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February 2014: Proverbs 4 by Doug

Proverbs 4:2 demonstrates why you should learn Biblical languages. Yes, even you, the non-preacher, should at least learn a bit about them, even if you cannot quite read them. Learn more than just dictionary picking—in fact, I would argue that the casual student would do well to read grammars more than vocabulary. You need to grasp what’s happening. A lot of the bad Hebrew and Greek you encounter is because someone knows how to look up a word and pick a definition, but nothing else.

Moving forward, let’s take a look at the Solomonic command here. He tells his sons that he gives “sound” teaching. Sound? This is a summary type of word, meant to evoke several aspects of meaning. It can refer to moral goodness. It can refer to applicability. It can refer to trustworthiness. It can refer to pleasingness.

It is a word that carries all those meanings at once. For example, a “sound” building is not just pretty but functional; not just solid but well-thought out. It is, in fact, sound.

Here, we have sound teaching. Or, if you’re an ESVer, precepts. You have the idea of life principles that should be followed. This is perhaps illustrated as the parental imperative to “drive safely” when on the road. Driving safely is a precept: when it is wet, safely looks differently than it does when dry, and so forth. A precept is a general principle to be followed in all circumstances.

Alongside the precepts, the sound teaching, we also see instruction. This is where I find the Hebrew illustrative. The term here? It looks like “Torah” to me. (It also looks like “Torah” to Logos Bible Software, just for verification.)

Torah might be familiar to you. It is the label attached to the first segment of Jewish Scripture, to the first five books of the Christian Bible. These five, sometimes called the Pentateuch, are also called The Torah. This is the instruction for living, holding both law and narrative. Both the background of life and the way to live today.

The shade of meaning between “Torah” and “precepts” is like this: Precepts say that one should drive safely. Torah says to stop at the stop sign. Torah also would illustrate this with a story about either why we have stop signs, or how Great Uncle Bob was killed because of a lack of stop signs.

Torah gives you how to follow the precepts—and the two are in concert in what they say. Torah sets the Speed Limit, but following a precept of “Safe” may cause you to drive even slower.

Solomon commends both to his sons here. These are worth knowing, worth following, and worth passing on.

And by far, not something to abandon, not for all the profits of outsourcing or the power of lobbying groups.


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