The Overview of the Chapter: The book of Proverbs gives wise counsel, often through pithy sayings, on a variety of subjects in everyday living. This first chapter is introductory and gives a preview of the rest of the book.
The Outline (Main points) of the Chapter:
The book is given a lengthy introduction in the first nine verses.
The book of Proverbs begins by noting that the penman is Solomon. He will not be the only penman, as the last part of the book says it is a different penman, but he is the main penman.
• His practice. "Proverbs" (Proverbs 1:1). Solomon will use proverbs to teach wisdom. The word translated "proverbs" means sayings, comparisons, parables, and axioms.
• His pedigree. "Son of David" (Proverbs 1:1). Solomon being the "son of David" gives importance to the book. He has a great pedigree, the same as Jesus Christ.
• His position. "King of Israel" (Proverbs 1:1). Solomon's position was a high position. He was a man of great authority. Not many rulers reflect the wisdom of the book Solomon authored. Most rulers live the opposite the way Proverbs says to live.
The purpose of the book is basically twofold.
• To teach. "To know wisdom... instruction" (Proverbs 1:2). The book will instruct in wisdom. First, the method of teaching. "Instruction." Verbal teaching. It is an age-old method that, while rejected by some, is still pertinent for instructing. Preaching is still needed though it is considered by some as being out of date and old fashioned. Second, the message. "Wisdom." This sums up the subject, the message in the instruction. It is not a book on computers, automobiles, or electronics, but it is a book on the conduct of character. We have many today who are wizards in computers, automobiles, electronics and other secular knowledge, but in the conduct of character, they are fools and are still in the nursery in their understanding of things that matter the most.
• To train. "To perceive... wisdom... give subtilty... knowledge and discretion" (Proverbs 1:2-4). Knowledge is worthless without application. Solomon will give much knowledge, but he will also endeavor to apply it to everyday living. Wisdom walks a better life than folly and ignorance.
Those for whom the book is intended fall into two categories.
• The ignorant. "Simple" (Proverbs 1:4). The "simple" here means those who are ignorant of important truths of wisdom. We all fall in that category.
• The inexperienced. "Young man" (Proverbs 1:4). The lesson here is that the sooner we learn these truths the better. We too often let the world train the child until he is too old and set in his ways to respond well to wisdom.
Two things are said here about prudence—the wise man in the classroom of life.
• The requirement of prudence. "Hear" (Proverbs 1:5). The belligerent acts as though he knows it all and will not hear Divine instructions.
• The reward of prudence. "Increase learning" (Proverbs 1:5). The wise man will grow in knowledge (learning/wisdom). To grow in knowledge one must recognize he does not know it all. Two basic areas of growth are noted in this reward or prudence. First, ways of wisdom. "Shall attain unto wise counsels" (Proverbs 1:5). The wise man will learn the ways of wisdom. Second, words of wisdom. "The words of the wise, and their dark [difficult to understand] sayings" (Proverbs 1:6). The wise man will learn and discern the mysteries of wisdom.
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; but fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Proverbs 1:7). Solomon informs the reader of two important principles that will be involved in this instruction.
• The philosophy in the postulate. "Fear of the Lord... beginning of knowledge." This is the fundamental basis in all the teaching. This book is to honor God. Following its instructions will help you behave in a godly way.
• The prohibiting in the postulate. "Fools despise wisdom and instruction." Everyone will not receive the instruction in this book because they despise God, and, therefore, they despise the fundamental philosophy of the book. Our land has kicked God out of the classroom and the government. Is it any wonder that the classroom and government are characterized by folly and not wisdom?
The teacher gives the pupil some earnest precepts to exhort him to pay attention in the classroom and learn wisdom.
• The requirement in the precepts. "Hear the instruction of thy father... forsake not the law of they mother" (Proverbs 1:8). Pay attention and give respect to your teachers. Teachers applies here to more than just parents but to all who teach wisdom. We especially need to pay attention to godly preachers.
• The reward in the precepts. "They shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about they neck" (Proverbs 1:9). The reward for heeding wise instruction is expressed in a figurative way as beautiful and expensive jewelry. Rich people often spend fortunes to obtain gems and jewelry. We need to acquire spiritual jewelry of wisdom more than literal jewelry of expensive gems. One can acquire the best jewelry without being wealthy in this world's goods.
