Proverbs 1:1-9 – Introduction to the Book of Proverbs, by Scott Sperling 1 The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: 2 for gaining wisdom and instruction;   for understanding words of insight; 3 for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; 4 for giving prudence to those who are simple,   knowledge and discretion to the young— 5 let the wise listen and add to their learning,   and let the discerning get guidance— 6 for understanding proverbs and parables,   the sayings and riddles of the wise. 7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,   but fools despise wisdom and instruction. 8 Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction   and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. 9 They are a garland to grace your head   and a chain to adorn your neck. The   writer   of   the   Book   of   Proverbs   introduces   the   book   himself:      “The   proverbs   of Solomon    son    of    David,    king    of    Israel”     (vs.    1).        These    are    the    “proverbs”     of “Solomon” .        “A    ‘proverb’     is    a    pithy    sentence,    concisely    expressing    some    well- established   truth   susceptible   of   various   illustrations   and   applications”   [Fausset].     Solomon   himself   tells   us   the   purpose   of   the   proverbs:      “…for   gaining   wisdom   and instruction;    for    understanding    words    of    insight;    for    receiving    instruction    in prudent   behavior,   doing   what   is   right   and   just   and   fair;   for   giving   prudence   to those   who   are   simple,   knowledge   and   discretion   to   the   young   –   let   the   wise   listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance”  (vss. 2-5).  This   book   has   value   because   it   deals   with   ordinary   life,   with   situations   that   crop up   in   our   day-to-day   existence.      “The   Book   of   Proverbs   gives   us   the   application   of that   wisdom   which   created   the   heavens   and   the   earth,   to   the   details   of   life   in   this world   of   confusion   and   evil.      God   deigns   to   apply   His   wisdom   to   the   circumstances of   our   practical   life,   and   to   show   us,   with   His   own   intelligence,   the   consequences   of all   the   ways   in   which   man   may   walk.”   [Darby].      The   Bible   not   only   teaches   of   the heavenly   realm,   but   also   teaches   practical   living.      It   not   only   enriches   the   spirit,   but also   imparts   instruction   in   living   as   a   person   in   this   fallen   world.   The   Bible   as   a whole   is   the   one-stop   manual   for   living   on   earth.      “Those   who   read   David’s   psalms, especially   those   towards   the   latter   end,   would   be   tempted   to   think   that   religion   is all   rapture   and   consists   in   nothing   but   the   ecstasies   and   transports   of   devotion;   and doubtless   there   is   a   time   for   them,   and   if   there   be   a   heaven   upon   earth   it   is   in   them:     but,   while   we   are   on   earth,   we   cannot   be   wholly   taken   up   with   them.      We   have   a   life to   live   in   the   flesh,   must   have   a   conversation   in   the   world,   and   into   that   we   must now be taught to carry our religion” [Henry]. In   Solomon’s   book   of   proverbs,   there   is   a   wide-range   of   advice,   for   a   wide   cross- section   of   the   populace.      This   book   has   something   for   everyone.      “All   ranks   and classes   have   their   word   in   season.      The   sovereign   on   the   throne   is   instructed   as   from God.      The   principles   of   national   prosperity   or   decay   are   laid   open.      The   rich   are warned    of    their    besetting    temptations.        The    poor    are    cheered    in    their    worldly humiliation.      Wise   rules   are   given   for   self-government.      [The   book]   bridles   the injurious   tongue,   corrects   the   wanton   eye,   and   ties   the   unjust   hand   in   chains.         It prevents   sloth;   chastises   all   absurd   desires;   teaches   prudence;   raises   man’s   courage; and   represents   temperance   and   chastity   after   such   a   fashion,   that   we   cannot   but have   them   in   veneration.      To   come   to   important   matters   so   often   mismanaged   –   the blessing   or   curse   of   the   marriage   ordinance   is   vividly   portrayed.      Sound   principles of   family   order   and   discipline   are   inculcated.      Domestic   economy   is   displayed   in   its adorning   consistency.      Nay   –   even   the   minute   courtesies   of   daily   life   are   regulated.     Self-denying   consideration   of   others,   and   liberal   distribution   are   enforced.      All   this diversified   instruction   is   based   upon   the   principles   of   true   godliness.      Thus   if   the Psalms    bring    the    glow    upon    the    heart,    the    Proverbs    make    the    face    to    shine” [Bridges, Intro.] The   actual   word   translated   “proverb”    is   maschal ,   which   comes   from   the   word meaning   “comparison”   in   Hebrew   [Fausset].      And   as   we   will   see,   most   of   the proverbs    in    this    book    involve    a    comparison    of    one    sort    or    another,    using    the Hebrew   poetical   feature   of   parallelism .      Parallelism   in   Hebrew   writing   is   somewhat similar   to   metaphors   and   similes   in   English,   but   is   more   wide-ranging.   Parallelism may   involve   a   statement,   and   then   another   statement   that   is   a   metaphor   of   the   first; it   may   involve   two   statements   which   are   opposites,   thus   reinforcing   each   other;   it may   involve   statements   that   build   on   each   other;   it   may   involve   statements   that build   up   to   an   overarching   concluding   statement;   etc.   