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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Proverbs 22

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Rich and Poor, Raising Children

Proverbs 22:1

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
Loving favor rather than silver and gold.

a. A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches: Wealth comes in many forms. The wealth of respect and recognized excellence in character—a good name—is valuable beyond great riches.

i. A good name: “This good name proceeding from a good conscience, this honour from virtue, [Isaiah 43:4] this perfume of faith and obedience, this splendour and sparkle of the ‘white stone,’ which only shines upon heavenly hearts – is far more desirable than great riches.” (Trapp)

ii. “While it is true that reputation and the affection of others are more desirable than great riches, we must not forget that they may be in themselves vanity and a snare…The only honor that is safe is that which comes from God.” (Bridges)

b. Loving favor rather than silver and gold: The man or woman who appreciates the value of a good name, of favor with God and man, recognizes that it is worth more than silver and gold.

i. “Riches are enjoyed but till death at utmost; but a good name outlives the man, and is left behind him for a blessing.” (Trapp)

ii. Loving favor: “Our Lord carries this teaching a step further in Luke 10:20, to show that at a still higher level, not the power we wield, but the love in which we are held, is our proper joy.” (Kidner)

Proverbs 22:2

The rich and the poor have this in common,
The Lord is the maker of them all.

a. The rich and the poor have this in common: The differences between rich and poor appear to be large in the present world. Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:20-31) highlights these differences. Yet rich and poor do have some things in common.

b. The Lord is maker of them all: Those who are rich and those who are poor share the same Creator. Yahweh has made them all. Both rich and poor tend to see each other through stereotypes and should remember this towards each other.

i. “People often forget this and make value judgments; they would do well to treat all people with respect, for God can as easily reduce the rich as raise the poor.” (Ross)

ii. “All are born into the world. All come into the world naked, helpless, unconscious beings. All stand before God. All are dependent on God for their birth. All are subject to the same sorrows, illnesses, and temptations. At the gate of the invisible world the distinction of riches and poverty is dropped.” (Bridges)

Proverbs 22:3

A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself,
But the simple pass on and are punished.

a. A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself: Wisdom does not always engage in a fight; it knows there are times when the best response to evil is to hide and let the danger go past.

i. “Prevision is the best means of prevention.” (Trapp)

b. The simple pass on and are punished: The foolish and simple man doesn’t have the ability to perceive danger and respond correctly. They must endure more evil because of this, and it is something of a punishment.

Proverbs 22:4

By humility and the fear of the Lord
Are riches and honor and life.

a. By humility and fear of the Lord: These two qualities are connected. Humility is a proper view of self; fear of the Lord is a proper view of God. The person who has these two qualities is well on their way on the path of wisdom.

b. Are riches and honor and life: Blessing will come to the wise man or woman who has humility and the fear of the Lord. They can certainly expect spiritual riches and honor and life, and often those same things materially in this world.

i. “The most humble is the most triumphant Christian. He may be depressed, but he is highly exalted. He has the wealth of grace and of glory. Nobody can deprive him of these.” (Bridges)

Proverbs 22:5

Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse;
He who guards his soul will be far from them.

a. Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse: Proverbs 13:15 told us that the way of the unfaithful is hard. Thorns and snares symbolically describe the hard way of the perverse.

i. “The metaphor refers to temptations such as easy sex and easy money that tempt youth. The morally degenerate tread a dangerous road infested with them.” If you want fewer temptations, change the road you’re on. (Waltke)

ii. “This is due to the love of God, shown in the constitution of the world. It would have been malignity indeed to have placed us in the world without the warning signal of pain to show us where we are wrong, and to sting us when we go astray.” (Meyer)

b. He who guards his soul will be far from them: The wise man or woman, keeping watch over their life (guards his soul) will stay far from the way of the perverse and the thorns and snares associated with that way.

i. “Those who have the discipline of wisdom avoid life’s dangers.” (Ross)

Proverbs 22:6

Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.

a. Train up a child in the way he should go: Children need training. The job of the parent is not to simply let them grow up in any particular way, but to train them, and that in the way he should go. The way he should go has at least two senses that compliment each other.

