Proverbs 22:20-21

The Purpose of Written Proverbs

20 Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge

1. The excellent things that have been written refer to the “words of the wise” mentioned in vs.17.

a. As we noted before, Prov. 22:17 introduces the third section of Proverbs.

b. It begins with the words, “the words of the wise.”

c. These are the excellent things described in vs.20.

d. These “words of the wise” comprise a new section in the book of Proverbs from chapter 22:17-24:34.

e. No longer is each verse a unit unto itself. This section has a context to it.

f. There are 30 separate “words of the wise” (wise sayings) in this section of Proverbs. (22:17-24:34)

g. In vs.17-19, Solomon told his readers to incline your ears towards them, hear them, apply them to your heart, and to keep them within thee.

h. Now in vs. 20-21, Solomon states the purpose for these wise sayings.

2. Excellent things

a. This is an unusual term. It is a noun carrying many different meanings associated with the number three. (30 wise sayings)

b. It is used of a measure related to the number three. (3 ephahs)

c. Ps. 80:5 – “Thou feedest them with the bread of tears; and givest them tears to drink in great measure.”

d. It is used of a musical instrument (with perhaps 3 sections).

e. The military used the word for a high ranking officer (perhaps like a 3 star general) and also for the third man in the chariot.

f. Though it’s hard to know for sure, in this passage, the term may have the meaning of a threefold blessing… a full and rich blessing… or a large measure of wisdom associated with the number 3, namely the 30 wise sayings.

g. Whatever is the exact meaning and usage of this Hebrew expression, it is a superlative of sorts – and thus translated “excellent things”… a great measure of wisdom.

3. The excellent things (this great measure of wisdom) were written down.

a. They were written down, probably by Solomon.

b. We might add that they were written down by Solomon under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

c. They were written and included in the canon of Scripture—for our learning and admonition.

d. They were written down so that we could “hear” them by reading, and apply them to our hearts, and perhaps commit them to memory – or “keep” them within.

e. This is a treasure chest of wisdom… and so that they could be passed on to future generations accurately, they were written down.

f. And we all have Bibles. We can read this treasure chest of wisdom whenever we want. That is a privilege that not every saint has had.

4. These excellent things consist of words of “counsel” from wise men.

a. Counsel: Scheme; plan; advice which gives wisdom and knowledge.

b. The first use of the term is found in Ex. 18:19 – in which Jethro gives counsel to Moses. Jethro’s “counsel” was to give to Moses a plan which enabled him to get organized in carrying out his administrative responsibilities for ruling and judging his people.

c. This is the term used of Rehoboam rejecting the counsel of the old men. (I Kings 12:8,13)

d. Ps. 33:10-11 – Counsel can be good or bad. It is used of worldly counsel and also of the counsel of the Lord.

e. Clearly, the “excellent things” recorded here are examples of good and beneficial counsel.

f. Once Solomon recorded these words of wisdom in Scripture (which consisted of helpful counsel and advice), they became the “counsels of the Lord.”

5. These excellent things also consist of words of “knowledge.”

a. Knowledge: Discernment; insight; understanding; a knowledge with focus on moral qualities and its application.

b. Prov. 2:5 – It is used of the knowledge of God.

c. The word is also used in the sense of knowing by experience, relationship.

d. Hos. 4:1 – “Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.”
• God was upset because the children of Israel lacked in their knowledge of God.
• They had knowledge of religion, but not a knowledge of God.
• They did not have discernment… a true understanding of spiritual things.

e. The excellent things revealed in this section of Proverbs enables the readers to have a deeper understanding of morality and its personal application.

f. The excellent things revealed in this section of Proverbs enables the readers to have a deeper experiential knowledge of God: of who God is and what He is like.

g. Job 15:2 – “Should a wise man utter vain knowledge, and fill his belly with the east wind?” Not all knowledge is good and profitable.

h. But the knowledge revealed in this great measure of wisdom in this section of Proverbs IS extremely valuable and profitable.

6. Solomon recorded 30 excellent sayings – a collection of godly counsel and knowledge. In the next verse he tells us two reasons WHY they are so valuable.

21a That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth

1. The first reason of WHY they are so valuable is that when it comes to the topics covered, we might know for sure.

a. Solomon knew these excellent things. God made him the wisest man in the world. He had insight and knowledge that no one else had.

b. And he wanted to make these excellent things known to us! Aren’t you glad he did? How much poorer we would be if Solomon decided to keep all this God-given wisdom to himself and not share it with us via the book of Proverbs!

c. Solomon had extremely valuable information from God and he wanted others to know. (By the way, we too have valuable information from God in the gospel. We too should want to make it known! It is not to be kept and hoarded to ourselves!)

d. Certainty: Just words; truth; reality.

e. Solomon wanted his readers to know the certainty of the words that he recorded here… he wanted us to know the truth recorded here is real, genuine…

2. The words of truth…

a. Words of truth = words that are faithful; reliable; stable; firm; sure; honest; trustworthy.

