Hear, my son, your father’s instruction
And do not forsake your mother’s teaching;
Indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head
And ornaments about your neck.
My son, if sinners entice you,
Do not consent.
If they say, “Come with us,
Let us lie in wait for blood,
Let us ambush the innocent without cause;
Let us swallow them alive like Sheol,
Even whole, as those who go down to the pit;
We will find all kinds of precious wealth,
We will fill our houses with spoil;
Throw in your lot with us,
We shall all have one purse,”
My son, do not walk in the way with them.
Keep your feet from their path,
For their feet run to evil
And they hasten to shed blood.
Indeed, it is useless to spread the baited net
In the sight of any bird;
But they lie in wait for their own blood;
They ambush their own lives.
So are the ways of everyone who gains by violence;
It takes away the life of its possessors.
On the introductory blog to this series, we discussed the need to diligently study the book of Proverbs and how this book is particularly targeted towards young men and women. We now look at the first lesson of the book of Proverbs, which is an exhortation to reject the enticement of sinners.
The Reward of Wisdom
We begin with an exhortation to listen to instruction and to walk in the insight that has been passed down (v. 8). The implication is that there are ancient paths of wisdom that have been traversed by the godly and it is the responsibility of young men and women to walk in this path. Moreover, young men and women ought to build their lives on top of this instruction. In the hierarchy of authority, the parents themselves stand under Solomon’s God-inspired wisdom, and the children under the parents. This mode of instruction is repeat throughout the New Testament in which children are admonished to obey their parents in the LORD (cf. Ephesians 6:1).
Perseverance in this wisdom adorns the son with a wreath on his head and a chain around his neck, which are both symbols of honor and life (v. 9). It’s important to note that instruction and teaching are the adornments themselves; the adornments are not something future and extrinsic to them. The imagery of the wreath signifies victory and vindication over one’s enemies, as well as prestige. Similarly, all children who embrace the teaching of this book wear these teachings just as heroes wore the wreath. The fruit of their lives will be evidence of the reward for embracing these teachings. Furthermore, the imagery of necklace for the throat is not just symbolic of beauty, but it also symbolizes protection and guidance. Similarly, all who embrace the teaching of this book will be protected from the alluring enticement of sinners.
The Way of Greed vs. The Way of Wisdom
The reward of wisdom becomes particularly important when sinners do entice us. In this passage, it likely that the gang being described are the son’s peers who seek to draw him into their corruption. In particular, the gang is offering quick wealth through counterfeit means and a community based on a counterfeit worldview (i.e. they have no fear of the Lord). Although the young and naive tend to lack discernment, the father looks beyond the surface-level appeal of these sinners and exposes the true intent of their heart. In essence, the father is putting words into the sinners’ mouths that both condemn them and expose their enticement. In a similar way, the instruction of older godly saints and the instruction from the Scripture removes the rose-colored glasses of our society’s ethics and exposes the true wickedness of the world we live in. If we ignore this God-inspired wisdom, we will be the ones who will suffer the consequences.
The description of the gang from the father is rather ghastly. First, they seek to ambush the innocent (v.11), which means that they devise a coldly calculated plan against a victim and wait for the victim to fall into the trap. Second, they are in league with Sheol (v. 12). In other words, they love death and have a neurotic urge to plunder the innocent. In short, they are sinners who love their sin and are addicted to their sin. Third, their chief motivation (regardless of what they actually say) stems from covetousness and greed (v. 13-14).
In light of the true heart of this gang, the father exhorts his son: do not yield (v. 10). In other words, do not consider the plans and do not even ponder them in your heart. It is at this time in which God-inspired wisdom should be paraded about (illustrating one’s confidence and trust in God’s wisdom) and should be recited (as means of protection). Whatever enticements they use, the wicked are addicted to their sin. As the Apostle Paul writes, these sinners are walking according to the course of this world and are under the power and influence of Satan (cf. Ephesians 2:2). Because they are captivated by their sin, no one should experiment with their addiction.
Secondly, one must reject the company of these sinners because “bad company corrupts good morals” (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:33). Their company will result in calamity because God is the One who uphold justice and no one will ever escape His justice (whether it occurs in this life or in the life to come). It is well-known the way of transgressions is hard (cf. Proverbs 13:15), but the father also exposes the folly of sinners. The way of sinners is wrong, hard, AND stupid. In attempting the ambush the innocent, these sinners set an ambush for themselves because God will hold their lives into account.
With the true intention and folly of the gang exposed by the father, the wise son (with his father’s help) is now able to construct the trap of words set by the winners. Like every flying creature (v. 17-18), the wise son will take flight, for they spread their net in his full view. The father concludes his lesson by stating that the path of anyone greedy for unjust gain is analogous to these men. The unjust gain clings to the criminal and eventually destroys him. In commenting about this passage, Bruce Waltke states
The houses of these crooks, who think they are above all laws, are mansions in the best part of the city with high walls… The covetous see the world as a place of transferring wealth from the bank account of others into their own. Sinners love wealth and use people; saints love people and use wealth to help others.
In the New Testament, the same warning is given to Christians. Jesus clearly states that one cannot love God and wealth, for the one who loves wealth cannot love God (cf. Matthew 6:24). The apostle Paul repeats and expands upon this by stating that the love of wealth is the root of all kinds of evil, bringing destruction to many (cf. 1 Timothy 6:6-11). Just as the wise son will take flight from the enticement of sinners, Christians are admonished to flee the enticement associated with greed (cf. 1 Timothy 6:17-19). There are many in this world who are addicted to wealth and materialism and will use unjust methods to obtain it. The warning of this passage is clear: do not experiment with their addiction.