Proverbs 2:1-22

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The son is represented as receiving fatherly admonition about what he needed to do to understand the fear of YHWH and to find the knowledge of God. (2:5) He would need to accept the father’s words, acting in harmony therewith, and “treasure up,” or highly value like a deposited treasure, his father’s “commandments.” (2:1; see the Notes section for the Septuagint rendering of verses 1 and 2.)

Another requirement was for the son to make his ear attentive to wisdom, truly listening to and heeding sound counsel, and to incline his “heart” (or his mental faculties or himself in his innermost self) to insight or the needed discernment to live uprightly. His inclining his “heart” to insight would signify his choosing or desiring it. (2:2)

It was essential for the son to “cry out for understanding [wisdom (LXX)],” earnestly desiring to possess the knowledge that would serve as a dependable guide, and raise his “voice for insight,” petitioning God for discernment in relation to the course he should be taking. The Septuagint refers to seeking perception with a “loud [literally, great] voice.” (2:3)

Diligent effort would be required on the part of the son. He would need to seek for insight as he would for silver and search for it as for hidden treasures. (2:4) This would result in the son’s understanding the “fear of YHWH [the Lord (LXX)]” (the reverential regard for YHWH that should be evident in his conduct), and he would find the “knowledge of God,” or come to know God as his approved servant. (2:5)

“For YHWH [the Lord (LXX)] gives wisdom, and from his mouth” (“face” or “presence” [LXX]) come “knowledge and understanding.” These words identify YHWH as the ultimate source of the wisdom, knowledge and understanding that are vital for the enjoyment of a meaningful and praiseworthy life. As indicated in verse 5, this is the life of one having a reverential regard for YHWH and possessing a knowledge of him, or having a relationship with him, as his servant who desires to live uprightly. (2:6)

YHWH looks out for upright ones, storing up for them, or arranging for them as a treasure, the wisdom that ultimately leads to success (tushiyyáh) or a good outcome for them. According to the Septuagint, the focus is on the outcome, with the object of the “treasuring up” or “storing up” being “salvation” or “deliverance” from what would, without God’s help or guidance, prove to be injurious. The Hebrew text identifies YHWH as a “shield” or a protector for “those walking in integrity,” faithfully adhering to his commands in all aspects of life. In the Septuagint, God is portrayed as shielding the course of upright ones, suggesting that he would be making their way successful. (2:7; see the Notes section.)

For YHWH to guard the “paths of judgment” or justice may be understood to indicate that he will see to it that obstacles ultimately will not be permitted to obstruct the administration of justice and that justice will be carried out. In the Septuagint, the Hebrew word for “judgment” is the plural form of dikaíoma and here probably relates to legal rights or rightful dues. YHWH also “preserves,” or closely and continually watches over, the way of his devoted ones, assuring that those who have reverential regard for him will not be stopped from pursuing the course that is pleasing to him. (2:8)

With the wisdom, knowledge, and understanding that YHWH provides and his close watch over the way that those having his approval walk or in which they conduct themselves, the son who is being admonished “will understand righteousness” or what is right, “judgment” or justice, “and uprightness” or moral rectitude, “every good path.” The son would know the course he needed to pursue to have God’s favor and blessing. According to the Septuagint, the son would make “all good courses” (literally, “all good axles”) straight, suggesting that he would not deviate from the right paths. (2:9)

For the son, protection from following the wrong course would require that “wisdom” enter his “heart,” or become part of his inmost self (his thinking and his reasoning), and that “knowledge” (the knowledge needed for conducting himself in a divinely approved way) be pleasant to his “soul” or to him himself. The son would delight in having this knowledge and would reveal this by maintaining praiseworthy conduct. (2:10; see the Notes section.)

With the wisdom that has YHWH as its source, the son would benefit from having discretion (“good counsel” or advice [LXX]) watch over him and discernment (“holy insight” [LXX]) guard him. This would be because wisdom would make him discreet as one who heeded sound advice and discerning about the right way to live. Discretion and discernment would safeguard him from following a ruinous course. (2:11) He would be delivered from the “way of evil,” or a corrupt course of conduct that leads to calamity. The son would be delivered from the “man” (or any person) who speaks twisted things or, according to the Septuagint, who speaks “nothing trustworthy.” As one who discerns the twisted nature of the words, the son would not allow himself to be ensnared and to take up practices that could be ruinous to himself or to others. (2:12)

Corrupt ones from whom the son with godly wisdom as his guide would be delivered are described as persons who abandon the “paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness.” They reject a godly way of life and choose to engage in lawless practices that often are carried out under the cover of darkness, or secretly. (2:13; see the Notes section.) These individuals rejoice or find delight in “doing evil.” They gain satisfaction from profiting at the expense of others, completely ignoring the injury they cause. Lawless persons find delight or pleasure in the “twisted things of evil,” or in the base and corrupt things associated with badness. (2:14) Their “paths,” or the ways in which they conduct themselves, are “crooked,” not upright. “In their ways,” they are “devious,” exhibiting craftiness and cunning. The Septuagint refers to their “courses” as being “bent” or crooked, deviating from what is right. (2:15)

