Vv 1-9: "These verses have been likened to the overture of an
opera, suggesting the themes which will later be developed. Each phrase finds
elaboration in Pro 1--9. It is like the title page of a Victorian book, having a
motto on the opening page, beautifully designed, with surrounding scroll work
enclosing associated and interwoven thoughts" (Waddoup). See Article, Prov, Christ's death in the.
The first verse introduces the entire Book of Proverbs. In
these opening words, the basic authorship, the character of the material, and
the kind of literature are established. Similar verses identify individual
collections within the book, as well as designate the book's structure (Pro
10:1; 22:17; 24:23; 25:1; 30:1; 31:1).
PROVERBS: Heb "mashal" = a comparison (ie between wise
man and fool), from root "to rule" (ie over one's life): cp Gal 6:16. A proverb
is not always plain (Pro 1:6; Joh 16:25).
What is a proverb? (1) A short pithy saying in common and
recognized use; a concise sentence, often metaphorical or alliterative in form,
which is held to express some truth ascertained by experience or observation and
familiar to all. (2) A common word or phrase of contempt or reproach, a byword.
(3) An oracular or enigmatical saying that requires interpretation; an allegory,
The Bible uses the word "proverb" in all three ways. And this
book contains proverbs of both the first and third kinds.
Proverbs can be difficult to understand. They are often
metaphorical, which means they use words figuratively, not literally. And they
are often enigmatical, which means they were composed intentionally with obscure
metaphors to challenge the ability of the reader to discover their hidden
wisdom. They can be obscure and perplexing by design, which gives them their
unique appeal and force.
Solomon in his introduction defines proverbs as needing
"interpretation" and being the "dark sayings" of wise men (Pro 1:6). We may
almost see him admitting definitions one and three above, for metaphors need
interpretation and enigmas are truly dark sayings!
To rush into the book of Proverbs naively and apply primary
definitions or the literal use of words is to run amok indeed. These sayings
need interpretation, which means arriving at the sense intended by the Holy
Spirit working in and through Solomon.
Jesus and his disciples further show the difficulty of
understanding proverbs: "These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but
the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall
shew you plainly of the Father" (John 16:25). "His disciples said unto him, Lo,
now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb" (John 16:29).
Jesus knew that proverbs were not plain speech, and the
disciples also understood proverbs were not plain statements. They need careful
analysis and interpretation for us to know the full and correct meaning and
These proverbs will provide short, exciting, and challenging
rules for living life successfully by the wisdom of God. What an exciting
literary form! What an interesting way of communicating truth! And all by the
Divine inspiration of the LORD God!
SOLOMON: Note Solomon's request in 1Ki 3:9-12. He
composed 3,000 proverbs and 1,005 songs (1Ki 4:32; cp Ecc 12:9). He was a man of
wisdom, because (when was this?) he was a man of prayer: 1Ki 3:12;
But these are not just any proverbs, they are the proverbs of
Solomon, son of David and king of Israel. Not only was he begotten and trained
by the man after God's own heart, but also God gave Solomon largeness of heart
and wisdom above all other men (1Ki 3:12; 4:29-31). As a rich king with a
peaceful reign, he explored the purpose of life more than most any other man
could even attempt.
God inspired Solomon to write many proverbs, by which he
taught the people knowledge, set out acceptable words, even the words of truth.
Of a total of three thousand proverbs (1Ki 4:32), we have hardly more than five
hundred here. But what a collection it is!
Let the reader tremble before the Word of God and rejoice at
the opportunity of finding great treasure in the Mind of God. Let our intent be
learning and obedience only, without even a trace of mere academic interest or
knowledge for the sake of pride.
A devoted follower of Socrates asked him the best way to
acquire knowledge. Socrates responded by leading him to a river and plunging him
beneath the surface. The man struggled to free himself, but Socrates kept his
head submerged. Finally, after much effort, the man was able to break loose and
emerge from the water. Socrates then asked, "When you thought you were drowning,
what one thing did you want most of all?" Still gasping for breath, the man
exclaimed, "I wanted air!" The philosopher wisely commented, "When you want
knowledge as much as you wanted air, then you will get it!"
"The introduction [vv 2-6] furnishes us with an epitome in
short and concise language of the general scope and bearing of the book and
points out its specific utility, both to the inexperienced and to those already
Cp the "eyesalve" of Rev 3:18. Buy wisdom, not with money, but
with study (Isa 55:1). Lesson: to be spiritual-minded (Rom 8:6). Parables and
proverbs force us to be meek and attentive, not proud.
FOR ATTAINING: This term "yada" refers to experiential
knowledge, not just cognitive knowledge; it includes the intellectual
assimilation and practical use of what is acquired.
WISDOM:Implies firmness, solidity --
in ct the "wind" of Eph 4:14. The Heb "chokmah" refers to "skill" that produces
something of value. It is used in reference to the skill of seamen (Psa 107:27),
abilities of weavers (Exo 35:26), capabilities of administrators (1Ki 3:28), or
skill of craftsmen (Exo 31:6). In the realm of moral living, it refers to skill
in living -- one lives life with moral skill so that something of lasting value
is produced from one's life.
The common and general understanding of the difference between
"knowledge" and "wisdom" -- at least in their English usages -- is described by
Wiersbe: "The pages of history are filled with the names of brilliant and gifted
people who were smart enough to become rich and famous but not wise enough to
make a successful and satisfying life. Before his death, one of the world's
richest men said that he would have given all his wealth to make one of his six
marriages succeed. It's one thing to make a LIVING, but quite something else to
make a LIFE."
The ultimate source of wisdom and understanding is that taught
by the Holy Spirit-inspired Scriptures, through the life and the power of the
Lord Jesus Christ (Col 1:9-12). All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are
found in Christ Jesus (Col 2:3); in him we may joyfully know we have found the
One greater than Solomon (Mat 12:42).
DISCIPLINE:"The noun 'muwcar' has a
three-fold range of meanings: (1) physical or parental: 'discipline;
chastisement', (2) verbal: 'warning; exhortation' and (3) moral: 'training;
instruction' (BDB; HAL). Its parallelism with 'chokmah' suggests that it refers
to moral training or instruction that the Book of Proverbs offers to its
readers. This instruction consists of wisdom acquired by observing the
consequences of foolish actions in others and developing the ability to control
the natural inclination to folly. This sometimes comes through experiencing
chastisement from God. Sensing something of this nuance, the LXX translated this
term with the Greek word for 'child-training' " (NETn). Cp "temperance" of 2Pe
FOR UNDERSTANDING WORDS OF INSIGHT: That is, for
properly evaluating the words of the wise: cp Heb 5:14; Phi 1:10; ct Isa 6:10.
"Literally, this means to 'discern the words of discernment', since the verb and
the noun have the same root: 'to go between, to divide, to distinguish'. One
commentator aptly expresses it thus: 'Penetration is an integral part of wisdom'
(Perowne). It is Paul's 'proving all things', telling right from wrong. When the
Lord appeared to Solomon and asked him what He should give him, he said, 'Give
therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may
discern between good and bad' (1Ki 3:9). So the apostle writes: 'Strong meat
belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have
their senses exercised to discern both good and evil' (Heb 5:14)"
"The holy Scriptures... are able to make you wise for
salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is
useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that
the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2Ti 3:15-17).
And in the objective of acquiring wisdom, it ought to be noted that
"inspiration" -- or the "Holy Spirit" -- have never sufficed, nor will ever
suffice, as a replacement for... simple wisdom. The most that "inspiration" or
the "Holy Spirit" can do is direct the hearer to the words of wisdom found in
God's revealed words. And it is the simple word, not some mysterious and
unknowable "inspiration", that guides one to life!
FOR ACQUIRING A DISCIPLINED AND PRUDENT LIFE: As David
in 1Sa 18:5.
DISCIPLINED: "Muwcar" again: cp v 2n.
PRUDENT LIFE: "The term 'sakal'... describing the
results of a self-disciplined life... to be prudent, circumspect... to give
attention to, consider, ponder; have insight, understanding (BDB). It is a
synonym of 'chokmah'/wisdom (cp v 2n), but while 'chokmah' focuses on living
skillfully, 'sakal' focuses on acting prudently. The word can also focus on the
results of acting prudently: to have success (eg, Isa 52:12). Elsewhere, the
term describes the prudent actions of Abigail in contrast to her foolish husband
Nabal (1Sa 25)" (NETn).
DOING WHAT IS RIGHT: Heb "zedek" describes conduct that
conforms to a standard. Elsewhere it is used in a concrete sense to refer to
commercial weights and measures that conform to a standard (Deu 25:15). In the
moral realm it refers to "righteous" conduct that conforms to God's
AND JUST: The noun "mishpat" signifies "justice,
judgment", and refers to the ability to make a decision that is just (eg, Deu
16:18; 1Ki 3:28).
