Ancient Wisdom - Unleashing God's Secrets in Proverbs Overview - Discover the Book Ministries

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Ancient Wisdom – Unleashing God’s Secrets in Proverbs Overview

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WOL 2015 Proverbs Study

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Proverbs

The Way of the Wise

Solomon composed over three thousand proverbs.

The Proverbs of Solomon contains a collection of 513 of the king’s sayings.

These are joined by selections from other wise people.

Proverbs are simple, moral statements or illustrations that highlight and teach fundamental truths and tendencies in life. They originated as insights drawn from common objects and daily events.

The Hebrew word for proverb means “to be like.” Many of the sayings are, in fact, comparisons between a vivid image and a vivid desire or consequence. For example, “Like one who takes away a garment in cold weather, And like vinegar on soda, Is one who sings songs to a heavy heart” (25:20).

 

Author and Date

Created and compiled by Solomon and several other authors, approximately 971 to 686 b.c.

Proverbs provides a sample of the kind of wisdom that made Solomon famous. He set the standard for wisdom among his people. Perhaps that is why this collection has traditionally been named after Solomon even though he was not the source of the entire book.

In fact, the final compilation of these sayings did not occur until the time of Hezekiah, long after Solomon’s reign. Two other sages Agur and Lemuel are also specifically mentioned as contributors to Proverbs.

 

Background and Setting

The contents of Proverbs reflect a threefold self-identity:

1) general wisdom literature;

2) insights from the royal court;

3) instructions offered in the mentoring relationship of a father and mother with their children. In each case, the purpose of the proverbs is to focus attention on godly living.

Wisdom Literature describes the part of the Old Testament that supplements the Law (Genesis to Deuteronomy), the History (Joshua to Esther), and the Prophets (Isaiah to Malachi). This category includes Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. In Proverbs, Solomon the sage gives insight into the knotty issues of life (1:6). Though it is practical, Proverbs is not superficial or external because it contains moral and ethical elements stressing upright living that flows out of a right relationship with God. Proverbs contains the principles and applications of Scripture that the godly characters of the Bible illustrate throughout their lives.

 

Key Doctrines in Proverbs

  1. OBEDIENT LIVING: Practical righteousness (1:3; John 14:21)
  2. WISE LIVING: The benefits of wisdom (2:20–22; 3:13–18; 9:11; 12:21; Job 28:17; Psalms 37:3; 91:10; 1 Peter 3:13)
  3. KNOWING GOD: Man’s relationship to God (1:7; 3:34; 6:23; 10:22; 12:28; 15:11; 22:19; Genesis 24:35; 26:12; Deuteronomy 8:18; Job 28:28; Psalms 19:8; 111:10; Ecclesiastes 12:13; Acts 1:24; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5; 2 Peter 1:19)
  4. PERSONAL INTEGRITY: Man’s relationship to himself (1:5; 3:3; 6:9–11; 11:4; 13:4; 20:11; 29:11; Exodus 13:9; Deuteronomy 6:8; Jeremiah 17:1; Ezekiel 7:19; Zephaniah 1:18; Matthew 7:16; 2 Corinthians 3:3)
  5. RELATIONAL INTEGRITY: Man’s relationship to others (3:1–3; 4:1–4; 8:17; 17:17; 19:27; 20:19; 23:23; Deuteronomy 8:1; Ruth 1:16; 1 Samuel 2:30; Psalm 34:11; Romans 16:18)

 

God’s Character in Proverbs

God is merciful—28:13

God is omniscient—5:21

God is provident—3:6; 16:3, 9, 33; 19:21; 20:24; 21:30–31

God is wise—3:19; 15:11

 

Christ in Proverbs

The writers of Proverbs desired that believers not only listen to the truth but apply this wisdom to their own lives. Proverbs calls for wisdom to become incarnate (chapter 8), and indeed it did when “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” became flesh in Christ (Colossians 2:3). While the Old Testament readers of Proverbs were guided by wisdom through the written word, the New Testament believers came to know the Word of God in human form. Therefore, Christ not only encompasses Proverbs but actually “became for us wisdom from God” (1 Corinthians 1:30).

 

Key Words in Proverbs

Wisdom: Hebrew chokmah––1:2; 4:5; 9:10; 14:6; 16:16; 18:4; 23:23; 31:26—can also mean “skill” but is most commonly used to describe daily application of practical wisdom. Proverbs teaches that true wisdom reaches beyond mere knowledge of truth to living a life of moral integrity (8:7–9). Whereas the sinful life leads ultimately to self-destruction; abundant life is found within the wisdom of God (2:6; Job 11:6).

Foolish: Hebrew ˓ivvelet––14:1; 12:23; 14:24; 15:2, 14; 19:3; 22:15; 24:9; 27:22—signifies an absence of wisdom. Except for two occurrences in the Psalms, this term occurs only in Proverbs, where the foolishness of fools is frequently contrasted with the wisdom of the wise and prudent (13:16; 14:8, 18, 24). Foolishness characterizes the speech of fools and the reactions of the impulsive person (12:23; 14:17, 29; 15:2, 14; 18:13). Foolishness affects the lifestyle of a person, causing his or her heart to fret against God (15:21; 19:3). Indeed, foolishness is often identified with iniquity and sin (5:22, 23; 24:9; Psalm 38:4, 5). Although Proverbs does not hold out much hope for separating an adult fool from his foolishness, the rod of correction is identified as a remedy for children (22:15; 26:11; 27:22).

 

Quick Overview

  1. Prologue (1:1–7)
  2. Title (1:1)
  3. Purpose (1:2–6)
  4. Theme (1:7)
  5. Praise and Wisdom to the Young (1:8–9:18)

III. Proverbs for Everyone (10:1–29:27)

  1. From Solomon (10:1–22:16)
  2. From Wise Men (22:17–24:34)
  3. From Solomon Collected by Hezekiah (25:1–29:27)
  4. Personal Notes (30:1–31:31)
  5. From Agur (30:1–33)
  6. From Lemuel (31:1–31)

Meanwhile, in other parts of the world …

Peking becomes an established city in China, later to be renamed Beijing, the present-day capital city of China.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

1.Some of the proverbs seem unclear or even contradictory. How can we study and apply them if we don’t understand them?

More often than not, those proverbs that at first seem unclear or contradictory turn out, instead, to be elusive and deep. Proverbs sometimes do state obvious truths. Their meaning is crystal clear: “A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her who bore him” (17:25). But many proverbs require thoughtful meditation: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (16:33) or “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (16:25). The fact that we may have to search the rest of Scripture or work at thinking ought to make Proverbs dearer to us. If God has chosen this unusual approach to help us grow, why would we hesitate to give our full attention to Proverbs?

Given the context that surrounds Proverbs—the rest of God’s Word—a student’s failure to grasp a proverb ought not to lead to the conclusion that there’s something wrong with the proverb. A better conclusion would be that the student doesn’t know enough yet or hasn’t paid enough attention. A wise person puts an elusive proverb on hold for further understanding rather than rejecting it as useless. God’s further lessons in that person’s life may well cast a new light on parts of the Bible that have been difficult to interpret.

2.What are some general, time-tested principles that will help rightly interpret Proverbs?

One of the most common characteristics of Proverbs is the use of parallelism; that is, placing truths side-by-side so that the second statement expands, completes, defines, and emphasizes the first. Sometimes a logical conclusion is reached; at other times, a logical contrast is demonstrated.

The following directions will assist a student in gaining greater confidence as he or she interprets these Proverbs:

  1. Determine what facts, principles, or circumstances make up the parallel ideas in that proverb—what two central concepts or persons are being compared or contrasted
  2. Identify the figures of speech and rephrase the thought without those figures, for example, restate the idea behind “put a knife to your throat” (23:1–3)
  3. Summarize the lesson or principle of the proverb in a few words
  4. Describe the behavior that is being taught or encouraged
  5. Think of examples from elsewhere in Scripture that illustrate the truth of that proverb

3.Many of the proverbs appear to impose absolutes on life situations that prove to be unclear. How do the proverbs apply to specific life decisions and experiences?

Proverbs are divine guidelines and wise observations that teach underlying principles of life (24:3–4). They are not inflexible laws or absolute promises. This is because they are applied in life situations that are rarely clear cut or uncomplicated by other conditions. The consequences of a fool’s behavior as described in Proverbs apply to the complete fool. Most people are only occasionally foolish and therefore experience the occasional consequences of foolish behavior. It becomes apparent that the proverbs usually do have exceptions due to the uncertainty of life and the unpredictable behavior of fallen people.

The marvelous challenge and principle expressed in 3:5–6 puts a heavy emphasis on trusting the Lord with “all your heart” and acknowledging Him “in all your ways.” Even partly practicing the conditions of those phrases represents a major challenge. Because of God’s grace, we don’t have to perfectly carry out these conditions in order to experience the truth that “He shall direct your paths.”

God does not guarantee uniform outcome or application for each proverb. By studying them and applying them, a believer is allowed to contemplate God’s mind, character, attributes, works, and blessings. In Jesus Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge partly expressed in Proverbs (Colossians 2:3).

 

Quick Study on Proverbs

  1. UNDERSTANDING WISDOM: Write a personal definition of Biblical Wisdom using the phrases & wording of Proverbs. Cite references (in parentheses) by each phrase you choose.
  2. CULTIVATING PEOPLE SKILLS: What guidelines does Proverbs offer regarding relationships between people?
  3. SOLID WORK ETHICS: How does God describe the role of work in the life of a wise & obedient person?
  4. PRACTICAL GODLINESS: What role does God play in daily living, as described in Proverbs?
  5. BIBLICAL COMMUNICATION: What does God prescribe & proscribe about the way we talk from the Proverbs?
  6. KNOWING GOD’S WILL: Write a personal application statement on each of the four phrases of Proverbs 3:5-6.

 

Comment on Proverbs 3:5–6 as it relates to your own life[1]

MSB

The Book of

Proverbs

Title

The title in the Hebrew Bible is “The Proverbs of Solomon” (1:1), as also in the Greek Septuagint (LXX). Proverbs pulls together the most important 513 of the over 3,000 proverbs pondered by Solomon (1 Kin. 4:32; Eccl. 12:9), along with some proverbs of others whom Solomon likely influenced. The word “proverb” means “to be like,” thus Proverbs is a book of comparisons between common, concrete images and life’s most profound truths. Proverbs are simple, moral statements (or illustrations) that highlight and teach fundamental realities about life. Solomon sought God’s wisdom (2 Chr. 1:8–12) and offered “pithy sayings” designed to make men contemplate 1) the fear of God and 2) living by His wisdom (1:7; 9:10). The sum of this wisdom is personified in the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:30).

Author and Date

The phrase “Proverbs of Solomon” is more a title than an absolute statement of authorship (1:1). While King Solomon, who ruled Israel from 971–931 b.c. and was granted great wisdom by God (see 1 Kin. 4:29–34), is the author of the didactic section (chaps. 1–9) and the proverbs of 10:1–22:16, he is likely only the compiler of the “sayings of the wise” in 22:17–24:34, which are of an uncertain date before Solomon’s reign.

The collection in chaps. 25–29 was originally composed by Solomon (25:1) but copied and included later by Judah’s king Hezekiah (ca. 715–686 b.c.).

Chapter 30 reflects the words of Agur and chap. 31 the words of Lemuel, who perhaps was Solomon.

Proverbs was not assembled in its final form until Hezekiah’s day or after. Solomon authored his proverbs before his heart was turned away from God (1 Kin. 11:1–11), since the book reveals a godly perspective and is addressed to the “naive” and “young” who need to learn the fear of God.

Solomon also wrote Psalms 72 and 127, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. See Introduction: Author and Date for Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon.

Background and Setting

In 4:1–4, Solomon connected 3 generations as he entrusted to his son Rehoboam what he learned at the feet of David and Bathsheba. Proverbs is both a pattern for the tender impartation of truth from generation to generation, as well as a vast resource for the content of the truth to be imparted. Proverbs contains the principles and applications of Scripture which the godly characters of the Bible illustrate in their lives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prologue (1:1–7)

  1. Title (1:1)
  2. Purpose (1:2–6)
  3. Theme (1:7)

 

1:1 proverbs. See Introduction: Title. The proverbs are short, pithy sayings which express timeless truth and wisdom. They arrest one’s thoughts, causing the reader to reflect on how one might apply divine principles to life situations (e.g., 2:12). Proverbs contains insights both in poetry and prose; yet, at the same time, it includes commands to be obeyed. God’s proverbs are not limited to this book alone (see Gen. 10:9; 1 Sam. 10:12; 24:13; Jer. 31:29; Ezek. 12:22; 18:2).  

1:2–6 The two-fold purpose of the book is 1) to produce the skill of godly living by wisdom and instruction (v. 2a; expanded in vv. 3, 4), and 2) to develop discernment (v. 2b, expanded in v. 5).

1:2 wisdom. See Introduction: Historical and Theological Themes. To the Hebrew mind, wisdom was not knowledge alone, but the skill of living a godly life as God intended man to live (cf. Deut. 4:5–8). instruction. This refers to the discipline of the moral nature. understanding. This word looks at the mental discipline which matures one for spiritual discernment.

1:3 wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity. Expanding the purpose and terms of v. 2a, Proverbs engages in a process of schooling a son in the disciplines of:

1) wisdom (a different Heb. word from that in v. 2) which means discreet counsel or the ability to govern oneself by choice;

2) justice, the ability to conform to the will and standard of God; a practical righteousness that matches one’s positional righteousness;

3) judgment, the application of true righteousness in dealing with others; and

4) equity, the living of life in a fair, pleasing way.

1:4 prudence … simple. The purpose is to impart discernment to the naive and the ignorant. The root of “simple” is a word meaning “an open door,” an apt description of the undiscerning, who do not know what to keep in or out of their minds.  .

 

1:7 The fear of the Lord. The overarching theme of this book and particularly the first 9 chapters is introduced—reverence for God (see v. 29; 2:5; 3:7; 8:13; 9:10; 14:26, 27; cf. also Job 28:28; Ps. 34:11; Acts 9:31). This reverential awe and admiring, submissive fear is foundational for all spiritual knowledge and wisdom (cf. 2:4–6; 9:10; 15:33; Job 28:28; Ps. 111:10; Eccl. 12:13). While the unbeliever may make statements about life and truth, he does not have true or ultimate knowledge until he is in a redemptive relationship of reverential awe with God. Note the progression here:

1) teaching about God;

2) learning about God;

3) fearing God;

4) knowing God; and

5) imitating God’s wisdom.

The fear of the Lord is a state of mind in which one’s own attitudes, will, feelings, deeds, and goals are exchanged for God’s (cf. Ps. 42:1).

 

  1. Praise and Wisdom to the Young (1:8–9:18)

 

1:8–9:18 This lengthy section features parental praise of wisdom in the form of didactic addresses. These chapters prepare the reader for the actual proverbs that begin in 10:1ff.

 

1:12 swallow. The wicked devise a plot of deception in which the innocent are captured and victimized like one who is taken by death itself—as with Joseph (Gen. 37:20ff.), Jeremiah (Jer. 38:6–13), and Daniel (Dan. 6:16, 17). “Sheol” is the place of death. For the wicked it is a place of no return (Job 7:9), darkness (Ps. 143:3), and torment (Is. 14:11).

 

1:15 do not walk. This directly confronts the invitation of v. 11. Sin must be rejected at the first temptation (cf. James 1:15; Ps. 119:114, 115) by refusing even the association that can lead to sin (cf. Ps. 1:1–6). Avoid the beginnings of sin (see 4:14).

 

1:20–33 In this section, wisdom is personified and speaks in the first person, emphasizing the serious consequences that come to those who reject it. Similar personifications of wisdom occur in 3:14–18; 8:1–36; 9:1–12.

 

1:22 How long. Three questions reveal 3 classes of those needing wisdom, and the downward progression of sin:

1) the simple or naive, who are ignorant;

2) scorners or mockers, who commit more serious, determined acts; and

3) fools or obstinate unbelievers, who will not listen to the truth. Proverbs aims its wisdom primarily at the first group.

 

1:26, 27 calamity … terror … destruction … distress and anguish. All these terms describe the severe troubles of divine judgment. When sinners who have rejected wisdom call on God in the day of judgment, God will respond to their distress with derision.

1:28–32 God’s rejection of sinners is carefully detailed. This is the aspect of God’s wrath expressed in His abandonment of sinners. See notes on Rom. 1:24–28. No prayers or diligent seeking will help them (cf. 8:17).

1:28–30 I will not answer. God will withdraw His invitation to sinners because they have rejected Him. Note the rejection of knowledge (v. 22), fear of the Lord (vv. 7–9), counsel (v. 25), and reproof (v. 23).

1:31 eat the fruit of their own way. The ultimate punishment is God’s giving a people up to the result of their wickedness. Cf. Rom. 1:24–28.

1:32 complacency. Willful carelessness or lack of appropriate care is intended.

 

2:1 my words. Solomon has taken God’s law and made it his own by faith and obedience, as well as teaching. The wisdom of these words is available to those who, first of all, understand the rich value (“treasure”) that wisdom possesses. Appropriating wisdom begins when one values it above all else.

 

2:6 His mouth. The words of His mouth are contained in Scripture. It is there that God speaks (cf. Heb. 1:1, 2; 2 Pet. 1:20, 21). Wisdom comes only by revelation.

 

2:16 immoral woman. She is the harlot repeatedly condemned in Proverbs (cf. 5:1–23; 6:20–29; 7:1–27; 22:14; 23:27), as in the rest of Scripture (Ex. 20:14; Lev. 20:10).Literally  she is “foreign” or “strange” because such women were at first from outside Israel, but came to include any prostitute or adulteress. Her words are the flattering or smooth words of Prov. 17:14–20.

 

3:1–35 Here the study of truth leading to wisdom is commended to all. This is enforced by a contrast of the destinies of the wise and wicked.

3:1–20 Solomon instructs that wisdom is:

1) rooted in sound teaching (vv. 1–4);

2) rests in trust in God (vv. 5, 6), and

3) rewards those who obey (vv. 7–10). While wisdom demands chastening, it brings profound benefits (vv. 13–18), and its importance is clear since it undergirded God’s creation (vv. 19, 20).

3:1 my law. Heb. “Torah,” from the verb “to throw, distribute, or teach,” hence “teachings.” It is used of God’s law (29:18), but here, as in 2:1, it is used of the commands and principles that God gave through Solomon. heart. See note on 4:21–23.

 

3:9, 10 Honor the Lord … possessions. A biblical view of possessions demands using them for honoring God. This is accomplished:

by trusting God (v. 5);

by giving the first and best to God (“firstfruits”; cf. Ex. 22:29; 23:19; Deut. 18:4);

by being fair (vv. 27, 28);

by giving generously (11:25); and

by expressing gratitude for all He gives (Deut. 6:9–11).

The result of such faithfulness to honor Him is prosperity and satisfaction.

3:11, 12 not despise … chastening. Since even the wisest of God’s children are subject to sin, there is necessity of God’s fatherly discipline to increase wisdom and blessing. Such correction should not be resisted. See notes on Heb. 12:5–11.

3:14, 15 Cf. Ps. 19:10, 11. Divine wisdom yields the richest treasures, described in vv. 14–18 as “profits,” “length of days,” “riches,” “honor,” “pleasantness,” “peace,” “life,” and happiness.

 

3:19, 20 Solomon is indicating that wisdom is basic to all of life, for by it God created everything. Since God used it to create the universe, how eager must we be to use it to live in this universe.

3:22 life to your soul. The association of wisdom with the inner spiritual life (see notes on 3:2, 16) unfolds throughout the book (cf. 4:10, 22; 7:2; 8:35; 9:11; 10:11, 16, 17; 11:19, 30; 12:28; 13:14; 14:27; 15:4, 24; 16:22; 19:23; 21:21; 22:4).  

3:25, 26 afraid … confidence. Living in God’s wisdom provides the basis for the believer’s peace of mind (v. 24) and removes fear (v. 25).

3:28 neighbor. A neighbor is anyone in need whom God brings across one’s path. See Luke 10:29–37.

 

3:32 abomination. Specifically, an abomination is an attitude or act that is incompatible with God’s nature and intolerable to Him, leading to His anger and judgment. This is an important theme in Proverbs (see note on 6:16–19). secret counsel. This means that God discloses Himself and His truth to the upright (cf. Ps. 25:14).

3:34 humble. Literally “he who bends himself” (James 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5).

 

4:2 good doctrine … my law. There is no wisdom but that which is linked to good doctrine, which should be the focal point of all instruction (cf. 1 Tim. 1:10; 4:13, 16; 5:17; 2 Tim. 3:10, 16; 4:2; Titus 1:9; 2:1, 10).

4:3–5 my father’s son … my mother. This is Solomon’s reference to David and Bathsheba (2 Sam. 12:24).

