Thoughts on Proverbs: Teach Your Children

And you
Of tender years
Can’t know the fears
That your elders grew by
And so please help
Them with your youth
They seek the truth
Before they can die

“Teach Your Children Well” — Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Even a cursory reading of the Proverbs reveals an emphasis on parental instruction. The prologue emphasizes the primary theme of this collection of wisdom literature (the fear of the LORD, v7; more on that in my next post), but immediately on the heels of this thesis statement comes this teaching:

“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.” — 1.8-9

Much of the proverbial material is spoken in the parental voice:

  • My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them. — 1.10
  • My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your heart to understanding…then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. — 2.1-2, 5
  • My son, do not forget my teaching but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity. — 3.1-2
  • My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. — 3.11-12
  • Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many. I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. — 4.10-11
  • My son, pay attention to my wisdom… — 5.1
  • My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you. — 7.1
  • Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge. — 19.27
  • My son, if your heart is wise, then my heart will be glad. — 23.15
  • Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old. — 23.22
  • Eat honey, my son, for it is good; honey from the comb is sweet to your taste. Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul. — 24.13

There are also copious “third party” instructions and admonitions to obey one’s parents and heed their advice:

  • A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son grief to his mother. — 10.1
  • A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke. — 13.1
  • A fool spurns his father’s discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence. — 15.5
  • A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the one who bore him. — 17.25
  • A foolish son is his father’s ruin… – 19.13

Proverbs also emphasizes to parents the importance of teaching their children, using the word “discipline” almost interchangeably with “teach” and “instruct”.

  • Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death. — 19.18
  • Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. — 22.6
  • Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him. — 22.15
  • Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death. — 23.13-14
  • Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul. — 29.17

The Proverbs paint the portrait of a pair of voices — one male, one female — imparting instruction to the younger generation. These teachings focus on a variety of issues:

  • Warning against the adulteress
  • Compassion for the poor
  • Warning against laziness and drunkenness
  • Worship God alone
  • The value of hard work
  • The perils of bad influences
  • Warning against idleness
  • Financial discernment
  • The danger of folly’s siren song
  • The value of honesty
  • Pride
  • God-honoring speech
  • The supremacy of wisdom and the fear of the LORD

You can’t read Proverbs without coming away with a deep appreciation for the role of parents in the lives of their children. In many ways, Proverbs provides commentary on that foundational creed in Judaism, the Shema:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. — Deuteronomy 6.4-9

Teach your children.

This entry was posted in Deuteronomy 6 (The Shema), Proverbs, Scripture. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Thoughts on Proverbs: Teach Your Children

  1. What a great article on the duty of parents to teach their children and the duty of children to heed the teaching! May we all be encouraged to do so!

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