The Book of Proverbs is an example of ancient “wisdom literature,” containing observations of human behavior and advice for practical or virtuous living. According to Jewish tradition, this book of the Bible was written by none other than King Solomon, the Biblical figure distinguished by his wisdom (1 Kings 5:9-14).1 Proverbs may be a book of ancient wisdom, but it still has what to teach today’s technologically advanced society.
For today’s example, here are 8 verses and/or passages from the Book of Proverbs that should be essential for anyone with a social media account.
Don’t be That Person
Let’s start with the basics. Social media can attract some pretty angry people. Some have no other agenda than to kick over a hornet’s nest for those sweet, sweet likes and retweets. Maybe for them, chaos is a ladder or maybe they just want to watch the world burn.
|Proverbs 6:12-15||משלי ו:יב-טו|
|A troublemaker and a villain, who goes about with a corrupt mouth, who winks maliciously with his eye, signals with his feet and motions with his fingers, who plots evil with deceit in his heart—he always stirs up conflict. Therefore disaster will overtake him in an instant; he will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.||אָדָם בְּלִיַּעַל אִישׁ אָוֶן הוֹלֵךְ עִקְּשׁוּת פֶּה: קֹרֵץ בְּעֵינָו מֹלֵל בְּרַגְלָו מֹרֶה בְּאֶצְבְּעֹתָיו: תַּהְפֻּכוֹת בְּלִבּוֹ חֹרֵשׁ רָע בְּכָל עֵת מִדְיָנִים יְשַׁלֵּחַ: עַל כֵּן פִּתְאֹם יָבוֹא אֵידוֹ פֶּתַע יִשָּׁבֵר וְאֵין מַרְפֵּא:|
Consider all those sensationalist stories shared in a righteous rage, only to be debunked after a single day of rudimentary fact-checking.
|Proverbs 6:16, 19||משלי ו:טז, יט|
|There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him… a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.||שֶׁשׁ הֵנָּה שָׂנֵא יְקֹוָק וְשֶׁבַע תועבות תּוֹעֲבַת נַפְשׁוֹ:…יָפִיחַ כְּזָבִים עֵד שָׁקֶר וּמְשַׁלֵּחַ מְדָנִים בֵּין אַחִים:|
Pick Your Battles
Not every issue requires an opinion and not every statement demands a response. I know duty calls, but it’s really ok to sit out a few rounds every now and again. In fact, you can follow my lead and give yourself a gold star every time you do.
|Proverbs 26:17||משלי כו:יז|
|Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own.||מַחֲזִיק בְּאָזְנֵי כָלֶב עֹבֵר מִתְעַבֵּר עַל רִיב לֹּא לוֹ:|
There’s a rabbinic teaching that states that just as there can be a reward for speech, there can also be a reward for silence (Zevahim 115b). Knowing when to do which is as important as it is difficult.
|Proverbs 10:19||משלי י:יט|
|Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.||בְּרֹב דְּבָרִים לֹא יֶחְדַּל פָּשַׁע וְחֹשֵׂךְ שְׂפָתָיו מַשְׂכִּיל:|
Social media isn’t always the best place for intelligent and productive conversations. I’ve found that moving a conversation from public to private often does wonders for understanding. Then again, there are those for whom thoughtful conversation is impossible, let alone a constructive disagreement. Here are some Proverbs that I have no doubt will resonate with the typical social media user.
|Proverbs 18:2||משלי יח:ב|
|Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.||לֹא יַחְפֹּץ כְּסִיל בִּתְבוּנָה כִּי אִם בְּהִתְגַּלּוֹת לִבּוֹ:|
|Proverbs 9:7-9||משלי ט:ז-ט|
|Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults; whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse. Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you. Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.||יֹסֵר לֵץ לֹקֵחַ לוֹ קָלוֹן וּמוֹכִיחַ לְרָשָׁע מוּמוֹ: אַל תּוֹכַח לֵץ פֶּן יִשְׂנָאֶךָּ הוֹכַח לְחָכָם וְיֶאֱהָבֶךָּ: תֵּן לְחָכָם וְיֶחְכַּם עוֹד הוֹדַע לְצַדִּיק וְיוֹסֶף לֶקַח:|
|Proverbs 29:9||משלי כט:ט|
|If a wise person goes to court with a fool, the fool rages and scoffs, and there is no peace.||אִישׁ חָכָם נִשְׁפָּט אֶת אִישׁ אֱוִיל וְרָגַז וְשָׂחַק וְאֵין נָחַת:|
This doesn’t necessarily mean we have to let everything slide either. The two verses of Proverbs 26:4-5 perfectly describe the challenge I personally experience every day on Twitter.2
|Proverbs 26:4-5||משלי כו:ד-ה|
|Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.||אַל תַּעַן כְּסִיל כְּאִוַּלְתּוֹ פֶּן תִּשְׁוֶה לּוֹ גַם אָתָּה: עֲנֵה כְסִיל כְּאִוַּלְתּוֹ פֶּן יִהְיֶה חָכָם בְּעֵינָיו:|
Bonus: Watch What You Say At All Times
The following “bonus” verse comes not from Proverbs but Ecclesiastes. Both biblical books are attributed to King Solomon and I think this verse is especially apt in an age in which private conversations don’t always remain as such.
|Ecclesiastes 10:20||קהלת י:כ|
|Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird in the sky may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say.||גַּם בְּמַדָּעֲךָ מֶלֶךְ אַל תְּקַלֵּל וּבְחַדְרֵי מִשְׁכָּבְךָ אַל תְּקַלֵּל עָשִׁיר כִּי עוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם יוֹלִיךְ אֶת הַקּוֹל וּבַעַל כְּנָפַיִם יַגֵּיד דָּבָר:|
Even Ecclesiastes knew that everything, no matter how personal or private, will ultimately wind up on Twitter.
- One passage in the Babylonian Talmud states that Proverbs was written by King Hizkiyahu and his court (Bava Batra 15a). However, this statement is usually interpreted in light of Proverbs 25:1 which states that Hizkiyahu was responsible for compiling the proverbs of Solomon. Throughout rabbinic literature, the statements in Proverbs are attributed to King Solomon (e.g. Berakhot 4a, and 10a).
- The Talmud records that the Sages wanted to suppress/censor the Book of Proverbs due to the blatant contradiction in these verses. The Talmud resolves this contradiction by interpreting 26:5 as referring to answering a fool about Torah and 26:4 to mean avoid answering fools regarding everything else (Shabbat 30b).