Friday Bible Blogging Archive

Friday, November 18, 2016

Friday Bible Blogging - Isaiah 1 to 10

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). All headings are links to those Bible chapters.

BibleOkay. It's been a long time since I've done one of these Friday Bible Blogging posts. But, now that the election's over and there's not as much pressure to write about politics (not that it did any good, anyway), I can get back into my old habits.

Wow, have I really let this series fall by the wayside. It's been over a year since the last entry, and my entries had already grown pretty sporadic before that. In my defense, there were just a whole bunch of events that screwed up what had become my routine for completing these entries, and once that routine was broken, it was hard to get back into it. On top of that is the issue of motivation. And on top of that is the fact that every time I did sit down to read Isaiah, it was just a little too much content - not so much Isaiah itself, but the footnotes in the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB). To be honest, I've actually read the first 10 chapters of Isaiah at least three or four times now. But my goal for these posts is to also read the NOAB footnotes before writing a post, and because Isaiah has so many footnotes, it seems like I never quite got around to reading all of them. And so, I've been hung up on Isaiah for a long time now. So, I figure there's nothing to do but just trudge through it, even if this post isn't quite as good as I'd like it to be. At least I'll be making progress again. I mean, I'm 4 years into this project and not even halfway done, when it should have only taken 2 1/2 years to finish up completely. Hopefully I can finish before another 4 years pass.

Isaiah marks the first of the Prophetic books. Like normal, the NOAB had a nice introduction to these books, how they came about, who might have written them, etc. Like most books of the Bible, most of the Prophetic books aren't the result of a single author, sitting down at a specific time to write them. While some may have begun as a record of a prophet's oral pronouncements, or even as written works by a prophet, the books we have now are the results of generations worth of editing. Here's one thing the NOAB wrote about this development:

The complex activity of preserving and developing the prophetic oracle collections reflects a conviction that prophet's words were not only significant of for the circumstance in which they were originally pronounced but potentially relevant for later ones as well. At the same time, the freedom with which later generations could rework the prophetic oracles indicates that prophets' words did not at first possess the kind of fixed authority that is later associated with the concept of "scripture."

The NOAB also pointed out the changing roles of the prophets over time. The earliest actually seem primitive - "itinerant holy men and women who were revered for their special religious powers and who might be consulted for a variety of private inquiries, from locating lost property (1 Sam 9.1-10) to learning whether a sick child would live or die (1 Kings 14.1-18)." As time went on, they became more politically influential - pronouncing on the fitness of kings, and then becoming advisors to kings as royal power was consolidated. The NOAB does note an apparent shift in the nature of prophecy in the eighth century, becoming more public speakers as opposed to private advisers, but that it's hard to know how much of this shift is due to the prophets in general changing, or just a bias in the prophetic books that happened to be preserved.

When it comes to Isaiah, the NOAB notes several sources who contributed to writing it. The core comes from its namesake, Isaiah ben Amoz, who witnessed the Assyrian invasions of Israel and Juda (742 - 701 BCE). Next came a revision by an anonymous author now commonly referred to as Second Isaiah, probably writing during the reign of King Josiah of Juda (640 - 609 BCE) to reflect his reforms. Next came a series of revisions by multiple authors during the Babylonian collapse and rise of King Cyrus of Persia in the sixth century BCE, when the Jews were authorized to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. And a final series of revisions by more authors came in fifth and fourth centuries reflecting further theological changes. So, the book was composed over a couple centuries of major political upheaval, mostly between Assyriah, Babylon, and Egypt, with Israel and Judah caught in the middle.

Isaiah, Chapter 1

The opening message of Isaiah isn't such a bad one for the Bible. It's about how just going through the motions of sacrifice isn't good enough for God.

What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
says the Lord;
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
and the fat of fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
or of lambs, or of goats.

So, what shoud they do?

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings
from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
seek justice,
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow.

Like I said, not bad for the Bible. It's focused on actually helping people, not simply following sacrificial rituals (or the even worse parts about genocides and slaughters). Although, as the NOAB notes, this isn't to imply that sacrifices are no longer important to God. It's that he's turning his back on Israel for all the evil they've done, and not accepting any more sacrifices until they straighten up their acts. Of course, it wouldn't be the Bible if it didn't resort to violence, and God straightening up their acts by force.

Ah, I will pour out my wrath on my enemies,
and avenge myself on my foes!
I will turn my hand against you...

Granted, the rest of the passage does go on to say that this will be for the ultimate redemption of Israel.

Isaiah, Chapter 2

This chapter is all about the restoration of Jerusalem, and a coming glorious period for the whole world, with Jerusalem at the center.

In days to come
the mountain of the Lord's house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains
and hsall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.

I suppose this would have been comforting during the turmoil of the time.

This chapter also gives one of the more famous passages from the Bible:

they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall no lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

Isaiah, Chapter 3

Chapter 3 is back to doom and gloom, with the punishment that's to come before the coming glory described in the previous chapter.

This passage caught my eye:

My people - children are their oppressors,
and women rule over them.

Because there's nothing worse than having women as leaders.

This next passage caught my eye, as well, for how fashion was so much different in that culture. I mean, we're so used to classic European paintings depicting the Old Testament, that we sometimes forget what the culture was actually like.

On that day the Lord will take away the finery of the anklets, the headbands, and the crescents; the pendants, the bracelets, and the scarves; the head-dresses, the armlets, the sashes, the perfume boxes, and the amulets; the signet rings and nose-rings; the festal robes, the mantles, the cloaks, and the handbags; the garments of gauze, the linen garments, the turbans, and the veils.

There was also a kind of disturbingly misogynistic passage.

the Lord will afflict with scabs
the heads of the daughters of Zion,
and the Lord will lay bare their secret parts.

