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Exposition: Proverbs 1:1-33

Proverbs 1:1The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel.” He was the son of David by Bath-sheb, the second son of this union, the first having died as a chast­isement, (2 Sam. 12:13‑25). Called Jedidiah (“Beloved of the Lord”) by Nathan the prophet, he was the Lord’s choice of David’s successor, though some of his half‑bro­thers attempted to usurp the kingdom, (2 Sam. 15‑15; 1 Kings 1:1). As David typified Christ, the great Warrior, (Rev. 19), so Solomon (whose name means “peaceable”) typif­ied Christ as the peaceable millennial King. None of the other sons of David could fill the role as king over Israel.

Proverbs 1:2 “To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding.” Here he begins to reveal the reason for these proverbs. “Wisdom” and “knowledge” are key words in Proverbs; and both are used similarly, (1:7; 9:10). “Wisdom” means skill and suggests a right use of knowledge. Many mistake knowledge for wisdom: a person with several college degrees may have no practical sense; he may not know how to use the knowledge he has. “Instruction” means correction or chastisement. In the Greek version (LXX) it is the same word as in 2 Timothy 3:16 (“discipline in righteousness”). “To perceive” suggests that it is possible to hear words of understanding yet without understanding. Especially true of spiritual things, for it takes special enlighten­ment of the Spirit for man to understand spiritual truth, (John 8:43; 1 Cor. 2:14). The natural man can understand the natural, but he cannot understand the supernatural.

Proverbs 1:3 “To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity.” “Wisdom” here is a different word than in verse 2; it is intelligence which instructs in prudence. “Justice” is more commonly rendered “righteousness” while “judgment” is the putting into practice of these righteous principles. “Equity” also has to do with rightness or uprightness, so that the whole end of knowing wisdom, instruction and perceiving understanding is that one might practice holy living. False religion is almost always guilty of hypocrisy preaching but not practicing, (Matthew 23:2‑4).

Proverbs 1:4 “To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.” “Subtilty is not used in a bad sense, (Gen. 3:1), but in the sense of shrewdness to discern be­tween good and evil, so that one may practice the good, (Matthew 10:16). “Simple” means inexperienced or unlearned, not the mentally deficient. “The philosophers excluded the young as unfit for their recondite teachings. But the wisest of men stoops to the humblest—a type of the infinitely Wise Teacher...Matthew 18:3-4; 19:14-15,” [Faussett]. The older people have a duty to teach; the younger a duty to submissively learn. In no other way can knowledge be passed on.

Proverbs 1:5 “A wise [man] will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:.” “True wisdom is never stationary, but always progressive,” [Faussett]. The wise man will never as­sume that he has attained perfection of knowledge; it is the fool who thinks he has attained a plateau of learning beyond which no one can teach him further. The wise man is submissive. The proud and rebellious are fools, not wise men, yet how often do we all proudly refuse counsel from others.

Proverbs 1:6 “To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.” Here is the result of the hearing and learning of verse 5. Anyone with workable ears can hear, but many do not understand what is heard. This takes wisdom. “Interpretation” means an eloquent speech, or a speech that needs explanation because it is enigmatical. The more we learn, the more we need to learn, for life’s mysteries open up before us as we learn. To stop learning is folly.

Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of knowledge: [but] fools despise wisdom and instruction.” This is the author’s text for this section.. “Beginning” = “princical part” (margin), so that without a proper reverence for God, no knowledge is going to profit much. “Fear” = reverential trust and love, such as a child has for its father. In the Bible, a “fool” is not a mentally deficient, but one who rebels against God; who lives as if there were no God, (Ps. 53:1), i.e., an unsaved person.

Introduction to verses 8-19: This begins with the instru­ction of sons, and especially warns of the danger of following the crowd and being enticed into the ways of evil. Here is a strong warning against the danger of greed for material gain.

Proverbs 1:8 “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother.” Here is the first of 22 times in Proverbs that Solomon appeals to “my son.” Clearly, then, much of this book is devoted to instructing children in the truth. Probably the greatest danger to young people is their refusal to be taught by their parents. Almost every other evil is a result of this. “Solomon had an eye to post­erity in writing this book, hoping by it to season the minds of the rising generat­ion with the generous principles of wisdom and virtue,” [M. Henry]. Occasionally we hear of parents who teach their children only evil, but generally even bad parents will teach their children what is right and good, though they may not set the exam­ple. Anciently, most nations enjoined obedience only to fathers, but Divine law el­evates the mother also to a place of honor and respect, (Ex. 20:12).

