36: “The Fear of the Lord Is the Beginning of Wisdom” (Proverbs 1–4; 15–16; 22; 31; Ecclesiastes 1–3; 11–12)
If you’ve ever had a fortune cookie, you know its crispy sweetness is just half the fun—inside these cookies is a fortune on a slip of paper that is said to bring luck and prosperity to the receiver. The verses in this week’s lesson of Proverbs 1–4; 15–16; 22; and 31 as well as Ecclesiastes 1–3 and 11–12, may at first remind you of the messages inside one of these tasty treats. But as we dive deeper into the meaning of these verses, we think you’ll find something much more satisfying than any fortune cookie can offer.
Proverbs 6:6–8 (Consider the ant)
Proverbs 25:24 (Avoid contention)
Proverbs 17:14 (Leave off contention)
Proverbs 17:17 (A friend loves at all times)
Proverbs 21:19 (Avoid contention)
Proverbs 31:1, 10–31 (Proverb of a virtuous woman)
Proverbs 3:11 (Happy is the person who finds wisdom)
Wisdom Literature = The books of Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon
Special revelation = Words of the prophets
General revelation = Seeing God in His creatures
Who wrote Proverbs?
“Some of the book of Proverbs is attributed to ‘Solomon the son of David, the king of Israel’ (see Proverbs 1:1; 10:1; 25:1; see also 1 Kings 4:32; Guide to the Scriptures, “Proverb—the book of Proverbs”; scriptures.lds.org). However, while Solomon is considered an author of many of the proverbs, it is best to think of the book of Proverbs as a library of the wisdom of the Israelites. Some of its content is deeply spiritual, while some ‘does not rise above the plane of worldly wisdom, but throughout it is taken for granted that ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ (1:7; 9:10)” (Bible Dictionary, “Proverbs, book of”)” (“Introduction to the Book of Proverbs,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual, ChurchofJesusChrist.org).
“Proverbs 1–9 These proverbs contain a poetic invitation for the reader to seek after and acquire true wisdom. They expound on the nature of knowledge, the meaning of life, and the path to success.
“Proverbs 10–24 These proverbs comprise many short sayings about right and wrong ways of living. They offer practical advice about family life, controlling anger, the dangers of pride, and a number of other topics.
“Proverbs 25–29 These proverbs speak about righteous leadership, the duty of the people to help the poor, and the value of wisdom in daily life.
“Proverbs 30–31 The words of Agur and King Lemuel conclude the book. Agur admonishes the reader that ‘every word of God is pure’ (Proverbs 30:5) and speaks of the dangers of hypocrisy. King Lemuel recites the words of his mother that warn against strong drink. A virtuous woman is more valuable than the riches of this world; she reveres the Lord and is diligent, generous, wise, and kind” (“Introduction to the Book of Proverbs,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual, ChurchofJesusChrist.org).
Luke 14:7–11 (The Savior teaching wisdom literature)
Proverbs 1:7 (Fools despise wisdom)
Proverbs 10:1 (Wisdom v. Foolishness)
Proverbs 22:6 (Raise a child in the way that they should go)
Fear = Reverence, awe
Mashal = Comparison or parable
“The righteous fear I am attempting to describe encompasses a deep feeling of reverence, respect, and awe for the Lord Jesus Christ (see Psalm 33:8; 96:4), obedience to His commandments (see Deuteronomy 5:29; 8:6; 10:12; 13:4; Psalm 112:1), and anticipation of the Final Judgment and justice at His hand. Thus, godly fear grows out of a correct understanding of the divine nature and mission of the Lord Jesus Christ, a willingness to submit our will to His will, and a knowledge that every man and woman will be accountable for his or her own sins in the Day of Judgment (see D&C 101:78; Articles of Faith 1:2)” (Elder David A. Bednar, “Therefore They Hushed Their Fears,” April 2015 general conference).
Proverbs 31:10 (Who can find a virtuous woman)
Proverbs 31:11 (Husband = Christ)
Proverbs 31:13–31 (What we can become as covenant keepers)
CR: Doctrine and Covenants 46:9 (Seeketh so to do)
Proverbs 31:21 (Has no fear of death because of the Atonement)
Acrostic Poem = A poem where the first letter of each line spells out a word.
Virtuous = Powerful
I Am = I will become who I will become
“The imagery of Jehovah as bridegroom and Israel as bride is among the most commonly used metaphors in scripture, being used by the Lord and his prophets to describe the relationship between Deity and the children of the covenant” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ And The New Covenant, p. 290).
Who Wrote Ecclesiastes?
“Little is known about the writer of Ecclesiastes beyond his own description of himself as ‘the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem’ (Ecclesiastes 1:1)” (Introduction to the Book of Ecclesiastes,” Old Testament Seminary Manual, ChurchofJesusChrist.org).
Ecclesiastes 1:3–5 (Fame is fleeting)
Ecclesiastes 2:1–10 (Worldly possession)
Ecclesiastes 3 (Everything has a season)
Koheleth = One who convenes
Hebel = vapor or breath
Habal = act emptily
“It is important to remember that the author of Ecclesiastes, the Preacher, wrote as if there is no life after death. These statements are made with that thought in mind and fail to account for truths about life after death taught elsewhere in the scriptures (see Alma 34:34; D&C 138:30). Therefore, the writer of Ecclesiastes was not making a doctrinal declaration that nobody thinks, feels, or works after they die; he was simply illustrating the perspective on life after death for someone living ‘under the sun’ with no understanding of life beyond mortality” (Old Testament Seminary Manual “Ecclesiastes & Song of Solomon” (“Lesson 115: Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual, ChurchofJesusChrist.org).
Ecclesiastes 11:2 (Help others)
Ecclesiastes 11:9–10 (Walk after the way of your heart)
CR: Doctrine and Covenants 137:9 (We will be judged according to our hearts)
Ecclesiastes 12:8 (Vanity isn’t worth your heart)
Ecclesiastes 12:13 (Do good and keep covenants)
Proverbs 8:35 (Wisdom = Life)
The Sunday on Monday Study Group is a Deseret Bookshelf Plus original brought to you by LDS Living. It's written and hosted by me Tammy Uzelac Hall, and today our awesome study group participants were Melinda Wheelwright Brown and Kerry Muhlestein. And you can find more information about my friends at LDSliving.com/sundayonmonday. Our podcast is produced by Katie Lambert and me. It is edited by Hailey Higham and it is recorded and mixed by Mix at Six Studios. Our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. Thanks for being here. We'll see you next week. And please remember you really are God's favorite.
When my family gets Chinese food, our favorite part of meal is the fortune cookie. Now if you're anything like my family, then you'll probably find today's discussion of Proverbs amusing because to me, some of the proverbs read like a fortune cookie with a religious undertone. As we study Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, we get to learn about these two Poetic Books, why they are in Scripture, and what they actually have to teach us about Jesus Christ. Welcome to the Sunday on Monday Study Group, a Deseret Bookshelf Plus original brought to you by LDS Living, where we take the Come, Follow Me lesson for the week and we really dig into the scriptures together. I'm your host, Tammy Uzelac Hall.
So for those of you who are listening, and you're new to our study group, we just want to make sure you know how to use this podcast. So you can follow the link in our description. And that's going to explain how you can best use this podcast to enhance your Come, Follow Me study just like my friends - and this is so fun - Emma Ellis and Gina Kemp, who I met at Heber Valley girls' camp when I spoke, and then Gina Kemp's good friend, Amy Starks. And they listen together and they don't even live by each other, but they call each other throughout the week, and they talk about things that they learned on the podcast. So Hi, ladies. Hi to all of you. Thanks for listening. Okay, now this is my favorite part of our podcast, is that each week I'm joined by two friends. It's Kerry Muhlestein, and the other friend is Melinda Wheelwright Brown. Hello, you two.
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 1:16
Hey, Tammy and Kerry; great to be here with both of you.
We are excited about this, because we get to talk about Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. And I'm just really hoping that you can convert me to Ecclesiastes you two, because I did NOT like that book.
Kerry Muhlestein 1:31
We'll get there. We'll get there.
Because Kerry says he likes it a lot, which doesn't surprise me. I'm like, I know Kerry's gonna convince me this is a good book, right?
Kerry Muhlestein 1:39
Here we go.
Here we go. Totally. This is kind of cool about my friends though. They both are authors. And so Melinda Wheelwright Brown is the author of the excellent book - I love it so much - "Eve and Adam, Discovering the Beautiful Balance". And then Kerry Muhlestein. He's the author of several books, but specifically the one you're gonna want to know about for this year is "Learning to Love Isaiah". So I cannot wait to use that when we get to Isaiah and, Kerry is gonna join us for the very last Isaiah episode. So if you haven't learned to love it by then you will when he's on with us. Right?