Isaiah, Chapter 4

Chapter 4 finishes up with the doom & gloom, talking about 'seven women' wanting to all marry one man just to be "called by your name; / take away our disgrace." Again, it's weird to think of women's role in that culture, being relegated to such inferior roles where they needed a husband to be respectable.

But after that, the chapter moved on to the restored Zion, recalling imagery of the pillar of smoke and fire from previous books.

Isaiah, Chapter 5

Chapter 5 was long, and back to the doom and gloom - about how bad the people were, and how God was going to punish them. Honestly, I don't really feel like quoting any of it, because this book is already getting a bit boring with just repeating over and over the same themes.

Isaiah, Chapter 6

Chapter 6 was a vision from Isaiah, and this part actually got somewhat interesting.

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew.

So, like much of the Old Testament, God is presented as very anthropomorphic, actually wearing a robe. I also snickered at the mention of the Seraphs covering their 'feet', knowing what that's a euphemism for.

The very next passage was another very famous one, a version of which I heard just about every week growing up as a Catholic.

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.

After Isaiah said that he knew he was unfit to speak with the Lord, one of the seraphs took a live coal from the altar and touched it to Isaiah's lips. According to the NOAB, "The cleansing of Isaiah's mouth with a hot coal from the altar presupposes the mouth purification rituals of oracular priests in ancient Mesopotamia so that they could speak on behalf of their gods."

God's pronouncements in the vision were chilling. First, God said he was going to intentionally make the people so that they wouldn't understand what was going on.

Keep listening, but do not comprehend;
keep looking, but do not understand."
Make the mind of this people dull,
and stop their ears,
and shut their eyes,
so that they may not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears,
and comprehend with their minds,
and turn and be healed.

After Isaiah put up a feeble protest (nothing like previous heroes from the Bible who bargained with God to try to save their people), God said it would last "until cities lie waste / without inhabitant, / and houses without people, / and the land is utterly desolate." And if the destruction wasn't complete, "Even if a tenth part remains in it, / it will be burned again..."

Isaiah, Chapter 7

Chapter 7 touched on some of the alliances going on at the time, with Israel and Judah teaming with different nations, and how this war was all going to play out according to the Lord's plan (hint - lots of destruction).

One passage from this chapter is very famous among Christians. After Ahaz refused to ask for a sign from God and "put the Lord to the test", Isaiah responded:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman* is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

The NOAB indicates the 'young woman' (not 'virgin') was probably either the wife of Isaiah or of King Ahaz. Of course, from there the chapter went on to further describe this boy, and how he would grow up before this war was settled, along with the consequences of the war.

He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.

This wasn't a prophecy about a coming messiah, and really only makes sense that way if you read it completely out of context.

One last passage from this chapter:

On that day the Lord will shave with a razor hired beyond the River--with the king of Assyria--the head and the hair of the feet, and it will take off the beard as well.

Snicker - God's going to shave their 'feet'.

Isaiah, Chapter 8

Chapter 8 continued this story. Frankly, it got a bit confusing to follow at points, becoming a little hard to distinguish in some places whether the child being referred to was Maher-shalal-hash-baz, son of the prophetess, or Immanuel, the prophesied boy from the previous chapter. Even the NOAB noted that "The narrative abruptly shifts to Isaiah's first-person account concerning the birth of his son..."

Then it was more prophecies of bad things happening to the unfaithful, along with commands to be good and follow the Lord.

Isaiah, Chapter 9

Chapter 9 included another passage that I'm willing to bet Christians take as a prophecy of the Messiah, even if it fits in with the story being told about the then current war.

For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

But mostly, this chapter was all about the destruction caused by God against his people. This passage really stood out to me.

So the Lord raised adversaries* against them,
and stirred up their enemies,
the Arameans in the east and the Philistines in the west,
and they devoured Israel with open mouth.
For all this, his anger has not turned away;
his hand is stretched out still.

It just seems odd, at least from the point of view of trying to look at believing in God. I mean, here you have the all powerful creator of the universe, who can do anything at all, and his method of punishment is to get this other group of people to go after his chosen people. But in the end, it's a wash. I mean, if you're an Aramean, half the time God's rewarding you so that he can use you to punish the Israelites. And the other half, he's rewarding the Israelites so that they can punish you. And vice versa - as an Israelite, half the time you're being punished, and half the time you're being rewarded. I mean, if God was real, you'd be no better off believing in him as an Israelite or worshipping a different god as an Aramean - you'd still end up being punished or rewarded the same amount. (Now, from the point of view of normal people trying to explain why things beyond their control are happening...)

Isaiah, Chapter 10

More destruction. More evil doers. God does say that "he will punish the arrogant boasting of the king of Assyria", for daring to think he had anything to do with his own victories on the battlefield, rather than realizing that God had given him those victories.

Shall the axe vaunt itself over the one who wields it,
or the saw magnify itself against the one who handles it?

There's also a little mention of restoring Zion once all the destruction is over.


Okay, so this may not have been my best review, but at least I'm back to writing in this series. I'm not too excited about this book, though. I've already read the next 10 chapters (though not the NOAB footnotes), and it's much more of the same. It's not a particularly exciting book of the Bible.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Friday Bible Blogging - Song of Songs 1 to 8

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). All headings are links to those Bible chapters.

BibleToday's entry will cover the entire book of The Song of Songs, also known as The Song of Solomon. The New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB), in its introduction to the book, noted that despite historical religious interpretations by Jews and Christians, the current scholarly consensus is that this really is a love poem, with no divine meaning. It makes no reference to the Law or even Yahweh himself. It's a bit puzzling why such a poem would be included in the canon of Jewish religious scriptures, but that's the strange nature of the Bible. The NOAB also notes that the book bears many similarities to contemporary Mesopotamian and Egyptian love poetry, and that "the poet drew upon a rich cultural tradition of love poetry", a poet who, by the way almost certainly wasn't Solomon.

