The first chapter of Proverbs provides an introduction to the book and to wisdom. Chapter one can be broken into three sections. Today we’ll focus on the first, verses 1-7: The purpose and theme of Proverbs.
The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel (Proverbs 1:1).
The first verse identities the author, Solomon, and who he is, David’s son and Israel’s king. It is said that amongst all the people who have lived, Solomon is among the wisest.
To know wisdom and instruction: to perceive the words of understanding:
To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity;
To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.
Above I underlined nine words. From the first chapter to the very last, you’ll notice these words reoccur throughout Proverbs. And from teaching Proverbs I’ve noticed that many struggle to differentiate the meaning of each. So let’s learn their meanings.
What is wisdom?
It was a pastor at my church who advised I read the book of Proverbs. But before telling me to read it, he asked me if I wanted to be more intelligent. Of course, this was a no-brainer and I said “yes.” He told me in order to become more intelligent, I had to understand and be able to use the knowledge God has provided; and he said that would only happen if I had wisdom.
He told me to read the book of Proverbs a chapter a day (as I’m sure many of you have been told to do or have done on your own), but he said as I read, to pencil in a “w” next to every verse that has wisdom in it. My advice to you is to do the same.
Wisdom is defined as “the correct use of knowledge”[i]. There are many intelligent people, individuals who are filled with all the knowledge and understanding in the world; however, they do not use their knowledge correctly, and suffer because of it. Wisdom can also be defined as “the application of knowledge”. Whenever you apply both knowledge and understanding correctly, you are using wisdom.
Here’s an example:
When you first learn how to drive a car, you have to read a book—the driver’s manual—to learn the rules and regulations (such as green traffic lights mean “go”, when you can and cannot make lefts turns, signs, etc.). By reading this manual, you now have knowledge (or information) on driving a car.
When you take the permit test, it assesses your knowledge by ensuring you understand, or comprehended, the knowledge you learned. Therefore, in order to understand, you have to have knowledge.
When you begin driving, you are learning how to apply the knowledge and understanding you have in driving a car. You learn how to use the information you’ve learned correctly. A driver instructor will teach you how to parallel park correctly. Yes, you’ve read it in the book, yes you understood the information, but now it is time to use that information correctly so you can apply it. This is the “wisdom” stage.
What is instruction?
Instruction means “teaching by discipline” or “imparted knowledge [ii]”. Proverbs 13:24 reads, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” In the Hebrew language, the word “instruction” translates to “Yocar,” meaning “chasten” [iii]. Therefore, instruction means to learn by discipline.
What is understanding?
Understanding is being able to comprehend the information, or knowledge, that you have. Understanding can also be synonymously used with “intelligence”. God has given us all understanding and with it, He desires for us to discern right from wrong, wise from foolish.
What is justice?
Justice is righteousness. All that is Godly is right, and all that is not Godly is wrong. Our ways must become like God’s ways, and what He says is correct must be correct by us too. With God, it is either “yay or nay”. There is never an in between. Something cannot be half-right, nor can it be half-wrong.
What is judgment?
Judgment is the ability to make a sound and right decision. God told us we need to make decisions—don’t be wishy-washy and not know what to do. Pick a choice and stay with it.
What is equity?
Equity is the ability to remain fair and impartial.
What is subtility?
When Proverbs reads “give subtilty to the simple” it is referring to obtaining wisdom. Solomon intended for this book to provide wisdom to all willing enough to receive it. As children of God, we are to receive wisdom and then use it in all circumstances.
What is knowledge?
I mentioned knowledge a few times earlier, but essentially, knowledge is “information”. The Bible is a great place to acquire knowledge.
What is discretion?
Discretion is the ability to judge freely, choose wisely, and act responsibility. In one word, discretion is “thoughtfulness”. Give thought to your words and everything you do.
In reading the book of Proverbs, you’ll learn the importance of having all of these words are a part of your overall character.