Proverbs 1-9: Exhortations and Warnings

The first 9 chapters of proverbs are basically an address to the audience by King Solomon. He warns us about the traits of the wise versus the unwise and gives us advice on how to find wisdom. Did you know Solomon personifies wisdom as a woman? That's pretty important when interpreting passages about women in these chapters.

Introduction

Photocredit: Unsplash.com/Rodion Kutsaev
The book of proverbs is introduced with the information that Solomon is the author and is providing this wisdom to help people gain understanding. Although Solomon frequently uses the phrase "my son," I think it can be assumed that he is referring to all people, not just his own son. There is much wisdom in these beautifully written proverbs. This post does not touch on every point made in these chapters but provides a brief overview.
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Fear of the Lord

Before Solomon starts feeding us wisdom, he defines it as fear of the Lord. We can only begin to understand wisdom when we fear the Lord. This is reaffirmed in the New Testament, in which we are told that wisdom comes from the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:12-14). We only have access to the Holy Spirit when we bow to Jesus and accept His leadership. Thus, we can't have wisdom until we acknowledge God as King of our life.
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.Proverbs 3:5 KJV

I quote this verse often. We like to rationalize our behavior, thoughts, and desire, often eschewing God's teaching in favor of our own beliefs. I don't know how many times I've been speaking with a fellow Christian and their arguments are littered with "I think" or "I believe" but devoid of "thus saith the Lord" (I'm probably guilty of this myself). Yet, God tells us not to base our decisions on our own understanding. Our understanding is faulty and limited. We need to tap into God's understanding to make wise choices. Solomon tells us we are not to refuse the instructions of wisdom, because whoever finds wisdom finds life.

Lady Wisdom

The personification of wisdom as a woman begins in Proverbs 1:20. It is easy to read Proverbs at random and think every text that references a woman is actually about a woman, however, it is important that we take the words in the context of the book as a whole. Solomon clearly defines wisdom as a "she," meaning in proverbs written by Solomon, we must consider whether a text about a woman is actually referencing a physical woman or a wisdom. Considering the Bible often uses a woman to symbolize the church, which has access to the Holy Spirit Who provides wisdom, it is not odd that wisdom is also personified as a woman.

Throughout the text, Solomon warns us about interacting with "strange women." Solomon tells us the woman is tempting and sweet like honey (Proverbs 5:3-4) and has forgotten the law (Proverbs 2:16-18). Strange women were women from other nations who often drove Israel into idolatry. They were likely very beautiful and perhaps very likable people. However, they didn't follow God's commands and by following them only bad things would come. It's a classic case of "all that glitters isn't gold." Although it is very possible that Solomon was warning us about forming close relationships with women (or men) that don't follow God, it seems unlikely. Why? Because Solomon had 700 wives, many of whom were from pagan nations. Granted this was his downfall and perhaps he was wise enough to see this, I doubt he would have authored proverbs condemning his own behavior.

Wisdom is a set of thoughts and ideas, gleaned from careful observation, experience, and other such guidance. While we generally thing of wisdom as one set of ideas, it is possible to have "strange wisdom." Strange wisdom would be ideas that are contrary to God's commands. These could also be sweet and tempting; the wrong thing often sounds fun and exciting. Since the wisdom is strange and contrary to God, it makes sense that it would be described as forgetting the law. Thus, the words could apply to either.

Wisdom is said to be more precious than rubies; later, in Proverbs 31, a virtuous woman is also said to be more precious than rubies.

In Proverbs 7, Solomon references a harlot, which again could be referencing a woman who has loose morals or a the act of betraying God with idol worship. In fact, the description of the harlot sounds a lot like the Whore of Babylon given in Revelation. They are both arrayed with fine linen and with jewels. She has carved works decorating her bed, which could be the idols. She seduces men to do what they please until the appointed day. Once again, this could be reference to a physical woman seducing men, or a pagan religions luring us away from God.

Keep the Commandments

Almost every chapter in proverbs establishes the need to keep God's commandments. The commandment to honor our mother and father is particularly highlighted. Regardless of our parent's beliefs, their age provides them with experience. As such, their advice should have a strong weight in our lives. Of course, in the context of Solomon and the Israelites, the Israelites were commanded to pass down the commandments of God (Deuteronomy 11:19). As such, parents should be telling their children the same things God told them. That makes it even more important to listen. Naturally, if your parents are instructing you to behave in an ungodly manner, neither Solomon nor God would expect you follow their instruction (Matthew 10:37). Solomon is simply telling us to stop and consider the words of our parents before recklessly following our own thoughts.

Solomon instructs us to hide the commandments within our hearts. Proverbs 7:3 says for us to bind the commandments to our finger—this represents our actions—and write them in our heart—this represents our intentions. The crux of the new covenant is the fact the commandments are written in our hearts! God has always wanted us to follow Him out of love. He doesn't want us methodically caring out his law; he wants us to feel the law in our heart. This makes us more likely to keep them because we want to, not because we have to.

The 10 commandments tell us that if we honor to our mother and father (as Solomon as already re-instructed us to do), our lives are prolonged. Solomon tells us that keeping the commandments in general will grant us a long life. Logically this makes sense. If we steal, kill, covet, lie and live recklessly, we increase the likelihood that we will die.

