Wisdom, as in the Old Testament, is a God-given and God-centered discernment regarding the practical issues in life. Wisdom comes from prayer for God’s help. God gives generously (with “single-minded” liberality) and without reproach (he does not want anyone to hesitate to come to him).
All commentary sections adapted from the ESV Study Bible.
1. Proverbs 1:7
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction. Read More
This is the core maxim of the book: the quest for wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord (cf. Ps. 9:10 and Ps. 111:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom”). “Knowledge” and “wisdom” are closely tied together in Proverbs: “knowledge” tends to focus on correct understanding of the world and oneself as creatures of the magnificent and loving God, while “wisdom” is the acquired skill of applying that knowledge rightly, or “skill in the art of godly living”. On the fear of the Lord, see notes on Acts 5:5; 9:31; Rom. 3:18; Phil. 2:12–13; 1 Pet. 1:17; 1 John 4:18. The reason that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of both knowledge and wisdom is that the moral life begins with reverence and humility before the Maker and Redeemer. The idea of a quest for knowledge sets biblical wisdom in the broad context of the ancient Near Eastern quest for truth, and this verse also validates such a quest as legitimate and good. Thus it affirms a kind of “creational revelation,” the idea that one can find moral and theological truth through observing the world.
At the same time, it distinguishes the biblical pursuit of knowledge and wisdom from those of the surrounding cultures, for it asserts that submission to the Lord is foundational to the attainment of real understanding (cf. Ps. 111:10; Prov. 9:10). By using the covenant name “the LORD” in preference to the more generic “God,” this verse makes the point that truth is found through Israel’s God. In addition, the verse asserts that fools despise wisdom and instruction, thus setting up the alternative between the two ways of wisdom and folly. This contrast dominates the entire book, as the way of wisdom, righteousness, and the fear of the Lord is set against the way of folly, evil, and scoffing.
2. Proverbs 3:5–6
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.* Read More
Subordinating one’s own understanding to the Lord is in keeping with the major thesis of Proverbs, that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Trust in the LORD is necessary for fulfilling any of the wise ways of life taught in Proverbs; trusting the Lord is closely connected to “fearing” him (cf. Prov. 1:7; 2:5; Prov. 9:10; Prov. 15:33; Prov. 19:23; etc.). “With all your heart” indicates that trust goes beyond intellectual assent to a deep reliance on the Lord, a settled confidence in his care and his faithfulness to his word. “Do not lean on your own understanding” further explains trusting in the Lord. One’s “understanding” in Proverbs is his perception of the right course of action. The wise will govern themselves by what the Lord himself declares, and will not set their own finite and often-mistaken understanding against his.
To make straight a person’s paths means to make the course of the person’s life one that continually progresses toward a goal. In Proverbs, the emphasis is on the moral quality of one’s life path (here, its moral “straightness”).
3. James 1:5
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. Read More
Believers are to have an undivided faith, asking for wisdom from their ever-wise and all-generous God. James addresses the believer who lacks wisdom in handling trials. Wisdom, as in the Old Testament, is a God-given and God-centered discernment regarding the practical issues in life. Wisdom comes from prayer for God’s help. God gives generously (with “single-minded” liberality) and without reproach (he does not want anyone to hesitate to come to him).
4. Ephesians 5:6–10
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Read More