The Tablet of Your Heart (Prov. 7:3)
Author: Jesse Long
In the tenth “instruction” in Proverbs (7:1-27), the introduction uses an infrequent, yet compellingly descriptive metaphor to describe how the wise son should internalize the father’s teachings. The father tells the son to “bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart” (v. 3, ESV throughout). “Bind them on your fingers” probably refers to wrapping a box (containing the Shema, Deut. 6:4 ff.) and leather straps (phylacteries, in Hebrew tefillin) around the arm and fingers of the left hand to call to mind Moses’ declaration that Israel should love Yahweh “with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your might” (Deut. 6:5). The wise son, however, should do more than bind them on the outside, but also on the inside, on “the tablet of your heart.”
This uncommon image (elsewhere only in 3:3 and Jer. 17:1) describes the heart as a stone tablet on which the wise son should write words of wisdom. As Yahweh inscribed the “Ten Words” (Exod. 34:28; Deut. 4:13) on stone for Moses and Israel (Exod. 24:12), so the son should engrave words of wisdom on his heart.
The apostle Paul conjures up a similar image when he describes the Corinthians as “a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Cor. 3:3). Paul goes on to contrast the covenant written on stone with the new covenant in which Yahweh puts his law within (2 Cor. 3:1-18; see Jer. 31:31-34). Like the Moses coming down the mountain (Exod. 35:29-35), those adhering to the old covenant have veiled faces, hearts that are unable to see, but with unveiled faces Christians see the glory of the Lord and are transformed “into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:13-15, 18).
For the Christian, wisdom from God comes not just with inscribing on our hearts wise words, but with transforming our hearts by keeping our eyes on Jesus.