8 November 2013

Proverbs 22:1-9

“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favour is better than silver or gold.” (v. 1)


The opening verse of this chapter presents us starkly with one of the great themes of Wisdom literature. There is a nice little word play in the Hebrew where "good name" has the same vowel sound as 'to be esteemed' but it is important that the modern reader realises that the idea of "a good name" was not quite the same in ancient Israel then it is today. Our modern individualistic society has separated the idea of honour or how we are seen by others from the idea of integrity or how we are in ourselves. In a much more group-oriented or collective society the two ideas were closer together, so that the 'good name' that the proverb is recommending is not simply a good reputation, but a good character. Verse two reminds us once again that while there may be a great gap between rich and poor in this life, they share in common that they are the creation of God. In Jewish tradition this is a particular warning that the rich should never forget.

Verse 6 is a lot more radical than the NRSV Bible makes it appear. The Hebrew actually says, 'Educate a child according tohisway and even when he is old he will not depart from it'. In other words, far from implying that a child is clay to be moulded at will be her parents, this verse acknowledges the wisdom of listening to the child and adjusting the way that they are taught and raised to ensure that it suits them. Obviously there will be limits to this, but the verse is recommending a loving attentiveness to each child rather than a one size fits all approach to child rearing.

To Ponder

  • The Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) often insists that integrity is more important than riches. What, if anything, about your life today makes it difficult for you to trust and live by this idea?
  • Is there a particular proverb from today's passage which you can take with you to ponder during the rest of the day? What is it? And why do you think it jumps out at you?

Bible notes author

The Revd Judith Rossall

Judith Rossall is a Methodist tutor at Queen's Foundation in Birmingham. Before moving to Queen's, she was a circuit minister and taught at STETS in Salisbury.