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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 1

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Verse 1


We live in a time when everything should be quick and easy and results must be directly measurable. He who thinks that in that respect this book fits in this time, is mistaken. The book of Proverbs is not a ‘quick bite’ literature and a directly desirable effect is more often absent than present. The reading of this book and the meditation on it in the heart demands patience. It can be compared with using a certain medicine which you first ought to take for a while, in order to notice its beneficial effect. When we read and meditate on the book of Proverbs daily, the healthy efficacy of this book will be noticeable after a course of time.

Let us take the time to experience this book, to take in the content, as it were. Like with the medicine it is necessary to ask the blessing from the Lord, which means that we read it prayerfully. It will benefit our spiritual health if we ‘take in’ this part of God’s Word prayerfully. That will express itself in making wise, good choices in all of those situations that daily happen in our lives in which we have to make decisions.

The book of Proverbs is the manual that tells us how we could become wise. It is not meant for people who love to be intellectually busy with philosophy. It is meant for every Christian and especially for the young Christian who realizes that the world wherein he lives is a labyrinth with many traps and pitfalls. This book shows the way in this labyrinth and indicates where the traps and pitfalls are, so that he can avoid them.

If we prayerfully ponder on what we have read and put into practice what we have pondered on, we will have great benefit of it spiritually. Our lives will be to the honor of God and to the blessing of our environment, while it gives us the satisfaction of a life in fellowship with God.

Ger de Koning
Middelburg, June 2016

Introduction to Proverbs

The book of Proverbs follows after the book of Psalms. In Psalms it is particularly about the inward feelings toward God. In Proverbs it is particularly about the outward walk toward the world. As being occupied with Psalms causes one to have a burning heart, being occupied with Proverbs causes one to have a shining face. Each one of these books represents one of the two sides of the life of the believer. You recognize Psalms by what Peter calls “a holy priesthood” and Proverbs by what he calls a “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:5; 1 Peter 2:9). The book of Psalms places you in the presence of God in order to offer Him spiritual sacrifices as a holy priest. The book of Proverbs places you in the presence of the world in order to proclaim the virtues of God in the state of royal dignity.

In Proverbs we see the kindness of God, Who in His wisdom shows us about His insight in who man is really like. He lets us see ways that man chooses and the results of all ways in which a man can walk. In this book we see the basic principle that whatever a person sows, he will also reap (Galatians 6:7). The world is for man, for us, a labyrinth, where one single wrong step can cause bitter results. It is therefore a great grace to have a book that tells us about the way of cautiousness and life and does that from the perspective of the wisdom that comes from God.

Solomon was filled with that wisdom from above. In his letter James mentions the characteristics of this wisdom (James 3:17). Solomon applies this wisdom in a way that we can use it in the world in which we live. He describes the things as God sees them. If we submit ourselves to God’s Word we will discover in this book the travel direction for our lives. It includes the instructions of how to avoid the way of our own wisdom and how to recognize the foolish ideas of our own heart. Let it be clear that the road of life is not a fearful road, but one that gives joy in going it if we take to heart the teaching of this book.

In this book of proverbs, we find useful precepts for all categories of people, for young and old, for man and woman, from high to low. Kings and influential people, but also farmers and all people who live in the poorest conditions, read teaching instructions in it about their behavior in their different circumstances. Its specific prescriptions contain instructions on wisdom and foolishness, the righteous and the ungodly, the tongue, pride and humbleness, justice and revenge, the family, laziness and work, poverty and riches, friends and neighbors, love and passion, anger and fight, masters and servants or employers and employees, life and death. The precepts of life regard the values and standards in the sphere of a family, but also in the sphere of religion, politics and economics. The proverbs deal with each aspect of human relationships, whereby its Divine principles exceed the limits of time and culture.

The whole book is for each person in his own circumstances a compass for determining the right course of his ship of life on the sea of life, whereby the cliffs are being circumvented. We encounter an abundance of healthy rules which are intended to arrange life in all possible circumstances. These rules are put clearly, emphatically and very diversely. If it is our desire to be taught, we can choose from a multitude that is most fitting to our personal situation.

The main goal of the wisdom teacher who speaks to us in this book, which is actually the Lord Jesus Himself, is to sharpen a deep respect for God and to ignite a passionate love for wisdom and virtue. He has admonitions and advices on sexuality, laziness, the use of the tongue, money, courage, respect. He mentions matters like: unrighteousness, ungodliness, lawlessness, idleness, carelessness, drunkenness and nearly every vice.

The wisdom teacher is very straight. He paints these matters in bright colors. He does that especially for the young person, whom he with his teaching, especially has in mind. There is nothing that thoroughly ruins a young person in such a way than bad company, lawlessness and illegal connections. Therefore the teacher uses the most powerful arguments against these vices. He strongly exposes the aimless wandering and hanging around of the young people and the company of the tempting woman.

That is at the same time one of the reasons why the book of Proverbs is not one of the favorite books of the Bible. It is actually a very confronting book.

Another excuse which is used to not read it, is that too general rules are written in it that often do not seem to be working. As an example the following is sometimes quoted: “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). We all know that also well-raised children sometimes depart from the way of the Lord. What is then the use or profit of such a general rule when it still doesn’t seem to be working? What we are to learn, is to look higher and further than what we observe in the life around us.

In order to understand this book, we need to have the key to this book. Only if we use that key we will experience the great blessing that this book contains. That very key is: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). The name ‘LORD’ (Yahweh) indicates a relationship with Him. It is the Name of God that indicates the relation between Him and His people.

If we want to get the real and the most benefit from this book, we need to have a relationship with the Lord Jesus. If we have a living relationship with Him, we will approach this book with the greatest respect for God. Then a treasure will be unlocked that invites us to dig deeper and deeper.