A man of "justice" is not moved by emotions, friendships, or
compensation to compromise. He will not distort truth or slant matters in any
direction. He is meticulously fair in distributing both rewards and punishments.
He is equally as tough on his own family and friends as he would be on his
enemies; he is "without partiality" (1Ti 5:21).
AND FAIR: Heb "yashar" has the basic idea of being
"upright, straight, right." It refers to activity that is morally upright and
straight, that is, on the proper moral path. Elsewhere it is used in a concrete
sense to describe cows walking straight down a path without turning right or
left (1Sa 6:12). Wisdom literature often uses the straight path to describe a
morally "straight" life.
Jesus of Nazareth had these four traits in infinite abundance
(Isa 11:4; Luke 2:52; Col 2:3)! His own enemies said, "Never man spake like this
man" (John 7:46). And when he was on trial for his life before combined
religious and political enemies, they could not produce a single fault in his
very public life (Mar 14:55-59). Today he reigns at the pinnacle of power of the
universe (Psa 45:6,7), and as the "Faithful and True" One he does so in perfect
righteousness (Rev 19:11).
FOR GIVING PRUDENCE TO THE SIMPLE: "Prudence", or
"subtilty" (KJV), is intelligence -- not naivete but shrewd discernment or
discrimination (1Th 5:21). This word refers to a shrewd plan of action, viewed
positively or negatively. It is used negatively of planned deception (Jos 9:4)
and premeditated murder (Exo 21:14). The related adjective described the serpent
as "shrewd, crafty, cunning" (Gen 3:1); it describes cunning plans (Job 5:12)
and deception (Job 15:5). The related verb describes a wicked concocted plan
(Psa 83:4). On the other hand, the same term is used positively of a morally
prudent lifestyle (Pro 8:5,12; 15:5; 19:25). There is no virtue for simpletons
to be unaware in this world; they need to be wise as serpents (Mat 10:16; cp Luk
16:8). Proverbs provide a morally shrewd plan for life. "The Hebrew means
'smoothness' or 'nakedness'; hence in its metaphorical sense it denotes the
ability to slide out of danger like a snake... It is interesting to note that
the serpent in Gen 3:1 is described as 'subtil', and the word is identical with
that for 'naked' in Gen 2:25. The serpent's appeal found a response in the
natural instinct of man" (Waddoup).
"Men of mean abilities, weak capacities, shallow
understandings, incautious, credulous, and easily imposed upon... by attending
to what is herein contained, may arrive to a serpentine subtlety; though they
are simple and harmless as doves, may become as wise as serpents; may attain to
an exquisite knowledge of divine things and know even more than the wise and
sage philosophers among the Gentiles, or any of the Rabbins and masters of
Israel; or any of the princes of this world, whose wisdom comes to nought"
SIMPLE: Heb "pethiy". To be simple or open-minded is to
be open and easily influenced or misled by either wisdom or folly (BDB, HAL).
The simpleton is easily enticed and misled (Pro 1:32; 7:7; 9:6; 22:3; 27:12);
believes everything, including bad counsel (Pro 14:15); lacks moral prudence
(Pro 8:5; 19:25); needs discernment (Pro 21:11); but is nevertheless capable of
learning (Pro 9:4,16).
"No less than four types of fools can be discerned in
Proverbs: (1) the simple fool who is still teachable (Pro 1:4,22; 7:7,8; 21:11);
(2) the hardened fool (Pro 1:7; 10:23; 12:23; 17:10; 20:3; 27:22) who is
obstinate; (3) the arrogant fool, the scoffer who rejects all attempts at
enlightenment (Pro 3:34; 21:24; 22:10; 29:8); and (4) the brutish fool (Pro
17:21; 26:3; 30:22; cf Psa 14:1)" (MMc).
KNOWLEDGE AND DISCRETION TO THE YOUNG: Or, putting the
two nouns together, a "discerning plan" (NET). See Psa 119:9: "How can a young
man keep his way pure? By living according to your
DISCRETION: In modern terms, "discernment". "A father
that had three sons was desirous to try their discretion [discernment], which he
did by giving to each of them an apple that had some part of it rotten. The
first eats up his apple, rotten and all; the second throws all his away, because
some part of it was rotten; but the third picks out the rotten, and eats that
which was good, so that he appeared the wisest: thus, some in these days, for
want of [discernment], swallow down all that is presented, rotten and sound
altogether; others throw away all truth, because everything delivered unto them
is not truth, but surely they are the wisest and most discreet, that know how to
try the spirits whether they be of God or not -- how to choose the good and
refuse the evil" (BI).
THE YOUNG: "Young men arrive as babies. They know
nothing. They eat like nursing puppies, and they need diapers to protect
themselves. They take a year to walk, another to talk, and another to potty. By
five they ride a bike, and by fifteen barely drive a car. They dream of marrying
a supermodel, playing in the NBA, and driving a Ferrari. At twenty they are
foolish, gullible, impulsive, naïve. They lack temperance (self-discipline)
"They play hard and sleep long, but they find work hard and
long! When they do work hard, they don't know how to work smart. They spend
money, but don't know to save it. They instantly spot attractive women, but they
cannot distinguish character. They can marry a wife, but don't know how to lead
one. They can father a child, but don't have a clue about training one. They can
make money, but they don't know how to invest it.
"What happens to these foolish and ignorant young men?
Adultery, bankruptcy, crime, debt, depression, disease, divorce, drugs,
drunkenness, fighting, jail, painful marriages, pornography, poverty,
unemployment, vain business ventures, and premature death! All which can be
avoided by learning and practicing Solomon's wonderful proverbs"
V 5 is a parenthesis, amplifying vv 3,4.
LET THE WISE LISTEN AND ADD TO THEIR LEARNING: Solomon
wrote proverbs for the young and simple; but he also wrote them for the old and
wise and discerning -- who should be always learning more of God's wisdom! "This
book will not only make the foolish and bad wise and good, but the wise and good
wiser and better" (Henry). And so the wise man knows that, in this life, he
never truly "attains" to perfect wisdom, but is ever striving toward that goal
(cp Phi 3:12).
Wisdom is acquired by the ears, not the mouth! You have two
ears, but one mouth. You should be swift to hear and slow to speak (Jam 1:19).
However, foolish man would rather speak, for he wants to show others his wisdom.
But a wise man will close his mouth and open his ears, so that he might hear the
instruction of his teachers and obtain knowledge.
Listening is hard for the young and simple, because they are
foolish and impatient. Children are self-deceived to think they know more than
parents. Without experience or understanding, they want to teach their elders.
But older men also have a problem with listening, for they think too highly of
their experience. It takes only a quick look at this book of Proverbs, or a
small dose of the problems among men, to reveal their ignorance.
Ct Mat 13:13-15; Act 28:27.
AND LET THE DISCERNING GET GUIDANCE: Literally, "arts
of seamanship". Related to the Heb words for "sailor" and "rope, or cord" --
used in adjusting the masts of a ship. The ability to steer a right course
The blessed God inspired the Bible, which is full of wisdom
for life and eternity. And He also sent parents and preachers and mentors to
teach the Bible to willing hearers (Deu 6:4-9; Eph 6:4; Mal 2:7; Eph 4:11-14).
Your part is left! Will you listen like Israel to Ezra, Cornelius to Peter, the
noble Bereans to Paul, and Apollos to Aquila and Priscilla (Neh 8:1-12; Acts
10:33; 17:11; 18:24-26)? It is your choice!
FOR UNDERSTANDING PROVERBS: See v 1n.
AND PARABLES: Heb "meliytsah" means "allusive
expression; enigma" in general, and "proverb, parable" in particular (BDB, HAL).
The related noun means 'interpreter" (Gen 42:23). The related Arabic root means
"to turn aside", so this Hebrew term might refer to a saying that has a "hidden
meaning" to its words. "Verse 6 completes the statement of the book's aims,
leading to its 'motto' [v 7]: that those who are instructed may understand a
proverb when they hear one. By understanding these proverbs, the wise will be
helped to understand all proverbs, of whatever type or degree. The word
'interpretation' in the AV ['parables': NIV] is misleading; it should be read
rather as in the RV: 'to understand a proverb and a figure'. It occurs but once
more, in Hab 2:6, where it is a 'taunting proverb', or a riddle which has to be
thought out. The parallel part of this verse makes it clear: to understand 'the
words of the wise and their dark sayings' " (Waddoup).
