Proverbs Chapter 22
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Before we get started, consider what the writer wrote was the purposes behind proverbs:


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

2 To know wisdom and instruction,
To discern the sayings of understanding,
3 To receive instruction in wise behavior,
Righteousness, justice and equity;
4 To give prudence to the naive,
To the youth knowledge and discretion,
5 A wise man will hear and increase in learning,
And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel,
6 To understand a proverb and a figure,
The words of the wise and their riddles.
- Proverbs 1:1-6


Proverbs are given so that it's readers may know wisdom, knowledge, instruction, and understanding (v2, v4, v6) to give caution to the naive (v4), discretion to the young (v4), to make a wise man wiser (v5) and to make life application of these resources (v2, v3, v5, v6).


No where in here does it state the proverbs are direct promises from God. All scripture is God inspired (2 Tim. 3:16) and this includes Proverbs. However the entire book of proverbs must be read given the context of it's opening 6 verses. If you regard, as you should, proverbs being scripture from God than you must also regard these first 6 verses which were put here by God for His reason, so that we may understand the context of the next 31 chapters of Proverbs.


That said, now let's look at Proverbs 22:6


Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.
- Proverbs 22:6


It is important to know the purpose behind proverbs so that you understand this verse in it's context. Strict reading of this proverb has haunted parents whose children have abandoned the Christian values that they so prayerfully attempted to instill in them. In viewing this is a direct promise from God they either feel they must have failed as they did not hold up their part, that is, to train up a child in the way he should go. Or they feel God failed in holding up His end of the bargain in keeping the child from departing from they way, they as parents, trained him up in.


Before we elaborate on this verse consider these examples.


First, look at the writer himself, Solomon, son of David (David who was a man after God's own heart, 1 Sam. 13:14, Acts 13:22). Solomon who was raised by David, in response to his prayer for a decerning heart, (1 Kings 3:6-9) God went above and beyond giving Solomon wisdom and discernment which had never been known among mere men before him nor after.


12 behold, I have done according to your words. Behold, I have given you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you. - 1 Kings 3:12


Then, 8 chapters later, Solomon turns from God.


4 For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. - 1 Kings 11:4


Remember our proverb? “Even when he is old he will not depart from it”. Though David's heart was wholly devoted to God, Solomon in his heart, turned away.


Consider the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32. The oldest brother who remained with the father that “never neglected a command” of his (v. 29) was raised with his younger brother under the same council. Yet the younger left his father to a distant country and “squandered his estate with loose living”.


In the case of Solomon, his love for his wives turned his heart from God. In the case of the Prodigal Son his decision to live according to his fleshly desires drove his decision to leave the father.


It wasn't that Solomon or the Prodigal didn't know better or somehow lacked understanding. It was that they chose to not listen to that understanding and they both had forsaken they way they once had. Noticed what happened after the Prodigal spent time suffering by his own demise.


7 “But when he came to his senses...” - Luke 15:17a


He came to his senses. What were his senses? That he was being foolish in his starvation (v. 17) and that he had sinned against heaven and his father (v. 18). Where did he learn this? Where else could he have learned this, from his upbringing.


I'm not saying all children come to their senses. Notice the beginning part of Proverbs 22:6 states “in the way he should go”. Solomon knew as his father David knew. The prodigal knew. Having knowledge and understanding can be imparted by the training of their parents. Acting on it is entirely up to the host.


Consider one more example, God and Israel.


17 Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel,

"I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit,
Who leads you in the way you should go.
18 “If only you had paid attention to My commandments!
Then your well-being would have been like a river,
And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.
- Isaiah 48:17-18


God himself lead them in the way they “should go” (v. 17, and notice the similar verbiage to Proverbs 22:6). However, as we read in verse 18, even though they were trained by God they now did not pay attention to His commandments which were given to result in their well-being.


Did you hear the cry in verse 18 above? The cry out of a father over his children “If only you had paid attention to My commandments!” If only. That is the cry of one effected deep in their heart. In our lives, the things that impact us most often bring up the “If only's”. In our pain we stew on it, we relive the trauma, and we bring up the “if only's”. Let's look further into the heart of God in this matter. Let's look at Jesus who was God incarnate. Jesus at the end of His discourse when He's teaching on how it cannot be that a prophet would perish outside of Jerusalem (Luke 13:33). It's almost as if you can see Jesus demeanor change between that verse and the next. Listening to the following words you can hear the anguish in His heart. I would liken it to someone reminding you of a loved one you've lost thus drawing your focus to a point of deep hurt and anguish in your heart. Consider the following words of Jesus who starts out by simply repeated the name of His lost loved one.


34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! - Luke 13:34


and you would not have it!” Similarly to Isaiah 48:18 when God crys “If only you had paid attention to My commandments” In both verses you can hear the anger derived from the pain deep in God's heart. The same God who would gladly take the cross (Heb. 12:2) before seeing such ruin come to His children (1 John 2:2). If talking about Jerusalem caused this kind of painful memory in Christ, how's He going to react when He see's it?


41 When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, 44 and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” - Luke 19:41


God's anguish caused by His children not keeping in the way that they were trained in was one of the earliest records in the Bible. Genesis 3 we read about the fall of man, and how Adam and Even strayed from the way they should go in that they should not eat from the tree of knowledge. Then just 3 chapters later, in Genesis 6:5-6, God saw the destruction of His children by their own devices and verse 6 says “The Lord was sorry He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart”.


