Proverb 10:20 – The Value of Words and Goals

Silver having been chosen the tongue of the righteous
The heart of wicked ones as little

The word used to describe the silver is a Hebrew participle in the Niphal stem (like the English passive mode), bachar (Strong’s H0977), meaning to choose. The participle modifies the noun, silver. The righteous is singular, and the wicked plural. The participle is the only verb and doesn’t function like one. The only preposition is “as” which, in Hebrew, is a prefix on the adjective “little”. In English the word count of the two lines is way off. In Hebrew it is nearly equal, with a prepositional prefix on little balancing the participle. Enough of the boring stuff. Wake up, take another sip of coffee, and keep going.

The challenge is to understand how the tongue relates to the heart, and what this relationship reveals about the righteous and the wicked.

  1. How does selection help us understand the value of the tongue of the righteous?
    • The silver was selected silver, not just the metal in coin. There was a form or quality that increased the value.
    • The tongue, here as in James, likely refers to what is said.
    • In that case the words of righteous people have a quality preferred by others.
    • It could also inspire people to righteousness so they will have something valued by others.
  2. How does the heart loose value and be of little value?
    • The heart is less emotional and more the ability to be intentional and show determination.
    • This is neither positive or negative and can refer to what we might focus on, or even obsess over.
    • Therefore, whatever a wicked one sets their intent on and strives for is as little.
    • Wicked people work toward things of little value, whether to themselves or others.

The lesson for me is that what I focus on will, eventually be heard in what I say. If my intent and focus is on things of little value (like resentment or bitterness, for instance), then I will have nothing of value to share with others.

My hope is that righteousness is partly defined as my heart set on the right things, like my Savior, His grace and mercy, and His death, burial, and resurrection as the foundation of my life. With that focus, my words will be valuable to others, and I will have something of value to contribute to others.

There are a lot of other ways to apply this to our lives. It’s wisdom, and wide enough to encompass several situations. Think through how it might apply to you? What will you focus on to increase the value of your words? How can you be intentional about your walk with our Savior?

I can tell you, don’t worry about the resulting increase in value. If your focus is right, the value will emerge. That much I know.


Proverbs 1:7 – A Story

Fear of Yahweh // Top of knowledge (daat H1847)
Wisdom (chokmah H2451) and discipline (musar H4148) // Fools despise

The parallel concepts are synonymous rather than antithetical. On the other hand, the first is positive, and the second is negative. In a chiastic structure, knowledge is compared synonymously with wisdom and discipline, where fools are antithetical to fear of Yahweh. That’s one way to see it anyway.

Greg leaned back, pulled his glasses off and rubbed his eyes. His face, lit by the light of his laptop, was covered in stubble in the patches left by his unruly beard. He sighed deeply and let his hands fall to his sides, one still holding his glasses. He stared at the ceiling.

He closed his eyes and rolled his head around, stretching his neck, pausing at one point to pull tight muscles. Facing the screen again, he replaced his glasses, and his long slender fingers went to the keyboard once more.

The sound of feet sliding along carpet behind him announced the arrival of his sleepy roommate, Frank. Greg didn’t look up as Frank shuffled by in a stupor.

“I can’t believe you’re still up working on that stupid paper,” Frank said as he opened the fridge.

“I’m almost done.”

Glass bottles clinked in the fridge as Frank shut the door. He reached into the sink and pulled out a glass tumbler. After a bleary inspection, he poured the milk into it.

“Well, you missed a great party last night.”

“Oh, I’m sure.” Greg glanced over at Frank. “You hung over?”

“Duh, I said it was a fun party.”

“So, is your paper done?”


“When are you planning on doing it?”

The silence was broken only by Frank slurping and gulping his milk. He wiped his mouth, and looked at Greg, blinking.

“When’s it due?”

Greg looked at Frank with wide eyes.

“Seriously? It’s due today, bone head.”

“I’ll do it,” Frank said rubbing his eyes. “After breakfast.” He looked at Greg and smiled. “In the library, with the candlestick.”

Greg sighed and looked back at his screen.

“Yeah, you do that.”

“What’s it supposed to be on again?”

Greg was silent for moment as his shoulders tightened in a shrug, and he frowned deeply.

“It’s on a parable of Jesus that does not refer to the Kingdom of God.”

