Prologue: Purpose and Theme (1:1–7)
8–9 Here the writer urges children to heed the instruction of their father and mother. Such teaching will be like a garland for the children; it will gain them acceptance and respect. These verses remind us that parents have the primary responsibility for giving their children moral instruction (Deuteronomy 6:6–7).
10–19 In these verses, the writer gives an example of the kind of enticement that attracts young men in particular: the chance for quick and easy gain, together with excitement, violence, and comradeship. The writer tells his son (or his disciple) not to go along with sinners, with thieves and murderers (verses 10,15). The same sins they commit will come back on them; those who commit murder will likely end up being murdered (Matthew 26:52). God always repays evildoers for the evil they have done—either in this life or the next4 (Romans 2:6; 2 Thessalonians 1:6).
Warning Against Rejecting Wisdom (1:20–33)
20–27 In this section, wisdom is personified5 as a woman filled with divine wisdom. She appeals to the people in the street and in the public squares (verses 20–21); the writer is suggesting that wisdom is available to all—if they will but heed it.
In verse 22, “Lady Wisdom” appeals to the three kinds of people who need her wisdom the most: the simple ones—those who are inexperienced and gullible (verse 4); the mockers—those who are arrogant, who talk more than they listen; and the fools—those who are self-confident and think they have no need of wisdom (verse 7). But these three groups reject her appeal6 (verses 24–25), and in so doing they bring disaster down upon their heads (verses 26–27). Therefore, Lady Wisdom will laugh at their disaster—not in a mean-spirited way, but in response to the folly of those who laugh at wisdom and bring disaster on themselves.
28–33 For those who reject wisdom, the day will come when they will no longer be able to find it (verse 28); it will be too late (see Matthew 25:1–13). Those who reject wisdom do so deliberately: they choose not to fear the Lord7 (verse 29); they refuse to accept wisdom’s advice (verse 30). Therefore, they have no one but themselves to blame when disaster comes upon them. They will eat the fruit of their own evil schemes (verse 31); they will reap what they have sown (Galatians 6:7).
People become fools and mockers by their own choice; people are responsible for their own decisions. Lady Wisdom stretches out her hand to all of us; whether we listen or not is our choice. The essence of folly and evil is the refusal to listen to the wisdom of God.
In verses 32–33, the writer summarizes the two choices facing every man and woman: one, to take the way of the simple and of fools8 and be destroyed; or two, to listen to wisdom and live in safety (see Psalm 1:1–6; Matthew 7:13–14). These two choices still confront each man and woman today.
We cannot make choices for others; parents, for example, cannot make choices for their grown children. It is up to each individual to choose which way he or she will follow: the path of wisdom or the path of folly. Wisdom leads us to God and to life; folly leads us to sin and to death. God’s word says to us: Now choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19–20).