Proverbs 4:14-17

The Path of the Wicked


1. In this section, Solomon likens life to a pathway… a road with many turns and twists.

2. There are many cut offs and forks in the road, and the pilgrim must make choices all along the way.

3. John Bunyan’s Pilgrim Progress has this as its theme… pilgrims journeying through life on their way to the Celestial city—with many evil men and seducers trying to cause them to swerve off the straight and narrow way.

4. Bunyan alludes to many passages from the book of Proverbs.

5. Solomon wanted his son to view life that way—a long journey down a road. This journey requires wisdom, discernment, and the ability to make good choices.


1. The path of the wicked

a. Path – path; road; way; figuratively used of a way of life.

b. Wicked = criminal; guilty one;

2. The way of evil men

a. Way: way, road, distance, journey, manner of life…

b. Evil men—evil (hurtful); bad, unkind (vicious in disposition); wicked (ethically)

3. The two expressions are synonymous.

a. Evil men are walking down the wrong road.

b. Prov. 2:12-15 – Evil men have left the path of uprightness and are wallowing in the ways of moral darkness. Their ways are crooked.

c. Prov. 1:10-19 – the way of the greedy criminals…

d. Prov. 7:24-27 – The way of the prostitute is the road to hell!

e. Prov. 16:25 – some ways SEEM right, but end in death.

f. Prov. 21:16 – the way of wandering away from understanding.

g. Ps. 1:1 – there is the way of ungodly counsel and scorning…

h. Jesus spoke of the broad way that leads to destruction. (Matt. 7:13-14)

i. Phil. 3:18-19 – The way of the enemies of the cross end in destruction.

j. Isaiah calls the wicked to forsake their wicked way (Isa. 55:7)

4. Wicked, evil men have forged their own way of life.

a. This road is contrary to the way of wisdom… to the way of godliness.

b. Every step taken down this road is a step AWAY from the straight and narrow way.

c. This road is filled with stumblingblocks. It is a slippery road. It is a dangerous road… and it leads to destruction of one’s spiritual life.

d. This road is deceptive—because they do not usually begin with a sharp right turn. Often the way seems so close and parallel to the straight and narrow way… but over time, the gap between the two is wider and wider.

5. Avoid it!

a. Solomon uses six verbs to make his point. (vs. 14-15)

b. Doesn’t that sound like a father? He repeats himself many times over—so that what he says will SINK IN his son’s head.

c. Kids of all ages (2-102) need to have truth and warnings repeated!

d. At times, when warnings are repeated, it might be irritating… but it is necessary because we have a tendency to forget.

e. Solomon repeats this warning many other times in Proverbs too.
• 1:15 – walk not in the way with them! Refrain thy foot from their path!
• 4:27 – don’t turn to the right or the left
• 5:8 – remove your way from the foolish woman.
• 9:6 – forsake the way of the foolish!

6. This is the doctrine of separation.

a. Solomon warns his son to AVOID the way of immorality, foolishness, and idolatry or false doctrine.

b. The New Testament is full of such warnings to Christians, too—mark them which cause division and offences contrary to the doctrine you have learned and AVOID them! Come out from among them and be ye separate!

c. If we are going to walk in the way of holiness, we are going to have to separate—avoid—go not by the way of evil men.

d. We are going to have to draw a line in the sand… take a stand… and refuse to be persuaded to compromise.

7. Why did Solomon give such warnings?

a. Because he loved his son! Any father that loves his son is going to warn him about the evil in the world!

b. If there is one thing a father wants for his son it ought to be discernment—so that the son will be able to make wise decisions and good choices in life—and stay off dead end streets.

c. Love rejoices not in iniquity but rejoices in the truth… love hates the way of the evil man and rejoices in the way of truth… holiness… righteousness… godliness.

d. So too, the preacher that has a warning ministry does so out of love for the sheep—not because he is a picky, unloving, and mean-spirited! It is love that motivates such warnings to avoid the way of evil men.

e. Acts 20:31 – Paul warned day and night for three years—with tears. Why do you suppose he was crying? He knew the dangers—and he loved the Ephesian believers! It broke his heart to think of some of them leaving the path of righteousness and following the way of evil men—wolves! But he knew it was going to happen. (vs. 29)


1. Solomon describes the evil criminals in this passage.

• They lie awake at night devising their evil plans… ways to steal or kill. (vs.16)
• These men can’t sleep unless they have caused someone else to fall… unless they have hurt or caused damage to another. (vs. 16b)
• They do not experience rest until they have taken away the rest from others.
• They are not happy unless they have done their damage.
• Crime is a game for the criminal… an evil game.

