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Deeper Commentary

Pro 1:1 The proverbs of Solomon-
Proverbs is a collection of various statements from Solomon, some of which in later chapters were apparently edited in the time of Hezekiah; with the words of Agur added to the anthology. The "Lemuel" of Prov. 31 may also be Solomon. I will argue that in fact all the chapters are either by or edited by Solomon. They are the result of Solomon being given "wisdom" when he became king. That wisdom was to enable him to govern Yahweh's people Israel, hence they are so practical. However, I will observe time and again that although they are all inspired and true, this Divine truth is used by Solomon to justify himself in his various political tensions with other pretenders to the throne, from the house of Saul and from the supporters of his various half brothers. He comes to elevate his "wisdom", true as it is of itself, far above God's word, and ends up playing God. And this leads to glaring contradictions between the truths and wisdom he writes down, and his personal life. This is especially true in relation to women. And so we have in this book a unique message to those within Christian communities who pride themselves upon "truth" which they have received. The truth of that truth, as it were, is unquestionable. But the lesson is that academic truth and knowledge must be personally applied; and when it isn't, the mere possession of that truth leads to hypocrisy and eventual downfall, of which Solomon is the parade example. The possession of those truths will not of itself save us; and yet Solomon appeared to think that it would, and therefore failed to apply these things to himself personally.

Are the Proverbs really like precious stones that must be emptied out of the bag and rearranged by theme? In which case, why didn't God do so at the start when inspiring the book? My comments are as follows:
- Some of the Proverbs are basic truisms and maxims which have equivalents in any culture. Solomon wrote the book at the start of his reign when God gave him his wisdom.
But Solomon loved Egyptian and Gentile women right from the start of his reign. There are strong similarities both in content and genre between Proverbs and e.g. the Egyptian Instruction of Amenemope. It could be that Solomon took various things from the literature of his father in law in Egypt... or of course it could be that Solomon's book
of Proverbs was designed to preach to the Egyptians and surrounding nations in their own terms and in a familiar genre. Much is written by Solomon about about the establishment of the throne on the basis of truth and justice; and this is commonly found in Egyptian literature about the Pharaohs.
- The text hangs together far better in the original Hebrew. Most people were illiterate, and so the book was designed to be memorized.  There are many patterns in the book which
depend upon the alliteration and rhyming of words and ideas to enable memorization. This was typical of wisdom literature of the time. There are similar initial syllables of words and verses, or beginning with the same letter. There's much word play, similar sounds repeat between verses if read out loud. Thus the root sdq [righteousness] occurs in various words which connect various proverbs which appear unrelated to each other in English translation. These sound patterns form a chain which enables memorization. Thus Prov. 16:27-29 all begin with the word ish, 'a man'. Catchwords link adjacent verses.
- Watch out for clusters of verses which do have the same theme; the verses which don't appear to be in a cluster are likely connected by alliteration etc. for easy memorization.  
- My own hunch is that although the Proverbs are inspired by God, they were also presented by Solomon with a strong hint of self-justification. He wrote them when he had just inherited the throne from his father David, whom he idolized and was obsessed with. He sought to justify his father against all the various factions who were in Israel who were not sympathetic to David and therefore to Solomon. Almost every other verse in the book appears to have some such sideways swipe at the likes of Saul, Nabal, Absalom or Joab- whilst presenting Solomon as the wise son with whom alone David was pleased. Solomon should've sought his self-worth and value in God's opinion of him; and he should've trusted the promises to David of God establishing his throne and line, rather than seeking to as it were fulfill them for himself by using God's Truth and Wisdom to establish himself at others' expense.

The son of David, king of Israel-
Solomon speaks about him being King in Jerusalem (Ecc. 1:1,12; Prov. 1:1) as if this was the ultimate fulfilment of the Davidic promises. Consider the implications of 2 Chron. 1:9: "O Lord God, let thy promise unto David my father be established: for thou hast made me king over a people like the dust of the earth...give me now wisdom, that I may go out and come in before (i.e. lead) this people". Solomon was asking for wisdom because he thought that he was the Messiah, and he saw wisdom as a Messianic characteristic. He failed to realize that the promises to Abraham and David were only being primarily fulfilled in him (e.g. 1 Kings 4:20); he thought that he was the ultimate fulfilment of them (1 Kings 8:20 states this in so many words). His lack of faith and vision of the future Kingdom lead him to this proud and arrogant conclusion (cp. building up our own 'Kingdom' in this life through our lack of vision of the Kingdom).

