Calvary Road Baptist Church

“A Survey Of Satanic & Demonic Warfare In The Proverbs


Our survey of Satanic and Demonic warfare brings us to the Proverbs.

Throughout the book of Proverbs, only one passage addresses a person’s conduct in relation to Satan and the demons. Therefore, I want to share several things about the book of Proverbs before taking you to that single passage and the New Testament elaborations of its application to spiritual warfare.

Let me begin with a single Hebrew word, one of several in the Hebrew Scriptures, that is typically but not always translated “fool” or “fools.” It figures prominently in Proverbs. The word is defined in the Brown, Driver, and Briggs Hebrew lexicon defines the term as stupid fellow and dullard.[1] This person may be academically brilliant, socially adept, financially competent, and politically astute, but he has no interest in comprehending, understanding, or succeeding in the spiritual realm. This is the individual who does not fear the LORD and is, therefore, not only utterly lacking in wisdom and understanding, but the assertion is made in Scripture that this individual really is stupid concerning the issues that are eternally important.

Other Hebrew words convey a similar sense, but to avoid confusion, I have lifted from the Proverbs those forty-nine verses that contain this particular Hebrew word. I read a number of them for you now: 

Pr 1:22     How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?

Pr 1:32     For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.

Pr 3:35     The wise shall inherit glory: but shame shall be the promotion of fools.

Pr 8:5        O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart.

Pr 10:1     The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.

Pr 10:18   He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool.

Pr 10:23   It is as sport to a fool to do mischief: but a man of understanding hath wisdom.

Pr 12:23   A prudent man concealeth knowledge: but the heart of fools proclaimeth foolishness.

Pr 13:16   Every prudent man dealeth with knowledge: but a fool layeth open his folly.

Pr 13:19   The desire accomplished is sweet to the soul: but it is abomination to fools to depart from evil.

Pr 13:20   He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.

Pr 14:7     Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge.

Pr 14:8     The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way: but the folly of fools is deceit.

Pr 14:16   A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident.

Pr 14:24   The crown of the wise is their riches: but the foolishness of fools is folly.

Pr 14:33   Wisdom resteth in the heart of him that hath understanding: but that which is in the midst of fools is made known.

Pr 15:2     The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.

Pr 15:7     The lips of the wise disperse knowledge: but the heart of the foolish doeth not so.

Pr 15:14   The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge: but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness.

Pr 15:20   A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish man despiseth his mother.

Pr 17:10   A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool.

Pr 17:12   Let a bear robbed of her whelps meet a man, rather than a fool in his folly.

Pr 17:16   Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?

Pr 17:21   He that begetteth a fool doeth it to his sorrow: and the father of a fool hath no joy.

Pr 17:24   Wisdom is before him that hath understanding; but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.

Pr 17:25   A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her that bare him.

Pr 18:2     A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.

Pr 18:6     A fool’s lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes.

Pr 18:7     A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.

Pr 19:1     Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.

Pr 19:10   Delight is not seemly for a fool; much less for a servant to have rule over princes.

Pr 19:13   A foolish son is the calamity of his father: and the contentions of a wife are a continual dropping.

Pr 19:29   Judgments are prepared for scorners, and stripes for the back of fools.

Pr 21:20   There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up.

Pr 23:9     Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words.

Pr 26:1     As snow in summer, and as rain in harvest, so honour is not seemly for a fool.

Pr 26:3     A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool’s back.

Pr 26:4     Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.

Pr 26:5     Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.

Pr 26:6     He that sendeth a message by the hand of a fool cutteth off the feet, and drinketh damage.

Pr 26:7     The legs of the lame are not equal: so is a parable in the mouth of fools.

Pr 26:8     As he that bindeth a stone in a sling, so is he that giveth honour to a fool.

Pr 26:9     As a thorn goeth up into the hand of a drunkard, so is a parable in the mouth of fools.

Pr 26:10   The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors.

Pr 26:11   As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.

Pr 26:12   Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.

Pr 28:26   He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.

Pr 29:11   A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.

