Proverbs Lesson 8

Ancient Wisdom for Today’s World

Lesson 8 | July 31, 2016

Prepared by Daniel L. Segraves, PhD

How the New Testament uses the Book of Proverbs

There are allusions to five Proverbs in the NT. In this lesson we will look at the last proverb to which the NT alludes.[1]

Fifth Allusion

“If you say, ‘Surely we did not know this,’ does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?” (24:12).

“[W]ho will render to each one according to his deeds” (Romans 2:6).

“Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works” (II Timothy 4:14).

We looked at 24:12 in Lesson 2 and noted the way Jesus quoted from this verse in Matthew 16:27. But in this lesson we will examine the way Paul alluded to 24:12 in a different context.

First, Paul referred to 24:12 in Romans 2:6 in the process of developing the idea that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). In Romans 1:18-32, Paul described the sinfulness of Gentiles. He referred to no OT text in these verses, apparently because the OT was given to Jews, not to Gentiles. (See Romans 3:1-2.)

In Romans 2:1, Paul turned his attention to the sinfulness of Jews. (See Romans 2:17.) Between Romans 2:6 and 3:18, twelve verses refer to a total of at least twenty-one OT verses.

The immediate context of Romans 2:6 tells us that each person is responsible for his or her actions and that the day is coming when God will judge those actions even if they have been kept secret up until that time. (See Romans 2:1-16.) This judgment will be carried out by Jesus Christ (Romans 2:16; see also Matthew 16:27).

The larger context of Romans 2:6 reveals that every person, Jew and Gentile, is a sinner (Romans 3:23). The problem is not just that all have sinned in the past; it is that all continually fall short in the present. As Douglas Moo points out, this means “all people fail to exhibit that ‘being-like-God’ for which they were created; and the present tense of the verb … shows that even Christians ‘fall short’ of that goal until they are transformed in the last day by God.”[2]

Since all of us have sinned and continually fail to measure up to what we should be, and since God “will render to each one according to his deeds,” is our situation hopeless? No, because Romans 3:23 is surrounded by the good news of the righteousness of God “apart from the law” which is “through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe” (Romans 3:21-22). This good news includes the free justification by the grace of God that is available “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” and which satisfies God’s righteous judgment (propitiation). This is made possible by the blood of Christ Jesus and it comes to us through faith. (See Romans 3:24-26). This good news is available both to Jews and Gentiles. (See Romans 3:27-31.)

Further, the good news connected with the larger context of Romans 2:6 is not limited to the New Testament. The same message found in Proverbs 24:12 (“[W]ill He not render to each man according to his deeds?) is found also in Psalm 62:12b: “For You render to each one according to his work.” This is not the entire message, however. The first part of the verse reads, “Also to You, O Lord, belongs mercy” (Psalm 62:12a). If God will reward each of us according to our deeds, we desperately need the mercy of God, and we have it when we place our faith in Jesus Christ. (See Romans 3:22, 25-26, 28, 30.)

Another Note

“There is none who does good, no, not one” (Romans 3:12).

This portion of the verses to which Paul referred in Romans 3:10-18 could have been quoted from Psalm 14:3 or Psalm 53:3. Which was it? Does it matter?

Paul’s source was the LXX of Psalm 14:3, and his choice of this psalm over Psalm 53, which is so similar to Psalm 14, provides insight into the care the writers of the NT exercised in their use of the OT. In the Book of Psalms, the fourteenth psalm is located in a Jewish context. In other words, the psalms before and after Psalm 14 address circumstances within the Jewish community. In Psalm 14, God is referred to as Yahweh, the covenant name for God in His relationship with Israel.

Psalm 53, however, is located within the immediate Gentile context of Psalm 52 (Doeg the Edomite) and Psalm 54 (Ziphites). God is referred to as Elohim, a name often used when God is spoken of in connection with the entire human race.

As noted earlier in this lesson, in Romans 1:18-32, Paul addressed the sinfulness of Gentiles and did not quote from, paraphrase, or allude to any OT text. But in Romans 2:1 through 3:18, he described the sinfulness of Jews and referred to a wide variety of OT texts. One of those texts reads, “There is none who does good, no, not one.” When referring to the Jewish community in the NT, Paul used OT references that refer to the same community. This indicates Paul was conscious of his audience and his sources.[3]

Next Lesson

There is one more allusion to Proverbs 24:12 in the New Testament. We will examine it next week.

[1] For textual connections between the OT and NT, we have looked at Robert G. Bratcher, Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament (New York: United Bible Societies, 1984). Further study reveals additional connections. For instance, Bratcher does not note the allusion to Proverbs 10:12 in James 5:20. Since 1984, the use of the OT in the NT has been a topic of increasing interest to biblical scholars. When I say this is the last Proverb to which the NT alludes, I don’t mean we are exhausting this subject. This is the last proverb which Bratcher lists as alluded to in the NT.

