Saturday, October 04, 2008

Proverbs 1:8-9

Proverbs 1:8-9
8My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: 9For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.

The first commandment of the second table of the law is "Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee." (Exodus 20:12) (Deuteronomy 5:16 Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.)

To God, this is of enormous importance. Recall Jesus' own summary of the law in this regard: "For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death." (Matthew 15:4) Failure to honor father OR mother was a capital crime under the Old Testament civil law, and that was just because it is dishonoring to God when we dishonor our parents.

But notice the more specific instruction in this parable. The commands/instructions of one's parents are compared to ornaments on the head and chains around the neck. The picture is essentially one of the commands and instructions being jewelry. Something of incredible intrinsic value as well as beauty.

The word "grace" here is also significant. These are not just gaudy baubles or priceless treasures, they are good for you. The commandments of one's parents are for one's good. By following the instructions, one benefits. This is not only clear from the proverb, but also from the commandment itself, "that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee ...." Of course, this should be understood as a general rule, not an absolute promise, and certainly not as an algorithm for longevity.

This couplet provides a few additional interesting points from a grammatical view. Notice that "hear" and "do not forsake" are paralleled, just as "instruction" and "law" are paralleled, and just as "ornament ... unto thy head" and "chains about thy neck" are paralleled. These parallel constructions help us understand what is meant.

On the one hand, if it simply said, "chains about thy neck," we might be unsure whether that was referring to golden chains (like a necklace) or to iron chains (like a slave collar). The use of two similar statements together can help to make the intended concept clearer.

It should be noted that not only the father, but the mother is mentioned. Partly this is for the sake of make an elegant parallel, but at the same time it indicates that a young man needs to honor not only the law of his father, but also the subordinate law of his mother. Husband and wife are not equals within the family, but both are over the children, and both must be obeyed (Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Colosians 3:20 Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.).

Furthermore, such a parallel structure can give us insight into the meaning of the words involved. "Instruction" (מוּסר - musar) and "law" (תּרה - torah) have a similar sense to one another. In some cases, finding parallel structures like this can help to illustrate the overlapping semantic ranges of the words used.

The same principle applies to "hear" (שׁמע - shama) and "forsake not" (ואל־תטשׁ - al natash). The point is not just not to fall asleep when you parents are talking but to obey. Do what is commanded of you by your parents.

Ultimately, this proverb is not only generally commending the instructions of all parents to their children, but is commending the Word of God in Scripture to the child of God.

Recall the parallel that Jesus made:

Matthew 7:11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

So then how much better is it for us to follow the law of our Heavenly Father than to follow the law of our earthly fathers. They may mean us well, but they are fallible humans. Sometimes they make mistakes, and they may not always know what is best for us (even though they desire to give us the best).

Our Father in heaven, however, is able to give good commands and laws to us. Let us then seize for ourselves these divine ornaments of grace by hearing not forsaking the instructions and laws of God - for the communication of the law of God to us is favor, and it is to our benefit to obey.

Original (Hebrew)
Proverbs 1:8-9
8שׁמע בני מוסר אביך ואל־תטשׁ תורת אמך׃
9כי לוית חן הם לראשׁך וענקים לגרגרתיך׃

LXX (Greek)
Proverbs 1:8-9
8ἄκουε, υἱέ, παιδείαν πατρός σου καὶ μὴ ἀπώσῃ θεσμοὺς μητρός σου· 9στέφανον γὰρ χαρίτων δέξῃ σῇ κορυφῇ καὶ κλοιὸν χρύσεον περὶ σῷ τραχήλῳ.

Vulgate (Latin)
Proverbs 1:8-9
8audi fili mi disciplinam patris tui et ne dimittas legem matris tuae 9ut addatur gratia capiti tuo et torques collo tuo


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