Proverbs 1:8-19

Proverbs 1:8-19

1:8-9 — 8 Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, 9 for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.

The first thing Solomon teaches us in the path of wisdom is the call to heed parental instruction. This is very significant. One, it follows right after the introduction in which Solomon offers wisdom. This effectively makes it important because of its location. Two, after fearing God, wisdom calls us to accept instruction from our parents (contrary to a fool who despises wisdom and instruction, v. 7).

Our culture worships all things young. Parents are tolerated at best; they are no longer important or necessary. The Bible on the other hand indicates that one of the first steps we are to take in order to be wise is to heed the instruction of parents. This is in accordance with the first commandment with a promise (Eph. 6:2; cf. 1Tim. 5:4). In hearing and not forsaking them, we will make us spiritually beautiful: “Obedience makes a person delightfully outstanding to others and gives one something to cherish and value for oneself.” (Hubbard)

God is saying that the child (“my son”) must hear their fathers and must not forsake their mothers teaching or law (tr:îAT). God is telling the young not to forsake the instruction of the parents. “That both parents are mentioned is a tribute to the prominent role of Israel’s mothers. We find no similar reference to mother as teacher in Babylonian or Egyptian wisdom literature.” (Hubbard, 49)

Verse 9 is the motivation. Waltke says these are “symbols of honor and life that can hardly be disregarded.” Furthermore, “they [the teachings] are the adornments; the adornments are not something future and extrinsic to them.…all children who obey their godly parents and embrace the teachings of this book wear the teachings as heroes wore ‘the great wreath.” (Waltke, 187-8)

1. It assumes that parents instruct their children. George Lawson says, “It is here supposed that parents will instruct their children. They are monsters rather than parents, who do not love the fruit of their own bodies. Love will dispose persons to do all the good they can to the objects of it; and the best thing that can be done for children, is to teach them the fear of the Lord.” (p. 8)

2. Unto what age should a child heed his parents’ advice? Bridges says, “Neither age nor rank gives any claim for exemption. Joseph — when ripe in years, the head of a family, and the first Lord in Egypt— bowed before his father’s feet. (Gen xlvi. 29; xlviii. 12.) Solomon, in the glory of his crown, forgot not the respect justly due to his mother. [cf. 1K. 2:19, 20; cf. also Esther 2:20] Nor were the crown upon his head, and the chain of gold about Joseph’s neck… so graceful as this ornament of filial humility.”


1:10-14 — The first teaching of the parents is to avoid bad company. He is saying, Regard your parents and resist your peers. This scenario presents itself to everyone. Every young man or woman is confronted with peer pressure — with opportunities to run with a crowd against the parent’s judgment.  “The son’s allegiance to the family’s inherited worldview must be sharply delineated from that of the gang, who seek to draw him into their corruption.” (Waltke, 188)

1:10 — My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.

Sinners in Proverbs are those who have already chosen the path of folly and sin. They love company and love to mislead. Their solicitations require acquiescence; the young son must consent, reply affirmatively, accept the invitation, etc. He may be misled but he is not misled against his will. “Eve consented, before she plucked the fruit; David, before he committed the act of sin (cf. Bridges). “If the temptation prevail, charge it not on God; no — nor on the devil. As the worst he can do, he can only tempt, he cannot force us, to sin. When he has plied us with his utmost power, and most subtle artifice, it is at the choice of our own will, whether we yield or no. (See Jam. i. 13-15)” (Bridges, 6)


1:11-14 — 11 If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason; 12 like Sheol let us swallow them alive, and whole, like those who go down to the pit; 13 we shall find all precious goods, we shall fill our houses with plunder; 14 throw in your lot among us; we will all have one purse”-

These are the sinners’ solicitations. Solomon is stating their words in their truest terms. They often come with deception: “Come, let us pick the pocket of some covetous miser, who has made himself rich by cunning, and scraped money together by such cowardly practices, as cannot expose him to the vengeance of the law.” (cf. Lawson) In other words, the words are often seductive and do not tell the whole story but the meaning is as the parents have stated it.

Verse 13 reveals what will be gained. Riches will come but unlawfully. All sin and all seductions have some “good” in view, that is, one will gain something from it (satisfaction, pleasure, money, power, revenge, etc.) Verse 14 promises camaraderie — the person will be one of the gang with one purse. Easy money with promised friendship — who can resist? With money, the young man can get what he wants; with friends, he can use it in “happy” company. This is the way of the world. Waltke notes, “Sinners love wealth and use people; saints love people and use wealth to help others.” (193)


1:15 — my son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths,

Parents warn against this sin. They portrayed the scenario; they stated the reasons of sinners and now they give their wise and hearty advice. Don’t go there. Stay away. Notice the words, parents are saying, “Don’t even go with them.” Some flatter themselves with the thought that they can resist; they want only to be with their companions — don’t walk with them. Waltke says “hold back your foot from their paths” means something like, “do not experiment with their addiction.” To walk in their paths is to deviate from paths of righteousness.


1:16 — for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood.

Lawson says, “Let us never forget the evil that is in sin. However men may dress it out in beautiful colours, it is the very quintessence of naughtiness.” These sinners are determined; they run and make haste to do these things; they are bent on wickedness.

Parents need to instruct their children as to the true nature of certain ways. We must not downplay or overstate it but any path that deviates from God must be painted for what it is.


1:17-18 — 17 For in vain is a net spread in the sight of any bird, 18 but these men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives.

This gang of sinners promises much but are unaware of the very ambush they set for themselves. “No mention is made of pained consciences lives that stew in regret, heartache for friends and family, fear of being caught by authorities or betrayed by comrades who want the one purse for themselves, as did Judas in the apostolic company.” (Hubbard) In effect, these criminals are more stupid than birds! “But the lying-in-wait and the secret lurking which they described so vividly in verse 11 are the height of stupidity, since the sinners themselves are their own prey, the ultimate victims of their own feet; the very feet that run in the eagerness to work their evil crimes, violently hurrying to shed blood (v. 16) are maimed by their avid greed.” (Hubbard) Waltke notes how the father used their own words but has changed the victim. The phrases “for their own blood” and “for their own lives” are emphatic — they themselves are their own victims. “They look like they will pillage others, but in the outcome, it is they who will be pillaged.” (Longman)


1:19 — Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.

This is the lesson of the parent’s instruction. Those who are so greedy for unjust gain, for illegal profit, unrighteous earnings, etc. will lose their souls. “The unjust gain clings to the criminal and eventually destroys him. Jesus draws a similar universal: ‘All who live by the sword will die by the sword’ (Matt. 26:52). In sum, this aphorism articulates the book’s fundamental concept of deed-consequence: sin begets harm (cf. Gal. 6:7).” (Waltke) “The sages are not against the pursuit of profits through honest, hard work. Many of the proverbs that follow actually encourage hard work with the intention of gaining profits.” (Longman)

Koch is cited (by Waltke on p. 194) as saying, “A man’s deeds cling to him as it were, wrapping themselves around him in an invisible domain, which one day is transformed into a corresponding condition or state, and then recoils on the doer.” Waltke prefers the “deed-destiny nexus upheld by God, the knowledge of which is necessary for wisdom.”

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