Proverbs 1:2
To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding;
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(2) To know.—That is, they are written that one may know. The writer in this and the following verses heaps up synonyms with which to bring out the wide purpose of the instruction he offers.

Wisdom (chokhmah).—The original meaning of this word is “firmness,” “solidity,” having an opinion based upon sound reasons; the opposite state of mind to being “carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14).

Instruction (mûsār).—Or rather, discipline, the knowledge how to keep oneself under control. (Comp. 2Peter 1:6 : “Add to your knowledge temperance,” or self-control.)

To perceive the words of understanding.—Comp. Hebrews 5:14 : “To have the senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Comp. also Philippians 1:10.) The opposite condition to this is having the heart made “fat” (Isaiah 6:10) by continuance in evil, so that it can no longer understand.

Proverbs 1:2-4. To know wisdom — Written to help men to know, thoroughly and practically, both human wisdom, to conduct their affairs properly in this life, and especially divine wisdom, showing them their duty to God and man, and making them wise unto salvation; and instruction — The instructions delivered, either by God or men, in order to the attainment of wisdom. To perceive the words of understanding — Those words which are the effects of a good understanding, or which give a man that true understanding whereby he can discern between truth and error, between good and evil, in order that he may choose the former and refuse the latter. To receive the instruction of wisdom — Willingly to receive the wise and salutary counsels of others, which is a good step to wisdom, and a part of it. This is opposed to the instruction of fools and of folly, of which he speaks Proverbs 16:22, and Proverbs 19:27. For folly hath its school, where multitudes of scholars attend, who are very apt to learn its lessons. Justice, judgment, and equity — That is, to receive the instruction which teaches men just judgment, or equity, namely, their whole duty to God, their neighbour, and themselves. To give subtlety — Or, rather, prudence, as this word, ערמה, is used Proverbs 8:5; Proverbs 8:12; although it is frequently taken in an evil sense for craft and subtlety; to the simple — To such as want wisdom, and are easily deceived by others, and therefore most need this blessing; to the young man — Who wants both experience and self-government; knowledge and discretion — That they may gain so much knowledge as will enable them to conduct themselves and their affairs with knowledge and discretion.1:1-6 The lessons here given are plain, and likely to benefit those who feel their own ignorance, and their need to be taught. If young people take heed to their ways, according to Solomon's Proverbs, they will gain knowledge and discretion. Solomon speaks of the most important points of truth, and a greater than Solomon is here. Christ speaks by his word and by his Spirit. Christ is the Word and the Wisdom of God, and he is made to us wisdom.The writer's purpose is to educate. He is writing what might be called an ethical handbook for the young, though not for the young only. Of all books in the Old Testament, this is the one which we may think of as most distinctively educational. A comparison of it with a similar manual, the "sayings of the fathers," in the Mishna, would help the student to measure the difference between Scriptural and rabbinical teaching.

Wisdom - The power by which human personality reaches its highest spiritual perfection, by which all lower elements are brought into harmony with the highest, is presently personified as life-giving and creative. Compare the notes of Job 28:23, etc.

Instruction - i. e., discipline or training, the practical complement of the more speculative wisdom.

Understanding - The power of distinguishing right from wrong, truth from its counterfeit. The three words σοφία sophia, παιδεία paideia, φρόνησις phronēsis (Septuagint), express very happily the relation of the words in the Hebrew.

2. To know … instruction—literally, "for knowing," that is, such is the design of these writings.

wisdom—or the use of the best means for the best ends, is generally employed in this book for true piety.

instruction—discipline, by which men are trained.

to perceive—literally, "for perceiving," the design (as above)

understanding—that is, words which enable one to discern good and evil.

To know; written to help men to know thoroughly and practically.

Wisdom; both human wisdom, to conduct our affairs in this life, which divers of the following proverbs do; and especially Divine wisdom, which Solomon chiefly designed; or to make men wise to know their duty, and to save their souls.

