22:1 A good name is to be chosen rather than great wealth,
good favor more than silver or gold.
22:2 The rich and the poor meet together;
the LORD is the creator of them both.
22:3 A shrewd person sees danger and hides himself,
but the naive keep right on going and suffer for it.
22:4 The reward for humility and fearing the LORD
is riches and honor and life.
22:5 Thorns and snares are in the path of the perverse,
but the one who guards himself keeps far from them.
22:6 Train a child in the way that he should go,
and when he is old he will not turn from it.

See Eph 6:4.

Train – Commentators remark that the underlying word is an unusual one, and suggests the kind of ‘dedication’ or ‘consecration’ that might apply to a house (Deut 20:5), or temple (1 Kgs 8:63).

Approaches to interpretation
This well-known proverb has been understood in a variety of ways:-

Some think that it constitutes a warning to parents.  Noting the absence of an equivalent for the ‘should’, the sense would be: ‘Train up a child in his own way (i.e. in the way he wants to go), and when he is old he will not depart from it.’  This strikes me as a possible, but not probably, interpretation.

Others think that the proverb is not about moral direction, but about nurturing gifts and talents.  This strikes me as being somewhat alien to the thought-world of the Book of Proverbs, which is very much about moral behaviour.

Still others think that this about suitable child-rearing methods.  There are ways of teaching and training a child that are suitable to a child’s level of development, and it is these that should be employed.  Garrett, accordingly, renders the sense as: ‘Train a child in a manner befitting a child…’.  ‘In other words,’ (adds Garrett), ‘one should train a child using vocabulary, concepts, and illustrations a child can understand. ‘

A variation on the above is to suppose that the training should be geared to the particular child’s needs and idiosyncracies.

In popular Christian thinking, this proverb is thought to constitute a promise to parents.  It is taken as a guarantee of the success of early training of children.  But not a few parents find that, despite their best efforts at bringing up their child ‘in the way he should go’, when he is old he does turn from it.  Feelings of guilt ensue (‘we failed in training our child’).  But this approach represents a misunderstanding of how proverbs work.  A proverb communicates general, not absolute, truth.

If it is a statement of a general rule, rather than an unconditional promise, then this proverb should be understood as an encouragement to set children off in the right direction, rather than as a promise that if parents do so, success is assured.

‘The point is that proper training early on will have lasting results’ (Huwiler & Murphy).

‘Many indeed have departed from the good way in which they were trained up; Solomon himself did so. But early training may be a means of their recovering themselves, as it is supposed Solomon did. At least the parents will have the comfort of having done their duty and used the means.’ (MHC)

Brent Rinehart draws out the following lessons for parents:-

You have a responsibility to teach your child the things of God.  See Deut 6:6f.

You have influence over your child.  Small children are like sponges – they soak up information and attitudes, whether good or bad.  If we reflect Christ (just as the moon reflects the sun), then others (including our children) will walk in that light.  See Eph 5:1f.

You will have results.  Whatever our detailed interpretation of this proverb (whether we see it as a warning, a promise, or a guideline) it certainly leads us to expect results from our child-rearing.  J.D. Greear writes: ‘When we are young, our parents represent the authority of God to us. In a way, they stand in for God for a time. We first learn to obey and submit to God by obeying and submitting to our parents.’  See Eph 6:1-3.

22:7 The rich rule over the poor,
and the borrower is servant to the lender.
22:8 The one who sows iniquity will reap trouble,
and the rod of his fury will end.
22:9 A generous person will be blessed,
for he gives some of his food to the poor.
22:10 Drive out the scorner and contention will leave;
strife and insults will cease.
22:11 The one who loves a pure heart
and whose speech is gracious—the king will be his friend.

But what about those people (most people today) who live in societies where there is no king?  Fee and Stuart offer the following guidance for ‘cultural translation’: ‘a true modern equivalent for “have the king for his friend” would be something like “make a positive impression on people in leadership positions.” The proverb always meant that anyway. The “king” stands as a synecdoche (one of a class) for all leaders. The specific parabolic language of the proverb is intended to point beyond itself to the truth that leaders and responsible persons are generally impressed both by honesty and by careful discourse.’ (How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth)

22:12 The eyes of the LORD guard knowledge,
but he overthrows the words of the faithless person.
22:13 The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside!
I will be killed in the middle of the streets!”
22:14 The mouth of an adulteress is like a deep pit;
the one against whom the LORD is angry will fall into it.
22:15 Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,
but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.
22:16 The one who oppresses the poor to increase his own gain
and the one who gives to the rich—both end up only in poverty.

The Sayings of the Wise

22:17 Incline your ear and listen to the words of the wise,
and apply your heart to my instruction.
22:18 For it is pleasing if you keep these sayings within you,
and they are ready on your lips.
22:19 So that your confidence may be in the LORD,
I am making them known to you today—even you.
22:20 Have I not written thirty sayings for you,
sayings of counsel and knowledge,
22:21 to show you true and reliable words,
so that you may give accurate answers to those who sent you?
22:22 Do not exploit a poor person because he is poor
and do not crush the needy in court,
22:23 for the LORD will plead their case
and will rob those who are robbing them.
22:24 Do not make friends with an angry person,
and do not associate with a wrathful person,
22:25 lest you learn his ways
and entangle yourself in a snare.
22:26 Do not be one who strikes hands in pledge
or who puts up security for debts.
22:27 If you do not have enough to pay,
your bed will be taken right out from under you!

26-27 As Fee and Stuart point out, proverbs are not to be understood as ‘legal guarantees’.  ‘If you were to take the extreme step of considering [this proverb] as an all-encompassing command from God, you might not buy a house so as never to incur a mortgage (a secured debt). Or you might assume that God promises that if you default on something like a credit card debt, you will eventually lose all your possessions—including your bed(s). Such literalistic, extreme interpretations would miss the point of the proverb, which states poetically and figuratively that debts should be taken on cautiously because foreclosure can be very painful. The proverb frames this truth in specific, narrow terms (shaking hands, losing a bed, etc.) that are intended to point toward the broader principle rather than to express something technically. In Bible times, righteous people incurred debts without any violation of this proverb because they understood its real point.’ (How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth)

22:28 Do not move an ancient boundary stone
which was put in place by your ancestors.
22:29 Do you see a person skilled in his work?
He will take his position before kings;
he will not take his position before obscure people.