The Way of Sinners

Solomon warns us not to follow sinners; he calls them greedy and violent. It is easy to get swept up in the world when we are looking from the outside, but when we surround ourselves with people whose beliefs do not align with our own, if becomes even harder to remain steadfast in our commitment to God.

The more we sin, the more we close ourself to God. We close our ears to knowledge because we want to go our own way. Unfortunately, the more we continue to do this, the less likely we are to understand wisdom when it is presented to us. We must pray that we are open to God's wisdom so that we do not end up in this predicament!

Give to God

We are told that God should receive the first of everything. We are to acknowledge God first in all that we do and the first fruit of our labor is to go to God. This applies to so much more than money. Perhaps this means the best of your work should be given to those in need (remember Jesus said when you do for the least, you do for Him). May it means you use your skills to help build and strengthen the church.

Peace

Wisdom provides peace. When we behave foolishly, we make life hard for ourselves and stir up strife. The confusion and stress of these things make life unpleasant and chaotic. Along with this peace, we inherit rest. If we are following the commandments, which Solomon has already told us is a part of wisdom, we will be honoring the Sabbath and gaining rest. People who are not following God will not have these luxuries and they will not get sleep.

In the New Testament, Jesus tells us it's a sin to be angry with our brother without cause (Matthew 5:22). Solomon gives us similar instruction, warning us not to fight with people without just cause (Proverbs 3:30).

Laziness

Solomon tells us to consider the ways of the ant. Ants are one of the strongest animals known to us, and they're hardworking. Ants work together without ceasing, carrying burdens more than 5,000 their bodyweight,[1] just to preserve their community. Can you imagine if behaved that way concerning God's kingdom?

The 7 Abominations

We've all heard the "7 Deadly Sins:" pride, envy, greed, wrath, slothfulness, lust, and gluttony. Proverbs 6:16-19 gives us the a similar but slightly different list of 7 abominations to God. This is the list we should memorize.
  1. a proud look
  2. lying tongue
  3. hands that shed innocent blood
  4. a heart that devises wicked imaginations
  5. feet that be swift in running to mischief
  6. false witness
  7. he that sews discord among brethren

Traits of the Wise

Wise men have certain traits. Among them is the ability to refrain from violence and envy. We are often tempted to respond to our oppressors with violence or we desire what they have. We should not be modeling ourselves after those who do wrong and we shouldn't want anything they have. Not only is this fundamentally bizarre, often the reason they behave the way they do is because they aren't satisfied with their own life.

Wise men will take criticism and put it to good use. We understand that we are not perfect, that we can always be improved to become closer to God. However, those who do not trust in God do now have this wisdom; they are offended by criticism and will not correct their behavior.

Wisdom and the Beginning

In this passage, wisdom is being spoken of as being with God from the beginning. It is confusing; is wisdom being personified as Christ? Or an angel? The Holy Spirit? "those that love me and seek me early shall find me" why early?

Symbols?

There are many symbols that repeat in the Bible, but when we aren't explicitly told that something is a symbol, it's hard to know if the subject matter is literal or symbolic. In Proverbs 9:16-18, Solomon talks about bread and water. Both of these are used symbolically throughout the Bible. Water usually symbolizes rebirth, and bread symbolizes the Word or the substance that sustains life.[3][4] If thought of as symbols in this verse, the stolen water and secret bread of the wicked would be stolen life and secret wisdom.

Have you ever heard the phrase "we're living on borrowed time?" As sinners, this a very true statement. The moment we sinned, we deserved death. However, God gives us time to commune with Him and achieve salvation. If we spend our life carelessly and never seek out our Creator, we are wasting the time God has given us to make things right. Since we will fail to find salvation living this way, we can never repay Him, thus we have stolen a life.

As Solomon exemplifies, knowledge is not supposed to be secret. I'm always wary of ministries who want to sell you the truth about God. The way to eternal life is not secret; God wants everybody to know! It is only the wicked who keep secrets and collude with each other behind closed doors.

Also in Proverbs 9, Solomon reference the 7 pillars wisdom's house is set upon. Since wisdom is not a literal person, the house cannot be literal, and therefore its foundation is not literal. The number 7 implies perfection and completion; it appears with almost everything in God's Word. These 7 pillars must be principles that make up a strong foundation for wisdom. Some believe the 7 pillars are those listed in James 3:17.[2] The traits listed in James are as follows:
  1. pure
  2. peaceable
  3. gentle
  4. easy to be intreated
  5. full of mercy and good fruits
  6. without partiality
  7. without hypocrisy
Another proverb that deals with symbolism is that of Proverbs 5:15. We are told to drink from our own well. The symbolism of the water is given throughout chapter 5. The chapter deals with adultery and the destruction that follows it. Solomon is telling us to be pleased and satisfied with our own spouse (the water from our own well). The instruction not to go out sampling other waters is a reiteration of not committing adultery.[5]

References

  1. James A. Foley. "Ants Can Support 5,000 Times Their Body Weight Before Losing Their Heads. Nature World News. February 10, 2014
  2. Henry M. Morris, Ph.D. "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Institute for Creation Research; visited July 2017
  3. "Water". Bible Study Tools; visited July 2017
  4. "Bread". Bible Study Tools; visited July 2017
  5. William MacDonald. Believers Bible Commentary, pg. 804-805. 1995

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Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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