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Proverbs 22:17-29 (ESV)
Words of the Wise
17 Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge, 18 for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, if all of them are ready on your lips. 19 That your trust may be in the Lord, I have made them known to you today, even to you. 20 Have I not written for you thirty sayings of counsel and knowledge, 21 to make you know what is right and true, that you may give a true answer to those who sent you? 22 Do not rob the poor, because he is poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate, 23 for the Lord will plead their cause and rob of life those who rob them. 24 Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, 25 lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare. 26 Be not one of those who give pledges, who put up security for debts. 27 If you have nothing with which to pay, why should your bed be taken from under you? 28 Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set. 29 Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.
We now enter a new section of Proverbs, which will continue to 24:22. These “sayings of the wise” were not written by Solomon. They are actually adapted from the “30 sayings,” a famous Egyptian book known as “The Instruction of Amenemope.” (Some translations, like the NIV, will number these sayings for you). This was an instruction manual for guiding young civil servants in their government service. Solomon probably had this book in his library. God inspired an anonymous teacher in his court to take this Egyptian wisdom, and adapt it, to make it compatible with God’s teaching (see examples in 22:19, 23 & 23:17). The lesson for us is this: Christians are not limited to learning only from Christians. Because God loves all people, he has allowed even unbelievers to have some wisdom about everyday life. (However, they don’t know the truth about God or salvation). Christians can benefit from these writings, as long as they are careful to “spit out the bones,” which is to say, reject those things that are contrary to Scripture. An example of this would be a Christian businessman learning leadership skills from a book written by a Mormon, or a mom learning parenting skills from an unbelieving neighbor.