Solomon shares with us some things that make a heart sick. Some are from personal choices while others are laid upon you. All bring mental & spiritual pain.
My bible helps breaks this section out because these proverbs decidedly focus on the heart. MANY proverbs focus on the heart. I still kind of wish Proverbs was set up topically. I wouldn’t have to try and find so many titles. And there would be clearer breakdowns. But I’ll be happy instead that the Holy Spirit felt it was important for me to hear the wisdom God gave Solomon too.
I want to go over the proverbs in “cause & effect” order like we did last time. It is how my brain is organizing them. Let’s look at them from the vantage point of the parents mentioned here. We will quickly progress through their saga because it would take a LONG TIME to tell their story fully.
♥ ♦ ♥
Jamin and Hephzibah had only been married a short time when Hephzibah announced to her husband that she was with child. Jamin is overjoyed at the news and can’t wait to tell his friends and neighbors. He is certain it will be a son.
Before long Jamin is making a cradle and Hephzibah is weaving the baby’s first blanket. They work side by side in the evenings and talk of the events of the day. Hephzibah lets out a little laugh. Jamin looks over at her with a question marking his face. Hephzibah recognizes his unspoken question and takes hold of his hand. She places it on her abdomen and whispers “Wait for it.” It only takes a moment before he too feels the baby kick. They both laugh and Jamin leaves his hand on Hephzibah’s abdomen for a little longer.
“He is very strong” Jamin says.
Hephzibah laughed again. With a twinkle in her eye she asks, “What makes you think it will be a he?”
“A husband knows these things” he says while puffing out his chest. “Or at least this one hopes he does” he continues with a bit more trepidation in his voice.
“For you my husband, the babe can’t help but be a boy” Hephzibah offers with a smile.
The day of circumcision has arrived. The babe was indeed a son of strong character. Hephzibah could already tell he was going to be a handful. He seldom let her rest between nursing and soothing him. She supposed all children came into the world this way and that she would learn how to sooth the baby for longer periods of time. For now, he lay in her husband’s arms as he presented him to the priest.
“And what is this child’s name” asks the priest.
“He shall be called Benhial for he is the son of his father’s strength and displays strength of his own already.”
The priest quickly completed the ritual and presided over the sacrifice offered for a firstborn son. Hephzibah received the child back as soon as possible and slipped him into her robe so he could nurse. His piercing cries could be heard throughout the Temple but he settled down quickly when presented with a nourishing and caring meal.
Benhaim grew quickly. Jamin and Hephzibah added other children to their household over the years but none tested Jamin’s patients as Benhaim did. It seemed that the child was always into something. Benhaim was also resistant to authority figures outside his home but still desired to please his parents. To them he submitted. Hephzibah continued to encourage Jamin to be patient, for she was certain Benhaim would grow into a fine son. For her Jamin restrained his hand a time or two too often he thought.
Jamin, after many years of loyal service, finally received his own flock of sheep. Benhaim learned the trade alongside his father. It was easier for Jamin to keep watch over him. Once the flock was complete, Benhaim took over the task of watching the sheep. He enlisted the help of his brothers as often as he could.
While Jamin was away on a trip, Benhaim was left with full care of the sheep. He HATED this smelly flock of sheep, always pushing and shoving one another. WHY couldn’t his father have allowed him to become a merchant or even a carpenter? He already proved his skill with getting others to ‘buy into’ his ideas and his carvings were beautiful. He was certain he could easily sell them in the market. With his father away this would be the perfect time to put that notion to the test. But first he had to find a way to get out of stupid sheep duty!
Benhaim prepared his scheme well into the first night. By morning he was ready.
“Aba has left me in charge. I want all of you boys out in the field with the sheep today. We will split them into three groups for pasturing. The ewes are getting fat and need more food for their babies. I will walk back and forth between the flocks to make sure they are safe and that you are diligently watching over them.”
The brothers were pleased to be assigned such an important task and easily followed Benhaim to the sheepfold to start separating the flock. It didn’t take long for the three portions to be brought to pasture and the brothers installed in their positions. Benhaim wanted to slip away immediately but he had to at least make it appear that he was doing as he had said. One by one, he visited his brothers place of pasture and told them each that they were doing such a great job that he would be spending his time with another of the brothers as he was struggling with the task. Each brother felt proud that Benhaim trusted them so much.
Having made each brother think he was elsewhere Benhaim carefully made his way to the place where he had hidden his carvings the day before. He looked over them one more time before tying them up and setting off for the market.
For hours Benhaim tried to get people to buy his carvings. He would approach people away from the market stalls. He didn’t want the other merchants to think he was stealing their customers. He also made up a story intended to pull at his customer’s heart to convince them to buy.
“Please kind sir, my father is ill and cannot work. I have brought these mere trinkets to try and provide for my family while my father heals.”
This ruse usually worked and by midafternoon all of his carvings were sold, but one. He approached his next customer with carefully masked confidence as he made his appeal. This person though was a friend of his father’s. He knew the truth of Jamin’s whereabouts but he remained quiet as Benhaim continued with his well-crafted lies. This friend also knew of the trouble Benhaim had brought to his father’s brow as Jamin had shared his concerns with him at times. The friend agreed to purchase Benhaim’s last carving while also thinking about how to break this news to Jamin when he returned.
