The Teachings of Hebrew Wisdom on Diligence and Laziness
TheTeachings of Hebrew Wisdom on Diligence and Laziness
TheOld Testament is the basis of Hebrew wisdom literature, particularlyProverbs and Ecclesiastes, which address the subject of diligence andlaziness in a profound manner. Hebrew culture considers sagacity asthe key element, which every person ought to seek and acquire. Inthis regard, seeking wisdom is the principle goal to people who wantprosperity in life. According to Hindsonand Yates, “Hebrew wisdom literature is a certain kind of poeticliterature that was used to instruct the young person in the way ofwisdom” (233). However, the teachings extend beyond sagacity, oftenrecognizing the role of spiritual elements in leading a diligentlife.The Hebrew teachings associate wisdom with diligence and folly withlaziness. In other words, people who have wisdom are industriouswhile those who are fools are lazy. Seeking and acquiring prudence isa pathway to assiduousness. The teachings of Hebrew wisdom encouragechildren to adopt diligence in life and to shun slothfulness. It isthrough persistence and lethargy that Hebrew teachings find adistinction between someone who is wise and the one who is foolish.Both proverbs and Ecclesiastes provide succinct information onsluggishness as well as persistence. Hence, the paper describes theHebrew literature as asserted in the book and its role in instructingpeople on the godly and industrious ways of leading their lives.
TheBook of Proverbs on Diligence and Laziness
Proverbsclearly juxtaposes issues of diligence and laziness. It portrays thepresence of persistence because of wisdom. The two issues have directrelationship just as folly and sluggishness. Hindsonand Yatesassert, “Proverbs concentrates primarily on practical issues,rather than focusing on theological issues” (263). This means thatthe focus of the text is astuteness that relates to hard work andearthly matters. Solomon, who is the author of Proverbs in the bible,makes it clear that the wise man has diligence and the one who islazy is a fool (Pinker2).Such association demonstrates the value Hebrew culture valuesthoroughness. In admonishing the indolent, Solomon advises, “Go tothe ant, O lazy one Observe her ways and be wise” (AmplifiedBible,Proverbs 6.6). The book of proverbs illustrates the sagacity of theants in gathering food and working for living without compulsion.From this text, the author advises the fool to consider the ways ofant, and become wise by doing what it does. The passage vividlyassociates laziness to slumber, which brings poverty. In this case,lethargy is the doorway to poverty and disaster. On the other hand,the assertion shows that people who have triumphed in life have beenindustrious. This means that if individuals employ persistence intheir spiritual pursuits and daily life, they accomplish theirobjectives.
Ina separate text, Proverbs associates meticulousness with riches andsluggishness with poverty. Solomon writes, “Pooris he who works with a negligent and idle hand, But thehand of the diligent makes him rich. He who gathers duringsummer…, is a son who acts wisely, but he who sleeps duringharvest is a son who acts shamefully” (Proverbs 10.4-5). Solomondescribes how someone with lazy hands ends up being poor while ahardworking person makes wealth. In this context, Hebrew wisdom seesassiduousness as a means of generating riches (Goh8).Hebrew tradition, therefore, glorifies diligence and encourageschildren to work towards success. In the same way, Hebrew condemnslaziness and warns people against being indolent or failing to workhard. In this text, the author portrays the correlation betweenwisdom and diligence, and laziness and shame. People who work insummer by gathering food are described as wise (Pinker4).On the other hand, those who sleep during the time of harvest bringshame. From this description, laziness is a vise that demonstratesfolly while diligence is a virtue that portrays wisdom. However, itis also imperative to note that industrious individuals understandthe importance of “the fear of the Lord” since it allows them tomake godly choices. Hindsonand Yates contends, “The Jewish sages infused their literature withan understanding that all wisdom, even things related to everydaypractical matters, begin with the fear of the lord” (259).
