Good morning! Many verses in the Hebrew Scriptures have been given further life by their inclusion in more recent texts. This morning’s chapters from Proverbs (25-26) draw particular attention for the ways their wisdom has been relayed into different contexts through echoes in the New Testament.
At least four different verses of this passage find an explicit or implicit resonance in the Christian Scriptures. Jesus echoes the wisdom of Proverbs 25:7 when he suggests that people sit at the foot of a dinner table rather than the head, because it’s better to be asked to move higher rather than to be demoted. Furthermore, the writer of Proverbs advises to go directly to the one who has wronged you rather than taking it immediately to the court, which is something both Jesus and the apostle Paul agree with as well. 25:21-22 suggests being kind to enemies for then one will “heap coals of fire on their heads”, which is quoted directly in the Apostle Paul’s writings. Likewise, the second letter of Peter quotes Proverbs 26:11, describing the fool as like a dog returning to its vomit.
Aside from the staying power of vivid images and timeless wisdom, what else might we learn from the fact that New Testament writers refreshed and reprised wisdom found earlier in Proverbs? First, it suggests to me the natural connections between Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, however much some might want to suggest that the latter eclipses the former. I also see in this later renaissance of Proverbs a validation of regular biblical reading in ways that one starts to internalize the texts. After all, the gospel writers, Paul and the writer of Peter could not have made the references they did without ready familiarity with this book of Hebrew sayings. Finally, a familiarity with ancestral texts makes it possible to reinterpret them for new communities and contexts. This is what sets sacred texts like the Bible apart from other ancient literature—dedicated interpreters play a role in bringing new life to what otherwise might be disregarded as artifacts of history. Verses in Proverbs (and elsewhere in the Bible) move from a status of “interesting literature” to “living witness” when faithful readers bring text to context in ways that are “new every morning”. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Proverbs 27-29. Thanks for reading!