Here, in Proverbs 27:23-27, is another “wisdom poem”.
At first the poem seems to be written about a simple shepherd; but the more we travel through the poem, the more it becomes clear that the shepherd becomes a landowner of substantial property, who is probably not personally caring for the sheep. He owns a lot and manages a large family. One’s mind might be easily drawn to the patriarch Jacob!
23 Know well the condition of your flocks,
And pay attention to your herds;
24 For riches are not forever,
Nor does a crown endure to all generations.
Inherited wealth or a nest-egg or anything you have where you take for granted that it will be around forever, but don’t actually take the care and effort to tend it, will not endure.
The shepherd who owns a little and takes diligent care will perhaps have something more enduring and substantial to pass on than a simple inheritance of wealth.
This might have been due to the fact that herds and flocks were sustainable resources.
“The lasting worth of well-kept flocks and fields is signaled in their contrast with ‘riches’ and ‘crown’ which do not necessarily last for ages (‘forever’) and are not always passed along from generation to generation (‘all generations’)” (Hubbard, 430).
“Overall, it seems most satisfactory to take the poem (vv. 23-27) as advocating diligent reliance on sustainable resources as the basis for a stable way of life…” (Lucas, 177). It is better to rely “on sustainable resources … than on hoarded wealth” (Lucas, 176).
I agree with Lucas, but think there is more to it than this.
Being distracted away from taking care of your resources is not good. Whatever wealth you have stored up will not last. Do not take for granted those things which you need to maintain, for they are your bread and butter. Your nest-egg will dry up faster than you think if you sit on your laurels.
Tend the garden or weeds will take over and it will become useless.
25 When the grass disappears, the new growth is seen,
And the herbs of the mountains are gathered in,
26 The lambs will be for your clothing,
And the goats will bring the price of a field,
27 And there will be goats’ milk enough for your food,
For the food of your household,
And sustenance for your maidens.
As mentioned above, sheep and goats are renewable resources. And at least at the time this poem was written, they were sustained by renewable resources – grass, hay, and herbs (which could be collected while the grass grew back).
“Well-kept sheep will produce wool and milk for years, in a manufacturing process by which they take cheap ‘hay’ and free ‘grass’ (‘herbs’ is a synonym of ‘grass’ describing rain-prompted grassy/shrubby growth) that grow in successive crops and add substantial value to them by the miracle of metabolism (vv. 25-27)” (Hubbard, 430).
And some of the flock could be sold off for more land so that the simple shepherd could increase his industry.
He didn’t get distracted; He didn’t take his wealth for granted; he was industrious; and – low and behold! – he now has more property, a household, and “an entourage of ‘maidservants’” (Hubbard, 429).
If I had time to look into it tonight, I would ask: “How might we can read Luke 12:1-48 in the light of the wisdom poem of Proverbs 27:23-27?” and “How might both these passages reflect back on the story of Jacob in Genesis 25-35?”
Also, and in a different direction: “What can we learn here for how we as individuals and nations learn about how we use our resources and what resources we use?”