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Steve Zeisler: . . .a series of lessons that a father is teaching his son. A godly father is with his young son, an early adolescent, we can well imagine, and with his arm around him, is talking to him about life. . .

Now this is clearly a son who is just beginning to face adult realities and to become responsible for himself. The sayings and commandments are offered as new, wisdom’s treasures yet to be discovered.

Paul Koptak: As was common in the ancient Near East, each section of teaching has a predictable pattern or form. An address (“My son”) is followed by a charge or condition (“if you accept my words”), which is followed in turn by a series of motivations or rewards (“then you will understand the fear of the LORD”). Often there is also a mention of final outcomes.

The six subsections of chapter 2 form an extended conditional statement, the protasis (“if”) of verses 1–4 followed by five apodoses: “then” in verses 5–8, 9–11, “in order to” in verses 12–14, 16–19, and 20–22.  Interestingly, the first three of these six sections begin with the letter aleph (“A,” vv. 4, 5, 9) and the last three begin with the letter lamed (“L,” vv. 12, 16, 20). Readers should note that lamed, the first letter of the second half of the Hebrew alphabet, is used in the second half of the poem.  Based on these clues we can suggest the following outline:

Aleph stanza (2:1–4), “If you” (three times, vv. 1, 3, 4)

Aleph stanza (2:5–8), “Then you will understand” (“guard,” v. 8)

Aleph stanza (2:9–11), “Then you will understand” (“protect,” v. 11)

Lamed stanza (2:12–15), “to be saved” from evil men

Lamed stanza (2:16–19), “to be saved” from the adulteress

Lamed stanza (2:20–22), “in order to walk” safe in the land

This outline helps us observe the repetition of terms for understanding and protection, the dominant themes of the passage.

John Miller: The poem has twenty-two verses (the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet). These verses are in two parts of eleven verses each.

  • Part 1 (2:1-11) starts with three clauses beginning with if (2:1, 3, 4), followed by two clauses beginning with then (2:5, 9). The if clauses state in general what benefits will accrue to a son who heeds his father’s commandments.
  • Part 2 (2:12-22) identifies two more specific benefits of being wise in this sense (2:12-19) and concludes with a statement about the contrasting fates of upright and wicked (2:20-22).

Charles Bridges: Wisdom, having solemnly warned rebellious scoffers, now instructs her obedient children.  The deep question previously asked, “Where can wisdom be found?” is now answered.  It is set before us here as the fear of the Lord (verse 5).  It is seen as the principle of practical godliness (verses 7-9), as preserving us from besetting temptations (verses 10-19), and as a guide into the right and safe path (verse 20).  So its pupils are safe (verse 21), but the ungodly who despise it will definitely be ruined (verse 22).

David Hubbard: Wisdom is nothing less than the key to survival. Israel’s teachers looked out on a world fraught with menace and proclaimed wisdom as the savior. To deliver or rescue is its chief mission (vv. 12, 16). The means given by God to achieve this salvation are described in military nouns and verbs: “shield” (v. 7), “guards” (v. 8) or “keeps” (v. 11; the two Hebrew words are the same), and “preserves” (vv. 8, 11). Wisdom’s value is noted in passing as part of the encouragement to seek it (v. 4), but it is its effective protectiveness that dominates the chapter.

The structure of this speech is further testimony to its compactness and unity. It is also a window to the ways in which the teachers combined argument and illustration to bundle and cinch their lessons.

Argument 2:1–9

condition 2:1–4

result 2:5

reason 2:6–9

Illustrations 2:10–20

men of perverse speech 2:10–15

women of loose sexuality 2:16–20

Antithetic conclusion 2:21–22

positive 2:21

negative 2:22

Lindsay Wilson: The flow of thought in this chapter is that wisdom linked with the fear of the Lord will lead to a shaped character which will be the means God uses to protect people. Thus, it is this shaped character that will preserve a person from evil men (vv. 12–15) and the strange woman (vv. 16–19). These are both manifestations of folly. The evil men have already been seen to have this role (1:8–19), and in chapters 5-7 the loose/strange woman will have this task as well.

Max Anders: MAIN IDEA: Wisdom can be found, if a person searches for it diligently enough, and once found, it will save a person from disaster and lead to satisfaction.

SUPPORTING IDEA: If you dedicate yourself to an intense search for wisdom, you will find it. And with the wisdom, you will find God. You will be protected from violent men or seductive women who would otherwise entice you to disaster. You will be able to choose the right paths because you know where each path ends.


