Read the Passage: Proverbs 4
Listen to The Redeemed Mind Podcast: Proverbs 4
Heritage of Wisdom (4:1–13)
Thus far in the book of Proverbs, Solomon has used the term “son” nine times, “father” two times, and “mother” one time. Furthermore, he has referred to wisdom’s benefit of “life” or a “long life” six times. Clearly, there is a sense in which wisdom ought to be passed down with families, even within the family of God “from faith to faith” (Rom. 1:17). In this passage, as he addresses his own children, it is interesting to note that Solomon refers to his teachings about wisdom as being a doctrine or a law (cf. Prov. 4:2). In Prov. 4:3–9 Solomon refers to his father, David, and to his mother, Bathsheba, although not by name. Here Solomon notes that he had received his teachings about wisdom from David, as Solomon even quotes him at Prov. 4:4b–9. In this passage Solomon notes the enduring power of wisdom as he writes of its ability to give life, to preserve, to promote, and to give honor and glory.
In Prov. 4:5 Solomon had instructed his children to “Get wisdom!” Here in Prov. 4:10–13 Solomon instructs his son to hold on to the wisdom he’d gained. As we have noted in an earlier study, Scripture teaches that Solomon was the wisest man ever to live (cf. 1 Kings 3:9–12; 4:29–34; 2 Chron. 1:8–12). Yet, he lost his wisdom and he was led astray by immoral women (cf. 1 Ki. 11:1–13). It would be interesting to know if Solomon wrote these words about holding on to wisdom before or after his own fall. While Solomon doubtlessly had dozens of children, Scripture only names three children: one son named Rehoboam (cf. 1 Ki. 11:43) and two daughters named Taphath and Basemath (1 Ki. 4:11, 15). In is noteworthy that none of Solomon’s children—named or otherwise—are noted in Scripture as being wise. In fact, his son Rehoboam is described as acting particularly foolishly.
Rejection of Wisdom (4:14–19)
For the first time since discussing the foolishness of shunning wisdom in Prov. 1:10–19, 24–33, Solomon returns to a description of those who reject wisdom in Prov. 4:14–19. In this passage, as he writes about the path of foolishness, Solomon instructs his children, saying do not enter it, do not walk on it, do not travel on it, and turn away from it. The progressive nature of Solomon’s instructions is very similar to James’ later teaching at Jas. 1:13–15. Earlier, at Prov. 3:24, Solomon had noted that the wise man “will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.” Yet, in contrast, for fools who reject wisdom, Solomon observes, “They do not sleep unless they have done evil, and their sleep is taken away unless they make someone fall” (Prov. 4:16). Using imagery employed elsewhere in Scripture, at Prov. 4:18–18 Solomon notes that the wise are like the shining sun, and fools are in darkness.
Proximity of Wisdom (4:20–27)
Several observations can be made about Solomon’s teachings concerning wisdom in the first few chapters of the book of Proverbs. First, the blessings and benefits of gaining wisdom are fantastic. Indeed, all the things that mankind desires in life can be gained by becoming wise. Second, wisdom is available for all mankind to attain. As Solomon has taught, wisdom calls out to all people and is freely given to those who ask for it. Third, believers are prone to forget wisdom and/or not to recognize its value. Therefore, there are repeated exhortations to pursue wisdom in this volume. In Prov. 4:20–22 Solomon exhorts his readers to focus their attention on wisdom, to incline their ears towards wisdom, to set their eyes upon wisdom, and to keep wisdom within their heart. Such a perspective on wisdom, writes Solomon, will bring both health and life to the body.
In Prov. 4:23 Solomon encourages his readers, “Keep your heart with all diligence.” In the modern context we think of the heart as being the seat of one’s emotions; yet, in the biblical world, the heart was usually viewed as the center of one’s intellect. Sometimes in Scripture the heart refers to the entire inner man, including the intellect, the emotions, and the will. That seems to be the case in this passage, as here Solomon writes that out of the heart “spring the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23). In a similar manner to Prov. 4:14–19, as he concludes this chapter, Solomon gives advice on how to avoid foolishness in Prov. 4:24–27. In these verses Solomon writes do not listen to deceitful and perverse lips, focus your eyes upon the path of wisdom and avoid distractions, consider your way and walk carefully, and don’t leave the correct path by engaging in evil. Such is the way of the wise Christian.
- Why does Solomon keep repeating the benefits of wisdom in the opening chapters of Proverbs? Are you prone to forget certain biblical teachings?
- Did your parents teach you biblical wisdom? Are believers with non-Christian parents at a disadvantage compared to those with Christian parents?
- When teaching children, what is more important: the words of our mouths or the actions of our lives?
- Why are the wise sometimes tempted to go down the path of foolishness? Do all believers eventually become wise? Are all non-believers fools?
- Do you consider yourself to be a wise Christian? What areas of your life display biblical wisdom?