Bible Highlights Proverbs 1:1–31:31
Fear Jehovah and You Will Be Happy
“The fear of Jehovah is the start of wisdom.” (Proverbs 9:10) How well this is shown in Proverbs! This Bible book, completed about 716 B.C.E., helps us to display wisdom, applying knowledge aright. Heed these wise sayings and you will be happy.
Listen to Wisdom
Read Proverbs 1:1–2:22. “The fear of Jehovah” is the very essence of knowledge. If we accept discipline, we will not join sinners in wrongdoing. To those fearing Jehovah, he gives wisdom that safeguards them against wrongdoers.
◆ 1:7—What is “the fear of Jehovah”?
It is awe, profound reverence, and a wholesome dread of displeasing him because we appreciate his loving-kindness and goodness. “Fear of Jehovah” means acknowledging that he is the Supreme Judge and the Almighty, with the right and power to bring punishment or death upon those disobeying him. It also means serving God faithfully, trusting in him completely, and hating what is bad in his sight.—Psalm 2:11; 115:11; Proverbs 8:13.
◆ 2:7—What is integrity?
Hebrew terms relating to integrity have the root meaning of that which is “whole” or “complete.” They often signify moral soundness and uprightness. “Those walking in integrity” are unswerving in devotion to Jehovah. For such “upright ones” he is a protective “shield” because they manifest true wisdom and conform to his righteous standards.
Lesson for Us: If we fear Jehovah, we will accept the discipline he provides through his Word and organization. Failure to do so would class us with “fools,” ungodly sinners. So let us accept his loving discipline.—Proverbs 1:7; Hebrews 12:6.
Read Proverbs 3:1–4:27. To have good insight, “trust in Jehovah with all your heart.” Happiness is enjoyed by those esteeming wisdom highly. Their path is like an ever-brightening light, but they need to safeguard the heart.
◆ 4:18—How does ‘the path of the righteous’ get lighter?
The sun’s light gets brighter from dawn until “the day is firmly established.” Similarly, spiritual light gets brighter for Jehovah’s people as time goes on. As we draw much closer to events, our understanding of the outworking of Jehovah’s purposes becomes clearer. Divine prophecies open up to us as God’s holy spirit sheds light upon them, and as they are fulfilled in world events or in the experiences of Jehovah’s people. Thus their ‘path gets lighter and lighter.’
Lesson for Us: Displaying true wisdom and complying with divine commands will safeguard us against pursuing a foolish course that may lead to an early death. For instance, those ignoring Jehovah’s commands against sexual immorality may contract sexually transmitted diseases that could result in premature death. So let us act in harmony with God’s requirements, for then wisdom will be “a tree of life” in our case.—Proverbs 3:18.
Ways to Display Wisdom
Read Proverbs 5:1–9:18. It is a display of wisdom to avoid immorality and “rejoice with the wife of your youth.” Seven things detestable to Jehovah are cited, and warnings are given against the seductions of a harlot. Wisdom personified is God’s “master worker.” And “fear of Jehovah is the start of wisdom.”
◆ 6:1-5—Is this counsel contrary to the spirit of generosity?
This proverb does not discourage generosity, though it does counsel against getting involved in the business dealings of others, especially strangers. The Israelites were to help their brother who had ‘grown poor.’ (Leviticus 25:35-38) But some got involved in speculative business ventures and obtained financial backing by convincing others to ‘go surety’ for them, promising to pay their creditors if necessary. If a person got into such a predicament, perhaps through bragging, the wise advice was to deliver himself from it without delay.—Proverbs 11:15.
◆ 8:22-31—Is this merely a description of wisdom?
No, for wisdom has always existed as an attribute of the eternal God. (Job 12:13) Here, though, it is said that wisdom was “produced” and was “beside [Jehovah] as a master worker” during earth’s creation. Identifying wisdom personified as God’s Son fits the fact that “carefully concealed in him are all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge.”—Colossians 1:15, 16; 2:3.
Lesson for Us: By mentioning her “communion sacrifices” and “vows,” the immoral woman of Proverbs chapter 7 may have been hinting that she did not lack spirituality. Communion sacrifices consisted of meat, flour, oil, and wine. (Leviticus 19:5, 6; 22:21; Numbers 15:8-10) So she was indicating that there was plenty to eat and drink at her house, and the “young man in want of heart” would have a good time there. This is typical of how a wrongly motivated person is led into immorality. How important to heed this warning and avoid such sin against God!—Genesis 39:7-12.
