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Yahweh's view of what is "better," or why poverty isn't necessarily evil

Proverbs 17:1 caught my attention this morning: “Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it Than a house full of feasting with strife.”

I wondered how many times Proverbs says X is better than Y, so I did a quick search on "better is" and "is better." Here's what I found:

Prov. 3:14 -- wisdom's profit is better than silver or gold
Prov. 8:11 -- wisdom is better than jewels
Prov. 8:19 -- wisdom's fruit is better than pure gold or choicest silver
Prov. 12:9  -- lowly with a servant is better than self-honoring without a servant
Prov. 15:16 -- little + fear of Yahweh is better than wealth with turmoil
Prov. 15:17 -- vegetables + love is better than fatted ox + hatred
Prov. 16:8 -- little + righteousness is better than great income with injustice
Prov. 16:19 -- lowly with the poor is better than dividing spoil with the proud
Prov. 16:32 -- slow to anger is better than the mighty
Prov. 17:1 -- a dry morsel + quiet is better than feasting with strife
Prov…

Morning Reflection on Proverbs 5

This chapter illustrates how wisdom lives in the present with the future in mind. The consequences of a present course of action are always considered before embarking.

When I consider the personal, family, and spiritual destruction that follows those who heed the strange woman’s honeyed and oiled words (Pro. 5:3), I flee like I would flee the plague (cf. 2 Tim. 2:22).

Prov. 5:4 -- "sharp as a two-edged sword" is the strange woman -- to lick her honeyed words is to head down the path of suicide.

Trappers in Alaska's past occasionally discovered their lines raided by wolves. To rid themselves of the thieves, they would dip a sharp, double-edged knife in honey, allowing several layers to freeze onto it. Then they planted the knife, blade up in the snow near a trap the wolves have raided. The smell of the honey attracts the wolves who begin to lick it off the blade. As a wolf licks the frozen honey, the cold  numbs their tongue. By the time they have licked the honey c…

Reflections from ETS 2014: Rejuvenation and Renovation

ETS is the Evangelical Theological Society. This year the annual meeting was in San Diego, CA. The weather was delightful, the meeting much more so.

I go to ETS to get mentally rejuvenated -- hear papers on cutting edge research, see the latest books from conservative publishers, meet scholars whose names and works I've read, reconnect with friends from scholarly community. 

I also go to ETS to be humbled. Being a prof at a small school makes it relatively easy to lose sight of how much I don't know. 

Wow, my ignorance is profound! It's good for me, and it's good for my students that I be reminded of how much there is to know, and how little of it that I know.

The most humbling aspect of this year's conference came during breakfast with Dad. He was commenting on Christ's condescension, his kenosis (self-emptying / self-humbling; Phil. 2:5-8). I felt almost physically punched as I contemplated the Omniscient One, the Source and Sustainer of all reality and thus of a…

Women, Adorn Yourselves with "Sobriety" -- New Insight on 1 Tim. 2:9

In 1 Tim. 2:9, Paul says believing women are to adorn themselves with sophrosunes (σωφροσύνης).

The KJV reads:
In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety (sophrosunes); not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;
About a year ago, I decided that I needed to get a better handle on how sophrosunes was used. When I began my investigation, I was startled by what I found.

Comparison of English Versions
A comparison of major English translations reveals a surprising lack of consensus about the meaning of sophrosunes:

KJV:       sobriety
ASV:      sobriety
NASB:    discreetly
LEB:       self-control
ESV:       self-control
HCSB:    good sense
NIV:        propriety
NLT:        decent (?)
RSV:       sensibly
NRSV:    decently
CEB:       sensible
NET:       self-control

Several things stood out to me about this data:
the NASB is alone in translating it “discreetly” self-control (ESV, LEB, NET) and sensible (RSV, CEB, HCSB)…

The Fig Tree that Withered Immediately & Scriptural Inerrancy - Part 2

Although I'm committed to the theological, epistemological, and hermeneutical assumptions I shared in my previous post, I'll admit that I really prefer a linguistically satisfactory resolution to apparent discrepancies.