In   all   cases,   one   part   of   the proverb   comments   on   another   part,   in   a   parallel   fashion,   thus   giving   guidance   to the   true   meaning   of   the   whole   proverb.      The   point   is   that   the   parallel   statements   are synergetic,   so   that   the   meaning   of   the   multiple   statements   imparts   an   idea   that   is greater   than   the   individual   statements   by   themselves.      The   parallel   statements   may, at   first   glance,   be   referring   to   unrelated   subjects,   but   on   further   inspection   and meditation, the relationship is discerned, and the teaching conveyed. Teaching   in   this   way   is   effective.      “By   similitudes,   drawn   from   the   visible   parts   of nature,   a   truth   in   the   understanding   is,   as   it   were,   reflected   by   the   imagination.      We are   enabled   to   see   something   like   color   and   shape   in   a   notion,   and   to   discover   a scheme   of   thoughts   traced   out   upon   matter.”   [J.   Addison,   cited   in   Bridges,   Intro.].     “The   peculiar   charm   and   power   of   the   proverbs   are   due   to   a   combination   of   many elements…      Often   there   is   something   to   startle   at   first;   and   yet,   on   closer   inspection, that   which   seemed   paradox,   turns   out   to   be   only   intenser   truth…   Much   matter   is pressed   into   little   room,   that   it   may   keep,   and   carry.      Wisdom,   in   this   portable   form, acts   an   important   part   in   human   life.”   [Arnot,   chap.   II].      The   parallelism   not   only provides   an   effective   way   to   teach   a   truth,   it   also,   in   that   form,   makes   it   easier   to remember   the   teaching;   thus   we   take   to   heart   the   teaching;   it   becomes   part   of   our being. The   author   of   this,   as   is   told   us   in   verse   1,   is   primarily   “Solomon   son   of   David, king   of   Israel” .      I   say   “primarily”   because   chapters   30   and   31   are   attributed   to others   (Agur      and   Lemuel,   of   whom   we   know   very   little).   We   know   Solomon   well from    his    exploits    documented    elsewhere    in    the    Bible    (see    I    Kings,    chapters    2 through    11).        He    demonstrated    his    wisdom    as    he    ruled    as    “king    of    Israel” .      Solomon   valued   wisdom   greatly.      Early   in   his   reign,   the   Lord   appeared   to   Solomon in   a   dream   (I   Kings   3:5ff).      God   told   Solomon   he   could   ask   for   whatever   he   wanted God   to   give   him.      Solomon   answered:      “So,   give   Your   servant   a   discerning   heart   to govern   Your   people   and   to   distinguish   between   right   and   wrong”   (I   Kings   3:9).     God   was   greatly   pleased   with   Solomon’s   request,   and   so   answered   that   He   would make   Solomon   the   wisest   of   all:      “I   will   do   what   you   have   asked.   I   will   give   you   a wise   and   discerning   heart,   so   that   there   will   never   have   been   anyone   like   you, nor   will   there   ever   be”   (I   Kings   3:12).      And   certainly,   the   fact   that   Solomon   asked for   wisdom   in   the   first   place,   demonstrated   that   he   already   possessed   a   good   deal of it. God   was   true   to   His   promise.      Solomon   became   known   throughout   the   world   for his   wisdom   (see   I   Kings   3:28;   4:34).      We   are   told   that   Solomon   spoke   three-thousand proverbs   (I   Kings   4:32),   out   of   which   were   chosen   some   for   inclusion   here   in   this book.      “Now   here   we   find   what   good   use   [Solomon]   made   of   the   wisdom   God   gave him;   he   not   only   governed   himself   and   his   kingdom   with   it,   but   he   gave   rules   of wisdom   to   others   also,   and   transmitted   them   to   posterity.      Thus   must   we   trade   with the talents with which we are entrusted, according as they are” [Henry]. Late   in   his   life,   Solomon,   sadly   and   ironically,   turned   away   from   the   wisdom   that he   taught.   He   fell,   by   the   influence   of   his   foreign   wives,   into   idolatry   and   worship of   false   gods   (see   I   Kings   11).      By   this,   we   can   take   warning:      even   the   most   wise   can fall,   ignoring   teaching   that   he   himself   gave.      But   let   us   not   think   any   worse   of Solomon’s    inspired    teaching,    just    because    Solomon    the    man    was    weak    and stumbled.      His   teaching   was   inspired   by   the   Holy   Spirit,   who   guided   his   hand.      All men   of   God   have   weaknesses,   but   this   does   not   mean   that   their   teaching   should   be ignored   (otherwise,   there   would   be   no   teachers   of   the   word   of   God,   for   all   have sinned).      “Let   us   all   learn   not   to   think   the   worse   of   good   instructions   though   we have them from those who do not themselves altogether live up to them” [Henry]. As   we   mentioned,   in   verses   2   through   6,   Solomon   summarizes   the   purpose   and value   of   this   book:      “…for   gaining   wisdom   and   instruction;   for   understanding words   of   insight;   for   receiving   instruction   in   prudent   behavior,   doing   what   is right   and   just   and   fair;   for   giving   prudence   to   those   who   are   simple,   knowledge and   discretion   to   the   young   –   let   the   wise   listen   and   add   to   their   learning,   and   let the   discerning   get   guidance.”       First,   “for   gaining   wisdom   and   instruction.”       We are    all    born    without    a    shred    of    wisdom,    and    so    we    all    need,    at    some    point, “instruction” .      The   first   instruction   we   receive   is   from   our   parents,   and   so,   godly moral   instruction   from   parents   is   crucial   to   development   of   a   child,   because   the child is essentially a blank slate, to begin with. These    proverbs    will    provide    “words    of    insight” ,    “instruction    in    prudent behavior” ,   and   instruction   in   “doing   what   is   right   and   just   and   fair”    (vss.   2-3).     