RIDDLES: "Dark sayings" (KJV), mysterious, unknowable
(cp Pro 25:2). Literally "knots". Cp some of Paul's words -- "hard to
understand" (2Pe 3:16), and Heb 5:14 (strong meat, in ct "milk"). The Hebrew
means, literally, "to tie in knots", and may refer to enigmatic sayings whose
meaning is obscure or hidden, such as Samson's riddle (Jdg 14:12,19; cp also Num
12:8) -- or to an allegory (Eze 17:2), a perplexing moral problem (Psa 49:4;
78:2), a perplexing question (1Ki 10:1 = 2Ch 9:1) or ambiguous words of intrigue
"Dark sayings mean properly enigmas or riddles. These were
used of old as one of the methods of conveying instruction. It was conceived
that by giving exercise to the understanding in finding out the solution of the
enigma, it was calculated to deepen on the mind the impression of the lesson
which was wrapt up in it. This was not done for mere amusement, but for
imparting serious instruction; although, to the young, there might in some
instances be the blending of an intellectual attainment with the conveyance of
useful information, or salutary counsel" (BI).
THE FEAR OF THE LORD IS THE BEGINNING OF KNOWLEDGE:
Here, after the extended introduction, the book proper actually begins! This
verse, which is repeated again at the end of this introductory section (Pro
9:10), gives the heart of all the teaching -- the great dividing line, the
glorious threshold of wisdom: "the fear of the LORD"!
" 'There is not' -- as Patrick observes -- 'such a wise
instruction to be found in all [the books of the heathen], as the very first of
all in Solomon's, which he lays as the ground of all wisdom' "
"Thus in Proverbs the underlying basis of life is one's
relationship to God. Out of that relationship grow moral understanding and the
ability to judge what is right (Pro Pro 2:6–22), a proper attitude toward
material possessions (Pro 3:9–10), industrious labor (Pro 6:6–11),
the necessary equilibrium and sense of security for living in the world (Pro
3:21–26), and the right relationship toward one's neighbor (Pro
3:27–29) to mention only a few of the more practical benefits of that
relationship" (Bullock, "Introduction to Old Testament Poetic Books,
THE FEAR OF THE LORD: A recognition of the reality and
authority of God: Pro 1:7,29; 2:5; 3:7; 8:13; 9:10; 10:27; 14:2,26,27; 15:16,33;
16:6; 19:23; 22:4; 23:17; 24:21; 31:30. Cp Job 28:28; Psa 111:10; Ecc
FEAR: " 'Yara' is the common word for fear in the OT
and has a basic two-fold range of meanings: (1) 'dread; terror' (Deu 1:29; Jon
1:10), (2) 'to stand in awe' (1Ki 3:28), (3) 'to revere; to respect' (Lev 19:3).
With the LORD as the object, it captures the polar opposites of shrinking back
in fear and drawing close in awe and adoration. Both categories of meaning
appear in Exo 20:20 (where the LORD descended upon Sinai amidst geophysical
convulsions); Moses encouraged the Israelites to not be afraid of God
arbitrarily striking them dead for no reason ('Do not fear!') but informed the
people that the LORD revealed himself in such a terrifying manner to scare them
from sinning ('God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him in you
so that you do not sin'). The fear of the LORD is expressed in reverential
submission to his will -- the characteristic of true worship. The fear of the
LORD is the foundation for wisdom (Pro 9:10) and the discipline leading to
wisdom (Pro 15:33). It is expressed in hatred of evil (Pro 8:13) and avoidance
of sin (Pro 16:6), and so results in prolonged life (Pro 10:27; 19:23)" (NETn).
BEGINNING: "Reshith" has a two-fold range of meaning
(BDB): (1) "beginning" = first step in a course of action (eg, Psa 111:10; Pro
17:14; Mic 1:13) or (2) "chief thing" as the principal aspect of something (eg,
Pro 4:7). So fearing the LORD is either (1) the first step in acquiring moral
knowledge or (2) the most important aspect of moral knowledge. The first option
seems preferable because vv 2–6 focus on the acquisition of wisdom.
However, Constable -- favoring the second definition -- says, "The fear of the
Lord is the controlling principle, the foundation, on which one must build a
life of wisdom. 'Knowledge' is a relationship that depends on revelation and is
inseparable from character. Even though many unbelievers have acquired much
information without the fear of God, true knowledge rests on a relationship to
God that revelation supports. We can learn the really important lessons in life
only this way."
Waddoup writes: " 'Beginning' here is 'reshith' -- the sw as
in Gen 1:1: 'In the beginning God created...' It refers to foundations, to the
groundwork rather than to the time of commencement. But in Pro 9:10 -- where,
once again, 'The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom', 'beginning' is a
different word ('techillah'), which does mean 'commencement'. So the fear of the
LORD is to be considered not only as the commencement but also as the very basis
of wisdom. How comprehensive, then, is this 'fear'! Furthermore, Ecc 12:13 makes
the fear of the LORD the 'conclusion of the whole matter': 'Fear God, and keep
his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.' This 'fear', then, is the
Alpha and Omega of our existence! By the 'fear of the LORD', more than reverence
to the Creator is meant; rather, it is a worshipful submission to His Will in
love, because we know Him and trust Him. Therefore it is our duty to obtain
wisdom so that it will affect our living -- and our loving."
BUT FOOLS DESPISE WISDOM AND DISCIPLINE: Heb "eviyl"
refers to a person characterized by moral folly (BDB). Fools lack understanding
(Pro 10:21), do not store up knowledge (Pro 10:14), fail to attain wisdom (Pro
24:7), and refuse correction (Pro 15:5; 27:22). They are arrogant (Pro 26:5),
talk loosely (Pro 14:3) and are contentious (Pro 20:3). They might have mental
intelligence but they are morally foolish. In sum, they are stubborn and
"thick-brained" (Greenstone, cited NETn).
DESPISE: "Buwz" means to treat things of value with
contempt, as if they were worthless (BDB). The classic example is Esau who
despised his birthright and sold it for lentil stew (Gen 25:34).
LISTEN, MY SON: This form of address was in common use
by teachers towards their pupils (Pro 1:10,15; 2:1; 3:1,21; 4:10,20; 5:1;
6:1,20; 7:1; cp Jdg 17:10; Isa 10:12; 2Ki 2:21; and in the NT: 1Co 4:15; Phm
1:10; 1Jo 2:1; 5:2). "Children of God": Rom 8; 1Jo 3. "It is likely that
collections of proverbs grew up in the royal courts and were designed for the
training of the youthful prince. But once the collection was included in the
canon, the term 'son' would be expanded to mean a disciple, for all the people
were to learn wisdom when young. It would not be limited to sons alone but would
include daughters -- as the expression 'the children of ('benim') Israel'
(including males and females) clearly shows. Several passages in the Mishnah and
Talmud record instructions to teach daughters the Mosaic law so that they will
be righteous and avoid sin as well" (NETn).
TO YOUR FATHER'S INSTRUCTION: Cp "Father's name" in Rev
INSTRUCTION: Heb "muwcar": training or discipline (v
AND DO NOT FORSAKE YOUR MOTHER'S TEACHING: 2Ti 1:5;
3:14,15; Joh 19:27.
"This presupposes that the paternal instruction is wise, and
that the mother's law is according to the truth. It is unfortunately the case,
in the present evil age, that fathers and mothers do not always afford to their
offspring a guidance that is wholesome to follow. In a sense not very important,
it is doubtless safe as a general rule for children to follow the counsel of
their parents, who by experience know the workings and issues of things better
than children can. But in the higher sense, it rarely happens that this proverb
can be applied to one's immediate family circle. What is to be done? The remedy
is obvious. Solomon, in these spirit-dictated maxims, stands will in the place
of a wise father and mother, and therefore supplies any natural lack there may
be. Let children young and old adhere to the instruction afforded by the law
laid down in these proverbs, and they will, at the last, experience the
sweetness of wisdom and the profitableness incalculable of walking in her ways"
In some parts of the ancient world the mother shared the duty
of instructing the son with the father (cf Pro 4:3; 6:20; 31:1,26). Here the
father and mother are placed on exactly the same footing as teachers of their
children -- suggesting a domestic situation in which the father and mother
together shared the responsibility for the education of the child.
THEY WILL BE A GARLAND TO GRACE YOUR HEAD: Deu 6:8, a
AND A CHAIN TO ADORN YOUR NECK: The "neck" symbolizes
the will, either stiff and stubborn, or bent to God's law (Exo 32:9: Isa 3:16).
The gold chain around the neck was a mark of distinction, and was conferred on
Joseph by Pharaoh when investing him with authority and dignity (Gen 41:42), and
on Daniel by Belshazzar in the same way (Dan 5:29; cp Jdg 8:26; Song
"True, true. Men can see the excellence of wisdom, even now.
Universal experience endorses the declaration of Eccl 2:13, 'Wisdom excelleth
folly, as far as light excelleth darkness.' What is unlovely, what is hideous in
human character, what is destructive of human well-being, like the things
condemned by wisdom? When does human nature appear at its best. but when wisdom
reigns in the human heart, shaping its utterances and guiding its ways? It is
one of the numberless proofs of the divinity of the Bible that a man, entirely
subject to its precepts, would be the loveliest specimen of manhood upon earth:
a fearer of God. a lover of man, a speaker of truth, a doer of justice, a
performer of kindness, a hater of evil, yet free of resentments, a forgiver of
injury, a sufferer of evil, a rewarder of good, a sympathiser with sorrow, a man
of patience, wise in counsel, magnanimous in view, prompt in action, industrious
in life, hearty in action, true in friendship, consistent in life, persevering
in goodness, noble in everything" (RR).