Kerry Muhlestein 2:10
Another one where we'll get there, right? We'll make this happen.
We're gonna make this happen for sure. So this is exciting. If you want to learn more about my guests, you can read their bios which are in our show notes at LDSliving.com/sundayonmonday. So go there, check it out, find out all their fun information and read their books. They're really good. Okay, grab your scriptures, your scripture journal, something to mark with because we're just going to dive right into the book of Proverbs. Here we go.
Okay, you two, I had to start out the beginning with Fortune cookies. Because for reals when I taught this as a seminary teacher, I ordered a gigantic box of fortune cookies from a wholesaler and we would open them and eat them and we'd laugh, and then I'd tell my kids, All right, go into the book of Proverbs - any chapter - pick anything you want, scan through it and just yell out any kind of proverb that you think is fun. Something, because they'd never ever studied the book of Proverbs before. And I kind of felt like they were fortune cookies with a religious undertone. Am I wrong?
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 3:06
No, you're so right.
Yes, they are so much fun to read. And so one of the things we're going to start out with is I asked my guests to come prepared to share maybe one of their, two of their favorite proverbs: a fun one and then a more serious ones. You guys got something for us?
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 3:19
Kerry Muhlestein 3:20
Okay, we're gonna start with you. Hit it, Melinda, what do you got?
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 3:23
Okay, well, let's see. One fun one that I think is great is from Proverbs 6:6-8, and it says "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. I just think that's kind of a fun one, the whole story of 'The Ant and the Grasshopper,' right?
Oh, that's good. Hold on. I gotta mark that, Proverbs 6:6-8.
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 3:43
Six through eight. Yeah, and then you want my serious one now, too, or should we hear Kerry's fun first?
Oh, yeah, Kerry’s fun one.
Kerry Muhlestein 3:49
All right, actually, you just gave one that I was considering. But I decided to go into dangerous territory where I shouldn't go. I'm gonna go to Proverbs 25 and we're just going to change it. It talks about a woman but I think this is true of anyone male or female. 25:24 It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop, than with a brawling [man or] woman (I added the man there, but anyway) "with the brawling [man or] woman in a wide House." And it's funny, and yet it's not because we know that contention, like President Nelson has been talking about, that contention is no fun. But I just love the way they say it like, I'd rather just live in a little teeny place with peace than in a big place where it's all sorts of fightings, yeah.
I like that you chose that one. I, mine is the exact same. Well, it's kind of in the same camp. Go to Proverbs chapter 21. Because this one always made me laugh. Verse 19. "It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman." I'm just gonna leave it right there at woman because, Amen. You better watch your steps. That's all I have to say or you're gonna want to live in the wilderness. So that one is sort of a warning. I love that, that cracks me up, that one. Okay, yeah. Good. Let's go into the ones we thought were serious. What are some of the ones you've liked that affected you, Melinda? Go ahead.
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 5:06
Well, kind of from what both of you just shared in 17:14. I love this metaphor it makes of water going down a drain. It reads "The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with." I think that's a great image of your water just trickling down the drain before you even realize it. You're just sitting there cold in your bathtub with no water left. So, quench the tensions fast.
K, that's a really good one.
Kerry Muhlestein 5:38
So there's a theme that just tied all these together, right. I think President Nelson would like this theme, telling us: Get contention out of our lives.
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 5:50
Oh, that's a good one, Melinda. I'm putting your name next to that. Hold, please.
Kerry Muhlestein 5:56
Okay, go ahead, Kerry.
All right. So I'm not going to do my very favorite scripture of all, in any scripture, is Proverbs 3,5,& 6. But I think everyone's gonna do that all the time. So I chose one that's actually just a few verses after Melinda's. So we're still in 17. And this one is really meaningful to me. Chapter 17"17: "A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." And I've just seen that in my life and in the lives of my family members that you know, there are friends who are there when things are good. And then you've got those friends who are there when things are bad. And they were born for adversity, and they'll get you through that adversity. And sometimes they may not understand what you're going through, and what's happening, but they know it's hard. And they're just there. And sometimes they don't need to do anything else but be there. But a brother or a sister and a friend are there at all times, and especially for adversity. And that has, that touches me because of my own experiences.
Well do you have a specific one that you could share?
Kerry Muhlestein 7:02
Yeah, I can share it. I've talked about it a little bit on my podcast already. But I have a friend who recently shared with us something he was kind of writing a little bit of a retrospective on his life and talked about a time when he was dealing with some serious depression. And he was my roommate. And we'd been friends in middle school, in high school, and then in college, and none of us really understood what he was going through. And sometimes we weren't even sure what we were supposed to do to help him. And I think depression was less understood in the early 90s. But we didn't really understand what he was going through. But we just, he was our friend and so we just were there whenever we could be there. And in his little thing that he wrote, he said, you know, he didn't realize how much that got him through, the fact that we didn't always know what to do but it didn't matter to us. And that we didn't always understand him, but it didn't matter, that we were there. And that has, continues to help him through some hard times. And I can't tell you, I mean, I've experienced my friends who have even very recently been there for some very hard times for us, but that same group, But I think it was even more touched by hearing my friend 30 years later talking about how much that had meant to him when it didn't seem that big of a deal to us. And we didn't realize what a big thing it was for him.
Kerry, thank you. Thank you so much for sharing that touching example and personal story, because that was something we all can use in our lives. I appreciate that. Mine is it is going to be Proverbs 31:10-31. And it's the proverb of a Virtuous woman, because I've spent the last seven years of my life studying it in Hebrew. And for years, anytime I would teach The Book of Proverbs, we would have this fun with the fortune cookies, and the kids would call out different things. And then I would have them go to Proverbs chapter 31. And I'd have them mark it, because this is the proverb of a virtuous woman. And every time I taught it, I would start out by saying, because the first thing, first qualifier in verse 10, is that a virtuous woman, "Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies'" and then verse 11, "The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her,",,,
And I would always say, I mean, I know I'm not married, but when I get married, I will be virtuous. And then look at all the things that I'm going to do. And I just went through verse by verse and kind of just made up what I don't, I don't really know. I mean, no one really, no one had ever developed this proverb. There was nothing we could go on in our manuals or teacher manuals. And so I would actually have students sometimes read a verse and say, Tell me what you think this means. And when I did get married, I went back and read this proverb. Wow, I read it in Hebrew. And it's like that line in Princess Bride: "I don't think it means what you think it means." And I had this incredible experience with it. And so I'll talk about that a little bit later.
But specifically, what I think is so cool about this proverb is in verse one. In Proverbs chapter 31:1 it says, "The words of King Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him." And it's one of the only scriptures we have attributed to a woman. And I think that's pretty amazing. And so we have this mother teaching her son what to look for in a future wife. And it's going to be pretty profound when we get there, which I just love this proverb.
So that's mine, Proverbs 31. We're gonna have so much fun today. So our challenge to you all and those of you who are listening, go through Proverbs, and find a fun one and a serious one. And you can even share them on social media, we would love that. Share the Proverbs that you were finding that either stand out to make you laugh, or if there's one that really touches your heart, and we'd love to know what they are. So we have these books, we have Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. But there's something really important that we need to know: these two books join three other books in the Bible. And they're known as The Poetic Books of the Old Testament, but they also fall into a really cool category. So in the next segment, we're going to find out what that is.
Segment 2 11:07
Okay, I have been looking forward to this discussion ever since I knew the three of us were going to be here. So we are going to talk about this category that several books from the Old Testament belong to and I've asked Melinda to teach us about this, and we'll discuss it the three of us together. So Melinda, hit it.
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 11:23
Okay. All right, this is so fun to work on. I absolutely love Wisdom Literature, which is the category that you're describing here. If you think it's kind of different genres that are contained within the Old Testament, we have things like narrative, law, poetry, prophecy, and apocalyptic writings. And so Wisdom Literature is one of those and there's some overlap with a lot of them. Them in the nature of Hebrew is very poetic. So we feel this sense of poetry throughout a lot of the Old Testament in the Hebrew Bible. But specifically, Wisdom Literature typically refers to the books of Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, or Song of Solomon, as it is in the King James Version.
One of the fun pieces about Wisdom Literature that's really interesting is that this is a genre that was happening in a broader sense than just in the religious realm. So in the neighboring cultures and communities around Israel, there was also Wisdom Literature being created, like in Egypt and Mesopotamia. And so this was sort of like a trend in the time. And so these books sort of act almost as a response to what's happening in the cultures around them, which is kind of an interesting little piece of the story as well. And the idea of what they're defining as wisdom, I think, is really interesting. I think in the spiritual sense, Wisdom Literature has to do with this sort of alchemized combination of knowledge, intelligence, and truths. And so it's this big idea that I kind of like to think of as sort of the way of Christ.
