Proverbs: Wisdom for Daily Life

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Proverbs
Wisdom for Daily Life


Proverbs for the young, for everyone, and for leaders.

Background: Collected and written by Solomon
Theme: Worldly and spiritual wisdom
Outline: Proverbs for the Young, for Everyone, and for Leaders
Key Verse: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." (Prov 3:5-6, NIV)

Proverbs Index

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The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Vol I, Old Testament) is an excellent resource and is referred to as the BKC.

Background

      Some of the short proverbs consist of two lines in a single verse.  The second line will either repeat the same thought with different words, expand upon it, contrast with it, or illustrate it. When meditating on a particular proverb, it may be helpful to begin by determining this relationship and considering how the second line ‘fills out’ the meaning of the first.

     Many of the proverbial maxims should be recognized as guidelines, not absolute observations; they are not ironclad promises. What is stated is generally and usually true, but exceptions are occaisionally noted." The concept of "Standing on the Promises of God" is valid, but the proverbs are not that kind of promise. We know absolutely that "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" and that is a concrete promise. But when we read in Proverbs 3:1-2 "My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity," we learn a general principle. It is not an absolute promise that everyone who obeys the Proverbs will live a long life and will not be killed by disease or an accident. It is generally true that adopting a Proverbs lifestyle will promote prosperity and long life. Such a person will probably not be killed in a drunken brawl, will not gamble away what money he has, and will be generally free from the many diseases associated with sexual immorality and a self-indulgent lifestyle.

    Little is said in Proverbs about the afterlife.  Proverbs is a here and now down to earth book. The ultimate reward of serving God is in heaven, but Proverbs reveals the present and practical value of Godliness.

I. The Preface (1:1-7)

1:7  "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline." The Hebrew word for beginning is the same as in Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning." If we were to give a ten step plan for becoming wise, step one would have to be ‘fear the Lord.’ If it is step five, we need to start over again. This is an essential memory verse. Note that the second half of the verse, describing how fools despise wisdom and discipline, tell us that we should love wisdom and respect the Lord’s discipline in our lives. This is how the two halves of the verse relate in the Hebrew poetic forms discussed in the introduction. We then see that not only is the beginning of wisdom related to the fear of the Lord, but that fear of the Lord includes loving wisdom and respecting His discipline.

Another way to translate 1:7 is that "The awe of the Lord is the starting point of knowledge". It is not fear in the sense of gloom, as if God is out to squash us.  Rather, we consider who God is and what His power is, we are in awe of Him who sustains all things. The beginning or starting point or "the first thing" about knowledge is this concept of God and His place in the center of all things.  To make any plans without considering the desires of God is to skip the most important thing of all.

II. Words of Solomon on Wisdom’s Values (1:8-9:18)

2:17 "... who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God." We do not see marriage ceremonies in the Scripture, although weddings and marriage are referred to. This verse indicates that a marriage vow is a covenant made before God.

3:5-6 "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." This is another essential memory verse. The question is, what if I disagree with Scripture? What if I really think that a particular sin is not really a sin, although Scripture says it is? It could be adultery, lying, homosexual practices, or abortion. Perhaps I think that non-Christians may still go to heaven, although Jesus said "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me." This verse advises us to trust what the Lord says is right, and not to follow what we think is acceptable. It is our goal that our thoughts will be so influenced by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit that we will always agree with Scripture. But when we see that we do not agree, let us acknowledge that it is better to trust the Lord than our own understanding!!!

4:4 "He taught me and said, ‘Lay hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live.’" This is directed first to the young man or child, who is to learn the Word. Let us also follow the example of David, who was the teacher for his son Solomon. He earnestly taught taught his son the way of Wisdom and of life. If we fail our children in all other things, let us succeed in passing on the Word and giving our children a sense of its value.

5:21 "For a man’s ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all his paths." God knows and cares about what we do. Nothing we do or think is ever hidden from Him, and He takes careful notice.

7:2 "Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye." Remembering the poetic form used in the Proverbs, the second half of this verse is an expansion of first. Guarding teachings is accomplished by keeping commands. This points out the extent to which we are careful to guard the commands by knowing them and obeying them.

8:5 "To you who are simple, gain prudence; you who are foolish, gain understanding." Wisdom from God is available to all. It is not limited to the highly intelligent; there is not a minimum SAT or IQ score. We may not make it into medical or law school, but we can still be full of wisdom. There is no excuse for thinking that wisdom is not suitable for all. If we look at a congregation, we may in our minds see some whom we would eliminate. The Scripture does not eliminate anyone, some choose not to listen but they are capable of obtaining wisdom.

