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Roland Murphy: There are two units: vv 8–19, an instruction of the father to the son, and vv 20–33, Wisdom’s speech. The first, vv 10–19, is composed mainly of a warning against the vividly described temptations posed by the wicked, who will be undone by their wickedness. “Such the ways . . .” (v 19) is a “summary-appraisal formula,” typical of wisdom teaching (e.g., Job 8:13; 18:21) and also used in the prophets (e.g., Isa 14:26).

In the second unit Wisdom is personified as a woman who delivers a condemnatory speech in the style of a prophet denouncing the failure of the people; cf. Jer 7 and 20. It is threatening, in contrast to the other speeches of personified Wisdom (chaps. 8 and 9). For the literary structure, see the study of P. Trible. However, the meaning of the whole turns on the interpretation of vv 22–23. The introduction (vv 20–21) places Wisdom in a prominent position for public address (vv 22–33). The prophetic mood shifts into didactic language at the end (vv 30–33), but the grim lesson remains clear. The audience is called “the simple” (i.e., naive) and “fools,” who will also be addressed in the other speeches of wisdom (cf. 8:5 and also 9:4, 6). It is possible that the language reflects the threatening language of a teacher, but only in part, since it is not characteristic of wisdom teaching to threaten in such a prophetic style as in 1:24–28. Rather, the lessons of experience and the teaching of parents are the more normal motivation. In 1:20–33, the stance is that of a prophet, not a teacher. The setting for the first unit could well be the family (cf. vv 8–9), and now it forms part of the several addresses to “my son” in this collection. The second unit is clearly condemnatory, and can be understood as strengthening the warning against the sinners in vv 8–19 by its mixture of prophetic (vv 24–29) and wisdom (vv 29–33) motifs.

David Atkinson: In Proverbs 1 – 9 there are ten separate sections of ‘fatherly talks’. Whybray calls them the ‘Ten Discourses’ or ‘Ten Instructions’, and compares them with the Egyptian school instruction books which have similar form and content.  These fatherly talks, or discourses, practically all follow a similar pattern. Thus

(a)  there is an introductory address, ‘My son’, or something similar, followed by

(b)  an instruction to hear, receive or be attentive. Then

(c)  the virtue of Wisdom in one or another of her forms is extolled, and the son is told to clothe himself with it.

(d)  The main theme of each discourse then follows, usually with an exhortation or a prohibition or a command.

 (e)  Finally, the talk ends with a reflection on either the happy state of the righteous or the fate of the wicked or the fool.

We can illustrate this by briefly outlining the sections in question.

Talks about evil company (1:8–19)

(a)  My son (8).

(b)  Listen to instruction, do not forsake teaching (8).

(c)  Wisdom is like a garland (9).

(d)  Beware of evil company (10–15).

(e)  In fact evil people waylay only themselves (16–19).

George Milne: In this chapter, Solomon gives us an account of the writer, and the design, of this book. He recommends the fear of the Lord, a dutiful regard to the instructions of parents, and diligence in guarding against the temptations of bad company as principal parts of wisdom. It is concluded with an earnest call to the unwise to learn wisdom.

David Hubbard: The bulk of Proverbs divides into two major kinds of literature:

  1. instructive speeches, chapters 1–9;
  2. wisdom sayings, chapters 10–31.

The speeches had as their main purpose to state every possible reason why wisdom should be valued and folly despised. The larger canvas of the speeches gave them more room to make their claims than did the small sketch pad of the individual sayings, and they took advantage of every square centimeter of space. Wisdom for them was a matter of nothing less than life or death. It was the way in which children of the covenant with Yahweh were to live. And it was the only course in life that made both present and ultimate sense.

Incentives to wise living and illustrations of what that entails—these two themes are the point and counterpoint of the first nine chapters, where bright encouragement and dark warning find artful interplay. The warnings anticipate and amplify some of the key topics covered by the clusters of sayings in chapters 10–31: perverted speech (ch. 2), loose sexuality (chs. 2, 5, 6, 7), ungodly self-reliance (ch. 3), greed (ch. 3), rashness in guaranteeing the financial obligations of others (ch. 6), laziness (ch. 6), lying (ch. 6), disruptive social behavior (ch. 6).

