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Proverbs

Proverbs Bible Walk

April 24, 2005

Theme: God’s wisdom for living in God’s world

  • Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

Theme of Proverbs: God’s Wisdom for Living in God’s World

  • Think of someone who has seen and experienced much in his life—godly people and ungodly people, hard workers and lazy people, those who think and plan ahead and those who have no motivation and initiative, poverty and wealth, fame and dishonor, failure, success, discouragement, those who listen, think, and learn, and those who care nothing about learning, and everything in between.  The Old Testament book of Proverbs is the God-inspired record or notebook of accumulated experiences with all kinds of people and in all kinds of events.
  • A Proverb is a short, clear, and often picturesque statement of a truth, and this statement takes the place of a long explanation. A Proverb is a recommendation of what works or what will cause harm.
  • Proverbs that are statements of human action and inaction, of human attitudes and speech are dependent upon man. These are not absolutes for every case, but they are true, all things being equal.
  • A proverb that depends upon God is absolute if man meets the requirement. This kind of proverb depends upon God’s nature and character, e.g. Proverbs 3:5-6.
  • Proverbs was written and compiled to provide general instructions and wise statements that would promote godly living. We can summarize the purpose by saying that Proverbs encourages clear thinking and right choices. The clear thinking begins with a “fear of the Lord” or we might say a “believing reverence of the Lord.”
  • Wisdom, the central theme of Proverbs.
  • Wisdom refers to skill gained through 1) knowledge and understanding, plus 2) experience gained from the application and use of that knowledge and understanding. A wise person is a sensible person—one who lives skillfully because he has learned right and wrong through learning, observation, and experience (e.g. Proverbs 1:2, 7; 2:2, 6, 7, 10; 3:13; 8:11).
    • The word wisdom, chokmah חָכְמָה , is found 42 times in Proverbs.
      • Read each of the 42 wisdom (chokmah) verses in Proverbs.
      • Read through selected wisdom (chokmah) verses in the Old Testament.
    • True wisdom begins with right relationship with God. The sequence is fear of the Lord à instruction, knowledge, instruction for wisdomàwisdom. The fear of the Lord is a learned volitional faith following of the Lord. Practically, all of this means that one has a right relationship with the Lord—a faith motivated biblical reverence and receptiveness to the Lord and his word. From there one gains a desire to know the Lord better by believing him, by learning from him and about him, and by faith obeying him. Instruction, knowledge, and wisdom result.
      • Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord (yira’th yehovah יִרְאַ֣ת יְ֭הוָה) is the beginning of knowledge. Fools dispise wisdom (chokmah) and instruction.” Beginning is re’shith רֵאשִׁית first, beginning, best.
      • Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (chokmah).” Beginning is techilah תְּחִלָּה, beginning point of time, at the start, first time in a sequence). Compare this with Proverbs 2:1-6.
      • Proverbs 15:33, “The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom (chokmah).”
    • Proverbs gives some spiritual requirements for gaining wisdom (chokmah):
      • A strong desire (free will choice, volition) to gain wisdom (Proverbs 1:29; 2:2)
      • Diligence (Proverbs 8:17, 2:4-5)
      • Humility (Proverbs 11:2, 15:33)
      •  Reverence (Proverbs 9:10)
      • Teachableness (Proverbs 9:9, 15:31, 19:20, 27)
      • Uprightness (Proverbs 2:7)
    • One with wisdom will then be able to make right decisions—decisions for honoring and serving the Lord and living God’s way in God’s world. We will see some of these right and wrong decisions in the book of Proverbs. A few examples:
      • Work hard or be lazy (Proverbs 6:6-8)
      • Quarrel or listen to those wiser (Proverbs 18:1-2)
      • Live a life of integrity or foul speech and foolish (Proverbs 19:1)
      • Know when to talk and what to say (Proverbs 10:19-21).
      • Say no to the wrong crowd (Proverbs 4:14-16)

Author

  • Solomon (r. 971-931 BC) is the author of most of the Proverbs. The indications of his authorship are noted in Proverbs 1:1, 10:1, and 25:1. Note that King Hezekiah’s scribes copied Proverbs 25-29 for inclusion in the canon (25:1). He was therefore the likely author of all the included material from Proverbs 1-29.
    • Solomon was famous for his wisdom (1 Kings 3:12; 4:30-31). God gave him a “wise and discerning heart” so that he was wiser than those who preceded him and those who followed him.
  • Agur wrote Proverbs 30 (30:1).
  • King Lemuel wrote Proverbs 31.1-9 (31:1), and Lemuel or an unknown author wrote the acrostic on the capable woman (31:10-31).

