Proverbs 20:5

Counsel in the Heart of Man


1. This proverb is sufficiently vague so as to create a bit of difficulty in interpretation.

a. Is Solomon speaking about a wise man or a foolish man?

b. Is Solomon speaking about one man who has counsel in his heart and knows when to bring it out?

c. Is Solomon speaking about two men, one with good counsel and the other who needs it… and comes to the wise man to draw out that wisdom?

d. In another portion of Scripture we would be inclined to say that Solomon meant either one or the other.

e. However, in THIS form of literature (proverbs), we have short concise sayings that were designed to make you think.

f. It is possible that Solomon meant either one thing OR the other.

g. But it is also possible that the vagueness was purposeful… that it might be applied to various situations.

5a Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water…

1. Here Solomon describes a man of great wisdom. He has GOOD counsel in his heart.

a. Counsel: Counsel; advice; purpose; the ability to tell someone what they should do based on a plan, purpose, or vision; the ability to make good judgments, good decisions.

b. Ps. 33:11 – This is used of the “counsel of the Lord.” His counsel stands forever. It is true and right.

c. The counsel of a wise man will be in harmony with the counsel of the Lord. His counsel would never willingly violate the counsel of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

d. The heart speaks of the whole inner man… his inner thoughts… feelings… emotions… attitudes…

e. The counsels of the heart = deep down inside a wise man there are counsels, purposes, goals, values, motives, a world view, a sense of good judgment… opinions… etc.

2. This man is to be contrasted to the fool.

a. Prov. 18:7 – The fool’s mouth is his destruction. He blurts out whatever pops into his head… and that is often not worth repeating!

b. The fool also has counsel… but it is foolish counsel. It is not deep, but shallow and foolish.

c. Unfortunately, the fool THINKS he knows it all, so he constantly blurts out his folly… even when no one wants to hear it.

d. The fool is always ready to give his foolish counsel, even when no one is seeking for his advice.

3. The wise man with good counsel in his heart is different from a fool.

a. His counsel is deep… wise… not superficial.

b. Nor is his counsel something that he feels he ought to blurt out.

c. He does not constantly pour out his own views and ideas.

d. He keeps his wisdom in his own heart.

e. He is UNLIKE the fool, because he knows when to draw it out.

f. He may not say much, but when he speaks, he has something worthwhile to say. When he does speak, it is worth hearing… worth paying attention to.

g. I’m sure we all know older, wise men that fit this category. He is a man of few words, but those few words are usually gems.

h. Prov. 10:14 – He lays it up like treasure in his heart.

i. The fool constantly blathers out superficial things… folly.

j. But the wise man has wisdom like a deep reservoir of water.
• It is not constantly flowing… like the folly of a fool.
• The wise man knows enough to draw it out only at the proper time.

4. The counsel in his heart is like deep water.

a. The deep water here is well water.

b. And in a hot, dry land, the deeper the well water, the better.

c. The water on the surface might be lukewarm… tepid, and not very refreshing.

d. In a dug well or cistern, this water might not be all that clean either.

e. The deeper the water, the colder it would be… the more refreshing.

f. Water from a deep well is the best water. It is cool, refreshing, clean, pure, and satisfying.

g. Counsel in the heart of a wise man is like that.


• Prov. 2:1-6 – Solomon’s wise words are DEEP beneath the surface.
• However, diligent searching will be rewarded by FINDING the wisdom of his words.
• So keep on digging! Don’t give up.
• That’s the point of the expression “deep waters” too. It requires some EFFORT to draw it out… but it is worth the effort.

5b But a man of understanding will draw it out.

1. Here Solomon pictures another man coming TO the wise man with good counsel in his heart.

a. The wise man’s counsel is like cool, refreshing water.

b. A man of understanding will SEEK OUT that cool, refreshing water.

2. A man of understanding is the kind of man who will SEEK after advice and counsel.

a. He is not a fool. He is not a know it all.

b. Fools don’t seek advice. Why should they? They know it all already! (Prov. 12:15 – He is right in his own eyes.)

c. But the man of understanding realizes that in many situations, he NEEDS counsel… he needs advice.

d. The Bible SAYS that we ought to seek counsel.
• Prov. 1:5 – The man of understanding ATTAINS wise counsel. Why? Because he SEEKS it out until he finds it.
• Prov. 9:9 – Give instruction to a wise man and he will become even wiser.
• Several passages speak about this fact: men of understanding seek out advice and counsel.

3. Prov. 20:5 adds an additional thought: They know where to look!

a. They know enough to go to the wise man that possesses a deep reservoir of good, hearty counsel.

b. In other words, if you want to be wise, seek out wisdom from those who have it… from those who have a deep reservoir of experience and wisdom…

c. Go to such a man or woman and pick their brains… seek advice… counsel… guidance…

d. A wise man HAS that wisdom. A man of understanding and insight demonstrates his discernment and understanding by “drawing it out.”

4. The passage implies that there are many older, mature, experienced men and women who may be quiet about the wisdom they have gained over the years.

a. They are a reservoir of riches… or ideas… of advice… and good counsel.

b. However, they don’t go around telling people what to do.

c. But if you go to them and ask… seek… you will discover that you will be able to draw it out of them.

d. There is plenty of good counsel IN his heart. It is our task to draw it out!

e. Sometimes we lose out on the cool, refreshing water we COULD have enjoyed because we did not draw it out.

f. Sometimes we lose out on the good advice and wisdom because we did not ask… we were not inquisitive enough…

g. His point: engage in conversations with wise, experienced saints!

h. They have a lot of wisdom to offer.

i. To draw it out, you have to talk to them… ask questions… seek their opinions and views and ask why… bounce some of your ideas off them to see what they think…

j. Very often wisdom comes with age. And older, wise people have learned from experience not to stick their noses into other people’s business. They have learned not to tell others what to do. Also with wisdom comes modesty.

k. Thus, we have many older, wise saints, with a vast reservoir of experience and wisdom available… but their wisdom is not like a flowing brook… always pouring out of their lips. Often their wisdom is like deep water in a well.

l. It has to be drawn out… and when it is drawn out, it is like cool, refreshing water… valuable… restorative… nourishing… just what you needed!

m. Prov. 13:20 – “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise.”

5. And if wise men are like reservoirs of fresh, cool water of great benefit to those who are inquisitive and seek it… how much MORE can we apply this to the Word of God!

a. What a treasure chest of wisdom we have in God’s Word.

b. Yet, it too must be drawn out.

c. II Tim. 2:15 – Study (be diligent) to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”