The designations “strange woman” and “foreign one” apply to a woman who engages in prostitution. Godly wisdom would deliver the son from such a woman. He would not permit her “smooth” or enticing words to trap him into having intercourse with her. The Septuagint rendering conveys an entirely different thought. It represents corrupt individuals as wanting the son to be far removed from the “straight way,” or the divinely approved course of life, and to be a “stranger” to righteous intention, purpose or thought. (2:16)

The immoral woman is described as one who forsakes the intimate one of her youth (the husband to whom she was united in her youth). She “has forgotten” the “covenant of her God,” disregarding the covenant or agreement that required her to be faithful to her husband. As in the previous verse, the Septuagint rendering does not relate to a woman who prostitutes herself. The “son” is admonished not to let “bad counsel” overtake or seize him — counsel that abandons the “teaching of youth,” or which he received when young, and that “has forgotten [or has disregarded] the godly [or divine] covenant.” (2:17)

Involvement with an immoral woman leads to ruin, for her “house” is represented as sinking down to death and “her tracks” to the Rephaim (a transliteration of the Hebrew expression that has commonly been rendered “shades.”) In this context, the designation Rephaim may refer to those who had descended to the realm of the dead like the very tall and powerful Rephaim warriors whom David and his men killed in battle. (2:18; compare 1 Samuel 17:4-7; 1 Chronicles 20:4-8; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

Possibly because death from disease can be the outcome for those having intercourse with an immoral woman, it is indicated that none of those going to her (or having intercourse with her) “will come back.” They will not regain the “paths” of those who are alive. (2:19; see the Notes section.)

The purpose of the fatherly admonition is for the son to walk, or to conduct himself, “in the way of good [persons] and to keep to, or remain in, “paths of righteous ones.” When following the admonition, the son would imitate the course of godly individuals and lead an exemplary life like persons who are recognized as righteous or upright in their dealings. (2:20; see the Notes section.) His doing so would lead to his enjoying a secure life and his being safeguarded from the consequences that ultimately can result from lawless conduct — severe punishment and a premature death. “For the upright will inhabit the earth” or land, and the “complete ones,” blameless ones, or honest persons “will remain in it,” not perishing prematurely. When punitive judgment is rendered against the wicked, upright ones will continue to be secure in their portion of the land. (2:21; see the Notes section.)

“Wicked ones will be cut off from the earth” or land, “and the treacherous” (corrupt or deceitful individuals) “will be torn away from it.” Punitive judgment will befall them, removing them from the earthly scene. According to the Septuagint, the “ways” of the impious or godless ones “will perish from the earth” or land. When judgment is executed against them and they cease to have their place on the land, the corrupt ways that they followed will perish with them. The Septuagint concludes with the thought that “transgressors,” those who choose to violate God’s commands, “will be banished from the earth” or the land. (2:22)

Notes

The rendering of verses 1 and 2 in the Septuagint differs somewhat from the extant Hebrew text. “Son, when you accept the saying of my commandment you hide [it] within yourself” (keeping your father’s authoritative teaching as a precious treasure inside yourself and letting it guide you), “your ear will be responsive to wisdom [you will obey wisdom], and you will incline your heart to insight [choosing to use insight or discernment], and you will incline it for the admonition of your son.” When choosing to heed his father’s authoritative teaching, the son would be in a position to benefit his own son with the instruction that had been imparted to him.

In verse 7, there is a measure of uncertainty about how the Hebrew noun tushiyyáh may best be rendered. Possible meanings are “prudence,” “sound wisdom,” “success,” “good outcome,” or “victory.” Renderings in modern translations vary. “He stores up sound wisdom for the upright.” (NRSV) “He has counsel in store for the upright.” (NAB) “Out of his store he endows the upright with ability.” (REB) “God gives helpful advice.” (CEV) “He holds victory in store for the upright.” (NIV)

In verse 10, the Septuagint rendering of the Hebrew word for “heart” (lev) is a form of diánoia and may here be understood to refer to the reasoning or thinking faculty.

In the Hebrew text of verse 13, there is an abrupt change from the singular noun for “man” (verse 12) to the plural participle (“those abandoning the paths of uprightness”). The Septuagint rendering of verse 13 provides a smoother transition. “O those abandoning straight ways to walk in ways of darkness.”

The wording of verse 18 in the Septuagint appears to represent “bad counsel” (verse 17) as a woman who gives bad advice. She is referred to as setting “her house beside death” and “her courses” or paths “beside Hades” (the realm of the dead) “with the giants.” In this case, “giants” is the Greek rendering for the Hebrew designation that is transliterated as Rephaim.

In verse 19, the Septuagint rendering indicates that those who walk in bad counsel or follow bad advice “will not come back nor seize” or take hold of “straight paths [ways of life that avoid senseless or corrupt actions that can lead to a premature death], for they are not seized by years of life.” They will die prematurely, for years of a long life do not have them as their possession.

The Septuagint rendering of the words in verse 20 indicates how the life of those who followed “bad counsel” (verses 17 and 19) could have been different. “For if they walked good paths, they would have found smooth paths of righteousness.” Their conduct would not have been crooked or corrupt.

The wording of verse 21 in the Septuagint expresses the basic thought of the Hebrew text somewhat differently. “Kind [persons] will be inhabitants of the earth” or land, “and blameless ones will be left in it, for the upright will tent [or have their residence] on the earth” or the land, “and holy ones [those who are free from the defilement of lawless deeds] will be left in it.”