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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 3

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-10

The fruit of peace 3:1-10

The trust of the wise son (Proverbs 3:5-6) comes from heeding sound teaching (Proverbs 3:1-4), and it leads to confident obedience (Proverbs 3:7-9).

"Teaching" (Proverbs 3:1, Heb. torah) means "law" or, more fundamentally, "instruction" or "direction." Here the context suggests that the teachings of the parents are in view rather than the Mosaic Law, though in Israel their instruction would have rested on the Torah of God.

"Where it [torah] occurs unqualified (Proverbs 28:9; Proverbs 29:18) it is clearly the divine law (it is also the Jewish term for the Pentateuch); but my law, ’thy mother’s law’ (Proverbs 1:8), etc., refer to the present maxims and to the home teachings, based indeed on the law, but not identical with it." [Note: Kidner, p. 63.]

Proverbs 3:3 pictures devotion to kindness and truth (cf. Deuteronomy 6:8-9, which says that God’s law should receive the same devotion). "Kindness" or "love" translates the Hebrew word hesed, which refers to faithfulness to obligations that arise from a relationship. [Note: Ross, p. 916. Cf. Nelson Glueck, Hesed in the Bible, p. 55.] "Truth" or "faithfulness" (Heb. ’emet) refers to what one can rely on because it is stable. [Note: Moses Stuart, A Commentary on the Book of Proverbs, p. 167.] Together they may form a hendiadys: true kindness or faithful love. "Repute" (Proverbs 3:4) connotes success, as in Psalms 111:10. "Trust" and "lean" (Proverbs 3:5) are very close in meaning. Trusting means to put oneself wholly at the mercy of another (cf. Jeremiah 12:5 b; Psalms 22:9 b). Leaning is not just reclining against something but relying on it totally for support.

"In the final analysis all government, all economics, all currency and banking, all institutions and all marriages, all relationships between people, are fundamentally governed by trust. Without trust, society deteriorates into paranoia, the feeling that everybody is out to get you." [Note: Larsen, p. 12.]

"There are two sides to the matter of trust. There is the decision of trust and the habit of trust. The first is called ’commitment;’ the second is called ’trust.’ Trust follows commitment, not always right away, but it begins there. In the middle of our fears we make a decision to trust. This does not immediately bring the habit of trust, but if we will muster the courage to commit our way to God we shall soon learn to trust." [Note: Ibid., p. 14.]

"Acknowledge" (Proverbs 3:6) means to be aware of and have fellowship with God, not just to tip one’s hat to Him. It includes obeying God’s moral will as He has revealed it. The promise (Proverbs 3:6 b) means that God will make the course of such a person’s life truly successful in God’s eyes. This is a promise as well as a proverb, and it refers to the totality of one’s life experience. It does not guarantee that one will never make mistakes.

How can we tell if a proverb is a promise as well as a proverb? We can do so by consulting the rest of Scripture. If a proverb expresses a truth promised elsewhere in Scripture, we know that we can rely on it being absolutely true. A proverb is by definition a saying that accurately represents what is usually true, not what is true without exception. For example, the proverb "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" teaches that eating fruit regularly will help keep you healthy. It is not a promise that if you will eat an apple every day you will never get sick and have to go to a doctor. Proverbs are slices of life that picture what life is usually like. In the case of Proverbs 3:5-6 we have the repetition of a promise made numerous times in Scripture that people who trust God will experience His guidance through life (cf. Hebrews 11; et al.). In our attempt to "handle accurately the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15) we must carefully distinguish proverbs that restate promises from those that do not and are only proverbs. Failure to distinguish proverbs from promises has led to confusion and disappointment for many readers of this genre.

"The individual proverbs must be interpreted and applied within the context of the whole book and, indeed, of the whole Bible. They are not divine promises for the here and now, but true observations that time will bear out." [Note: Tremper Longman III and Raymond B. Dillard, An Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 276.]

Proverbs 3:7-10 suggest some of the ways that God will reward the commitment of Proverbs 3:5-6. Proverbs 3:7 a gives the converse of Proverbs 3:5 a, and Proverbs 3:7 b restates Proverbs 3:6 a (cf. Romans 12:16). This is the act of acknowledging God in all one’s ways.

"No wise man is ever arrogant." [Note: Larsen, p. 25.]

Proverbs 3:8 describes personal invigoration poetically.

