Let’s slow down and look, term-by-term, at each of these reasons and mine God’s Word for precious gems of wisdom for our daily lives.
2 To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
In this verse, there are three reasons why we should read Proverbs:
- To know wisdom
- To know instruction
- To understand words of insight
The nouns here are wisdom, instruction, and words of insight. The verbs are to know, and to understand.
Wisdom – ḥoḵmāh
This noun means “skill, experience” and even “shrewdness”; in the words of Proverbs 8:12, wisdom dwells “with prudence” and finds “knowledge and discretion”. So then the wise one has prudence and his wisdom compels him to find those things that he needs – in this case, “knowledge and discretion”. He does not rest on his wisdom, but rather it is a fuel to him in his ongoing pursuit of more and more knowledge.
Instruction – mûsār
This is the where the rubber hits the road. This noun means, literally, knowledge for living, or as Vine’s Dictionary says, “training for life”. Throughout the book of Proverbs there is great reward and favor for listening to instruction and putting it to use and the opposite is presented as true too – there is great consequence and even punishment for rejecting instruction.
This word is sometimes translated “discipline” in English. For example, Deuteronomy 4:35-36 says:
35 To you it was shown, cthat you might know that the Lord is God; dthere is no other besides him. 36 eOut of heaven he let you hear his voice, that he might discipline you. And on earth he let you see his great fire, and xyou heard his words out of the midst of the fire.
So then it is by discipline (meaning, “instruction”) that the Lord makes himself known. Note the descriptive words “it was shown”, “that you might know”, “let you hear his voice”, “let you see his great fire”. Through discipline we are instructed about God.
Words – ēmer – of Insight – biynāh
This first noun – “words” – refers to something that is said; it can be in reference to God’s words or man’s words.
NOTE: It stands in contrast to terms that more closely mean “thoughts”, such as Psalm 14:1, where “the fool says in his heart”. They are not the same terms.
The second noun – “insight” – means “understanding”; the TWOT is helpful here when it tells us that “insight” is not just knowledge but implies the pursuit that was necessary to gain the knowledge in and highlights the character of the one who was willing to pursue the knowledge in the first place.
To Know – yāḏaʿ
This verb means “to know, to learn, to discern”, etc., and in this verse it means to know what to do.
To Understand – biyn
In the original language this verb refers to knowledge that is not just collecting information, but rather using knowledge in order to make a decision or to distinguish between possible choices.
It is different than the verb “to know” in that it takes knowing a step further and puts it into intentional practice. So then “to understand” in this verse is the next step, after “to know”. Both are referred to as reasons why Solomon writes the book in the first place, and thus are both good reasons why we should read Proverbs.
My Expository Paraphrase
[1,4,7]Baker, Warren, and Eugene E. Carpenter. The complete word study dictionary: Old Testament 2003 : n. page. Print. Vine, W. E., Merrill F. Unger, and William White Jr. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words 1996 : n. page. Print. [3,5,6,8]Harris, R. Laird, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, eds. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament 1999 : n. page. Print.
1 These are the proverbs of Solomon, the king of Israel, so of David
2 I am writing these proverbs so that the one who reads them may know what to do with prudence and skill informed by experience and to have knowledge for living. The one who reads these proverbs will be able to use this knowledge to make right decisions and to distinguish between God’s wisdom and mere “advice”.