Proverbs NIV




Israel understood that the Creator had placed an order in his world that could be discovered. The book of Proverbs captures these lessons in compact, memorable sayings passed down from the wisest among their elders. Many of them are from Solomon, a king renowned for his wisdom (see 1 Kings 4:29-34). These proverbs are especially designed to help younger people avoid common pitfalls and find the path to prosperity, health and security.

After a short section of teaching, wisdom itself, personified as a woman, calls out to the simple and invites them to grow in knowledge. This section ends by presenting two banquets, one hosted by Wisdom and one by Folly, illustrating the essential choice to be made in life. A collection of 375 proverbs of Solomon follows, reflecting the numerical value of his name in Hebrew. (Hebrew letters were also used as numbers, so words had a value equal to the sum of their letters.) After some “sayings of the wise,” next is a collection of Solomon’s wisdom compiled by the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah. Here the count is 130, equaling the value of Hezekiah’s name. The book closes with sayings from Agur and Lemuel, ending with a poem whose 22 parts begin with consecutive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The character qualities praised throughout the book are seen in a description of the ideal wife.

This rich book of short, pithy wisdom presents a consistent theme: the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.

Purpose and Theme

The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:

for gaining wisdom and instruction;

for understanding words of insight;

for receiving instruction in prudent behavior,

doing what is right and just and fair;

for giving prudence to those who are simple,1:4 The Hebrew word rendered simple in Proverbs denotes a person who is gullible, without moral direction and inclined to evil.

knowledge and discretion to the young—

let the wise listen and add to their learning,

and let the discerning get guidance—

for understanding proverbs and parables,

the sayings and riddles of the wise.1:6 Or understanding a proverb, namely, a parable, / and the sayings of the wise, their riddles

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,

but fools1:7 The Hebrew words rendered fool in Proverbs, and often elsewhere in the Old Testament, denote a person who is morally deficient. despise wisdom and instruction.

Prologue: Exhortations to Embrace Wisdom

Warning Against the Invitation of Sinful Men

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction

and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.

They are a garland to grace your head

and a chain to adorn your neck.

My son, if sinful men entice you,

do not give in to them.

If they say, “Come along with us;

let’s lie in wait for innocent blood,

let’s ambush some harmless soul;

let’s swallow them alive, like the grave,

and whole, like those who go down to the pit;

we will get all sorts of valuable things

and fill our houses with plunder;

cast lots with us;

we will all share the loot”—

my son, do not go along with them,

do not set foot on their paths;

for their feet rush into evil,

they are swift to shed blood.

How useless to spread a net

where every bird can see it!

These men lie in wait for their own blood;

they ambush only themselves!

Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain;

it takes away the life of those who get it.

Wisdom’s Rebuke

Out in the open wisdom calls aloud,

she raises her voice in the public square;

on top of the wall1:21 Septuagint; Hebrew / at noisy street corners she cries out,

at the city gate she makes her speech:

“How long will you who are simple love your simple ways?

How long will mockers delight in mockery

and fools hate knowledge?

Repent at my rebuke!

Then I will pour out my thoughts to you,

I will make known to you my teachings.

But since you refuse to listen when I call

and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand,

since you disregard all my advice

and do not accept my rebuke,

I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you;

I will mock when calamity overtakes you—

when calamity overtakes you like a storm,

when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind,

when distress and trouble overwhelm you.

“Then they will call to me but I will not answer;

they will look for me but will not find me,

since they hated knowledge

and did not choose to fear the Lord.

Since they would not accept my advice

and spurned my rebuke,

they will eat the fruit of their ways

and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.

For the waywardness of the simple will kill them,

and the complacency of fools will destroy them;

but whoever listens to me will live in safety

and be at ease, without fear of harm.”

Moral Benefits of Wisdom

My son, if you accept my words

and store up my commands within you,

turning your ear to wisdom

and applying your heart to understanding—

indeed, if you call out for insight

and cry aloud for understanding,

and if you look for it as for silver

and search for it as for hidden treasure,

then you will understand the fear of the Lord

and find the knowledge of God.

For the Lord gives wisdom;

from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

He holds success in store for the upright,

he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,

for he guards the course of the just

and protects the way of his faithful ones.

Then you will understand what is right and just

and fair—every good path.

For wisdom will enter your heart,

and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.

Discretion will protect you,

and understanding will guard you.

Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men,

from men whose words are perverse,

who have left the straight paths

to walk in dark ways,

who delight in doing wrong

and rejoice in the perverseness of evil,

whose paths are crooked

and who are devious in their ways.

Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman,

from the wayward woman with her seductive words,

who has left the partner of her youth

and ignored the covenant she made before God.2:17 Or covenant of her God

Surely her house leads down to death

and her paths to the spirits of the dead.

None who go to her return

or attain the paths of life.