Pr 29:20   Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? there is more hope of a fool than of him. 

I suspect that Christians have, for centuries, perhaps including Bible translators, used euphemisms to soften the blow of forthright and hard-hitting statements in the Bible.[2] I do not think you help anyone by protecting their feelings from the Bible. When the Bible declares something is stupid, or someone is stupid, I do not believe it helps them to refer to them as foolish when such a description is far easier to take and live with than the word stupid.

Your first trip through Proverbs should convince you that a sharp distinction is made in the book between two kinds of people, those who fear God and those who do not. Though they may not be very wise, those who fear God do possess the beginnings of wisdom and understanding, while those who do not fear God and exhibit no interest in cultivating a fear of God, no matter brilliant, gifted, skilled, or capable they are, are labeled in Proverbs as stupid people, dullards concerning spiritual matters.

Ponder that notion with me for a bit. Suppose this life is a very short prelude to eternity, and God is the One with whom we have to do, Hebrews 4.13. How utterly nonsensical is the person who is intelligent enough to know he will not live forever, grasps the certainty of his own eventual death, yet has so little concern for his own future welfare that he disregards any consideration of the benefit to him of preparing to meet God. After all, Amos 4.12 does read, “Prepare to meet thy God.”

So, Proverbs delineates between the wise and the foolish. But Proverbs also provides the means of addressing the issue of wisdom to become wiser and less foolish over time. And what is wisdom, after all, at its most fundamental meaning? It is skill at making decisions. If you do not fear God, you will have no skills to make decisions of eternal consequence because you must deal with God. And once you have begun to deal with God, your decision-making will improve with God-given means; you will become wiser.

How does one become wiser? By prayer, asking for wisdom, James 1.5. By experience, learning from your own experiences and the experiences of others. And by the wisdom found in Scripture, particularly the wisdom literature of the Bible, the best example of wisdom literature is Proverbs. Notice the two figures below, one [Table 1] from The MacArthur Study Bible, showing the three main types of relationships in the book of Proverbs.[3] The other [Table 2] is found in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament,[4] showing three kinds of topics found in Proverbs, Positive Topics, Negative Topics, and sixteen Other Subjects.

A final thought on our way to Proverbs 3.34. There are thirty-one chapters in Proverbs. There are between twenty-eight and thirty-one days in each month of the year. Therefore, it is a wonderful idea for every individual, especially those without much in the way of wisdom from life’s experiences, to read a chapter each day in Proverbs corresponding to the calendar date. The first of each month, read chapter one. The tenth of each month, read chapter ten. Those months that have thirty-one days, read chapter thirty-one. Gradually, usually imperceptibly, you will grow in wisdom over the years to achieve a wisdom not typically matched by others your age.

My text is Proverbs 3.34: 

“Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly.” 

This verse contains a timeless principle showing God’s typical interactions with two types of individual. Considering this verse will be my first main point, with the two passages that expand on this verse in the New Testament being by other two main points. As we proceed, you will see the correlation this verse eventually shows with Satanic and Demonic warfare. 

First, PROVERBS 3.34 

“Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly.” 

As I mentioned, there are three parties associated with this verse:

First, there is “he,” found twice. The antecedent of this pronoun is found in the previous verse, verse 33, that reads, 

“The curse of the LORD is in the house of the wicked: but he blesseth the habitation of the just.”[5] 

Beyond the previous verse, it is more clear that the God whose covenant name with Israel is being referred to by this word “he.” But how is the God of Israel referred to in this verse? Those who are cursed will “get from God exactly what they have given to others: as they tear everything down with their mouths, so the LORD will tear them down with his curse.”[6]

Second, in the first half of the verse, we find “scorners.” God “scorns the scorners.” This is nothing short of an illustration of the law of sowing and reaping, most familiar to us in Galatians 6.7-8: 

7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption .... 

The scorner mentioned in this verse is now said to be a mocker, whereas in verse 31, he was an oppressor, in verse 32, he is froward, and in verse 33, he is wicked. There seems to be a progression in this person who does not fear the LORD. Since there is no spiritual mooring, and no immovable anchor to hold him steady, he just gets worse and worse over time.