And in my studies of Wisdom literature, the predominant theme that I feel comes out of it is that it's what living in a covenantal relationship with Christ looks like and feels like. And the poetry is great for that, because poetry is so good at capturing our emotions and feelings. And so I think it's been just illustrating what it looks like to live in a covenant relationship with Christ. But it really does help us feel it and recognize the blessings that come with it. And the challenges that come when we choose not to, because so much of the style of Wisdom Literature is parallelism, which shows lots of comparison between, Well, if you don't do it, it feels like this. If you do it, it feels like this. And as we know, that's how we learn. And so it's a super, super great way for learning.
But one of my very favorite things about Wisdom Literature that I think is a fascinating way, or lens, I should say, to read these books through is the idea of the difference between special revelation versus general revelation. So if I can just explain briefly kind of the difference in that. We receive lots of special revelation, particularly twice a year in Conference Weekend. Special revelation is like the words of the Prophets and the things that come across the podium and are very precise and excellent advice and counsel and guidance and that sort of direction. But general revelation is more of the sense that in the entire order of the universe, we see God's hand at work and His design in things.
It reminds me of, there was a time many years ago that I remember one of my children giving me a little 'eye roll', as we're so familiar with, our children, right? When I was, I can't even remember what we were doing, but we were out in nature and we were seeing something. And I just was taking that opportunity to jump right to a gospel message. And I was saying, Oh, look, this is just like it with Jesus or whatever. And I remember us child said, "Oh, Mom, you see Jesus everywhere." I was kind of reflecting back on that as I was studying this recently, because I think that's really the point of this, is that some of the Proverbs especially. But also Ecclesiastes is good for this as well, We're seeing what normal life looks like. So some people might read some of these and think, Why does this need to be canonized? This is basic common sense, right? This isn't like, church stuff. This is just life. And this is obvious, or whatever.
But I think the bigger picture is that through all of that we see Divine design. And when we recognize that both general revelation and special revelation can weave together to really give us a complete whole sense of what the way of living in a covenant relationship looks and feels like. That's pretty awesome. So Wisdom Literature is actually some of my very, very favorite things of the Hebrew Bible.
Great job, Melinda. I love that you came so prepared with that.
I hope that helps.
Well, it totally does. And, you know, here's a fun little exercise. If you have time on a Sunday, read Proverbs, and highlight every time you see the word 'wisdom', and it is going to be a lot. And I was struck by this and Kerry, I have this question for you. What stood out to me was how many times the word 'wisdom' is referred to as 'she', in the female form? Tell me about that. Why do you think it is?
Kerry Muhlestein 16:54
So it's a couple elements of that. One is, wisdom is a feminine noun, CHOKMAH, and but it's more than that in in Proverbs, because it does get personified as a woman. It's treated as if it is a woman and no one tells us why. But my guess would be it's because for the most part, you learn these things from your mother. Like you pointed out, King Lemuel learns this from his mother. That's where you learn the ins and outs of life. Of course, a lot of this is actually said, as a father teaching his son. And we find that in Egypt, what the most common setting for this kind of wisdom literature, is a father teaching his son. And yet I think in reality, most of the little wise things that that you're taught, you're taught from your mother. Now, that's just my opinion, I don't really know why. But certainly, in Proverbs, Wisdom, with one exception, wisdom is a woman. And it's a woman to be revered and to follow and to develop a relationship with.
Um hm. Beautifully said, thank you, Kerry. That was an excellent discussion. And what I like about it is that for many of us, this is the first time we've heard of this Wisdom Literature. So I encourage those of you who are interested, study it, research it, Google it. Learn everything you can, because it is just filled with so much goodness. And it is worthy of studying wisdom. In fact, you're gonna want to mark this as you study the book of Proverbs, and it is found in
Pro 3:13 "Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding." And then it will go through these verses and tell you about the importance of wisdom. And so seek wisdom, look for wisdom, find wisdom as you study the book of Proverbs, in fact, all of the Wisdom Literature. So excellent job, Melinda. Thank you. So in the next segment, we are going to dive into some facts about Proverbs and Ecclesiastes that you're going to want to know.
Segment 3 18:45
Okay, segment 3, here we go. Alright, let's find out all we can, then, about the structure of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, and what we need to know. So here we go. First of all. Our questions are for Proverbs: who wrote Proverbs, what is it about, when was that written? All that fun stuff. What do you got for us? Hit it Kerry.
Kerry Muhlestein 19:02
So we don't know who wrote all of the different Proverbs, right? Most of them are attributed to Solomon. We even have in I Kings 4, it says Solomon wrote 1000s of Proverbs. He's known for his wisdom. So there, the majority of these are attributed to Solomon and we're kind of inclined to take that. Although when it says a proverb of Solomon, or are Solomon's Proverbs, that doesn't specify did he write that? Or is this some he collected because he was someone who was interested in wisdom or was searching all this wisdom? As Melinda told us, Wisdom literature was all over the place. We have great texts of Wisdom Literature in Egypt from even before Israel, or Jacob, was born, right? I mean, they've been doing this for a long time. And a lot of them are very similar. So maybe Solomon's collecting them. I think a number of them he wrote; we have a couple that are attributed to specific individuals.
You just brought us to the one with King Lemuel, although we don't know who King Lemuel is. We've got a guy named Igor We don't know who they are. But these are wise saints that are attributed to them. So, in the end, I think you're right. There's something about saying, Well, some of these are divinely inspired. And some of these are just, yeah, that's good common sense. And in fact, a lot of them are so similar to those in Mesopotamia or Egypt. A few of them, we think, That seems to be taken straight from this earlier wisdom text in Egypt and great, why not pass on wise things? Right? So some of them were inspired specifically about Jehovah. And some of them are just ways to live. And both are valuable. That's the real difference, though, between Wisdom Literature, here with Proverbs, and Wisdom Literature in the other societies, is that in Proverbs, it focuses on the fear of the Lord and on coming to God and learning from God rather than just is, this is just how society functions.
Most Wisdom Literature, what we'd call proverbial Wisdom Literature - there are two different kinds. One's proverbial, one's speculative. And we have two great examples here. Proverbs is proverbial, Ecclesiastes is speculative. That's where you're trying to figure out the meaning of life kind of things. But the proverbial stuff is really focused on the Lord in Israelite Wisdom literature, where it's not in other societies. And most of these seem to be from an inspired Psalm.
I thought it was cool when you just said, because I wrote it down: "some existing Egypt text." And you're an Egyptologists. You give tours in Egypt, you know your Egyptian. And so you're telling us some of these proverbs already existed in the Egyptian culture and writings. Is that true?
Kerry Muhlestein 21:40
Yeah. Yeah, there are a number of them that are so similar. You think, I mean, to some degree, all societies are going to figure out, Okay, this is always a bad thing. This is a good thing, right? Everyone's gonna figure out the same things, but some of them
Dwelling with an angry, contentious woman.
Kerry Muhlestein 21:53
Sure, yeah. Or one of them is not, you know, doing things with another man's wife. And it's, I mean, when you go to his house, don't flirt with his wife is what they're basically saying. They don't use to word flirt. But and, you know, I think that that's good advice anywhere you go. And most societies are going to figure that out. But some of the wording is so specific that it does make you think they knew this stuff. And I'll give you actually another example. The Savior uses Wisdom Literature quite a bit, but not the kind we, this is the kind we don't find in Proverbs very much. But it's really common in other wisdom literature. And it's it has to do with maintaining social status in a way that works.
So one of the big themes in Egyptian Wisdom Literature, is when you go to, you're invited to a dinner, make sure you don't sit at the head of the table unless you're asked to go up there. It's better to sit in a lower position and be called up than to be in a higher position and be asked to go sit in a lower position. And the Savior says the exact same thing, right? And He's, He's clearly familiar with Wisdom literature. Either that's Israelite Wisdom Literature that we no longer have, or He's just familiar with Egyptian Wisdom Literature. He grew up in Egypt for a while, but I don't know. Anyway, this is something that the Savior's, actually a number of times in the New Testament, dispensing Wisdom Literature
Kerry, where is that where the Savior teaches some wisdom literature?
Kerry Muhlestein 23:16
So one of the good examples, the one about where to sit at the table is in Luke 14:7-11 is one of the places where He goes through that.
Oh, That’s so cool.
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 23:26
Yeah, that's very cool.
All right. So tell us about the structure of Proverbs. Is there a certain structure to it? Or is it just willy nilly verses?
