In-Depth Edition

I.  Being Wise


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Chapter 33  Part I

Being Wise

Wisdom is one of the attributes most highly valued in the Bible. Thankfully the Bible says much about how we can gain wisdom. The Bible also contains very astute advice on other topics associated with wisdom, notably speaking – a key medium that we use in relating to others.

Prologue: The Precedence of Godly Wisdom

Note that the term “godly wisdom” is used in this section to denote the wisdom which the Bible advocates, wisdom which is based on the Bible’s teachings.

Godly wisdom is superior to anything else

Job 28:15-19  It cannot be bought for gold, and silver cannot be weighed as its price. 16It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir, in precious onyx or sapphire. 17Gold and glass cannot equal it, nor can it be exchanged for jewels of fine gold. 18No mention shall be made of coral or of crystal; the price of wisdom is above pearls. 19The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it, nor can it be valued in pure gold. ▤ 

Prov 3:13-15  Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, 14for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. 15She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. ▤ 

Prov 8:10-11  [Wisdom:] Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold, 11for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her. ▤ 

The speaker is wisdom personified.

Prov 16:16  How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver. ▤ 

Eccl 2:13  Then I saw that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness. ▤ 

Eccl 9:16, 18  But I say that wisdom is better than might, though the poor man’s wisdom is despised and his words are not heard. ▤ 18Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good. ▤ 

Prov 8:22-31  [Wisdom:] “The Lord possesseda me at the beginning of his work,b the first of his acts of old. 23Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. 24When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. 25Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth, 26before he had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world. 27When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, 28when he made firm the skies above, when he establishedc the fountains of the deep, 29when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, 30then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily hisd delight, rejoicing before him always, 31rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man. ▤ 

a Or fathered; Septuagint created

b Hebrew way

c The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain

d Or daily filled with

Wisdom’s primacy is shown by it being the first of God’s works, playing a role in the creation of everything else. The portrayal of Wisdom’s role in creation is highlighted by it being described as “like a master workman” at God’s side (v. 30) – rejoicing and delighting in all that was created (vv. 30b-31).

  • People do not know wisdom’s worth:

Job 28:13  Man does not know its worth, and it is not found in the land of the living. ▤ 

Worldly wisdom is flawed and inferior to the wisdom of God

See also:

Worldly wisdom is flawed and inferior to the wisdom of God – to both the wisdom of God himself and the wisdom that God gives to his people.

Eccl 7:23-24  All this I have tested by wisdom. I said, “I will be wise,” but it was far from me. 24That which has been is far off, and deep, very deep; who can find it out? ▤ 

The phrase “it was far from me” (v. 23) refers either to the writer’s vain attempt to fathom the matters discussed in the preceding verses or to his desire to be wise; v. 24 suggests the former is the case. The thrust of these verses appears to be that there is much that worldly wisdom cannot understand.

Jer 8:9  The wise men shall be put to shame; they shall be dismayed and taken; behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord, so what wisdom is in them? ▤ 

Worldly wisdom which rejects God’s law is not good or true wisdom. It is an inferior “wisdom”, if indeed it can be called that.

1Cor 1:20-21, 25  Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. ▤ 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. ▤ 

The first three rhetorical questions in v. 20 allude to the worldly wisdom of such people floundering due to God in his wisdom making worldly wisdom actually foolish (v. 20b) and being useless as a means of knowing God or being saved (v. 21). Such limited and flawed worldly wisdom contrasts with the effectiveness of what appears to it to be the foolishness of God (vv. 21b, 25a) – which is in fact a product of his superior wisdom.

1Cor 2:6-8  Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. ▤ 

Verse 6 associates godly wisdom with spiritual maturity and contrasts it to the wisdom of the world, implying the latter to be inferior and doomed to come to nothing. God’s “secret wisdom” (v. 7) is primarily the gospel; verse 8 implies that the wisdom of this age has failed to understand it, illustrating that worldly wisdom is flawed and inferior.

1Cor 2:12-16  Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.e 14The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16“For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. ▤ 

e Or interpreting spiritual truths in spiritual language, or comparing spiritual things with spiritual

This contrasts the spiritual wisdom that the Holy Spirit brings with inferior worldly wisdom. In contrast to the spiritual understanding of those who have the Holy Spirit (vv. 12-13), without the Spirit of God one with worldly wisdom is not able to understand and accept the things that come from the Spirit (v. 14). Neither is such a person qualified to make judgments about spiritual things, such as judgments about those who have the Spirit (vv. 15-16). Note that the quotation at the beginning of v. 16 serves to highlight the inability of those who do not know the mind of God to ascertain spiritual truths. In contrast, believers have the mind of Christ (v. 16b), having the Holy Spirit (cf. v. 12).

1Cor 3:18-20  Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” ▤ 

In saying that one should become a “fool” (v. 18), Paul means that one needs to forgo aspiring to the flawed wisdom of this world and recognize the shortcomings of one’s understanding – in effect see oneself as a “fool” – in order to be open to true, godly wisdom.

Col 2:8  See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spiritsf of the world, and not according to Christ. ▤ 

f Or elementary principles; also verse 20

Paul likely has false teaching in view here, in particular one based on some supposed “philosophy”. As such he is unlikely here to be equating philosophy in general with worldly wisdom. However the “philosophy” he speaks of here is an example of worldly wisdom, it being based on “human tradition” and “the elemental spirits of the world”. The fact that it is flawed is underlined by it being associated with “empty deceit”. All of this makes it inferior to Christ, and the message of him.

  • Act by God’s grace rather than by worldly wisdom:

2Cor 1:12  For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicityg and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. ▤ 

g Some manuscripts holiness

The fact that Paul acted according to God’s grace rather than worldly wisdom reflects that the latter is flawed or at least limited – and that it is inferior to that which is of God.

Worldly wisdom and knowledge are ultimately futile, even detrimental

See also:

1Cor 3:20  … and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” ▤ 

The quotation is from Psalms 94:11 – “… the Lord–knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath.”

Eccl 1:16-18  I said in my heart, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” 17And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind. 18For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow. ▤ 

The expression “striving after wind” (v. 17) here refers to the meaninglessness of wisdom (cf. v. 14; Eccl 2:15 ; Eccl 2:21 ). Verse 18 may well be speaking of greater worldly wisdom and knowledge bringing a greater awareness of problems, and this in turn leading to exasperation and sorrow. Some commentators think it is instead pointing to the frustration, on gaining substantial knowledge, of realizing how much one does not know.

Eccl 2:14-16  The wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet I perceived that the same event happens to all of them. 15Then I said in my heart, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?” And I said in my heart that this also is vanity. 16For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool! ▤ 

Eccl 2:20-21  So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. ▤ 

Eccl 7:16  Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself? ▤ 

Here “too wise” may be referring to a preoccupation with wisdom, with an over-reliance on it. Alternatively, pretentiously aspiring to be wise, or acting as if one is wise, may be in view (cf. AMP, CEV, NIrV). Such things are destructive.