Vv 10-19: A strong exhortation and warning to keep completely
separate from sinners -- not to be drawn into any company that is not godly. "He
that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be
destroyed" (Pro 13:20).
MY SON, IF SINNERS ENTICE YOU: Surely it is worth
noting here that the writers of these Proverbs does not envision some personal,
supernatural, fallen-angel "devil" enticing his son to sin... but rather, quite
simply, other men who are themselves sinners. There is no other external source
And HOW do these men entice? By the smoothest of words. "[The
sinners] represent [their sin] as a light and trivial matter, and at the worst
as venial and pardonable. 'What is it,' they will probably say, 'but a human
weakness and infirmity, to which all men are subject? Can it be criminal to
follow the dictates of one's natural passions? You can be no worse than
thousands who indulge in the same excesses.' They will give soft names to the
greatest abominations in order to prevent alarm. In this way the understanding
is imposed upon and the conscience is silenced. When vice is painted in all its
black colours we are apt to be alarmed at the commission of it, but when it is
stripped of its deformity we become more reconciled to it, and more readily
yield. But can that be a light matter which is treason against the Almighty and
which has subjected us to death? Perhaps we are more in danger from smaller than
greater transgressions, because they steal upon us more imperceptibly, and draw
us insensibly into the commission of them" (BI).
Or, as RR puts it, "Few men are in danger of consenting to
open glaring sin: it is the things that lead to sin that have to be guarded
against. It is the small beginnings that are dangerous. The safe rule is to make
no compromise with sin. Say to sinners, especially when they profess to be
saints (it is then they are most formidable): 'I am obliged to say "No". You
must go without me.' The momentary embarrassment of having to refuse, will be
rewarded a thousand times over by the sweetness of finding yourself on the safe
road that leads to life, when the enticing sinners are plunged headlong in a
path of destruction, whose insidious beginnings they were not able to
MY SON, IF SINNERS ENTICE YOU, DO NOT GIVE IN TO THEM:
Righteousness is character that resists the attraction of sin. No matter how
desirable an evil person or thing might be, righteousness will not give in; it
will hold its principles regardless.
Sinners are not content sinning and enduring punishment by
themselves; they want to include others in their wickedness. Bringing the
innocent into their sinful activities and friendship helps justify their evil
The context describes a group of cutthroats luring an innocent
young man into their gang (Pro 1:11-14). They offer him friendship, unity,
success, and riches. The writer warns his son to stay away from them, for they
are wicked and headed for destruction (Pro 1:15-19).
Strong men will not agree with sinners for any reason! They
are committed to what is right, and the folly of fools angers them. They hate
the wicked (Psa 101:3; 139:21-22)!
How do sinners entice -- seduce, attract, or lure -- saints?
There are several ways, and they provide wonderful lessons for increasing in
wisdom and understanding:
(1) First, there is family. And woe to those who exalt family
over Scripture, for they will compromise righteousness to save it. What a cheap
sell-out! For family? A dinner table with sinners and saints confused? So Jesus
taught his disciples to hate family in comparison to him (Luk 14:26). His
teaching divides families to test our love of Him (Mat 10:34-37). If we will not
forsake family for Jesus Christ and the truth, we are not worthy of him. Because
Eli chose his sons, God punished him (1Sa 3:13).
(2) Second, there is fear of man. If we worry about what
others think or do, we entrap ourselves (Pro 29:25). We will compromise
Scripture to keep them happy. We call it peer pressure when it involves
children; but we say little, when it involves adults. What a disgusting fear!
Why not say, "I will not fear what man shall do unto me" (Heb 13:6)? Peter,
noble and brave in his intentions, compromised horribly before mere maids! And
Pilate, warned by his wife and convicted himself, could not bring himself to
release Jesus before the Jews!
(3) Third, there is association. Some are so desperate for
society, they will do anything to keep their standing. Our proverb's "Come along
with us" (v 11) is precious to them. Standing alone overwhelms these weaklings.
They need acceptance and support to survive. Believers among the Jews would not
confess Jesus for fear of losing synagogue membership (John 12:42). God condemns
this compromising association with sinners (Isa 8:9; 2Ch 19:1,2)! He is looking
for men who will stand against the crowd like Joshua and Caleb!
(4) Fourth, suggested or offered success is enticing. The
young man was told he could fill his house with treasure, if he were to join the
gang (Pro 1:13). How many men have sacrificed their convictions to get ahead in
their profession? What a revolting trade! It took only thirty pieces of silver
to buy the soul of Judas and sell the Lord Jesus. It took only a little silver
and two changes of clothes to buy the soul of Gehazi. How cheap!
The world's enticements can be reduced to three kinds of sin
-- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1Jo
2:15-17). The serpent used these three enticements on Eve, and they worked (Gen
3:6); the tempter tried them on our Lord, but he resisted them. Are you able to
identify these offerings by sinners and detect your weakness for them?
Are you settled on the rock of God's Word? Will you remain
there regardless of who might entice you or what might be offered? Do you know
your own self and your own weaknesses? Examine yourself, and remove any
temptations far away!
Wisdom demands you end unnecessary and/or tempting
relationships with sinners (Pro 1:15; cp Pro 13:20)! The psalmist's conviction
to live a righteous life included cutting off any sinner among his
acquaintances, even if it included family members (Psa 101:4-8). Are you ready
and willing to stand alone against all the enticements of the wicked?
SINNERS: The term "chatta" is the common word for
"sinner" in the OT. Because the related verb is used once of sling-shot throwers
who miss the mark (Jdg 20:16), the idea of sin is often explained as "missing
the moral mark" (BDB). But the term should not be restricted to the idea of a
sin of ignorance or simply falling short of the moral ideal. Its meaning is more
likely seen in the related Akkadian term "to revolt, rebel". It is active
rebellion against authority. It is used here in reference to a gang of
DO NOT GIVE IN TO THEM: Even more-or-less passive
consent is itself a sin (cp Jam 1:13-15). In fact, the consent itself -- even
before the action is undertaken -- may be considered the sin! "Eve consented
before she plucked the fruit (Gen 3:6); David, before he committed the act of
sin (2Sa 11:2-4). Conversely Joseph resisted because he consented not. See also
Micaiah's firmness (1Ki 22:13,14)" (CPro). Therefore, "Have nothing to do with
the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them" (Eph 5:11) -- ie, shine
a light into the dark corners where sin festers, and show it (to yourself as
well as others) for the ugly abomination that it is!
"Verses 11-14 move from the general to the specific. In verse
10 the child was urged to reject the enticement of the wicked. Now the father
forewarns his son in a much more specific way by supplying him with the
substance of the appeal. The words 'Come with us...' in verses 11ff are spoken
by the father, but they are the essence of the appeals which will shortly face
the young lad who must cope with peer pressures. This wise father knows what his
son will soon face and his words are prophetic" (Deff).
IF THEY SAY, "COME ALONG WITH US": People will do
things as a part of a group that they would not consider doing as individuals.
Mass demonstrations and riots are examples of how group pressure can be used to
promote what is evil.
LET'S LIE IN WAIT FOR SOMEONE'S BLOOD: The verb "arav"
("to lie in wait; to lurk") it is used for planning murder (Deu 19:11),
kidnapping (Jdg 21:20), or seduction (Pro 23:28). The old expositor Plumptre
writes: "The temptation against which the teacher seeks to guard his disciple is
that of joining a band of highway robbers. At no period in its history has
Palestine ever risen to the security of a well-ordered police system, and the
wild license of the marauder's life attracted, we may well believe, many who
were brought up in towns. The 'vain men' who gathered round Jephthah (Jdg 11:3),
the lawless or discontented who came to David in Adullam (1Sa 22:2), the bands
of robbers who infested every part of the country in the period of the NT, and
against whom every Roman governor had to wage incessant war, show how deeply
rooted the evil was there. The story of [the Apostle] John and the young convert
who became a robber [whom the Apostle then redeemed, again, out of his life of
crime], the most interesting of all apostolic traditions, may serve as another
illustration. The history of many centuries (our own, eg, in the popular
traditions of Robin Hood), presents like phenomena. The robber-life has
attractions for the open-hearted and adventurous. No generation, perhaps no
class, can afford to despise the warning against it." Even in the
firmly-governed Palestine of Christ's day, such robbers were common enough that
he based the parable of the Good Samaritan on them (Luk 10:25-37).
HARMLESS: Or "innocent", singular: the innocent ONE --
as Christ: Mat 26:3,4; Joh 15:25. Cp Abel in Gen 4:8,15.
