Verse 1 is a favorite of parents who desire to instill into the minds of their children the need of being well thought of. “A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, Favor is better than silver and gold.”
Verse 2 is a declaration of the fundamental equality of all persons in the sight of God. God made both the rich and the poor and has equal concern for both. Verse 3 says that the prudent will avoid trouble. Yet the simple minded rush into trouble. For this they suffer for their lack of good judgment. Verse 4 tells us that the one who reverences the Lord in humility will be rewarded. He will receive riches, honor, and long life.
Verse 5 is a compliment to 3 and 4. The contention is that life will not work for the perverse. The nature of the world that God has created makes it impossible to break the rules and get away with doing so. In verse 6 we see a summary of the teachings of the wise. They hold that nothing is more important than the teaching of a child in godliness. Discipline was an important part of that training. No reward is more satisfying than to have a fine son, and no sorrow greater than to have raised a foolish son. “Train up” means to dedicate, as in the Temple. That idea has religious significance.
Verse 7 is a fact of life that money talks. The rich control the poor and the lender is the master of the borrower. Verse 8 is about sowing and reaping. (Galatians 6:7-8) Verse 9 says one who has a good eye will be blessed. Compare Matthew 6:22. “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.” Verse 10 has two lines that say the same thing. Scoffing is the source of much evil.
Verse 11 is another progressive Proverb in that both lines are needed to complete the thought. It states that a good argument and single minded goodness along with gracious speech will win the friendship of the king. Verse 13 is more sarcastic humor about the sluggard. Verse 14 is the only reference to the adulterous in Book 2. Here the anger of the Lord is upon the man who is trapped by the wiles of an adulterous.
Verse 15 is another reference to the discipline of the youth. The wise men believed that punishment was necessary for the training of a child. Verse 16 is the conclusion of Book 2 in Proverbs. Here the rights of the poor are defended against unjust extortion by the rich. In view of the identification of riches with the Lord’s blessing, these words of the rights of the poor are a clue to the moral sensitivity of the wise.
Book 3 (22:17 to 23:14)
As we look closely at these Proverbs we will notice that they are four line sayings rather than the two line sayings of 10:1 to 22:16. In this section of Proverbs there is an introduction; (22:17-21) a first collection; (22:22 to 23:14 a second collection; 23:15 to 24:22; and a third collection. (24:23-24) Scholars note that much of this is similar to an Egyptian writing known as “The Instruction of Amen-em-ope,” especially Proverbs 22:22 to 23:14.
First Collection 22:17 to 23:14
Verses 17 through 29 introduce sayings and calling them “the words of the wise.” They promise rewards if they are observed. “It will be pleasant” if you cherish them in your heart and have them ready to come from your lips. Their reason for making them known to the student is that they put trust in the Lord. This the reason the communication of these truths are imperative.
Verse 20 refers to the thirty sayings found between 22:22 and 24:22. Of these thirty sayings ten are similar to the “The Instruction of Amen-em-ope.” This leads many scholars to believe there is a relationship between this section of Proverbs and the wisdom written from Egypt. In verse 21 we read “Give a true answer to those who sent you.” (21) This may refer to the parents who sent their youth to the school. The teacher wants his parents to see how much they have learned.
Verses 22-23 make up the first of the thirty sayings. This one has a prophetic tone as it champions the cause of the poor and the affected. They say that the Lord will be their lawyer and defender. The Amen-em-ope parallels verse 22 but not verse 23. The belief that the Lord is the defender of the poor is peculiarly Hebrew.
In verses 24-25 the youth are admonished against close associations with an angry man least they become trapped in his ways and become ensnared in their anger. In verses 26-27 we find a warning in another kind of folly found in Proverbs. It is a warning against becoming surety for others debts. The sense that verse 27 gives that one must be prepared to pay. If you sign another’s note you may lose your bed. The bed is a basic need like one’s coat.
In verse 28 unlike the others we see only two lines. It is a recognition of the boundaries and their sacredness. One way that a person’s property could be stolen is to remove the landmark. The landmarks of property were maintained from generation to generation. This saying could also mean the importance of keeping the property in one’s family. This is indicated by the words, “which you fathers have set.”
Verse 29 is in reference to skill, another form of wisdom, as a means of the achievement recognition with the powers that be. A craftsmen will always find respect as a master of his art. The craftsmen will not be regulated to associate with those who do not amount to anything.