Commentary by Lemuel Baker, Ph.D
The primary goal for the Book of Proverbs is to provide the reader insight, information and challenges that when assimilated will produce the highest quality of life available for any human being to attain. Proverbs was written to promote quality of life, to prevent failure and to promote good success that brings happiness.
We may live a full life span but experience dissatisfaction and failure making our journey unbearable. God intends we experience quality of life not only empty quantity of years full of self inflicted failures. The Book of Proverbs also is designed to steer the reader away from behaviors that will lessen quality of life by bringing failures and hardships. The Book of Proverbs stresses preparation, study and development of raw talents to their full potential. At full potential our talents yield the highest dividends and function effortlessly with less stress. Thus it is worth the toil to develop our talents to peak levels so that we can enjoy the majority of our life span without handicaps.
Most importantly throughout the Book of Proverbs the reader is encouraged to see for themselves again and again to easily conclude JeHoVaH alone is God, Sovereign Lord, God is All Wise - Adonai Khol Chokam, God is Chokmah, He is Wise, can be trusted, worthy to be followed and our Creator. He knows best and true wisdom is indeed making this discovery which is to make His ways the set philosophy for our lives. Here are the three pillars of sustained success which are the foci of the Book of Proverbs.
1. Preparation and mastery of skill sets
2. Sustained good character
3. Wisdom and making appropriate decisions
If any of the three pillars is breached success will be halted until one or all of the pillars are repaired. This is the purpose for the Book of Proverbs to stimulate the reader to embrace behaviors that lead to success and happiness but to point out behaviors that lead to failure. L' dor v' dor translated from generation to generation in Judaism is essential to social sustainability ensuring the teachings of Judaism are not lost to future generations. The teachings of Judaism were passed down orally from Moses to Aaron and then to Joshua who passed the teachings on to the Judges, Prophets, Sages and to present day Rabbis. In Judaism training begins when the child is still at the knees or still a toddler because that is how long it takes to produce a highly functional human being, citizen, sibling, father, husband, wife and successful contributer who is happy. The first milestone and stage of development for Judaism is at Bar Mitzvah for boys or Bat Mitzvah for girls, sons, daughters of the covenant between God and Avraham. Jewish boys and girls become a Bar Mitzvah or a Bat Mitzvah, a son or daughter of the covenant. Cognitive skill sets are acquired through disciplined training that are reinforced and built upon as adults through adult education each Shabbat. The skill sets of the Book of Proverbs do not come over night but take years of preparation formally at school and informally at the kitchen table, on the back yard patio, while on road trips with your family and at synagogue or Church.
The Book of Proverbs is just as important for adults as it is for children. An adult when away from the continued influences of the principles conveyed by the Book of Proverbs begins to make mistakes becoming less proficient at the skill of wisdom. The Book of Proverbs expects an adult to keep themself stimulated with the psycho-spiritual effects of Proverbs by loving the instructions, reading it, studying it, meditating on it, practicing the principles and noting the wonderful benefits that come with living the Proverbs lifestyle, that it does indeed deliver the exact benefits as promised.
A Proverbs deficient life will ship wreck except for divine intervention.Training children cannot be perceived as optional. When children display negative behaviors it may be considered cute, nonthreatening or a bother. But these same behaviors if not replaced with understanding and correct behaviors by the intentional training of a parent or significant person will cause catastrophe in society at all levels. These same behaviors when matured now pose a threat to society. Training according to the Book of Proverbs is critical to every institution of society not optional. Without dedicated parental training, spouses will damage each other, parents will damage children, employers will damage employees, judges will damage defendants, fellow citizens will damage each other and we can create an endless list. The instructions of the Book of Proverbs is not just a weak glue but a powerful adhesive that keeps society well and happy at all levels.
So how may we really enjoy Biblical study and the study of the Book of Proverbs to such a capacity whereby it changes our lives and brings us great joy, success and happiness. To get started, first we should read Proverbs on the surface, obtain simple literal interpretation looking at the information straight forward. Enjoy what you read. Second we will notice hints at deeper meanings and make a note of those hints to explore later writing these hints down as questions. Third begin to seek out the possible deeper meanings to the areas you underlined as questions, search for cross references to see if there are consistent patterns. This is the study phase. Fourth be now open to inspiration, revelation of the not so obvious mystery and God's rich hidden secret that when discovered makes your joy full. This is the happiness that Proverbs talks about in Proverbs 3:13 " Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding."
Proverbs 4:7 says the following: "Wisdom is the principle thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding." The original text in Hebrew uses the following words:
For wisdom the word chokmah is used which means skill and prudence. The Hebrew word used for "principle thing" is "re'shiyth" also used in Genesis which means first, beginning or the best. The Hebrew word "qinyan" is used in the original text for "thy getting" which means the thing acquired or possession. Finally the Hebrew word used for understanding is "biynah" which means discernment.
One of the goals of Judaism and themes woven into the Book of Proverbs is to ascribe great importance to "ChaBaD" which is an acronym of Hebrew consonants with vowels inserted translated Chockmah -Biynah -Da'at respectively. Chockmah (Wisdom), Biynah (Understanding) and Da'at (Knowledge) are very important to Judaism and the writer of Proverbs Solomon knew that and in this text attempts to convey this to all readers. The Book of Proverbs and scripture in general was designed to facilitate a psyco-spiritual life learning journey acquiring a full set of wisdom skills, knowledge and understanding as these relate to three aspects of life, God, fellow human beings and society.
