PROVERBS IN GENERAL
A proverb is “a brief wise saying” or “wisdom condensed into a brief statement.” The Book of Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings. (See section on Hebrew Poetry). The purpose of the Book of Proverbs is to teach wisdom, especially to the young. It seeks to impress on the reader that wisdom starts with the Lord. [Proverbs 1:7] says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” Proverbs should not be thought of simply as a book of wise sayings on how to be successful in this world. It is a book of moral instruction dealing with sin and holiness before God. When reading the individual proverbs, it is important to remember that proverbs are designed to state things that are GENERALLY true and not necessarily to state things that are always true. For example, [Proverbs 22:6] says,
“Train a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
That is certainly true. But the proverb also allows for the exception when a child who is given excellent instruction may later be led astray. The truths that proverbs teach are GENERAL TRUTHS.
AUTHORSHIP OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS
The Book of Proverbs begins this way: “The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel.” Solomon wrote a large part of the Book of Proverbs. He is credited with writing or at least speaking the proverbs in chapters 1-29. We know also that Solomon wrote more proverbs that are not recorded in this book. [1 Kings 4:32] says, “(Solomon) spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five.” The headings on chapter 30 and 31 tell us also that two men by the name of Agur and King Lemuel also wrote some of the proverbs. The headings at 22:17 and 24:23 show that some anonymous authors also contributed to the book.
A GENERAL OUTLINE FOR PROVERBS
Because the book is filled with individual proverbs not always fitting under a single theme, it is difficult to give a logical outline for the Book of Proverbs. But perhaps this general outline will be of some help.
- A General Introduction On Wisdom (1-9)
- Six Collections of Proverbs (10-31:9)
- An Acrostic Poem On The Perfect Wife (31-10-31)
SOME IMPORTANT THEMES THAT RUN THROUGH THE BOOK
- WISDOM AND FOLLY – THE WISE MAN AND THE FOOL: Proverbs on this theme contrast living by God’s wise way and man’s proud selfish way. For examples see 10:23, 12:1, 15:5.
- THE RIGHTEOUS AND THE WICKED: Proverbs under this theme describes the righteous way of life and its blessings and contrasts it with wicked living that ends in destruction. For some examples of this kind of proverb, see 10:3, 12:2-3, 16:8.
- WORDS AND THE TONGUE: Many proverbs give advice regarding the proper and improper use of speech. Note these examples: 11:11-14, 27:2.
- THE FAMILY: Proverbs under this theme give advice on the things that make for a happy and lasting home-life, and the things that destroy home-life. See these examples: 10:1, 13:1, 12:4.
- LAZINESS AND HARD WORK: Read these proverbs as examples under this theme: 10:4-5, 22:13, 24:30-34
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