Proverbs 10:6, 11 A Longer Story

Blessings to a righteous head,
  And a mouth of guilty ones covers violence.

Fountain of life mouth of righteous,
  And mouth of guilty ones covers violence.

These two proverbs are only linked in that their last line is exactly the same. So, they provide an opportunity to examine the similarities of the first line, and a deeper examination of the second.

How are “blessings to a righteous head” like (or dislike) “A fountain of life mouth of righteous”? So, first, they are very different assertions. The first is one that blessings are “to” a righteous head, whatever that means, however precisely. The second is that the mouth of a righteous person = a fountain of life, which likely refers to what is spoken by a righteous person gives life to others, perhaps. The first assertion is toward the righteous (what they gain by it), and the second is away from the righteous person (what they give by it). The first is about what righteousness profits the person, and the second is about what it profits others around the person. Essentially, righteousness profits both the person and those around the person, perhaps due to harmony created by such a life, or perhaps because Yahweh wills it so.

The second line in each is the same, exactly the same. A mouth, singular, of guilty ones, plural, covers, singular again (so mouth is the antecedent), violence. This appears deceptively simple. For instance, in English, we require the various pieces to agree in number. The typical assumption here is that Hebrew is not being as precise. But what if it was, and what if the number in English were different? What would that mean? Or what could that mean? Does someone who speaks for guilty people cover violence? Does that person “conceal” the violence or merely cover it over? In our century we may mean to pay the charge on someone else’s behalf. And “guilty” is plural, there is no “ones” in Hebrew. How does it change the meaning if “guilties” is a reference to one person’s many sins? What violence is covered in that case? Is anyone else thinking of a “defense attorney”?


Arthur Inser, esquire, sat back in his dark, overstuffed leather desk chair and rubbed his stubbly chin. His tie hung on an ornate oaken coat rack with his suit coat and hat. He looked tired, his dress shirt with sleeves rolled up, top button undone, and previously coiffed hair slightly mussed. The papers spread across his desk detailed his next case, another murder. The DA had a tight case, witnesses, physical evidence, solid investigation. But there was always a weakness. Always.

Reaching into the bottom drawer of his desk, Arthur drew out a tall bottle half full of brown liquid. He poured a scant amount in a low highball on his desk and returned the bottle to the bottom drawer. Picking up his pen, he leaned forward over the papers.

Where is it? Where’s the chink in the armor?

He continued working for some time, when his desk phone rang softly. He glanced over to see it was his secretary, so he picked it up.

“Yeah, Bea, what is it?” He listened for a few seconds.

“Okay, send him in.”

Arthur gathered up the papers, slid them neatly, and in order, into a folder, and put the folder in the file drawer of his desk, all before the office door opened. He looked up to see a strange person walk through the door.

Gangsters weren’t what they used to be. In many ways they were less sophisticated now, in some ways, more. This person was without a shred of sophistication anywhere about him. His suit was plain brown, plaid, of loosely knit wool. His shoes were brown leather ankle-length and lacked the shine of the prepared. Arthur smiled.

This should be easy.

“What can I do for you…” Arthur said, rising to shake the man’s hand over the desk.

“Isaac. Isaac McMurtry,” Isaac said, reaching across and shaking Arthur’s hand.

Arthur drew his hand back quickly as if the touch caused him pain and looked at Isaac in some alarm and confusion.

“Sorry,” Isaac said, with a shrug. “I run hot.”

“I’ll say,” Arthur said as he took his seat. He motioned Isaac to a leather chair in front of his desk. Isaac sat, crossed his legs, and folded his hands on his knees.

“So, what is it I can do for you, Mr. McMurtry?”

“Actually, I’m here to help you. I represent the family of Alisa Salizar.”

Arthur looked at Isaac with wide eyes for a brief second, then his face settled back into a sly smile and narrowed eyes.

“And what do you imagine you can do for me?”

“Talk you out of taking the case.”

“Because I’m going to lose anyway?”

“We both know that’s not true.” Isaac shrugged. “Not necessarily, anyway.”

“Then what? What is it that you believe you can help me with, which I cannot accomplish on my own?” Arthur shifted in his chair, leaning forward, he put his elbows on his desktop, and rested his face in his hands, staring at Isaac. “Do tell.”

Isaac smirked and looked down at his hands for a second. His head lilted to one side then the other, and he finally straightened up and stared directly into Arthur’s eyes.

“I can help you discover the error of your ways, Mr. Inser,” Isaac said, and leaned forward as well. “I can help you discover that the path you are on will only lead to your own disaster.”

Arthur remained silent. He blinked a couple of times, and his smile deepened to a full grin. He raised his eyebrows, and blinked again.

“That’s it? You will help me see further down my path to where it ends in my own disaster?”

“Isn’t that enough?” Isaac sat back and fidgeted with his fingernails, still holding Arthur’s gaze.

