“No bird is caught in a net set out before his eyes.” Proverbs 1:17.
This first “proverb” in Proverbs appears in Lecture I where the father (or teacher) is warning his son (student) to avoid gangs, to avoid association with criminals or other bad people.
What does the proverb mean for the son, and for us?
There are several possibilities.
The principal lesson, I believe, is that the allure of associating with the wrong lot does not often practically carry with it loud warning bells of the dangers of being caught and getting in trouble. In other words, the mind of the tempted one is usually much more on the prospect of self-gain, the fun to be had, and the fruit of the enterprise than it is on an awareness of its negative consequences.
Even a bird knows better than to fly into a net. So, if we properly understand the risk and loss of going wrong, we wouldn’t “fly” there either. The father here is saying the net that awaits wrongdoers isn’t typically seen, so the warning initially must come from him and be internally seen and understood as a deterrent by the son.
Isn’t the same true for us? When we feel the urge to do wrong because we see mostly the benefit for ourselves in it, the Proverbs teach us to create and rely upon an in-built warning of a “net” to avoid it.
Sages throughout time have had other interpretations.
Some say the wisdom may be more about the bad guys. They’re more witless than birds. They don’t see the net that is before them, yet proceed anyway. The youth should be smart enough not to join such fools.
Another: the bad guys set out to catch up the innocent in their schemes, but have unwittingly set up a trap in which they all will be snared. Thus, the teacher warns the student against getting caught with them.