Proverbs 1:9 “For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.” Young people are especially attracted by fads of dress and ornamentation, and so Solomon appeals to his son to be ornamented by the teachings of his parents. A child can pay no higher compliment to his parents than by following their teachings and example. Parents need to diligently consider their teachings and example as to whether they are truly ornaments of grace. Following right teachings and examples can lead to life, (3:22). Even adults need a spiritual ornamentation as opposed to cosmetic ornamentation, (1 Pet. 3:1-5). Ornaments of wisdom and truth influence others most.

Proverbs 1:10 “My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.” It is a sad, but true fact, that sinners are never content to just destroy their own souls by their evils; they generally try to entice others to join with them, as if they thought that the multiplying of evil‑doers would justify the deed. However, God is not going to take a vote in the day of judgment to determine what is evil and what is good; that is al­ready settled. Parents must teach their children right from wrong, but the time ev­entually comes when the child must personally face the issue of whether to do good or evil. In the final analysis every person is individually accountable for what he does. “Every tub must sit upon its own bottom.”

Proverbs 1:11 “If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause.” “Not that they would actually say so, for this would rather be a dissuasive than an inducement; but Solomon, by the Spirit, makes them the mouthpiece of expressing their conduct in its true light,” [Faussett]. Robber bands in the ancient East were worse, than any known in our present large cities, if that be possible. Where Christian morals have not tempered society, many think nothing of cutting a fellow creature’s throat for a few dollars. Apart from the influence of Christian teachings, all mankind is totally selfish and tries to make self the center of the world. Only God in the heart can change this and make man unselfish.

Proverbs 1:12 “Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit.” The language here is very similar to that concerning Korah, (Num. 16:30), and the prophecy of Judas Iscariot, (Ps. 55:15). “They unwittingly use language awful­ly significant of their own retributive doom,” [Faussett]. Alas, that the natural man is so spiritually blind that he cannot see that though he may escape punishment in this life, yet there awaits him an eternity of punishment for his sins, and his escape of punishment in this life only hardens him in sin and increases his guilt, and so the degree of punishment in the next world.

Proverbs 1:13 “We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil.” Here is the ambition of these robbers: to gain material possession’s. Materialism and the trust in “things” is the curse of our age. It is a manifestation of an un­belief in God’s promised provision. See the warnings against this in Exodus 20:17; Job 31:24‑25, 28; Proverbs 30:8‑9; Matthew 6:19‑34; Luke 12:12; 1 Timothy 6:5‑10, 17; Hebrews 13:5; 1 John 2:15. The value of any material thing is due only to God’s blessings on it: that which is gotten in a wrong way cannot have God’s blessings on it, but must be cursed and made to vanish away, (Prov. 23:4‑5).

Proverbs 1:14 “Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse.” This is communism, and it always appeals to the greedy who have little or nothing, for it promises something without the necessary labor for it. Part of the curse brought about by sin is that we must labor for all that we have, and earn it only by the “sweat of thy face,” (Gen. 3:19). All robbery, fraud, gambling, etc., is an attempt to by‑pass God’s curse upon the works of our hands and get something for nothing. Having a common treasury has never worked because there are always some who will shirk their part of the work. Even among Christians, this was not long continued, (Acts 4:32), for in Acts 6:1 there was dissatisfaction with the administration of the treasury.

Proverbs 1:15 “My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path.” “Walk,” “way,” “foot” and “path” are all suggestive of the daily life of a person, and while, as Paul taught, we cannot totally abstain from contact with the worldly, (1 Cor. 5:9‑10), yet we are not to fellowship with the worldly lest their ways corrupt us, (Jam. 4:4). One good apple in a barrel of rotten ones will have no good effect ­upon them, but one bad apple can corrupt a barrel of good ones. The world constantly works to compromise the godly person, for worldly people feel ill at ease because of his good life and testimony, but if he can compromise him, then he is, in his eyes, a hypocrite, and no better than he is. Let us all beware then of their appeal to us.

Proverbs 1:16 “For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood.” Isaiah quotes this in Isaiah 59:7, and Paul also quotes it in Romans 3:15 as a characteristic of the unsaved. Not all actually shed blood, but to hate others without a just cause is equivalent to murder, (1 John 3:15). Solemn thought! “Run” and “make haste” show the readiness of the unsaved to do evil to others when it is the least bit profitable to him. “The way of sin is down‑hill; men not only cannot stop themselves, but, the longer they continue in it; the faster they run, and make haste in it. They are plainly told that this wicked way will certainly end in their own destruction, and yet they persist in it,” [M. Henry.] Such is the depravity and unbelief of man.

Proverbs 1:17 “Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird.” Solomon often used many common everyday things to illustrate spiritual truth, (1 Kings 4:33). There is a sermon in every bush and bird and beast, if we but had the spiritual eyesight to see it. Here he uses the bird’s natural wariness where a trap has been set for it. God’s people learn to be wary of evil men, but the evil men themselves sooner or later fall into their own traps. This is taught in many places, (Prov. 26:27; Ps. 9:15; 35:7‑8; 57:6; 141:9-10). This is simply the law of sowing and reaping, (Gal. 6:7).

