Proverbs 28:5

Evil men understand not judgment: but they that seek the Lord understand all things.
– Proverbs 28:5

This verse continues the contrast between the righteous and the wicked. Judgment is the issue at stake in the contrast. The word means a judicial verdict and refers to receiving right treatment according to law. The standard of judgment was referenced in the previous verse and is the law of God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” and the goal of instruction is wisdom, including the understanding of judgment (Proverbs 1:1-7). Evil men are fools who despise wisdom, so it remains out of reach for them and they do not understand true justice (Proverbs 1:7; 24:7). Evil men do not seek the Lord and do not understand justice, but the wise seek the Lord and do understand (Proverbs 2:1-9).

Proverbs 28:2

For the transgression of a land many are the princes thereof: but by a man of understanding and knowledge the state thereof shall be prolonged.
– Proverbs 28:2

The word for transgression points to rebellion and land is put for a nation of people. Rebellion and multiplication of rulers go together. The northern kingdom of Israel had nine different dynasties consisting of twenty different kings in just over two hundred years. New dynasties were inaugurated by assassination of the previous one. Hosea prophesied against this sinful state in Israel (Hosea 7:7; 8:4; 13:11).

The contrast in the saying is not to a nation of people but to a single ruler who is a wise king, a man of understanding and knowledge. The wise and righteous king brings stability to the land (Proverbs 16:12; 29:4, 14).

 


 

 

Proverbs 24:3

Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established:
– Proverbs 24:3

Verses 3-4 form the next saying, which is a metaphor illustrating the positive, constructive power of wisdom. The imagery of wisdom building a house is elsewhere in the Proverbs and it provides an excellent illustration of lasting success (Proverbs 9:1; 14:1). The word for wisdom means skill, like that of a craftsman. This word functions like an umbrella term over other words that are more like components of the whole picture of wisdom. The word for understanding means intelligence, sense, or discernment. The word for builded means to build up and the word for established means to be made firm, or secure. Wisdom begins the building on a sure footing and completes the structure with lasting stability.

This saying also touches upon the ontological realities of vocation within the created cosmos. God has created and established with wisdom (Proverbs 3:19-20; 8:22-31). As image bearers of God, we are to build, or work, with wisdom. It is easy to see then why building, or working, with folly is destructive, because it gives false witness to the Creator, will not be established, and cannot stand. When we work and build with God-fearing wisdom, our work is established and we give faithful witness to the Creator and are walking in his way.

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Proverbs 23:23

Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.
– Proverbs 23:23

This verse gives a fatherly saying that is be hearkened to. The word for truth means certainty, and so it points to reality, what is truly true. To buy and not sell means to labor to acquire wisdom and to retain it. The word for wisdom means skill, like that of a craftsman or tradesman, and can be put for shrewdness. The word for instruction means discipline, and can range from teaching to correcting, or even chastisement. The word for understanding means discernment and indicates the ability to distinguish between. The four words here represent the necessary equipment for going in the right way, or living a godly life. Proverbs consistently urges the necessity of seeking, cost of acquiring, and value of having wisdom (Proverbs 2:2-4; 4:5-7; 16:16).

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Proverbs 21:30

There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD.
– Proverbs 21:30

Skill, intelligence, and plans do not stand against the Lord, nor do they succeed apart from him. You have to fear the Lord to even begin in the way of wisdom, so refusing that is only the way of folly and destruction (Proverbs 1:7). Wicked fools delight in their folly and in turning away from the wisdom of Yahweh. If they do not come to repentance and forsake their own ways, they will meet with judgment and destruction (Proverbs 1:22-33).

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Proverbs 21:16

The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead.
– Proverbs 21:16

Wisdom takes the long view and is concerned with outcomes throughout Proverbs. The word for way mean road, or path. It is a metaphor for the course of one’s life. Just as roads lead somewhere, the way we go in this life has a somewhere we will come to. The word for understanding means prudence, and to wander is go astray from the way of wisdom, or prudence. The way of understanding is a way that leads to life (Proverbs 6:23; 15:24; 14:32). Despite diverse appearances, all other ways lead to death (Proverbs 5:32; 11:7). The fatherly addresses warn of the path to death with the strange woman (Proverbs 2:18-19; 7:26-27; 9:18). The word for remain means rest, not in the sense of refreshing but rather in the sense of dwelling. This is the destination of the way that departs from wisdom. The word for dead means shades and refers to the realm of the dead. So going in the way of wisdom or folly is literally a matter of life and death.

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Proverbs 20:12

The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them.
– Proverbs 20:12

The hearing ear and seeing eye are expressions of understanding and obedience (Isaiah 6:9-10; Mark 4:9-12). The second phrase shows these faculties to be gifts of God’s grace and therefore accountable to him. So not only does wisdom come from God, but the understanding of wisdom as well. This proverb also reveals the sovereign attribute of omniscience, since the hearing ear and seeing eye come from God, he possesses these in greater degree (Psalm 94:9).

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Proverbs 20:5

Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.
– Proverbs 20:5

The word for counsel means purpose and refers to inner intentions, or motives. The image of deep water is also used in Proverbs 18:4, and the meaning is consistent here. It refers to what is hidden, or beneath the surface. (For further explanation of the image, see commentary on Proverbs 18:4). What lies in the heart of men is hidden, but a man of understanding discovers it. The word for understanding means discernment. The point of proverbs is “To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion” (Proverbs 1:4). In other words, Proverbs teaches wisdom to those who will receive it. Wisdom discerns motives and true character hidden behind facades, or in this image, in deep water.

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Proverbs 19:25

Smite a scorner, and the simple will beware: and reprove one that hath understanding, and he will understand knowledge.
– Proverbs 19:25

The scorner, the simple, and the man of understanding feature in this proverb. The distinction revolves around how correction is received. The word for scorner means to mock and scoff. Scorning is where the simple will end up if they do not receive correction and instruction (Proverbs 14:18). The word for simple means foolish, or naïve. Proverbs paints the simple as thoughtless and easily led (Proverbs 14:15; 15:21). Reproof alone will seldom correct the simple. They need stronger demonstration (Proverbs 21:11). The word for understanding means to separate mentally, or discern. Wise men have understanding and so instructions and reproofs are more effective and profitable for them (Proverbs 9:9-10; 15:5; 17:10).

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