North is a Christian economist who has worked for men like Ron Paul and writes occasionally on Lew Rockwell’s website. He is a strict Austrian when it comes to economics and has been influenced by men like Von Mises, Hayek and Rushdoony.
Recently (August 2012) he finished a 31 volume economic commentary on the Bible drawing out the Austrianism found therein.
North is a very easy author to follow and he writes in tidbits that are packed with good doctrine. He gets straight to the point and does so clearly.
In this commentary on the Proverbs he draws out some of the themes that deal with wealth, money, wisdom, good-dealings, justice, etc. I managed to write down some of my own notes while going through the 438 page book and wanted to share them.
2. The Fear of The Lord
Proverbs 1:7 “the fear of The Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction”
This verse as revived of its potency by Van Til and Bahnsen serves as the fundamental question regarding epistemological views asking: “what can man reliably know, and how can he know it”
We answer only by the revelation of God more accurately the revelation of His negative sanctions throughout history. “By trusting God and by obeying God covenant keepers have a sure way to deal with the negative sanctions threatened by the creation” -North
He also writes so ingeniously: “In every social philosophy, the source of negative sanctions occupies the peak of hierarchy” and who occupies the hierarchy? Jehovah God!
Conclusion of this verse is that covenant keepers via the revelation of a covenantal God have the ultimate hope throughout history, while covenant breakers don’t, so why he pessimistic or pessimillerian? We have a living hope that is offered to us in the Proverbs and His name is Wisdom!
4. Wisdom and Wealth
Proverbs 1: 20-22 “wisdom crieth… In the opening of the gates”
Firstly let’s notice the personification of wisdom as a woman. You might ask why? Well the Proverbs don’t give an answer but we can deduce that since this is a heavily influenced covenantal book, and in these first chapters is partly speaking with covenant breakers (usually typified by whoredom or harlotry in the Old Testament, and is expanded in the Proverbs therefore explained by chapters like 5, 6, 7) wisdom is the faithful pure wife! She brings the covenantal law-suit as the prophets did…
Notice the three categories of hearers in verse 22
1. The simpleton
2. The scorner
3. The fool
Also notice as the governing verse indicates, the location where wisdom uttereth. “In the city gate”, meaning that she is involved with the days politics, and places demands on rulers to judge according to biblical law. Therefore we can also see that the wisdom of the Christian is not supposed to be a private one, but a public display of the graces of God in our lives.
How Should We Respond?
How do we, as Christians, respond to the call of wisdom in verses 20-22?
Let us then take heed to the previous words spoken that our task is to “know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding…” (v. 2)
This chapter is mainly concerned with wisdom! To the covenant rejecter it is his destruction; to the covenant keeper it is his joy. To the covenant keeper it directs us to the obtaining of wisdom, the cultivation of wisdom and the application of wisdom. (Chapter 3:13-17, 8:11, 16:16 etc) wisdom is greater than gold, silver, long life it is the most profitable asset!
“Of all capital assets biblical wisdom has the highest rate of return” -North
However, and not neglecting the latter (gold silver long life) wisdom provides the launch pad to these external blessings.
Did I just say that biblical wisdom and the application of it leads one to wealth? Sure did! Am I teaching a prosperity gospel? Not at all but a gospel prosperity, meaning that seeking God first and strict obedience to His law is the basis for anything else, as Jesus verbatim says in Matthew 6:33. There is a cause and effect relationship between the exercise of biblical wisdom, justice and equity and the external signs of prosperity. Simple cause and effect relationship constitute the book of proverbs.
The Proverbs encourages nay commands nay binds men to seek wisdom! It’s more precious than gold, more valuable than silver, more pleasing than rubies, and who doesn’t want these things? As a side note, if you desire riches, which all of the world naturally does, the bible (for your own good) tells you to seek wisdom because it’s more valuable than these!
On another note wisdom should not be hidden in a box and reserved for an elite group. If you have wisdom and have studied and acquired scholarly knowledge about certain topic, do the body and the world a favor by sharing! We are called to understand, meaning to put in effort, to strive to solve these riddles and in return to help others out to see them (chapter 1:6). Furthermore, yet carefully this wisdom cannot just be an intellectual assent, but must be an ethical assent. Wisdom is applied ethics! And therefore these ethical choices entail prosperity (that cause and effect relationship mentioned above)
However and going back, remember that all education starts with Proverbs 1:7! Without this you are helpless, hopeless!
Even still these proverbs represent a form of capital, in that adherence to them produces and increase in personal wealth. But undergirding this is the doctrine of Gods kingdom. Our wealth is to serve in the propagation of the gospel, the advancement of the kingdom and the influence of Christianity. How does this happen? It starts with obedience. Read the book of Deuteronomy (probably the most hated book in modern times but the book that Jesus loved) chapter 8:18 and 28:1-14 and notice the correlation of obedience and blessing contra disobedience and cursing (later in chapter 28). In short “the ultimate goal of personal wealth is the increase of capital necessary to implement biblical wisdom in a corporate public form: the kingdom of God”. And remind I you that Christians are not hermits hiding with their bibles in some hole but they are courageous conquerors who display their wisdom by rhetorical communication, logical formulation and proper biblical wisdom. (Rom. 8:37)
Sadly however the demand for wisdom is very low, as it has always been. They say Aristotle one bright morning decided to take a lamp with him to the market and pretend that he couldn’t see. People thought he was crazy and asked him mockingly “man, what are you doing” he replied “I’ve been looking everywhere but I just haven’t found any wise person”. That is expected. We know that the “carnal man receives not the things of the spirit” (1 Cor. 2:14, cf Romans 8:7). Therefore logically we conclude that wisdom is a gift of God’s grace; and if a gift then to be used delicately and properly for the glory of the giver and the enjoyment of the receiver. So even at a free price wisdom is not demanded (Isaiah 55:1, 5-7).
