Proverbs Chapter 2
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Go to Bible: Proverbs 2
“if you receive my words.” It is clear throughout Proverbs that people can gain wisdom and the understanding, discernment, discretion, etc., that comes with it. But that takes a concerted effort, as the verses show, and sadly, many people do not make any effort to gain wisdom, and many of them would not even know where to start.
In today’s world, the Adversary has a very aggressive agenda against people gaining wisdom. It is possible to spend hundreds of hours wasting your time and not gaining an ounce of wisdom or understanding. And, considering that in the ancient world “wisdom” and “understanding” did not just refer to the knowledge one had but the practical application of that knowledge—using your knowledge as you lived life, worked, helped others, volunteered, and made a positive contribution to society—spending an inordinate amount of time selfishly engaged in activities that neither enrich the individual nor contribute to society is a real “win” for the Devil and a real loss for the individual.
God created people “to do good works” (Eph. 2:10) and if we are not doing them we are defying Him, whether we mean to be or not. “I’m not hurting anyone” sounds good, but it is not God’s will for our lives. A hermit can live his life in a cave and “not hurt anyone.” God created us to help people and make disciples, and we either are or we aren’t. If we aren’t, we are (and will be) the losers.
“store up my commandments with you.” The words and commands of God are a great treasure, so the believer is wise to store them up in his mind and keep them with him at all times. The Hebrew is literally, “hide with you,” but that does not make good sense to the modern reader. However, in biblical times people would hide things that were valuable to them because the culture did not offer many safe places to put something. People’s houses and tents were always susceptible to people entering at a time when no one was home and stealing valuables. The commands are to be “with us,” in our minds. God sets Himself as an example in this, and keeps the Word with Him, as we see in John 1:1, because the Scripture says “the word was with God.”
In the biblical idiom, things that are part of our mind or knowledge, or things that are attributes that we have, are said to be “with” us. For example, Abigail, speaking about Nabal, her foolish husband, does not say, “He is a fool,” but says “folly is with him” (1 Sam. 25:25). Similarly wisdom is said to be “with God” (Job 12:13, 16). Here in Proverbs 2:1, we would say, “Remember my words,” but in the biblical idiom they say, store up my words “with you.”(top)
“Wisdom.” Wisdom is personified here as a woman that we are to listen to, hence the capital “W.” As we will see in the next few verses, “Wisdom” has many other names she goes by, such as discernment and understanding. They are part of the personification, but we thought it best not to capitalize them, but only capitalize her primary name: Wisdom.(top)
“to understanding...to discernment.” Here we see the personification we see so clearly in Prov. 2:2 continued. We are to call out “to” discernment and “to” understanding. The Hebrew can also be translated “for” as well as “to,” but given the figure personification in the context, the “to” seems more accurate. Of course, what we are calling out to Discernment and Understanding for is discernment and understanding. God is making it clear that if we want wisdom, understanding, and discernment, it will take some effort and persistence on our part.
“if you raise your voice.” The word “if” is supplied from the context and thus is in italics. It is not in the Hebrew text, but is clearly implied from the stanzas before and after it.(top)
“hidden treasure.” In biblical times banks and safe places for money and valuables did not readily exist, so it was the custom for people to find hiding places for their valuables. This has turned out to be a boon for archaeologists and is one reason that wonderful and valuable things are regularly dug out of the earth.(top)
|Pro 2:5||- (top)|
|Pro 2:6||- (top)|
“a shield for those who walk blamelessly.” The versions and commentators are divided as to whether the “He” that opens the verse should be pulled by ellipsis into the second phrase making the second stanza in the verse read, “He is a shield,” or whether the verse is saying that sound advice is the shield for those who walk blamelessly. It is quite possible that a native Hebrew reader of that time would see both meanings here, making the verse an amphibologia (double entendre), with both meanings being true. It is certainly true that God is a shield to those who walk uprightly, and it is also true that sound advice is a shield, as we see throughout Proverbs. Since the Hebrew text does not have “He is” in the second stanza, we deferred to the way the Hebrew text was worded.
[See figure of speech “amphibologia.”](top)
|Pro 2:8||- (top)|
|Pro 2:9||- (top)|
“Wisdom will come into your heart.” This is continuing the personification of wisdom (a feminine noun), and portraying her as someone who feels welcome and comes into your heart.