“Easy peasy.” Frank flopped on the couch behind Greg. “I’ll do it on the one about the Sower.”

“That’s about the kingdom of God, you dope.”

“Oh, right.” Frank scratched his head. “How about the one about the pearl of something or another?”

“Still the Kingdom of God.”


“Have you even taken notes in class?”

Frank was silent. He sat up and sniffed. His hair stuck up in several, incoherent directions. He frowned.

“Does that help?”

Greg shook his head.

“You’re doomed.”

“Nah, I’ll be fine.” Frank shrugged. “I mean, what can they do to me?”

“Flunk you?”

“Nope, I paid good money for this course.”

Greg twisted around in his chair and stared at his disheveled roommate.

“Wow. I mean, first, you didn’t pay anything, your parents did.” Greg held up a finger. “And second, that only pays for access to the learning, not to pass.” He held up his second finger. “It’s up to you to actually learn anything.”

Greg turned back to his laptop and continued typing. He shook his head and sighed.

“You sound like my dad,” Frank said. “He says he’s not paying for another semester if I don’t pass this one.”

“I wouldn’t either.”

“Yeah, that’s what I mean,” Frank mumbled as he rubbed his face. “You sound like my dad.”

There was silence as Greg typed and Frank pondered the carpet between his slippers.

“What parable are you doing?” Frank asked finally.

“The parable of the unjust judge.”

“How is that not about the Kingdom of God?” Frank asked staring at the back of Greg’s head.

“It’s about prayer.”

“Like nobody prays in the kingdom of God.”

Greg twisted around to stare at Frank in silence. Frank continued to stare at the floor.

“You really didn’t pay attention, did you?”

Frank didn’t respond.

“We’re supposed to write about a parable that does not begin with, ‘The Kingdom of God is like…’,” Greg said, slowly.

“What do you think of Emily?” Frank asked suddenly. He looked up at Greg.

Greg blinked silently.

“I met her at the party you skipped last night.” Frank ran his fingers through his hair. “I don’t think she goes here, I think Brian picked her up at a bar.”

Greg blinked again, chewed his bottom lip for a second, and turned back around. He continued typing.

“I think I’m going to ask her to marry me.” Frank stood up. “She’s cool.” He stretched his hands toward the ceiling. “My mom would hate her.” He chuckled as he bent over and tried to reach the floor, but barely reached above his ankles.

Greg cringed in his seat and continued to type.

“Well, you have fun,” Frank said. “I’m going back to bed.”

Greg looked at Franks back as he shuffled back to his room.

“And I’ve decided to go into real estate!”

Greg rolled his eyes and turned back to his laptop screen.

The Negotiator

It’s very easy to read the Hebrew Scriptures about characters from the Late Bronze Age, and be prejudiced about their intelligence and sophistication.  It’s one of the ways we read into a passage assumptions based on our own culture and practice.  The author of Judges, and Jephthah the judge, are two such people for whom I am guilty of prejudice.  But I’m learning…

Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and chief over them; and Jephthah spoke all his words before the LORD at Mizpah.  Now Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the sons of Ammon, saying, “What is between you and me, that you have come to me to fight against my land?” (Judges 11:11-12 NASB)

Jephthah is an outcast.  And those who cast him out brought him back to be their leader, all he had to do was defeat the “Sons of Ammon”.  The Sons of Ammon are like the Sons of Israel, in that they are descendants from Abraham’s family (actually Lot, Abraham’s nephew).  Because of this familial association, Yahweh has defined boundaries with Israel and how they interact with Ammon.

Where my prejudice begins is in my assumption that the people of the Late Bronze period in Canaan weren’t literate.  So far, we’ve run across two instances where that wasn’t true, one where even a youth can write, and Gideon can read it.  It’s not as uncommon a practice as I thought.  And now we have Jephthah, a rogue surrounding himself with vagabonds, who now recounts the specifics of the history of his people entering the land, and the relationship with Ammon.  That’s a lot of detail to remember.

From verses 15 through 27, Jephthah replies with a detailed history of why the King of Ammon is wrong to claim the land between the Arnon and the Jabbok, two prominent rivers feeding the Jordan Valley from the east.  This region wasn’t Ammonite, it was Amorite, and there is an important distinction.  While the Ammonites were “family”, the Amorites were not.  The Amorite king, Sihon, attacked Israel, and was defeated.  Israel took that region from this Amorite king.