The sense of the Hebrew the way he should go speaks of the child’s individual way and inclination. It speaks of discerning a child’s strengths and weaknesses and parenting in a way that takes those into account.

The Book of Proverbs often presents the concept of the way—being the path of wisdom and life in contrast to the way of folly and destruction (such as mentioned in Proverbs 22:5). Surely, this also is the way to train a child in.

i. The way he should go: “Here it would mean dedicate the child according to the physical and mental abilities of the developing youth” (Waltke). “The training prescribed is lit. ‘according to his (the child’s) way’, implying, it seems, respect for his individuality and vocation, though not for his selfwill” (Kidner).

ii. “What is the way in which a child should go? A more literal rendering of the Hebrew at once answers this question. Such translation would be: ‘Train up child according to his way.’ In every child there are special and peculiar powers. The true business of training a child therefore, is that of discovering what those powers are, and developing them…Herein is revealed the need for individual work. No two children are alike.” (Morgan)

iii. Train up: “Chanac, which we translate train up or initiate, signifies also dedicate; and is often used for the consecrating of anything, house, or person, to the service of God. Dedicate, therefore, in the first instance, your child to God; and nurse, teach, and discipline him as God’s child, whom he has intrusted to your care.” (Clarke)

b. When he is old he will not depart from it: This is a wonderful principle that the Holy Spirit may quicken to a promise for parents troubled over their adult children. When a child is trained in the proper way, though they may depart for a season (and a long season), in principle they will return and not depart from it.

i. Solomon’s own life displayed that this is a principle and not an absolute promise. “Other proverbs recognize that the youth’s freedom to choose sin (cf. Ezekiel 18:20) and apostatize by taking up with villains (Proverbs 2:11-15) and whores (Proverbs 5:11-14).” (Waltke)

ii. “The book is addressed to youths, not parents. Were the parents ultimately responsible for his moral choice, there would be no point in addressing the book to youth (see Proverbs 1:4). Moreover, Solomon himself stopped listening to instruction and strayed from knowledge (Proverbs 19:27).” (Waltke)

Proverbs 22:7

The rich rules over the poor,
And the borrower is servant to the lender.

a. The rich rules over the poor: Proverbs 22:2 told us that there was one important respect in which rich and poor were the same; this proverb reminds us of a way they are very different. Rich people have more authority and voice in the community than the poor do.

i. “The point…is that one must regard indebtedness only as a last resort (wary of those who offer to lend money) and endeavor to get out of debt as rapidly as possible. Debt is debilitating and demoralizing.” (Garrett)

ii. “Too often the rich rule over the poor in a harsh way. Indeed, without submitting to God’s rule over us, we can hardly be trusted with power over our fellowmen.” (Bridges)

b. And the borrower is servant to the lender: Those who borrow money are in a lower place than those who lend money. The obvious application of this proverb is that the wise man or woman will do all he or she can to walk in the path of godly prosperity; to be a lender and not a borrower.

i. “The verse may be referring to the apparently common practice of Israelites selling themselves into slavery to pay off debts (see Exodus 21:2-7). It is not appreciably different from the modern debtor who is working to pay off bills.” (Ross)

Proverbs 22:8

He who sows iniquity will reap sorrow,
And the rod of his anger will fail.

a. He who sows iniquity will reap sorrow: A person’s sins (iniquity) are like seeds that are sown. In time they will bring a harvest and the sinner will reap sorrow.

i. “The crop must be according to the seed. If a man sow thistle seed, is it likely he shall reap wheat? If he sow to the flesh, shall he not of the flesh reap destruction?” (Clarke)

b. The rod of his anger will fail: This mixing of metaphors (from the harvest to the shepherd’s rod) probably has the idea that in the season when the sinner reaps his harvest from the seeds of iniquity, he will have no defense against it.

