Proverbs 22:6

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
– Proverbs 22:6

The text of this proverb is difficult and translations and interpretations vary. 1 The proverb is clear enough when we keep the teaching of Proverbs as a whole in mind. The word for train up means to initiate, inaugurate, dedicate, or train. The word for way is common in Proverbs to refer to the course of one’s life. There are no words for he should in the Hebrew and the word for go literally means mouth. It is used figuratively for speech. John Gill rendered it literally: “according to the mouth of his way.” The word here indicates the beginning, or entrance. The sense of the first phrase is, “Start a child in his own way.”

The proverb is a warning to parents about neglecting the instruction and correction of their children to drive the natural foolishness from them (Proverbs 19:18; 20:30; 22:15; 23:14). It is neither a guarantee nor a promise that following certain steps with your children ensures they will mature to be wise. Wisdom warns parents not to leave their children to their own devices and wants (Proverbs 10:1, 5; 17:21, 25; 29:15). Parents must diligently bring up their children to be wise, but parents cannot make their children wise. A fool in Proverbs is one who rejects wisdom and goes his own way (Proverbs 1:30-32; 13:1; 15:20). A fool will also bear the consequences of his own folly (Proverbs 9:12; 19:3).

Listen to the Proverbs sermon series


  1. Much could be said about the issues with this verse in terms of translations and the historical survey of interpretations. Commentaries present a range of options beyond the scope of this commentary to explore. I recommend the book, “God’s Wisdom in Proverbs” by Dan Phillips for further study. Phillips has an extensive discussion of this verse and his book is one of the best resources on Proverbs to own. You can find it here.

Proverbs 20:20

Whoso curseth his father or his mother, his lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness.
– Proverbs 20:20

Incorrigible children were worthy of death by the law (Exodus 21:17; Leviticus 20:9). The law demanded the honoring of parents by children, as also in the New Testament (Ephesians 6:1-3). We infer from the law that honor is due to parents first because of their office and not their person. The modern, western ideal is to judge whether the person is worthy of honor or not. That is not in question in law. Children can bring shame to their parents by laziness (Proverbs 10:5), pride (Proverbs 11:2), failing to live up to their teaching (Proverbs 17:2), and squandering their wealth (Proverbs 19:26). Children may also sin more seriously by despising, mocking, and cursing their parents (Proverbs 15:20; 20:20; 30:11, 17). The consequence is serious in the image of their lamp being put out in obscure darkness. This imagery is used elsewhere to speak of judgment and death for those who refuse wisdom (Proverbs 13:9; 24:20).

Listen to the Proverbs sermon series

Proverbs 20:11

Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.
– Proverbs 20:11

The word for child covers from an infant to an adolescent, and is translated young man in the fatherly addresses that begin the book (Proverb 1:4; 7:7). Here the context is supportive for understanding a young child is meant, and this fits with the later use of this word as well (Proverbs 22:6, 15; 23:13; 29:15). If we place this proverb with these other parenting proverbs, then the proverb instructs parents in discernment. Parents must interpret the actions of their child and either reinforce it if good, or correct it if bad. Motives and character are revealed in the actions of a child, just as with adults. Foolish parents turn a blind eye to what is behind the action and deal only with the action.

Listen to the Proverbs sermon series

Proverbs 19:18

Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.
– Proverbs 19:18

The word for chasten means to chastise, or to discipline. It can be used literally in terms of corporal punishment or figuratively in terms of instruction and verbal correction. The intention seems to be to include the whole range of meaning in the rearing of children, both the rod and instruction. This proverb speaks of discipline in terms of hope and opportunity. Wisdom teaches that discipline must take place early, or soon when needed (Proverbs 13:24). This wisdom word is to parents. Folly is already there and doesn’t have to be added (Proverbs 22:15). Neglect by the parents, or laziness, leaves no hope and misses the opportunity (Proverbs 23:13-14; 29:15). The word for hope means expectation. While we cannot make our children be wise, we can correct their folly and instruct them in wisdom. There is hope in doing so (Proverbs 29:17).

