After the death of Solomon, the nation of Israel was divided into two kingdoms-the northern kingdom of Israel, which consisted of 10 of the 12 tribes; and the southern kingdom of Judah, which was made up of the other 2 tribes, Benjamin and Judah.
Hezekiah, a descendant of David, was the 13th king of Judah. During his reign, the Assyrians had conquered Israel and were bent on defeating Judah. Hezekiah, who was a godly king, ″trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel″ and kept His commands (2 Kings 18:5). Subsequently, God delivered Judah from the Assyrians. Concerned with preserving the precious law and wisdom of God for future generations, Hezekiah had scribes compile some 100 of Solomon’s proverbs in Proverbs 25 to 29. This was done in a time of insecurity and threat.
Proverbs 25:2-3 reminds the reader of the place of God and the king. Humankind does not know everything, but God does, and He reveals to us what we need to know. The king in Israel represents God, but there will still be matters unknown to him. There is always something of mystery about life, and sometimes the king’s heart and decisions may not be understood. At such a time, we can only trust in God, who knows all things and who appoints kings to rule in His name.
Proverbs 25 contains several noteworthy comparisons and words of wisdom:
- Better to start out humbly than to exaggerate your importance-and be humiliated (vv. 6-7; see also Luke 14:7-11).
- The right ruling and wise rebuke are as precious as gold, silver, and beautiful ornaments (Proverbs 25:11-12).
- A messenger who is reliable is refreshing to his employer, like a nice cold drink given at a time of hard work (v. 13).
- An empty promise is like weather that seems to promise much rain, but delivers none (v. 14).
- Honey is sweet and pleasant to eat, but too much of a good thing has unpleasant consequences (vv. 16, 27). Avoid excesses and extremes, it is wise to seek moderation.
- A lie or false testimony is as damaging and hurtful as a sword that pierces the flesh or a club that bludgeons (v. 18).
- Be aware of whom you trust (v. 19). Relying on unfaithful friends in troubled times is like depending on a broken tooth when eating or on a lame foot when running-they are not only useless, but also painful.
- Trying to bring cheer to someone who’s depressed with a happy song is insensitive and will hurt even more-like pouring stinging vinegar on a wound or taking away a jacket when it’s cold (v. 20).
- Peace in a marriage is more important than the physical comfort of a house (v. 24; see also 21:9, 19). It is better to live on a roof or in the desert-exposed to the elements-than to live inside with a quarrelsome spouse.
- News in those days may not have travelled fast, but when good news finally reached its hearers, it gave life and revived a weary soul (25:25).
- A person who compromises his integrity pollutes himself (v. 26). Keep yourself pure and resist wickedness!
- Lack of self-control and restraint leaves a person exposed to danger (v. 28).
We live in a society that tolerates the ″white lie″-the inconsequential, well-meaning untruth, or a small lie told to save face or avoid embarrassment. But all forms of lying are wrong, and represent a failure to face up to and reflect reality. White lies, or ″spin″, as psychologist Jordan B. Peterson puts it in his book, 12 Rules to Life: An Antidote to Chaos, is ″the speech people engage in when they attempt to influence and manipulate others″. We are to strive for honesty and truthfulness. Lying and deceptive speech is the Serpent’s heart language and is to be avoided.
Proverbs 24:30-34 is a close parallel to 6:6-11, which makes the same observation about laziness and contrasts the sluggard with the industrious ant. In 24:30-34, the sluggard neglects his vineyard and wall (v. 31) because he would rather rest and sleep; his life is not grounded in the reality that laziness will only lead to poverty. Theologian John Calvin said that three vices prevail much, even among pastors-″sloth, desire of gain, and lust for power″.7
Sloth comes naturally to us and must be resisted by meaningful, productive work. Be like the ant who contributes to the needs of its community.
7John Calvin, Bible Commentaries On The Catholic Epistles (Germany: Jazzybee Verlag, 2012), 92.
King Hezekiah treasured God’s law and wisdom greatly, and did what he could to preserve them in people’s hearts. How much do you value God’s wisdom? What practical steps can you take to keep them in your mind and heart?
Which of Solomon’s proverbs in chapter 25 strike you most? How can you apply his wisdom to your own life?