Proverbs 22:17

The Proper Response to Wisdom and Knowledge


1. The various sections of the book of Proverbs:

a. The first section of the book of Proverbs begins with the words, “The proverbs of Solomon.”
• This section speaks of the value of wisdom.
• It includes chapters 1:-9:18.
• These are the lessons for “my son.”
• This section included the lengthy sections on Lady Wisdom crying out in the streets.
• It also included several sections on the strange woman to avoid.

b. The second section also begins with the words, “The Proverbs of Solomon.”
• This section includes chapters 10:1-22:16
• These are mostly short, concise, one verse statements… little nuggets of truth.

c. The third section begins with the words, “the words of the wise.”
• These “words of the wise” comprise a new section in the book of Proverbs. (22:17-24:34)
• The third section that we will begin looking at tonight will immediately be identified as different in that the proverbs are connected.
• There is often a context here.
• In the previous section, each proverb stood alone as a single nugget of truth, but in this section, we often have several verses strung together as a unit.

d. The fourth section (Chapter 25-29) begins a new section of proverbs which the men of Hezekiah copied out.

e. The fifth section: The Words of Agur (Chap. 30)

f. The sixth section: The Words of Lemuel (31:1-9)

g. The seventh section: The Noble Wife (31:10-31)

17a Bow down thine ear…

1. Bow down: This term is used in lots of different ways.

a. Strong’s: Incline; bend; bow; stretch out; extend.

b. Zodhiates: A verb meaning to stretch out; to extend; to pay attention.

c. Judges 9:3 – “Their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech…”

d. Psa. 119:112 – “I have inclined mine heart to perform thy statutes alway, even unto the end.”

e. I Kings 11:2, 4 – It was used of Solomon turning his heart away from the Lord and towards the gods of his wives. (“For surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.”)

f. Thus, the term in our proverb speaks of an inward inclination.
• It speaks of an intentional BENDING of the ear in the direction of the words of the wise…
• It is a command to TURN in the direction of the words of the wise…
• It speaks of an inward heart INCLINATION to listen…
• This is how it is translated in 4:20: “My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.”
• Prov. 5:1 – “My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding.”

2. Turning one’s ear is literal but it implies more than the literal.

a. It is literal in that it speaks of literally turning your ear towards the sound of the words of wisdom.

b. But more than turning the literal ear towards the sound waves is implied.
• It implies turning the ear so that you can hear… listen.
• It means to pay attention to what is heard.

3. Application: It is good for us to be INCLINED to hear the Word of God… whether in this section of Proverbs or in any other portion of Scripture.

17b And hear the words of the wise

1. The words of the wise

a. This expression refers primarily to the proverbs in this section of the book (22:17-24:34).

b. Cf. 24:23 – a continuation of this section. Some see this as the second subdivision of this whole section.

c. There are 30 separate sayings in this section. (30 wise sayings)

d. The term “words” = speech; word; utterance; statement (common word).

e. The term “wise” = shrewd; crafty; cunning; skilled; prudent; wise (common word).

2. Here Solomon (or whoever the human authors of these proverbs were) tells his readers to HEAR these words.

a. The term is used of literal hearing. (Ps. 44:2)

b. But like the previous expression, in this proverb, it IMPLIES more.
• The author’s concern here was not how well his son’s ears worked.
• Hear:
» Strong’s: To hear with attention or interest; listen to; to understand.
» Dictionary of Biblical Languages: To listen; take heed; pay attention; hear; i.e., believe information and respond on the basis of having heard.
» Ex. 4:1 – Moses was concerned that his people would not hear (hearken) to his voice. (listen… pay attention… respond to)
» Ecc. 9:16-17 (2 times) Pay attention to; to take heed to.
• The author wanted his readers to “hear” his words.
» Prov. 1:8 – This is the thought with which the book began.
» Obviously, you don’t literally “hear” the author’s words of wisdom when reading a book.
» But those words can and should be HEEDED in the heart.
» In that sense, to “hear” is a virtual synonym for “obey.”
→ I Sam.12:14 – “If ye will fear the LORD, and serve him, and obey his voice, and not rebel against the commandment of the LORD…”
» The readers should pay attention to the words they read… as if the author spoke face to face. In other words, obey!
» Think of that when reading the Bible!

17c And apply thine heart unto my knowledge.

1. Apply:

a. Strong’s: to set, station, appoint, fix, set the mind to.

b. Dictionary of Biblical Languages: To set; apply; place; i.e., have a feeling or attitude of devotion, with corresponding action

c. Zodhiates: To set one’s heart on something means to pay attention to it.

d. Meditate and ponder.

e. Prov. 24:32 – “Considered” is the same word as applied.
• He set his mind to think about it.
• He saw the field of the slothful, and applied it to his own heart.
• He contemplated the implications of the field of the slothful.
• He thought long and hard about it, and paid attention to its meaning.

2. Note that the first two exhortations were addressed to the ear. This is addressed to the heart.
a. Heart: The whole inner man; mind; emotion; conscience; etc.

b. Once the ear hears, and the words of wisdom are understood and absorbed, THEN the believer is to APPLY that truth to his heart.

c. He is to set his heart to contemplate the truth… he is to pay attention to what he heard and now understands.

d. And finally, there is to be a corresponding ACTION.

e. Truth demands something of us. It demands absolute obedience.

f. Truth, knowledge, and wisdom applied to the heart will have a life transforming effect. It changes us.

3. Prov. 5:1 – “My son ATTEND to my wisdom…”

a. Attend: Listen; pay attention; give heed; i.e., accept information as true and respond to it.

4. In Prov. 22:17, Solomon encourages his readers to apply their hearts to KNOWLEDGE.

a. The wise man speaks words of wisdom and knowledge.

b. This book (and the rest of the Bible) was given that we might have the knowledge of God, His will and His ways.

c. Knowledge: Knowledge; understanding; information; doctrine.

d. Thus, the author wants his reader to pay attention to the information and the words of wisdom revealed.

e. We need both: The information (doctrine), and the skill (discernment) to put it into practice and make good use of it.

f. In particular, we need the knowledge of God and the wisdom to live out that truth in our daily lives.

5. Note the progression in the three exhortations:

a. Bow down thine ear (bend the ear; incline the ear; turn it towards the sound).

b. Hear the words (heart with great interest; paying attention to so as to understand).

c. Apply thine heart (set the mind and heart to an attitude of devotion, with corresponding action).

d. Perhaps we could paraphrase:
• Listen to the words of the wise.
• Pay attention so that you understand what you hear.
• Then respond in obedience: DO it… turn it into action.
• Cf. Ps. 90:12 – “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” First comes teaching (words of wisdom) then comes understanding, and ultimately, application of that truth to the heart.

6. While the exhortation here is primarily an exhortation for the reader (his sons?) to pay attention to the 30 wise sayings (paragraphs) in this section of Proverbs, there is good application for ALL words of wisdom and for the entire Word of God.