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Go to Bible: Proverbs 3
“instruction.” See commentary on Proverbs 1:8.(top)
|Pro 3:2||- (top)|
“covenant loyalty…faithfulness.” These are the figure of speech personification because the Hebrew text is stated as if they are people and could leave on their own and somehow we could prevent them from doing so—which is actually close to the truth. If we neglect something for too long a time, we become unclear about it and eventually forget it. So here we see covenant loyalty and faithfulness added to their friends, Wisdom, prudence, and discretion. For more on the figure of speech personification, see commentary on Proverbs 1:20, “Wisdom.”
“neck” The word is plural in the Hebrew text to agree with the plural subject, “you [all],” but we leave it singular for ease of reading in English. The essence of the verse is, “You all, do not let covenant loyalty and faithfulness leave, bind them around your necks.”
“write them upon the tablet of your heart.” This phrase may have been added to the text. It stands out because it is the first time a third stanza has been added to a verse in Proverbs. It is missing from the Septuagint texts, and some of the Septuagint texts we have of Proverbs are much older than the Hebrew texts. While it is common for the Septuagint to differ from the Hebrew, it is not common for an entire sentence to be absent from the Septuagint but included in the Hebrew text. The REV retains the verse because it is in the Hebrew text and because it fits in the context. Additions like this can come into the Hebrew or Greek text because the copies were made by hand, so if someone left out a phrase while copying, they wrote it in the margin so it could be copied back into the text by the next scribe. However, it was also common for scribes to write notes in the margins of their Bibles, just as we do today, and occasionally one of those notes got copied into the Bible as Holy Scripture.(top)
“people.” The Hebrew text reads adam, “man,” in the singular, but it was understood as a uniplural noun, like the English “fish” or “deer” which can be singular or plural depending on the context. Here the word is to be understood as plural, so literally, “man” (men); but it is meant for both men and women so “people,” “mankind,” or “humanity.” We went with “people” to be clear that women were included.
This verse reveals the fact that Proverbs says things that are generally true, not universally true. People who show covenant loyalty and faithfulness will generally find favor and have a good reputation among the population, but not among everyone, because evil people will resent and stand against them.(top)
“do not lean upon your own understanding.” The allusion here is to the walking staff that almost every man carried for support and protection (which is why Jesus allowed his apostles to take one when they traveled; cp. Mark 6:8 and commentary on Matthew 10:10). Men leaned upon their staffs in all kinds of situations, but they were notoriously unreliable for a number of reasons. If modern hiking is any guide to us, the most common reason a staff is unreliable is that it can unexpectedly slip, causing a dangerous fall. Also, a staff may break and pierce the hand of the one leaning on it. This happened often enough that the emissary of the king of Assyria spoke about it to the people in Jerusalem (2 Kings 18:21; Isa. 36:6).
Human understanding is like a walking staff. It is just reliable enough that people can begin to trust in themselves rather than in what the Bible says, but then unexpectedly it slips or breaks and causes injury and harm—sometimes great harm. Wise Christians always trust God and never completely trust themselves, allowing for the fact they may be wrong.(top)
|Pro 3:6||- (top)|
“evil.” The Hebrew text uses the common word for “evil” or “bad,” ra (#07451 רַע), which has a large range of meaning, including evil, bad, wrong, unpleasant, disagreeable, sad, unkind, wicked, adversity, misery, etc. For example, in the KJV, it is translated evil, wicked, wickedness, mischief, hurt, bad, trouble, sore, affliction, ill, adversity, harm, grievous, sad, etc.