 

4:14 Do not enter the path of the wicked. Sin is best dealt with at its beginning by the application of necessary wisdom to suit the initial temptation (cf. Ps. 1:1).

 

4:15 Four verbs identify aspects necessary in urgently dealing with sin at its start (v. 14):

1) avoid the sinful situation;

2) travel as far from it as possible;

3) turn away from the sin; and

4) pass beyond or escape the sin.

The plan here fits exactly with the pattern of sin’s enticement outlined in James 1:13–15.

 

 

4:18 path of the … shining sun. The path of the believer is one of increasing light, just as a sunrise begins with the faint glow of dawn and proceeds to the splendor of noonday.

4:21–23 heart. The “heart” commonly refers to the mind as:

the center of thinking and reason (3:3; 6:21; 7:3), but also includes

the emotions (15:15, 30),

the will (11:20; 14:14), and thus,

the whole inner being (3:5).

The heart is the depository of all wisdom and the source of whatever affects speech (v. 24), sight (v. 25), and conduct (vv. 26, 27).

 

5:1, 2 pay attention. The wise father marshals all the essential terms to sum up his call to wisdom (cf. 1:2; 2:2; 3:13; 4:5).

 

5:11 flesh and … body. This could be a reference to venereal disease (cf. 1 Cor. 6:18), or to the natural end of life. At that point, filled with an irreversible regret (v. 12), the ruined sinner vainly laments his neglect of warning and his sad disgrace.

5:14 midst of the assembly. A most painful loss in such a situation is public disgrace in the community. There can be public confession, discipline, and forgiveness, but not restoration to one’s former place of honor and service. See 6:33.

5:15–19 Using the imagery of water, the joy of a faithful marriage is contrasted with the disaster of infidelity (vv. 9–14). “Cistern” and “well” refer to the wife from whom the husband is to draw all his satisfying refreshment, sexually and affectionately (v. 19; cf. 9:17, 18; Song 4:9–11).

5:16, 17 fountains … streams. The euphemism refers to the male procreation capacity with the idea of the foolish as a fountain scattering precious water—a picture of the wastefulness of sexual promiscuity. The result of such indiscriminate sin is called “streams of waters in the streets,” a graphic description of the illegitimate street children of harlotry. Rather, says Solomon, “let them be only your own” and not the children of such immoral strangers.

5:18 fountain … blessed. God offers to bless male procreation when it is confined to one’s wife. It should be noted that, in spite of the sinful polygamy of David and Solomon, as well as the disastrous polygamy of Rehoboam (cf. 2 Chr. 11:21), the instruction here identifies God’s ideal as one wife from youth on.

 

5:21, 22 ponders … caught. The Lord sees all that man does and in mercy withholds immediate judgment, allowing the sinner time to repent or to be caught in his own sin (cf. Num. 32:23; Pss. 7:15, 16; 57:6; Prov. 1:17; Gal. 6:7, 8). Note the example of Haman (Esth. 5:9–14; 7:1–10).

 

6:1 surety … pledge. The foolishness here is making one’s self responsible for another’s debt and pledging to pay if the other defaults (cf. 11:15; 17:18; 20:16; 22:26). While there is precedent for such a practice, it is far better to give to those in need (see Deut. 15:1–15; 19:17) or lend without interest (see Lev. 25:35–38; 28:8).

 

6:6 ant … sluggard. Cf. 30:25. The ant is an example of industry, diligence, and planning (vv. 7, 8) and serves as a rebuke to a sluggard (a lazy one who lacks self control). Folly sends a lazy man to learn from an ant (see 10:4, 26; 12:24; 13:4; 15:19; 19:15; 20:4; 26:14–16).

 

6:11 prowler … armed man.

The lazy man, with his inordinate devotion to sleep rather than work (vv. 9, 10), learns too late, thus coming to inescapable poverty just as a victim is overpowered by a robber (see 24:33, 34).

While laziness leads to poverty (cf. 10:4, 5; 13:4; 20:4, 13), laziness is not always the cause of poverty (cf. 14:31; 17:5; 19:1, 17, 22; 21:12; 28:3, 11).

 

6:14 discord. The sin of strife, dissent, or creating conflict intentionally recurs in Proverbs (15:18; 16:28; 17:14; 18:19; 21:9, 19; 22:10; 23:29; 25:24; 26:21; 27:15; 28:25; 29:22).

 

6:16–19 six … seven. The sequence of these two numbers was used both to represent totality and as a means of arresting attention (cf. 30:15, 18; Job 5:19; Amos 1:3) These 7 detestable sins provide a profound glimpse into the sinfulness of man. These verses act as a summary of the previous warnings:

1) haughty eyes (v. 13a, “winks”);

2) lying tongue (v. 12b, “perverse mouth”);

3) hands (v. 13c, “fingers”);

4) heart (v. 14a);

5) feet (v. 13b);

6) false witness (v. 12b); and

7) discord (v. 14c).

 

6:22 roam … sleep … awake. Cf. 3:23, 24. This parallels the 3 circumstances of life in Deut. 6:6–9; 11:18–20, for which wisdom provides direction, protection, and meditation. The biblical instruction for parents prevents the entrance of evil by supplying good and true thoughts, even when sleeping.

 

6:25 lust. Sexual sin is rooted in lust (imagination of the sinful act), as implied in Ex. 20:17 and addressed by Christ in Matt. 5:28. This initial attraction must be consistently rejected (James 1:14, 15).

 

 

7:1–4 Cf. 2:1–4; 3:1–3; 4:10.

7:2 apple of your eye. This expression refers to the pupil of the eye which, because it is the source of sight, is carefully protected (see Deut. 32:10; Ps. 17:8; Zech. 2:8). The son is to guard and protect his father’s teachings because they give him spiritual and moral sight.

 

 

8:1–3 wisdom. See notes on 1:20, 21. The openness and public exposure of wisdom contrasts with the secrecy and intrigues of the wicked adulterers in chap. 7.

 

8:6–8 The virtues of wisdom are summarized in all that is excellent, right, true, and righteous.

 

8:22–31 The Lord possessed me. Cf. 3:19, 20. Wisdom personified claims credit for everything that God created, so that wisdom was first, as God was eternally first. Christ used His eternal wisdom in creation (John 1:1–3; 1 Cor 1:24, 30).

8:24–26 Note how these verses parallel the creation account.

The earth (v. 23) with day one in Gen. 1:1–5;

water (v. 24) with day two in Gen. 1:6–8; and land (vv. 25, 26) with day three in Gen. 1:9–13.

8:27 circle on the face of the deep. The Heb. word for circle indicates that the earth is a globe; therefore the horizon is circular (cf. Is. 40:22). This “deep” that surrounds the earth is either the endless heavens or the sea, on which the circular horizon can best be seen.

 

 

9:1 seven pillars. The significance of 7 is to convey the sufficiency of this house as full in size and fit for a banquet.

 

Proverbs for Everyone (10:1–29:27)

  1. From Solomon (10:1–22:16)
  2. From Wise Men (22:17–24:34)
  3. From Solomon Collected by Hezekiah (25:1–29:27)

 

 

10:1–22:16 This large section contains 375 of Solomon’s individual proverbs. They are in no apparent order, with only occasional grouping by subject, and are often without a context to qualify their application. They are based on Solomon’s inspired knowledge of the Law and the Prophets. The parallel, two line proverbs of chaps. 10–15 are mostly contrasts or opposites (antithetical), while those of chaps. 16–22 are mostly similarities or comparisons (synthetical).

 

10:9 Those who have integrity (who live what they believe) exist without fear of some evil being discovered, while those who are perverse and have secret wickedness will not be able to hide it. Cf. 11:3; 19:1; 20:7.

 

10:11 well of life. The Lord is the source of this fountain (Ps. 36:9), which then springs up in the wise man as wise speech (10:11), wise laws (13:14), the fear of the Lord (12:27), and understanding (16:22). See notes on 3:18; Ezek. 47:1–12; John 4:14; 7:38, 39. violence. See note on 10:6.

10:12 love. True love seeks the highest good for another (cf. 1 Cor. 14:4–7). First Peter 4:8 quotes this verse.

 

10:13 rod. This first reference to corporal punishment applied to the backside (cf. 19:29; 26:3) recommends it as the most effective way of dealing with children and fools. See also 13:24; 18:6; 19:29; 22:15; 23:13, 14; 26:3; 29:15.

10:14 mouth of the foolish. The loose tongue of the fool is a recurring subject in Proverbs (cf. vv. 6, 8, 13, 18, 19, 31, 32; 12:23; 13:3; 15:1, 2, 23, 26, 28, 31–33; 17:28; 18:2, 6–8). James parallels this emphasis concerning the tongue (James 1:26; 3:1–12).

 

 

11:1 Dishonest scales. Cf. 16:11; 20:10, 23. As indicated in Lev. 19:35, 36; Deut. 25:13–16; Ezek. 45:10; Amos 8:5; Mic. 6:10, God detests dishonesty.

 

11:12 despises. Literally one who gossips, slanders, or destroys with words, in contrast to the silence of the wise. See notes on 10:14, 18.

11:13 talebearer. This depicts someone who is a peddler in scandal, who speaks words deliberately intended to harm rather than merely unguarded speech (cf. Lev. 19:16).

11:14 multitude of counselors. As in 15:22; 20:18; 24:6, a good decision is made with multiple wise advisers. The more crucial the decision, the more appropriate is corporate wisdom. Note the example of David (2 Sam. 15:30–17:23).

11:20 abomination. Defined throughout Scripture as attitudes, this involves words and behaviors which God hates (see 6:16).

 

11:24–26 scatters, yet increases. The principle here is that generosity, by God’s blessing, secures increase, while stinginess leads to poverty instead of expected gain. The one who gives receives far more in return (Ps. 112:9; Eccl. 11:1; John 12:24, 25; Acts 20:35; 2 Cor. 9:6–9).

 

12:1 stupid. From the Heb. “to graze”; he is as stupid as the brute cattle (cf. Pss. 49:20; 73:22).

 

12:9 Better … than. This is the first of several proverbs which makes a distinct comparison using “better … than” (cf. 15:16, 17; 16:8, 19, 32; 17:1, 12; 19:1; 21:9, 19; 25:7, 24; 27:5, 10; 28:6). slighted … honors himself. The obscure one of lowly rank, who can at least afford to hire a servant because of his honest gain is better than the one who falsely boasts about his prominence but is really poor.

 

13:2, 3 The parallels here are implied. A man of good words prospers, but a man of evil words (thus unfruitful to God) provokes violence against himself.

13:20 walks … companion. This speaks of the power of association to shape character. Cf. 1:10, 18; 2:12; 4:14; 16:29; 22:24, 25; 23:20; 28:7, 19; Ps. 1.

13:21 This is a basic theme/general principle throughout Proverbs and is illustrated throughout the OT, which establishes that righteousness brings divine blessing and evil brings divine cursing.

13:22 leaves an inheritance. While good men’s estates remain with their families, the wealth of the wicked does not. In the providence of God, it will ultimately belong to the righteous. Cf. 28:8; Job 27:16, 17.

 

13:24 rod … disciplines … promptly. Early childhood teaching (see note on 22:6) requires both parental discipline, including corporal punishment (cf. 10:13; 19:18; 22:15; 29:15, 17), and balanced kindness and love. There is great hope that the use of the “divine ordinance” of the rod will produce godly virtue (cf. 23:13, 14) and parental joy (cf. 10:1; 15:20; 17:21; 23:15, 16, 24, 25; 28:7; 29:1, 15, 17). Such discipline must have the right motivation (Heb. 12:5–11) and appropriate severity (Eph. 6:4). One who has genuine affection for his child, but withholds corporal punishment, will produce the same kind of child as a parent who hates his offspring.

 

14:1 builds her house. Cf. the wise woman building her house (31:10–31) with lady wisdom building her house (9:1–6).

 

14:9 Fools mock at sin. While fools ridicule their impending judgment (cf. 1:26), the wise are promised favor with God (cf. Is. 1:11–20) and man (cf. 10:32; 11:27). Cf. 1 Sam. 2:26; Luke 2:40, 52.

 

14:14 backslider in heart. This term, so often used by the prophets (Is. 57:17; Jer. 3:6, 8, 11, 12, 14, 23; 8:5; 31:22; 49:4; Hos. 11:7; 14:4), is here used in such a way as to clarify who is a backslider. He belongs in the category of the fool, the wicked, and the disobedient and he is contrasted with the godly wise. It is a word that the prophets used of apostate unbelievers.

 

 14:31 oppresses the poor … Maker. It offends the Creator when one neglects the poor, who are part of His creation (cf. 14:21; 17:5; 19:17; 21:13; 22:2, 7; 28:8; 29:13).

 

15:3 eyes of the Lord. Cf. 5:21. This refers to God’s omniscience. Cf. 1 Sam 16:7; 2 Chr. 16:9; Job 24:23; Pss. 33:13–15; 139:1–16; Jer. 17:10.

 

15:15 continual feast. The joyous, inward condition of the wise man’s heart (14:21) is described as a perpetual feast. Real happiness is always determined by the state of the heart (cf. Hab. 3:17, 18; 1 Tim. 4:6–8).

 

16:1 preparations … answer. Human responsibility is always subject to God’s absolute sovereignty (cf. 3:6; 16:2, 9, 33; 19:21; 20:24; 21:1, 30, 31).

 

16:3 Commit. Literally “roll upon” in the sense of both total trust (3:5–6) and submission to the will of God (Pss. 22:8; 37:5; 119:133); He will fulfill your righteous plans.

 

 16:28 sows. The same root word is used for the release of flaming foxes in the grain fields of the Philistines (Judg. 15:4, 5; cf. 17:9). whisperer. A slanderer or gossip. See note on 6:14; cf. 8:8; 26:20, 22 for the same Heb. term.

16:33 lot. See note on 16:1. Casting lots was a method often used to reveal God’s purposes in a matter (cf. Josh. 14:1, 2; 1 Sam. 14:38–43; 1 Chr. 25:8–31; Jon. 1:7; Acts 1:26). The High-Priest may have carried lots in his sacred vest, along with the Urim and Thummim (see note on Ex. 28:30).

 

17:2 wise servant … inheritance. A faithful servant will rise above an unworthy son and receive an inheritance (cf. 11:29; 1 Kin. 11:26, 28–38; Matt. 8:11, 12).

17:17 The difference between a friend and brother is noted here. A true friend is a constant source of love, while a brother in one’s family may not be close, but is drawn near to help in trouble. Friends are closer than brothers because they are available all the time, not just in the crisis. Cf. 18:24.

 

18:1 isolates himself. This man seeks selfish gratification and accepts advice from no one.

 

18:6, 7 The fool self-destructs. Cf. 12:13; 17:14, 19, 28; 19:29; 20:3.

 

18:10 The name of the Lord. This expression, found only here in Proverbs, stands for the manifest perfections of God such as faithfulness, power, mercy, and wisdom, on which the righteous rely for security (cf. Ex. 3:15; 15:1–3; Ps. 27:4, 5)

 

18:24 must himself be friendly. The best text says “may come to ruin” (see margin) and warns that the person who makes friends too easily and indiscriminately does so to his own destruction. On the other hand, a friend chosen wisely is more loyal than a brother. friend. This is a strong word meaning “one who loves” and was used of Abraham, God’s friend (2 Chr. 20:7; Is. 41:8; cf. 1 Sam. 18:1; 2 Sam. 1:26).

 

19:1 Integrity is better than wealth. Cf. 15:16, 17; 16:8.

 

19:16 commandment. Wisdom is equated with God’s commandments. In a sense, Proverbs contain the applications and implications of all that is in God’s moral law.

19:25 scoffer … simple … understanding. Three classes of people are noted:

1) scoffers are rebuked for learning nothing;

2) simpletons are warned by observing the rebuke of the scoffer; and

3) the understanding deepen their wisdom from any reproof.

 

20:1 Wine … strong drink. This begins a new theme of temperance (see 23:20, 21, 29–35; 31:4, 5). Wine was grape juice mixed with water to dilute it, but strong drink was unmixed (see note on Eph. 5:18). While the use of these beverages is not specifically condemned (Deut. 14:26), being intoxicated always is (Is. 28:7). Rulers were not to drink, so their judgment would not be clouded nor their behavior less than exemplary (see 31:4, 5). See note on 1 Tim 3:3. mocker … brawler. “Mocker” is the same word as “scoffer” in 19:25, 29; a brawler is violent, loud, and uncontrolled. Both words describe the personality of the drunkard.

 

20:19 talebearer. Those who love to spread secrets will flatter to learn them.

 

21:1 He turns it. See notes on 16:1, 9, 33; cf. 19:21; 20:24. Note the examples of the divine hand of God in the cases of Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:21–23), Tiglath-Pileser (Is. 10:5–7), Cyrus (Is. 45:1–4), and Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 4:34; 5:23–25).

 

22:3 Wise people see the approach of sin and remove themselves from it, while naive people walk right into it and suffer the consequences.

 

22:6 way he should go. There is only one right way, God’s way, the way of life. That way is specified in great detail in Proverbs. Since it is axiomatic that early training secures lifelong habits, parents must insist upon this way, teaching God’s Word and enforcing it with loving discipline consistently throughout the child’s upbringing. See note on 13:24. Cf. Deut. 4:9; 6:6–8; 11:18–21; Josh. 24:15; Eph. 6:4.

 

22:8, 9 generous eye. A reference to generosity in that he looks with a desire to give. The principle of sowing and reaping is emphasized. Cf. Job 4:8; Hos. 8:7; 10:13; 2 Cor. 9:6; Gal. 6:7–9.

 

Proverbs for Everyone (10:1–29:27)

  1. From Solomon (10:1–22:16)
  2. From Wise Men (22:17–24:34)
  3. From Solomon Collected by Hezekiah (25:1–29:27)

 

 

22:17–24:34 Solomon did not author, but did compile, this collection containing 77 proverbs which were most likely spoken by godly men prior to Solomon’s reign. The section begins with an introduction (22:17–21), followed by a collection of proverbs in random order, one, two or three verses each (as opposed to the one verse, two line proverbs in the previous section). This is followed by two collections of additional proverbs (22:22–24:22 and 24:23–34), which continue and enlarge upon the wisdom themes of this book.

 

23:1–3 Here is a warning to exercise restraint when confronted with the luxuries of a wealthy ruler who seeks to lure you into his schemes and intrigues. Daniel is the classic illustration of one who lived by this proverb, refusing the allurements of the pagan monarch, which he knew could corrupt him (see Dan. 1:8ff.).

 

23:6–8 miser. This is the greedy one who, to be rich, hoards his riches, withholding from the poor and needy to keep and increase his own wealth. He invites someone to enjoy his courtesies, feigning generosity, while really being sickeningly hypocritical, as his real goal is to take advantage in some way so to increase his wealth at his guest’s expense. Cf. 26:24–26.

 

 

23:29–35 This passage offers a powerful warning against drunkenness, presented as a riddle (v. 29) with its answer (v. 30). Following the riddle, come exhortations (vv. 31, 32) and descriptions of the drunkard’s delirious thoughts (vv. 33, 35).

23:30 mixed wine. See note on 20:1. Lingering long at the wine is indicative of constant drinking, so as to induce drunkenness (cf. 1 Tim. 3:3; Titus 1:7). Searching for more to drink indicates the same pursuit.

23:31 wine when it is red. This describes wine when it is especially desirable and when it is most intoxicating, perhaps as “strong drink” or mixed with spices only and not water, as opposed to the “new wine” (3:10), which was fresh and unfermented or less fermented (cf. Hos. 4:11).

23:32 bites … stings. This recounts the hangover, but also the more than likely destructive consequences (cf. Is. 59:5; Jer. 8:17).

23:33 The delirium and distortion of reality are part of the drunkard’s miserable experience (see note on 1 Cor. 6:12).

23:34 Here is the warning about the dizziness, sickness, and confusion of the drunkard, like being seasick at the top of the mast, the most agitated point on a ship in strong seas.

23:35 The drunkard’s lack of sense is so severe that his first waking thought is to repeat his debauchery and dangerous sin.

 

24:3, 4 house is built. House can refer to a physical structure (cf. 14:1), a family (see Josh. 24:15), or even a dynasty (see 2 Sam. 7:11, 12; 1 Kin 11:38; 1 Chr. 17:10).

 

 

Proverbs for Everyone (10:1–29:27)

  1. From Solomon (10:1–22:16)
  2. From Wise Men (22:17–24:34)
  3. From Solomon Collected by Hezekiah (25:1–29:27)

 

 

25:1–29:27 Hezekiah’s collection of Solomon’s proverbs.