Instruction; the counsels and instructions delivered, either by God or by men, in order to the attainment of wisdom.

Words of understanding; either,

1. Which are the effects of a good understanding; or,

2. Which teach a man true understanding, whereby to discern between truth and error, between good and evil, to choose the former, and to refuse the latter. To know wisdom and instruction,.... That is, these proverbs were made, and written, and published, to make known or to teach men wisdom and knowledge; not only in things moral, and therefore these proverbs are by some called Solomon's "ethics"; and indeed they do contain the best system of morality in the whole world; nothing like it is to be extracted out of all the writings of the Heathen poets and philosophers: nor only in things civil; for which reason they may be called his "politics", seeing they are instructive to kings and civil magistrates, and to subjects; and also his "economics", seeing they furnish out rules for husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants, worthy of their attention and observance: but also they are a means of and are designed to teach spiritual and evangelical wisdom and knowledge; things relating to Jesus Christ, the wisdom of God, and the way of life and salvation by him, the knowledge of which is life eternal. These words, with others that follow, seem to be synonymous, and signify much one and the same thing; and are used to show that the most consummate wisdom and comprehensive knowledge may be attained by means of this book; which, like the rest of Scripture, with a divine blessing, is able to make a man "wise unto salvation"; and is "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness", 2 Timothy 3:15; where the apostle seems to allude to this text: since "wisdom" here may stand for "doctrine" in general; and "instruction" may signify the means of attaining to it; and it may be observed, that the word is used for "discipline" and "correction", as well as "instruction". If these words are to be distinguished, the first, "wisdom", may design a wise scheme and plan of truths, and the theory of them and the latter, "instruction", the learning it and putting it into practice; and for both theory and practice this book is useful;

to perceive the words of understanding; which flow from a good understanding, and give a right understanding of things; so that a man may be able to distinguish between light and darkness, truth and error, right and wrong; particularly the doctrines of the Gospel may be meant, which are eminently so, and exceed the understanding of a natural man, and which are only understood by a spiritual man; the means of knowing which are the Scriptures, under the guidance and direction of the Spirit of God.

To know wisdom {a} and instruction; to perceive the words {b} of understanding;

(a) That is, what we ought to know and follow, and what we ought to refuse.

(b) Meaning, the word of God in which is the only true knowledge.

2. To know] The construction in this and the following clauses is elliptical: The proverbs … to know, to discern, to receive, to give; i.e. the proverbs of which the purpose is that men may know, discern, and receive (as it is expressed in Proverbs 1:5), and that they (the proverbs) may give, &c.

wisdom] In this one word the whole subject of the Book is gathered up. But in these opening verses the scope and functions of this Wisdom, which the Book is designed to teach, are set forth by a variety of words employed to expand and describe it. It is instruction, or, rather, discipline (Proverbs 1:2), not only instructive but corrective. It is discriminating, intelligent, penetrating, it discerns the words of understanding (ib. R.V.). It is practical, for it educates or disciplines in wise dealing (Proverbs 1:3; Proverbs 1:1 st clause, R.V.). It is upright and just, and has regard to the severer virtues, for it trains in righteousness and judgement and equity (ib. R.V.). It sharpens the intellect, for it imparts subtilty, or prudence (R.V. marg. Proverbs 1:4). It adds learning (lit. acquirement) and the art of steering one’s course aright (wise counsels) by its growth and fuller application (Proverbs 1:5). It gives play to the imagination and scope to the intellectual powers in proverb and figure, in riddles and dark sayings (Proverbs 1:6, R.V.).

instruction] So both A.V. and R.V. But the word carries with it the sense of correction, or discipline. LXX. παιδεία (on which word in its Scriptural sense see Trench, N. T. Synonyms), Vulg. disciplina. The Heb. word is the same as is rendered chastening, A.V. and R.V. text in Proverbs 3:11, and παιδεία in the quotation of that passage in Hebrews 12:5. As Trench points out there can be no true instruction of man as he now is, without correction and discipline.

understanding] Lit. discernment, the Heb. root being the same as discern at the beginning of the verse. The root-meaning is to go between, divide, distinguish. Comp. “that ye may prove the things that differ” (R.V. marg.), Php 1:10. Penetration is an integral part of wisdom.