It is important to see the range of meaning of ra in this verse because there are many things that are “bad” or hurtful behaviors that we would not consider “evil.” And the verse is in a couplet, that if we fear Yahweh and turn away from what is “evil,” “bad,” “unhealthy,” it will be health to our body and cause our bones (also a metonymy for our body) to be strong. Obviously, we must turn from “evil” such as lying and stealing or we will suffer for it, but there are many behaviors that are “bad” that we would not consider “evil” in the classic sense. For example, “worry” is bad for us and unhealthy, but people don’t consider it “evil.” If we humans want to truly be healthy in body and mind, we have to turn away from evil behaviors, and also “bad,” unhealthy behaviors.(top)
“navel.” The Hebrew text literally reads “navel.” This is the figure of speech synecdoche, where the part, the navel, is put for the whole, the whole body. However, there seems to be a good reason God picked “navel” here. The navel is the very font of life of the body, feeding the body with everything it needed in the womb, and so it presents a good word picture here. The “navel” was the source of our well-being in the womb and also as we entered life as an independent being. In a similar way, fearing Yahweh and departing from evil is the very source of life for us in this life and will see us off to a wonderful start in our next life.
[See word study on “synecdoche.”]
In general, fearing God and turning from evil keeps us healthy and strong mentally, emotionally, and physically. People who ignore God and get mixed up in an evil and/or bad lifestyle invariably suffer for it.
“refreshing drink.” The Hebrew text reads shiqquv (#08250 שִׁקּוּי) in the singular, and thus means, “a drink.” The “drink” is put by metonymy of effect for the effect that the drink brings, which is “refreshment,” which is why so many English versions read that way. We combined the literal with the metonymy and went with “refreshing drink,” which we feel catches both the Hebrew word and its meaning in this context.
[See word study on “metonymy.”]
In the biblical culture, bones that were “wet” were known to be strong, while bones that were “dry” were weak. Proverbs says a crushed or broken spirit (referring to depression), dries up the bones (Prov. 17:22; see commentary on Prov. 17:22). Job complained that the bones of the wicked were well watered (Job 21:24). See also Psalms 109:18.
The mention of both the navel, which is on the outside of the body, and the bones, which are the inner support of the body, further emphasizes that this verse is saying that fearing God and turning from evil will be healing to the whole body.(top)
“and from the firstfruits.” This verse is the only verse in Proverbs that commands that people give of their increase, and in doing so supports what God said in the Law of Moses.(top)
“completely filled.” The Hebrew text uses two nouns, “filled plenty,” which some versions translate as “filled with plenty.” We understood this to mean, “completely filled.” The Law of Moses commanded people to give a tenth of the grain they grew, as well as the other vegetable harvests such as grapes and olives (Lev. 27:30; Num. 18:21; Deut. 14:22). Animals were tithed also, but differently (Lev. 27:32). God promised that if Israel kept God’s commandments they would be blessed (Deut. 30:16; cp. Mal. 3:8-12).
This is one of the many “ideal” promises in the Word of God which would be fulfilled here on earth today if we lived in a godly world with godly people. We do not, and so there are people who honor God with their firstfruits who do not have full storehouses. There are many ungodly people who cheat and steal, and the Devil is the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4; 1 John 5:19) so this promise will be fully fulfilled in the future.
[For more on promises like this, see commentary on Prov. 19:5. For more on tithing, see commentary on Deut. 14:22.]
“burst at the seams.” The Hebrew is more literally “burst open.”(top)
“do not reject” The grammatical construction of the Hebrew text places an emphasis on the word “reject,” although it can make the English translation hard to understand. A lot of the bad things that happen to people are their own fault, not an “attack of the Devil.” When we ignore Wisdom, we can get ourselves into serious trouble. Biblically, this is referred to as the discipline of Yahweh, because He is the one who set the principles of godliness, the laws of nature and physics, the moral and civil law, etc., in place.
To not reject the discipline of Yahweh is to take a hard look at what has happened in our lives that we consider “bad,” and see if we ourselves caused the problem, or part of it. Proud and arrogant people just assume that everything bad that happens to them is someone else’s fault, or a demonic attack, and will not own any part they played in the problem. Humble and godly people always assume that there is something they could have done to avoid or lessen any problem, and only exonerate themselves when they have thought through the situation and seen that they could not have done anything better than they did.(top)
|Pro 3:12||- (top)|
|Pro 3:13||- (top)|
|Pro 3:14||- (top)|
“gems.” See commentary on Proverbs 31:10.
