Overview of Proverbs and Proverbs Chapter 1:1-7

Jun 30th, 2009 | By | Category: Proverbs, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Overview of Proverbs and Proverbs Chapter 1:1-7

Proverbs 1:1–7

Proverbs 1:1–7 is a separate unit. Translators have misunderstood and inserted a paragraph break before verse 7, but it should appear after verse 7. Verses 1–7 comprise the prologue to the Book of Proverbs.

“The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel; To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; To give subtlety to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion. A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

Most of the Book of Proverbs was written by Solomon, but not all. An introduction similar to verse 1 is mentioned two other times: Proverbs 10:1 and 25:1.

While Solomon is noted in history for his wisdom, David had more wisdom. (The reasons for this conclusion will not be considered at this time.) Although Jesus does mention the wisdom of Solomon, he does not say it is the greatest wisdom. He simply says, “There is one standing among you who is wiser than the reputed King Solomon of Israel.” One who is familiar with the Psalms sees the teachings of David in the Book of Proverbs. In other words, Solomon imbibed the precepts of his father, David. Solomon wrote three thousand proverbs (1 Kings 4:32), but David wrote about the same number.

There are 150 Psalms, which average about 20 verses each. If the 150 is multiplied by 20, the result would be 3,000 verses. (Although David did not write every Psalm, the numbers give an approximation.) In the Book of Proverbs, a proverb can be half a verse, a third of a verse, a whole verse, etc. Thus the Book of Proverbs contains about 500 proverbs. In other words, out of the 3,000, only a small portion was selected by Divine Providence for incorporation into the Bible.

Nearly all Bible scholars speak of the proverbs as being natural wisdom, but they are both natural and spiritual. The spiritual wisdom is usually overlooked. In fact, the proverbs are so meaty and pithy that the theme is often not discerned. Therefore, in approaching this subject, we must be careful of semantics. For instance, in the first seven verses, “knowledge” is described in various ways: wisdom, instruction, understanding, subtlety, counsel—many of these are synonyms of wisdom. It is helpful to know the distinctions between these words according to the dictionary and in the Hebrew. The King James Version is a good translation for these verses.

The main theme of the Book of Proverbs is wisdom. The Gospels, on the other hand, are about love and mercy. When Jesus came, he brought the gospel of love. When Moses was on the scene, he brought statutes, ie, God’s justice. The power of God is shown in the accounts of the Flood, the opening of the Red Sea, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Judgment was rendered against evildoers in these events.

In reading the New Testament, Christians often say, “God is love.” And the Apostle John did say this, for love is the desired plateau of development for the Christian. The Apostle Paul mentioned three progressive steps: faith, hope, and love. In 2 Peter 1:5–7 the Apostle Peter listed eight steps or qualities to be added to faith, the last one being love. Although the Book of Proverbs cannot be equated with 1 Corinthians 13 or the Sermon on the Mount, it is interesting to note that in the Tabernacle, which illustrates the four attributes in the Most Holy, the Shekinah light, picturing wisdom, represents God. And light is wisdom, intelligence.

In the Book of Proverbs in a delicate way, Solomon gives us the benefit of his experience.

David was the wise one because he repented as the deeds happened, and he reformed and changed. The bent of David’s heart was different from Solomon’s. In the beginning Solomon was very worthwhile, and God commended him for asking for wisdom to benefit those in the kingdom under his charge. But, sadly, as time went on, Solomon went astray.

Is Proverbs 1:1–7 sequential? in ascending order of importance? in descending order? Just seven principal ingredients? It is both sequential and an ascending order of importance.

To illustrate: As 2 Peter 1:5–7 mentions each quality that should be added to faith, that quality is retained when the person goes on to acquire the next one. The individual is not to go up steps and leave the previous steps behind, for “the just shall live by faith”—he is to live his life fighting the good fight of faith. Nevertheless, there is a sequential order of development. And so it is with Proverbs 1:1–7. There is a sequential order of development for attaining the goal, and each step of wisdom is to be retained as the next one is acquired.