LET'S SWALLOW THEM ALIVE: As Korah and his company went
down into the "pit": Num 16:30. "Our gang is so numerous that we can very easily
dispatch [the innocent person] and all his attendants, and bury them out of
sight at once, as if they were swallowed up alive in a grave, and so no more to
be seen or heard of; and consequently we shall be in the utmost safety and
security, there being no traces of what is done, nor any left to [know] of it,
or to give any information of us, or to pursue us" (Gill).
LIKE THE GRAVE: The Hebrew "Sheol" is personified as
having an insatiable appetite and swallowing people alive as they descend to
their death (eg, Pro 27:20; 30:15,16; Num 16:30,33; Isa 5:14; Hab 2:5). And so
the throat of the wicked is characterized as an open sepulchre: Psa 5:9; Rom
AND WHOLE, LIKE THOSE WHO GO DOWN TO THE PIT: The
"whole" here is "tamim" -- entire, perfect, full. It suggests that their victims
will be young people, destroyed in the wholeness of their young and vigorous
Vv 13,14: Sinners entice the young by promising material gain.
Prosperity is never considered evil in Proverbs, unless it has been gained by
sinful means (Pro 10:2; 13:11; 19:22; 28:6). Godliness and wisdom are often
followed by prosperity (Pro 3:9-10,16). But the gain that is offered by the
wicked is the result of violence. It is not by diligence and hard work that the
wicked become prosperous, but by robbery (vv 11,12).
WE WILL GET ALL SORTS OF VALUABLE THINGS AND FILL OUR
HOUSES WITH PLUNDER: Note the wealth of "Babylon" -- the great Predator --
in Rev 18:9-16. Instead of "get", the Hebrew word is more precisely "find"; this
is a rhetorical understatement, as though to underplay the heinous nature of the
thievery: 'Look what we FOUND!'
VALUABLE THINGS: "Precious things" in Proverbs: Pro
3:15; 6:26; 12:27; 20:15; 24:4.
"A large part of wisdom is rejecting ungodly friends. It is a
common warning of Scripture (Exo 23:2; Psa 1:1; 26:4,5; 101:1-8; 1Co 15:33; 2Co
6:14-17; Jam 4:4). But Solomon emphasized it for the safety of his son (Pro
1:15; 4:14,15; 9:6; 13:20; 14:7; 19:27). And all good parents will keep their
children from the ungodly influences of evil friends.
"Every sin offers a desirable motive, short-term pleasure, or
promise of success; or men would not sin. Eve thought she could become like God,
if she ate the forbidden fruit. Samson thought Delilah would make him happy.
Ananias and Sapphira thought they could keep some of the money and still be
important in the church. Sin is a deceitful lie!" (LGBT).
THROW IN YOUR LOT WITH US: This is a figurative
expression urging the naïve to join their life of crime and divide their
loot equally. The noun "lot" can refer to (1) a lot thrown for decision-making
processes, e, choosing the scapegoat (Lev 16:8), discovering a guilty party (Jon
1:7) or allocating property (Jos 18:6); (2) the allotted portion of property
itself (Jos 15:1) and (3) an allotted fate or future destiny (Pro 1:14; Dan
12:13; see BDB). Here the criminals urged the lad to share their life of crime
-- to take his chances, as it were, with them.
There may also be a reference to the common custom of
adventurers, freebooters, and thieves resorting to the lot or other game of
chance to divide up their ill-gotten spoils -- a custom most famously seen in
the dividing of Christ's possessions by the Roman soldiers (Psa 22:18; Mat
27:35; Mar 15:24; Luk 23:34; Joh 19:23,24). This leads to the next thought: that
those who steal from others are, in a sense, crucifying their Lord afresh, and
submitting him to further shame.
AND WE WILL SHARE A COMMON PURSE: 'Everything we get,
we will share equally with you!' But they forget, or they never understand, that
the "wages" they will ultimately share, altogether and alike, is... "death" (Rom
Jesus and his disciples "shared a common purse" also, but it
was to a far different purpose -- and the only one who seems to have been
particularly concerned with that purse met a terrible end (Joh 12:6; 13:29)! And
Jesus counseled his disciples not to be concerned with a full purse when they
went out on their missions (Luk 10:4; 12:33; 22:35)!
Some men with weak character cannot resist the invitations and
pressure of the wicked to join the Jehoshaphat was such a man. A grandson of
David and king of Judah, he could not resist the invitations of Ahab, king of
Israel, at joint projects and family intermarriage (2Ch 18:1-3). But the LORD's
judgment was: ""Should you help the wicked and love [or 'make alliances with']
those who hate the LORD? Because of this, the wrath of the LORD is upon you"
MY SON, DO NOT GO ALONG WITH THEM, DO NOT SET FOOT ON THEIR
PATHS: More literally, the AV has: "My son, walk not thou in the way with
them; refrain thy foot from their path." There is a useful distinction between a
"way" and a "path": the first is a public road, where everyone can see us, while
the latter means a small unfrequented byway, off the beaten track, away from
observation -- and therefore more dangerous (The same distinction is to be found
in Psa 25:4: "Show me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths.") But be it broad
way or narrow, it goes downhill, and before you know it you are moving fast, and
it's easier to go downhill than to climb back!
MY SON, DO NOT GO ALONG WITH THEM: Directly counseling
against the words of the wicked in v 11: "Come along with us". "Walk not", as
Psa 1. "Bad company corrupts good character" (1Co 15:33). For it is the "broad
way that leads to destruction" (Mat 7:13), and "friendship with the world is
enmity with God" (Jam 4:4; 1Jo 2:15-17). Instead, be separate (2Co
DO NOT SET FOOT ON THEIR PATHS: A familiar figure of
speech: the "foot" stands for the whole of the body, and the whole of the life,
of its owner.
"It is often inconvenient, but always wholesome, to refuse
partnership of companionship with evil men. It takes a little courage --
sometimes much courage -- to refuse; but the courage is well repaid by the
sweetness and safety that come of it. It is often difficult, in the complicated
ways of modern life, to know just where to draw the line; but, as a rule, a just
man will instinctively put his foot down at the right place, refusing
companionship in the voluntary occupation of mere pleasure-followers, and
standing off from the ways and customs that are dear to sinners. Where there is
doubt it is better to be on the safe side. No evil can come from abstaining from
the very appearance of evil; while, on the other hand, you can never be sure you
are safe when consorting with ungodly men, especially in ungodly ways. As Jesus
expresses it: 'it is better to enter life halt or maimed, than having preserved
all to be devoured at the last' " (RR).
Some mss (and the LXX) delete this entire verse, but it does
fit the context perfectly.
FOR THEIR FEET RUSH INTO SIN, THEY ARE SWIFT TO SHED
BLOOD: Ct Eph 6:5; Isa 59:7. Feet represent purpose, or daily life: Eze 1:7;
RUSH... SWIFT: Ct Abraham, who hastened and ran to do
good (Gen 18:6,7).
"The way of sin is downhill; men not only cannot stop
themselves, but, the longer they continue in it, the faster they run, and make
haste in it, as if they were afraid they should not do mischief enough and were
resolved to lose no time" (Henry). "These are violent men, who are not only
hasten to shed blood, but are prone to do so. I know many of you will find this
hard to believe, but the three months I spent teaching in a state prison
convinced me that there are some who would stab you for the sheer enjoyment of
watching you bleed to death. Such men must be avoided" (Deff).
HOW USELESS TO SPREAD A NET IN FULL VIEW OF ALL THE
BIRDS!: Probably, this means it is futile to set a trap in full view of the
ones to be trapped -- for they will then know and avoid all entanglement. If
this is the sense, then the point seems to be: God Himself sees the trap being
set by wicked men, and He will act in His own time and methods to see that the
"trap" will not have its desired effect, but will actually entrap those who set
it (v 18)!
Another possible interpretation of v 17 is succinctly
expressed in EBC: "...a contrast between the natural behavior of birds when
forewarned and the irrational greed of robbers. In other words, it is futile to
spread out a net for birds that are watching, but these men are so blinded by
evil that they fail to recognize the trap (v 18). The blind folly of greed leads
to their doom -- retribution is the law that will take away their
Finally, yet one more possibility might be considered: "The
meaning of the proverb here used then is, 'to no purpose is the net spread
before birds' -- that is, though they see the net spread before them, they
nevertheless fly into it" (Pulpit). The power of this interpretation is that it
echoes another proverbs: the foolish young man being caught in the trap of a
wily adulteress: "like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost
him his life" (Pro 7:23). So sinners, when they are plotting for others, plunge
into their own destruction with their eyes open -- seeing the danger yet
disregarding it. This view is supported by the LXX reading, "For not
unreasonably is the net spread before birds", that is, even when they see it
they still cannot help themselves -- for they fall into it
THESE MEN LIE IN WAIT FOR THEIR OWN BLOOD; THEY WAYLAY ONLY
THEMSELVES!: The wicked are caught in their own traps: Psa 7:15; 9:15. As
was Judas in Mat 27:4,5; 26:14-16; Ahab in 1Ki 21:4-24; and Haman in Est 7:9.
