24 October 2013

Proverbs 4:1-18

“Get wisdom; get insight: do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her and she will keep you; love her and she will guard you.” (vv. 5-6)


In chapter four the voice of Proverbs changes to that of a man counselling his son with regard to imminent marriage ... perhaps a situation well-known to many readers? Elisabeth Elliot, the widow of Jim Elliot and pioneer missionary in her own right, wrote in the last century that parents whose main aim is to make their children happy are often disappointed, whereas parents who want to see their children growing into goodness, will usually have happy children as a by-product. This claim can only be regarded as a proverb (see yesterday) rather than an incontrovertible truth, but is echoed in today's passage. Like any parent, the father wants his son to spend the rest of his days with a companion who will "guard" (v. 6), "exalt" and "honour" him (v. 8). Wisdom, therefore, must be the wife that he woos with energy and zeal and whom he then keeps close beside him. The suggestion is clear that if wisdom is sufficiently valued then she will become his crowning glory - a high maintenance partner who should be highly prized - like any wife!

Wisdom as a bride is contrasted with the seductress and adulteress, whose bitter rewards are outlined in the next chapter.

This scenario of proffered parental advice is frequently found in Proverbs. As well as illustrating the parent-child relationship which exists between God and humanity, it calls to mind the centrality of the home as a setting for learning Wisdom and the importance, especially within the Jewish faith, of passing on Wisdom from generation to generation.

The metaphor of life as two roads emerges again in verses 10-27. The way of wisdom is described as upright, good, secure, and as one which can be travelled safely, even at a run (verse 12), for it is brightly illuminated (verse 18). By contrast "the path of the wicked" (vv. 14-16) is beset with dangers from those whose objective is to stir up trouble and violence and cause stumbling.

To Ponder

  • In the spirit of passing on wisdom, what advice would you give to a young person choosing a companion for life?
  • How might we express in our lives that we "prize wisdom highly" (verse 8)?
  • How might your local church operate as a family and be the context in which wisdom is learned and inter-generational friendships developed?

Bible notes author

Jill Baker

Jill Baker lives in Glasgow and is glad to be part of the small but distinctive Methodist Church in Scotland. She is a local preacher and local preachers’ tutor in the Strathclyde Circuit, where her husband Andrew is superintendent minister. For Jill, the past 20 years have included all sorts of roles within Methodism – further afield (as a mission partner in the South Caribbean) and closer to home (with WFMUCW, MWiB, leading pilgrimages and as part of various committees and groups) and is currently the Vice-President of the Conference 2017/2018. When not engaged in these ways, Jill enjoys walking in the beautiful mountains of Scotland, gardening and writing; she blogs at and "Thanks, Peter God", her book about the life of her son, Peter, who died in 2012, was published in 2016.