08 October 2014

walK with THE Wise ~ "Trustworthy things to say"

Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say;
I open my lips to speak what is right. My mouth speaks what is true,
for my lips detest wickedness.
All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse.
To the discerning all of them are right;
they are upright to those who have found knowledge.
Choose my instruction instead of silver,
knowledge rather than choice gold,
for wisdom is more precious than rubies, 
and nothing you desire can compare with her.
Proverbs 8.6-11

Proverbs 7 describes an evil woman; Proverbs 8 presents an altogether different "woman," one who contrasts in every way with the adulteress of the previous verses. Wisdom, that second woman personified as a prophetess, calls. Will the young man heed? 

Elephants are often a symbol of wisdom in African literature.
The word translated trustworthy is an interesting Hebrew word. Nagid (naw-gheed') typically means leader, ruler or prince. For example, II Samuel 7:8: "Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the LORD of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince (nagid) over my people Israel…" (NRSV) Nagid often occurs in a specific context: (1.) military leadership (I Samuel 9:16), and (2.) prophetic sanction (I Samuel 9:16; 10:1; 13:14; II Samuel 5:2; I Kings 14:7; 16:2). The etymology of nagid is enlightening. It's root word is the verb nagad, which means to be conspicuous, tell, make known, expound, inform, publish, declare, or proclaim. This explains why a leader or ruler is called a nagid: he is one who plays a prominent public role among the people; he shows forth and is conspicuous when considered among his contemporaries. So how do we get an English translation of "trustworthy" or "excellent" from that particular Hebrew word?

There are four uses of the word nagid in wisdom literature: twice in Job and twice in Proverbs. In Proverbs 8:6, it is a different form of the word - and it is plural abstract noun. Equivalents in English would be words like hopes, ideas, freedoms, fears. Most linguists and theologians render it "noble things" in their commentaries. And while we don't typically consider noble to be a synonym for trustworthy, in English, both are synonyms for honorable. 

I love the word picture that comes to my mind as I reflect on the original word and it's etymology. Given that the word typically occurs in a military or prophetic appointment context, it reminds me that the things "Wisdom" tell us are useful in our battle against our sinful nature, are things that God had divinely appointed for us to know and to understand, and are to be the types of thoughts that rule in our minds and hearts.

Who will hear Wisdom's call? 
Who will pay attention and respond to the trustworthy things she has to say? 
Who will walk with THE Wise?

photo credit: Rainbirder via photopin cc

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