The teaching begins by exposing the peril of the solicitations of evil. This exposing of the peril of evil is an effort to save the pupil from the destruction from evil. It is a warning that is too often unheeded, however, and even in our churches.
"My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not" (Proverbs 1:10). In typical Hebrew literary fashion, which often summarizes a case before it gives the details, Solomon warns the pupil about the appealing enticements of sin and its results. Sin can look so appealing, but it is so appalling in its effect on the sinner.
The specifics of the invitation to do evil are given in this passage. It is a great warning and exposure of evil.
• The cruelty of evil. "Let us lay wait for blood... lurk privily... without cause" (Proverbs 1:11). The invitation is basically to be cruel. Evil is not being nice to anyone. It is cruel to all involved. First, it is deadly. "Blood." Evil kills. (Romans 6:23). Second, it is deceptive. "Lay wait... lurk privily." Sin could not succeed without dishonesty, deceit. Third, it is defaulting. "Without cause." Sin is not just, fair, equitable.
• The consecration of evil. "Swallow them up alive" (Proverbs 1:12). Evil wants to do a complete job. It is dedicated. Evil is not half-hearted in its efforts.
• The compensation of evil. "Find all precious substance... fill our houses with spoil" (Proverbs 1:13). Evil makes many promises of rewards. The rewards are always so great and glorious. But they are a mirage and not real.
• The cost of evil. "Cast in thy lot among us... one purse" (Proverbs 1:14). The cost has two requirements. First, the membership. "Cast in thy lot among us." Evil wants union and unity. This is why separation is so important. Second, the money. "Purse." If they have your fellowship, they will have your funds. You will pay a huge price in friendship and funds when you do evil. You will join up with a group you do not want to belong to, it will ruin your reputation and righteousness. And you will lose your gain as well, for evil will ruin your financial situation. You will be an unwary victim of evil.
The key to avoiding this evil problem is separation from evil. Separation is not a popular practice today but it is the practice of purity.
• Requirement of separation. "Walk not thou... with them; refrain thy foot from their path" (Proverbs 1:15). Separation involves two things. People and paths/practices/philosophies. First, people. "Walk not thou... with them." Evil companions will lead you to evil conduct. You will waste and ruin your life if you keep bad company. Second, paths. "Refrain thy foot from their path." The path involves practices and philosophies of evil. Walk in such a path and you will soon be polluted.
• Reasons for separation. Solomon gives some good reasons why we should separate from evil. First, the intensity for evil, "run... haste" (Proverbs 1:16). Evil is earnest and that makes it contagious. Second, the ignorance of evil. "Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird" (Proverbs 1:17). A bird knows enough stay out of the net spread to ensnare it, especially when it is spread out in front of the bird. But humans are often not as smart as the birds. They walk right into sinful traps with both eyes open because they are so ignorant of evil. Third, the injuriousness of evil. "Wait for their own blood... taketh away the life of the owners" (Proverbs 1:11, 18, 19). Evil is cruel, mean, and brings injury to others. Fourth, the injustice of evil. "Without cause" (Proverbs 1:11). Evil does not have a just cause for its conduct. Justice may be talked about and used as a disguise, but evil is always unjust. Fifth, the informing about evil. "So are the ways..." (Proverbs 1:19). Solomon has duly informed us about the ways of evil, therefore we have no excuse for being ensnared by evil. Sixth, the inspiration for evil. "Greedy of gain" (Proverbs 1:19). Behind so much action is the desire for the almighty dollar. Evil has an inordinate affection for gain and will do anything to get gain. That is their motive. Evil wants to gain a piece of this world, but "what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36).
Evil brings Divine retribution. Fools tread the path of evil seemingly unmindful of the devastating retribution that will come to them for all their evil.
God does not inflict judgment without first warning people of the coming of judgment for their evil ways. So as a preface to the details about retribution on evil, there is a passage on the "reproof" (Proverbs 1:23) of evil to turn people away from their sin and help them escape the inflictions of judgment.
