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A Quick Tip for Interpreting the Book of Proverbs Properly


Some people stumble while reading the Book of Proverbs when they when they fail to interpret those poetical passages properly.


Here is an important tip:


Proverbs are principles,

not laws or promises.

When you read a statement from the Book of Proverbs, keep in mind that the statement is merely a general principle. Those statements are not intended to be a promise for every situation, nor are they immutable laws of the universe that will never be broken. Proverbs are generalities.
For example, in today’s language, I might say something like, “Seatbelts save lives.” Would you agree with that statement?  Sure you would.  But while that statement is generally true, there can be some exceptions to the rule . It is a principal, but it is not a promise. Has anyone ever died while wearing a seatbelt? Yes. However, it is still very wise to wear your seatbelt, because, in general, seatbelts do save lives.

Let me give you an example in the Scriptures of a Proverb that people occasionally misinterpret, and this misinterpretation often leads to a lot of pain and anguish:

Proverbs 4:27 – Train up a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

I have seen many people over the years stumble when they misinterpret this verse as a law or as a promise rather than as a principle. For instance, I have known some really great parents whose kids grew up and went astray from their faith. Some of those parents have found themselves in great despair, because they have blamed themselves due to their misunderstanding of what that verse in Proverbs says.  They believed that it had to be their own fault.  They must have blown it as a parent.

The reality is that all parents make mistakes. And we all have things we wish we could change from the past. However, that does not mean that any time a child goes astray it is the fault of the parents. Remember, there is this thing called free will. Not even God Himself forces us to do right. Some kids turn away from God even when their home was a very godly environment.  Nevertheless, the general principle is accurate: godly parenting will tend to produce godly children. That is the general principle here.

So, when you go through the book of Proverbs, be careful to interpret them correctly. This great book is filled with many, many amazing principles that can truly change your life forever.


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Chris Russell
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Veritas Church (Cincinnati, OH)


For further reading, growth, and encouragement, check out some of these great sites and blogs:

Church Leadership

Church Outreach Blogs

Kirk Cameron

Bible Study Tools Blogs

Desiring God Blog

The Gospel Coalition Blog

Al Mohler

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