STUDIES ON PROVERBS
Here as in other places in the Bible, the original Hebrew text is not divided into chapters and verses, as in our English versions. However, some natural divisions are discernable, as, for example, when Solomon divides subjects by saying “My son…” (Prov. 2:1; 3:1; 5:1; 6:1, etc.). The same words, however, often divide subjects within chapters as well, (Prov. 1:8, 10, 15, etc.). In Chapter two “There are two leading propositions—I. Verses 1-9 with three antecedent conditions and two consequents: verse 1, ‘If;’ verse 3, ‘If;’ verse 4. ‘If;’ and verse 5 ‘Then.’ —II. Verses 10-22 with one antecedent and one consequent: verse 10 ‘When;’ verse 11 (then the consequence), ‘Discretion shall preserve thee,” [Faussett].
Proverbs 2:1 “My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee.” Throughout this book, Solomon gives evidence of great concern for the spiritual welfare and uprightness of his son. For this reason, Proverbs is a book well adapted for family devotions, and were its principles practiced more, juvenile delinquency would almost cease to exist. It has always been hard for young people to realize that parents have at least twenty years more knowledge and experience than they do, and to submit to their teaching. But this is the divine order. The Word of Truth is not only a preventative to sin, (Ps. 119:11), but it is also a producer of God-honoring fruit, (Matthew 13:23). Solomon appeals to his son to both receive his teachings and also hide them in his heart.
Proverbs 2:2 “So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding.” “The ear is the avenue to the heart, unless men stop the avenue, as the Jews did (Zech. 7:11; Acts 7:51). ‘The hearing ear’ is God’s gift (20:11),” [Faussett]. Sin deafens human ears, for the heart is not desirous of hearing the truth about itself, which is why there must be a sovereign and gracious working of the Spirit in the natural man before he is capable of hearing and heeding the truth (John 8:43-47). Why then is man called upon to hear and obey if he is incapable of it by nature? Because he sinned away the ability, but not the responsibility to obey. Generally if a person hears with the natural ear long enough, God will bless him with a truly “hearing ear.”
Proverbs 2:3 “Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding.” This refers to prayer for spiritual understanding, a prayer that is promised an answer in James 1:5-8 if prayed in faith. Hence, there is no excuse for any person remaining spiritually ignorant, for God is gracious to give knowledge and understanding where it is sought in simple faith. It is when one begins with a preconceived idea against the truth, or when one is unwilling to do the truth that it is hidden from him, (Hosea 6:3; John 7:17—“willeth to do” is more liberal). One’s moral purpose must be in harmony with God’s will before one can understand the truth. One of the great laws of rightly understanding the truth, is the law of submission to the Divine will.
Proverbs 2:4 “If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures.” Spiritual understanding is not for the unconcerned or lazy person; it takes diligent searching and study, but it is worth all the cost of it (Prov. 8:10-11). This description of the value of wisdom reminds us of Matthew 13:44. Solomon’s command here is very similar to the Lord’s in John 5:39. “The ‘treasures’ are hidden by God, not in order to keep them back from us, but to stimulate our faith and patient perseverance in searching for them,” [Faussett]. Verses 1-4 describe the successful seeker of Divine wisdom. “The characteristics of the seeker of wisdom are a willingness and desire to know, accompanied by devotion, to which may be added diligence and persistency,” [Carroll]. Most people do not have any depth of spiritual wisdom because they treat the Bible as if it had nothing to offer them but myths and fables, entertaining stories, or, at best, some mere moral platitudes. The truth is, it is a veritable mine of treasures of wisdom and knowledge, without which no one can know or do God’s will.
Proverbs 2:5 “Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.” Here is the first consequence of the three conditions set forth in the “ifs” of verses 1, 3, and 4. Notice the connection here: it is only “then,” i.e., after these things are fulfilled, that one receives this wisdom and knowledge. God is a God of order, and all that He does is orderly. For every effect, there must be and adequate cause. “Fear” here is the most common word so rendered, and means reverence. Many people have a quaking, trembling dread of God, who yet have no reverence for Him. This is the more noble word. Clearly, the proper attitude toward, and knowledge of, God comes only through the spiritual instruction of verses 1-4. This reminds us of Romans 10:17. Paul prayed for the Ephesians that they might have this “spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,” (Eph. 1:17).
Proverbs 2:6 “For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.” This is certainly clear enough as to the origin of spiritual wisdom and knowledge. Man can, by nature, get an education in worldly and human matters, but heavenly, Divine things can be understood only by the aid of the Holy Spirit, (1 Cor. 2:7-13). Solomon had experienced this verse personally (1 Kings 3:9-14). God has given this heavenly wisdom orally to His prophets and apostles, not in some nebulous thought inspiration such as the modernist thinks to find in every poet and philosopher. God spoke to Moses and the other inspired writers of the Bible, and it is from their writings that we too may have this heavenly wisdom, but in no other way, for God’s revelation of Himself and His will for us has long been closed. He who rejects this wisdom will be eternally unwise.
