Search Bible Outlines and commentaries

Caleb Nelson: Walk in Wisdom

Proposition: To walk in wisdom, be sure to protect yourself, enrich yourself, and to look who’s talking.

I.  Protect Yourself, vv. 1-3

A.  Through Wisdom, v. 1

B.  Through Uprightness and the Fear of Yahweh, v. 2

C.  Through Wise Lips, v. 3

II.  Enrich Yourself, v. 4

A.  No mess, no fuss, no wealth

B.  Hard-working Ox, Abundant Harvest

III.  Look Who’s Talking, vv. 5-7

A.  Is this witness a liar?, v. 5

B.  Is this seeker a scoffer?, v. 6a

C.  Is knowledge easy for me?, v. 6b

D.  Is this imparter of knowledge a fool?, v. 7


A.  (:1) Priceless Value of a Wise Wife

The wise woman builds her house,

But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.

Charles Bridges: We have seen that the wife can be a blessing or a curse to her husband (12:4).  Such is she to his house as well.  Through her wisdom she may supply many of his defects, while all his care and prudence may be nullified by her folly.  The godly woman is the very soul of the house.  She instructs her children by her example no less than by here teaching.  She educates them for God and for eternity – not to shine in the vain show of the world, but in the church of God.  Her household order combines economy with generosity (31:13-27).

Richard Clifford: The verbs “to build” and “to tear down” are a fixed pair, as in Jer. 24:6; 42:10; 45:4. In 1 Cor. 14:4, Paul speaks of building the church.

Caleb Nelson: How does wisdom build a house? Well, wisdom always knows what to say. Wisdom knows how to listen. Wisdom knows how to love, and how to feed children. That’s why she builds a house.

Ernest Lucas: In the context of Proverbs as a whole the purpose of this proverb is to stress that care is needed in choosing a spouse.

Matthew Henry: A foolish woman, that has no fear of God nor regard to her business, that is wilful, and wasteful, and humoursome, that indulges her ease and appetite, and is all for jaunting and feasting, cards and the play-house, though she come to a plentiful estate, and to a family beforehand, she will impoverish and waste it, and will as certainly be the ruin of her house as if she plucked it down with her hands; and the husband himself, with all his care, can scarcely prevent it.

Bruce Waltke: eventually her house is gone (cf. 9:13–18); destroyed with her own hands—due to her own incompetence, her arrogance and incorrigibility, poor speech, hot tempter, and lack of self-control.

George Mylne: A wise woman is frugal, and saves. She is industrious, and gains. She is pious and charitable, and brings down a blessing from Heaven upon her family. If the houses of Laban and Potiphar were blessed for the sake of pious servants, a house must be still more favored by Providence, for the sake of a pious wife.

B.  (:2) Your Conduct Reveals Whether You Fear or Despise God

He who walks in his uprightness fears the LORD,

But he who is crooked in his ways despises Him.

Lindsay Wilson: Our characteristic way of life (walks, ways), not our isolated actions, makes us wise or foolish.

Matthew Henry: he that is perverse in his ways, that wilfully follows his own appetites and passions, that is unjust and dishonest and contradicts his profession in his conversation, however he may pretend to devotion, he is a wicked man, and will be reckoned with as a despiser of God himself.

Charles Bridges: Grace in the heart is the spring of those who walk in an upright way.  The proof that we believe the reality of religion is that we are in it all day long.  Man may boast about his moral uprightness and that he would scorn to act in a mean way.  But the Savior searches the heart, exposes the root of all worldly selfishness, and reveals that a man’s ways are devious if he despises God.

Tremper Longman: The fear of Yahweh is a basic concept in the book of Proverbs (see 1:7; also 9:10; 10:27; 31:30; etc.). From these passages, we see that there is an intimate connection between one’s basic religious attitude (fear of Yahweh), ethics (walking in virtue), and wisdom. Walking in virtue indicates a moral lifestyle. The verb “walk” implies a path that becomes explicit in the second colon. As is typical in this part of Proverbs, the second colon creates an antithetical parallelism. The word “virtue” in colon 1 can have the meaning “straight,” so the opposite would be wandering off the path, taking a crooked route. Those who do this, implying unethical behavior, show that they despise Yahweh.

