Read Proverbs 2:1–22
My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
2 turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding—
3 indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
4 and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
6 For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
7 He holds success in store for the upright,
he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
8 for he guards the course of the just
and protects the way of his faithful ones.
9 Then you will understand what is right and just
and fair—every good path.
10 For wisdom will enter your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
11 Discretion will protect you,
and understanding will guard you.
12 Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men,
from men whose words are perverse,
13 who have left the straight paths
to walk in dark ways,
14 who delight in doing wrong
and rejoice in the perverseness of evil,
15 whose paths are crooked
and who are devious in their ways.
16 Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman,
from the wayward woman with her seductive words,
17 who has left the partner of her youth
and ignored the covenant she made before God.
18 Surely her house leads down to death
and her paths to the spirits of the dead.
19 None who go to her return
or attain the paths of life.
20 Thus you will walk in the ways of the good
and keep to the paths of the righteous.
21 For the upright will live in the land,
and the blameless will remain in it;
22 but the wicked will be cut off from the land,
and the unfaithful will be torn from it.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference” (Robert Frost, 1874–1963).
The Hebrew alphabet has 22 letters and this poem has 22 verses. It is designed to be a complete, affectionate reflection on hard-won, God-given wisdom—practical, down-to-earth knowledge of God. I pay attention first to the morally upright nouns and adjectives in verses 7–9 and the eight energetic verbs of verses 1–5. I notice how the words “then,” “for” and “thus” signal the chapter’s developing argument. Lord, I thank you for this chapter’s promissory tone: not “you ought… should…must…” but “you will understand… the upright will live in the land” (5,9,21).
Next, I read the chapter again, noting the words “course,” “way(s),” “path(s)”—at least 13 occurrences—and the associated verbs. Here I meet a ground metaphor peculiar to Proverbs but also to the Bible as a whole. The words remind me (again) that I become wise by living a life of action. Wisdom provides me with a map: how to plan, to be brave, to be wise, to be steady. Where am I on my life’s path? There are many options, not just a single correct one (Prov. 3:6; 4:26; 16:9). Lord, save me from the way
of death (Prov. 7:27; 14:12; 16:25); keep me on the way of life (Prov. 6:23; 15:24). Lord, thank You that You do not just show me the way; You are Yourself the Way; bind me to You forever.
Finally, I think about the “adulterous, alien, strange” woman (translations vary). We will meet her again in chapters 5–7 and as Lady Folly in chapter 9. She is not just a foreigner (I pray for many foreign women who are trafficked for prostitution). She is not just someone else’s wife. Old Testament scholar Bruce K. Waltke suggests she is “the unchaste wife” (The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 1–15, 115). Whoever she is, she is to be avoided at all costs.
I pray for those who will be married, who are married, who were married, who aren’t married, for myself… asking for wisdom, grace, love.