Eccl 12:11-12  The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. 12My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. ▤ 

Godly wisdom is spoken of in v. 11. Verse 12 appears to be a warning against seeking wisdom which is additional to that given by God, the “Shepherd” (v. 11). Pursuing such worldly wisdom and knowledge through the limitless number of books is a wearisome exercise.

Isa 47:10-11  You felt secure in your wickedness, you said, “No one sees me”; your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray, and you said in your heart, “I am, and there is no one besides me.” 11But evil shall come upon you, which you will not know how to charm away; disaster shall fall upon you, for which you will not be able to atone; and ruin shall come upon you suddenly, of which you know nothing. ▤ 

Despite their wisdom and knowledge (v. 10), a disaster would come upon them that they would “not know” how to repel, one which they “know nothing” about (v. 11).

Rom 1:21-23  For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. ▤ 

The claim to be wise (v. 22) may have had some substance, but clearly this was a wisdom apart from God (vv. 21, 23) – i.e. worldly wisdom. As such it produced futile thinking and foolishness (v. 21b-22), manifested in foolish actions (v. 23) that would prove very detrimental (cf. vv. 24-32).

1Cor 8:1-2  Now concerningh food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. ▤ 

h The expression Now concerning introduces a reply to a question in the Corinthians’ letter; see 7:1

  • The price paid for the knowledge of good and evil:

Gen 2:16-17  And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eati of it you shall surely die.” ▤ 

i Or when you eat

A number of commentators understand the reason for this prohibition (v. 17a) was that the acquisition of such knowledge would lead to independence from God, with people trusting in their own limited knowledge and wisdom of what is and is not good. This could not have been more detrimental (v. 17b). As such God would not allow people to live forever (cf. 3:22-24).

So get godly wisdom and be wise . . .

Prov 4:5, 7  Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. ▤ 7The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. ▤ 

Verse 7 may be emphasizing the need to get wisdom. The first phrase has also been interpreted as speaking of the primacy of wisdom (cf. GNT, NASB text note, NCV, NIV, NKJV, NLT); hence the need to get it.

Prov 7:4  Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” and call insight your intimate friend, … ▤ 

This is an exhortation to make wisdom an intimate part of oneself.

Prov 17:24  The discerning sets his face toward wisdom, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth. ▤ 

Prov 19:8  Whoever gets sense loves his own soul; he who keeps understanding will discover good. ▤ 

To obtain sense/wisdom is a favor (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV) or an act of love (cf. NLT, NRSV) towards oneself.

Prov 23:23  Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding. ▤ 

The use of “buy” is not literal; it suggests that we should do what we can to get wisdom and truth. Note that this verse implies that truth is an important aspect of wisdom.

Dan 10:12  Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. ▤ 

Prov 27:11  Be wise, my son, and make my heart glad, that I may answer him who reproaches me. ▤ 

Matt 10:16  Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. ▤ 

Eph 5:15  Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, … ▤ 

Col 4:5  Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. ▤ 

Paul exhorts his readers to be wise in the way they act towards non-Christians.

. . . Seek out wisdom and knowledge

Prov 2:3-5  … yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, 4if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, 5then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. ▤ 

Verse 3 expresses the great fervor with which one should seek wisdom, a fervor likened in v. 4 to that with which one seeks treasure.

Prov 8:17  [Wisdom:] I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me. ▤ 

Prov 8:34  [Wisdom:] Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. ▤ 

The terms “watching” and “waiting” reflect a readiness to seek wisdom out, to learn from her.

Prov 15:14  The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly. ▤ 

Prov 18:15  An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. ▤ 

  • Wisdom is pleasure to one who has understanding:

Prov 10:23  Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool, but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding. ▤ 

Pray for persecuted Christians

Wisdom through God

See also:

Fearing God is the beginning of wisdom

Fearing God is the beginning of wisdom as it leads one to base one’s thinking and life on God and his teachings or commands – the source of true wisdom for life. For fear of God moves one to obey God’s commands and do what is right, thus manifesting wisdom (cf. Obeying God’s commands brings wisdom . . . and . . . Those who have wisdom and understanding keep God’s law).

Ps 111:10  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever! ▤ 

Prov 9:10  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. ▤ 

Note that in conjunction with fear of God leading to wisdom, knowledge of God brings insight.

Prov 1:7  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. ▤ 

Prov 15:33  The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor. ▤ 

Prov 31:26, 30  She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. ▤ 30Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. ▤ 

A woman who fears the Lord (v. 30) speaks with wisdom (v. 26).

Isa 33:5-6  The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness, 6and he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is Zion’sj treasure. ▤ 

j Hebrew his

The meaning of the Hebrew of the last phrase is unclear. However, the thrust of the latter part of the verse may well be that the fear of the Lord is essential for access to the “abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge” that he provides (cf. NIV, NLT).

Job 28:28  And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’ ▤ 

Ps 2:10-11  Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. ▤ 

This associates serving God with fear (v. 11) with being wise (v. 10).

Ps 25:12  Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. ▤ 

The one who fears God will be enabled to wisely choose the best paths or options in life.

Prov 2:5  … then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. ▤ 

This links coming to fear God with finding “the knowledge of God” – likely the knowledge that comes from God (cf. v. 6).

Mic 6:9  The voice of the Lord cries to the city— and it is sound wisdom to fear your name: “Hear of the rod and of him who appointed it!k ▤ 

k The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain

Fearing God is the beginning of wisdom and (as shown in this verse) the converse is also true: it is wise to fear God.

  • The wise are mindful of God – heeding the things he has done and considering his steadfast love:

Ps 107:43  Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord. ▤ 

Ask God for wisdom . . .

James 1:5  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. ▤ 

2Chr 1:10-12  Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this people, for who can govern this people of yours, which is so great?” 11God answered Solomon, “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked possessions, wealth, honor, or the life of those who hate you, and have not even asked long life, but have asked wisdom and knowledge for yourself that you may govern my people over whom I have made you king, 12wisdom and knowledge are granted to you. I will also give you riches, possessions, and honor, such as none of the kings had who were before you, and none after you shall have the like.” ▤ 

Ps 119:34, 66, 144  Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. ▤ 66Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments. ▤ 144Your testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live. ▤ 

Ps 90:12  So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. ▤ 

Understanding how short our lives are, leads to wisdom – compelling us to wisely use our limited time.

Prov 2:3  … yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, … ▤ 

The writer may be speaking metaphorically here, but even so the verse is still applicable to asking God for wisdom.

Eph 1:16-17  I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, … ▤ 

Here and in Colossians 1:9 below the request is for wisdom for others rather than for oneself, though still indicative of the fact that one can and should ask God for wisdom.

Col 1:9  And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, … ▤ 

. . . For it is God who gives wisdom

See also:

Job 38:36  Who has put wisdom in the inward partsl or given understanding to the mind?m ▤ 

l Or in the ibis

m Or rooster

Prov 2:6  For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; … ▤ 

Eccl 12:11  The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. ▤ 

This indicates that the wisdom of the wise is given them by God, the “Shepherd”.

