Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Beginning of Knowledge

The Beginning of Knowledge, Proverbs 1:1-7

1 THE PROVERBS (truths obscurely expressed, maxims, and parables) of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:
2 That people may know skillful and godly Wisdom and instruction, discern and comprehend the words of understanding and insight,
3 Receive instruction in wise dealing and the discipline of wise thoughtfulness, righteousness, justice, and integrity,
4 That prudence may be given to the simple, and knowledge, discretion, and discernment to the youth —
5 The wise also will hear and increase in learning, and the person of understanding will acquire skill and attain to sound counsel [so that he may be able to steer his course rightly] — [Prov 9:9.]
6 That people may understand a proverb and a figure of speech or an enigma with its interpretation, and the words of the wise and their dark sayings or riddles.
7 The reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord is the beginning and the principal and choice part of knowledge [its starting point and its essence]; but fools despise skillful and godly Wisdom, instruction, and discipline. [Ps 111:10.] (AMP)
As you approach this study ask God to help you slow down and allow the Word to take deep root in your life this week.
Bible Study on Verse 7 from UBS Old Testament Handbook Series. Copyright © 1978-2004 by United Bible Societies

    "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: Fear in relation to God expresses a range of meanings in Old Testament contexts. For example, in Job 37:23-24 mortals are in terror and dread of God's punishment. In Ex 9:30 Moses tells the king of Egypt that he will stop the thunder and hail, even though the king and his people are not yet afraid of the Lord God. In Jer 26:19 fear has the sense of obedience. In the case of Abraham, after he had showed his willingness to obey God and sacrifice Isaac, the angel of the Lord said to him "I know that you fear God," which indicates Abraham's trust in God (Gen 22:12). Here in this verse and throughout Proverbs the fear of the Lord means to respect and believe the Lord.
     Lord is the common English translation of the Hebrew name of God, which is written as ‎yhwh ‎and pronounced something like ‎yahweh‎. It is the most frequently used term for God in the Old Testament. Because the name was sacred, it was not pronounced, but instead the term ‎'adonai ‎("my lord") was pronounced in its place. To translate the name of Israel's God there are several options open to the translator:
(1) Transliterate the form ‎yahweh‎.
(2) Translate by a term such as "Owner," "Master," "Ruler," "One who Commands," "the Ever-
      Present One," or "the Eternal One."
(3) Use the name of a local god is considered inappropriate.
(4) Translate Lord (‎yhwh‎) and the general word for God (‎'elohim ‎in Hebrew) by the same term.

     In many languages a literal rendering of fear of the Lord will mean nothing more than terror or dread, that is, being scared of what the Lord may do. If the language has an expression equivalent to "be in awe of," this will be more satisfactory. In some languages such a thought is expressed idiomatically; for example, "to stand with your heart in your hand before the Lord" or "You must respect the Lord with a quivering liver."

Beginning of knowledge: Beginning renders the word used in Gen 1:1, "in the beginning," which refers to the first in an ordered series of events. In this verse it is the starting point without which nothing else can follow. It may be taken as the root, fundamental, or basic element upon which all wisdom is built. The TEV footnote expresses this thought as "The most important part of knowledge is..."; the CEV footnote says "What knowledge is all about is...." In some languages "stump" or "root" is used figuratively for the source or basic element from which everything else comes, so these languages have a translation like "If a person wants to gain wisdom, the root of it is honoring the Lord."
    In some languages it is not possible to use a noun phrase such as the fear of the Lord as the subject of a clause. Accordingly it is sometimes necessary to restructure fear as an "if" clause; for example, "If you hold the Lord in awe, you will have the beginning of knowledge." We may also translate, for example, "Whoever respects and obeys the Lord is beginning to be wise," "The first thing about knowledge is to respect and obey the Lord," or "The most important part of knowledge is having reverence for the Lord" (TEV footnote). The FRCL rendering may serve as a model translation for some: "To recognize the authority of the Lord is the A-B-C of wisdom."

Fools despise wisdom and instruction: The second line contrasts the fool with the person who respects the Lord. Fools renders a word used in Isa 35:8 to indicate uninstructed people who mislead others. In 10:8; 20:3; and 29:9 fools are contrasted with sensible and intelligent people. Despise is not to be taken in the sense of "hate" or "loathe." The Hebrew, like the English term, properly means to look down upon with contempt, to disdain as unworthy. It is in this sense that Esau despised his birthright in Gen 25:34. Wisdom and instruction are the same words as used in verse 2. This line may be rendered "Fools turn their noses up at wisdom and good advice" or "People who look down on wisdom and instruction are fools."
     In translation it may be necessary to make the contrast between the two lines clear by saying, for example, "but fools despise..." or "Foolish people, on the other hand, think wisdom and instruction are worthless.""

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