Proverbs 22:9

He who has a generous eye will be blessed,
For he gives of his bread to the poor.

a. He who has a generous eye will be blessed: According to this principle God will bless the one who is generous to others. When people are generous to God and His work, God will not allow them to be more generous than He is.

i. “Paradoxically the greedy loses his property and his power, and the liberal participates in a cycle of endless enrichment.” (Waltke)

b. For he gives of his bread to the poor: One important way to express our generosity is to give to the poor and needy. His generosity is simple sharing, for he gives of his bread.

i. Of his bread: “He spares it out of his own belly to give to the hungry, as some have here gathered from the words ‘his bread,’ that which was appointed for his own eating – he voluntarily fasteth from a meal now and then that he may bestow it upon the needy, and he shall not lose his reward.” (Trapp)

ii. “This person has a benevolent disposition, keen social conscience, and concern for the poor. The irony is that because he is not the prisoner of his selfish desires, he achieves the highest degree of self-fulfillment.” (Ross)

Proverbs 22:10

Cast out the scoffer, and contention will leave;
Yes, strife and reproach will cease.

a. Cast out the scoffer, and contention will leave: The scoffer who spreads cynical discord causes contention, When that scoffer is cast out, then contention also leaves.

b. Strife and reproach will cease: The atmosphere of strife and shameful insults (reproach) stops when the divisive scoffer is gone. This reminds us that an atmosphere of contention, strife, and reproach is cause by people.

Proverbs 22:11

He who loves purity of heart
And has grace on his lips,
The king will be his friend.

a. He who loves purity of heart and has grace on his lips: Inner purity often shows itself through grace filled words. These two are marks of godly, wise men and women.

b. The king will be his friend: This true godliness and wisdom—both on the inside and in spoken words—will make friends in high places. It will certainly contribute to ongoing fellowship with God, for such a person walks in the light as God is in the light (1 John 1:6-7).

i. The king will be his friend: “The greatest men will, or should, desire and highly prize the acquaintance and advice of such persons, rather than of dissemblers and flatterers, wherewith they are most commonly pestered.” (Poole)

Proverbs 22:12

The eyes of the Lord preserve knowledge,
But He overthrows the words of the faithless.

a. They eyes of the Lord preserver knowledge: God sees, takes note of, and guards those with wisdom and knowledge. In this sense it can be said that His eyes…preserve knowledge.

b. He overthrows the words of the faithless: For the faithless fool, they can expect that God would turn over their words. He will not stand with or support their faithless words.

i. “God causes their distortions of the truth to be shown for what they are.” (Garrett)

Proverbs 22:13

The lazy man says, “There is a lion outside!
I shall be slain in the streets!”

a. There is a lion outside: This is the cry of the lazy man. In his imagination, the outside world and the work required to function in it are so frightening that it is best avoided. His excuse is crazy and absurd, but such is the refuge of the lazy man.

i. The lazy man says: Spurgeon spoke on Proverbs 22:13 and 26:13: “In both texts the slothful man is represented as having something to say, and I think that there are no people that have so much to say as those that have little to do. Where nothing is done much is talked about.”

ii. “The sluggard is represented as finding fantastic and preposterous excuses to demonstrate that no idea is too odd or fantastic to him to keep him off welfare. His life and the community is not in danger from his phantom lion in the streets but from his lazy life-style.” (Waltke)

iii. “Laziness is a great lion-maker. He who does little dreams much. His imagination could create not only a lion but a whole menagerie of wild beasts; and if some mighty hunter could hunt down all the lions that his imagination has let loose, he would soon distribute herds more of the terrible animals, with wolves and bears and tigers to match.” (Spurgeon)

iv. John Trapp pointed out that this imaginary lion is not Satan nor is it the Messiah, Jesus. “Here is no talk of Satan, ‘that roaring lion,’ that lies couchant in the sluggard’s bed with him, and prompts him to these senseless excuses. Nor yet of the ‘lion of the tribe of Judah,’ who will one day send out summons for sleepers, and tearing the very caul of their hearts in sunder, send them packing to their place in hell.”

b. I shall be slain in the streets: The lazy man exaggerates the dangers and troubles outside his door, especially those connected with work.