See also Job 18:8; Hab 2:10.
"[Sinners] don't think so, and other people are liable to not
think so. They see the schemes of unrighteous craft succeed, and the lurking
schemers elevated on the pedestal of their success, to prosperity and sunshine,
while the meek and unresisting servants of righteousness are prevailed against
and trampled in the dust. This is the picture of the moment. But there is
another picture, the contemplating of which will evoke the exclamation: 'Verily
there is a reward for the righteous; verily, there is a God that judgeth in the
earth'. [Psa 58:11] This other picture shows that the success of sinners is
truly a success against themselves: 'God shall bring every work into judgment,
with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil.' [Ecc 12:14]
Responsible sinners will find themselves alive again at a day appointed to face
the issues of their own actions in the light of the stern tribunal of divine
justice, at which sinners will not be justified and righteous condemned as now"
SUCH IS THE END OF ALL WHO GO AFTER ILL-GOTTEN GAINS; IT
TAKES AWAY THE LIVES OF THOSE WHO GET IT: The covetous often destroy
themselves: Pro 22:24,25; 23:2. Cp 1Ti 6:9: "People who want to get rich fall
into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge
men into ruin and destruction."
Vv 20-33: The appeal of Wisdom to the sons of men to follow
the ways of godliness and joy, and a solemn warning against the fatal folly of
rejecting God's gracious call. We are here introduced to Proverb's
personification of wisdom; call her "Lady Wisdom", replete with understanding,
discretion, and knowledge. While Solomon warns against the strange woman (Pro
7:5-27; 9:13-18) -- "Folly" personified, and she is certainly no "lady"! -- he
also tells of this wonderful "Lady Wisdom", with her bounty of great benefits
for men (Pro 1:20-33; 2:4; 3:13-18; 4:5-13; 7:1-4; 8:1-36; 9:1-5).
Vv 20,21: Wisdom makes her appeal: Pro 8:1; 9:3; etc (cp Isa
55:1; Joh 7:37; Jer 5:1; Isa 20:2).
WISDOM: The noun "chokmoth" is the abstract feminine
plural form. It probably functions as a plural of intensity, stressing the
all-embracing, elevated wisdom. As in Pro 8:1–9:11, Wisdom is personified
as a righteous woman in Pro 1:20–33. This wisdom is embodied in Christ: cp
Luk 11:49 with Mat 13:34; 1Co 1:24,30; Col 2:3.
WISDOM CALLS ALOUD IN THE STREET; SHE RAISES HER VOICE IN
THE PUBLIC SQUARES: Wisdom is not just for the home (v 8), but also for the
market-place -- not just for the domestic and family scene, but also for the
"world" outside, for the busy city street and the place of business.
The prophets of Israel also proclaimed their messages in the
busy streets and public places of the cities (Jer 5:1; Isa 20:2).
CALLS ALOUD: The verb "ranan" signifies "to cry out,
give a ringing cry"; it always expresses excitement, whether of joyful praise or
lamentable sorrow (BDB). Here it is an excited summons.
THE PUBLIC SQUARES: The Heb "rechob" refers to the wide
plazas or broad open spaces near the gate where all the people assembled. The
personification of wisdom as a woman crying out in this place would be a vivid
picture of the public appeal to all who pass by.
"We very rarely have a literal shouting of words of wisdom in
the streets of a city, or in the broad places of human activity, but when we
remember that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, we can see a
definite meaning in the saying. In ancient Israel and in the modern world the
idea of God is before men all the while even though human thoughts fail to turn
to Him. In our time we can hardly live for a single day without Christ being
brought before our minds, and through Christ, the Father who was manifest in
him. Even the daily newspaper utters the call of wisdom in spite of its low aim
and its native foolishness. The date it gives is from the birth of Christ, the
record of human vanity confirms the teaching of Christ, while often, especially
in these latter days, there is an item of news which shouts of the purpose of
God to those who can understand.
"Even apart from these matters the call of wisdom can surely
be heard in the ordered wonders of the universe in which we live. Man's cheerful
acceptance of the earth as his home proclaims that in his heart he recognizes
that there is a Creator. Would he feel comfortable on a ship with no captain? A
hundred thousand tons of metal and wood driving through unknown seas at thirty
miles an hour and no one in control? How then should he feel when he realizes
that he is all through life on a vessel weighing millions of tons and going
through space at sixty thousand miles an hour? Of course men believe that
someone is in control. The stability of the earth and its long continuance, the
facts of human consciousness and human ideals, the wonders of chemistry and the
wonders of life all combine to prove that there is a mind far above that of man.
Human intelligence is just sufficient to contemplate these things and to make
some response. Wisdom is thus calling to the sons of men in the streets, in the
broad places and at the entering in of the gate" (PrPr).
"We are all ready to listen to the voices of nature -- of the
mountain, the sea, the storm, the star. How few learn anything from the voices
of the noisy and dusty street. [And so here, from this voice in the street, we
(a) That this life is a scene of toil and struggle. Can it be
that passing up and down these streets on your way to work you do not learn
anything of the world's toil, and anxiety, and struggle?
(b) That all classes and conditions of society must commingle.
We sometimes culture a wicked exclusiveness. All classes of people are compelled
to meet on the street. The democratic principle of the gospel recognises the
fact that we stand before God on one and the same platform.
(c) That it is a very hard thing for a man to keep his heart
right... Infinite temptations spring upon us from these places of public
(d) That life is full of pretension and sham. What subterfuge,
what double-dealing, what two-facedness [may we find in the streets]!
(e) That the street is a great field for Christian charity.
There are hunger, and suffering, and want, and wretchedness in the country; but
these evils chiefly congregate in our great cities. On every street crime
prowls, and drunkenness staggers, and shame winks, and pauperism thrusts out its
hand, asking for alms" (Talmage, cited in BI).
AT THE HEAD OF THE NOISY STREETS: MT reads "khomyyot",
from root signifying "to murmur; to roar"; it refers to the busy, bustling place
where the street branches off from the gate complex.
The LXX translates "on the tops of the walls" -- reflecting
"khomot", presumably a textual error caused by the simple omission of a single
letter (the yod) from "khomyyot".
IN THE GATEWAYS OF THE CITY: This phrase, parallel to
the first phrase, reinforces the meaning. It also describes the same area, the
area of the entrance just inside the gate complex. This is the business area In
an ancient Near Eastern city; business dealings and judicial proceedings would
both take place in this area. Cp Jos 20:4; 2Ki 7:1; Mat 20:3; Rth 4:1-11. The
streets and the gates of the ancient city were also the place where children
played (Zec 8:5)! (Cp also, generally, Deu 16:18; 2Sa 15:2; Gen 23:10-16; 34:20;
2Sa 3:27; 2Ch 18:9; Jer 17:19; Pro 31:31). Thus is reinforced the point: divine
wisdom should touch all aspects of human life and activity.
HOW LONG WILL YOU SIMPLE ONES...: "Pethiyim": see v 4n:
...LOVE SIMPLE WAYS: "Pethiy" is related to the word
for "simple ones".
MOCKERS: Proud, arrogant: Job 34:7; Isa 28:14. Cynical
and defiant "free-thinkers" who seek to bring into disrepute the righteous and
all they stand for. But God remembers this (Hos 7:2), and will bring them to
judgment (Ecc 11:9).
HOW LONG WILL MOCKERS DELIGHT IN MOCKERY?: Or,
literally, "mockers take pleasure in themselves". That is, desiring mockery for
their own selfish indulgence.
AND FOOLS HATE KNOWLEDGE: The "fools" know knowledge
for what it is, and eliberately reject it; they revel in darkness, and will not
come to the light (Joh 3:19,20).
The three classes mentioned here -- simple ones, mockers, and
fools -- are considered by Wiersbe (cited in Const): "To whom does Wisdom speak?
To three classes of sinners: the simple ones, the scorners (scoffers, mockers,
NIV), and the fools (v 22). The simple are naive people who believe anything
(Pro 14:15) but examine nothing. They're gullible and easily led astray.