Proverbs asks each of us the question how much wisdom, working knowledge and understanding do you have as it relates to our relationship to God. Proverbs asks the same question as it pertains to our relationship with significant others and with the systems within society. Are we navigating well and winning in a complex society, are we in full understanding of others and most importantly are we at peace with God not grieving Him due to a lack of understanding about what He expects of us.
These three letters that form the acronym Chabad describe three core mental functions of learning that Ha Shem teaches through Solomon to help young and old achieve full understanding. Chockmah means "thought" or the first flash of insight we receive towards learning a subject. Biynah means cognition, the act of pondering and meditating on a subject. Da'at means internalizing, the act of processing a subject and making it a part of your heart.
Solomon who was an Orthodox Jew tried to achieve this goal and was responsible as an orthodox Jew to share knowledge, wisdom and understanding with fellow Jews.
As an Orthodox Jew it was Solomon's responsibility to share Chabad with fellow Jews who are it's rightful owner thus the Book of Proverbs was written to that end in mind. Gentiles who need wisdom now have access to wisdom because of Yeshua. Ha Shem fervently presses the issue to seek out and to obtain understanding for this simple reason only those with complete revelation and understanding can be a sustainable winner in life. As a good father Ha Shem wants all His children to be winners.
Proverbs 3:13 records "Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding."
Solomon (Shloomo) again is giving insight into how success is achieved and how to become a winner in life. Again the Hebrew word "Chockmah" which means wisdom and skill. Solomon uses another Hebrew word for understanding "tavoon" which means understanding, intelligence, understanding or mastering your skill.
The Apostle Paul originally known as Rabbi Saul recorded in Hebrews 5:13 " For everyone that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness.." The Apostle Paul a converted Ultra Orthodox Jew knew about the concept and practiced Chabad from his youth.
Winners in life are those who prepare well and master their skill sets. This plays out classically in the work place as well as in society in general. The Hebrew word "eh-sher" is used for happy and this is the end result of "Chabad" to obtain a very high quality of life, stress free and happy. The Hebrew word used for man is "awdam" which means mankind. Now wisdom is available to all mankind who will realize the essential need for it. The Hebrew word used for find is "mat-saw" which means to find or to attain.
The key is to realize wisdom is more precious than gold because among other things wisdom will help attain gold but not vise versa. The Hebrew word "pook" is used for getteth which means to bring out, furnish, produce, cause to come out from. According to Solomon if we adopt as a life style developing our talents and skills to optimum levels and receive pleasure in a lifestyle of excellence we enhance our quality of life. Also if we spend our lives mentoring, furnishing and bringing out of others high level giftings this lifestyle is rewarding.
The classical example for this mentoring and nurturing is a mother developing her children at an early age who lives to see her efforts yield high dividends as her child grows up to be a success in every area of life. Solomon was a recipient of this nurturing from Bathsheba his mother as well as from King David his father.
See Bathsheba's nurturing to Lemuel another name given to King Solomon in Proverbs 31:1-9 as she prepares him to be a wonderful husband for a virtuous wife and also prepares Lemuel to be a success in life. This tender nurturing is very central to Judaism especially at a very early age.
Proverbs 31: 1-9
1 The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him. 2 What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows? 3 Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings. 4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: 5 Lest they drink , and forget the law , and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted . 6 Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish , and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. 7 Let him drink , and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more. 8 Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction. 9 Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.
Effecting change in a person's behavior requires repetition, and here Bathsheba or in Hebrew Bat Sheva begins her training of young Solomon while they are at home bonding because she knows Solomon will need a good wife and thus has to develop virtue himself in order to marry a woman with virtue. Bathsheba also knows leadership and strong character take years to develop and so she begins this critical training while Solomon is still at her knees. Bathsheba begins to point out to Solomon that leaders must be disciplined regarding promiscuity being aware of it's destructive outcome, the use of alcohol and the associated consequencies, to remember a leader's behaviors are impacting affecting many thus responsibility is non-negotiable and finally good character that speaks up for the poor, showing compassion for those who have no voice to be heard in the public square and who fights injustice especially for the under dog. Bathsheba is building character into Solomon so Solomon has the character, faith, conviction and confidence to to speak the truth just because he values the truth. Bathsheba is teaching Solomon to value responsibility, compassion, the love for truth so Solomon will add these values to the visceral part of his value system.
These are attitudes that must be assimilated if a functional citizen, leader, husband, father or employee is to hit the ground running as an adult. If I look at many of the handicaps in my life many point to a deficiency of a Proverbs application. On the other hand many successful people who are happy and contented knowingly or unknowingly are applying principles from the Book of Proverbs. Life on earth without the instruction of Proverbs is full of sorrow. The following verse expresses the goal of Proverbs indicating the absense of the instructions of Proverbs brings a life of sorrow making absent the high enjoyable quality of life God intends. God never intended any human being to live one second without wisdom!
The Aramaic Bible in Plain English
" The blessing of Lord Jehovah makes rich and there shall be no sorrow with it."
There is no trouble when we do things God's way because their ways - the ways of God's word are ways of peace, tranquility, heaven on earth, restful bliss and security. Proverbs 3:17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness, And all her paths are peace.
In synagogues as theTorah scroll is returned to the Ark-Aron Kodesh where the Torah scrolls are kept, the following quotes from Proverbs and Lamentations are always recited which if you hear it said produces a burst of heaven on earth and a Garden of Eden to your soul.
It is a tree of life for those who grasp it, and all who uphold it are blessed. Proverbs 3:18
Its ways are pleasantness, and all its paths are peace. Proverbs 3:17
Help us turn to You, and we shall return. Renew our lives as in days of old. Lamentations 5:21