Wisdom Revealed Through Nature In The Book Of Proverbs

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Proverbs is undoubtedly a unique book of the Bible due to its distinctive literary style and form. Perhaps it is most unique due to its rich metaphors and imagery, which enable the reader to understand wisdom from God’s perspective. Many of these metaphors and images are based on the natural world – God’s creation. In fact, Proverbs is often described as a book that evokes “vivid metaphors from nature” (Yoder 256). Proverbs reveals wisdom through nature metaphors in a variety of aspects, including water, weather, and wildlife.

First, Proverbs reveals wisdom and insight through imagery and metaphors of water. Several of these water metaphors and images seem to be a reflection of a person’s heart and character. For example, Proverbs 27:19 states “as water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart” (NIV). In a commentary on Proverbs, Chapman expounds on this verse, explaining that “just as the reflection in the water depends on the degree of its purity and translucence, so the heart of man reflects his judgement of the other man’s character” (Chapman). In other words, the kind of reflection that a person’s character produces in life is similar to the reflection that water creates. Next, there are several water metaphors in Proverbs that seem to portray the wisdom of choices. Proverbs 21:1 explains that “In the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him” (NIV). Here, water is used to portray the wisdom of choice – ultimately it is God’s choice: “A king’s heart can be guided by God just as a farmer can direct irrigation water into different channels” (Chapman). Next, several water metaphors portray the wisdom of words. Proverbs 18:4 states the following regarding the wisdom of words: “The words of the mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a rushing stream” (NIV). Similarly, Proverbs 17:14a states that “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out” (NIV). Commentating on Proverbs 17:14, Chapman states that the ideal time to end a quarrel is “in its beginning stages, not when the rivulet reaches floodtide” (Chapman). Through these vivid water metaphors, these two passages effectively convey the power of words and the manner in which they effect other people. In addition, the verses cause the reader to reflect on words more deeply through this imagery. Thus, there are numerous water metaphors and imagery in the book of Proverbs that effectively portray various aspects of wisdom, including character, choices, and words.

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Next, the book of Proverbs utilizes weather metaphors and similes to portray various aspects of wisdom and foolishness. Interestingly, several of these water metaphors have negative connotations and are often associated with the foolish. For example, Proverbs 27:15-16 states “A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm; restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand” (NIV). Fox expounds on this by explaining that the woman described in the verse “is a public embarrassment, the opposite of the Woman of Strength, who brings her husband public honor” (Fox 810). Thus, through the bothersome imagery of a watery leak, Proverbs portrays the foolishness of an argumentative wife (Fox 810). A second passage that portrays foolishness through water imagery is Proverbs 25:23, which states: “Like a north wind that brings unexpected rain is a sly tongue – which provokes a horrified look” (NIV). In his commentary, Chapman expounds on this verse and explains how “the evil of slander is pictured as the results of a north wind that brings unpleasant rain” (Chapman). Thus, many of the weather metaphors in Proverbs are used in a negative context. However, there are many weather metaphors and similes that are portrayed in a positive light, and are associated with the wise. For instance, Proverbs 25:13 states “Like a snow-cooled drink at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to the one who sends him” (NIV). Fox explains the significance of this imagery: “The point of the metaphor is that a reliable messenger is as refreshing as snow during the hot harvest would be – and perhaps as rare” (Fox 783). In other words, the imagery of unexpected snow during another season is used to portray the rarity of a trustworthy messenger. Thus, it is clear that there are numerous metaphors and images in the book of Proverbs that are based on the weather and are used to portray the various aspects of foolishness and wisdom.

Next, wildlife imagery is used to portray wisdom in action throughout the book of Proverbs. Although wildlife imagery can be seen all throughout Proverbs, chapter thirty contains perhaps the most wildlife imagery in all of Proverbs. It is a chapter that presents us with a “heightened awareness of the complexities inherent to being wise,” and was written by Agur, who had “appreciation for how the smallest least powerful creatures teach humans to be wise” (Yoder 262). In other words, creatures as tiny as ants and as mighty as lions effectively portray various aspects of wisdom in action. The wildlife imagery in the book of Proverbs includes animals, reptiles, insects, and other creatures.

First, the book of Proverbs uses animal and reptile imagery to convey various aspects of wisdom. The lion is a classic example, and it is most often used in comparison to the king due to its boldness and power – just as the lion “does not have to yield to any creature,” so also does the king display “his might as he parades at the head of his army” (Steinmann 64). For instance, Proverbs 19:12 states that “A king’s rage is like the roar of a lion, but his favor is like dew on the grass” (NIV). A similar passage in Proverbs states that “A king’s wrath strikes terror like the roar of a lion; those who anger him forfeit their lives” (Proverbs 20:2, NIV). Steinmann explains that this metaphor is conveying that there is wisdom in being “cautious in risking the king’s wrath by interrupting his display of regal authority and power” (Steinmann 64). Next, the lizard is another type of imagery used to portray wisdom in action in the book of Proverbs. Proverbs 30:28 states “a lizard can be caught with the hand, yet it is found in kings’ palaces” (NIV). According to Steinmann, the “lizard is wise because although it appears to be subject to the whims of ordinary humans who can pick it up in their hands, it can gain access to the king – something most of the king’s subjects cannot do!” (Steinmann 64). Yoder adds to this view by asserting that the lizards are akin to “stealthy infiltrators,” and this verse is likely a warning to kings who may be overconfident in their sense of security (Yoder 261). Thus, the lizard seems to be portrayed as a type of underdog that serves as a warning against a false sense of security.

Next, the book of Proverbs uses insect imagery to convey wisdom in action as well. The imagery of the Ants in Proverbs 6:6-8 and 30:25 represents the wisdom of steady hard work and preparing for the future (Robinson 26). Proverbs 6:6-8 states “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest” (NIV). In a similar passage, Proverbs 30:25 states: “Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer” (NIV). In each of these passages, the ants demonstrate the value in a steady work ethic. Robinson points out that “the ant knows what time it is in life” (Robinson 26). Therefore, it is wise to work hard and prepare for the future, because eventually “winter will come” (Robinson 26).

In conclusion, the book of Proverbs is full of metaphors and imagery based on the world of nature. Through these metaphors and images, one can gain insight on various aspects of wisdom. From the water metaphors, one can learn to reflect on the wisdom of choices, character, and words. Second, the vivid weather imagery enables the reader to consider various aspects of wisdom and foolishness. Lastly, wildlife imagery portrays wisdom in action, such as the ants’ work ethic. Therefore, one can glean much wisdom through the vivid nature metaphors in the book of Proverbs.

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Wisdom Revealed Through Nature In The Book Of Proverbs. (2022, February 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 16, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/wisdom-revealed-through-nature-in-the-book-of-proverbs/
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