Proverbs 4:1-4

Hear the Instruction of a Father



1. Here Solomon switches from the singular word for sons to the plural word – translated “children.”

a. Probably not a lot of significance.

b. Some have suggested it would include daughters… all of his children… or children in general, not just his own sons.

2. He commands children to hear the instructions of a father.

a. Hear – hear; give heed to; implies to listen to and to respond with obedience.

b. Children are to hear when their father speaks… and they are to obey.

c. If a child is going to be able to obey, he must first listen!

d. Too often children use the lame excuse, “I didn’t hear you, dad!” Usually the reason they didn’t hear is because they were not paying attention!

e. The command is to PAY ATTENTION when you father speaks (and mother too!)

f. If you didn’t hear, because you weren’t paying attention—then you disobeyed this command!

3. Implicit in the command is the fact that fathers are to instruct.

a. The emphasis in the Bible on child rearing is on the father—not the mother.

b. Fathers are to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord! (Eph. 6:4)
• Fathers can provoke their children to wrath—or frustrate their children by NOT giving them the instruction they need—and then by expecting them to obey!
• A father can’t expect a child to do something if they have not been instructed!
• A father can’t expect a child to comply by rules that he has never been taught—or has never heard!
• Sometimes as parents, we expect kids to know things that they don’t know! And we expect them to follow rules of behavior they have never heard!
• The father’s responsibility is to be an instructor… a teacher… a trainer…

c. The father is to instruct—and the child is to listen and obey.
• There are two ways in which this plan could be short-circuited…
• Sometimes the father fails to instruct; sometimes the child fails to obey…
• If the father instructs, and the child refuses to obey—God has given the father the moral obligation and responsibility to make SURE that the child hears and obeys!
• Fathers are bigger and stronger than their young children… by God’s design!

b. And attend to know understanding

1. Attend to know – hearken, pay attention, listen

2. I Kings 4:29 – how much understanding did Solomon have? (Sand on seashore!)

3. Solomon charges his son to pay attention to—to listen—all of this knowledge and wisdom that God has given him.

4. That’s a lot for a child to absorb… but God gives the children 15 + years to absorb it!

5. This command is virtually the same as the first. With all of Solomon’s wisdom and knowledge, one would think that he would cover different subjects and would avoid repetition in his writings—wrong!

a. Because Solomon is wise, he knows that it is human nature to forget.

b. Solomon repeats MOST of the truths in this book—several times over!

c. That is the quality of a good teacher—repetition!

d. This is a good reminder to parents too—kids need to have things repeated! Don’t assume that they’ve really got something just because you told them once! (not talking about picking up their dirty socks—but the big principles of life need to be repeated)


A. For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law. (vs. 2)

1. The first reason Solomon gives to his children to obey is a very positive one: it is GOOD doctrine!

a. Once again, Solomon seeks to make wisdom and obedience attractive to his children. (The wise shall inherit glory! 3:35)

b. The doctrine or instruction that he is giving them is first and foremost GOOD!

c. Note that his approach is positive—he does not tell his children to obey or he’ll knock their lights out! He was not afraid to use discipline or to warn his children of the consequences of disobedience—he does that often in this book.

d. But—FIRST he chooses to make wisdom and obedience attractive. It is GOOD! Hear it—pay attention—for it is GOOD!

2. It is good for them.

a. Like broccoli—it is good for them.

b. Sometimes, like broccoli, instruction from a father may not be pleasant—but it is good for you. It is for your own good!

c. Fathers should instruct their children for the good of the child—not just for the pleasure of the parents!
• Example: chores around the house—kids should learn these things, but not just to make it easier on the parents, but primarily because it is good for the child!
• Children don’t often understand HOW some instruction is good for them—any more than they understand HOW broccoli is good for them—but it is!

3. Doctrine (teaching) is GOOD for you!

a. This is true for adults in the local church too!

b. And often, folks in the local church do not want to hear doctrine. They, too, do not always see how it is good for us!

c. Eph. 4:14-15 – believers need doctrine that they be not carried about with every wind of doctrine—which is not good for them!

d. II Tim. 4:3-4 – the time is coming when men will not endure sound doctrine, but will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears!

e. Doctrine is good for us—even if it doesn’t always seem so practical.