[2] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), 226-27.

[3] We cannot work out all of the details of Paul’s use of Psalm 14:3 in this lesson, but they are included in a thesis I wrote for the Th.M. degree. See Daniel Lee Segraves. “An Application of Canonical-Compositional Hermeneutics to Psalms 14 and 53.” Th.M. thesis, Western Seminary, 2003. A more accessible treatment is included in Daniel L. Segraves, The Messiah in the Psalms: Discovering Christ in Unexpected Places (Hazelwood, MO: WAP Academic, 2007), 52-54, 188-190.

Proverbs Lesson 7

Ancient Wisdom for Today’s World

Lesson 7 | July 24, 2016

Prepared by Daniel L. Segraves, PhD

How the New Testament uses the Book of Proverbs

There are allusions to five[1] Proverbs in the NT. In this lesson we will look at the fourth of them.

Fourth Allusion

“If the righteous will be recompensed on the earth, how much more the ungodly and the sinner” (11:31).

“If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear”? (LXX).

“Now ‘If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (I Peter 4:18).

At first glance, we see that Peter’s allusion is directly from the LXX. We also readily note the reference to “the righteous” in the English translation, the LXX, and Peter’s mention. But we also observe what may seem to be a significant difference. The English translation refers to the righteous being “recompensed,” whereas the LXX and Peter speak of the righteous being “saved.” Are these two different ideas?

When the NT refers to the OT, there is always the possibility that additional ranges of meaning may be introduced by the new context. But before we conclude there is no real connection between an OT reference and its NT counterpart, we must examine both contexts and take into account the ranges of meaning in the key Hebrew and Greek words.

In Proverbs 11:31 we note the meaning of the word translated “recompensed” [יְשֻׁלָּ֑ם]. The word has two possible ideas: to be at peace or to be repaid. In its context, the meaning is “to be repaid.” It could be translated in various ways, so long as the idea of receiving something in response to some kind of behavior or character quality is retained. For instance, the word could be translated “rewarded.”[2]

Nearly each verse in Proverbs 11 advances the idea of consequences of righteous behavior or character in contrast to ungodly behavior or character. The righteous reap what they sow in the here and now; so do the unrighteous.

Is this what the LXX says and what Peter means? Are the words “scarcely saved” in the same range of meaning as “recompensed”? Let’s take a look at the context of I Peter.

The central theme of I Peter is the appropriate Christian response to suffering. This suffering is the result of “various trials” (1:6), including the abuse of servants by masters (2:19-21) and defamation by unbelievers (3:13-19). Peter sees suffering as normal for believers (4:12). Christians share Christ’s sufferings because of their identification with Him (4:13-16). This suffering is the will of God (4:19). To suffer patiently is commendable before God (2:20). Christians are called to submit to unjust suffering; our Lord set the example for this (2:21). The result of suffering, faithfully endured, will be “praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:7). Those who keep their faith in Christ will survive perfected, established, strengthened, and settled (5:10).[3]

This general context helps us understand Peter’s use of Proverbs 11:31. The immediate context of I Peter 4:18 sharpens our focus, because I Peter 4:17 also reflects OT texts.

Even when NT writers do not quote directly from OT passages, it is often apparent that there is a parallel in their minds. Such is the case with I Peter 4:17. The background of this verse is the LXX translation of Ezekiel 9 and Malachi 3.[4]

Ezekiel 9 records the vision of the slaying of all those in Jerusalem who do not “sigh and cry over the abominations that are done within it” (Eze 9:4). There are precise verbal parallels in the Greek text of I Peter 4:17 and the LXX Greek of Ezekiel 9:6. As compared with Ezekiel’s account of the cleansing of Jerusalem starting from the Temple, the point of I Peter is that the judgment of God begins in the church. It spreads from there to the unbelieving society outside the church.

The word translated “judgment” (κρίμα) does not always refer to condemnation. It can “refer to a judgment which results in good and bad evaluations, a judgment which may issue in approval or discipline as well as condemnation.”[5] Thus, I Peter 4:12 identifies the “fiery trial” as the judgment of God intended to purify believers. If God judges believers, it is certain He will judge unbelievers who “do not obey the gospel of God.”

The word translated “scarcely” (μόλις)  includes the ideas of “with difficulty” and “not readily, only rarely.”[6] The first meaning is appropriate here. I Peter does not mean that “only rarely” are the righteous saved nor that the righteous are “not readily” saved. From the context, it is clear that the righteous are saved “with difficulty.” Verse 18 does not mean it is difficult for God to save them or that they must work hard to be saved; it means the fiery trials sent to test them are difficult to endure. The point is that if those who are righteous are saved only as they endure the difficulty of “fiery trials,” the destiny of those who are unrighteous will be much more difficult for them.