25:1 Hezekiah … copied. This collection of 137 proverbs was spoken by Solomon and most likely copied into a collection during the reign of Judah’s king, Hezekiah (ca. 715–686 b.c.) over 200 years later. See Introduction: Author and Date. This is consistent with Hezekiah’s efforts to bring revival to Judah (2 Chr. 29:30; 32:26), as he elevated the forgotten wisdom of David and Solomon (cf. 2 Chr. 29:31; 30:26).

 

 

26:1–12 The fool is described in every verse. Most verses compare aspects of natural order that are violated with the behavior of a fool. The deteriorating nature of foolishness is seen as the description progresses from drink (v. 6) to vomit (v. 11).

26:1 These damaging incongruities of nature illustrate those in the moral realm. Cf. 17:7; 19:10.

26:2 curse without cause. A bird’s aimless motion without landing is compared to a fool who utters an undeserved curse—it does not land either.

26:4, 5 answer a fool. Taken together, these verses teach the appropriate way to answer a fool (e.g., an unbeliever who rejects truth). He should not be answered with agreement to his own ideas and presuppositions, or he will think he is right (v. 4), but rather he should be rebuked on the basis of his folly and shown the truth so he sees how foolish he is (v. 5).

 

26:10 The Heb. language is obscure here, so as to produce many interpretations of what this is saying. Since it is impossible to know exactly what it said in the original, it is impossible to know exactly what it means. The translation might be: “Much brings forth from itself all; but the reward and the wages of the fool pass away.” This could mean, reasonably, that although he who possesses much and has great ability may be able to accomplish all he wants, that is not the case when he makes use of the work of fools, who not only do not accomplish anything, but destroy everything.

26:11 Peter quotes this disgusting proverb in 2 Pet. 2:22.

 

27:1 boast … tomorrow. Fools think they know the future or can affect its outcome, but the future rests with sovereign God. See notes on 16:1, 9; cf. Ps. 37; James 4:13–16.

 

 

28:1 A guilty conscience imagines accusers everywhere (cf. Num. 32:23; Ps. 53:5), while a clear conscience has boldness to face everyone.

 

 

29:1 hardens his neck. This refers to a state of increasing obstinance, along with an unteachable spirit. See note on 28:14.

 

29:18 no revelation. This proverb looks both to the lack of the Word (i.e., 1 Sam. 3:1) and the lack of hearing the Word (Amos 8:11, 12), which leads to lawless rebellion (cf. Ex. 32:25; Lev. 13:45; Num. 5:18). The proverb then contrasts the joy and glory of a lawful society (28:14; Mal. 4:4).

 

 

Personal Notes (30:1–31:31)

  1. From Agur (30:1–33)

 

 

30:1–33 The words of Agur. This is a collection of proverbs written by an unknown sage who was likely a student of wisdom at the time of Solomon (cf. 1 Kin. 4:30, 31). Agur reflects humility (vv. 1–4), a deep hatred for arrogance (vv. 7–9), and a keen theological mind (vv. 5, 6).

 

30:4 Who … what. These questions can be answered only by revelation from God. A man can know the “what” about creative wisdom through observation of the physical world and its inner workings, but cannot know the “who.” The “who” can be known only when God reveals Himself, which He has in Scripture. This is the testimony and conclusion of Job (Job 42:1–6), Solomon (Eccl. 12:1–14), Isaiah (Is. 40:12–17; 46:8–11; 66:18, 19), and Paul (Rom. 8:18–39). His Son’s name. Jesus Christ. Cf. John 1:1–18.

 

30:6 Do not add. A powerful statement on the inspired nature of God’s canonical Word to Israel. To add to God’s Word is to deny God as the standard of truth (cf. Gen. 2:16, 17 with 3:2, 3). See notes on Deut 4:2; 12:32; Rev. 22:18, 19.

30:7–9 The prayer of a true wisdom-seeker. He seeks from the Lord honesty in heart and sufficiency in Him (away from the dangers posed by the extremes of poverty or wealth). If he has too much, he could cease depending on God (see Deut. 8:11–20; 10:15; 18:11), and if he has too little, he could be tempted to be as the sluggard (6:6–11).

 

 30:18–20 Hypocrisy is illustrated by 4 natural analogies of concealment: 1) an eagle leaves no trail in the air; 2) a slithering snake leaves no trail on the rock; 3) a ship leaves no trail in the sea; 4) a man leaves no marks after he has slept with a virgin. These actions are all concealed and thus serve to illustrate the hypocrisy of the adulterous woman who hides the evidences of her shame while professing innocence.

 

Personal Notes (30:1–31:31)

 

  1. From Lemuel (31:1–31)

 

 

31:1–31 This concluding chapter contains two poems: 1) The Wise King (31:2–9) and 2) The Excellent Wife (31:10–31). Both are the teachings of a godly mother (v. 1) to King Lemuel, whom ancient Jewish tradition identified as King Solomon, but who is otherwise unknown.

 

31:4, 5 See notes on 20:1; 23:29–35. Intoxicating drinks can weaken reason and judgment, loosen convictions, or pervert the heart. They do not suit rulers who need clear, steady minds and keen judgment.

31:6, 7 Give strong drink. Such extreme situations, possibly relating to a criminal on death row or someone agonizing in pain with a terminal illness or tragic circumstance, are in utter contrast to that of the king (cf. Ps. 104:15).

 

31:10–31 This poem offers a beautiful description of the excellent wife as defined by a wife and mother (v. 1). Spiritual and practical wisdom plus moral virtues mark the character of this woman in contrast to the immoral women of v. 3. While the scene here is of a wealthy home and the customs of the ancient Near East, the principles apply to every family. They are set forth as the prayer of every mother for the future wife of her son, and literarily arranged with each of the 22 verses beginning with the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet in consecutive order.

 

 

31:20–24 Her activities, driven by the priority of caring for her family, resulted in multiplied fruitfulness for: 1) the poor and needy (v. 20); 2) her own household (v. 21); 3) herself (v. 22); 4) her husband (v. 23); and 5) the merchants (v. 24).

 

 

31:28 rise up … call her blessed. She was greatly respected because she has earned the praise of her family. See notes on 23:25; 29:17. There can be no higher joy for a mother than for her children to grow up to praise her as the source of the wisdom that made them godly. See note on 1 Tim. 2:15.

31:31 fruit … works. See vv. 10–29. While she receives material reward (v. 22), the praise and success she labored to bring to her family and community will be her praise. The result of all her efforts is her best eulogy.[2]

 

 

Wiersbe: Introductory Notes to Proverbs

  1. Author

In Prov. 1:1, 10:1, and 25:1, we are told that Solomon wrote most of the proverbs in this book. First Kings 4:32 informs us that Solomon spoke 3,000 proverbs, and these were undoubtedly recorded in the official records.

The men of Hezekiah (a group of writers in King Hezekiah’s employ who assisted in copying out the Scriptures) copied out the material in Prov. 25–29 (see 25:1), while King Solomon himself wrote or dictated Prov. 1–24.

In Prov. 30–31 we have material from other writers, although many believe that “King Lemuel” in 31:1 was really Solomon. Solomon was certainly known for his wisdom, even though later in his life he turned to idolatry and folly.

  1. The Fool

Proverbs often mentions three classes of people who desperately need wisdom: the fool, the simple, and the scorner (see 1:22).

  1. The fool is the person who is dense, sluggish, careless, and self-satisfied. Nabal in 1 Sam. 25 is a good example; the name “Nabal” means “fool.” The fool hates instruction (1:7, 22) and is self-confident (12:15). He talks without thinking (29:11) and mocks at sin (14:9).
  2. The simple are those who believe everything and everybody (14:15) and lack discernment. They are easily led astray by others because they lack understanding (7:7). They cannot see ahead (22:3) and, as a result, repeatedly walk into trouble.
  3. Scorners mock at God’s wisdom because it is too high for them (14:6), but they will not admit it because they know everything (21:24). The Hebrew word for “scorner” literally means “to make a mouth”; and we can easily picture them sneering and curling up their lips in scorn. They never profit from rebuke (9:7–8; 13:1) and, as a result, they will one day be judged (19:29).
  4. The Wise

Proverbs outlines for us the character of the wise:

they listen to instruction (1:5);

obey what they hear (10:8);

store up what they learn (10:14);

win others to the Lord (11:30);

flee from sin (14:16);

watch their tongue (16:23); and

are diligent in their daily work (10:5).

  1. Value

 

The NT quotes Proverbs in: Rom. 3:15 (Prov. 1:16); Heb. 12:5–6 and Rev. 3:19 (Prov. 3:11–12); James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 (Prov. 3:34); Rom. 12:20 (Prov. 25:21–22); and 2 Peter 2:22 (Prov. 26:11).

 

Proverbs 1–9

In this lesson we want to consider Wisdom and Folly, the two “women” who are out to woo and win the hearts of people. You will note in the suggested outline of Proverbs that there are three calls from Wisdom and three from Folly. Wisdom calls us to God and life; Folly calls us to sin and judgment. We want to study these six important invitations and contrast them.

  1. Wisdom’s First CallSalvation (1:20–33)

This is an open call out in the streets where people can see and hear. God’s call to hearts is not a secret matter; His Spirit invites people openly to come to Christ. Note that Wisdom invites all three classes: the simple, the scorner, and the fool (1:22). Wisdom can see judgment coming and she wants sinners to escape it. What a wonderful offer she makes to those who will hear: the gift of the Spirit of God and the Word of God (v. 23).

How do sinners respond to this call? It seems that they totally reject it. Verses 24–25 indicate their responses: they refused to heed; they did not regard God’s outstretched hand; they even made light of it. What will the result be? Destruction. And God will laugh at them just as they laughed at Wisdom. “Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer” (v. 28). They will reap just what they have sown (v. 31). Why did they refuse God’s gracious offer? Verse 32 indicates that the “ease” (turning away) of the simple and the prosperity of the fools gave them a false assurance; they thought they would never see judgment.

Following Wisdom’s first call we have three chapters that present the path of wisdom. The words “path” and “way” are each used thirteen times in these chapters. The message of chapter 2 is that Wisdom protects our paths (2:8), of chapter 3 that Wisdom directs our paths (3:5–6), and of chapter 4 that Wisdom perfects our paths (4:18).

Wisdom offers people salvation, but in chapter 5 we see Folly offering them condemnation. Wherever God gives His gracious invitation, Satan is there with an alluring offer of his own. Read this description of the wicked woman and see how Satan tries to make sin appear attractive. But note 5:5—“Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell.” God warns us not even to come near her door (5:7–8). Sin is always a costly thing: you can lose your reputation (5:9), your possessions (5:10), your health (5:11), and your very life (5:22–23). The “cords of sins” bind slowly, but they bind surely, until one day the sinner discovers escape is impossible.

  1. Wisdom’s Second CallWealth (8)

Wisdom is back in the streets again, calling sinners to follow God’s path. In v. 5 she calls the simple and the fools, but not the scorner. He was the one who laughed and mocked (1:25–26), so God now passes him by. How solemn to think that hearts can be so hard that they no longer hear the voice of God.

The invitation is to true wealth, the wisdom that is far above silver, gold, and precious jewels (vv. 10–11). See Prov. 4:1–10 for a similar exhortation. In fact, to know God’s wisdom is to reign like a king (vv. 15–16). Verses 18–19 affirm again that wisdom and godly living are greater in value than all worldly wealth. After all, to know the Lord and obey Him is to have all the wealth of heaven and earth at your disposal. In vv. 22–31, Solomon introduces an OT picture of Jesus Christ, the Wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:24, 30). As you read this description, you see Christ, the beloved Son of God, the Creator of the universe. To know Him is to have true wisdom. (Of course, Christ was not “brought forth” [vv. 24–25] in the sense of being created by the Father, since the Son existed from all eternity. This is symbolic language.)

Wisdom invites us to wealth, but in chapter 6, Folly invites us to poverty (6:20–35). Here is the “strange woman” again, all painted up, flattering the young man, tempting him to sin. In 6:26, we see that sin leads to poverty; see also 6:31. True, many ungodly people today seem prosperous, but their wealth will not last.

III. Wisdom’s Third CallLife (9)

Wisdom’s first invitation was to the fool, the scorner, and the simple; her second invitation was only to the fool and the simple (8:5); but her third invitation is only to the simple (9:4). The fool decided to follow Folly, and in 8:36 he experienced death (see 1:22). Alas, the simple too will reject Wisdom’s gracious call and end up in the depths of hell (9:1–18). Here are the results of these invitations:

(1) The scorner rejected Wisdom and met destruction (1:24–27); he listened to Folly and received destruction (6:32)

(2) The fool rejected Wisdom and was led to death (8:36); he listened to Folly and received death (5:22–23)

(3) The simple rejected Wisdom and went to hell (9:18); he listened to Folly and ended up in hell (7:27)

The lesson is obvious: to reject Wisdom is to accept Folly. There is no middle ground. “He that is not with Me is against Me,” said Jesus. “No man can serve two masters,” and nobody can live without having some master. We either follow Wisdom or Folly, Christ or sin.

 

Verses 1–6 picture Wisdom preparing a wonderful banquet. This reminds us of the several “banquet” parables of Christ, especially Luke 14:15–24. Salvation is not a funeral; it is a feast. “Forsake the foolish, and live,” Wisdom calls, for receiving Christ is the only way to receive life (1 John 5:11–13). “By me your days will be multiplied,” Wisdom promises in v. 11.

But Folly is busy inviting people to her banquet (chap. 7). It takes little imagination to see the foolish young man as he toys with temptation and finally listens to Folly and goes to her feast. But he goes like an ox to the slaughter (7:22). When you yield to this particular temptation, you become like a dumb animal. Wisdom is offering life, but Folly offers death (7:26–27). Temptation looks fascinating and enjoyable, and there are pleasures in sin “for a season” (Heb. 11:25), but in the end, sin leads to death and hell. See James 1:13–15.

These, then, are the invitations we face in this life. We can listen to Wisdom and enjoy salvation, true wealth, and life; or we can listen to Folly (temptation and sin) and experience condemnation, poverty, and death. There are several practical lessons that we ought to note before closing this study.

  1. A. We cannot avoid decisions.

 

  1. B. Sin is always alluring.

 

  1. C. It takes time for judgment to fall.

 

  1. D. Satan appeals to the flesh.

 

  1. E. God continues to call.

 

Proverbs 2–4

When you know Jesus Christ, you know true wisdom (1 Cor. 1:24, 30), and through His Word, you receive wisdom for daily living. In these three chapters, Solomon is urging the young man (“My son” is repeated five times) to lay hold of divine wisdom because of the blessings it will bring to his life. Of course, these instructions apply to anyone who will hear and obey.

  1. Wisdom Protects Our Paths (2)

The key idea here is that of God’s protection over His own (vv. 7–8, 11–12, 16). The path of life is not an easy one, and the older we get, the more dangers we face. The world, the flesh, and the Devil are out to defeat us, and we need the wisdom of God to keep us out of their power. Sinners are out to entice the young (Prov. 1:10–19), and too often their temptations are so alluring they are difficult to resist. But the Christian who knows the Bible and seeks to obey it will be kept safe from their power.

 

  1. Wisdom Directs Our Paths (3)

Proverbs 3:5–6 are precious promises to Christians who want to know and do God’s will in every area of life. God wants us to know and do His will; He is eager to reveal His will to us (Eph. 5:8–10; John 7:17). There are certain conditions that we must meet before God can direct our paths.

  1. A. Listen to the Word (vv. 1–4).

 

  1. B. Obey the Word (vv. 5–10).

 

  1. C. Submit to the Word (vv. 11–12).

 

  1. D. Treasure the Word (vv. 13–26).

 

III. Wisdom Perfects Our Paths (4)

In vv. 14–19, there is a contrast between the path of the wicked and the path of the righteous. The path of the wicked is darkness, and it keeps getting darker; but the path of the just is light, and it keeps getting brighter. Salvation begins with the “dawning” in our hearts (“Dayspring” in Luke 1:77–79). As we walk with the Lord, the light gets brighter, until one day we shall step into God’s eternal light, in a land where there is no night.

God wants to perfect the path of the believer. He has a plan for each life, and He wants to bring that plan to completion (Eph. 2:10; Phil. 2:12–13; 1:6). Solomon gives us several instructions to follow if God is to perfect our paths:

  1. A. Seek after wisdom (vv. 1–13).

 

  1. B. Avoid temptation and sin (vv. 14–19).

 

  1. C. Guard your life (vv. 20–27).

 

 

Proverbs 12, 18

There are many references to the tongue in Proverbs. We have suggested reading chapters 12 and 18 because they mention the tongue frequently, but you will want to follow the cross references and examine other verses as well. We so often take the wonderful gift of speech for granted and abuse an ability that ought to be guarded and used to the glory of God.

Before we consider some of the sins of the tongue, we ought to note the blessings of a godly tongue. (This demands a godly heart, because the tongue only speaks what the heart treasures.) When used for good, the tongue is like valuable silver (10:20); a beautiful and fruitful tree of life (15:4; see 12:14 and 18:20); a refreshing well of water (18:4; 10:11); and a healthy dose of medicine (12:18). See also James 3.

The tongue should be used for right purposes: bringing peace (15:1, 26); giving wise reproof to the erring (25:12; 28:23); delivering lost souls from death (11:9; 14:3–5, 25; 12:6); teaching people the things of the Lord (15:7; 16:21, 23; 20:15); and carrying the good news of the Gospel (25:25).

But Satan and the flesh want to control the tongue, and the results are sad. Perhaps more damage is done to lives, homes, and churches by the tongue than by any other means. It is sobering to realize that the tongue can be used to damage reputations and cause trouble, when it ought to be used to praise God, pray, and witness to others about Christ. The tongue is a “little member” of the body (James 3:5), but it is one member that must be yielded to God as a tool of righteousness (Rom. 6:12–13). Perhaps if we consider some of the sins of the tongue, it might encourage us to use our gift of speech more carefully.

  1. Lying (12:17–22)

God hates a lying tongue (6:16–17). Sometimes a lying tongue is only covering up sin in the heart (10:18), such as we see in Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) and Judas (John 12:1–8). In 12:18, Solomon suggests that lies are like cutting swords, but the truth is like a healing medicine. The truth is eternal, but lies will one day be revealed and the liars judged (v. 19). See Ps. 52:4–5. Verse 20 explains that it is deceit in the heart that makes a statement a lie. After all, the lips can utter true words, but if the intent of the heart is evil, the statement is false. Likewise, if we ignorantly speak an untrue statement, the statement may be a lie, but the speaker cannot be condemned as a liar. The Bible tests and reveals the intents of the heart (Heb. 4:12), so the best way to be sure of telling the truth is to allow the Word and the Spirit to control the tongue. The truth will deliver souls (14:25), but lies only lead to bondage and shame. Proverbs 17:4 indicates that liars enjoy listening to liars. People who enjoy listening to gossip will turn around and gossip themselves. The heart controls the ear as well as the lips. But all liars will be punished (19:5, 9); and when they “eat their own words,” it will be like gravel (20:17). Hell is waiting for the one who “loves and practices a lie” (Rev. 22:15,  .

  1. Talebearing (18:8)

Moses warned about this sin in Lev. 19:16. A “talebearer” is one who runs from person to person telling matters that ought to be concealed, whether they are true or false. See 11:13. “Love covers all sins,” says 10:12. See also 17:9, 1 Peter 4:8, and James 5:20. When we love others, we seek to help them privately, and we try to win them back to the right way (Matt. 18:15–18). Think how many people have been wounded by the talebearer. Words can be as deadly as weapons; in 25:18 Solomon compares deceitful words to three different weapons: a maul (battle-ax) that crushes at close range; a sword that cuts; and an arrow that pierces and can be shot from a distance. Stay away from the talebearer (20:19). He or she is a kindler of fires (26:20) and a destroyer of friendships (17:9).

III. Talking Too Much (12:13; 18:6–7)

The idea behind these verses is that the fool talks too much and talks his way right into trouble. His mouth becomes a trap, and he himself is snared by it. Read 6:1–5 to see how this sin gets people into trouble. “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking,” warns 10:19  . A controlled tongue means a safe life (13:3); a loose tongue means poverty (14:23—many people would rather talk than work) and foolishness (15:2). The person of few words is a person of knowledge (17:27–28). Unfortunately, there is sometimes a “multitude of words” even in God’s house, and Ecc. 5:1–7 has some good counsel about this.

  1. Talking Too Soon (18:13, 17)

“Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak,” commands James 1:19. Too often we are slow to hear—we never really listen to the whole matter patiently—and swift to speak; and this gets us into trouble. It is wise to “restrain the lips” until you really have something to say (10:19). A godly person will study to answer, but a fool will open his mouth and pour out foolishness (15:28). Potiphar did not listen to Joseph’s side of the story and committed a great crime because of it. Jesus and the Apostles were not permitted to tell their whole story; the verdicts were passed by their enemies before the cases were honestly tried. God wants us to search out each matter carefully (25:2) and then give fair judgment. Proverbs 18:17 warns us not to agree with the “first cause” that we hear but to seek to understand both sides of a matter. Even where dedicated Christians are involved, there are two sides to a story. This is not because people necessarily lie, but simply because no two people see and hear the same matter in the same way. David jumped to conclusions about innocent Mephibosheth because he failed to get the other side of the matter (2 Sam. 16:1–4; 19:24–30). All of us need to pray, “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips” (Ps. 141:3). See Ps. 39:1.

