To know wisdom and instruction (Prov 1:2, ESV)
The first use of “to” is found in the first half of Prov 1:2. Solomon writes these proverbs so we might “know wisdom and instruction.” He wants to communicate facts about topics such as God, people, and the world, in order to equip us to believe the truth and reject error.
For example, is God near to us or far from us (Prov 3:32-35)? Can we expect him to care about our lives or not (Prov 16:9, 20:24)? Is he trustworthy (Prov 3:5-6), righteous (Prov 15:9), and just (Prov 29:26)?
What about people? How do we persuade them to believe the truth about God (Prov 16:23)? How do we interact with others who are as selfish and arrogant as we ourselves are (Prov 18:1)? If I love God, what should my business practices (Prov 16:11), love life (Prov 22:14), and social activism (Prov 28:27) look like? How do people change (Prov 4:23)?
In addition, there is the world. What is a godly perspective on animal rights (Prov 12:10)? How can I skillfully use the resources given to me by God to develop and produce more (Prov 14:4), without just destroying what I’ve already got (Prov 21:20)? What perspective should I have toward material goods (Prov 3:9-10)?
Knowing wisdom and instruction involves much more than the ability to answer these questions correctly on a test. We must be able to translate these objective truths into the choices of every moment. We do that by first believing these truths, and then insightfully applying them in any specific situation. For example, anyone with a smattering of biblical education can answer the question “can God do all things” (Prov 16:9)? However, when the little ones are frightened by a thunder storm, a wise parent will confidently connect their experience with the truth: “Pray with me, Bobby: Jesus, please help. I’m scared. Thank you for taking care of me. Amen.”
Remember that proverbs deal with the mundane and messy details of life. Their intention is not only to load us with doctrines or ethical ideals. Rather, they aim to connect those doctrines and ethical ideals with the day-to-day situations we face. Therefore from this first purpose we can unravel the first part of Solomon’s definition of wisdom.
Wisdom is: Knowing the right thing to do in any particular situation.