This splendid book is really a goldmine of Divine wisdom. As it is said, it tells us how God sees the human nature and therefore how the human nature really is. We read a description of the life that is devoted to God and we also receive teaching and advice how this particular life has to be lived. Let our prayer be: “Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth” (Psalms 86:11). We will then on the one hand avoid the conduct of the world, while on the other hand the Lord Jesus will become more and more visible in our conduct (Romans 13:13-2 Chronicles :).

The proverbs in this book are derived from the observations that the wise Solomon had made with regard to life or what he himself has experienced. In that way also the ordinary sayings which we use or which we hear others using, do originate. Just take for example our saying, ‘strike the iron while it is hot’. Somebody had seen that at the blacksmith or he has done it himself as a blacksmith. But the proverbs in this bible book go deeper. It is not simply life wisdom. The proverbs are surely derived from observations or they describe experiences, but they are related to faith. This book is the revelation of God pertaining to life. It tells us about man from God’s perspective. He directs life, He is the sovereign God (cf. Proverbs 21:1; Proverbs 16:33). Life is not a succession of coincidences.

Solomon has observed people (Proverbs 7:6-Jeremiah :) and passes on what he has seen. The observations which he, under Divine inspirations, had made, are thorough and accurate. What we get to see, is not a flattering picture. But if we too learn to observe like as he does, it will enormously help us to go our life’s journey for His honor, for the blessing of others and for our own joy. If we take this book to heart by accurately applying the rules written in it, to our lives and behavior, the result will be that each one of us becomes a “man of God, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-Esther :).

The book of Proverbs is wisdom literature. The nations also have wisdom literature. Egypt for example is famous for that. The big difference between both is that in Proverbs wisdom is seen in the light of the fear of God. In this book we find wisdom for the everyday life, a wisdom which is only to be found in the Word of God (cf. Jeremiah 8:9). True wisdom is based on the Word of God.

Whoever puts the Word of God aside, is a fool. Words of wise men (Proverbs 22:17; Proverbs 24:23) are words of those who are familiar with God’s Word, not like scholars from a student’s room, but like people who apply that very Word in their daily life to all things. It regards to everyday life, but particularly seen in the light of eternity. For those who hear the words of the wise men, it will become eternal glory. But behind those who ignore these words, the dark background of the grave rises up (Proverbs 4:19; Proverbs 15:11).

Behind and above Solomon we see Him Who is “more than Solomon”, the Lord Jesus (Matthew 12:42). He is the true Teacher Who teaches on life. He teaches on the practical life wisdom. He Who teaches this is the great example Himself of the wise Man (see Isaiah 11:2). Everything in this book is perfectly true about Christ. His whole journey on earth was the journey of the wise man. With Him we see in everything that He was perfectly led by the fear of the LORD, while we at the same time observe that foolishness was totally absent with Him.

He is not only the wise Man, but also the wise King, like Solomon also was as a picture of Him. For us as New Testament believers this means that we can only understand this book and bring it into practice when the Lord Jesus reigns in our heart and life.

Division of the book

1. Prologue (Proverbs 1:1-7)
2. Instructing speeches (Proverbs 1:8-9:26)
3. The first series of proverbs of Solomon (Proverbs 10:1-22:16)
4. The first appendix (Proverbs 22:17-24:22)
5. The second appendix (Proverbs 24:23-34)
6. The second series of proverbs of Solomon (Proverbs 25:1-29:27)
7. The first appendix: the proverbs of Agur, the son of Jakeh (Proverbs 30:1-33)
8. The second appendix: the words for king Lemuel (Proverbs 31:1-9)
9. The third appendix: a praise to the woman (Proverbs 31:10-31)

Proverbs and Its Author

The Proverbs 1:1-Joshua : are the introduction on the book. It tells us who the author is and what the purpose of this book is. The book bears the name of its first word “proverbs”. A definition of a proverb is: a concise, succinct, saying that expresses a clear, generally applicable truth (e.g. Ezekiel 16:44). A proverb is a timeless truth that represents a fundamental reality of life in the form of a simple illustration. It can also regard a lesson which is derived from the past (Psalms 78:2-Joshua :). The goal of a proverb is that the right choice is made, out of the possibilities that are present, so that the path of foolishness may be avoided and the path of wisdom is taken.

The basic meaning of the Hebrew word for ‘proverbs’, mashal, is the comparison of two things by putting the one thing next to the other. It is derived from a word which means ‘compare’. Mashal means comparison or parable. The reason why this book is called like that, is that in this book things are constantly compared to one another. Contrasts are constantly made, for example between the good and the bad, the wise and the fool, the obedient and the disobedient, the diligent and the sloth.

The word mashal has more meanings. Mashal also means a proverb in the sense of instruction or teaching or parable (Psalms 78:2). The word is probably also related to power, which indicates that a proverb is a word of power. A brief proverb is a powerful word about which the hearer must carefully think. Solomon was not only a wise king, he was also a mighty king. With him wisdom and power went together. It underlines what was noticed earlier, namely that he is a type or a foreshadow of the Lord Jesus, Who is called “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24).

These are proverbs “of Solomon”. Although the name of Solomon is connected to this book, also proverbs from others are written in it (Proverbs 30:1). It is comparable to the book of Psalms which is generally ascribed to David, although it also includes psalms that are written by others. Solomon has spoken out three thousand proverbs (1 Kings 4:32), out of which the book of Proverbs contains a selection of more than eight hundred proverbs. Under Divine guidance he put, out of the great quantity of thoughts, a collection together in arranged order, which serves for the teaching of God’s people through the time up to the end of the time.

The name Solomon means ‘peace’. The proverbs have the goal that the believer goes his way in life peacefully, just like the Lord Jesus went His way in peace when He was on earth.

Solomon has spoken as “the son of David”. David had more sons, but Solomon is the son par excellence, for he is the beloved of the LORD (2 Samuel 12:24-Lamentations :). He is therefore a wonderful picture of the Lord Jesus, the great Son of David, the beloved Son of the Father.

