As you have begun to read the Book of Proverbs perhaps you have noticed that Biblical Hebrew, like English, uses parts of the body metaphorically to express personality, emotion, or thought process. Hebrew does not however always allude to the same organs as English to express these functions. If we were to translate some of these Hebrew words verbatim they would be unintelligible in English. This means that even the most literal translations have to resort to paraphrase in order to communicate the intended point. The English reader might have challenges spotting where the Hebrew word for a body part occurs. For example, the Hebrew word ‘leb’ is usually translated heart. This can mean the actual physical heart or, it can be used metaphorically for several different aspects of a person’s personality. Often ‘leb’ indicated the seat of specific emotions, such as fear, lament, regret, joy, comfort, love, or anger. It can also be translated as a thought function so, in that case it would mean the mind.
The Hebrew word for breath is ‘ruach’. It can also be translated as a person’s inner being. It also means spirit or soul. There are times it is used for an individual’s emotional reactions. Consequently then, this may lead to specific behaviors like stubbornness. There are several Hebrew words for neck or throat. The throat is the means by which a person breathes, eats, and so to speak, takes in life. So, the Hebrew word ‘nephesh’ which means throat, is generally translated as life, soul, or even person. These words are often used to express the inner character of an individual. As such, the throat can be deceitful, display arrogance, express determination or stubbornness, and…praise God. The ‘nephesh’ can be bitter or hot tempered as well. And, literally necks displayed precious metals and jewels as well as the yoke of slavery. Figuratively then, the neck or throat could be said to display what a person deemed valuable, as well as the consequences of a person’s sins.
The words for stomach or womb can indicate the seat of emotions or desire. Other organs that the Biblical Hebrew uses in this way include the liver, intestines, and kidneys. One of the places many of these words are used together is Proverbs 6. Verse 16 states literally that there are seven things that are detestable to the Lords nephesh…His very being. Verse 30 notes that men do not despise a thief who steals to fill his nephesh (here throat or hunger), while verse 32 claims that the adulterer destroys his own nephesh…their soul or life. Verse 14 points out that the individual who plots evil has perversity in their leb (heart or mind), and verse 32 asserts that the adulterer lacks leb (here good sense).
The teachings of Hebrew sages are couched in terms that are sometimes alien to the modern English reader. But when we look at them in their own terms they create a compelling picture of a human being as a bundle of physical, emotional, and spiritual capacities and needs. A man, woman, boy, or girl is an integral combination of body and soul, and the emotional or intellectual aspects of life simply cannot be separated from the nature of the whole person.
There are many different types of people that we encounter in the Book of Proverbs. There are the wise and the wicked. There are also the simple, the scorners, and the fools. So let’s take a quick look at these three types of people. The simple are the naïve people who believe everything. Often they do not have convictions about anything and many times they lack the ability to distinguish between truth and error. (14:15). Charles R. Bridges says “To believe every word of God is faith. To believe every word of man is foolish.” The simple are simple because they reject the truth of God’s Word that gives prudence and common sense to the simple. Many have no desire to change. But because they do not take a stand for anything, they will fall for everything. Instead of working hard to dig deep into the mines of God’s Word and wisdom, the simple are content to pick up whatever they can find on the surface. (14:18). All of us are ignorant about some things but the simple are ignorant of even their ignorance and they have chosen not to learn. They follow the philosophy ‘where ignorance is bliss, it is folly to be wise.’ But, when we have the Bible to read, a life to build, and eternity to prepare for, it is really folly to be ignorant.
Scorners think they know everything and anyone who tries to teach them is only wasting their time. Proverbs 21:24 tells us, “Proud and haughty, scorner is his name.” Scorners cannot find wisdom even when they look for it because learning God’s truth demands that we be humble and have an obedient will. What scorners lack in knowledge they make up for in arrogance. Trying to enter into a discussion with a scorner often finds them sneering at truth and denying it. The Hebrew lexicon (dictionary) defines scorners as frivolous and impudent. Since they have little or no intellectual or spiritual ammunition, the scorner depends on ridicule and contempt to fight their enemies. We read in 9:7-8 “He who corrects a scorner gets shame for himself…do not correct a scorner lest he hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you.” See also 15:12. Whether in the neighborhood, school, workplace, home, or church, the scorner is toxic and spreads infection. See 22:10. They can even create problems for the whole city (29:8). The writer of Proverbs tells us the Lord “scorns the scornful, but gives grace to the humble.”
The third word is fool and Proverbs has much to say about fools. Chapters and books have been written about the fools referred to in the Book of Proverbs. The English words fool and folly come from the Latin word follis, which means ‘bellows’. This means a fool is a windbag, someone full of hot air but lacking in substance. Fools may look like giants, but when the wind is taken out of them, they shrink dramatically and reveal what they really are…pygmies. In the Book of Proverbs three different Hebrew words are translated fool. There are the dull, stupid fools who are stubborn. There are corrupt fools who are morally perverted and unreasonable and the third kind of fools are ‘Nabal’ those who are like stubborn animals, the brutish fools. The problem with fools of any kind is not that they have a low IQ or even deficient education. The problem is their hearts. They refuse to acknowledge the Lord and submit to Him. Paul tells us in Romans 3:18 that there is no fear of God before their eyes. One reason they cannot learn wisdom is because they cannot keep their eyes focused on what is most important.
Fools cannot control their speech. (15:2). The fools speech is proud and they know it all. They have a tendency to speak before they know what they are saying or what is being discussed. They do a lot of talking but they never accomplish anything, and they specialize in lies and slander. (18:6-7). Fools struggle to control their temper. (12:16, 14:29). When business is being transacted at the city gate, fools should keep quiet if they want to appear wise. My father always said “better to be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” Proverbs tells us not to incur the wrath of a fool unless you want to carry a terrible burden. (27:3). Once a fool is angry with you they will carry on the war to the bitter end and do a great deal of damage in the process. Solomon tells us that fools are proud and self confident. (28:26, 26:12). William Ernest Henley’s philosophy said this,”I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.” This is from his poem Invictus. These are the proud expressions of human achievement and they resemble what the evil one said in the garden of Eden. “You will be like God.” This is the basis of the new age movement. Just remember, whatever exalts a man will ultimately fail. Whatever glorifies God will last forever. We find these words in 1 Timothy 6:4-5. “He is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, evil suspicions, and useless wrangling.”
Proverbs 5:3 tells us that “fools will die without instruction”, and 3:35 says, “The wise will inherit glory, but shame will be the promotion of fools.” The only fools who are wise fools are Christians because they are fools for Christ’s sake. (1 Corinthians 4:10). The world calls them fools, but in trusting Jesus Christ and committing their lives to Him, they have made the wisest decision anybody can make. We could make the statement I am a fool for Jesus Christ. Whose fool are you?
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W