Dan 2:20-23  Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. 21He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; 22he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him. 23To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of you, for you have made known to us the king’s matter.” ▤ 

1Ki 4:29-30  And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, 30so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. ▤ 

1Cor 7:25  Now concerningn the betrothed,o I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. ▤ 

n The expression Now concerning introduces a reply to a question in the Corinthians’ letter; see 7:1

o Greek virgins

Paul is probably implying that Jesus Christ had given him “wisdom that can be trusted” (NLT).

Job 11:5-6  But oh, that God would speak and open his lips to you, 6and that he would tell you the secrets of wisdom! For he is manifold in understanding.p Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves. ▤ 

p The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain

Note that there is irony here as although he makes a valid point, the speaker Zophar shows in the passage from which these verses are taken that he himself also needed God’s enlightenment.

Job 32:8-9  But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand. 9It is not the oldq who are wise, nor the aged who understand what is right. ▤ 

q Hebrew many [in years]

Verse 8 may be saying that it is a person’s spirit – which is breathed into them by God – that gives them understanding. Alternatively “spirit” may be referring to the Holy Spirit (cf. CEV, GNT, NLT), indicating that understanding comes through the Holy Spirit. In either case the verse points to God as ultimately being the source of understanding.

Job 35:10-11  But none says, ‘Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night, 11who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds of the heavens?’ ▤ 

Note that in the subsequent chapter Elihu asks concerning God: “… who is a teacher like him?” (36:22b)

  • The way to wisdom is known only by God:

Job 28:12-14, 20-27  But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? 13Man does not know its worth, and it is not found in the land of the living. 14The deep says, ‘It is not in me,’ and the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’ ▤ 20“From where, then, does wisdom come? And where is the place of understanding? 21It is hidden from the eyes of all living and concealed from the birds of the air. 22Abaddon and Death say, ‘We have heard a rumor of it with our ears.’ 23“God understands the way to it, and he knows its place. 24For he looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens. 25When he gave to the wind its weight and apportioned the waters by measure, 26when he made a decree for the rain and a way for the lightning of the thunder, 27then he saw it and declared it; he established it, and searched it out. ▤ 

“Man does not know its worth” (v. 13) can also be translated, “Mortals do not know the way to it” (NRSV; cf. CEV, GNT, NLT). Verse 27 may well be implying that God knows the way to wisdom because he was the one who established it.

Obeying God’s commands brings wisdom . . .

See also:

  • [Blessings of God’s word:] Wisdom

Deut 4:5-6  See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 6Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ ▤ 

Ps 119:98-100, 104  Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. 99I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. 100I understand more than the aged,r for I keep your precepts. ▤ 104Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. ▤ 

r Or the elders

Ps 37:30-31  The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice. 31The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip. ▤ 

The righteous are those who hold to God’s law (v. 31), and they are wise (v. 30) as the following subsection implies. Thus this associates obeying God’s law and having wisdom.

Matt 7:24  [Jesus:] “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. ▤ 

. . . Those who have wisdom and understanding keep God’s law

1Chr 22:12  Only, may the Lord grant you discretion and understanding, that when he gives you charge over Israel you may keep the law of the Lord your God. ▤ 

Neh 10:28-29  The rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants, and all who have separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the Law of God, their wives, their sons, their daughters, all who have knowledge and understanding, 29join with their brothers, their nobles, and enter into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law that was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord and his rules and his statutes. ▤ 

Ps 119:34  Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. ▤ 

Prov 28:7  The one who keeps the law is a son with understanding, but a companion of gluttons shames his father. ▤ 

Here “law” most likely refers to God’s OT law.

Col 1:9-10  And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. ▤ 

In conjunction with keeping God’s law, those have wisdom and understanding please Jesus Christ and do good works. Verse 9 teaches that spiritual wisdom and understanding brings knowledge of God’s will. Verse 10 then implies that having such wisdom and understanding leads to a life of doing what is good and pleasing to the Lord, in which one grows further “in the knowledge of God”.

Note: Wisdom involves doing what is right – and shunning evil

See also:

Ps 37:30  The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice. ▤ 

Prov 1:1-3  The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: 2To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, 3to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; … ▤ 

This associates gaining wisdom and understanding (v. 2) with living in accordance with “righteousness, justice, and equity” (v. 3b).

Prov 2:7  … he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, … ▤ 

Prov 4:11  I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness. ▤ 

This correlates wisdom with uprightness.

Prov 15:21  Folly is a joy to him who lacks sense, but a man of understanding walks straight ahead. ▤ 

To walk “straight ahead” is to do what is right (cf. GNT, NCV).

Prov 23:15-16, 19  My son, if your heart is wise, my heart too will be glad. 16My inmost beings will exult when your lips speak what is right. ▤ 19Hear, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way. ▤ 

s Hebrew My kidneys

In v. 19, “the way” is “the way [of the Lord]” (AMP). Being wise involves both speaking (v. 16) and doing (v. 19) what is right.

Eccl 10:2  A wise man’s heart inclines him to the right, but a fool’s heart to the left. ▤ 

The wise are naturally inclined to do what is right – in contrast to fools who tend towards doing what is wrong or evil (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NIrV, NLT).

Luke 1:17  … and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared. ▤ 

James 3:13-17  Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. ▤ 

True wisdom – that which comes from God (v. 17a) – is demonstrated by a life of doing what is good (v. 13). As such it is characterized by humility (v. 13b) and the righteous traits listed in v. 17, all of which pertain to doing good towards others. In contrast earthly “wisdom” is typified by unspiritual qualities (vv. 14-15) which manifest themselves in evil deeds (v. 16); such things are shunned by true wisdom.

Job 28:28  And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’ ▤ 

Prov 14:16  One who is wise is cautioust and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless. ▤ 

t Or fears [the Lord]

Prov 8:12-13  I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion. 13The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. ▤ 

Pray for persecuted Christians

Wisdom through Others

Note that the verses in this section speak – largely at least – of wisdom being acquired through godly people. Such wisdom is ultimately from God.

Pay attention to instruction . . .

See also:

Prov 1:1-6  The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: 2To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, 3to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; 4to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth— 5Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, 6to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. ▤ 

Solomon is traditionally understood to be the main source for the material making up the book of Proverbs. These opening verses of Proverbs indicate that paying attention to the proverbs or teachings of wise people such as him, leads to wisdom.

Prov 2:1-2, 9-10  My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, 2making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; ▤ 9Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; 10for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; … ▤ 

Note that the final clause (v. 10b) speaks of one finding knowledge pleasing.

Prov 4:1-2  Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gainu insight, 2for I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching. ▤ 

u Hebrew know

Prov 5:1-2  My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, 2that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge. ▤ 

The last clause speaks of keeping or having knowledge, with which to speak.