“no delightful thing can compare with her.” The Hebrew is more literally, “every delightful thing cannot compare with her,” but that is awkward in English.(top)
“right hand…left hand.” In the biblical culture, the right hand was always more highly esteemed than the left hand. In fact, in some contexts, the left hand was considered the hand of cursing. That distinction was due to the fact that in the biblical culture people always washed themselves with their left hand after going to the bathroom, which also meant that they only ate with their right hand. Here in Proverbs 3:16, however, the use of “left hand” is not meant to convey a sense of cursing, but rather it is simply less esteemed than the right hand.
[For more on the right hand of blessing and left hand of cursing, see commentary on Matt. 25:33.]
It is noteworthy that the things in this verse are what most people want in life: long life, wealth, and glory (which includes “honor,” like you would get from your family. The word does not just mean “social recognition”). It is Wisdom and walking with God that brings those things. In other words, if you live a life of obedience to God and living wisely, you will get long life, wealth, and honor. In contrast, if you spend your energy trying to acquire wealth and glory, usually you will fail. If you do achieve them, they will be short-lived. Wisdom and obedience are the keys to everlasting success.
There is a valuable lesson for us in the fact that “length of days”—which here means more than just a long earthly life; it refers to a long life now and everlasting life later—is in Wisdom’s right hand, while “riches and glory” are in her left hand. Riches and glory are nice, but if a person does not have everlasting life, no amount of wealth and glory in this life will make up for not having everlasting life. Soon after the person dies he will be forgotten. How many people know the proper name of even one Pharaoh of Egypt or Roman Emperor? Fame and glory fade with death, everlasting life is forever!
“glory.” The Hebrew word can mean “glory” or “honor,” which are interrelated, because the one who has “glory” has honor, and vice versa, but the emphasis on “glory” here is important. In the Old Testament, Wisdom is personified, and God worked directly with her to accomplish His goals, and in the New Testament Jesus Christ is often associated with glory, and now God works with and through him to accomplish His goals. So the association with Wisdom and glory in the Old Testament projects well into the New Testament as Jesus Christ is closely associated with the concept of glory.(top)
“Her ways.” The Hebrew text of this verse allows for a number of correct interpretations. The Hebrew reads more literally: “Her roads—roads of pleasantness; and all of her paths—peace.” The last stanza, for example, can be understood in at least two distinct ways. One is that her roads are peaceful roads, roads without a lot of trouble. It certainly is true that when we walk with wisdom, the roads we walk on are more peaceful—the life we live is a more peaceful life. However, the stanza can also mean that the paths of wisdom are peace: in other words, wisdom always acts in a peaceful manner, she always takes the path of peace. The way the REV is worded might take a little more prayer and study to understand than simply saying “all of her paths are peaceful paths,” but it is important to allow for the multiple interpretations that the original text is allowing for.
“pleasant.” Wisdom, and thus the wise person, knows the value of being pleasant and peaceful. A lot of the anxieties and frustrations of life come about because of entering into a quarrel that is not one’s business in the first place, or not overlooking someone else’s sin. We all make mistakes, and while sometimes pointing out a person’s mistakes is helpful, many times it just causes pointless trouble (cp. Ecc. 7:21-22).(top)
“taking hold of her.” The present participle indicates the ongoing process of holding on to Wisdom. In the Old Testament, salvation required maintaining one’s trust in God to the end. Wisdom is a “tree of life,” the tree in the Garden of Eden which gave life, because holding onto her was the way to everlasting life.(top)
|Pro 3:19||- (top)|
|Pro 3:20||- (top)|
|Pro 3:21||- (top)|
“neck.” “Neck” here is plural, but the prenominal suffix is second person masculine plural, so a singular neck seems more appropriate. Of course, the neck’s adornment is a necklace, which we have already seen in Proverbs. Furthermore, a “neck” is a proper parallel to nephesh in the first stanza, which can mean “soul,” “life,” and “throat.”(top)
“stumble.” The Hebrew text of Proverbs 3:23 is literally, “and your foot will not strike,” which would, by ellipsis, mean, “will not strike [“a stone” or “anything”]. The meaning is that your foot won’t stumble over anything. The metaphor of the foot not stumbling is a continuation of the general metaphor throughout the Bible of “walking” referring to living life. The context here in Proverbs 3:19-23 is saying that as you “walk” through life, if you use Wisdom, discernment, knowledge, sound advice, and discretion, you will not stumble, but will live your life in safety. The amount of suffering people go through due to not being wise is incalculable. The “safety” that the wise person experiences refers to generally being safe in this life, and also extends to the real safety of having everlasting life.(top)
“lie down.” The Septuagint has “sit down,” but the parallel line in the second clause, which speaks of sleep, seems to indicate that lying down unto sleep is what the verse is referring to.(top)
“terror.” Proverbs 3:25 contains the figure of speech, amphibologia, or double entendre. The literal reading, “do not be afraid of sudden terror (or “sudden dread”) refers to the fact that many people experience occasions when they are suddenly gripped by fear, sometimes even for no apparent reason. We are not to be afraid of those times, but work through those times and deal with them. God is always our strength and protection.