Proverbs 2:7 “He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly.” This wisdom is laid up, ready to be found upon our diligent searching for it. Note for whom this is laid up: “the righteous.” This shows that God works for our good antecedent to our earliest desires for knowledge. Where may this sound wisdom be found today? In the Lord’s churches, (Eph. 3:10-11), which are the “pillars and grounds (supports) of the truth,” (1 Tim. 3:15). “Buckler” means shield, and is more commonly rendered, as in Genesis 15:1; Psalm 84:11; Proverbs 30:5, etc. It is certain that not only is there wisdom laid up for those who are upright, but also there is safety. “If we depend upon God, and seek to him for wisdom, he will uphold us in our integrity, will enable us to keep the paths of judgment; for he preserves the way of his saints,” [M. Henry].
Proverbs 2:8 “He keepth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints.” This, as so many other verses, traces the safekeeping and security of the saints to God Himself, not to their own wisdom, works or will, (Deut. 33:27; Ps. 121; Isa. 26:3-4; John 10:28-30; Jude 24-25). “Judgment” is often used, not for an abstract examination of the right and wrong of something, but for the right exercise of truth and righteousness, as in Genesis 18:19 and 25 (its first appearance); it is used in Exodus 21:1 for commandments to do right. This same word appears twice in Psalm 105:5-8 where God promises to keep his covenant to a thousand generations (30,000 years, if taken literally), and to keep the covenant is to also keep the saints who are in that covenant.
Proverbs 2:9 “Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path.” Here is the second consequence to the “ifs” that precede. All three of there terms appear in the Hebrew text of 1:3, “righteousness” here being rendered “justice.” When God’s “sound wisdom” is operative in the saint, it will not only keep him safe, but will also give him understanding of these right principles, both as regards God and man. “That only is sound wisdom (v. 7) which leads us into ‘every good path,’” [Faussett]. If one is led in the direction of evil, then it is clear that it is not God’s Spirit that is leading, (1 John 4:1). God’s Spirit and God’s Word are harmonious in the direction that they lead.
Proverbs 2:10 “When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul.” One may have knowledge in the head when there is no wisdom in the heart, for wisdom is the right application of knowledge: knowledge is theoretical, but wisdom is practical. Too many people do not have wisdom because they only give superficial glances at Divine truth, so that it never gains an entrance into their hearts, and so never enlightens them (Ps. 119:130). Truth must be a pleasant and desirable thing to us before we will ever receive it into our hearts. To be practical, wisdom must be in the heart, for that is the motive center of a person (Prov. 4:23), and if it is not moved by truth, the person will not practice the truth.
Proverbs 2:11 “Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee.” Here is the consequence of which verse 10 is the antecedent. “When wisdom has entire possession of thee, it will keep thee,” [M. Henry]. Most sins result from the neglect of practicing the truth, which is always an antidote to sin, (Ps. 119:9-11). “Discretion” means thoughtfulness, and is suggestive of meditation on the truth until it is understood and becomes wisdom. God keeps His people, (Deut. 32:10; Isa. 27:3), but He does so through teaching them the truth, and moving them to believe the truth, (1 Pet. 1:3-5). We can have this security only if we submit ourselves to the truth.
Proverbs 2:12 “To deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things.” The first “man” is italicized, showing that it is not in the original Hebrew, and so something must be supplied: it could be “evil man” (Matthew 6:13), or “evil way” (Greek version—LXX—so renders it) or “evil man” as the English. All of these are dangers to the saint, but knowledge of Divine truth will deliver us from all of these. In the LXX version “speaketh froward things” is rendered “speaketh nothing faithfully.” If we render the first part “the evil one,” then this latter part is an apt description of Satan’s deceitfulness, (John 8:44). Clearly this teaches that the Word of God is the sword that will parry every thrust that the devil makes. Jesus so used the Word in Matthew 4:1-11.
Proverbs 2:13 “Who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness.” Again, this is remarkably similar to the description of the fall of the anointed cherb (Lucifer, Isa. 14:12-14, Satan), who was perfect in his creation and filled with the brightness, (Ezek. 28:15, 17), until he sinned and led a third of the other angels with him into eternal darkness, (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6). However, this is not restricted to the devil, if it applies to him, for this also describes the unsaved man as well, (John 3:19-20; Rom. 13:12; Eph. 5:11-12). Rejection of the truth always leads to delusion and often to damnation, (2 Thess. 2:10-12). “It is a just judgment of God to give up to their own delusion them that have pleasure in unrighteousness,” [Faussett]. No one hears the truth and remains neutral.
Proverbs 2:14 “Who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked.” This is one of the characteristics of the unsaved, (Rom. 1:32). A person is known by his practice, not by his profession, and some, who have not the courage to do the evil that they desire, only delight in the evil that others do, so that we may also say that a person is known by his associates. The “rejoicing” and “delighting” are conditions of the heart, which are the true gauge of a person rather than his outward actions, (Prov. 23:7; Matthew 15:18-19). One’s thoughts can be hidden from man, but God knows the heart and judges accordingly, (Jer. 17:9-10; Rev. 2:23).