Third, in the verse’s second half, we see the “lowly.” God deals with this type of fellow as surely as He deals with the first type of individual because God deals in some way with everyone. And this person? The “lowly”? These are the humble and oppressed. God is said to be the special protector of such people in Proverbs 22.22-23. Here we see that God gives grace. Only God gives grace. And God only gives grace undeservedly. This verse might seem to have nothing directly to do with Satan and Demonic warfare, but the New Testament applies the principle of God’s dealings with two types of individuals with spiritual conflict. 

Next, James 4.6-10 

6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.

9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.

10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. 

Verse 6 is an expansion of Proverbs 3.34, with verses 7-10 containing a series of ten imperatives that expand and apply the principle in Proverbs to reveal its most significant application, which most definitely involves a reaction to Satanic and Demonic warfare.

Beginning in verse 7, 

7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.

9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.

10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. 

“Submit yourselves therefore to God.” 

The word “submit” comes from a Greek military term for a subordinate to set himself under his superior in proper military array. This kind of word shouldn’t surprise anyone. After all, the real beginning of sin is being disobedient to God. Have you ever considered the number of times military-type words are used in the Bible? It is only natural. We are in a war, are we not? This first command that James issues really sets the mood for the nine other imperatives that follow. Before anything can be accomplished in the life of a child of God, that person must see that God has the right to rule in our lives. He has the right to rule because He saved us from our sins. He has the right to rule because He created us. He has the right to rule because He only has the wisdom required for us to live the right kind of life. But most of all He has the right to rule because of Who He is. He is God.

Imperative number two is “Resist the devil.” To be a friend of the world is to be an enemy of God. This is stated in verse four. Contrariwise, if we side up with God by submitting to Him, we must resist the devil. He is God’s arch-rival. He is the great seducer of men. He must not go unopposed in this world. If we resist the devil, we are promised he will flee from us. The word “flee” comes from the Greek word that gives us the word fugitive. I believe Satan flees the resisting believer for at least two reasons: First, he will not waste his time on a Christian who cannot be seduced and swayed when so many will succumb to him. Second, he leaves to avoid a rout. A Christian who has a strong defense, and knows it, will soon begin an offensive against Satan by winning people to Christ and opposing evil. Satan leaves to protect himself against attack. What a promise. What a tragedy more of us do not claim this promise and begin to wage war on the enemies of our God.

Imperative number three: “Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you.” To throw off worldliness, we must come close to God. We must love Him more strongly and desire to be ever closer to Him. We must crave His power in our lives and our ministries. Imagine a little boy hugging his daddy. What does his daddy do? He reaches down and hugs back. The harder the little boy hugs, the harder daddy hugs back. It is that way with God. David said, “But it is good for me to draw near to God.” Some draw near with their lips but not with their hearts. So said Isaiah. Don’t be this way. God can tell if we’re sincere in our desires for a closer walk with Him. 

“Cleanse your hands ye sinners.” 

Again James comes on with the strong language when speaking with Christians. Hands speak of our deeds. The actual sins that we commit. We must stop doing them if we want God’s blessings for our lives. Remember, God doesn’t have to bless us at all. Thank God He has chosen to bless us, if we will just obey Him.

Whereas cleansing of the hands speaks of our actions, this fifth imperative speaks of our inner motives: 

“Purify your hearts ye double minded.” 

We must rid our hearts of the filth and defilement of the unclean world in which we live. This isn’t really possible unless you remove that which causes defilement from your life. Too many want to get their hearts right with God but will not remove those things that defile them. They will not take steps to remove the likelihood of repeating a specific sin and sinful habit pattern. It is to this person that James is directly speaking. He is the double-minded Christian who wants to serve God and the world. He wants holiness and lustful pleasures. Such a combination is impossible.

The next four imperatives are grouped together: 

“Be afflicted and mourn and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.” 