Scripture Outline

Title (1:1)

Purpose (1:2–6)

Theme (1:7)

Call to Attention (1:8–9)

Warning Against Bad Company (1:10–18)

Summary Appraisal (1:19)

Wisdom’s Denunciation of Fools (1:20–31)

Antithetic Summary (1:32–33)


Roland Murphy: One reason for characterizing vv 1–7 as a “preface” is the striking literary style with which its message is announced: a long sentence followed by a motto (“fear of the Lord”) that is in a pivotal position. Many scholars are of the opinion that all of chaps. 1–9 serve as an introduction to what follows. As it were, they set the tone or provide the hermeneutical key to the disparate sayings in the following chapters.

Jonathan Akin: Main Idea: A relationship with the Lord will make you wise for everyday life.

  1. What Is Wisdom (1:1-6)?
  2. Wisdom is royal (1:1).
  3. Wisdom is correction and understanding (1:2).
  4. Wisdom is the knowledge of good and evil (1:3).
  5. Wisdom is discernment (1:4).
  6. Wisdom is obtaining guidance (1:5-6).
  7. How Do You Get Wisdom (1:7)?
  8. You get wisdom by reverent trust in the Lord (1:7).

A.  (:1a) Catchy Genre of Proverbs

The proverbs” = nuggets of truth

B.  (:1b) Consummate Author

of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel:

George Milne: These words are the instructions of that king who excelled all the kings of the earth in wisdom and grandeur. This great prince is our teacher; but not he alone the only wise God here condescends to become our instructor. He, then, who disregards this book, despises a greater than Solomon. This book is the work of a noble writer, and truly it was written with a noble design.

Jonathan Akin: In Proverbs 8:15-16 Wisdom states, “It is by me that kings reign and rulers enact just law; by me, princes lead, as do nobles and all righteous judges.” Immediately Proverbs connects wisdom with the kingship and with the Messiah. “Son of David” is a messianic title. The Son of David will establish God’s eternal kingdom on earth, but he can only do it through wisdom—through justice (see 2 Sam 7; Isa 11). In Proverbs, Solomon is training his “son” in wisdom so that he can establish the messianic kingdom.  As we will see, he is also instructing the youth of the nation in wisdom in hopes of producing it in them as well. But the king embodies the nation and represents the nation. If the king is wise, the people will be wise; but if the king is unwise, the people will be foolish. There is a need for a wise king who can produce a wise nation—a wise kingdom. Throughout Israel’s history the foolishness of the kings led to the difficulties and ultimately the destruction of the kingdom. The kings were fools, so the people were fools. As a result, there was death and chaos.

C.  (:2-6) Comprehensive Purpose Statement

  1. (:2-3)  Overall Purpose: Wise Living

To know wisdom and instruction,

To discern the sayings of understanding,

3 To receive instruction in wise behavior,

Righteousness, justice and equity;

Chuck Swindoll: Wisdom is the ability to view life as God perceives it.

Max Anders: In summary, then, the purpose of Proverbs is that the reader might gain skill for living life, the discipline to carry through with it, and the discernment to know whether one is “on course.”

Allen Ross: The first purpose is that the disciple will develop skillfulness and discipline in holy living (v.2a). “Attaining,” from the infinitive daʿat (lit., “to know”; from GK 3359), encompasses an intellectual and experiential acquisition of wisdom and discipline, for the expression “to know” wisdom not only means to become conscious of it but also to observe it, to realize it, and to experience it.

Wisdom” (ḥokmâ; GK 2683) basically means “skill.” This word describes the “skill” of the craftsmen who worked in the tabernacle (Ex 31:6), the “wits” of seasoned mariners (Ps 107:27), administrative abilities (1Ki 3:28), and the “wise advice” of a counselor (2Sa 20:22). In Proverbs “wisdom” signifies skillful living—the ability to make wise choices and live successfully according to the moral standards of the covenantal community. The one who lives skillfully produces things of lasting value to God and to the community.

The other object to be acquired is “discipline” (mûsār; GK 4592; cf. 4:5), the necessary companion of wisdom. Mûsār denotes the training of the moral nature, involving the correcting of waywardness toward folly and the development of reverence for the Lord and personal integrity. Waltke, 1:175, asserts that wisdom cannot be possessed without this instruction to correct moral faults.

