God’s Word for You
Proverbs 24:5-7 A wise man is truly strong
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, May 13, 2019
We return now to Proverbs to ponder the remainder of chapter 24. Verse 5 is one of the more difficult verses in the book. The Hebrew text is almost too terse to translate with confidence. Literally, it says:
A wise man in strength,
A man of knowledge strengthens strength.
Ancient versions such as the Greek, Syriac and Aramaic Targums make this into a comparison. This is not the manner of my translation below, but I would never insist that this is the only way to undersand the passage. The Word of God is without error, but that doesn’t mean that my understanding of the text is without error. The form that seems to be “in strength” above resembles the name Boaz (Ruth 2:1, etc.). His name seems to mean “son of strength” or simply “strong man.” This observation is the basis of my translation here:
5 A wise man is truly strong.
A man of knowledge increases strength.
6 For by wise guidance you can wage your war,
and with many counselors there is deliverance.
Waging war is not just about brute strength. It requires strategy and a knowledge of one’s own limitations as well as the limitations of the enemy. If a battle is necessary, it is better to win without fighting, if it is possible. If it is possible to win without killing, then wounding is better. If it is possible to achieve peace with no battle at all, then that is best. A reputation is worth ten swords or a thousand guns. Wisdom knows how to employ the terrain, the weather, the people of the surrounding villages, and perhaps even the animals of the forest to help in the victory. Wisdom knows how to use an enemy’s strength against him. Wisdom understands that ducking a blow expends less energy than blocking it, and that taking a blow correctly can be used to one’s advantage.
How can we apply this verse to our spiritual lives? We are at war spiritually all the time. In your mind, you are a part of a kingdom, and Christ is your King. Consider yourself a warrior in this great battle against Satan, and you are for the moment the warrior on the battlefield. The enemy is coming to attack you. Where is the wise man to advise you? Where is your mentor; your counselor? You have been guided by the Holy Spirit through his shepherds, one of whom is your pastor. What did he teach you in your confirmation classes? How did he continue those lessons in Bible classes, and in the pulpit? Did you listen? Did you take his warnings and his tutoring to heart? Do you need some eccentric “crane position” to defeat your enemy like the Karate Kid, or do you stand firmly on the rock of Jesus Christ?
7 Wisdom is too high for a fool,
in the city gate he has nothing to say.
The city gate (the Hebrew text just says “in the gate”) was the place where local elders and officials—the retired men of the town—gathered to spend their days in the shade and to act as a court for people with disputes to settle. We see Boaz going to this council in Ruth 4:1, and Mordecai (Esther’s relative) apparently serving as one of the elders in Esther (Esther 2:19,21, etc.). Other examples of such a council in a city gate include the Hittites in Genesis 23:10, the Shechemites in Genesis 34:22; the elders in Deuteronomy 25:7 and Joshua 20:4; the sons in Psalm 127:5, and the husband in Proverbs 31:23. This is no place for a fool. As the older men talk about the cases to adjudicate and decide who is in the right, the fool would be out of his depth. His opinions would be worthless, and he would be driven away.
Perhaps it was with this thought that Solomon placed this proverb after the previous ones. If a king needs wise counselors to carry through with a war, or any enterprise, then where is he to find such men who are trustworthy and true? The city gate would be a good place to start. The men there have experience, and there would be no fools there.
That’s not the end of what verse 7 has to tell us. Remember that Jesus said, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved” (John 10:9). There is no place for a fool in the gateway to heaven and eternal life. We can be confident that there is only Jesus. He is the only one who is truly and perfectly wise. He is Wisdom itself. Through him we have access to God and guaranteed access to everlasting life.
Pastor Timothy Smith