What does Proverbs 4:23 mean?
ESV: Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
NIV: Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
NASB: Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.
CSB: Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.
NLT: Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.
KJV: Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
NKJV: Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.
Verse Commentary:
To "keep" something, in this sense, means more than simply "to maintain ownership." It refers to maintenance, care, and support. Some translations use the word "guard," A wise person realizes that temptation is real (1 Corinthians 10:13) and takes appropriate precaution. This parallels statements made earlier, where Solomon advises his son to actively avoid evil, and those who practice it (Proverbs 4:14–15).

Scripture places a strong emphasis on the heart as the source of good or evil. Jeremiah 17:9 says, "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick." Jesus announced: "The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks" (Luke 6:45).

David, Solomon's father, certainly understood how influential the heart is in how we live out our morals and values. Out of the evil of his heart he stole Uriah's wife Bathsheba, committed adultery with her, and then arranged for Uriah's death when he could not hide his crime (2 Samuel 11:2–5, 14–15). However, when he was under heavy conviction about his evil deed, David prayed, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10). What is hidden in the heart is open to God's eyes. First Samuel 16:7 reminds us that "the LORD sees not as a man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart."

It is absolutely essential, therefore, to guard the heart.
Verse Context:
Proverbs 4:20–27 concludes the chapter with Solomon telling his son how to live. This follows earlier explanations of advice his own father, David, gave to him. Emphasis here is on the attitude of the heart, the focus of the eyes, and the direction of the feet. This begins with a pattern seen many other places in Proverbs: an encouragement to value godly wisdom.
Chapter Summary:
Common for the first nine chapters of Proverbs, Solomon urges his sons—possibly also other students—to listen to his words. He recalls his early years, when he heard some of these words from his father, David. Wisdom is upheld as the most beneficial thing a person can acquire in life. It brings honor and safety. In contrast, the wicked are perpetual wrongdoers whose goal is to lead others astray. They live for wickedness and violence, and they stumble in the darkness. Solomon urges his sons not to deviate from the path of godly wisdom, either ''to the right or to the left.''
Chapter Context:
The first nine chapters of the book of Proverbs focus on extolling the value of godly wisdom. In this chapter King Solomon continues to pass along this message to his son. His advice to his sons—possibly also meaning his students—in chapter 4 is similar to what he says in Proverbs 1:8–9; 2:1–6; 3:1–2, 21–26; 5:1–2; 6:20–22; 7:1–3, 24; and 8:22–36. The words of this chapter are partly taken from advice Solomon recalls hearing from his own father, David.
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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