The second major purpose of Proverbs is to help the disciple acquire discernment (v.2b). The meaning of the Hiphil infinitive hābîn (“to understand, discern”; GK 1067) can be illustrated by the cognate preposition bên (“between”). “To discern” means to distinguish between things, to compare concepts, form evaluations, or make analogies. One cannot gain wisdom and instruction without understanding.

The object of this infinitive is cognate to it: “words of insight” (ʾimrê bînâ, with “words” referring to complete statements, of course). Proverbs will train people to discern lessons about life, such as distinguishing permanent values from immediate gratifications. Both writing and speaking these words were used in the instruction.

John Kolkebec: Instruction  (Education enforced by Loving Discipline)

  1. In Wise Behavior – Prosper concept

Wisdom bringing success.

2. In Righteousness – God’s ethical Moral Standard.

Form of – to be straight.

3. In Justice – Proper Government: Process of God

  1. (:4-6)  Specific Emphasis for Different Groups

a.  (:4a)  Protection for the Naïve

                                    “To give prudence to the naive,

Jay Adams: The “simple” or naive is the one who is highly impressionable, who is open to all sorts of influences—both good and bad. He lacks the know-how and the discretion to distinguish the one from the other. He is in a dangerous place; he lives in a fallen world that continually beckons him in addition to the call of wisdom. He has trouble knowing which voice is which; he does not know how to distinguish the two. That is what this wisdom book will provide if he reads and heeds.

b.  (:4b)  Tips for Teenagers

                                    “To the youth knowledge and discretion,

c.  (:5-6)  Leadership Training for the Mature

                               “A wise man will hear and increase in learning,

And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel,

6 To understand a proverb and a figure,

The words of the wise and their riddles.

John Goldingay: Proverbs has four related target audiences. There are the naive, young people, the people who might be literally addressed by their mothers and fathers. They need to acquire insight for life. Yet this doesn’t mean its teaching is irrelevant to older people who have already gained some such insight. Proverbs believes in lifelong learning and believes that the people who are already wise need to continue to increase in wisdom; the opening paragraph has already made that point. We sometimes wonder what new truths we need to learn, but as often as not we need to get a securer or fresher grasp of things that in theory we know already.

For both the naive and the wise, Proverbs has some hope. Of the other two groups, it’s more despairing. Wisdom’s antithesis is stupidity. Stupid people are not people with academic learning difficulties but people who turn their backs on the kind of wisdom that has moral implications. Stupidity thus overlaps with arrogance. The arrogant are the people who mock the teaching of the wise. They think they know everything already. Their mouths are always open, but their ears are closed.

D.  (:7) Complex Fundamental Question – How Does a Man Become Wise?

  1. Fundamental Step One: Complete Submission to Divine Instruction

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;

Derek Kidner: The beginning (i.e. the first and controlling principle, rather than a stage which one leaves behind; cf. Ec. 12:13) is not merely a right method of thought but a right relation; a worshipping submission (fear) to the God of the covenant, who has revealed Himself by name (the Lord, i.e. Yahweh: Ex. 3:13-15).  Knowledge, then, in its full sense, is a relationship, dependent on revelation and inseparable from character.

Stephen Olford: In this context, it (“the fear of the Lord”) means a penitential turning from sin.  “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil” (8:13).  The Bible calls this repentance.  We can never know God and hang on to our sins at one and the same time.  But to know God, we must also trust Him.  This calls for a reverential trusting in God. . .

The second part of our text reveals the barrier to the knowledge of God.  The word “fools” describes the unrepentant mindset that despises divine wisdom and instruction… synonymous with a wicked person.  He or she aggressively flouts personal independence from God and His commandments.

