1My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; 2So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; 3Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; 4If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; 5Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. 6For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. 7He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly. 8He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints. 9Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path. 10When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul; 11Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee: 12To deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things; 13Who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness; 14Who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked; 15Whose ways are crooked, and they froward in their paths: 16To deliver thee from the strange woman, even from the stranger which flattereth with her words; 17Which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God. 18For her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead. 19None that go unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life. 20That thou mayest walk in the way of good men, and keep the paths of the righteous. 21For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it. 22But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it.
The entire chapter of Proverbs is a parental lecture explaining the value of listening to the parental advice.
The parent exhorts listening using an "if ... then ..." formulation. For the "If" portion, the parent provides four related parallel couplets:
1) If thou wilt receive my words || [if thou wilt] hide my commandments with thee
2) So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom || [so that thou] apply thine heart to understanding
3) If thou criest after knowledge || [if thou] liftest up thy voice for understanding
4) If thou seekest her as silver || [if thou] searchest for her as for hid treasure
The first couplet emphasizes possession of the information. "Receive my words" is placed in parallel to "hide my commandments." Notice the much deeper and yet clear sense that "hide my commandments" has. If it stood alone, one might wonder whether it referred to ignoring the commandments, but in parallel with "receive my words," we see that it refers to planting the seed of Scripture in one's heart.
Psalm 119:11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
The second couplet emphasizes the acquisition of the information. "Incline thine ear" and "apply thine heart" are actions taken by the listener. It is not simply a passive reception of the Word of God, but an active pursuit. One is not only the flowerbed for the seed of God's word, but one tries to help plant it there in the first place.
The third couplet emphasizes the intensity of pursuit for the information. "Criest after" and "liftest up thy voice." The picture is of someone shouting to get attention. It's like the man calling "TAXI!" because he's running late for the airport. It's like a broker shouting out "BUY BUY" from the floor of the exchange. It's the voice of someone who wants to be heard, and who is seeking to make his request clear.
The fourth couplet emphasizes the valued placed on the information. "Seekest her as silver" and "searchest for her as for hid treasure." This is not a casual search that one might make, but a search into which one will put all of one's effort. Jesus provided the same kind of analogy to make a different point:
8Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? 9And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.
The reward for this search energetic search for the acquisition and possession of precious information is spelled out as the "then" part of the "if ... then ..." format of this lecture.
The short version of this bounty is expressed in a parallel couplet:
thou shalt understand the fear of the LORD || [thou shalt] find the knowledge of God
The reward for the search is that one gets one is looking for, an understanding of the fear of the LORD and a knowledge of God. This is theology: to understand the fear of the LORD and to know God. The fear of the LORD here stands for a proper reverence of God, and the associated worship of our Creator and Provider. Likewise, the "knowledge of God," is not simply intellectual knowledge, but it is an intimate knowledge, a true love of God.
As the Apostle John explains:
1 John 4:16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
And the Apostle Paul states:
1 Corinthians 13:12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
And Jesus said:
John 10:14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
Obviously, our knowledge and love of God is a reflection of God's love for and knowledge of us, and consequently is never as strong as his, especially since we are merely creatures created in his image.
1 John 4:19 We love him, because he first loved us.
1 John 3:16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
John 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
The lecture itself provides a great deal of explanation of what is involved, using essentially the "because ... therefore ..." form presented as "for ... then ...".
In the "for" section, it is explained how/that the Lord brings us this this knowledge using three couplets:
1) the LORD giveth wisdom || out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding
2) He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous || he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly.
3) He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints.
The knowledge of God comes from God, he gives it. This is the first point to be seen. The second point is related. Not only does he give it, he puts it in firmly. He "layeth up" the wisdom and is a "buckler" or shield for the person who is following God's law. The shield or buckler is a defensive weapon - it guards from attacks. The third point is that God goes beyond protecting from external attacks, and also even essentially guides the feet of his people: keeping them on the path.
