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A Wise Son Brings Joy to His Father, and A Foolish Son Brings Shame to His Mother
Proverbs 15:20 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
20 A wise son makes a glad father,
but a foolish man despises his mother.
The verse emphasizes the importance of being a wise and respectful son, as it brings joy and satisfaction to the parents and dishonors them otherwise. This verse encourages us to be mindful of our words, as they can either promote or hinder instruction. The wise person, who has taken the time to learn and understand, will use their words to help others learn, while the fool’s words will only lead to further foolishness. Additionally, the verse also stresses the importance of the heart in guiding the mouth. As we speak, our words should reflect the wisdom that is stored in our hearts.
A wise son – The wise (חָכָם chakam) son is one who is skillful, clever, shrewd, and has the capacity to understand, learn, and discern. Thus, the wise son is a product of his parent’s successful instructions. “A wise son” refers to someone who possesses wisdom, which in Proverbs is often associated with fear of Jehovah, obedience to his commands, and good sense. In this context, the “wise son” is one who honors and respects his parents.
Makes a glad father – The son, because he has respect for his father, will become wise himself in character and understanding (שָׂמַח samach), making the father happy and joyful. “Makes a glad father” suggests that the father’s joy comes from the son’s wise behavior.
But a foolish man –The foolishness of the foolish man (אִוֶּלֶת ivveleth), who has the trait of acting stupidly or rashly because he is devoid of wisdom or understanding, the Hebrew noun focusing on the evil behaviors which occur in this state. He has chosen to travel the path of foolishness in his character and thinking, having no respect for his parents. In fact, he despises them. “But a foolish man” refers to someone who lacks wisdom and good sense. In this context, the “foolish man” is one who does not honor and respect his parents.
Despises his mother – To “despise” (בָּזָה bazah) his mother means to look down on her with contempt, rejecting her guiding wisdom. This causes her to suffer tremendous grief. In short, “despises his mother” means that the foolish man dishonors, disrespects, and looks down on his mother.
In this context, the verse encourages people to speak wisely and use their words to promote instruction and understanding. This is an important lesson in any culture, particularly in the ancient Near East, where wisdom and knowledge were highly valued. Additionally, the verse hints at the importance of the heart in guiding the mouth – the wise person will speak words that are reflective of the knowledge and understanding they possess.
In the historical and cultural context of ancient Israel, the family was a central institution, and respect for one’s parents was considered a fundamental virtue. The fifth of the ten commandments, found in Exodus 20:12, states, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”
In the context of the book of Proverbs, the author is often addressing a young man and gives him advice on how to live a good and successful life. Wisdom and good sense are the keys to success, and the author is urging the young man to acquire these qualities in order to achieve prosperity and happiness. The author uses the metaphor of a wise son and a foolish man to demonstrate the importance of honoring and respecting one’s parents.
In this specific verse, the emphasis is on the relationship between children and parents and how the conduct of children reflects the honor and respect of the parents. It can be understood as a reminder for children to be considerate, responsible, and respectful to their parents. And it also emphasizes the role of wisdom and understanding in family relationships, which is central to the book of Proverbs.
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