Chapter 2: Commentary

This chapter continues the first sections of Proverbs (1:1-9:18) attributed to Solomon. It is mostly comprised of a series of extended poetic wise sayings, frequently including "my son" sayings, as opposed to the more typical one-verse wise sayings in most of the book.


2:1 My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you,

2:2 Turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding,

2:3 And if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding

2:4 And if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure,

2:5 Then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.

     For the fourth time in two chapters, the writer addresses "my son." This is adult advice for life and father offers son three commitments which will connect him to God.
      The first is in two parts. "If you accept my words and store up my commands" (:1); father tells son that he needs to listen to what the old guy has to say. We all know how well such instructions go with young guys. At this point it is just an attitude of being open to listen and learn. In addition, there needs to be a conscious decision to pay attention to wisdom and understanding – the two key qualities of chapter 1 (:2).
      Secondly, if you actively, even loudly ("call out for" and "cry aloud for"), seek insight and understanding (:3). This spiritual connection is available and will come to pass when we really desire it. The verse seems to almost call for a public commitment to the concept. In everyday life, it would be clear to others that this really matters to us.
      Finally, if you go after wisdom like you would after silver or hidden treasure (:4). It is not enough to just be open and listening or even to really want it. If it really important to me, I will have to do something about it and go after it – like one would go after silver or hidden treasure. Here at Helping Up Mission, we have some experience with going after what we want – whether stuff, money or drugs!
      The positive consequence of following these conditions is in verse 5. Then you will begin to develop that meaningful relationship with God that you really desire. To fear the LORD and experientially know how He works in daily life is as good as it gets.

2:1 My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you

     This chapter continues the focus of Proverbs 1 (:8, 10, 15) with father still addressing his son. This verse is the first in a series of three conditional "if" commands (:1-4) that lead to a promised "then" result (:5).
      The verse makes clear that the son has to make definite choices about what he is going to do with his father's instructions. He can choose to accept his words and keep his commands in his heart or not.
      Every day all of us have to make decisions concerning to whom and what we will listen - and there will be benefits or consequences based on these choices. Our ability and willingness to listen to others and accept advice is foundational to our daily - even lifetime - physical and spiritual well-being.

2:2 Turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding,

2:3 And if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding

     This chapter begins with Father telling his son to pay close attention to what he was saying (:1). When any of us listen to good advice from people we can trust, it puts us in a place to pay attention to and connect with "wisdom...understanding...insight...understanding" (2-3).
      While appropriate translations, there are actually just two Hebrew root words for the above four terms - wisdom and understanding. These are also the two most mentioned character qualities in the book of Proverbs.
      Wisdom has to do with "seeing life from God's point of view." Over and over in Proverbs it's announced to any and all that we can start looking at life differently - from God's perspective. It's available and as simple as saying, "Okay, God, what value does this situation have for my life today?"
      Understanding has to do with the ability to "discern between" things - like cause and effect. Used three times in these two verses, understanding is "realizing how right choices lead to a meaningful life." Such thinking could be a game-changer for most of us.
      Note also the verbs here: "turning your ear to...applying your heart to...call out for...cry aloud for." We're not talking about a casual interest here. I'm not considering -- I'm all in!

2:4 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure,

     This verse is part of a series of ongoing "if-then" directives from Solomon to his son at the beginning of the chapter (2:1-5). He suggests going after "wisdom," "understanding" and "insight" (:2-3) as one would "look for" or "search for" "silver" or "hidden treasure" (:4).
      Here, as elsewhere in Proverbs, Solomon connects these three qualities. It would seem they tend to come as a group - like grapes in a cluster or bananas in a bunch. Get one and you can have them all!
      Throughout the book it is also clear that wisdom, understanding and insight are absolutely accessible to anyone who wants them. We just need to want them bad enough to actively go after them.
      In this verse Solomon relates the value of these three qualities to financial wealth. Treat them and go after them like you would seek after silver or hidden treasure.
      Guys here at Helping Up Mission have vast experience going after what they want – whether stuff, money or drugs! There was nothing a guy wouldn't consider doing to get something he deemed important.
      Yet, we all know how to go after what we want. Many of us have spent years chasing wealth, fame, importance or power. So today, along with Solomon's son, let's make the decision to start going after things that really count - the really good stuff!