Righteous persons are saved with difficulty, but they are saved because they are “steadfast in the faith” (I Peter 5:9, 12). But ungodly sinners are not persons of faith. This is essentially the same message as in Proverbs 11:31. The difference is that the Proverbs context does not focus on the suffering of the righteous.

Next Lesson

In our next lesson we will continue to consider the allusions to Proverbs in the New Testament.

[1] I previously said there are allusions to six proverbs in the NT. The correct number is five. These are alluded to seven times in the NT.

[2] This translation is suggested in the margin of The New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1996).

[3] Daniel L. Segraves, First Peter: Standing Fast in the Grace of God (Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press, 1999), 9-10.

[4] We will not be able in this lesson to discuss Malachi 3, but this is done in my commentary on I Peter.

[5] Wayne Grudem, I Peter; Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1988), 181.

[6] Walter Bauer et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 526.

Proverbs Lesson 6

Ancient Wisdom for Today’s World

Lesson 6 | July 17, 2016

Prepared by Daniel L. Segraves, PhD

How the New Testament uses the Book of Proverbs

There are allusions to six Proverbs in the NT. In this lesson we will look at the third of them.

Third Allusion

“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins” (10:12).

“Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).

“And above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8).

When we examine the use of the OT in the NT, it is important to notice the context in each case. With Proverbs 10:12, a paragraph begins that ends in Proverbs 10:18. Both verses mention hatred [‎שִׂ֭נְאָה] and the idea of some kind of concealment [‎כַסֶּ֣ה]. In v. 12, love conceals sins; in v. 18, lying lips conceal hatred.

What stirs up strife? It may be called many things, such as “concern,” but it is actually hatred. By contrast, someone who truly loves others will not look for an opportunity to expose their errors for public ridicule but will seek to restore them as privately as possible. (See Proverbs 17:9.)[1]

Verse 18 points out that a person who hates another but who conceals it has “lying lips.” This person is, in other words, a liar. Liars are among those who will have no place in the new heaven and new earth (Rev. 21:8). The solution to this problem is not to confess one’s hatred for others openly, but to forsake hatred altogether. (See Matt. 5:44; Deut. 23:3-6.)

One of the characteristics of a fool is to spread slander. The range of meaning of דִ֜בָּ֗ה, translated “slander,” includes whispering, defamation, and giving an evil report. Paul included whisperers among those who deserve death (Romans 1:29-32).

The allusion to Prov. 10:12 in James 5:20 is in the context of helping someone to recover spiritually who previously believed the truth but who has wandered away. The entire phrase “if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back” is in the third class condition in the Greek text; this refers to what is probable. That is, there will be those who wander from the truth, and there will be those who turn them back. The ultimate truth is, of course, Jesus Christ. (See John 14:6.) Since James is one of the earliest NT books, the truth referred to here probably includes the new covenant.

The recommendation to involve oneself in restoring erring brethren agrees with Galatians 6:1. (See also II Timothy 2:24-26.) Those involved in the restoration of a person who has wandered from the truth should realize that their actions will result in the salvation of a soul and the forgiveness of many sins. To know this should encourage us to actively pursue the restoration of those who have wandered away.

James’ final words starkly underline the loss of salvation for the person who turns away from the truth once known. James’ letter, which emphasizes the connection between faith and works, concludes with a final exhortation to demonstrate faith in the most practical of ways: by taking steps to turn an erring person back to the way of truth. This will not be done by pretending the sinner has not erred; nor will it be accomplished by a whispering campaign designed to expose the error. It will be done by lovingly and patiently explaining the truth of the gospel and living out its implications before those who have erred.[2]

The allusion to Prov. 10:12 in I Peter 4:8 is in the context of the nearness of “the end of all things” and the use of spiritual gifts. Believers are to have fervent love for one another. The idea is to be eager to love or earnest in loving. We must have this fervent love above all things. Love is the preeminent virtue in the NT. (See I Cor. 13:13; Gal. 5:22-23.) This is the proof of genuine discipleship (John 13:35; 15:12, 17). Where love prevails, all other virtues will flow from it, including hospitality and a commitment to others in the exercise of one’s ministry gifts (I Peter 4:9-11).

One of the characteristics of love is to “cover a multitude of sins.” Where there is love, a person will not look for opportunities to expose the errors of others to public ridicule; he will instead seek to restore as privately as possible those who err. (See Matt. 18:15-17.)[3]

Next Lesson

In our next lesson we will continue to consider the allusions to Proverbs in the New Testament.

“It is not enough not to retaliate against an enemy; it is essential to love one’s enemy.”[4]

[1] Daniel L. Segraves, Proverbs: Ancient Wisdom for Today’s World (Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press, 1990), 99.

[2] Daniel L. Segraves, James: Faith at Work (Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press, 1995), 195-96.