He also spoke out his proverbs as the “king of Israel”. As the king of that nation he is also their teacher. Also as the king of Israel he is a type or foreshadow of the Lord Jesus, particularly as the Prince of peace Who will reign in the millennial kingdom of peace in justice and righteousness over His people.

The greater part of Psalms is written by David, the man of trials and struggles. Proverbs is written by Solomon, a man of peace. He has not acquired them from others, but they came forth from him. They are expressions of his wisdom which was given to him by God. Proverbs is a book of wisdom. That the name of Solomon is related to it, only makes the commendation more powerful. After all, he had a breadth of mind, like the sand that is on the seashore and he was wiser than all men (1 Kings 4:29-Obadiah :).

Solomon is an exceptional type of Christ. In his person he refers to Him Who is “more than Solomon” (Matthew 12:42). We read of Christ that He became “to us wisdom from God” (1 Corinthians 1:24; 1 Corinthians 1:30). He is Wisdom in Person. In Him “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-Leviticus :). As the Wisdom He sends out wise men to His people (Matthew 23:34; Luke 11:49). We know the wise men that He sends from both the Old and the New Testament. In the Old Testament those are His prophets (Hebrews 1:1). In the New Testament those are His apostles and prophets. In that way also Solomon is a wise man who was sent by Him to His people and to us.

This book is about Christ as the King of Israel. He will surely prove in the future that He indeed is the King of Israel. In Proverbs He does not reign openly yet, although it is being pointed out in advance that there comes a time of His kingdom. The result of His absence is that the evil is not immediately punished and that often neither the good is rewarded. We consider ourselves to be placed in a situation where the evil rules and where we as righteous people are to find the way that God wants us to go. In finding that way, Christ is our example. We need to see Him in this book. He has fulfilled the law and the prophets. He is the meaning, the sense, of the whole Old Testament, of each book of it, therefore also of this book of Proverbs.

Verse 2

To Know Wisdom and to Discern Sayings

In Proverbs 1:2-Numbers : Solomon makes clear what the multiple purpose is of this book. Therefore he uses nine words in these verses which appear again and again in this book:
1. Wisdom (Hebrew hokma): to fathom the nature of things and situations, through which one is able to make good choices.
2. Instruction (Hebrew musar): teaching / education by correction, warning and discipline.
3. Understanding (Hebrew bina): the ability to apply what you understand by the discerning between good and evil, healthful and unhealthful, truth and lie.
4. Righteousness (Hebrew tsedek): the right conduct (refers to acting and thinking).
5. Justice (Hebrew mishpat): what is right according to the standard and the Being of God.
6. Equity (Hebrew meyshar): the capability to act in line with honor and virtue, according to what is fitting for the situation.
7. Prudence (Hebrew orma): the capability to see in others what it is all about.
8. Knowledge (Hebrew da’at): sound information, acquired through experience.
9. Discretion (Hebrew mezimma): the capacity to act cautiously and thoughtfully with deliberation and sensitivity.

It is firstly about “knowing wisdom and instruction”. Wisdom and instruction are related to one another as a unity. The original text of wisdom is ‘ability’ (Exodus 31:6; 1 Kings 3:28). In Proverbs wisdom means the ability to live as God wants. It is the ability to make wise choices and to live successfully after the commandments of God. We must understand success in the sense of blessing and advantage in our spiritual life. If we live in this way, our life will bring forth fruits of permanent value for God and for the congregation and society of which we are a part. All God’s statutes are simple. If we live by them, ‘success’ is secure.

Wisdom is to master the art of life, but in a way which is according to the will of God. The art is not only that the wise man recognizes the dangers of life, but also that he knows how to overcome these dangers. Wisdom is watching and observing like God watches and observes. It is watching at how He guides the world and responding in the right way to that guidance.

Instruction is inseparably related to wisdom. It implies teaching, or – in a broader sense – education, and also training. It contains the teachings of a father to his son. It includes also exhortation and punishment or discipline because the tendency to foolishness must be corrected and the respect for the LORD must be developed. In that way the young man is directed in the right direction. Therefore authority is related to instruction, for when he deviates he must be disciplined.

The important thing is that wisdom and instruction “are known”, by which they will become our possession. It means that we have to deliver effort for it. It does not come naturally. We must make effort to become familiarized with wisdom and instruction.

“Sayings of understanding” are words that make clear that a person has discernment in the way he has to choose. Those are words that show a person the right way. If we want to be able to make these words to have the desirable effect, then the young man ought to “discern” them. For this reason those words are explained. But the young man will not be helped by an explanation alone. He ought to understand the explanation also. Therefore he needs to have the right mind.

In summary, we may say that Solomon reveals and explains his words, so that they may be understood. In order to benefit from his teaching, the young man must meet two conditions: he must be willing to make effort to know the wise words and he must be willing to discern them.

Verse 3

To Receive Instruction

The teaching of Solomon has the goal to make his son, and us, wise, which will lead us to make the right choices in our lives. He teaches an ”instruction in wise behavior”. The wisdom teacher presents his son an instruction in wise behavior in how life must be lived. It is a ‘manual’ for life.

By presenting it in this way he tries to make his son, and us, receive his instruction. It would be very stupid to refuse or ignore his ‘manual’ for life. The word ‘receive’ has to do with submission to the instruction or teaching, with the thought that what is being offered is worthy to be received.

Our nature is such that we want to decide by ourselves how to live and we are not inclined to submit ourselves. It is therefore necessary for us to subject ourselves to obtain understanding in life. However, we are not forced to accept the instruction, but we are, although emphatically and urgently, invited to. The father emphatically gives orders and the son would be wise to obey them, but he must make the choice himself whether he wants to.

Nobody obliges us to read first the manual attached to a device, before using the device, though it is urgently recommended. It can cost us a lot of money if we use the device without having read the manual first. That certainly goes for this manual for life of course. The invitation which becomes clear in this verse is that we receive the content of this book and apply it in our lives.

