Proverbs 2:1-5 – Colossians 1:9-11

Proverbs 2 calls the reader to seek wisdom avidly, with the promised result that we would understand the fear of the Lord and the knowledge of God.  This struck a chord, in that the prayer in Colossians 1 seeks a movement from knowing God’s will (similar to wisdom) and results in “increasing in the knowledge of God.” 

Knowledge is a broad concept in English, but we can distinguish between knowing about someone (i.e. his will, his attributes, his history) and knowing someone personally.  Spanish uses saber for knowing things and conocer for knowing people.

Compare these two texts for yourself.

Proverbs 2:1-5 – ESV
    My son, if you receive my words
        and treasure up my commandments with you,
    [2] making your ear attentive to wisdom
        and inclining your heart to understanding;
    [3] yes, if you call out for insight
        and raise your voice for understanding,
    [4] if you seek it like silver
        and search for it as for hidden treasures,
    [5] then you will understand the fear of the Lord
        and find the knowledge of God.

Col. 1:9-11 – ESV
    And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, [10] so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. [11] May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy…

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Proverbs 2 – One Sentence!

So my kids know that when I edit their essays, it will be to bust up sentences and to kill any passive verbs.  Now I come to find that Pv 2 is one sentence in Hebrew.  Of course this is a bit subjective, in that the punctuation is a later addition to the text.  But, lets go with the idea that the Masorites knew biblical Hebrew better than we do.

The form is 4, 4, 3, 4, 4, 3.  this makes 22 verses, the same number as letters in the Hebrew Alphabet.  This is not an acrostic, but the sections in the first 11 verses start with a particle “if” which is formed with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet (aleph), and the second 11 verses has a conjunction at the start of each section starting with the letter lamed, from the middle of the alphabet.

V. 1-11 advocates with 8 verbs the searching out and valuing of Wisdom’s words (nice turn of the tables on Wisdom searching the streets in the close of chapter 1).  The result is fear of the lord and knowlege of God.  (reverence/awe and relationship/faith) as well as protection.

V. 12-22 delineates how wisdom protects from a deceitful man and a smooth tongued seductress, ending with a 3 verse conclusion.

To my eye, v. 1-5 parallel the process found in Colossians 1:5ff where knowledge of God’s will and obedience moves toward knowledge of God.  that is informational knowledge becomes relational knowledge.  (like the difference in Spanish between saber and conocer).

Another interesting NT echo is v. 21 and Jesus’ “the meek shall inherit the earth.” in the Beatitudes.

Pursue Wisdom intensely and She will guard you immensely.

Smart Birds? Proverbs 1:17

Proverbs 1:17 is an interesting case where there was some disagreement over it’s meaning.  Would a bird avoid getting caught in the trap and thus be a positive example, or would a bird obviously stumble into the net because it is, after all, a bird brain? 

So a little education in bird biology was needed.  From Sunday’s message….

The Father illustrated his warning with a proverb about a bird. Most commentators read it one way – that is if a bird sees you laying out a net, he will not get trapped by it. However, one commentator found that hard to believe, because he thinks all birds are basically dumb.

I went to the Biology Library at the University to see what I could discover about bird intelligence. It tunes out some birds are dumb. The Dodo bird had no fear of humans, and was soon hunted to extinction. However, I discovered some amazing indications that birds do have intelligence:

• The oldest human sport is probably Falconry, where these birds of pray are taught to hunt by their human trainers.

• Crows and parrots are as smart as dogs, and smarter than cats. There are crows in Japan who walk out into traffic during a red light, drop nuts in front of stopped cars, walk back and wait for the cars to crush the hard shells for them while they wait on the sidewalk.

• A Raven learned how to pull up a long string using its beak and foot in order to retrieve a piece of good tied to the end. Some crows use sticks to catch bugs in crevices. One bird even was able to bend a hook in a wire to make a tool to retrieve food.

• House sparrows have learned how to open grocery store doors by flying in front of the electric eye. Once inside they feast.

Proverbs 1:7

We like M. Fox for his careful analysis of the text of Proverbs 1-9 and we also like the balance of the more conservative approach of B. Waltke.  It is interesting that both, and everyone else that we know of, agrees that Prov 1:1-7 is a purpose statement for the book of Proverbs, and that verse 7 in particular is the key to the interpretation.

Proverbs 1:7
    The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
        fools despise wisdom and instruction.   (ESV)

 This is a good case of parallelism. 

The first half verse is in contrast to the second.  Fools are contrasted with those who have “the fear of the Lord.”  So there is a moral/spiritual basis to Wisdom and Knowledge, not just an intellectual base. 

We see that wisdom and instruction is thereby mostly synonymous with knowledge.  The kind of knowledge that this verse is talking about is not merely informational – even the Bible would agree that mathematicians do not need to fear the Lord to know that 2+2=4.   In this verse the second half moves forward the definition of “knowledge” with the pair of words “wisdom and instruction.”

So then, since neither wisdom nor foolishness is about mere intelligence, this book is talking about an ability to lead a successful life based upon the premise that a life without the Lord’s approval and blessing is NOT all it can be.

D. Garrett makes an interesting comment, that the Wisdom literature of the nations is brought into Proverbs, but that it is screened and placed under the idea of “the fear of the Lord.”  M. Fox makes a similar comment, that this is unique to Israelite (biblical) wisdom in comparison to its ancient near eastern cousins.