Proverbs Lesson 5

Ancient Wisdom for Today’s World

Lesson 5 | July 10, 2016

Prepared by Daniel L. Segraves

How the New Testament uses the Book of Proverbs

There are six allusions to Proverbs in the NT. In this lesson we will begin to look at these in the order in which they appear in Proverbs.

First Allusion

“For whom the Lord loves He corrects” (3:12a).[1]

“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten” (Rev 3:19a).

This allusion is a small portion of 3:11-12, which is quoted in full in Heb 12:5-6. As we saw when we discussed this quotation in lesson 2, the context of these verses in Proverbs includes a warning not to forget God’s law. In Hebrews, these verses warn the readers not to turn from Christ in order to return to the Law of Moses. In Revelation, two points of significance can be seen in the use of these words:

  1. The One who speaks these words is Jesus Christ (Rev 1:1-2, 5, 8-9, 11, 17-20; 2:1, 18; 3:14). In Proverbs, the One to whom these words refer is the Lord (i.e., Jehovah [Yahweh]). The fact that Jesus uses these words as His own in Revelation identifies Him as the Lord.
  2. Some think the Laodiceans had lost their salvation. This is incorrect. If they continued in their lukewarm condition they would do so, but at this time they were still a church. (See Rev 1:20.) The reason Jesus employed Pro 3:12 in His rebuke was that He loved the Laodiceans and still considered them His sons. (See Pro 3:12b.)

Second Allusion

“Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established” (4:26).

“Make straight paths for thy feet, and order thy ways aright” (LXX).

“And make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed” (Heb 12:13).

Hebrews 12:12 closely follows the wording of Isaiah 35:3, and Hebrews 12:13 alludes to the LXX rendering of Proverbs 4:26.

The context of 4:26 could be summed up in the words “watch where you’re going.” (See 4:25-27.) The idea in the larger context of chapter 4 is to avoid being distracted from good teaching (4:2), wisdom (4:5-9), and “right paths” (4:11-12). The “path of the wicked” and the “path of the just” are compared in 4:14-19. The way to “ponder” one’s path is to pay attention to right words (4:20-23) and to reject deceitful words (4:24).

In the larger context of Hebrews, the words of Hebrews 12:12 refer to the spiritual weakness of the original readers. Their limp and ineffective “hands” and weak “knees,” incapable of sustained exertion in walking or standing, relate to their dullness of hearing, for they had regressed to become babes in need of milk rather than solid food (Heb 5:11-13).[2] These words follow those of Isaiah 35:3.

“Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees” (Isaiah 35:3).

“Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees” (Heb 12:12).

The interplay of these verses between Proverbs, Hebrews, and Isaiah creates a significant network of meaning relating to the need to avoid the spiritual discouragement that comes from listening to wrong words that lead away from truth.

Those to whom Hebrews was first written were considering turning away from Christ and His New Covenant and returning to Moses and the Old Covenant (Heb 12:18-24.) This had brought them to the place of needing chastening to remind them to keep their focus on Jesus (Heb 12:2-11). The way they would strengthen their dangling hands and their feeble knees was to return to the straight paths that lead to “Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem . . . [the] church of the firstborn . . . to God the Judge of all . . . to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant” rather than to Moses an Mount Sinai (Heb 12:18-24).

The context of Isaiah 35:3 creates a breathtaking dimension of meaning concerning the identity of Jesus Christ and underscoring the reason these words are used in Hebrews 12:12 together with Proverbs 4:26 in Hebrews 12:13.

Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are fearful-hearted, “Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing. . . . A highway shall be there, and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it . . . . But the redeemed shall walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isaiah 35:3-6a, 8a, 9b-10).

These are words to which Jesus alluded when the discouraged and imprisoned John the Baptist sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:2-6). At this point in his life, John, like the readers of Hebrews, experienced “weak hands and feeble knees.” He had previously declared that Jesus was the Lamb of God, but in view of his present circumstances, he had questions (John 1:29, 36). He, like the Hebrews, needed to be reminded that the things Jesus had done indicated that He was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s promise: “Your God will come . . . He will come and save you” (Isaiah 35:4).

With the coming of Jesus, the right paths, the unhindered steps, and the path like the shining sun of Proverbs coalesce with Isaiah’s Highway of Holiness, leading those who walk thereon to Mount Zion and ultimately to Jesus, whose blood “speaks better things than that of Abel” (Heb 12:24).

Next Lesson

In our next lesson we will continue to consider the allusions to Proverbs in the New Testament.

[1] The use of a lower case letter (e.g., “a”) when referring to a verse is to indicate a portion of the verse.

[2] ASB, 1989.