Read Proverbs 10:1–15:33. Solomon’s proverbs begin largely with contrasting maxims. “The fear of Jehovah” is stressed.—10:27; 14:26, 27; 15:16, 33.
◆ 10:25—Why is reference made to a “storm wind”?
Lacking a foundation in righteous principles, the wicked are like unstable buildings that collapse in violent storms. But the righteous are stable because their thinking is solidly founded upon godly principles. Like a structure having a good foundation, they do not cave in under pressure.—Matthew 7:24-27.
◆ 11:22—How could a woman be like a nose ring in a pig’s snout?
A gold nose ring inserted through a side of the nose or the partition separating the nostrils suggested that the wearer was a cultured person. But the Israelites considered swine unclean and loathsome. So a pretty but senseless woman is like an inappropriate gold nose ring in a pig’s snout.
◆ 14:14—How is a faithless one satisfied?
“One faithless at heart” is satisfied with his materialistic life-style. (Psalm 144:11-15a) Doing what is right in God’s eyes is of no consequence to him, and he does not think about having to render an account to Jehovah. (1 Peter 4:3-5) But “the good man” rejects the practices of faithless ones and is satisfied “with the results of his dealings.” He keeps spiritual interests first, adheres to God’s standards, has the supreme joy of serving Him, and is satisfied with divine blessings.—Psalm 144:15b.
◆ 15:23—How can we ‘rejoice in the answer of our mouth’?
This can happen if our counsel is heeded and produces good results. But to assist someone, we must listen carefully, weigh the factors contributing to his problem, and base our counsel on the Bible. Such “a word at its right time is O how good!”
Lesson for Us: “A foolish person” angrily responds to an insult or “dishonor” quickly, “in the same day.” But “the shrewd one”—a prudent individual—prays for God’s spirit so as to exercise self-control and follow His Word. (Proverbs 12:16) By doing this, we can avoid further contention that could result in emotional or physical harm to ourselves or others.
Proverbs With Parallels
Read Proverbs 16:1–24:34. These wise sayings of Solomon give guidance mostly through parallel thoughts. Stressed again is “fear of Jehovah.”—16:6; 19:23; 22:4; 23:17; 24:21.
◆ 17:19—What is wrong with a high entryway?
Those who did not make the doors to their houses and courts low risked having men on horseback ride in and take their goods. This proverb could also allude to the mouth as an entryway raised high by arrogant speech and boasting. Such talk fosters strife and eventually leads to disaster.
◆ 19:17—Why is helping the lowly like lending to Jehovah?
Lowly ones belong to God, and what we do to them is counted as done to him. (Proverbs 14:31) If love and generosity prompt us to show favor to the lowly or give gifts to the poor, expecting no return from them, Jehovah considers such giving as loans to him that he repays with favor and blessings.—Luke 14:12-14.
◆ 20:1—How is wine “a ridiculer”?
Wine can cause one overindulging in it to act in a ridiculous and boisterous way. Since heavy drinking produces such bad effects, Christians must avoid it.—1 Timothy 3:2, 3, 8; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; Proverbs 23:20, 21.
◆ 23:27—How is a prostitute a “pit” and a “well”?
As animals were caught in ‘deep pits’ dug by hunters, so the patrons of a prostitute are trapped in immorality. “A foreign woman” denotes a harlot, doubtless because most prostitutes in Israel were foreigners. Getting water from “a narrow well” involves difficulties because earthenware jars easily break on its sides. Similarly, those having dealings with harlots may experience emotional and physical calamities.—Proverbs 7:21-27.
Lesson for Us: “A lying witness” shows disrespect for God and could be put to death under the Law. Thus he could “perish” at the hands of men or Jehovah. (Proverbs 21:28; Deuteronomy 5:20; 19:16-21; compare Acts 5:1-11.) But ‘the man listening’ attentively spoke only when sure of what he had heard. His testimony stood “forever,” not later being rejected as falsehood. Moreover, he was not executed as a false witness. Those testifying at judicial hearings among Jehovah’s Witnesses should have listened carefully so as to be able to provide accurate information, for inaccurate or false testimony can be spiritually damaging.