“Discernment” means that we use our mind, which has been enlightened by God’s Word, to think through, plan and estimate the risks, in order to make the right choice between good and evil. If we receive this teaching, we will also consider
1. “righteousness”, which means that we act after the right norm or standard, like is done for instance with the measures and weights to rightly measure and weigh something (Deuteronomy 25:15); it means that we act in accordance with God’s law;
2. “justice”, which means to act as a result of and in accordance with an official, judicial verdict (Deuteronomy 16:18-Psalms :), doing what is fitting;
3. “equity”, which means what is honest and pleasant to others and that we act sincerely, uprightly.

Verse 4

Prudence, Knowledge and Discretion

In this verse Solomon mentions two kinds of people to whom he especially addresses his teaching and whose character he wants to shape by his teaching. If they heed his teaching, they will prosper spiritually. We may say that the book of Proverbs is the key to success. Whoever heeds it, meaning to take the teaching to heart, will know how he has to go his way, what the wisest way is. It is the way that God can give His blessing on.

The “naive” are the first kind. They are gullible, innocent, thoughtless, stupid. We should not identify them with the fools. The naive lives his life as it lies ahead. He does not worry about anything and he does not consider anything. That implies that he is easily deceived to go the wrong way.

The “youth”, or the young man, is the second kind. Because he is young, he misses the experience. He cannot know what life is all about and is therefore vulnerable and easy to be tempted to go the wrong way.

The naive and the youth or young man need to be brought to fear God. Then He will teach them through this book about the way they should choose (Psalms 25:12).

The wisdom teacher wants to give “prudence” to the naive through his teaching. Prudence is smartness or perspicacity. If the naive uses the prudence that is given to him, he will know how to act cleverly. In that way his choice will not deliver him disadvantage, but on the contrary advantage (Proverbs 22:3). He will know how to avoid the pitfalls of life. If he does not obey the teaching of the wise man, but allows himself with fools, he will become a fool.

The wisdom teacher seeks to give “knowledge and discretion” to the youth. Because youth lacks the knowledge of life, the teaching has the goal to make known to them the mysteries of life. Young people sometimes think they have a lot of knowledge, but it is just knowledge from books. They often talk like chickens without a head. They just cannot possibly know what life is all about. This lack of knowledge is dealt with in a most excellent way in this book with proverbs.

When the lack of knowledge has been eliminated by taking in the teaching of the contents of this book, it is then important to apply that knowledge in the right way and the right time. Therefore to knowledge directly “discretion” here is connected (2 Peter 1:6). Discretion is a sound mind, thoughtfulness or self-control. He who has a sound mind, thinks before he does or says something. He will not rush to act or speak, but wait for the right time.

Verse 5

Wise and Understanding

Not only the naive and the young man have profit from this book, but also everyone who is already “wise” and “of understanding”. To become wise and understanding never stops. He who is really wise and understanding will not say that about himself, but will have the desire to increase in that more and more. We will always have the need to become wiser and of more understanding; we will always have the need to become like Christ more and more. God’s wisdom is endless and His understanding is unperceivable. This book is an exhortation to choose the way of wisdom and understanding for everyone who is not on that way yet. This book is a manual for following that way for everyone who has already chosen that way.

If we are wise and have chosen the way of wisdom, we will hear all the better what the teacher has to say. “Hear” or listen is a great way to learn. First we hear, then we do. If we hear, we “will increase in learning”. God does not want us to stand still, but that we continue to grow spiritually and increase more and more in the knowledge of His thoughts. Learning is the understanding of the context of a certain case and the overview of the elements that altogether play a role (cf. 1 Chronicles 12:32).

“To acquire wise counsel” is an activity to gain good advice and wise counsel in order to come to a proper consideration and then be able to make a good choice. He who is wise will do his utmost to acquire good advice and wise counsel. To acquire indicates effort. The man of understanding sees the valuable meaning of gaining wise counsel and will make effort for consultation. He will not lean on his own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).

Verse 6

Proverb, Figure, Words, Riddles

In this book of proverbs, Solomon has emphasized poignantly the importance of his teaching in the previous verses. If we have understood somewhat how great the importance is of a guide to and on the way of wisdom, we will desire to receive the content of this book.

That does not mean that the content of this book is directly ready for us to understand. There is an apparent difficulty. Besides clear proverbs and words of the wise, which are understandable for everyone, this book also consists of figures and riddles of the wise. This means that it is not always directly clear what is meant. Proverbs are often sayings that we have to think deeply about – riddles. We ought to think them over and think them through. We need to listen intensively to each proverb and look at it carefully. Thereby we also need to note the context in which the proverb is used.

Therefore, we need to think about a proverb and examine its meaning. If we do that, we will discover surprisingly that the proverb is examining us. It induces self-examination and asking questions to ourselves. The examination puts us under the examining eye of God, because He Himself speaks to us in this book. God puts our lives in His spotlight, so that we may see our lives in His light. That should lead us to a conclusion which shows that we have understood Him and adjust our lives after that.

This thinking over and thinking through of a proverb is a significant point to be noted at the beginning of this book. We need time to draw the wisdom out of it and to get aware of it. Its teaching is not always simply for the taking. We are to look for it, to dig for it. This book is not a kitschy novel which is fluently to be read. But if we look for wisdom seriously, we are at the right place to find it. If we are convinced about the importance of the search for wisdom, every effort will be rewarded. The significance that wisdom has for us, will be measured by our effort for obtaining it.

Verse 7

The Fear of the LORD

Fortunately, the search for God’s wisdom is not dependent on our intellect. The wisdom that God wants to give to His children if they are looking for it, is hidden for the “wise and intelligent” (Matthew 11:25) of the world. God’s wisdom is found by those who fear Him. To fear God means to recognize Him in Whom He is and to trust Him, to honor Him, worship, obey and serve Him. “The beginning” means the essence, where it fundamentally is about. Every “knowledge” must be acquired from the fear of the LORD, otherwise it is darkness.