The   phrase   “for   understanding   words   of   insight”    denotes   the   knowledge   needed to   understand   wise   instruction.   “Instruction   in   prudent   behavior”    is   teaching   on how   to   live   wisely,   day-to-day;   how   to   make   prudent   decisions   that   improve   one’s life.      Instruction   in   “doing   what   is   right   and   just   and   fair” ,   of   course,   denotes moral   instruction;   how   to   live   a   righteous,   moral   life,   and   treat   others   in   a   godly manner.  So, we expect to get a wide range of advice in this book. Solomon   next   summarizes   the   target   audiences   for   his   instruction   in   wisdom:      the “simple” ,   the   “young” ,   and   even   the   “wise” ,   and   “discerning”    (vss.   4-5).      The “simple”    denotes   those   who   are   easily   influenced,   in   a   good   or   bad   way;   thus   they are   ripe   for   being   led   astray,   and   so,   can   benefit   all   the   more   from   solid   instruction.     Though   simplicity   may   seem   a   not-so-desirable   state,   to   be   “simple”    is   much   better than   being   smug   and   already   deceived   into   errant   knowledge,   or   a   bad   philosophy.     The   “young” ,   of   course,   are   also   ripe   for   learning.      “Youth   is   the   learning   age,   it catches   at   instructions,   receives   impressions,   and   retains   what   is   then   received;   it   is therefore   of   great   consequence   that   the   mind   be   then   seasoned   well,   nor   can   it receive a better tincture than from Solomon’s proverbs” [Henry]. These   proverbs,   ironically,   are   also   for   the   “wise”    and   “discerning” ,   those   whom we   may   think   need   no   instruction.      But   the   truly   “wise”    know   that   there   is   always room   to   “add   to   their   learning”    (vs.   5).      Learning   does   not   stop.   Increasing   wisdom, and    improving    moral    behavior    entails    a    lifelong    process    of    improvement.   And certainly,   as   we   move   through   various   stages   of   life,   we   need   instruction   to   navigate the   changing   issues   and   problems   we   encounter.      So,   in   summary,   this   book   is   for everyone.      “Here   is   not   only   milk   for   babes,   but   strong   meat   for   strong   men.      This book   will   not   only   make   the   foolish   and   bad   wise   and   good,   but   the   wise   and   good wiser and better” [Henry]. As   we   grow   in   wisdom,   through   these   proverbs,   we   will   understand   life   more   and more,   even   “understanding   proverbs   and   parables,   the   sayings   and   riddles   of   the wise”    (vs.   6).      Increased   wisdom   facilitates   yet   further   learning   and   understanding. Through   deeper   study   of   the   Bible,   we   understand   things   that   were   previously “riddles”    to   us.      The   Bible   is   a   well   of   instruction   with   no   bottom:      there   are   always new layers of insight, and depths of spiritual knowledge to dig deeper into. The   word   translated   “riddles”    here,   was   translated   “dark   sayings”    in   the   KJV.     These   are   sayings   that   are,   at   first   glance,   opaque   in   their   darkness.      Many   proverbs are   like   this:      obscure   at   first.      “The   obscurity   attendant   on   ‘these   words   of   the   wise, and   their   dark   sayings’    (vs.   6),   is   not   altogether   without   its   uses.      It   whets   the understanding,   excites   an   appetite   for   knowledge,   and   keeps   alive   the   attention   by the   labor   of   the   investigation,   giving   an   increased   pleasure   to   the   discovery   of   truth, by   having   called   forth   our   efforts   to   attain   it”   [Nicholls,   chap.   II].      “The   dark   sayings of   fools   and   triflers   are   not   worth   a   thought;   but   the   ‘dark   sayings   of   the   wise’    are worthy   to   be   studied   till   we   obtain   a   complete   knowledge   of   their   meaning;   for   they are   dark   at   first   hearing   only,   on   account   of   the   sublimity   of   their   views,   and   the force   of   their   manner   of   expression,   which   contains   much   useful   instruction   in small compass” [Lawson].  To   begin   the   recitation   of   the   actual   proverbs,   Solomon   starts   with   what   I   would call    the    proverb    of    all    proverbs:        “The    fear    of    the    Lord    is    the    beginning    of knowledge,    but    fools    despise    wisdom    and    instruction”     (vs.    7).        This    proverb defines   the   basis   of   all   true   wisdom   to   be   “the   fear   of   the   Lord” .         It   is   “the beginning   of   knowledge” ,   the   foundation   of   all   true   knowledge,   a   prerequisite   to acquiring   wisdom.      If   you   do   not   have   a   fear   of   the   Lord,   there’s   no   point   in   reading further   in   the   book   of   Proverbs.      “Of   all   things   that   are   to   be   known,   this   is   most evident,   that   God   is   to   be   feared ,   to   be   reverenced,   served,   and   worshipped;   this   is   so the    beginning    of    knowledge    that    those    know    nothing    who    do    not    know    this” [Henry].      David   agreed   with   Solomon:      “The   fear   of   the   Lord   is   the   beginning   of wisdom;   all   who   follow   His   precepts   have   good   understanding.      To   Him   belongs eternal   praise”   (David,   in   Ps.   111:10).      Job   tells   us   that   this   assertion   comes   from God   Himself:      “And   [God]   said   to   the   human   race,   ‘The   fear   of   the   Lord—that   is wisdom,   and   to   shun   evil   is   understanding’”   (Job   28:28).      