PROVERBS 25:1-29:27 – SOLOMON’S PROVERBS AS COLLECTED, COPIED, AND COLLATED BY HEZEKIAH’S OFFICIALS.
The chapter definitely marks off a new section in Proverbs. “These also are proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah, transcribed” (Proverbs 25:1).
“This heading… is the only clue to the dating of the present form of the book” (Lucas, 163).
This marks the “beginning of the final section of Solomonic proverbs (25:1-29:27)” (Hubbard, 397).
PROVERBS 25 IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
What has stood out to me about Proverbs 25 are the number of times it seems to be referenced or echoed in the NT.
On Proverbs 25:6-7, see Luke 14:7-11.
On Proverbs 25:9, see Matthew 18:15
On Proverbs 25:21, see Matthew 5:29 and following; as well as Luke 6:32 and following; and Romans 12:20
LEVELLING UP – FROM SOLOMON TO JESUS
Luke 11:31 reads:
“The Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation at the judgment and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.”
In this light, the similarities and differences between Proverbs 25:6-7 and Luke 14:7-11 are important to note. Here, I believe, is a clue to how Proverbs are to function for Christians insofar as they seek after the kingdom of God.
Do not claim honor in the presence of the king,
And do not stand in the place of great men;
For it is better that it be said to you, “Come up here,”
Than for you to be placed lower in the presence of the prince,
Whom your eyes have seen.
And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Jesus is not merely agreeing with the Proverb that “to overvalue our own importance is to risk the embarrassment of being ‘put lower’ in the presence of a nobleman” (Hubbard, 404).
Nor is Jesus making a very this-worldly and almost cynical statement: “Hey, you idiots, stop clambering around for the best seat. Let me teach you a trick: take a seat that is unworthy of you, and then the guy who invited you will bump you up to a higher seat! Guaranteed!”
Within the whole context of Luke 14 (and I would suggest you read the whole chapter even now), it seems to me that Jesus is actually here saying that the high and lofty will miss out on the kingdom of God. Instead, it is the lowly and those who will bear their own cross and give up all to follow Christ who will find themselves eating at the Great Feast that will happen at the end of time.
“Counting the cost” certainly sounds like a proverb or wisdom teaching of its own. However, the calculation is quite new, for it involves giving up the things of this life to gain a new sort of life.
Perhaps it is my natural bent to bypass the sort of “natural” teaching that accompanies Solomon’s teaching in favour of reading it with New Testament eyes, where I desire eternal things. Solomon reflected largely on the natural order.
However, I do see justification for my quick move from reflecting on the natural order (as Solomon did) and onto reflecting on the order of the age to come (which is how Christ has taught me to read the Proverbs and the method by which He seems to have given his teachings.
Indeed, one more wise than Solomon has come, because He existed before Solomon, and because He has a greater kingdom than Solomon. As Paul wrote to the Colossians 1:15-20:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation [see Proverbs 8:22]. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
This is my justification for the lens by which I read Proverbs as a Christian. I believe this is what Jesus did and also what Paul did. Granted, very much is to be gained from the creational view of Solomon. Indeed, Christ is not only the Head of the church, but he is also the Wisdom through whom the Father created all things.
Each “layer” of Christ is significant. But the higher order is more urgent,. Much more is at stake. To continue the above citation from Colossians:
And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard… (Colossians 1:21-23).
I believe that the wisdom that is on display in Christ the Redeemer surpasses even that which was on display in the creation of all things. And, I believe that is because, in his great plan, He knew how far we would sink into folly. Knowledge of God in creation and conscience could not save. The even more precise (yet still piecemeal) knowledge of God in the Law and the Prophets could not save. But what God has done in Christ is to make a way to clear away the deep folly of our sin and to draw us into a magnificent contemplation of Christ.
“God became man so that in his life and death he might bear the full reality and consequences of our folly. While we may be tempted to think of a fool as merely a jester or someone who is stupid or silly, this falls far short of what Christ bore for us and for our salvation. Folly that unintentionally destroys precisely that which it seeks, that unleashes harm for the most piteously avoidable and unnecessary reasons, that was simultaneously so needless and disastrous that we can only weep in stunned disbelief and horror—this was our sin. This was how we treated the good gifts of God. Christ came that he might take upon himself our folly and suffer its full and disastrous reality and consequences. Why did God become man? So that he might take upon himself our folly and its consequences. And what is more—what is far more—so that in turn he might grant us a share in his wisdom through our participation in his resurrection” (Johnson, The Reconciling Wisdom of God, 621).
…Paul writes: “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:2–3 NIV).6 This paints a compelling picture in which the ever-wise source of all wisdom, who exercised his wisdom in the creation of all things, longs to share with us his wisdom—his very self. He has done so in the Law and the Prophets, but the culmination of this self-revealing and self-sharing work of wisdom is the life and work of Jesus the Messiah. In him God showers us with wisdom, inviting us into his life of wisdom that we might grow in wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. But this is no abstract or merely philosophical or cultural wisdom; it is a wisdom gained only by knowing and understanding Jesus Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. The whole story of wisdom thus revolves around Jesus Christ; he is the center, the means, the source—simply put, he is Wisdom” (Johnson, The Reconciling Wisdom of God, 565-600)
This is why we should pray, along with Paul, that
“you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light” (Colossians 1:9-12).