History and Organization

  • Though Solomon was the wisest of all men, Israel was not the only nation to have wise men or sages. Egypt (Genesis 41:8; Exodus 7:11; Isaiah 19:11-12), Edom (Obediah 8), and Babylon (Jeremiah 50:35; 51:57; Daniel 1:20; 2:13-14; and 5:8) had their wise men.
    • One good source to see comparisons between the ancient near eastern texts and the Bible wisdom literature is The Ancient Near East, An Anthology of Texts and Pictures, edited by James B. Pritchard, Princeton University Press, 1958.
    • “In Egypt’s and Babylon’s wisdom literature several works are collections of proverbs or include at least some proverbial sayings. Examples from Egypt are The Instruction of the Vizier Ptah-Hotep (ca. 2450 b.c.), with advice on how to be a successful state official; The Instruction of Amen-em-Het (ca. 2000 b.c.), a father’s words to his son about how people he had favored disappointed him; The Instruction of Amen-em-Ope(ca. 1300-900 b.c.), a king’s teachings to his son about life, using some words similar to those in Proverbs (e.g., “Listen, my son,” “path of life,” “the way”). The fact that some sayings in The Instruction of Amen-em-Ope parallel parts of Proverbs (e.g., Prov. 22:17-24:22) has raised the question of whether Proverbs borrowed from this Egyptian writing, or the Egyptian writer borrowed from Proverbs, or whether both wrote independently about common concerns. On this question see the comments on 22:17-24:22…
    • Samples of Babylonian wisdom literature that include proverbs are Counsels of Wisdom (ca. 1500-1000 b.c.), Akkadian Proverbs (ca. 1800-1600 b.c.), and The Words of Aḥiqar (700-400 b.c.).” (Walvoord, J. F., R. B. Zuck, & Dallas Theological Seminary. The Bible Knowledge Commentary:  An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-c1985. Page 904.)
  • The Proverbs were organized according to author: Solomon, Agur, Lemuel, and an unknown author if Proverbs 31:10-31 were written by someone other than Lemuel.
  • The Proverbs, like Psalms, were written in Hebrew poetry with meter (rhythm) and parallelism. The meter has not been determined with any confidence. Most scholars simply count the accented words or groups of words to arrive at a meter. Parallelism in Proverbs is parallelism of expression or ideas. Most parallelism refers to ideas within a verse. There are a number of kinds of parallelism.
    • Synonymous parallelism. The two consecutive lines are very close in thought or a term. Examples include 1:2; 2:11; 30:2.
    • Antithetical parallelism. The two consecutive lines contrast thought. Examples are 10:1; 11:1; 13:5; 14:29.
    • Emblematic parallelism. One line is a truth and the other line pictures the truth or gives an emblem clarifying the truth. An example is 10:26; 25:12; 28:15.
    • Synthetic parallelism. Here the second line develops or expands the first line. An example is 6:12; 15:3; 16:8; 28:17.
    • Climactic parallelism. The first line makes a statement and the second line repeats the statement and completes the thought.
    • Alphabetic or acrostic parallelism. In these each line begins with a consecutive letter of the alphabet in order from aleph (the first Hebrew letter) to tav (the last Hebrew letter). Proverbs 31:10-31, the efficient woman, is written in acrostic style.

Key Verses

  • Proverbs 1:7. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
  • Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” 
  • Proverbs 15:33, “The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom.”

Overview Outline of Proverbs

  • Proverbs of Solomon about wisdom, 1-9.
  • Proverbs of Solomon about right living, 10-24.
  • Proverbs of Solomon about relationships, 25-29.
  • Proverbs of Agur, 30.
  • Proverbs of Lemuel, 31.

Chapter Titles

The nature of Proverbs makes it difficult to give a summary chapter title to each chapter. With each reading one can find a different title. Below are suggestions from each chapter to start the student.