8:22 Wisdom is spoken of figuratively as the personification of God’s attribute of wisdom. These are not references to the pre-incarnate Christ. Another factor in support of this is that Wisdom is pictured as a woman (the Hebrew word is feminine).

9:8-9 "Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you.  Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning." To become wise or gain more wisdom a person must be receptive to criticism. As we age, we have more control over whether we will let anyone correct or rebuke us. This does not mean that we need to accept every harsh word tossed our way, but that we can calmly consider whether the rebuker is right. If we are trying to follow the Lord, the flaws others see in us may be blind spots to us. If we knew about them, we would have dealt with them. Since we all have flaws, it is an unpleasant fact that we must be told what they are and accept this criticism in order to deal with them and grow spiritually.

III. The Proverbs of Solomon (10:1-22:16)

12:9 "Better to be a nobody and yet have a servant than pretend to be somebody and have no food." How this contrasts with how the media influences our youth! Appearances are everything, and the latest fad or symbol is easily purchased. Character is presented as less important than the proper appearance. Wisdom teaches the opposite.

12:22 "The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful." We may consider that the Mosaic Law is not binding on Christians. This may include even the Ten Commandments. However, it is the character of God that is revealed here. Although the Law may not apply (Thou shall not bear false witness), we are told that God detests lying lips. God’s character has never changed. We are truthful and honest because we seek to delight our Father, even if we are free from the requirements of the Law.

13:24 This verse is an example of chiasm. Chiasm is named after the greek letter Chi which looks like the roman X. The first part of the first phrase contrasts to the last part of the second phrase, and the end of the first phrase corrosponds to the beginning of the second. To illustrate:

He who spares the rod ----- hates his son

                                                      X

  but he who loves him ----- is careful to discipline him.

14:5 "A truthful witness does not deceive, but a false witness pours out lies."  Being a truthful witness goes beyond abstaining from lying or even stating facts of truth. A truthful witness will not deceive, either by using partial truths or allowing misunderstanding of true statements.

15:14 "The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly."  Fill out the meaning of a fool feeding on folly by picturing in your mind a cow lying in a field chewing her cud.  In the Bible, the word 'fool' usually refers to someone who is morally foolish.  The word has more to do with sinful conduct than with intellectual understanding.

15:22 "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." The need for a wise ruling board for a church is evident. Much care should be taken in selecting ‘advisors’ for our organizations and our personal lives. It is not a matter of popularity, but of wisdom and godliness.

16:10 An alternate translation would be "A king's lips speak in judgement, and his lips should not betray justice." The Hebrew word mishpat was translated ‘oracle’ in the NIV, but is more commonly translated judgement and is better in the context of justice.  Also, the word oracle may have the implication of a prophecy in English, but this meaning is not implied in the Hebrew.

16:11 "Honest scales and balances are from the LORD; all the weights in the bag are of his making."  Because kings set the standards for measurement, the English word for a measuring rod is a ruler.  By saying the Lord is the source of scales, it means that the Lord want's us to be honest and not try to swindle one another.  Crooked weights (heavier when buying and lighter when selling) could be used to swindle farmers selling their goods and customers buying them.  We don't think of this often, as the weights of most products in our stores come in boxes, cans, jars, or bags which are marked with the weight.

17:15 "Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent—the LORD detests them both." Our justice system has a much higher emphasis on not condemning the innocent. A common statement is that it is better for ten guilty men to go free than for one innocent man to be condemned. The LORD detests both, the guilty going free and the innocent being condemned.

18:9 "One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys." We do not normally put these two in the same class. It is true, however, that the man who goofs off at work robs his employer by being paid for work he does not do, and is just as harmful as a vandal who damages a car or building.

18:12 "Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud, but humility comes before honor." Another example of chiasm or ‘x-form’. It takes a moment of thought to see that since humility comes before honor, and a proud heard comes before a downfall, it would be better to be humble!

IV. The Sayings of the Wise Men (22:17-24:34)

V. The Proverbs of Solomon (25-29)

29:18 "Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law." The KJV translation, "Where there is no vision, the people perish",  is often misinterpreted to emphasize the importance of a single dynamic leader. The correct application is that we are lost without reading, preaching, knowing and following the revealed Word of God (the Scriptures).  The second half of this verse clearly states that keeping the law (the Scriptures given by Moses) brings blessing, showing that the 'vision' (KJV) or 'revelation' (NIV) is the revelation from the Lord, the Scriptures.

VI. The Words of Lemuel (31:1-9)

VII. The Noble Wife (31:10-31)


Quotations are from the New International Version (NIV)

Please send comments or suggestions to ron@iStudyBible.com
Updated March 2012

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