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XIII. Assorted Practical Sayings (10:1–20)

The role of this chapter in the book is difficult to determine. It is a collection of assorted maxims. These proverbs dealing with practical virtues have little organic connection but are the type of sayings expected from a traditional wisdom teacher.

V. 1, frequently attached to the previous chapter, indicates that it is easier to ruin something than it is to develop it. The thoughts of the wise will lead to the beneficial, while the thoughts of the fool will lead to the detrimental (v. 2). Though the fool does not speak, he betrays himself by his general demeanor (v. 3).

A hurried resignation by the bureaucrat only intensifies the king's anger (v. 4). The inequities in the structure of society are traced to a ruler who makes decisions by whim.

Risks are associated with any human effort. People do not have total control over the events of life, but they frequently cause their own accidents (vv. 8-9). The importance of both preparation and timing is seen in vv. 10-11.

The next group of verses (vv. 12-14) addresses a favorite subject of the sage—words. The words of the wise result in grace, while those of the fool result in destruction. Fools exercise no restraint in speech but multiply words concerning matters about which they are ignorant.

The final group of verses (vv. 10-20) deals mostly with rulers. A land whose king acts childishly is in trouble (v. 16), while a land whose king is disciplined is greatly benefited (v. 17). The influence of the ruler has a way of filtering down into the citizenry (vv. 18-19), but even if the leader is profligate, the critic must be careful in his disapproval (v. 20).