Wisdom Is The Principal Thing

William J. Stewart | Lessons from the Book of Proverbs

Proverbs 4:1-27

The wise king has stressed to his son the great importance wisdom holds. He continues to do so in our present text, going so far as to tell us that wisdom is the most important thing.


Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; love her, and she will keep you. Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. (Proverbs 4:5-7)

Children tend to follow in the path of their parents, whether for good or evil. In his appeal to his children, Solomon refers to his relationship to his own parents, David and Bathsheba. His own father had taught him about the importance of wisdom (4-9).

I wonder if David’s influence on Solomon is what caused him to ask God for wisdom, rather than long life, riches or the life of his enemies (1 Kings 3:11-13). It is obvious that David’s word were etched into his son’s mind; and now, they were given to the next generation also.

Wisdom is personified, pictured as a highly desired woman. She ought to be cherished, held in high esteem. Do not turn away from her, love her, honor her, embrace her. Those who do so will find that she has wonderful qualities that will benefit us. He says it will preserve and promote us. Strong’s defines the Hebrew שמר as “…to hedge about, guard, protect…” Wisdom will keep us from falling into the bad situations others blindly walk into. It serves to protect. The Hebrew word רומ is defined as “…to rise, bring up, exalt, extol, mount up…” Those who exalt godly wisdom will be exalted themselves (Joseph is a great example of this).

Most kings have a crown of gold to wear. A far greater crown is available to all who follow wisdom, whether king or commoner. It will adorn our lives with grace and beauty. Godly wisdom will result in godly living.


I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in the right paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hindered, and when you run, you will not stumble. (Proverbs 4:11-12)

In the pursuit of a long and healthy life, we can participate in diet plans, health clubs, eat organic vegetables, use various vitamins & supplements and so forth. There’s a huge and seemingly growing market for health-focused products. Of course, this is nothing new. Solomon desired a long life for his son. However, he didn’t instruct him about his diet or physical activity (both are good), but wanted him to focus on righteousness rather than wickedness. Those who do so are walking in wisdom.

Solomon contrasts the way of the wicked with the way of the wise. If we walk in wisdom, we can have confidence. Our feet will be on solid ground, our steps will not be hindered, we will be able to run and not fall. Those who walk in wisdom walk on a path that is a well lit, visible path. In fact, he states:

…the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day. (Proverbs 4:18)

Those who choose wickedness over wisdom take a path that is dark (v 19). It is hard to walk very far in the dark without stumbling, especially if the way is difficult or unknown. So is the path of the wicked. Of their attitude, he warns:

…they do not sleep unless they have done evil; and their sleep is taken away unless they make someone fall. For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence. (Proverbs 4:16-17)

A few years back, some t-shirts came out with the phrase, “Eat, Sleep, ______” The blank would depend on the interest of the purchaser. I remember seeing some with “hockey” and “football” on them. For the wicked, it is “Eat, Sleep, Do evil.” Doing evil is as much a part off their life as eating and sleeping, in fact, so much so that Solomon says they can’t get to sleep unless they have done evil to someone.

It is a path we must avoid, do not enter it, do not walk on it, avoid it, do not travel on it, turn away, pass on (v 14-15). When we see something repeated that emphatically, it is surely important. We need to stay clear of the path of the wicked. It is contrary to wisdom, it is contrary to a long life, it is contrary to the way of God.


Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you. (Proverbs 4:23-24)

Success and focus go hand-in-hand. If we’re easily distracted or half-hearted, we will not accomplish what we need to. The king demands that his son not allow his words to depart from before his eyes, but that he keep them in his heart. Focus! The word he has in mind is more than fatherly advice; Solomon was sharing God’s will with his son.

Do you remember the children’s song, “O be careful…”? I’m sure there are different versions of it, but consider:

O be careful little mouth what you say…
Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you. (4:24)

O be careful little eyes what you see…
Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. (4:25)

O be careful little feet where you go…
Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil. (4:26-27)

The word of God, the wisdom Solomon shared with his son, leads to a long and healthy life for the here and now, but far greater, to eternal life in the hereafter.

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