George Mylne: Upright walking is a sure and true evidence of the fear of the Lord; for that fear consists in a deep impression of the divine excellency and authority, by which men are disposed to abstain from whatever God forbids, however pleasing to the flesh it may be and to walk before him unto all well pleasing.

Men of corrupt minds and a perverse behavior, may speak much to the praise of God, and profess a high veneration for him but they are so far from fearing the Lord, that they despise him. Every willful sin is a plain proof that they . . .

  • disregard his authority,
  • defy his vengeance,
  • insult his patience,
  • and turn the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ into a license for sin.

Let stubborn sinners learn from this observation, the exceeding sinfulness of their perverse conduct. It contains in it a downright contempt for God, which is a crime that can scarcely be charged upon devils! What punishment is sufficient for such as despise the authority of their Maker, and pour contempt on the grace of a Savior? To them it shall be said, “Behold, you despisers and wonder, and perish!”

David Guzik: The disobedient man shows that he really despises God and His authority. They say, we will not have this Man to reign over us (Luke 19:14). This displays the sinfulness of sin; it is often not only weakness, it is deep-seated rebellion against God.

C.  (:3) Speech Can Either Punish or Protect

In the mouth of the foolish is a rod for his back,

But the lips of the wise will preserve them.

Bruce Waltke: This proverb’s antithetical parallels contrast the punitive effects of the arrogant fool’s talk with the protection afforded by the speech of the wise.

Richard Clifford: A proud tongue does not offer protection, for haughtiness eventually gets one into trouble. The lips (= words) of the wise, on the other hand, protect them.

Matthew Henry: The proud man with his tongue lays about him and deals blows at pleasure, but it will in the end be a rod to himself; the proud man shall come under an ignominious correction by the words of his own mouth, not cut as a soldier, but caned as a servant; and herein he will be beaten with his own rod, Ps. 64:8.  A humble wise man saving himself and consulting his own good: The lips of the wise shall preserve them from doing that mischief to others which proud men do with their tongues, and from bringing that mischief on themselves which haughty scorners are often involved in.

Paul Koptac: The contrast between a fool’s “talk” (lit., “mouth”) and a wise person’s “lips” is linked to their rewards, punishment, or protection. The phrase translated “rod to his back” can also be rendered as “rod of pride.” Whereas the rod is the parent’s responsibility in 13:24, here it is the consequence of the fool’s choice.

Tremper Longman: While the speech of dupes leads to their downfall, the speech (here represented by lips) of the wise protects them. Through their verbal skill, the wise can keep themselves out of trouble.


Where no oxen are, the manger is clean,

But much increase comes by the strength of the ox.

Richard Clifford: Benefits have a cost. You don’t get something for nothing.

David Guzik: Those who insist that there never be mess or disorder will miss the increase that comes from good things that can be a bit messy.

Ernest Lucas: the meaning of the proverb then seems to be, ‘although the farmer can save himself work or expense by not keeping oxen, that is a false economy’. . .   the proverb’s message can be applied beyond the application to farming.

Paul Koptak: It is clearly better to have an ox in order to increase harvest, even if it requires some investment in feed. Today, we would speak of operating expenses and the fact that one must spend money to make money. The metaphor also speaks a word of humility, for as one needs the help of the ox to produce a harvest, so one needs the help of wisdom to succeed in life.

Lindsay Wilson: A cameo of folly is contrasted with the consequences of wisdom. While keeping a clean manger (a stone feeding trough for animals) seems a desirable goal, if it comes as a result of having no working animals, then it is as futile as a hospital with no patients or a school without pupils.  There is no productivity or output – it is neat but fruitless. However, having oxen, and using them to plough the fields, will result in the life-giving consequence of abundant crops.

