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Blog - Proverbs 1:4


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For all the blogs in this series, click here: Proverbs Commentary.

Proverbs 1:4

"To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion." (Pro 1:4)


Solomon here concludes his stated reasons for authoring the book of Proverbs by giving two more objectives. Firstly, he wrote his proverbs "to give subtilty to the simple." Subtilty (subtlety), when used of persons, the mind, or its faculties or operations, is "acuteness, sagacity, penetration: in modern use chiefly with implication of delicate or keen perception of fine distinctions or nice points" (OED). A man endued with subtilty has a mind that is sharp and keen which can penetrate through complex and convoluted ideas and perceive fine distinctions which are key to discerning the truth of the matter.

The simple are "those who are unlearned, ignorant, easily misled, unsuspecting, etc. An ignorant or foolish person" (OED). To "know wisdom" and "perceive the words of understanding" (Pro 1:2) requires that the mind be subtle, able to sort through false and extraneous information to find the truth hidden therein. The simple-minded have no such ability, for "wisdom is before him that hath understanding; but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth" (Pro 17:24). The simple have not a focused mind capable of penetration and keen perception, but rather are scatter-brained, chasing every thought that skips across their feeble mind. How can the simple man rectify his problem and become wise? The solution is simple: read the Proverbs and meditate therein (Jos 1:8; Psa 1:2), for God's word gives understanding to, and makes wise, the simple.

Psa 19:7 - The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.

Psa 119:130 - The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.

Solomon's final purpose for writing his proverbs is to give "the young man knowledge and discretion." Man is born with a problem: stupidity. "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child" (Pro 22:15), and anyone who has ever been one, or raised one, knows this fact full well. Man's default intellectual state is ignorance, which is why the scriptures exhort parents to "train up a child in the way he should go" (Pro 22:6), and fathers to "bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Eph 6:4).

Parents must do their part to educate their children when they are young, but every young man is himself responsible to "get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding" (Pro 4:7). Where should the young man look to find knowledge and wisdom? The psalmist asked and answered that question for us: "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word" (Psa 119:9). Reading the proverbs, which are part of God's word, will give the young man "more understanding than all [his] teachers" when they are his meditation, and cause him to "understand more than the ancients" when he keeps them (Psa 119:99-100).

Along with lacking knowledge, the young man also naturally lacks discretion which is "ability to discern or distinguish what is right, befitting, or advisable, esp. as regards one's own conduct or action; the quality of being discreet; discernment; prudence, sagacity, circumspection, sound judgement" (OED). A short survey of the decisions and actions of youth thoroughly establishes this fact. One need only consider the friends, lovers, food, and entertainment chosen by the average youth, uninfluenced by his parents and the word of God, to consent wholeheartedly to this truth.

What to do to solve this problem which plagues the youth? If the young man will receive God's words, hide them within him, incline his ear unto wisdom, apply his heart to understanding, cry after knowledge, lift up his voice for understanding, and seek it as he would search for silver and hid treasures, then he will find the understanding, knowledge, and wisdom of God (Pro 2:1-6); and when he does, discretion shall preserve him and understanding shall keep him from the evil man and the strange woman that will snare so many of his foolish friends (Pro 2:10-22).


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For the previous blog in this series, click here: Proverbs 1:3.
For the next blog in this series, click here: Proverbs 1:5.

For all the blogs in this series, click here: Proverbs Commentary.