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In many ancient pre-literate societies values and virtues were often passed from generation to generation through the wisdom tradition. Many elders formulated wise sayings whereby the younger could learn general principles concerning the usual operation of life circumstances. These sayings, if adhered to, provided practical guidance for daily conduct. The book of Proverbs is a collection of such sayings used by ancient Israel. Within this collection are instructions for the operation of the most basic social institution -- the family. Specifically, the book of Proverbs addresses several topics concerning the family -- parental responsibility, marital fidelity, characteristics of virtuous and contentious women, and sibling relationships. Within its verses Proverbs gives instructions whereby the family unit can function successfully.
One primary family issue addressed by Proverbs is that of parental responsibility. It is the duty of parents to instruct children to keep the law. The parentsí words of wisdom serve as a continual reminder to the children of the law and righteousness (6:20-23; 1:8-9).
20 My son, keep thy fatherís commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: 21 Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck. 22 When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee. 23 For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:
8 My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: 9 For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.
Through parental instruction, children gain wisdom that they retain throughout their lifetime (4:1-5; 22:6).
6Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Parental instruction then serves as a combatant to evil. Children are continually reminded of their parentsí good doctrine (4:1-5).
1 Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding. 2 For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law. 3 For I was my fatherís son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother. 4 He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live. 5 Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.
Consequently, children gain a respect for the wisdom of the elderly (20:29) and learn appreciation for the safety found in wise counsel (11:14).
29 The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the gray head.
14 Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.
Children who live according to their parental instruction eventually become wise themselves. They willingly receive rebuke, correction, and instruction (15:5; 13:1).
5 A fool despiseth his fatherís instruction: but he that regardeth reproof is prudent.
1 A wise son heareth his fatherís instruction: but a scorner heareth not rebuke.
They do what is pure and right (20:11) and learn a responsible work ethic (10:5).
11 Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.
5 He that gathereth in summer is a wise son: but he that sleepeth
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