Proverbs 30:19

The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid.
– Proverbs 30:19

This verse gives the three and four list. Commentators are widely varied on the significance of this list and each item. Taken on its own, its puzzling. Verse 18 describes the list as things that are mysteriously incomprehensible and verse 20 draws a comparative conclusion. So, the list itself is not communicating something to us in some sort of code. Each item is connected by the word for way, which means habit or manner of conduct. The list presents four things in the natural way, or even instinctive way. The point then becomes clear from the rest of the saying in verse 20.

Proverbs 23:19

Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way.
– Proverbs 23:19

Verses 19-21 warn against excess. The saying begins with the exhortation to hear, which the word means to listen with intelligence. This common exhortation in Proverbs emphasizes the necessity of deliberate listening and paying attention to the instructions of wisdom in order to be wise (Proverbs 4:10-23). Proverbs teaches true wisdom is alien to us and must be acquired. Wisdom requires keeping our heart, or mind, straight in the way of wisdom.

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Proverbs 23:18

For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off.
– Proverbs 23:18

The word for end refers to the last, or future time. There is an end to the way sinners are going. Wisdom understands the snapshot of a moment isn’t the whole picture. The word for expectation literally means a cord. It is put figuratively for hope. We see the idea of connection in the saying. Sinners are in a way that is connected to an end and likewise with the wise (Proverbs 1:29-33). Wisdom, regardless of momentary circumstances, has a good expectation and will be rewarded (Proverbs 24:14).

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Proverbs 21:29

A wicked man hardeneth his face: but as for the upright, he directeth his way.
– Proverbs 21:29

The word for hardeneth means to be strong, or firm. The word appears three times in Proverbs and is translated impudent (Proverbs 7:13), strengthened (Proverbs 8:28), and hardeneth (Proverbs 21:29). The word for directeth means to separate mentally, or understand. The proverb contrasts the wicked and the upright. The wicked man puts up a strong front, whereas the upright considers well his way. The proverb speaks of appearance versus substance. The wicked are more concerned about the right appearance, whereas the upright is more concerned about the right way.

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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 16:25

There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
– Proverbs 16:25

This proverb is a repeat of Proverbs 14:12. The proverb speaks of man’s contrivance apart from divine wisdom. He plans a way that seems right and good, but despite the best efforts and intentions, all plans not founded in wisdom will go astray and fail (Proverbs 5:5; 7:27; 9:18; 15:24). The man is either ignorant of God’s sovereignty or rejects it in his plans (Proverbs 16:9). Proverbs presents wisdom as looking ahead and considering the outcome of a way (Proverbs 14:15).

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Proverbs 16:17

The highway of the upright is to depart from evil: he that keepeth his way preserveth his soul.
– Proverbs 16:17

The word for highway means a road or course and is used figuratively for course of life. Departing from evil has a moral overtone and sums to more than simply avoiding pitfalls (Proverbs 16:6). The word for upright means straight and the way is obviously a straight and righteous way (Proverbs 11:3). The word for preserveth means to hedge about, or to guard. The second phrase is more than security in the sense of walking safely (Proverbs 10:9). By guarding his way, the upright man is guarding his soul (Proverbs 19:16).

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