In   a   way,   Solomon   avers that   the   fear   of   God   is   also   the   end   of   all   knowledge,   in   his   conclusion   to   the   book   of Ecclesiastes:      “Now   all   has   been   heard;   here   is   the   conclusion   of   the   matter:   Fear God   and   keep   His   commandments,   for   this   is   the   duty   of   all   mankind.   For   God will   bring   every   deed   into   judgment,   including   every   hidden   thing,   whether   it   is good or evil” (Eccl. 12:13-14).  But   what   exactly   is   the   “fear   of   the   Lord” ?      The   phrase   “fear   of   the   Lord” ,   as   used in    the    Bible,    does    involve    our    concept    of    “fear”    or    “terror”,    to    some    extent (especially   in   that   we   should   fear   the   consequences   of   disobeying   God),   but   also denotes   the   utmost   respect   for,   and   faith   in,   God   and   His   works.   ‘The   fear   of   the Lord’    is   an   expression   of   frequent   occurrence   throughout   the   Scriptures.   It   has various   shades   of   meaning,   marked   by   the   circumstances   in   which   it   is   found;   but in   the   main   it   implies   a   right   state   of   heart   toward   God,   as   opposed   to   the   alienation of   an   unconverted   man.      Though   the   word   is   ‘fear’ ,   it   does   not   exclude   a   filial confidence,   and   a   conscious   peace.      There   may   be   such   love   as   shall   cast   all   the torment   out   of   the   fear,   and   yet   leave   full   bodied,   in   a   human   heart,   the   reverential awe   which   creatures   owe   to   the   Highest   One…   What   God   is   inspires   awe;   what God   has   done   for   His   people   commands   affection…   The   whole   of   this   complicated and   reciprocal   relation   is   often   indicated   in   Scripture   by   the   brief   expression,   ‘The fear of God’ ” [Arnot, chap. III]. Solomon’s   assertion   that   the   fear   of   the   Lord   is   the   “beginning”    of   knowledge, sets   his   definition   of   what   knowledge   is   in   contrast   to   the   world’s   definition   of   what knowledge   is.      The   world   proclaims   someone   as   “knowledgeable”   if   he   or   she   has had   a   certain   level   of   education   and   learning.      For   example,   the   world   would   say that   any   college   professor   is   a   knowledgeable   person.      Solomon   (by   the   Holy   Spirit) tells    us    that    one    who    lacks    the    “fear    of    the    Lord”     cannot    be    defined    as “knowledgeable”,   no   matter   how   much   book-learning   he   or   she   has,   because   the “fear   of   the   Lord”    is   the   absolute   “beginning   of   knowledge” .      “He   who   pursues any    description   of   knowledge,   however   good   and   honorable   in   itself,   while   he forgets   God,   is   according   to   this   book,   emphatically   a   ‘fool’ .      He   may   be   admired   by men,   as   a   very   prodigy   of   science,   or   philosophy,   or   literature,   and   may   be   adorned with   all   the   titles   of   human   honor,   and   send   down   his   name   to   future   ages   with   a halo   of   the   light   of   this   world   around   it;   but   in   the   eye   of   God,   he   stands   the   object of   deep   and   merited   condemnation;   and,   while   eulogized   and   extolled   on   earth,   is pitied and deplored in heaven” [Wardlaw]. This   proverb   involves   a   parallelism ,   as   most   of   the   proverbs   do   in   this   book.      The primary   characteristic   of   a   wise   man   ( “fear   of   the   Lord” )   is   contrasted   with   a primary   characteristic   of   a   fool:      “…fools   despise   wisdom   and   instruction” .      The word   “fool”    is   used   quite   a   lot   in   this   book,   and   here   Solomon   gives   us   the   defining characteristic   of   a   fool:      someone   who   “despises   wisdom   and   instruction” .      Such   a person   will   ever   and   always   be   a   fool.      If   you   desire   “wisdom”    (not   “despise”    it), and   seek   out   and   heed   “instruction” ,   there   is   hope   for   you   to   become   wise,   and escape   fool-dom;   but   to   perennially   “despise”    wise   advice,   as   found   in   the   book   of Proverbs,   and   to   close   one’s   ears   to   “instruction”    will   doom   one   to   a   life   of   being   a “fool” . Next,   there   is   advice   to   young   people   about   the   source   of   most   knowledge   and wisdom   that   young   people   attain:      “Listen,   my   son,   to   your   father’s   instruction and   do   not   forsake   your   mother’s   teaching.   They   are   a   garland   to   grace   your   head and   a   chain   to   adorn   your   neck”   (vss.   8-9).      The   speaker   in   this   proverb   is   a hypothetical   parent,   addressing   his   “son”    (i.e.,   this   is   not   limited   advice   addressed only to Solomon’s son). For    most    young    people,    the    primary    source    of    advice    and    instruction    is    the parents.      The   parents,   by   their   actions   and   words,   have   the   greatest   influence   over the   course   of   a   person’s   life.      Parents   naturally   have   the   desire   that   their   children live   good   lives,   and   so,   instinctively   parents   will   offer   sound   instruction,   as   best they   can.      The   child’s   responsibility   is   to   “listen”    to   the   instruction   of   parents,   and to   “not   forsake”    their   teaching.      There   is   also   an   implied   responsibility   here   upon parents,   to   do   all   they   can   to   offer   up   sound   instruction   and   teaching.      From   verse   7, we   learn   that   the   cornerstone   of   all   teaching   offered   up   to   children   must   be   to inculcate into them a “fear of the Lord” The   incentive   for   heeding   the   instruction   and   teaching   of   the   parents   is   given   in verse   9:      “They   are   a   garland   to   grace   your   head   and   a   chain   to   adorn   your   neck.”      