What does Proverbs 8:33 mean?
ESV: Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.
NIV: Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not disregard it.
NASB: Listen to instruction and be wise, And do not neglect it.
CSB: Listen to instruction and be wise; don't ignore it.
NLT: Listen to my instruction and be wise. Don’t ignore it.
KJV: Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not.
Wisdom counsels her students to exercise wisdom and to not neglect it. Like a woman calling out to anyone who will listen (Proverbs 1:20–21; 8:1–4), wisdom makes herself clear to those who are truly seeking.
When Jesus taught in the temple and in open spaces, the people heard Him gladly (Mark 12:37). Luke 19:47–48 reports that after Jesus cleansed the temple, "he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words."
Believers ought to follow the example of those who gladly received Jesus' teaching and hold tightly to His words. If we hear and obey His words, we will enjoy success in what we do for God's glory (Joshua 1:7–8; Psalm 1:1–3). If we refuse to abide in Jesus' words, we will easily be led astray. Instead of loving the Lord and His Word, Demas loved the world, and abandoned missionary work and the apostle Paul (2 Timothy 4:10).
Proverbs 8:32–36 describes wisdom as having existed harmoniously with God before He created the world and everything in it. Now he urges his "sons," who might be students, to pay attention to wisdom, because wisdom blesses those who do so. However, those who reject wisdom receive injuries and death. This fits into the book of Proverbs' heavy use of both symbolism and general-case truth.
In this passage, wisdom is once again imagined as a woman who cries out to be heard (Proverbs 1:20–21). Wisdom extols her own truth and value. Wisdom was part of God's creative power long before even the creation of the universe. The chapter again returns to the many benefits of godly wisdom, before completing those declarations at the start of the next chapter.
Thus far in Proverbs, Solomon has spoken about the virtues of wisdom and the need to acquire it and live by it. He has also warned about the dangers of rejecting wisdom. Chapter 7 ended with a description of a promiscuous woman seducing a foolish young man. Now, in chapter 8, he lets wisdom speak, once again personified as a woman. She speaks about her existence before creation and her gift of life to all who find her. This analogy continues into chapter 9.
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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