This last couplet is, of course, one of the classic proofs for the doctrine of perseverance of the saints. God is the author of our faith, he is the one who puts wisdom into us, like someone hiding something important.
The word translated "layeth up" here is the word צפן (tsaphan) which is the same word used, for example, to speak of how Moses' mother "hid" him three months after he was born. God takes his word and puts it in us in a secure place.
Proceeding to the result of this activity of God, we see the "then" clause:
Then shalt thou understand:
righteousness || judgment || equity || every good path
These four concepts are generally of overlapping scope. Judgment and equity are specific examples of righteousness, and "every good path" is a catch-all for righteous behavior. What is interesting that each of the examples is behavior: it is doing what is right. What will be understood by the person whom God blesses with Wisdom is the way in which he should live.
The lecture continues by providing more detail regarding this blessing:
When wisdom entereth into thine heart || [when] knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul
[then] Discretion shall preserve thee || [then] understanding shall keep thee
Notice emphasis on the preservative effect of wisdom. When you obtain wisdom - when it enters your heart, when it becomes pleasant to your soul, then you are preserved. It's a bit like salt that entering into meat preserves it. But the corruption preserved against is not only rotting - but also the corruption of falling, tripping, or stumbling.
This preservation is explained further negatively and positively. Negatively, a set of parallels is used:
To deliver thee from the way of the evil man || To deliver thee from the strange woman
The evil man is described with the following parallels:
from the way of the evil man || from the man that speaketh froward things || who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness || who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked || whose ways are crooked, and they froward in their paths:
Notice how there are even further parallels within the parallels. This is a most beautiful and complex structure. We've noted above that the whole description of deliverance from the evil man is parallel to deliverance from the strange woman. Within that parallel are the descriptions of the evil man. Within those, in three instances there are further internal parallels:
a) leave the paths of uprightness || walk in the ways of darkness
b) rejoice to do evil || delight in the frowardness of the wicked
c) ways are crooked || froward in their paths
Notice that the first and last of these three are focused on staying on the figurative straight path of righteousness. Furthermore, for these wicked men, the second parallel emphasizes that they love to do evil - their departure from the straight path is something they love. Having God's word in one's heart preserves one from those sorts of desires.
The second negative image is that of deliverance from the strange woman. Again, multiple parallel images are used:
from the strange woman || from the stranger which flattereth with her words || which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God || For her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead || none that go unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life.
Notice that the picture of the strange woman here, is essentially that of a prostitute or even simply an adulterous woman who lures in men through flattering words. If the evil man is simply someone who loves wickedness, the adulterous woman is a step further: she loves wickedness in a way that destroys not only herself but others. As with the pictures of the evil man, three of the depictions of the strange woman have internal parallels:
a) which forsaketh the guide of her youth || [which] forgetteth the covenant of her God
b) her house inclineth unto death || her paths unto the dead
c) none that go unto her return again || neither take they hold of the paths of life
Here, the latter two parallels focus on the ultimate demise of her and those who accompany her. The former parallel emphasizes the fact that her wickedness is a departure. Those raised in Christian homes should take this warning particularly to heart.
Having presented these negative warnings, a positive presentation is finally provided with a single parallel:
That thou mayest walk in the way of good men || [that thou mayest] keep the paths of the righteous
This is no surprise. One is being protected against going off the path and from following the prostitute to destruction. So, naturally, the positive characteristic of the word of God in one's heart is to keep on on the path of righteousness.
Finally, the lecture is concluded with a pair of contrasting parallels, positive, then negative using a "for ... but ..." layout:
Positive (For): the upright shall dwell in the land || the perfect shall remain in it
Negative (But): the wicked shall be cut off from the earth || the transgressors shall be rooted out of it
Notice the contrast, the righteous man lives, but the wicked dies - the perfect remains, but the transgressors are plucked out by the roots, completely removed. It is a very stern warning to be righteous.