But why must I do these things? Have you ever taken a bath when you were really dirty, but didn’t realize it until you got out and looked at the bath water? When we begin to take an honest account and evaluation of our life’s sin, when you begin to take a long look at the impeccable holiness of Almighty God, something drastic will happen in your life. This happened to Isaiah in Isaiah chapter 6. His response was to cry out, 

“Woe is me, for I am undone: because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” 

When Paul took account of his life, after he had become an apostle, he wrote, 

“Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” 

When will we fall on our faces before God and cry out for Him to heal our land, and heal our city, and heal our Church? When will we repent and mourn for sin? Jesus said, 

“Blessed are they that do mourn, for they shall be comforted.” 

We must repent of this sin of worldliness before we can receive the blessings of God on our Christian life.

Now we come to the final imperative. This is the last of the things we are to begin to do: 

“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up.” 

In God’s realm, the way to get up is down. How dare we not humble ourselves before the great God of the universe? It’s really foolish to be humble in God’s sight. Some will try to act humble outwardly, but that’s no good. James said to humble yourself in His sight. 

Finally, First Peter 5.5-9 

5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. 

While James was not writing to believers suffering persecution, Peter was, as we see in verse 9. We also see a stronger emphasis on the congregational life of the Christian in Peter’s letter, showing the interelatedness of Christians engaged in spiritual conflict who hope to experience victory.

Time constraints force me to be brief with our consideration of Peter’s expansion of Proverbs 3.34. The exhortation to resist the devil in First Peter 5.9 parallels James 4.7 quite closely. It also appears in a context emphasizing humility on the basis of Proverbs 3.34. Why so? James and then Peter drew upon a common tradition, or each expounded upon Proverbs 3.34 independently of the other. Either way, the result was inspired. One significant difference between James and Peter is that Peter compares the devil to a roaring lion. In verse 8, he presents the devil as the enemy of believers. The word translated “enemy” can be used to designate a legal adversary, but the context here favors the meaning “enemy.” This description warns Christians to expect Satan’s hostility to be directed against them. The comparison of the devil to a roaring lion portrays the devil as a ravenous beast because Peter sees the devil as behind the persecution his readers are experiencing. The call to resist the devil in First Peter 5.9 means to remain steadfast in the faith and not to commit apostasy. The danger was that Peter’s readers would repudiate their commitment to Christ to escape persecution. In this respect, First Peter differs markedly from James, which was not written in the context of persecution. The pressures brought to bear against Peter’s correspondents may have been very intense, but he encouraged them to believe that such pressures could be resisted. 

I want to wrap this up with three observations, with the first being no great surprise that Proverbs contain so little direct mention of supernatural conflict but focus on matters related to interaction with God and interaction with other human beings, those who possess some wisdom, and those who are spiritually stupid.

I am in no way suggesting that anyone treat others unkindly or with a haughty sense of superiority, because anyone who fears God, who possesses the beginnings of wisdom and understanding, does so because of God’s unmerited grace. Thus, there is no justification for anyone’s lack of humility.

Second, notice that principles governing the proper interaction of one person to another and one person to God are the same principles governing our behavior when consciously engaged in spiritual conflict. Those principles are humility instead of haughtiness and a healthy appreciation of the law of sowing and reaping.

Thirdly, even when reality is not emphasized so that primary matters and issues can be focused on, we are in a spiritual war. Everything is eventually and ultimately related to that spiritual conflict. If you do not fear the LORD, you do not have the beginnings of wisdom or understanding to engage in the conflict with any prospect of succeeding. And if you are not humble, God is committed to opposing your efforts, even if you are one of His.



[1] Francis Brown, S. R. Driver & Charles A. Briggs, The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew And English Lexicon, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1979), page 493.

[2] Isaiah 64.6 comes to mind, where “filthy” refers to menstrual flux, John Joseph Owens, Analytical Key to the Old Testament, Volume 4, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1989), page 194.

[3] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 875.

[4] John F. Walvoord & Roy B. Zuck, General Editors, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 1985), page 905.

[5] Bruce K. Waltke, The Book Of Proverbs Chapters 1-15, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2004), page 272.

[6] Ibid., page 273.

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