The first thing that I do each week when preparing for my sermon is translate the text I intend to preach. I came across a surprise in Proverbs 29:11. Here’s an English translation of the verse (ESV): “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.”
It’s admittedly a tough passage to translate, but one of the first translations I came up with was this:
“A fool lets out all his wind / but a wise man hushes his back side.”
I mean, come on! What’s that sound like to you? I may have found a new life verse!
Of course, after deep reflection (and some unnecessary repentance), I ultimately found myself agreeing with the ESV and most other translations. The passage speaks to the issue of controlling our emotions, not controlling, er… other things.
It’s almost a shame. It would’ve been a lot more fun to preach my original translation than the correct translation!
Evidence for Random Organization, Part III
The last two weeks I’ve given a few examples of how Proverbs demonstrates evidence of organization even in the more “random” parts of the book. We saw evidence of large-scale organization as well as the skillful use of “catchwords” that bind together seemingly unrelated verses.
Another piece of evidence that favors purposeful organization is common themes linked together. For example, in 10:6-21, there are at least 10 verses that focus on the issue of speech. This is an unusually high cluster of proverbs with that theme. We saw last week a cluster of proverbs in chapter 26 that spoke about the sluggard (26:13-16). This comes right after a cluster of proverbs that use comparison to make a point (26:7-11), which comes right after two verses that describe different ways to treat a fool in his folly (26:4-5).
There are other examples. Proverbs 29:8-10 all start with the Hebrew word for “man.” Yet these verses don’t seem to relate much in topic. Verse 8 deals with scoffers, verse 9 with arguing with a fool, and verse 10 deals with bloodthirsty men who hate the righteous.
This evidence alone would probably not be enough to say that these sections are purposefully organized, but combined with what we’ve seen so far, the argument has some weight.
Bonus: One More Thing To Help Deal with Angry People
During the sermon, I showed a few “tips” from Proverbs that will help deal with angry people. Here’s one I left out:
“A gift in secret averts anger, and a concealed bribe, strong wrath” (Pr 21:14 ESV).
We should not attempt to try to make this proverb mean something than what it seems to mean. Gifts and bribes tend to avert someone’s anger. This isn’t mean to condemn or condone the practice; it’s merely observational. It may help someone understand why the anger of a ruler has been suddenly averted (was there a secret bribe involved?). It may help someone recognize when someone is trying to avert their own anger by giving a seemingly out-of-the-blue gift.
Though this verse related to the topic at hand, the amount of explanation needed to help people understand what it was saying and how to apply it forced me to exchange it with some “simpler” verses that had more immediately understandable application. Lord willing, we’ll come back to this verse another day.