Furthermore, it is essentially the same warning/promise we see in the fifth commandment:
Exodus 20:12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
Deuteronomy 5:16 Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
2Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) 3That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.
Thus, the parental lecture of this chapter can be seen as an elaborate, beautiful argument for and explanation of the 5th commandment.
1 בני אם־תקח אמרי ומצותי תצפן אתך׃
2 להקשׁיב לחכמה אזנך תטה לבך לתבונה׃
3 כי אם לבינה תקרא לתבונה תתן קולך׃
4 אם־תבקשׁנה ככסף וכמטמונים תחפשׂנה׃
5 אז תבין יראת יהוה ודעת אלהים תמצא׃
6 כי־יהוה יתן חכמה מפיו דעת ותבונה׃
7 וצפן לישׁרים תושׁיה מגן להלכי תם׃
8 לנצר ארחות משׁפט ודרך חסידו ישׁמר׃
9 אז תבין צדק ומשׁפט ומישׁרים כל־מעגל־טוב׃
10 כי־תבוא חכמה בלבך ודעת לנפשׁך ינעם׃
11 מזמה תשׁמר עליך תבונה תנצרכה׃
12 להצילך מדרך רע מאישׁ מדבר תהפכות׃
13 העזבים ארחות ישׁר ללכת בדרכי־חשׁך׃
14 השׂמחים לעשׂות רע יגילו בתהפכות רע׃
15 אשׁר ארחתיהם עקשׁים ונלוזים במעגלותם׃
16 להצילך מאשׁה זרה מנכריה אמריה החליקה׃
17 העזבת אלוף נעוריה ואת־ברית אלהיה שׁכחה׃
18 כי שׁחה אל־מות ביתה ואל־רפאים מעגלתיה׃
19 כל־באיה לא ישׁובון ולא־ישׂיגו ארחות חיים׃
20 למען תלך בדרך טובים וארחות צדיקים תשׁמר׃
21 כי־ישׁרים ישׁכנו־ארץ ותמימים יותרו בה׃
22 ורשׁעים מארץ יכרתו ובוגדים יסחו ממנה׃
1Υἱέ, ἐὰν δεξάμενος ῥῆσιν ἐμῆς ἐντολῆς κρύψῃς παρὰ σεαυτῷ, 2ὑπακούσεται σοφίας τὸ οὖς σου, καὶ παραβαλεῖς καρδίαν σου εἰς σύνεσιν, παραβαλεῖς δὲ αὐτὴν ἐπὶ νουθέτησιν τῷ υἱῷ σου. 3ἐὰν γὰρ τὴν σοφίαν ἐπικαλέσῃ καὶ τῇ συνέσει δῷς φωνήν σου, τὴν δὲ αἴσθησιν ζητήσῃς μεγάλῃ τῇ φωνῇ, 4καὶ ἐὰν ζητήσῃς αὐτὴν ὡς ἀργύριον καὶ ὡς θησαυροὺς ἐξερευνήσῃς αὐτήν, 5τότε συνήσεις φόβον κυρίου καὶ ἐπίγνωσιν θεοῦ εὑρήσεις. 6ὅτι κύριος δίδωσιν σοφίαν, καὶ ἀπὸ προσώπου αὐτοῦ γνῶσις καὶ σύνεσις· 7καὶ θησαυρίζει τοῖς κατορθοῦσι σωτηρίαν, ὑπερασπιεῖ τὴν πορείαν αὐτῶν 8τοῦ φυλάξαι ὁδοὺς δικαιωμάτων καὶ ὁδὸν εὐλαβουμένων αὐτὸν διαφυλάξει. 9τότε συνήσεις δικαιοσύνην καὶ κρίμα καὶ κατορθώσεις πάντας ἄξονας ἀγαθούς. 10ἐὰν γὰρ ἔλθῃ ἡ σοφία εἰς σὴν διάνοιαν, ἡ δὲ αἴσθησις τῇ σῇ ψυχῇ καλὴ εἶναι δόξῃ, 11βουλὴ καλὴ φυλάξει σε, ἔννοια δὲ ὁσία τηρήσει σε, 12ἵνα ῥύσηταί σε ἀπὸ ὁδοῦ κακῆς καὶ ἀπὸ ἀνδρὸς λαλοῦντος μηδὲν πιστόν. 