An Overview of Proverbs, Part 2

Proverbs 10 – 29: The Wisdom of the Ages

In these chapters, many proverbs are set forth for meditation and application. What the proverbs reveal is there is no issue a person faces in any generation, that has not been considered in the past. Whatever question is under discussion today, has been talked about in the past, which means we can ask God what are His thoughts and counsel regarding any topic. God has spoken about the climate, abortion, anger, forgiveness, race, alcohol, and sex. God has something to say about homosexuality, financial integrity, excessive debt, and broken relationships. The best self-help manual on planet earth is the Bible, in general, and the Book of Proverbs in particular. Those who need counsel in marriage will find the principles in Proverbs effective.

Create a Frame of Reference

The proverbs in chapters 1 – 9 are short, and easy to remember. They form a frame of reference to be applied, when needed. Each day, reading one chapter in Proverbs, can be supplemented by reading five Psalms a day for 30 days.

Proverbs 30

In the closing section of the Book of Proverbs, the thoughts and prayer of a man named Agur (Heb. “hired hand”) are recorded. After humbly confessing, he is but a brute without wisdom, Agur makes a fantastic discovery. Despite his low estate, a certain measure of divine wisdom has been given to him. He too is a giver of proverbs, though his proverbs are interspersed with abiding humility. The insightful humility of Agur makes for a wonderful chapter to read. Consider in particular his two-fold prayer request, and why he asked for what he wanted.

A Two-fold Prayer Request Proverbs 30:7-9

“Two things have I required of thee;
deny me them not before I die:

First Request

Remove far from me vanity and lies:

Second Request

give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with food convenient for me:

The Reason Way

Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord?
or lest I be poor, and steal,
and take the name of my God in vain.”

The Wisdom Given to Lemuel Proverbs 31:1-9

The Book of Proverbs closes with a series of proverbs given to Lemuel (Heb. “devoted to God”). The identify of Lemuel is disputed. Some of the early Jewish rabbis believe Lemuel is another name for Solomon. If that is true, then the counsel, he remembers, was given to him by his mother, Bathsheba (31:1-9).

A Closing Acrostic Proverbs 31:10-31
The Woman of Noble Character: Proverbs 31:10 – 31

  • She is highly valued, v. 10
  • She is faithful to her husband, v. 11
  • She is respectful, v. 12
  • She is energetic and strong, v. 17
  • She works hard to make a good investment, v. 18
  • She is versatile, v. 19
  • She is charitable, v. 20
  • She is a good provider, v. 21
  • She is respected, like her husband, v. 23
  • She is honorable and fearless, v. 25
  • She is kind and wise, v. 26
  • She is a good mother, v. 27
  • She is worthy of praise, v. 28
  • She excels above other women, v. 29
  • She fears the Lord, v. 30
  • She is justly rewarded, v. 31

Lessons to Learn from the Book of Proverbs

From Faith to Being a Fool

It is possible for a wise person to become a foolish person. It is possible to lose one’s fear of God. For all of his wisdom and knowledge, the heart of Solomon was turned from the Lord through inappropriate sexual relationships with many women, 700 wives, and 300 concubines. “And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart” (1 Kings 11:3).

The heart of Solomon was turned to other gods. “For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 6 And Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and went not fully after the Lord, as did David his father. 7 Then did Solomon build a high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. 8 And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods” (1 Kings 11:5-8).

A Common Mistake

Many people mistake a proverb for a promise. One of the most egregious examples is to take a wise saying, such as found in Proverbs 22:6, and treat it as a promise yet to be fulfilled. The parent of many ungodly grown-up children remembers sweet moments in their youth when they made a confession of faith. However, 1 John 2:19 explains why such children leave God, abandon the Church, and live an irresponsible life without any spiritual testimony. They were never truly born again. Rather than re-evangelize their adult children, many parents sit idly by and do nothing but wait for the fulfillment of a “promise” that was never made.

Another passage often misunderstood is Proverbs 10:27. “The fear of the Lord prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.” Often, this is true. However, the godly do die young, and the wicked live to a mature age.

By remembering that a wise saying is not a divine decree, Wisdom Literature is better understood. A proverb tends to gives attention to a general principle of life, but not to the various alternatives. The Book of Job and the Book of Ecclesiastes confirms that life cannot be stated in a formulaic manner. It is too complex and mysterious.

Care must also be taken not to confuse secular proverbs with Biblical teaching. Some will be surprised to learn the following proverbs are not in Scripture.

Proverbs NOT Found in Scripture

Common Expression                            Correction

“Spare the rod, spoil the child.”– Proverbs 13:24 
“Money is the root of all evil.” – 1 Timothy 6:10
“Cleanliness is next to godliness.”– James 4:8
“All things work together for good.” – Romans 8:28
“God moves in mysterious ways.” – Isaiah 55:8
“Pride comes before the fall.” – Proverbs 16:18

Wisdom Has No Place for Male Chauvinism

There has been much abuse about women based on the misuse of particular Scriptural phrases such as women being “the weaker sex,” or the “weaker vessel.” “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). A stereotypical idea is that women are more emotional than men, and therefore not as logical, or wise. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The poems in Proverbs from Lady Wisdom, and the Biblical example of women, like Abigail, who corrected the behavior of her husband, Nabal (Heb. “fool”), indicate that women can be just as righteous and wise as a man, and of course, just as wicked and foolish as well. Every expression of sin, in any person, is based on their own choice for which they are responsible. 

Study the Proverbs for Personal Application

With a pen in hand, read one chapter a day in Proverbs for 30 days, and write down what a wise person would do, according to the text. For example,

Proverbs 1

  • A wise person will hear, or listen to others, and increase in knowledge (1:5).
  • A wise person will seek to obtain wise counsel (1:5).
  • A wise person will fear the Lord (1:7).
  • A wise person will not despise, or reject the wisdom, and instruction others have (1:7).
  • A wise person will receive instruction (Heb. “muwcar [moo-sawr’] chastisement, reproof, warning, from their parents (1:8).

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