An Overview of Proverbs, Part 1

Divine Author: God the Holy Spirit “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

Human Author: Solomon: There were no less than 3,000 Proverbs uttered by Solomon, and 1,005 songs, according to 1 Kings 4:32.

Date: c. 900 BC

Setting: Israel: As king of all the tribes of Israel, Solomon received foreign dignitaries from the nations of the known world who came to hear, and test, his wisdom. Study 1 Kings 4:34

Key Verse: Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

Theme : How to live a life of righteousness  

General Facts: 20th Book of the Bible; 31 Chapters; 915 Verses

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Introduction

The Book of Proverbs was mainly written by Solomon. His name appears in 1:1; 10:1, and 25:1. Out of at least 3,000 proverbs, these are the ones the Holy Spirit would have the Church remember and study. It is not unreasonable to believe that as a wise man, Solomon heard about, read, collected, and incorporated other proverbs into his repertoire.  The particular narrative in Proverbs emphasizes the importance of wisdom, and not being a fool.

The Importance of Wisdom

The Hebrew word for wisdom is chokmah [khok-maw’]and indicates someone who is wise of mind. It implies learning a skill, such as the artisans and craftsmen of the Exodus Generation. Study Exodus 31:1-3

Consider

The act of learning how to survive, and succeed in life, in good manners, and in righteousness, in an orderly way, is considered wisdom. Such a person is wise of mind. Study Proverbs 22:17-24:22

A philosophical study of the meaning of life is considered to be wisdom. Solomon gave himself to seeking out wisdom, as did Job. Jesus is the wisdom of God. Study Ecclesiastes 1-12; Job 29 – 31; Luke 2:40, 52; Matthew 13:54; 1 Corinthians 1:24, 30; 2:16; Col. 2:3; Rev. 5:12

A spiritual life is the real essence of wisdom, for life is more than sensual pleasures, or living by an acceptable social moral code. To know God, and fear Him, to receive instruction from God, to obey, and love Him, is true wisdom. Study Proverbs 1:7; Job 28:28

The Importance of Not Being a Fool

There are three Hebrew words translated fool in Proverbs.

There is the Hebrew, ‘eviyl, to be lax or careless of mind and body; to be perverse, silly, and a fool. This word is used 19 times in Proverbs. Study Proverbs 1:7; 7:22; 10:8, 10, 14, 21; 11:29 etc.

There is the Hebrew, keciyl , dense, stupid, manifesting itself in impiety and irreverence. It is used 49 times in Proverbs. Study Proverbs 1:22, 32; 3:35; 8:5; 10:1, 18, 23; 12:23 etc.

There is the Hebrew, nabal, referring to a vile and vulgar person. It is used 3 times in Proverbs. Study Proverbs 17:7, 21; 30:22; Psalm 14:1; 53:1

The Book of Proverbs: Part 1: Proverbs 1 – 9

In 1 Kings 3:1-15, a young king Solomon asked God for wisdom to effectively rule Israel. The Lord was pleased with the request, and gave Solomon unusual wisdom, and knowledge, about people, plants and animals. Study 1 Kings 4:29-33 So renowned was Solomon for his wisdom that kings from all the known nations came to speak with him (v. 34).

How to Gain Wisdom Proverbs 1

The introduction to the Book of Proverbs assures the reader wisdom is available to all who listen, and embrace the counsel of the righteous. “A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels” (v. 5). Those who listen to the wisdom of others will increase in knowledge, and become skillful in living a life that is pleasing to God, beneficial to others, and helpful to self.

Wisdom is distinguished from knowledge. Many people are well informed about some area, law, literature, medicine, math, science, the arts, or theology, but they lack wisdom to live in an appropriate manner. Simply put, “Knowledge is Not Enough”. There is more to life than facts and figures, and the ability to regurgitate information. Wisdom is the right application of Biblical doctrine at the right time. The Book of Proverbs is designed to give a person skill for living in God’s world.

