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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Proverbs 1

Verse 1


"Here we have the title and purpose of Proverbs (Proverbs 1:1-7), the admonition to heed parental instruction (Proverbs 1:8-9), the necessity of avoiding evil companions (Proverbs 1:10-19), and the warnings by which Wisdom cries aloud to all men (Proverbs 1:20-31)."[1]

Proverbs 1:1-7

"The proverbs of Solomon the son of

David, the king of Israel:

To know wisdom and instruction;

To discern the words of understanding;

To receive instruction in wise dealing,

In righteousness, justice and equity;

To give prudence to the simple,

To the young man knowledge and discretion:

That the wise man may hear, and increase in learning;

And that the man of understanding may attain unto sound counsels:

To understand a proverb, and a figure,

The words of the wise, and their dark sayings.

The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge;

But the foolish despise wisdom and instruction."

"Some commentators interpret these words as the introduction to the whole book";[2] but, they are a kind of prelude to this first portion. However, it is also true that they stand appropriately enough as a fitting introduction to the whole book. Right here, we have a statement of what the Book of Proverbs is all about.

There are several words in these verses that, although not exactly synonyms, are nevertheless directly related to wisdom; and in its totality, "That wisdom is the Divine science by which men are enabled to discern their best end and to know how to pursue it by the most proper means."[3]

"Wisdom" (Proverbs 1:2). "Wisdom is the ability to use knowledge aright."[4] The Christian has a great advantage over those who were guided by the Old Testament.; because, "For of him (God) are ye in Christ Jesus, who was made unto us wisdom from God. and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30).

"Instruction" (Proverbs 1:2). "This word appears twenty-six times in Proverbs, and the same Hebrew word is translated chasten."[5] The true meaning of the term in this context is discipline! This is that particular wisdom, the lack of the knowledge of which has ruined our entire generation. Parents, disobeying the Divine injunction regarding the disciplining of their offspring, are rearing animals instead of men and women; and from this failure in thousands of instances today, our children have become haters and even killers of their own parents.

"Prudence to the simple" (Proverbs 1:4). Prudence is a quality of wisdom that takes into account the future consequences of one's behavior. Foresight and forethought are among the synonyms.[6] "The simple here is not a reference to a simpleton. The word is used fourteen times in Proverbs; and it designates the opposite of a moral man. It does not mean a simpleton in our use of the term, but a sinner, a rascal."[7]

"Knowledge" (Proverbs 1:4). Knowledge primarily means information of any kind; but in Proverbs the knowledge that is advocated is beneficial, especially as it pertains to the desirable relationship that a Christian has with the Creator and with his fellow-humans.

"Discretion" (Proverbs 1:4). Here is a quality of wisdom that has respect for what is desirable and appropriate as contrasted with that which is opposite. Especially, it regards the feelings and circumstances of others who may see our actions or hear our words.

"Learning" (Proverbs 1:5). Learning implies the ability to execute, practice, or apply information. One may have a theoretical knowledge of how to play baseball; but no one ever learned to play the game: without practice. The very word "hear" as used in the Old Testament carries the imperative "to obey."

"Sound counsels" (Proverbs 1:5). As any attorney will admit, `There is no knowledge as important as the knowledge of where to find it'! The true wisdom lies in the recognition of Him who alone is Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, even the blessed Savior himself. The Bible is the place of sound counsels, especially the New Testament

"Understanding" (Proverbs 1:2,6). True wisdom, in the last analysis, carries with it a dominant ingredient of what is commonly called horse sense, or just plain common sense; and the reader will find an incredibly large measure of this very thing in Proverbs. As Willard said, "God, in the Book of Proverbs, has made his divine will more easily understood."[8]

"The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge" (Proverbs 1:7). W. J. Deane noted that, "Most commentators regard this clause as the motto or symbol of the whole book,"[9] and we heartily agree with this. Also, the alternative reading in the American Standard Version is most appropriate, "The fear of Jehovah is the chief part of wisdom." As Adam Clarke stated it, "No man can ever become truly wise, who does not begin with God, the fountain of wisdom; and he whose mind is influenced by the fear and love of God will learn more in a month than others will in a year."[10]

"The fear of Jehovah" (Proverbs 1:7). This is not a reference to abject craven fear, or terror, but to the awesome respect, honor, and deference to God and his will which automatically come to every mind that contemplates the omnipotence, glory, and holiness of Almighty God. "This expression is found fourteen times in Proverbs."[11]

Other scriptures where similar thoughts are written include: Isaiah 11:2,3; Psalms 2:11; Job 28:28; and Proverbs 8:13.

Verse 8


"My son, hear the instruction of thy father,

And forsake not the law of thy mother:

For they shall be a chaplet of grace unto thy head,

And chains about thy neck."

Ephesians 6:1-4 incorporates this proverb into the gospel of the Son of God; and any society that tolerates and encourages the disrespectful and disobedient behavior of children toward their parents will invariably reap bitter fruits of it. The sacred promise of God himself to obedient children is length of life and a condition of well-being. Despite the fact that "Time and chance happen unto all men," many a man, including this writer, can bear witness of God's truth in these magnificent promises.

"A chaplet ... and chains about thy neck" (Proverbs 1:9). "To the Israelite's mind, no signs or badges of joy or glory were higher in worth than the garland around the head, or the gold chain around the neck, worn by kings and their favorites (Genesis 41:42; Daniel 5:29)."[12] The meaning of this is that there is a loving grace that rests upon respectful and obedient children which is comparable to the highest honor that even kings may pay to their favorites.

Verse 10


"My son, if sinners entice thee,

Consent thou not.

