Greetings! Thanks for being a part of the Proverbs challenge: to read a Proverb a day – 31 Proverbs in 31 days! It’s going to be a great journey with lots of discovery, insight and fun.
Each day pick a convenient time to read your Proverb. It could be in the morning when you wake up, at night just before you go to sleep, at work during lunch, etc. Each day for the next 31 days, I will post on the blog and send emails to those who signed up. Each day’s post/email will contain expanded thoughts, some background and commentary. Each day’s post/email will also serve as an encouragement as I will be praying for you each day.
To start with I thought it might be helpful to give a general overview of the book – to whet your appetite for what is to come. I will be drawing on several sources for commentary and insight as well as include my own thoughts and discoveries. I will include a source list at the bottom.
Let’s get prepared for our journey through Proverbs by answering these five questions.
- What Is the Major Theme of the Book of Proverbs?
One word answers the question: wisdom. In Proverbs, the words wise and wisdom are used at least 125 times, because the aim of the book is to help us acquire and apply God’s wisdom to the decisions and activities of daily life.
What is the difference between wisdom and knowledge? “Knowledge” is (having the facts) and “wisdom” is (applying those facts to life). We may amass knowledge, but without wisdom, our knowledge is useless. We must learn how to live out what we know.
Proverbs also covers a wide range of topics, including money, youth and discipline, family life, self-control and resisting temptation, business matters, words and the tongue, knowing God, marriage, seeking the truth, wealth and poverty, immorality, and, of course, wisdom.
The word “proverb” comes from a Hebrew word that means “to rule or to govern,” and these sayings, reminders, and admonitions provide profound advice for governing our lives.
- Who Wrote the Book of Proverbs and How Is It Written?
Author: We’re told that King Solomon is the author of the proverbs in this book. God gave Solomon great wisdom (1 Kings 3:5-15), so that people came from the ends of the earth to listen to him and returned home amazed (4:29-34; Matt. 12:42). He spoke 3, 000 proverbs, most of which are not included in this book. The Holy Spirit selected only those proverbs that the people of God should understand and obey in every age. Date: The book was originally composed in the days of Solomon (971-931 B.C)
Proverbs are pithy statements that summarize in a few choice words practical truths relating to some aspect of everyday life. Someone defined a proverb as “a short sentence based on long experience.”
The book uses varied literary forms: poems, brief parables, pointed questions, and couplets. Other literary devices include antithesis, comparison, and personification.
*Three additional items I find interesting:
- Here is something that will make the Book of Proverbs a fun experience for you: It’s a book about people. There are over a hundred different kinds of people talked about in this book of Proverbs in the Old Testament, from the wise son to the lazy messenger to the wicked king to the smooth talker and the upright judge and the excellent wife and the offended brother, the simple man, the mocker, the sluggard and, my favorite, the fool. I think you will find there is a proverb that will fit all your friends and family members — but perhaps you had better not mention to them the proverb that fits some of them! There is a proverb that will fit every one of us, and we can have a good time going through this book.
- Proverbs has no unscientific statement or inaccurate observation. For example, “Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” ( 4:23). This is a remarkable statement because it was about 2,700 years later that Harvey found that the blood circulates and that the heart is the pump. In contrast, in an apocryphal book called the Epistle of Barnabas, mention is made of the mythical phoenix, a bird that consumes itself by fire and rises in resurrection. Such a fable does not appear in the Book of Proverbs nor anywhere else in the Bible. It is strange that this is an ancient book containing hundreds of proverbs and not one of them is unscientific today. That in itself ought to alert any thinking person to the fact that the Book of Proverbs is God-inspired.
The Proverbs do not contradict themselves, while man’s proverbs are often in opposition to each other. For example: “Look before you leap” contrasted with “He who hesitates is lost.” “A man gets what he pays for” contrasted with “The best things in life are free.” The proverbs of man contradict each other because men’s ideas differ. But you will find no contradiction in the Book of Proverbs because it is inspired by God.
3. What Is the Key Verse That Helps “Unlock” the Book?
I suggest that 1:7 is the key verse we’re looking for: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning [chief part] of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (See also Job 28:28 and Psalm 111:10. )
There are at least eighteen references to “the fear of the Lord” in Proverbs.
If we truly “fear the Lord,” we acknowledge from our hearts that He’s the Creator, we’re the creatures; He’s the Father, we’re His children; He’s the Master, we’re the servants. It means to respect God for who He is, to listen carefully to what He says, and to obey His Word, knowing that our disobedience displeases Him, breaks our fellowship with Him, and invites His discipline
- What Does Proverbs Say about Jesus Christ?
In Jesus Christ “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3), and He is our wisdom (1 Cor. 1:24, 30). Solomon was the wisest ruler who ever lived, and yet Jesus Christ is “greater than Solomon” in both His wisdom and His wealth (Matt. 12:42). Certainly all the beautiful qualities of wisdom described in Proverbs are seen in Jesus Christ, and His earthly walk is a pattern for God’s people to follow (1 John 2:6). The description of wisdom in Proverbs 8:22-31 suggests Jesus Christ as the eternal wisdom of God.
- What Must We Do to Get the Most out of This Book?
Solomon often uses the phrase, “my son” (Prov. 1:8, 10, 15; 2:1; 3:1, 11, 21; 4:10, 20; 5:1, 20; 6:1, 3, 20; 7:1; 19:27; 23:15, 19, 26; 24:13, 21; 27:11), which suggests that Proverbs contains truths that loving godly parents would pass along to their children (see 1 Chron. 29:1). As God’s children, we need His loving counsel, and He gives it to us in this book. So, the first essential for an effective study of Proverbs is faith in Jesus Christ so that you can honestly call God your Father. You can’t make a life until you first have life, and this life comes through faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:16, 36).
What applies to the study of Proverbs applies to the study of any book in the Bible: A willingness to obey is essential (John 7:17).
At least a dozen times in Proverbs you find the imperatives “hear” or “listen” (Prov. 1:8; 4:1, 10; 5:7; 7:24; 8:6, 32-33; 19:20; 22:17; 23:19, 22); many other verses explain the blessings that come to those who obey (who hear and heed) the Word of God (1:5, 33; 8:34; 12:15; 15:31-32).
As you read, keep in mind that Hebrew proverbs are generalized statements of what is usually true in life, and they should not be treated like promises. “A friend loves at all times” (Prov. 17:17, NKJV), but sometimes even the most devoted friends may have disagreements. “A soft answer turns away wrath” (15:1, NKJV) in most instances, but our Lord’s lamblike gentleness didn’t deliver Him from shame and suffering.
And lastly as you read Proverbs, understand that knowing God is the key to wisdom. God calls us to receive His wisdom and be skillful, so that we can make a life that will glorify Him. It’s one thing to make a living, but something else to make a life.
Until tomorrow, Darrell