2:5 Then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.

     This verse is the "then" part of a series of "if-then" statements (:1-5). If we will do the three preceding "if" directives -- "then" we will "understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God."
      "The fear of the LORD" is a central concept in Proverbs. While an appropriate English translation, our modern conditioning to the word "fear" and some of our personal feelings about God often cloud the meaning of this great truth.
      Generally seen as a command to be scared of God, to "fear the LORD" is really best understood as a positive activity. It's really not because He's going to get me if I don't!
      Truth is -- if He was going to squash me like a bug, He would have done so long before now!
      "Fear" in relation to God in the Bible, is in the context of "reverence," "awe" and "worship." Ultimately, to "fear the LORD" is to see Him as He really is -- and to be in awe of His awesomeness!
      When we "fear the LORD" we're seeing God in all His greatness. That goes way beyond His ability to see what we do wrong and then deal with us accordingly.
      To see Him as He really is...it's to understand how all-powerful (omnipotence), all-knowing (omniscience), everywhere present (omnipresence), unchangeable (immutable), loving, patient, merciful, gracious and forgiving He is!
      Our appreciation of His greatness -- not our fear of His wrath -- is way better motivation and empowerment to the "understanding" and "knowledge" this verse says is available.
      He has the most wonderful plan for our lives. And as we get to know and understand Him better, we will be much more willing to step out and experience every bit of it!

2:6 For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

     While we define wisdom as "seeing life from God's point of view," God is also the supreme source of wisdom. But throughout Proverbs, wisdom is regularly and intimately associated with knowledge and understanding.
      Usually wisdom seems to be "the first among equals," that is generally mentioned first in relation to the other two. Like bananas growing in bunches and grapes growing in clusters, so knowledge and understanding come along with wisdom. When we get one, we also have access to the other two (see 24:3-4).

2:7 He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,

2:8 For he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones

     These verses discuss that other things God does for us besides offering wisdom, knowledge and understanding (:6). Using military terminology, the focus seems to be on His power to defend and protect His people ("shield," "guards," "protects"). But beyond His absolute power to defend and protect us - and mentioned first first in these verses - He also goes on the offensive and wins "victory" for His people.
      These verses note who His people are - "the upright," "those whose walk is blameless," "just" and "His faithful ones." Yet, just to be clear, these are not perfect people. They are simply those who make the effort to be Honest, Open and Willing (HOW) every day of their lives.
      Whatever battles we have to fight, God can handle it for us. He protects us in all we go through and will ultimately, and always, win the victory we need. Although, admittedly, it might not always be exactly what we want!

2:9 Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path.

     In this chapter, Father gives his son some directives about how to live (:1-4). Then he points out the benefits of such choices (5ff).
      This verse discusses more of those benefits - the ability to "understand" three things - "what is right and just and fair," the same three qualities in the same order as 1:3. But here one more idea is added, "every good path."
      "Right" ("righteous") and "just" ("justice") are well-known Biblical qualities that define God. Also qualities which He desires that we practice, they are based on attitudes more than activities.
      While "fair" is an appropriate translation for the third quality, it doesn't have the same connotation as we use it today. The Biblical idea of "fair" is something that is "even," "level" or "smooth."
      I'd like to suggest a different translation - "balanced."
      Fairness is a human concept based on comparing out with others. God has a unique and special plan for each of our lives which is way better than fair. He wants us to operate in the same way.
      So, empowered by "what is right and just and fair/balanced," we will be equipped to find and walk "every good path." This sounds like a pretty good life and it's actually the way God wants me to live.
      And it's readily available. I just need to be willing to listen and follow!

2:10 For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.

2:11 Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.

     Here wisdom is teamed with three other qualities: knowledge, discretion and understanding (wisdom's connection with knowledge and understanding were already discussed in 2:6; see also 30:2-3). In this verse wisdom is again mentioned first and seems to bring these other good and positive qualities along with it into our lives.
      These verses suggest that these four qualities can provide all we need – wisdom and knowledge for our hearts and souls (inside); discretion and understanding to protect and guard us (outside).
      Connecting to these qualities is a reoccurring theme throughout the book. Open up our lives to God and we will also have access to all we need, inside and out.