Prov 8:33  Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. ▤ 

Prov 19:20  Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. ▤ 

Prov 22:17-21  Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge, 18for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, if all of them are ready on your lips. 19That your trust may be in the Lord, I have made them known to you today, even to you. 20Have I not written for you thirty sayings of counsel and knowledge, 21to make you know what is right and true, that you may give a true answer to those who sent you? ▤ 

The speaker implies that his teaching will impart wisdom and knowledge. Verses 18b and 21 speak of the usefulness of wisdom and knowledge.

Prov 23:12, 19  Apply your heart to instruction and your ear to words of knowledge. ▤ 19Hear, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way. ▤ 

“Hear” and “be wise” (v. 19) probably are together an exhortation to listen carefully to instruction – the “words of the wise” (Prov 22:17 ) – and so become wise (cf. Prov 8:33 ).

Job 33:33  If not, listen to me; be silent, and I will teach you wisdom. ▤ 

Job 8:8-10  For inquire, please, of bygone ages, and consider what the fathers have searched out. 9For we are but of yesterday and know nothing, for our days on earth are a shadow. 10Will they not teach you and tell you and utter words out of their understanding? ▤ 

One can infer from this that such instruction – the teachings of godly learned people from the past – will give one wisdom and knowledge.

Prov 15:5, 32  A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent. ▤ 32Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence. ▤ 

Prov 19:27  Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge. ▤ 

. . . Wise people listen to and learn from instruction

See also:

Prov 13:1  A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke. ▤ 

Prov 9:9  Give instructionv to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. ▤ 

v Hebrew lacks instruction

Prov 21:11  When a scoffer is punished, the simple becomes wise; when a wise man is instructed, he gains knowledge. ▤ 

  • Keep hold of instruction for she is your life:

Prov 4:13  Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life. ▤ 

Listen to advice – which is important for making plans

Prov 19:20  Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. ▤ 

Prov 13:10  By insolence comes nothing but strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom. ▤ 

Prov 12:15  The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. ▤ 

Eccl 4:13  Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how to take advice. ▤ 

This implies that it is wise to be prepared to accept advice.

Prov 11:14  Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. ▤ 

When planning any strategy, having and listening to sound advisors is critical to success – as the following verses also indicate. As such these verses demonstrate that listening to advice is important for acting wisely.

Prov 15:22  Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed. ▤ 

Prov 20:18  Plans are established by counsel; by wise guidance wage war. ▤ 

Accept reproof

See also:

Note that “reproof” involves criticism and even blame and/or discipline. It is akin to “rebuke” (cf. Prov 17:10 ).

Prov 1:23  [Wisdom:] If you turn at my reproof,w behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. ▤ 

w Or Will you turn away at my reproof?

One receives wisdom by responding to Wisdom’s reproof – i.e. changing one’s attitudes or behavior in response to wise reproof or exhortations. The reference is most readily applicable to warnings from Scripture that one should take to heart, but is also applicable to reproof from wise people or any source of wisdom.

Prov 9:8  Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. ▤ 

This implies that wise people value reproof – which is partly at least because reproof enhances one’s wisdom.

Prov 12:1  Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. ▤ 

Prov 15:5, 31-32  A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent. ▤ 31The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. 32Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence. ▤ 

Heeding reproof brings wisdom (vv. 31-32b) and, as such, in itself shows wisdom (v. 5b). Note that “life-giving” (v. 31) means “beneficial to life”, rather than necessarily saving from imminent death (cf. ZBC).

Prov 19:25  Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence; reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge. ▤ 

Prov 29:15  The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. ▤ 

Prov 17:10  A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool. ▤ 

Although not specifically saying that accepting rebuke leads to wisdom, this does at least associate accepting rebuke with wisdom.

Additional insights on accepting reproof and discipline

See also:

Ps 141:5a  Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it. ▤ 

Rebuke or discipline from a righteous person is motivated by kindness, for the betterment of the receiver. The expression “it is oil for my head” speaks of rebuke as a blessing (cf. Prov 25:12 ), possibly meaning that rebuke is refreshing (cf. CEV, NLT).

Prov 25:12  Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear. ▤ 

Prov 27:6  Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. ▤ 

Emotional wounds resulting from a friend’s rebuke can be trusted to have been inflicted with one’s benefit in view.

Eccl 7:5  It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools. ▤ 

The “song of fools” possibly refers to praise from fools (cf. GNT, NCV, NLT).

Prov 6:23  For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, … ▤ 

This and the verses below speak of specific blessing of accepting reproof and discipline.

Prov 13:18  Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored. ▤ 

Prov 20:30  Blows that wound cleanse away evil; strokes make clean the innermost parts. ▤ 

Discipline cleanses one of evil. Such cleansing is associated with and vital for wisdom.

Heb 12:11  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. ▤ 

Outcomes of ignoring reproof and discipline

Prov 1:24-26, 29-31  [Wisdom:] Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, 25because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, 26I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, ▤ 29Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, 30would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, 31therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. ▤ 

Prov 5:11-14  … and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, 12and you say, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! 13I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. 14I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.” ▤ 

Prov 5:23  He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray. ▤ 

Prov 10:17  Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray. ▤ 

Prov 15:10  There is severe discipline for him who forsakes the way; whoever hates reproof will die. ▤ 

Prov 29:1  He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing. ▤ 

  • Ignoring instruction leads to poverty and disgrace:

Prov 13:18  Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored. ▤ 

Further advice and insights on gaining wisdom

Prov 11:2  When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. ▤ 

This implies that “with humility comes wisdom” (NIV®, NLT).

Prov 13:20  Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. ▤ 

Prov 14:29  Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. ▤ 

Understanding leads to such self-control. Conversely, it can be argued, learning self-control increases ones understanding/wisdom.

Prov 27:17  Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.x ▤ 

x Hebrew sharpens the face of another

As one piece of iron can be used to sharpen another, so through discussion and debate with another, one can sharpen one’s mind.

Prov 6:6  Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. ▤ 

A lazy person can learn much from the diligent ways of an ant – and so grow in wisdom.

Prov 10:14  The wise lay up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near. ▤ 

The first clause probably means that wise people accumulate knowledge, which suggests that doing so helps enable one to become wise or wiser. However, particularly in light of the remainder of the verse, note that some interpret it as meaning the wise “don’t tell everything they know” (NCV™).

Prov 14:7  Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge. ▤ 

  • One grows wiser with age and experience:

Job 12:12  Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days. ▤ 

Pray for persecuted Christians

Wise Speech (I): Instructions

See also:

Be quick to listen and slow to speak

James 1:19  Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; … ▤ 

Prov 18:13  If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. ▤ 

Job 32:11-12  Behold, I waited for your words, I listened for your wise sayings, while you searched out what to say. 12I gave you my attention, and, behold, there was none among you who refuted Job or who answered his words. ▤ 

Prov 29:20  Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. ▤ 

Prov 18:2  A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. ▤ 

Instead of spending time improving their understanding by listening to others, fools would much rather give their own opinions on a matter. Note that the second part of the verse suggests that listening to others is probably in view in the first part.