Scorners think they know everything (Pro 21:24) and laugh at the things that are
really important. While the simple one has a blank look on his face, the scorner
wears a sneer. Fools are people who are ignorant of truth because they're dull
and stubborn. Their problem isn't a low IQ or poor education; their problem is a
lack of spiritual desire to seek and find God's wisdom. Fools enjoy their
foolishness but don't know how foolish they are! The outlook of fools is purely
materialistic and humanistic. They hate knowledge and have no interest in things
IF YOU HAD RESPONDED TO MY REBUKE: Literally, "if you
had turned". The concept of turning is familiar to the prophets of Israel. It
includes changing course, repentance, and consequent forgiveness and
reinstatement into the fellowship of God (cp Jer 3:11-14; 4:1; Eze
I WOULD HAVE POURED OUT MY HEART TO YOU AND MADE MY
THOUGHTS KNOWN TO YOU: "If only..." God would have responded to the heart
that sought Him out, by giving it wisdom and understanding. This verse
emphasizes that it is by deliberate and willful "turning away" that the foolish
mockers have denied God. Hence the exhortation in the NT: "Quench not the Spirit
of God" (1Th 5:19); it is there, waiting for man to avail himself of it. But
there is also the implicit warning: God will not always strive with man (Gen
6:3) -- for one day His patience will run out!
I WOULD HAVE POURED OUT MY HEART TO YOU: "Heart" is
literally "ruach", or "spirit". And thus the KJV reads, "I will pour out my
spirit unto you" (cp Isa 44:3; Joel 2:28; Joh 7:37; Acts 2:33). But the phrase
need not mean, "I have poured out my spirit upon you" in the sense of Holy
Spirit inspiration. "The term 'ruach' functions as a metonymy (= spirit) of
association (= thoughts), as indicated by the parallelism with 'my words'. The
noun... can have a cognitive nuance, eg, 'spirit of wisdom' (Exo 28:3; Deu
34:9). It is used metonymically for 'words' (Job 20:3) and 'mind' (Isa 40:13;
Eze 11:5; 20:3; 1Ch 28:12; see BDB 925). The 'spirit of wisdom' produces skill
and capacity necessary for success (Isa 11:2; John 7:37–39)"
"This is wisdom's appeal. It is not a vain appeal... It
assumes that men can turn, and in doing so, it is in harmony with what we
practically find human capacity to be, apart from theories of metaphysicians.
Men turn up and down, for good and evil, according to the pressure of
surrounding circumstances and influences. They become educated or remain in a
brutalised state according as they are compelled to submit to instruction or
left to run to waste. Wisdom recognises this moral elasticity of man's
situation, or implores them to turn. It presents an incentive. The spirit of
wisdom -- the knowledge conveyed in wisdom's words -- will become the property
of those who give heed -- a precious property -- conferring, even now, a wealth
of grace and excellence and honour, and in the end, the otherwise unpurchasable
glory of everlasting life" (RR).
"Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your
hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded" (Jam 4:8). "Here
I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the
door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me" (Rev 3:20). " 'Come now,
let us reason together,' says the LORD. 'Though your sins are like scarlet, they
shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like
wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but
if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.' For the mouth of
the LORD has spoken" (Isa 1:18-20).
Vv 24-28: "There is grave danger, however, in disregarding the
invitation. If the call has been extended for some time -- 'How long?' (v 22;
see also Isa 65:2) -- then this warning is given for a prolonged refusal.
Because wisdom has been continually rejected, wisdom will laugh at the calamity
of those who have rejected it. This retributive justice is expressed
figuratively in vv 26,27 as wisdom's mocking at their distress. But then v 28
explains the meaning of the mocking -- wisdom will not be there to help when the
fools cry out from their distress. The figure of laughing reveals the absurdity
of choosing a foolish way of life and being totally unprepared for disaster"
BUT SINCE YOU REJECTED ME WHEN I CALLED AND NO ONE GAVE
HEED WHEN I STRETCHED OUT MY HAND: Did Lot's wife refuse the outstretched
hand of the angel (Gen 19:26; cp Luk 17:31,32).
"A call has come. It has come authentically, and it has come
in a definite and tangible form. It came to Israel by personal hands and in
visible form. It has been extended to the nations of the earth by men who are
now in their graves. But the message has survived them, and furthermore is
intact and in the hands and languages of every nation. Bibles abound in hotel
rooms around the world, and are for sale in bookstores, department stores and
"God's call goes out in other ways as well. The circumstances
of life, either good or bad, are used by God to influence mankind. In addition
to this, man's own conscience often leads him to inquire into spiritual
"Yet the call is refused. Men everywhere are pre-occuped with
their own devices" (CPro).
AND WOULD NOT ACCEPT MY REBUKE: "The verb 'fara' means
'to let go; to let alone' (BDB 828). It can refer to unkempt hair of the head
(Lev 10:6) or lack of moral restraint: 'to let things run free' (Exo 32:25; Pro
28:19). Here it means 'to avoid, neglect' the offer of wisdom (BDB 829)" (NETn).
Cp idea, Luk 7:30: "But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God's
purpose for themselves." And Act 20:27: "For I have not hesitated to proclaim to
you the whole will of God." And Mat 23:37: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill
the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your
children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not
I IN TURN WILL LAUGH AT YOUR DISASTER: In other words,
'I will disregard it; I will take it lightly, because it was YOUR choice!' (cp
Psa 2:4; 37:13; 59:8; Deu 4:24). It is clear here that people have a choice
about which way they will go. Their lives are to a large measure the result of
their choices. The fool is one by his own fault, not by fate (cp vv 30,31). And
so Wisdom laughs at the fool's calamity, not because she is hard-hearted and
cannot sympathize with human suffering, but because it is so ludicrous for men
knowingly to CHOOSE folly. The figure of laughing reveals the absurdity of
choosing a foolish way of life and being totally unprepared for
LAUGH: "Laughing at the consequences of the fool's
rejection of wisdom does convey hardness against the fool; it reveals the folly
of rejecting wisdom (eg, Psa 2:4). It vindicates wisdom and the appropriateness
of the disaster" (Kidner).
DISASTER: The term "eyd" often refers to final
life-ending calamity (Pro 6:15; 24:22).
"God laughs at the judgment of the wicked (Psa 37:13). He
holds the heathen in derision (Psa 59:8), and He laughed derisively when
destroying His Son's enemies (Psa 2:4). It was so bad in that horrific calamity
that men's hearts were failing them for fear (Luke 21:16).
"He sent Elijah to mock the prophets of Baal (1Ki 18:26-27)
and Isaiah to ridicule the idiots who made graven images (Isa 44:9-20). From the
lead of their Heavenly Father, the righteous laugh and rejoice at the desolation
of the wicked (Psa 52:5-7; 58:5). We find the sanctified martyrs... rejoicing at
God's vengeance (Rev 6:9-11; 18:20; 19:1-4)" (LGBT).
WHEN CALAMITY OVERTAKES YOU LIKE A STORM, WHEN DISASTER
SWEEPS OVER YOU LIKE A WHIRLWIND: The whole of this description of utter
destruction is echoed by Jesus, in few words, when he speaks of God's judgments
coming upon Jerusalem and the Temple: " 'Do you see all these things?' he asked.
'I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one
will be thrown down.' " (Mat 24:2).
LIKE A STORM: The storm of destruction is vividly
pictured by Jesus in his parable of the man who built his house on the sand (Mat
LIKE A WHIRLWIND: Or "devastating storm" (NET). The
noun "sufah" is often used in similes to describe sudden devastation (Isa 5:28;
Hos 8:7; Amo 1:14). "In eastern countries, so rapid and impetuous sometimes is
the whirlwind that it is in vain to think of flying; the swiftest horse or the
fastest sailing ship could be of no use to carry the traveller out of danger.
Torrents of burning sand roll before it, the firmament is enveloped in a thick
veil, and the sun appears of the colour of blood. The Arab who conducted Mr
Bruce through the frightful deserts of Senaar pointed out to him a spot among
some sandy hillocks, where the ground seemed to be more elevated than the rest,
where one of the largest caravans which ever came out to Egypt, to the number of
several thousand camels, was covered with sand. The destruction of Sennacherib's
army (2Ki 19:25) was probably (cp Isa 37:7) by the blast of the hot pestilential
south wind blowing from the deserts of Libya" (Nicholls, cited in BI).
WHEN DISTRESS AND TROUBLE OVERWHELM YOU: And this too
is echoed by Jesus: "For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the
beginning of the world until now -- and never to be equaled again" (Mat 24:21).
Thus Josephus' history, of the fall of Jerusalem, is a fitting commentary on
BUT I WILL NOT ANSWER: Cp the parable of the wise and
foolish virgins (Mat 25:1-12). Also see Mat 13:23-30.
THEY WILL LOOK FOR ME BUT WILL NOT FIND ME: The KJV has
"seek me EARLY"; the RV and RSV have "diligently". This note of earnestness, or
earliness, is suggested by the similarity of the term "sihar" (here) to the word
"sahar" (the "dawn"). Cf the thoughts in such passages as Jer 44:4; Psa 130:6;
and Pro 13:24. But in this case, the seeking is not early enough! Rather, it is
Of course, many have looked -- and will look -- for God, who
DO find Him! So how may we tell when particular men or women may go looking for
God, NOT to find Him? The answer is... we cannot tell! "God's patience is in His
own breast, and who can tell how long it will last?... God's patience gives no
mark or inkling of it before it ends" (Fenner, cited in BI). For any person, the
"day of salvation" (2Co 6:2) -- the day of opportunity to turn back to God and
be saved -- may come to an end, quickly and without warning. All the more reason
to repent, NOW, while one still can.