  1. Fundamental Problem: Refusal to be taught

Fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Jay Adams: But what is it to despise wisdom and disciplined training? The word in the original is a strong one indicating that the fool in question has stupidly slighted and even acted contemptuously toward wisdom and the training by which it is acquired. To despise it is more than the sour grapes attitude of one who has failed to learn as he ought; rather, it is to take a positive delight in showing contempt (probably by outward words and actions) for something. He has abandoned (or never begun) the search for wisdom, not so much out of lethargy (though that is where his antipathy toward wisdom and training may have begun) as out of a definite dislike for it. He is, according to the word for fool used here, one who will have nothing of the counsel of others; he is self-confident to the point of despising wisdom out of self-importance and pride. To submit to a teacher or counselor is the height of stupidity in his mind, whereas exactly the opposite is true. He is stupid for failing to do so. So, Solomon’s admonition is to heed Wisdom’s call to come and drink to the fill. If you do not, you will end up in the company of fools, and become like them.


Jonathan Akin: Main Idea: Unchecked greed for money and stuff is foolish because it will destroy you.

  1. Getting Money the Wrong Way Will Destroy You (1:8-19).
  2. The Problem: It Doesn’t Always Work Out Immediately, but It Will Work Out Ultimately (1:19).
  3. Our Biggest Problem Is That We Have All Failed at This (1:8-19).
  4. Jesus Can Save You from Your Foolishness (1:8-19).

A.  (:8-9) Fundamental Training Ground: Follow the Good Influence of Parents

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction,

And do not forsake your mother’s teaching;

9 Indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head,

And ornaments about your neck.

John Piper: God ordained the family not just to be fruitful and fill the earth with people, but to fill the earth with instructed people and taught people. The family is the place where the next generation is born and where the next generation learns how to live.

B.  (:10-19) Avoid the Bad Influence of Wayward Peer Group

1,  (:10-14)  Their Lawless Enticement

My son, if sinners entice you, Do not consent.

11 If they say, ‘Come with us, Let us lie in wait for blood,

Let us ambush the innocent without cause;

12 Let us swallow them alive like Sheol,

Even whole, as those who go down to the pit;

13 We shall find all kinds of precious wealth,

We shall fill our houses with spoil;

14 Throw in your lot with us, We shall all have one purse,’

Robert Deffinbaugh: What evil men offer:

  • Group acceptance and identity
  • Promise of material gain
  • Excitement and sense of power
  1. (:15-17)  Their Naïve Expectations

My son, do not walk in the way with them.

Keep your feet from their path,

16 For their feet run to evil, And they hasten to shed blood.

17 Indeed, it is useless to spread the net In the eyes of any bird;

  1. (:18-19)  Their Violent End

But they lie in wait for their own blood;

They ambush their own lives.

19 So are the ways of everyone who gains by violence;

It takes away the life of its possessors.

Robert Deffinbaugh: Regarding Violence

  • Natural inclination towards violence
  • Violence is Attractive
  • Violence is a Way of Live

Jonathan Akin: The wisdom principle is clear: Getting money or stuff the wrong way (i.e., at others’ expense) will destroy you. Using people, abusing people, or cheating people to get money will end badly. Unchecked greed, lustful desire, or ravenous craving for money and stuff at any cost will destroy you. It does not deliver what it promises.


A.  (:20-28) Wisdom Spurned Despite Its Availability

  1. (:20-21)  Access to Wisdom Available to All

Wisdom shouts in the street,

She lifts her voice in the square;

At the head of the noisy streets she cries out;

At the entrance of the gates in the city, she utters her sayings:

Raymond Ortlund: Now the father points to wisdom as the speaker, wisdom personified as a woman, but not a typical woman, especially for this culture.  Women were not given the same voice as men.  But Lady Wisdom is standing here at the crossroads of culture – where business, government, education, the arts, athletics all intersect – right in the middle of all the bustle and noise and competition, and she stands up and shouts more loudly than all else.  Here is Lady Wisdom the street preacher, warning and scolding and demanding, very unladylike.

Paul Koptak: As we examine the speech of personified Wisdom, we learn that the main emphasis of the entire first chapter is the fate of those who reject wisdom. Therefore, one can read this chapter as an extended illustration of 1:7: “Fools despise wisdom and discipline.” Wisdom’s speech also continues the first lesson of discernment and listening that began with the parent’s instruction in 1:8. The young man is to learn how to discern who is worthy of his trust and who is not.

Wisdom’s speech can be divided into three sections following the use of the key word “call” (Heb. qrʾ, 1:21, 24, 28).