Pro 1:2 to know wisdom and instruction; to discern the words of understanding-
Solomon's book of Proverbs is presented by him as having the power to discern truth from "the words of understanding". Whilst indeed the Proverbs do open up the words of God which were then available [mainly the Pentateuch and the book of Job], always in Proverbs we sense Solomon harnessing his wisdom to some more human agenda. Just as we can use God's truth to support our own agendas and personal justification. This opening introduction appears to be saying that this collection of wisdom is necessary in order to know wisdom in toto , and is the crucial key to understanding or discerning God. By setting up the book in this way, Solomon is as it were claiming a personal monopoly over Israel's understanding of God. That understanding could only come through his book. And true and Divinely inspired as everything is in it, Solomon appears here to give a hint of spiritual control over his people which was inappropriate.

Pro 1:3 to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity- 
Instruction and wisdom are the terms used by David in Ps. 2:10, where being wise and instructed effectively means to repent. True wisdom is to repent; knowledge in the Hebraic sense refers to relationship with God, rather than technical knowledge of information. In fact the first sin was to partake of the fruit which would apparently make men "wise" (Gen. 3:6). It was a short cut to 'wisdom' in the sense of relationship. And too often the same mistake is made today, whereby knowledge is confused with the wisdom and instruction of repentant relationship with God. And this was the mistake Solomon was to make; he saw "wisdom" as bites of knowledge, like segments of computer memory. All of it was true, but in his own life it didn't come to the synthesis of 'repentant relationship with God' which is true "wisdom".

Pro 1:4 to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young man-
David likens himself to the simple who was made wise by God's word (Ps. 19:7; 119:130), and was therefore preserved (Ps. 116:6). To be taught by God's word we have to become "simple", unlearning and placing to one side all our perceived knowledge and understandings. Solomon repeats David's theme by saying that wisdom makes wise the simple (Prov. 1:4; 8:5; 9:4). But he is equating "wisdom" with the words of God, although for Solomon, "wisdom" seems to be what he personally is saying and teaching. Solomon doesn't direct his listeners back to God's word, as David did, but rather towards loyalty to his teaching. Inspired as it was, his lack of extended reference to God's law places his own teaching of "wisdom" above that law. This is in sharp contrast to David's attitude in Ps. 119, where David gives advice to the simple and the young man- and urges attention to God's word, whereas Solomon directs them instead to his wisdom, inspired as it was.

Pro 1:5 that the wise man may be obedient, and increase in learning; that the man of understanding may attain to sound counsel-
The wise men of understanding may refer to the governors of Israel (s.w. Dt. 1:13,15; 16:19). See on :20. They were to learn wisdom in how to judge God's people through all the truths expressed in this book. David had called Solomon a "wise man", and indeed he was made wise by God (s.w. 1 Kings 2:9; 3:12; 5:7). But the logic of what Solomon seems to be saying is that the possession of wisdom makes a man obedient. And this is where he got it wrong; for his mere possession of wisdom didn't do so. And comparing Proverbs with Solomon's personal life as revealed in Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon and the historical records- all indicates that in fact Solomon's possession of wisdom didn't at all make him obedient. Solomon failed to appreciate what David did- that the wise man also dies (Ps. 49:10). What is critical is having the hope of God's Kingdom and the resurrection of the body. But Solomon's possession of "truth" blinded him to this desperate need of all men. The mere possession of wisdom was no guarantee of itself of inheriting glory, as Solomon wrongly thought (Prov. 3:35).  

Pro 1:6 to understand a proverb, and parables, the words and riddles of the wise-
This appears to be saying that Solomon's proverbs are required to understand every proverb. The words of the wise are only to be understood through Solomon's proverbs. However this, as noted on :2, appears to be just slightly manipulative; as if Solomon's teaching, inspired as it was, is to be the key to absolutely all understanding and interpretation.

