Jehovah’s Word Is Alive
Highlights From the Book of Proverbs
KING SOLOMON of ancient Israel “could speak three thousand proverbs.” (1 Kings 4:32) Do we have access to his wise sayings? Yes, we do. The Bible book of Proverbs, completed about 717 B.C.E., records many of Solomon’s proverbs. Only the last two chapters are attributed to other writers—Agur the son of Jakeh and Lemuel the king. However, some believe Lemuel to be another name for Solomon.
The inspired sayings collected in the book of Proverbs have a twofold purpose—“for one to know wisdom and discipline.” (Proverbs 1:2) These sayings help us to acquire wisdom, which is the ability to see things clearly and apply knowledge to solve problems. By means of them, we also receive discipline, or moral training. Paying attention to these proverbs and heeding their advice can affect our heart, contribute toward our happiness, and lead to success.—Hebrews 4:12.
‘ACQUIRE WISDOM AND TAKE HOLD OF DISCIPLINE’
“True wisdom itself keeps crying aloud in the very street,” says Solomon. (Proverbs 1:20) Why should we listen to its loud and clear voice? Chapter 2 cites many benefits of acquiring wisdom. How to seek intimacy with Jehovah is discussed in chapter 3. Solomon then says: “Wisdom is the prime thing. Acquire wisdom; and with all that you acquire, acquire understanding. Take hold on discipline; do not let go.”—Proverbs 4:7, 13.
What will help us to resist the immoral ways of the world? The 5th chapter of Proverbs answers: Exercise thinking ability, and recognize the seductive ways of the world. Consider, too, the high price of committing immorality. The following chapter warns against practices and attitudes that jeopardize our relationship with Jehovah. The 7th chapter provides an invaluable exposé of how an immoral person operates. In chapter 8, the value and appeal of wisdom is presented in a fascinating way. The 9th chapter, a stimulating conclusion to the proverbs discussed up to that point, is presented as an exciting illustration that motivates us to pursue wisdom.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
1:7; 9:10—In what way is the fear of Jehovah “the beginning of knowledge” and “the start of wisdom”? Without the fear of Jehovah, there can be no knowledge, for he is the Creator of all things and the Author of the Scriptures. (Romans 1:20; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17) He is the very Source of all true knowledge. Hence, knowledge begins with the reverential fear of Jehovah. Godly fear is also the start of wisdom because there can be no wisdom without knowledge. Moreover, a person who lacks the fear of Jehovah will not use whatever knowledge he has to honor the Creator.
5:3—Why is a prostitute called “a strange woman”? Proverbs 2:16, 17 describes a “strange woman” as someone “who has forgotten the very covenant of her God.” Anyone who worshipped false gods or made himself or herself a stranger to the Mosaic Law, including a prostitute, was called a stranger.—Jeremiah 2:25; 3:13.
7:1, 2—What is included in “my sayings” and “my own commandments”? In addition to Bible teachings, these include family rules, or regulations, set by parents for the good of the family members. Young ones need to abide by these as well as by the Scriptural teachings they receive from their parents.
8:30—Who is the “master worker”? Personified wisdom calls itself a master worker. More than serving as a literary device to explain the characteristics of wisdom, this personification figuratively refers to God’s firstborn Son, Jesus Christ, in his prehuman existence. Long before his birth as a human on earth, he was ‘produced as the beginning of God’s way.’ (Proverbs 8:22) As “a master worker,” he actively worked with his Father during the creation of all things.—Colossians 1:15-17.
9:17—What are “stolen waters,” and why are they “sweet”? Since the Bible likens enjoying sexual intimacy within marriage to drinking refreshing water drawn out of a well, stolen waters represent secretive immoral sexual relations. (Proverbs 5:15-17) The idea of getting away with something gives such waters their apparent sweetness.
Lessons for Us:
1:10-14. We should guard against being lured into the bad ways of sinners by their promises of riches.
3:3. We should highly value loving-kindness and trueness and visibly display them as we would a priceless necklace. We also need to inscribe these qualities on our heart, making them an integral part of us.
4:18. Spiritual knowledge is progressive. To remain in the light, we must continue to manifest humility and meekness.
5:8. We ought to keep far away from all immoral influences, whether they come through music, entertainment, the Internet, or books and magazines.
5:21. Would a lover of Jehovah exchange his good relationship with the true God for a few moments of pleasure? Of course not! The strongest incentive for maintaining moral purity is the awareness that Jehovah sees our ways and holds us accountable.
6:1-5. In these verses, what fine advice we have against ‘going surety,’ or making an unwise financial commitment, in behalf of others! If, upon closer scrutiny, the action we have taken seems unwise, without delay we should ‘storm our fellowman’ with persistent requests and do all we can to set matters straight.
6:16-19. Herein are seven basic categories involving almost every type of wrongdoing. We should develop a hatred of them.
