The relationship between Ethics and Sanctions in Proverbs 1-7

The main there in the book of Proverbs in the Bible is the subject of wisdom. Over and over in the book, the reader is encouraged to get wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. The book of proverbs has a long introduction that lasts nine chapters. These chapters were not originally included in the text added later by medieval scholars for convenience. Proverbs was king Solomon’s instruction to his son, to whom Solomon wanted to pass his wisdom to.

Solomon wanted his son to stay on the right path ethically, and impressed on him the results of the decisions that he might make in life. He instructed his son not to follow evil men who oppress others, because their evil deeds would come back on them, and they would fall into their own trap. He begged his son to peruse wisdom, and said that the consequences of refusing wisdom would result in destruction.

There are positive sanctions for pursuing wisdom. Solomon said that long life, riches, honor, and peace are positive sanctions given by God as a result of seeking after wisdom. Wisdom is spoken of as a protection against following evil, as well as a guard against stumbling.

In proverbs 6, he warned against laziness. He said that poverty would be the reward for the lazy, because they will not work. He uses the ant as a picture of a good worker. Ants do not need anyone to tell it what to do, but it does it anyway to gather food for the winter. He describes poverty as an armed robber who breaks in suddenly and steals.

Solomon warned his son of “strange women”. He urges his son to avoid adultery, and that there are consequences for those who commit it. He said that the result is death and destruction, and her house is the way to hell. He said that the husband would have his revenge, and that he would not spare him even though he is offered many gifts.

Solomon commanded his son to hear him, and to hide the commandments of his father in his heart. He wanted his son to internalize them, so that he would be wise and that he would be on good terms with God and man. He wanted his son to lay up wisdom, understanding, and knowledge for himself, just like someone would lay up treasure for himself.

Wisdom is portrayed as a woman who is calling out to the simple. She is urging them to come to her and be wise and not simple. She says that those who reject her will regret it and that they will eventually seek wisdom, but that at that point it will be too late. Because they rejected wisdom and despised it, they will get what they have asked for, because disaster is the consequence for choosing ethical simplicity over wisdom. She laughed when calamity came upon them, because they did not listen to her. On the other hand, The ones who came to her were be safe from evil.


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