  1. Flattering (26:28)

Flattery, of course, is a form of lying, but it is so dangerous that it deserves separate attention. “A flattering mouth works ruin,” warns 26:28 ( ); and 29:5 compares flattery to a dangerous net spread before an innocent man’s feet. For an X ray of the flatterer’s mouth read Ps. 5:9. Flattery is insincere praise given by one who has selfish motives. “Flatter” and “flutter” belong to the same family of words, and you can just see the flatterer as he “flutters” around his victim, trying to impress him. Satan used a form of flattery to tempt Eve: “You will be like God.” The evil woman uses flattery to tempt the young man (5:3; 7:5, 21). “The rich has many friends” mainly because they want to flatter him and get something out of him (14:20; 19:4–6). We are warned not to meddle with people given to flattery (20:19). Sad to say, sometimes the righteous will flatter the wicked in order to get advantages (25:26); and this will pollute a home, a church, or a nation like a poisoned spring. Honest rebuke is better than flattery (28:23). “Faithful are the wounds of a friend,” says 27:6, “but the kisses of an enemy (like Judas) are deceitful.”

Of course, there is a place for honest praise in the Christian life; see 1 Thes. 5:12–13. Honest praise is like a furnace (Prov. 27:21); it brings to the top either the pure gold or the dross. Some Christians are so carnal they cannot take praise; it goes to their heads. Worse still, they cannot stand to see another person praised. When the Jews praised David for his victories, this praise made David humble, but it revealed the envy and pride in Saul’s heart (1 Sam. 18).

  1. Quarreling (12:16, 18)

There is a righteous anger (Eph. 4:26), but too often it becomes unrighteous anger and leads to arguing and displays of temper. See 29:22. An angry person keeps adding fuel to the fire only to make the matter worse (26:21), and angry words are the fuel. The best way to stop an argument is with soft words (15:1–2); this is the best way to “break the bones” (25:15). Being able to control one’s temper is the same as ruling an army or an empire (16:32). See also 14:17, 29, and 17:14.

Proverbs 23

Our emphasis will be on vv. 15–35 in which the godly father warns his son against the sin of drunkenness. We will also study other Scripture passages to show that the Bible magnifies total abstinence. There are millions of alcoholics in the United States and millions more “problem drinkers.” At least 70 percent of the problem drinkers started when they were in their teens. No wonder brewers and distillers focus a large part of their annual advertising budget on winning the young people.

  1. The Bible Warns against Strong Drink

The concerned father tells his son what evil results will take place in his life if he takes to drink:

  1. A. Poverty (vv. 20–21; 21:17).

The liquor ads often show a “man of distinction” and give the impression that drinking goes along with success and fortune.

  1. B. Misery (vv. 29–32).

Alcohol is a great deceiver (see 20:1); it promises joy, but brings sorrow; it pretends to bring life, but really produces death. It has never made a home happier or a person healthier. Look at the results: woe, sorrow, contentions (this means “arguments, brawls”), babbling, wounds, redness of the eyes. Over 55 percent of fatal auto accidents involve drinking drivers. Anyone who thinks that drinking makes a person successful ought to visit a city rescue mission or listen to the testimonies at a local Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Alcoholism is the #3 health problem in the United States, after heart disease and cancer.

  1. C. Immorality (vv. 26–28, 33).

Many a woman has lost her virtue and character because of drink; and many a man has done likewise. Drinking and disobeying the seventh commandment often go together. Alcohol is not a stimulant; it is a narcotic that affects the brain and makes a person lose control. Alcohol is not a food; it is a poison. When young people lose control of themselves, there are many temptations that prove alluring and lead to sin.

  1. D. Instability (vv. 34–35).

What a vivid picture of a staggering drunk! (And there is nothing comical about a drunk, no matter what the entertainers may do on TV.) Drink robs a person of stability; he or she can’t walk straight or think straight. This is why the king is warned not to drink (Prov. 31:4–5).

  1. E. Eternity in hell (1 Cor. 6:9–10).

Drunkards go to hell. Of course, drunkards can be saved; see v. 11. But once alcohol gets ahold of a person, conversion to Christ can become very difficult. The drunkard may intend to trust Christ someday, but his or her life may be taken before that day comes.

  1. The Bible Magnifies Total Abstinence

Keep in mind that the word “wine” in your Bible can refer to many different drinks, including simple grape juice. “New wine” was grape juice that had not yet fermented; see Matt. 9:14–17. The Jews sometimes mixed their wine with spices or other fruit beverages (Isa. 5:22; 24:9). Wine and strong drink are often mentioned separately (Deut. 14:26; Prov. 20:1). Note how the Bible magnifies total abstinence by giving many examples:

  • Israel in the wilderness did not drink wine (Deut. 29:6). Wine was not used in the Passover (Ex. 12:8–10), for fermented wine contained leaven, and leaven was prohibited. Wine was added to the ceremony later; it was not commanded by God.
  • The priests had to abstain when serving in the temple (Lev. 10:8–10). As NT priests (1 Peter 2:5, 9), should today’s Christians have a lower standard as we serve the Lord daily?
  • Nazarites were forbidden to drink wine (Num. 6:1–3). John the Baptist was such a person (Luke 1:15), and Jesus called him the greatest preacher born of woman.
  • Daniel refused to “follow the crowd” (Dan. 1:5, 8, 16, and 10:3), and God honored and promoted him. Contrast this with drunken Belshazzar in Dan. 5, and Herod in Mark 6:21ff.
  • Paul warned Christians to do nothing that would cause their brother to stumble (Rom. 14:19–21). See 1 Cor. 8:13 also. The “social drinkers” who belong to our churches are supporting a wicked industry just as much as the skid-row drunks, because they are influencing others to drink. In fact, a “moral church-going drinker” is a better advertisement than is the drunk in the gutter. Paul contrasts being filled with the Spirit to being drunk (Eph. 5:18), and in Gal. 5:21 he lists drunkenness as one of the sinful works of the flesh. First Timothy 5:23 refers to a medicinal use for grape juice in a day when doctors did not have modern medicines. To say that we have the right to use alcohol because it is used in some medicines is as reasonable as saying we can use morphine or some other narcotic because the dentist or the surgeon uses it on his patients.
  • Peter warns Christians to “abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11); and since drunkenness is such a fleshly lust (Gal. 5:21), total abstinence is the best way to obey this admonition. How does one begin a drunkard’s life? By taking the first drink.
  • The OT prophets thundered out against strong drink. Habakkuk 2:15 pronounces a curse on those who give a drink to their neighbor; see Isa. 5:11–22. Amos condemned the idle Jews who had to drink their wine out of bowls because their cups were too small (6:3–6).
  • Jesus Christ is our greatest example. “But didn’t Jesus turn water into wine?” Yes, He did; any person who can do the same thing today ought to be allowed to drink the wine. At the end of His ministry, Jesus said, “I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine” (Matt. 26:29). Today, Jesus is a total abstainer! He refused the cup at the cross (Mark 15:23). Those who want to make Christ their “example” in drinking usually point to verses such as Matt. 11:18–19 and forget Matt. 26:29. What about the Lord’s Supper? Nowhere in the Bible is the word “wine” associated with the Lord’s Supper; it is either “the cup” or “the fruit of the vine” (Matt. 26:27–29).

 

The Japanese have a proverb: “First the man takes a drink; then the drink takes a drink; then the drink takes the man.” What is the right course to take? Refuse the first drink and keep refusing it for the rest of your life.

 

 

Proverbs 25

We must notice from the start that there is a righteous anger against sin that itself is not sinful. Verse 23 teaches that an angry look will silence a gossip. Jesus “looked round about on them with anger” (Mark 3:5), and Paul advises us to “be angry, and do not sin” (Eph. 4:26). Of course, we should be angry at sin and not at people.

Proverbs 27:4 warns us that anger is cruel and outrageous; it can lead to physical hurt and even murder (Matt. 5:22). Angry parents can permanently wound the body and emotions of a child. Sinful anger is of the flesh (Gal. 5:19–21) and does not accomplish God’s will (James 1:19–20). Satan can work through our angry words and attitudes (Eph. 4:26–27), so God warns us to “put off anger” (Eph. 4:31; Col. 3:8). An angry person is a dangerous friend (Prov. 22:24; 29:22), and an angry woman makes a poor wife (Prov. 21:9, 19; 25:24).

In this chapter we are given the instructions for dealing with anger in our lives and in the lives of others.

  1. Patience (25:8)

The minute we hear something that disturbs us, how easy it is to become angry and to rush into the matter without thinking or praying. The wise thing to do is to think the matter through and wait upon God. This does not mean we look for an excuse to pass over some sin, even though love does cover a multitude of sins (Prov. 10:12; 12:16). Rather, it means we act prudently, knowing first what is involved. It is a wonderful gift of God to be “slow to anger” (Prov. 15:18); the person who is quick to get angry will deal foolishly (Prov. 14:17). “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret—it only causes harm,” counsels Ps. 37:8 ( ). So, before rushing into a matter, stop to pray and to think. Take time to read God’s Word and to allow the Spirit of God to give you inward peace.

  1. Privacy (25:9–10)

Our first desire is to “tell the whole world” and get everybody on our side. But the Bible counsels just the opposite: talk to the person alone and do not allow others to interfere. This is what Jesus commanded in Matt. 18:15–17, and if this policy were followed in families and churches, there would be fewer fights and splits. It is sad when professing Christians tell everybody but the one involved. Certainly, it takes courage and Christian love to talk over a difference with a brother or sister, but this is the way to grow spiritually and to glorify Christ. Perhaps the matter cannot be settled by you two; then ask two or three spiritual people to assist you. If this fails, then the church must step in, and if the party refuses to hear the church, he or she must be disciplined. “As much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men,” says Rom. 12:18 ( ). Unfortunately, there may be some people we cannot live with peaceably because they will not obey God’s Word.

III. Wisdom (25:11–14)

Words are not just sounds that we hear; they are living, powerful realities that can either help or harm. In Prov. 25:18 Solomon compares lies to three weapons—a battle-ax, a sword, and an arrow. But in vv. 11–14, he states that words can also be lovely fruit (“apples of gold” are citrons or oranges), beautiful ornaments, and refreshing cold water from the mountain snows. In dealing with a matter, we must use the right words and present them in the right way. Our words must be “fitly spoken,” arranged like lovely fruit in a silver basket. See Job 6:25. Proverbs 19:11 states that discretion (prudence) will cause people to hold their anger. Only a fool utters all his mind (Prov. 29:11); wise people ponder what they will say, how they will say it, and when they will say it; see Prov. 15:23. Of course, this spiritual wisdom must come from God (James 1:5).

  1. Gentleness (25:15)

What a contradiction: “a gentle tongue breaks a bone.” This parallels Prov. 15:1 ( ), “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Our first reaction to someone’s meanness is to be mean in return, but this only adds fuel to the fire (see 26:20–21). See also James 3:5. We are commanded not to return evil for evil (Rom. 12:21), and not to revile others who revile us (1 Peter 2:20–23). If we are seeking to restore a sinning believer, we need a spirit of meekness (Gal. 6:1) and not an attitude of anger. This is the way Paul ministered to his converts (1 Thes. 2:7), and this is what he commands believers to do (2 Tim. 2:24). Elijah had to learn that God sometimes uses the “still small voice” and not the tornado (read 1 Kings 19:11–13). Many have the idea that gentleness is weakness, but it is not: it is power under control. It is the gentleness of the surgeon that makes him great, and only the Holy Spirit can give us this precious grace (Gal. 5:22–23).

  1. Kindness (25:21–22)

Gentleness ought to lead to kindness; see Rom. 12:19–21, where these same verses are quoted by Paul and applied to NT Christians. Instead of adding coals to the fire of anger (Prov. 26:20–21), we help to put out the fire by showing love and kindness. Read Christ’s commandment in Matt. 5:9–12. If the person needs to be chastened, God will take care of the matter: “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” We must be careful, however, to perform these kind deeds with the right motive. If we try to obligate people to us, or if we try to “buy them off,” God will not bless. But if we sincerely love them and want to help them, God will honor and reward us. Of course, these good deeds must not be done to impress people; Prov. 21:14 says they ought to be secret. Solomon is not suggesting a bribe here; rather, he is saying that kindness will be like oil that will heal the troubled waters.

  1. Self-control (25:28)

This lies at the very heart of the matter: the Christian who practices self-control will not be destroyed by anger, nor will he or she destroy others. This verse ought to be compared with 16:32, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” For people to rule their own spirit, the “inner kingdom,” is better than to rule the world. Alexander the Great was able to conquer the known world, yet he could not conquer himself. Of course, the only way for us to have this self-control is through the kingship of the Lord Jesus Christ in our lives. We “reign in life” through Christ (Rom. 5:17). Self-control (temperance) is one of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23); the flesh cannot produce self-control, for the flesh is at war with God.

It is self-control that gives us the patience we need, as outlined at the beginning of this study. If we exercise self-control at the very start of a problem, it will save us all kinds of trouble later on. Proverbs 17:14 compares the beginning of strife to a small leak from a dam; if you are not careful, the break will enlarge and you will have a flood on your hands. It is easier to stop the small leak at the start than to try to control a raging flood. Proverbs 30:33 presents a different picture: the churning of butter and the wringing of the nose. The lesson is clear: to force wrath and encourage trouble only produces more trouble. Self-control, produced by the Spirit, will enable a believer to handle these matters patiently and wisely.

The ability to be angry about the right matters in the right way helps to build character. Certainly we ought to be aroused about injustice and sin. But when anger flares up in temper, it becomes destructive. Godly anger is like the steam power in the boiler: if it is directed to the right matters it accomplishes much good. Unrighteous anger—losing one’s temper—is more like a forest fire that gets out of control and destroys much good. Psalm 19:14 () is a good prayer for us to use: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.”

Proverbs 31

Only in eternity will we fully see the blessing that godly women have brought to this world. Proverbs has much to say about wicked women in chapters 1–9, and about nagging wives (21:9 and 25:24); the book closes, however, with a glorious tribute to the godly, dedicated woman who brings honor to God and joy to her family. Many servants of God thank God for godly mothers and godly wives. Next to making a decision for Christ, the most important decision a Christian will make is the choice of a life’s mate. “A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband” (Prov. 12:4). “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord” (Prov. 18:22,  ). “A prudent wife is from the Lord” (Prov. 19:14). Christians must not be unequally yoked together with unsaved mates (2 Cor. 6:14–18). They are to marry “in the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:39). A Christian woman who marries an unsaved man may be endangering her life in childbirth; see 1 Tim. 2:12–15. This chapter of Proverbs describes the “virtuous woman” and lists her fine qualities.

  1. Her Spirituality (31:1–9)

The king’s mother is teaching her son to obey the Word of God. Some students think that “King Lemuel” is actually King Solomon, but we have no proof of this. The most important ministry mothers and fathers have is the spiritual training of their children. See 2 Tim. 1:5 and 3:15. The mother boldly warns Lemuel of some of the dangers he will face in life: sinful companions, strong drink, and a temptation to disobey the Word of God. Happy is that person who had a God-fearing mother who warned about sin, and happier is the person who heeded her warnings.

  1. Her Loyalty (31:10–12)

The two key words here are heart and trust—love and faith. Marriage is a matter of the heart; there must be true love between husband and wife. What kind of love should a man show to his wife? The same kind of love that Christ shows to the church (Eph. 5:18ff): sacrificial, patient, suffering, tender, constant. A wife has no problem submitting herself in obedience to a husband who loves her and shows it. Husbands need to take care that their jobs and household chores do not take them away from their wives and children. A happy home does not “just happen”; it is the result of hard work, prayer, and real love. When husbands and wives trust the Lord and each other, there will be happiness and blessing. The marriage vows are promises that must be taken seriously. To break these vows is to sin against God and each other.

III. Her Industry (31:13–22)

This priceless woman is a worker. Whether it be sewing or cooking, taking care of the children or assisting her husband in family business, she is faithfully doing her share. Note that she works willingly (v. 13); it is not a matter of compulsion but compassion. She loves her husband and therefore seeks to please him. (See 1 Cor. 7:32–34 for a wonderful principle of marriage—live to please the other person.) This ideal woman does not spend the morning in bed; she is up early to do her tasks (v. 15) and, if necessary, she stays up late at night (v. 18). Note Paul’s instructions to young women in 1 Tim. 5:14. While there are sometimes emergencies and situations that require women to work outside the home, it must be remembered that even there her first responsibility is to her family.

Proverbs has nothing good to say about laziness, whether it involves a man or a woman. See 6:6–11; 10:4, 26; 13:4; 15:19; 18:9; 19:15, 24; 20:4, 13; 21:25; 22:13; 24:30–34; 26:13–16. In these days of “labor-saving devices,” there is still no substitute for hard work and diligence.

  1. Her Modesty (31:23–26)

Her husband is known in the gates; she is known for her faithfulness at home. Man and woman both have a place in the economy of God, and when either one steps out of place, there is confusion and trouble. Of course, the headship of the man does not mean dictatorship; rather it means example and leadership in love. Verse 25 suggests that the godly woman does not depend on fancy clothing to be successful; she wears “strength and honor” on the inner person. Peter writes about the outward adorning of extravagance and the inward adorning of a “meek and quiet spirit” (1 Peter 3:3–4). Paul commands women to wear “modest apparel” (1 Tim. 2:9) and to depend on spiritual beauty, not the artificial beauty of the world. Verse 26 tells us that the godly woman is careful in her speech as well as in her dress. How wonderful it is when the “law of kindness” rules the tongue.

  1. Her Piety (31:27–31)

“A woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” This is the secret of her life: she fears God and seeks to obey His Word. No doubt she would arise early in the morning to meditate on the Word and to pray. All day long she would pray for her husband and her family. Her true beauty is within; though the years might change her body, her beauty in the Lord only grows greater. Her praise comes from God. “I do always those things that please Him.”

How does God praise this woman? By blessing her labors and her life. The fruit of her life will praise her. She will certainly reap “life everlasting” because she has sown to the Spirit, not to the flesh (Gal. 6:7–8).

Her husband and children also rise up and praise her. What a need there is today for husbands and children to show constantly their appreciation for what the wife and mother does in the home. One of the greatest weaknesses in many homes today is that family members take each other for granted. Husbands need to set the right example before their children by openly praising the Lord and the wife for the blessings of the home. How often a dedicated wife sacrifices for the happiness of the home and never receives so much as a simple “thanks.” What a sin lack of appreciation is in our homes. This kind of appreciation must not be reserved for Mother’s Day or Christmas; rather, it must be shown sincerely all year long. Gratitude is a wonderful Christian virtue. It needs to be cultivated in every home.

Of course, these same qualities ought to be seen in the man of the house as well. How often we see a godly woman patiently suffering with a carnal, worldly husband. The Bible knows nothing of a “double standard” for husbands and wives. It is important that the husband be spiritual, loyal, industrious, etc. In God’s gracious plan, He has ordered that both husband and wife are needed in the home and that each one must fulfill certain ministries. One cannot replace the other, although in some emergencies (such as death of one mate) God has given grace for a person to be both “father and mother” in the home.

Husbands and wives must constantly be on guard lest Satan move in and break up the home. They have spiritual, material, and physical responsibilities to each other, and if these are not met, Satan goes to work (1 Cor. 7:1–6; 1 Tim. 5:8; Eph. 5:21–33; 1 Peter 3:7). It is especially important to be on guard after the children have grown up and left home, for then the true strength of the home is tested. A man and woman can no longer say, “We will stay together for the children’s sake.” May God help us all to choose the right mates in His will, and to build the kind of homes that glorify His Name.[3]

 

 

 

 

BKC

PROVERBS

Sid S. Buzzell

INTRODUCTION

 

Authorship and Date.