Also in this verse, the word “terror” is used by metonymy for “that which causes terror,” that is, disaster or calamity. Thus, Proverbs 3:25 also means, “do not be afraid of sudden disasters.” In fact, translators feel that is the primary meaning here, even though it is not the literal reading of the Hebrew text (cp. HCSB; NET; NIV). We live in a fallen world and the Devil is the god of the age (2 Cor. 4:4) so there will always be disasters that strike suddenly. There is no value in walking around in fear of what might or could happen, even though sudden and unexpected disasters happen all the time. The wise person does his best to prepare for sudden disasters, but in the end takes comfort from the fact that every human is mortal and, unless the Lord returns and the Rapture occurs, everyone will die at some point. The only real protection in this life is salvation through Jesus Christ and the guarantee of living forever.
[For more on preparation for times of trouble and how Jesus taught us to prepare, see commentary on Luke 22:36.]
“the devastation of the wicked when it comes.” The wicked will be destroyed, if not in this life, in the next. However, the force of this Proverb is that generally, devastation, or some form of it, will happen to wicked people in this life. In any case, the person who has walked with Wisdom and is saved should not be afraid when the wicked are destroyed.(top)
|Pro 3:26||- (top)|
“your hands.” The word “hand” is commonly used as an idiom for power or authority (cp. Gen. 14:20; Exod. 2:19; Num. 4:28; Deut. 3:2). The key to really understanding this verse is the phrase “to whom it is due.” This verse is speaking about giving to people who legitimately need and deserve help, not just any person who has a need. There are many needy people who are not “due” help from others. This verse may, in fact, be speaking more specifically of people who are owed a wage but have not been paid, or a situation such as that. If you can do a good thing for someone to whom it is due, do it. Don’t wait until a later time. Sadly, there are people who “can’t bother” to give people what they are due and make them wait, and there are other people who feel some kind of perverse sense of power by making people wait for them. God’s people are to love others, not put them off for no reason.
Another important key to understanding this verse and the proper application of it is the phrase, “when it is in your hands to do well,” that is, when it is in your power or authority to do well. This principle is ignored far too frequently by governments and even individuals. Governments are in the habit of borrowing money and then giving it to “good causes.” But that is not a wise thing to do. Borrowing creates an undue burden on the people in the form of interest payments, and can have many harmful effects such as inflation, monetary devaluation, late payment of debt, non-payment of debt, etc. It is Satan’s way to get people to borrow because of the harmful effects it has on society. We live in a fallen world and there will always be more “good things” to do than the money and resources to do them. The godly person has to resist borrowing to give to a “good cause.” Godly people give to good causes when they have the money and resources to give.(top)
“with you.” The words “with you” have a spatial connotation that is important to pick up on. Although some versions say something like “when you have it,” that does not necessarily imply the person actually has it with them. I may be able to pay a bill because I “have the money” but I likely don’t have it with me. Especially in an agrarian society in which bartering played a major role and payments were made by weight of silver or handing over of goods (Proverbs was written before coins were used) the fact that a person had the payment with them was a very important detail. If you owed a person a sheep, and you had it with you but would not hand it over, there is some major problem that is not being revealed.(top)
“securely.” The Hebrew is “in security,” or “in safety.” The idea is that your neighbor is living trustingly beside you, so don’t devise evil against him. That could happen for a number of reasons. A person could become envious or jealous, like Cain who killed Abel, or it could be that if the person was starting to get involved in some ungodly activity he may start to want to get a godly neighbor “out of the way.”