This marks the last of the Wisdom books, but I'm still not quite halfway through with the whole Bible.

I wasn't particularly fond of this book. But then again, I'm not particularly fond of modern day love poetry, so I can't really comment on whether or not this is a good example of the genre. Since there wasn't much that really jumped out at me about this book, I'm going to channel my inner middle schooler and focus mainly on the scandalous sections, just to have something somewhat interesting to write about.

Song of Songs, Chapter 1

The poem jumps right into a physical relationship in the opening lines.

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!
For your love is better than wine

And according to the NOAB, it's "Love, a plural form referring to physical lovemaking". So maybe 'love' should be in scare quotes.

Or consider this passage:

   they made me keeper of the vineyards,
   but my own vineyard I have not kept!

Is being the keeper of your own vineyard anything like being the master of your own domain? Even according to the NOAB, "My own vineyard refers to he woman herself, probably with a sexual meaning".

As long as your mind's in the gutter, this next passage sounds reasonably bad, but it sounds even worse with the proper translation.

Tell me, you whom my soul loves,
   where you pasture your flock,
   where you make it lie down at noon;

According to the NOAB, that second line should read simply, 'Where do you graze?'.

Song of Songs, Chapter 2

Here are the last two lines from this chapter.

turn, my beloved, be like a gazelle
   or a young stag on the cleft mountains.

According to the NRSV and NOAB footnotes, 'cleft mountains' might be better translated as 'mountains of spices', but either way, you know what 'mountains' it's referring to. As the NOAB puts it, this "alludes to the woman herself and the various pleasures her body offers, perhaps her breasts".

Song of Songs, Chapter 3

I've got nothing from this chapter. None of it jumped out at me.

Song of Songs, Chapter 4

Romantic imagery was a bit different in that culture:

Your hair is like a flock of goats,
   moving down the slopes of Gilead.
Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes
   that have come up from the washing,
all of which bear twins,
   and not one among them is bereaved.

I don't think I'd set much of a romantic mood with my wife if I started comparing her to goats and sheep.

Here's one of the more explicit references to anatomy:

Your two breasts are like two fawns,
   twins of a gazelle,
   that feed among the lilies.

And like the NOAB says, "Elsewhere the man is described as feeding among the lilies, an erotically suggestive image in which the lilies signify the woman".

The very next passage is this:

Until the day breathes
   and the shadows flee,
I will hasten to the mountain of myrrh
   and the hill of frankincense.

And you know what 'mountain' this is referring to.

Song of Songs, Chapter 5

I thought maybe I was being a bit too juvenile reading this chapter, but according to the NOAB, it's "replete with sexual allusions." So when you read this passage:

My beloved thrust his hand into the opening,
   and my inmost being yearned for him.

I guess it really is just as bad as it seems.

And this is almost enough to make me blush:

I arose to open to my beloved,
   and my hands dripped with myrrh,
my fingers with liquid myrrh,
   upon the handles of the bolt.
I opened to my beloved,

Or when she's describing her lover:

His appearance is like Lebanon,
   choice as the cedars.

How salacious.

Song of Songs, Chapter 6

There's nothing that really jumps out from this chapter, but just wait for the next one.

Song of Songs, Chapter 7

Oh my. This is another rather explicit chapter. Even if, as the NOAB puts it, the body parts are "described in metaphors that are not transparent", you can certainly get the gist of enough to know that this isn't G-rated.

Your rounded thighs are like jewels,
   the work of a master hand.
Your navel is a rounded bowl
   that never lacks mixed wine.

And navel might even be more explicit than just the belly button. According to the NOAB, it might be "a euphemism for 'vulva.' "

And just consider this:

I say I will climb the palm tree
   and lay hold of its branches.
O may your breasts be like clusters of the vine,
   and the scent of your breath like apples,
and your kisses like the best wine
   that goes down smoothly,
   gliding over lips and teeth.

And again, I'm sure you can guess what the branches are that the man lays a hold of.

Song of Songs, Chapter 8

This passage gets just a bit too kinky for me.

I would lead you and bring you
   into the house of my mother,
   and into the chamber of the one who bore me.

There's no way I would 'make love' in my parents' bed. That's just wrong, but I guess it turned on the lovers in this poem.

The poem ends with these verses.

O you who dwell in the gardens,
   my companions are listening for your voice;
   let me hear it.

Make haste, my beloved,
   and be like a gazelle
or a young stag
   upon the mountains of spices!

If that seems abrupt, apparently that was on purpose. As the NOAB puts it, "The poet does not bring the Song to a proper close, so that the love it celebrates can remain unending."


So, this wasn't the best book of the Bible, but it wasn't the worst, either. And I apologize if this review was a bit juvenile compared to some of my other reviews, but that's about the only way I could think of to keep it somewhat interesting. Other than that, it's just a sappy love poem that's not really my cup of tea.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday Bible Blogging - Ecclesiastes 1 to 12

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). All headings are links to those Bible chapters.

BibleWow, has it really been over a month since the last time I posted in this series? Well, given my recent history of not really keeping up with weekly posts, this is the last time I'll apologize for being late. I will earnestly try to post every Friday, but if the past is any guide I won't actually keep that schedule, and I don't really feel like apologizing every post. In my defense for today, though, I think this may be the longest entry in the Friday Bible Blogging series, so it's taken me a little while to write.