“your soul.” A very common biblical idiom for “you.”(top)
|Pro 2:11||- (top)|
“way of evil.” The Hebrew reads “road of evil,” which can also be understood as, “the way of evil people.”
“the one.” The Hebrew text literally reads, “man,” iysh (#0376 אִישׁ pronounced “eesh”), which most literally refers to a man, a male in contrast to a woman, a husband, or a man opposed to an animal or God. However, iysh can also refer more generally to a person or human being, inclusive of both men and women. Also, in certain contexts, iysh takes on other meanings. These include being an indicator of rank or position, or to indicate a “mighty man” or “valiant man;” a man as a servant, follower, or soldier. Furthermore, iysh can be used in an impersonal sense as “someone” or “everyone,” or “each,” and it can even be used of animals, but rarely is.a
Proverbs uses the word iysh to show a primary emphasis on men in contrast to women because the Hebrew text could have used the Hebrew word adam, which is more generally used to mean “people, mankind.” But it makes sense in both the culture and scope of Proverbs that iysh would be used. Culturally, men dominated the society and were the primary actors in it. One obvious reason for that was the physical strength men had over women, but a less obvious reason was that most women had a large number of children and grandchildren, and so for most of their lives they were pregnant, nursing, and/or caring for children; both their own and those in the extended family. Mary, the mother of Jesus, had at least seven children herself (Matt. 13:55-56).
Additionally, the book of Proverbs uses the sexual attraction between men and women as a background to show the necessity for reason and self-discipline in living a godly life. Proverbs specifically portrays Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly competing with each other and vying for the attention and affection of naïve young men. Indeed, Proverbs seems to go to great lengths to portray and personify Wisdom, understanding, discernment, discretion, and also Folly, as women who have attributes that could attract a young man. It is up to the young man to choose between the unbridled, boisterous, glamourous, and sexy life of Folly, or the self-controlled and peaceful life of Wisdom and her attendants.
In spite of the dominant male language in Proverbs, however, there is good reason to translate the word iysh as a gender-neutral word such as “person” or “one” in many verses. Although the verses were more specifically addressed to men in the biblical culture, the author did not want to exclude women, and we must keep in mind that iysh can legitimately refer to both men and women. It is clear from the proverbs themselves that wisdom and knowledge are intended for both men and women. For example, the teaching of the mothers in Proverbs is important (cp. Prov. 1:8 and 6:20), and those women had to be taught to become wise themselves. Also, Lady Wisdom imparts knowledge and wisdom, and thus she herself was taught, and is honored for imparting her wisdom and knowledge to others, including the men who listen to her. So, it was not just males that were taught, even if that was the primary emphasis in the culture of the time, something that is reflected in the many uses of the Hebrew iysh.
It should be noted that many of the older English versions, such as the King James Version, do translate iysh as “man.” However, while that is a very accurate translation, it must also be remembered that up until recently, when the word “man” was used, it was used more inclusively of both men and women than it is today. Today, “man” tends to exclude women, not include them, so culturally, “man” has often become less accurate in reflecting the meaning of the text than a gender-neutral word like “person.”
The importance of women feeling included in the teaching of Proverbs cannot be overstated, especially in modern Western culture when women are not kept cloistered at home but are educated, have their own money, and are out and about in society. Both men and women must make the choice between Wisdom and Folly. Proverbs applies to women today in a way that it has never applied so fittingly before in history. Therefore, because iysh can legitimately be gender-neutral and apply to a “person,” and because many proverbs themselves apply so fittingly to women, we have often used a gender-neutral term when iysh appears in the Hebrew text.
[For more on the use of gender-neutral terms for the masculine terms in Proverbs, see commentary on Proverbs 1:4, “youth.” For more on Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly, and the figure of speech personification, see commentary on Prov. 1:20.]
“perverse things.” The root of the Hebrew word means to flip upside down. Something “perverse” is upside down from the way God intended it to be.
Cp. Koehler and Baumgartner, HALOT Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon; Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon; VanGemeren, New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis.
|Pro 2:13||- (top)|
“are glad.” The Hebrew is sameach (#08056 שָׂמֵ֫חַ), and means to take pleasure in something, to be glad, to be merry. It is often translated as “joyful,” or a related “joy” word, but biblically, joy comes from inside a person due to eternal verities such as our Hope. Therefore, glad, merry, pleasure, jubilation, etc., are better translations.(top)
“from those whose paths.” We worded the text to fit with the previous verse and to read more easily in English. The Hebrew text starts abruptly: “their paths are twisted.”