A.  (:1-4) The Pursuit of Wisdom

Allen Ross: The teacher again makes the appeal: To attain wisdom requires constant meditation and rigid discipline. Charles T. Fritsch (IB, 4:793) refers to it as a receptive spirit and an ardent search.

The requirement of meditation begins with receiving the teaching. “Accept” is paralleled with “store up” (v.1), and “words” is paralleled with “commands,” thus showing intensification from the first colon to the second. The figure “store up” implies that most teaching cannot be used immediately but that some time will pass before education’s effects are felt (Plaut, 43). In the meantime the teachings will develop in their pupils attitudes that will influence their actions at some time in the future.

Such a perspective calls for patience by the students—patience that makes both heart and mind attentive. The ear is the instrument of hearing obediently, and the heart the focus of the mental process of learning and understanding. The figures (metonymies) describe a responsive and obedient person, with “ear” and “heart” (v.2) representing the mental faculties.

Max Anders: Now in chapter 2, he extols the wonderful blessings that wisdom brings. In 2:1-4, Solomon lists three conditions, each beginning with the word if (vv. 1, 3, 4).

  • First, one must choose attentiveness (2:1-2).
  • The second condition for gaining wisdom is to ask for it (2:3).
  • A third step in gaining wisdom is to commit oneself to a determined search for it (:4).

Roland Murphy: The intensity of the appeal matches the intensity of the speeches of Moses in Deuteronomy.

  1. (:1-2)  By Dedication to Hearing and Obeying

My son, if you will receive my sayings,

And treasure my commandments within you,

2 Make your ear attentive to wisdom,

Incline your heart to understanding;

  1. (:3)  By Desiring Wisdom’s Fruit

a.  Discernment

For if you cry for discernment,

Ray Ortlund: Your most meaningful prayer is to “call for insight” and “raise your voice for understanding” (v. 3).  The whole passage is meant to position us in that place of blessing and protection.  We need it.  A tsumani of sin is slamming us in our world today.  And all of us are suffering under it.  Sometimes that suffering is our own fault, because we have been complacent and unguarded.  Other times that suffering is precisely because we have stayed true to the Lord.

b.  Understanding

Lift your voice for understanding;

  1. (:4)  By Diligently and Urgently Searching Her Priceless Value

If you seek her as silver,

And search for her as for hidden treasures;

Warren Wiersbe: People are willing to work diligently in their jobs because they know they’ll earn a paycheck, but what about applying themselves diligently to God’s Word in order to gain spiritual riches that are more valuable than gold and silver and jewels, riches that will last forever? (See 2:4; 3:13–15; 8:10–21; 16:16.) There’s a price to pay if we would gain spiritual wisdom, but there’s an even greater price to pay if we don’t gain it. We must walk with God through the study of His Word.

B.  (:5) The Prize

  1. Reverence — Discerning the Fear of the Lord — Awe

Then you will discern the fear of the LORD,

George Mylne: The fear of the Lord, and the sound knowledge of God, are inseparably connected. The fear of God is not a blind and tormenting passion of the soul but a holy and delightful grace, founded in true apprehensions of the solemn and lovely glories of the divine nature and disposing him who possesses it, to walk with God. The knowledge of God regulates this fear, and preserves it from sinking into terror, or degenerating into superstition but guides it to express its power in checking and subduing every corrupt affection, and animating the soul to every instance of obedience.

2.  Relationship — Discovering the Knowledge of God Himself — Intimacy

And discover the knowledge of God.

Jonathan Akin: There is a reciprocal cycle laid out here in Proverbs 2. Seek Wisdom, and you will find God. Find God, and you will gain wisdom. A right relationship with God will make you wise. Knowledge implies an intimate relationship. This happens by faith. Oftentimes allegiance precedes understanding.

Derek Kidner: With these two phrases (the fear of the Lord . . .  the knowledge of God) verse 5 encompasses the two classic Old Testament terms for true religion – the poles of awe and intimacy.


A.  (:6a) The Root of This Gift of Wisdom

For the Lord grants wisdom!”

Derek Kidner: What you find, then (vs. 5), is what He gives (vs. 6); discovery and revelation are inseparable.

David Atkinson: With our minds we can come to understand something of God’s wisdom, but we need to search for it. When we do, we discover that wisdom is God’s precious gift. God is the source of all wisdom; all knowledge comes from God. It is when human beings live in tune with the ways of God that the precious gift of humanity itself is safeguarded and protected.

