What If “Iron Sharpening Iron” In The Book Of Proverbs Is Actually Something To Avoid?

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Aaron Blumer's picture


It's possible that he's right, but the examples of sharpness he cites are dissimilar in several ways. There is no negative example that is an exact parallel. (As one example, there is no reference to lips or tongue in Prov. 27.17) Further, he reveals a bias early when he attributes the traditional interpretation (and it is a very, very long-held understanding!) to modern ideas of sharpness.

The reason I chose an axe as the site logo, for example, is because sharpness is a desirable quality in both tools and weapons. He might also do a broader study of sharpness in the OT and factor in also the opposite quality of dullness.

The kernel of truth in this view though is that you can be 'sharper' in more ways than one, and not all of them are good!

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Bert Perry's picture

Or bible-hub, I guess.  Matthew Henry uses the typical, positive notion of sharpening, the author uses a negative view, and a third view might be "it depends on what is being sharpened, and for what purpose.".  In my kitchen, I love it when my paring knives are sharp, but not so much when it's soup spoons, for obvious reasons.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

SamH's picture

Does a certain website have a name change in its future? Biggrin


Bert Perry's picture

Levity aside, it strikes me that when Proverbs 27:17 was written, the iron industry was still pretty new and centered among the Hittites in Anatolia, according to the archeologists.  If you look up the uses of the word in Scripture, you find that it was used for tools for work, tools for war, sacramental uses, and Og's bed, more or less.  

I am going to make the wild assumption that the primary use Solomon's readers had for iron was not pagan idols or giant beds, but rather useful tools like knives, hoes, swords, and the like.  In that light, sharpness was the primary purpose of iron, and we might rewrite Proverbs 27:17 as:

As iron renders iron useful, so one man renders another man useful.

Which is a long way of saying that the good professor might do well to think about the context of early Iron age use of the material.  :^)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.