Proverbs 3 – “Pursue Wisdom; Trust in God; Treat Others Properly”

tree_hugHebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Proverbs 3 is a father’s speech to his son. He tells him to follow in his ways, trust in God, pursue Wisdom, and treat others properly. He also tells him not to envy the lawless because God gives them what they deserve.

II. Photo
V. 18 praises Wisdom: “She is a tree of life to those who grasp her, And whoever holds on to her is happy. “

III. Important Verses
vv. 5-7: Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths smooth. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and shun evil.
vv. 9-10: Honor the LORD with your wealth, With the best of all your income, And your barns will be filled with grain, Your vats will burst with new wine.
vv. 11-12: Do not reject the discipline of the LORD, my son; Do not abhor His rebuke. For whom the LORD loves, He rebukes, As a father the son whom he favors.
vv. 14-15: [Wisdom’s] value in trade is better than silver, Her yield, greater than gold. She is more precious than rubies; All of your goods cannot equal her.
vv. 17-18: Her ways are pleasant ways, And all her paths, peaceful. She is a tree of life to those who grasp her, And whoever holds on to her is happy.
v. 24-25: When you lie down you will be unafraid; You will lie down and your sleep will be sweet. You will not fear sudden terror Or the disaster that comes upon the wicked.
v. 30: Do not quarrel with a man for no cause, When he has done you no harm.

IV. Outline
1-4. A father’s exhortation
5-10. Trust God and pay Him
11-12. Accept God’s rebuke
13-18. Beatitude, value of Wisdom
19-20. God uses Wisdom
21-26. Encouragement, reward
27-30. Treat others correctly
31-35. Do not envy a lawless man

V. Comment
Proverbs 3 is a father’s speech directed to his son (cf. vv. 1, 11, 21). It begins with an exhortation, “My son, do not forget my teaching, But let your mind retain my commandments.” This type of command is found in other parts of proverbs as well, e.g. 4:10, 4:20, 5:1, and 7:1. The introduction concludes by saying, “[if you listen to me] you will find favor and approbation In the eyes of God (‘elohim) and man.” It is interesting that the word ‘elohim “God,” which appears here, only appears 5 times in the entire book. The next time it appears is in chapter 25! However, the Tetragrammaton appears 87 times.

vv. 5-8 emphasize man’s shortcomings when compared to God: “… do not rely on your own understanding…Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and shun evil.” Consequently, one is to “honor” God with his material wealth: “Honor the LORD with your wealth, With the first of your produce.” This is probably a reference to the first fruits offering described in Ex. 23:19 and Deut. 26:1-3. It is interesting that there is a monetary incentive to “honor” God: “And your barns will be filled with grain, Your vats will burst with new wine” (v. 10). This is much like the blessing in Deut. 28:8: “The LORD will ordain blessings for you upon your barns and upon all your undertakings…”

Vv. 11-12 deal with the problem of suffering, and it is the only place in the entire book to do so. The verses say, “Do not reject the discipline of the LORD, my son; Do not abhor His rebuke. For whom the LORD loves, He rebukes, As a father the son whom he favors.” In other words, God punishes those whom He loves, much like a father (see Prov. 13:24 which states, “He who spares the rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him early”). This position is taken up in Job 5:17-5:18: “See how happy is the man whom God reproves; Do not reject the discipline of the Almighty. He injures, but He binds up; He wounds, but His hands heal.” But, while there are many approaches to this issue in the book of Job, Proverbs only offers one solution.

Vv. 13-18 offer hymnic praise to Wisdom, comparing her to precious metal/jewels: “Her value in trade is better than silver, Her yield, greater than gold. She is more precious than rubies; All of your goods cannot equal her” (vv. 14-15). For similar analogies, see 2:4, 8:10, 8:18-19, and 20:15. It is interesting that vv. 13-18, which seem to be an individual unit, begin and end with the word ‘ashar “happy/blessed.”

Vv. 27-30 is its own unit and speaks of treating others correctly, e.g. “Do not quarrel with a man for no cause, When he has done you no harm.” Vv. 31-35 explain why its foolish to envy the lawless man: “The curse of the LORD is on the house of the wicked, But He blesses the abode of the righteous” (v. 33). Like its beginning, Proverbs 3 ends by describing the benefits of Wisdom: “The wise shall obtain honor, But dullards get disgrace as their portion” (v. 35).

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