1The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel:
2To know wisdom and instruction,
To discern the sayings of understanding,
3To receive instruction in wise behavior,
Righteousness, justice and equity;
4To give prudence to the naive,
To the youth knowledge and discretion,
5A wise man will hear and increase in learning,
And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel,
6To understand a proverb and a figure,
The words of the wise and their riddles.
David’s son Solomon, the wisest man ever to live because of God’s gift of wisdom to him, begins sharing his extensive knowledge concerning the nature of wisdom and how we should live before God. He himself struggled to live out what he taught, and his life became an illustration in many ways of what not to do. In Ecclesiastes, he shares of his many regrets for not doing what he knew was consistent with wisdom. In other words, the idea is that we should learn from his mistakes. He knew wisdom and the right path, and he wishes that he would have taken it and that those who come after him would take it. If we are wise, we will take his God-breathed advice and live according to how God wants every person to live.
A wise man is one who desires to increase in learning. He takes in wise teaching, seeks to acquire understanding, and longs for learning what wise behavior is. Wisdom will lead to righteousness, justice, and being fair and equitable with others. These qualities are particularly important for a king as Solomon was, but they are something every person should seek. One does not need to be well-known or publicly exalted in order to have exceeding wisdom. The ideal situation is one in which a youth is able to get knowledge and discretion so that he has ample time and opportunity to pass wisdom on to others. Too many throw away the most energetic part of their lives to waste, ruin, and futility, but Solomon says that even youths should seek after wisdom and walk in it. A person demonstrates his true character based upon how fervently he desires to grow in spiritual learning and how humble he is to respond to instruction in God’s ways. In other words, the wise seek out wisdom, while the foolish could care less.
7The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
Fools despise wisdom and instruction.
This is really the theme of the entire book of Proverbs encapsulated in one verse. Either a person fears God and thus seeks to learn His ways and obey His commands, or he scoffs and mocks at Him and does his own foolish things. The wise receive instruction and learn wisdom because they fear God. They believe that He is Who He says He is and that He deserves attention, reverence, praise, affection, and respect. They acknowledge Him as God and give Him thanks, rather than the others whose foolish hearts are darkened by their own selfish lusts. Romans 1:21 says, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”
Jesus told the crowds to fear God because only God could send a person to hell (Luke 12:5). We must come before God understanding that He is the final authority, that He is holy, and that He will punish sin because of His holiness. Thus, we should bow the knee before Him, seek forgiveness in His Son, and serve Him fully in this life. That is where wisdom starts, for in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3). Without Christ and without a fear of God, man’s orientation and aim in life are misdirected as he is left to follow the deceptive nature of his own fallen heart (Ecclesiastes 10:2).
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom because we must know God Who is holy. From that point, we can learn more about just how much God loves we who have received Him, and we no longer have to fear His just wrath (1 John 4:17). His perfect love drives out any fear of eternal punishment (1 John 4:18) for those who belong to Him, though our awe and reverence for Him should only increase with time (Proverbs 28:14). Those who reject Christ prove themselves to be fools, deserving of wrath and destruction. They hate the truth, and they hate being reminded of it. They despise wisdom because they despise their Creator and the One Who died and rose again desiring to be their Savior.
8Hear, my son, your father's instruction
And do not forsake your mother's teaching;
9Indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head
And ornaments about your neck.
What Solomon would teach his own son and what God-fearing parents should teach their children is what God has instructed us all in His Word. If our parents do not teach us wisdom according to the Scriptures, we should not listen to the foolishness which they spout because God is a higher authority always. But insomuch as they teach us the truth because they are concerned for our welfare, we should listen and not forsake sound teaching. Sound instruction is an honor, a blessing, and a protection in this life.
10My son, if sinners entice you,
Do not consent.
11If they say, "Come with us,
Let us lie in wait for blood,
Let us ambush the innocent without cause;
12Let us swallow them alive like Sheol,
Even whole, as those who go down to the pit;
13We will find all kinds of precious wealth,
We will fill our houses with spoil;
14Throw in your lot with us,
We shall all have one purse,"
15My son, do not walk in the way with them
Keep your feet from their path,
16For their feet run to evil
And they hasten to shed blood.
Getting to specifics, Solomon says to beware that the world is full of sinners who seek to trap and ensnare the young person to do evil. Wisdom says to not join forces with evil people and not do evil things such as violence, murder, and harming the innocent. Their purpose is to plunder them and steal their possessions because they desire money, wealth, and spoil. Their enticements to join together for the common selfish goal of riches at the expense of harming others must be rejected immediately by the one who desires wisdom. Those who are this greedy and willing to harm innocents certainly cannot be trusted to share the spoils and not harm each other. So practically such an alliance is foolish, and before God it is an abomination, ultimate foolishness. Wise youths will keep away from these violent, murderous types. They will look to defend the innocent rather than attack them.
