Proverbs 10:8, 10; A Story

Skilled of heart takes/receives commands,

  And a fool of lips is ruined

One winking an eye gives pain,

  And a fool of lips is ruined

Here, again, the last line is the link between these two proverbs. In each, the top line is very different, in fact, the first is positive, and the second top line is negative. So, the first proverb contrast two antithetical lines, and the second set two lines parallel. Because they are spaced in the proverb list, the second does not extend the meaning of the final line of the first. Proverbs 10:9 is about a different aspect of wisdom, and only obliquely related to the other two between which it is sandwiched.

Since the relationship between these two proverbs is the final line, let’s look at that first. The term, fool, is a common translation of the Hebrew word, aiwil, and is always translated as “fool”. In the NASB, it occurs 4 times in poetic prophetic writings, once in historical prophets, once in Psalms, twice in Job, and the remaining 19 occurrences in Proverbs. The aiwil is not as bad as a nabal (H5036), but worse than kesil (H3684), so it’s a “middle-fool” characterized by his speech (Prov 10:14, 12:16, 17:28, 20:3 as additional examples). This fool shows no balance in his relationships and demonstrates moral perversion.

Parallel to this babbling unbalanced moral pervert, is one winking an eye. This is likely something tied to a historical cultural setting. Winking in modern western cultures does not always refer to the same sort of person up to the same sort of no good. Although, it can. Winks serve various purposes, but most are surreptitious communication, for whatever reason. And communication which is not open to all is a place to hide sinful, hurtful intentions. It isn’t a given, but a possibility. I’m not sure how common or commonly understood winking is these days. It may be a more universal form of communication, somewhat like a smile. That such deceptive communication can lead to pain should be obvious.

In contrast, the “skilled of heart” (chokam) receives commands. The person so described has that wisdom characterized in craft and ability. Yet such skill is clearly derived from their Creator. In this specific instance, the skill is of heart. It would be a mistake to define heart in this use as the seat of the emotions. It is more the constitution and perseverance of a person, in this use. One demonstrating ability and skill in their constitution and perseverance is able to get requests, commands, or think in terms of the craftsman who has no shortage of business. They work tirelessly and their work is prized greatly.

Oscar made final touches to the image on his computer screen, clicked the “Finalize” button with the mouse point, and rolled back to look at the stone laser etcher start humming across the room. He stood and stretched and leaned forward to touch the ground at his feet. Adjusting his wire-frame glasses, he went to the wall with the plan for his lithograph. It would be nearly fifty layers, acid-washed, each adding to the limited-edition image. His plan was for a shorter run of a hundred prints, all with the lasered image centered. As he washed the various layers, the edges of the image should become less laser-cut-harsh.

He looked over at the laser etcher, and decided he had time for a nap. Rubbing his eyes, he headed for his cot on the opposite wall. He was excited to be this close to the actual creating instead of planning, although he would try to sleep. The etching machine would sound an alarm when it was done anyway.

Oscar let out a long breath as he relaxed, laying on his side, head on a firm pillow. The door to his studio opened suddenly, and Oscar sat up with a jolt. Stanley strode through the doorway already in mid-sentence.

“…and if he thinks I’m going to take that sort of crap from him, he’s going to learn.” Stanley began to pace from the door to Oscar’s etcher, and back, talking and waving his arms.

“He better pay me what we agreed on, or so help me…”

Oscar sat on the edge of his cot and rubbed his eyes. He peered at the agitated figure pacing across his studio and blinked a few times.

“Stan, seriously? No knock, just burst right in?” Oscar asked softly.

Stanley stopped abruptly and stared at Oscar silently for a moment.

“What were you doing? Sleeping?” Stanley asked. Oscar only nodded. “Well, then I didn’t interrupt anything important.” Stanley resumed pacing. “I got to get this off my chest, or I’m going to kill someone.”

Oscar sighed, got up, and went and sat in his rolling desk chair. He ran his hand through this thick curly hair and stared at Stanley.

“Okay, Stan, you have my attention. What happened?”

“Right. So, this guy commissions a portrait, and provides me photos and stuff so I have the perspectives, views, lighting and whatnot.” He waved at Oscar. “You know, the usual stuff if they don’t want to sit for it.” Oscar nodded and yawned.

“We agree on a price, and what the portrait’s going to have in the background, all this stuff.” Stanley cleared his throat. “And I do him this beautiful en plein air painting…”

“Wait, why did you do a portrait outside? Was that what he wanted?” Oscar asked in the midst of a yawn.

Stanley stopped midway across the room and glared at Oscar in silence for a moment.

“Don’t interrupt, Oscar, and no, but I was evicted from my studio last month,” Stanley said. He put his hands on his hips as he continued his angry stare at Oscar. “This commission was supposed to fix that and get me back into a studio, you pinhead!”

Oscar looked Stanley with raised eyebrows but didn’t reply. Oscar continued his pacing rant.

“Anyway, I did it, and it was absolutely beautiful, one of my best,” Stanley said.

“You did your best work outside?”

“Stop interrupting, seriously,” Stanley said. “And yes, one of my best. Maybe not the best, but definitely one of my best.” Stanley paced in silence for a moment, stopped and looked at Oscar. “I know what you’re thinking, Oscar.”

“Why get a studio if you do your best work outside?”

“Yeah, well, it was one of my best, and I still need a place to finish stuff.”

“Right, that makes sense,” Oscar said and nodded. He glanced around the studio for where he had left his coffee mug.

“Right,” said Stanley and continued his pacing. “Anyway, this guy sees the painting and refuses to pay. He’s changed his mind and doesn’t want it.” Stanley became animated as he paced, his arms gesturing wildly as paced.

“Did he say why?”

“Oh, he said it wasn’t what he asked for,” Stanley said, angrily. “Like he knows.”

“I’m sorry, like he would know what he wanted?” Oscar asked.

“No, people don’t know what they want! That’s what the artist is for,” Stanley said. “I know what they want, regardless of what they say. I know what makes a piece good, they have no clue!”

“Um, Stan, didn’t you say you had this specific contract and everything?”

Stanley came to an abrupt halt and glared at Oscar again.

“So, you’re on his side?” Stanley asked, trying to stare holes into Oscar.

“I’m trying to follow your story.”

“I spent hours on that painting, it was beautiful, and he paid me nothing for it.”

“Where is it now?” Oscar asked. He spotted his mug and returned his attention to Stanley as he tried to remember what was in the mug.

“Where’s what?” Stanley asked.

“The painting, Stan, where is it now?”

Stanley’s bottom lip quivered slightly as he paused before answering. He looked at Oscar’s feet instead of his eyes.

“I threw it away.”

They were both silent for a moment. Oscar blinked a few times, got up and crossed the room to his coffee mug. He picked it up and saw that it was half full. Looking up at Stanley he took a sip.

Still warm!

The laser etching machine quieted down and let out a couple of beeps. Oscar and Stanley glanced at it.

“Hey Stan, I really need to get back to work,” Oscar said and shrugged. “Can we pick this up later?”

“Oh fine, Oscar, Mr. successful-artist has to get back to his pandering art!” Stanley turned and strode to the door. “Fine, whatever!”

Oscar looked at Stanley’s retreating back, went over and shut the door Stanley had left open when he left. He sipped his coffee again and locked the door.


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