Proverbs 19:20

Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.
– Proverbs 19:20

The fatherly addresses in the early part of Proverbs give repeated admonition to hear and receive wisdom (Proverbs 1:8; 2:1-9; 8:34-35). This proverb fits with general tenor of Proverbs that wisdom is accessible and offered to all (Proverbs 9:4-6). Though freely offered, wisdom is costly to acquire (Proverbs 2:3-5). Acquiring wisdom requires humbling oneself to hear counsel and receive instruction (Proverbs 2:1-2). The word for counsel means advice and the word for instruction means discipline. Both come to us from others and we must be willing to receive them. Ultimately, wisdom comes from God and he stores it up for the righteous (Proverbs 2:6-7). Being willing to receive counsel and instruction from others does not mean we merely take in all men’s opinions (Proverbs 14:15; 15:14). Acquiring wisdom is a lifelong pursuit and not a one-time event, but it does lead to blessedness (Proverbs 8:32-35).

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Proverbs 18:15

The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge.
– Proverbs 18:15

The word for knowledge means understanding, or learning. Getting and seeking knowledge means it can be increased. Our understanding and learning can, and should, grow. The proverb’s punch is in the seeming paradox. The prudent and the wise are seeking knowledge. The modern utilitarian mind wonders why they would do that if they are already wise and prudent. The word for prudent has to do with separating, or making distinctions. The word for wise means shrewd, skillful, or crafty. The first means having discernment—the ability to sort out the things learned. The second means being able to figure things out and make plans. They are continually looking and listening to acquire learning (Proverbs 1:5; 9:9; 15:14). Fools are only interested in what they think they need to know (Proverbs 14:6; 18:2; 26:12).

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Proverbs 17:10

A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool.
– Proverbs 17:10

Proverbs consistently distinguishes the wise from the foolish by how they respond to correction (Proverbs 9:8-9; 15:5). The word for entereth means to sink as we would say “sink in.” It’s like instructing someone and then telling them to let it sink in. The first phrase’s point is that the spoken word of reproof sinks in deep to a wise man. He hears reproof, considers it, and is wiser for it (Proverbs 9:9). This contrasts with a hundred stripes the fool receives, but yet will still not amend his way. The term fool is not a comment about mental capacity, but mental outlook that decidedly refuses wisdom (Proverbs 1:29). He won’t respond to the word of reproof, much less the beating of a rod (Proverbs 27:22). He prefers his folly and returns to it like a dog to its own vomit (Proverbs 26:11).

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Proverbs 17:2

A wise servant shall have rule over a son that causeth shame, and shall have part of the inheritance among the brethren.
– Proverbs 17:2

While possible, a servant rarely advanced beyond being a servant. A wise servant could merit reward (Proverbs 14:35). The emphasis of the proverb is on the son that causeth shame. He is disinherited because of his foolishness and shall see the servant advance beyond him (Proverbs 11:29). Proverbs has many warnings to foolish sons and the consequences of their folly (Proverbs 10:5; 19:26).

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Proverbs 16:23

The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips.
– Proverbs 16:23

The use of heart here refers to the mind, as is common in Proverbs. The first phrase means that wisdom informs and constrains speech. Wise speech is a mark of a wise heart (Proverbs 15:28). The word for learning includes the idea of persuasion. This proverb is akin to verse 21 and highlights the worth of listening to wisdom (Proverbs 22:17-18).

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Proverbs 16:22

Understanding is a wellspring of life unto him that hath it: but the instruction of fools is folly.
– Proverbs 16:22

The word for understanding means prudence, or good sense. It appears several times in Proverbs and throughout the Old Testament. It was the word used to describe Abigail in 1 Samuel 25:3. We would say she had a good head on her shoulders. Practical wisdom is a life giving blessing (Proverbs 3:22; 14:30), as wellspring of life indicates (Proverbs 10:11; 13:14; 14:27; 18:4). The second phrase is a contrast to the life giving blessing of wisdom. The word for instruction means chastisement, or reproof. Such correction coming from fools is useless, worthless (Proverbs 15:2, 28). If we press the antithetical parallel further, rather than giving life, folly leads to destruction and death (Proverbs 5:23; 14:1).

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Proverbs 16:21

The wise in heart shall be called prudent: and the sweetness of the lips increaseth learning.
– Proverbs 16:21

Being called prudent means the wise are recognized for their wisdom. The word for prudent means discernment and reflects the ability to distinguish things in the mind to arrive at accurate perception and understanding. The prudent are able to understand dark sayings and difficult words (Proverbs 1:5-6). His way is thoughtful and examined, and so he perceives and avoids danger (Proverbs 14:8, 15-16). The word for sweetness means pleasantness. It could be thought of as eloquence, but since it increaseth learning, it is more likely something well-stated. The word for learning means teaching and includes the idea of persuasiveness. The summary truth of the proverb is that men known for wisdom will have influence with their words. They are worth paying attention to (Proverbs 16:23; 1:5; 8:33; 19:20; 22:17; 23:19).

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Proverbs 16:14

The wrath of a king is as messengers of death: but a wise man will pacify it.
– Proverbs 16:14

A king is in a position of power, which means he has great power to do good or evil (Proverbs 19:12). It is unwise then to provoke a king or powerful leader (Proverbs 20:2). This power can give way to a tyrant using it for his own whims and purposes. The word for pacify is a word used for atonement, or covering. The wise man seeks to cover, or alleviate the wrath of a king. Wisdom seeks peace rather than inciting strife (Proverbs 25:15).

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Proverbs 15:31

The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise.
– Proverbs 15:31

The last three proverbs of chapter 15 touch generally on being teachable and receptive to instruction and reproof. The word for reproof means a correction, or rebuke. Reproof is one of wisdom’s primary instruments (Proverbs 1:23; 6:23). Here it is life giving and puts one among the wise. Abiding among the wise increases wisdom (Proverbs 13:20;19:20).

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