“The fear of the LORD” is worked in an individual by the forgiveness he has received after the confession of his sins (Psalms 130:3-Numbers :). Then we have become small before the great God, Whose wrath we fear and Whose love attracts us. If we really know that our sins are forgiven, there will be a great and deep respect for Him and we will be longing to live for His honor. Herewith we have the key in our hands to understand this book. The wisdom of this book is not intended for us in the first place to adopt a better attitude, but rather to make us more conformed to Christ, so that He may become visible in our lives.

The fear of the LORD (Proverbs 9:10; Proverbs 15:33; Job 28:28; Psalms 111:10) is what is exactly missing in all wisdom’s proverbs of the pagan nations, for they do not know of repentance of their sins and conversion to God. The book of Proverbs is not only a book with a collection of beautiful, wise and practical advices, but all lessons of life are brought under a common denominator, which is the fear of the LORD. If that denominator is missing, one will still end up in hell, the eternal torment, with all one’s so-called wisdom. It is about the desire to live by the Word of the LORD. That is the core of true wisdom. The Lord Jesus has lived on earth according to this word towards His God and Father.

This book is full of ‘practical exercises in Godliness’ (1 Timothy 4:7). Those exercises go on through the whole life. Without the fear of the LORD it is not possible for a person to exercise Godliness. It is impossible to receive wisdom without that fear, just like it is impossible to learn how to read without knowing the alphabet or to study mathematics without knowing the figures.

“Fools despise wisdom and instruction” because they despise the fear of the LORD. Those are people who first were naive, but have become fools because they have despised the teaching of wisdom that has come to them. The fool thinks that he could make it on his own without any help. He thinks he can manage without teaching.

In this book three different words are used in Hebrew which are all three translated with ‘fool’ in English. The different words indicate that the fool is a blockhead and obstinate, a person who refuses to accept something from another person, because of his laziness and shortsightedness. He misses spiritual knowledge because he locks God out of his life. Due to that he is an arrogant, crude person who perseveres in his own way.

The constitution of wisdom is the law of sowing and harvesting. That means that we have to carry the results (harvesting) of all deeds that we commit (sowing). If we want to avoid nasty results, we should not do stupid actions. If we step into the severe cold without a coat, we will catch cold and get sick. That is the law of nature in which we also see the acting of God. God rewards good deeds and punishes bad actions. Whoever speaks and does evil, will encounter evil on his way.

It is hereby important to note that the results are not always seen on earth already, but only later, after death. We will come across this point of view again and again in this book. It is a given fact that God always punishes the evil and rewards the good. Sometimes He does that already on earth, but certainly after death (1 Timothy 5:24-Lamentations :). Ultimately, the ungodly will end up badly and the righteous will prosper.

Verses 8-9

Hearing Will Be Rewarded

The first teaching that a human receives, is that of his father and mother. It is also the first relation in which a person is placed and wherein he learns that he is subjected to authority. God’s authority is not expressed in this book that much in giving prescriptions, but in the relationships that he has ordained between people and especially that of parents and children. Whoever submits himself as a child to his parents, submits himself to the order which God has ordained.

The father addresses the word to his son (Proverbs 1:8). It is not the teacher of the classroom speaking to his pupils here. We hear the counsel of a father here to his son, who also involves the son’s mother in this (Proverbs 6:20; Proverbs 10:1). The book of Proverbs is a book of education par excellence. Parents find everything in it that is needed for the education of their children.

Proverbs 1:8 defines that the teaching of wisdom is especially given in the family context. If we are parents, we have a great task to teach our children in the wisdom. The teaching of this book shapes their character as a Christian (Proverbs 4:3-Numbers :; Deuteronomy 6:7). We should thank God if we come from a parental home, where in all things of life God was respected.

The father addresses his son directly. The book of Proverbs is a textbook with teaching from a father to his son. The atmosphere wherein the teaching is taking place, is the father-son relationship. It is an atmosphere of love, confidentiality, involvement and safety. In the application this means that the proverbs in this book are meant for those who live in an intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus, the Wisdom in Person. The proverbs of this book are therefore only to be understood by them.

By addressing his son as “my son” the father underlines the close relationship he has with him. From there the direct responsibility to instruct his son, comes forth automatically. He recommends his son to hear “the instruction”. Instruction is a broad concept. It implies teaching and training and if necessary also discipline in the sense of physical chastisement. The instruction of the father has the goal to make the son hear the instruction, which means that he heeds it by obeying it. Hearing is to listen actively with the awareness to be addressed directly and personally, while there is the willingness to do what is said.

Those are the instructions “of your father”. In that way he tells his son that he is important to his father. A father does not ‘lecture’, but speaks from a relation of love. A real father knows that he is a father and he will surely make his children experience that. He is closely involved with their spiritual development and will do everything to help them to always make the right choices, so that their development will not stagnate or even go wrong.

The involvement of “your mother” with the spiritual development of her son lies in “the teaching” that she gives him. She does that with her words and example, not that much with instruction. Instruction is mainly related to the contribution that the father has in the upbringing (Ephesians 6:4). The son runs the risk to ignore the teaching of his mother. Therefore this appeal is made by his father. The teaching of the mother implies that she shows him the right direction. She teaches him to live his life orderly.

From the fact that and the way in which the father involves his wife with the education, there is a lot we could learn. It is important that a husband motivates and supports the contribution of his wife. Husband and wife are to draw one line in the education and are not to walk out on each other, certainly not in the presence of the children. Children can flawlessly sense when there is a disagreement between father and mother. They know very well how to exploit that disagreement when occasions arise.

If a son hears the instruction and teaching, it will adorn his life, which will make it to become attractive (Proverbs 1:9). A wreath to the head and an ornament about the neck indicate dignity. There is mention here of “a graceful wreath”. Loveliness radiates from a person who has accepted instruction and teaching from his father and mother. Obedient children are attractive and force respect. Dignitaries used to wear a golden chain about their neck (Genesis 41:42; Daniel 5:29). This is how they are considered by those who accept discipline and teaching.