Arthur sat back and shook his head, crossing his arms, he gave Isaac his best lopsided sneer of incredulity combined with his half-lidded look of contempt. It was a killer combination in court with juries, men and women.

“It’s nothing. It would require that I trust you to know something you could not possibly know.” The sneer turned to a grin again. “And you know that.” He shrugged and sat up putting his hands back on the desk. “So, why do it? You had to know I would know you couldn’t make good on your claim. So, why come here and try to deceive me anyway?”

Isaac chuckled and shook his head. He looked back at Arthur with a big grin.

“Does that actually work in court?” He laughed. “You just assert something, about which you know nothing, as unknowable, and everyone just goes along?” Isaac shook his head. “Didn’t you learn anything in law school?”

Arthur’s face clouded, his eyebrows became a pronounced “V”, and his eyes narrowed to slit. His mouth was a thin, tight line.

“Sorry, that was uncalled for,” Isaac said. “Your response just caught me off guard. I’m sorry to have been so insulting, and that last question was thoughtless and disrespectful.” He held up both hands, palms out. His face was no longer smiling but it didn’t show fear either, just plain honesty, if that were possible.

Arthur’s face softened. He looked in confusion at the frumpy person in his office. This was not how his interviews normally went.

“I believe you are here to deceive me into dropping the Gronski Murder Case,” Arthur said at last. “Say what you will, I do not believe you can tell anything about my future.”

“Thank you, that is more the approach I expected from an attorney of your experience and wisdom,” Isaac said. “And I agree, there’s no reason you should.” He shrugged. “So, now allow me to demonstrate.”

“This should be good,” Arthur said, looking at his visitor. He sat back and folded his arms.

“You have had doubts about those you represent, and they scare you. You know things, dark things, they know it, and you know that, once they perceive your usefulness has waned, they will dispose of you.” Isaac’s face became hard. “Permanently, perhaps ambiguously, where your body may never be found.”

Arthur’s face drained as Isaac spoke. He unfolded his arms, and his eyes widened. He stared for a moment, his face flushed again, and he smirked.

“I’m sorry, is this how you usually persuade your clients to follow your suggestions? Point out how, if they do, they will probably die?”

Isaac smiled again and sat back.

“I’m not a lawyer, Arthur. I said I represent the family of Alisa Salizar, but not in what capacity.” He shrugged. “It isn’t as their lawyer.”

“A shame,” Arthur said. “I was hoping you would end up suing me.” He shrugged. “It would be an easy day in court for me.”

“Definitely.” Isaac sighed. “Instead, I’m here to persuade you drop a case. Not ‘lawyer-to-lawyer’, but in another capacity.”

Arthur looked suddenly at Isaac in some alarm.

“Surely you’re not going to threaten me?”

“No.”

“Because I assure you, that will have no effect, or possibly the opposite effect.”

“No, no threats.” Isaac frowned at Arthur. “There’s no point.”

“Good,” Arthur said, and leaned forward to stand up.

“Others will do to you far more than I ever could.” Isaac looked at Arthur frozen in mid-rise. “You know that already.”

Arthur sat back down and frowned at Isaac in turn.

“So you said.”

“What I have for you is an exit strategy,” Isaac said. “I have a way you can leave this practice. And live.”

“You have a way for me to stop representing dangerous clients, and live to tell about it?” Arthur shook his head. “This is the sort of thing that undermines your credibility with me.”

Isaac held up a hand as he opened his mouth, but Arthur cut him off.

“Besides, I have my own exit strategy,” Arthur said.

Isaac sat back and looked at Arthur with doubt clear in his eyes and crossed arms.

“Arthur, betting on the next gang that takes down your current client isn’t what I’d call an ‘exit strategy’.”

Arthur sat up in alarm.

“That’s more of a ‘continuation strategy’, or at most, a ‘survival strategy’. Either way it keeps you trapped representing the guilty.”

“Not until proven so in a court of law.”

“That’s not true, and you and I both know it. So you can drop the legal platitudes.” Isaac pointed at Arthur. “No one hires you if they’re innocent.”

Arthur furrowed his brow and frowned at Isaac with crossed arms.

“Doesn’t that bother you, Arthur?”

“Now who’s making assertions he expects everyone to believe?”

“Good point,” Isaac said and nodded. “Okay, name one client you believe, really believe, was innocent of all charges.”

“You know I can’t name clients.”

“Okay, count them on one hand.” Isaac stared at Arthur for a second. “One finger.”

“So, there’s no law that says I cannot defend those I believe may not be innocent.”

“Wow, Arthur. That was well worded.” Isaac waved a dismissive hand at him. “Just like a lawyer.”

Arthur glared silently at Isaac.

“Doesn’t that bother you? Arthur, think about what you’re doing when you defend those who commit murder and get them acquitted.”

Arthur didn’t answer and he and Isaac glared back and forth in silence.

“Aren’t you even a little curious about my exit strategy?” Isaac asked.