Prov 12:23  A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims folly. ▤ 

This contrasts a wise person who avoids making a show of his or her knowledge (cf. NLT), with a fool who “blurts out” (NIV®) foolish things, making a show of his or her lack of knowledge. It illustrates that one should take care in choosing when to speak, as a wise person does.

Eccl 3:1, 7  For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: ▤ 7a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; … ▤ 

Sometimes one should be silent, while other times the right thing is to speak. In view of this, rather than hastily speaking out, one should first discern if it is appropriate.

  • Do not be quick to speak before God:

Eccl 5:2  y Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. ▤ 

y Ch 5:1 in Hebrew

Note that the reference here appears to be primarily to making rash vows.

Be careful when speaking

Prov 13:3  Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. ▤ 

The phrase “guards his mouth” (cf. Prov 21:23 ) is referring to being careful in what one says (cf. GNT, NCV), or having control over one’s tongue (cf. NLT). The phrase “opens wide his lips” appears to refer to speaking a lot and carelessly.

Prov 21:23  Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble. ▤ 

This speaks of guarding or watching over one’s words (cf. AMP, CEV, NASB, NIV, NKJV, NRSV), being careful about what one says (cf. GNT, NCV).

Prov 15:28  The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things. ▤ 

Prov 16:23  The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips. ▤ 

A wise person’s “mind” (NLT; cf. NCV) enables their speech to be well-judged and calculated. It reflects that wise people “think before they speak” (GNT).

Prov 12:18  There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. ▤ 

Careless words can greatly harm others – as well as ourselves (cf. Prov 13:3 ; Prov 21:23 ).

James 1:26  If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. ▤ 

One should keep control over when, what and how one speaks.

James 2:12  So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. ▤ 

The “law of liberty” may be referring specifically to the law of love (cf. 1:25). In any case, the “law” Christians are under gives freedom from both rigorous regulations and sin. As such they are freer to please God, and so judgment by it will demand a higher standard of speech and actions. This points to the need to be careful when speaking.

  • We should be able to support what we say by our actions:

2Cor 10:10-11  For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.” 11Let such a person understand that what we say by letter when absent, we do when present. ▤ 

Use few words – in contrast to fools

See also:

Prov 10:19  When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. ▤ 

Prov 17:27  Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. ▤ 

Eccl 6:11  The more words, the more vanity, and what is the advantage to man? ▤ 

Eccl 5:3  For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words. ▤ 

Eccl 10:14  A fool multiplies words, though no man knows what is to be, and who can tell him what will be after him? ▤ 

Prov 15:2  The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly. ▤ 

Fools “pour out foolish words” (NIrV®).

Prov 10:8  The wise of heart will receive commandments, but a babbling fool will come to ruin. ▤ 

  • Even a fool is considered wise if he keeps quiet:

Prov 17:28  Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent. ▤ 

Speak gently

2Tim 2:24-25  And the Lord’s servantz must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, … ▤ 

z Greek bondservant

1Pet 3:15  … but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, … ▤ 

2Cor 10:1  I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!— ▤ 

Generally at least, we should exhort others in a manner reflective of “the meekness and gentleness” that characterized Jesus Christ, as Paul seeks to do here.

Prov 15:1  A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. ▤ 

Prov 15:4  A gentlea tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. ▤ 

a Or healing

Prov 25:15  With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone. ▤ 

Along with patience, “soft” or gentle speech makes one more able to persuade others.

  • The wise use quiet words, in contrast to fools:

Eccl 9:17  The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools. ▤ 

This suggests that the wise typically use quiet words. The implication is that it is generally more effective to speak quietly than loudly (cf. Prov 15:1 ; Prov 25:15 ).

Speak graciously

Prov 16:24  Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. ▤ 

Like a honeycomb (v. 24), gracious words are enjoyable (“sweetness to the soul”) and are good for one’s well-being (“health to the body”).

Prov 22:11  He who loves purity of heart, and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend. ▤ 

Eccl 10:12  The words of a wise man’s mouth win him favor,b but the lips of a fool consume him. ▤ 

b Or are gracious

The alternative rendering in the text note indicates that the first clause may be teaching that the words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious (cf. AMP, NASB, NIV, NKJV).

Col 4:6  Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. ▤ 

Note that the expression “seasoned with salt” most likely means either interesting (CEV, GNT) or pure.

Ps 45:2  You are the most handsome of the sons of men; grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever. ▤ 

This is from a messianic psalm. As such, the Messiah is portrayed to be gracious in speech (cf. Luke 4:22 ) – something which his followers should aspire to emulate.

Luke 4:22  And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” ▤ 

Eph 4:15  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, … ▤ 

Speaking in love complements and encourages gracious speech.

  • Sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness:

Prov 16:21  The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness. ▤ 

Do not sin in what you say

See also:

Ps 17:3  You have tried my heart, you have visited me by night, you have tested me, and you will find nothing; I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress. ▤ 

Ps 34:13  Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. ▤ 

Ps 39:1  I said, “I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth with a muzzle, so long as the wicked are in my presence.” ▤ 

In enduring a time of suffering, David was determined not to say anything that might be sinful or unwise – particularly in the presence of the wicked.

Prov 4:24  Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. ▤ 

Eph 4:29  Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. ▤ 

Eph 5:4  Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. ▤ 

Col 3:8  But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. ▤ 

Eccl 5:6  Let not your mouth lead youc into sin, and do not say before the messengerd that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? ▤ 

c Hebrew your flesh

d Or angel

The “sin” spoken of here is primarily that of not keeping a vow to God. To make a vow rashly and then not be able to keep it is sinful.

  • Ask God to help you not to sin in what you say:

Ps 141:3  Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! ▤ 

Similarly in 19:14 David asks God for help to speak what pleases God: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

Note: Instructions and insights on giving rebuke

See also:

Luke 17:3  Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, … ▤ 

Col 3:16  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. ▤ 

This appears to refer to Scripture having a role in the giving of rebuke (cf. 2Tim 3:16 ).

2Tim 3:16  All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, … ▤ 

2Tim 4:2  … preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. ▤ 

1Tim 5:1  Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, … ▤ 

Prov 9:7-8  Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. 8Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. ▤ 

Prov 26:4-5  Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. 5Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes. ▤ 

Here the writer makes a deliberate contradiction in regard to answering a fool “according to his folly”. In v. 4, “according to his folly” means in a manner which is in accordance with his foolish ways – i.e. “stooping to his level”. In contrast, in v. 5 it would seem to mean in accordance with or in a way that is appropriate to his foolish action. Perhaps the writer is also conveying the thought that one should be wary in correcting a fool.

Prov 27:5  Better is open rebuke than hidden love. ▤ 

Open rebuke is better than love that is shut off. The implication here may well be that one who truly loves another will openly rebuke them (cf. CEV) if the need arises.

Prov 28:23  Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue. ▤ 

  • Rather than hate someone, reason frankly with them:

Lev 19:17  You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. ▤ 

The last clause may mean that if our neighbor has done something wrong and we do not take them to task about it, then we also bare some responsibility. Alternatively, in the light of the first statement in the verse, it may mean that if our neighbor has done something that induces us to be hateful, we should rebuke them rather than hate them in our hearts, which would cause us also to be guilty of sin.