Listen to the Proverbs sermon series

Proverbs 15:20

A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish man despiseth his mother.
– Proverbs 15:20

The word for glad means to brighten, or cause to rejoice. A son receiving and walking in wisdom makes a father glad. This is a persistent theme in Proverbs (Proverbs 10:1; 23:15-16; 29:3). Parents cannot make their children wise, but they continually instruct and correct in hope they will receive wisdom. When the children receive correction and instruction, parents are blessed in numerous ways and rejoice. The contrasting line is a different perspective than the usual. The focus is not as much on the effect on the mother, but rather on the son who is foolish. Such a man is hardened and dishonors his parents (Proverbs 23:22; 30:17), and sins against God (Exodus 20:12; Leviticus 19:3).

Listen to the Proverbs sermon series

Proverbs 10:1

Chapter 10 begins the second major section in the book of Proverbs and also begins what we think of as proper proverbs. It is a collection of wise sayings in memorable form, usually a two-line, parallel structure. Chapters 10-22 are the “Proverbs of Solomon,” containing 375 proverbs and they divide into two major divisions. Chapters 10-15 have an antithetical parallel structure, meaning they are formed by two lines that contrast. They often contrast the good and the bad. There are 185 proverbs in these chapters. Chapters 16-22 contain 190 proverbs that have a synthetic parallel structure, meaning the two lines compare similar things or the second line continues the first. These proverbs often compare the good with the better or the bad with the worse.

There is no obvious order or topical arrangement to the proverbs in this collection. These proverbs speak to various subjects, such as speech, ethics, learning, wealth, relationships, etc. The change in style between the two sections is discernible, indicating a deliberate arrangement, but there is no further structure apparent. These proverbs are inspired sayings of Divine wisdom that apply the law to the individual person.

The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son in the heaviness of his mother.
– Proverbs 10:1

The first phrase is the title, or heading, of this section. This first proverb is a two-line contrast. The first line has a wise son and a glad father. The second line has a foolish son and a grieved mother, as heaviness indicates. This proverb also illustrates the multi-layered meaning of proverbs in general. The more we meditate on them as we go through life, the richer they become to us.

The obvious teaching on the face of the proverb is that a wise child is a blessing and cause of joy to his parents. The contrast is that a foolish child brings shame and grief to his parents. There is instruction both to children and to parents. The proverb gives encouragement and warning to children to keep the fifth commandment (Exodus 20:12), which is the first with promise (Ephesians 6:1-3). The proverb also gives the same to parents, because it is the responsibility of parents to properly instruct their children and in so doing or neglecting they will bring themselves blessing or grief (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Proverbs 22:6; 23:15-16, 24-25).

This proverb is also one sample, or type, of the broader category of human relationships. We are connected to others and the choices we make and the way we go affects others in our sphere. Though each individual has to seek wisdom and to keep the wisdom they find, that doesn’t happen in a vacuum without any connection to others around us. Whether we pursue wisdom or not will affect husbands, wives, parents, children, extended family, neighbors, co-workers, etc.

Listen to the Proverbs sermon series

Proverbs 1:8

My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother:
– Proverbs 1:8

Verse 7 made plain there are two ways of life—wisdom and folly. The foundation for wisdom is the fear of the Lord. The first major section of proverbs begins here in verse 8 and runs through chapter 9. It could generally be titled, “A Father’s Instruction to Seek and Find Wisdom for Life.”

The admonition is to hear. The same word is used in verse 5 and means to hear intelligently. It means to listen attentively. The son is admonished to hear the instruction and law of his father and mother. Not only is he to hear, but he is also not to forsake his mother’s law. Forsake conveys the thought of casting off in the sense rejecting. It is a more deliberate action than simply forgetting or neglecting.

There are various layers to this verse, so we will consider just a couple. Instruction means discipline and can refer to training and correction. It encompasses the whole life training received from parents. A degree of humility is enjoined upon the son. He must acknowledge the greater wisdom of father and mother and submit to it, rather than rejecting it. The verse also hints to the fact that the son will encounter other ways, which will compel him. That is made plain in verse 10 and throughout this section. As he is assailed by other ways of folly, he is to cling to the wisdom of father and mother.

Lastly, the picture presented is neither of parental infallibility nor of lifelong spoon-feeding of children by their parents. The essence of wisdom is discernment and when coupled with the fear of God, leads to discerning the way of righteousness. The earnest desire and plea for the father is for the son to grow in wisdom. He wants him to mature and come to the full stature of a man not blown about by every wind of philosophy. This is plain in places like Proverbs 4:7 and Proverbs 2:1-5.

Listen to the Proverbs sermon series