The Book of Proverbs


Summary of the Book of Proverbs

The Book of Proverbs is exactly what the name implies; a collection of short sayings gathered from different places and produced over long periods of time.  In general, these sayings represent wisdom derived from practical experience.

Although they contain no profound contributions to theological ideas, they constitute wholesome advice about the way a person should live in order to attain a happy and satisfactory life.

Late tradition attributed the entire Book of Proverbs to King Solomon, but we may be sure that this is historically incorrect.  Many of the proverbs, especially those that extol the virtues of monogamy, would have been most inappropriate coming from King Solomon, who is reported to have had 700 wives and 300 concubines.

Solomon was the author of many of the proverbs, but many of them originated from other sources.  Within the book itself, there are different collections of proverbs, some of which are attributed to men who were not Hebrew, which gives added emphasis to the universal character of this work of the sages.

Overall, the wisdom contained in the Book of Proverbs can be said to have been drawn from a wide range of experiences, including those of both Jews and non-Jews.

In one sense, the wisdom to which reference is made is a human achievement, but wisdom is also of divine origin.  It has its source in the deity even though it must be received and understood by human minds.

The Book of Proverbs assumes that divine revelation is communicated to individuals through careful and correct thinking, as well as through prophetic inspiration.

This conception leads to the view that the wise man lives in harmony with the divine will; the fool brings disaster upon himself.

This concept of wisdom is closely related to that of the deity that in some instances it is personified and said to be the divine agent involved in the creation of the world.

The practical character of the Book of Proverbs can be seen in the instruction concerning the type of conduct that should be observed in the affairs of daily living.

A wise man is described as one whom:

Looks to the future but makes plans for the present,

Does not squander his time or his money on momentary pleasures,

Is a hard worker who does not try to gain his livelihood by infringing on the rights of other people,

Is diligent in his business and courteous to friends and neighbors,

Governs well the affairs of his own household,

Is generous in his giving, but he does not lavish gifts on those who fail to put forth efforts to supply their own needs,

Is temperate in his habits, respectful of the rights of others, and obedient to the laws of the land, and most of all,

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding (Prov 3:5).

In chapters 1-9, Solomon writes about wisdom for younger people.  He speaks of details of Godly living and heeding a parent’s advice:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction (1:7).

Salvation is through faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone and Proverbs directly teaches us to:

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 

In all thy ways knowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (3:5-6).

In chapters 10-24, there is wisdom that applies to average people covering various topics.  Many of these parables contrast a righteous man and a wicked man, and urges us to commit our way to God:

Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life (14:12).

Chapters 25:31 gives wisdom to leaders.  It was  these very proverbs that were transcribed by King Hezekiah’s people, and for good reason (25:1).

They contain many warnings and instructions to assist in walking and seeking a Godly life.  As would be understood by a leader of an army, Solomon writes:

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend (27:17).