Proverbs 4:1

ESV Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight,
NIV Listen, my sons, to a father's instruction; pay attention and gain understanding.
NASB Listen, my sons, to the instruction of a father, And pay attention so that you may gain understanding,
CSB Listen, sons, to a father's discipline, and pay attention so that you may gain understanding,
NLT My children, listen when your father corrects you. Pay attention and learn good judgment,
KJV Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding.

What does Proverbs 4:1 mean?

Solomon has been addressing his son or student, using singular terms. Now he addresses more than one person; scholars think this might meant the intended audience has shifted to students. If "sons" refers to Solomon's students, the term shows a filial relationship between teacher and students.

Tenderly, like a father, Solomon appeals to his "sons" to hear his instruction. By being attentive to his words, his "sons" would gain insight. Someone has said, "as the branch is bent, so grows the tree." The time to shape a person's life is when he or she is young. Good habits, learned in youth, are much easier to maintain than it is to break and replace sinful habits later in life.

Jesus put a high value on children. When Jesus was teaching, His disciples rebuked those who were bringing children to Him. However, Jesus was angry with the disciples and said, "Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God" (Mark 10:14). Then "he took them in his arms and blessed them" (Mark 10:16). Timothy received instruction in God's Word from childhood, and this instruction made him wise for salvation (2 Timothy 3:15). By instructing his sons, Solomon was obeying the Lord's command to the fathers in Israel to teach His words diligently to their children (Deuteronomy 6:7).
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