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Literature / Book of Proverbs

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"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; but fools despise wisdom and instruction."
Proverbs 1:7

The Book of Proverbs is exactly what the name implies. It is a rich collection of sayings gathered from various places and is produced over lengthy periods. Generally, this book focuses on how wisdom is gained from God.


This book of wisdom provides examples of:

  • Alas, Poor Villain: Proverbs 24:17-18 seeks to enforce this trope:
    “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the LORD see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him.”
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  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Proverbs 20:1: “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.”
  • All Women Are Lustful: Some of the verses give out some warnings about "strange women."
  • Antagonistic Offspring: The "foolish" child is presented as this in some of the passages. Here's Proverbs 15:20 for example:
    "A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish man despiseth his mother."
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: Folly, personified as a seductive female prostitute, is contrasted with Wisdom, personified as a woman preaching in the streets.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Of the four things in Proverbs chapter 30 that the world cannot bear, "an odious woman when she is married" seems to suggest this is going to happen.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: "The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel." (Proverbs 12:10)
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  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Proverbs 30:20 (paraphrased): "A whore has sex with a man, then eats, wipes her mouth, and says, 'What did I do?'"
  • Cannot Keep a Secret: "He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets; therefore do not meddle with him who flatters with his lips." (Proverbs 20:19)
  • Can't Take Criticism: There are many verses such as Proverbs 15:5 that people are regarded as fools who hate correction and reproof and that wise people avoid this trope.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Proverbs 21:10 describes a truly wicked man who desires only to do evil For the Evulz and has a complete Lack of Empathy even for his neighbors. The verse following encourages us to punish such a scorner, so that even the simpleminded will learn how NOT to behave like him.
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: "It may seem to be a good thing to get something by cheating, but in the end, it will be worth nothing." (Proverbs 20:17, Easy-To-Read Version)
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  • Chronic Villainy: "As a dog returns to its vomit, so does a fool repeat his folly." (Proverbs 26:11)
  • Composite Character: The Wife of Noble Character is an amalgam of all the roles a "respectable" woman of that time and place could play. Unfortunately, some take this to mean that a "worthy" woman must do it all, or that if she's infertile/Hollywood Homely/not a shrewd businessperson/whatever, she's unworthy or not a "real" woman, or that she must be a mother first and foremost even if she doesn't want to be a mom, or that a woman's place is in the home (despite her very clearly not remaining solely in the private sphere). It should be noted that she was created not to tell women what they should be doing, but to encourage men to appreciate the work done by the women in their lives, the way her husband does.
  • Cub Cues Protective Parent: Proverbs 17:12:
    "It is better for a person to meet a mother bear being robbed of her cubs, than to encounter a fool in his folly. "
  • Dirty Coward: Proverbs 28:1:
    "The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion."
  • Don't Make Me Take My Belt Off: There are various passages which deal with a parent beating a child with a rod in order for him to gain wisdom and understanding. Proverbs 23:13-14 is a prominent example:
    "Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell."
  • Driven by Envy: According to Proverbs 27:4, envy is seen as worse than anger.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Proverbs 28:5 shows how evil, blinded by its own ego, is truly incapable of understanding the goodness of people.
    Evil men do not understand justice, but they who crave and seek the Lord understand it fully.
  • Evil Tastes Good: This is utilized as An Aesop in Proverbs 9:13-18 in regards to the foolish woman.
  • Eye Scream: From Proverbs 30:17:
    The eye that mocks at his father,
    and despises to obey his mother,
    the ravens of the valley will pick it out,
    and the young eagles will eat it.
  • The Fool: His character is analyzed in great detail throughout many proverbs in the book, as the opposite of the wise person we should want to emulate instead.
  • God of Evil: In regards of evil, Proverbs states that anything can be good in the proper context and that God allows it to exist to show that without moral value, people are no better than the animals they share this life with. Though Solomon said this after years of experimenting with "evil" and suffering the consequences for it.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Proverbs 27:5-6 shows the difference between those who are upright and trustworthy and those who are anything but:
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Proverbs 5:15-19 tells men not to let their "streams" be dispersed abroad, but let them be for their own (most likely a metaphor for discouraging sexual immorality), that they should "let [their] fountains be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of [their] youth," to "let her be as the loving deer and pleasant doe; let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and always be enraptured with her love."
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Proverbs 27:4:
    "Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?"
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Proverbs 29:11:
    "A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control."
