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The Usefulness of Proverbs

The proverbs (truths obscurely expressed, maxims) of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:


To know [skillful and godly] wisdom and instruction;
To discern and comprehend the words of understanding and insight,

To receive instruction in wise behavior and the discipline of wise thoughtfulness,
Righteousness, justice, and integrity;

That prudence (good judgment, astute common sense) may be given to the naive or inexperienced [who are easily misled],
And knowledge and discretion (intelligent discernment) to the youth,

The wise will hear and increase their learning,
And the person of understanding will acquire wise counsel and the skill [to steer his course wisely and lead others to the truth],(A)

To understand a proverb and a figure [of speech] or an enigma with its interpretation,
And the words of the wise and their riddles [that require reflection].


The [reverent] fear of the Lord [that is, worshiping Him and regarding Him as truly awesome] is the beginning and the preeminent part of knowledge [its starting point and its essence];
But arrogant [a]fools despise [skillful and godly] wisdom and instruction and self-discipline.(B)

The Enticement of Sinners


My son, hear the instruction of your father,
And do not reject the teaching of your mother.

For they are a garland of grace on your head,
And chains and ornaments [of gold] around your neck.
10 
My son, if sinners entice you,
Do not consent.(C)
11 
If they say, “Come with us;
Let us lie in wait to shed blood,
Let us ambush the innocent without cause;
12 
Let us swallow them alive like Sheol (the place of the dead),
Even whole, as those who go down to the pit [of death];
13 
We will find and take all kinds of precious possessions,
We will fill our houses with spoil;
14 
Throw in your lot with us [they insist];
We will all have one money bag [in common],”
15 
My son, do not walk on the road with them;
Keep your foot [far] away from their path,
16 
For their feet run to evil,
And they hurry to shed blood.
17 
Indeed, it is useless to spread the baited net
In the sight of any bird;
18 
But [when these people set a trap for others] they lie in wait for their own blood;
They set an ambush for their own lives [and rush to their destruction].
19 
So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain;
Greed takes away the lives of its possessors.(D)

Wisdom Warns

20 
[b]Wisdom shouts in the street,
She raises her voice in the markets;
21 
She calls out at the head of the noisy streets [where large crowds gather];
At the entrance of the city gates she speaks her words:
22 
“How long, O naive ones [you who are easily misled], will you love being simple-minded and undiscerning?
How long will scoffers [who ridicule and deride] delight in scoffing,
How long will fools [who obstinately mock truth] hate knowledge?
23 
“If you will turn and pay attention to my rebuke,
Behold, I [Wisdom] will pour out my spirit on you;
I will make my words known to you.(E)
24 
“Because I called and you refused [to answer],
I stretched out my hand and no one has paid attention [to my offer];(F)
25 
And you treated all my counsel as nothing
And would not accept my reprimand,
26 
I also will laugh at your disaster;
I will mock when your dread and panic come,
27 
When your dread and panic come like a storm,
And your disaster comes like a whirlwind,
When anxiety and distress come upon you [as retribution].
28 
“Then they will call upon me (Wisdom), but I will not answer;
They will seek me eagerly but they will not find me,(G)
29 
Because they hated knowledge
And did not choose the fear of the Lord [that is, obeying Him with reverence and awe-filled respect],(H)
30 
They would not accept my counsel,
And they spurned all my rebuke.
31 
“Therefore they shall eat of the fruit of their own [wicked] way
And be satiated with [the penalty of] their own devices.
32 
“For the turning away of the [c]naive will kill them,
And the careless ease of [self-righteous] fools will destroy them.(I)
33 
“But whoever listens to me (Wisdom) will live securely and in confident trust
And will be at ease, without fear or dread of evil.”

The Pursuit of Wisdom Brings Security

My son, if you will receive my words
And treasure my commandments within you,

So that your ear is attentive to [skillful and godly] wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding [seeking it conscientiously and striving for it eagerly];

Yes, if you cry out for insight,
And lift up your voice for understanding;

If you seek skillful and godly wisdom as you would silver
And search for her as you would hidden treasures;

Then you will understand the [reverent] fear of the Lord [that is, worshiping Him and regarding Him as truly awesome]
And discover the knowledge of God.(J)

For the Lord gives [skillful and godly] wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.

He stores away sound wisdom for the righteous [those who are in right standing with Him];
He is a shield to those who walk in integrity [those of honorable character and moral courage],

He guards the paths of justice;
And He preserves the way of His saints (believers).(K)

Then you will understand righteousness and justice [in every circumstance]
And integrity and every good path.
10 
For [skillful and godly] wisdom will enter your heart
And knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
11 
Discretion will watch over you,
Understanding and discernment will guard you,
12 
To keep you from the way of evil and the evil man,
From the man who speaks perverse things;
13 
From those who leave the paths of uprightness
To walk in the ways of darkness;
14 
Who find joy in doing evil
And delight in the perversity of evil,
15 
Whose paths are crooked,
And who are devious in their ways;
16 
To keep you from the immoral woman;
From the seductress with her flattering words,(L)
17 
Who leaves the companion (husband) of her youth,
And forgets the covenant of her God.
18 
For her house leads down to death
And her paths lead to the dead;
19 
None who go to her return again,
Nor do they regain the paths of life—
20 
So you will walk in the way of good men [that is, those of personal integrity, moral courage and honorable character],
And keep to the paths of the righteous.
21 
For the upright [those who are in right standing with God] will live in the land
And those [of integrity] who are blameless [in God’s sight] will remain in it;
22 
But the wicked will be cut off from the land
And the treacherous shall be [forcibly] uprooted and removed from it.

