The Second Most Confusing Book in the Bible

If you read the entire Bible in a year, you would find that some books are straightforward while others can be downright confusing. For modern readers, the book of Revelation often stands out as the most bewildering with its imagery of beasts, horns, wars, and more. What would you guess is the second most confusing book? I would argue that the book of Proverbs could take that title. Let me explain.

One of the standard objections of those who would question the validity of the Bible is that it contradicts itself. They love to point out where the Bible says one thing and then the exact opposite later. Proverbs 26:4-5 is a favorite example. Verse 4 says, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will become just like him.” Verse 5 states, “Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.” On the surface, this example could put a hole in your confidence of God’s word. Your faith will quickly rebound when you realize you can’t read the book of Proverbs like other books in the Bible.

Proverbs is part of the genre called Wisdom literature, which is meant to give you insight into living a life marked by righteousness, justice, and fairness (Proverbs 1:3). It does not contain divine promises or commands like the books of the Torah or the prophets. The first 9 chapters give us a picture of a father passing down wisdom to his son and a few poems portraying wisdom as a woman. Chapters 10-31 contain advice that will help you live an upright and wise life. What do we do with the contradictions and other less than accurate statements in the book?

Opposite statements that come right after each other have an obvious purpose. At different times in life, different tactics are needed to handle situations. If we go back up to our example from Proverbs 26, verse 4 acknowledges that there are times when we need to stop an argument and let things go. On the other hand, verse 5 applies to situations where the fool may be someone you love and the most helpful action is to correct them so they don’t continue to do “x.” You will only see these as contradictions if you don’t understand the purpose of the book.

One more confusing element of Proverbs is the wording. At first glance, they read like guarantees. A favorite found on many placards is Proverbs 22:6. “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (KJV). Unfortunately, there are many Christian parents who have done their best with God’s help to raise their child to love Jesus only to have their children walk away from their faith. If this were a guarantee, the parent would be at fault for their kids’ poor life choices.

Proverbs are not promises, prophecies, or commandments. They are divinely inspired sayings that can lead us to a life of wisdom. Once you understand the book through this lens, it becomes much less confusing.

How are you doing with reading the Bible through in a year? Whenever we read God’s word we should remember that God can use all of it to speak to us and give us an understanding of his story, even when scriptures get confusing, boring, or a little weird.
Posted in

No Comments






no tags