"Scripture often uses the physical body to describe inner spiritual or psychical feelings." [Note: Ross, p. 917. Cf. A. R. Johnson, The Vitality of the Individual in the Thought of Ancient Israel, pp. 67-68.]

Proverbs 3:9 applies the principle of acknowledging God to the financial side of life.

"To ’know’ God in our financial ’ways’ is to see that these honour Him." [Note: Kidner, p. 64.]

"The tragedy with many people is not that they don’t claim to have God in their lives, but that, while they claim to have Him, they still don’t trust Him. The most significant telltale symptom of this lack of trust is that they never get around to honoring the Lord with their substance. We’ve got to make sure that the family has security; and we don’t add to the security by whopping off a hunk of it and putting it in the offering plate, unless we really believe that God is our security." [Note: Larsen, p. 31.]

The prospect of material reward (Proverbs 3:10) was a promise to the godly Israelite (cf. Deuteronomy 28:1-14; Malachi 3:10). Christians should recognize this verse as a proverb, rather than a promise, since the Lord has revealed that as Christians, we should expect persecution for our faith rather than material prosperity (2 Timothy 3:12; Hebrews 12:1-11).

Verses 1-12

4. Divine promises and human obligations 3:1-12

This section is mainly about peace as a benefit of wise living, but it concludes with another appeal to seek wisdom.

Verses 11-12

The importance of continuing to seek Wisdom 3:11-12

Even though the price one has to pay for wisdom (i.e., life within the will of God) includes submitting to God’s discipline (Proverbs 3:11-12), it is worth it (Proverbs 3:13-20). "Loathe" (Proverbs 3:11 b) means to shrink back from (cf. Hebrews 12:5-6). Rejecting with the will and recoiling emotionally are opposite actions from trusting (Proverbs 3:5). God’s discipline may not produce all that God desires if we respond to it improperly.

Verses 13-35

5. The value of Wisdom 3:13-35

"Sages reserve the laudatory exclamation blessed (’asre [Proverbs 3:13]) for people who experience life optimally, as the Creator intended." [Note: Waltke, The Book . . ., p. 256.]

Long life, riches, and honor (Proverbs 3:16) were the rewards God promised the godly under the Old Covenant. The tree of life figure (Proverbs 3:18) implies that wisdom is the source and sustainer of a long and beneficial life (cf. Proverbs 3:16). [Note: See Ralph Marcus, "The Tree of Life in Proverbs," Journal of Biblical Literature 62 (1943):117-20.] The point is that by pursuing the way of wisdom, a person can obtain the best things God has to offer him or her.

"It’s good to have the things money can buy, provided you don’t lose the things money can’t buy. What good is an expensive house if there’s no happy home within it? Happiness, pleasantness, and peace aren’t the guaranteed by-products of financial success, but they are guaranteed to the person who lives by God’s wisdom. Wisdom becomes a ’tree of life’ to the believer who takes hold of her, and this is a foretaste of heaven (Revelation 22:1-2)." [Note: Wiersbe, p. 40.]

In Proverbs 3:21-35 we can see the quality of love in the wise son. Proverbs 3:27-30 deal with neighborliness. The situation in view in Proverbs 3:27-28 is one in which someone owes money, not one in which giving is an act of charity (cf. Leviticus 19:13). The point is: pay your debts promptly. [Note: Kidner also included a subject study on the friend (Proverbs 3:29-30), pp. 44-46.] We could apply Proverbs 3:30 by taking it as a warning against hauling someone into court on flimsy accusations. [Note: McKane, p. 300.]

"The Book of Proverbs is the best manual you’ll find on people skills, because it was given to us by the God who made us, the God who can teach us what we need to know about human relationships, whether it’s marriage, the family, the neighborhood, the job, or our wider circle of friends and acquaintances. If we learn and practice God’s wisdom as presented in Proverbs, we’ll find ourselves improving in people skills and enjoying life much more." [Note: Wiersbe, p. 97.]

Proverbs 3:31-35 warn against the temptation to resort to violence when we deal with neighbors. One must decide if he or she wants to be odious to God or be His intimate friend (Proverbs 3:32). That is the issue in choosing the ways of the wicked or those of the upright. James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 quote the Septuagint version of Proverbs 3:34. Proverbs 3:35 probably means that fools display dishonor because that is what they get for their choices-in contrast to the wise, who get honor.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Proverbs 3". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/proverbs-3.html. 2012.
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