Roland Murphy: Most important is the emphasis on wisdom as a gift of God. This is somewhat paradoxical. On the one hand, the teacher speaks as if everything depends upon the listening and obedience of the youth. On the other hand, wisdom is a divine gift. Her origin is described as from the mouth of the Lord, an anticipation of Sir 24:3; cf. Prov 8:22–24. As things develop, it will be seen that there is divine mystery lurking behind the security and the certainty of wisdom teaching. One must strive for the goal, but also realize that wisdom remains a divine gift. Ultimately we have a picture of the acquisition of wisdom by means of human industry and divine aid and generosity.

B.  (:6b-7) The Riches of This Gift of Wisdom

  1. (:6b)  Knowledge and Understanding

From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.

  1. (:7a)  Good Sense

He stores up sound wisdom

C.  (:7c-8) The Recipients of This Gift of Wisdom

  1. To the Upright

for the upright;

  1. To Those Walking in Integrity

to those who walk in integrity,

  1. To His Godly Ones

of His godly ones

D.  (:8-9) The Resources of This Gift of Wisdom

  1. Protection

He is their shield,

Guarding the paths of justice,

And He preserves the way

W. A. Rees Jones: God watches over the path His people take, both to protect them in it and to keep them in the right way.

  1. Discernment

“Then you will discern righteousness

and justice

and equity

and every good course.

E.  (:10-11) The Radiance of This Gift of Wisdom

  1. Residing at the Core of Your Being

For wisdom will enter your heart,

  1. Resonating Throughout Your Entire Person with Joy

And knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;

  1. Restraining Evil Temptations and Attacks

Discretion will guard you,

Understanding will watch over you,


A.  (:12-15) Temptation of Depraved Companions

  1. (:12)  Depraved Companions Traffic in Perversity

To deliver you from the way of evil,

From the man who speaks perverse things;

Ray Ortlund: “Perverted speech” is not limited to bad words and dirty jokes.  It includes even good words, but good words being used to turn things upside down.  Upheaval, turning things upside down and inside out – that is the force of the Hebrew behind the word “perverted.”

Jonathan Akin: Like Satan in the garden, these men distort reality and try to get you to follow the distortion. They seduce you. That’s what it means to speak perversely. Perverse speech distorts ultimate reality. The people who are saying this may genuinely believe that what they are saying is right and true and helpful, but it goes against the created order. Their words go against the way things really work.

  1. (:13)  Depraved Companions Reject Righteousness for Darkness

From those who leave the paths of uprightness,

To walk in the ways of darkness;

  1. (:14)  Depraved Companions Delight in Doing Evil

Who delight in doing evil,

And rejoice in the perversity of evil;

  1. (:15)  Depraved Companions Trick You into a Destructive Lifestyle

Whose paths are crooked,

And who are devious in their ways;

Derek Kidner: The process is that wisdom and knowledge, when they become your own way of thinking, and your acquired taste (10), will make the talk and interests of evil men alien to you (12-15).

Allen Ross: Verses 13–15 describe the purpose, pleasure, and perverted paths of those who are wicked. Their purpose is to walk in the ways of darkness (v.13); they abandon the straight way to follow an evil way that can only be described as “dark.” Darkness is often metaphorical for sinfulness, ignorance, or oppression. Their way is uncertain, devoid of ethical illumination (see 4:18; Ecc 2:13).

B.  (:16-19) Temptation of Seductive Prostitutes

Allen Ross: The second class of evil persons from whom wisdom delivers is the licentious woman. Her seductive voice joins the appeal from the disloyal men but with a different result; whereas the evil man brings pain and perversion, the evil woman brings moral ruin through a more subtle temptation. Prostitutes and adulteresses existed in Israel from the earliest times (Jdg 11:1; 1Ki 3:16; Hos 3:1; notice also laws against adultery in Ex 20:14; Lev 20:10). In this passage the licentious woman is first described (vv.16–17); then her ruin and that of those who submit to her are presented as a warning (vv.18–19).

David Hubbard: “Immoral woman” and “seductress” (v. 16) are appropriate translations of terms that suggest “foreignness.” Their point is not so much that the woman comes from a strange land and resides in Israel as an ethnic alien. Rather, she is a spiritual and social outsider because she has deliberately chosen to violate the covenant mores of her people. She violates the law as she “forsakes” and abandons her husband (“companion of her youth”), and even worse she “forgets,” that is, deliberately fails to obey (see Hos. 2:13, for a similar use of “forget”) her marriage vows made before God and in His name as a “covenant” (the only instance of the term in Proverbs) to which God is party (see Mal. 2:14, for a kindred expression). The ugliness of her actions stands in sharp contrast to the attractiveness of her seductive techniques: she “flatters [lit., “says smooth and pleasing things”] with her words.”