Proverbs 2:15 “Whose ways are crooked, and they froward in their paths.” When once one leaves the paths of uprightness, he enters crooked and winding paths which can lead only downward. “Ways” and “paths” both suggest the daily walk of the person, so that this does not deal with momentary lapses from the truth by godly people, but rather has to do with regular life of the ungodly, who may have brief times of trying to live godly, yet who will ultimately turn back to their former ways because they were never really born again. (2 Pet. 2:20-22). No amount of human works can ever change a man’s sinful nature. God alone can do this.
Proverbs 2:16 “To deliver thee from the strange woman, even from the stranger which flattereth with her words.” This deliverance, like that in verse 12, is connected to the discretion and understanding of verse 11. Perhaps because of the almost universal tendency to be tempted to commit this sin, fornication is warned about as much as almost any other sin with the possible exception of unbelief. “The adulteress is here called the strange woman, to be shunned by every Israelite as if she were a heathen, and a stranger to that sacred commonwealth. She is false to him whom she entices,” [M. Henry]. Every person being subject to pride, flattery is most easy to believe because it makes us feel good about ourselves. “Lust and idolatry were the spiritual adultery into which they entrapped the once wise king. How striking that he should utter beforehand a warning which he afterwards himself disregarded! (Neh. 13:26),” [Faussett].
Proverbs 2:17 “Which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God.” This refers to her forsaking of her husband, whom God has ordained as the head of the home, (Eph. 5:22-25), and of her unfaithfulness to the marriage vows made before the Lord. As here the unfaithful wife is rebuked, so in Malachi 3:14-16 the unfaithful husband is. Marriage vows are made before God who instituted marriage in the beginning, and who is the unseen party in every marriage, and the unseen head of every family, (1 Cor. 12:3). To believe the flattery of an unfaithful man or woman is to be deceived. “What faithfulness to him can the youth look for on the part of the female tempter who has been unfaithful to her natural friend and true lover?” [Faussett].
Proverbs 2:18 “For her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead.” This is very similar to Proverbs 7:6-27. Good reason to warn people about this strange woman, if her house is the door to death. Her house, as described in Proverbs 7:16-18, seems to promise so much, but its real products—death and damnation—are not advertised. How wilily Satan works today by picturing sin in such beautiful and alluring ways, when its end is always eternal death, (Rom. 6:23a; Rev. 20:14.) “Death” has to do with the act of dying, while “the dead” refers to the departed, those who have experienced death. Thus, the adulteress’ house is where the death occurs, but it is the doorway to the hereafter from whence none return to this life.
Proverbs 2:19 “None that go unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life.” For all her promises, this pathway is a one-way street to death and when one begins this slippery downward, path, there is no stopping apart from Divine grace intervening. Thus it is written of sinners generally that “Their foot shall slide in due time,” (Deut. 32:35), and this sin is specifically said to be against one’s own body, (1 Cor. 6:18), for it tends to physical death, having no justification nor excuse in the eyes of the offended husband, (Prov. 6:30-35). Many murders are committed because of “love” triangles.
Proverbs 2:20 “That thou mayest walk in the way of good men, and keep the paths of the righteous.” Another reason to seek for discretion and understanding, (v. 11), that one may keep to right paths. “As verse 12 etc., and verse 16 etc., express the negative good of ‘discretion,’ so this 20th verse the positive good,” [Faussett]. There are only two pathways through the present life: (1) The one that God dictates in His Word, and (2) Satan’s erratic and evil way which leads to perdition. One is extremely narrow, and so, unpopular and not crowded; the other is extremely broad, popular and peopled by many, (Matthew 7:13-14). It takes much self-denial to walk in the narrow way, but it is, ultimately, the only way of all good—eternal good.
Proverbs 2:21 “For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it.” (Jer. 6:16). The ungodly forsake the way of the upright, (v. 13), not realizing that this is the path that leads to the new earth in which the meek are to eternally dwell, (Ps. 37:9-11; Matthew 5:5). This will be a time, place and condition “wherein dwelleth (is at home) righteousness,” (2 Pet. 3:13). The materialist, the opportunist, the self-seeker, etc., will not have the faith to wait for this, but in seeking present pleasures and possessions, will miss out on true good.
Proverbs 2:22 “But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it.” “There is a great and encouraging prophecy given in 2:21-22. It is the final triumph of the righteous over the wicked. The righteous who possess the divine wisdom here described may walk in the ways of good men and dwell safely in the land, but the wicked are doomed to defeat and final banishment,” [B. H. Carroll]. The imagery is taken from trees being cut down or plucked up, as in Matthew 3:10 and 15:13. Whatsoever is not rooted in truth is of short duration and destined for the eternal burning.
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