Kerry Muhlestein 23:34
Well, it's a little bit of both. You've got some introductory chapters, I'd say chapters like 1-9 are more introductory. And then you have it, it's kind of broken into sections, like chapter 10-22, are, 1-9 are proverbs of Solomon. But it's kind of setting up a general theme that we should talk about in just a second. Then 10-22 are just all sorts of other proverbs of Solomon. And then towards the end, we get like Lemuel, and Agur as we mentioned. From 22-24 are like these long admonitions. They're less these little, teeny sayings, and more developing a theme. And we get like 25-29 is kind of a unit that all goes together. So there's a little bit of a structure, but for the most part, the way you did it with your seminary classes is as good a way to do this as any, to just say, throw out some you like. And in fact, a lot of our Christian friends, if they have study Bibles, they'll do a proverb a day. A Psalm a day and a Proverb a day with whatever other reading they're doing. And I think there's something really valuable about that, to just take in a little bit from these proverbs every day.
There are also some structures based on the poetic functions that you were talking about. So for example, and Melinda kind of touched on this, but the most common kind of proverb, well, let's talk actually about where the word comes from. The word translated as proverb is MASHAL. And its root is 'to compare' or 'comparison'. And some of that is the idea that you're comparing. It can be like an allegory or parable, right? You compare this to that. So like it's like an ant. Remember when Melinda told us that, or you should be like an ant. And sometimes wine is personified and things like that. So you have that kind of comparison. But the more common kind of comparison is with wisdom and foolishness. So the most common type of poetic device in Proverbs is what we'd call 'antithetical parallelism', where you say, This is this, but this is this. So just as an example, in Proverbs
1:7 "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction."
Right? So you get that contrast. Or
10:1 "..........A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother."
Right? So this contrast is what we get most often. But sometimes they use what we'd call 'synthetic parallelism', where you add one to the other, right? If you do this, and you do this, then that will work out really well for you. So just as an example,
22:6 (This is a famous one, President Hinckley loved this one,) "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
Right? So that's, that adding, so a lot of this comes from that, that machal comparison, but if you dig deeper into the meaning of machal, it has an aspect of rulership to it. So and some of that's the comparison that this person is higher than this person. And so he's the ruler. But the underlying idea, then is that we should be ruled; our lives should be ruled by these comparisons that they're making. And in the end, the theme in Proverbs is that it should be ruled by wisdom. And what is wisdom,? Wisdom is the fear of the Lord.
Proverbs 1:7 "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction."
So that idea of fearing God is important. And we say, Well, we don't want to fear God. But fear has a lot to do with, it's a bigger, more important idea than we think. And some of this is because we've watered Jehovah down to being a warm, fuzzy person, when this is an awe-inspiring, majestic person. When most people see an angel or the Lord, the first thing that has to be told them is: "Fear not", because that being is so majestic. It does inspire fear, in a reverence kind of way. it's awesome, but awesome is also awful, right? They both come from that thing, but the inspiration of awe also makes that comparison. It puts us in our place in comparison with who that is, right?
So I can remember a couple of times my children, like I give them some kind of rule like, Okay, we're going across the street, but you need to do it this way or at this time. And then they weren't doing it. And afterwards I'd say, Why not? Well, I was afraid of this. And I'd say, No, you need to be more afraid of not doing what I say then of that because I told you this to keep you safe. That you have to be afraid to not do that. And I think that's the kind of thing that the Lord is looking for. If it's alright, I'd like to read a quote from Elder Bednar from the April 2015 General Conference. And he says this,
"The righteous fear I am attempting to describe encompasses a deep feeling of reverence, respect, and awe for the Lord Jesus Christ, obedience to His commandments and anticipation of the final judgment and justice at His hand. Thus, godly fear grows out of a correct understanding of the divine nature and mission of the Lord Jesus Christ, a willingness to submit our will to His will, and a knowledge that every man and woman will be accountable for his or her own sins in the Day of Judgment."
So the idea, I think, is that we have such a healthy respect for who God is in comparison with us, we realize so much His ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, that He knows what is going on. And that the blessings that come from following Him are so great, and the consequences for not following Him are so terrible, that we want to out of fear and a love combined. They're tied together. We want to just do His will. And that is the beginning of wisdom. When that's how you feel and think, wisdom will flow from there.
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 29:35
That's right. Can I ask you one thing, Kerry, that in my studies it looks to me like there are actually two different Hebrew words for fear. One and you can clarify my pronunciation but, YIRAH, and PAHAD, and that one is more fear of the Lord and one is more fear of evil. And it seems like it's used very consistently throughout Proverbs. Which one is pulling from and which one it's using. In English it's just one word - fear. And that's where I think we get a little fuzzy on this. But I think maybe if you were reading it in its original language, you might recognize the two differents, and then how they interplay with each other. Is that correct?
Kerry Muhlestein 30:13
Yeah, and the fear of the Lord is used consistently in Proverbs. Those two words are not used as consistently for different things elsewhere, although they often are but not, not 100% of the time.
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 30:26
Oh, that was a good question, Melinda. That's good. No, I liked that. That was cool. You know, I like, Kerry, I liked how you put it into perspective of parenting. Because how many times do you get mad at your child for not listening to you when you knew the outcome before it happened? And that that really struck me because I think Heavenly, that's exactly how Heavenly Father parents. Like he, he is preventative and he's also triage, which I've talked about before on the podcast. It seems like in my marriage, I'm more preventative, my husband's triage. I'm trying to set everything up so my kids don't get hurt. And my husband's like, let's just see what happens and we'll fix it.
And now I'm looking at this like, Wow, the God, I just love that our Heavenly parents are both, they've combined. They've already sent us down here with this preventative measure and They'll be there when we mess up. But that fear, yeah, we should be more afraid of not doing what They asked us to do because of the outcome. But fear in an AWESOME way. I think that is what's so cool. So thanks for pointing that out and connecting all of that. That was so cool. Very good.
Kerry Muhlestein 31:26
Because we realize how amazing God is and how much He loves us.
Well, and I think we've become a little casual in the way we approach God, almost, some, like lately, we, we really don't have that, awe, that fear of Him. And we kind of need to get back to that.
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 31:43
Yeah, kind of a one-of-a-kind, unique sort of love we're talking about. It's really love. But an awesome, reverent type of love.
Kerry Muhlestein 31:53
Yeah. In some ways, it's that love that, like a young child has for a mother or father, because both, they know they take care of them and because that parent can do amazing things that the child doesn't realize that they would ever be able to do. It seems so far beyond their reach. And little children have that; teenagers don't have that, right. It's a different thing. But we probably need to get back to that little child relationship with God. And it's one of the things I hope comes out of studying the Old Testament. This is the book more than any other where we start to realize the might and majesty and power of God. And I hope we can keep that at the same time that we remember that we need to remember Jesus is our elder brother. It's not a scriptural phrase, but it's an important idea and concept. And e's our advocate, but he is also Jehovah, the great, mighty, and powerful.
Wow, powerful. Thank you. Thank you, both of you. That was incredible. Well, one of the things that struck me that you said, Kerry, were the poetic devices that you see throughout the book of Proverbs. And so in the next segment, we're going to talk about one specific poetic device. And that's found in Proverbs chapter 31.
Segment 4 33:04
Let's go to Proverbs chapter 31. I am so excited about this chapter. Okay. I told you a little bit about it earlier. So here's something I wanted to just point out in Proverbs chapter 31. This is called the Proverb of a Virtuous Woman. And it starts in verse 10, and it ends in verse 31. Now, there is a poetic device that's used right here. This proverb is 22 verses long. And the reason why is that it is an acrostic poem. Many of us remember doing acrostic poems in elementary school. It's where you wrote your name down the side of a page, and then you had to write words that began with the letter of your name. And so whenever I teach this, I always laugh because I would write Tammy down the side, and then I'd say, Totally awesome, Awesome again, and would be Marvelous, you know, like, whatever. So this is an acrostic poem, but it doesn't spell out anything specifically. It is the Hebrew alphabet, beginning with a - Aleph, and ending with the last letter, Tov.
And many scholars believe that the reason it was written in this style of poetry was so that it would be easy for people to remember or memorize. Because this is sung every Sabbath by a Jewish husband to his wife, to this day. It's called EISHET CHAYIL. And it is sung to his wife to remind her of how she can become a virtuous woman. And I just, my heart breaks because if you read it word for word that I would like, Please don't sing that to me. Because you have to sew your own clothes and be an amazing cook. Oh, you have to make the material you're going to sew your own clothing with.
Verse 21, you can't be afraid of the snow. I would be like wait, what? I don't, in fact, I remember reading this, thinking, THAT is gonna make me virtuous? Verse 21, I'm out. I'm terrified of the snow. I don't want to drive in it. I don't like it. If you go on to read it, she has a side gig where she brings in some money. Her husband is really well-known. Her family is dressed super nice. My favorite that I laugh, verse 20_ Her children or gonna rise up and call her blessed. If only. Like there's so many funny things about this in English.
