Study Guide

Proverbs Family

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Hear, my child, your father's instruction, and do not reject your mother's teaching; for they are a fair garland for your head, and pendants for your neck. (NRSV 1:8-9)

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

Proverbs is very parental in tone and nature—the whole thing is structured as being the kind of (oft repetitive) advice a parent might give to a child.

A good wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones. (NRSV 12:4)

A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones. (KJV 12:4)

Again, really straightforward: good wives benefit you, and bad wives will cheat on you or sell all your prize Star Wars action figures or, at least, take them out of their original packaging.

Those who spare the rod hate their children, but those who love them are diligent to discipline them. (NRSV 13:24)

He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes. (KJV 13:24)

This is one of the Bible's most controversial moments: recommending corporal punishment. Will beating kids (with rods?) make them better people? We let you decide.

A wise child makes a glad father, but the foolish despise their mothers. (NRSV 15:20)

A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish man despiseth his mother. (KJV 15:20)

Again, really straightforward: love your parents, because they raised you and made you what you are.

Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life. (NRSV 16:31)

The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness. (KJV 16:31)

Proverbs really likes the elderly. Since it was likely written and compiled by wise elders, you might say this is ever so slightly self-serving—though rightly and understandably so.

Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their parents. (NRSV 17:6)

Children's children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers. (KJV 17:6)

If you were able to live long enough to see your grandkids in Ancient Israel, you probably were doing something right. So, hey, it's a badge of honor. And if kids can listen to their parents, that'll probably lead to future glory for them, too.

Discipline your children while there is hope; do not set your heart on their destruction. (NRSV 19:18)

Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying. (KJV 19:18)

This is yet more "kid beating" advice. Don't let their tears stop you, says Proverbs—they'll destroy themselves without your discipline.

If you curse father or mother, your lamp will go out in utter darkness. (NRSV 20:20)

Whoso curseth his father or his mother, his lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness. (KJV 20:20)

Again, pretty straightforward: without the guiding light of parental advice, you'll be utterly lost—no GPS can save you.

Folly is bound up in the heart of a boy, but the rod of discipline drives it far away. (NRSV 22:15)

Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. (KJV 22:15)

To return to corporal punishment again: Proverbs says it helps drive away folly. Suffering builds character.

Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old. (NRSV 23:22)

Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old. (KJV 23:22)

Continue to treat your parents nicely when they're aging, says Proverbs. Don't sell them to a dog food company or anything like that. Be loving and grateful.

A continual dripping on a rainy day and a contentious wife are alike; to restrain her is to restrain the wind or to grasp oil in the right hand. (NRSV 27:15-16)

A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike. Whosoever hideth her hideth the wind, and the ointment of his right hand, which bewrayeth itself. (KJV 27:15-16)

Like depressing weather, a contentious wife leads to a persistently bleak mood. There's no escape.

A capable wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. (NRSV 31:10-11)

Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. (KJV 31:10-11)

In contrast to the contentious wife, Proverb recommends the capable wife. She spreads joy to everyone in her family.

She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She girds herself with strength, and makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid for her household when it snows, for all her household are clothed in crimson. She makes herself coverings; her clothing is fine linen and purple. (NRSV 31:16-22)

She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple. (KJV 31:16-22)

The capable wife is pretty independent in some ways: she can decide to buy her own substantial pieces of property, and she aids the poor. She's great at providing for the needs of her own family, as well.

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her a share in the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the city gates. (NRSV 31:30-31)

Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates. (KJV 31:30-31)

Charm and beauty are superficial—fear of God and the good works that grow from it are what really matter.

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