b. Solomon wanted his readers to know with all certainty that the words he recorded here are reliable and trustworthy.

c. We don’t have to worry about whether they will still be true for our kids in the next generation. They are STABLE… Truth doesn’t change from one generation to the next.

d. We don’t have to worry about whether the wisdom and knowledge we read here is reliable. We can count on it. We can build our lives on it.

e. We don’t have to worry about whether it is true for one person, but not true for another.

f. We don’t have to worry about whether the knowledge we glean from this book is faulty… or if there are any mistakes or inaccuracies in it.

g. Thus truth doesn’t have to be updated every few years to keep in tune with the times.

h. How incredibly VALUABLE the certainty of reliable words.
• Don’t you wish you had CERTAIN and infallible knowledge about whether global warming is a natural cycle of the earth or is caused by man? Don’t you wish you knew with absolute certainty that the changes that are being proposed would actually make a difference, or if they are going to destroy the economy for nothing?
• Don’t you wish you knew for SURE how all the different health care plans being proposed would work in the long run?
• Don’t you wish you had certainty and knew for sure which doctor’s counsel you should follow in dealing with your disease… when several doctors are all giving different opinions? Wouldn’t you like to have the CERTAINTY of reliable words?
• Don’t you wish you had the certainty of knowing for sure which vitamins really work… or which financial planner was best for your situation… or which school would be best for your child?

i. In the natural realm, in our earthly lives, there is so much uncertainty.
• We seek after the best advice we can find… but it’s never perfect.
• As long as man is involved in giving counsel, there is no certainty. There is always the potential for error.
• Sometimes the error is because of purposeful deception.
• Even with the best of intentions, man’s counsel and knowledge are often faulty, off base, and contain mistakes.
• In the earthly realm, the words of counsel we receive are not always reliable.
• And sometimes, it can result in a loss of health, a loss of a job, a loss of finances, or lost time in fixing the mistakes.
• All too often in this life, men follow the advice and counsel of other men (often with the best of intentions), but end up disappointed, let down, disillusioned, cynical, and frustrated, because the counsel proved to be bogus.

j. But in the realm that really matters (in spiritual things), we have words of DIVINE wisdom recorded in Scripture for us.
• What a blessing to have the CERTAINTY of knowing that these words are true, reliable, firm, stable, trustworthy.
• Putting God’s counsel into practice in our lives will never leave us disappointed, disillusioned, or frustrated.

21b That thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee?

1. The second reason as to WHY these words of counsel and knowledge are so valuable is given here: so that the reader will be well equipped to ANSWER those who send to him for counsel and advice.

2. Solomon assumes that there will be times in the lives of his readers (including you and me) that others will send unto us a question.

a. He assumed that people will come to us with questions, seeking from us advice, counsel, and guidance.

b. As a king, many people sent unto Solomon for advice and counsel… especially when his wisdom became famous worldwide.

c. I Kings 10:1-3 – The Queen of Sheba sent unto him a whole list of questions and Solomon answered them all.

d. Solomon recorded much of that wisdom in the book of Proverbs for us.

3. Answer:

a. This term means “to return” or to “send back.”

b. The point is that when someone sends to us for counsel and knowledge, we will be able to “return” them with the proper answer.

c. This is the second purpose of the recording of the these 30 wise sayings: so that we can give answers to those who come to us seeking wisdom, guidance, and counsel.

d. The better we know the Word, the better equipped we are to be used of the Lord in helping others.

e. I Pet. 3:15 – We too should sanctify the Lord in our hearts (and His Word too—let the Word of Christ dwell richly in our hearts) so that we might be able to give answer to those who ask us the reason of the hope that lieth in us.

4. “The words of truth”

a. This is the exact same expression as is used earlier in this verse.

b. Solomon wanted his readers to be able to give answers that were more than just human opinions.

c. He wanted his readers to be able to answer with words that were reliable, faithful, firm, stable, and trustworthy.

d. Solomon wanted his readers to be able to pass on wisdom, counsel, and knowledge that could be counted upon… so that those who hear would have reliable words that would give them assurance and certainty.

e. This is goal of discipleship: The student may be like the master –teacher, and able to give the same wise answers that the teacher gave him.

f. Thus, they could act on that counsel with assurance that it is the RIGHT thing to do…

g. How valuable are such words!

5. These are excellent truths to be passed on to others. They are reliable words that will be exceedingly valuable to others. But don’t forget the FIRST thought: “I have written to thee…” and they are “made known unto THEE!”

a. First of all, they are for me… for you…

b. Before we can answer others, we must first know the CERTAINTY and reliability of the words of truth ourselves.

c. Vs.18 – And it is a pleasant thing if we first keep them within ourselves!

d. It brings rest and peace to the soul when we KNOW that the counsel we are following and giving is inspired, infallible, reliable, trustworthy, and never changes. That is a solid foundation.