Beginning of Wisdom

Proverbs from the Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near East

A day at a time (Proverbs 27:1)

Posted by jac/cdc on February 19, 2007

אַל־תִּתְהַלֵּל בְּיֹום מָחָר כִּי לֹא־תֵדַע מַה־יֵּלֶד יֹום׃

al-tit-ha-LAYL b’-YOM ma-HAR KEE lo-tay-DA ma-YAY-led YOM

Do not boast about tomorrow, because you do not know what tomorrow will produce.

The sentiment of this proverb is related to that in Qoheleth 2:18–23 and Sirach 11:19, which speak about the uncertainties of the future and leaving one’s wealth to others. However, the New Testament book of James, which draws on Jewish wisdom, essentially provides a commentary on this proverb:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.” Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.” Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.” Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. (James 4:13–16)

The cure for such boasting is to take the advice of Qoheleth and lay to heart one’s end: “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting; for this is the end of everyone, and the living will lay it heart” (Qoh 7:2).

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