17Indeed, it is useless to spread the baited net
In the sight of any bird;
18But they lie in wait for their own blood;
They ambush their own lives.
19So are the ways of everyone who gains by violence;
It takes away the life of its possessors.
These evil people are actually ambushing themselves as they seek to plunder others. Their souls are storing up more of God’s wrath, and thus the gains made by violence and corruption are worth nothing eternally because of the condemnation that they bring. It is a waste of one’s life. They see the traps that they set, and instead of being instructed by wisdom that they are actually damning their own souls, they will soon be destroyed by their own sin, likely on earth but certainly in eternity.
20Wisdom shouts in the street,
She lifts her voice in the square;
21At the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
At the entrance of the gates in the city she utters her sayings:
22"How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded?
And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing
And fools hate knowledge?
Just as God calls all people to turn to Christ and repent of their sins, wisdom calls to all and says to fear God and learn wisdom. Wisdom is hidden in Christ, but He wants all to know it. Wisdom thus shouts to the masses at the city entrance and above the noisy streets so that all can hear. Indeed, God has revealed Himself through the creation, through the conscience of man, through the incarnation of Christ, and through His written Word. Truth shouts to mankind and begs people to stop being naïve and scoffing at God. Still most refuse to worship God and instead take pride and joy in their own mocking. They are proud of themselves for being so “astute” to have rejected truth, and they are content with their view of knowledge, which is really the lack thereof. They delight in their own mockery of knowledge, and this proves that they hate truth and despise wisdom.
23"Turn to my reproof,
Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you;
I will make my words known to you.
24"Because I called and you refused,
I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention;
25And you neglected all my counsel
And did not want my reproof;
26I will also laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when your dread comes,
27When your dread comes like a storm
And your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
When distress and anguish come upon you.
God in His great love issues a warning to people just as Jesus warned people to repent and believe the gospel because of the wrath to come (Mark 1:15, Luke 13:5). Wisdom reproves sinners and scoffers because it desires to reveal God’s love and truth to them. Wisdom wants to help people love God, gain understanding, and hear His words with open and receptive hearts. But wisdom cannot force salvation and understanding upon any person. Individuals must make a choice to receive understanding or not. Sadly, most reject God’s wisdom and neglect wisdom’s counsel. They don’t want their errors pointed out, and, thus, their eventual calamity, distress, and anguish is sure. There will be no hiding from the return of Christ when He comes to judge the world in righteousness. Great dread will come upon the whole of the world who loved foolishness rather than wisdom, for their eternal judgment will be at hand (Revelation 6:16). Wisdom is not shy about pointing out the consequences of sin, for the wages of sin is indeed death (Romans 6:23).
28"Then they will call on me, but I will not answer;
They will seek me diligently but they will not find me,
29Because they hated knowledge
And did not choose the fear of the LORD.
30"They would not accept my counsel,
They spurned all my reproof.
31"So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way
And be satiated with their own devices.
32"For the waywardness of the naive will kill them,
And the complacency of fools will destroy them.
33"But he who listens to me shall live securely
And will be at ease from the dread of evil."
It is too late to repent when Christ returns to judge the world (Hebrews 9:27). God gives people ample time and incredible grace and patience to repent and believe, but time eventually runs out. Those who hate God and who choose against fearing Him spurn His correction and refuse to receive His words. God gave Israel after Solomon many chances to repent by sending many prophets, but eventually He sent the nation away to captivity because of the hardness of their hearts. When God gives a time window to bow to Him, wisdom says to take it. But the foolish don’t bother because they are made complacent and numb by their own sinful devices. Sin never satisfies, for only those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied in Christ. But sin can satiate and make the stomach feel full when the soul is beyond empty. This false peace and fake happiness is what the entire world system is built on. It is a mirage of satisfaction that is mere satiation, a trading of the best for a hollow imitation. Taking in sinful pleasures tricks the soul into not feeling its hunger for more, for wisdom, and for Christ. But that hunger will always be there because only Christ can satisfy.
The naïve are carried about by every wind of doctrine and by the enticement of sinners, and thus they will suffer because they fail to seek out wisdom. Being naïve is a dangerous place to be, for the lack of knowledge can lead to destruction (Hosea 4:6). Each person is responsible for seeking out wisdom so that he does not remain in a state of naiveté. Those who are naïve who seek wisdom out will find it because those who ask will be given and those who seek will find (Matthew 7:7). But those who are satiated by evil desires will be destroyed on account of their lack of understanding. Complacency is an attitude that neglects the urgency of Christ’s command to repent and the imminency of His coming judgment. The fool will be destroyed, but those who hear God’s Word and are doers as well will have no need to fear eternal punishment. Those who truly listen to God can still expect trouble in this life (John 16:33), but they will be kept from creating loads of trouble that come from being around the wrong kinds of people and doing foolish things. Wisdom has a way of guarding us from evil and destruction.