i. In the streets: “Which is added to show the ridiculousness of his excuse; for lions abide in the woods or fields, not in the streets of towns or cities.” (Poole)

ii. “But why does he say so? Because he is a slothful man. Remove his slothfulness, and these imaginary difficulties and dangers will be no more.” (Clarke)

iii. The lazy man or woman should look to the Lord for victory over their sin. “Your lion is in the way. Shout, then, for a friend to come and help you; and within call there stands One who is a wonderful lion-killer. There is the Son of David.” (Spurgeon)

Proverbs 22:14

The mouth of an immoral woman is a deep pit;
He who is abhorred by the Lord will fall there.

a. The mouth of an immoral woman is a deep pit: The immoral woman often sets her seductive trap by the words she speaks. Therefore her mouth is trap leading to death. Solomon knew something of this danger because he saw his father David fall into the deep pit of immorality.

i. A deep pit: “Into which it is easy to fall, but hard, if not impossible, to get out of it. It is a rare thing for any person, once entered into the course of whoredom, sincerely to repent of it, and turn from it.” (Poole)

ii. “Unlike the sluggard’s fantasy of a man-eating lion roaming the city streets, these harlots are very real deadly predators in the streets.” (Waltke)

b. He who is abhorred by the Lord will fall there: God’s wise ones are discerning enough to stay clear of this deep pit. But the fool—he who is abhorred by the Lord—is likely to fall there.

Proverbs 22:15

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
The rod of correction will drive it far from him.

a. Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child: Children are not born as morally neutral beings. There is a moral problem (described here as foolishness) that is bound up in the heart of a child, evidenced by the fact that our children will naturally sin without be taught how to do it. This is our nature inherited from our ancient ancestors, Adam and Eve.

i. “The father must not underestimate the difficulty of his task, for he does battle with an innate recalcitrance and perversity. He must both tear down and build up; to eradicate and implant.” (Waltke)

ii. “Note that what is being spoken about is foolishness, not childishness. ‘A child is to be punished,’ as Mr. Scott wisely observed, ‘not for being a child, but for being a wicked child.’” (Bridges)

b. The rod of correction will drive it far from him: Physical discipline is one important way that a child can be morally trained. When wisely and properly applied, physical correction can help drive away a child’s inborn foolishness.

i. Kidner titled Proverbs 22:15 as knocking the nonsense out.

ii. “Discipline will remove a child’s bent to folly…The child is morally immature; the training must suppress folly and develop potential.” (Ross)

iii. The Bible gives some examples of men who did not follow the wisdom of this proverb. “Eli brought up his sons to bring down his house. David’s sons were undone by their father’s fondness. A fair hand, we say, makes a foul wound.” (Trapp)

Proverbs 22:16

He who oppresses the poor to increase his riches,
And he who gives to the rich, will surely come to poverty.

a. He who oppresses the poor to increase his riches: There are always those who prey upon their unfortunate fellow man and will oppress the poor to increase his riches.

b. He who gives to the rich, will surely come to poverty: The one who gives to the rich is like the one who oppresses the poor—he has no compassion for those in need. To such, the principle applies: he will surely come to poverty. God’s blessing will not be on the life and wealth of such a man lacking in compassion.

i. He who gives to the rich: “The juxtaposition of one who takes money from the poor, who needs it, with the one who gives to the rich, who does not need it, points up the folly. For example, ‘It happens when executives are paid exorbitant sums … and overwork their remaining employees.’” (Waltke)

ii. “Perhaps the verse is simply observing that it is easy to oppress the poor for gain, but it is a waste of money to try to buy a patron.” (Ross)

A. Words of the wise.

Proverbs 22:17 begins a new section of the collection. We move from the long section (Proverbs 10:1 through Proverbs 22:16) containing almost entirely two-phrase wisdom sayings with very little arrangement according to theme or context. Starting here, the structure of the wisdom sayings is often longer and they are more arranged according to some theme.

Most commentators believe this section begins here at Pro 22:17 and ends at Pr24:22. Proverbs 22:20 uses the phrase, “I have written to you thirty [excellent] things,” and it is likely that Solomon patterned this section after the Egyptian wisdom writing Amenemope, finding 30 wisdom sayings in the section. Waltke makes the point is that Solomon used some of the structure of Amenemope to arrange this section, but not the content of the ancient Egyptian writing.