Today's entry is the book of Ecclesiastes. It's rather thought provoking, and actually quite a bit different than pretty much every other book of the Bible. To quote a bit from Wikipedia:

There is considerable disagreement among scholars as to just what Ecclesiastes is about; is it positive and life-affirming or deeply pessimistic? Is Koheleth coherent or incoherent, insightful or confused, orthodox or heterodox? Is the ultimate message of the book to copy Koheleth, the wise man, or to avoid his errors? Some passages of Ecclesiastes seem to contradict other portions of the Old Testament, and even itself.

This was my favorite book of the Bible so far. As such, I've found many more passages to copy than normal, and my excerpts are often a bit longer than what I normally do. Sorry, but you'll just have to deal with it. I've finally found a book of the Bible that I'd recommend for its own merits, and not just historical or religious perspective.

Ecclesiastes, Chapter 1

First, let's address a translation issue depending on which translation you're reading. In several translations, like the NRSV that I'm reading or the King James Version, a certain Hebrew word is translated as 'vanity'. So, for example, we get a passage like this:

Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher,
   vanity of vanities! All is vanity.

According to the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB), the Hebrew word, 'hebel', "literally means 'breath' or 'vapor'... In Ecclesiastes, it is used as a metaphor for things that cannot be grasped either physically or intellectually, things that are ephemeral, insubstantial, enigmatic, or absurd." It certainly helps to understand the meaning of those many passages by knowing what's meant by 'vanity'.

Here's a passage that I particularly like. In fact, I've quoted it a few times myself (such as in a footnote in my self-published book).

What has been is what will be,
   and what has been done is what will be done;
   there is nothing new under the sun.

The NOAB notes that the phrase 'under the sun' only appears in the Bible in Ecclesiastes, but is used elsewhere in ancient Near East literature. Additionally, it refers to the land of the living, as opposed to the land of the dead, unlike the related phrase, 'under the heavens', which refers to pretty much everywhere.

Here's another one that I like.

The people of long ago are not remembered,
   nor will there be any remembrance
of people yet to come
   by those who come after them.

It reminds me very much of Shelley's Ozymandias, and the somewhat melancholy inevitability of mortality.

Here's the next passage.

For in much wisdom is much vexation,
and those who increase knowledge increase sorrow.

This verges on anti-intellectualism, but I prefer to interpret it a bit more charitably. It's kind of the opposite of ignorance is bliss. It's not so much that knowledge in itself brings sorrow, but that you learn sorrowful things about the world that you can't unlearn. How much happier I'd be if I knew about nothing but my own home life, job, and local community. But I can't ignore ISIS, North Korea, past atrocities like the Holocaust, etc.

Ecclesiastes, Chapter 2

If you notice, the passages I quoted up above were all in verse. But Ecclesiastes jumps around between verse and prose, and this chapter is mostly prose.

Mortality is a frequent theme of Ecclesiastes. Here's one passage that I like, about death being the great equalizer.

Yet I perceived that the same fate befalls all of them. Then I said to myself, 'What happens to the fool will happen to me also; why then have I been so very wise?' And I said to myself that this also is vanity. For there is no enduring remembrance of the wise or of fools, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How can the wise die just like fools? So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me; for all is vanity and a chasing after wind.

Here's another one, not just about your own memory, but about what's going to happen to all your possessions and wealth when you've died. Despite all the work and toil you put into building your estate, there's no guarantee that whoever inherit it will put it to good use (particularly if you consider a few generations hence).

I hated all my toil in which I had toiled under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to those who come after me --and who knows whether they will be wise or foolish? Yet they will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity.

This following passage is an attitude I adopted myself after becoming an atheist. It's not abject hedonism, but appreciating the moment and enjoying it.

There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in their toil.

Granted, that passage was followed by a statement about this enjoyment coming from God, but I'll look past that.

Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3

I find it nearly impossible to read this passage without singing The Byrds in my head.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

Here's another version of the 'eat, drink, and be merry' line.

I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God's gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.

This next one reminds me of the expression, 'qué será, será'.

That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by.

I suppose you could look at it pessimistically, that we have practically no power to alter the world, but I prefer to look at it more optimistically, such as the view typified in the Serenity Prayer - that we should focus on things where we can make a difference, and not stress out about the things beyond our control.

This is a rather skeptical passage to be in the Bible.

For the fate of humans and the fate of animals is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and humans have no advantage over the animals; for all is vanity. All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knows whether the human spirit goes upwards and the spirit of animals goes downwards to the earth? So I saw that there is nothing better than that all should enjoy their work, for that is their lot; who can bring them to see what will be after them?

The NOAB described it as, "The author is apparently skeptical about the belief in survival after death, an idea which was beginning to be developed." That's interesting. It's certainly obvious from earlier Old Testament books that the ancient Hebrew idea of the afterlife was very different from the modern Christian one, so it's interesting to see someone writing on the issue in the midst of that evolution.

Ecclesiastes, Chapter 4

Ecclesiastes can certainly take some cynical turns. Consider this passage.

And I thought the dead, who have already died, more fortunate than the living, who are still alive; but better than both is the one who has not yet been, and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.

From a purely political point, I wonder how the anti-choice crowd would respond to this passage, since it could be taken to mean that it would be better for people to never be born. (I'm sure they'd just say that type of interpretation was out of context, and it's more about how bad living people can be.)

Here's another passage that I particularly like:

Better is a handful with quiet
   than two handfuls with toil,
   and a chasing after wind.

I can think of a few people who would benefit from this advice - don't work so hard just to acquire material things if you're never going to have the time to enjoy them.

I rather liked this passage as well.

Better is a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king, who will no longer take advice.

It's a bit anti-authoritarian for a Bible verse, as well

Ecclesiastes, Chapter 5

Here's some good, practical advice, even if I think the 'God' part is a bit superfluous.

When you make a vow to God, do not delay fulfilling it; for he has no pleasure in fools. Fulfil what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not fulfil it.

Here's another interesting one.