Pray for persecuted Christians

Wise Speech (II): Insights

See also:

The righteous speak wisely . . .

See also:

Ps 37:30  The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice. ▤ 

Prov 10:31-32  The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, but the perverse tongue will be cut off. 32The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse. ▤ 

Prov 31:26  She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. ▤ 

This speaks of a righteous wife, being one who is “excellent” (v. 10) and who “fears the Lord” (v. 30).

Prov 10:11, 21  The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. ▤ 21The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense. ▤ 

These and the following verses refer to the speech of the righteous bringing great blessings. This evidences the wisdom of the words of the righteous.

Prov 11:11  By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is overthrown. ▤ 

In contrast to the “mouth of the wicked”, the “blessing of the upright” quite possibly refers to the upright praying for or verbally blessing a city (cf. GNT, NCV, NLT). Alternatively it may be speaking more generally of the blessing or benefits which upright people bring to a city (cf. AMP, CEV), which in no small part is through what they say.

Prov 12:6  The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the mouth of the upright delivers them. ▤ 

. . . One’s words are determined by the “heart”

In the following verses, “heart” signifies one’s conscious inner-self, encompassing one’s emotions, thoughts and will. Words that are wise and good come from a “heart” that is good/righteous and wise. Conversely, foolish and evil words come from a “heart” that has such characteristics.

Matt 12:34-37  You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. ▤ 

A person’s words are determined by their hearts (vv. 34-35), and so their words reveal their hearts. As such their words are a key aspect of the evidence that will be used to acquit or condemn them on judgment day (vv. 36-37).

Matt 15:18-19  But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. ▤ 

It is our hearts that determine what we say and also what we do (v. 19), which in turn can “defile” us (NLT) – making us spiritually “unclean” (v. 18). In v. 19, “evil thoughts” are listed first presumably as one’s thoughts are closely associated with one’s heart. In a sense they are the link between the heart and its manifestations – one’s deeds and words (cf. v. 19b).

Prov 12:23  A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims folly. ▤ 

Prov 15:28  The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things. ▤ 

Prov 16:23  The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips. ▤ 

Job 33:3  My words declare the uprightness of my heart, and what my lips know they speak sincerely. ▤ 

In the first clause Elihu may be meaning that his words evidenced the uprightness of his heart – for that is from where they came (cf. NASB, NCV, NIV, NKJV).

Job 15:12-13  Why does your heart carry you away, and why do your eyes flash, 13that you turn your spirit against God and bring such words out of your mouth? ▤ 

While he does make a valid point regarding one’s heart influencing one’s words, bear in mind that Eliphaz’s assessment of Job’s heart was flawed. Note that on a similar theme, in v. 5 Eliphaz says: “… your iniquity teaches your mouth …”

  • Good and bad cannot come from the same source:

James 3:9-12  With it [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers,e these things ought not to be so. 11Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. ▤ 

e Or brothers and sisters; also verse 12

With the use of “tongue”, James is not referring ultimately to the tongue itself, but to the heart that manifests itself in the words of the tongue. Verses 11-12 are indicating that blessing of God and cursing of others, “who are made in the likeness of God” (v. 9), cannot come from the same source – with the apparent implication that if we curse others, we cannot truly bless God.

Wise speech is of great value

Prov 20:15  There is gold and abundance of costly stones, but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel. ▤ 

Prov 25:11  A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. ▤ 

This may be speaking of the beauty as well as the great value of appropriately spoken words.

Prov 15:23  To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is! ▤ 

  • The speech of the righteous is of great value:

Prov 10:20  The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the heart of the wicked is of little worth. ▤ 

The speech of the wise imparts wisdom and knowledge

Eccl 12:9-10  Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. 10The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth. ▤ 

Verse 10 further supports the earlier assertion that the wise teacher imparted knowledge, by indicating that he wrote truth.

Ps 49:1-3  Hear this, all peoples! Give ear, all inhabitants of the world, 2both low and high, rich and poor together! 3My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart shall be understanding. ▤ 

The context suggests that the wise speaker will teach wisdom, with understanding for his listeners coming from his thoughts (cf. NIV, NKJV).

Prov 13:20  Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. ▤ 

The speech of the wise is obviously a major reason as to why keeping company with the wise leads to wisdom.

Prov 15:2, 7  The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly. ▤ 7The lips of the wise spread knowledge; not so the hearts of fools.f ▤ 

f Or the hearts of fools are not steadfast

Verse 2a appears to be saying that the wise make knowledge “attractive” (GNT) or “acceptable” (NASB).

Prov 25:12  Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear. ▤ 

Reproof from a wise person is so valuable largely because of the wisdom it imparts.

Eccl 9:17  The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools. ▤ 

Presumably the writer has in mind that the words of the wise impart wisdom.

Further ways wise speech benefits others

See also:

Prov 12:18  There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. ▤ 

This is applicable to such things as emotional healing and healing of relationships.

Prov 13:14  The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death. ▤ 

Prov 18:4  The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook. ▤ 

The thought may be that like a bubbling brook, a wise person’s words are “refreshing” (NLT; cf. GNT).

Prov 29:8  Scoffers set a city aflame, but the wise turn away wrath. ▤ 

Presumably it is the words of the wise that are in view. The words of the wise “turn away wrath” both from themselves and others.

Eccl 12:11  The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. ▤ 

Goads are used to prod and guide cattle. As such the first simile probably means either that the words of the wise spur people to action (cf. NLT), or that the words of the wise guide people in taking sound paths. The simile likening their sayings to “nails firmly fixed”, is probably pointing to the stability and security they provide for those who act in accordance with them.

Isa 50:4a  The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. ▤ 

1Ki 10:2-3, 8, 24  She came to Jerusalem with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices and very much gold and precious stones. And when she came to Solomon, she told him all that was on her mind. 3And Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing hidden from the king that he could not explain to her. ▤ 8Happy are your men! Happy are your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! ▤ 24And the whole earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind. ▤ 

Solomon’s wisdom enabled him to give explanations (v. 3) – of which presumably some solved problems – and brought great happiness to those who heard his wisdom, as the Queen of Sheba asserts (v. 8). Verse 24 emphatically illustrates the desire people have to hear sound wisdom, presumably largely due to its benefits.

Other ways one’s words can be beneficial

See also:

Prov 12:14  From the fruit of his mouth a man is satisfied with good, and the work of a man’s hand comes back to him. ▤ 

Prov 18:20  From the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach is satisfied; he is satisfied by the yield of his lips. ▤ 

This probably means either that one’s words bring the fulfillment of one’s needs, or that one’s words can bring fulfillment or satisfaction to one’s inner self “as food satisfies the stomach” (NLT).