  • Proverbs of Solomon about wisdom, 1-9.
    • Chapter 1. Beginning of knowledge, 1:7.
    • Chapter 2, Deliver from evil, 2:12, 14.
    • Chapter 3, Trust, fear, honor, accept the Lord, 3:5, 7, 9, 12.
    • Chapter 4, Beginning of wisdom, 4:1, 5, 7, 11.
    • Chapter 5, Reject the adulteress, 5:3, 8, 20.
    • Chapter 6, Cosigner, sluggard, adulteress, 6:1, 6, 24.
    • Chapter 7, The adulteress and the ox, 7:5, 10, 22.
    • Chapter 8, Wisdom better than all, 8:1, 5, 11, 12, 14.
    • Chapter 9, Wisdom calls, 9:1, 10.
  • Proverbs of Solomon about right living, 10-24.
    • Chapter 10, Wise and foolish, 10:1, 14.
    • Chapter 11, Righteous and wicked, 11:5, 7, 8, 10, 11, 18, 23, 31.
    • Chapter 12, Righteous and wicked, 12:3, 5.
    • Chapter 13, The mouth, wealth, and poverty, 13:2, 8, 23
    • Chapter 14, The wise, sensible, and evil, 14:1, 8, 15.
    • Chapter 15, The tongue, 15:1-4, 7, 14, and the heart, 13-15.
    • Chapter 16, Plans and motives, 16:1-4, 9, 23.
    • Chapter 17, Tranquility and strife, 17:1-2, 13, 19; the tongue, 7, 27, 28.
    • Chapter 18, Fools, wise, and humble, 18:1-2, 6-7, 12, 15.
    • Chapter 19, Integrity, knowledge, poor, scoffers, 19:1-2, 4, 7, 17, 22, 25, 29.
    • Chapter 20, Wine, king, sluggard, plans, gossip, 1, 2, 4, 5, 18, 19.
    • Chapter 21, The king’s heart, man’s ways, contentious woman, tongue, 21:1, 2, 9, 19, 23, 28.
    • Chapter 22: a good name, humility, train a child, trust in the Lord, do not…, 22:1, 3, 6, 19, 22.
    • Chapter 23: consider carefully, envy, heavy drinkers, harlot, 23:1, 17, 20, 27.
    • Chapter 24: evil men, wise men, partiality, the sluggard, 24:1, 5, 23, 30.
  • Proverbs of Solomon about relationships, 25-29.
    • Chapter 25: kings, neighbors, enemies, 25:2, 8, 21.
    • Chapter 26: the fool, the sluggard, and the meddler, 25:1, 13, 17.
    • Chapter 27: the boaster, a friend, a prudent, the naïve, the shepherd, 26:2, 6, 12, 23.
    • Chapter 28: the wicked, righteous, poor, rich, faithful and fool, 28:1, 3, 6, 11, 25, 26.
    • Chapter 29: the righteous, wicked, wise, rod and reproof, slaves, 29:2, 9, 15, 19.
  • Chapter 30: Agur’s wise and witty sayings.
  • Chapter 31: King Lemuel’s lessons; the capable woman.

Trace the Theme 

  • The theme can best be traced by thoughtful reading through Proverbs. The authors unveil inspired wisdom line upon line through the course of their writings. At times, certain sections emphasize certain topics. For example, Proverbs 1:1-19 contain Solomon’s instructions to his son; chapter 30 contains wisdom penned through witty sayings; Chapter 31 has advice for a king and characteristics of the wise and excellent woman.

Key People

  • King Solomon wrote most of the Proverbs. Solomon was David’s son. His mother was Bathsheba. The Davidic Covenant went from David to Solomon. David told Solomon to build the temple; and David challenged him to know and serve God, to be strong and courageous, to be fearless, and to complete his task because God will be with him (1 Chronicles 22, 23, 28, 29). Solomon achieved great successes and great failures. He wrote Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. He finally realized that the only way to live was to “fear God and keep his commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
  • Agur, the son of Jakeh, is unknown (30:1)
  • Lemuel, the king. Rabbinic commentators say he is Solomon, others identify him with Hezekiah, and some say with a petty Arabian prince (31:1-9).