2. Ps. 36:4 – He deviseth mischief upon his bed.

a. These men are foolish—but they are not unintelligent.

b. Many criminals are extremely intelligent—consider the hackers on the web… they have the FBI and CIA confounded!

c. Those men must have stayed up at night devising how they could pull this one off… and they did.

d. Criminals get a sort of morbid pleasure from hurting and stealing… it isn’t just for the money, it is often for the thrill of it! The web hackers didn’t get any money—just the pleasure of causing trouble!

3. Micah 2:1-2 – Woe to them that devise evil upon their beds!

a. They sit up at night coveting what others have (because they earned it!)

b. They plot ways to obtain the wealth of others…

c. When it is in the power of their hand to do it—they practice their crime!

d. This speaks of evil men plotting evil schemes—and just waiting for the right time to strike!

4. Prov. 24:1-2 – evil men STUDY destruction!

a. Just like some men go to college and study engineering or math, these men study violence…

b. Some of them get quite good at their trade too.

c. In prison, these criminals share the tricks of the trade—it is sort of like a trade school!

d. God gave them brains and hands that COULD have been used for good. But because their hearts are evil, they use the tools God gave them for evil purposes. What a waste!

5. Prov. 4:17 – wicked people THRIVE on evil and violence!

a. This is the gang life—criminals who get pleasure from inflicting pain and injury on others.

b. Ex: an older couple took a wrong turn in Los Angeles a few years ago, into the territory of a notorious gang. The gang members blocked off the road with barrels so the car could not escape—and they then beat the couple to death—just for the fun of it.

c. A steady diet of violence, immorality, perversion, and vice creates an appetite for even more…

d. Job 15:16: “How much more abominable and filthy is man which drinketh iniquity like water?” (thirsty for evil and violence)

e. This does not speak well of human nature! Solomon knows it all too well.

6. Solomon knows HOW wicked men lure new recruits and he warns his son.

a. Evil men might come to an inexperienced young man and hope to capture him… make him their victim… infect him with their evil ways.

b. They may begin by speaking filthy language… to see how he responds. They may continue by showing him some dirty pictures… and eventually lead him to the prostitute…

c. They may entice him with promises of easy money (1:13-16)

d. They may entice him with strong drink or drugs…

e. Of course, they always begin on a small scale… then on to bigger and better things… more evil… more violence.

7. Solomon warns his son to AVOID the way of the evil man at all costs!

a. Young men might protest, “What’s the harm? What if I stay real close to the right path—I won’t go far down the other road. I’ll be able to come back at any time!”

b. Vs. 15 – Pass not by it—
• Not only is the son told not to walk down the road—he is told not even to go near it!
• If he goes near it he might become enticed to “test the waters”.
• He might not have the strength to say no—to come back—
• Prov. 5:8 – don’t even go near her house lest you be tempted!

c. Human pride tells us that we can handle it. God’s wisdom says that we cannot! Pride cometh before a fall! Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall!
• Solomon fell; David fell; Peter fell—and we think we won’t?!

d. I Cor. 15:33 – evil company/communication corrupts good manners.
• You can’t walk with evil men and expect that it will not have an effect on you! It will!
• It will have an evil effect! You will be contaminated.
• First the evil company is enjoyed; then the evil OF the company is enjoyed.

e. Beware lest any man SPOIL you through the rudiments of the world—(Col. 2:8) – context = false philosophy—but the principle is the same. Evil men will try to spoil the believer—entice him to follow his evil ways.

f. Eph. 5:11 – have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness!

8. Psalm 119:63 – “I am a companion of all them that fear thee and of them that keep thy precepts.” (vs. 115 – depart from me ye evildoers!)

9. Harry Ironside: “The true pilot may not know every rock or reef, but his wisdom consists in taking the safe channel.”