Prov 15:1  A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. ▤ 

Prov 15:4  A gentleg tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. ▤ 

g Or healing

Prov 25:11  A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. ▤ 

Prov 25:15  With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone. ▤ 

Along with patience, tactfulness increases the persuasiveness of one’s speech, breaking down “strong opposition” (NLT, cf. GNT).

Eph 4:29  Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. ▤ 

Our words can build others up, benefiting those who hear.

Beware: The tongue has great power, capable of evil and destructive effects

See also:

Prov 18:21  Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. ▤ 

The tongue has the power to enrich life (or guard it; cf. Prov 13:3 ) – or to ruin it. The second part of the verse appears to caution against indulging in the use of the tongue (cf. AMP) or possibly exploiting its use for one’s own interests – both of which bring one harmful repercussions.

James 3:2-8  For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life,h and set on fire by hell.i 7For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. ▤ 

h Or wheel of birth

i Greek Gehenna

The tongue has great influence over the whole body (vv. 2-6). If one can control it, one can keep their whole body in check (v. 2) – but it cannot actually be tamed (vv. 7-8). In saying that the tongue is “set on fire by hell” (v. 6), James appears to allude to its evil disposition having Satanic origins – which ultimately is true of all evil.

Job 19:2  How long will you torment me and break me in pieces with words? ▤ 

Prov 11:9, 11  With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor, but by knowledge the righteous are delivered. ▤ 11By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is overthrown. ▤ 

Prov 12:13  An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips, but the righteous escapes from trouble. ▤ 

One’s tongue can bring harm to oneself through evil words – and also by rash words (cf. Prov 13:3 ).

Prov 12:18  There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. ▤ 

A person’s tongue can harm others through thoughtless or inappropriate words (v. 18a; cf. Job 19:2 ) – as well as by words of evil intent (as shown elsewhere in this subsection).

Prov 13:3  Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. ▤ 

The second clause appears to speak of hasty speech (cf. GNT, NCV, NIV, NLT), but talking too much could instead be in view (cf. CEV).

Prov 16:27  A worthless man plots evil, and his speechj is like a scorching fire. ▤ 

j Hebrew what is on his lips

  • The tongues of the wicked are like sharp swords:

Ps 57:4  My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts— the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords. ▤ 

The tongues of the wicked are also compared to swords elsewhere in Psalms (55:21; 59:7; 64:3). Similar portrayals of the tongues of the wicked are: “Your tongue plots destruction, like a sharp razor” (Ps 52:2); “They make their tongue sharp as a serpent’s” (Ps 140:3); and “Their tongue is a deadly arrow” (Jer 9:8).

Pray for persecuted Christians

Wise Personal Practices

The following topics are prominent in what are known as the Bible’s wisdom books, notably in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes – as well as occurring elsewhere in the Bible.

Be self-controlled . . .

See also:

Titus 2:2-6  Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. 3Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. 6Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. ▤ 

1Tim 2:9  … likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, … ▤ 

1Tim 2:15  Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. ▤ 

1Tim 3:2  Therefore an overseerk must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,l sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, … ▤ 

k Or bishop; Greek episkopos; a similar term occurs in verse 1

l Or a man of one woman; also verse 12

Titus 1:8 also states that an overseer must be self-controlled.

1Pet 4:7  The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. ▤ 

1Thes 4:3-4  For this is the will of God, your sanctification:m that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4that each one of you know how to control his own bodyn in holiness and honor, … ▤ 

m Or your holiness

n Or how to take a wife for himself; Greek how to possess his own vessel

Acts 24:25  And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.” ▤ 

The listing of self-control in this context highlights its importance.

1Cor 9:25  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. ▤ 

Prov 16:32  Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. ▤ 

Prov 25:28  A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. ▤ 

Just as a city with broken down walls is exposed to attack, one who lack lacks self-control is exposed to trouble.

. . . Self-control comes from God and wisdom

2Tim 1:7  … for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. ▤ 

Some think “spirit” here may be referring to the Holy Spirit (cf. GNT, CEV). Often this is thought to not be the case, but even so, it is through the Holy Spirit that God gives us self-discipline or “self-control” (CEV, NCV; cf. Gal 5:22-23 ) – along with power and love.

Titus 2:11-12  For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, … ▤ 

Gal 5:22-23  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. ▤ 

Prov 17:27  Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. ▤ 

Having “a cool spirit” refers to being even-tempered.

Prov 29:11  A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back. ▤ 

2Pet 1:4-6  … by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,o and virtue with knowledge, 6and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, … ▤ 

o Or excellence; twice in this verse

This suggests that knowledge, similar to wisdom, contributes to self-control (which in turn contributes to perseverance).

  • Lack of discipline is associated with foolishness:

Prov 5:23  He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray. ▤ 

Here “lack of discipline” may refer to “lack of self-control” (CEV, NLT; cf. GNT, NCV) – i.e. lack of self-discipline – making it pertinent to this subsection. Alternatively it may refer to “lack of instruction” (NASB, NKJV). Both lead to “great folly” and its consequences. Note that foolishness is also associated with lack of self-control above in 29:11.

Do not act in haste

See also:

Prov 19:2  Desirep without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way. ▤ 

p Or A soul

Being hasty leads one to “make mistakes” (NCV™).

Prov 21:5  The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. ▤ 

Prov 25:8  … do not hastily bring into court, forq what will you do in the end, when your neighbor puts you to shame? ▤ 

q Hebrew or else

Prov 29:20  Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. ▤ 

Eccl 5:2  r Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. ▤ 

r Ch 5:1 in Hebrew

As noted earlier, the reference here appears to be primarily to making hasty vows to God.

1Tim 5:22  Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure. ▤ 

The first part of this statement is warning against hastily ordaining church elders.

  • Act calmly:

Eccl 10:4  If the anger of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your place, for calmnesss will lay great offenses to rest. ▤ 

s Hebrew healing

This appears to say that if a superior is angry with you, you should not resign from your position. For staying calm and acting coolly can overcome great mistakes.

Work hard . . .

See also:

Eccl 9:10  Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might,t for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going. ▤ 

t Or finds to do with your might, do it

We should do what we can now, as well as we can, for in the grave there will be no such opportunities.

Acts 20:35  In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ▤ 

Eph 4:28  Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. ▤ 

The reference to working with one’s “own hands” (cf. 1Thes 4:11 ) is to working oneself rather than living off others. Probably working hard is in view (cf. CEV).

1Thes 4:11-12  … and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. ▤ 

2Thes 3:8-9  … nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. 9It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. ▤ 

Titus 3:14  And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful. ▤ 

Prov 31:13-19  She [an excellent wife] seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. 14She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. 15She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. 16She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. 17She dresses herselfu with strength and makes her arms strong. 18She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. 19She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. ▤ 

u Hebrew She girds her loins

Prov 10:4  A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. ▤ 

To be “diligent” (cf. Prov 12:24 ; Prov 13:4 ) means to be industrious, or persistent in accomplishing a task.