If we are ‘adorned’ with the teaching, let us show the truth of God’s wisdom in our words and our life (cf. Titus 2:9-2 Samuel :). If we obey wisdom, the sharp edges of our behavior will disappear and we will become more and more pleasant to others in our dealings with them. We will also give a clearer picture of the life as a Christian because we show more of the Lord Jesus.

What we read of the father and mother in this verse, we can also apply to those who are fathers and mothers in the church in spiritual sense. They are concerned with a special care for young believers to help them to go their way with the Lord. Paul was like a father and a mother to the newly converted believers in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 2:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:11).

Verses 10-19

Avoid Bad Company

The first thing the father warns his son about, is bad company (Proverbs 1:10). He repeats that warning in Proverbs 1:15. This bad company consists of sinners whose lives consist of sinning, whose lifestyle is sinning. They do nothing else and that is the only thing they are looking for. They do not live from fair labor, but from the harvest of criminality. In order to succeed they do not look for victims only, but also for new companions. Therefore, they approach young people. They present the choice to the young man between the easy and quick money and the long way of obedience to what his father and mother have told him.

The father does not stop with a general and in that way a vague warning. He does not forbid his son in short to join the company of sinners, but teaches him about their practices. He instructs him how they approach him, so that he will be able to recognize them when they come to him with their talks, in order to gain him. The father takes the time to talk with his son. Parents should take the time to talk with their children.

That’s not the way they should talk with toddlers. Toddlers are to learn to listen and obey what their parents say, even without an explanation. It happens often that people talk with the children when they are much too young, in order to convince them about something. That does not work with kids and it may even deliver difficulties when direct obedience is demanded. It does work with those who are ‘son’, which means, children who already have a certain degree of maturity and are able to consider what is said.

The fact that the first alarm bells ring in Proverbs with regard to bad company, is an important signal for families with children. Outdoors the children often find themselves in groups, for example:
a. They go together to school with a group of children.
b. At school they participate in a group.
c. They have to make group assignments.
d. They join a sports club or a music school.
e. They go to birthday parties.
f. In social media they have groups.

The peer pressure at schools, both in primary and in higher and university education, is great. Our children need to be made resistible against it. How they will develop is partly dependent on the company in which they find themselves. Therefore we as parents need to know with whom they have relationships – also and especially on social media! – and warn them about bad company. It is foolishness and self-deception when parents say that (young) children are ‘entitled to have privacy’ and they ‘therefore’ do not want to know with whom their children have contact on social media.

Sinners form a company that has no part in the company of God’s children, but try to find a way to join that company. The father is not naive and knows very well that this company seeks to tempt his son to sin. Directly after satan was fallen, he became an enticer and tempter. Sinners are his servants trained by him. The only thing the devil can do, is entice us. He cannot force us to sin. ‘To consent’ is to give in to his enticement, which is followed by sin. Eve consented and then she sinned (Genesis 3:6). Joseph did not consent to the enticement and did not sin (Genesis 39:8-1 Samuel :).

How important is it that parents warn their children about bad company and keep them away from it. Many parents make effort and spare time nor money nor pain, in order to make them excel in music, sports, social activities etcetera. It is to be hoped that they make the same effort to let their children be excellent in knowing and obeying the Word of God.

Children will only be able to say ‘no’ to evil, if they say ‘yes’ to God. The fear of God makes them avoid evil. Therefore we need to teach them to fear God. It is always easier to follow a crowd than to swim against the current (cf. Exodus 23:2). We need to have a goal in life to know which direction we should go. That goal is Christ. Let us present that goal to our children.

The young man needs to know two things about the sinners. Those things are:
1. the methods they use to entice him to participate with them (Proverbs 1:11-2 Chronicles :) and
2. what their end is (Proverbs 1:15-Psalms :).

In Proverbs 1:11-2 Kings : the father tells his son how sinners operate in their attempts to entice him. He must be aware that they approach him and invite him to participate in a raid. Those are professional criminals who already have a goal in mind. The father uses an extreme example, but that doesn’t make it an unrealistic one. Most choices in life lie on a lower and apparently less important level. This extreme example makes clear where a first step on the path with sinners ultimately leads to.

Sinners present their idea as something very exciting and at the same time as something very simple. The son gets the invitation to lie with them in wait for blood. The expression ‘in wait for’ has to do with lying in an ambush with the intention to kill (Deuteronomy 19:11) or to kidnap somebody (Judges 21:20). Here it is about the intention of shedding blood.

Violence is one of the two main characteristics of sin. The other main characteristic is corruptness. All sins are categorized under one of these two main characteristics. The first sin which is committed by man is that of corruptness. That was when Eve believed the devil and made God a liar (Genesis 3:2-Deuteronomy :). The second sin is the sin of violence. That was when Cain killed his brother Abel (Genesis 4:8). Since then the world is full of corruptness and violence (cf. Genesis 6:11).

The victim is “the innocent”, someone without giving a cause to be attacked (cf. Psalms 35:7). These people do not care who their victim may be. It also happens this day that a person is not fortunate to walk along a group of criminal youth who look for a diversion. Without a cause he gets to be beaten up and robbed. It is the behavior of Cain who killed his brother Abel, who did him no harm (Genesis 4:8).

The sinners add to their proposal that they will delete every trace of their wicked deeds unrecognizably (Proverbs 1:12). With this presentation of matters they try to persuade the son to participate. He does not have to be afraid to get caught. They will bury their victim untraceably. The language that they use here, imply that they will deal as God, Who made the rebels Korah, Dathan and Abiram descend alive into sheol, so that nothing more of them was to be seen or to be found (Numbers 16:33). But God sees it and will reveal it (Genesis 4:9-2 Samuel :).

In Proverbs 1:13-2 Chronicles : a bait is presented to the son to persuade him to participate. The sinners promise the newcomer a quick success, meaning quickly gained riches (Proverbs 1:13). He only has to participate with them, that’s what they have invited him for (Proverbs 1:11). They don’t ask for anything else.