Pro 1:7 The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge; but the foolish despise wisdom and instruction-
Solomon repeats his father David's conclusion that wisdom begins with the fear of Yahweh (Ps. 111:10 = Prov. 1:7; 9:10). This statement is in sharp contrast with the accepted view of the times, that wisdom was held by the sages, and was accessible only by sitting at their feet. But this idea (and it is common enough today too) is subverted by this idea that wisdom begins in each individual heart being in fear of Yahweh- so that wisdom from Him can be personally experienced, taught directly through relationship with Him rather than sitting at the feet of a human sage. "Wisdom" is parallel with getting "a good understanding" by 'doing His work' or obeying His commandments (Ps. 111:10b). The work we are to do for God in obeying His ways is not simply a test of our obedience; it is designed to give us wisdom. Wisdom therefore comes from experience of obedience and relationship with God, rather than from picking up nuggets of 'truth' from human sages. The fear of God is therefore not so much referring to a fear of the consequence of our sins; but the fear or reverence expressed through keeping His commandments (see on Ps. 112:1). 
Pro 1:8 My son, listen to your father’s instruction, and don’t forsake your mother’s teaching-
David so often talks about God's "law", using the word torah. But Solomon so often speaks of his own torah, and that of his wife, the mother of "my son" (s.w. Prov. 1:8; 3:1; 4:2; 6:20; 7:2; 13:14; 31:26). Yet elsewhere in the Bible, the well over 200 occurrences of torah are always about God's law. Solomon applies the word to his own teachings and that of his wife, and thereby plays God. whilst it could be argued that Solomon's teachings were Divinely inspired, all the same he ought surely to have spoken of them as God's torah rather than his own torah. This kind of playing God is seen so often in the teachers of God's people. We should note that Solomon's wife, the mother of the sons addressed, as a Gentle and idolater. Solomon says things which are true enough, but there is always an underlying element which is not so spiritual and of integrity when we think how it all applied to him and his family personally.

Pro 1:9 for they will be a garland to grace your head, and chains around your neck-
Again Solomon reasons as if the mere possession of truth is what will adorn us before God. But it is personalization of the wisdom, not mere possession of it, which is required. And Solomon was a stellar example of failure in this. It was rulers who had chains around their necks, and Solomon has himself obliquely in view here; and he considers that the fact he was taught truth by his parents qualifies himself as king. That is not altogether untrue, but his personal example shows that it was not the right attitude.

Pro 1:10 My son, if sinners entice you, don’t consent-
Solomon's idea of avoiding sin was in resisting the enticement of very sinful people. He pays no attention to the heart, whereas the Biblical message is always that sin is to be avoided in the heart. Spiritual mindedness, rather than mere disassociation from sinners, is of the essence. Dt. 11:16 warns that our heart should not be enticed (s.w.); but Solomon sees enticement as merely from very sinful individuals.

Pro 1:11 If they say, Come with us, let’s lay in wait for blood; let’s lurk secretly for the innocent without cause-
Lie in wait" is the word for ambush. Solomon often uses the word, as if it is for him a major characteristic of sinners (Prov. 1:11,18; 7:12; 12:6; 23:28; 24:15). But it's a rather specific word to use so often. It's as if Solomon is consciously alluding to his father's experiences at the hands of the house of Saul (s.w. Ps. 10:9; 59:3), whom Solomon considered a threat to his own kingship. And so he seems to rather like using the term about sinners, as if using his wisdom to have a dig at his immediate opposition. "Innocent blood" refers to Saul's persecution of David's "innocent blood" (s.w. 1 Sam. 19:5).

Pro 1:12 let’s swallow them up alive like Sheol, and whole, like those who go down into the pit-
The reference may be to Ahithophel's plan to swallow up David at the time of Absalom's rebellion (2 Sam. 17:12,16 s.w.), and to David's prayers of Ps. 35:25; 69:15 against Saul. 

Pro 1:13 We’ll find all kinds of wealth. We’ll fill our houses with spoil-
The wealth or substance of a man's house is the phrase used in Prov. 6:31, of the adulterer who must pay all the wealth of his house. Solomon presents a perhaps simplistic caricature of the wicked; they use violence, steal, commit adultery etc. And the righteous are consistently wise and righteous, according to Proverbs. Whereas in reality, sin and righteousness is far more subtle. A man like Solomon's father David was righteous and yet also sinned.

