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

Proverbs 22:1-9 Friday 8 November 2013


The opening verse of this chapter presents us starkly with oneof the great themes of Wisdom literature. There is a nice littleword play in the Hebrew where "good name" has the same vowel soundas 'to be esteemed' but it is important that the modern readerrealises that the idea of "a good name" was not quite the same inancient Israel then it is today. Our modern individualistic societyhas separated the idea of honour or how we are seen by others fromthe idea of integrity or how we are in ourselves. In a much moregroup-oriented or collective society the two ideas were closertogether, so that the 'good name' that the proverb is recommendingis not simply a good reputation, but a good character. Verse tworeminds us once again that while there may be a great gap betweenrich and poor in this life, they share in common that they are thecreation of God. In Jewish tradition this is a particular warningthat the rich should never forget.

Verse 6 is a lot more radical than the NRSV Bible makes itappear. The Hebrew actually says, 'Educate a child accordingtohisway and even when he is old he will not depart from it'. Inother words, far from implying that a child is clay to be mouldedat will be her parents, this verse acknowledges the wisdom oflistening to the child and adjusting the way that they are taughtand raised to ensure that it suits them. Obviously there will belimits to this, but the verse is recommending a lovingattentiveness to each child rather than a one size fits allapproach to child rearing.

To Ponder

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