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Blog - Proverbs 1:5

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Proverbs 1:5

"A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:" (Pro 1:5)


Solomon here sets forth the first of many characteristics of a wise man; a theme on which he will spend the rest of the book elaborating. A wise man will hear. Now there is hearing, and then there is hearing. Hearing, in its primary sense (to perceive, or have the sensation of, sound - OED), is something done by wise and foolish alike. But hearing, in the context of this verse (to exercise the auditory function intentionally; to give ear, hearken, listen - OED), is something unique to the wise.

We know that the second definition is the proper one in this instance based on the result of the hearing: "a wise man will hear, and will increase learning." In order to increase learning, a man must not merely perceive with his ear minute changes in air pressure caused by the voice of another, but must do so intentionally, and listen intently to what is being said.

The Pharisees audibly heard the words that Jesus spoke which was evidenced by the fact that they wanted to kill Him for what He said.

Joh 8:37 - I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.
Joh 8:38 - I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.

But they did not hear with understanding because they could not, for they were spiritually deaf and dead children of the devil.

Joh 8:43 - Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.
Joh 8:44 - Ye are of your father the devil...
Joh 8:47 - He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.

Therefore, for a man to be wise and increase learning, he must first be born of God to be able to hear God's words with understanding. To learn wisdom, Jesus Christ must first give a man the ability to understand, that he may know Him that is true (1Jo 5:20), He who is the wisdom of God (1Co 1:24). Only then can a man do as Solomon bade him and "bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply thine heart unto my knowledge" (Pro 22:17).

The next distinctive of a wise man is that he is "a man of understanding [who] shall attain unto wise counsels" (Pro 1:5). A wise man has enough sense to know that he doesn't know everything. There are two ways to be wise: either know information personally, or know where to find it when needed. A man of understanding realizes that he doesn't need to be an expert in every discipline, but need only know someone who is.

When he needs to increase his learning, rather than proudly and foolishly staying at home trying to figure it out himself, he instead attains unto wise counsel. To attain is "to come so far as, succeed in coming to, get (to). to attain to = reach, arrive at" (OED). He doesn't wait for wise counsel to come to him, rather, he rather goes to it.

The only man that will learn is he who wants to learn, and voluntarily seeks instruction. There is an old adage which says, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." This is why it's a fool's errand to send most young people to college with a check in their hand, expecting them to get an education. As Solomon later wrote: "Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?" (Pro 17:16).


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For the previous blog in this series, click here: Proverbs 1:4.
For the next blog in this series, click here: Proverbs 1:6.

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