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Wednesday, November 29th, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 4

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-9

6. Teaching the love of Wisdom 4:1-9

"This chapter is comprised of three discourses on the value of wisdom, each including the motifs of instruction, exhortation, command, and motivation." [Note: Ross, p. 922.]

The first section of verses in this chapter shows how parents can pass along the love of wisdom: mainly by personal influence. Solomon’s instruction here was very positive. Rather than saying, "Don’t do this and that!" which he did elsewhere (cf. Proverbs 3:27-31), he wanted his sons to realize that by heeding his counsel they could find the best life possible. This father structured formal times of instruction for his sons. His is not a bad example for other fathers to follow.

The Hebrew word translated "instruction" (Proverbs 4:2) can also mean "law" (cf. Proverbs 3:1). Normally those who keep God’s commandments live (Proverbs 4:4), but there are exceptions. [Note: R. B. Y. Scott, Proverbs-Ecclesiastes, p. 52.] Nonetheless this is good motivation. One writer paraphrased Proverbs 4:7 a as follows: "What it takes is not brains or opportunity, but decision. Do you want it? Come and get it." [Note: Ibid., p. 67.] The second half of this verse probably means, "Be willing to part with anything else you may have to get understanding."

Verses 10-19

7. The two paths 4:10-19

In Proverbs 4:10-19, two paths again lie before the youth: the way of wisdom (Proverbs 4:10-13) and the way of folly (the way of the wicked; Proverbs 4:14-17). [Note: See Norman C. Habel, "The Symbolism of Wisdom in Proverbs 1-9," Interpretation 26:2 (April 1972):131-57, for a study of "the way" as a nuclear symbol in this section of Proverbs; and Daniel P. Bricker, "The Doctrine of the ’Two Ways’ in Proverbs," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 38:4 (December 1995):501-17.]

"Upright" paths (Proverbs 4:11) are straightforward ways of behaving, morally and practically. God’s way is the best route to take (cf. Matthew 7:13-14). It offers the fewest potholes, detours, and dangers. God’s commands are similar to the lines on modern highways. They help travelers stay on the proper part of the road so they do not have accidents, but instead arrive safely at the right destination.

"The road metaphor does not depict life from the cradle to the grave, but the road to eternal life versus the road to eternal death." [Note: Waltke, The Book . . ., p. 289.]

One writer restated Proverbs 4:14-15 as follows.

"Don’t take the first step, for you may not be master of your destiny thereafter." [Note: Plaut, p. 69.]

A person can become as zealous for evil as for good. However, this is upside down morality (Proverbs 4:16; cf. Romans 14:21). Another writer commented on Proverbs 4:16-17 in these words.

"How sick to find peace only at the price of another man’s misfortune!" [Note: Robert L. Alden, Proverbs: A Commentary on an Ancient Book of Timeless Advice, p. 47.]

This section closes with another summary comparison (Proverbs 4:18-19; cf. Proverbs 1:32-33; Proverbs 2:21-22; Proverbs 3:35).

"With the goodness of God to desire our highest welfare, the wisdom of God to plan it, and the power of God to achieve it, what do we lack? Surely we are the most favored of all creatures." [Note: A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, p. 70.]

The main opposing elements set in contrast in Proverbs 4:10-19 alternate between safety and danger, and between certainty and uncertainty.

Verses 20-27

8. The importance of persistence 4:20-27

The last pericope of this chapter emphasizes the importance of persisting in the good practices that will lead to life. Success usually comes to those who keep concentrating on and perfecting the basics in their work. Our temptation is to leave these when we become adequately proficient and move on to things that we find more interesting and exciting. These verses give the reader a checkup on his or her condition.

Advocates of the "prosperity gospel," who teach that it is never God’s will for believers to experience sickness or privation, appeal to Proverbs 4:20-22 as support for their position (along with Exodus 15:26; Exodus 23:25; Psalms 103:3; Isaiah 33:24; Jeremiah 30:17; Matthew 4:23; Matthew 10:1; Mark 16:16-18; Luke 6:17-19; Acts 5:16; Acts 10:38). The Book of Job and the past earthly career of Jesus are two lessons, among many in Scripture, that prove this view is incorrect. [Note: For a critique of this movement, see Ken L. Sarles, "A Theological Evaluation of the Prosperity Gospel," Bibliotheca Sacra 143:572 (October-December 1986):329-52.]

"By using ears, eyes, and heart, the teacher is exhorting the whole person to receive the traditions." [Note: Ross, p. 925.]

"Heart" (Proverbs 4:23) usually means "mind" (Proverbs 3:3; Proverbs 6:32 a; Proverbs 7:7 b; et al.), but it has a much broader meaning that includes the emotions (Proverbs 15:15; Proverbs 15:30), the will (Proverbs 11:20; Proverbs 14:14), and even the whole inner person (Proverbs 3:5). [Note: See. R. J. Bouffier, "The Heart in the Proverbs of Solomon," The Bible Today 52 (1971):249-51.] Here the affections are particularly in view. Proverbs 4:23, in conjunction with Proverbs 4:20-22, helps us see that the life in view is not some prize that one gains all at once. It is rather a growing spiritual vitality that empowers the wise person and enables him or her to reach out and help others effectively (cf. Mark 7:15-23; Luke 6:45; John 4:14 and especially John 7:38). One’s words (Proverbs 4:24) reflect his or her heart’s affections. We must be single-minded in our pursuit of wisdom (Proverbs 4:25; cf. Psalms 101:3; Psalms 119:37). We must also give attention to practical planning so we end up taking the steps we need to take to arrive at our intended destination (Proverbs 4:26-27; cf. Hebrews 12:13).

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Proverbs 4". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/proverbs-4.html. 2012.
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