The Rewards of Wisdom

My son, do not forget my [d]teaching,
But let your heart keep my commandments;

For length of days and years of life [worth living]
And tranquility and prosperity [the wholeness of life’s blessings] they will add to you.

Do not let mercy and kindness and truth leave you [instead let these qualities define you];
Bind them [securely] around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart.(M)

So find favor and high esteem
In the sight of God and man.(N)

Trust in and rely confidently on the Lord with all your heart
And do not rely on your own insight or understanding.

[e]In all your ways know and acknowledge and recognize Him,
And He will make your paths straight and smooth [removing obstacles that block your way].

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord [with reverent awe and obedience] and turn [entirely] away from evil.(O)

It will be health to your body [your marrow, your nerves, your sinews, your muscles—all your inner parts]
And refreshment (physical well-being) to your bones.

Honor the Lord with your wealth
And with the first fruits of all your crops (income);(P)
10 
Then your barns will be abundantly filled
And your vats will overflow with new wine.(Q)
11 
My son, do not reject or take lightly the discipline of the Lord [learn from your mistakes and the testing that comes from His correction through discipline];
Nor despise His rebuke,(R)
12 
For those whom the Lord loves He corrects,
Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.

13 
Happy [blessed, considered fortunate, to be admired] is the man who finds [skillful and godly] wisdom,
And the man who gains understanding and insight [learning from God’s word and life’s experiences],
14 
For wisdom’s profit is better than the profit of silver,
And her gain is better than fine gold.
15 
She is more precious than rubies;
And nothing you can wish for compares with her [in value].(S)
16 
Long life is in her right hand;
In her left hand are riches and honor.(T)
17 
Her ways are highways of pleasantness and favor,
And all her paths are peace.
18 
She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her,
And happy [blessed, considered fortunate, to be admired] is everyone who holds her tightly.
19 
The Lord by His wisdom has founded the earth;
By His understanding He has established the heavens.(U)
20 
By His knowledge the deeps were broken up
And the clouds drip with dew.
21 
My son, let them not escape from your sight,
But keep sound wisdom and discretion,
22 
And they will be life to your soul (your inner self)
And a gracious adornment to your neck (your outer self).
23 
Then you will walk on your way [of life] securely
And your foot will not stumble.(V)
24 
When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
25 
Do not be afraid of sudden fear
Nor of the storm of the wicked when it comes [since you will be blameless];
26 
For the Lord will be your confidence, firm and strong,
And will keep your foot from being caught [in a trap].

27 
[f]Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due [its rightful recipients],
When it is in your power to do it.(W)
28 
Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come back,
And tomorrow I will give it,”
When you have it with you.(X)
29 
Do not devise evil against your neighbor,
Who lives securely beside you.
30 
Do not quarrel with a man without cause,
If he has done you no harm.(Y)
31 
Do not envy a man of violence
And do not choose any of his ways.(Z)
32 
For the devious are repulsive to the Lord;
But His private counsel is with the upright [those with spiritual integrity and moral courage].(AA)
33 
The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked,
But He blesses the home of the just and righteous.(AB)
34 
Though He scoffs at the scoffers and scorns the scorners,
Yet He gives His grace [His undeserved favor] to the humble [those who give up self-importance].(AC)
35 
The wise will inherit honor and glory,
But dishonor and shame is conferred on fools.(AD)

Footnotes

  1. Proverbs 1:7 In Proverbs various kinds of fools are discussed including those who are closed-minded, over-confident, and reject instruction and correction—the unteachable; those who lack spiritual insight—the spiritually blind; and those who are flippant, hardened, and who deliberately choose to reject God and wisdom—the arrogant.
  2. Proverbs 1:20 Wisdom is personified as a woman in vv 20-33 and speaks, in the first person, of godly wisdom. Read the word “wisdom” as “the wisdom of God” and see the wonderful power of this book.
  3. Proverbs 1:32 Lit simple ones.
  4. Proverbs 3:1 Or law.
  5. Proverbs 3:6 One of the ancient rabbis said that all the essence of the Torah (Law) depends on this verse.
  6. Proverbs 3:27 Using this verse as a proof text, the ancient rabbis offered the example of an employer who tells his foreman to hire workers at four zuz (small silver coins) each to do a job, and the foreman hires them at three instead. Even though they accepted the terms, the rabbis rule that they have the right to complain. Compare this with the parable of the landowner who hires workers for a denarius each. The difference there is that the first group receives a fair wage, while the last is overpaid as a matter of generosity (Matt 20:15).

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