Pro 1:14 You shall cast your lot among us, we’ll all have one purse-
The phrase "cast your lot" is always used elsewhere in the Bible, 12 times, for the literal casting of lots. "Purse" is the word for "cup", and it seems there is an allusion to casting lots as to which victim or crime to choose.

Pro 1:15 My son, don’t walk in the way with them. Keep your foot from their path-
The idea of walking in the way, with feet on the path, is commonly used for walking in the way of God's commandments (Dt. 8:6; 10:12 etc.). David spoke of feet in the pathway of obedience to God's word (Ps. 119:1,3; 128:1 and very often). But Solomon interprets this as not walking in the way with criminals (Prov. 1:5; 16:29). That is somewhat easier than personally walking with God in His way. Again, what Solomon says is not untrue; but he is turning personal, internal spirituality and obedience into a matter of simply avoiding external company with gross sinners. And he suggests that walking in the right way is a matter of externally associating with the path of the righteous (Prov. 2:20).    

Pro 1:16 for their feet run to evil. They hurry to shed blood-
David's feet almost ran and hasted to evil (s.w. Ps. 73:2). Solomon simplistically condemns this. But this is not how it was in reality with his father David. Solomon's proverbs seem to fail to address this complexity of situations because of his own self-righteousness; and yet all he says is inspired and true so far as it goes. These words are quoted in Is. 59:17 and applied to the wicked amongst the exiles.

Pro 1:17 For in vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird-
David said that the snare was dug "before me" (Ps. 57:6). Solomon alludes to this here. All Solomon says is inspired truth, but clearly he has a subtext of justifying his father David; this was an obsession with him.

Pro 1:18 but these lay wait for their own blood. They lurk secretly for their own lives-
This repeats the major Biblical theme, that men condemn themselves rather than God forcing condemnation upon them. The trap they set for others is what destroys them. In this sense, judgment day is ongoing now. "We make the answer now".

Pro 1:19 So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; it takes away the life of its owners-
In the sense that those "greedy for grain" destroy their own families (s.w. Prov. 15:27). Hab. 2:9 likewise speaks of the "greedy for gain" as being so because they wish to enrich their own families. This desire for wealth "for my family" is a very powerful and subtle temptation. 

Pro 1:20 Wisdom calls aloud in the street. She utters her voice in the public squares-
This may be an allusion to Solomon's wisdom being publically taught throughout Israel. For he asked for it in order to teach Israel, and I noted on :5 that the Proverbs were intended for the teachers / governors of Israel. 

Pro 1:21 She calls at the head of busy places, at the entrance of the city gates she utters her words-
See on :20. AV "the chief place of concourse" may refer to the temple, and "the city" would be Jerusalem; as if Solomon's Proverbs were taught there especially.

Pro 1:22 How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity? How long will mockers delight themselves in mockery and fools hate knowledge?-
The "simple" are made wise by God's word, David repeatedly taught in the Psalms, especially Ps. 119. But Solomon seems often to effectively replace God's word with his Proverbs, as if they were all sufficient, and obedience to his teaching was all that was required, rather than directing attention to God's whole body of revelation. The Hebrew for "knowledge" admittedly has a wide range of meaning, but we get the impression that Solomon is advocating hearing academic theory and giving intellectual assent to it. And it was solely doing this, rather than personalizing it, which led to his demise.

Pro 1:23 Turn at my reproof. Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you, I will make known my words to you-
This associates a true understanding of God’s word with the action of His spirit upon us- reading the Book without understanding is of no avail, seeing that the spirit/mind of God is not being revealed to us.

Pro 1:24 Because I have called, and you have refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no one has paid attention-
This is very much the language of the later prophets concerning God's appeals to Israel which were refused. Although I may appear to take a critical approach to Solomon, there is no doubt that what he writes is inspired truth; the problem I am highlighting is in the subtexts he attached to it all, and his slanting of it all towards his own self justification. See on :27.