1. (Pro 22:17-21) The value of the words of the wise.

Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise,
And apply your heart to my knowledge;
For it is a pleasant thing if you keep them within you;
Let them all be fixed upon your lips,
So that your trust may be in the Lord;
I have instructed you today, even you.
Have I not written to you excellent things
Of counsels and knowledge,
That I may make you know the certainty of the words of truth,
That you may answer words of truth
To those who send to you?

a. Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise: Another invitation to receive words of wisdom. Unless one’s heart and mind are ready to receive wisdom, it does little good to present it. There should be a conscious readying of mind and heart to receive.

i. “The ear is the exterior organ that receives the information and the heart is the interior organ that directs the whole body (Proverbs 4:20-27).” (Waltke)

b. It is a pleasant thing if you keep them within you: The value of gaining and keeping wisdom is pleasant. Sometimes we feel the way of wisdom is a difficult path to walk, but it is much more pleasant than the way of the fool.

i. Keep them within you: “Heb. in thy belly. i.e. in thine heart, which implies receiving them in love, and retaining them in mind and memory.” (Poole)

ii. Excellent things: “The reference to ‘thirty’ [excellent] is significant, for Amenemope also had thirty sayings.” (Ross)

c. So that your trust may be in the Lord: True wisdom makes us more dependent on God, not less. We grow in our trust in the Lord, realizing that the pursuit of wisdom begins and continues with a proper view of God.

i. I have instructed you today: “Even the most brilliant, moral sayings are powerless without personal application. Today refers to each day of the son’s life, because he is to have all of them always ready on his tongue.” (Waltke)

d. That I may make you know the certainty of the words of truth: The pursuit of wisdom makes us more confident in the truth, not less. Certainly wisdom discovers that some things are more complicated and doubtful, but in general it sees God and his truth with more clarity and certainty.

2. (Pro 22:22-23) Treat the poor fairly

Do not rob the poor because he is poor,
Nor oppress the afflicted at the gate;
For the Lord will plead their cause,
And plunder the soul of those who plunder them.

a. Do not rob the poor because he is poor: The poor among us deserve more protection and compassion. Even if one is poor because of their moral failings or foolish behavior, they still should not be taken advantage of and robbed.

i. “If those that relieve not the poor shall be damned, surely they that rob them shall be double damned.” (Trapp)

ii. At the gate: “Lacking financial resources to protect their legal rights they are a tempting target for the sharp practices and blatant injustices of their rich and powerful neighbors.” (Waltke)

b. For the Lord will plead their cause: Even if the rich rob the poor, they still have a defender. God Himself will plead their cause, and will plunder the soul of those who plunder the poor. Understanding God’s concern for and protection of the poor, wisdom leads us to treat them honorably.

i. The poor can’t defend themselves with great resources and influence. The rich man’s treatment of the poor says a lot about the rich man’s character. It shows how he treats those whom culture and the community may say are “beneath” him. This reveals one’s heart in many ways.

ii. “Concern for the poor is common in both biblical and pagan wisdom literature. The distinctive Israelite perspective, however, is that Yahweh is viewed as protector of the oppressed.” (Garrett)

iii. “Wo therefore to them that oppress them, for they will have God, not the poor, to deal with.” (Clarke)

3. (Pro 22:24-25) Warning of the angry man.

Make no friendship with an angry man,
And with a furious man do not go,
Lest you learn his ways
And set a snare for your soul.

a. Make no friendship with an angry man: A person who often can’t control their anger displays bad character and can be a dangerous companion. Wisdom chooses friends carefully, and should make no friendship with an angry man.

i. “Anger is a short madness; it is a leprosy breaking out of a burning, [Leviticus 13:25] and renders a man unfit for civil society.” (Trapp)

b. Lest you learn his ways: This is one of the important reasons why it is foolish to make a friendship with an angry man. His habits will influence yours, and as you become more of an angry person you will set a snare for your soul. We are influenced by the habits of our friends, so choose friends carefully.

i. “From those with whom we associate we acquire habits, and learn their ways, imbibe their spirit, show their tempers and walk in their steps. We cannot be too choice of our company, for we may soon learn ways that will be a snare to our soul.” (Clarke)

ii. “Being friends of a hot-tempered man is like living in a house that is on fire. How quickly does a young person, living with a proud man, become like him and turn into an overbearing person.” (Bridges)

4. (Pro 22:26-27) Stay away from the debts of others.

