Bible: What Does Proverbs 1-3 Teach Us About Wisdom and The Moral Instruction of Youth?
The Wisdom of Solomon
Proverbs 1-3: The Fear of the LORD is the Beginning of Wisdom/Moral Instruction to Young People/Wisdom Personified
THE BOOK OF PROVERBS
Credited to Solomon (v. 1), this book’s prologue states what a wise man must learn in order to help people at different stages of spiritual development grow in wisdom (vv. 2-6).
The king includes four infinitive phrases that contain "wisdom words"—wisdom, instruction, understanding, justice, judgment, equity, prudence, knowledge, and discretion (vv. 1-4)—terms which constitute the content of what he must teach the people.
Solomon concludes his prologue by contrasting the key principle that men desiring to be wise must learn— "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom" (v. 7)—with the attitude fools maintain toward it.
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Instruction to Son
The king begins his instruction by encouraging his son (Rehoboam?) to heed his counsel regarding relationships with sinners (vv. 8-9).
Greedy for gain, these “friends” will attempt to influence the boy to join them in all types of evildoing (perhaps murder and armed robbery) [vv. 10-14).
Therefore, Solomon exhorts him to keep away from such a crowd of young men whose ways will surely result in their own deaths (vv. 15-19).
[If Solomon is instructing Rehoboam here, the king's argument sadly did not win the day (cf. 1 Kings 12)].
Next, Solomon inserts a scene in which Wisdom personified enters places where many people would hear her counsel (vv. 20-21).
She raises her voice of warning to the naïve so that they might not shun knowledge about right living (v. 22).
She speaks thus because she knows that once these simple ones refuse to accept her instruction (vv. 24-27), they will no longer have access to her resource, and will suffer the consequences of their folly (vv. 28-32).
Wisdom does offer grace in the forms of spiritual revival (v. 23) and security (v. 33) to those who turn and listen.
[Willful disobedience to the sound wisdom of God will eventually result in spiritual and moral disaster].
Do you think the Bible is the wisdom of God?
The speaker introduces a second conditional clause ("if . . . then) into his exhortation (see 1:10 for the first instruction).
[Verses 1-9 contain three "if's" and two "then's"].
His point: if you greatly value wisdom, you will come to understand what it means to fear the LORD (cf. 1:7), and will come to know Him experientially (vv. 1-5).
Therefore, wisdom must have its basis in sound theology (that is, the revealed knowledge of who God is).
If you seek true wisdom, God will give it to you (v. 6; cf. James 1:5). Reserved for the one who seeks to live righteously (v. 7),
God's wisdom, once received, preserves the saint in that desired moral condition (vv. 8, 11), and protects him from all kinds of evildoers (including the “immoral woman”) [vv. 12-19].
To drive home the importance of gaining this wisdom, Solomon then contrasts the destiny of the upright with that of the wicked (vv. 21-22).
[Solomon, the father, is very much concerned to influence his son’s thinking about life—especially about the kind of people he "hangs around" with].
Benefits of Obedience
Solomon pens two benefits that obedience to his fatherly wisdom would add to his son: long life and peace (vv. 1-2; cf. 3:16).
[What is the difference between “length of days” and “long life”?]
He also advises Rehoboam not to do anything to cause mercy and truth to leave him to fend for himself, but to keep them close by; if he cherishes them, they will put him in good stead with both God and man (vv. 3-4).
[Note Solomon's positive exhortations to trust, acknowledge, fear and honor the LORD (vv. 5-7, 9), but also his negative warnings about self and pride (that is, relying on one's own understanding, and being wise in one's own eyes) [vv. 5, 7]].
God promises guidance for complete submission (v. 6), good health for humble, godly, and pure living (vv. 7-8), and prosperity for obedient giving (vv. 9-10).
[Is this promise to be understood in the absolute sense, or is one blessed according to the degree of one’s faithfulness in these areas?
For who is completely submissive to God’s word, always humble, godly, and pure, and totally obedient in his giving habits?]
Attitude toward Divine Chastening
Addressing his son again, Solomon discusses the attitude he should not show toward God's chastening, knowing the purpose of correction: "Do not hate it, because it's for your good. God loves you; He does not want you to go astray from righteousness" (vv. 11-12; cf. Heb. 12: 5, 6).
The Surpassing Value of Wisdom
The king then returns to his discourse on the surpassing value of wisdom. "The man who finds wisdom," he writes, will experience a greater happiness (v. 13), length of life (v. 16a), riches and honor (v. 16b), a pleasant, peaceful lifestyle (v. 17), and rich spirituality (v. 18).
The LORD used wisdom to create the universe (v. 19) and engineer the Flood (v. 20).
Again, Solomon speaks to his son about wisdom in the same tone as he did earlier about mercy and truth (vv. 21-23; cf. v. 3).
Whoever uses it, God will keep in peace and safety at all times (vv. 24-26).
Verses 27-30 provide examples of wisdom in interpersonal relationships with "neighbors."
These short statements advise Rehoboam (as the future ruler) not to prevent good things from accruing to worthy people, not to defer paying them, and not to argue with them as a whim (vv. 27-30).
Behave righteously, since you are under the LORD's blessing; God will punish evildoers [perverse, wicked, scornful, fools] (vv. 31-35).
[Solomon offers a multitude of sanctified reasons to pursue wisdom and discretion from God]!
© 2013 glynch1