Tremper Longman: A productive life is messy. One desires a neat and tidy life, just as the ideal stall would be clean. However, a clean stall by the nature of things would mean an empty stall since oxen do not have to be in a stall long before it is messy. However, without oxen there is no productivity. After all, as colon 2 points out, crops do not appear magically out of thin air but rather as a result of much work.



A faithful witness will not lie,

But a false witness speaks lies.

Bruce Waltke: A judge can discriminate between true and false testimonies by discerning the character of the witnesses (see 12:17). A good tree brings forth good fruit and the bad tree bad (Matt. 7:17–18; 12:33–35).

Paul Koptak: The false witness is (lit.) a “lie breather” or one who “breathes out lies” (cf. 14:25; also 6:19; 12:17; 19:5, 9). The false witness is like a club or sharp arrow (25:18); in a legal setting, that person will do great harm.

Charles Bridges: A truthful witness is moved neither by entreaties nor bribes, neither by promises nor threats to swerve from truth.  He is a man to trust.  He will not lie.  But a false witness has lost all principles about truth.  He will tell lies without any provocation, so long as they are to his advantage.  You should run away from such people.


A.  (:6) Connection between Character and Learning –

Make Sure You Are Teachable

A scoffer seeks wisdom, and finds none,

But knowledge is easy to him who has understanding.

Tremper Longman: This proverb therefore teaches that one’s ability to learn wisdom is related to one’s predisposition.

Matthew Henry: The reason why some people seek wisdom, and do not find it, is because they do not seek it from a right principle and in a right manner. They are scorners, and it is in scorn that they ask instruction, that they may ridicule what is told them and may cavil at it. Many put questions to Christ, tempting him, and that they might have whereof to accuse him, but they were never the wiser. No marvel if those who seek wisdom, as Simon Magus sought the gifts of the Holy Ghost, to serve their pride and covetousness, do not find it, for they seek amiss. Herod desired to see a miracle, but he was a scorner, and therefore it was denied him, Lu. 23:8.

Ernest Lucas: For Whybray the point of v. 6 is ‘that wisdom is not a commodity which anyone may acquire whenever he feels the need for it: it only comes to those who by their way of life have disposed themselves to receive it’. Since the scoffer is arrogant (21:24) and refuses to accept rebuke (15:12) he is unteachable. Those with understanding are in a position to gain more wisdom (1:5).

Allen Ross: The scorner is intellectually arrogant; he lacks any serious interest in knowledge or religion. One can only guess that he pursues wisdom in a superficial way so that he might have the appearance of being wise. Plaut, 159, offers one application: those who want to read and learn will not be heard saying, “I have no time to read”; that statement is made only by those wishing to inflate their egos.

B.  (:7) Connection between Associations and Learning –

Stay Away from a Fool

Leave the presence of a fool,

Or you will not discern words of knowledge.

Bruce Waltke: Go is an urgent imperative. For you will not have known lips (speech) of knowledge. The proverb uses litotes. Far from experiencing wisdom, what one will get is an abundance of folly (cf. 17:10; 22:24–25; 23:20; 28:7; 1 Cor. 15:33; 2 Cor. 6:17; 1 Tim. 6:4–5).

Richard Clifford: If the text is sound, there may be a wordplay on the front of a fool, whose face (lit., “front”) and lips are dangerous. Leave the face of a fool, for only folly is there. The Hebrew words for “face” and “front” are parallel in Ps. 44:16.

Paul Koptak: Once again, the proverbs recognize that the company one keeps will have its influence. Taken together, one can learn better alone than with the help of a fool.

Tremper Longman: In 13:20 we learn that those who associate with fools will become foolish themselves, and those who associate with wise people will be wise. This verse may be understood as an admonition based on the observation found in 13:20. The idea is that one who searches for knowledge will not find it with a foolish person, so don’t associate with such a one.

Caleb Nelson: The sage tells us to stay away from a fool because what the fool has to say will not be knowledge. Remember, the philosophers define knowledge as “true, justified belief.” The fool is more than ready to tell you about his beliefs, but they are neither true nor justified. After all, he’s a fool who foolishly believes falsehoods on pitifully slender evidence.