James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel;Proverbs 1:1-3:35
The nature of this book makes divisions of its chapters rather arbitrary, and ours may not always be the best, but it is hoped it may prove useful in some degree. The opening of chapter four suggests a new beginning, for which reason we conclude this lesson at the close of chapter three.
It begins with an advertisement (Proverbs 1:1-6), in which mention is made of the author (Proverbs 1:1), the object of the book (Proverbs 1:2-3), and its great value (Proverbs 1:4-6). Then follows its theme, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge’’ (Proverbs 1:7), of which the rest of the lesson is a development or exposition. “Beginning” is rendered in the margin of the Revised Version “chief part.” “The fear of the Lord” means a right state of heart towards God as opposed to the condition of an unconverted man. Put the two ideas together, and we learn that the chief part of all knowledge is to be right with God. In working out of the thought:
1. The teacher exhorts his “son” or pupil, to avoid vice (1:8-19); 2. He shows the ruinous conduct of the unwise, a warning placed on the lips of wisdom personified (1:20-33); 3. This warning is accentuated by contrasting the consequences of obedience and a striving after wisdom (2:1-3); 4. The Lord is shown as the protector of those who are wise in this sense (3:19-26); 5. The division concludes with an admonition to charity and justice (3:27-35).
PRACTICAL AND DOCTRINAL REMARKS
In this part of the lesson we call attention to particular verses for explanation or application, acknowledging indebtedness to Arnot’s “Laws From Heaven for Life on Earth.”
Proverbs 1:23 is a text for a revival sermon, containing a command and a promise joined, like Php 2:12. It teaches in one sentence those two seemingly contradictory doctrines, the sovereignty of God, and the free agency of man. It is when we turn at God’s reproof that He pours out His Spirit; though it’s also true that unless His Spirit is poured out we cannot turn.
Proverbs 1:24-32 offers an opportunity to preach on God’s mercy to a rebellious people. He calls, stretches out His hands, counsels, and administers reproof. On the other hand men refuse, disregard, set at nought, and reject. The natural consequence follows; sowing disobedience they reap judgment. That judgment consists in calling on God and getting no answer, seeking diligently and not finding Him. The passage closes with a promise to them that hearken deliverance from death at last and freedom from fear now.
Proverbs 2:1-9 suggests Christ’s words in Luke 11:9, “Seek, and ye shall find.” The seeking is in Proverbs 2:1-4, the finding in Proverbs 2:5-9.
Proverbs 2:10-22 is an outline of “the way of evil” (Proverbs 2:12 RV). The first step is “speaking froward things”; the second, leaving “the paths of uprightness,’’ the feet soon follow the tongue (Proverbs 2:13); the third, walking “in the ways of darkness” (Proverbs 2:13); the fourth, rejoicing “to do evil” (Proverbs 2:14); the fifth, delighting “in the frowardness of the wicked,” we cannot take pleasure in doing wickedness without finding pleasure in seeing others do it; and the sixth, to complete the picture, the evil person here particularly in mind is seen to be a woman (Proverbs 2:16-22).
Proverbs 3:5-6 presents one of the strongest promises of the Bible the first text from which the author of this commentary ever preached.
Note how we are to trust, “with all thine heart.” God complains as much of a divided allegiance as of none. Note the extent of our trust, “in all thy ways.” Few will refuse to acknowledge a superintending providence at certain times, and in certain operations that are counted great, but God wants us to confide in Him in the little, close, and kindly things.
Proverbs 3:11-12 is quoted in Hebrews 12:5-6. Note there how the inspired writer interprets the phrase, “My son.” The speaker in Proverbs may have been addressing a pupil merely, but the Holy Spirit through him, “speaketh unto you as unto sons.”
“Despise not,” means do not make light of chastening, or cast it aside as if it had no meaning for you; “faint not” touches the opposite extreme, do not be driven to despair by the experience. The middle way is the path of safety.
Proverbs 3:13-20 is a description and appreciation of wisdom, which throughout this book means piety or godliness. In Ecclesiastes it is science. And yet piety or godliness hardly expresses it in the highest sense in which it is sometimes found, where as for example in these verses, it suggests Christ. He is the wisdom of God as we learn in the New Testament, who, by the Holy Spirit through the holy Scriptures is made unto us wisdom (1 Corinthians 2). Such wisdom cannot be planned, much less created by us, but must be “found” or “gotten” (Proverbs 3:13).
Observe the figures describing it. It is precious merchandise (Proverbs 3:14-15). It is a way of honor, pleasantness and peace (Proverbs 3:16-17). It is a tree of life (Proverbs 3:18).
1. What is the chief part of all knowledge?
2. Give the five general divisions of this lesson.
3. Quote and give the doctrinal teaching of Proverbs 1:23.
4. Quote and give the spiritual significance of Proverbs 1:33; Proverbs 3:5-6; Proverbs 3:11-12.
5. What does the word wisdom mean in this book?