1. “To know wisdom and instruction.”

In the beginning of our Christian walk, are we wise? are we instructed? No, for to know wisdom and instruction in a more subtle sense is to know God. Maimonides gives a simple definition of the word “wisdom” as used here: “It is the knowledge of those facts or truths which lead to the knowledge of God.” This is a particular kind of wisdom. All other wisdom is worldly or Satanic; one can spend a whole lifetime on such wisdom and not know God.

True, the Book of Proverbs is written with natural logic. But consider the experience of  many Christians—and of all Christians in present truth even though they do not know it.

First, in the present life, many do not have the benefit of realizing about God. Hebrews 11:6 says that without faith it is impossible to please God, but that kind of faith is natural faith. Paul continues, “He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. However, to know God is not confined to the Bible, for all nature speaks of the existence of God. The Psalmist (19:1–4) says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth [forth] his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language [no Greek, no Hebrew, etc.], … their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” In other words, it is an international sign language that everyone can understand. No voice or words are heard, and yet “their line” or testimony stretches abroad to the ends of the earth, so that anyone anywhere on earth can look up at the heavens. As one poet has said of the stars, “Forever singing as they shine, they declare the hand that made us is divine.”

Now the second part. “Believe that he [God] is, and [the] … rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” This is a process. The heavens show forth the power of God—the diversity of His knowledge, power, and wisdom. On earth we see flowers with different fragrances, textures, and shapes. We see different animals—and most of all, man, who David said is “wonderfully made” (Psa. 139:14). An article some years ago in National Geographic magazine was entitled “Man, the Wonder Machine.” One part of the article said that the basic theory of mechanics is in the frame of the human being and that if every floor of the Empire State Building were filled with computers, it still would not match the capability of the human brain. David looked at the heavens and studied, contemplated, and absorbed them. He also studied about animals and their behavior, and how God, in wisdom, favors the animals at nighttime and humans in the daytime, for if man-eating animals were out in the daylight, problems would result.

Bro. Frank loves to study these subjects but has never spoken about them as a whole because of the great need for prophecy and to counteract the misunderstanding of prophecy.

How are we “to know wisdom and instruction” of God? The bottom plateau of development is through the study of nature. Nature helps one realize there is a God.

Next, one realizes that God is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Many have good intentions, but persistence and tenacity are needed as well. In looking at the heavens and seeing all the diversity, one should realize God created them to benefit mankind. The majority of mankind have ignored the heavens in this sense. Others who appreciate the heavens stop at that plateau of wisdom and spend the rest of their lives there. A very small minority go on to the second plateau of perceiving.

David gave the clue in Psalm 19 when he said that the heavens declare the glory of God. The heavens made him think about God and about God’s statutes. In the second half of the Psalm, David said the law of the Lord is perfect, the testimony of the LORD is sure, the statutes of the Lord are right, the commandment of the LORD is pure, the fear of the Lord is clean, and the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether—more to be desired than gold. But he noticed that the heavens are in control and keep their spacing, that there is an order there. He considered the miracle of the sun—the way it comes up in the morning, moves across the heavens during the day, and goes down at night. The sun is so important that without it there would be no life; strength, warmth, and life come from the sun.

When verse 1 says, “to know wisdom and instruction,” it does not mean that the individual knows all wisdom but that he knows who has it—God. Wisdom and instruction can be seen in the heavens, for “the heavens declare the glory of God.” As Christians, we hunger to know and to be instructed, for our thoughts are unclean and disorganized and our goals are deranged. When we consecrate and dedicate our lives to God, He brings order out of disorder. He gives us the spirit of a sound mind.

2. “To perceive the words of understanding.”

The silent heavens tell us there is a God with wisdom and power, but they do not answer the questions “Why am I here?” “Why was I born?” “Where will I go when I die?” The one who hungers for truth and understanding diligently looks for the answers. Only one book stands head and shoulders above all others and can provide the answers: the Bible.

