Plumbing the Well of Wisdom, a quick exegetical look at Proverbs 20:5

Photo by Nick Krantz

“Counsel [purpose] in the heart of a man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.”

“Counsel” – The Hebrew word translated as counsel, plan, advice, and sometimes purpose, is laden with theological significance. First, God’s plans are eternal and unstoppable (Isaiah 46:9-11), unlike man’s plans (Proverbs 19:20). Second, Israel is frequently called a people who do not listen to counsel. Proverbs picks up this theme of the wise verses the foolish, portraying the wise as those who heed the counsel of the Lord. Third, in Acts 5:38 early church persecutors decide to leave the disciples alone, reasoning that they will not be able to thwart the plans of God. Finally, Acts 2:23 states that the life and death of Jesus Christ was part of God’s foreordained plan.

The Counselor – John writes of Jesus’ promise to send the Holy Spirit, the “Counselor”, to us so that we will not be left as orphans. Christ has every right and authority to send us His Spirit, for Isaiah prophesies the coming Messiah as a “wonderful counselor”, and a man on whom will be the Spirit of counsel and strength (Isaiah 9:6, 11:2).

Well imagery – The agricultural image in this Proverb is that of a well. You couldn’t survive in ancient times without a water supply, which was often in the form of a well. People had to daily draw water for themselves and their livestock and crops.

Take away – Do not be like Israel, rejecting the counsel of the Lord. Do not pursue your own counsel or that of the culture (“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death,” Proverbs 14:12). But daily draw water from the well of God’s counsel which he’s placed within you, through His Spirit.


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