Beginning of Wisdom

Proverbs from the Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near East

The way to success (Proverbs 16:7)

Posted by jac/cdc on January 16, 2007

(Proverbs 16:7) בִּרְצוֹת יְהוָה דַּרְכֵי־אִישׁ גַּם־אוֹיְבָיו יַשְׁלִם אִתּוֹ׃

bir-TSOT a-do-NEYE dar-ckay-EESH gam-oy-VAV yash-LEEM i-TO

When the Lord is pleased with a person’s way, even their enemies he makes at peace with them.

Success comes with the Lord’s pleasure in one’s conduct, which according to this proverb is accompanied also by peace with one’s enemies. No details are given as to how this comes about, though the Lord is the agent of this peace (יַשְׁלִם). Nevertheless, this proverb still does imply something important about how this peace is effected: not by focusing on one’s “enemies” but on pleasing the Lord in all our ways. This view is shared, of course, by the psalmists who in the complaint psalms rarely address their enemies, but petition God to deal with them.

As with so many other sayings of the sages, this one may appear idealistic and naïve, but tucked away in it is the important principle the pervades so much of Proverbs: the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Prov 1:7). In other words, success in life according to the sages begins with a focus on God, not on the difficulties of life.

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