Proverbs 20:15

There is gold, and a multitude of rubies: but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.
– Proverbs 20:15

The word for multitude means abundance and makes the supply of rubies sound more like that of sedimentary rocks. Both gold and rubies are relatively rare and highly valued. However, lips of knowledge, one who speaks wisdom, is rarer and more valuable. The word for knowledge means skill and discernment. It is one of the words used to describe wisdom in Proverbs. One who has wisdom speaks and spreads knowledge (Proverbs 15:7). Such wisdom is rarer and more valuable than adornments of gold and rubies (Proverbs 3:15; 8:11; 16:16).

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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.

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Proverbs 19:8

He that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul: he that keepeth understanding shall find good.
– Proverbs 19:8

The word for wisdom here means heart and is sometimes translated mind, or understanding. It can be thought of as good sense. The word for understanding refers to ability to discern and distinguish between (1 Kings 3:9). Though wisdom brings many benefits, acquiring wisdom is its own reward (Proverbs 8:35-36). The proverb means you do yourself well by seeking, acquiring, and retaining wisdom (Proverbs 3:18).

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Proverbs 18:22

Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favor of the LORD.
– Proverbs 18:22

Proverbs as a whole only speaks of two acquirements as receiving the favor of the Lord. The first is wisdom, which means the obtaining of life, i.e., spiritual, everlasting life (Proverbs 3:4; 8:35). The second is a good wife, or good marriage (Proverbs 18:22; 19:14). A good wife is also paralleled with wisdom in being of superior high value (Proverbs 8:11; 31:10). A good wife is an inestimable blessing in a man’s life (Proverbs 12:4; 14:1; 31:11, 23). Solomon elsewhere spoke of living happily with a good wife as a gift from God (Ecclesiastes 9:9).

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Proverbs 18:4

The words of a man’s mouth are as deep waters, and the wellspring of wisdom as a flowing brook.
– Proverbs 18:4

Interpretations of this proverb vary. How you understand the parallel governs the interpretation. If the two phrases are antithetical, then “words of a man’s mouth” and “wellspring of wisdom” are opposites. Then, “deep waters,” has a negative meaning contrasted with the positive, “flowing brook.” If the parallel is complementary, then the second phrase continues and expands, or amplifies, the first. This makes “the words of a man’s mouth” and “the wellspring of wisdom” to be synonymous, and so on.

Many commentators take one of these two tracks with the proverb, and more seem to favor the complementary, positive interpretation. Alternatively, we can view this proverb as a conditional statement, an if/then statement. Then we take the first phrase as neutral, but stating a universal truth. The second phrase gives the result of a condition met. So let’s take this view and see the point of the proverb differently than the other two.

The figures used in this proverb are used elsewhere in Proverbs and usually with a positive meaning (Proverbs 10:11; 13:14; 16:22). The first phrase here has a couple of differences. The “words of a man’s mouth” is unqualified and unmodified. In Proverbs 10:11, it is the “mouth of a righteous man.” In Proverbs 13:14, it is the “law of the wise,” and in Proverbs 16:22, “understanding” is the “wellspring.” Also, the figure “deep waters” is not use in those other proverbs. It is used in one other place (Proverbs 20:5). If positive, it is assumed that “deep waters” refers to abundance and even an inexhaustible supply. However, the use in Proverbs 20:5 has a different gloss, where it means hidden and inaccessible.

Accounting for the lack of qualification and interpreting the figure consistently with Proverbs 20:5, the first phrase is not about the good or bad of the “words,” but rather is stating the truth that our words come from within. Our spoken words are connected to and come from the heart, or mind (Proverbs 12:23; 15:7, 28; 16:23; 18:2). The condition is met in the second phrase. If our hearts are a “wellspring of wisdom,” then our words will be refreshing and life-giving, as “a flowing brook.”

The point of the proverb is that our words will not rise above the level of our hearts. If foolishness or evil is in our hearts, then they will come out of our mouths (Proverbs 6:14, 18; 12:20, 23; 19:3; 26:25). When wisdom is in our hearts, our words will be wise and helpful (Proverbs 14:33; 15:7, 14, 28; 16:21, 23). The prescription is to get and keep wisdom in our hearts (Proverbs 2:2, 10; 3:3, 5; 4:4, 21; 6:21; 7:3; 10:8; et al).

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Proverbs 17:24

Wisdom is before him that hath understanding; but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.
– Proverbs 17:24

Solomon repeatedly told his son to hear instruction of wisdom, in order to gain wisdom, in the opening fatherly addresses of Proverbs. A man of understanding pursues wisdom and keeps it before him in the sense of concentrating on instruction (Proverbs 15:14; 18:15). The fool is not fixed on the instruction of wisdom. He has no sense of the value of it, nor the patient and diligent search required to obtain it (Proverbs 17:16; 2:3-5).

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Proverbs 17:16

Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?
– Proverbs 17:16

Proverbs repeatedly emphasizes the value of wisdom surpassing silver and gold (Proverbs 2:4; 3:14; 8:10, 19; 16:16; et al). Wisdom’s value surpasses that of fine gold and, therefore, cannot be obtained by silver and gold. The fool doesn’t understand wisdom and thinks it can be bought and had quickly. The fool is far too distracted to patiently pursue wisdom (Proverbs 17:24). The word for heart usually means mind, but it can refer to will and emotions. Sometimes all these are included. This is probably one of those instances where all the meaning is comprehended and so states the fool has no mind, will, or desire for wisdom.

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Proverbs 16:20

He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the LORD, happy is he.
– Proverbs 16:20

The word for matter means a word, or something spoken. Here it refers to instruction, and we may infer it is the instruction of wisdom. The first phrase speaks of receiving instruction wisely, or prudently. The second phrase promises the blessing of the Lord. If a man receives the instruction of wisdom well, he will be blessed of the Lord (Proverbs 13:15; 19:8; 24:3-5).

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Proverbs 16:16

How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!
– Proverbs 16:16

Verse 16 starts a new group of proverbs themed around general wisdom. This group goes through verse 30 and touches on general wisdom topics, e.g., wealth, speech, work, etc. The word for better means good in its root form and is used here comparatively. The second phrase of this proverb is likewise comparative in choosing to get understanding over silver. Comparison is common in the Proverbs and it means the things compared are not antithetical. So here, wisdom and wealth are compared, but not shown to be opposites. The proverb states it’s better, or more important, to seek and acquire wisdom than gold and silver.

Proverbs mentions many things better than wealth: righteousness or justice (Proverbs 15:27; 16:8); family love (Proverbs 15:17; 17:1); and honesty and integrity (Proverbs 19:1, 22). Proverbs emphatically teaches wisdom is better than wealth (Proverbs 3:15-18; 8:10-11, 19). Choose wisdom above all, whether wealth comes or not (Proverbs 4:7).

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