The Fear of the Lord

In the quest for wisdom, the first truth a person learns is “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (1:7). Life will turn out well for those who fear God. “Though a sinner does evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him:” (Eccl. 8:12)

Christians are not left to wonder how to understand the fear of God, because Scripture provides guidance.

The fear of the Lord is to hate mental attitude sins, as well as overt one. “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate” (Prov. 8:13).

The fear of the Lord is a strong confidence in the Lord. “In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge” (Prov. 14:26).

The fear of the Lord is to enjoy life, and to depart from spiritual death, and a premature sin unto death. “The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death” (Prov. 14:27).

The fear of the Lord is to ask, “What would Jesus do?” “What would God the Father do?” To ask the question is to receive instruction in righteousness, as God answers by His Spirit, and through His Word. The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility” (Prov. 15:33).

Fear of God was a distinguishing characteristic of the Messiah. “And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD” (Isa. 11:2).

The fear of God is to characterize the life of every believer. “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:29).

There is good reason to cultivate fear of God that goes beyond normal respect, and reverence. “His mercy is on them that fear Him, from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50).

It is when people do not fear God that personal behavior is corrupted, and society disintegrates. Abraham was alarmed because there was no fear of God where he travelled (Gen. 20:11).

The person who fears God will live an authentic life of righteousness, in as long as they continue to fear the Lord.

The Faith of Our Fathers

In chapters 1 – 9, there are several speeches from a father to a son with instruction on personal virtue, integrity, and heartfelt generosity leading to spiritual and social success, and peace of heart and mind. To reject good counsel will lead to evil, selfishness, and shame.  Therefore, wisdom should be pursued in life as one’s highest goal.

Good Counsel from Father to Son

  • Proverbs 1:8-9
  • Proverbs 1:10 – 14
  • Proverbs 1:15 – 33
  • Proverbs 2:1 – 22
  • Proverbs 3:1 – 20
  • Proverbs 3:21 – 4:27
  • Proverbs 5:1 – 23
  • Proverbs 6:1 – 35
  • Proverbs 7:1 – 27

“Faith of our fathers! living still,
In spite of dungeon, fire and sword;
Oh, how our hearts beat high with joy
Whene’er we hear that glorious Word!

Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death.”

–Frederick W. Faber

A Proverb is Not a Promise

By the father offering godly counsel to his son, the essence of Wisdom Literature is revealed, which is that choice, not Law, is the determining factor. Strong advice is not the same as a fixed command. A proverb, or wise saying, is not a promise.

Wisdom literature must be recognized as a special category of its own, much like prophesy is in a separate classification. Wisdom literature provides insight on how the people of God should live in each generation, and so transcends temporal Laws, and limited prophesies, by providing eternal principles of godly behavior.

Wisdom is Sexless

Because wisdom is found in both men and women, we read of the council from a wise lady. Wisdom is personified as a woman calling out to learn from her. Wisdom is woven into the fabric of life and has something wonderful to offer. The person who is kind and generous, or has sexual integrity, or upholds justice, is the person who has listened to Lady Wisdom.

Poems from Lady Wisdom

  • Proverbs 1:20 – 33
  • Proverbs 3:13 – 20
  • Proverbs 8:1 – 9:18

The poems of a father to his son, and the poems of Lady Wisdom to all, unite to remind the Church that we live in a moral universe. This morality is not subjective, but objective. This is an important truth to comprehend. Ernest Hemingway wrote, “So far, about morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after” (Death in the Afternoon).

Ted Bundy felt good after brutally murdering women, and young people. Adolf Hitler felt good after eliminating Jews from Europe. The sensual person feels good after their lust is satiated, for the moment. Are they moral? Does feeling good after an activity mean never having to say you are sorry? The idea is outrageous. It is God who determines what is right, and what is wrong. It is the Creator who have given the gift of guilt to humanity to correct wayward souls and bring repentance. List to the eternal voice of Lady Wisdom, and not to the voice of Vain Philosophy in any given age.  Church, live wisely, live according to gospel terms, live a moral and virtuous life.

When you read the Book of Proverbs, know that you are reading God’s way of living, learned from previous generations.

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