I'm not really sure how I am going to respond to this particular book. It certainly wasn't bad, and it did deal with the Book of Proverbs quite well, but to me it really didn't say anything that I didn't know already. I guess it is a good thing that my church hasn't asked me to do another book review on a Christian book for a while because I am actually having a lot of difficulty coming up with a book that I could write a passionate review about. I would certainly recommend that people read this book, but it really didn't have all that much in it that brought about an epiphany.
If there is one thing that this particular book did bring out was how we should view Proverbs. I have always approached it with the view of being the instructed – that is the person being given advice on how to live a good and fruitful life. However, Goldberg points out that it also works to guide the instructor by demonstrating how one should go about teaching wisdom to another. Okay, there are proverbs that specifically say that parents who instruct their children in wisdom will raise children who are blessings to them, however Proverbs as a whole tells the parent what wisdom they should be teaching their children.
Like many books of the Bible, Proverbs has more than one dimension. As I mentioned above, it is not only teaching wisdom, but also providing instruction on how to teach wisdom. Those of you who are familiar with this particular book will also notice that there are a lot of references to fools, and previously I have always taken these teachings as guides on how not to be a fool, yet Proverbs also warns us against becoming involved with bad company, and by painting a picture of a fool throughout the book, it gives us an idea of the type of people that we probably should not be letting influence us. Personally, I wish I had absorbed much of the advice that is contained in this gem as a child, before I wondered off on my folly during my teenage years.
It is interesting also to see where many of the sayings that we have today come from (though the Bible, along with Shakespeare, are the two biggest sources of many of the common sayings that we generally take fore granted). For instance, I suspect the saying 'it is better to keep your mouth closed and have people think you a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt', would have originated from Proverbs - though that actual incarnation of the quote is attributed to both Mark Twain and Abraham Lincoln. Even then, we should always remember this famous quote:
Mind you, I have always had a lot of fun with the Book of Proverbs, and remember a time when I was on a church camp and managed to score the job of being the person in charge of the camp loudspeaker (probably because I simply took the microphone and used it and nobody told me to stop) and used the opportunity to quote proverbs, such as:
It is better to live on the corner of the roof, than to share a house with a quarrelsome wife – Proverbs 21:9
Remembering, of course, the context of the book as being a father giving advice to his son, which is why the woman is portrayed as the bad guy here (and no doubt we could switch it around to say 'it is better to sleep in the local dumpster than to share a house with a prick of a husband'). Mind you, if we do read through the book, once again we will notice that there are lots of traits that we are encouraged not to pick up because it builds upon a bad character, such as:
A prudent man conceals his knowledge, but fools proclaim their folly – Proverbs 12:23
Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offences – Proverbs 10:12
Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer harm, but he who hates striking hands in pledge is secure. – Proverbs 11:15
And of course, we cannot forget my favourite:
Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly – Proverbs 26:11
Just as an end note, all quotes come from the English Standard Version, simply because I refuse to read a Bible that is published by Newscorp (that being the New International Version and its offshoots).