What does it say?

These are more maxims that are not necessarily connected. As you did yesterday, mark those that particularly jump out at you as you read these three chapters. You will see the word soul many times in Proverbs (and the rest of the Old Testament). Most of the time the word soul refers to the complete human being, not a technical term meant to be distinguished from spirit or body, for example.

What does it mean?

Here I’ll share some examples that might assist you in correctly interpreting other proverbs. Proverbs 13:24 is often misquoted as “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” That line was actually written by Samuel Butler in 1664 and suggests a standard, one solution approach to parenting. Reading the whole of Proverbs it quickly becomes clear that there is no “one way” of disciplining or instructing children, but rather a plethora of approaches depending on a equally large number of variables – age, circumstances, severity of offense, desired outcomes, etc. Proverbs gives general principles and truths, leaving parents to respond according to individual need and circumstance with multiple levels of discipline from transparent and clear discussion of bad behavior to corporal punishment. This is why we need wisdom to know which truths to apply in any given circumstance.

How might Proverbs 14:12 relate to the common perception today that there is not such a thing as absolute truth? The word neighbor in 14:20 (and elsewhere) is not limited to someone who lives next to you or near to you, but to anyone with whom you might come in contact.

You must take into account one very important factor as you read through Proverbs. There is a difference between an absolute promise and a proverb that simply express some truth or principle that, all things being equal, is generally the case. For example, Proverbs 15:1 says that a soft answer turns away wrath. Jesus’ soft answers before Pilate did not turn away the wrath of the cross. But, all things being equal, the principle of Proverbs 15:1 is most generally true. This is why the book instructs us to get wisdom above all. Wisdom enables us to know which of these maxims to apply in different moments of life, and how.

How will I respond?

What verses spoke to my heart today? Do I really understand what they say and what they mean in context? What specific step will I take to apply these truths to my life today?