The first six verses of Proverbs is the writer’s explanation for why he is writing this book. He wants to pass on to us something that’s very important to living a healthy and happy life. He uses 8 words to define what he’s talking about. They are wisdom, instruction, understanding, prudence, knowledge, discretion, learning, and counsel. I would argue that these words all really synonymous. Wisdom is the key element and the others are words that say almost the same thing with just a slight variation in emphasis.

Wiersbe explains each word. He says that wisdom means exhibiting God’s character in the many practical affairs of life. Instruction carries the idea of discipline, a parent’s correction that results in the building of the child’s character. Understanding means the ability to grasp a truth with insight and discernment. Prudence is the kind of intelligence that sees the reasons behind things. People with prudence can think their way through complex matters and see what lies behind them, and thereby make wise decisions about them. The word translated knowledge comes from a Hebrew root that describes skill in hunting, sailing, and playing a musical instrument. Knowledge involves the ability to distinguish; the Latin equivalent gives us our English word science. Discretion is the ability to devise wise plans after understanding a matter. The Hebrew root for learning means “to lay hold of, to grasp, to acquire or buy.” When we grasp something with the mind, then we have learned it. The word translated counsel is related to the verb “to steer a ship.” Counsel is wise guidance that moves one’s life in the right direction.

These are the key words in the book of Proverbs and they are repeated often throughout the 31 chapters. Matthew Perry, popular star of the TV show Friends, said, “I had all this money and fancy cars and beautiful girlfriends, but it wasn’t making me happy.” I wish I could sit down and share the book of Proverbs with him. It’s there that God instructs us all on how to live a happy and satisfying life. Proverbs 3:21-22 says, “Hold on to your wisdom and insight, my son. Never let them get away from you. They will provide you with life—a pleasant and happy life.”

“My Father told me never to forget his words. “If you follow them,” he said, “you will have a long and happy life.” Proverbs 4:4