13ὦ οἱ ἐγκαταλείποντες ὁδοὺς εὐθείας τοῦ πορεύεσθαι ἐν ὁδοῖς σκότους, 14οἱ εὐφραινόμενοι ἐπὶ κακοῖς καὶ χαίροντες ἐπὶ διαστροφῇ κακῇ, 15ὧν αἱ τρίβοι σκολιαὶ καὶ καμπύλαι αἱ τροχιαὶ αὐτῶν 16τοῦ μακράν σε ποιῆσαι ἀπὸ ὁδοῦ εὐθείας καὶ ἀλλότριον τῆς δικαίας γνώμης. 17υἱέ, μή σε καταλάβῃ κακὴ βουλὴ ἡ ἀπολείπουσα διδασκαλίαν νεότητος καὶ διαθήκην θείαν ἐπιλελησμένη· 18ἔθετο γὰρ παρὰ τῷ θανάτῳ τὸν οἶκον αὐτῆς καὶ παρὰ τῷ ᾅδῃ μετὰ τῶν γηγενῶν τοὺς ἄξονας αὐτῆς· 19πάντες οἱ πορευόμενοι ἐν αὐτῇ οὐκ ἀναστρέψουσιν οὐδὲ μὴ καταλάβωσιν τρίβους εὐθείας· οὐ γὰρ καταλαμβάνονται ὑπὸ ἐνιαυτῶν ζωῆς. 20εἰ γὰρ ἐπορεύοντο τρίβους ἀγαθάς, εὕροσαν ἂν τρίβους δικαιοσύνης λείους. 21χρηστοὶ ἔσονται οἰκήτορες γῆς, ἄκακοι δὲ ὑπολειφθήσονται ἐν αὐτῇ, ὅτι εὐθεῖς κατασκηνώσουσι γῆν, καὶ ὅσιοι ὑπολειφθήσονται ἐν αὐτῇ· 22ὁδοὶ ἀσεβῶν ἐκ γῆς ὀλοῦνται, οἱ δὲ παράνομοι ἐξωσθήσονται ἀπ᾿ αὐτῆς.
1fili mi si susceperis sermones meos et mandata mea absconderis penes te 2ut audiat sapientiam auris tua inclina cor tuum ad noscendam prudentiam 3si enim sapientiam invocaveris et inclinaveris cor tuum prudentiae 4si quaesieris eam quasi pecuniam et sicut thesauros effoderis illam 5tunc intelleges timorem Domini et scientiam Dei invenies 6quia Dominus dat sapientiam et ex ore eius scientia et prudentia 7custodiet rectorum salutem et proteget gradientes simpliciter 8servans semitas iustitiae et vias sanctorum custodiens 9tunc intelleges iustitiam et iudicium et aequitatem et omnem semitam bonam 10si intraverit sapientia cor tuum et scientia animae tuae placuerit 11consilium custodiet te prudentia servabit te 12ut eruaris de via mala ab homine qui perversa loquitur 13qui relinquunt iter rectum et ambulant per vias tenebrosas 14qui laetantur cum malefecerint et exultant in rebus pessimis 15quorum viae perversae et infames gressus eorum 16ut eruaris a muliere aliena et ab extranea quae mollit sermones suos 17et relinquit ducem pubertatis suae 18et pacti Dei sui oblita est inclinata est enim ad mortem domus eius et ad impios semitae ipsius 19omnes qui ingrediuntur ad eam non revertentur nec adprehendent semitas vitae 20ut ambules in via bona et calles iustorum custodias 21qui enim recti sunt habitabunt in terra et simplices permanebunt in ea 22impii vero de terra perdentur et qui inique agunt auferentur ex ea