“To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding” (Proverbs 1:2).
The second verse of the Book of Proverbs introduces the major subject of the book: wisdom. The English word wisdom is the translation of several Hebrew words in the Book of Proverbs; the most common is hokmah. This word speaks of the skill with which craftsmen, sailors, singers, mourners, administrators, and counselors perform their duties.
The word wisdom appears over fifty times in the Book of Proverbs. Proverbs 4:7 declares, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” Wisdom is the principal thing. It is more valuable than gold, silver, or rubies.
While wisdom is the first quality mentioned in verse 2, instruction follows closely. The Book of Proverbs is designed so that one who studies it will receive both wisdom and instruction. The word “instruction” is translated from the Hebrew musar and implies chastisement, reproof, warning, instruction, and restraint. The Book of Proverbs was one of the chief elements in the educational curriculum of ancient Israel. Parents used it to teach their children. When the first elementary schools for boys began about two centuries before the time of Christ, it was one of the main resources used by the teachers.
A genuine education is a painful process; there is no such thing as “easy” learning. At some point in the process, students must apply themselves diligently to the subject at hand and do so at the expense of other, more pleasant, pursuits.
The proverbs are designed not only to give wisdom and instruction but to enable students to “perceive the words of understanding.” The Holy Spirit has elected to give us truth and wisdom by use of words. Some 2,500 times the Old Testament declares, “Thus saith the LORD.” The Bible nowhere suggests that God communicates merely by general ideas, thoughts, or concepts. Rather, it declares He has spoken in words.
The Bible identifies “understanding” with departing from evil (Job 28:28). The words of Scripture will cause a person to depart from evil and to go in the right way.