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Choose Life by Willingly Keeping the Commandments
Proverbs 4:3-4 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
3 When I was a son with my father,
tender, the only son in the sight of my mother,
4 he taught me and said to me,
“Let your heart hold fast my words;
keep my commandments, and live.
When I was a son with my father: Here Solomon is showing that he too was a young learner like his own children are now. He is, in essence, saying, “I also had a father who educated me as well.” “I was a son once also.
Tender, the only son in the sight of my mother: Here in this context, the Hebrew adjective tender (רַךְ rak) means a son who is young in years, that is, a small child. Solomon is emphasizing when he, too, was an only child. The Hebrew phrase in the sight of (פָּנִים panim or פָּנֶה paneh) is literally “in the face of,” meaning being before someone in front of someone as to the proximity, with emphasis on his having received special care and love from his mother, especially being the only son. Here, Solomon is painting a picture for us of his loving childhood. He was the son of King David, living in the home of David, having constant access to his father. While he was the only child for some time, David and Bathsheba devoted much training, attention, and love to him.
He taught me and said to me: This line introduces us to the quoted material from his father David in the second line and runs through verse 9.
Let your heart hold fast my words: The Hebrew noun heart (לֵב leb) refers to the seat or center of intellect. For the Hebrew, the heart keeps knowledge, wisdom, discernment, understanding, and insight in the mind. In Proverbs 2:2, we find, “inclining your heart to understanding.”
Keep my commandments, and live: Provers 7:2 begins with the exact same words. My commandments of this line are the same as my words of the previous line, conveying the same thought. The Hebrew (מִצְוָה mitsvah) is the same word from 2:1 and 3:1, where it refers to the wisdom, discernment, understanding, the teaching (instruction, orders) given by the one who is wise. If these commandments are kept, it means life. Solomon must wholeheartedly hold to his father’s word, and he must also choose life by willingly keeping the commandments.
Solomon was very fortunate, as he was the Son of King David, who had his mistakes but was by far one of the closest human friends Jehovah God has had. Solomon spent his childhood being taught by loving parents before any siblings came along. We see this direction being given to young Solomon starting in verses 4-9. He is determined to pass on his father King David’s wisdom to his sons. He begins with the command that they get his words deep down in their heart to pay attention to his commandments so that they may live.
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