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.
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.