My student wasn't satisfied with Carson's EBC explanation of how the Matthew and Mark versions of the triumphal entry relate to one another.

He wrote back:
I don't think [Carson's] rationalization of Matthew and Mark's distinctions is acceptable ... The crux of the matter is ... that Matthew clearly portrays the scene as one where Jesus curses the tree, it withers away instantly, and the disciples are shocked by how soon it withered- a single event that occurs after the turning over of the tables, whereas Mark says Jesus cursed it before He threw over the tables, then after he overthrows the tables and spends the night in Bethany upon returning from Bethany, Peter says in a way that implies time has passed since the cursing, that the tree…

The Fig Tree that Withered Immediately & Scriptural Inerrancy - Part 1

I recently received an email from a student that went something like this:

Dear Sir,
I believe that the Scriptures are the divine inspired Word of God, but I also believe that because men were used to convey this Word, rather than God writing it Himself, it stands to reason that due to man's imperfect nature, there are some slight inconsistencies that however do not deter from the main themes and teachings and intents of the stories. Specifically, Matthew and Mark's accounts of the triumphal entry don't agree. Matthew has Jesus curse the fig tree, which withers at once, and then go into the temple and cleanse it (Mat. 21). Mark has Jesus curse the fig tree, go cleanse the temple, and return the next day to find the tree withered (Mk 11). They can't both be right.  Would you agree with me that this is a historical error? My first thought was to show why the narratives are compatible and harmonious. My second thought was that I need to address the underlying assumpt…

Morning Reflections on Prov. 29:1

Proverbs 29:1 אִ֣ישׁ תּ֭וֹכָחוֹת מַקְשֶׁה־עֹ֑רֶף פֶּ֥תַע יִ֜שָּׁבֵ֗ר וְאֵ֣ין מַרְפֵּֽא׃
NASB Proverbs 29:1 A man who hardens his neck after much reproof Will suddenly be broken beyond remedy.

Yahweh, there is a limit to your patience with refusals to respond to correction (cf. Exo 33:3). I praise you that it is “much reproof” (אִיש תּוֹכָחוֹת) (cf. 2 Kgs. 17:14). You are slow to anger and plenteous in kindness, yet your justice sets a limit on your longsuffering.

Thank you that you warn me of the sober consequences to motivate me to turn at reproof. Those who stiffen their necks are arrogant and disobedient (Neh 9:16), refuse to listen to You and are rebellious (Neh. 9:17; Deut. 31:27). Your dealings with Israel, whom you exiled and dispersed because of their stiffnecked rebellion against you, teach me what “broken beyond remedy” looks like (2 Kgs 17:18; Jer. 19:15).

Thank you for giving me by your Spirit a heart of flesh for my heart of stone (Ezek. 11:19; 36:26). Thank you for you…

Prov. 25:13 and Psalm 19:7 -- The Torah of Yahweh is perfect, refreshing the soul

Back in 2010, the language of Proverbs 25:13 caught my attention during my devotions:

Proverbs 25:13 כְּצִנַּת־שֶׁ֙לֶג׀ בְּי֬וֹם קָצִ֗יר צִ֣יר נֶ֭אֱמָן לְשֹׁלְחָ֑יו וְנֶ֖פֶשׁ אֲדֹנָ֣יו יָשִֽׁיב׃ פ

NAU  Proverbs 25:13 Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest Is a faithful messenger to those who send him, For he refreshes the soul of his masters.

What struck me about this verse is the hiphil form of shub ("refreshes") with (nephesh soul). This is the same form that shows up in Psalm 19:7[H=19:8] “The torah of Yahweh is perfect, meshibat the soul.”  

A quick search on the hiphil form of shub with nephesh shows that if this construction occurs with the preposition "from" (min) it means "to restore from, rescue from" (Job 33:30; Psa 35:17). 

Without the preposition "from" this construction  has the sense of ‘restore, refresh,” and may involve emotional, bodily, or spiritual refreshment.  

Emotional refreshment is most clearly seen in Lam. 1:14 “Because…