Kerry Muhlestein 35:04
That's usually when you get to your funeral.
Thank you, yeah, this is the end of your days, your death. So I decided I wanted to study and read this in Hebrew. And it really struck me when I went through verse by verse what these verses mean and the symbolism that you can find in them. And we don't have time to go through every verse, but I want to just show you a couple that I think are really profound. We're gonna start with verse 10: "Who can find a virtuous woman?" and we've talked a ton about the word 'virtuous' on this podcast, it is my, it's my thing. It's my soapbox. But the word virtuous in Hebrew, in Greek, in Latin, and in Spanish. It only means one thing. And in Hebrew, it is CHAYIL, and it means 'strength', or 'power', the strength or power of an army. The O U S is a suffix to English words, and it means to be filled with or full of. So now we have who can find a virtuous woman, a woman filled with or full of strength, for her price is far above rubies.
And then verse 11, it says, "The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her." And for years I thought that meant I had to be married in order to be virtuous. But this word changes everything about the proverb, because the husband is Christ. It's always been Christ. And I had this really cool moment where I was studying this. I finally got married and I decided to go and read the Proverb of a Virtuous Woman, because now I'm virtuous. And I read that verse. And I remember sitting in my room with my back against my bedroom wall, and I just started to pray. And I thought, 'Heavenly Father, do we really have to be married to be virtuous? Is that the most important thing here?' Because listen, being married is important, but I just couldn't believe that God would require you to be married in order to be virtuous. And I waited for an answer. And I prayed. And it just, it was like it was so obvious.
The spirit was like, The husband is Christ. You've always known this. You've taught this, it's in the Old Testament. And I just woke up like, Oh, my gosh, there it is. How did I miss that for so many years? And now it just makes the whole entire Proverb - it makes sense. In fact, it's really cool. There are so many different references throughout the Old Testament that teaches us that Jesus is the husband. You can read that in Isaiah and Jeremiah, it's also in Matthew and in Revelation, and in Third Nephi, where the Savior is like a bridegroom, or husband. And listen, it's imperative for us to know that the moment we enter into any relationship with Christ, we become married to him. And it's really cool because Jeffrey R. Holland - the husband being Christ - he says, "The imagery of Jehovah as the bridegroom, and Israel or us as the bride, is among the most commonly used metaphors in Scripture, being used by the Lord and His prophets to describe the relationship between Deity and the children of the covenant."
And so it's really powerful to think, Oh, my gosh, wait a minute. If the husband is Christ, I'm married to Him through covenants, then this entire proverb is about a covenant relationship with her savior, Jesus Christ. And every verse is specific to what covenant-keeping women are doing; it is not a long laundry list of things to do when you say, "I do". It's not things that women should start doing, either. If you're a covenant-keeping woman, you're already doing every single one of these verses, and it's just so freeing, I think. Like, Okay, I'm doing it. And what's so cool is at the end of verse 11 where it says, "so that he shall have no need of spoil." This is so cool, because we hear a lot out in our culture that we're enough, women are enough, you're enough. And here scripturally speaking is where it teaches us this. Because this idea of having no need of spoil.
And Kerry and Melinda, you know this from studying the Old Testament: anytime there would be an Old Testament tribe that would fight against another, at the end of that war, whoever prevailed was allowed to come in and take the spoils of war and add it to what they had. So it was in excess. And spoils of war was food, clothing, animals, even people, jewels, gold, silver. And they take it back to their village, and then it would become in excess to what they already had. And here the Savior is saying, Oh, I don't need any more. All I need is a covenant-keeping woman because that's enough. A covenant keeping woman is enough.
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 39:17
Yeah, Tammy, can I just also point out that I think one of the beauties of recognizing that the husband is our Savior, Jesus Christ, is that it helps us recognize that this is what it means to be a virtuous human, a virtuous anyone. Like not just a woman, right? Like, it applies every bit as much to every man or boy or young man reading and thinking about this page and this proverb as every, all the women doing it, right? And we pigeonhole it into being about women. And there are some wonderful takeaways that really specifically speak to some of the unique challenges that women face, but it is for everybody. And that's super important I think
Kerry Muhlestein 40:04
And if it's alright, I'd love to both agree and just push back just a teeny bit, but not really, because it's agreeing. I just want to make sure we highlight this. Not with Melinda but with sometimes I think our culture, you're right to keep saying "I'm enough, I'm enough". And in point of fact, none of us are enough on our own. The reason that you're enough here is because you're in that covenant relationship with Christ, that you're talking about. Right? So if you're, if you are in a relationship with Christ and you are trying to keep your covenant, then you're enough because He makes up the difference. You don't have to worry about what you're not, if you're in that relationship. But we do need to know if we're not in that relationship, then we've got a problem, we're never going to be enough. And so quit trying to be enough and focus on the relationship.
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 40:44
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 40:45
And it's interesting. Like it's not talking about your boyfriend, it's talking about your husband, like you're committed, right? You actually are in a covenant relationship. And that's inherent in the way it describes us. So that's such a great point, Kerry. I love that.
Kerry Muhlestein 40:59
I'll just even tie this back in, if it's all right, with the idea of helpmeet. And if you're interested, I had an interview with Rebecca Cullen on my podcast right at the beginning of the year about helpmeet that I thought was so fascinating. She's doing her dissertation on that phrase. But the idea is that neither husband or wife are up to what's in front of them without the other, right? Now. Christ is up to what's in front of Him without us, but still that, the idea is that in this covenant relationship, He's our helpmeet. Right? With Him we are enough, and so that metaphor of the marriage just continues to be wonderful in what you're exploring here. So thank you for that.
Well, and what's so fascinating to me about this, is that in that covenant relationship - like you just pointed out to us Kerry, going back to the word 'virtuous' -is that it's through our covenants that we are filled with power, with His power. Elder Christofferson said,
"What is the source of moral and spiritual power, and how do we obtain it? The source is God. Our access to that power is through our covenants with Him." That is, that's right there. And so who can find a virtuous woman saying, who can find a woman filled with Christ's power because she's keeping her covenants. And then, of course, in verse 12, "She will do Him good and not evil all the days of her life." And she will do that throughout the rest of this proverb. It is so awesome to think, Melinda, just like you said, it's for women and for men. Because as we know in Scripture, 'woman' is often personified as Christ's people. And so this proverb absolutely is for women and for men. In the book that I wrote about this proverb, I specifically address it to women. But there is a paragraph where I say, "Let's be clear."
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 42:38
"This is for all of us because we all want to be filled with Christ's power. We all want to be covenant-keepers." And, and I like how you said, Kerry, that if we're not on that path, let's get back to that. Because Christ is the only one who can make us whole. He's the only one who can make us enough. I thought that was really cool the way you put that, especially in light of a lot of times when I give this talk, you can see in the eyes of people thinking, 'I probably have to be a perfect covenant keeper. I probably have to make sure I'm doing everything spot on 100%.' And it goes back into this idea of "I am." Because when you talk about how are you doing in your covenants, if you go to the very first covenant you make at baptism, are you mourning with those that mourn? Are you comforting those who stand in need of comfort? And in your mind, you're probably saying, 'I am, I think I am, I hope I am.' And that phrase 'I am' is the Savior's name. And you're answering in His name. "I am trying."
And so then what's cool is the breakdown of 'I am' in Hebrew really is "I will become who I will become." And so when we take that into context, with this proverb, I am trying, I am becoming who God sent me here to become, and verses 13 through 31 are going to show me how to do it. Thirteen through 31 is what I'm doing my best at and where I'm trying. And so it's, it's really so cool to think, at the very beginning, we can all take a big breath. Everybody out there does not have to be really good at sewing or making your own food. There is so much more to it. So
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 44:10
And it's so much of that word to that has been incorporated so beautifully into our Temple Recommend discussion questions about striving, really striving, trying. I love that I am trying.
Kerry Muhlestein 44:24
Or in section 46 where it's really talking about blessings that you get from keeping the covenant but, because it's talking about for obedience. And it says it's for "him who obeys and him who seeketh so to do." All of these blessings are the ones who are seeking, who are trying, they're giving it their best shot.
Well, and then we just we're gonna go over verse 21, real quick, because that's my favorite one. Because you're like, wait a minute, you can't be afraid of the snow. So here it goes. Verse
13:21 "She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet."