Pro 1:25 but you have ignored all my counsel, and wished none of my reproof-
This appears to be an out of context allusion to David's words in Ps. 38:14, reflecting on his sin with Bathsheba, and how he felt unable to give reproof to others: "Yes, I am as a man who doesn’t hear, in whose mouth are no reproofs". Solomon was obsessed with David his father, speaking hundreds of times of "David my father". But he failed to have his humility; he endlessly dishes out reproofs in Proverbs, indeed he sees his Proverbs as reproofs to people (e.g. Prov. 1:25; 6:23; 10:17; 12:1; 13:18; 15:5,31; 29:15); whereas David humbly felt unable to do so because of his awareness of his sins. And at the time David wrote the Proverbs, when he received wisdom at the start of his reign, he was sinning likewise [in essence] by marrying foreign women. 

Pro 1:26 I also will laugh at your disaster. I will mock when calamity overtakes you-
This sounds out of step with the God who takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, even if it is brought about by the whirlwind of Divine judgment (:27). Again Solomon appears to use his truth, his wisdom, to gleefully condemn those who will not accept it; rather than lament from the heart their refusal.

Pro 1:27 when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when your disaster comes on like a whirlwind; when distress and anguish come on you-
See on :26. As noted on :24, this is very much the language used by the prophets about Judah's judgment for their refusal of God's word (s.w. Is. 5:28; 8:22; 29:6; Jer. 4:13 etc.). Although I may appear to take a critical approach to Solomon, there is no doubt that what he writes is inspired truth; the problem I am highlighting is in the subtexts he attached to it all, and his slanting of it all towards his own self justification.

Pro 1:28 Then will they call on me, but I will not answer. They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me-
The rejected will want to be accepted. "When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you (quoted in Rom. 2:8 about the judgment). Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me" (Prov. 1:27,28). The foolish virgins realize the need for prayer all too late; they knocked on the door with great zeal, asking for it to be opened; seeking but not finding. Knocking is sometimes used as a figure for prayer (Mt. 7:7). The basis for these foolish virgins is surely in Prov. 1:28,29: "Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer... they shall not find me: for that they hated knowledge". Having a laid back attitude to developing a real knowledge of the Lord through the oil of the word is therefore effectively hating knowledge. As we see the Lord’s coming approaching, our daily Bible ought to be a bare minimum. There must be a feeling of and for those things of which we read, and a holding of them in the heart through the course of each day.

Pro 1:29 because they hated knowledge, and didn’t choose the fear of Yahweh-
"The fear of Yahweh" is not therefore an involuntary fear of Him, as an emotion. It refers rather to a way of life now which we consciously choose. To "know" God is not therefore the mere receipt of information about Him, which may be given to us whether or not we ask for it; to "know" Him in the Hebraic sense is to have a relationship with Him, to fear / respect Him.

Pro 1:30 They wished for none of my counsel, they despised all my reproof-
The parallel is with Prov. 12:1: "Whoever loves correction loves knowledge [spoken of in :29], but he who hates reproof is stupid". To really know God is to accept reproof from Him. And this is why people generally refuse the knowledge of God; they may claim they don't understand or agree with the knowledge they find in the Bible, but the subconscious reason is that their pride refuses to accept reproof.

Pro 1:31 Therefore they will eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with the fruit of their own schemes-
As noted on :18, men condemn themselves rather than God forcing condemnation upon them. The trap they set for others is what destroys them. In this sense, judgment day is ongoing now. "We make the answer now".

Pro 1:32 For the backsliding of the simple will kill them. The careless ease of fools will destroy them-
Careless ease", without being bothered by God's moral demands, may appear to be the way to an easy life. The same word is used in Jer. 22:21 as the reason why God's people refused to hear His word and repent. And we live in an age which glorifies "careless ease" as no other. But the great paradox is that this way of life is in fact the way to self destruction.  

Pro 1:33 But whoever listens to me will dwell securely and will be at ease, without fear of harm
'Dwelling securely' appears to be how Solomon understood life now for those who listened to his book of Proverbs. But this phrase is used of the hope of the resurrection of the body (Ps. 16:9 "rest in hope"), and of the future Kingdom age (Jer. 23:6; 33:16). Solomon went wrong in the end because his focus was solely upon the blessings to be enjoyed in this life, with himself as king of Israel; rather than perceiving the eternity ahead, in God's Kingdom, as the ultimate blessing.