  1. (:16)  Seducing Solicitations and Flattery

To deliver you from the strange woman,

From the adulteress who flatters with her words;

Jonathan Akin: How does this woman work? She flatters with her words. This is perhaps shocking to some. Most of us think of unfaithfulness as starting with looks, but that’s not the case in Proverbs. Adultery and sexual sin start with flattery. One of the top needs that men have is respect and admiration; so if a woman inflates the male ego, he will usually respond. They are suckers for flattery. This may start in a subtle way that the man doesn’t recognize as unwise. His coworker might lend a sympathetic ear, or she may laugh at his jokes. He may think of their conversations as just “harmless flirting.” Or perhaps he justifies his flirtation with, “I’m not happy at home.” Before long, he starts to look forward to work events that she will be at, or he begins to send secret messages to her on Facebook. Before he knows it he’s cheating on his wife, and it all started with what many looking on would justify as “harmless conversation.”

Warren Wiersbe: Someone has said that flattery isn’t communication, it is manipulation; it’s people telling us things about ourselves that we enjoy hearing and wish were true. The strange woman knows how to use flattery successfully. She has no respect for God because she breaks His law (Ex. 20:14); she has no respect for her husband because she violates the promises she made to him when she married him. She no longer has a guide or a friend in the Lord or in her husband because she has taken the path of sin. Anyone who listens to her words and follows her path is heading for the cemetery.

  1. (:17)  Shameful Unfaithfulness

That leaves the companion of her youth,

And forgets the covenant of her God;

Paul Koptak: While this use of the term “covenant” (the only one in Proverbs) refers to the covenant of marriage and not the covenant God made with Israel, one cannot help but remember that when Israel broke its covenant with God, the prophets likened Israel to an unfaithful wife (Jer. 3:6; Hos. 2:1–13). The abandonment of marriage became a symbol for faithlessness of all kinds.  Unlike 2 Kings 17:35–38, the use of “covenant” here does not mention other gods, but in abandoning the covenant of marriage, this Israelite woman has in effect also severed covenant relationship with God.

  1. (:18)  Stinking Sinkhole Leading to Death

For her house sinks down to death,

And her tracks lead to the dead;

  1. Shattered Lives with No Hope of Recovery

None who go to her return again,

Nor do they reach the paths of life.

  1. Solitary Way of Escape

Only wisdom from the Lord can save a man.

Illustration: some things can be glued back together and they are almost as good as new; remember the time Jenny was given a porcelain doll for her 5 year old birthday.  Went outside to play; dropped it and it shattered; no putting that back together.

Charles Bridges: Take care, young people.  Do not imagine, even for one minute, that God will turn a blind eye on your sinful desires or that he will excuse them as the foibles of youth.  Such ropes of sin will bind you for eternity if they are not broken by the power of God’s grace.  Shun the company of evil people as you would avoid the plague.  Keep your distance from them as you would from the pit of destruction.  Fill your mind with heavenly wisdom.  Cultivate the taste for purer pleasures.


A.  (:20-21) The Godly Path Leads to a Life of Fulfillment

  1. (:20)  Godly Path

“So you will walk in the way of good men,

And keep to the paths of the righteous.

  1. (:21)  Life of Fulfillment

For the upright will live in the land,

And the blameless will remain in it;

Allen Ross: The passage ends on the more positive note that wisdom will enable people to do what is right and to enjoy God’s blessing. Once again the promise of blessing is for good people, the righteous, the upright, and the blameless—the same terms used earlier for those who follow the path of wisdom. Here the text brings in the Deuteronomic emphasis on the land, God’s supreme gift being the fulfillment of the promises. The reference to the land could refer to the land of Israel or the whole earth—perhaps even the world to come. The upright will enjoy security and prosperity in it, but the wicked will be rooted out in divine judgment.

B.  (:22) The Evil Path Leads to a Life of Futility

But the wicked will be cut off from the land,

And the treacherous will be uprooted from it.

Max Anders: A person who pursues wisdom can escape this fate by staying on the right path. Like the conclusion of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 7:13-27), the final verses depict the fate that waits at the end of each path. The upright or blameless will remain in the land, but the wicked will be cut off or removed from the land, like a tree that is cut down, dug out by the roots, and hauled off. “Land” (Heb. eretz; also translated “earth” in Gen. 1:1) looks back to the covenant of Deuteronomy 28 where the Lord warned that Israel would be expelled from the promised land if they failed to remain faithful to him.

David Hubbard: Failure to heed wisdom’s call leads either to premature death or to a life so void of happiness as to be a living death in which none of the God-given blessings of the “earth” (v. 22) or “land,” (v. 21; the Hebrew word is the same both places) is available to lend any joy or meaning to life.