As a child, I read from the King James Version. Two books struck me as profound enough to copy out twice in a notebook: St. Paul’s Letter to Timothy and The Book of Proverbs. Until leaving college, I held Proverbs as my favorite, was pleased to find out that my roommate’s blanket quoted from it, and even more so to have an online quiz claim that my personality reflected it. Within the Old Testament, there is not a better work for a young Christian to concentrate on due to its eminent practicality. For example, Marlin-sama of Ashita no Anime, though an atheist, regards it as the best work of the Bible for that reason.
King Solomon (no one better vex me with modern Biblical scholarship over the traditional attribution of authorship to Solomon) advises people to seek wisdom above all else: “Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold” (Proverbs 8:10). Anyone who hates wisdom “loves death” (8:36). Both these quotes are from chapter 8, where wisdom calls to the simple to learn from her. The most beautiful thing about this chapter lies in wisdom obviously prefiguring Wisdom Himself, Jesus Christ:
20 I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment:
21 That I may cause those that love me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures.
22 The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.
23 I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.
* * *
30 Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him;
31 Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.
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35 For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord. (Proverbs 8)
Comparing the first four verses to the beginning of the Gospel of John and the Nicene Creed indicates wisdom to be the Divine Logos. Verses 30 and 31 show that wisdom is the delight of God and then that wisdom delighted to be among men, which refer to the incarnation of God the Son. And verse thirty-five reminds one of John 14:6: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Of the many examples where the New Testament illuminates the Old, this stands as one of the most beautiful.
The earlier parts of Proverbs hammer home that young men avoid sexual immorality. A harlot or adulteress’s “feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell” (5:5). The only other evil that Solomon warns against as strenuously is evil–especially criminal–associations. But, young persons need especially be advised against fornication, because the modern world holds chastity in contempt. Yet, what does one get from fornication except a diaphanous pleasure and a guilty conscience? Far better to follow Solomon’s advice to stick to one wife: “Let thy vein be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of thy youth:let her be thy dearest hind, and most agreeable fawn: let her breasts inebriate thee at all times; he thou delighted continually with her love” (5:18-19). (Here’s my only use of the Douay Rheims translation. I had been sticking to the KJV for old time’s sake, but “let her breasts inebriate thee at all times” is priceless!) Neither the Church nor the Bible are killjoys when it comes to sexual love, but let it be such that no one’s feelings are wounded or that people grow callous in regard to romance.
But most of the work consists of simple proverbs, sometimes repetitive and often humorous:
“Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.” (21:23)
“Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise” (6:6)
“It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house” (21:9). (The verse on my roommate’s blanket.)
“For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief” (24:16).
“Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins” (10:12)
I could go on and on about this beloved work. But, my dear readers, since it is better for you to read the book yourselves than my writings about it, I leave off here!