“twisted.” The Hebrew is `iqqesh (#06141 עִקֵּשׁ), and it means “twisted, distorted, crooked, perverse, perverted.” We have chosen “twisted” as the translation of this word so the English reader can build the picture of those whom God refers to as twisted, or perverse. The Hebrew word `iqqesh appears 9 times in Proverbs 2:15; 8:8; 10:9; 11:20; 17:20; 19:1; 22:5; 28:6, 18. The Hebrew reads, “their paths are twisted,” but we brought the “from those whose” in from the context for clarity.(top)
“flattering.” The Hebrew is literally, “making smooth,” which refers to smooth talk or flattery. Evil people are very good at flattery, lying, and smooth talk, which is why Christ taught us to look at a person’s “fruit” (Matt. 7:16-20). Words can be very deceptive, but what a person does and the fruit of their lives reveals who they really are.(top)
“mate.” The Hebrew word literally means “friend, companion,” but in this case, it refers to the woman’s husband. It would be confusing to the modern reader to say she had left the friend of her youth, and because the “friend” is obviously her husband we went with “mate.”a However, there is an important lesson in that the person we marry is supposed to be our best friend and companion. In biblical times, marriages were arranged, and often the young man and woman had never even met each other before their wedding. It was taught in the culture that love developed after marriage, not before it, and that has been shown to be true in many cultures.
“the covenant she made before her God.” The Hebrew text reads that the woman forgot “the vow of her God,” and the genitive “of” can grammatically refer to a covenant made with God or a covenant made before God such that God is the witness. Since the context here is the marriage covenant, the covenant is made between the man and the woman before God, i.e., with God as a witness.
Cp. Michael Fox,
“house.” Thus, not only the woman, but those who visit her house, sink down to death. Who we connect ourselves with influences us and thus our future.
“sinks down to death.” The Hebrew image is somewhat difficult but it is understandable. The house of the foolish woman sinks down to death, so the righteous person does not want to be in it.
“paths.” This is not the standard word for “path,” but in Proverbs is magal (#04570 מַעְגָּל), and it really means more like “rut, track, entrenchment,” and it refers to the ruts and cuts in the ground made by carts and wagons. Some translations use “tracks,” but to most readers “tracks” refer to the footprints left after a person or animal has traveled over the ground. This is more like a “wagon path” or “wagon trail.” We tried to keep it simple by saying “path.”(top)
“go into her.” The Hebrew word is literally translated, “come in to” or “go in to,” and besides having a literal meaning of entering a physical place is also used for a man going into a woman in sexual intercourse (Gen. 6:4; 16:2; Prov. 6:29). To “go into her” is to have sex with her, just as “to sleep with her” means to have sex with her.
The Hebrew text uses the participle form, perhaps more literally, “is going into her,” indicating that this is not a one-time event. The man has made a habit of visiting prostitutes. The proverb, in typical hyperbolic fashion, states that people who get caught up in sexual sin “do not return” and do “not reach the paths of life,” meaning that people who make a habit of sexual sin will not be saved. There are a couple of points we must understand about that. The first is that Proverbs states the general and most common thing, not an absolute truth. There are people, like David, who escaped sexual sin, but even wise people like Solomon got completely caught up in it and never escaped. Also, after the Day of Pentecost when the New Birth became available, salvation was permanent by birth so a person could not lose salvation by becoming caught up in sexual sin. Nevertheless, a person can lose all his rewards and enter the Kingdom with nothing, so sin in general, and sexual sin, are very serious indeed.
[For the permanence of salvation and the guarantee of everlasting life, see Appendix 1: “The Permanence of Christian Salvation.” For the difference between salvation and rewards, and rewards in the Kingdom, see commentary on 2 Cor. 5:10, “good or evil.”]
“life.” The Hebrew word is plural, which is most likely a plural of emphasis for the abundance of life; the wonderful life. There are many paths of life, but only one everlasting “life,” but it will be wonderful indeed!(top)
“on the road of good people.” The Hebrew uses the word “road” idiomatically for “way of life” in dozens of verses (cp. Ps. 1:6; 18:30; 27:11; 36:4; 101:2; 119:30; Prov. 4:14, 19; 12:15, 26; 16:29; 28:10).(top)
|Pro 2:21||- (top)|
|Pro 2:22||- (top)|