The   “garland”    and   “chain”    are   bestowals   of   beauty   and   honor.      Youth   naturally chase   after   the   tokens   of   beauty   and   honor,   chase   after   the   “garlands” ,   and   gold   or silver   “chains”    of   adornment.      Solomon   is   saying   that   the   instruction   and   teaching of   the   parents   inculcates   honor   and   beauty   into   those   who   heed   it:      The   honor   and beauty   becomes   built   into   the   person.      Even   the   worldly   understand   this.      Plato spoke   truth   when   he   said:      “Neither   gold   nor   precious   stone   so   glitters   as   the prudent mind of a pious person” [Plato, cited in Trapp]. Note   the   poetic   structure   of   verses   8   and   9.      There   are   two   sets   of   couplets,   each   of which   employs   parallelism    internally   (the   second   line   of   the   couplet   parallel   to   the first),   and   then   the   couplets   themselves   are   parallel   to   each   other   (the   entire   second couplet   parallel   to   the   first   couplet).   In   the   first   couplet,   the   “mother’s   teaching”    is parallel   to   the   “father’s   instruction” ,   emphasizing   that   guidance   of   children   is   the responsibility   of   both   parents.      In   the   second   couplet,   the   “chain”    adorning   the neck,   is   parallel   to   the   “garland”    gracing   the   head,   implying   that   there   are   multiple benefits of heeding the guidance of the parents:  both honor and beauty.  Bibliography and Suggested Reading Arnot, William.  Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth - Illustrations from the Book of Proverbs. London: T. Nelson and Sons, 1873. Bridges, Charles.  An Exposition of the Book of Proverbs.  New York:  Robert Carter, 1847. Clarke, Adam.  The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments. Vol. 3.  London:  William Tegg and Co., 1854. (Originally published in 1837).  Henry, Matthew.  An Exposition of All the Books of the Old and New Testament.  Vol. III.  London: W. Baynes, 1806. (Originally published in 1710). Jamieson, Robert; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David.  A Commentary: Critical, Experimental, and Practical on the Old and New Testaments.  Glasgow, Scotland:  William Collins, Queen’s Printer, 1863. Lawson, George.  Exposition of the Book of Proverbs. Edinburgh:  David Brown, 1821. Trapp, John.  Exposition of the Whole Bible. Vol. 3. Originally published in c. 1660. Wardlaw, Ralph.  Lectures on the Book of Proverbs. Edinburgh:  A. Fullarton & Co., 1869. (Originally published in 1844). All of these books can be downloaded free of charge from:  http://www.ClassicChristianLibrary.com
© 1994-2017, Scott Sperling
Proverbs 1:1-9 – Introduction to the Book of Proverbs, by Scott Sperling 1 The   proverbs   of   Solomon   son   of   David,   king   of Israel: 2 for gaining wisdom and instruction;   for understanding words of insight; 3 for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; 4 for giving prudence to those who are simple,   knowledge and discretion to the young— 5 let the wise listen and add to their learning,   and let the discerning get guidance— 6 for understanding proverbs and parables,   the sayings and riddles of the wise. 7 The     fear     of     the     Lord     is     the     beginning     of knowledge,   but fools despise wisdom and instruction. 8 Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction   and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. 9 They are a garland to grace your head   and a chain to adorn your neck. The   writer   of   the   Book   of   Proverbs   introduces   the book    himself:        “The    proverbs    of    Solomon    son    of David,     king     of     Israel”      (vs.     1).          These     are     the “proverbs”     of    “Solomon” .        “A    ‘proverb’     is    a    pithy sentence,    concisely    expressing    some    well-established truth      susceptible      of      various      illustrations      and applications”   [Fausset].      Solomon   himself   tells   us   the purpose   of   the   proverbs:      “…for   gaining   wisdom   and instruction;   for   understanding   words   of   insight;   for receiving    instruction    in    prudent    behavior,    doing what   is   right   and   just   and   fair;   for   giving   prudence   to those   who   are   simple,   knowledge   and   discretion   to the    young    –    let    the    wise    listen    and    add    to    their learning,   and   let   the   discerning   get   guidance”    (vss.   2- 5).  This   book   has   value   because   it   deals   with   ordinary life,    with    situations    that    crop    up    in    our    day-to-day existence.          “The     Book     of     Proverbs     gives     us     the application   of   that   wisdom   which   created   the   heavens and   the   earth,   to   the   details   of   life   in   this   world   of confusion   and   evil.      God   deigns   to   apply   His   wisdom to   the   circumstances   of   our   practical   life,   and   to   show us,   with   His   own   intelligence,   the   consequences   of   all the   ways   in   which   man   may   walk.”   [Darby].      The   Bible not    only    teaches    of    the    heavenly    realm,    but    also teaches   practical   living.      It   not   only   enriches   the   spirit, but   also   imparts   instruction   in   living   as   a   person   in   this fallen    world.    The    Bible    as    a    whole    is    the    one-stop manual   for   living   on   earth.      “Those   who   read   David’s psalms,   especially   those   towards   the   latter   end,   would be    tempted    to    think    that    religion    is    all    rapture    and consists   in   nothing   but   the   ecstasies   and   transports   of devotion;   and   doubtless   there   is   a   time   for   them,   and   if there   be   a   heaven   upon   earth   it   is   in   them:      but,   while we   are   on   earth,   we   cannot   be   wholly   taken   up   with them.      