What does Proverbs 3:16 mean?
ESV: Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.
NIV: Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.
NASB: Long life is in her right hand; In her left hand are riches and honor.
CSB: Long life is in her right hand; in her left, riches and honor.
NLT: She offers you long life in her right hand, and riches and honor in her left.
KJV: Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour.
In this verse Solomon again portrays wisdom as a woman (Proverbs 1:20), perhaps a princess, who bestows valuable gifts to those who find her. It's helpful to remember that the book of Proverbs uses the term wisdom in reference to one's ability to act according to godly knowledge. This, accordingly, is more precious than any material possession.
From her right hand, wisdom bestows longevity. From her left hand she bestows wealth and honor. As a general rule, wisdom—the ability to follow the will and purposes of God—allows a person to enjoy both quantity of years and quality of life. Because wisdom enables a wise person to shun evil and bad habits, he avoids the destructive effects of sin that befall so many who lack wisdom. Therefore, the wise person's life is not cut short by reckless living. A wise person also enjoys quality of life by choosing to obey the Lord and stay in close fellowship with Him.
Furthermore, others respect such a person. Even unbelievers will respect him, although they reject his way of life. Believers are linked to Jesus, "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:3). And when we draw from Christ's wisdom and live wisely, we are "blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom we shine as lights in the world" (Philippians 2:15).
Proverbs 3:13–26 extols the virtue of wisdom. Solomon began this discussion in chapter 1, and explained in chapter 2 that the Lord gives wisdom to the upright. Now he describes as blessed the person who finds wisdom, and explains its benefits and applications. Wisdom, as used in this book, refers to the ability to apply godly knowledge. While not a guarantee someone will act accordingly, having a grasp of God's intent for our lives is immensely valuable.
This chapter of Proverbs is addressed to Solomon's son. The term, ''my son'' occurs 15 times in chapters 1—7. The words may apply to one of Solomon's students in his court or to one of his biological sons. The application of wisdom in Proverbs 3 shows the benefits of trusting in the Lord with one's whole heart. Solomon credits obedience to and trust in God for longevity, success, guidance, health, reward that exceeds monetary wealth, enjoyment, peace, security, confidence, excellent human relationships, the Lord's blessing and favor, and honor. As with all ''proverbs,'' biblical or otherwise, their purpose is to impart general wisdom, not absolute prophecy. Like the original audience, modern readers are not expected to see these guidelines as absolute guarantees for any one person.
This passage lies in the second section of the book, found in chapters 1—9. The author, King Solomon, reigned over Israel from 971 to 931 BC. The first section of Proverbs, the preface, is found in Proverbs 1:1–7. The third section, chapters 10—22, were also written by Solomon. These proverbs were likely written by Solomon in his middle years, whereas he probably wrote Song of Songs in his early adulthood, and Ecclesiastes near the end of his life. As in the first two chapters, wisdom is stressed in Proverbs 3.
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.
Accessed 3/1/2024 9:47:08 PM
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