Sweet is the sleep of labourers, whether they eat little or much; but the surfeit of the rich will not let them sleep.

It does seem a bit idealized, that those simple, poor labourers are just plain folk who are happy with what they have, while the rich are all Scrooge's more concerned with money than anything else. And it's not really true in a literal sense, either, since most studies I've read about indicate that up to a certain point, people do tend to be happier the more money they have (e.g. Wall Street Journal - Can Money Buy You Happiness?). But there is a grain of truth to it. It is better to enjoy what you already have than to worry too much about getting more.

Here's another quote on a common theme in the book - you can't take it with you.

As they came from their mother's womb, so they shall go again, naked as they came; they shall take nothing for their toil, which they may carry away with their hands. This also is a grievous ill: just as they came, so shall they go; and what gain do they have from toiling for the wind?

The writer of Ecclesiastes doesn't just seem to take this as a given, but actually considers it 'a grievous ill'.

And here's yet another of the eat, drink, and be merry passages.

This is what I have seen to be good: it is fitting to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of the life God gives us; for this is our lot.

This one adds on that we should also take enjoyment in our work.

Ecclesiastes, Chapter 6

Here's another passage that I like, along a similar theme to ones I've already quoted.

A man may beget a hundred children, and live for many years; but however many are the days of his years, if he does not enjoy life's good things, or has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. For it comes into vanity and goes into darkness, and in darkness its name is covered; moreover, it has not seen the sun or known anything; yet it finds rest rather than he. Even though he should live a thousand years twice over, yet enjoy no good--do not all go to one place?

What's the point in a long life if you don't even enjoy it?

And another one:

Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of desire; this also is vanity and a chasing after wind.

I believe the modern day equivalent of this would be a warning not to keep up with the Joneses.

Ecclesiastes, Chapter 7

I like this one, because of how much I value honesty. Just ask my daughter how much emphasis I put on always telling the truth and maintaining your good name.

A good name is better than precious ointment...

I like this one, too.

Do not say, 'Why were the former days better than these?'
   For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.

It reminds me of the Franklin Adams quote, "Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory."

This next one reminds me of the Buddhist Middle Way. I suppose a less mystical way of putting it is 'everything in moderation'.

In my vain life I have seen everything; there are righteous people who perish in their righteousness, and there are wicked people who prolong their life in their evildoing. Do not be too righteous, and do not act too wise; why should you destroy yourself? Do not be too wicked, and do not be a fool; why should you die before your time? It is good that you should take hold of the one, without letting go of the other; for the one who fears God shall succeed with both.

Here's another bit of good advice.

Do not give heed to everything that people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you; your heart knows that many times you have yourself cursed others.

Despite all the passages in this book that I do like, here's one that's a bit troubling.

One man among a thousand I found, but a woman among all these I have not found. See, this alone I found, that God made human beings straightforward, but they have devised many schemes.

The NOAB has the following footnote for that verse, "this notoriously difficult sentence may be a gloss prompted by misinterpretation of v.26 as referring to women in general. The first part of the verse refers to the elusiveness of wisdom..."

Ecclesiastes, Chapter 8

Here's a bit of pragmatic advice.

Keep the king's command because of your sacred oath. Do not be terrified; go from his presence, do not delay when the matter is unpleasant, for he does whatever he pleases. For the word of the king is powerful, and who can say to him, 'What are you doing?' Whoever obeys a command will meet no harm, and the wise mind will know the time and way.

We may not have kings in most of the world, today, but there are still powerful people who can make your life difficult. The advice here seems to be that at times it's easier just to keep those people happy.

Here, the writer makes an observation that can be summed up simply as 'life's not fair'.

There is a vanity that takes place on earth, that there are righteous people who are treated according to the conduct of the wicked, and there are wicked people who are treated according to the conduct of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity.

Here's another eat, drink, and be merry passage.

So I commend enjoyment, for there is nothing better for people under the sun than to eat, and drink, and enjoy themselves, for this will go with them in their toil through the days of life that God gives them under the sun.

Here's another of the few passages I didn't like.

When I applied my mind to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on earth, how one's eyes see sleep neither day nor night, then I saw all the work of God, that no one can find out what is happening under the sun. However much they may toil in seeking, they will not find it out; even though those who are wise claim to know, they cannot find it out.

In this sense, this book reminded me of the Tao Te Ching. While there were many parts that were interesting or thought provoking, there were also a few passages that run counter to Enlightenment ideals. Now, I'm not saying people will ever understand everything, but this passage from Ecclesiastes seems especially pessimistic.

Ecclesiastes, Chapter 9

Here's another passage that illustrates how this writer's concept of death and an afterlife was much different than the modern Christian's.

But whoever is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. The living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no more reward, and even the memory of them is lost. Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished; never again will they have any share in all that happens under the sun.

In fact, while this passage seems a little too pessimistic to me, I think there's good wisdom in it. We only get this one life, and there is no after for us (at least, not in any conventional sense of self - look for the section on 'materialistic reincarnation' in Does Religion Really Answer the Tough Questions?).

Here's a passage that's interesting not just for its message but also for its probable source.

Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has long ago approved what you do. Let your garments always be white; do not let oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that are given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.

According to the NOAB, "A similar passage in the ancient Mesopotamian epic of Gilgamesh suggests that the advice to enjoy life in the full knowledge of certain death was a piece of folk wisdom."

Here is a very famous passage from Ecclesiastes that I particularly like.

Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favour to the skilful; but time and chance happen to them all. For no one can anticipate the time of disaster. Like fish taken in a cruel net, and like birds caught in a snare, so mortals are snared at a time of calamity, when it suddenly falls upon them.