  • The authorship and date of Proverbs cannot be considered apart from understanding the book’s structure. The book is comprised of eight sections (see the Outline) written at various times and including several authors or editors.
  • The heading “The Proverbs of Solomon” in 1:1 introduces chapters 1–9 (sections I and II). Since Solomon reigned from 971 to 931, the Proverbs he wrote may be dated in the 10th century. According to 10:1, Section III (10:1–22:16) is also the work of Solomon.
  • Section IV (22:17–24:34) is called the “sayings of the wise” (22:17; 24:23). The identity of these wise men is uncertain so the date of their sayings is also uncertain. Perhaps they lived before Solomon’s time and he compiled their sayings, adding them to his repertoire. Or they may have lived in Solomon’s day and their sayings were added by an anonymous editor.
  • The proverbs in Section V (chaps. 25–29) were written by Solomon but were compiled by men of Hezekiah (25:1). Since Hezekiah reigned from 729 to 686 those chapters were recorded sometime in those years.
  • Sections VI (chap. 30) and VII (31:1–9), were written by Agur and King Lemuel, respectively. Those men were non-Israelites, perhaps Arabians; their identities and origins are obscure.
  • Section VIII (31:10–31) may be a continuation of the words ascribed to Lemuel (31:1) but its construction as a separate acrostic poem and its stylistic distinction from 31:1–9 mark it off as an independent piece. If it is, its authorship is not known.
  • The book took its final form at least as late as Hezekiah’s time (because of 25:1). Whether his men compiled the entire book is uncertain. The final date of compilation is generally considered to be around 700 c., assuming Agur and Lemuel wrote before then. Of course the writing and compiling were done under the superintending work of the Holy Spirit, the divine Author of all Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16).
  • It is appropriate that Solomon authored most of the book since he, the wisest person in his day (1 Kings 4:29–31, 34), authored 3,000 proverbs (1 Kings 4:32; cf. Ecc. 12:9). The Holy Spirit guided him to select only several hundred of them for inclusion in the Scriptures.
  • Presumably Solomon wrote Song of Songs in his early adult years, Proverbs in his middle years, and Ecclesiastes near the end of his life as he reflected on his experiences.

 

Purpose. The fivefold purpose of Proverbs is given in the introduction to the book (Prov. 1:2–4, 6):

(a) “for attaining wisdom and discipline,”

(b) “for understanding words of insight,”

(c) “for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life,”

(d) “for giving prudence to the simple,”

(e) “for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.” These purposes focus on helping readers live wisely and skillfully.

Proverbs were employed by parents and teachers to impart wisdom in a manner that made learning an adventure, a challenge. The purpose in using a proverb was to help the young acquire mental skills that promote wise living. Both the content and the structure of the sayings contributed to the hearers’ development. The process was a challenge and the product a reward.

Of the several words for wisdom and related synonyms used in Proverbs, the primary and most frequent one is ḥokmâḥ It occurs 45 times in Proverbs. In the Old Testament ḥokmâh is used of the skill of craftsmen, sailors, singers, mourners, administrators, and counselors. These workers and others, being knowledgeable, experienced, and efficient in their areas of expertise, were considered skillful; they were therefore “wise.” Similarly in the spiritual realm a person who possesses ḥokmâh in reference to God is one who is both knowledgeable and experienced in following God’s way. So in the Bible’s Wisdom literature being wise means being skilled in godly living. Having God’s wisdom means having the ability to cope with life in a God-honoring way. Crawford H. Toy wrote that “wisdom is the … knowledge of right living in the highest sense” (A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Proverbs, p. 5).

 

Literary Style

  1. Meaning of the word “proverb.” “Proverb” translates māšāl, which probably comes from a verb meaning “to be like, to be compared with.” A proverb, then, is a statement that makes a comparison or summarizes a common experience (i.e., the sentence is “like” or is compared to reality). Each of the pithy sayings in much of the Book of Proverbs is a māšāl (cf. 1:1; 10:1; 25:1), but brief proverbial sayings are also found elsewhere in the Old Testament (e.g., Gen. 10:9; 1 Sam. 10:12; 24:13; 1 Kings 20:11; Jer. 31:29; Ezek. 12:22; 16:44; 18:2).

 

The Book of Proverbs includes a few longer discourses (e.g., 6:12–14, 16–19; 7:6–23; 30:11–14, 18–19, 21–23; 31:4–5) along with its single-verse maxims.

  1. Parallelism. Proverbs is written entirely in poetic style. The predominant structural feature of Hebrew poetry is so-called poetic parallelism. Usually the two poetic lines in a verse have a parallel relationship.
  • In synonymous parallelism the terms or units of thought in one line are paralleled by similar terms or units of thought in the second line. Sometimes every unit in one line is matched in the next line (e.g., 1:2; 2:11). This is called complete synonymous parallelism. Other times only some of the units in one line are matched in the next line (e.g., in 1:9 the words “They will be” are not matched in the second line). This is called incomplete synonymous parallelism.
  • In antithetical parallelism one line is the opposite of or contrasts with the other line (e.g., 10:1; 11:1). Most of the verses in chapters 10–15 are antithetical.
  • In emblematic parallelism one line illumines the other by a simile or a metaphor (e.g., 10:26; 25:12, 23).
  • In synthetic parallelism the second line simply continues the thought of the first line. Sometimes the second line gives a result of the first line (3:6; 16:3) and other times the second line describes something in the first line (6:12; 15:3). Sometimes one line gives a preference over what is referred to in the other line. There are 19 such “better … than” verses (12:9; 15:16–17; 16:8, 16, 19, 32; 17:1, 12; 19:1, 22; 21:9, 19; 22:1; 25:7, 24; 27:5, 10; 28:6). “How much worse” or “how much more” is another kind of synthetic parallelism (11:31; 15:11; 17:7; 19:7, 10; 21:27). Most of the verses in 16:1–22:16 have either synonymous or synthetic parallelism.

Not all verses in Proverbs have two lines.

Some have three (e.g., 1:27; 6:13, 17; 27:22; 30:20, 32–33; 31:4),

a few have four (e.g., 30:9, 14–15, 17, 19), and

one verse has even six lines (30:4).

In the three-line verses, usually the first and second lines are related in some way and the second and third lines are parallel in some way (e.g., in 27:27 the second line is in synthetic parallelism to the first line, completing its thought, and the third line is in synonymous parallelism with the second line). However, the three lines in 1:27 are all in synonymous parallelism. The book Walking in Wisdom: Studying the Proverbs of Solomon, by William E. Mouser, Jr., is a helpful discussion of how to analyze the points being made in various kinds of parallelism in the Book of Proverbs.

 

 

 

Little is said in Proverbs about the afterlife. The stress is on life now. Rewards for godly living are said to be given in the present, and ungodly living results in problems in this life (cf. comments on Ecc. 2:24–26; 11:9). Life’s choices, as Proverbs stresses, are clear-cut.

The Book of Proverbs also focuses on God:

His character (sovereign, faithful, holy, omniscient, omnipotent, just, etc.),

His works, and His blessings.

The name Yahweh (“Lord”) occurs 87 times in Proverbs.

Man’s relationship to the Lord is also stressed in the book. A person can lead a godly, wise life only as he fears and trusts the Lord. Proverbs stresses being rightly related to God and then being rightly related to others.

 

 

 

 

Positive and Negative Topics and Other Subjects in Proverbs

 

Positive (Righteous/Wise)

Wisdom, wise

Righteous

Life

Knowledge

Work, diligence

Orderliness

Success

Self-control

Faithfulness

Obedience

Honesty, integrity

Justice, fairness, equity

Truth

Honor

Commendation

Humility

Purity

Encouragement

Peace

Love

Mercy, kindness

Generosity

Joy

Hope

Good company

Friendliness

Wealth

Virtue

Soberness

Friendliness

Trust

Pleasure

Quietness

Contentment

Teachableness

Other Subjects

Fear of the Lord

Husbands/Wives

Fathers/Mothers

Children

Kings, rulers

Masters/ Slaves

Prostitutes

Orphans and the needy

Business dealings

Hypocrisy

Stealing

Rebuke

Gluttony, food

Negative (Wicked/Foolish)

Folly, fool

Wicked

Death

Ignorance

Laziness

Disorderliness

Failure

Anger

Unfaithfulness

Rebellion

Cheating, deceit

Injustice, unfairness, inequity

Lying, deception

Dishonor

Criticism

Pride

Impurity

Slander

Strife, jealousy

Hatred

Cruelty

Greed

Sadness

Anxiety

Bad company

Animosity, enmity

Poverty

Shame

Drunkenness

Unfriendliness

Worry

Misery

Talkativeness

Envy

Unteachableness

 

 

 

Outline [4]

 

The following is a full list of the three sections of the book with their various divisions:

  1. Introduction (1:1–7)
  2. Title (1:1)
  3. Purpose of the book (1:2–6)
  4. Motto of the book (1:7)
  5. Instructions and Speeches of Wisdom (1:8–9:18)
  6. First instruction (1:8–33)
  7. Listen to your parents’ teaching (1:8–9)
  8. Beware of sinners (1:10–19)
  9. Wisdom’s speech (1:20–33)
  10. Second instruction (2:1–22)
  11. Seek wisdom (2:1–8)
  12. Knowing what is right (2:9–11)
  13. Avoiding wicked people (2:12–15)
  14. Avoiding the immoral woman (2:16–19)
  15. Rewards and punishments (2:20–22)
  16. Third instruction (3:1–12)
  17. Fourth instruction (3:13–20)
  18. In praise of wisdom (3:13–18)
  19. Wisdom and creation (3:19–20)
  20. Fifth instruction (3:21–35)
  21. Wisdom gives you a happy life (3:21–26)
  22. How to behave (3:27–31)
  23. How the Lord deals with good and evil (3:32–35)
  24. Sixth instruction (4:1–27)
  25. Listen to your father (4:1–9)
  26. Wisdom gives you long life and protection (4:10–19)
  27. Remember wisdom and enjoy life (4:20–27)
  28. Seventh instruction (5:1–23)
  29. Avoid adultery (5:1–14)
  30. Be faithful to your wife (5:15–20)
  31. The fate of the wicked (5:21–23)
  32. Eighth instruction (6:1–19)
  33. Avoid other people’s debts (6:1–5)
  34. Don’t be lazy (6:6–11)
  35. Fate of the wicked (6:12–15)
  36. Seven things the Lord hates (6:16–19)
  37. Ninth instruction (6:20–35)
  38. Rewards from accepting your parents’ teaching (6:20–23)
  39. Avoid adultery (6:24–29)
  40. Results of adultery (6:30–35)
  41. Tenth instruction (7:1–27)
  42. Wisdom will protect you from adultery (7:1–5)
  43. A seductive woman and a foolish youth (7:6–20)
  44. The youth falls into her trap (7:21–23)
  45. Avoid the seductive woman or die (7:24–27)
  46. Eleventh instruction (8:1–36)
  47. Wisdom speaks to the people (8:1–11)
  48. The qualities of wisdom (8:12–21)
  49. The origin of wisdom (8:22–31)
  50. Choose life or death (8:32–36)
  51. Twelfth instruction (9:1–18)
  52. Wisdom invites the ignorant to her banquet (9:1–6)
  53. The difference between the scoffer and the wise person (9:7–12)
  54. Stupidity invites the ignorant to her banquet (9:13–18)
  55. Various Collections (10:1–31:31)
  56. Collection of Solomon’s proverbs (10:1–22:16)
  57. Collection of thirty wise sayings (22:17–24:22)
  58. Collection of other wise sayings (24:23–34)
  59. Hezekiah’s collection of Solomon’s proverbs (25:1–29:27)
  60. Collection of the words of Agur (30:1–9)
  61. Collection of more wise sayings (30:10–33)
  62. Collection of King Lemuel’s wise sayings (31:1–9)
  63. Praises for a good wife (31:10–31)

 

 

OUTLINE

  1. The Preface (1:1–7)
  2. The author and the literary form (1:1)
  3. The purpose of the book (1:2–6)
  4. The theme of the book (1:7)
  5. The Words of Solomon on Wisdom’s Values (1:8–9:18)
  6. The value of wisdom in giving honor (1:8–9)
  7. The value of wisdom in preserving from disaster (1:10–33)
  8. The moral values of wisdom (chap. 2)
  9. The blessings of wisdom (3:1–12)
  10. The high value of wisdom (3:13–20)
  11. The value of wisdom in building relationships with others (3:21–35)
  12. An exhortation to acquire wisdom (4:1–9)
  13. The value of wisdom in preserving from trouble (4:10–19)
  14. The value of wisdom in producing health (4:20–27)
  15. The value of wisdom in preserving from adultery (chap. 5)
  16. The value of wisdom in preserving from poverty (6:1–11)
  17. The value of wisdom in preserving from dissension (6:12–19)
  18. The value of wisdom in preserving from sexual immorality (6:20–7:27)
  19. The value of wisdom demonstrated in her virtues and rewards (8:1–21)
  20. The value of wisdom to the Lord in Creation (8:22–36)
  21. The value of wisdom summarized by contrasting her invitation with folly’s invitation (chap. 9)

III. The Proverbs of Solomon (10:1–22:16)

  1. Proverbs contrasting righteous and wicked living (chaps.10–15)
  2. Proverbs exalting righteous living (16:1–22:16)
  3. The Sayings of the Wise Men (22:17–24:34)
  4. Thirty sayings of the wise (22:17–24:22)
  5. Additional sayings of the wise (24:23–34)
  6. The Proverbs of Solomon Collected by Hezekiah’s Men (chaps. 25–29)
  7. The Words of Agur (chap. 30)
  8. Introduction (30:1)
  9. Knowledge about God (30:2–9)
  10. Observations about life (30:10–33)

VII. The Words of Lemuel (31:1–9)

VIII. The Noble Wife (31:10–31)[5]

 

 

Proverbs

OUTLINE

  1. INTRODUCTION—1:1–7
  2. INSTRUCTION LITERATURE—1:8–9:18
  3. First Instruction: Warning against Gangs—1:8–19
  4. First Speech by Personified Wisdom—1:20–33
  5. Second Instruction: The Search for Wisdom—2:1–22
  6. Third Instruction: Behavior toward God—3:1–12
  7. The Praise of Wisdom—3:13–20
  8. Fourth Instruction: Behavior toward Neighbors—3:21–35
  9. Fifth Instruction: A Father’s Example—4:1–9
  10. Sixth Instruction: Warning against Evil Companions—4:10–19
  11. Seventh Instruction: The Healthy Body—4:20–27
  12. Eighth Instruction: Warnings against the Adulteress—5:1–23
  13. Four Pieces of Practical Admonition—6:1–19
  14. Admonition against Pledging Security for a Neighbor—6:1–5
  15. Admonition against Laziness—6:6–11
  16. Admonition against the Scoundrel—6:12–15
  17. Admonition Listing Things Detestable to the Lord—6:16–19
  18. Ninth Instruction: Warnings against the Adulteress—6:20–35
  19. Tenth Instruction: Warnings against the Adulteress—7:1–27
  20. Remember Parental Instruction—7:1–5
  21. Actions of the Adulteress—7:6–23
  22. Warning to Avoid the Adulteress—7:24–27
  23. Second Speech by Personified Wisdom—8:1–36
  24. Wisdom Seeks an Audience—8:1–11
  25. The Blessings of Wisdom—8:12–21
  26. Wisdom Comes from God—8:22–31
  27. Wisdom Is the Way of Life—8:32–36
  28. Third Speech by Personified Wisdom—9:1–12
  29. Invitation Issued by Wisdom—9:1–6
  30. Educating the Wise and the Foolish—9:7–12
  31. Invitation Issued by Folly—9:13–18

III. SENTENCE LITERATURE OF THE FIRST SOLOMONIC COLLECTION—10:1–22:16

  1. Traditional Wisdom in Antithetic Proverbs—10:1–15:30
  2. Yahweh Proverbs, Limit Proverbs—15:31–22:16
  3. THE INSTRUCTIONS OF THE WISE—22:17–24:34
  4. Initial Instructions of the Wise—22:17–24:22
  5. Further Instructions of the Wise—24:23–34
  6. SENTENCE LITERATURE OF THE SECOND SOLOMONIC COLLECTION—25:1–29:27
  7. Comparative Proverbs—25:1–27:22
  8. Instruction Poem—27:23–27
  9. Sayings on the Righteous and the Wicked—28:1–29:27
  10. THE SAYINGS OF AGUR—30:1–9

VII. THE NUMERICAL SAYINGS—30:10–33

VIII.   THE SAYINGS OF KING LEMUEL—31:1–9

  1. THE WOMAN OF NOBLE CHARACTER—31:10–31[6]

 

 

 

Believers BC

 

The book of Proverbs is not easy to read or study. A first impression is that it is an anthology, a book to be sampled, not read straight through. This is how it is most often used—like a coffee-table book, to be dipped into for the tidbits that fall from its pages. But what in reality is it? How did this book come to be?

A Book of Poems

Proverbs is a book of poems—not proverbs in the traditional sense. We usually think of a “proverb” as a short, pithy saying. This is not what we encounter in the book of Proverbs [Genre Issues]. While many of its teachings are short, many are not, and “pithy” is not an apt description for most of them. For this reason the book’s name in English is misleading.

It comes from Proverbia, the name of this book in the Latin Bible of the Middle Ages. Proverbia is a translation of the first word in the Hebrew text, mišlê, a plural construct of mashal (māšāl). A mashal is a poem-like composition (either short or long) that states a truth or teaches a lesson in a picturesque, compelling manner.

Hebrew poems of this type are almost always made up of two-line verses (or couplets), in which the first line states a point one way, and the second states it another way (or presents a new thought). Each line is short, not more than four or five words (in Hebrew).

The book’s opening poem in 1:8–9 is an apt illustration.

Line 1 states: Listen … to your father’s instruction;

line 2 repeats: and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.

This is followed by a second couplet: They will be a garland to grace your head (line 1), and a chain to adorn your neck (line 2).

Poems like this might be as short as a single couplet—as in the case of the 375 two-line poems in the book’s main collection (10:1–22:16)—or couplets might be combined to make longer poems like those in chapters 1–9.

 

Two Editions: Solomon and Hezekiah

In our Bibles the book of Proverbs is not as it was in the time of Solomon.

We know this to be the case because of editorial headings interspersed throughout, seven in all (1:1; 10:1; 22:17; 24:23; 25:1; 30:1; 31:1).

One of the things they do is call attention to two very different time periods when the book’s teachings were compiled and published. The headings in 1:1 and 10:1 refer to the book’s origins in the days of Solomon. The heading in 25:1 alludes to a supplemental block of proverbs added in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah. This implies that there were, at least, two quite distinct editions of this book: the one created in the time of King Solomon, and another enlarged edition produced two centuries later during the reign of King Hezekiah.

 

The Hezekiah Edition of Proverbs

Hezekiah’s Reforms

To begin to understand the Hezekiah Edition of Proverbs, it is essential that we pay attention first of all to what is known about King Hezekiah himself. The book of 2 Kings informs us that this king was unique among the kings of Israel for his devotion to “the commands the LORD had given Moses,” and for the sweeping religious reforms enacted as a consequence (2 Kgs 18:1–6). With respect to these reforms, the text says, “There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah” (18:5). In the course of his reforms, he rid Judah of the cult objects of alien gods, including “the Asherah poles” of the Canaanite mother goddess Ashtoreth (18:4). Surprisingly, a prior account in 1 Kings states that it was none other than King Solomon who first inaugurated this practice of worshipping alien gods in Israel of the kingdom period. He did this after he himself became a follower of the goddess Ashtoreth (consort of Baal, the Canaanite storm and fertility god) and of “Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites” (1 Kgs 11:5). As a consequence shrines devoted to these and “other gods” became commonplace in both Israelite kingdoms, and remained so for some two centuries, with catastrophic moral and spiritual consequences. In the eighth century Assyrian armies destroyed the northern kingdom and were threatening to do the same in Judah (2 Kgs 17). This is the context in which the books of Kings tell us of Hezekiah’s reforms (2 Kgs 18).

Hezekiah’s “Men”

The period of Hezekiah’s reforms is increasingly recognized as a time of intense literary activity. In support of these reforms, a collection of books was produced that would over time be expanded and become the Scriptures of Judaism and Christianity [Hezekiah Reform Literature]. In this light the brief reference in Proverbs 25:1 to the men of Hezekiah producing an enlarged edition of Solomon’s proverbs takes on enhanced importance. It signifies that it too was published at this time in support of these reforms.

 

Against this background the report in 2 Chronicles 29–31 of Hezekiah’s action in enlisting Levites as colleagues in his reforms is both credible and illuminating. To reverse Solomon’s policies, Hezekiah needed associates who were as loyal to Moses’ teachings as he was—and who would act meaningfully and decisively on his behalf. The Levites, even though banished from the national shrines of both Judah and the northern kingdom, Israel (see 1 Kgs 12:31), still remained faithful in their respective communities to their calling as custodians of Moses’ teachings. At Hezekiah’s request they returned to Jerusalem and were restored to temple duties. Some of them were set apart to be devoted full time to the study of “the Law [torah or teachings] of the LORD” (2 Chr 31:4–8). This group of state-supported Levites, I suggest, were the “men of Hezekiah” who created the Hezekiah Edition of Proverbs.

