Proverbs 2 – The Protective Power of Wisdom
Proverbs 2 is a unit to itself. “The ‘alphabetic’ poem is a single sentence consisting of 22 verses, matching the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet, probably to suggest its completeness.” (Bruce Waltke)
A. God’s gift of wisdom.
1. (1-5) The search for wisdom.
My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,
So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding;
Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,
If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will understand the fear of the Lord,
And find the knowledge of God.
a. My son, if you receive my words: In the first chapter of Proverbs Solomon began to speak to his son, instructing him in the ways of wisdom. Here he continues the teaching, appealing to his son to receive my words and to treasure my commands. Wisdom can never benefit us if it is not received and treasured.
i. “The search, strenuous as it must be, is not unguided. Its starting-point is revelation—specific (words) and practical (commandments); its method is not one of free speculation, but of treasuring and exploring received teachings so as to penetrate to their principles.” (Kidner)
ii. “‘Accept’ [receive] is paralleled with ‘store up’ [treasure], a figure that implies that most teaching cannot be used immediately but that some time will pass before education’s effects are felt.” (Ross)
iii. Treasure my commands within you: “God’s intention is that you and I make His wisdom our own. We are to learn it from the Bible. Nobody is to know it in our stead. Pastors are charged by God with helping us to grow, but we must make His Word ours, so as to keep it ‘with’ us.” (Phillips)
iv. Treasure my commands within you: “He who has the rule of his duty only in his Bible and in his head, is not likely to be a steady, consistent character; his heart is not engaged, and his obedience, in any case, can be only forced, or done from a sense of duty: it is not the obedience of a loving, dutiful child, to an affectionate father. But he who has the word of God in his heart, works from his heart; his heart goes with him in all things, and he delights to do the will of his heavenly Father, because his law is in his heart.” (Clarke)
b. And apply your heart to understanding: This implies effort. The heart must be applied to understanding. It won’t happen by accident. This wisdom, discernment, and understanding must be sought out as if it were silver and hidden treasures.
i. In these few verses, Solomon described many ways that we must seek after wisdom.
· Cry out, lift up the voice.
· Seek, search.
ii. The one who pursues wisdom in this way will not be disappointed. “But this search must be serious, strenuous. The way of wisdom is never revealed to triflers.” (Morgan)
iii. “There must be willingness and desire to know (verses Proverbs 2:1-2). To this must be added diligence. The illuminative phrases are ‘cry,’ ‘lift up thy voice,’ ‘seek,’ ‘search.’ All indicate desire, expressing itself in devotion.” (Morgan)
iv. Apply your heart to understanding: “Attention of body, intention of mind, and retention of memory, are indispensably desired of all wisdom’s scholars; such as King Edward VI, who constantly stood up at the hearing of the word, took notes, which he afterwards diligently perused, and wrought the sermon upon his affections by meditation.” (Trapp)
v. Seek her as silver: “Refers to silver as mined and smelted, not as a precious metal in its native state.” (Waltke)
vi. If you seek her as silver: “With the same unwearied diligence, and earnest desire, and patient expectation under all delays, disappointments, and difficulties, which worldlings use in the purchase of riches, or in digging in mines of silver.” (Poole)
vii. “How do men seek money? What will they not do to get rich? Reader, seek the salvation of thy soul as earnestly as the covetous man seeks wealth; and be ashamed of thyself, if thou be less in earnest after the true riches than he is after perishing wealth.” (Clarke)
c. Then you will understand the fear of the Lord: Solomon established the principle that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). Here he teaches us that without the effort to seek out wisdom, we will lack in our fear of the Lord and knowledge of God.
i. The knowledge of God: “In short, ‘knowledge of God’ refers to personal intimacy with him through obedience to his word (cf. 1 Samuel 3:7).” (Waltke)
2. (6-9) The benefit of wisdom.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;
He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk uprightly;
He guards the paths of justice,
And preserves the way of His saints.
