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Be Wise and Accept Constructive Counsel
Proverbs 9:7-9 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
7 He who corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse,
and he who reproves a wicked man gets injury.
8 Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;
reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.
He who corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse: The verb translated correct (Heb. yasar) means to offer corrective counsel with the intention of improving the behavior of another. As a discipline it need not come across as punishment, it is simply straight talk, withholding no punches, being very direct in teaching ones how to live their lives in the reverential fear of God so that they become wise from the life lessons before they are tempted by this wicked world and those alienated from God that would put them to the test.
The Hebrew word rendered scoffer (lets) is referring to someone who jeers, mocks, ridicules, or treats someone with contempt. The person ridiculing another builds up resentment, anger, and hatred for the one trying to help make his path straight. Here the scoffer or ridiculer is one who resists being offered constructive correction and instruction. The abuse (Heb. qalon) is what one receives for his efforts at trying to give direction to a scoffer, which is utter contempt, disrespect, and dishonor.
And he who reproves a wicked man gets injury: This line is quite similar to the first line in meaning. Reprove (Heb. yakach) is similar in meaning to correct and has the same strong sense offering another straight talk, withholding no punches, being very direct in teaching ones how to live their life. The slight difference here with yakach reprove over yasar correct is that yakach carries a value judgment, implying that the one being reproved is guilty. When we look at the Hebrew word for wicked (rasha), we get the same implication of guilt, as the evil person is unrighteous, with a focus on the guilt of his being in violation of some standard.
Scoffers like to ridicule others, but if they are ridiculed themselves, they are unable to take it and will react badly, even violently. The wicked person has no appreciation for the one offering him reproof, to help him on the path of life. It can be very unwise to try and teach the beneficial truths of God’s Word to someone who has utter contempt for you and the truth you are trying to share, for he will only ridicule your efforts. In your endeavor to reach the honest-hearted with the good news of the kingdom, you need to be careful not to get too involved in debates and extensive argumentation with ridiculers.
Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you: Reprove renders the same word that was used in 9:7b. The scoffer is as was used in 9:7a. Scoffers and hate are used in Proverbs 1:22, where the question is asked, “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple-minded? And how long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?”
Reprove a wise man, and he will love you: This line is the beginning of three lines (9:8b-9) that will contrast the first three lines of 9:7-8a. Reprove renders the same word from the previous line and that was used in 9:7b. Truly wise (Heb. chakam) ones can talk frankly to each other with straight talk, holding nothing back and help each other to improve or to correct themselves where needed. The wise have a capacity for insight, understanding, and discernment. Here love you have the sense of respecting you.
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser: Why will a wise person love or respect you for giving him reproof? Because he knows that through correction “he will be still wiser.”
Teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning: Increase in learning is one who continues to take in knowledge. No one is too wise or too old to keep learning.
If we are to be taught by wisdom, there will be times when we must accept correction and reproof. Of course, most of us tend to bristle at such times, yet it becomes easier as we mature in the faith. A scoffer is a ridiculer, one who expresses derision or scorn about somebody or something. This one does not receive correction well at all and has a dislike of anyone so offering. The wicked are in a whole other category, as they are blinded by their hatred for others, especially anyone suggesting they need help.
Therefore, it is a waste of time to attempt to offer ‘what is holy [Scriptural wisdom] to dogs or throw your pearls [Scriptural wisdom] in front of pigs, lest they trample them with their feet, and turn around and tear you to pieces.’ (Matt. 7:6) These ones will only ridicule any attempt that we make at sharing the good news with them. We can look to the apostle Paul, who while teaching some Jews in Antioch, came across some, who just wanted to do nothing but contradict him. What was Paul’s response? He told them “since you thrust [Scripture] aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.” Acts 13:45-46
There will come times when we are trying to share the good news, and they will look to just debate, criticize, and argue with us. If it is they alone, it would be best just to walk away, letting it be their loss. However, if it is a public place of some sort, and others are listening intently at how you answer the challenges, it may be best to offer a reasonable answer, then express that you are not here to argue, and walk away. If you had not offered the parting answer, the others may have thought you did not have an answer.
The Christian is to be different from the world of humankind that surrounds them. As a disciple of Christ, we need to cultivate a love for discipline. The Word of God corrects us every time we pick it up. Yes, it is difficult to hear where we are falling short, but we should never be offended by correction, even if it is coming from a human representative of God. For some who have years on them, they may believe that with gray hair, they are wise from life experience. Even so, the Bible is filled with knowledge, understanding, and wisdom, from God, who has no beginning, and we will never live long enough, that we do not need counsel from time to time.
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