The Real Tree of Life

We know it when we’ve upset someone and they arc back at us just about how they feel. They often seem intent on upsetting us as much as they themselves are upset, not realising in that moment that their “harsh word” will usually create an angry response in us. So much for hopes of quelling the situation!

This is the final chapter of predominantly tree of life meaning contrastive “but” proverbs. Chapter 16 and onwards features a range of different styles of proverbs. It’s almost as if Proverbs is maturing more and more in structure over the 31-chapter journey, or certainly perhaps leading the reader onto the maturity it hopes to instill that way.

The themes of Proverbs 15 are grouped as follows:

A Patient Tongue Prevents Anger and Promotes Life

The “tongue” is a keyword and theme in the undercurrent of this chapter, and this is concentrated in verses 1-4. Patience exacted in life brings life to others. It is a quality that features subsidiary virtue, like compassion, for instance. In other words, patience is made manifest via compassion (as one example – kindness would be another).

Verses 23, 28 and 30 also illuminate the earlier portion. Timeliness of reply, for example, is a great feature of the discernment in Wisdom, and joy is known to both the giver and the receiver of the reply. ‘Weighing our answers’ is also a mark that we care enough to prudently deliver (in patience) our communication.

Issues on anger (wrath) come up in verses 1, 13 and 18. The perfect answer to anger is patience.

Wisdom – A Journey through Discipline

“Discipline” is mentioned in Proverbs 15 three times (verses 5, 10, 32) but its idea underpins some of the other proverbs too. The simple message is we cannot achieve a heart known to Wisdom until it goes through various disciplining experiences along that journey. Tough but true. Then, at last, there is “treasure” to be had in it, once we’ve acquired a good measure of Wisdom (verse 6).

Discipline is a necessary goad. It is training us in our ways, and those toward life – the abundant life.

Allusions to ‘Living’ and ‘Dying’

There is a vacillation between a couplet of proverbs (verses 10 and 11) that speak on death for those wandering from God’s ancient path – that Wisdom alone commands the destiny of all, even to the deeper reaches of that place known as the Sheol experience – and many allusions to life for the upright, and particularly the imagery of the “tree of life”.

This thoroughly gorgeous “tree of life” image is only known to Proverbs other than Genesis and Revelation. Proverbs is perhaps the only one, however, that provides us with a description of what the tree of life looks like i.e. the real tree is not a tree at all – it’s pointing us back to Wisdom… Wisdom is the tree of life.


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