If they say, Come with us,

Let us lay wait for blood;

Let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause;

Let us swallow them up alive as Sheol,

And whole, as those that go down into the pit;

We shall find all precious substance;

We shall fill our house with spoil;

Thou shalt cast thy lot among us;

We will all have one purse:

My son, walk not thou in the way with them;

Refrain thy foot from their path:

For their feet run to evil,

And they make haste to shed blood.

For in vain is the net spread

In the sight of any bird:

And these lay wait for their own blood;

They lurk privily for their own lives.

So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain;

It taketh away the life of the owners thereof."

"If sinners entice thee, consent thou not" (Proverbs 1:10), "There are two Hebrew words for `sinners,' `peccantes', `sinners' as a generic designation of the human race, in the sense that, `All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God' (Romans 3:23), and `peccatores', those who sin knowingly, habitually, willfully and maliciously, who are given over entirely to iniquity, and who persuade others to follow their wicked example."[13] It is this second word for sinners that is used here (Proverbs 1:11).

"Come with us" (Proverbs 1:11). Here is the basic appeal that wicked gangs have always made to the young. "The appeal is to that instinctive desire to be `one of the gang.'"[14] It is the gregarious instinct, a basic ingredient in all human life. It is that `sense of belonging' that is able to create and sustain the youthful wicked gangs that flourish in every great city. It is that same instinct that aids in forging and maintaining Christian fellowship in a church; and successful churches are diligent to make sure that every member, (especially new ones), is made to feel absolutely secure as `really belonging' to the group.

"Let us swallow them up as Sheol" (Proverbs 1:12). "This is an allusion to the fate of Korah and his company (Numbers 16:30-33),"[15] who were swallowed up in the earth following their rebellion.

"Cast thy lot among us; we will all have one purse" (Proverbs 1:14). This meant, "Be a "pater conjuratus" (a sworn brother), and thou shalt have an equal share of all the spoil."[16] Promises such as these effectually blind the eyes of the young and ignorant; and little do they understand that becoming a `sworn brother' of a gang of outlaws is an extremely foolish and deadly mistake. All such gangs, as the notorious Mafia, for example, enforce their control by malicious and wholesale murder. The stupid fool who consents to accept their invitation is not only signing his own death warrant; but at the same time, he is accepting for himself the most brutal and demanding discipline imaginable, with no possibility whatever of ever getting out of it, except in a coffin! Being accepted as 'one of the gang' in a fellowship like that constitutes an abject surrender to Satan himself.

"In vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird" (Proverbs 1:17). "Even a bird can look after its own interest better than those fools who blindly enter such a fellowship with the wicked."[17] That blindness is pointed in Proverbs 1:18.

"They lay wait for their own blood ... lurk privily for their own lives" (Proverbs 1:18). "All history confirms the truth of these words."[18]

The metaphor of the net spread for birds is variously interpreted, but we have followed the text as it appears here. Cook pointed out that, "Another view is that, `In vain is the net spread openly before the birds', thus teaching that the warning, open and visible as it is, is in vain. The birds still fly in! Thus the great net of God's judgment is spread out for all to see; yet the doers of evil, willfully blind, still rush in to their own destruction."[19] Of course, either way the metaphor is interpreted, the truth is illustrated.

Verse 20


"Wisdom crieth aloud in the street.

She uttereth her voice in the broad places;

She crieth in the chief place of concourse;

At the entrance of the gates,

In the city she uttereth her words:

How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity?

And scoffers delight them in scoffing,

And fools hate knowledge?

Turn you, at my reproof:

Behold, I will pour out my spirit upon you;

I will make known my words unto you.

Because I have called, and ye have refused;

I have stretched out my hand, and no man hath regarded;

But ye have set at naught all my counsel,

And would none of my reproof:

I also will laugh in the day of your calamity;

I will mock when your fear cometh;

When your fear cometh as a storm,

And your calamity cometh as a whirlwind;

When distress and anguish come unto you.

Then will they call upon me, but I will not answer;

They will seek me diligently, but they shall not find me.

For that they hated knowledge,

And did not choose the fear of Jehovah,

They would none of my counsel,

They despised all my reproof.

Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way,

And be filled with their own devices.

For the backsliding of the simple shall slay them,

And the careless ease of fools shall destroy them.

But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell securely,

And shall be quiet without fear of evil."

"I will pour out my spirit upon you" (Proverbs 1:23). Jamieson suggested that there is a reference here to the spirit of Christ, that is, the Holy Spirit;[20] and there are a number of considerations that support this view. (1) Paul has told us that Christ is indeed "our wisdom" (1 Corinthians 1:30); and (2) the Hebrew word here indicating the personification of Wisdom is "a plural noun,"[21] suggesting the doctrine of the Trinity. The fact of that noun's being feminine does not support this idea; but (3) as Cook pointed out, "The teaching of the Divine Wisdom is essentially the same as that of the Divine Word (John 7:38-39), namely, repentance and conversion. That is what she calls the simple to do."[22]

"I also will laugh in the day of your calamity ... mock when your fear cometh" (Proverbs 1:26). Scholars stress that in the New Testament, while there is certainly, "Sadness, sternness and severity, there is found no word of mere derision";[23] and, while this is true enough, the New Testament leaves no doubt whatever that there shall eventually come to the wicked a "point of no return," a time when too late shall be written upon all human efforts and all remorse (Matthew 25:10,30), when the unprepared shall at last find that "the door is shut." "These words should not be interpreted as a cynical indifference to human condemnation, but as the eventual vindication of Wisdom in the face of repeated and insolent rejection."[24]

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Proverbs 1". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.