Read Proverbs 25:1–29:27. Solomon’s proverbs transcribed by King Hezekiah’s men teach largely by comparison. Among other things, dependence on Jehovah is encouraged.
◆ 26:6—Why is a comparison drawn with ‘mutilating one’s feet’?
A person mutilating his feet would cripple himself, even as an individual employing “someone stupid” is doing crippling violence to his own interests. A project entrusted to a stupid person will fail. How wise, then, to ‘test men for fitness’ before recommending them for congregational responsibility!—1 Timothy 3:10.
◆ 27:17—How is a face ‘sharpened’?
As a piece of iron can be used to sharpen a blade made of the same metal, one person may succeed in sharpening the intellectual and spiritual state of another. If disappointments and contact with uncongenial individuals depress us, a fellow believer’s sympathetic look and Scriptural encouragement can be very uplifting. Our sad countenance changes for the better, and we are enlivened with fresh hope for renewed action.—Proverbs 13:12.
◆ 28:5—What does “everything” include?
Those practicing what is bad are blind spiritually. (Proverbs 4:14-17; 2 Corinthians 4:4) They do not “understand judgment” or what is right according to God’s standards. Thus they cannot judge matters correctly and make proper decisions. But those “seeking Jehovah” by prayer and study of his Word “understand everything” needed to serve him acceptably.—Ephesians 5:15-17.
◆ 29:8—How do boastful talkers “inflame a town”?
Boasters who disrespect authority speak brashly. They thus fuel the fires of dispute and fan the flames so much that residents of an entire town are inflamed. But wise persons “turn back anger,” speaking mildly and sensibly, dousing flames of wrath and promoting peace.—Proverbs 15:1.
Lesson for Us: If we are proud, haughtiness will result in our being humbled. (Proverbs 29:23) A haughty person is likely to be presumptuous, and this can lead to dishonor, stumbling, and a crash. (Proverbs 11:2; 16:18; 18:12) God may see to it that a proud individual is humbled, brought low in some way, perhaps to the point of destruction. Such a man craves glory, but people find his ways abhorrent. However, a person “humble in spirit will [eventually] take hold of glory.”
Read Proverbs 30:1–31:31. Agur’s “weighty message” acknowledges that “every saying of God is refined.” Also cited are things too wonderful to comprehend, and so forth. (30:1-33) “The weighty message” Lemuel received from his mother warns that drinking intoxicants can pervert judgment, urges one to judge righteously, and describes a good wife.—31:1-31.
◆ 30:15, 16—What is the point of these examples?
They illustrate the insatiableness of greed. Leeches gorge themselves with blood, even as greedy persons always demand more money or power. Likewise, Sheol is never satisfied but remains open to receive more victims of death. A barren womb ‘cries out’ for children. (Genesis 30:1) Drought-stricken land drinks up rainwater and soon appears dry again. And a fire that has consumed things thrown into it sends out flames that lick up other combustibles in reach. So it is with greedy persons. But those guided by godly wisdom are not endlessly goaded on by such selfishness.
◆ 31:6, 7—Why give wine to those “bitter of soul”?
Intoxicating liquor and wine are sedatives. So they would be given to “one about to perish,” or die, or to ‘those bitter of soul’ to make them less conscious of their pain and hardships. The ancient custom of giving criminals drugged wine to blunt the pain of execution may explain why Roman soldiers offered it to Jesus Christ at the time of his impalement. He refused such wine because he wanted to be in full possession of his faculties at that trying time and thus maintain integrity to God.—Mark 15:22-24.
◆ 31:15—Who are these “young women”?
Household maidservants are meant here. They had no reason to complain for want of food or assigned work. The industrious wife gave food to her household and also saw to it that these women had something to eat and duties to perform.
Lesson for Us: Being imperfect, at times we may senselessly ‘lift ourselves up,’ making efforts at self-exaltation. If we do this or speak angrily, we should “put the hand to the mouth,” refraining from additional words that would further provoke the one we offended. As milk must be churned to make butter and a nosebleed usually requires the squeezing of the nose, a quarrel occurs when people give free rein to anger. (Proverbs 30:32, 33) In such cases, how wise it is to be silent and prevent more trouble!
What benefits we can derive from the book of Proverbs! Let us cherish these wise sayings that promote reverential fear of Jehovah. Applying them will surely make us happy.