  • Henpecked Husband: Proverbs like "Better to live on the corner of a roof than to share a house with a nagging wife" seem to be speaking toward these types of people to garner some level of sympathy, although they can alternately be interpreted as instructions for husbands to not give their wives any reason to be nagging.
  • Heroic Second Wind: Proverbs 24:16 - "For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again."
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Proverbs 18:24 states that a person with many friends will be harmed, but one true friend sticks closer than a brother.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Proverbs 31:4-7 are the words from King Lemuel's mother to her son:
    It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
    It is not for kings to drink wine,
    Nor for princes intoxicating drink;
    Lest they drink and forget the law,
    And pervert the justice of all the afflicted.
    Give strong drink to him who is perishing,
    And wine to those who are bitter of heart.
    Let him drink and forget his poverty,
    And remember his misery no more.
  • "Just Joking" Justification: Proverbs 26:18-19 is an Ur-Example.
    "Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows of death is one who deceives their neighbor and says, 'I was only joking!'”
  • Lazy Bum: The "sluggard" is a recurring character whose purpose is to warn against slothfulness. In the example below, this guy is so lazy that he won't even eat food.
    The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth (26:15).
  • Loners Are Freaks: Stated in Proverbs 18:1.
    "An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends and against all sound judgment starts quarrels."
  • Madonna–Whore Complex: The "strange" women mentioned above contrasted to the likes of the Wife of Noble Character, and to a personification of wisdom.
  • Malicious Slander: "The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool." (Proverbs 10:18)
  • Meat Versus Veggies: Proverbs 15:17 in the New Living Translation says "A bowl of vegetables with someone you love is better than steak with someone you hate."
  • Mediation Backfire: Proverbs 26:17 says "Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own."
  • Mock Millionaire: That and Secretly Wealthy are both addressed in Proverbs 13:7.
    One person pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth. (New International Version)
  • Moral Myopia: Discussed in Proverbs 21:2.
    "Every man's way is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts." (Proverbs 21:2)
  • Motor Mouth: Proverbs 29:11.
    "A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards."
  • No Accounting for Taste: Averted by Proverbs 21:19 which assures that it's better to be in a wilderness than to be around an angry woman.
  • No Sympathy: Proverbs 19:18 in the King James Version advises that parents should not stop chastising their children when they're crying.
    "Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying."
  • Obvious Trap: Proverbs 1:17 says "surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird" in regard to those seeking to rob people through violence.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Proverbs 20:22 averts this.
    "Do not take vengeance against evil, but wait for the Lord and He will avenge you."
  • The Power of Love: "Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses." (Proverbs 10:12)
  • Pride Before a Fall: Proverbs 16:18: "Pride goeth before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall."
  • Property Line: Proverbs 22:28 prohibits moving your neighbor's boundary stone or other property marker, presumably to prevent just such a quarrel taking place.
  • Pushover Parents: Proverbs 13:24 states that parents who don't discipline their children are the ones who don't love them.
    "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes."
  • Right Way/Wrong Way Pair: The first 29 chapters are all about the contrast of the wise man and The Fool.
  • Rule of Seven: Proverbs 6:16-19 has seven things that are an abomination to the LORD:
  • The Scrounger: The ideal of a Virtuous Woman is described. Among the qualities described are that she is tireless, self-disciplined, good at business, keeps a tight ship at home, faithful to her husband, knows her way about the Bazaar, and is very good at being this trope.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Gender-inverted in Proverbs 18:22:
    "Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD."
  • Slashed Throat: Proverbs 23:1-3 suggests putting a knife to your own throat if you're a man given to appetite when you sit down to eat with a ruler, and to not desire his delicacies because they are deceptive food.
  • Tarnishing Their Own Beauty: Proverbs 11:22 says that "like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman that shows no discretion."
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: The Wife of Noble Character runs a successful textile business, as well as staying on top of the mending to be done at home.
  • The Tooth Hurts: Proverbs 25:19 says that "confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint."
  • Turn the Other Cheek: "If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you." Proverbs 25:21-22.
  • The Unfettered: Proverbs 25:28 warns about being such:
    He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls. (King James Version)
  • The Vamp: Chapter 7 is all about the adulterous woman who seeks after a young man to have sex with, and entices him with such promises that he goes in unto her, unaware that it's going to cost him his life, and from that comes the Aesop of not falling for such women.
  • Very Punchable Man: Proverbs 18:6 "The lips of fools bring them strife, and their mouths invite a beating."
  • Violence Is Disturbing: Proverbs 16:29 "A man of violence entices his neighbor and leads him in a way that is not good."
  • Violence Is the Only Option: Proverbs 29:19 implies that a servant cannot be corrected by words alone, and while he understands, he will not respond.
  • Women Are Wiser: Proverbs 31:10-31 provides the details for the Virtuous Woman.
  • You Fool!: "Fool" is the author's favorite epithet for the person who is refusing to be wise.

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