The sinners propose it as attractive as they possibly can. ‘Just imagine what we shall find when our victim has been devoured and has disappeared. We will find all kinds of precious wealth and fill our houses with the spoil. It is not just a little robbery, but a great one. You can live on it for years and years.’ The language that sinners use is that of the vine-growers about whom the Lord Jesus speaks in a parable: “But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance’” (Matthew 21:38).

A great enticement originates from getting money in an easy way, apart from God. As far as we can learn from the Scripture, there are three ways to get money in a legal manner:
1. by earning it with working;
2. by inheritance;
3. because somebody gives it to us.

To get money by the means of violence is not included. The root of this evil of violence is the love for money. Paul instructs Timothy like a father does to his child and tells him to flee from the love of money (1 Timothy 6:9-1 Kings :).

The sinners promise the young man that he will be ‘one of them’ as a full member of the gang. It connects to what nearly all young people, today also, long for, which is to belong to a group. They have put everything they have robbed in one purse. He will get his share from it, just like every other member. Really, they will share everything ‘honestly’ with him.

Many young people are caught in this trap, because then they are eventually ‘somebody’. They are a part of a gang, share the spoils and are recognized by other gang members. They reject the squeezing yoke of their parents, who of course do not understand anything of their desire for freedom. This will make them free to do and allow whatever they want themselves. Thereby they also get the possession of the luxury they coveted. But it is an illusion of freedom, for they have sold their soul to the devil. If they are not useful anymore, they are considered to be redundant, are thrown out or killed.

In the application we do not need to think only of youth gangs of youngsters from broken families who want to have money in a quick way. It also goes for ‘white collar’ crime, the financial frauds. People who have a high position in large companies, fill their pockets by all kinds of doubtful deals. Thereby they involve the subordinates who they need and appease them by promising them a share of the harvest. The temptation of the ‘easy money’ occurs among all layers of the population and among all age groups.

In Proverbs 1:15 the father warns his son for the second time (Proverbs 1:10). The warning “do not walk in the way with them” stands against the invitation of the sinners “come with us” in Proverbs 1:11. The father told the son in the previous verses what sinners are looking for and how they operate. The warning for that kind of life-style must be sufficient for him not to cooperate with them and not to respond to their invitation. In Proverbs 1:16-Job : he shows his son why he should not walk in the way with them and to keep his feet from their path.

The father actually also knows the serious results for who cooperate with the sinners. He also tells that to his son. He warns him for what will strike him when he joins them and cooperates with him. They try to fool him with a pleasant life, but the father lets him know that this life leads to the destruction of his own life. Therefore he commands him to keep his feet from their path. He who holds on to God’s Word, will not put his feet on the criminal path (Psalms 119:101).

Nobody becomes a criminal or a hooligan directly. In order not to walk with the sinners on the way, the feet also need to be kept from it to put even one foot on their path, for “bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33). When the first step is set on it, more steps will follow quickly. Therefore do not start with the first step. With every step that we set on the way of satan, we remove ourselves further from the relationship with God.

“For” indicates the reason, why the son should not join them (Proverbs 1:16). It is because their behavior is bad. It is immoral and violent. The father makes clear to his son that the gang members are quick to do evil and in a hurry to shed blood (cf. Isaiah 59:7). Whoever walks on their path, walks on a path that goes down. The walk will go so quickly at a certain moment that it is not possible anymore to slow down and stop. There is speed and hurry, no rest. Everyone who finds himself on the path of the sinner, is being chased.

The father assures his son that there is a possibility to escape their path, which is by heeding his warning (Proverbs 1:17). He gives an example from nature. A bird that sees the net that is spread for him, will not fly in it, but fly over it and in that way be saved from captivity. The first natural reaction of everyone who sees that there is danger somewhere, is to avoid this danger. That’s at least the case with the birds that see the net. That implies that whoever joins a bad company, is not only doing wrong, but is also stupid. If we stick to the picture of the bird, we may say that whoever exceeds the unsavory activities of the sinners, will not be tempted by them and will not be caught in their net.

Some people are more stupid than birds. They do not respond with their totally darkened mind and imaginary wisdom to danger like animals do, but walk into it with their eyes open. They are not aware that they dig their own graves (cf. Psalms 7:15-Nehemiah :; Job 18:8; Esther 7:9-2 Samuel :). They think that they can create an ambush for others, but they create an ambush for themselves. Once their activities are known, they will themselves become the victims of others. Many extrajudicial killings take place in the organized crime. Each murderer often gets killed too at a certain moment.

In Proverbs 1:19 the father summarizes the warning of Proverbs 1:10-Job : (Job 8:13). Obtaining illegal profits means the loss of life. Sinful deeds seem to deliver advantage and profit, which can make a person think that it will enable him to live a more pleasant life, but it is the path of death. When sinners and whoever relates himself to them, rob and kill the innocent, they rob and kill themselves. They sin against their own life. Each crime that they commit against another person, they in reality commit against themselves. They take their own lives. The only way to escape that, is to avoid the company of sinners.

Verses 20-23

Wisdom Shouts

After the father has spoken, now Wisdom speaks. The father has warned his son about the company of sinners. That happened in the private atmosphere of the domestic environment. Now Wisdom speaks to the sinners. That happens in public. From Proverbs 1:20 a long call of Wisdom sounds to sinners who are outside.

In Her voice there is an urgency to be heard which is not to be heard in such a way in the voice of the father. She addresses sinners who have already made their choice. We could hereby also think of young people who have ignored the warnings of their father. In spite of all warnings, they have joined the bad company of sinners and are now fully involved in it. Wisdom still does not leave them to their fate, but follows them and tells them where their path will end. She urges them to consider and repent, in order to escape that end.