Key Words and Phrases for Surther Study

  • Adulteress. 7X Strong’s 5237 (e.g. 2:15; 5:3; 5:20). Adultery, verb, 1X, Strong’s 5003 (6:32). Adulterous, verb, 3X, Strong’s 5003 (e.g. 23:27; 27:13; 30:20). Other English words in context with same or similar meaning are stranger 2X, strange 1X, foreigner 2X. Total used 16X.
  • Discipline, instruction, punishment. 30X Strong’s 4148 (e.g. 3:11; 12:1; 13:1; 19:18; 23:12-13).
  • Faithful. 4X Strong’s 530 (13:17; 25:13; 27:6; 28:20)
  • Father. 26X Strong’s 1 (1:8; 3:12; 13:1)
  • Fear of the Lord. 18X Strong’s 3374 (1:7, 29; 2:5; 3:7; 8:13; 9:10; 10:27; 14:2, 26–27; 15:16, 33; 16:6; 19:23; 22:4; 23:17; 24:21; 31:30).
  • Heart. 72X Strong’s 3820 (2:2; 3:1; 3:5; 6:18; 10:8; 10:20; 14:30; 16:23; 28:26).
  • Humble, Humility. 7X, Strong’s many #s (6:3; 11:2; 15:33; 18:12; 22:4).
  • Knowledge. 40X Strong’s 1847 (1:7; 2:6; 9:10; 13;16; 15:14; 24:5).
  • Mother. 14X Strong’s 517 (1:8; 6:20; 22:20; 29:15; 30:17).
  • Mouth. 48X Strong’s 6310 (2:6; 4:24; 6:2; 10:31; 18:7); Lips 35X Strong’s 8193 (7:21; 10:32; 15:7; 18:6; 24:28; 27:2).
  • Pride, Proud. 10X, Strong’s many #s (8:13; 11:2; 29:23; 15:25; 16:5; 21:24).
  • Proverb. 6X, Strong’s 4912 (1:1, 6; 10:1; 25:1; 26:7, 9).
  • Sin. 8X Strong’s 2403, 2398, 817 (5:22; 8:36 14:34; 24:9).
  • Son. 55X Strong’s 1121 (1:1, 10; 15:20).
  • Speech. 6X Strong’s 8193 (4:24; 5:3; 19:1).
  • Trust. 9X Strong’s 982 (3:5; 11:28; 16:20; 22:19; 28:25, 26; 29:25; 31:11).
  • Understanding. 59X Strong’s 995, 998, 8394 (1:2; 2:2; 9:6; 13:15; 28:5; 28:16).
  • Wisdom. 48X, Strong’s 2451 (1:2, 7, 20; 2:2, 6, 7, 10; 3:13, 19, 21; 14:33; 15:33; 24:14; 31:26).
  • Woman. 17X Strong’s 802 (2:16; 6:32; 11:16; 11:22; 27:15; 31:30).
  • Work. 13X Strong’s 4399, 4639, 5998 (10:4; 16:3; 18:9; 24:27).

Key Doctrines

  • Avoid sexual immorality
  • Character—good and bad
  • Fear of the Lord
  • God’s Wisdom
  • Learn and use God’s word
  • Learning from Parents
  • Parenting
  • Speech and sins of the tongue
  • Work
  • Capable woman

Lessons for Us Today

  • Successful life begins and progresses with a right relationship with God, called in Proverbs fear of the Lord. Because mankind was created in God’s image, nothing else will bring the temporal and eternal honor to God and satisfaction to mankind.
  • Learn God’s word and use God’s word and you will gain wisdom for successful living in God’s world.
  • The organized life is one centered on God and God’s word. Proverbs repeatedly urges a person to prepare for one’s life, to organize one’s life, to diligently pursue life, and do one’s best.
  • Parents are responsible to properly teach, to instill good character, and to train their children—about God, treating other people with respect and manners, morality, working hard at whatever one does, proper use of the tongue, avoiding the wrong people, and many others.
  • A wife and mother has great responsibility and wonderful opportunities to bless others, both in and out of the home.
  • Children and youth: respect, listen to, and learn from your parents.
  • Reject sexual immorality. The effects are devastating.
  • Watch what we say. Speech can help or hurt, build up or destroy.
  • Most of life is common sense. Do we use common sense?