We   have   a   life   to   live   in   the   flesh,   must   have   a conversation   in   the   world,   and   into   that   we   must   now be taught to carry our religion” [Henry]. In   Solomon’s   book   of   proverbs,   there   is   a   wide-range of    advice,    for    a    wide    cross-section    of    the    populace.      This   book   has   something   for   everyone.      “All   ranks   and classes   have   their   word   in   season.      The   sovereign   on the   throne   is   instructed   as   from   God.      The   principles   of national   prosperity   or   decay   are   laid   open.      The   rich are   warned   of   their   besetting   temptations.      The   poor are   cheered   in   their   worldly   humiliation.      Wise   rules are   given   for   self-government.      [The   book]   bridles   the injurious   tongue,   corrects   the   wanton   eye,   and   ties   the unjust   hand   in   chains.         It   prevents   sloth;   chastises   all absurd      desires;      teaches      prudence;      raises      man’s courage;   and   represents   temperance   and   chastity   after such    a    fashion,    that    we    cannot    but    have    them    in veneration.        To    come    to    important    matters    so    often mismanaged   –   the   blessing   or   curse   of   the   marriage ordinance   is   vividly   portrayed.      Sound   principles   of family   order   and   discipline   are   inculcated.      Domestic economy   is   displayed   in   its   adorning   consistency.      Nay –   even   the   minute   courtesies   of   daily   life   are   regulated.     Self-denying     consideration     of     others,     and     liberal distribution     are     enforced.          All     this     diversified instruction     is     based     upon     the     principles     of     true godliness.      Thus   if   the   Psalms   bring   the   glow   upon   the heart,   the   Proverbs   make   the   face   to   shine”   [Bridges, Intro.] The    actual    word    translated    “proverb”     is    maschal , which   comes   from   the   word   meaning   “comparison”   in Hebrew   [Fausset].      And   as   we   will   see,   most   of   the proverbs   in   this   book   involve   a   comparison   of   one   sort or    another,    using    the    Hebrew    poetical    feature    of parallelism .      Parallelism   in   Hebrew   writing   is   somewhat similar    to    metaphors    and    similes    in    English,    but    is more      wide-ranging.      Parallelism      may      involve      a statement,     and     then     another     statement     that     is     a metaphor   of   the   first;   it   may   involve   two   statements which    are    opposites,    thus    reinforcing    each    other;    it may    involve    statements    that    build    on    each    other;    it may      involve      statements      that      build      up      to      an overarching   concluding   statement;   etc.   In   all   cases,   one part   of   the   proverb   comments   on   another   part,   in   a parallel    fashion,    thus    giving    guidance    to    the    true meaning   of   the   whole   proverb.      The   point   is   that   the parallel   statements   are   synergetic,   so   that   the   meaning of    the    multiple    statements    imparts    an    idea    that    is greater   than   the   individual   statements   by   themselves.     The     parallel     statements     may,     at     first     glance,     be referring     to     unrelated     subjects,     but     on     further inspection      and      meditation,      the      relationship      is discerned, and the teaching conveyed. Teaching   in   this   way   is   effective.      “By   similitudes, drawn   from   the   visible   parts   of   nature,   a   truth   in   the understanding     is,     as     it     were,     reflected     by     the imagination.      We   are   enabled   to   see   something   like color   and   shape   in   a   notion,   and   to   discover   a   scheme of   thoughts   traced   out   upon   matter.”   [J. Addison,   cited in   Bridges,   Intro.].      “The   peculiar   charm   and   power   of the    proverbs    are    due    to    a    combination    of    many elements…      Often   there   is   something   to   startle   at   first; and    yet,    on    closer    inspection,    that    which    seemed paradox,   turns   out   to   be   only   intenser   truth…   Much matter   is   pressed   into   little   room,   that   it   may   keep,   and carry.          Wisdom,     in     this     portable     form,     acts     an important   part   in   human   life.”   [Arnot,   chap.   II].      The parallelism   not   only   provides   an   effective   way   to   teach a    truth,    it    also,    in    that    form,    makes    it    easier    to remember    the    teaching;    thus    we    take    to    heart    the teaching; it becomes part of our being. The   author   of   this,   as   is   told   us   in   verse   1,   is   primarily “Solomon    son    of    David,    king    of    Israel” .        I    say “primarily”   because   chapters   30   and   31   are   attributed to   others   (Agur      and   Lemuel,   of   whom   we   know   very little).    We    know    Solomon    well    from    his    exploits documented    elsewhere    in    the    Bible    (see    I    Kings, chapters   2   through   11).      He   demonstrated   his   wisdom as    he    ruled    as    “king    of    Israel” .        Solomon    valued wisdom   greatly.      Early   in   his   reign,   the   Lord   appeared to    Solomon    in    a    dream    (I    Kings    3:5ff).        God    told Solomon   he   could   ask   for   whatever   he   wanted   God   to give   him.      Solomon   answered:      “So,   give   Your   servant a    discerning    heart    to    govern    Your    people    and    to distinguish   between   right   and   wrong”   (I   Kings   3:9).     God   was   greatly   pleased   with   Solomon’s   request,   and so   answered   that   He   would   make   Solomon   the   wisest of   all:      “I   will   do   what   you   have   asked.   