Value of Wisdom – Proverbs 2

Read the Passage: Proverbs 2

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Availability of Wisdom (2:1–9)

In Prov. 1:20–23 Solomon had described the availability of wisdom. All throughout this book Solomon will personify wisdom as a herald calling out to mankind (cf. Prov. 8:1; 9:3). Clearly, wisdom is available to anyone who desires it (cf. Jas. 1:5). Yet, knowledge of the availability of wisdom is of little value if those who lack wisdom do not desire it. As he does often in this book, in Prov. 2:1–5 Solomon appeals to the context of a father teaching a son. Note the term “son” appears 45 times in this book, the term “father” is used 22 times, and the term “mother” appears 13 times. As he extols wisdom in Prov. 2:1–4, Solomon uses eight verbs—namely, “receive . . . treasure . . . incline . . . apply . . . cry out . . . lift up . . . seek . . . search.” Each of these verbs communicates the actions of one who truly values wisdom, understanding, discernment, and knowledge.

Earlier, in Prov. 1:7, Solomon taught that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (cf. Prov. 9:10; 15:33). For the first time in this book, at Prov. 2:6 Solomon discloses that it is actually the Lord who gives wisdom. Thus, wisdom is not a character trait that automatically appears when one reveres God. Rather, it is an attribute that is divinely bestowed by God upon those who fear Him. Observe that not only does wisdom come from God, but also, “He stores up sound wisdom for the upright” (Prov. 2:7). The idea here is that God has a supply of wisdom that He is waiting and willing to dole out to the righteous. Moreover, the attainment of wisdom by the upright will serve as a shield and a guard to preserve them from harm. Note that the terms “paths” (Prov. 2:8–9) and “way” (Prov. 2:9) that Solomon uses here communicate the idea of an entire life trajectory.

Effect of Wisdom (2:10–15)

Throughout this book, the terms wisdom, knowledge, understanding, discernment, and discretion are used more-or-less interchangeably. While wisdom is arguably the source of these other traits, since they accompany each other, they are often used in parallel. In Prov. 2:10–12 Solomon notes that when these attributes rest within one’s heart and soul, they will preserve, keep, and deliver one from fools and from those who are evil. Then, in Prov. 2:12–15, Solomon digresses as he describes evil men. He notes that the wicked speak perverse things, they leave the paths of righteousness, they walk in darkness, they rejoice in doing evil, they delight in perversity, their ways are crooked, and their paths are devious. These traits are each alarming in themselves; however, Christians need not fear, for God will deliver believers from evil men through wisdom.

Protection of Wisdom (2:16–22)

In Prov. 2:10–15, Solomon describes the protection wisdom affords one from an evil man. Following this, in Prov. 2:16–22 Solomon narrates the protection wisdom provides from immoral women. This is an interesting passage, for Solomon himself was led astray by immoral women (cf. 1 Ki. 11:1–13). It would be interesting to know if Solomon wrote these words before or after being corrupted by foreign women. In any event, Solomon begins this passage by noting that wisdom will “deliver you from the immoral woman” (Prov. 2:16). Yet, rather than detailing the protection afforded by wisdom, in Prov. 2:17–22 Solomon gives many details about immoral women. As he contrasts wisdom and folly throughout the book of Proverbs, Solomon will oftentimes personify folly as an immoral woman, a harlot, or a seductress (cf. Prov. 5:1–23; 6:20–29; 7:1–27; 22:14; 23:27).

In his personification of folly as an immoral woman, Solomon describes her as speaking with flattering words, betraying her husband, and forsaking God. The covenant referred to in Prov. 2:17 is the marriage covenant of Gen. 2:24 and Mal. 2:14. Solomon describes the results of being led astray by foolishness as being irreversible and leading to death. Of course, forgiveness is always available for those who sin, but oftentimes mankind experiences lifelong consequences of forgiven sins. Prov. 2:20–22 may be confusing, for here we read that the righteous will dwell in the Promised Land and the wicked will be cut off from the earth. Yet, in practice we observe that oftentimes it is the righteous who are cut off from the earth and it is the wicked who prosper. Yet, like the author of Psalm 73, we need to take a longer and wider-angle view before we reach such conclusions (cf. Job 21, 24).

Application Questions:

  1. Since you have become a Christian, have you spent much time purposely pursing wisdom? Why or why not? Are all believers wise (cf. Job 32:9)?
  2. In accord with what Solomon recommends in Prov. 2:3, have you ever cried out in prayer for discernment or for understanding?
  3. While wisdom has many benefits, and believers ought to pursue it, are there any drawbacks to possessing wisdom (cf. Eccl. 1:18)?
  4. Do you know anyone, or have you known individuals in the past, whose lives are characterized by the traits of evil Solomon lists in Prov. 2:12–15?
  5. Given Solomon’s own wisdom, and awareness of the perils of immorality, why do you believe he was led astray by women (cf. 1 Ki. 11:1–13)?

Published by

David W. Jones

David W. Jones is a professor and author working in the field of Christian Ethics. You can following him on Twitter @ethicist.