 

Purpose and Design of the Hezekiah Edition

In Agur’s oracle and prayer—seen in the light of the account of Solomon’s reign in 1 Kings 2–11 and the follow-up record of Hezekiah’s reforms in 2 Kings 18—there is a hint as to the underlying motive for creating a second edition of Proverbs. Agur’s oracle points to the passionately held conviction that God’s “words” to Moses (Prov 30:5–6) should not be subverted, replaced, or added to, something Solomon had himself done when worshipping “other gods” and permitting Israel to do the same. Hence, when “the men of Hezekiah” began to create a new edition of Proverbs, they intended to produce a book firmly linked to and consistent with the teachings of Moses in Deuteronomy.

How did they carry out this daunting project? What was the book like before they began editing? What was it like when they were finished? Details and specifics of what they did are discussed in the notes (below). The contents of the book they began with can only be surmised as one begins to understand the multiple ways in which the men of Hezekiah supplemented it [Solomon Edition]. The following are just a few introductory examples of what they did.

They Redesigned It with Meticulous Care

A first impression of Proverbs is that it is disorganized and was created in a rather haphazard manner. Studying it more closely reveals the opposite to be the case. It has three large well-defined sections: an Introductory Collection (1:1–9:18), the Main Collection (10:1–22:16), and Supplemental Collections (22:17–31:31).

The Introductory Collection (1:1–9:18) and Supplemental Collections (22:17–31:31) are quite similar in size—in fact, without chapter 31 (added later) these two sections are virtually identical, with 256 verses in the introduction and 253 in the appendixes.

Noteworthy too is that the Main Collection has exactly 375 proverbs. As often observed (Murphy, 1981:50), this number equals the numerical value of the Hebrew consonants of the name “Solomon” (in 10:1), which in Hebrew are: š (300), l (30), m (40), h (5).

My conjecture is that these 375 proverbs may have been arranged for study in panels of five (see notes).

These five-proverb panels are in turn arranged in two equal sections, with a set of 37 five-proverb panels in section 1 (10:1–16:1) and another set of 37 five-proverb panels in section 2 (16:7–22:16), with the remaining five-proverb panel at the center of the two sections (16:2–6). Given the fact that the Main Collection is at the center of the book (with about the same number of verses before and after), these five proverbs at the center of it are at the epicenter of the Hezekiah Edition as a whole. These several observations may be diagrammed as follows:

 

Design of the Hezekiah Edition of Proverbs

 

Part 1

Introductory

Collection

(256 verses)

 

Part 2

The Main Collection

(375 verses)

10:1–22:16

 

Part 3

Supplemental

Collections

(253 verses)

 

1:1–9:18

 

37 units

of five

10:1–16:1

 

Center

five

16:2–6

 

37 units

of five

16:7–22:16

 

22:17–30:33

 

We might wonder why the Hezekiah editors would have created a book with such a carefully crafted symmetrical form. A reason for doing so may be related to the fact that its contents were initially written on a scroll (not in a book). A scroll is a horizontal strip of papyrus or vellum, with writing in narrow perpendicular columns on one side only. When read, it was held in two hands and rolled and unrolled from both ends a little at a time. When not in use, it likely was customary to keep larger scrolls rolled up from both ends so that when opened its contents (being equidistant from that point) would be readily accessible. Thus, when opened for reading, a scroll’s middle column would be the first to be seen. My suggestion is that the Hezekiah Edition of Proverbs was designed so that the five couplets in 16:2–6 would be among the first to be seen when it was opened for reading.

Not surprisingly, these five proverbs are unique in that—unlike any other five-proverb panel in the whole collection—every one of them mentions Yahweh, the God of Israel. Each states a theological truth that we sense is expressive of the core convictions of those who created the Hezekiah Edition of Proverbs [Middle Poems].

They Supplemented It with Specified and Unspecified Additions

To achieve the symmetrical form just described (the equal size of its first and third parts as well as the precise number of proverbs in its middle collection) required supplementing the book throughout.

Supplements in Part 3. In Part 3 (22:17–31:31) the editors attached supplemental collections with headings explicitly informing the reader of what they were doing. The first two of these headings (22:17; 24:23) identify “sages” other than Solomon as the source of the collected teachings that follow. The third heading (25:1) indicates that these too were proverbs of Solomon (as were the earlier ones in 10:1–22:16) and that certain “men of Hezekiah” added them (25:1). The fourth heading (30:1) identifies Agur son of Jakeh as the source of the sayings in chapter 30.

These four headings are stylistically similar and interconnected. In each case the source of the collected sayings added is identified, followed by the sayings themselves. The fifth heading (31:1), unlike the others, names the person to whom the added “sayings” are addressed (sayings for Lemuel, not “sayings of Lemuel”) before identifying their source (which his mother taught him). This chapter’s contents are also quite unique (see notes). They most likely were added in postexilic times, when Proverbs became part of a larger collection of scrolls [Wisdom of Proverbs].

The specified supplements added in Part 3 of Proverbs were not the only additions made when the Hezekiah Edition was created. There is at least one significant instance where the contents make it clear that supplements were inserted without being so identified, such as the block of poems in Proverbs 25–29. The heading to the large supplemental collection in 25:1 identifies the poems that follow as “proverbs of Solomon.” However, when we examine the contents of these five chapters more closely, it is evident this heading applies to chapters 25–27 only, not to chapters 28–29, since the poems in these latter chapters are so strikingly different (see notes).

Supplements in Part 1. A closer look at the book’s Introductory Collection in 1:1–9:18 reveals that blocks of teachings were added here as well [Solomon Edition]. There are marked differences between the several distinctive blocks of poems in this section. To cite just one example, the poems in 4:1–5:14 are introduced in a manner clearly indicating that the person speaking is Solomon (4:3). This was likely the opening poem of the older Solomon Edition. The sons addressed in 4:1 are not Solomon’s sons—he does not call them “my sons” (as in NIV) but simply sons. After saying a bit about himself (4:3), Solomon shares several poems that he says his father taught him (4:4–27; the “son” in these poems is Solomon being addressed as such by his father). Solomon then addresses the sons with whom he is sharing these poems in the concluding poem of this section (5:7–14) and in doing so refers to their teachers (5:13). The sons are students; the implied setting is the royal schools. There is not a single reference to God in these poems (in 4:1–5:14), only to wisdom. They seem right at home in the court of Solomon and were likely part of the Solomon Edition.

Other blocks of poems in this opening section are strikingly different (1:8–3:35; 5:15–7:27). They are introduced in a way that implies that the one speaking is a “father” teaching his own “son.” He addresses him not as “son” (or sons) but as my son, and urges him to listen to the instruction of both his father and his mother (your father … and your mother; 1:8; 6:20). The implied setting of these poems is the home. They are replete with references to Yahweh, the God of Israel. The son addressed is taught to put his trust in this God to direct his paths and not to rely on his own understanding (3:5). This group of poems seems right at home in the court of the reformer king Hezekiah. They were likely added by Hezekiah’s men (for details, see notes).

Supplements in Part 2. Did the men of Hezekiah also add supplements of this kind to the book’s Main Collection (10:1–22:16)? There is much to suggest they did. In its present form this section of the book has some sixty sayings about Yahweh and the fate of those who serve or reject him (see notes). Right in its center (as observed) is a panel of proverbs, each mentioning Yahweh (16:2–6): how Yahweh weighs a person’s motives (16:2), how he blesses those devoted to his ways (16:3), his oversight of all that happens (16:4), his abhorrence of the proud (16:5), and how fear of the LORD/Yahweh helps avoid evil (16:6). This is hardly what Solomon or his schools were teaching (see above). It seems apparent that the book’s Main Collection was also supplemented with proverbs reflective of the convictions of Hezekiah’s men.

They Were Motivated by a Core Conviction

I want to comment yet on a core conviction of Hezekiah’s men as they prepared their edition of Proverbs. When reading their supplements, it quickly becomes evident that they were troubled over one teaching in particular in the older Solomon Edition. As noted above, the opening poems of the Solomon Edition are likely those in 4:1–5:14. The very opening poem of that block states, Wisdom is supreme [Heb.: rē’šît]; therefore get wisdom (4:7a). In this verse the Hebrew word translated “supreme” means “first” or “beginning” (as in Gen 1:1). What this verse is saying is that “wisdom” being “first” or the “beginning” (cf. 8:22), the foremost thing to be done is to “get wisdom.” In other words, wisdom being first or supreme, its acquisition takes priority over everything else in life: it is that important.

The men of Hezekiah did not reject this idea (otherwise they would have deleted it from their edition), but they were obviously not fully in agreement with it either. In 1:7a, at the forefront of their edition, they placed a statement that takes issue with it: The fear of the LORD is the beginning [rē’šît] of knowledge (1:7a). In this carefully formulated sentence, fear of the LORD [Yahweh] replaces acquiring wisdom (in the counterpart statement in 4:7a) as the beginning. In effect it says: It is not acquiring wisdom that is the beginning, but fear of the LORD that is the beginning of knowledge. Significantly, there is a similar sentence in 9:10: The fear of the LORD is the beginning [tēḥillāh] of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. With these two strategically placed sentences (at the beginning and end of the enlarged Introductory Collection), the editors of the Hezekiah Edition of Proverbs have crafted a new conceptual framework for the entire book. The starting point for acquiring wisdom in the Solomon Edition is simply getting wisdom (4:1–7); the starting point for acquiring wisdom in the Hezekiah Edition is the fear of the LORD (1:7; 9:10b). The goal is the same: acquiring wisdom—in that sense wisdom is still supreme, but the starting point for acquiring it is different.

They Enlarged Its Audience

Finally, the way the Hezekiah Edition editors enlarged the audience of the Solomon Edition manual should be recognized. As previously observed, the Solomon Edition of Proverbs was likely designed to serve as a manual for young men preparing for civil service (Heaton: 12). Was the Hezekiah Edition meant to function in a similar way? I believe it was; this, I sense, was one of the reasons for appending the several fairly large supplemental collections (22:17–30:33). Many of the poems in these collections are about kings and those who do their bidding (see, for example, 25:1–10). Like Solomon, King Hezekiah needed reliable civil servants to oversee his endeavors and implement his reforms, and a manual like this for training them.

Yet another purpose for the Hezekiah Edition is indicated in the insertion in 1:5: it provides instruction for those who are already wise by virtue of their prior training. The wise referred to in this verse are not young men but educated teachers (see notes), but they too are urged to ponder the book’s teachings and add them to their [previously acquired] learning (1:5a). This admonition implies that this edition of the manual presents added teachings with which even they (experienced teachers as they are) are not familiar.

The men of Hezekiah envisioned yet a third audience for their new edition of Proverbs. As noted, the blocks of poems they added in chapters 1–9 are introduced as teachings for a son by his own parents (1:8–9; 6:20). Implied is a home where parents instruct their children in the teachings of this edition of Proverbs. A similar instructional setting is presupposed in Deuteronomy, which admonishes parents to instruct their own children in the words of God revealed to Moses (Deut 6:6–9; 11:18–21). This admonition suggests that the Hezekiah reformers may have been positioning their edition of Proverbs as a companion volume to Deuteronomy in a curriculum for homeschooling. This curriculum included not just the laws revealed to Moses, but this enlarged volume of Solomon’s poems about wisdom for life [Distinctive Approach].

For successful homeschooling, not just fathers but also mothers were expected to embrace these values and be prepared to teach them to their sons. This suggests that while this edition of Proverbs is still directed to sons, its teachings were deemed relevant for daughters as well. They too will one day marry and play a role as wives and mothers in teaching their sons—and their success or failure in doing so will have profound consequences for them no less than their husbands (cf. 10:1).

 

Part 1

Introductory Collection

Proverbs 1:1–9:18

Design of the Hezekiah Edition of Proverbs

 

Later

Additions

31:1–31

 

 
Part 1

Introductory

Collection

1:1–9:18

(256 verses)

 

Part 2

The Main

Collection

10:1–22:16

(375 verses)

 

Part 3

Supplemental

Collections

22:17–30:33

(253 verses)

 

OVERVIEW

The book of Proverbs has three major collections. The first collection (chapters 1–9) is usually thought of as the book’s introduction, although in its supplemented form it is a collection in its own right. It begins with a prologue (1:1–7), followed by poems on various topics (1:8–9:18), some having to do with specific forms of conduct to be avoided or embraced, others with issues of a theological or philosophical nature related to one’s worldview or cosmology. Most commentators agree that the poems in this section are from more than one source (Fox: 322) but do not agree what the sources are or when or why the sources were combined as they now are.

 

OUTLINE

Original Prologue (Solomon Edition), 1:1–7

Supplemental Poems (Hezekiah Edition), 1:8–3:35

Original Poems (Solomon Edition), 4:1–5:14

Supplemental Poems (Hezekiah Edition), 5:15–7:23

Original Poems (Solomon Edition), 7:24–9:18[7]

 

Proverbs 1:1–7

Original Prologue

(Solomon Edition)

 

The Book of Proverbs, Part 1: Introductory Collection

 

Original

Prologue

(Solomon

Edition)

1:1–7

 

Supplemental

Poems

(Hezekiah

Edition)

1:8–3:35

 

Original

Poems

(Solomon

Edition)

4:1–5:14

 

Supplemental

Poems

(Hezekiah

Edition)

5:15–7:23

 

Original

Poems

(Solomon

Edition)

7:24–9:18

 

 

 

College Press

 

 

Second, all three wisdom books share a hearty didactic tone. The books are concerned with passing on the knowledge of an older generation to a younger generation (Prov 4:1–4; Job 8:8–9; 12:7–12; Eccl 12:1, 12). The imperative mood dominates in Proverbs 1–9, as a father instructs his son regarding the perils of life.

Third, a common vocabulary unites these books into a corpus. The word “wisdom” (חָכְמָה, ḥokmāh) permeates the material. The word is used 161 times in the Old Testament with the highest concentration found in Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes.

In the book of Proverbs “wisdom” appears 42 times, in Job 18 times, and in Ecclesiastes 28 times. The books are concerned with wisdom, how one gains it, its practical meaning for life, and what its relationship is to the Lord of the universe (for further details, see “What Is Wisdom?” on page 28).

Wisdom material also contains a rich and diverse vocabulary for the fool. The sages used at least half a dozen synonyms to describe the fool.2 Fox places these words on “a continuum from ingrained moral defect and unchangeability to relative innocence and improvability.”3

  • The most hardened of the lot is the “fool” (אֱוִיל, ˒ĕwîl).4 This fool is morally dense and has excised from himself any moral conscience. He is morally debased. The NIV consistently translates the term with the English word “fool” (Prov 1:7; 10:8, 10, 14; 11:29; 12:15, 16; 15:5; 17:28; 18:2; 20:3; 24:7; 27:3, 22; 29:9).
  • Next on the continuum is the “scoffer” (לֵץ, lēṣ).5 The NIV usually translates this word “mocker” (Prov 9:7, 8, 12; 13:1; 14:6; 15:12; 19:25; 20:1; 21:11, 24; 22:10; 24:9). The mocker is the one who is “wise in his own eyes” and therefore is not open to correction or rebuke. He manifests arrogance (cf. 21:24).
  • Following the mocker in degree of hardened character is the כְּסִיל (kəsîl).6 The NIV also translates this word “fool” (Prov 10:18, 23; 13:16; 14:16; 15:2, 14; 17:10, 12, 16; 19:1, 10; 23:9; 28:26; 29:11; 29:20). The NIV does not distinguish between the kəsîl and the ˒ĕwîl. On some occasions in the Hebrew text, the two terms are used interchangeably (13:16). Generally speaking, the kəsîl is the fool who is mentally lazy when it comes to making decisions. His laziness renders him incompetent in speech (15:2, 14; 19:1; 26:6, 7, 9; 29:20). The kəsîl lacks vision and focus (17:24).
  • Another term, unique to Proverbs, used to describe the fool is the one which the NIV translates “lacks judgment” (חֲסַר־לֵב, ḥăsar–lēb; lit., “needy of heart,” or better, “lacking a mind”; Prov 6:32; 7:7; 9:4, 16; 10:13; 10:21; 11:12; 12:11; 15:21; 17:18; 24:30). Such a person does not use his mental faculties. Fox says that the English counterpart to the phrase would be “empty-headed.”7
  • Finally there is the gullible person or what the NIV translates as the one who is “simple” (פֶּתִי, pethî; Prov 1:4, 22, 32; 7:7; 8:5; 9:4, 6, 16; 14:15, 18; 19:25; 21:11; 22:3; 27:12).8 This is the inexperienced person whose naïveté makes him or her vulnerable. These individuals could be easily influenced for either good or ill depending on to whom they listen. So the Hebrew term is not pejorative per se. Both Woman Wisdom and Woman Folly call to the simple (9:6, 16).
  • Two other less frequent terms are also used to describe the fool. One is “stupid” or brutish (בַּעַר, ba˓ar; Prov 12:1; 30:2; Ps 73:22). This person rejects the reproof of the sage and thus does not develop good judgment (Prov 12:1). The other is “senseless” (נָבַל, nābal; 17:7, 21; 30:22, 32). These seven terms used to describe the fool are found throughout Proverbs and the wisdom material. All the terms, except for the “simple” (pethî) indicate some kind of moral breach.9 Vocabulary for wisdom and folly is concentrated in the Wisdom Literature and serves to set it apart as common material.

 

What is Wisdom?

The Hebrew word for “wisdom” (חָכְמָה, ḥokmāh; feminine noun) carries a number of meanings in the Old Testament. It can refer to the “skill” (חֲכַם־לֵב, ḥăkam–lēb; literally “wise of heart”) of a “craftsman” (ḥokmāh, “wisdom”; Exod 31:6; cf. 31:3). In Psalm 107:23–27, the term refers to sailors handling a ship in rough waters. In that Psalm sailors, in the midst of a storm, are described as being “at their wits end” (literally, “their wisdom was swallowed up,” v. 27).

Characteristics of the Wise

Another angle from which to approach the question “What is wisdom?” is to identify the qualities of the person who is wise (i.e., qualities that are manifested in the life of a wise person). Such a person demonstrates certain actions and attitudes.

As one studies the material in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, certain qualities rise to the surface that set the wise apart from others. The degree to which one possesses these characteristics is the degree to which that person lives by wisdom. The following list is not exhaustive by any means, but it identifies some of the more prominent features of those who display wisdom.