I   will   give   you a   wise   and   discerning   heart,   so   that   there   will   never have   been   anyone   like   you,   nor   will   there   ever   be”   (I Kings   3:12).     And   certainly,   the   fact   that   Solomon   asked for    wisdom    in    the    first    place,    demonstrated    that    he already possessed a good deal of it. God    was    true    to    His    promise.        Solomon    became known   throughout   the   world   for   his   wisdom   (see   I Kings    3:28;    4:34).        We    are    told    that    Solomon    spoke three-thousand   proverbs   (I   Kings   4:32),   out   of   which were    chosen    some    for    inclusion    here    in    this    book.      “Now   here   we   find   what   good   use   [Solomon]   made   of the    wisdom    God    gave    him;    he    not    only    governed himself   and   his   kingdom   with   it,   but   he   gave   rules   of wisdom    to    others    also,    and    transmitted    them    to posterity.      Thus   must   we   trade   with   the   talents   with which     we     are     entrusted,     according     as     they     are” [Henry]. Late   in   his   life,   Solomon,   sadly   and   ironically,   turned away   from   the   wisdom   that   he   taught.   He   fell,   by   the influence    of    his    foreign    wives,    into    idolatry    and worship   of   false   gods   (see   I   Kings   11).      By   this,   we   can take   warning:      even   the   most   wise   can   fall,   ignoring teaching   that   he   himself   gave.      But   let   us   not   think   any worse    of    Solomon’s    inspired    teaching,    just    because Solomon    the    man    was    weak    and    stumbled.        His teaching   was   inspired   by   the   Holy   Spirit,   who   guided his   hand.      All   men   of   God   have   weaknesses,   but   this does   not   mean   that   their   teaching   should   be   ignored (otherwise,   there   would   be   no   teachers   of   the   word   of God,   for   all   have   sinned).      “Let   us   all   learn   not   to   think the   worse   of   good   instructions   though   we   have   them from   those   who   do   not   themselves   altogether   live   up to them” [Henry]. As   we   mentioned,   in   verses   2   through   6,   Solomon summarizes    the    purpose    and    value    of    this    book:      “…for      gaining      wisdom      and      instruction;      for understanding     words     of     insight;     for     receiving instruction   in   prudent   behavior,   doing   what   is   right and   just   and   fair;   for   giving   prudence   to   those   who are   simple,   knowledge   and   discretion   to   the   young   let   the   wise   listen   and   add   to   their   learning,   and   let the    discerning    get    guidance.”         First,    “for    gaining wisdom   and   instruction.”       We   are   all   born   without   a shred   of   wisdom,   and   so   we   all   need,   at   some   point, “instruction” .      The   first   instruction   we   receive   is   from our    parents,    and    so,    godly    moral    instruction    from parents   is   crucial   to   development   of   a   child,   because the child is essentially a blank slate, to begin with. These    proverbs    will    provide    “words    of    insight” , “instruction   in   prudent   behavior” ,   and   instruction   in “doing   what   is   right   and   just   and   fair”    (vss.   2-3).      The phrase   “for   understanding   words   of   insight”    denotes the   knowledge   needed   to   understand   wise   instruction. “Instruction   in   prudent   behavior”    is   teaching   on   how to    live    wisely,    day-to-day;    how    to    make    prudent decisions   that   improve   one’s   life.      Instruction   in   “doing what   is   right   and   just   and   fair” ,   of   course,   denotes moral   instruction;   how   to   live   a   righteous,   moral   life, and   treat   others   in   a   godly   manner.      So,   we   expect   to get a wide range of advice in this book. Solomon   next   summarizes   the   target   audiences   for his   instruction   in   wisdom:      the   “simple” ,   the   “young” , and   even   the   “wise” ,   and   “discerning”    (vss.   4-5).      The “simple”    denotes   those   who   are   easily   influenced,   in   a good    or    bad    way;    thus    they    are    ripe    for    being    led astray,    and    so,    can    benefit    all    the    more    from    solid instruction.        Though    simplicity    may    seem    a    not-so- desirable    state,    to    be    “simple”     is    much    better    than being      smug      and      already      deceived      into      errant knowledge,    or    a    bad    philosophy.        The    “young” ,    of course,    are    also    ripe    for    learning.        “Youth    is    the learning     age,     it     catches     at     instructions,     receives impressions,   and   retains   what   is   then   received;   it   is therefore   of   great   consequence   that   the   mind   be   then seasoned   well,   nor   can   it   receive   a   better   tincture   than from Solomon’s proverbs” [Henry]. These   proverbs,   ironically,   are   also   for   the   “wise”    and “discerning” ,    those    whom    we    may    think    need    no instruction.      But   the   truly   “wise”    know   that   there   is always    room    to    “add    to    their    learning”     (vs.    5).      Learning     does     not     stop.     Increasing     wisdom,     and improving   moral   behavior   entails   a   lifelong   process   of improvement.    And    certainly,    as    we    move    through various   stages   of   life,   we   need   instruction   to   navigate the   changing   issues   and   problems   we   encounter.      So,   in summary,   this   book   is   for   everyone.      “Here   is   not   only milk   for   babes,   but   strong   meat   for   strong   men.      This book   will   not   only   make   the   foolish   and   bad   wise   and good,    but    the    wise    and    good    wiser    and    better” [Henry]. As   we   grow   in   wisdom,   through   these   proverbs,   we will       understand       life       more       and       more,       even “understanding   proverbs   and   parables,   the   sayings and   riddles   of   the   wise”    (vs.   6).      