Wisdom is presented here as a Divine Person Who cries out in public places (“in the street”, “in the squares”). There is a lot of noise around Her, which causes the great risk that Her voice is not to be heard (Proverbs 1:21). Therefore She lifts Her voice. She does that everywhere where people are busy with their day-to-day matters, with which they may be so preoccupied. But life consists of more than earning money. She even goes to the “entrance of the gates in the city”, the place where people enter into the city, in order to trade and earn profits. In those places are also the judges who often seek their own advantage. There She speaks out Her words to call on the attendees to repent.

Wisdom begins with the complaint “how long?” (Proverbs 1:22). This question implies that there is a possibility to return from the path of the sinner and at the same time that there will be a moment that it is no more possible. After the question she addresses three groups of people. She addresses the “naive ones”, “scoffers” and “fools”.

1. The naive one is the silly person, someone who does not consider life and lives it the way it comes. He believes everything, except God, and does not examine anything. He does not think about God and about the future. Each call that is made about meditating on life, is considered by him as an interruption of his rest and an infringement of his privacy. He considers it a disturbing, useless alarm.
2. The scoffer is the rebellious and cynical freethinker. He thinks he knows everything and has no fear or shame. He does not know regret. He is blunt and crude in his actions and words. Every decency is missing. Scoffing is his favorite occupation. For him religion is something for backward people.
3. The fool is the morally depraved, insensibly ungodly person. He shuts himself off from everything that could make him wise and happy. Of many other things he has the knowledge, at least, that’s what he thinks, but of the beginning of the real knowledge, the fear of the Lord, he does not want to know anything. The knowledge of the other things makes him blind and insensible for the true knowledge.

Wisdom calls on all of them to turn themselves to Her reproof, which means to heed it (Proverbs 1:23). When they do that, She will pour out Her Spirit on them and as a result of that She will make Her words known to them. She promises that the Bible, which was a closed Book before, will be opened and they will understand the contents. We need that particular Spirit of wisdom to understand the words of God (cf. Ephesians 1:17).

Verses 24-32

Consequences of Not Listening

All creation works remain where Wisdom has placed them and they serve Her (Psalms 119:90- :). Only the hardened sinners refuse to respond to the call of Wisdom and to take the place which is fitting towards Her (Proverbs 1:24). She had stretched out Her inviting hand to them (cf. Isaiah 65:2). But the sinners have rejected the most important counsel, which is from Wisdom (Proverbs 1:25).

Also Her “reproof”, which had served to draw them to Her, had no effect, because they did not want it. It is a conscious, headstrong choice against Wisdom. The sinners have ‘refused’ (Proverbs 1:24) everything, have ‘not paid attention’ to what Wisdom had offered them (Proverbs 1:24), ‘neglected’ (Proverbs 1:25) and ‘did not want’ Her reproof (Proverbs 1:25). She has tolerated them for so long, but they despised that tolerance (Romans 2:4; Romans 9:22).

“Because” in the Proverbs 1:24-Lamentations : is followed by “I will” in Proverbs 1:26. They laughed at Wisdom and have mocked it. Therefore, Wisdom will laugh at them when their downfall comes. Her laugh is a terrifying laugh (Psalms 2:4-Deuteronomy :). It is a scoffing and contemptuous laugh, because now they are stricken by that which Wisdom had warned them for.

Wisdom had called the sinners, but they did not listen. Then the opposite happens (cf. Ezekiel 8:18). Wisdom will mock when the persistent sinners will be overpowered by their anguish (Job 15:24; Daniel 5:5-Joshua :; Daniel 5:30). They will be destroyed by their fear (Proverbs 1:27). Calamity will come upon them like a “whirlwind” in their “distress and anguish”.

In Proverbs 1:28 is said in which way Wisdom will give form to Her laugh and mockery. She takes distance from the sinners – as if She cannot bear them any longer – and does not speak to them, but about them to others. She warns those others not to follow the example of the sinners. Wisdom will not respond to their calling for help when sinners will call for Her in their distress, for they did not want to respond when She cried out her warnings to them. It is a terrible thing to be abandoned by God (Hosea 9:12), how much more will that be in time of distress (1 Samuel 28:15).

Wisdom explains why She will not listen to the sinners when they call upon Her in their distress. It is “because they hated knowledge” (Proverbs 1:29). The naive chose to remain stupid. The fools do not only prefer foolishness, but they also despise knowledge. They simply do not want to be taught. It is a conscious choice not to choose for the fear of the Lord. Those who are like that, lack the beginning of knowledge; they could not become wise and therefore remain foolish.

They did not want to listen to the counsel of Wisdom which She had presented to them (Proverbs 1:30). “They spurned” all Her reproofs, which had served to lead them to listen. Those who obstinately refuse in such a way to open themselves for Wisdom, are not to be helped. They will discover that when they will eat the bitter fruits of their own way (Proverbs 1:31). They will reap what they have sown and gain what they deserve and want themselves (Galatians 6:7-Ruth :). They will be satiated “with their own devices”.

How that happens, is explained in Proverbs 1:32. The word “for” indicates that. Their waywardness from the living God means their death. The love of the fools for their carefree rest is like a swaying little boat that is floating on the river and in which they are sleeping. Without them being aware of that, the little boat gradually, but surely, floats to the waterfall where it falls and crashes down. The rest that they embrace is the rest of the death. The obstinacy and complacency of these people will destroy and kill them.

Verse 33

The Part of Him Who Listens

This section does not end sadly, but ends with a wonderful and also attractive promise for whoever listens to Wisdom. What he receives, is a permanent, undisturbed safety. It is thereby also a situation wherein no threat is to be felt. He will be ”at ease from the dread of evil”.

Listening to Wisdom offers protection against evil. That is the great contrast between the false security of the ungodly in the previous verse and the true and permanent peace of the righteous who listens to Wisdom in this verse. In this situation of safety and peace each believer may already live who listens to the Word of God and applies that to all aspects of his life.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Proverbs 1". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/proverbs-1.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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