Proverbs 3

Chapter three naturally divides into three sections, each with its own theme. In the first section, Solomon gave a series of six commands or instructions to his son (Proverbs 3:1-12). Each command is followed by an explanation or result, and each pair comprises two verses. If his son obeyed his instructions, he would have “a long and full life” (Proverbs 3:1-2). The active pursuit of “truth and mercy” will cause a person to gain favor with others (Proverbs 3:3-4). Trusting in God and acknowledging him in everything results in a straight path (Proverbs 3:5-6). True fear of God – rejecting evil – has physical benefits as well as spiritual (Proverbs 3:7-8). God responds favorably to those who prioritize him with their money (Proverbs 3:9-10). Discipline from God is good because it is proof of his personal love (Proverbs 3:11-12).

The theme of the second section is the value of seeking wisdom (Proverbs 3:13-26). This has two subdivisions. In the first, Solomon used a series of word pictures to describe the beauty and value of wisdom itself, calling it incomparable, though he compared it to gold, silver, and rubies (Proverbs 3:13-20). 1 The concept that God used wisdom during the creation will come up again in chapter eight. In the second division of this section, Solomon encouraged his son to pursue wisdom and not let go when he found it (Proverbs 3:21-26). The benefits he listed include security in decision-making, peace in sleep, and confidence in every life situation.

The third section contains a series of practical instructions Solomon gave regarding how he wanted his son to treat other people (Proverbs 3:27-35). Some of these are reflected in the Mosaic law, but these are less “legal” and more “moral” and are general principles that believers should follow today, as they are found in some form throughout the New Testament. Help your neighbor when you have the ability (1 John 3:17-18). Accuse someone only when legitimately harmed (Romans 12:16-21). Do not imitate evil people (3 John 11). God will curse the wicked and bless the righteous (James 4:4-6).

Notes:

  1. The word for rubies in Proverbs 3:15 occurs only six times in the Hebrew text, all in poetry books. Three of these times, rubies are compared with wisdom (Job 28:18; Proverbs 3:15; 8:11), once with a virtuous wife (Proverbs 31:10), and once with bodies (Lamentations 4:7). The last occurrence is not a comparison (Proverbs 20:15).

Lamentations 5

Chapter five does not keep the acrostic pattern of the rest of the book, but it does contain twenty-two verses to fit the overall structure. Lamentations closes with the people in Jerusalem crying out to God for mercy. Their situation was so desperate that they had to beg Egypt and Assyria to help provide food for them (Lamentations 5:6). Their women had been defiled, their princes humiliated, and their elders terribly mistreated (Lamentations 5:11-12). The young men had no strength even to carry wood; there was no music and no joy left in the ancient city (Lamentations 5:13-15). Yet they still believed that God had not forsaken them completely, so Lamentations ends with the hope of restoration, with God sitting on his eternal throne and his people repenting before him (Lamentations 5:19-22).

Lamentations 4

Chapter four brings Jeremiah back to describing the state of Jerusalem. Gold and jewels, which were once valuable, were worthless (Lamentations 4:1). There was no food or water or shelter; cannibalism had become normal (Lamentations 4:4-5, 9-10). Disease was rampant (Lamentations 4:8), and no one was willing to help them (Lamentations 4:14-16).

In a slight departure from chapters one and two, where Jerusalem was personified, now the inhabitants of Jerusalem spoke (Lamentations 4:17-20). 1 Recalling the fateful days when Nebuchadnezzar was at their door, they remembered looking for help that did not come and running until there was nowhere else to go. Even the one they thought could save them – their “very life breath” – their king was unable to do anything.

The last two verses of the chapter seem out-of-place in this book about Jerusalem’s ruin. Jeremiah turned his attention to Edom (Esau’s descendants), who had been mentioned only briefly in his prophecies (Jeremiah 25:21; 27:3; 49:7-22). Essentially, he said, “Laugh now, Edom, because your turn is coming!” Israel would be restored, but Edom would be annihilated forever.

Notes:

  1. In the first two chapters, “Jerusalem” always spoke in the first person singular (I, me, my), whereas the rest of the book uses the plural (we, us, our).