Proverbs 3 Study Notes


3:1-12 In this section the odd-numbered verses give a command and the even-numbered verses a promised result (the command continues in v. 6a).

3:2 To have well-being is to be healthy, free from threat or need, and thus fulfilled, content, prosperous, and at peace in a way that only God can grant (Ps 4:8; 119:165).

3:3-4 Loyalty (Hb chesed, see note at 19:22) and faithfulness summarize godliness in contrast to the selfish malice and infidelity of the wicked (14:22; 16:6; 20:28; cp. Mt 22:37-40). The son should make them his permanent characteristics, externally and internally.

3:5 To trust anything or anyone other than the Lord results in disaster (11:28; 28:26; cp. Ps 52:7; 62:10; Is 30:12-13; Ezk 16:15). To rely on something—a synonym for “trust”—is to lean on it as if it were a crutch (2Sm 1:6; Jb 8:14-15; Is 50:10). Understanding is good (16:16), but only if it is from the Lord (9:10).

3:6 To know God in all your ways is to invite his presence into all daily activities and decisions. Make your paths straight (or smooth) means that God will make righteousness attainable.

3:7 Turning away from evil and worshiping the Lord is the gist of repentance (Ac 8:22; 26:20), which requires humility (Jr 31:19).

3:8 Body (lit “navel,” Sg 7:2) and bones stand for the entire person.

3:9-10 Possessions is the word for abundant “wealth” (8:18; 10:15; 11:4; 12:27; 13:7,11; 18:11; 19:4,14; 28:8,22; 29:3) or sufficiency (see “enough” in 30:15-16), the stored resources that are ready for use. The first produce was the earliest and best of the crop (Dt 18:4). Those who honor God with their wealth will receive more with which to honor him (Mal 3:10; Lk 19:17,26).

3:11-12 To ask God to refrain from giving us discipline would be to ask him to love us less (Jb 7:17-19; 10:10).

3:13-18 This poem praising wisdom begins and ends with the word happy. To be happy is to discover the good life that the Creator intended (8:32,34; 14:21; 16:20; 20:7; 28:14; Ps 1:1; 32:1; 144:15; Is 30:18). This Hebrew word is associated with the Greek word in Mt 5:3-12 that describes the present and future blessings enjoyed by the godly person. Godly wisdom is better than silver . . . gold, or jewels because she (where she is a personification of wisdom) gives enduring riches along with honor, inner peace, and eternal life.

3:14 This could be the profit gained in trading up to wisdom (4:7) or the subsequent profit made by applying wisdom (8:18-21; 21:20; 24:4).

3:16 The Hebrew word for honor is literally “weightiness” (“heavy” in 27:3; “glory” in Is 22:24); it implies ascribing value or esteem to something or taking it seriously (Ps 50:15; Pr 3:9; Mal 1:6). It is also translated “glory,” especially when describing God (Ex 40:34; Ps 96:7; Pr 25:2).

3:18 A tree of life is a source provided by God for healing and eternal life (11:30; 13:12; 15:4; cp. Gn 2:9; 3:22; Rv 2:7; 22:2). Thus godly wisdom functions symbolically to replace what was lost in the garden of Eden. Jesus Christ fulfilled wisdom’s promise.

3:19 God established and sustains creation through wisdom. Solomon offered this same wisdom to his son to firmly establish and sustain his life (4:26; 12:3; 16:3; 24:3).

3:20 In Palestine dew was an important source of moisture.

3:21 Maintain is literally “guard.” On discretion, see note at 1:4.

3:22 Wisdom is the key to life—a full life now and eternal life in the future—because it is anchored in the fear of the Lord and it includes practical advice (vv. 2,18; 1:33; 4:13,22-23; 6:23; 8:35; 10:16-17; 11:19; 12:28; 14:27; 16:22; 19:23; 21:21; 22:4; cp. Mk 10:30; 1Tm 4:8).

3:23-26 On safely, see “securely” in note at 1:33. Though the wicked will suddenly come to ruin at their ending (Ps 35:8; Is 10:3; 47:11; 1Th 5:3), those who maintain wisdom (Pr 3:21) will never be in such danger—whether awake or asleep—because the Lord will protect them.

3:27-28 If someone has a legitimate claim on something you have or something you can do, take care of it without delay.

3:29-30 Harm is literally “evil” (see note at 1:16). The mention of one who lives near you emphasizes the trust inherent in community. It does not mean that treachery is permissible against distant strangers; it is always wrong (Jdg 18:7,27; 2Sm 3:27; 20:9-10; Ps 55:12-14; Mt 26:14). Without cause (see note at 1:11; cp. 24:28; 1Kg 2:31; Ps 35:7; 119:161) is literally “for nothing” (Gn 29:15; 2Sm 24:24) or “for no reason” (1Sm 19:5; Lm 3:52). Bringing accusations without just cause is malicious betrayal of community trust.

3:31 A violent man is one who, out of greed and hate, commits crimes against society such as oppression and exploitation (10:6,11; 13:2; 16:29).

3:32 The devious, those who turn aside from what is right, are detestable to God, offensive, abhorrent, an abomination; they virtually turn his stomach. He will not pay them any attention except to punish them (15:8; 16:5; 21:27; 28:9). But with the upright God is a friend, an intimate counselor (15:22; Jb 29:4; Ps 25:14; 55:14).

3:33 God’s curse is the removal of his sustaining presence. A household includes all of a person’s family, possessions, and property. Individual members of the family can be redeemed from the curse (Ezk 18:17,20).

3:34 God mocks those who ridicule him (see note at 1:22). The humble (16:19) are those who are poor (14:21; 31:20) not from laziness but because they are exploited or oppressed (15:15; 22:22; 30:14; 31:5,9).

3:35 An inheritance is a permanent possession. On honor, see note at 3:16. Fools (Hb kesiyl, see note at 1:22) are “exalted” to a state of dishonor—a sarcastic statement.