How does knowing about Hezekiah’s name and the 130 proverbs help me to be more like Jesus?

Okay, you’ve convinced me that there are 130 sayings in one of the collections in the book of Proverbs because this is the numerical value of Hezekiah’s name in Hebrew.  But how does knowing this help me be a better Christian?  How will it make me more like Jesus?

Many of us may have been encouraged to look, every time we read the Bible, for some specific thing that we should believe or do to become more Christ-like.  This, we’ve been told, is how God speaks to us through the Bible and how reading it helps us grow.  And so we look for what one person called their “gem of the day,” a bright and inspiring thought to carry with us as we go about our activities.

There’s a real danger to this approach, however.  It risks turning us into moralists who are trying hard on their own, in small ways each day, to become better people—to be able to say, as Émile Coué put it, “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.”  What we should want instead is to become genuine followers of Jesus who are implicated in the grand story of God, which Jesus brought to its culmination, followers who are creatively and courageously living out that story in their own lives.

Knowing about Hezekiah’s name and the 130 proverbs won’t help you become a better moralist.  But it will help you appreciate more about the story that you find yourself in, if you do want to become more like Jesus.

For one thing, it gives you a better understanding of what the Bible actually is.  The Bible isn’t a loose compilation of thousands and thousands of discrete propositions that we need to select and arrange in order to get guidance on various subjects.  Rather, it’s a carefully crafted and curated collection of literary compositions, some as short as poetic couplets (proverbs), others as long as the sprawling histories in Samuel-Kings or Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah.  Seeing the care and intentionality behind the collection of proverbs “compiled by the men of Hezekiah” can help you appreciate the nature of the Bible and the crucial role that God allowed human agents to play in its composition and collection over the centuries.  In the Bible, God was letting us humans write his story with him.  And that’s what he still wants us to do in our lives today.

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Woodcut of Hezekiah burning idols

Seeing the honor that Hezekiah’s men paid to their royal patron by making sure their collection of proverbs came out to the right total (even though they had to repeat some proverbs from the earlier collection of Solomon’s sayings to reach that total) helps us recognize that at a particular moment in Israel’s history, after godless kings had suppressed devotion to the true God, a new righteous king was reshaping the affairs of the kingdom and allowing biblical scholarship to flourish once again. Behind that little number, 130, there’s quite a story about what it took and what it cost to give us the Bible.  I personally find this much more inspiring than any “gem of the day” my eye might happen to glance upon and isolate from the flow of the text that makes up the flow of the story.

So, to sum up, details like the 130 proverbs help us appreciate the fabric of the Bible, how it has been woven together from real stories of real people who were striving and struggling to serve God in their own places and times, and who are implicitly calling on us to do the same.  When we do, we become more like Jesus as we continue in our own lives the story, of which he is the center, found in the pages of the Bible.

Author: Christopher R Smith

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is a writer and biblical scholar who is also an ordained minister. He was active in parish and student ministry for twenty-five years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the Scriptures that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He has an A.B. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School.

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