Now many scholars outside of our religion who have tried to study this proverb, what I did read was they said, 'she can't be, she really can't be afraid of the snow and she dresses her family really well.' It could mean that, truly, or if you want to go deeper, it could mean this: that snow oftentimes in Scripture, is a symbolism of death. It's the end of the year, and things die when snow falls on them. And so she's not afraid of death, spiritual or physical, for her household. "For all her household is clothed in scarlet, and the color scarlet is a symbolism of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. And so now when you read this, for us, we are not afraid of death, physical or spiritual. For our household, for all our household is clothed or covered in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We have a testimony of that. And we share it with our family and our friends and our children. And they are covered in that knowledge so that when disaster strikes, when death comes, we know the plan of salvation, the plan of happiness, and how it all works out. So that's what verse 21 means to me.
Kerry Muhlestein 46:02
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 46:02
According to Hebrew,
Kerry Muhlestein 46:05
Yeah. And I think you're right, absolutely. Whether it's physical or spiritual preparation, the point of that verse is, you don't have to be afraid. Well, we could say it this way: "If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear", right. You said it so perfectly.
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 46:20
Tammy, I love how in your book you make the connection to the Stripling Warriors too, and that they did, and what you write is that they weren't afraid of battle because of course their mothers had taught them and they have no doubt God would deliver them. I just think you do that so well. It's one of my favorite chapters in your book, too.
Oh, thank you. Well, and then I share a story about my neighbor who's sweet little two-year old passed away, and the experience I had with her. But I'll never forget the night before the funeral, I was with my neighbor, Tammy. So her name is Tammy, my name is Tammy, too, and that's why we're best friends. And she invited me to go with her to the funeral home to sit in the room with her little baby before she had to bury it. She just wanted a moment alone. She invited me, which seemed so weird. Like, I've never done that, what are we going to do? And it turned out to be one of the most beautiful moments in my life, where we went up and we actually she took the baby out of the coffin. And she just held it and smelled it and touched it. And she said, "I don't ever want to forget what my baby smells like."
And it just was so real for me because I thought, She has every right to be angry. Why isn't she having this Hollywood moment where she's screaming, you know, at the Lord, and falling on her knees? She was just the most, it was the most beautiful, peaceful moment. And she taught me so much about the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and you felt it, we felt the power. And we felt virtue in that room. But throughout my book, I've seen every verse in women that I know and I share a personal story. Like I tell you what it means in Hebrew, but then I tell you what it looks like in real life. And if you read that real life, I don't know, maybe, Melinda you read it. But I feel like after you read the real-life story, you're like, Oh, I can do that. I am doing that. Right?
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 47:57
It's so beautifully written. And I just have to take just one second to just to quote you, because what you say and how you summarize it, I think is so beautiful about your neighbor, Tammy. You say, "Tammy clothed us in her testimony of Jesus Christ's power to overcome death, of the Father's unfailing plan of happiness, even when it wasn't so happy." It's beautiful. So beautiful.
Oh, thank you. Thank you. Well, that's Proverbs 31. That's all the time we have to talk about it, because I could talk about it forever. It's now my favorite Proverb and I just think we need to study it now and read it. And we're going to reframe the way we've always taught it. And it makes us all feel so much better about ourselves. And it makes being a covenant-keeper doable. It's not overwhelming. It's actually the most beautiful thing we can be doing in our life. And going back to what you talked about Kerry, fearing the Lord. It just ties right into it beautifully. And then you think about the woman who had the issue of blood. And when the Savior says, "I felt virtue go out of me." Like he felt power, he felt strength leave him through a woman who believed. So it's, it's really, really powerful. So, thank you for letting me take that time.
Kerry Muhlestein 49:03
Oh, thank you. I was just gonna say I love how you've taken both in your book and talking with the series, you've taken proverbs that could seem abstract and you've made it so real for us and so applicable in our lives. That's, that's just powerful.
That was my goal. So thank you. Okay, so in the next segment, we're going to dive into Ecclesiastes and boy, I hope Kerry and Melinda can make me a lover of this book, because I am not. We're going to do that next.
Segment 5 49:30
In this segment, we're going to talk about Ecclesiastes and we're going to start with this quote. And this is from the Old Testament Seminary Manual on Ecclesiastes. Melinda, will you read this for us.
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 49:40
Sure. It says, "It is important to remember that the author of Ecclesiastes, the preacher, wrote it as if there is no life after death. These statements are made with that thought in mind and fail to account for truths about life after death taught elsewhere in the scriptures. Therefore, the writer of Ecclesiastes was not making a doctrinal declaration that nobody thinks feels or works after they die. He was simply illustrating the perspective on life after death for someone living under the sun with no understanding of life beyond mortality. And that's from the Old Testament Seminary Manual.
Kerry Muhlestein 50:15
Just so you know, I'm going to disagree with that at some point.
I knew you would.
Kerry Muhlestein 50:18
But I think in chapter 12, or is it ,what's the last chapter, chapter 12. Yeah. That at the very end, he shows us that's not what he's thinking, that he has been showing us the way you would see it from this perspective. But then he gives us the real perspective at the end. So,
Okay. No, no, this is so good.
Kerry Muhlestein 50:34
They love it at S & I (Seminary and Institute) when I disagree with them, they're always happy about that (laughter)
Well, and maybe the manual's outdated, there's been a lot more scholarships since then.
Okay. Well no, that's why I wanted to start with this. Because when you read this, and then you dive into Ecclesiastes, it's sort of like, wah, wah. It's such a, just a downer of a book kind of for me, but Kerry disagrees. And so I love how we just started out with "I disagree". So Kerry, hit it. Teach us about Ecclesiastes. Go over, like, everything we need to know. Who wrote it, the structure, and stuff you like about it; this is your time to shine, this whole thing is for you.
Kerry Muhlestein 51:11
Okay. So Ecclesiastes, it the word is KOHELETH, which means in a congregation, an assembly, a group that's been gathered together to hear something. And the person - that is translated as the preacher here - is someone who has the ability to call together an assembly, right? So this is just, it's translated as 'preacher' by King James Version because that's the kind of person that calls an assembly together to teach religious things, right, so but, it's just someone who has authority to call together a group and teach them. And it's typically attributed to Solomon, because he talks about being a king in Jerusalem. Who knows? It could have been Hezekiah, it could have been anyone. But it's a king in Jerusalem who builds a lot, is fantastically wealthy, is well-known. And Solomon seems to fit that bill better than anyone. And Solomon is known for his wisdom and his writing and thinking things out, and so on. So he's a really, really good candidate.
But in the end, we don't know who this is. But whoever it is, this is someone who is trying to think their way through life. They're trying to say, 'All right. I thought, This is what was going to work. and it didn't.' And I thought this is right. So this is that speculative Wisdom Literature I mentioned, where we're trying to understand the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. And he starts out by questioning the meaning of everything. And so this first part absolutely is, according to that quote that we pulled from the manual, the idea that if you're going to look at this from a purely mortal perspective, what in the world is the point? And that's a point that's worth all of us thinking about. If you are, I have to say, if I didn't have the gospel in my life, if I didn't know about God and how things are going to be after this, I would say that: what is the point? As the preacher, Solomon, whoever we want to call him, he talks about if you go to chapter 1:3,
ECL 1:3, "What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?
4 "One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth forever.
5 "The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose."
The wind goeth towards the north, and the south, and so on, rivers run to the sea. And his point really is, that everything just keeps happening again and again. And we work so hard to become famous, right? And again, you kind of, it's gonna almost see him drawing from ideas from Egypt, because in Egypt what they wanted was for their name to be known forever, and so on. And in our society today, fame is such an important thing, and how many hits can you get on your social media thing, and whatever else, right? And so we work so hard to become famous.
And his point is, there were lots of famous people before us that none of us know anything about and a couple generations later, however famous you are now? No one's going to know anything about you. So why are you pursuing fame, right? And then we get to chapter 2. And he talks about wealth. So this is another thing that is really applicable to our society. I think Ecclesiastes is incredible, incredibly applicable to our society. Because fame and wealth seem to be the major concerns of our society, right? So some societies it's survival; but in in many societies in the world today it's fame and wealth. That's what we want, right? So
2:1, "I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and behold, this also is vanity. "
We're going to come back to vanity in a minute. So before he gets to wealth, he's like, fun. Now there's something that's a concern in our society as well, right? We need to have fun. "Entertaining Ourselves to Death" is one of my favorite books, but there are all sorts of, we really are just gamers, or thrill-seekers, or binge watching or whatever. And I'm not saying any of that is bad in and of itself. But it's become a huge focus in our society. I almost feel like we're like the Romans going to circuses and Gladiator tournaments, right, we're just looking for the next thing to kind of divert us for a while. And verse 2, it says laughter is mad. So then we get down into verse 4, where he's going to have vineyards. And verse 6, he makes pools of water and with the wood, and he has servants and maid servants in verse 7 and possessions of great and small cattle, and gathered me in verse 8, silver and gold and peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces and had singers and men singers and women singers and delights of sons of men.