Proverbs 1:18 “And they lay wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own lives.” This shows the real result of the lying in wait for the innocent blood, (v. 11). It will be their own blood that shall be shed. God has ordained that blood‑thirsty men shall drink their own blood as a just recompense for their evil, (Rev. 16:5‑7). Just­ice is not always, done in this present life, but there is a life to come in which justice will be perfectly done, and all evil will be fully punished. However, it is often true that those who shed innocent blood through greed will have their own life taken away later on, often in a totally unrelated way. The law of blood‑shedding found in Genesis 9:6 and Matthew 26:52.

Proverbs 1:19 “So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof.” This verse sums up the teachings of today’s lesson. Greed is always destructive, never productive. Covetousness and greed always lead to worse sins, even to murder in the case of these wicked men.        But even Christians can fall into many foolish and hurtful lusts, and can err from the faith through covetousness, (1 Tim: 6:9‑10). Too much emphasis upon material things is always dangerous at best. No one can be materialistic and spiritual at the same time. Real faith in the Lord eliminates the need for anxiety in the believer, (Matthew 6:24‑34) (“take‑thought” in all these verses means “to be anxious”).

Introduction to verses 20-33: “In Proverbs 1:20‑33 we have personified wisdom’s appeal and the folly of reject­ing it,” [Carroll]. “Solomon, having shown how dangerous it is to hearken to the temp­tations of Satan, here shows how dangerous it is not to hearken to the calls of God,” [M. Henry].

Proverbs 1:20 “Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets.” Wisdom is lik­ened to a person standing in the streets and markets calling out to the passers, appealing to them to turn from their folly unto the wise ways of the Lord. Wisdom is plural here to indicate fullness of wisdom. God speaks to mankind in many ways, but they are all characterized by wisdom, and it is folly of the worst kind to ignore the voice of God, whether it is in the Bible, in preaching, in circumstances, or whatever. In Christ are all the treasures of Wisdom, (Col. 2:3), and He is made unto His people wisdom, (1 Cor. 1:30).

Proverbs 1:21 She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying.” “These terms all suggest that this is a public teaching of wisdom. Throughout the, Bible, emphasis is mainly upon the public teaching and preaching of the truth. The truth is to be pub­licly proclaimed by us for we never know when the Spirit will take the truth to some heart and cause it to be effectual. No human can apply the truth to another’s heart: that is the work of the Spirit alone. However, we can faithfully proclaim it.

Proverbs 1:22 “How long, ye simple ones, will ye love, simplicity? And the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge.” Here are three stages of folly: (1) Simple ones, who are negligent about learning truth, and prefer sinful simplicity to Divine knowledge. (2) Scorners who turn serious warnings into occasions of jesting, (Gen. 19:12‑14). In Psalms 1:1 the scorners are the third of three stages of wickedness. (3) Fools who not only scorn the truth, but actually hate it. Here “fool” is a dif­ferent word than in verse 7. Both imply impiety, but this latter word also suggests self-­confidence. Why people reject heavenly knowledge except that they think themselves already too wise to need Divine knowledge. Note the change from the second person to the third as the rejection of truth increases, as if to imply that the more one re­jects the truth, the less likelihood there is of his hearing it.

Proverbs 1:23 “Turn you at my re­proof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.” Man’s folly in rejecting the truth binds him under the power of evil so that only the omnipotent power of God can enable him to hear and believe, (Isa. 44:3; Zech. 12:10; John 7:35‑39; 1 Cor. 2:12‑14). “In verse 23 we have a promise of the Spirit’s illumination which is later given and enlarged upon by Isaiah 32:15 and Joel 2:25,” [Carroll]. God’s means of grace is the Word, (1 Cor. 4:15; Jam. 1:21; 1 Pet. 1:23), but it is effective only as applied and empowered by the Holy Spirit, for the Word is only a dead letter without the quickening of the Spirit, (2 Cor. 3:6). God must teach man the truth, for no one is even able to hear, much less understand apart from His ministry, (John 6:44‑45). The Word actually has a hardening effect unless the Spirit softens the human heart, (John 12:37‑40).

