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To Know Wisdom

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“To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth — let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” ~Proverbs 1:2-7

Today, here are a few more notes from the first chapter of Proverbs….

Solomon here, in the first few sentences of his book, makes known those to whom he is writing, lays forth the subjects of his teaching, addresses his purpose, and establishes both the premise of the foundation of wisdom itself alongside its implications, distinguishing the one who possesses wisdom from he who does not.

First, those to whom he is writing: he speaks first of all to the simple one, the youth, though he clearly is also addressing the wise man, in order that he might increase in understanding. From here, perhaps we can see that it is not a moral crime to be ignorant — rather, this lack of knowledge demonstrates a need for instruction. I think that we can also see that folly is not identical with ignorance, for in verse 7 we see that the fool who despises wisdom is not ignorant. If he did not know the instruction, how could he despise it? And Solomon, loving his son, wanting him to gain wisdom and not to remain simple and ignorant, is setting forth to instruct him in the ways of wisdom and righteousness.

Second, the subjects of his doctrine are expressly described as wisdom, instruction, understanding, insight, wise dealing, discretion, justice, equity, prudence. Each of these could be considered in depth in order to gain a fuller understanding of Solomon’s purpose and goals for his son, but this is beyond the scope of these brief notes here….

Third, Solomon is very clear that his purpose is to impart these things for the improvement and maturing of those who hear in two primary areas: 1) the knowledge of what is true; and 2) how to act according to the law of God in this world. When he says he is writing in order that the reader might “receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity,” this is where the rubber meets the road as knowledge of the truth is applied in wisdom and insight into life and its varying situations. Furthermore, by referring to “righteousness and justice,” he is harking back to the voice of the Law, where the way of righteousness is laid forth. In this way, Solomon’s teaching is nothing new, but builds on the previous revelation of God, interpreting for and teaching his children how he wants them to understand what God had said.

Fourth, the premise of all that follows in the book of Proverbs is this: the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Clearly, wisdom cannot be obtained without first fearing the Lord, for wisdom applies and builds on knowledge. Knowledge is repeatedly spoken of in the Old Testament, in particular, as being specifically given by God. This is seen here in the basic premise found in verse 7, where Solomon says that knowledge begins with the fear of the Lord God. He could have said that wisdom begins there — but, instead, he went a layer deeper and said that knowledge begins in the fear of the Lord. This is so significant because knowledge actually is even more basic than wisdom, for it is the content of wisdom, having its beginning and source in knowing God aright.

Fifth, King Solomon points out the character of those who do not heed his teaching, setting up a distinction that he will continue draw sharply throughout the remainder of his didactic — the fool is the one who does not fear God. Thus, as we may see it exampled in his life and character and desires, he despises wisdom and does not apply instruction. Not being ignorant, he who does not fear God rejects the law of the Lord with derision, for he is wise in his own eyes and does not wish his knowledge to be dependent upon his Maker.

Sixth, I think that much of the depth and breadth of verse 7 hinges on the meaning of “the fear of the Lord.” But I think I will consider that more in depth in a different post….

So there are a few notes for now, rather bare and stark, I think, but things that seem rather apparent to me from the passage….