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Virtue in Proverbs

Read: Proverbs 2:7-11

Proverbs is probably the most explicit educational text of the Old Testament and the main concern is to educate in wisdom and goodness, both of which are closely associated with virtue. Although the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord, the fulfilment of wisdom is found in goodness and virtue.

Read Proverbs 2:7–11 and make your own notes on what it means to  “turn your ear to wisdom”,   You will see that it has to do with the virtues of being upright, walking blamelessly and being right, just and fair (Prov 2:7–11).  Notice the emphasis on ‘being’ which speaks of character and not just outward obedience to the law.  Proverbs, in fact, does not simply furnish a grocery list of good things we need to do and of bad things we need to avoid. Wisdom is not mere prescription of outward behaviour. Rather, Proverbs continually points to the kind of people we should be and to the virtues that should shape our character.

Read now Proverbs 8:13, 20 and make your own notes on what the opposite of wisdom looks like.  You will find, again, that it has to do viceful character, described as walking in dark ways, doing wrong and being perverted in evil.

If you want to read more, continue with Proverbs 31, and make a list of the virtues in the idealised portrait of the wise and virtuous woman.

It is practically impossible to read a single chapter of Proverbs without being impressed by the massive determination to form character. Several general principles can be seen [ME]:

  1. First of all, God is the source of wisdom, and this wisdom is meant to shape generation after generation.
  2. Second, in Proverbs, formation is a communal activity in which those who are wiser have greater responsibilities towards the less mature
  3. Third, wisdom concerns the whole of human experience, including work, rest, eating and speaking, each of which is a revelation of our character.
  4. Finally, character formation is an urgent matter. Choosing good or evil is a matter of life or death, and there is an incessant sense of educational urgency in the entire book.

If you would like to undertake a more ambitious project, read through the Proverbs and underline the virtues.  You will find that those who fear the Lord need to be loving, trustworthy, humble, self-controlled, prudent, just, honest, kind, generous, truthful, gentle, patient, faithful, diligent, lovers of knowledge, zealous and moderate. You will also find that, in order to avoid futility and punishment, we must not be envious, lazy, false, proud, unjust, corrupt, lustful, violent, wrathful, or greedy.


A prayer:  To you, the source of wisdom, I ask that my ear may be turned to wisdom and that I may be upright, walking blamelessly and being right, just and fair.

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