The important things here are that 1) God had set apart Ammon as family, and Jephthah still honors that position of God, and 2) Jephthah remembers these details from 300 years of Israelite history.  He negotiates with Ammon because God wants Israel to treat them better than the Canaanites, and Jephthah does.  Some commentators will criticize Jephthah for being wordy, or sending so many messengers, or other details of his negotiation tactics, but they, too, are prejudiced.

The writer of Judges has an audience among the people of Judah’s kings, and it is they who need read this negotiation.  For whatever reason, this detail helps them understand better their relationship with Yahweh.  Jephthah is represented as faithful.  God honors him, and he’s honored among the people of Israel, right up through Hebrews 11, where he’s listed among those having lived by faith.

But to be that negotiator, Jephthah has to be able to read, write, and be educated about his heritage to a very high degree.  He didn’t find a book while cleaning the Temple in Jerusalem.  He didn’t discover a lost scroll, or find a scrap of some historical record in a jar.  Jephthah knew the story already.  He knew the history from hearing it or reading it.  And clearly, he knew it well.  He knew the details, the order of events, their significance, and from that, what God wanted him to do in this situation.

And therein lies the value of such study, searching Scripture, sifting through narratives and poetic lines and prose, all to learn what God would have us do in a given situation.  Like Jephthah, we study before we encounter the situation.  Then, when the situation arises, we’re already prepared.  We study, seeking the purpose and character of our Master, so we too will be able to act according to His character and desires.  We’ll know Him so well, we’ll know what He would do in a given situation.

But knowledge without experience leads to destruction.  We need to add to our study time in prayer.  We need to spend time listening to our Master, prayerfully seeking His face, so that we will be able to discern His Spirit from the other spiritual noise around us. Prayer and study combined into a daily practice opens us up to the presence of our Master.  Let’s be characterized by the mindset of Jesus.

What’s your view through your hole in the fence?

The Would-Be King, The Would-Be Advisors

The advice of Ahithophel, which he gave in those days, was as if one inquired of the word of God; so was all the advice of Ahithophel regarded by both David and Absalom. (2 Samuel 16:23 NASB)

This chapter, or even this entire account of David and Absalom, could be called, “Fooling Some Of The People Some Of The Time.”  The contrast continues between David, the king selected by God, and his son, Absalom who would be king by right of treachery.  Absalom has lied and burrowed his way into the hearts and minds of some of the people, the ‘men of Israel’, but David has true friends, true followers, and the true hearts and minds of the nation.  At the last section of this chapter, we look at the would-be king, and his would-be advisers.

Continue reading “The Would-Be King, The Would-Be Advisors”

Not Just A Pretty Face, But Also A Bad Example

Now in all Israel was no one as handsome as Absalom, so highly praised; from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no defect in him. When he cut the hair of his head (and it was at the end of every year that he cut it, for it was heavy on him so he cut it), he weighed the hair of his head at 200 shekels by the king’s weight (2 Samuel 14:25-16 NASB)

Plots Within Plots

One character in Scripture who I never see put in a good light is Absalom.  He is often put in a ‘sympathetic’ light, but never held up as a good example of character.  And he isn’t.  In fact, I’m not so sure seeing him in a sympathetic light is really what was intended by the author here.  In the previous chapter, he tells his sister not to say anything about being raped, so she has no legal support from her father.  Absalom doesn’t say anything either.  This seems rather odd, except that the depraved brother is also the first-born, first in line for the throne.  So, in a very real sense, Tamar’s rape gives Absalom an angle to kill the person in front of him in line for the throne.

Beyond that, we see that he is brought back from exile, but never ‘repents’.  So he sees himself as above whatever law exists in Israel regarding what he did.  This isn’t a great situation for a would-be king to be in.  On top of that, we also get a glimpse of his character toward the end of chapter 14 which sets up the following chapter.  He is handsome, more than anyone else in Israel.  But he is very aware of this.  Who weighs his hair after cutting?  He cuts it because it’s ‘heavy on him’, and then weighs it to show off how much hair he has.  I’m thinking it would be lighter if he cleaned the anointing oil out of it from time to time, but again, that’s my opinion.

