misery no more.
Finally, this section emphasises the obligation of those in power to have compassion and ensure justice for the vulnerable.
It’s a Monday morning, and I’ll have many opportunities this week to be part of just that in my work and church life, it’s just great!
The second half of the chapter is a famous description of the wife of noble character. These days it instantly brings to mind my mother, at whose funeral verses from this passage were read.
She was in some senses more than this description – it doesn’t refer specifically to the value of a wicked sense of humour, kindness or emotional supportiveness, all of which she had in spades. I don’t think its intended as an exhaustive recipe for a perfect woman. And as for:
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
Reaching the end of Proverbs, I’m thinking so much of it is a “for instance”… specific reactions to a specific sets of circumstances, from which we are to learn models of how to respond, rather than literal lessons. If Kelly, my wife, ever literally acted like the wife of noble character I would become confused and demand my real wife back. The thrust of this advice is to to look beyond the shallow to the things of deeper value. To be looking for a true life partner, not a decoration.
Yeah, its sort of sexist that the whole book appears to be directed specifically at young men, even though its theme – how stop being a fool – is a bit redeeming on that score. And as an older man, I’ve thought helpfully about how to live well, and contemplated how difficult and ongoing is aligning our thoughts and actions to the love of God.