Beginning of Wisdom

Proverbs from the Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near East

Plans in mind, plans established (Proverbs 19:21)

Posted by jac/cdc on February 21, 2007

רַבֹּות מַחֲשָׁבֹות בְּלֶב־אִישׁ וַעֲצַת יְהוָה הִיא תָקוּם׃

ra-BOT ma-cha-sha-BOT b’-lev-EESH va-a-TSAT a-do-NEYE HEE ta-KUM

Many plans are in the mind of a mortal, but the counsel of the Lord—that is what will be established.

The contrast in this proverb is not intended to pit human counsel against God’s, as is the case in vs. 30: אֵין חָכְמָה וְאֵין תְּבוּנָה וְאֵין עֵצָה לְנֶגֶד יְהוָה׃ (There is no wisdom and there is no plan and there is no counsel against the Lord). Rather, it contrasts the success of God’s counsel versus the numerous and often fruitless schemes of humans. Compare Prov 16:9: לֵב אָדָם יְחַשֵּׁב דַּרְכֹּו וַיהוָה יָכִין צַעֲדֹו׃ (The heart of a person plans their way, but the Lord establishes their step.)

This seems a fitting proverb at the beginning of Lent: we have all sorts of plans and schemes for solving our own and the world’s problems, but at Lent we seek to understand yet more fully the plan of God in Christ’s suffering and death. This year I’m thinking of Lent in terms of one of Bach’s cantata’s for this past Sunday. Beginning with the passage in Luke where Jesus predicts once again his passion for his disciples, and the disciples understand none of it (Luke 18:34: But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said), the libretto of Bach’s cantata personalizes the scene with the following aria:

Mein Jesu, ziehe mich nach dir,
Ich bin bereit, ich will von hier
Und nach Jerusalem zu deinen Leiden gehn.
Wohl mir, wenn ich die Wichtigkeit
Von dieser Leid- und Sterbenszeit
Zu meinem Troste kann durchgehends wohl verstehn!

My Jesus, draw me to You,
I am ready, I will go from here
and into Jerusalem to Your passion.
Blessed am I if the importance
of this time of suffering and dying
for my consolation can be thoroughly understood by me! (trans. Jones in Dürr)

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