It speaks to the element of chance in everything that we do, that no matter how talented or well prepared we might be, shear bad luck may dash our hopes. Here's how the NOAB describes this passage, "The author disputes the cause-and-effect or act-and-consequence logic that characterizes Proverbs' view of life. Outcomes are not predictable."

Again thinking purely politically, I think this is a lesson that certain elements of the right wing should take to heart, recognizing that people in dire straits are often there through no fault of their own.

Ecclesiastes, Chapter 10

Here's another passage I like, a more ancient version of 'one bad apple spoils the bunch.'

Dead flies make the perfumer's ointment give off a foul odour;
   so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honour.

Since I've mentioned politics a few times in today's entry, here's one for the right wingers.

The heart of the wise inclines to the right,
   but the heart of a fool to the left.

Of course, I take a bit of issue with that (if I used emoticons, there'd be a little smiley here). I guess this just comes down to the long standing mistrust of left-handed people.

Here's another good one.

Whoever digs a pit will fall into it;
   and whoever breaks through a wall will be bitten by a snake.
Whoever quarries stones will be hurt by them;
   and whoever splits logs will be endangered by them.

Actually, I'd like it a bit better if it just stopped after the first couple lines, since they seem to be implying just desserts, or a type of poetic justice. The latter two lines make it seem just like occupational hazards.

Here's one that didn't jump out at me particularly until I read the commentary in the NOAB.

Through sloth the roof sinks in,
   and through indolence the house leaks.

According to the NOAB, this might be "subversive political commentary in the guise of an innocuous proverb. The saying appears to be about the ruin of a house because of the owner's laziness, but the house may have political overtones, suggesting the incompetence and indiscretion of the leaders. Similarly, v. 19 may be read as a proverb affirming life's pleasures and rewards, or as a critique of the irresponsible lifestyle of the elite."

Here's another piece of pragmatic advice concerning kings and the wealthy.

Do not curse the king, even in your thoughts,
   or curse the rich, even in your bedroom;
for a bird of the air may carry your voice,
   or some winged creature tell the matter.

Some people think this might even be the origin of the expression, a little bird told me.

Ecclesiastes, Chapter 11

Here's another passage interesting for its probably origin.

Send out your bread upon the waters,
   for after many days you will get it back.

According to the NOAB, this is "a parallel from an Egyptian wisdom test" about "spontaneous good deeds".

Here's another bit of good advice. In modern language, I think we'd call it diversifying your investments.

Divide your means seven ways, or even eight,
   for you do not know what disaster may happen on earth.

This passage struck me.

When clouds are full,
   they empty rain on the earth;
whether a tree falls to the south or to the north,
   in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.

It seems to be about people's powerlessness over nature.

Ecclesiastes, Chapter 12

I'm not exactly sure what to make of this line.

Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

I certainly agree with the first part - there is no end to learning, so no end to making new books. I'm not sure if the second part is derogatory towards studying, or just saying that it can be tiring.

According to the NOAB, the book originally closed with the very next phrase, "The end of the matter", but then a few more lines were tacked on at some later date. Moreover, those extra lines having to do with obeying God's commandments aren't really consistent with the rest of the book.


Ecclesiastes is by far the best book of the Bible I've read so far. It's very thought provoking and has plenty of good advice. My only worry now, though, is that I've already read the best of what the Bible has to offer, and it will only be downhill from here.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Bible Blogging - Proverbs 21 to 31

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). All headings are links to those Bible chapters.

BibleOnce again, I have to apologize for falling behind on this series. But with my projects around the house pretty much finished up, and with the holidays behind me, I think I should be able to get back into my weekend routine of reading the Bible, allowing me to keep up with this series. If I was the type to make New Year's resolutions, I'm sure one of them would be to post a new Friday Bible Blogging entry every week.

This week's entry covers the final eleven chapters of the book of Proverbs, 21-31. Just like the last entry, much of the content this week was unconnected sayings. And much of it was good advice (though not all of it). So, my focus for those chapters is going to be the verses that stood out to me.

The last couple chapters did have a bit of a different character. They were attributed to different authors than the rest of Proverbs (most proverbs are attributed to Solomon - though obviously they're a collection from multiple writers), and they had slightly different structures and themes.

Proverbs, Chapter 21

The very first verse from this chapter caught my eye.

The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord;
   he turns it wherever he will.

This is an example of one of the Bible passages that goes against free will (hardening people's hearts is another obvious example). It's interesting to think of a mindset where a person believes that even their thoughts are controlled by a deity (though I suppose that wouldn't be hard for an omnipotent god).

The other passage from this chapter that stood out to me was partly because I found it a bit humorous, but also because I saw it repeated verbatim in 25:24.

It is better to live in a corner of the housetop
   than in a house shared with a contentious wife.

As with so many other parts of the Bible, this repetition is yet another example that this book was put together from previous collections.

Proverbs, Chapter 22

According to the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB), this chapter begins a section constituting a separate collection, running through 24:22. The NOAB also indicates that the origin of this collection might lie in an Egyptian collection of sayings, "Instruction of Amenemope", noting several similarities. The article on Wikipedia has more info, and indicates that the scholarly consensus is a bit stronger than 'could be'.

Similar to the previous chapter, the passage in this chapter that caught my eye was due to a combination of it being a bit humorous, but also being repeated later in the book in 26:13, though not quite verbatim this time.

The lazy person says, 'There is a lion outside!
   I shall be killed in the streets!'

I think I might use that excuse the next time my wife asks me to take the trash out.

Proverbs, Chapter 23

There wasn't much that caught my eye from this chapter. It's not that it gives bad advice (well, maybe a bit like the sections on beating your kid), it's just that none of the passages particularly stand out. If I had to pick one highlight, it would be the last few verses describing getting drunk and getting a hangover (though obviously using more poetic language), before closing with:

When shall I awake?
   I will seek another drink.