Rulingis another element associated with diligence in Proverbs. Hebrewwisdom literature views wisdom as the character of a ruler. Solomondesired to have wisdom, a virtue he acquired after asking it fromGod. Since wisdom and diligence go hand in hand, Hebrew teachings seerulers as wise and hardworking people. In indicating that hardworkingpeople will have extensive authorities, Solomon asserts, “The handof the diligent will rule, But the negligent and lazywill be put to forced labor” (Proverbs 12. 24). The text tries topaint a clear picture of diligence in the minds of the audience asthe pathway to prestige and fulfillment (Goh11).On the other hand, the same text portrays laziness as the aspect thatbrings sorrow. Hebrew wisdom tends to create a negative picture oflaziness very clearly considering all the bad things such characterbrings (Pinker7).The literature however encourages diligence among the Hebrew people.In other words, the book of Proverbs put diligence as the requisitedemand for those who wish to become rulers.
ThePerspective of Ecclesiastes on Diligence and Laziness
Ecclesiastesoffers a clear emphasis on what Proverbs states about assiduousnessand lethargy. It serves as a reminder about the significance ofdiligence and dangers of laziness. In the words of Solomon, it isbetter for a wise man to rebuke a person than getting praises from afool (Ecclesiastes 7:5). In this regard, the text elevates wisdom asa virtue that benefits a man even in rebuking. On the contrary,Ecclesiastes lacks anything good in a foolish man (Lucas21).As a continuation of Proverbs, it is important to note that wisdomand diligence go together. Being diligent is beneficial when rebukingas opposed to fools when singing a song. In other words, when onebecomes hardworking and acquires wisdom, he or she gets audienceregardless of their speech. People take their word serious even whenreceiving a rebuke. Therefore, the Hebrew wisdom portrays the valueof diligence in different perspectives.
Solomonposits, “The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious and winhim favor, but the lips of a fool consume him the beginningof his talking is foolishness and the end of his talk is wickedmadness” (Ecclesiastes 10:12-13). The text considers the words ofthe wise man as gracious and those of the fools as disastrous. Thetext tends to focus on the need to consider wise words from those whoare assiduous. It also continues to despise the words of the lazyperson. Association with wisdom makes diligence appear as the keyaspect that leads to a happy life (Lucas29).The words of a hardworking man depict grace, as opposed to those ofthe lazy, which promote folly. In verse eighteen of the same chapter,the author uses ‘sagging and leaky’ roof because of having a lazyman in the house. The text seems to have no kind words for lazypeople, condemning indolence in the family and emphasizing the needto adopt meticulousness. Leaking roof as used in this textdemonstrates a man who does not care and who is useless. In otherwords, Ecclesiastes portrays laziness as the key route to poverty anddisaster, just as Proverbs does.
Proverbsand Ecclesiastes are two major references of the teachings of Hebrewwisdom especially on diligence and laziness. In general terms,diligence is one of the virtues Hebrew wisdom tends to promote amongits people. Whenever the two books mention diligence, they create apicture of wisdom. It makes the audience develop a need to seekwisdom and adopt diligence, as a way of gaining all good things onecan desire. Proverbs over emphasize the outcome of diligence asriches and fulfillment, which laziness brings forth poverty andsuffering. In addition, the book connects wisdom and diligence, whichare two virtues that go together. Considering that those who arediligent are wise, Ecclesiastes continues to give a clear picture ofbenefits of embracing diligence and dangers of laziness. The tworeference books to the Hebrew wisdom agree on the positive aspects ofdiligence and negative attributes of laziness. They all seem toencourage the audience to adopt diligence, as the principal factortowards success in life. Concisely, both Proverbs and Ecclesiastesconnect laziness to poverty and shame.
Goh,Elaine WF. “Political Wisdom in the Book of Ecclesiastes.” AsiaJournal of Theology,vol. 30, no. 1, 2016, pp. 7-12.
Hindson,Ed, and Gary Yates, eds. TheEssence of the Old Testament.B&H Publishing Group, 2012.
Lucas,Ernest C. Exploringthe Old Testament: A guide to the psalms & wisdom literature.3. InterVarsity Press, 2016.
Pinker,Aron. “On the Interpretation of Proverbs 12: 27.” Journalof Biblical Textual Criticism,vol. 18, no. 6, 2013, pp.1-8.
TheBible. AmplifiedBible (AMP), TheLockman Foundation, 2015.
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