A Parable

Proverbs 1:1-7  The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel;  (2)  To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding;  (3)  To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity;  (4)  To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.  (5)  A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:  (6)  To understand a proverb (mashal), and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.  (7)  The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (NASB)

Back to the Beginning

In The Biblical Role of Women posts, we explored and compared Bereshit (Genesis) 3:16 and 4:7. These two verses are about Chavah’s (Eve’s) curse after the serpent deceived her and YHWH’s remarks to Cain before he killed Abel. If you will recall, YHWH’s statements in these verses contain some striking similarities —- especially in Hebrew.

To the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you.” (Gen. 3:16 NASB)

“If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (Gen. 4:7 NASB)

In this post, instead looking at the word for desire, teshukah, as we did in the Biblical Role of Women, I want to explore the Hebrew word translated as rule and master. In each of the verses above, the same Hebrew word is used: moshal (משׁל). This is the verb form of the word mashal, which means proverb or parable. This Hebrew word is very interesting.

Strong’s defines the verb moshal as to rule: (have, make to have) dominion, governor, and reign. And defines the noun mashal as a sense of superiority in mental action; properly a pithy maxim, usually of a metaphorical nature; hence a simile (as an adage, poem, discourse): – byword, like, parable, proverb.

The Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible defines both words together since they are cognates. Rule, dominion: The dominion one rules over. Also the comparison of things as a rule of measurement. Compare: To compare one thing to another in the sense of a rule of measurement, often a proverb or parable.

So, the Hebrew word for rule and dominion is also the word for a proverb or parable. Think about that for moment. How are these words related in the Hebraic mindset? Rabbi David Fohrman, in his book The Beast that Crouches at the Door[1], suggests that the reason people tell parables is to interpret reality. In our day-to-day experiences of life, things can happen that are hard to make sense of or understand. We need something to “compare it to”. This is how a story, parable, or proverb “rules” over our experience. They point out what is important in our circumstance so that we can understand and grow. Is this not what a (good) ruler does for us? He sorts out our circumstances and directs our paths.

Proverbs 1:1-7 is quoted at the beginning of this post. Look at the words that Solomon used to describe the function of a proverb or parable (mashal) in these verses: to know, to understand, to perceive, to receive, to attain, and to increase in knowledge, wisdom, understanding, judgment, and equity. A parable opens the door for us to perceive or understand something that is hidden to us. By relating a message in story form, the moral or lesson is left up to the hearer to discern or interpret. Is this not why Yeshua concludes many parables[2] with: “He that has ears to hear, let him hear“?

Whether a particular connection or comparison is understood also depends on what or who controls the heart of a person. At least this is the conclusion of King Solomon in verse 7. What Solomon essentially points out is that a person that fears YHWH can “hear” what the proverb/parable is teaching. Conversely, those without YHWH as their Master and Elohim (God), have no real wisdom or knowledge. A life devoid of the governing Word of the Creator is nothing more than the unbridled desire, passion, and appetites of a fool. In other words, what rules or controls the person is their own nephesh or soul. Are you starting to see the pattern of mashal’s integrated uses of to rule and a parable?

Solomon wants to teach his children with the authority of a proverb. This is the purpose of a parable. They contain the power (rule; dominion) to change a person’s perception of life, circumstances, and even their worldview. That’s pretty powerful! They are the lighthouses that reveal the shoreline on a dark and foggy night. Do you ever find that your “vision” is blurred by your situation? Have you ever felt that you are at a crossroads? I know I have on numerous occasions. We all need a mashal that will shift our lenses so that YHWH’s purpose comes into our focus.

If we listen (shema) carefully, YHWH gives us these mashalim (proverbs/parables) all the time. They definitely are found in Scripture, but they also occur in our day-to-day lives. For example, the other day I was correcting my son for the umpteenth time for something we’ve covered again and again. I was frustrated by his lack of compliance and apathetic attitude. I vocalized my disappointment by saying that all he had to do was simply obey what I said. “Why can’t you do that?” I asked.

Immediately, I felt YHWH say to me, “That’s how I feel. You do the same thing to me all the time. Why can’t you also simply obey me?” Wow, talk about feeling like a hypocrite! My loving Father used my son as a living parable to teach me or direct my focus to a problem I couldn’t “hear” without this powerful comparison. If I change my actions because of this mashal, then I have increased or attained wisdom as the Proverbs verses quoted attest.

In the account with Eve and Cain, is there more to the proverbial story than we’ve previously conceived? Isn’t there always? We find the exact same Hebrew structure in Genesis 3:16 and 4:7. Teshukah and Mashal. Passion, desire, and appetites compared with dominion, rule, and mastering. Is YHWH highlighting something for us here in the beginning…is there a parable that will direct us further? I hope to explore this in my next post called Masters.


[1] I have a digital version, so page numbers do not correlate properly. You can find his musings of moshal/mashal in chapter 12. The hard copy can be purchased at http://www.amazon.com/The-Beast-That-Crouches-Door/dp/0983269041/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386891475&sr=8-1&keywords=the+beast+that+crouches+at+the+door

[2] Mt. 11:15, 13:9, 13:43; Mk. 4:9; Lk. 8:8; 14:35, and other places phrased slightly different.

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