“Fine, what’s your brilliant idea, Isaac?”

“Leave your practice, this city, all your friends, detach yourself from all the poisonous relationships, people, and lifestyle.”

Arthur laughed out loud.

“Leave it all, go to a nice small town, and be the general counsel for small businesses, help people with trusts, and wills.” Isaac stared at Arthur with a slight smile.

“Just walk? That’s your idea?”

Isaac nodded.

“Brilliant, Isaac, you’re a genius! Why didn’t I think of it before, just leave!” Arthur had stood and was waving his hands above his head. He stopped and rounded on Isaac. “Why? Why would I leave all this success? All the money, and influence, and the money?”

“You already said money.”

“Because there’s a lot of it, Isaac!”

“You’d still have the money, Arthur. You’d just be spending it a lot slower.”

Arthur put his hands on his hips and looked at Isaac with his head slanted, confused.

“Who are you?”

“I’m Isaac…”

“No, I mean who are you? Who is Isaac McMurtry anyway?” Arthur waved a dismissive hand at Isaac. “I mean, who are you to come in here and tell me to leave town, start over. Why would I do that, Isaac? What possible reason could I have to do that?”

“Because you would find another reason for living, a reason apart from the money, the success, the influence, and the money.”

“You’re not funny.”

“I am sort of funny,” Isaac said. “More importantly, I’m right. Do this and you will live.”

“Really?” Arthur asked, dripping with sarcasm.

“Really, really,” Isaac said evenly. “The key is the other reason for living.”

“Oh, I did notice you slid that in there,” Arthur said. “So, what is it? This new meaning for living?” He made air quotes around ‘new meaning’.

“You’d finally know your Creator as your Savior.”

Arthur’s face traveled through several expressions as he processed Isaac’s words. Finally, he shook his head, walked around his desk and sat down. Picking up his pen he glanced up at Isaac.

“We’re done here.”

“Arthur…”

“This was about religion? Seriously? That’s why you’re here? To convert me, make me see the error of my ways, and get me to drop the case?”

“No, you…

“You hypocrite!” Arthur yelled. “Don’t you get it? Salizar is using you to get revenge on Gronski for murdering his daughter. I drop the case, and Gronski goes to prison or the chair.” Arthur pulled out the folder but didn’t open it. He stared at it in silence. “You religious people don’t even see how deluded you are, helping evil people of your choice.”

“Arthur, Salizar is not looking for revenge.”

Arthur looked up with narrowed eyes.

“Arthur, if you didn’t represent Gronski, someone else would. And that someone would probably get him off as well.” Isaac shrugged. “Mr. Salizar told me that himself.”

Arthur dropped his pen and leaned back.

“You see, Mr. Salizar knows you.”

Arthur stared at his desk and his face went blank.

“He remembers you getting him off some pretty serious charges.”

Arthur looked back up at Isaac who looked back at him with a concerned expression.

“Arthur, Mr. Salizar believes his daughter’s death is his fault, that Gronski was taking revenge for Salizar’s days doing the same thing.”

“He told you this?”

“He did. And he told me more.” Isaac put a hand on Arthur’s desk. “He told me he is concerned for you. That you are headed into the hell he was destined for.”

Arthur crossed his arms and stared at the folder on his desk with a frown.

“Arthur, Mr. Salizar discovered this new reason for living, and wants it for you as well.”

Arthur looked up sharply at Isaac.

“Oh he did? And you believe him?”

“I do.”

Arthur opened his mouth, but Isaac jumped in before him.

“I have seen the change in him, in his family, his wife, his kids.” Isaac shrugged. “Arthur, he lives without fear now. He walks differently, talks differently, and treats people with respect and concern.”

Arthur sat silent for a moment, arms still crossed, still glaring at Isaac. His face became thoughtful for a moment.

“So, Salizar would set me up in another town, pay for me to get out of here, and start somewhere new?”

Isaac shook his head with a slight smile.

“No, Arthur. Mr. Salizar isn’t paying you off, he isn’t buying your services or bribing you to drop the case.”

“Well, thank you, no,” Arthur said, and looked down at his desk then at Isaac. “I’m happy for Mr. Salizar, but I am not changing my mind or dropping this case.”

Isaac stood up and paused.

“Well, perhaps after the case is over.”

Isaac took out a business card and laid it on Arthur’s desk. Arthur glanced at it but didn’t take it. He looked up at Isaac and stood, offering his hand. Isaac took it and they shook.

“Thank you, Mr. McMurtry, and I bid you good day.”

“And you, Mr. Inser.” Isaac turned and headed for the door. He opened it and went out without a backward glance.

Arthur reached over and picked up the card.

Cattle of a Thousand Hills Savings Bank, Isaac McMurtry, Investment Banker

Arthur turned it over, and a phone number was written there in blue ink.

Who would trust a banker in a cheap suit with their money?

Arthur flipped the card to the edge of his desk, but no further. He opened the file and picked up his pen.

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