By Randy Dillon
Proverbs 1:1-7 "The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel. To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; To give subtlety to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion. A wise man will hear and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels; To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction."
The Old Testament book of Proverbs stands with Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon as the three great books of wisdom authored primarily by King Solomon who is noted in scripture as the wisest man to ever live. The fourth book of wisdom is considered to be Job. Proverbs is not a theological book although obeying its advice will certainly bring a person closer to God's moral code. It does not teach Godly doctrine like the book of Romans in the New Testament. Nor is it prophetic like Isaiah or Revelations. Instead, it is primarily a book of practical admonitions about human conduct which Solomon gave to succeeding generations to assist them in living a good and fruitful life. Like the popular series of books, we might call it "Right Living for Dummies."
In the Hebrew language proverb means "to rule" or "to govern." A proverb is a short, concise statement which conveys a moral truth to which one should adhere. The proverbs do not cover every situation but are rather general guidelines which are both spiritually eternal and true while also being humanly practical for a successful life. Application of the proverbs in daily living will promote a sound moral basis for ruling human passions and governing human conduct.
Chapters 1-9 are sometimes referred to as being "wisdom for young men" since so many are directed to that group in their developing years.
Chapters 10-24 direct wise sayings to the general population regardless of their age or gender.
Chapters 25-31 are mostly aimed at wisdom for leaders including the remarkable passage ending the book which sets forth the most excellent qualities of a Godly woman.
The focal passage above is an introduction to the purpose of the book of Proverbs. At the outset are three words which are key to the purpose of the writings:
verse 1- wisdom, instruction and understanding
verse 2- followed by the expected consequences of instruction in wisdom: justice, judgment and equity
verse 3- Wisdom refers to "knowledge of the moral law of God as it concerns the practical affairs of life"
According to Charles T. Fritsch;“Instruction means training achieved by submission to the teaching of wise men. It is also submitting the baser human passions to those in authority who are wiser than oneself.“
Understanding, in the Hebrew language comes from a word root meaning to "divide" or “separate" which encompasses the ability to distinguish right from wrong, good from evil. As used in verse 3, justice or righteousness may be described as a standard norm of conduct between and among individuals; that is, "right conduct." Judgment is closely related to justice. It derives from the concept of "decision" by a legal authority which maintains a right relationship between people and sets a precedent for the future. It achieves a custom, manner or way of life to be followed. Equity does not mean sameness of outcome but is more closely related to the idea of equality. It involves the idea of "smooth or level" with no obstacles or impediments. Morally, it involves right dealing or behaving on the level or on a level field with others.
Verse 4 continues the thought of what proverbs achieve within various groups of people. To the simple it gives subtlety. The simple are not mentally challenged but more so the young and innocent, the immature and inexperienced. Subtlety is here a positive term lending itself to the idea of understanding so as not to be misled, that is, shrewd in a righteous sense. In contrast to protecting the simple, proverbs also bring a young man knowledge of humanity and God, including the ability to know facts and processes while also giving him discretion, defined here as the ability to decide one's own path in order to achieve the right and proper goal. Discretion involves seeing multiple courses of thought or action and selecting the best thought or path.
In the following verse 5, a wise man will hear and increase learning and a man who understands will seek wise counsel. Thus, an already wise man will become more wise and one who understands will seek to become wise by listening to learned authority figures.
Finally, in verse 6 we find that proverbs exist to give understanding and interpretation of the proverb itself as well as how the wise men interpret the practical meanings and the hidden or "dark" meanings of the words.
In verse 7 all of the above purposes rely upon the fear of God (fear being not so much terror as awe, amazement, wonder, and reverence) as the point of the beginning or chief part of the attainment of wisdom. Such reverence of God allows the Spirit of God to begin its work in the mind, the heart and the soul of man to reveal eternal truth and wisdom. On the other hand, those who despise Godly wisdom and instruction are deemed fools who will attain only temporal knowledge which does not manifest itself in righteousness and proper behavior.