Proverbs 24 (Contemporary English Version)
- Don't be jealous of crooks or want to be their friends.
- All they think about and talk about is violence and cruelty.
- Use wisdom and understanding to establish your home;
- let good sense fill the rooms with priceless treasures.
- Wisdom brings strength, and knowledge gives power.
- Battles are won by listening to advice and making a lot of plans.
- Wisdom is too much for fools! Their advice is no good.
- No one but troublemakers think up trouble.
- Everyone hates senseless fools who think up ways to sin.
- Don't give up and be helpless in times of trouble.
- Don't fail to rescue those who are doomed to die.
- Don't say, "I didn't know it!" God can read your mind. He watches each of us and knows our thoughts. And God will pay us back for what we do.
- Honey is good for you, my children, and it tastes sweet.
- Wisdom is like honey for your life-- if you find it, your future is bright.
- Don't be a cruel person who attacks good people and hurts their families.
- Even if good people fall seven times, they will get back up. But when trouble strikes the wicked, that's the end of them.
- Don't be happy to see your enemies trip and fall down.
- The LORD will find out and be unhappy. Then he will stop being angry with them.
- Don't let evil people worry you or make you jealous.
- They will soon be gone like the flame of a lamp that burns out.
- My children, you must respect the LORD and the king, and you must not make friends with anyone who rebels against either of them.
- Who knows what sudden disaster the LORD or a ruler might bring?
- Here are some more sayings that make good sense: When you judge, you must be fair.
- If you let the guilty go free, people of all nations will hate and curse you.
- But if you punish the guilty, things will go well for you, and you will prosper.
- Giving an honest answer is a sign of true friendship.
- Get your fields ready and plant your crops before starting a home.
- Don't accuse anyone who isn't guilty. Don't ever tell a lie
- or say to someone, "I'll get even with you!"
- I once walked by the field and the vineyard of a lazy fool.
- Thorns and weeds were everywhere, and the stone wall had fallen down.
- When I saw this, it taught me a lesson:
- Sleep a little. Doze a little. Fold your hands and twiddle your thumbs.
- Suddenly poverty hits you and everything is gone!
The first comes from verse 5. Wisdom and knowledge is better than strength when going to war, he says. In fact, he says, "A wise man is strong; yes, a man of knowledge increases strength." There is more to strength than one's physique. Wisdom and knowledge give strength as well, and Solomon even says they increase it. In other words, they provide more strength than physique.
Verse 10 offers another saying that also touches on strength vs wisdom. It says that if we fail to act in difficult situations our strength is of no use. There are two dimensions to what this is saying. First, regardless of our physical strength it is of no use if we fail to act. It is also saying that if we buckle under pressure we are weak no matter what our physical strength. A number of things may keep us from acting under pressure. It may be a lack of courage or possibly not knowing what to do which falls under a lack of wisdom or knowledge.
On a different subject, we are told in verses 11-12 that we have an obligation to rescue those headed for death. What is the meaning of this? It is unclear what specific circumstances to which it might be referring, but maybe it isn't intended to be specific. Various commentaries understand it primarily in one of two ways: Referring to those caught by lawless people who are being carried off to their death, or as innocent people caught up in unjust oppression. I would add another possible understanding to these two. It could also be referring to people caught up in their own foolish choices and heading, unsuspectingly, toward their death. Whatever the circumstances, we are told we can't get off the hook by simply looking the other way and pretending we don't see the plight of these people. "Won't He who weighs hearts consider it? Won't He repay a person according to his work?" it asks. It would not be wise to attempt to be too specific about the circumstances to which this refers or to attempt to spell out specific circumstances under which we are obligated or not obligated to help a person headed to their death. This is a matter for God's guidance.
Concerning our enemies, we are not to gloat when they fall. So says verse 17. Verse 18 goes on to say that if we gloat the Lord will be displeased and turn His wrath away from the enemy. So we have a situation here in which God Himself has brought about the fall of one's enemy. But there is strong instruction not to rejoice in their fall. We are not to be proud that "God is on our side." On the other hand, I see no injunction against rejoicing for our own good fortune. In fact, I believe God would want us to praise Him for our salvation from the enemy. We are just not to rejoice in the misfortune of the enemy.
I will conclude with the instructions from verse 27. "Complete your outdoor work, and prepare your field; afterwards, build your house." This is speaking of priorities. When planning what to do, don't start with the most inviting work - that which will aide your comfort. Start with the most vital work - that which will provide for you and sustain you. This is advise to help us have success. As we lay out the steps toward success we need to identify those factors most vital to that success. Start with those factors. Other things are also important but they can and should wait. Recognize which category your tasks fall into.