Then you will understand righteousness and justice,
Equity and every good path.
a. For the Lord gives wisdom: This explains why the fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom, and an essential aspect of the pursuit of wisdom. True wisdom is found in Him, and He gives it.
b. From His mouth come knowledge and understanding: The most significant way God gives wisdom is from the words of His mouth. His word reveals knowledge and understanding. In His word He stores up sound wisdom for the upright.
c. He is a shield to those who walk uprightly: God not only gives wisdom in His word; He actively works to defend, guard and preserve those who walk in His ways.
d. Then you will understand righteousness and justice: The sense is that we need this defense from God to gain this proper understanding. There are so many wrong ideas about in the world that we will never hold on to what is wise and true without being defended against the false and foolish.
i. Then you will understand righteousness and justice: “He who is taught of God understands the whole law of justice, mercy, righteousness, and truth; God has written this on his heart. He who understands these things by books only is never likely to practise or profit by them.” (Clarke)
ii. Every good path: “Track (magal; see Proverbs 2:15) refers to ‘cart tracks,’ ‘wagon ruts.’ While the earth is soft, wagon wheels press the trails that others are obliged to follow after it dries and hardens.” (Waltke) We will make tracks, ruts, paths for our life – wisdom helps us to make good and useful “ruts” or habits.
B. The protective power of wisdom.
1. (10-11) The general statement.
When wisdom enters your heart,
And knowledge is pleasant to your soul,
Discretion will preserve you;
Understanding will keep you,
a. When wisdom enters your heart: Solomon mentioned the idea of protection relevant to wisdom (Proverbs 2:7-8). Now he explains that something happens when we gain wisdom; when we value God’s knowledge (it is pleasant to your soul).
i. “Proverbs 2:10-11 asserts that Wisdom gives both pleasure and surefootedness in life. The more wisdom one learns, the more one desires and enjoys it. The protection wisdom gives, moreover, is that it keeps its follower from making decisions that will later bring only regret.” (Garrett)
ii. Knowledge is pleasant to your soul: “Spiritual joy mortifies sin. His mouth hankers not after homely provision that hath lately tasted of delicate sustenance. Pleasure there must be in the ways of God, because therein men let out their souls into God, that is the fountain of all good; hence they so infinitely distaste sin’s tasteless fooleries.” (Trapp)
b. Discretion will preserve you: We need God’s protection to gain wisdom (Proverbs 2:7-8), but wisdom also protects us. Understanding will keep you from many foolish choices and harmful consequences in life.
2. (12-15) Wisdom rescues us from wicked men.
To deliver you from the way of evil,
From the man who speaks perverse things,
From those who leave the paths of uprightness
To walk in the ways of darkness;
Who rejoice in doing evil,
And delight in the perversity of the wicked;
Whose ways are crooked,
And who are devious in their paths;
a. To deliver you from the way of evil: Wisdom will keep us from going evil ways, and from associating with the man who speaks perverse things. Our fallen nature may be attracted to perverse things, but wisdom will guard us from that path, from those who leave the paths of righteousness.
i. “The promised protection is first defined as deliverance from apostate men who have opted for dark and crooked paths instead of the father’s bright and straight ways.” (Waltke)
b. Who rejoice in doing evil, and delight in the perversity of the wicked: Fallen nature is not only attracted to what is evil and perverse, it rejoices and delights in it. Shame is cast away and what is wrong and twisted is celebrated. This celebration of perversity is not unique to our time, but it certainly marks our present age.
i. Delight in the perversity of the wicked: “They rejoice (yagilu), the outward parallel of their joy within, expresses exuberant, enthusiastic, spontaneous shouts of joy, like those heard in bawdy theaters and bloody stadiums.” (Waltke)
c. Whose ways are crooked, and who are devious in their paths: Wisdom protects us from these evil men. If not protected by wisdom, their crooked ways will come to harm us, and we will suffer from their devious character.
3. (16-22) Wisdom rescues us from the immoral woman.
To deliver you from the immoral woman,
From the seductress who flatters with her words,
Who forsakes the companion of her youth,
And forgets the covenant of her God.
For her house leads down to death,
And her paths to the dead;
None who go to her return,
Nor do they regain the paths of life—
So you may walk in the way of goodness,
And keep to the paths of righteousness.
For the upright will dwell in the land,
And the blameless will remain in it;
But the wicked will be cut off from the earth,
And the unfaithful will be uprooted from it.
a. To deliver you from the immoral woman: Here Solomon especially spoke to his son (Proverbs 2:1), who could be easily deceived and trapped by the immoral woman. Wisdom could protect him from her.
i. The Bible’s wisdom is much more sophisticated than much of popular thinking in today’s world. Today there is the tendency to view things without nuance; for example, to think of all women as victims to men. This rejects the idea of the immoral woman, thinking that if there is a sexual liaison between a man and a woman, he must be the perpetrator and she must be the victim. The Bible recognizes that human beings and human relationships are far more complicated than that.
