Proverbs 2 – “The Benefits of Wisdom”

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Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Proverbs 2 contains a father’s speech to his son. It describes how to acquire Wisdom, the benefits one can expect from such a pursuit, and how Wisdom protects one from the temptations of both a wicked man and a forbidden woman. It ends by contrasting the fate of the righteous with the fate of the wicked.

II. Photo
A  father urges his son to pursue wisdom in vv. 4-5: “If you seek it as you do silver And search for it as for treasures, Then you will understand the fear of the LORD And attain knowledge of God.”

III. Important Verses

vv. 4-5: If you seek it as you do silver And search for it as for treasures, Then you will understand the fear of the LORD And attain knowledge of God.
vv. 16-17: [Wisdom] will save you from the forbidden woman, From the alien woman whose talk is smooth, Who forsakes the companion of her youth And disregards the covenant of her God.
vv. 20-22: So follow the way of the good And keep to the paths of the just. For the upright will inhabit the earth, The blameless will remain in it. While the wicked will vanish from the land And the treacherous will be rooted out of it.

IV. Outline
1a. Introduction
1b-4. Gaining Wisdom
5-11. Wisdom’s benefits
12-15. Wisdom protects one from evil men
16-19. Wisdom protects one from forbidden women
20-22. Contrast between the righteous and wicked

V. Comment
Proverbs 2 is a father’s speech to his son, and it can be viewed as one long sentence with the following outline: “if (v. 1)… then (v. 5)… then (v. 9)… to save you (v. 12)… to save you (v. 12)… in order that you may walk (v. 20)…” (Murphy, 14). The speech begins by describing the great lengths one must go to in order to acquire wisdom: “[you must] seek it as you do silver And search for it as for treasures” (v. 4). It then explains how such a pursuit is well worth one’s time and effort: “Then you will understand the fear of the LORD And attain knowledge of God… You will then understand what is right, just, And equitable — every good course… Foresight will protect you, And discernment will guard you.” (vv. 5, 9, 11)

The father then explains how Wisdom protects one from the temptations of wicked men: “It will save you from the way of evil men, From men who speak duplicity… Men whose paths are crooked And who are devious in their course” (vv. 12, 15). While the crimes of these men are not specified, they are described as being corrupt in both word and deed (possibly some sort of black magic). Indeed, they are so corrupt that they “rejoice” and “exult” in their wicked behavior (v. 14).

The father then describes how Wisdom can save one from the ‘ishah zarah/ nakheriyyah “forbidden/alien woman” (vv. 16-19): It will save you from the forbidden woman, From the alien woman whose talk is smooth, Who forsakes the companion of her youth And disregards the covenant of her God. Her house sinks down to Death, And her course leads to the shades. All who go to her cannot return And find again the paths of life.”

Who is this “forbidden woman”? While some believe that it is a non-Israelite woman, and others believe it is either a foreign goddess or a prostitute, Fox (p. 134-141) believes she is simply another man’s wife. He points to Prov. 5 which, after encouraging one to enjoy the benefits of one’s own wife, says “Why be infatuated, my son, with a forbidden woman (zarah)? Why clasp the bosom of an alien woman (nakheriyyah)?” (Prov. 5:20) Thus, the antithesis of zarah and nakheriyyah is one’s own wife. Further proof may be deduced from chapter 7 which has a nearly identical message to our own: “[Wisdom] will guard you from a forbidden woman (‘ishah zarah); From an alien woman (nakheriyyah) whose talk is smooth” (7:5). That chapter describes how a married woman attempts to seduce a man by saying, “Let us drink our fill of love till morning; Let us delight in amorous embrace. For the man of the house is away; He is off on a distant journey.” Thus, it seems that the words “‘ishah zarah” mean a married woman.

Murphy points out how this chapter foreshadows the content of the next five chapters: “(1) In 2:1–8, the seeker after wisdom is promised to be drawn close to the Lord—the relationship to the Lord is taken up again in 3:1–12. (2) The relationship to Wisdom in 2:9–11 is taken up again in 3:13–26 and 4:1–9. (3) The relationship to wicked men in 2:12–15 is taken up again in 4:10–27. (4) The relationship to a woman in 2:16–19 is taken up again in 5:1–23 and 6:20–7:27.” (p. 14) He writes, “This is a remarkable, even singular, example of reprise, and such detail argues to a single author or editor for most of chaps. 2–7… chap. 2 seems to be a carefully prepared literary construction, and its setting is precisely for these chapters.” (p. 14)

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