But for the hearer, the few, there’s a built in cause and effect system based on obedience to Gods law! For “prosperity is the product of mans outward adherence to biblical law” and contrasting the opposite is true, namely, poverty is the result of outward adherence to pagan law or polytheistic law! (1:31-33)
When Assyrians or Babylonians attacked Israel or Judah there was no repentance on Israel’s of Judah’s behalf (Judah had a momentary repentance under Hezekiah and Josiah but it didn’t last) . Why is it that God upheld Hezekiah and Josiah? Because there were staunch and adamant defenders of Gods law and name! But no, Israel and Judah went into exile, BACK to slavery and poverty, back to statist Egypt who bound them to a covenant of works saying “If you do this you shall live”! Oh how foolish to escape the burden-less yoke of Jehovah’s Law and instead to go under man’s law. That is why God didn’t answer them.
In conclusion: we read of Solomon’s words elsewhere that the end of the matter is this: “Fear God and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccle. 12:13) . And we noted that adherence to His commandments produce and entail wealth which is a tool for godly dominion and advancement of God kingdom the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
5. Righteous Judgements? Proverbs chapter 2
We have come to an all too important section, yet not a new one. It speaks again of obedience and blessing generally about wisdom specifically about righteous decisions. Note the conditionality of these verses (3-5; 9; 20;21-22) and the relevance it has with that written above.
The verse were going to focus on is the 6th and 9th.
They read “For the LORD gives wisdom [and] knowledge and understanding… [so that] you will understand righteousness justice and equity”
As we have mentioned the attainment of wisdom is discussed in the first few aphorisms of the book (1:2, 1:7, 1:8, etc) and so it continues here repeating again that wisdom is a gift from God, handed down not from general revelation but of special!
Next Solomon leans toward a judicial application of this wisdom spoken of, namely, the “paths of justice”. Here he is speaking about ethical judgments or decisions. He is saying (beginning in verse 1-4) “son, hearken unto my words, be attentive to wisdom, treasure it, for if you receive it, if you call out for insight and if you seek it like silver (remember the correlation between wisdom and wealth and how for many the latter is raised above the former) then you will understand, and find knowledge, then you will know righteousness justice and equity”. What Solomon is doing here is a classic “protasis and apodasis” structure. It is the simple “if, then” structure. If you hear, listen, do, etc, then you will understand and know. I hope that’s clear, we must continue.
The confiding matter of verse 9 is that judgment is ethical!
Also notice the plurality of the paths, indicating not a monolithic set of thoughts, but diversity in matters of decisions making. For example the very case of Solomon and the two mothers with the one child. There wasn’t a strict command to Solomon on how to judge that case step by step so he used his discernment and made a decision. Some other people may have done a different thing, so the matter is clear. Be that as it may however, I am not arguing for a lax view of the magistrate in decision making (or any decision making). Whatever is clearly revealed for the magistrate to do he must do, but a step by step legalistic analysis of cases is forbidden in this text.
Along with this thought, is the obedience and observance of these morally and economically binding foundations on either path! How? “For the upright (assuming a moral code) shall inherit the land, and those with integrity (again assuming a moral code) will remain in it, but the wicked will be cut off from the land…” (2:21-22) what’s the main theme then? That the righteous will always out live and outperform the wicked! You say “wait Arg, I don’t see this now, all I see is the corruption being victorious”, I reply “when has it ever been what we see”? Does not God promise? Does he not say that “all the ends of the earth will worship me” and from “sea to sea” will be My reign? (Psalm 2; 22:27, 72:8-; Isaiah 2; etc) Christian, buckle up you’re called to victory and conquest (Genesis 1:26, 9:1-3, Romans 8:37-39). Back to the thematic scene of Solomon, in short he says “Covenant keeping societies outlast covenant breaking ones” (the word covenant can mean lawful in this treatise). (Psalm 33:12)
In confusion therefore, men must make it their prior search the wisdom of God, even if it is gained only by grant. There’s an obligatory seal that entails perfect law keeping. In finding or rather receiving the grace of wisdom, we are told by Solomon to put it in action in our daily lives especially in civil order, for that will guide those paths of justice and will be a source for long term private and corporate prosperity.
“The search for wisdom is the most important of all of men’s investments.” -GN
I’ve done this for nearly every chapter and wanted to retain as much as I could from North’s insight. Of-course I don’t agree with every bit of exegesis but his basic outlook to the book is tenable and attractive.
Overall I would highly recommend this commentary for all believers but especially for Christians who want an economic position from the Scriptures!
5/5 stars for North on Proverbs!