Proverbs 4

Chapter 4

Acquire Wisdom[a]

1 Listen, my children, to a father’s instruction;
pay attention and gain understanding.
2 What I am offering to you is sound advice;
do not forsake my teaching.
3 When I was a young boy in my father’s house,
tender in years and my mother’s only child,
4 he taught me and said:
“Let your heart hold fast to my words;
follow my instructions and you will live.
5 “Acquire wisdom and gain understanding;
never forget or turn aside from my words.
6 Do not forsake wisdom, and she will preserve you;
love her, and she will watch over you.
7 “The beginning of wisdom is: acquire wisdom,
and no matter what the cost, acquire understanding.[b]
8 Extol wisdom, and she will exalt you;
if you embrace her, she will honor you.
9 She will place on your head a lovely garland
and bestow on you a crown of beauty.”
10 Listen, my son, and take my words to heart,
and the years of your life will be multiplied.
11 I have instructed you in the ways of wisdom
and led you along the paths of righteousness.
12 When you walk, your steps will be unimpeded,
and when you run, you will not stumble.[c]
13 Hold fast to instruction and never let her go;
guard her carefully, for she is your life.
14 Do not set foot on the path of the wicked
or walk on the road that evildoers follow.
15 Avoid it; do not go by it;
turn aside from it and go on your way.
16 For they cannot rest until they have first done wrong;[d]
they cannot sleep unless they have made someone stumble.
17 The bread of wickedness is their food,
and the wine of violence is their drink.[e]
18 The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
which increases in brightness to the fullness of day.
19 But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness,[f]
and they cannot even see what they have stumbled over.
20 My son, concentrate attentively on my words;
pay heed to the instructions I pass on to you.
21 Do not let them slip from your mind;
keep them forever in your heart.
22 For they are life to those who find them
and provide health to their entire being.
23 Guard your heart with all possible vigilance,
for from it flow the wellsprings of life.[g]
24 Turn away from the mouth that deceives
and keep your distance from lips that mislead.[h]
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze on what lies before you.
26 Ensure that the path you tread is level,
and then your ways will be sure.
27 Do not swerve either to the right or to the left;
keep your foot far from evil.


  1. Proverbs 4:1 We already know the essence that this warm (though overly loquacious) exhortation preaches. In the name of Deuteronomy, it insists on vigilance and fidelity. For in this world of traditions, wisdom is transmitted like an education, from parents to children, from masters to disciples. Nonetheless, all must experience the cost for themselves: vigilance and the guarding of one’s heart constitute, as it were, the necessary inner freedom that allows people to make progress along the way. Mastery of self merits reward even now. By contrast, in verses 16-19, a fine psychological analysis paints the picture of the wicked, the person haunted repeatedly by deadly personal projects.
  2. Proverbs 4:7 It is the beginning of wisdom to strive to acquire wisdom—and to do so no matter what the cost (see note on Prov 3:1-18).
  3. Proverbs 4:12 In the path of life, wisdom is the best companion and guide; she will remove the obstacles that we can encounter.
  4. Proverbs 4:16 They cannot rest until they have first done wrong: the same trait is alluded to in Ps 36:5; Mic 2:1. King David, on the other hand, refused to rest until he had first done right, i.e., found a house for the Lord (see Ps 132:3-5).
  5. Proverbs 4:17 Evildoers are totally committed to wickedness and violence (see Prov 13:2; Job 15:16).
  6. Proverbs 4:19 Deep darkness: a path that leads to destruction (see note on Prov 2:13; see also Isa 59:9-10; Jer 23:12; Jn 11:10; 12:35).
  7. Proverbs 4:23 Guard your heart . . . wellsprings of life: those who store up good things in their hearts ensure that their words and actions will be good. Jesus said, “The mouth speaks from the abundance of the heart” (Mt 12:34).
  8. Proverbs 4:24 See note on Prov 2:12.

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