The Book of Proverbs
Solomon is generally viewed as the author of the book of Proverbs since he personally wrote 3,000 proverbs and over 1,000 songs (cf. 1 Kings 4:31-32). 1:1-9:18, 10:1-22:16, and 25:1-29:27 are specifically identified as having been written by him. However, not all of the proverbs in this book are original to him. He gathered some from other sources and included them with his own. Other authors are Agur (ch. 30), and Lemuel (ch. 31)...we know nothing of them. The proverbs in the last section were selected by King Hezekiah's committee (cf. 25:1).
The Hebrew term "proverb" means a comparison...and it came to be used for any sage or moralistic pronouncement. Those included in Proverbs were not so much popular sayings as distillations of wisdom from those who knew the law of God. Many proverbs are condensed parables (cf. The Ryrie Study Bible, Introduction to the Book of Proverbs, p. 937).
Time written & time covered in history:
The book of Proverbs was written during the lifetime of Solomon. He reigned from 971-931 B.C.
Proverbs is a book of practical wisdom for living…demonstrating that godliness is sensible. The key word of the book is “wisdom”.
In Psalms we find the Christian on his knees.
In Proverbs we find the Christian on his feet.
The Psalms are for the Christian’s devotions.
The Proverbs are for the Christian’s walk.
The Psalms are for the closet of prayer.
The Proverbs are for the business place, home and playground.
(What the Bible is All About, Henrietta C. Mears, p. 195)
A proverb (in our English) means a brief saying instead of many words. Proverbs are short statements drawn from long experiences. A proverb does not argue—it assumes.
(Through the Bible in One Year, Alan B. Stringfellow, p. 71)
A proverb is a Short, Pithy, Axiomatic Saying, the life of which is Antithesis or Comparison. They are wholly Unconnected. Designed primarily for the Young: a form of Teaching: repetition of Practical Thoughts in form that would stick in mind.
(Halley’s Bible Handbook, p. 269)
Proverbs is classified among the books of poetry (Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon) not in the sense that it is fanciful or unreal…but in matter of form. There is no meter or rhyme in the book…but rather a rhythm of thought expressed through parallelism…stating a thought, then repeating it again in different words. The proverbs generally follow this form: a statement is made—the same statement is reinforced. There are three kinds of parallelism:
- Synonymous parallelism…a truth is stated in the first clause—the second clause restates what the first clause stated (ex. 19:29).
- Contrast parallelism…a truth is stated in the first clause—the second clause reinforces it by contrasting it with an opposite truth (ex. 13:9).
- Synthetic (or Completive) parallelism…a truth is stated in the first clause—the second clause develops the thought of the first clause (ex. 20:2).
At least 12 main subjects are discussed:
- a good name (10:7; 22:1)
- youth and discipline (17:21; 19:13; 22:6)
- business matters (3:27; 6:1-5)
- marriage (5:15,18; 11:22; 12:4)
- immorality (2:17,18; 5:4,12,13,21; 7:22,23)
- evil companions (1:10-19; 4:17)
- wisdom (1:7; 2:16; 9:10)
- self-control (16:32; 25:8,28)
- strong drink (20:1; 23:29,32,33,35)
- friendship (17:17; 27:6,9,10; 18:4)
- words and the tongue (10:19,20,21; 11:9,13; 15:23)
- various groupings (7 things God hates, 6:16-19; 4 things which are never satisfied, 30:15-16; 4 wonderful and mysterious things, 30:18-19; 4 things which the earth finds unbearable, 30:21-23; 4 small but wise things, 30:24-28; 4 stately monarchs, 30:29-31; 2 things Agur requests of God, 30:7-9)
(Willmington’s Guide to the Bible, H.L. Willmington, pp. 131-133)
1-9 Wisdom and Folly
10-24 Proverbs of Solomon (written and compiled by him)
25-29 Proverbs of Solomon (compiled by men of Hezekiah)
30 Words of Agur
31 Words of a Mother
(Stringfellow, p. 71)
1-10 Counsel for Young Men
11-20 Counsel for All Men
21-31 Counsels for Kings and Rulers
(Mears, p. 196)
1 Object of the Book
2-6 To promote Wisdom, Instruction, Understanding, Righteousness, Justice, Equity, Prudence, Knowledge, Discretion, Learning, Sound Counsels
7 The starting point is the Fear of God
8-9 Giving Heed to Parental Instructions
10-19 Avoidance of Bad Companies
20-31 Wisdom cries aloud her Warnings
(Halley’s Bible Handbook, p. 270)
Proverbs 1:1-7-Solomon identifies the purpose of Proverbs…as being to give godly wisdom for practical living. He uses a number of words and terms to describe how the information given should be put into practice…
- “Wisdom” (:2)…it comes from a word that means to judge…wisdom involves making correct judgments and assessments…it is the use of knowledge in a practical and successful way.
- “Instruction” (:2)…is training given by word (:24:32), or rod (23:13)…the root meaning of this word is to instruct or admonish through correction or discipline…to show someone where they have gone wrong and how to correct it.
- “discern” (:2)…to have understanding and insight concerning the meaning and significance of what is taught…not just being able to repeat it
- “instruction” (:3)…(same as in verse 2), “wise behavior” (:3)…insight that leads to beneficial and productive action
- “prudence” (:4)…this word means “shrewdness, craftiness”…it suggests the ability to use knowledge in a clever, or creative manner, the “naïve” (:4) are those who lack such ability
- “knowledge” (:4)…this word speaks of the ability to discriminate and distinguish between that which is true and that which is false
- “discretion” (:4)…this word speaks of the ability to make a plan, or to devise a purpose based on knowledge that has been received.