  • First, the wise are those who know what is appropriate. They understand what the occasion calls for them to say and do. They know the right word to say (Prov 15:23; 25:11). Knowing what to say and when to say it is an act of wisdom. The writer of Ecclesiastes was a wordsmith who weighed and studied and arranged proverbs (Eccl 12:9–10). The sage knows that there is a proper time for everything (Eccl 3:1–8). The wise learn to live with that timing.
  • Second, those who are wise value the importance of interaction with others. Wisdom is not gained primarily in solitude but in the midst of human activity (Prov 1:20–33). The wise person is the one who is open to the give and take of relationships (27:5, 6, 17, 19). The capable woman in Proverbs 31:10–31 has invested herself in the lives of others. In contrast, the fool is the one who believes he does not need anyone else. He feels he has it all together and so he is “wise in his own eyes” (Prov 3:7; 26:5). Wisdom is primarily relational.
  • Third, the wise person develops understanding and discernment (Prov 1:2, 4–6). Such a person understands that the decisions of life are often complex and require the utmost thought. Seldom does life provide “pat answers” (e.g., Prov 26:4, 5). The sage is not afraid to challenge and question conventional beliefs (think of Job and Ecclesiastes). In contrast, the fool does not use his mental faculties (Prov 17:16) because he “lacks judgment” (10:13, 21).
  • Fourth, the one who pays careful attention to the routine affairs of life displays wisdom. Wisdom Literature contains little material about the mighty acts of God or the miracles or the major events in Israel’s history. Rather it attends to the mundane matters of the ordinary person: relationships, desires, eating, drinking, planning, anger, compassion, work, sleep, etc. The wise observe these and learn from them. The wise then reflect on these experiences. “The Teacher” in Ecclesiastes does this. He looks back on his experiences and shares what he has observed and learned (note how frequently the writer says “I saw”; 1:14; 2:13, 24; 3:10, 16, 22, etc.). The sage learns from nature, from the least to the most powerful of God’s creation (Prov 30:24–31).
  • Fifth, the one who demonstrates wisdom is the one who gleans from the best culture has to offer. The wise person takes every available opportunity to learn, even from secular and foreign cultures (cf., the foreigners from Massa, Prov 30:1; 31:1). The sages incorporate wisdom material from Egyptian culture into their thought patterns (Prov 22:17–24:22). However, the wise practice discretion in doing this by filtering the thoughts of other worldviews through the Yahwistic lens of their belief system. The wise person lives in the world but is not of the world.
  • Sixth, the sage is one who takes a balanced view of life. He or she is neither lazy nor a workaholic, neither an underachiever nor an overachiever. The wise person keeps life and its challenges in perspective. Such a person seeks to discover the order of the universe and then fit into the ebb and flow of that order. The French call this savoir faire. The wise know when to work and when to play, when to speak and when to listen, when to sleep and when to wake, when to advance and when to retreat. They are in tune with the rhythm of life that God established.
  • Finally, and most fundamentally, the truly wise person takes a God-centered focus on life. The one who wishes to gain wisdom begins by being in relationship with Yahweh and trusting him (Prov 3:5–8). Underlying all of the sayings in the book of Proverbs, including the most “secular” ones, is a fundamental belief in the God who created the universe. The fear of the Lord is the beginning as well as the culmination of wisdom (Prov 9:10; see also 1:7; Job 28:28; Eccl 12:13).49

 

Proverbs

OUTLINE

  1. INTRODUCTION—1:1–7
  2. INSTRUCTION LITERATURE—1:8–9:18
  3. First Instruction: Warning against Gangs—1:8–19
  4. First Speech by Personified Wisdom—1:20–33
  5. Second Instruction: The Search for Wisdom—2:1–22
  6. Third Instruction: Behavior toward God—3:1–12
  7. The Praise of Wisdom—3:13–20
  8. Fourth Instruction: Behavior toward Neighbors—3:21–35
  9. Fifth Instruction: A Father’s Example—4:1–9
  10. Sixth Instruction: Warning against Evil Companions—4:10–19
  11. Seventh Instruction: The Healthy Body—4:20–27
  12. Eighth Instruction: Warnings against the Adulteress—5:1–23
  13. Four Pieces of Practical Admonition—6:1–19
  14. Admonition against Pledging Security for a Neighbor—6:1–5
  15. Admonition against Laziness—6:6–11
  16. Admonition against the Scoundrel—6:12–15
  17. Admonition Listing Things Detestable to the Lord—6:16–19
  18. Ninth Instruction: Warnings against the Adulteress—6:20–35
  19. Tenth Instruction: Warnings against the Adulteress—7:1–27
  20. Remember Parental Instruction—7:1–5
  21. Actions of the Adulteress—7:6–23
  22. Warning to Avoid the Adulteress—7:24–27
  23. Second Speech by Personified Wisdom—8:1–36
  24. Wisdom Seeks an Audience—8:1–11
  25. The Blessings of Wisdom—8:12–21
  26. Wisdom Comes from God—8:22–31
  27. Wisdom Is the Way of Life—8:32–36
  28. Third Speech by Personified Wisdom—9:1–12
  29. Invitation Issued by Wisdom—9:1–6
  30. Educating the Wise and the Foolish—9:7–12
  31. Invitation Issued by Folly—9:13–18

III. SENTENCE LITERATURE OF THE FIRST SOLOMONIC COLLECTION—10:1–22:16

  1. Traditional Wisdom in Antithetic Proverbs—10:1–15:30
  2. Yahweh Proverbs, Limit Proverbs—15:31–22:16
  3. THE INSTRUCTIONS OF THE WISE—22:17–24:34
  4. Initial Instructions of the Wise—22:17–24:22
  5. Further Instructions of the Wise—24:23–34
  6. SENTENCE LITERATURE OF THE SECOND SOLOMONIC COLLECTION—25:1–29:27
  7. Comparative Proverbs—25:1–27:22
  8. Instruction Poem—27:23–27
  9. Sayings on the Righteous and the Wicked—28:1–29:27
  10. THE SAYINGS OF AGUR—30:1–9

VII. THE NUMERICAL SAYINGS—30:10–33

VIII.   THE SAYINGS OF KING LEMUEL—31:1–9

  1. THE WOMAN OF NOBLE CHARACTER—31:10–31[8]

 

 

PROVERBS 1–9

Personification of Wisdom

“Wisdom” is used in a variety of ways in Proverbs 1–9. Sometimes the word is equated with abstract terms like knowledge, understanding, or discretion (1:2; 2:1–2; 3:13; 4:4–5). At other times “wisdom” is described as a precious object that humans seek out (2:4; 3:14–15). In other passages “wisdom” is associated with Yahweh (1:7; 2:5; 9:10). Chapters 1–9 also use descriptions that unambiguously use feminine terms to represent Wisdom as a person. In the Old Testament, wisdom is generally a quality that is ascribed to either God or humans. Only in the first nine chapters of Proverbs are human and divine qualities given to Wisdom.

The personification of Wisdom is most fully developed in three texts: 1:20–33; 8:1–36; 9:1–12. Two of these (1:20–33 and 8:1–36) are speeches by Wisdom. The third (9:1–6) is a description of the invitation that Wisdom offers to the “simple.” The precise nature of this personification has baffled many scholars. Interpreters offer a number of different views on how to understand Woman Wisdom. I will briefly mention three.

The first view is that Wisdom is a hypostasis of Yahweh. That is, Woman Wisdom is an attribute of God. She is a divine extension of God that assumes an independent character. Just as love or anger or compassion are qualities of God, so is wisdom. The sages in Proverbs give this quality of God an autonomous identity. The problem with this view is that Woman Wisdom is depicted as subordinate to Yahweh, especially in 1:20–33 and 8:22–31. To interpret Wisdom as an extension of deity violates the essence of Old Testament belief in Yahweh as one God. In Proverbs, Wisdom is not a rival to the Lord. In 8:22–31, Wisdom was in the beginning with God as God created the world. The passage (namely, v. 30) does not mean, however, that Wisdom was hypostasis. Rather than wisdom being an attribute of God, wisdom is an attribute of the world. It is the personifying principle of order in creation.

Second, Kathleen M. O’Connor argues that Woman Wisdom is fully and equally God and not simply an aspect (hypostasis) of God.3 Wisdom stands as a symbol for the God of Israel. O’Connor briefly examines several of the wisdom poems to demonstrate how, in each instance, Woman Wisdom is identified with God. The reason for identifying Wisdom with God in these poems is to “alter the imagination of the readers by persuading them that their God is Wise-God and that they do not need to abandon Israel’s God to live with Wisdom for she and God are one. She is God among humans.”4 But when it comes to treating 8:22–33 and the claim that God created Wisdom, O’Connor is not convincing in her argument that Wisdom and God are one.

A third position is that Woman Wisdom is purely a literary device. The author creates a verbal portrait of wisdom by using the figure of personification. Thus Woman Wisdom piques the curiosity of the youth (male) and makes the arduous educational process more attractive. I believe it is best to interpret Woman Wisdom as a personification (a literary device) that expresses a way in which God communicates with humans.

In the final analysis, what can be said about this personified figure of Wisdom? First, Wisdom originates with Yahweh. In an amazing poem in 8:22–31, Wisdom extols herself. Her birth is from God. She is present before and during creation. She does not compete with God. Second, Wisdom delights in being with humans (8:31).5 She has a particular mission to them. Wisdom wants and needs human attention. She loves to interact with them (8:4, 30–36). Wisdom is not a static body of information. She is like a living organism that needs interactive stimulus to achieve actualization. She promises blessings and prosperity to those who follow her (3:13–18; 8:1–5; 9:1–6). Third, Wisdom is a gift from God (2:6). At the same time, she is associated with discipline and hard work (4:10–27).6

 

 

Ironsides

 

INTRODUCTION

THE royal preacher, in the book of Ecclesiastes, after relating so graphically the story of his weary search for happiness “under the sun,” with its disappointing result, leading to the oft-repeated lament, “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity and vexation of spirit,” directs those who would escape the devious paths he had himself trodden to the consideration of the collection of proverbs which he had “sought out, and set in order.” The last seven verses of Ecclesiastes form a fitting introduction to the book which in our Bibles immediately precedes it.

Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, all is vanity.

And, moreover, because the Preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge.

Yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs.

The Preacher sought to find out acceptable words:

And that written was upright; words of truth.

The words of the wise are as goads,

And as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies,

Having been given from one Shepherd.

And further, by these, my son be admonished:

Of making many books there is no end;

And much study is a weariness of the flesh.

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:

Fear God, and keep His commandments:

For this is the whole duty of man.

For God shall bring every work into judgment,

With every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil.

Ecc. 12:8–14.

In these words we have the divine reason for the book of Proverbs. God would save all who heed what is there recorded from the heart breaking experiences and aimless wanderings of the man who was chosen to write them.

There are two ways of learning the emptiness of the world and the true character of sin. One, and by far the commonest way, is to tread the thorny path each for himself. To do so is to taste to the full the bitterness of departure from God. The only right way is to learn it all in His presence, accepting His word regarding it; and thus enabling the obedient disciple to say, “Concerning the works of men, by the word of Thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer” (Psa. 17:4).

The bitter disappointments, the skeptical darkness, and the weary heart of Solomon as a result of his trusting to his own wisdom, so strongly delineated in the record of the tempests of his soul, need never be the portion of the child of God who orders his steps in the truth.

Human collections of wisdom and instruction are, after all, but the thoughts of men like ourselves. In the wisdom-literature of the Bible, we have, as everywhere else in Scripture, the very breathings of the Spirit of God. And this is amazing grace: to think that He who spoke worlds into being, who wrought out redemption when man had fallen, who shall eventually bring in a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness; to think, I repeat, that He, the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, should stoop in grace to give instruction for the very details of His creatures’ lives down here, is cause for worship and admiration forever.

What an importance attaches to all that I do if the God who created me and redeemed me does not consider it beneath His notice to instruct me concerning my behavior in the family, my place in society, and my methods in business. All are under His eye; and if I act in accordance with the book of Proverbs, I shall “behave myself wisely, in a perfect way,” in every relationship of life.

To some who prate much of heavenly truth while failing to enter into its intensely practical side, it may seem a far cry from Pauline flights to the commonplaces of Solomon; but to the Christian who would not be like Ephraim, “a cake not turned,” but would hold the balance of truth, the precepts and warnings of Proverbs will have their place along with the precious truths of Ephesians.

The “ribbon of blue” on the border of the pious Israelite’s garment set forth the heavenly character of the believer’s habits. Such an azure ribbon is the book of Proverbs, when the light of the New Testament revelation shines upon it, making known the behavior suited to the one who is dead, buried and risen with Christ. True, these glorious doctrines will not be found stated in the Old Testament: they belong to the special unfolding of truth revealed through the apostle Paul. But as “the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” so the soul that most deeply enters into the reality of new creation will most appreciate the instruction of the great practical book of the Old Testament.

Like all other Scripture, it has been “written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have arrived.”

To turn, then, to the structure of the book: it did not attain its present fulness till the days of Hezekiah; that is, though all equally God-breathed, it did not exist in the form of one book until that date, as chapter 25:1 makes plain.

 

The main divisions would seem to be as follows:

Chapters 1 to 9, inclusive: Wisdom and Folly contrasted.

Chapters 10 to 24: A collection of proverbs written by Solomon and set in order by himself.

Chapters 25 to 29: “Also proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied out.”

Chapter 30: The burden, or oracle, of an otherwise unknown sage named Agur the son of Jakeh.

Chapter 31: Instruction given to king Lemuel by his mother. This name was probably bestowed upon Solomon as a child by Bath-sheba. In that case, the description of the virtuous woman given by one who had herself, at one time, been betrayed from the path of virtue, is worthy of the God of all grace. It is an acrostic poem, arranged according to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

 

Such is the arrangement of the book we purpose studying. As a part of “all Scripture,” we may rest assured we shall find it “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness,” helping to perfect the man of God unto all good works.[9]

 

 

UBS: Proverbs

What is A “Proverb”?

We have seen that the term mashal not only includes what may be considered “proverbs” in English, but also includes many types of utterances that are often not included in the term “proverb.” Because languages differ very greatly in what can be included under the label of a “proverb,” and because there is little agreement among specialists who have attempted to give a definition of a proverb, we will now consider the main features of the wise and memorable sayings that people all over the world typically think of as “proverbs.” This listing of features or characteristics will help translators to understand the nature of “proverbs” and to determine if the word for “proverb” is an adequate title for the book of Proverbs in their language.

It is convenient to examine the features of proverbs under three headings: form, usage, and status.

Form: Perhaps the most universal feature of a true proverb is its shortness. The fact that a proverb is short and sharp makes it a saying that can be easily remembered. A proverb usually has the form of a phrase or sentence. It may or may not have alliteration, assonance, rhyme, or parallelism. Repetition of sounds or rhythmic syllables and beats give many proverbs a poetic effect that is pleasant to the ear.

A proverb normally contains a simile or metaphor whose sense may be clearly understood only by those familiar with the local culture, its values, practices, and assumptions. A proverb may take on the form of a statement, question, or command. Proverbs usually, but not always, have a fixed structure. As a result when listeners hear the first part they can often complete the remainder. Nevertheless in some societies there is a great deal of variation in the wording of traditional sayings.

Usage: We refer here to the application of wise or memorable sayings, that is, the social situations, real or imagined, in which people use them. It is in relation to these situations that the meaning of such sayings is expressed. A saying can be uttered in any kind of situation that makes its intention appropriate. In some societies traditional sayings are used in contests in which two contestants alternately recite sayings while a panel of judges rules as to their artistry and authenticity. The loser is the contestant who, after a given time, is unable to cite another wise saying.

In some societies wise or memorable sayings are sometimes used by opponents in a court case. The ability of a defendant to cite appropriate sayings may help that person win the case. Core values of the clan or tribe are sometimes expressed in public meetings through the recitation of traditional sayings. The education of the young is sometimes carried out by citing proverbs that enhance the authority of parents, elders, and chiefs. Proverbs are frequently cited in political speeches, business dealings, conversations, marriage negotiations, rivalry, and cooperative work, as well as in sermons.

Traditional sayings may be spoken or written. However, some societies, particularly in West Africa, communicate selected sayings by drumming them. Only those who understand the “talking drums” are able to decode the message of the drummed words.

Because human situations are often in conflict, traditional sayings sometimes contradict each other. They tend to reinforce traditional beliefs and to give guidance, advice, and direction. A good proverb often produces a clear picture in the mind of the listener; however, proverbs are sometimes expressed in ambiguous language that can leave the listener unsure of the instruction or advice being given. Traditional sayings are to a degree a reflection of a culture’s values. However, the values may change more than the sayings do.

Traditional sayings may be humorous, but more often they are serious in tone, as they express wisdom more than humor. They tend to be bound to social situations, and their appropriateness is related to the real or imagined situation. As they express an anonymous opinion, give advice, correct, and instruct, they apply the wisdom of the ancients to the contemporary situation. It is in this sense that most traditional sayings are tools for teaching.

Status: Here we discuss features of traditional sayings which are neither form nor usage. For example, a traditional saying is usually considered to be anonymous. Few people are aware of someone having made up a proverb. Accordingly a proverb is looked upon as being traditional and therefore carrying the weight of authority. And because it is traditional and authoritative, a proverb is viewed as expressing wisdom, the collective experience of many minds. Because proverbs are applied to concrete situations in life, they are considered to express practical rather than theoretical truths.

Content of the book of Proverbs

 

  1. Various Collections (10:1–31:31): There are eight collections that we may recognize as separate divisions.

Collection of Solomon’s proverbs (10:1–22:16): This is the first of two collections of Solomon’s proverbs. The sayings in this collection have a regular parallelism and meter. The second of the pair of lines in a couplet typically extends or contrasts with something in the first line; for example, “A rich man’s wealth is his strong city; the poverty of the poor is their ruin” (10:15). These proverbs or wise sayings are context free. That is, they stand alone and do not depend for their meaning on other sayings before or after them. Although a few successive sayings may have a similar rhyme or may use identical words, there is no patterned poetic discourse.

Sometimes a group of sayings may deal with the same theme. For example, 16:1–7 are concerned with the Lord’s guidance in a person’s life. 16:10, 12–15 share the word “king.”

Collection of thirty wise sayings (22:17–24:22): This collection is said to be “the words of the wise” (22:17) and contains thirty sayings. The most remarkable fact about this collection is its similarity, and occasional identity, with the ancient “Instruction of Amen-em-Opet,” one of the Egyptian Wisdom writings. We may examine the closeness of the sayings in this collection with the “Instruction of Amen-em-Opet” in Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, edited by James B. Pritchard. Page 424 of this book gives a list of the most similar passages.

A typical saying in this collection is made up of several lines in which the first two state negative or positive commands followed by one or more consequences: “Don’t promise to be responsible for someone else’s debts. If you should be unable to pay, they will take away even your bed” (22:26–27, Today’s English Version [tev]).

Collection of other wise sayings (24:23–34): This collection may be considered as an addition to the previous collection. It is introduced as a separate unit by the words “These also are sayings of the wise.” The forms of these sayings have little in common with each other.

 

Hezekiah’s collection of Solomon’s proverbs (25:1–29:27): The collection is introduced in 25:1 as “These also are proverbs [mishle] of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied.” The first six verses speak of kings, but beyond these each saying is independent. Chapter 25 begins with several four-line observations or precepts, and is followed by a number of similes or sayings that compare or contrast two or more things; this continues through chapter 27.

 

 

 

Outline [10]

 

The following is a full list of the three sections of the book with their various divisions:

  1. Introduction (1:1–7)
  2. Title (1:1)
  3. Purpose of the book (1:2–6)
  4. Motto of the book (1:7)
  5. Instructions and Speeches of Wisdom (1:8–9:18)
  6. First instruction (1:8–33)
  7. Listen to your parents’ teaching (1:8–9)
  8. Beware of sinners (1:10–19)
  9. Wisdom’s speech (1:20–33)
  10. Second instruction (2:1–22)
  11. Seek wisdom (2:1–8)
  12. Knowing what is right (2:9–11)
  13. Avoiding wicked people (2:12–15)
  14. Avoiding the immoral woman (2:16–19)
  15. Rewards and punishments (2:20–22)
  16. Third instruction (3:1–12)
  17. Fourth instruction (3:13–20)
  18. In praise of wisdom (3:13–18)
  19. Wisdom and creation (3:19–20)
  20. Fifth instruction (3:21–35)
  21. Wisdom gives you a happy life (3:21–26)
  22. How to behave (3:27–31)
  23. How the Lord deals with good and evil (3:32–35)
  24. Sixth instruction (4:1–27)
  25. Listen to your father (4:1–9)
  26. Wisdom gives you long life and protection (4:10–19)
  27. Remember wisdom and enjoy life (4:20–27)
  28. Seventh instruction (5:1–23)
  29. Avoid adultery (5:1–14)
  30. Be faithful to your wife (5:15–20)
  31. The fate of the wicked (5:21–23)
  32. Eighth instruction (6:1–19)
  33. Avoid other people’s debts (6:1–5)
  34. Don’t be lazy (6:6–11)
  35. Fate of the wicked (6:12–15)
  36. Seven things the Lord hates (6:16–19)
  37. Ninth instruction (6:20–35)
  38. Rewards from accepting your parents’ teaching (6:20–23)
  39. Avoid adultery (6:24–29)
  40. Results of adultery (6:30–35)
  41. Tenth instruction (7:1–27)
  42. Wisdom will protect you from adultery (7:1–5)
  43. A seductive woman and a foolish youth (7:6–20)
  44. The youth falls into her trap (7:21–23)
  45. Avoid the seductive woman or die (7:24–27)
  46. Eleventh instruction (8:1–36)
  47. Wisdom speaks to the people (8:1–11)
  48. The qualities of wisdom (8:12–21)
  49. The origin of wisdom (8:22–31)
  50. Choose life or death (8:32–36)
  51. Twelfth instruction (9:1–18)
  52. Wisdom invites the ignorant to her banquet (9:1–6)
  53. The difference between the scoffer and the wise person (9:7–12)
  54. Stupidity invites the ignorant to her banquet (9:13–18)
  55. Various Collections (10:1–31:31)
  56. Collection of Solomon’s proverbs (10:1–22:16)
  57. Collection of thirty wise sayings (22:17–24:22)
  58. Collection of other wise sayings (24:23–34)
  59. Hezekiah’s collection of Solomon’s proverbs (25:1–29:27)
  60. Collection of the words of Agur (30:1–9)
  61. Collection of more wise sayings (30:10–33)
  62. Collection of King Lemuel’s wise sayings (31:1–9)
  63. Praises for a good wife (31:10–31)

 

1C. Motto of the Book (1:7)

Verse 7 is different in style, content, and purpose from verses 2–6. tev places verse 7 with verses 8–19. cev keeps it as part of verses 1–6. Most translators recognize verse 7 as holding a special position in regard to the entire book and therefore place it separately from the verses before and after it. However, in bhs, an edition of the printed Hebrew Bible, verses 7–9 are printed together as a unit.

Commentators often refer to verse 7 as the “motto” of the book. A motto in a book is a sentence or phrase adopted as representing the character and substance of the book as a whole. The thought expressed in verse 7 appears also in 9:10 and 15:33. See also Psa 111:10 and Job 28:28.[11]

 

McGee

 

The Book of Proverbs is one of the books classified as the poetry of Scripture. Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon all belong in the same package because they are written as Hebrew poetry.

