What does it say?
Love of wisdom is the focus of Proverbs 4 and it has three sections. The first nine verses are fatherly advice to get wisdom above all things. Pro 4:10-19 contrast the ways of wisdom and evil, while Pro 4:20-27 emphasize the need for persistence in pursuing the ways of wisdom.
Proverbs 5 begins a theme in Proverbs warning against sexual sin. Pro 5:1-6 warn against the temptation, 5:7-14 describe the consequences of unfaithfulness and 5:15-23 encourage faithfulness.
Warnings against other types of temptation open Proverbs 6. In Pro 6:20-35 the focus returns to sexual sin and gives a stern warning against adultery.
What does it mean?
Remember that Proverbs 1:10 through chapter 9 are a series of 15 “sonnets”, or discourses, of fatherly advice. There is no attempt to organize and order the themes in this section as Western writers might do. You will see the same themes pop up in no apparent order. The structure is found in the 15 discourses that act as vehicles to communicate the shared wisdom.
People in the contemporary West sometimes criticize what they consider “sexist” language in the Bible, with constant male subjects and pronouns. A couple of comments are appropriate here. First, the most important principle for biblical understanding is context. It is simply a fact that the cultures in which the Bible was written were ones in which women did not have the same voice, visibility and equality as many enjoy today. In today’s reading for example, the warnings against sexual sin are all given from a male perspective. The modern reader should not be offended, but understand the context in which God spoke these words through his servants and simply “turn the tables” and apply to both genders. We know that sexual temptation as well as sexual sin and its consequences are not gender specific.
Second, as you understand more fully the cultural context you will begin to realize that the Bible is remarkably forward thinking in terms of gender equality, even in the Old Testament. Right here in Proverbs you will later see God presented in a feminine image! Stories are told of women, opportunities and voices given that would never happen outside the Bible. We’ll look for other examples as we go along.
How will I respond?
What one verse or portion arrested me in this reading? Today, I will repeat this verse to myself at least ten times and spend a few minutes meditating on it. What does it say? What does it mean in its proper context? What one step will I take to make application of this truth to my life today?