In light of reading Proverbs 22:6, if God, who created Adam and Eve, who instructed them personally, if God Himself was the one who trained them up, and then Adam and Eve failed, did God goof? Absolutely not! God knows every decision we will ever make even before He forms us in the womb (Jer. 1:5, Psa. 139:13). The error wasn't in supplying the children in what they need and how to walk but rather in their children choosing to walk in the wisely in the instructions given.


As parents we are to equip our children with the tools needed (knowledge) and the upright path to take (understanding). It is up to the kids to use the tools they have and to walk the way they know is right (wisdom). Take a look at Proverbs 4:10-13 at a Father's instruction for His children. Notice the Father's part, and the plea for the son to respond accordingly.


10 Hear, my son, and accept my sayings
And the years of your life will be many.
11 I have directed you in the way of wisdom;
I have led you in upright paths.
12 When you walk, your steps will not be impeded;
And if you run, you will not stumble.
13 Take hold of instruction; do not let go.
Guard her, for she is your life.
- Proverbs 4:10-13


“Hear, my son, and accept my sayings” (v10). What part of that verse is the parents responsibility and what part of that verse is the sons? Similarly in verse 13 The father pleas with his son to “Take hold of instruction; do not let go.” Again the Father can instruct but it's the son who must keep them.


What I am getting at is this; raising our children in the right way does not negate our children's ability to choose. An ability we have that's so powerful that it can even counter God's will for our well-being and can even result in our own destruction. I know I'm raising some eyebrows to those who lean toward predestination, that's entirely another topic in itself. For this study I will say this, I agree with predestination. I also agree with freewill. I think anyone who says it's one or the other lacks understanding on the subject.


The reason I covered the above before actually elaborating on what Proverbs 22:6 means itself is that it's easier in this case to rule out what the verse does not and can not mean than to completely decipher what the verse is in fact stating. So far we've learned by reading Proverbs 1:1-6 that Proverbs are meant to give understanding so that one can gain wisdom from God and we've ruled out and now know that this is not a direct promise from God, and by multiple biblical examples we've shown that to be proven. If a child could not depart from the way he was trained to go, then instructions such as Proverbs 1:8 would not be needed.


8 Hear, my son, your father’s instruction
And do not forsake your mother’s teaching;
- Proverbs 1:8


Proverb 22:6 is a “proverb”. The word proverb means “to be like”. Proverbs are principles of right living and general descriptions of life's realities. The bible itself refers to proverbs as “sayings of the wise” (Prov. 24:23) and “sayings and riddles of the wise” (Prov. 1:6). Since the book of Proverbs is part of the Bible's wisdom literature (like Job and Ecclesiastes) it is appropriate to interpret its contents differently than, say, a historical account. Proverbs are not necessarily to be taken literally, and they are not promises; rather, they are an acknowledgment of a common reality. For example let's look at Proverbs 3:1-2


3 My son, do not forget my teaching,
But let your heart keep my commandments;
2 For length of days and years of life
And peace they will add to you.
- Proverbs 3:1-2


If one takes this as a promise rather than a proverb than such a one is setting themselves up for confusion when their life and what they see does not line up with what they believe to be a promise from God. Generally speaking doing good and keeping God's commandments do prolong our lives as they keep us from trouble. However, many of us are first hand witnesses of God's saint's being called home young. Do not forget God's heart regarding such precious ones:


15 Precious in the sight of the Lord
Is the death of His godly ones.
- Proverbs 116:15


It is important that we realize the difference between a proverb and a promise. There are even worldly proverbs. For example, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”. This may be considered basic physical health wisdom that if we eat right, generally, we are healthier and therefore don't warrant a doctor like one who consumes unhealthy foods. We would however never take such a proverb as a promise, how devastating would that be? The biblical proverbs are set apart from worldly proverbs in that it is actual sayings of the wise as it's source is God. On the contrary, the world is full of proverbs derived from foolishness. For example, “It is better to ask for forgiveness than permission”. This is simply a proverb pointing out the easy way of getting what you want and ignoring the consequences. This is not Godly wisdom, this is worldly insight in how to get your way when you know it's disapproved by the authority who controls it.


Now, in this understanding let's revisit proverbs 22:6 and a few others that are generally true and are most definitely wise but not necessarily meant to be taken literally as a promise in every scenario.


6 Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.
- Proverbs 22:6


I picked this following proverb specifically as they pertain to our original proverb and for many who struggle in regards to proverb 22:6 being a promise they may have also struggled with the following.


28 Her children rise up and bless her;
Her husband
also, and he praises her, saying:
29 “Many daughters have done nobly,
But you excel them all.”
- Proverbs 31:28-29


The above proverb is in reference to the “excellent wife” mentioned in proverbs 31:10 yet this is not a promise that if a wife does the things mentioned in this proverbial discourse than the things mentioned in this above two verses are guaranteed to happen. If we are going to take this literally than there can be no deviation either. What I mean is that if the above proverbs were promises than each husband would be bound to tell such an “excellent wife” exactly what is written in verse 29.


I do not mean to minimize proverbs, not at all, Many proverbs are even prophetic in nature, consider Proverbs 30:4 for example. Psalms similarly was often prophetic and often in the New Testament was the fulfillment of what was written in the Psalms (see Psalms 22 for example). I'm not minimizing proverbs I'm just stressing the importance of understanding their purpose in our lives which brings me back to what we discussed in the beginning. What proverbs themselves describe as their purpose.


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

2 To know wisdom and instruction,
To discern the sayings of understanding,
3 To receive instruction in wise behavior,
Righteousness, justice and equity;
4 To give prudence to the naive,
To the youth knowledge and discretion,
5 A wise man will hear and increase in learning,
And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel,
6 To understand a proverb and a figure,
The words of the wise and their riddles.
- Proverbs 1:1-6


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