ii. Immoral woman…seductress: “Both these terms mean literally ‘foreigner’ or stranger; i.e., in such a context (cf. Proverbs 2:16b), ‘one who is outside the circle of [a man’s] proper relations, that is, a harlot or an adulteress’.” (Kidner)
b. The seductress who flatters with her words: Before Solomon described the immoral woman in any other way, he wrote of her as a seductress who uses words to seduce. The Song of Solomon shows us that King Solomon knew the power of the female form, but there is also great power in the flattering words of the seductress.
i. Who flatters with her words: “Hechelikah, she that smooths with her words. The original intimates the glib, oily speeches of a prostitute. The English lick is supposed to be derived from the original word.” (Clarke)
ii. Flatters: “Comes from a root whose nominal derivative is used of David’s five ‘smooth’ stones. The verb is used literally only of ‘making smooth’ metal (Isaiah 41:7). Once (Hosea 10:2) it is used metaphorically of a heart that is ‘smooth’ (i.e., deceitful).” (Waltke)
iii. “The subtlety of the appeal comes from flattering speech—the adulteress talks smoothly (see Proverbs 5:3). An example of such talk is found in Proverbs 7:14-20.” (Ross)
c. Who forsakes the companion of her youth: The immoral woman Solomon had in mind had a past record of disloyalty and unfaithfulness. This was evident not only among men (the companion of her youth) but even more importantly in relation to God (who forgets the covenant of her God).
i. Forgets the covenant of her God: “Marriage is a mixed covenant, partly religious and partly civil: the parties tie themselves first to God, and then to one another. The bond is made to God, who also will be ready enough to take the forfeiture.” (Trapp)
d. For her house leads down to death: This is an important part of wisdom’s protection, to see where a path leads. Time with the flattering seductress seems wonderful, but wisdom helps us to understand where it leads – and that is down to death.
i. Her house leads down to death: “But how many, alas! by this means have lost their souls. Fleshly lusts, by a specialty, ‘fight against the soul’ [1 Peter 2:11]. And nothing hath so much enriched hell, saith one, as beautiful faces.” (Trapp)
ii. Matthew Poole wrote of many ways that her house leads down to death: “By wasting a man’s vital spirits, and shortening his life; by exposing him to many and dangerous diseases, which physicians have declared and proved to be the effects of inordinate lust; as also to the fury of jealous husbands or friends, and sometimes to the sword of civil justice, and undoubtedly, without repentance, to God’s wrath and the second death.”
iii. Her house leads down to death: “The woman who abandons herself to prostitution soon contracts, and generally communicates, that disease, which, above all others, signs the speediest and most effectual passport to the invisible world.” (Clarke)
iv. Her paths to the dead: “Not only does she sink down to death, but her paths lead to the ‘shades’ (NIV, ‘the spirits of the dead’). The ‘shades’ are the inhabitants of Sheol; the term describes the shadowy continuation of those who have lost their vitality and strength.” (Ross)
v. Her paths to the dead: “Those who enter the house of the immoral woman, on the other hand, find only the ghosts of those who preceded them and discover too late that there is no exit.” (Garrett)
e. None who go to her return: As with many statements in the Proverbs, this is not an absolute promise, but a true principle. Solomon had seen many go down the path of death with an immoral woman, never to return to the way of wisdom.
i. Who go to her: This phrasing is translated go in to [her] in Genesis 16:2 and came in to [them] in Genesis 6:4 as specifically referring to sexual intercourse.
ii. A life early given to promiscuity and sexual sin is much more difficult to reclaim. It is far better to never go down such paths. That is why Solomon warned, none who go to her return: “Adulterers and whoremongers are very rarely brought to repentance, but are generally hardened by the power and deceitfulness of that lust, and by God’s just judgment, peculiarly inflicted upon such persons.” (Poole)
f. The unfaithful will be uprooted: Solomon reminded his son of the consequences of the path of the seductress. It invites the discipline or the judgment of God, who according to His covenant with Israel promised that the upright will dwell in the land, but the unfaithful will be uprooted from it. These consequences give us a clear choice – one or the other.
i. “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.” (Wiersbe)
ii. For the upright will dwell in the land: “Here the wise man speaks after the manner of Moses’ law, under which he lived; [Deuteronomy 11:8].” (Trapp)
iii. “Here the wicked will be cut off because they defile the earth and threaten the relationship of the righteous with their God.” (Waltke)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org