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Archive for August 28th, 2020

Proverbs: Mashal


Friday, August 28, 2020

King Solomon

King Solomon

Proverbs

Mashal

“There is no English word that adequately translates the Hebrew mashalIt embraces a broad category of literary forms: oracle (Nm 23,7); discourse (Jb 29,1); parable (Ps 78,2); taunt-song (Is 14,4). In each case there is a lesson to be learned, and for this reason the mashal might best be understood as ‘an example from life’ intended to instruct.  (Although some scholars understand mashal in the limited sense of a specific form, it will be used here as a general category unless otherwise indicated.) This is the word that identifies two major collections as “The Proverbs of Solomon” (10,1; 25,1) and from which the book itself receives its name.

“The root meaning of mashal is ‘likeness’ or ‘comparison’ as in ‘Like mother like daughter,’ or in the contrast ‘better safe than sorry.’  As a comparison, it usually consists of two parts in some kind of poetic construction”.  (Senior RG 256)

Solomon cannot have been more clear with his comparisons and explications. He writes with clarity and precision about the wisdom that guides him with the difficult and complex work as leader of a nation rising in stature and power. He shares all that he knows about how to avoid wrongdoing and how to keep to the narrow path that Wisdom lays down before us. The distractions of the world are many and they are deceptive. Temptation, when it succeeds in luring us away from God, comes to us gently, subtly, and in the guise of something or someone we love. Solomon warns us of pitfalls. He gives us clear words for success in God’s way; yet even Solomon himself ignores the very wisdom he imparts to us. We will want to avoid the fall comes to Solomon.

When we look at these chapters and verses we prefer to see their wisdom for change in our enemies and their wisdom of reinforcement for ourselves. We humans prefer that others adjust to our vision of reality rather than change anything about our own image as we take lesson from these mashal. And in this way of living we miss much of God’s Wisdom.

In the opening chapter several days ago, we have risen in full blossom with the beginning verses. Who among us does not see ourselves as intelligent and perceptive? And so we are. We yearn to be the wise one who gains sound guidance; we yearn for resourcefulness, justice and honesty. Yet also are we – from time to time at least – the ones who casts our lot with those who spread the net of gossip to gain an end. We are also – from time to time – among the number who love our own inanity. We petition God for wisdom, discipline, and security and this is what we find in these Mashal of Solomon.  We must step outside of ourselves to read these verses and to assess who we are and what we do. This, of course, takes wisdom.

If we read the story of this wise King Solomon we see what falls to him in the waning years of his life.  (1 Kings 11) Even this wise, and powerful, and wealthy servant of God falls victim to the wide road as he leaves behind the narrow path of God. So it is that we read the words he brings to us today, and we pray.

Good and wise God, we ask for knowledge rather than power. We ask for hope rather than fame. We ask for the ability to love you as you love us rather than the false security of this world. Instruct us in your narrow way. Save us from our self-willing inanity. Keep us ever in the presence of your Wisdom. Remind us of her value each day. Shield us from bitterness and anger, and remind us that you and your Wisdom are with us always, even as we call out for you. Amen.


For more on the Book of Proverbs, click on the image above or go to: http://mandyspath.wordpress.com/tag/proverbs/

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 256. Print.   

Also see the Proverbs – Courage page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-old-testament/wisdom/proverbs-courage/

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