Notice that the things taught in Proverbs are useful for people in all ages, stages and positions in life. These words give something of a progression of wisdom…beginning with someone who knows nothing to someone who has years of practical experience…
- “naïve” (:4a)
- “youth” (:4b)
- “wise man” (:5a)
- “man of understanding” (:5b).
Solomon says that the most important thing to learn, and in fact, the first thing that must be learned…is to fear God. This is where knowledge and wisdom begin. Those who refuse to do so are “fools” (:7-a person who mocks wisdom, makes a mockery out of right and wrong, is quarrelsome).
Proverbs 1:8-19-Solomon tells his son to listen the teachings of his parents. If he does so he will be richly blessed (:8-9). No matter what “sinners” say the benefits may be…do not join them in their pursuits (:10-15). If a bird can see a trap that has been set for it, surely sinners should recognize the consequences of their behavior…but they don’t. They behavior results in death (:17-19).
Proverbs 1:20-33-Solomon says that there is wisdom to be found in many places if we will just listen (:20-21). There are those who never seem to learn but just continue to do the same things that have caused them problems in the past (:22). He tells his son that if he will listen to his teachings he will invest the benefits of his knowledge and experience into him (:23). However, he tells his son that if he refuses to listen…when he runs into trouble…he will say, “I told you so! I warned you!” (:24-27). Then he will come clamoring to him for help. But he will let him learn the lesson of disobedience on his own. After all, that’s what he said he wanted (:28-32). Solomon is saying, “Realize this and don’t forget it…what I am teaching you is from God and when you choose to disobey it, you are disobeying God (:29a). If you are obedient to what I have to say…then you will not have to be afraid of the consequences of evil behavior. It is better to learn the lesson now through my teaching, than later through your suffering (:33).” Solomon practiced tough love. He felt that it was more beneficial for his son to suffer the consequences of disobedience early on…than for him to rescue him and he not realize the consequences…and then later, do something much worse and really suffer.
Proverbs 2:1-4- the Pursuit of Wisdom
Solomon begins by telling his son to pursue and practice the things that he teaches him. He is impressing on him that it is his responsibility to actively seek wisdom and not just expect it to come to him on its own. Notice the different words he uses to make this point. Concerning wisdom, he tells his son to…
- “receive my sayings” (:1)
- “treasure my commandments (:1)
- “Make your ear attentive to wisdom” (:2)
- “incline your heart to understanding” (:2)
- “cry for discernment” (:3)
- “Lift your voice for understanding” (:3)
- “seek her as silver” (:4)
- “search for her as for hidden treasures” (:4).
If repetition is a key element in good teaching…then Solomon has it down pat! How many times can he say it? The question is…did his son hear it?
Proverbs 2:5-11-the Provisions of Wisdom
He again uses repetition to express the positive provisions of learning wisdom…
- “you will discern the fear of the LORD” (:5)
- “discover the knowledge of God” (:5)
- “the LORD gives wisdom” (:6)
- “knowledge and understanding” (:6)
- “wisdom for the upright” (:7)
- “a shield to those who walk in integrity” (:7)
- “guarding the paths of justice” (:8)
- “preserves the way of His godly ones” (:8)
- “discern righteousness and justice” (:9)
- “and equity and every good course (:9)
- “wisdom will enter your heart” (:10)
- “knowledge will be pleasant to your soul (:10)
- “discretion will guard you (:11)
- “understanding will watch over you (:11)
Proverbs 2:12-22-the Protection of Wisdom
Solomon now identifies several attitudes and behaviors that wisdom protects us from becoming involved in. He specifically mentions becoming involved in an adulterous affair. The words “strange woman” speaks of a woman who has turned away and departed from the ways of God…she is like a stranger to God.
זוּר zûwr, zoor; a primitive root; to turn aside (especially for lodging); hence to be a foreigner, strange, profane; specifically (active participle) to commit adultery:—(come from) another (man, place), fanner, go away, (e-) strange(-r, thing, woman).
An “adulteress” is a woman who has become a stranger to her own family because she has forsaken her marital vows with her husband to engage in sexual relationships with another man.
נׇכְרִי nokrîy, nok-ree'; from H5235 (second form); strange, in a variety of degrees and applications (foreign, non-relative, adulterous, different, wonderful):—alien, foreigner, outlandish, strange(-r, woman).
Wisdom will protect you…
- “deliver you from the way of evil” (:12)
- “from the man who speaks perverse things (:12)
- “from those who leave the paths of righteousness” (:13)
- “walk in the way of darkness” (:13)
- “delight in doing evil” (:14)
- “rejoice in the perversity of evil” (:14)
- “paths are crooked” (:15)
- “devious in their ways” (:15)
- “from the strange woman” (:16)
- “the adulterous who flatters with her words” (:16)
- “leaves the companion of her youth” (:17)
- “forgets the covenant of her God” (:17)
- “her house sinks down to death” (:18)
- “her tracks lead to the dead” (:18)
- “None who go to her return again” (:19)
- “Nor do they reach the paths of life” (:19)
Prayer: Father, please give me Your wisdom. The ways of this world are so convincing mentally, so appealing emotionally, and so enticing physically. If I am to live for You…I must hear from You. I cannot live the life You desire on my own. I do not have the discernment, or the will power…to do so. Holy Spirit, I completely and totally submit myself to You. Please fill every fiber of my being and let Your life live through me.