So basically, he gets everything: all the entertainment you could ever want, all the wealth you could ever want. He gets everything that the world has said is valuable. And this is, so again, we're so influenced by the world today and what the world says is valuable. Right now the world's throwing in and also like, this is the right way to think and the right way to act. And it has to be you don't condemn anyone, all sorts of other things, right?
I like how he says about himself in verse 9: So I was great. That's how he says it in my head. So I was great. And I increase more than all that we're performing like, that's pretty awesome.
Kerry Muhlestein 56:17
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I reached the top. What he finds is he put his ladder on the top of a very tall wall, and he climbed all the way to the top. And then he found he was on the wrong wall. That's really what he's saying. Because he keeps talking with all of this stuff, he keeps saying that it was vanity. And we saw that at the end of verse 1, right? Behold, this also is vanity. It's the major theme that we get in Ecclesiastes. And the word means like, it comes from the word 'for breath', actually. But it's like something that is so fleeting, right? You breathe out and it's gone. It's that fleeting, right? That's exactly right. Yeah.
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 56:58
That HEVEL is really a great word. Fascinating.
Kerry Muhlestein 57:01
Yeah, yeah. And that's what it is, just as quickly as breath comes, it goes, and then it's gone. And that's what all of this stuff that the world is telling us to pursue is like. It's all just fleeting and transitory. That's what the word means. And that's the theme of Ecclesiastes. Everything the world tells you is important is actually so transitory, it's not worth it. Now, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't do anything. And that's the nice thing about chapter 3, is there are times to do things, even though it's vanity in some ways, right? So there's a time to be born, even though you're gonna die, right? Life is fleeting, right? There's a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted. So we're even right in, then you're going to plant something, and that's going to grow, you might you'll eat it, it's going to be gone, or it's going to die, and so on. A time to build and a time to break down, weep and laugh.
So you have to do all these things, even though in each case, it ends. They all end, but you still need to be doing them is what he's saying. So do what you need to do, but don't put your stock in that because it's vain. Meaning it's so transitory. If that's what you're, if that's how you're trying to meet your needs, you're going to be sad. And I'm working very closely with some people who are loved ones of mine, people I'm very close to right now who are dealing with, you know, lack of serotonin and things like that. And they're just trying to find how to meet their needs. And they just keep thinking, Well, if I do this, it will meet my needs, or if I do that. And they get that, and it doesn't meet their needs, right, and they get to something else and it doesn't meet their needs. And you just kind of have to help them see none of those things are actually what meets your needs. You need to do them but they're not what meets your needs. And really all of Ecclesiastes is about that until we get to the very end.
So that is what we're going to do in the next segment. We are going to discuss the end, but before we do can we just point out Ecclesiastes chapter 3 and the song from The Birds in 1960s. I grew up with that as a kid and I loved that song. And then when I found out it was a scripture I was like, What? Like I remember as a kid.
Kerry Muhlestein 59:10
"Turn, Turn, Turn". As I was reading it that song started going through my head; I can never read this without hearing them: "Turn, Turn", right yeah,
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 59:18
You know, Tammy, I gotta say ,too, because I was thinking of that song so much as I was reading it, but I wish that they'd included the beginning of verse 11 In the song because I think that line, "He hath made everything beautiful in his time:" is so touching. It has to go with those verses. So I just wanted to point that out. That's maybe my favorite sentence actually in Ecclesiastes. I love it.
Kerry Muhlestein 59:42
It is good. I'm with you. All right, Birds, add that to your song. Somebody needs to rewrite it and put that in there because that would have fit perfectly, and with the time. Oh I love that. Okay, so in the next segment, we are going to finish Ecclesiastes, and we're going to discuss the very end.
Segment 6 59:56
According to Ecclesiastes, chapters 11 and 12, let's turn there. I just want to know, what did the preacher want the people to understand about their choices in life? Kerry, you just got so excited, I just want you to keep teaching us. Go, go with this.
Kerry Muhlestein 1:00:11
So chapter 11 is wonderful because you've got this idea that part of what we should do is help other people. And even though they're also transitory from a moral perspective, you still should be helping other people. But we know they're not transitory from an immortal perspective, right? And so we give verse 2, "Give a portion to seven, and also to eight;" And that's typical Hebrew poetry, right? Just one building on the other. It's like I told you, I told you three or four times, right, it's the same kind of thing. So give, give "to seven and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth." and so on. But the idea is given to other people; you don't know what's going to happen to them, you don't know what has happened to them. Take care of other people.
So that's the theme of chapter 11, which is beautiful stuff. And I think maybe we should end that, starting in verse 9. And I'd love to get your guys’ input on how you interpret verse 9 and 10.
11:9 "Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.
10 "Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity."
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 1:01:23
There's some deep verses; I needed to ponder on that a bit. But
Kerry Muhlestein 1:01:29
Yeah, and I think especially if you think of them in this context, that the most of the chapter's about helping people, right, which is different than at the beginning, which was, 'I gathered a lot of stuff for myself, and I entertained myself and I got wealthy.' I think that there's a contrast with those first several chapters, and this idea of helping people but those last two verses especially,
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 1:01:55
Yeah, there's definitely an element of maturity. I think it's really pointing out that at some point we have to put away childish things, right. Kind of not scripture.
Kerry Muhlestein 1:02:05
Yeah, you're not young forever. I think it's part of what he's saying, you at some point you're gonna have to grow up and not gather for yourself, but for others.
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 1:02:13
And be accountable on what you chose to do.
Well I'm struck with "walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring me into judgment." And, you know, it makes me think about times when I would be teaching Seminary and kids will ask, "Well, am I going to be judged on everything I do? And what and mostly it wasn't them. They were thinking about family members, "Well my uncle" you know, it was always these weird scenarios. Like, "he was an active member and then he had a head injury, and then he didn't know any more." And so they would ask all these questions. And that is so profound right there. We're walking the ways of your heart and in the sight of thine eyes, and I would always have them turn to Doctrine and Covenants. In fact, let's get there. In section 137, I really appreciated how it would say what we are judged on. And it's in verse 9. "For I the Lord will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts."
And I love that there's an allowance for that, like, for the desire of our hearts. And it addresses that in verse 9 where He says, "Walk in the way of thine heart and also in the sight of thine eyes. Like, I'm going to judge your heart. And I'm going to judge your eyes. Like what you do and how you act in this life, it's all connected: heart, mind, eyes, everything. And know that that's what we're going to be judged on and so it's, sometimes I have the best of intentions in my heart, but I don't do my actions. And I hope that counts for something. Because I get busy, and I just didn't get around to doing it. But I really did in my heart want to help and I hope that that weighs, hope it adds some weight on my scales.
Kerry Muhlestein 1:03:46
And sometimes life gets in the way. Yeah, yeah, you're right. Yeah,
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 1:03:49
The striving and "that seekest so to do". There it is again.
Yes, "That seekest so to." Oh, I'm gonna write that next to those two verses. What was that reference, again, in section 46?
Kerry Muhlestein 1:03:58
It's in Section 46. I don't remember exactly the verse. But somewhere around verse 10, or something like that. No, it's later than that. And again, I like this idea, you know, if you have, if you're doing right in your own sight, in your own eyes, in your own heart, but you know God's gonna bring you into judgment and hopefully, then you're aligning your heart. And that's what He's going to talk about in chapter 12. You're aligning your heart with God's heart. Then you're happy because you're doing what you want, but it's also going to work out well for you. Right? And that's why if you're doing that in verse 10, you can remove sorrow from your heart, and put away evil from your flesh because you have that.
So all of those verses tell us, No, he's got a bigger perspective here. Once you start talking about being brought into judgment by God, then it's not just about a mortal perspective. It can't be about not thinking of an afterlife. God brings you into judgment in the next slide. So if he's talking about judgment from God, and he's talking about the things that we're about to look at and these verses. It's in Doctrine and Covenants section 46:9, he's finally gotten to the point where he's looking at things from a larger perspective. And I don't think it's a mistake, or a coincidence that he starts to hit that perspective right after talking about helping others, right? Because the world's gonna tell you help yourself. And God's gonna tell you and our covenants are going to tell you, help others. And there's a reason for helping others. And some of that is this larger perspective that he's getting us to.
Well, and dare we say, this is a covenant-keeping perspective.
Kerry Muhlestein 1:05:34
That's exactly right.
That’s, helping others is all about keeping our covenants. And so I think that's what he's kind of delving into is now is covenant keepers. How's that going to bode for you at Judgment Day? Only well; it can only be good.
Kerry Muhlestein 1:05:50
Just seeking to keep your covenant. That's what is asked - striving.
Yes. So go ahead. So good.
