Bible Commentary: Proverbs 2

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Proverbs 2

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A Choice Between Two Paths

Whereas the wicked sought through evil means to be enriched by the precious possessions of others in the previous chapter (Proverbs 1:13), it is here in the second exhortation (Proverbs 2:1-22) stated that God’s commands, wisdom and proper understanding constitute the treasures the son should be seeking (verses 1-7; compare Proverbs 3:13-15; Proverbs 8:10-11). As one would mine for silver, so the son—so we—must dig, in a sense, exerting effort to uncover the wonderful hidden treasures that God has laid in store (Proverbs 2:4-7). The focus here is on coming to properly fear God and choosing to follow his ways. The choice before the son, the choice before all of us, is presented as two paths of life. The “paths of justice,” by which God’s saints are preserved through wisdom (verses 8-11), stand in stark contrast to the crooked and devious “ways of darkness” (verses 12-15).

The need for deliverance from the way of evil is illustrated by the immoral woman (verses 16-22). “As the father instructs his son in the first nine chapters, there is really one teaching that prevails: avoid immoral women. Proverbs 2:16-22; Proverbs 3:13-18; Proverbs 4:4-9; Proverbs 6:20-35, and the entirety of chapters 5 and 7 are occupied with this theme. The father pulls out all of his stops to bombard his son with this warning. After all, as he points out to his son, the consequences of this foolish act are dire. After this major emphasis, it is a bit surprising, perhaps, to see how little attention is given to the subject in the second part of the book (only Proverbs 22:14; Proverbs 23:26-28; Proverbs 31:2). Indeed, the relevant proverbs simply reinforce the teaching of the discourses in the first part of the book. Who are these women that young men are told to avoid? There are two types: the prostitute and the promiscuous wife. These women, in Hebrew, are referred to as “strange” (zara, translated [in Proverbs 2:16 as] 'immoral woman' in [the NKJV and] NLT [New Living Translation, 2002]) and ‘foreign’ (nokriyya; translated [in the same verse as ‘seductress’ in the NKJV and] ‘promiscuous woman’ in NLT). They are strange and foreign because they act outside the bounds of law and social convention, seeking sexual liaisons outside of marriage” (Tremper Longman III, How to Read Proverbs, p. 133). Indeed, this should have been more characteristic of women of foreign nations—not God’s people. 

While we are to understand the immoral woman literally on one level, we should also realize a figurative representation here. We have already seen wisdom portrayed as a woman—and folly is later represented as a woman too. The immoral woman can be seen to represent the faithless way of foolishness and evil generally. Again, there is a choice to be made between two paths—between two ways of life—the right one leading to life and ultimately an eternal inheritance in God’s Kingdom and the wrong one leading to suffering and death.