"Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father, and give attention that you may gain understanding, Hear, O sons"
The word hear is the word shamah which means "to hear" but also carries with it the idea of hearing as "to obey." This is not just listening to sounds but hearing so that you may obey. You have not heard if you do not do it.
The word sons is the typical word for son or grandson. Notice in verse 3 of this chapter that Solomon's father, David, sat him down and taught him this information. This is Solomon doing for the whole world what David, his father, did for him – sitting him down and trying to give him life lessons that will allow him to avoid many of the difficulties that will come at him. It is so hard for teens to listen because they think they know all about everything. It is the information in this book of Proverbs that they often know the least about. In fact, most people are not wise and understanding and walk right into problems, difficulties, and sorrows because they do not understand.
However you do it, you – who are wise are responsible – sit down with your children and grandchildren and pass on the wisdom and understanding that you have. There is a shrinking amount of God's true wisdom in the world. It is covered over with nonsense and foolishness. I know one man who every year bought a different Bible and made notes in it all year for one of his grandchildren. Then he presented that Bible to that grandchild at the end of the year. These notes that you are reading are really my attempt to record insights on life for my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I hope that my daughters will keep them and present them to their kids and their kids' kids if I am not around to do it.
the instruction of a father
The word instruction is the word masar which means "instruction, training, even chastisement." This is not just lessons that Solomon is sharing; it is a training manual. This is training for life.
I am concerned that fathers are shirking their responsibilities as moral teachers and guides of their children. There is no one that your children would rather hear from about life than their dad. They need to hear from dad on these matters. Do not let mom be the only voice that children hear about morality and life. Don't think that the schools will teach this stuff; they won't.
Every time you read an article in the paper about something that your kids should know, clip it out. Every time you come across a verse in Scripture that would help them, write it down and bring it up. Every time you interact with a person and have an interesting interaction – whether it is good or bad – tell them about it. They need dad's perspective on life.
Too many fathers are being sucked into the world system way of thinking that we will make our biggest contribution at work, so put in your highest levels of energy and effort there. No, you will make your deepest impact and most long-lasting effect in your children. It will be a good impact or a lasting legacy of neglect and alienation. Your children are wanting to spend time with you; don't put them off until they are interesting to you. It will be too late. Enjoy them at every stage of life; but most importantly, constantly point out the insights that you have gained about life. These will echo in their lives forever. Be a dad.
and give attention that you may gain understanding
The words gain understanding are interesting because they are the words "know understanding." God wants His children to really intellectually grasp and experientially realize the connection between behaviors, people, events, actions, etc. The key word in this phrase is the word understanding. It is the word binah and means "distinguishment, power of judgment, perceptive insight." It is the ability to see connections between things – cause and effect – and to use that insight to make accurate decisions.
There are all kinds of connections between things that people miss. In the rest of the book of Proverbs, there are over sixty different types of fools mentioned along with their corresponding tendencies. Solomon also catalogues almost ten different types of positive characteristics that group around real wisdom. In other words, find the one and you find the others.
Why is this so important? Because young people do not always pick up on the subtle clues that tell them whether the person they are dealing with is lying or a cheat or using them. So they wander into relationships, enter into business connections, and get burned. God is trying to save us from this. He is saying that there is a connection between how a person carries themselves and what they are like. God is trying to get young people to make the connection between hard work and profit; between slothfulness and poverty; between borrowing and slavery; between planning and accomplishment; between teachability and success; between independence and failure and interdependence and success. Hundreds of these types of comparisons are in this God-breathed book. God had the wisest man who ever lived, other than Jesus, record insights on life in a book so we would enjoy Solomon's success and not repeat his mistakes.