Do not be one of those who shakes hands in a pledge,
One of those who is surety for debts;
If you have nothing with which to pay,
Why should he take away your bed from under you?

a. Do not be one of those who shakes hands in a pledge: As mentioned in other proverbs, it is a dangerous thing to become responsible for the debts of other people. Personal debt is to be avoided (Proverbs 22:7), so how much more becoming surety for debts of another person.

b. Why should he take away your bed from under you: Under the laws and customs regarding the failure to pay debts in the world of the Bible, property could be easily seized and even people made forced servants for the repayment of debts. Don’t take on the debts of other people.

i. “The risk is that if someone lacks the means to pay, his creditors may take his bed, i.e., his last possession (cf. our expressions ‘the shirt off his back’ or ‘the kitchen sink’).” (Ross)

5. (Pro 22:28) Respect ancient ways and wisdom.

Do not remove the ancient landmark
Which your fathers have set.

a. Do not remove the ancient landmark: From the days when Joshua divided the promised land for the people of Israel, there were landmarks showing the boundaries of property. It was a great crime and scandal to remove these landmarks.

i. Landmark: “Private land boundaries were marked out by stone pillars or cairns erected between property to mark legal ownership.” (Waltke)

ii. “Do not take the advantage, in ploughing or breaking up a field contiguous to that of thy neighbour, to set the dividing stones farther into his field that thou mayest enlarge thy own. Take not what is not thy own in any case. Let all ancient divisions, and the usages connected with them, be held sacred.” (Clarke)

iii. “The boundaries were sacred because God owned the land and had given it to the fathers as their inheritance; to extend one’s land at another’s expense was a major violation of covenant and oath.” (Ross)

iv. “Unless ye covet a curse. [Deuteronomy 27:17] Let levellers look to it, and know that property is God’s ordinance; [Acts 5:4 Psalms 17:14].” (Trapp)

b. Which your fathers have set: We also understand this proverb in a spiritual sense. A landmark—a custom, a tradition, or a value—should not be removed lightly. We should never assume that our fathers set such landmarks for no reason or bad reason. We should not defend tradition for the sake of tradition, but neither should we destroy tradition just for the sake of destroying it.

i. “Unfortunately, the crime was easy to accomplish and difficult to prove. Probably the boundary stone was moved annually only about an inconspicuous half-inch, which in time could add up to a sizeable land grab.” (Waltke)

6. (Pro 22:29) The reward of excellent work.

Do you see a man who excels in his work?
He will stand before kings;
He will not stand before unknown men.

a. Do you see a man who excels in his work: Wisdom pushes us toward excellence. God has given every man and woman work to do, and they should do that work with excellence as unto God and not only to men (Colossians 3:23).

i. A man who excels: “One who is improving his talents all the time and is making the most of his opportunities. He is like Henry Martyn, who was known in his college ‘as the man who had not lost an hour.’” (Bridges)

ii. “Anyone who puts his workmanship before his prospects towers above the thrusters and climbers of the adjacent paragraphs.” (Kidner)

b. He will stand before kings: The excellence of a man or woman’s work can give them great standing in the world. More importantly, it gives them standing before the King of Kings, who promises to reward the one who works diligently unto Him (Colossians 3:23-24).

i. “How dear was Daniel to Darius, because, though sick, yet he despatched the king’s business! What favourites to our Henry VIII were Wolsey, Cromwell, Cranmer, for like reason! A diligent man shall not sit long in a low place.” (Trapp)

ii. “Jesus taught that the one who is trustworthy in the small matters of this world will be entrusted with ten cities in his coming kingdom (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27; cf. John 12:26).” (Waltke)

©2017 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission

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