Increased   wisdom facilitates    yet    further    learning    and    understanding. Through    deeper    study    of    the    Bible,    we    understand things   that   were   previously   “riddles”    to   us.      The   Bible is    a    well    of    instruction    with    no    bottom:        there    are always   new   layers   of   insight,   and   depths   of   spiritual knowledge to dig deeper into. The   word   translated   “riddles”    here,   was   translated “dark   sayings”    in   the   KJV.      These   are   sayings   that   are, at    first    glance,    opaque    in    their    darkness.        Many proverbs   are   like   this:      obscure   at   first.      “The   obscurity attendant   on   ‘these   words   of   the   wise,   and   their   dark sayings’    (vs.   6),   is   not   altogether   without   its   uses.      It whets     the     understanding,     excites     an     appetite     for knowledge,   and   keeps   alive   the   attention   by   the   labor of   the   investigation,   giving   an   increased   pleasure   to the    discovery    of    truth,    by    having    called    forth    our efforts    to    attain    it”    [Nicholls,    chap.    II].        “The    dark sayings   of   fools   and   triflers   are   not   worth   a   thought; but   the   ‘dark   sayings   of   the   wise’    are   worthy   to   be studied   till   we   obtain   a   complete   knowledge   of   their meaning;   for   they   are   dark   at   first   hearing   only,   on account   of   the   sublimity   of   their   views,   and   the   force   of their    manner    of    expression,    which    contains    much useful instruction in small compass” [Lawson].  To     begin     the     recitation     of     the     actual     proverbs, Solomon   starts   with   what   I   would   call   the   proverb   of all   proverbs:      “The   fear   of   the   Lord   is   the   beginning of     knowledge,     but     fools     despise     wisdom     and instruction”    (vs.   7).      This   proverb   defines   the   basis   of all   true   wisdom   to   be   “the   fear   of   the   Lord” .         It   is   “the beginning   of   knowledge” ,   the   foundation   of   all   true knowledge,   a   prerequisite   to   acquiring   wisdom.      If   you do    not    have    a    fear    of    the    Lord,    there’s    no    point    in reading   further   in   the   book   of   Proverbs.      “Of   all   things that   are   to   be   known,   this   is   most   evident,   that   God   is   to be   feared ,   to   be   reverenced,   served,   and   worshipped; this   is   so   the   beginning   of   knowledge   that   those   know nothing    who    do    not    know    this”    [Henry].        David agreed   with   Solomon:      “The   fear   of   the   Lord   is   the beginning   of   wisdom;   all   who   follow   His   precepts have   good   understanding.      To   Him   belongs   eternal praise”   (David,   in   Ps.   111:10).      Job   tells   us   that   this assertion   comes   from   God   Himself:      “And   [God]   said to    the    human    race,    ‘The    fear    of    the    Lord—that    is wisdom,    and    to    shun    evil    is    understanding’”    (Job 28:28).      In   a   way,   Solomon   avers   that   the   fear   of   God   is also   the   end   of   all   knowledge,   in   his   conclusion   to   the book   of   Ecclesiastes:      “Now   all   has   been   heard;   here   is the   conclusion   of   the   matter:   Fear   God   and   keep   His commandments,   for   this   is   the   duty   of   all   mankind. For     God     will     bring     every     deed     into     judgment, including   every   hidden   thing,   whether   it   is   good   or evil” (Eccl. 12:13-14).  But    what    exactly    is    the    “fear    of    the    Lord” ?        The phrase   “fear   of   the   Lord” ,   as   used   in   the   Bible,   does involve    our    concept    of    “fear”    or    “terror”,    to    some extent     (especially     in     that     we     should     fear     the consequences   of   disobeying   God),   but   also   denotes   the utmost   respect   for,   and   faith   in,   God   and   His   works. ‘The   fear   of   the   Lord’    is   an   expression   of   frequent occurrence   throughout   the   Scriptures.   It   has   various shades   of   meaning,   marked   by   the   circumstances   in which   it   is   found;   but   in   the   main   it   implies   a   right state   of   heart   toward   God,   as   opposed   to   the   alienation of   an   unconverted   man.      Though   the   word   is   ‘fear’ ,   it does   not   exclude   a   filial   confidence,   and   a   conscious peace.      There   may   be   such   love   as   shall   cast   all   the torment   out   of   the   fear,   and   yet   leave   full   bodied,   in   a human   heart,   the   reverential   awe   which   creatures   owe to   the   Highest   One…   What   God   is   inspires   awe;   what God   has   done   for   His   people   commands   affection… The   whole   of   this   complicated   and   reciprocal   relation is   often   indicated   in   Scripture   by   the   brief   expression, ‘The fear of God’ ” [Arnot, chap. III]. Solomon’s   assertion   that   the   fear   of   the   Lord   is   the “beginning”    of   knowledge,   sets   his   definition   of   what knowledge   is   in   contrast   to   the   world’s   definition   of what   knowledge   is.      The   world   proclaims   someone   as “knowledgeable”   if   he   or   she   has   had   a   certain   level   of education   and   learning.      For   example,   the   world   would say    that    any    college    professor    is    a    knowledgeable person.      Solomon   (by   the   Holy   Spirit)   tells   us   that   one who   lacks   the   “fear   of   the   Lord”    cannot   be   defined   as “knowledgeable”,   no   matter   how   much   book-learning he   or   she   has,   because   the   “fear   of   the