Search Bible Outlines and commentaries

Paul Koptak: The shift from individual sayings to the address of a teacher in 22:17 tells us that we have entered a new section of the book, one that spans 22:17 – 24:22. We set this section apart here because

(1)  there is a new title, “the sayings of the wise” (22:17);

(2)  the style returns to the instruction-like writing we encountered in chapters 1–9; and

(3)  a generation of biblical scholarship has drawn comparisons between 22:17 – 23:11 and the Egyptian Instruction of Amenemope, noting similarities and differences in form and content.

Lindsay Wilson: Within these words of the wise, there are three subsections after the introduction in 22:17–21: 22:22 – 23:11; 23:12–35; and 24:1–22. Clifford (1999: 199) proposes that the first part is addressed ‘to young people ambitioning a career’, while the second deals with the concerns of youth, and the third covers the destinies of the righteous and the wicked.

John MacArthur: This introductory section offers an exhortation, reminiscent of 2:1-5; 5:1, 2, to be alert to hear and speak the wisdom of God.

Allen Ross: In the introductory call to attention, the sage urges greater trust in the Lord and promises solid teachings that will prove reliable. This extended introduction reminds us that the wise sayings are not curiosity pieces; they are revelation, and revelation demands a response. The call is laid out with the exhortation to learn and pass on the teaching (v.17), followed by three motivations:

(1)  there will be a pleasing store of wisdom (v.18);

(2)  there will be deeper trust in the Lord—a distinctively Israelite aspect of wisdom literature (v.19); and

(3)  it will build reliability—he will grasp the truth (v.20) and see himself as a special envoy to keep wisdom in his heart and on his lips (v.21; Kidner, 149).

Tremper Longman: Proverbs 22:17–21 provides an introduction to the next main division of the book. The speaker exhorts hearers to listen to the “words of the wise” (22:17), comprising thirty (22:20) sayings (through 24:22) supplemented by additional sayings from the “wise” (24:23–34). Since early in the twentieth century, this portion of Proverbs has been regarded as having an interesting special relationship to ancient Egyptian literature, particularly the Instruction of Amenemope.

Caleb Nelson: Proposition: The thirty sayings of the wise teach us the wisdom of faith and truth.

I.  Introduction: A New Section of Proverbs

A.  Its Title: The Sayings of the Wise, v. 17

B.  Its Source

C.  Its Content: Thirty Sayings, v. 20

II.  The Command: Listen to the Words of the Wise, v. 17

III.  The Reason: It Will Be Pleasant, v. 18

IV.  The Goals

A.  The Central Goal: Your Personal Faith in Yahweh, v. 19

B.  Knowing Truth, v. 21a

C.  Returning an Accurate Report, v. 21b


A.  (:17) Exhortation to Learn Wisdom

Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise,

And apply your mind to my knowledge;

Caleb Nelson: Right off the bat we are told that this section and the next are not composed of proverbs by Solomon. Rather, these are proverbs that he gathered from elsewhere — that is, from “the wise”.

Paul Koptak: A prologue of sorts includes a call to attention and motivations for learning, much like the prologue of 1:1–7, yet this introduction is not as comprehensive as the preview to the entire book. Three imperatives make up the charge: “pay attention,” “listen” (lit., “turn your ear and hear”), and “apply your heart” (cf. 2:1–2), linking hearing with the seat of human intention and purpose. “Sayings of the wise” (cf. 1:6) is parallel with “what I teach” (lit., “my knowledge”), identifying this teacher as one of the wise or someone who teaches using words.

George Mylne: Solomon was well acquainted with the heart of man, and knowing how many would read or hear his excellent precepts without bestowing proper attention on them he rouses us by frequent calls for our most earnest heed to the things that are spoken. We must bow down our ears to hear him with attention, reverence, and humility. The words of the wise deserve this regard from us, for they are means of communicating their wisdom to us.

And if the words of wise men merit so much respect we can never attend too earnestly to the words of the only wise God. He made our ears and shall he not be heard by us? Our hearts must be applied, as well as our ears, to the knowledge contained in this book. We should labor . . .

  • to understand it with our minds,
  • to fix it in our judgments,
  • to impress it on our consciences,
  • to have it treasured up in our memories, that it may be constantly ready for our use.

B.  (:18) Motivation = Storehouse of Wisdom to Share with Others

For it will be pleasant if you keep them within you,

That they may be ready on your lips.

Tremper Longman: To guard them in your stomach is a picture of integrating them into the inmost part of a person’s being. The integration of the teacher’s wisdom is prerequisite to its use in the student’s own life. In other words, appropriation into students’ character is then followed by their own ability to express the wisdom.

Charles Bridges: Observe the attractiveness of wisdom.  It is both pleasing and profitable.  But worldly people do not understand how anything linked to religion can be pleasurable.  For such people, religion spoils all their pleasure.  But heart-religion always conveys vital happiness.  The fruit comes from the tree of life and is sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.

