The Home Rules the Nation | The Word Must Rule the Home

I. (Verses 1-3) When sound and pious instruction is received gladly, both the home and the nation are happy.

A. This thought begins with verse 28 of the previous chapter: Virtually the same thought is reiterated in 29:2, but in reverse relationships with an extension of thought on the increase of the righteous. The two verse together form a lovely chiasm:

“When the wicked rise, men hide themselves;

but when they perish the righteous increase.”


“When the righteous increase, the people rejoice.

But when a wicked man rules, people groan.”


B. Embedded within these verses (28:28-29:4), we discern the dynamic that produces an increase of the righteous and the culture of wickedness.

  1. The rearing of children in the home is the microcosm within which the direction of nations is determined. If instruction finds a ready heart that is inclined to love wisdom, the father is a glad man (“A man who loves wisdom makes his father glad.” 3a). When, however, a child sets himself against parental authority and instruction, decides to follow his own pleasure and foolishly believes that the great part of wisdom is the satisfying of his own immediate desires, disaster is on hand, not only for himself, but for all those who come in the circle of his influence “He who keeps company with harlots wastes his own wealth.” 3b).
  2. Verses 1 and 3 contrast two kinds of persons: the person who receives instruction and reproof for his wickedness but hardens himself against it and the person who “loves wisdom.” The one accepts instruction and responds positively to reproof thus increasing righteousness as well as personal and public joy. The other follows his own way, his own desires, refuses to listen to legitimate authority and to truth and finds that the end of such a curse is destruction, an end to which he has carried many others. “A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy” 29:1.
  3. If either becomes a ruler, two outcomes may be expected. He causes distress to the land and smothers the righteous, minimizing their influence, or he rules righteously and impartially and brings joy and prosperity. Verse 4 gives a quick summary of the impact that response in the home has on prosperity in a nation:

The king gives stability to the land by justice,

But a man who takes bribes overthrows it.”


  1. Verses 7 and 8 continue this contrast by employing another chiasm. The distinction between the one who loves wisdom and righteousness and the one devoted only to personal interest, devoid of response to righteous instruction, is contrasted in a pattern A, B, B’, A’ Note also the complementary subjects of compassion in verse seven and the necessity for the restraint of anger in verse eight.

(A) The righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor,

(B) The wicked does not understand such concern.

(B’) Scorners set a city aflame,

(A’) But wise men turn away anger.


II. Verses 9 – 12 reiterate the same dynamic between wisdom and righteousness on the one hand and foolishness, recalcitrance, and destruction on the other.

A. Verse 9 shows in graphic language the stiff-neckedness of a fool and his refusal to be instructed. This is a species of the dynamic in 29:1. There is a scorn, an irrational aggressiveness in foolishness that refuses to listen to reasonable persuasion and can only mock, and insult, and ridicule.

B. Verse 10 is a parallel thought to verse 7, contrasting the manner of regard demonstrated by a wise ruler and a foolish ruler for the righteousness in a society. The one cannot abide to be in the presence of true integrity and consider the need to govern with true compassion and justice; the other seeks to care for all within the society and to honor those that seek righteousness and seek to protect the property and the safety of others.

C. Verse 11 is parallel to verse 8 in the matter of the expression of anger. According to his lifestyle and the rule of passion, a fool gives vent not only to lust but to wrath. If he becomes a ruler, a nation may very well expect oppression, destruction, ignoring of rights, and redefinition of justice. A wise ruler, however, realizes that uncontrolled anger creates a freeway for destructive behavior, and conflation of personal anger with a false sense of rights, and a disregard for the stability and well-being of a community. The wise man, therefore, looks at the unrighteous results of anger and “holds it back.” When he does this personally, he also seeks to establish policy outside the control of anger.

D. Verse 12, therefore, shows the exponential effect of a single individual given to a false view of righteousness and justice. Parallel to 4 b, the one takes bribes and is not governed by truth, he overthrows justice and purposely and consequentially surrounds himself with persons who will not tell the truth and also are governed by their own quest for power and personal pleasure. “All his minister become wicked.”

E. This results in an attempt to represent the policy-makers and stable voices of the past as wrong and oppressive. Faults are searched for vigorously and when found are used to discredit even the wisdom and goodness that they have invested in enduring institutions. This tendency has a destructive intent.