The Introduction. Chap. Proverbs 1:2-7The Introduction consists of a statement of the object of the Book (Proverbs 1:2-6), which is primarily to instruct the young in Wisdom (Proverbs 1:4), but at the same time to increase the store of those who are already wise (Proverbs 1:5); and also of a kind of motto, or enunciation of the basis and ruling principle of all the teaching which is to follow (Proverbs 1:7).Verse 2. - To know wisdom and instruction. In this verse we have a statement of the first general aim or object of the Proverbs. "To know" (לָדַעַת, ladaath) is somewhat indefinite in the Authorized Version, and might be more accurately rendered. "from which men may know" (De Wette, Noyes); cf. unde scias (Munsterus). The ל which is here prefixed to the infinitive, as in vers. 2, 8, and 6, gives the clause a final character, and thus points out the object which the teaching of the Proverbs has in view. The teaching is viewed from the standpoint of the learner, and hence what is indicated here is not the imparting of knowledge, but the reception or aprrspriation thereof on the part of the laemer. Schultens states that the radical meaning of דָּעַת (daath) is the reception of knowledge into one's self. Wisdom. It will be necessary to go rather fully into this word here on its first appearance in the text. The Hebrew is חָכְמָה (khokhmah). Wisdom is mentioned first, because it is the end to which all knowledge and instruction tend. The fundamental conception of the word is variously represented as either

(1) the "power of judging," derived from צּצּצּ, "to be wise," from the Arabic, "to judge" (Oesenlus); or

(2) "the fixing of a thing for cognition," derived from the Arabic equivalent of the Hebrew חָכַם, as before, which signifies "to fasten" (Zockler), or "compactness," from the same root as before, "to be firm, or closed." It is also variously defined

(1) as "insight into that upright dealing which pleases God - a knowledge of the right way which is to be followed before God, and of the wrong one which is to be shunned" (Zockler);

(2) as "piety towards God," as in Job 28:28 (Gesenius);