George Mylne: As the Word of God is pleasant to the relish of a saint, so its dwelling in the heart is attended with happy consequences, for it shall be uttered by the lips. The knowledge of truth will supply the lips with wisdom, and enable them to talk with discretion and judgment.


So that your trust may be in the LORD,

I have taught you today, even you.

Paul Koptak: Verse 19 warns that knowledge and wisdom are necessary for successful living, but they are not the source of one’s confidence; teaching is to inspire trust in Yahweh, integrating intellectual study and faith.

Tremper Longman: Verse 19 gives the theological motivation for the teaching of wisdom, the increase in trust in Yahweh. This gives the teacher the urgency to impart instruction to the pupil. It is not made explicit how the teaching will increase trust, and so we are left to speculate. Perhaps the idea is that as the advice works in life, then it breeds confidence in its ultimate author. Or perhaps it is calling on trust in Yahweh as the first step toward implementing the advice found here. As one practices trust by following the advice, which may direct one in a not so obvious way (for instance, to be generous in order to grow more wealthy [11:24]), then one grows in trust as the unexpected consequences come.

George Mylne: Confidence in God, is our shield against temptations, and the means of deriving from God through Christ, all the supplies of grace needful for our assistance and support in the ways of holiness. Everything said in this book, when it is duly considered, will contribute to strengthen our trust, as well as to direct our practice. That our trust in God may be encouraged, and our steps directed, we must read and hear this book with application to ourselves.


A.  (:20) Communication of God’s Excellent Nuggets of Wisdom

Have I not written to you excellent things

Of counsels and knowledge,

Matthew Henry: The worth and weight of the things themselves which Solomon in this book gives us the knowledge of.

They are not trivial things, for amusements and diversion, not jocular proverbs, to be repeated in sport and in order to pass away time. No; they are excellent things, which concern the glory of God, the holiness and happiness of our souls, the welfare of mankind and all communities; they are princely things (so the word is), fit for kings to speak and senates to hear; they are things that concern counsels and knowledge, that is, wise counsels, relating to the most important concerns; things which will not only make us knowing ourselves, but enable us to advise others.

The excellent things which God has written to us are not like the commands which the master gives his servant, which are all intended for the benefit of the master, but like those which the master gives his scholar, which are all intended for the benefit of the scholar. These things must be kept by us, for they are written to us,

That we may have a confidence in him and communion with him. That thy trust may be in the Lord, v. 19. We cannot trust in God except in the way of duty; we are therefore taught our duty, that we may have reason to trust in God. Nay, this is itself one great duty we are to learn, and a duty that is the foundation of all practical religion, to live a life of delight in God and dependence on him.

B.  (:21) Confirmation of God’s Truth so You Might Respond Appropriately

To make you know the certainty of the words of truth

That you may correctly answer to him who sent you?

Paul Koptak: We conclude that one function of these teachings is to prepare a young man for some sort of diplomatic service. One schooled in wisdom must be prepared to give an answer when representing a king or official, knowing what to say not only in terms of content but also in terms of style and speaking with eloquence that “is pleasing” (22:18). The two purposes (trust in Yahweh and skill in answering for [or to] a king or official) are complementary, not mutually exclusive.

Charles Bridges: Let us not forget that the great purpose of this revelation is that we may be sure about eternal things.  The Gospels themselves were written for this reason (Luke 1:1-4).  Our confidence in the sure foundations of the Christian faith should not be shaken.

Caleb Nelson: The final reason to listen is so that you can return an accurate report. The commentators say that this envisions a setting in the royal court. In that era before electronic communications, generally the best way to make sure a message got through was to send someone to take it. Upon the messenger’s return, then, he would be the most accurate source of knowledge about conditions in the location where he had taken the message. Thus, in this context, returning an accurate report became extremely important, because decisions of state were riding on the accuracy of your report.

Matthew Henry: That we may have a satisfaction in our own judgment: “That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mayest know what is truth, mayest plainly distinguish between it and falsehood, and mayest know upon what grounds thou receivest and believest the truths of God.”

George Mylne: A scriptural knowledge will preserve us from being like children, tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine of which we are in constant danger while we are unacquainted with the Scripture, although we had the knowledge of every truth in our religion, by instruction from men. But there is still another great advantage arising from a serious regard to this book. By establishing our minds in the truth, it will enable us to satisfy others that send to us for information about the principles of truth and duty. Men were not born for themselves only, we are members one of another, and ought to consult the good of the body, and of other members of it besides ourselves. As men, when they perform the duties of their callings, are useful members of civil society so if we live as befits saints, and seek after the knowledge of the truth, we will be useful members of the church of Christ, ready to give an answer to everyone who asks us a reason of our faith and hope, to instruct the ignorant, to satisfy the doubts of the scrupulous, and to fix those who waver. Such are the pleasures and advantages to be found in the book of God, and in the Book of Proverbs in particular.