Seems like a rather committed drinker.

Proverbs, Chapter 24

There was one verse that came across as, not exactly opposite of, but perhaps as a less charitable version of the Golden rule.

Do not say, 'I will do to others as they have done to me;
   I will pay them back for what they have done.'

It's not about actively helping other people, just avoiding retribution. Though I suppose that compared to the 'eye for an eye' type passages, this is a huge step in the right direction.

I particularly like the last several verses from this chapter.

I passed by the field of one who was lazy,
   by the vineyard of a stupid person;
and see, it was all overgrown with thorns;
   the ground was covered with nettles,
   and its stone wall was broken down.
Then I saw and considered it;
   I looked and received instruction.
A little sleep, a little slumber,
   a little folding of the hands to rest,
and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
   and want, like an armed warrior.

How true it is, if a little bit hyperbolic. How many times have you sat down for just a short rest from chores on the weekend, and wound up watching TV and wasting the whole afternoon? It reminds me a bit of the saying by Ben Franklin, "If you want something done, ask a busy person."

Proverbs, Chapter 25

This chapter had a heading stating, "These are other proverbs of Solomon that the officials of King Hezekiah of Judah copied." According to the NOAB, "This note gives a rare indication of a historical context for this collection."

I liked verses 21 & 22.

If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat;
   and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink;
for you will heap coals of fire on their heads,
   and the Lord will reward you.

Biblically sanctioned passive aggressiveness.

I also liked verse 17.

Let your foot be seldom in your neighbour's house,
   otherwise the neighbour will become weary of you and hate you.

The charitable interpretation is that it's a warning not to overstay your welcome. The less charitable version is that it's a commandment to be anti-social.

Proverbs, Chapter 26

There were two juxtaposed proverbs in this chapter that gave conflicting advice.

Do not answer fools according to their folly,
   or you will be a fool yourself.
Answer fools according to their folly,
   or they will be wise in their own eyes.

The NOAB says this "provokes reflection". Personally, I wonder if a scribe was collecting supposedly sacred sayings and felt like he had to include both of these, despite the contradiction.

This passage also caught my attention.

Like a maniac who shoots deadly firebrands and arrows,
so is one who deceives a neighbour
   and says, 'I am only joking!'

So, it seems like even the writers of the Bible thought that assholes were annoying.

Proverbs, Chapter 27

I don't have any commentary on these next two proverbs, other than to say that I just liked them.

Better is open rebuke
   than hidden love.
Well meant are the wounds a friend inflicts,
   but profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

Here's another one that I found pretty humorous.

Whoever blesses a neighbour with a loud voice,
   rising early in the morning,
   will be counted as cursing.

If power tools had been around back then, I'm sure they'd have gotten a mention as well.

Proverbs, Chapter 28

Nothing from this chapter really jumped out at me.

Proverbs, Chapter 29

There were a few proverbs dealing with servants and slaves that actually come across as pretty callous:

By mere words servants are not disciplined,
   for though they understand, they will not give heed.


A slave pampered from childhood
   will come to a bad end.

According to the NOAB, "The concern with servants suggests that the audience of Proverbs is the upper class," so not really a message intended for the masses.

Proverbs, Chapter 30

Chapter 30 was attributed to "Agur son of Jakeh. An oracle." It was full of numerical sayings that had an interesting structure. As an example, here are verses 21 through 23.

Under three things the earth trembles;
   under four it cannot bear up:
a slave when he becomes king,
   and a fool when glutted with food;
an unloved woman when she gets a husband,
   and a maid when she succeeds her mistress.

The NOAB also points out that verses 7 through 10 constitute the only prayer in this whole book, and that they might have been a later addition.

Proverbs, Chapter 31

This final chapter of Proverbs is "The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him". That latter two thirds of it, verses 10-31, make up an acrostic poem, where each verse begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, in order (of course, that information is from the NOAB, as I can't read the original Hebrew).

My favorite verse from the entire book is in this chapter, verse 7. It's my favorite not so much because it's the best proverb from the book, or even the most amusing, but because I found some tubler glasses in a thrift shop that have this proverb printed on them.

let them drink and forget their poverty,
   and remember their misery no more.

Actually, the tumbler doesn't have this verse perfectly (even accounting for different translations), since it drops the part about poverty. But I just get such a kick out of drinking my scotch out of a glass that seems to show the Bible condoning excessive drinking*.


So that's it for the book of Proverbs. Overall, it was pretty good. The first several chapters that dealt with the personification of Wisdom were especially interesting. I was also struck by how many influences there were from other mythologies and outside sources. And the proverbs themselves, while not universally brilliant, were good more often than not. There were some thought provoking ones, and some that I really did rather like.

With this book behind me, next week is on to the book I've actually been most looking forward to, Ecclesiastes.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

*In context, verse 7 can be interpreted differently. Here's a Christian article, Does the Bible Recommend Drinking Alcoholic Beverages?, which says that it's more about warning King Lemuel against drinking himself since he has to be a wise ruler, even if people around him are going to drink to try to drown out their sorrows. The article cited other passages in the Bible that contradicted the 'just let them get drunk' message. Personally, I think that's a rather charitable interpretation given the word choices, and especially since I don't think the Bible was divinely inspired with a single coherent message. If I had to bet, I'd wager that the writer of this passage really did intend to allow people 'in bitter distress' to drink their problems away, even if only for temporary comfort.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Bible Blogging - Proverbs 11 to 20

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). All headings are links to those Bible chapters.

BibleToday's entry continues on with Proverbs, covering chapters 11 through 20. The introductory materials from the first several chapters are now well behind me, and I'm now smack in the middle of actual proverbs.