• The earnestness of the warning. "Wisdom crieth" (Proverbs 1:20). The word translated "crieth" involved shouting in its meaning. Wisdom was earnest in making its warning and reproof against evil. It shouted out the warning and reproof.
• The environs of the warning. "Without... in the streets... chief place of concourse... openings of the gates; in the city she uttereth her words" (Proverbs 1:20, 21). Wisdom is heard in just about every place you go. The lesson here is that we have no excuse for our folly, for wisdom cries out everywhere. It is not hidden but is public. Folly simply ignores wisdom and will have no excuse for its behavior and judgment.
• The enquiry in the warning. "How long?" (Proverbs 1:22). This is an indictment upon all those who lack wisdom ("simple," "scorners," "fools"—Proverbs 1:22) Wisdom earnestly seeks to make itself known, yet the world is filled with fools. How long will these fools go on in their stupidity and indifference and ignore the cries of wisdom? The longer they reject wisdom, the worse is their folly.
• The exhortation in the warning. "Turn you at my reproof... I will pour out my spirit unto you... make known my words unto you" (Proverbs 1:23). The exhortation is twofold. It has a precept and a promise. First, the precept in the exhortation. "Turn you at my reproof" Repent, change your ways. Second, promise. "I will pour out my spirit unto you... make known my words unto you." When the fool repents and turns to the ways of wisdom (God's ways), the promise will be one of endowment ("spirit") which will help you obtain wisdom, and enlightenment ("make known my words unto you") which will give you wisdom. The promise should more than motivate the mandate of repentance.
When one walks in folly there is a price to pay. Here Solomon details the retribution that comes upon folly.
• The reason for the retribution. "Because I... called, and ye refused... ye have set at nought all my counsel" (Proverbs 1:24, 25). Retribution does not come without good reasons. The reason for this retribution was obvious—the wisdom of God was ignored ("refused") and disrespected ("nought"). Reject Divine counsel and you will experience Divine condemnation.
• The ridicule in the retribution. "I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh" (Proverbs 1:26). This is the worst part of judgment, viz. God laughing at you. It is difficult to experience ridicule, and many recant their faith because of ridicule, but no ridicule will be so devastating to a person as when God Almighty laughs at you for your folly.
• The receiving of the retribution. "When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you" (Proverbs 1:27). The receiving of the retribution is no picnic. First, the fear in the receiving. "When your fear cometh as desolation." Retribution will be accompanied with great fear. Judgment is bad enough and the fear will only make it that much worse. Second, the fastness in the receiving. "Cometh as a whirlwind." This means for one thing that judgment will come with great speed. It will not give the sinner time to repent. Like a tornado suddenly dipping its finger down to the earth in destruction so will retribution come upon the sinner quickly, suddenly, and often unexpectedly (Proverbs 29:1). Third, the force in the receiving. "Whirlwind." This involves great force. Retribution will be too strong to overcome. It will devastate and destroy. Fourth, the feeling in the receiving. "Distress and anguish cometh upon you." Retribution will be painful both emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
• The rejection in the retribution. "Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me... they hated knowledge... they would none of my counsel; they despised all my reproof" (Proverbs 1:28-30). God turns His back in retribution. "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found" (Isaiah 55:6). Make hay while the sun shines. When you refuse God in opportune times, you will discover it is too late in times of judgment. You turn your back on God, and He will turn His back on you. You shut your ears to God's counsel, and He will shut His ears to your cry.
• The reaping in the retribution. "Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way... the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them" (Proverbs 1:31, 32). Sow wild oats and you will reap wild oats. Smoke like a steam engine and lung cancer comes calling. Drink like a fish and your liver goes bad and you are cursed by alcoholism. Live wild and you will die from the wounds of the wild. Turn from good advice and you will pay for it. "Prosperity" is the temporary success of evil, and it lulls the sinner so that retribution will come upon him without repentance. The gain, the fruit of evil, will indeed destroy the sinner.
• The release from retribution. "Whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil" (Proverbs 1:33). This is a reminder at the end of the chapter that if you heed the voice of Wisdom (voice of God's Word and voice of God's Son), you will be safe from the retribution which comes upon evil. You do not have to suffer divine judgment. God has given adequate warning to avoid judgment, but you must heed it for the warning to do any good for you.