  • Wisdom calls aloud in the street” (1:20–23)
  • You rejected me when I called” (1:24–27)
  • Then they will call to me but I will not answer” (1:28–33)

Each section addresses a different audience, and each makes use of a different verbal tense. Whereas Wisdom calls to all in a present tense, she addresses the simple and fools, who rejected her calls in the past. She then turns away from them to say that they will call on her in the future to no avail. . .

The chiastic or mirror structure can also be diagrammed to highlight the change from second to third person in the address to the simple and fools:

A 1:20–21—Wisdom calls out to all

B 1:22–23b—Appeal to simple and fools—“you

C 1:24–27—Wisdom rejects those who reject her—“you

B′ 1:28–32—Fate of simple and fools—“they

A′ 1:33—Final call to listen and promise of safety to those who hear

The change to third person “they” in 1:28 signals that Wisdom’s words of rejection are final. She no longer addresses the simple, scoffers, and fools directly but turns to explain her reaction to anyone who will listen, especially the young learner and the reader. The final call also promises safety to those who will listen; it offers a confirmation to those who have already chosen to walk along Wisdom’s path. Like the prologue, it encourages the reader to continue reading the book and to walk in the ways of wisdom.

  1. (:22-25)  Foolishness Closes Its Eyes to Wisdom Until It is Too Late

a.  (:22)  Failure to Face Reality

                                “How long, O naive ones, will you love simplicity?

And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing,

And fools hate knowledge?

Plaut: Three types of people are exhorted by wisdom:

1)  The thoughtless . . . a character weakness is involved.

2)  The scorners.  The letz lives by tearing others down; he is derisive because derision builds up his ego.

3)  The fools. . . morally deficient.  Intellectually, he is capable of understanding right and wrong, but he hates to learn how to make right decisions and manages to get himself into trouble.

Charles Bridges: A simple person is another name for a foolish person.  It describes those who do not fear God.  They do not weigh what they say or do.  They live as if there is no God and no eternity.  Their minds are blinded by their love for sin.  In other instances man delights not in his ignorance, but in its removal.  But these simple ones, ignorant of the value and danger of their souls, love [their] simple ways.  They think of all attempts to enlighten them as an intrusion on their indulgent rest.  While they live wild, profligate, and lazy lives, they forget that God remembers their wickedness and that they will be judged (Hosea 7:2; Ecclesiastes 11:9).

b.  (:23-24)  Failure to Respond to Importunity (persistent solicitation)

                                “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;

John Miller: She speaks with tremendous passion: Behold, I will pour out to you my spirit; I will make known my words to you (22:23b, lit.). Her speech is more precisely a warning of an imminent calamity due to the fact that the fools she addresses have so persistently rejected her advice (1:24-25).

c.  (:25)  Failure to Repent in Time

                                “And you neglected all my counsel,

And did not want my reproof;

  1. (:26-28)  Wisdom Will Reject the Belated Appeals of Desperate Foolishness

“I will even laugh at your calamity;

I will mock when your dread comes,

27 When your dread comes like a storm,

And your calamity comes on like a whirlwind,

When distress and anguish come on you.

28 “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer;

They will seek me diligently, but they shall not find me,

Plaut: The verse (:28) portrays a common human weakness: we wait until it is all but too late, and then we cry for help and expect it right away.”

B.  (:29-33) Bitter Fruit of Rejecting Wisdom

  1. (:29-30)  You Have No One to Blame But Yourself

Because they hated knowledge,

And did not choose the fear of the LORD.

30 They would not accept my counsel,

They spurned all my reproof.

  1. (:31-32)  Fools Get What they Asked For

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 shall kill them,

And the complacency of fools shall destroy them.

Raymond Ortlund: Wisdom is dangerous, like fire.  But it will purify you.  Folly is more dangerous, like poison.  It will turn you howling and insufferable.  Which danger will you risk?

  1. (:33)  Fundamental Promise: It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way

But he who listens to me shall live securely,

And shall be at ease from the dread of evil.”

Raymond Ortlund: Wisdom Is Our Only Safety

The world offers complacency (counterfeit ease).  That is its false promise.  Christ offers you ease.  That is his true promise to all who listen to him with urgency.