The fourth part of proverbs are further sayings of the wise. They are introduced by the heading: ”These also are sayings of the wise.” This part is very short – it consists of Proverbs 24:23-34. The heading suggests that like the third part of Proverbs these are sayings of wise people from surrounding nations adapted for Israel. Noting that in part three (the thirty sayings of the wise) that the last two parts had five sayings each, Waltke also counts five sayings in this collection. The five sayings are: Proverbs 24:23b-25, 26, 27, 28-29, and 30-34. Remember that simply by placing these wisdom sayings borrowed from the world in the context of Proverbs, they now are in the right context for them to be truly wise sayings. We will not have a whole lot to say about these five sayings, they essentially function as a brief appendix to the original three parts.
But while the five sayings at first glance appear to be an odd collection, Waltke observes the following alternating pattern holding them together as a collection:
Waltke he also brings to our attention that Proverbs 24:33-34, the last two verses, have already appeared in Proverbs 6:10-11. In each place, these verses serve a different function. It might be worth further reflection to go and compare these verses borrowed from the world and see how they function in these two different places. This then would be helpful for knowing how to benefit from other wisdom sayings.
The first saying (Proverbs 24:23b-25) consists of an introductory line followed by a quatrain – the two halves of which are related antithetically (see the unusual ”but” introducing verse 25). Proverbs 24:23b says, ”Partiality in judging is not good.” Then we see an example of partiality in judging in Proverbs 24:24a – ”Whoever says to the wicked, ‘You are in the right,” and the ”not good” then becomes in Proverbs 24:24b ”will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations.” So then the two parts of the introductory proverb correspond to the two halves of the next verse, and then as we will see now the following contrasting verse as well. The contrast in Proverbs 24:25, also deals with speech – rebuke – ”but those who rebuke the wicked will have delight, and a good blessing will come upon them.” The ”not good” is thus contrasted with the ”good blessing.” And the person who rebukes the wicked is contrasted with the judge who shows partiality.
Proverbs 24:26 stands alone – it is unusual because it does not have two parts – only one. ”Whoever gives an honest answer kisses the lips.” Tremper Longman helpfully says the following about the verse: ”Kissing and truth-telling are two positive and pleasurable acts one can perform or receive from lips. Telling the truth is a kind act.”
Proverbs 24:27 is the third saying. Now we come to the realm of work and it is put positively. ”Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.”
Proverbs 24:28-29 are one saying, says Waltke, but ”each verse represents a distinct admonition.” Thus though they are one saying they are two parts of the outline image we saw earlier. Here the focus is not on the judge but upon the witness in the trial. ”Be not a witness against your neighbor without cause, and do not deceive with your lips. Do not say, ‘I will do to him as he has done to me; I will pay the man back for what he has done.”’ And the second half gives us the wrong answer, unlike the right answer compared to kissing that we saw earlier.
The fifth saying is longer than the first four. This one is two pairs with a single line in the middle. The first pair is as follows: ”I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down.” The single line is ”Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction.” As you can see this line has two parts, as usual. This line serves as the transition from the observation of the sluggard to the application that follows. That application is the following pair: ”A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man” (Proverbs 24:33-34). Given the context of Proverbs it appears that we are to understand the father is speaking and even modeling for his son the wisdom that he is trying to teach to his son. ”Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction.” This is what he wants his son to do as well.
The fifth saying invites us to compare the sluggard with the worker who gets everything ready in the field and then builds their house (cf. Proverbs 24:27 above). It is one thing for the wise father to tell his son this truth, but it is much more effective for the father to get his son to observe the folly of the sluggard and for it to dawn on that son that the sluggard will be poor and hungry and that this is not what the son wants to experience for himself.
Many of these statements are what many people used to call common sense. There is a sense in which they are common — that is, you may stumble onto these truths without being in a relationship with YHWH. These are sayings borrowed from the surrounding peoples. But there is a sense in which there is no such thing as “common sense.” After all, the one saying even says it — ”I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense!” If it were common to all people, that man would not have lacked it. But these are all truths that are observable by looking at the way that God has designed creation. And whether or not he wants to give God the credit, the unbeliever lives in this world that God has designed.
Yet it is so very tragic that anyone would live life relatively wisely and yet never have a relationship with God. How much better it would be to have a relationship with God, the God of Israel, and then learn these wisdom sayings as a son or daughter of that true and living God. This is the design of the book — it is to help those who believe in YHWH to live in harmony with the world that He made.