“by you.” The Hebrew is literally “with you,” but we felt “by you” more fully represented the intent of the Hebrew text. Today, “with you” likely means the person was living in the same home, while “by you” means close to you. However, in this context in Proverbs, the person may indeed be living “with you,” in the same house or same tent, but even then he is “by you.” The word “neighbor” in the Hebrew usually refers to someone who is close to you in physical proximity, i.e., “near you” or “next to you.” Thus, in the Hebrew, a “neighbor” could be the person eating close to you in the same house.
Police are quick to point out that a large percentage of the violence that people commit against each other involves people who are closely related in some way: they are of the same family, or they live together or near each other, or they work together. In those situations, we can annoy each other and even plot to harm each other. God knows that, so the Bible warns us about planning evil against the people close to us, knowing that that is a major problem in human societies.(top)
“quarrel.” Proverbs 3:30 has a wide range of application. The word we translate “quarrel” is reb (#07378 רִיב) and it can mean to strive or fight physically or with words, to lodge a complaint against, or to make a lawsuit against. So the fullness of the Proverb is more like: “Do not fight with someone for no reason, or lodge a complaint or start a lawsuit with someone for no reason.” “No reason,” of course, means no godly reason. Getting money or proving your point is not a godly reason to quarrel with someone or start a lawsuit (1 Cor. 6:1-8).(top)
“ways.” The Hebrew text of Proverbs uses quite a few different words referring to roads and paths. This is the Hebrew word derek (#01870 דֶּרֶךְ), referring to a road, not just a small path or pathway. Of course, most biblical “roads” were just dirt paths, but even so, a “road” was bigger and more well-worn than a “path.” It is possible that the word “road” is intentionally chosen here because there are many things a violent man might do that are not his “roads,” that is, what he does often and intentionally.(top)
“his counsel.” The Hebrew word we translate “counsel” is sod (#05475 סוֹד), and it can refer to a council, or the counsel that comes from the council. In this case, we feel that it refers to God’s counsel. God’s “divine council” is a small group of high-ranking spirit beings with whom He works to run creation. Occasionally God makes His prophets or spokespeople privy to what is being said or done by the council (Jer. 23:18; Job 15:8). God often reveals His plans to people with integrity as we see from how He works with His prophets and apostles throughout the Word. The point of the Proverb is that God abhors devious people, but will share His plans with people with integrity.
[For more on God’s divine council, see commentary on Jer. 23:18. For more on how God works with his divine council, see commentary on Genesis 1:26. For more on God’s holding general assemblies for all His spirit beings, see commentary on Job 1:6.](top)
|Pro 3:33||- (top)|
“He mocks.” The “He” here starts a new thought and refers to Yahweh. It does not refer back to the nearest antecedent (the righteous one in Prov. 3:33). This verse is using language that borders on the idiom of permission to communicate truth (for information on the idiom of permission, see commentary on Romans 9:18). God does not “mock” His creation; He loves His creation, but He has given spirit beings and humans free will to make the choices they want to, and sometimes those choices are bad and bring serious consequences. When people mock God, disobey Him, and rebel against Him, they bring evil and harm to themselves, which in the Semitic way of speaking, is God “mocking” them. Not that He actually does, but since God was the one who created the universe such that evil actions have evil consequences, the Semitic way of speaking is that God “mocks” the mockers.
“he gives grace to the humble.” This verse is referenced in James 4:6. Note how it is toned down in James, which says that God resists the proud. Here, God does more than just resist those proud mockers, He mocks them.(top)
|Pro 3:35||- (top)|