Absalom is living the good life.  He is back in Jerusalem, but not in court.  So he has a scheme for that.  It takes him two years to scheme against his depraved brother Amnon.  He waits another two years in exile, and now he waits two years to see his father.  Joab was instrumental in bringing him back, but ignores him once he’s back.  Absalom is not one to take being ignored, so he sets Joab’s field on fire.  Keep in mind, Joab is not above murder himself.  He’s not one to be trifled with, but Absalom is confident that no one can touch him.  He wants to see the king, and nothing will stand in his way.  But why?

I think that Absalom has been after the throne since before his sister is violated.  While his depraved brother Amnon is sick over his step sister, I believe Absalom is sick over how to get the throne.  Amnon unwittingly helps his brother when he ‘helps himself’ to his sister.  Absalom can kill Amnon and blame it on avenging Tamar.  And it really makes him look good in a way, like a kinsman-avenger.  But he still requires a few things to make a solid bid for the throne.  He needs legitimacy.  What I mean by legitimacy is that he must be perceived as the natural one to be next on the throne by everyone.  But the first step toward that is to be seen as legitimate within the court, but also with the king.

He has to have the king’s acceptance in order to be seen as really legitimate as an heir to the throne.  So, he comes home, but then must see the king.  He waits two years, and finally gets Joab’s attention by setting his field on fire.  It works, and Absalom is accepted by David.  Now Absalom can move on to stealing the hearts of the people.

Absalom is smart.  But he is also strategic, and patient.  He would be perfect in his diabolical pursuit if it weren’t for his one huge fault: Pride!  He really sees very little besides himself, and seems to truly believe that he is in pursuit of what is rightfully his to take.  He’s beautiful, he has heavy hair, he’s rich, he’s the kings eldest son (number 2 disappears, never to be heard from after being listed once).  What could possibly go wrong?  As long as he continues to be wise all should be well.  It really is interesting that he is so smart and patient at his age.  Most aren’t.  Amnon wasn’t.  Why is Absalom?

The Point of the Lesson of Absalom

We don’t know why Absalom is so cunning.  Scripture doesn’t tell us, and we’re left with the view that Absalom is just that smart.  And maybe he is.  That would make him very smart, very handsome, and with very little to slow down his inflated view of himself.  But there is a piece to this story that must not be lost.  Solomon must become king.

I’m not sure why, but Chronicles completely ignores these accounts of David.  There’s nothing about Bathsheba, nothing about Absalom, and from that account, we’re left wondering what happened to the eldest of David’s sons.  But this account seeks to solve a problem.  Keep in mind that of all David’s children, only Solomon is renamed by God, and this name is Jedidiah, a version of David’s own name but now it means ‘beloved of Yahweh’.

That happens as Solomon is a child, before he can ‘prove’ himself by his deeds, God sees something in him and approves of him already; before he can earn it.  The problem is that there are many brothers ahead of him.  And many of these brothers are dangerous, like Absalom.  So, in a sense, Absalom is a bad example, but what is also being shown here is that no amount of smarts, good looks, and strategic scheming will thwart the plans of the Almighty Creator.  This account explains what happened to some of those ahead of Solomon who assume the throne belonged to them.  But this account also supports God’s choice of Solomon.  Amnon wasn’t a good choice, he was depraved.  Absalom wasn’t a good choice, he was a conniving pretty-boy.  Adonijah is left to the final ascension of Solomon.


What I learn from Absalom, at least up through chapter 14, is that it’s not about how smart I am.  I already know I’m no looker, and I will never weigh my hair (nor let it get that long).  But I can become very impressed with my own ideas.  I can become very intoxicated with my particular view through a knothole.  This is partly (perhaps mostly) why I pursue this path of theology.  I need the reminder that there are other views, and mine is incomplete without the others.  I must not loose sight of the ‘game’, the Person and work of my Master.  He reveals Himself through Scripture, and I’m looking at Him, not myself.  There is real danger is looking myopically at the knothole itself and forgetting that the point lies in the view beyond.  God has a purpose in bringing Solomon to the throne.  This would have been true even if Amnon wasn’t depraved, Absalom wasn’t a conniving pretty-face, or anyone else thought they should have the throne.  God wanted Solomon on the throne, and that was what was going to happen.

What does God want for my neighborhood, my community, my church, may family?  Whatever it is, I better be on board with that and forget my own ‘plans’.  No amount of scheming, planning, conniving, or cleverness will change what He wants to what I want.  At least, that’s my view through the knothole.  What’s yours?