Proverbs 1:24 “Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded.” The result of rejected grace and mercy is always judgment and wrath, and here Solomon begins to detail the results of rebellion for note how many terms are employed to show the sinner’s perversity in verses 24‑25, 29‑30. Nothing is more clear than that there are dreadful “wages” to sin. No one is arbitrarily punished, but punishment is always due to sin, and then it is generally after prolonged appeals to repent and live. “Cf. Luke 13:8-9, the barren fig-tree, showing how God spares no means, gentle or severe, of moving sinners to repentance; and it is only when all have proved unavailing, through the sinner’s own perversity, that He at last cuts him down,” [Fausset] To “call” is one form of appeal, but the out‑stretched hand is suggestive of fervent pleading. “No man regarded” shows, like Psalm 14:1-3 and Romans 3:9‑15 that this is a race wide problem, and that all mankind is totally depraved.

Proverbs 1:25 “But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof.” This is repeated in verse 30. “Counsel” probably has to do with exhortations to do good, while “reproof” has to do with the rebuke of evil. The Scriptures are profitable for both, (2 Tim. 3:16‑17). Rebellion against Divine authority is the key thought throughout verses 24‑32: and Divine wisdom shows the folly of this by revealing the consequences of it. The person who refuses to hearken does no one more harm than himself; yea, he shows that he despises his own soul, (15:32)

Proverbs 1:26 “I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh.” This is not a laugh of humor, but one of derision. In all the Bible God is only said to laugh four times, (Ps. 2:4; 37:1; 59:8), and here and in each of these it is a laugh of derision (disdain) at the foolish rebellion of the wicked. Solemn thought! People think they can scorn God’s appeals to them all their liv­es and then at the last moment call upon Him to rush to their aid and deliver them from their just deserts, but at the last they shall find that He holds their wicked attempt to pervert justice in derision. As they mocked God when He called them to flee from the wrath to come, so He will mock their fear when wrath overtakes them.

Proverbs 1:27 “When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you.” Their fear will be found to be well founded in that day, for it shall come upon them: though it may be long‑delayed, it shall come. The extent of this fear is expressed by “desolation” and “destruction.” The latter is as the ruin left by a tornado. While these two terms suggest the physical ruin, “distress” and “anguish” suggest the mental and spiritual ruin. However a person may try to believe otherwise, all unsaved people have an internal feeling that something dreadful awaits them just beyond deaths which is why they fear death so much. The conscience cannot be eased except by the blood of Christ.

Proverbs 1:28 “Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me.” (Matthew 25 10-13) In many places the Lord promises to hear and answer the calls of His people in the day of their distress, (Ps. 50:15; Isa. 55:6‑7; Jer. 29:11‑13). But these are they who have first responded to God’s call to them to turn unto Him. Those who spurn the call to repentance can expect to receive no aid from the Lord when calamity comes upon them. “Here the call of the wicked is reject­ed, because the day of grace meant by Joel (i.e., 2:32) shall have been cast. Their cry is for deliverance from pain, not from sin,” [Faussett].

Proverbs 1:29 “For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord.” Here is the reason for their rejection in the day of their calamity. Here we must remember verse 7, which initially described these. Their actions now confirm their true char­acter. Every calamity that has ever befallen man has come upon him because he violated Divine laws which are all for our good. The dietary laws of the Bible, if adhered to would prevent much ill health and early death. Man hates this knowledge and does not fear the Lord because sin seems so appealing, but this leads, not only to physical calamity, but also to spiritual calamity as well.

Proverbs 1:30 “They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof.” Repeated from verse 25. To neglect the Lord’s saving counsel results in spiritual death as surely as being an outright rebel, for it is a denial of man’s total depravity, (Heb. 2:1‑3). To despise reproof is to deny that one is sinful; it is a form of self‑righteousness.

Proverbs 1:31 “Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.” Many texts are similar in teaching that whatever one sows, he will also reap, (Isa. 3:9‑11; Ps. 106:15; Jer. 6:19; Gal. 6:7‑8). Man is so short‑sighted that he cannot see beyond the im­mediate pleasure of sin; and so he fails to see the end of it, that it has wages; even eternal death, (Rom. 6:23; Rom. 20:14). Men need to obey Hosea 10:12‑13.

Proverbs 1:32 “For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.” These reject the admonition of verse 23 to turn unto the Lord, an they turn away instead, and this shall be their destruction, for God, alone is the fountain of all life and good, (Zech. 7:11‑13; Ps. 36:9). Prosperity has destroyed more people than adversity ever has, (Deut. 32:15), and those who judge of God’s favor solely by outward prosperity are deceived, (Mark 10:23‑27). Material prosperity is not so important as is spiritual prosperity, (3 John 2).

Proverbs 1:33 “But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.” Here is the promise to those who do hearken to Divine wisdom and turn to the Lord when He calls: safety and serenity are their lot, both for time and eternity, (Isa. 26:3-4; 33:14‑16; Jer. 33:6). The whole matter turns upon whether one heeds Divine Wisdom’s calls to turn unto the Lord in faith.

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