 

Solomon is the writer of three of these books of poetry: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. Proverbs is the book on wisdom. Ecclesiastes is the book on folly. Song of Solomon is the book on love. Love is the happy medium between wisdom and folly. Solomon was an expert on all three subjects! The Word of God says about him: “And he spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five” (1 Kings 4:32). We have only one of his songs out of 1,005 that he wrote. And, actually, we have very few of his proverbs. “And he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes. And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom” (1 Kings 4:33–34).

 

In the Book of Proverbs we read the wisdom of Solomon. A proverb is a saying that conveys a specific truth in a pointed and pithy way. Proverbs are short sentences drawn from long experience. A proverb is a truth that is couched in a form that is easy to remember, a philosophy based on experience, and a rule for conduct. A proverb has been called a sententious sentence, a maxim, an old saying, an old saw, a bromide, an epigram.

The key verse is found in the first chapter: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7).

The Orient and the ancient East are the homes of proverbs. Probably Solomon gathered many of them from other sources. He was the editor of them all and the author of some. This means that we have an inspired record of proverbs that are either Solomon’s or from other sources, but God has put His stamp upon them, as we shall see.

 

Dr. Thirtle and other scholars noted that there is a change of pronoun in the book from the second person to the third person. The conclusion of these scholars was that the proverbs which used the second person were taught to Solomon by his teachers, and the proverbs using the third person were composed by Solomon himself.

 

 

There are some characteristics and features of the Book of Proverbs that I think we should note:

  1. Proverbs bears no unscientific statement or inaccurate observation. For example, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23). This is a remarkable statement, because it was about 2,700 years later that Harvey found that the blood circulates and that the heart is the pump. In contrast, in an apocryphal book called the Epistle of Barnabas, mention is made of the mythical phoenix, a bird that consumes itself by fire and rises in resurrection. Such a fable does not appear in the Book of Proverbs nor anywhere else in the Bible. It is strange that this is an ancient book containing hundreds of proverbs and not one of them is unscientific today. That in itself ought to alert any thinking person to the fact that the Book of Proverbs is God-inspired.
  2. Proverbs is a book on a high moral plane. You simply will not find in its pages the immoral sayings which occur in other writings. Justin Martyr said that Socrates was a Christian before Christ—which, of course, would be an impossibility. And his admirers say that he portrays a high conception of morals. However, Socrates also gave instructions to harlots on how to conduct themselves! The best that can be said of him is that he was amoral.
  3. The Proverbs do not contradict themselves, while man’s proverbs are often in opposition to each other. For example: “Look before you leap” contrasted with “He who hesitates is lost.” “A man gets no more than he pays for” contrasted with “The best things in life are free.” “Leave well enough alone” has over against it, “Progress never stands still.” “A rolling stone gathers no moss” versus “A setting hen does not get fat.” The proverbs of man contradict each other, because men’s ideas differ. But there is no contradiction in the Book of Proverbs because it is inspired by God.

 

Here is something that will make the Book of Proverbs a thrilling experience for you: There is in Proverbs a thumbnail sketch of every character in the Bible. I am going to suggest a few of them; you will enjoy finding others. Also I think you will find there is a proverb that will fit all your friends and acquaintances—but perhaps you had better not mention to them the proverb that fits some of them! There is a proverb that will fit every one of us, and we can have a good time going through this book.

 

Dr. A. C. Gaebelein has written this helpful analysis of the literary structure of Proverbs.

The literary form of these Proverbs is mostly in the form of couplets. The two clauses of the couplet are generally related to each other by what has been termed parallelism, according to Hebrew poetry. (Hebrew poetry does not have rhyme or meter as our poetry does. Hebrew poetry consists of a parallelism of ideas.) Three kinds of parallelism have been pointed out:

  1. Synonymous Parallelism. Here the second clause restates what is given in the first clause. (It expresses the same thought in a different way.)

“Judgments are prepared for scorners, And stripes for the back of fools”

[Prov. 19:29].

  1. Antithetic (Contrast) Parallelism. Here a truth, which is stated in the first clause, is made stronger in the second clause by contrast with an opposite truth.

“The light of the righteous rejoiceth, But the lamp of the wicked shall be put out”

[Prov. 13:9].

(You can see that the second statement is stating the same truth but from the opposite point of view by way of contrast.)

  1. Synthetic Parallelism. The second clause develops the thought of the first.

“The terror of a king is as the roaring of a lion; He that provoketh him to anger sinneth against his own life”

[Prov. 20:2].

Outline

  1. Wisdom and Folly Contrasted, Chapters 1–9
  2. Proverbs of Solomon, Chapters 10–24
    (Written and set in order by himself)

III. Proverbs of Solomon, Chapters 25–29
(Set in order by men of Hezekiah)

  1. Oracle of Agur, Unknown Sage, Chapter 30
  2. Proverbs of a Mother to Lemuel, Chapter 31[12]

What Proverbs Says

But the book of Proverbs is comprised of gems of wisdom that God has given to us. They are written in a form of poetry. Hebrew poetry is not achieved by rhyming or using dactylic hexameter. It is attained by what is known as parallelism in the form of couplets of two related clauses. There are different kinds of parallelism. There is synonymous parallelism, which states a truth, then restates it. There is antithetic parallelism, which states a truth, then states the negative. This is what we have before us: antithetic or contrast in parallelism. The positive is given, then the negative is given, and we need both.

 

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart” (Proverbs 3:5). This is the positive side. The word trust is one that occurs over one hundred times in the Old Testament. Actually it is the Old Testament word for the New Testament word believe. Bringing it up into New Testament terminology makes it the same as what Paul said to the Philippian jailor, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). It is the Old Testament way of saying the same thing.

To trust means to lean upon. A wonderful picture of this is given in the book of Genesis where it says that Abraham “believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). He trusted God. The picture is of a man who had exhausted all of his resources. Abraham had gone down every avenue and had found them dead–end streets. He reached the place in life when he was a century old—one hundred years old. Yet he considered not his own deadness nor the deadness of Sarah’s womb, and he believed God when He said He would give them a son. He had nothing else to hold onto or look to in this world. He just believed God. It simply means that he leaned on God. He could do nothing else but lock his arms around God and hold on.

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart” means your total personality. When you come to Jesus Christ, you do not bring just your emotions, although I do not think you ought to leave out your emotions. It is too bad today when emotion is revealed in the church that the critics say, “That is too emotional”; yet these same people will go to a movie and dampen two or three handkerchiefs. After all, a block of ice is weepy! They are not really moved. But we need to bring our emotions when we come to Christ. We also need to bring our intellects when we come to Christ. We need to bring our wills when we come to Christ. And we need to bring our bodies when we come to Christ. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart—your total personality and every fiber of your being. That is what He is saying.

Now we have the negative side of Proverbs 3:5: “And lean not unto thine own understanding.” The positive is stated, then the parallelism is negative. It comes at it from the other side. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart”; then the negative is “lean not unto thine own understanding.”

Apparently God has made man the most helpless creature in His universe. There is no angel as helpless as man; no creature beneath in the animal world is as helpless as he is. Even the dumbest of animals have an instinct that guides them. Man is helpless from the moment he is born, and even for the first few years he is perfectly helpless. There are some creatures that from the moment of their birth can take care of themselves.

Man is also born ignorant. Most animals know at the time they are born all they need to know on the physical side. Man, a human being, higher than the animals, is ignorant. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t know a from b when I was born. I had to go to school. Man has to be educated and trained to cope with his environment.

Then when man learns and begins to use the front lobe of his brain, there is a danger of his thinking he is smart. He learns to depend on his intellect. There are a great many who think they are smart enough to get along without God, and they are living without God today. With biting irony, Isaiah in his day reminded his people how foolish it was to try to live without God. He said: “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass, his master’s crib, but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider” (Isaiah 1:3).

Look at the animals he uses for an illustration. The ox is noted for being dumb; we still have the expression “dumb as an ox.” But the ox has sense enough to know his owner. And the ass, the little long–eared animal, doesn’t have a reputation for brains. Those little animals do not have Ph.D. degrees. And the ass is not known for his brilliance. Yet when his master comes and puts hay in the crib, he has sense enough to know who is feeding him. But man doesn’t know. Man thinks he is smart and leans on his own understanding.

The writer of the Proverbs, Solomon, wanted to enforce this. Solomon was a man who was wiser than any man on this earth, and he still holds that reputation. He said, “Lean not on your own understanding.” He went on to say, “Be not wise in thine own eyes” (3:7). Then following through Proverbs to chapter 28, he added, “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool” (v. 26). What strong language! He who trusts in his own heart is a fool.

I believe that there is a proverb to fit every person on this earth. They characterize many men in the Word of God. You can go back into the Old Testament and find those who were trusting in the Lord with all their hearts. You can find those who were wise in their own eyes and were going their own way.[13]

 

 

 

Outline [14]

 

The following is a full list of the three sections of the book with their various divisions:

  1. Introduction (1:1–7)
  2. Title (1:1)
  3. Purpose of the book (1:2–6)
  4. Motto of the book (1:7)
  5. Instructions and Speeches of Wisdom (1:8–9:18)
  6. First instruction (1:8–33)
  7. Listen to your parents’ teaching (1:8–9)
  8. Beware of sinners (1:10–19)
  9. Wisdom’s speech (1:20–33)
  10. Second instruction (2:1–22)
  11. Seek wisdom (2:1–8)
  12. Knowing what is right (2:9–11)
  13. Avoiding wicked people (2:12–15)
  14. Avoiding the immoral woman (2:16–19)
  15. Rewards and punishments (2:20–22)
  16. Third instruction (3:1–12)
  17. Fourth instruction (3:13–20)
  18. In praise of wisdom (3:13–18)
  19. Wisdom and creation (3:19–20)
  20. Fifth instruction (3:21–35)
  21. Wisdom gives you a happy life (3:21–26)
  22. How to behave (3:27–31)
  23. How the Lord deals with good and evil (3:32–35)
  24. Sixth instruction (4:1–27)
  25. Listen to your father (4:1–9)
  26. Wisdom gives you long life and protection (4:10–19)
  27. Remember wisdom and enjoy life (4:20–27)
  28. Seventh instruction (5:1–23)
  29. Avoid adultery (5:1–14)
  30. Be faithful to your wife (5:15–20)
  31. The fate of the wicked (5:21–23)
  32. Eighth instruction (6:1–19)
  33. Avoid other people’s debts (6:1–5)
  34. Don’t be lazy (6:6–11)
  35. Fate of the wicked (6:12–15)
  36. Seven things the Lord hates (6:16–19)
  37. Ninth instruction (6:20–35)
  38. Rewards from accepting your parents’ teaching (6:20–23)
  39. Avoid adultery (6:24–29)
  40. Results of adultery (6:30–35)
  41. Tenth instruction (7:1–27)
  42. Wisdom will protect you from adultery (7:1–5)
  43. A seductive woman and a foolish youth (7:6–20)
  44. The youth falls into her trap (7:21–23)
  45. Avoid the seductive woman or die (7:24–27)
  46. Eleventh instruction (8:1–36)
  47. Wisdom speaks to the people (8:1–11)
  48. The qualities of wisdom (8:12–21)
  49. The origin of wisdom (8:22–31)
  50. Choose life or death (8:32–36)
  51. Twelfth instruction (9:1–18)
  52. Wisdom invites the ignorant to her banquet (9:1–6)
  53. The difference between the scoffer and the wise person (9:7–12)
  54. Stupidity invites the ignorant to her banquet (9:13–18)
  55. Various Collections (10:1–31:31)
  56. Collection of Solomon’s proverbs (10:1–22:16)
  57. Collection of thirty wise sayings (22:17–24:22)
  58. Collection of other wise sayings (24:23–34)
  59. Hezekiah’s collection of Solomon’s proverbs (25:1–29:27)
  60. Collection of the words of Agur (30:1–9)
  61. Collection of more wise sayings (30:10–33)
  62. Collection of King Lemuel’s wise sayings (31:1–9)
  63. Praises for a good wife (31:10–31)

 

 

OUTLINE

  1. The Preface (1:1–7)
  2. The author and the literary form (1:1)
  3. The purpose of the book (1:2–6)
  4. The theme of the book (1:7)
  5. The Words of Solomon on Wisdom’s Values (1:8–9:18)
  6. The value of wisdom in giving honor (1:8–9)
  7. The value of wisdom in preserving from disaster (1:10–33)
  8. The moral values of wisdom (chap. 2)
  9. The blessings of wisdom (3:1–12)
  10. The high value of wisdom (3:13–20)
  11. The value of wisdom in building relationships with others (3:21–35)
  12. An exhortation to acquire wisdom (4:1–9)
  13. The value of wisdom in preserving from trouble (4:10–19)
  14. The value of wisdom in producing health (4:20–27)
  15. The value of wisdom in preserving from adultery (chap. 5)
  16. The value of wisdom in preserving from poverty (6:1–11)
  17. The value of wisdom in preserving from dissension (6:12–19)
  18. The value of wisdom in preserving from sexual immorality (6:20–7:27)
  19. The value of wisdom demonstrated in her virtues and rewards (8:1–21)
  20. The value of wisdom to the Lord in Creation (8:22–36)
  21. The value of wisdom summarized by contrasting her invitation with folly’s invitation (chap. 9)

III. The Proverbs of Solomon (10:1–22:16)

  1. Proverbs contrasting righteous and wicked living (chaps.10–15)
  2. Proverbs exalting righteous living (16:1–22:16)
  3. The Sayings of the Wise Men (22:17–24:34)
  4. Thirty sayings of the wise (22:17–24:22)
  5. Additional sayings of the wise (24:23–34)
  6. The Proverbs of Solomon Collected by Hezekiah’s Men (chaps. 25–29)
  7. The Words of Agur (chap. 30)
  8. Introduction (30:1)
  9. Knowledge about God (30:2–9)
  10. Observations about life (30:10–33)

VII. The Words of Lemuel (31:1–9)

VIII. The Noble Wife (31:10–31)[15]

 

 

Proverbs

OUTLINE

  1. INTRODUCTION—1:1–7
  2. INSTRUCTION LITERATURE—1:8–9:18
  3. First Instruction: Warning against Gangs—1:8–19
  4. First Speech by Personified Wisdom—1:20–33
  5. Second Instruction: The Search for Wisdom—2:1–22
  6. Third Instruction: Behavior toward God—3:1–12
  7. The Praise of Wisdom—3:13–20
  8. Fourth Instruction: Behavior toward Neighbors—3:21–35
  9. Fifth Instruction: A Father’s Example—4:1–9
  10. Sixth Instruction: Warning against Evil Companions—4:10–19
  11. Seventh Instruction: The Healthy Body—4:20–27
  12. Eighth Instruction: Warnings against the Adulteress—5:1–23
  13. Four Pieces of Practical Admonition—6:1–19
  14. Admonition against Pledging Security for a Neighbor—6:1–5
  15. Admonition against Laziness—6:6–11
  16. Admonition against the Scoundrel—6:12–15
  17. Admonition Listing Things Detestable to the Lord—6:16–19
  18. Ninth Instruction: Warnings against the Adulteress—6:20–35
  19. Tenth Instruction: Warnings against the Adulteress—7:1–27
  20. Remember Parental Instruction—7:1–5
  21. Actions of the Adulteress—7:6–23
  22. Warning to Avoid the Adulteress—7:24–27
  23. Second Speech by Personified Wisdom—8:1–36
  24. Wisdom Seeks an Audience—8:1–11
  25. The Blessings of Wisdom—8:12–21
  26. Wisdom Comes from God—8:22–31
  27. Wisdom Is the Way of Life—8:32–36
  28. Third Speech by Personified Wisdom—9:1–12
  29. Invitation Issued by Wisdom—9:1–6
  30. Educating the Wise and the Foolish—9:7–12
  31. Invitation Issued by Folly—9:13–18

III. SENTENCE LITERATURE OF THE FIRST SOLOMONIC COLLECTION—10:1–22:16

  1. Traditional Wisdom in Antithetic Proverbs—10:1–15:30
  2. Yahweh Proverbs, Limit Proverbs—15:31–22:16
  3. THE INSTRUCTIONS OF THE WISE—22:17–24:34
  4. Initial Instructions of the Wise—22:17–24:22
  5. Further Instructions of the Wise—24:23–34
  6. SENTENCE LITERATURE OF THE SECOND SOLOMONIC COLLECTION—25:1–29:27
  7. Comparative Proverbs—25:1–27:22
  8. Instruction Poem—27:23–27
  9. Sayings on the Righteous and the Wicked—28:1–29:27
  10. THE SAYINGS OF AGUR—30:1–9

VII. THE NUMERICAL SAYINGS—30:10–33

VIII.   THE SAYINGS OF KING LEMUEL—31:1–9

  1. THE WOMAN OF NOBLE CHARACTER—31:10–31[16]

 

[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). The MacArthur quick reference guide to the Bible (Student ed., pp. 91–95). Nashville, TN: W Pub. Group.

LXX Septuagint—an ancient translation of the Old Testament into Greek

[2] MacArthur, J., Jr. (Ed.). (1997). The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed., pp. 921–923). Nashville, TN: Word Pub.

[3] Wiersbe, W. W. (1993). Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the Old Testament (Pr 25–31:31). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[4] Reyburn, W. D., & Fry, E. M. (2000). A handbook on Proverbs (pp. 1–8). New York: United Bible Societies.

[5] Buzzell, S. S. (1985). Proverbs. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, pp. 900–906). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[6] Bland, D. (2002). Proverbs, Ecclesiastes & Song of Songs (pp. 12–36). Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co.

notes Explanatory Notes

notes Explanatory Notes

notes Explanatory Notes

notes Explanatory Notes

NIV New International Version

notes Explanatory Notes

notes Explanatory Notes

Heb. Hebrew text, unless obviously for the NT book

notes Explanatory Notes

[7] Miller, J. W. (2004). Proverbs (pp. 36–38). Scottdale, PA: Herald Press.

2 Crenshaw lists eight words, Old Testament Wisdom, p. 68. Michael V. Fox lists seven terms in his article, “Words for Folly,” Zeitschrift für Althebraistik 10 (1997): 1–12.

3 Fox, “Words for Folly,” 6. See also Fox, Proverbs 1–9, The Anchor Bible 18a (New York: Doubleday, 2000), pp. 38–39.

4 This word for fool is used nineteen times in Proverbs and twice in Job.

NIV New International Version

5 לֵץ is used eighteen times in Proverbs.

NIV New International Version

6 This term for fool is used forty-nine times in Proverbs, more than any other term. It is used eighteen times in Ecclesiastes and twice in Job.

NIV New International Version

NIV New International Version

NIV New International Version

7 Fox, Proverbs 1–9, pp. 39–40.

NIV New International Version

8 פֶּתִי is used fifteen times in Proverbs.

9 Fox, Proverbs 1–9, p. 39.

49 See commentary on 1:7.

[8] Bland, D. (2002). Proverbs, Ecclesiastes & Song of Songs (pp. 12–36). Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co.

3 Kathleen M. O’Connor, “Wisdom Literature and Experience of the Divine,” in Biblical Theology: Problems and Perspectives, ed. by Steven J. Kraftchick, Charles D. Myers, Jr., and Ben C. Ollenburger (Nashville: Abingdon, 1995), p. 189.

4 Ibid., p. 195.

5 See Roland Murphy, “The Personification of Wisdom,” in Wisdom in Ancient Israel: Essays in Honour of J.A. Emerton, ed. by John Day, Robert P. Gordon, and H.G.M. Williamson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), p. 231.

6 For a more detailed profile of Woman Wisdom see Roland Murphy’s chapter “Lady Wisdom,” in The Tree of Life: An Exploration of Biblical Wisdom Literature (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), pp. 145–146.

[9] Ironside, H. A. (1908). Notes on the Book of Proverbs (pp. 7–12). Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Bros.

[10] Reyburn, W. D., & Fry, E. M. (2000). A handbook on Proverbs (pp. 1–8). New York: United Bible Societies.

tev Today’s English Version

cev Contemporary English Version

bhs Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia

[11] Reyburn, W. D., & Fry, E. M. (2000). A handbook on Proverbs (pp. 214–218). New York: United Bible Societies.

[12] McGee, J. V. (1997). Thru the Bible commentary (electronic ed., Vol. 3, pp. 1–3). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[13] McGee, J. V. (2001). The best of J. Vernon McGee : a collection of his best-loved sermons, volume 1 (electronic ed., pp. 84–87). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[14] Reyburn, W. D., & Fry, E. M. (2000). A handbook on Proverbs (pp. 1–8). New York: United Bible Societies.

[15] Buzzell, S. S. (1985). Proverbs. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, pp. 900–906). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[16] Bland, D. (2002). Proverbs, Ecclesiastes & Song of Songs (pp. 12–36). Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co.

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