There's not really much structure to the proverbs. Sometimes you may get three or four verses in a row dealing with the same issue, but it's mostly just unconnected sayings. The chapter divisions seem to be based simply on length, with no overall themes uniting the proverbs in each chapter. In fact, the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB) treats the footnotes for these chapters of proverbs differently from any other footnotes I've read so far. In every previous book I've read, the footnotes are divided up by chapter, with a short overview of the chapter before getting into specific verses. Here in Proverbs, however, the NOAB dropped the chapter divisions, and just has all the footnotes run together.

Most of these sayings are good - be honest, be hardworking, don't gossip, etc. But with as much general advice as is given, I'm not going to try to summarize all of it. I'm just going to focus on a few of the verses that caught my eye. And instead of calling it out every time I see it, since it occurs quite often, I'll note up here that there's too much language about God being the only source of knowledge, and indicating that those that don't believe in God are fools. Of course, this is to be expected in a book of the Bible, but it's still irritating, nonetheless. Any book that would classify Einstein, Gandhi, and the Dalai Lama as fools is probably a little extreme in its definition of a fool.

Proverbs, Chapter 11

I thought this following verse was pretty funny. I just really like the imagery.

Like a gold ring in a pig's snout
   is a beautiful woman without good sense.

This next one jumped out because of the movie about the Scopes Monkey Trial. It's always a bit interesting to come across these types of passages that are a part of pop culture.

Those who trouble their households will inherit wind,
   and the fool will be servant to the wise.

Proverbs, Chapter 12

I already mentioned this last week, but there's definitely an overriding sense of sexism in this book. Just consider this passage.

A good wife is the crown of her husband,
   but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.

It's all about how the utility of the woman to the man.

Proverbs, Chapter 13

I always enjoy sayings like this one. I've heard quite a few modern variations, but this is obviously one of the older versions.

Those who guard their mouths preserve their lives;
   those who open wide their lips come to ruin.

My favorite variation on this theme is a Spanish saying, "En boca cerrada, no entran moscas", sometimes appended with "ni salen estupideces". The main part loosely translates to "A shut mouth gathers no flies", with the addition meaning "nor says stupid things".

I also rather liked this saying.

Wealth hastily gained will dwindle,
   but those who gather little by little will increase it.

That certainly seems to be the case even today. Look how many lottery winners or professional athletes end up squandering their fortunes.

Proverbs, Chapter 14

The verse that caught my eye in this chapter was this one.

The simple believe everything,
   but the clever consider their steps.

Granted, there are other parts of the Bible (particularly the New Testament) that have teachings somewhat counter to this, but it's certainly nice to see a proverb that cautions against gullibility and promoting skepticism.

Proverbs, Chapter 15

This verse mentions a part of the afterlife that isn't discussed much in the Bible, with the focus usually being on Sheol.

Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord,
   how much more human hearts!

The NOAB had this to say about that verse, "Sheol, the underworld; Abaddon (lit. "Destruction") is an alternative abode for the place and state of the dead..."

Proverbs, Chapter 16

Consider this verse.

Inspired decisions are on the lips of a king;
   his mouth does not sin in judgement.

But just two verses later was this proverb.

It is an abomination to kings to do evil,
   for the throne is established by righteousness.

Taken in isolation, that first proverb would be very troubling, almost like a blanket endorsement of monarchs (understandably if monarchs funded the compilation of this book). That second proverb at least helps to temper it somewhat, instructing kings to behave righteously.

Proverbs, Chapter 17

I liked the imagery in this verse. It's a rather graphic warning.

One who loves transgression loves strife;
   one who builds a high threshold invites broken bones.

This next proverb is similar to the one I already quoted from chapter 13, but I still like it.

Even fools who keep silent are considered wise;

   when they close their lips, they are deemed intelligent.

Proverbs, Chapter 18

Here's another skeptic-themed proverb. It's nice to see passages like this.

The one who first states a case seems right,
   until the other comes and cross-examines.

Proverbs, Chapter 19

This proverb is actually kind of sad. And I think it's meant that way, since there are many proverbs instructing the reader to be kind to the poor.

Wealth brings many friends,
   but the poor are left friendless.

While I've mentioned the problems in the society that wrote Proverbs relating to sexism, this verse reveals another one.

It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury,
   much less for a slave to rule over princes.

Obviously, the writers didn't have the modern American idea of every man being created equal. It's rather jarring to see it so starkly stated that slaves don't deserve the same as others, or the implication that princes have a right to rule, and weren't just lucky to be born into it.

But lest you forget about the sexism, just a few verses later came this.

A stupid child is ruin to a father,
   and a wife's quarrelling is a continual dripping of rain.
House and wealth are inherited from parents,
   but a prudent wife is from the Lord.

It really is strange (and disturbing from a modern viewpoint) to see everything put into terms of how it affects the man of the family, as if that's the only important part. It's especially disturbing to see a wife included as part of the man's property.

Anyway, enough of the bad verses for a bit. Here's another good one.

What is desirable in a person is loyalty,
   and it is better to be poor than a liar.

I especially like the second line, since I put such a high value on honesty.

Proverbs, Chapter 20

It was the last verse of this chapter that caught my attention, but not in a good way.

Blows that wound cleanse away evil;
   beatings make clean the innermost parts.

This is pretty vicious, and doesn't even make sense. Why would beating a person so hard that it wounded them 'cleanse away evil'? It might instill a bit of fear in them, or maybe instill bitterness to where they'd want vengeance, but I certainly don't see how the act of beating someone would make them a better person.


I know I called out a lot of the bad proverbs, but most of them range from neutral to good (neutral would be all the stuff about God, since from an atheist perspective, they're focusing on a make-believe being). And I did try to include proverbs that caught my eye for positive reasons. This is a decent book of the Bible to read.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Selling Out