6:20-24. A Scriptural upbringing can protect one from getting caught in the trap of sexual immorality. Parents should not be negligent about providing such training.
7:4. We should develop an affection for wisdom and understanding.
INDIVIDUAL PROVERBS TO GUIDE US
The remainder of Solomon’s proverbs are concise individual sayings. Presented mainly as contrasts, parallels, and comparisons, they convey powerful lessons in conduct, speech, and attitude.
Chapters 10 through 24 emphasize the value of the reverential fear of Jehovah. The proverbs in chapters 25 through 29 were transcribed by “the men of Hezekiah the king of Judah.” (Proverbs 25:1) These proverbs teach dependence on Jehovah and other vital lessons.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
10:6; footnote—How does ‘the mouth of the wicked ones cover up violence’? This may be so in the sense that by sweet talk the wicked cover up their malicious intent to harm others. Or it could be that since the wicked are generally treated with animosity, the hostility they receive from others silences them.
10:10—How does “the one winking his eye” cause pain? “A good-for-nothing man” may not only resort to “crookedness of speech” but also try to hide his motives with body language, such as “winking his eye.” (Proverbs 6:12, 13) This kind of deception can become a source of much mental distress to his victim.
10:29—What is “the way of Jehovah”? The reference here is to the way Jehovah deals with mankind and not to the course of life we should follow. God’s dealings with humans spell security for the blameless but ruin for the wicked.
11:31—Why should the wicked one be rewarded more than the righteous one? The reward here is measured in terms of the degree of chastisement each receives. When the righteous person errs, the reward he receives for his errors is discipline. The wicked one sins deliberately and refuses to turn to doing good. He therefore deserves and receives a severe punishment.
12:23—How does one ‘cover knowledge’? Covering knowledge does not mean that one does not display it at all. Rather, it means that one displays knowledge discreetly, not making a showy display of it by bragging.
14:17—In what way is ‘the man of thinking abilities hated’? The Hebrew expression translated “thinking abilities” can mean either discernment or malicious thinking. A man of wicked ideas is, of course, hated. But so is the man of discernment who exercises his thinking abilities and chooses to be “no part of the world.”—John 15:19.
18:19—How is ‘a brother who is transgressed against more than a strong town’? Like a strong town under siege, such a person may rigidly refuse to make concessions. Contentions between him and the transgressor can easily become as much of a barrier as “the bar of a dwelling tower.”
Lessons for Us:
10:11-14. For our words to be upbuilding, our mind should be filled with accurate knowledge, our heart ought to be motivated by love, and wisdom should dictate what comes out of our mouth.
11:4. It is foolish to pursue material wealth at the expense of personal Bible study, meeting attendance, prayer, and the field ministry.
13:4. To be “desirous” of a position of responsibility in the congregation or of life in the new world is in itself not enough. We must also be industrious and put forth diligent effort to meet the requirements.
14:10. Since our innermost feelings can neither be precisely expressed at all times nor be always understood by onlookers, the emotional comfort that others can offer has its limitations. We may have to endure some difficulties by relying solely on Jehovah.
15:7. We should not pour out everything we know to a person all at once, just as a farmer does not pour out all his seeds in one location. The wise one scatters his knowledge a little at a time as the need may be.
17:24. Unlike “the stupid one,” whose eyes and mind wander instead of being focused on important matters, we should seek understanding so that we can act in wisdom.
23:6-8. We should be on guard against a hypocritical display of hospitality.
27:21. Praise can show us up for who we are. Humility is revealed if the praise moves us to acknowledge our indebtedness to Jehovah and encourages us to continue to serve him. A lack of humility is disclosed when praise fosters a feeling of superiority.
27:23-27. Using a pastoral setting, these proverbs emphasize the value of finding contentment in a simple life resulting from diligent work. They should especially impress on us the need to depend on God.*
28:5. If we ‘seek Jehovah’ through prayer and a study of his Word, we “can understand everything” needed to serve him acceptably.
The Bible book of Proverbs concludes with two ‘weighty messages.’ (Proverbs 30:1; 31:1) By means of thought-provoking comparisons, the message of Agur illustrates the insatiableness of greed, and it shows how undetectable the persuasive ways of a seducer are with a maiden.* It also warns against self-exaltation and angry speech.
The weighty message that Lemuel received from his mother contains sound advice about the use of wine and intoxicating liquor as well as about judging in righteousness. The description of a good wife ends with the statement: “Give her of the fruitage of her hands, and let her works praise her.”—Proverbs 31:31.
Gain wisdom, accept discipline, cultivate godly fear, rely upon Jehovah. What valuable lessons the inspired proverbs teach! By all means, let us apply their advice and thus experience the happiness of “the man in fear of Jehovah.”—Psalm 112:1.
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Jehovah is the Source of all true knowledge
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What does it mean to ‘scatter knowledge about’?