2:12 Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse,

     One of the benefits of developing an intimate relationship with Lady Wisdom is that she will save us guys from getting mixed up with wicked men who say twisted things (:12-16; see also 1:10-19).
      There are lots of "players" out there who might appear to have it all and it is easy to begin wanting to hang with them and be like them. These guys can talk us into joining them in some very inappropriate activities (:13-15). Every day we have to decide to listen to wisdom or live with the consequences.

2:13 Who leave the straight paths to walk in dark ways,

2:14 Who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil,

2:15 whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways.

     We can count on the wicked guys to not walk on the "straight paths" but to walk in "dark ways" which are "crooked" and "devious." Even worse, these guys "delight" and "rejoice" in doing this stuff.
      Once we leave the "straight path," all bets are off. We find ourselves in most difficult places, with the most difficult people. A journey with these guys will never lead to any real good.

2:16 It will save you also from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words,

     Another benefit (see 2:12) of that relationship with wisdom is that she will also save us guys from getting mixed up with immoral women (2:16-19). This is the first mention of "adulteress" (5:3, 20; see 6:24; 7:5). While we probably think about the guy being the one with the slick seductive words, here the father says to his son to be careful about getting caught up with this woman's "seductive words" (see also 5:3; 6:24; 7:5 – almost identical to 2:16).

2:17 who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God.

     It is never a good idea to try and have any kind of relationship with someone who has already reneged on relationships with others close to them or with God.

2:18 For her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the dead.

2:19 None who go to her return or attain the paths of life.

     The lady mentioned in these verses is the adulteress, wayward wife of verse 16. Those who go and hang out with her really get messed up – related here with "death" and "the spirits of the dead." Father's advice to his son suggests that once you go down that road, it is really hard to get back.

2:20 Thus you will walk in the ways of good men and keep to the paths of the righteous.

     his verse talks about those who hang out with Wisdom. In particular, it discusses who those that hang with Wisdom find themselves spending time with!
      They will be "walking in the ways of good men" and "keeping to the paths of the righteous." In the presence of "good men (and women!) and...the righteous" is a pretty good place to be.
      "Walking in the ways of...and keep to the paths of" seem to suggest an ongoing one-day-at-a-time situation where we just try to keep doing the next right thing. It's a process that just has to take some time.
      Here at Helping Up Mission, guys often join our 12-month residential Spiritual Recovery Program with no intention of staying the full year. When they arrive, they're just worn out and often of ill health.
      We accept all as they are, regardless of what their plans are when they arrive and we simply try to help everyone get and feel better. So it is no surprise that, if a guy decides to stay a while, he begins to experience some of the benefits of walking with good people.
      Happily, at that point, many guys really buy into the process. And God begins to make them one of the "good men" and "righteous" that others want to hang out with, too!

2:21 For the upright will live in the land, and the blameless will remain in it;

2:22 but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the unfaithful will be torn from it.

     These three verses provide an appropriate conclusion to this chapter. Those hanging out with Wisdom will find themselves "walking in the ways of good men" and "keeping to the paths of the righteous" (:20).
      Pretty good company! And the phrases seem to suggest a one-day-at-a-time process of simply doing the next right thing.
      Here at Helping Up Mission, guys often join our 12-month residential Spiritual Recovery Program with no intention of staying the full year. They're just worn out and often of ill health.
      But we accept each guy as he is, regardless of what his plans are when he arrives. We simply try to help everyone get and feel better.
      So it is no surprise that, if a guy decides to stay a while, he begins to experience some of the benefits of walking with good people. Happily, at that point, many guys really buy into the process and God begins to change their lives.
      Verse 21 mentions more good people – "the upright" and "the blameless." They have settled and stabled lives "in the land" of blessings. And they can "remain" there - a permanent and desirable situation.
      But the chapter ends (:22) with a contrast to these who are settled down into what God has for them. The "wicked" and "unfaithful" do not have God's protection or empowerment and they struggle.
      Life is full of choices and day-by-day we chose to live and walk in a right or wrong way. That will lead to the benefits of settling into doing right things or the consequences of doing my own thing.
      It's my choice and I make it one day at a time!