Prov 12:24  The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor. ▤ 

Prov 13:4  The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied. ▤ 

Prov 14:23  In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty. ▤ 

. . . Ensure you have adequate provisions

See also:

Prov 6:6-8  Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. 7Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, 8she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. ▤ 

The ant is a great example of producing adequate provisions. Note that similarly 30:25 says, “… the ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer; …”

Prov 10:5  He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame. ▤ 

Prov 24:27  Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house. ▤ 

Do the essential and urgent things first – including that which is essential for producing provisions; leave till afterwards matters that can wait. Note that the first clause (like the second) is speaking of outside work, the main source of provisions in the ancient world.

Prov 28:19  Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty. ▤ 

Prov 27:23-27  Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds, 24for riches do not last forever; and does a crown endure to all generations? 25When the grass is gone and the new growth appears and the vegetation of the mountains is gathered, 26the lambs will provide your clothing, and the goats the price of a field. 27There will be enough goats’ milk for your food, for the food of your household and maintenance for your girls. ▤ 

Verses 23-24 are saying that one should ensure that the things which provide basic necessities are secure (v. 23), for there is no guarantee that wealth and power will last (v. 24). Note that this speaks of ensuring adequate provisions for clothing, as well as for food.

Eccl 11:6  In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good. ▤ 

This suggests that we should have more than one source of provision, so as “not to put all our eggs in the one basket”.

Gen 41:33-36  Now therefore let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt. 34Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land and take one-fifth of the produce of the landv of Egypt during the seven plentiful years. 35And let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. 36That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine. ▤ 

v Or over the land and organize the land

  • The value of being a skilled worker:

Prov 22:29  Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men. ▤ 

Do not be idle . . .

See also:

1Thes 5:14  And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle,w encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. ▤ 

w Or disorderly, or undisciplined

2Thes 3:6-7, 10-12  Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. 7For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, ▤ 10For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.x ▤ 

x Greek eat their own bread

1Tim 5:13  Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. ▤ 

This indicates that being idle can lead to becoming a gossip and a busybody (cf. 2Thes 3:11 ). In regard to being a busybody, note that 1 Peter 4:15 denounces meddling – “But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.”

Heb 6:11-12  And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. ▤ 

Here the term “sluggish” would appear to encompass laziness (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NIV).

Prov 31:27  She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. ▤ 

Prov 26:13-16  The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road! There is a lion in the streets!” 14As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed. 15The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth. 16The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly. ▤ 

This passage provides a number of insights on lazy people. Verse 13 appears to imply that such people tend to make excuses to avoid work (cf. 22:13).

. . . Idleness leads to poverty and associated troubles

Prov 10:4  A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. ▤ 

Prov 20:13  Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread. ▤ 

Prov 6:9-11  How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? 10A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, 11and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man. ▤ 

Prov 14:23  In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty. ▤ 

Eccl 4:5  The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh. ▤ 

The expression “folds his hands” is indicative of not wanting to work (cf. NLT, NIrV). The last phrase speaks of such an attitude resulting in self-destruction.

Prov 20:4  The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing. ▤ 

Prov 19:15  Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger. ▤ 

“Slothfulness” means “laziness”. The term “deep sleep” appears to portray the debilitating effects of laziness when it pervades a person’s consciousness.

Prov 13:4  The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied. ▤ 

Prov 21:25  The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor. ▤ 

Here “desire” may refer to desire for sleep (cf. NCV) or an easy life – and thus an unwillingness to work – resulting in ruin. Alternatively, the meaning may be that lazy people’s incessant desires for things will metaphorically kill them because they will not work so as to be able to satisfy or quell such desires.

Prov 12:24  The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor. ▤ 

The thought may be that not having the initiative to provide for themselves, the slothful will be forced to subject themselves to labor under someone else’s authority.

Prov 15:19  The way of a sluggard is like a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a level highway. ▤ 

The path of a lazy person is beset with problems. In fact practically every aspect of his life is affected (cf. Eccl 10:18 ).

Eccl 10:18  Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks. ▤ 

Prov 10:26  Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to those who send him. ▤ 

Lazy people not only cause problems for themselves, but they are also disdainful to their employers.

  • Being slack in one’s work is destructive:

Prov 18:9  Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys. ▤ 

Enjoy life and so be joyful

Eccl 2:24-25  There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoymenty in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, 25for apart from himz who can eat or who can have enjoyment? ▤ 

y Or and make his soul see good

z Some Hebrew manuscripts, Septuagint, Syriac; most Hebrew manuscripts apart from me

Eccl 3:12-13, 22  I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. ▤ 22So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him? ▤ 

Due to the uncertainty and apparent meaningless of life – discussed in many parts of Ecclesiastes – the writer proposes that the best thing to do is to aspire to be joyful and enjoy life, and to do good.

Eccl 8:15  And I commend joy, for man has no good thing under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun. ▤ 

The second half of the verse points to being joyful as beneficial for us amidst our toil.

Eccl 9:7-9  Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. 8Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head. 9Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. ▤ 

In v. 7, “for God has already approved what you do” possibly means that God approves doing the aforementioned things (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NLT). Alternatively it may mean that having such things is indicative that God approves of one’s deeds, so therefore one should enjoy these things. A further possibility is that it has in view being alive rather than dead (cf. vv. 2-6). The main thrust of the passage is that one should enjoy life for as many days as one can, in what appears – at least at times – to be a meaningless life.

Eccl 11:8-10  So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity. 9Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. 10Remove vexation from your heart, and put away paina from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity. ▤ 

a Or evil

The “days of darkness” (v. 8) quite possibly refers to being dead (cf. GNT, NCV). Another possibility is troubled times, such as the trials associated with old age and failing health. Verse 9 advocates following “your heart’s desire” (GNT; cf. CEV, NCV), but doing so governed by the consciousness of God’s coming judgment. Verse 10 is usually taken to mean that we should not worry, and so forget about any physical troubles (or perhaps any perceived future physical troubles), for youth is so short lived (cf. CEV, GNT, NASB) – i.e. we should enjoy it while we can. Alternatively v. 10a may be speaking of getting rid of anything that might harm our minds or bodies.

Prov 15:13, 15  A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed. ▤ 15All the days of the afflicted are evil, but the cheerful of heart has a continual feast. ▤ 

Prov 17:22  A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. ▤ 

Prov 15:30  The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and good news refreshesb the bones. ▤ 

b Hebrew makes fat

Most likely the first clause means: “The light in the eyes [of him whose heart is joyful]” (AMP) brings joy to the hearts of others (cf. CEV, GNT).

  • The sad lot of a man who does not enjoy what he has:

Eccl 6:3-6  If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life’s good things, and he also has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. 4For it comes in vanity and goes in darkness, and in darkness its name is covered. 5Moreover, it has not seen the sun or known anything, yet it finds rest rather than he. 6Even though he should live a thousand years twice over, yet enjoyc no good—do not all go to the one place? ▤ 

c Or see

Part of the reasoning here as to why a stillborn child is better off than such a man appears to be that it will end up in the same place (the grave) without having failed the opportunity to enjoy life’s good things nor having experienced discontentment.

Pray for persecuted Christians