The Bible contains “words” and it speaks literally, even though it is written. In the final analysis, Jesus is the epitome of the manifestation of God’s wisdom to mankind.

The Pastor followed these steps of wisdom in writing The Divine Plan of the Ages. Millions of people have read the First Volume. Notice that Study II is “The Existence of a Supreme Intelligent Creator Established.” Not only is this statement made, but prologues are used. These mini-captions are very important and deserve consideration. For Study II, the first mini-caption is “Evidence Aside from the Bible …” The entire human race has the testimony of the heavens. The heavens are an open book. In the future no one will be able to say, “God did not tell me,” for all have the light of nature. The whole mini-caption is “Evidence Aside from the Bible, Examined in the Light of Reason,” but what kind of reason? Human reason, human logic, putting two and two together, not sanctified reason.

The light of nature is the beginning of the path to wisdom. Subsequent mini-captions are “The Character of God Demonstrated” and “Reasonable Deductions.” The “reasonable” deduction, the conclusion, is “the existence of a supreme intelligent Creator.”

Study III is “The Bible as a Divine Revelation Viewed in the Light of Reason.” This is not the Bible viewed from a Christian standpoint but in the light of reason. The conclusion is that God could not do all these things in nature without leaving some clue around, and the Bible is that source of information. The first mini-caption under Study III is “The Claims of the Bible and its Surface Evidence of Credibility.” This is not a deep study but a surface evidence of credibility. About 16 mini-captions follow to explain the subject matter of the chapter. Very often the prologues contain thoughts that are not in the substance of the chapter, and because these thoughts are mentioned in such a pithy way, not much reason is needed to fathom what is being said. The prologues guide the direction of the reading. The next mini-caption is “Its [the Bible’s] Antiquity and Preservation.” By far the Holy Scriptures are the oldest writings in the world. Next comes “Its Moral Influence”— the Bible lifts up mankind. And then follow “General Character of the Writings [of the Bible],” “The Law of Moses,” “Peculiarities of the Government Instituted by Moses,” “It Was Not a System of Priestcraft,” etc.—and ending with “The Reasonable Conclusion.” The “reasonable conclusion” is that “the Bible is exactly what I am looking for.”

The point is that those who come into the truth by reading the First Volume go through a recognition of the heavens even though they never spent considerable time studying them, as David did. Whether one realizes it or not, this first step of wisdom is obtained by reading these early chapters. Bibles of antiquity often began by showing, through the light of reason, that the Bible is the Word of God. Thus most of the brethren have absorbed this information at least subconsciously.

And so we “perceive the words of understanding”—we know the Bible is the Word of God. And if we progress, No. 3 is the next step of wisdom.

3. “To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity.”

This third step indicates that if we want to receive the wisdom we are looking for, we now must do something, that we are now responsible. How did the Pastor end the First Volume? Page 349 states, “Whoever comes in contact with the truth, realizing its character, has thereby a responsibility with reference to it. It must be either received and acted upon, or rejected and despised.” Now the reader is at the point of decision-making. In other words, common sense tells that if we want to progress, we now must go to the Bible and diligently search to see what it really says.

This instruction embraces justice, judgment, and equity. “Justice” would be the fundamental laws of righteousness, the receiving of the principles of righteousness and truth. “Judgment,” on the other hand, is putting these principles into practice or acting on the principles. Next comes “equity,” which is not a superfluous term. Perfect and tried beings will be expected to know what is right and wrong in principle (justice) and what is right and wrong in action (judgment), but “equity” is fair play. Jesus was tried as a high priest so that he might be a merciful high priest. Equity is not expecting of a babe or of a young man what would be expected of a mature person. Equitable judgment is on the level of those to whom it is being applied. We are imperfect human beings, and God, in His mercy, recognizes our wills, covering our deeds by the robe of Christ’s righteousness. God knows that the flesh is weak.