Thus you will walk in the ways of the good

and keep to the paths of the righteous.

For the upright will live in the land,

and the blameless will remain in it;

but the wicked will be cut off from the land,

and the unfaithful will be torn from it.

Wisdom Bestows Well-Being

My son, do not forget my teaching,

but keep my commands in your heart,

for they will prolong your life many years

and bring you peace and prosperity.

Let love and faithfulness never leave you;

bind them around your neck,

write them on the tablet of your heart.

Then you will win favor and a good name

in the sight of God and man.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart

and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways submit to him,

and he will make your paths straight.3:6 Or will direct your paths

Do not be wise in your own eyes;

fear the Lord and shun evil.

This will bring health to your body

and nourishment to your bones.

Honor the Lord with your wealth,

with the firstfruits of all your crops;

then your barns will be filled to overflowing,

and your vats will brim over with new wine.

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,

and do not resent his rebuke,

because the Lord disciplines those he loves,

as a father the son he delights in.3:12 Hebrew; Septuagint loves, / and he chastens everyone he accepts as his child

Blessed are those who find wisdom,

those who gain understanding,

for she is more profitable than silver

and yields better returns than gold.

She is more precious than rubies;

nothing you desire can compare with her.

Long life is in her right hand;

in her left hand are riches and honor.

Her ways are pleasant ways,

and all her paths are peace.

She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;

those who hold her fast will be blessed.

By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations,

by understanding he set the heavens in place;

by his knowledge the watery depths were divided,

and the clouds let drop the dew.

My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight,

preserve sound judgment and discretion;

they will be life for you,

an ornament to grace your neck.

Then you will go on your way in safety,

and your foot will not stumble.

When you lie down, you will not be afraid;

when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.

Have no fear of sudden disaster

or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,

for the Lord will be at your side

and will keep your foot from being snared.

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,

when it is in your power to act.

Do not say to your neighbor,

“Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—

when you already have it with you.

Do not plot harm against your neighbor,

who lives trustfully near you.

Do not accuse anyone for no reason—

when they have done you no harm.

Do not envy the violent

or choose any of their ways.

For the Lord detests the perverse

but takes the upright into his confidence.

The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked,

but he blesses the home of the righteous.

He mocks proud mockers

but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.

The wise inherit honor,

but fools get only shame.

Get Wisdom at Any Cost

Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction;

pay attention and gain understanding.

I give you sound learning,

so do not forsake my teaching.

For I too was a son to my father,

still tender, and cherished by my mother.

Then he taught me, and he said to me,

“Take hold of my words with all your heart;

keep my commands, and you will live.

Get wisdom, get understanding;

do not forget my words or turn away from them.

Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;

love her, and she will watch over you.

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get4:7 Or Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom.

Though it cost all you have,4:7 Or wisdom. / Whatever else you get get understanding.

Cherish her, and she will exalt you;

embrace her, and she will honor you.

She will give you a garland to grace your head

and present you with a glorious crown.”

Listen, my son, accept what I say,

and the years of your life will be many.

I instruct you in the way of wisdom

and lead you along straight paths.

When you walk, your steps will not be hampered;

when you run, you will not stumble.

Hold on to instruction, do not let it go;

guard it well, for it is your life.

Do not set foot on the path of the wicked

or walk in the way of evildoers.

Avoid it, do not travel on it;

turn from it and go on your way.

For they cannot rest until they do evil;

they are robbed of sleep till they make someone stumble.

They eat the bread of wickedness

and drink the wine of violence.

The path of the righteous is like the morning sun,

shining ever brighter till the full light of day.

But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness;

they do not know what makes them stumble.

My son, pay attention to what I say;

turn your ear to my words.

Do not let them out of your sight,

keep them within your heart;

for they are life to those who find them

and health to one’s whole body.

Above all else, guard your heart,

for everything you do flows from it.

Keep your mouth free of perversity;

keep corrupt talk far from your lips.

Let your eyes look straight ahead;

fix your gaze directly before you.

Give careful thought to the4:26 Or Make level paths for your feet

and be steadfast in all your ways.

Do not turn to the right or the left;

keep your foot from evil.

Warning Against Adultery

My son, pay attention to my wisdom,

turn your ear to my words of insight,

that you may maintain discretion

and your lips may preserve knowledge.

For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey,

and her speech is smoother than oil;

but in the end she is bitter as gall,

sharp as a double-edged sword.

Her feet go down to death;

her steps lead straight to the grave.

She gives no thought to the way of life;

her paths wander aimlessly, but she does not know it.

Now then, my sons, listen to me;

do not turn aside from what I say.

Keep to a path far from her,

do not go near the door of her house,

lest you lose your honor to others

and your dignity5:9 Or years to one who is cruel,

lest strangers feast on your wealth

and your toil enrich the house of another.