[3] Daniel L. Segraves, First Peter: Standing Fast in the Grace of God (Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press, 1999), 242-43.

[4] G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, eds., Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 1012.

Proverbs Lesson 5

Ancient Wisdom for Today’s World

Lesson 5 | July 10, 2016

Prepared by Daniel L. Segraves

How the New Testament uses the Book of Proverbs

There are six allusions to Proverbs in the NT. In this lesson we will begin to look at these in the order in which they appear in Proverbs.

First Allusion

“For whom the Lord loves He corrects” (3:12a).[1]

“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten” (Rev 3:19a).

This allusion is a small portion of 3:11-12, which is quoted in full in Heb 12:5-6. As we saw when we discussed this quotation in lesson 2, the context of these verses in Proverbs includes a warning not to forget God’s law. In Hebrews, these verses warn the readers not to turn from Christ in order to return to the Law of Moses. In Revelation, two points of significance can be seen in the use of these words:

  1. The One who speaks these words is Jesus Christ (Rev 1:1-2, 5, 8-9, 11, 17-20; 2:1, 18; 3:14). In Proverbs, the One to whom these words refer is the Lord (i.e., Jehovah [Yahweh]). The fact that Jesus uses these words as His own in Revelation identifies Him as the Lord.
  2. Some think the Laodiceans had lost their salvation. This is incorrect. If they continued in their lukewarm condition they would do so, but at this time they were still a church. (See Rev 1:20.) The reason Jesus employed Pro 3:12 in His rebuke was that He loved the Laodiceans and still considered them His sons. (See Pro 3:12b.)

Second Allusion

“Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established” (4:26).

“Make straight paths for thy feet, and order thy ways aright” (LXX).

“And make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed” (Heb 12:13).

Hebrews 12:12 closely follows the wording of Isaiah 35:3, and Hebrews 12:13 alludes to the LXX rendering of Proverbs 4:26.

The context of 4:26 could be summed up in the words “watch where you’re going.” (See 4:25-27.) The idea in the larger context of chapter 4 is to avoid being distracted from good teaching (4:2), wisdom (4:5-9), and “right paths” (4:11-12). The “path of the wicked” and the “path of the just” are compared in 4:14-19. The way to “ponder” one’s path is to pay attention to right words (4:20-23) and to reject deceitful words (4:24).

In the larger context of Hebrews, the words of Hebrews 12:12 refer to the spiritual weakness of the original readers. Their limp and ineffective “hands” and weak “knees,” incapable of sustained exertion in walking or standing, relate to their dullness of hearing, for they had regressed to become babes in need of milk rather than solid food (Heb 5:11-13).[2] These words follow those of Isaiah 35:3.

“Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees” (Isaiah 35:3).

“Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees” (Heb 12:12).

The interplay of these verses between Proverbs, Hebrews, and Isaiah creates a significant network of meaning relating to the need to avoid the spiritual discouragement that comes from listening to wrong words that lead away from truth.

Those to whom Hebrews was first written were considering turning away from Christ and His New Covenant and returning to Moses and the Old Covenant (Heb 12:18-24.) This had brought them to the place of needing chastening to remind them to keep their focus on Jesus (Heb 12:2-11). The way they would strengthen their dangling hands and their feeble knees was to return to the straight paths that lead to “Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem . . . [the] church of the firstborn . . . to God the Judge of all . . . to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant” rather than to Moses an Mount Sinai (Heb 12:18-24).

The context of Isaiah 35:3 creates a breathtaking dimension of meaning concerning the identity of Jesus Christ and underscoring the reason these words are used in Hebrews 12:12 together with Proverbs 4:26 in Hebrews 12:13.

Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are fearful-hearted, “Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing. . . . A highway shall be there, and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it . . . . But the redeemed shall walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isaiah 35:3-6a, 8a, 9b-10).

These are words to which Jesus alluded when the discouraged and imprisoned John the Baptist sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:2-6). At this point in his life, John, like the readers of Hebrews, experienced “weak hands and feeble knees.” He had previously declared that Jesus was the Lamb of God, but in view of his present circumstances, he had questions (John 1:29, 36). He, like the Hebrews, needed to be reminded that the things Jesus had done indicated that He was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s promise: “Your God will come . . . He will come and save you” (Isaiah 35:4).

With the coming of Jesus, the right paths, the unhindered steps, and the path like the shining sun of Proverbs coalesce with Isaiah’s Highway of Holiness, leading those who walk thereon to Mount Zion and ultimately to Jesus, whose blood “speaks better things than that of Abel” (Heb 12:24).

Next Lesson

In our next lesson we will continue to consider the allusions to Proverbs in the New Testament.

[1] The use of a lower case letter (e.g., “a”) when referring to a verse is to indicate a portion of the verse.

[2] ASB, 1989.