Proverbs 1:17

Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird.

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Birds are foolishly stupid, even to the destruction of their lives. The fowler spreads a net in their view, but it does them no good. The attraction of the bait lures them into the snare easily. The warning of danger is clear, but it does not slow them down. The certainty of their stupidity and destruction is a lesson and warning for men to heed danger to them.

Here is a classic proverb – a dark saying of the wise, needing a little interpretation (Pr 1:6)! Ah, Lord, what a glorious book you have written! Are you ready, dear reader, to explore the meaning of these challenging words? And this proverb, as surely as all the rest, carries very important wisdom and instruction for your safety and success in life.

A fowler hunted wild birds for food or sport. He was a bird-catcher, and he generally used nets. With food as the bait, he would spread a net that could easily be dropped over the bird or gathered together to trap it. He would wait for the bird to come for the easy food, and then drop the net over it. Unable to fly away, the fowler had his helpless prey.

What is vain – a foolish waste – in this proverb? “Surely in vain” starts the proverb. But what is the vanity? What is the wasteful event? Is it a foolish waste for the fowler to spread his net while a bird is watching, for it will know better than to approach the bait? Or is it worthless for the bird to see the fowler spreading the dangerous net, since he will quickly fly to the bait as soon as the fowler is out of sight?

The latter interpretation is the correct one. Laying a trap for a bird while it watches will certainly not help the bird, for it will quickly fly to the bait, at the cost of its own life. It is vain, or worthless, for the bird to see the danger, for it will not perceive the fatal risk. A bird is too stupid to see the danger, and it is too greedy for the bait to fly away. Thank God for revealing the interpretation, so you can learn the lesson and grow in wisdom.

This interpretation is correct by the context, which describes wicked men running and hasting to violent crimes (Pr 1:16) that will result in their own loss of life (Pr 1:18). As in all the Bible, you study the context to determine the intent of individual verses. Here you have Solomon, the perfect father, warning his son against evil companions (Pr 1:10-19).

Wicked men pursue sinful lives, in spite of clear warnings of danger in full view. They read of similar criminals being arrested and punished severely; they see others die young and horrible deaths; they hear strong warnings of divine judgment to come; and their consciences tell them God condemns their actions. Yet they fly to the bait, the precious substance and spoil of robbery (Pr 1:13) and the unrighteous gain of theft (Pr 1:19).

Sin is deceitfully blinding. Though God warned Adam and Eve plainly, they flew into Satan’s net for the bait of forbidden fruit. Though adultery is warned against and the painful consequences are well known, foolish men go rushing after the strange woman “as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life” (Pr 7:22-23).

Wicked men pursue sin without regard for the danger, and then the net falls on them suddenly (Eccl 9:12). The danger was there all along, and it was visible; but they deceive themselves that they will not be caught. They convince themselves they can get away without the consequences others suffer. They know God’s judgment, yet they continue in sin, and with sinners (Rom 1:32). Why are they so stupid? The deceitful nature of sin and power of Satan makes them as foolish and vulnerable as birds (Jer 17:9; II Tim 2:26).

But the LORD God will not be mocked (Gal 6:7). The net will fall. The sinful bird will be taken. The fowler of divine justice will take his prey. God has craftily set His own gin and snare for the wicked (Amos 3:1-8). The wicked will be snared in the work of his own hands; he will be trapped and destroyed in his own folly, which will fall on his own head (Job 18:5-10; Ps 7:14-16; 9:15-16; 35:7-8; 57:4-6). Kiss the Son (Ps 2:12). Today!

Young man, do not be a foolish bird. “Deliver thyself as a roe from the hand of the hunter, and as a bird from the hand of the fowler” (Pr 6:5). Get away from the temptation of the bait. Run from the danger of the net laid for your soul. You cannot keep company with wicked men, play with a strange woman, or follow any sinful habit without it trapping and destroying you. Flee youthful lusts, today. Fly away! Far away!

Parent, foolishness is bound in the hearts of your children (Pr 22:15). It is your duty to teach them the folly of sin and provide some pain to help the lesson, lest they be stupid as birds and fly to their own destruction (Pr 13:24; 22:6; 23:13-14; 29:15; Eph 6:4). Show the deceitfulness of sin’s bait and teach them the painful consequences of disobedience. Remind them that sinners continuing in sin are as stupid as birds flying into a visible net.

Christian reader, you were snared by the fowler from hell, the devil himself, who took you captive at his will (II Tim 2:26). You loved his bait, and you willingly obeyed his lies to the eternal entrapment of your soul (Eph 2:1-3). Do you know your situation was as bleak as a bird in the net of a destroyer? But the Lord Jesus Christ, stronger than Satan, has delivered you from his snare (Luke 11:20-22; Col 1:13). Praise His glorious name!

Satan has and will move men to lay snares for the righteous, but the Lord will deliver His saints out of them all (Ps 91:3; 140:5; Is 29:20-21; Hos 9:8; II Tim 4:16-18). “Blessed be the LORD, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth. Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped. Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (Ps 124:6-8). Praise His glorious name!