Kerry Muhlestein 1:05:59
All right. So let's jump right, actually, almost to the end. Let's look at verse 8, which is the summation of what we've heard so many times verse 8: Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity." And really he's talking about, just before that he's talking about silver and gold and things like that. All of that is transitory; it doesn't matter how much you know, the phrase we use all the time, "you can't take it with you." What is the point of gathering all this stuff if you can't take it with you. So now I have an Alan Parsons song and running through my head, but anyway. But no, that's everything that's transitory is not worth your time is what he's saying. Just don't spend your time with the transitory things; you'll have to go through it. So it's not that it's not worth your time. Some things chapter 3 tells us, you have to go through these things. You have to build, you have to plant, you have to tear down. But that's not, right, let's say it's not worth your heart. All these transitory things are not where your heart should be.
It's not be, it shouldn't be where you're trying to take your joy or meet your needs. That's not what you're looking at. So verse 13, he gives us the summary.
12:13 "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: " That's I don't know how you could be more clear than to say, This is how I'm summing up everything that I've said, "Fear God." Now here we're back to the same thing that we had in Proverbs, right. It's another reason why people think that there may be the same author here.
"Fear God and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man."
Now, if that's your commandments, duty, should be a clue. We're talking covenant here. All right? Fear God, keep covenant, we could just rephrase it that way. Fear God and keep covenant
14 "For God's will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil." And of course, what I think what he's trying to say is, do the good, right, do your duty, do the good, and then all of that gets brought to light. And you don't have to worry about the evil. But for those who have not focused on keeping their covenant, then that's not going to be a good day. Again, it's the striving, it's the focusing, it's the seeking so to do. We can't forget that part. But really, the point of all of this is, don't get your heart set on the wrong thing. Don't put your ladder on the wrong wall. Keep your focus on keeping your covenant and having a relationship with God, which is what a covenant is really about. Have that relationship with God, keep your covenant, and this is going to work out well for you.
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 1:08:21
Kerry Muhlestein 1:08:22
If I could only Yeah, that is wisdom, that's exactly right. If I could only get people I know who are trying to find different ways to get their needs met to understand that, Oh, what a game changer it would be for them.
So I have a question for both of you, then, a follow-up question with what you just said. How do you do that? Just on a daily basis. Like today you've woken up, we've had our day, what are you going to do today that's going to help you to have wisdom, or to keep your covenants.
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 1:08:51
You know, I love building in and it just happens naturally in the way that we live our faith tradition in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but building in those touch points throughout the day, just to habitually prayer in the morning, with every meal, at night, reading your scriptures, connecting with people. Just this constant touch point Even things on our walls that we see in our home that remind us, just always bringing it back to Jesus, to really see Jesus everywhere. Right.
Kerry Muhlestein 1:09:28
I agree 7,223% with what, I just can't agree more. And then I would also say this, and this again comes back to covenant and maybe I've just been writing and talking about covenant so much lately that that's, I see it everywhere. But I think so does President Nelson, so I feel good about it. Our primary obligations under the covenant are to love God and love man. And if I'm asking myself with everything I'm doing what my motive is, because a lot of Ecclesiastes is really about motives. Was he acquiring all these things to help other people or to be the best and the greatest? And initially it's to be the best and the greatest. Right? So that may be an argument against Solomon, because he seems to have very early on understood that what he was trying to do was for others. And he's asking God to help him take care of Israel. So maybe it's not Solomon. In the end, I don't know.
But at least the way Ecclesiastes is written, whoever this caller of the congregation is, he starts out doing things for himself. And he seems to realize he needs to be doing them because he loves God, and He loves other people. And I think for me, that's, I have to ask myself my motive all the time. Because even some things I start with good motives can really easily turn to it's about me, right? I can start teaching, writing, whatever else with good motives. And pretty soon well, I want people to think well of me. I want people to think this or that of me, I want to be able to do this or that with it. And if my motives shift that way, I've got a problem. And I have to go back and ask myself, why am I still doing this? Because I love God and I want to do what he wants me to do? Is my will swallowed up in His hand, and my, do I love people and I'm doing this because I want to help people?
Why are we doing this podcast? Is it because we want 1000 hits? Or is it because we think there are people that could really be helped by this? And probably during the course of this podcast, we've all had multiple motives. But we have to keep coming back and asking ourselves, Is this because I love people and I want to do God's will because I love Him? And that keeps me on the right path with this conclusion of the matter that the preacher is talking about more than anything else. And what helps me ask those questions are all the things that Melinda asked about? If I'm not praying regularly I'm for sure gonna forget those motives. If I don't have those little reminders all around me I for sure forget those motives.
Yeah. Beautifully spoken, both of you. You're spot on. Absolutely. Right. And those are great questions to ask ourselves, what are our motives? And we have moments like that where it can hurt a little bit, because I remember when I was writing my book, my motives? I remember I finished writing and I had someone read it. And they asked me, who's your audience? And I was like, What do you mean? And she says, It sounds like you're trying to write to professors, and people who are scholars. And I was like, That's exactly who I'm writing to. She said, Then it's a terrible book, because nobody's going to read it. And she said, You need to rethink who your audience is. And that was crushing and the greatest moment because it really made me do just what you said, Kerry. I had to turn around and go, Wait a minute. Yeah, the whole point is just to bring people to Christ. And my first draft was bringing nobody to Christ. It was a prove book, like I'm proving, um, let me show you how much I know and what I can teach you. And then it completely shifted. It's not even the same manuscript. It really was, How can we bring people to Christ and have a desire to keep covenants and believe Him and love Him? And so yeah, I was, you know what, all right, I repent. I was Ecclesiastes. I was great. I said that verse. Oh, look at me. I'm pretty great. And then I had to remember, Oh, no, it is completely about fearing God. So
Kerry Muhlestein 1:13:11
We've all been there.
I like the book now.
Kerry Muhlestein 1:13:13
And we'll be there. Oh, good.
Yes, we all have been there. And it's, it's a great book to help us call into question what our motives are, where do we stand, and are we ready for Judgment Day? So, very cool. I love this now. That was a great discussion, you two.
Kerry Muhlestein 1:13:26
That was great. Okay. So just gather your thoughts and think about a takeaway. Is there something that you're going to take away from our discussion today that you didn't know or that you want to keep talking about or anything like that?
Kerry Muhlestein 1:13:38
I'll just say, for me, the takeaway is a bit what we've just said: it's this idea of recognizing how great God is, and how much He loves us. And then letting that inspire love. And me, I'm thinking of in First John, where it says we love Him, because He first loved us. When we recognize His love for us, we'll love Him, we'll love each other, and we behave differently when we do that. And we feel and become differently when we do that.
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 1:14:05
Yeah, so good.
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 1:14:08
Yeah, as I think about everything we've talked about, I kind of go back to this one line from Proverb in chapter 8, where it's the one time we get to hear wisdom speaking in her own voice, like in first person, is in the series here. It's like 12-36, so most of that page is wisdom speaking to us. But there in verse 35 she says, "For whoso findeth me, findeth life." And that just sums it all up to me, that really this is the secret to a happy, good, not always easy, not always fun and those, but a meaningful life. It's finding that wisdom, it's living in that covenant relationship with Christ makes all the difference. That's what I think it's all about.
I'm so glad you brought up chapter 8. Everyone, go read and study chapter 8. That's probably the best Proverbs chapter. Oh, I love it.
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 1:15:02
Thank you. For me, it was definitely, Melinda, what you taught us about Wisdom Literature. I thought that was so fascinating, and the background behind that, and the history. Completely changed what I had already known about Wisdom Literature. So that was cool. And then I loved when Kerry, you taught us how the Lord used this, this style of speaking when you taught about, I didn't know the sitting at the table. And I thought that was so cool. So I can't wait to go study Luke chapter 14. I'm going to study that. And then when you said that some of these proverbs existed in Egyptian text. That's really cool. So thank you for paying the price to know about Egypt and Egyptology and the language and everything. So, good.
Kerry Muhlestein 1:15:40
It's just good, clean fun.
My life, my life bucket list is to go to Egypt with Kerry. So
Melinda Wheelwright Brown 1:15:47
Oh, how great is that tour.
All right, thanks, friends. Okay, we want to know what your takeaway was from this episode. So if you haven't joined our discussion group on Facebook or on Instagram, go join it. It is so fun because you get to read questions that other people ask, and just really cool comments they make throughout the week. Now, at the end of the week, usually on a Saturday, we do a post that's calling for your big takeaway. So comment on the post that relates to this lesson and just let us know what you've learned. You can get both to our Facebook and Instagram by going to the show notes for this episode on LDSliving.com/sundayonmonday and go there anyway because it's where we have links to all the references and a transcript of this whole discussion. So go check it out.