III. Revealed truth properly taught and invested with effectual power brings happiness to a people (Verses 13-20).

A. The only answer for oppression and injustice is the unity that comes through effectual divine instruction. This theme controls these 8 verses. Verse 13 shows the dependence that all have on the light that God alone can give. This begins with the light of conscience embedded within every person (John 1:4,9). This principle of conscience is vitally connected to the “law written n the heart” characteristic of the image of God in man (Romans 2:14-16). Added to that is the light of special revelation, developed further in verse 18. These two sources of light are given converting power by the operations of the Spirit of God (2 Corinthians 4:6). When that happens, there is a unity that develops between the former oppressor and the dependent poor.

B. Verse 14 envisions the result of such a transformation of heart by divine light. A king who rules according to truth will find his throne established for his lifetime. Jesus as the only truly righteous king, the one who is the way, the truth, and the life, and the true light who came into the world, will indeed reign for ever and ever (Revelation 11:15-18). Psalm 45, cited in Hebrews 1, is the perfect fulfillment of this proverbial vision: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is the scepter of righteousness; you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions” (Psalm 45:6, 7).

C. Again, according to verses 15 – 17, in the home one finds the key to training in righteousness and truth and the source of incompetent rule.

  1. When done consistently and responded to with proper subjection, a child becomes fit for honest and respectful interaction in society. Depending on other natural gifts, he becomes fit for equitable rule. “The rod and reproof give wisdom.” Punishment for disobedience along with instruction in righteousness and warning against wickedness must be employed if a person is to develop a properly balanced view of reward and punishment, keys to proper government.
  2. When this is absent, “But a child who gets his own way,” shameful conduct is the result and an unfitness for wise rule (“brings shame to his mother”). Even the one who has given the largest part of nurture and has the greatest tendency to forgive and love unconditionally, will feel shame at the conduct of an undisciplined, self-centered, pleasure-seeking scourge to his society.
  3. Such lack of discipline, or stiff-necked resistance to instruction, means an increase in wickedness. Sin is bound up in the heart of all the children of Adam, and only truth and discipline can produce any sort of conformity to an absolute standard of righteousness. Without the barriers in place, apart from the necessary restrictions of discipline and instruction, the evil in the heart will explode and become prolific in reproduction (“transgression increases”). These kinds of self-satisfied unalarmed people, having no fear of God before their eyes, will not endure, for their way is false and has nothing to sustain it. “The righteous will see their fall” (16b). The false system will crumble in this age (Revelation 18) and will see all its aspirations and ideas demolished in eternity (Psalm 1:5, 6).
  4. So, Solomon again emphasizes, in light of the destructive character of transgression and the certain judgment upon evil, the necessity of training and correction in the home.
  • The continued emphasis on discipline and correction assumes that an evil principle is bound up in the heart of a child. Augustine pointed out that the apparent innocence of a child is only in the weakness of its body, thus the inability to impose its will on those stronger than they. Left unchecked, however, strength to effect the will soon comes and, if the iniquitous tendency has been left uncurbed by instruction and discipline, it will be seen in full display.
  • If, however, correction has its expected fruit, the possible terror is changed to a delightful pleasure. “He will also delight your soul.” If the parents love righteousness as revealed by God and as manifested in the gospel, nothing is more delightful than a child conformed to those saving truths and focused on a sanctified path of life.

D. We depend on God’s gracious revelation for truth and instruction while recognizing the necessity of divine power for its genuine reception. (Verses 18-20)

  1. (Verse 18) – So blind we are to the light of conscience and the witness of nature, that we must have a special revelation of truth and its consistent teaching if we are to be rescued from out web of error and unrighteousness. “Where is there is no vision,” that is a prophetic vision of divine truth and its proclamation to the people, “the people are unrestrained” and will perish in their ignorance. In cases where one hears and understands the full display of divine righteousness as revealed in the law, eternal happiness is his destiny. In its proper use, the law drives a person away from any idea of self-righteousness and makes one look to the one who redeems us from the curse of the law.
  2. Without a heart, however, to receive instruction, the words unaccompanied by power will make no difference in the state of the person being instructed. “A slave will not be instructed by words alone.” When Paul preached to the Thessalonians, he testified, “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Hoy Spirit and with full conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:4, 5). If when the words make sense and the blessings and cursings are clear, without Spirit-endowed power and the gift of a heart of flesh, “though he understands, there will be no response” (19).
  3. One who is “hasty in his words” (20) is one who speaks without being instructed by divine truth. He speaks his own mind unrestrained by wisdom from above. James says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). Peter says, quoting Psalm 34, “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit” (1 Peter 3:10). When we spout our own opinions and issue our proclamation apart from the instruction and governing authority of divine revelation, we prove ourselves to be foolish, and worse than foolish, for we imagine ourselves to be wise, a virtual oracle, when we have not submitted to the only source of truth and righteousness available to our fallen souls.
Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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