What does Proverbs 1:3 mean?
ESV: to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity;
NIV: for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair;
NASB: To receive instruction in wise behavior, Righteousness, justice, and integrity;
CSB: for receiving prudent instruction in righteousness, justice, and integrity;
NLT: Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, to help them do what is right, just, and fair.
KJV: To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity;
Verse Commentary:
This verse gives four terms which take learning to a new level. In verse 2, the reader is instructed to use Proverbs to discern and identify wise instruction. "Wise dealing" is from the Hebrew haskēl, literally meaning "prudence," "instruction," or "wisdom." In verse three, Solomon urges the reader "to receive" that instruction, or to commit the information to knowledge. The Hebrew phrase translated "to receive instruction" is lā qahat mūsar, literally meaning "to teach or cause intelligence." This is the character trait of "learning to learn." That transition occurs through instruction in four character traits: wise dealing, righteousness, justice, and equity.

Righteousness is also a causative term and means "morality" or "justice." Receiving righteousness is learning to live a moral life. The word translated as justice means "discretion" or "determination;" it is the term used for a verdict or judgment. The third character trait to receive is discernment, or the ability to judge information and situations. Finally, equity means "prosperity and agreement." This character trait is about treating others equitably, but does not mean blanket equality. Instead, this translates to something more like "fairness." To be "fair" means to give to one what he is due. In tandem, these four traits outline the second purpose of the book of Proverbs. We are to receive the ability to: learn, live moral lives, discern the right course of action, and treat others according to what they deserve.
Verse Context:
Proverbs 1:1–7 outlines the four distinct ''to'' statements, or purpose statements of the book of Proverbs. This section culminates with the identification of the only source of true wisdom, the Lord Himself. The purpose of the book of Proverbs is to recognize wise instruction and apply knowledge wisely. Most importantly, this all begins with a reverent fear of the Lord and the rejection of foolish ways.
Chapter Summary:
Proverbs Chapter 1 provides a clear description of the purpose of the book. It is stated plainly who wrote the book, the lineage of Solomon, and to whom he was writing. Solomon gives four distinct purpose statements in the opening verses. The essence of these is to explain why he is writing the book as well as the source of his inspiration. Solomon concludes with a warning against sinfulness and a personal plea for his children to act wisely.
Chapter Context:
Proverbs Chapter 1 is clearly born out of Solomon’s life history. Solomon held himself back from no earthly pleasure, he had everything he could ever desire, and in the end he saw the foolishness of his actions. Chapter 1 is Solomon’s reflection on his own life, how he had all the wisdom of God available to him, and yet chose to follow after foolish desires. Other chapters detail the advice which this experience allows Solomon to give.
Book Summary:
Proverbs is best understood in context with the books of Ecclesiastes and Job. In Proverbs, “wisdom” is given in short, simple, general terms. Ecclesiastes represents wisdom based on observation and experience. This often shows how the general principles of the book of Proverbs don’t apply in absolutely every circumstance. Job represents wisdom based on the experience of suffering and injustice. All three come to the conclusion that God does indeed know best, and the most sensible course of action is to follow His will.
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