What does it say?
The first part of Proverbs 22 continues in the same pattern we have seen since chapter 10. Proverbs 10-15 contained mostly antithetic proverbs, while chapters 16 until now have been mostly synthetic and synonymous. A big change comes in Proverbs 22:17. What follows until the end of the book are what some call extended proverbs. I like to call them proverb clusters. We will also see epigrams, more couplets, an oracle and an acrostic.
Some call Proverbs 22:17 through 24:22 the Thirty Sayings of the Wise, because thirty sayings is an alternate translation of excellent things in 22:20. The last part of chapter 24 (24:23-34) is formed of six more sayings of the wise. So, there are 36 sayings of the wise altogether in this passage. Most scholars believe that Solomon did not personally write these sayings because the wise in 22:17 and 24:23 is plural, as in a group of wise individuals, not just one. Proverbs 22:17-21 introduces these sayings of the wise ones (sages).
What does it mean?
Proverbs 22:6 has produced much guilt in the lives of sincere parents who have done their best to train (channel) their children in the ways of God’s wisdom. Again we remember that these maxims are general truths applied to specific situations and not necessarily absolute guarantees, because they are conditioned by mitigating circumstances and other variables that override the general truth. See, for example, verse 3-4, 9, 16 and 29 in this same passage to see other general truths that are not necessarily absolute guarantees.
Another example of a general parenting truth appears in 23:13-14 where the discipline of the rod is advocated as a means of correction. However, 23:15-16 provide balance by pointing to the choices and responses of the child as being just as part of the process and the parents’ discipline. Context is also important, both culturally and linguistically, for the modern reader to understand that the rod is not an abusive and angry reaction of parents, but rather a measured, calculated discipline (one of several in Proverbs) that aims to bring a child into a position of obedient submission and learning.
The same principles of learning to wisely discern between principles and unconditional promises, context, and accounting for other variables in the application of truth will guide you in the rest of this passage.
How will I respond?
Which of these wise sayings spoke most into the circumstances of my life today, or those of someone in my sphere of influence? How will I apply this truth to my life of that of another?