Benhaim, once his supply was depleted, hurried back home and hid his money. Only then did he return to check on his brothers. One of his brothers had struggled with keeping the sheep together and was nearly trampled for his efforts. He finally found just the right place to block their escape and was able to report all sheep accounted for when Benhaim returned.
Benhaim and his brothers reunited the flock and put them safely in the sheepfold for the night. Around the supper table the boys traded stories of the day’s events. Other than the one brother who was nearly trampled the day had passed relatively quietly. When the stories were told, Benhaim spoke as if he had witnessed the events.
“You all did excellent jobs. Aba will rejoice when he hears how much you have learned. I was watching each of you from the nearby brush, ready to help if needed.”
“Then why didn’t you help when the sheep nearly trampled me” asked his youngest brother.
“I was about to but then I saw you had regained control. You made ME proud of how you handled yourself. I probably would have panicked if it was me!”
The youngest brother beamed at Benhaim’s praise. Yes. He DID handle it by himself but he was grateful to know that Benhaim was there watching over him if he really got into trouble.
Benhaim continued using his brothers this way while their father was away. He needed time to create more carvings to sell in the market. He couldn’t keep his eyes on the sheep and concentrate on his carving at the same time. And who was he hurting anyway? His brothers were getting a good education in the life of a shepherd and he was honing his skills so he could impress his father.
The final night before their father’s return, the youngest brother had two sheep escape his care during the morning hours. He didn’t know what to do. Should he leave the others and go in search of the strays or stay with the flock and ask Benhaim for help when he checked on him? He decided to stay with the flock but was continually scanning the brush to see if Benhaim was there, watching from a distance. He supposed Benhaim was watching over his brothers and their flocks at the time the sheep broke free but surely he would come soon to help round up the strays.
It was nearly dark when Benhaim hid his carvings and went to collect his brothers and the sheep. Things went as they had every other day until the youngest brother was gathered back into the fold. With tears, the youngest brother told of the two missing sheep.
“Why didn’t you go after them” demanded Benhaim.
“I couldn’t. There wasn’t anyone to watch over the rest of the sheep. I kept waiting for you to come check on me so you could help me find them.”
“I must have come by the last time before the sheep went missing. I’m sorry I didn’t make it back before now.”
“They escaped this MORNING! I have been watching for you ALL DAY” demands his little brother.
“I saw you looking around but thought you must have been trying to count the sheep or something. If I had known there was trouble I would have revealed myself and offered help. I’m sorry you didn’t see me and alert me to your trouble. We will have to go after them now.”
Benhaim sent the rest of the sheep with his remaining brothers to the sheepfold. He and his youngest brother set out on the trail of the two escapees. It didn’t take long to find the evidence of their fate. Blood and bits of fleece that had been ripped out lay on the ground. They had been taken by a wild animal. There was nothing more they could do for them.
“It will be alright. I will explain to aba how you did your best. I’m sure he will agree and there will be no punishment for this lapse.”
The youngest brother hung his head in shame and quietly cried the while they walked. After reaching home, all the children ate and readied for bed. Benhaim spent several hours of the night coming up with an excuse for the lost sheep. His father had put him in charge. He was certain he would be blamed for the loss, unless he could come up with a convincing story.
Benhaim escaped punishment when his father returned. He had convincingly lied his way out of another situation. Jamin’s friend presenting him with Benhaim’s carving and the lies he had told did result in Benhsim surrendering the money he had made under false pretenses. He was given a stern warning about lying.
Years went by with Benhaim’s bad behavior growing more and more obvious to his family and his neighbors. By the time Benhaim reached a marriageable age there were no fathers willing to entrust their daughters to him. It was clear he had a crooked heart and a lying tongue. The hopes of his father were finally crushed under the combined weight of Benhaim’s behavior. Hephzibah couldn’t hold up her head in public, so great was her shame.
Benhaim left his hometown and tried to make a place for himself away from his past. But his behavior never changed. Wherever he went, he was soon driven away in disgrace. One night, while fleeing from another angry town, Benhaim was set about by bandits. All that he had was stolen and he was left along the wayside. No one looked for him and none stopped to help him as the blood ran from his wounds and infection ravaged his body. The wounds that he suffered resulted in his death, three days later. His parents never learned of his fate as he had not even given his real name in years to any he met.
♥ ♦ ♥
Our story starts out with hope and a joyful heart but with Benhaim’s behavior his parent’s sorrow multiplied and their spirits dried up. The good behavior of all their children combined couldn’t expunge the bad behavior of the one. Hephzibah’s pleas for mercy probably played a big part in Benhaim’s path but one can never know for sure. Benhaim had a crooked heart and a dishonest tongue. He would forever be defined by his character and his parents blamed for the path he took in life.
Father God, I could have been a Benhaim. I was the stubborn child. I was resistant to authority. I also told more than my share of lies. But my parents didn’t give up on me and neither did YOU! THANK YOU for working on my heart. For giving me beauty for ashes. For molding my heart into one You can use. Help me walk in a way that is always pleasing to You.
Holy Spirit, thank You for bring the story to life for me again. It is much easier to see the proverbs in action when placed in a life’s story.