(3) as "the knowledge of things in their being and in the reality of their existence" (Delitzsch), The word is translated in the LXX. by σοφία, and in the Vulgate by sapientia. The Hebrew khokhmah and the Greek σοφία so far agree as philosophical terms in that the end of each is the same, viz. the striving after objective wisdom, the moral fitness of things; but the character of the former differs from that of the latter in being distinctly religious. The beginning and the end of the khokhmah, wisdom, is God (cf. ver. 7). Wisdom, then, is not the merely scientific knowledge, or moral philosophy, but knowledge κατ ἐξοχήν, i.e. religious knowledge or piety towards God; i.e. an appreciation of what God requires of us and what we conversely owe to God. "Sapientia est de divinis" (Lyra). Wisdom will, of course, carry with it the notions of knowledge and insight. Instruction. As the preceding word represents wisdom in its intellectual conception, and has rather a theoretical character, so "instruction," Hebrew, מְוּסָר (musar), represents it on its practical side, and as such is its practical complement. The Hebrew musar signifies properly "chastisement," from the root yasar (יָסַר), "to correct," or "chastise," and hence education, moral training; and hence in the LXX. it is rendered by παιδεῖα, which means both the process of education (cf. Plato, 'Repub.,' 376, E.; Arist., 'Pol.,' 8, 3) and its result as learning (Plato, 'Prob.,' 327, D.). The Vulgate has disciplina. In relation to wisdom, it is antecedent to it; i.e. to know wisdom truly we must first become acquainted with instruction, and hence it is a preparatory step to the knowledge of wisdom, though here it is stated rather objectively. The words, "wisdom and instruction," are found in exactly the same collocation in Proverbs 4:13 and Proverbs 23:23. In its strictly disciplinary sense, "instruction" occurs in Proverbs 3:11, with which comp. Hebrews 12:5. Holden takes this word as "moral discipline" in the highest sense. To perceive the words of understanding; literally, to discern the words of discernment; i.e. "to comprehend the utterances which proceed from intelligence, and give expression to it" (Delitzsch). Understanding; Hebrew, vinah (בִינָה), connected with the hiph. (לְהָבִין l'havin), properly "to distinguish," hence "to discern," of the same clause, signifies the capability of discerning the true from the false, good front bad, etc. With this agrees Cornelius a Lapide, who says, "Unde prudenter discernas inter bonum et malum, licitum et illicitum, utile et noxium, verum et falsum," and from which you are enabled to know what to do in any circumstances, and what not to do. The LXX. renders the word by φρόμησις, the Vulgate by prudentia. Φρόνησις, in Plato and Aristotle, is the virtue concerned in the government of men, manage-merit of affairs, and the like (see Plato, 'Sym.,' 209, A.; Arist.,' Eth.,' N. 6, 5 and 8), and means practical wisdom, prudence, or moral wisdom. Van Ess, Allioli, Holden, translate "prudence." The Synagogue reckons up thirteen divine attributes according to ex. Psa 34:6. (שׁלשׁ עשׂרה מדּות), to which, according to an observation of Kimchi, correspond the thirteen הלּל of this Psalm. It is, however, more probable that in the mind of the poet the tenfold halaluw encompassed by Hallelujah's is significative; for ten is the number of rounding off, completeness, exclusiveness, and of the extreme of exhaustibleness. The local definitions in Psalm 150:1 are related attributively to God, and designate that which is heavenly, belonging to the other world, as an object of praise. קדשוּ (the possible local meaning of which is proved by the קדשׁ and קדשׁ קדשׁים of the Tabernacle and of the Temple) is in this passage the heavenly היכל; and רקיע עזּו is the firmament spread out by God's omnipotence and testifying of God's omnipotence (Psalm 68:35), not according to its front side, which is turned towards the earth, but according to the reverse or inner side, which is turned towards the celestial world, and which marks it off from the earthly world. The third and fourth hălalu give as the object of the praise that which is at the same time the ground of the praise: the tokens of His גּבוּרה, i.e., of His all-subduing strength, and the plenitude of His greatness (גּדלו equals גּדלו), i.e., His absolute, infinite greatness. The fifth and sixth hălalu bring into the concert in praise of God the ram's horn, שׁופר, the name of which came to be improperly used as the name also of the metallic חצצרה (vid., on Psalm 81:4), and the two kinds of stringed instruments (vid., Psalm 33:2), viz., the nabla (i.e., the harp and lyre) and the kinnor (the cithern), the ψαλτήριον and the κιθάρα (κινύρα). The seventh hălalu invites to the festive dance, of which the chief instrumental accompaniment is the תּף (Arabic duff, Spanish adufe, derived from the Moorish) or tambourine. The eighth hălalu brings on the stringed instruments in their widest compass, מנּים (cf. Psalm 45:9) from מן, Syriac menı̂n, and the shepherd's pipe, עגב (with the Gimel raphe equals עוּגב); and the ninth and tenth, the two kinds of castanets (צלצלי, construct form of צלצלים, singular צלצל), viz., the smaller clear-sounding, and the larger deeper-toned, more noisy kinds (cf. κύμβαλον ἀλαλάζον, 1 Corinthians 13:1), as צלצלי שׁמע (pausal form of שׁמע equals שׁמע, like סתר in Deuteronomy 27:15, and frequently, from סתר equals סתר) and צלצלי תרוּעה are, with Schlultens, Pfeifer, Burk, Kster, and others, to be distinguished.
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