4. “Forsake ye not my law.” (vs. 2b)

a. Solomon tells his sons that doctrine or teaching is GOOD for them.

b. Therefore—don’t forsake it!

c. Don’t ever grow weary of hearing law or instruction from your father!

d. Don’t ever stop listening… learning… obeying… don’t forsake it!

e. What often happens is the father will instruct his child, but the child will hear something contrary elsewhere…
• Dad says, “Don’t smoke”—but the son says, ‘Everybody’s doing it!”
• Dad says, “I don’t want you wearing that kind of clothing. You look punky.” “But dad, everybody wears them. They don’t look punky!”
• Dad says, “Be home when it gets dark.” Junior says, ‘But dad, I’m the only one who has to be home when it gets dark!”

f. This passage tells the child NOT to forsake his father’s teaching in order to follow the crowd.
• It could be that the crowd is dead wrong!
• The child is tempted to forsake what his father said—because everyone else is doing something different… or because it doesn’t seem fair… or because I don’t understand why I have to… or because of peer pressure to forsake it…
• The command still stands: forsake ye not my law!

B. For I was my father’s son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother… (vs. 3)

1. This is the second reason given to obeying his father’s instruction.

a. Because dad’s doctrine is good… good for the child.

b. Because I was in your position once too!

2. I was my father’s son

a. His point is not just to share the obvious—but to tell his son that he was in his position once too.

b. Solomon, as a father, is letting his sons know that he understands what they are going through. He too was a young boy just like they are now. He too was a son who had to hear and obey the instruction of his father!

c. Sometimes kids don’t think of that. They assume that you were old forever!

d. This must have brought back sweet memories of his youth… listening to his father, David, teach him about the Lord… the laws of God… right and wrong… holy and unholy… how to be a godly young man.

3. Tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother…

a. Solomon also received instruction—tender, loving instruction from his mother.

b. Tender and only beloved—he was not really the only son of his mother. He is saying here that in the sight of his mother, it was as if he were an only child. That is how she treated him… only with tenderness and love.

c. Thus, Solomon received the firm, disciplined training and instruction from his father, and tender, loving instruction from his mother.

d. Note the relationship between firm instruction and tender love.
• The parents that truly love their children will train and instruct them!
• The more dearly the child is loved, the more carefully he will be taught!
• A child who is untaught and undisciplined will bring shame to the parents (Prov. 29:15)
• The child who is instructed and disciplined is the one who is truly loved. (Prov. 13:24)
• The child who is pampered and indulged could fit into the category of being left to himself. Just give him lots of things and we’ve done our duty! “Things” are no substitute for training and instruction!

4. Thus Solomon gives his sons two reasons to hear and obey his commands as a father.

a. Because his doctrine or teaching is good—good for them.

b. Because he knows what he is talking about. He has been young and now he is old. He was in their shoes once—and he knows what they need to know!

c. Because he loves them, he takes the time to instruct them.

C. He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live. (vs.4)

1. Solomon now tells his son what his father told him as a young boy.

a. RETAIN my words!
• He wants his son not just to hear (in one ear and out the other) but to retain what he hears!
• Take this doctrine and instruction with him the rest of his life!
• Solomon wants his words of wisdom to stick to their ribs the rest of their days!

b. Retain here speaks of retaining in the heart.
• It is not merely memorizing verses.
• It is possible to memorize many verses containing godly wisdom, and not retain it in the heart. It is in the head only.
• It is also possible that some children will have a hard time memorizing…they try hard and are only a D student… and yet are able to retain the wisdom in their heart.
• They can’t quite retain the exact words. They can’t quote the verse, but they know that stealing is wrong… or lying… That’s what counts!
• You don’t have to be an A student in school to be an A student in God’s school! There is no connection between those two schools!

2. Keep my commandments and live…

a. There is a connection between obedience and life… or the enjoyment of spiritual blessings in life…

b. Prov. 4:13 – hold on to instruction. That is your life! That is the path of blessing in life!

3. Solomon is passing on the wisdom God gave him to his son… and reminding his son that he was once a young boy… and his dad did the same. Godly wisdom and instruction is to be passed on from generation to generation. The result: life! Abundant, godly life!