4. “To give subtlety to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.”

The order thus far in obtaining wisdom is to know, to perceive, to receive, and to give. Wisdom gives (1) subtlety to the simple and (2) knowledge and discretion to the young man. Who are the “simple”? The babes in Christ. And the babes develop into “young men” in the truth, but still they are immature.

This fourth step of wisdom applies to those who have already received the truth and made a consecration. To such, God gives subtlety to the simple and knowledge and discretion to the young men.

And so Psalm 19:7 says that the testimony of the Lord makes wise the simple. Psalm 119:130 reads, “The entrance of thy words giveth … understanding unto the simple.” Psalm 8:2 states, “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.” And there are others. The point is that in the present truth movement, almost the simplest one is way ahead of those in the nominal Church. Even those who know only the ABC’s of truth are way ahead of the teachers in the nominal system with their doctrines of eternal torment and the Trinity. But still this wisdom is not enough—”The Divine Plan of the Ages” is only the beginning. Even in the Studies in the Scriptures series, it is only the first of six volumes.

Progress must be made. Thousands know the divine plan, but there are not thousands of the very elect remaining in the flesh.

5. “A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels.”

This fifth step of wisdom proves that the steps are sequential and going in ascending order. The progression is from a babe (the “simple”) to a “young man” to a “wise man.” A mature person would realize that he cannot stand on that maturity alone but must still progress. A Christian who has a continual drive to know God more and more will be blessed accordingly. “A wise man … will increase learning; and a man of understanding” will “attain unto wise counsels.”

6. “To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.”

As the man of understanding presses on to know God (which would take an eternity to  fully know), he is blessed—not just with learning and additional understanding but with beginning to understand proverbs (more difficult subjects in some respects) and “dark [hidden] sayings.”

This sixth step of wisdom is near the climax of progression. The development of wisdom is like a marathon race. Thousands of people start a marathon. In fact, it is almost alarming to see such a mass of people running to win the marathon. In the early stages of development, Christians are together, much like the thousands running the marathon; but as time and endurance start to take their toll, those in the race for the prize of the high calling dwindle down to perhaps just four or five. And of those four or five, only one may actually win a crown. The Apostle Paul said we are to run as though there is only one prize; that kind of dedication is needed. “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize?” (1 Cor. 9:24). So run, that ye may obtain.

The last part of the race is the hardest and seemingly the longest in a marathon. People feel as if their lungs will burst and their eyes will come out of their sockets. They have the attitude: “I will muster the strength if it kills me.”

Incidentally, everyone who gets life must complete the race, whether one is first, second, the ten thousandth, or whatever. A person may not get the chief prize, but to get life, he must fight unto death. One cannot turn away from his consecration. Finishing the race is the difference between life and death. Perseverance will pay off with rich dividends.

7. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

“The fear of the LORD is the principal part, the chief part, of knowledge” (see KJV margin). Here “knowledge” is a broad, inclusive term, being the climax of the accumulation of the previous six steps of wisdom. The reverence for God must be supreme. Even with those who attain the fourth quarter mark, their reverence for God must be deepened and broadened.

The next statement is that “fools despise wisdom and instruction.” “Wisdom and instruction” were mentioned in the beginning of the seven steps of wisdom (verse 2), and now it is said that fools despise running this course and hence do not persevere. If one has been running the race and feels he has attained a measure of maturity, that is not enough. One must fight unto death. In the race one must keep running even if the legs feel like lead, spiritually speaking. In back of all this instruction about the component parts of wisdom and the successive experiences, the bottom line is coming to know God.

Many think they know God, but as to just where each of us stands, that is up to Him. He will determine who comprise the 144,000.

The word “despise” is better translated “disregard.” Many people do not hate wisdom— they do not oppose it—but they ignore it. They do not see the need for wisdom. “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Prov. 4:18).

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