At the end of your life you will groan,

when your flesh and body are spent.

You will say, “How I hated discipline!

How my heart spurned correction!

I would not obey my teachers

or turn my ear to my instructors.

And I was soon in serious trouble

in the assembly of God’s people.”

Drink water from your own cistern,

running water from your own well.

Should your springs overflow in the streets,

your streams of water in the public squares?

Let them be yours alone,

never to be shared with strangers.

May your fountain be blessed,

and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.

A loving doe, a graceful deer—

may her breasts satisfy you always,

may you ever be intoxicated with her love.

Why, my son, be intoxicated with another man’s wife?

Why embrace the bosom of a wayward woman?

For your ways are in full view of the Lord,

and he examines all your paths.

The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare them;

the cords of their sins hold them fast.

For lack of discipline they will die,

led astray by their own great folly.

Warnings Against Folly

My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor,

if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger,

you have been trapped by what you said,

ensnared by the words of your mouth.

So do this, my son, to free yourself,

since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands:

Go—to the point of exhaustion—6:3 Or Go and humble yourself,

and give your neighbor no rest!

Allow no sleep to your eyes,

no slumber to your eyelids.

Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter,

like a bird from the snare of the fowler.

Go to the ant, you sluggard;

consider its ways and be wise!

It has no commander,

no overseer or ruler,

yet it stores its provisions in summer

and gathers its food at harvest.

How long will you lie there, you sluggard?

When will you get up from your sleep?

A little sleep, a little slumber,

a little folding of the hands to rest—

and poverty will come on you like a thief

and scarcity like an armed man.

A troublemaker and a villain,

who goes about with a corrupt mouth,

who winks maliciously with his eye,

signals with his feet

and motions with his fingers,

who plots evil with deceit in his heart—

he always stirs up conflict.

Therefore disaster will overtake him in an instant;

he will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.

There are six things the Lord hates,

seven that are detestable to him:

haughty eyes,

a lying tongue,

hands that shed innocent blood,

a heart that devises wicked schemes,

feet that are quick to rush into evil,

a false witness who pours out lies

and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

Warning Against Adultery

My son, keep your father’s command

and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.

Bind them always on your heart;

fasten them around your neck.

When you walk, they will guide you;

when you sleep, they will watch over you;

when you awake, they will speak to you.

For this command is a lamp,

this teaching is a light,

and correction and instruction

are the way to life,

keeping you from your neighbor’s wife,

from the smooth talk of a wayward woman.

Do not lust in your heart after her beauty

or let her captivate you with her eyes.

For a prostitute can be had for a loaf of bread,

but another man’s wife preys on your very life.

Can a man scoop fire into his lap

without his clothes being burned?

Can a man walk on hot coals

without his feet being scorched?

So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife;

no one who touches her will go unpunished.

People do not despise a thief if he steals

to satisfy his hunger when he is starving.

Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold,

though it costs him all the wealth of his house.

But a man who commits adultery has no sense;

whoever does so destroys himself.

Blows and disgrace are his lot,

and his shame will never be wiped away.

For jealousy arouses a husband’s fury,

and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge.

He will not accept any compensation;

he will refuse a bribe, however great it is.

Warning Against the Adulterous Woman

My son, keep my words

and store up my commands within you.

Keep my commands and you will live;

guard my teachings as the apple of your eye.

Bind them on your fingers;

write them on the tablet of your heart.

Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,”

and to insight, “You are my relative.”

They will keep you from the adulterous woman,

from the wayward woman with her seductive words.

At the window of my house

I looked down through the lattice.

I saw among the simple,

I noticed among the young men,

a youth who had no sense.

He was going down the street near her corner,

walking along in the direction of her house

at twilight, as the day was fading,

as the dark of night set in.

Then out came a woman to meet him,

dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent.

(She is unruly and defiant,

her feet never stay at home;

now in the street, now in the squares,

at every corner she lurks.)

She took hold of him and kissed him

and with a brazen face she said:

“Today I fulfilled my vows,

and I have food from my fellowship offering at home.

So I came out to meet you;

I looked for you and have found you!

I have covered my bed

with colored linens from Egypt.

I have perfumed my bed

with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.

Come, let’s drink deeply of love till morning;

let’s enjoy ourselves with love!

My husband is not at home;

he has gone on a long journey.

He took his purse filled with money

and will not be home till full moon.”

With persuasive words she led him astray;

she seduced him with her smooth talk.

All at once he followed her

like an ox going to the slaughter,

like a deer7:22 Syriac (see also Septuagint); Hebrew fool stepping into a noose7:22 The meaning of the Hebrew for this line is uncertain.

till an arrow pierces his liver,

like a bird darting into a snare,

little knowing it will cost him his life.

Now then, my sons, listen to me;

pay attention to what I say.

Read More of Proverbs 1