Thursday, June 14, 2012

Book Review: Proverbs Reconstructed

Proverbs Reconstructed by Gus Dallas was written to simplify the Proverbs into one easy book that even a person who never opened the Bible could learn. In a way that's true. Dallas goes through the book of Proverbs and gleans every bit of wisdom he can find about a number of subjects. He takes the verses and separates them into the subjects. The book is lists of verses for just about any subject you can think of. Anything from abomination to feet, yes feet, and folly to, my favorite part, being a Godly wife.

While this book is a handy resource for someone looking for a quick Scripture reference, it's not anymore helpful than just reading the Word yourself. I was expecting more discussion, more practical explanations, ways to apply the verses to my life. As I said before, I enjoy the book of Proverbs. Breaking it up for no other reason than to list verses per subject was a bit disappointing to me. It took away the beauty of the prose and rhythm of the Proverbs. 

There's a big index of topics at the front of the book, everything from Abomination, Adultery, Adversity and Advocate all the way to Work, Worry, Worship, Wrath and Zealous. Actually, Wrath appears twice - once with a "Good" entry and once with a "Bad" entry.

Having looked through the book and played with it quite a bit, I'm still not sure what Dallas means by "Good" and "Bad". There are actually many double entries like this throughout the book. As an example of "good" wrath, Dallas lists Proverbs 15:1: "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (and four other, separate verses). But for BAD wrath, he lists many more, including, 19:12: "The king's wrath is like the roaring of a lion, but his favor is like dew on the grass." I'm not sure I get the distinction, honestly.

Dallas, who has apparently not written anything else of a religious nature before, adds his own touch to the book mainly through a brief introduction in which he makes sweeping and unconvincing generalizations about the need for his book: "...Many have been instructed to "read one Proverb a day." But that does not work."

The very first sentence in his introduction ends with the word "etc." and the thing only gets fuzzier from there. ("all the information in the Bible is useful for reproof, instruction, etc." - did he forget what else the Bible is useful for?) He goes on to call the Book of Proverbs, "the sign to us that the Bible does not despise common sense and good judgment." THE sign? There's nothing else in the entire thing (and since he's Christian, that means 66 books!) that makes any sense ? I'm surprised to see these annoying generalizations in a book from a religious publisher - of any religion.

To be very honest, the "index" at the front of the book seems more like a list of computer-generated key words, than an actual thoughtful index which might be helpful to a person looking for Scriptural insight on pressing topics like marriage (nothing listed), childbirth, graduations, or divorce (though adultery and widowhood are covered). Heaven help you if you want to write a sermon, or speak, or write on a somewhat contemporary topic like the environment or war.Poverty, however, is covered with tidbits like 10:15: "The rich man's wealth is his strong city; the destruction of the poor is their poverty." Oh-kay! I'll have to slip that one in the next time I'm writing about homelessness.

Perhaps the book would be  useful as one way to find ideas quickly for a speech, sermon or blog post... but deep insights are few and far between here and in terms of "value added," nothing here, in the eBook version, at least, that you couldn't do yourself for free. In all honesty,  a decent concordance is probably a better long-term investment in your spiritual bookshelf.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 


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