"It is possible to have too slack views of the divine
clemency. Men are taught such views from the pulpit everywhere. It is a public
tradition retailed in every form of ingenious diversification and worked into
every shape suggested by imaginative fervour, that God's love is so great and so
cheap that the vilest can command it at the latest moment of an abandoned course
by a mere spasm of remorse. No greater falsehood or more irrational sentiment
could be put into circulation. Apostolic doctrine is sterner and more reasonable
stuff altogether. This is the tone of it: 'Be not deceived. God is not mocked.
Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.' [Gal 6:7] The man who sows a
lifetime to the flesh, will find himself terribly out of his calculation if he
accept clerical leading in this matter. Many a man will get down on his knees at
the last, and with uplifted hands, implore in vain with agonising earnestness
that the award of justice may be averted. They will call loudly; but there will
be no response. Their earnest appeals will find a deaf ear. this god says, and
His word is truth" (RR).
"This is a sublime dramatic utterance. It is Wisdom that is
represented as speaking. By wisdom among the Orientals moral philosophy was
understood, or science speaking on the side of morality. Taken in its largest
way it is as if nature (in the text) had risen up, and had declared from her own
seat, and by her own authority, what was the history of transgression against
her fundamental laws. It is the voice of physiology; it is the voice of health,
it is the voice of natural law. It is the voice of the poorhouse, the gaol, the
gallows, speaking out and telling men what are the ends of those ways which are
essentially the violation of God's laws in nature. We see men violating the
fundamental laws of health, strength, character, prosperity, and society, little
by little, and because sentence is not speedily executed against evildoers, they
are presumptuous, and say, 'How doth God know?' At a later stage, when the fatal
work is done, and disease, decay, poverty, the coldness of men, the indifference
of society, disgrace, neglect, infamy, suffering, and death come upon them, then
they begin to call out in these several states, and condemn everybody but
themselves. Then they seek to patch up their broken constitutions. Then they
attempt to put on the aspects of honesty. Then they try to regraft themselves
upon the tree from which they have been broken off, but largely in vain. They
call, but nature will not hear. They plead unto deaf ears" (Beecher, cited in
SINCE THEY HATED KNOWLEDGE, AND DID NOT CHOOSE TO FEAR THE
LORD: This is in deliberate and direct contrast with v 7: "The fear of the
LORD is the beginning of knowledge." Therefore those who hate knowledge have
deliberately chosen to spurn the fear of the LORD... and all that goes with it.
In this they also come under the indictment of Jesus himself; in short, they
become willful rejectors: "Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not
come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed" (Joh
"Here is a hating and not a choosing that are very common
among mankind. Men mostly love that which gratifies appetite, or the lust of
pride and beauty. They love 'pleasure' and they hate knowledge; and as for the
fear of the Lord, it is a worse than meaningless phrase with them. It is a
nauseous thing -- a weak thing -- a thing of pious cant.
Such aversions are irrational. They have their root in a dark
and untrained state of mind. They are kin with barbarism. Knowledge is the
highest exercise and most beautiful ornament and sweetest employment of the
human mind. The fear of the Lord is its crowning glory, and its most precious
acquisition. The despisers thereof will yet find their folly in the terrible
desolation of a hopeless life, and in the blight and failure of all their joys.
Destruction and misery are in their ways. The divine counsel rejected, will
recoil with terrible retribution on the heads of the infatuated mortals who will
seek in vain to be delivered from the fruit of their own ways" (RR).
Paul describes the consequences to man of the rejection of
God's wisdom: "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the
godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,
since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it
plain to them... For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God
nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish
hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools...
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual
impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another... Furthermore,
since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave
them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become
filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full
of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice... Although they know God's righteous
decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do
these very things but also approve of those who practice them" (Rom 1:18-32).
Moving from rejection of the invisible God, from thanklessness to a proclamation
of human wisdom, the path leads ever downward -- through idolatry, moral lust,
and degeneracy, to every imaginable debauchery.
THEY WILL EAT THE FRUIT OF THEIR WAYS AND BE FILLED WITH
THE FRUIT OF THEIR SCHEMES: This is a figurative expression that compares
the consequences of sn to agricultural growth that culminates in a harvest. The
way of sin is a punishment in itself. "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.
A man reaps what he sows" (Gal 6:7-9; Jer 6:19; 2Co 9:6; 2Co 2:15,16).
BE FILLED: The verb "sava" means (1) positively, "to
eat one's fill" so that one's appetite is satisfied and (2) negatively, "to eat
in excess" as a glutton to the point of sickness and revulsion (BDB). Fools will
not only "eat" the fruit of their own way (v 31a), they will be force-fed this
revolting "menu" which will make them want to vomit (v 31b) and eventually kill
them (v 32).
Gill refers to a specific fulfillment of this "prophecy", in
the fate of the Jews who orchestrated the murder of their Lord, Jesus Christ:
"Their device and counsel was to put Christ to death; to deliver him to the
Roman governor, that he might be crucified, as he was: and they afterwards had
their bellyful of crucifixion, as the word used ['be filled'] signifies; such
vast numbers of them were crucified by the Romans before the walls of the city,
five hundred a day, and sometimes more; insomuch that room was needed for
crosses, and crosses for bodies."
Vv 32,33: A contrast between the ultimate destruction of the
unresponsive and the peaceful condition of the responsive.
FOR THE WAYWARDNESS OF THE SIMPLE WILL KILL THEM, AND THE
COMPLACENCY OF FOOLS WILL DESTROY THEM: Ease, self-satisfaction, failure to
believe God's warnings: Psa 73.
THE WAYWARDNESS: Literally, "the turning away" (AV).
From the same root, and thus repeating the emphasis, of v 23: "IF you had
responded", or "turned". But when they do NOT turn back, then they are sealing
their own fate.
THE COMPLACENCY: "Prosperity" (AV); "careless ease"
(NET). The prosperity of fools is described in Job 21:11-13; Psa 55:19; 73:3-20;
Jer 12:1-3; Luk 6:24,25; 12:16; 16:19-24; Jam 5:1-5. We should always view our
possessions as blessings from the LORD, and not as something we deserve. It
requires wisdom to know how to live with prosperity; otherwise its misuse will
ruin the one who possesses it. Examples of Israel (Deu 32:15-25; Jer 22:20-22;
Hos 13:6-9; Amo 6:1-6), Babylon (Isa 47:7-9), Moab (Jer 48:11-15), Sodom (Eze
16:49), and Tyre (Eze 27:2,25-27). God may be silent for a while, and sinners
foolishly think He approves of them (Psa 50:16-21). But He warns that without
repentance He will judge terribly (Psa 50:21,22), and only those who live
righteously and praise Him shall receive His favor (Psa 50:23). The goodness of
God should lead men to repent (Rom 2:4). But they take confidence in their
prosperity -- as though it were entirely their own doing -- and do not see the
coming judgment (Psa 37:35-36; 92:6-7; Jer 48:11-13; Luk 12:15-21).
Psa 30:5; Psa 37; Rom 8:35-39; Mal 4:1,2.
WHOEVER LISTENS TO ME...: Learn to listen. Opportunity
sometimes knocks very softly. "I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my
voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me" (Rev
...WILL LIVE IN SAFETY AND BE AT EASE, WITHOUT FEAR OF
HARM: "Safety" refers to a permanent settled condition without fear of
danger (eg, Deu 33:12; Psa 16:9). It is the antithesis of the dread of disaster
facing the fool and the simple. "Ease" means, here, quietness and undisturbed
rest; it is doubled in the Hebrew -- thus intensifying it: "perfect quietness
and rest". The expressions used suggest a permanent, settled condition free from
the sense of danger or dread. Such is the contrast between the false security of
the wicked and the true and lasting peace of the righteous.
"Whoever listens to ME... will live in safety and be at ease,
without fear of harm": "The 'Me' in the case is the eternal and universe-filling
'Me' -- the Creator, the Sustainer, the Possessor of heaven and earth. Hence the
strength of the proverb. Though God is 'high', He has regard for the lowly: He
loves those who love Him, and who hope in His mercy and do His commandments.
This He has revealed. All we have to do is to believe it. The result is
safe-dwelling and freedom from fear. 'Wherefore should I fear,' asks David. 'The
Lord is my defence. I will not fear what man can do unto me.' If the Lord
chastise, that is another thing: this David was ready to accept, as the
visitation of love. But he had no fear such as plagues the mere man of the
flesh. If this is the case with the righteous while sin reigns on earth and
God's face is hidden, what must it be when the wicked are rooted out of the
earth, and the tabernacle of God is with men?" (RR).