Proverbs 01 - Introduction

The text of Proverbs mentions three
Solomon (1:1; 10:1; 25:1) – Chapters 1-29
 Agur son of Jakeh (30:1) – Chapter 30
 King Lemuel (31:1) – Chapter 31
About the Authors:
Solomon –
 Son of King David
 Reigned as King during the “Golden Age” of Israel
(971 – 931 B.C.)
 God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight,
and a breadth of understanding as measureless as
the sand on the seashore. Solomon's wisdom was
greater than the wisdom of all the men of the East,
and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt … He
spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs
numbered a thousand and five … Men of all
nations came to listen to Solomon's wisdom, sent
by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his
wisdom. (1Kings 4:29-34)
About the Authors:
Agur son of Jakeh – is unknown (the name
occurs nowhere else in the Bible). Some
scholars suggest he may have been a court
 King Lemuel – no one knows who Lemuel
was or where he was king. Many scholars
think he was not an Israelite because the
section he wrote contains a number of
Aramaic (non-Hebrew) spellings.
The book of Proverbs was originally
designed to be used by parents as an
instruction manual to teach their children
Listen, my son, to your father's instruction
and do not forsake your mother's teaching.
 Listen, my sons, to a father's instruction; pay
attention and gain understanding. (4:1)
 My son, keep your father's commands and do
not forsake your mother's teaching. (6:20)
Proverbs is written in Hebrew poetry.
Unlike a lot of English poetry, Hebrew does
not rhyme and does not have a set meter.
But Hebrew poetry is like English poetry in
that is uses vivid imagery and figures of
speech to draw comparisons and paint a
mental picture:
Like cold water to a weary soul is good news
from a distant land. (25:25)
Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful
woman who shows no discretion. (11:22)
The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life
Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the
soul and healing to the bones. (16:24)
Hebrew poetry often uses comparisons
to get across an idea to the reader.
There are synonymous comparisons:
There are explanatory comparisons:
A false witness will not go unpunished, and
he who pours out lies will not go free. (19:5)
Stay away from a foolish man, for you will
not find knowledge on his lips. (14:7)
There are contrasting comparisons:
The LORD detests the way of the wicked but
he loves those who pursue righteousness.
The type of literature that we find in
Proverbs is referred to by scholars as
wisdom literature.
We find wisdom literature in a number
of other places in the Old Testament:
 Job
 Some of the Psalms (e.g., Psalm 37 and 49)
Wisdom literature can also be found in
many other works that were written in
the ancient Near East (besides the Old
Description of Ancient Wisdom
Practical instruction designed to impart
understanding about how things (especially
relationships) in this world work so that the
reader will be able to avoid life’s pitfalls and
live a satisfying, successful, and (in Biblical
wisdom literature) righteous life.
 Frequently, in order to explain how things
work, wisdom literature will explore some of
the deeper philosophical issues of life.
After the introductory section (chapters 1-9)
which emphasizes the importance of
learning wisdom, the remainder of the book
of Proverbs (chapters 10-31) consists mostly
of short, pithy sayings or statements
designed to teach principles of Biblical
These short pithy sayings are designed to
have “punch” because they get right to the
point and they don’t bog the mind down
with a lot of detail.
For the most part, these short sayings each
stand alone and seem to have little
connection to the surrounding context.
Wisdom literature tends to focus on:
The extremes – presenting things in terms of
polar opposites – e.g. The sluggard craves
and gets nothing, but the desires of the
diligent are fully satisfied. (13:4)
 The way things normally work – leaving out
the qualifiers and exceptions – e.g. The
righteous eat to their hearts' content, but the
stomach of the wicked goes hungry. (13:25)
 The truth as it applies in a particular
situation rather than giving all the truth
about a topic – e.g. Do not answer a fool
according to his folly, or you will be like him
yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly,
or he will be wise in his own eyes. (26:4-5)
Therefore we mustn’t read the proverbs as
though they are prophesies or promises.
 For example, it is a mistake to read the
proverb that says, “Train a child in the way
he should go, and when he is old he will not
turn from it” (22:6) as an absolute promise!
 There other truths recorded in Proverbs
which also determine how a child will turn
out, for example much of the book consists of
instructions to youth to listen to and obey
their parents (1:8, 3:1, etc.)
 “If parental training were the whole truth about a
child’s rearing, why is the book addressed to
youth instead of to parents?” (Bruce Waltke)
To avoid coming to oversimplified conclusions
we must learn all of the Proverbs.
Tim Keller makes these observations
about learning the wisdom taught in
There are two things you must know:
 There is a pattern to how life works. Become wise
by leaning that pattern and you will generally do
well and prosper.
 There are exceptions to how things customarily
work. Some people seem to do things “right” and
still don’t end up with the result they hoped for.
If you think there is no pattern, you are a fool
 If you think you can see and understand the
whole pattern, that there are no exceptions,
you are a fool (like Job’s friends)
The purpose of the Book of Proverbs is
given to us in the opening verses:
These are the proverbs of Solomon, David's
son, king of Israel. Their purpose is to teach
people wisdom and discipline, to help them
understand the insights of the wise. Their
purpose is to teach people to live disciplined
and successful lives, to help them do what is
right, just, and fair. These proverbs will give
insight to the simple, knowledge and
discernment to the young. Let the wise listen
to these proverbs and become even wiser. Let
those with understanding receive guidance.
(Proverbs 1:1-5 NLT)
If you will study and apply what you
learn from the book of Proverbs:
You will become wise – that is you will
develop a skillful understanding of how life
works and how you should best respond to
challenges that you face in everyday life.
 As a result of attaining this wisdom you will
be able to live a disciplined and successful
 It doesn’t matter who you are – whether you
are young and naïve or a wise old sage –
everyone can grow in their wisdom and
understanding by studying the book of
Rather than teaching through the book of
Proverbs verse by verse, I plan to teach
through the book topic by topic.
Each week I will pick a topic and read a
number of the verses in Proverbs that
speak to that topic (I may occasionally
include a few verses from outside of
Proverbs as well).
I will then spend time developing what
the verses we read teach us about our
True Wisdom
Training in Wisdom
The Wellspring of
Strangeness and the
Order of God
Knowing God
The Healing of Anger
The Temptation of
Scattering Gathers;
Gathering Scatters
The Evil of Envy
Haughty Eyes
A Broken Wall
The Wounded Spirit
Your Plans; God's Plans
Grace and Glory
What Kind of Fool are
Creation , Care, and
The Two Great Tests
Repairing Relationships

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