Proverbs 1:8–19 is fascinating to read in light of the father son adventure. Verse 8 starts with “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.” (Pr. 1:8). From this we know that the writer of this proverb is also a father imploring his son to listen to his instruction. This speaks of the universal idea of the father passing down teaching to the son.
The father’s drive to hand down moral structure and good practical sense to the son could be an instinctual or a cultural phenomenon. Either way, we assume that the father is the one who feels it necessary to hand these things down to his son.
This drive is still in operation today in our culture. Whether or not this drive is instinctively or culturally born is a bit of a “chicken or the egg” issue. Whatever the case, it continues to be culturally reinforced. Handing down instruction is part of the father son adventure, which remains strong in our culture regardless of its birth place. Fathers feel the drive to hand down knowledge to their sons.
The advice that the father gives in this section is quite remarkable. Verses 10–19 are a warning to the son. One could apply it in a general way by saying the section is about “profiting by harming others” because certainly that is true. But the section is quite explicit. It talks about bloodshed and swallowing people alive like Sheol would do. As Sheol refers to the afterlife, this section is talking about death. It is a warning against planning an ambush against innocent people, murdering them and profiting from it. This would be a wicked plan, which one might think goes without saying.
What is interesting about this is how straightforward it is. The book of Proverbs draws a line of distinction between good and evil, clearly and explicitly articulating what happens on both sides of the line. The son is told that people who have evil plans are actually just setting a trap for themselves. “But these men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives” (Pr. 1:18).
This would have affect of dispelling any alleged mystery about evil, exposing how foolish it actually is. One might say “What goes around comes around” but this is interesting because we do not know when this happens. According to the father, the author of these proverbs, it will happen sometime. Maybe it is not immediate, but eventually a plan like this backfires. That is why it is foolish. An evil plan is a foolish plan, despite the moral implications.
There are moral implications here to be sure. Most likely, the father is telling his son this so that the son has a clear articulation in his heart and mind about right and wrong. But the advice from his father is not “don’t do this because it’s wrong according to some universal moral code or standard.” The father tells the son not to do this because it is foolish. He is saying that it is unwise. It is implied that it is also immoral, but this is really about wisdom over moral absolutes. Wisdom from the father is part of the father son adventure and the father is explaining to the son, not that evil is wrong, but that evil is unwise. It is implied that evil is wrong.
Wisdom from the father equips the son not only with moral instruction, but explanation as to why morality is wise and immorality unwise. It dispels any mystery about evil plans in general, exposing them as a sham. The process of giving wisdom to the son happens in the context of the relationship between the father and son. This makes it an integrated part of the father son adventure.