Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end – Proverbs 11:20
Meaning of Proverbs 11:20
King Solomon is known to be the wisest King in The Old Testament. Most chapters in the book of Proverbs is a proof of his wisdom, which is often quoted by Christians and non-Christians. The verse, “Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end,” means that a child should listen to and heed their parents’ and elders’ advice and instruction. This will help them to grow as obedient and hardworking, leading them to be wise and responsible adults later in life. A person’s ability to cope with life’s challenges and also success in their career and relationships is an indication of whether they acquired wisdom in their developing years.
Interpretations of Proverbs 11:20
The verse Proverbs 11:20 is used in a very general way by both Christians and Non-Christians as parents often say it to their children as a moral lesson. The following are the interpretations of the verse.
Interpretation #1 Children are not capable of thinking
In the first interpretation, the reader believes that children cannot think on their own. Children between the ages of two and ten are especially vulnerable and innocent. They look up to adults and elders and learn from them by watching and listening. Children must be monitored and guided for their day-to-day tasks like homework, eating food, etc. Hence, the teaching methodologies are different for younger children compared to teenagers. Thus, in this version, the verse, “Hear counsel, and receive instruction” implies that children must follow counsel and instruction from their parents in all areas.
Interpretation #2 Parents do not give freedom to choose
The meaning of the verse, “Hear counsel, and receive instruction” is that parents instill fear in the children to protect them. A few children find such parents controlling and over-protective. However, the parents believe that younger children are not mature enough to make their own decision. Fear usually combines with love and concern for their well-being and safety. Parents try to imbibe good manners, hygiene, and respect towards elders very early on in their children. Hence, in this interpretation, parents’ concern for their children takes away their freedom to make any decision.
Interpretation #3 Without counseling, adults can be foolish
In the third interpretation, the reader believes that lack of counseling in childhood can result in them becoming foolish as they grow up. Most children like to rebel against their parents when their requests are denied, such as extra playing hours, junk food, etc. Additionally, few parents do not instill fear in children, thus, making them ignore the counseling or corrections. Such individuals most likely fail in their careers and relationships. Therefore, the meaning of the verse, “Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end” implies that children who do not have counseling at home or professionally have a hard time settling into adult life.
Interpretation #4 Children must always depend on parents
The verse, “that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end” implies that children need to look up to their parents at all times. Children who like to choose their own path and ignore their parent’s guidance find themselves in bad company and later regret in life. Thus, listening to their parents will help them make the right choice, especially when a parent is already leading an exemplary life. The child’s first role model should always be their mother and father. The part of the verse, “Hear counsel, and receive instruction”, means that children must depend on their parents even as adults.
Interpretation #5 Learning young would make children wise adults
In this interpretation, the reader believes that a child’s listening skills enhance and improve when their pay heed to their parents and elders. This also makes the child responsible and wise adults when they grow up. The act of learning from elders also makes children capable of accepting corrections and remembering their parent’s counsel while making decisions in their careers and relationships. The verse, “Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end” encourages children to be obedient to their parents and also understand the reason when they are being correct.
Historical Background of Proverbs 11:20
The book of Proverbs is attributed to King Solomon, son of David, as he was considered one of the wisest rulers. However, it is believed that although he was the primary author of the book, a few chapters were written by others. Proverbs Chapter 11, especially verse 20, was written by King Solomon for his children as he wanted to teach them wisdom and kindness. The book was not finished until 200 years after his death. It is speculated that it might have been completed by the time of Babylonian exile. The aim of the book of proverbs is to teach Judeo-Christian principles to the readers and lead a good life.
Literary Devices of Proverbs 11:20
Consonance – There is a rich use of consonant sounds in the verse that makes it unique For example, the sound of /s/ is used in the entire verse in close proximity ‘Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.’
Theme – Proverbs chapter 19 has different themes in each verse. Here, the main themes of Proverbs 19:20 are advice, warning, and instruction.
Ethos – In this chapter, especially Proverbs 19:20 is a good example of ethos. Here, the author is ethically appealing the readers to young readers. He requests them to pay attention to the instructions they receive from their parents while they are young so that they will be wise when they grow up.
Adage – The verse is also a universal truth and a fact of life, making it an adage. As it says that children must accept and follow teachings so that when they grow up, they can use what they have learned and be better in their life.