Survey of the Bible - Proverbs
Text: Proverbs 1:1-7
I. Like the book of Psalms, Proverbs is a collection of writings
A. The major of the Proverbs were written by Solomon, just as the majority of Psalms was written by David.
1. Solomon’s proverbs are in
a. Chapters 1-9 - Proverbs 1:1
b. Chapters 10-22:16 - Proverbs 10:1
c. Chapters 25-29 - Proverbs 25:1
d. I Kings 4:32 says Solomon wrote over 3,000 proverbs, but we have well less than 1,000 of them
e. The collection in chapters 25-29 were done by the prophets in Hezekiah’s time – likely by Isaiah and Micah – about 230 years after Solomon’s death.
2. Proverbs 22:17-24:34 are attributed to “the words of the wise”
a. Ecclesiastes 12:9 - Solomon collect proverbs as well as writing his own
b. It is possible that these are from that collection
3. Proverbs 30 is from the prophet Agur and follows the same theme of recording wisdom from his sons - Proverbs 30:1
4. Proverbs 31 is from a king named Lemuel.
a. It is written in the opposite direction. These are the records of what Lemuel’s mother told him.
b. Because there is no Lemuel in Israel’s history, it is believe that Lemuel was a king in one of the neighboring countries.
(1) King Lemuel was also a prophet - Proverbs 31:1
(2) Because his name means “belonging to God” in Hebrew, it is believed that Lemuel’s mother was from Israel
(3) It should be remembered that not all prophets came from Israel (example: Balaam - Numbers 22:5)
B. The title comes from the first verse. The Hebrew title is “The Proverbs of Solomon” but it was shortened to just “Proverbs” in the Latin translation and carried into our Bibles.
1. The word “Proverbs” comes from the Latin: pro (for) and verba (words)
2. It refers to statements which contain few words but says a whole lot.
C. Proverbs is a part of the wisdom literature or the section often called the Psalms.
1. Job teaches us how to suffer. The Psalms teaches us how to pray. The Proverbs how to act.
2. Proverbs focuses on practical issues in life.
II. Primarily, Proverbs is directed to young men
A. Proverbs is one of the few books which tells us its purpose - Proverbs 1:2-3
1. To know wisdom and instruction
a. Wisdom is knowing when to apply knowledge and understanding to a proper situation
b. Instruction is literally “discipline,” both negative and postive. Proverbs rebukes bad behavior while showing what is good behavior.
2. To discern understanding
a. To be able to see how related facts come together to give you greater insights.
b. Insights into how things are
c. Proverbs is a book that teaches people how to think
3. To teach wise behavior
a. It also teaches a person act wisely – to make good choices in a variety of situations
b. It literally means to do this through warnings and teachings.
c. It gives a person intelligence.
4. To teach righteousness (or justice)
a. It teaches a person how to make moral judgments. To distinguish between right and wrong.
5. To teach justice and equity
a. It teaches how to judge between situations, to see things accurately and fairly between all involved.
b. In other words it tells you how to treat other people
B. Everyone can learn from the wisdom stored in this rich book, but the issues addressed in Proverbs are primarily those faced by young men just entering adulthood.
1. In talking about wisdom, the fact that you don’t know it all, that you need to learn from wiser people, that not listening will land you into trouble, and that you need to look at where actions lead are all issues that young men in particular have trouble grasping.
2. Issues about sex, prostitutes, and the dangers of immoral women.
3. Issues dealing with finances, work ethic, dealing with masters, and servants are important for a young man because he must support a family one day
4. Issues concerning dealing with the government
5. Issues about drugs and alcohol
6. Issues about dealing with other people, how people think, how they behave, and how they react.
7. Considerations of what traits make a good or bad wife.
8. How to raise children
9. The proverbs are even in short statements - just what most young men are inclined to listen to.
C. But it isn’t limited to just the young - Proverbs 1:3-5
1. It gives good sense to those who are foolish (lacking sense)
2. It gives young men cunning and a plan for making choices
3. It gives a wise man more to think about and gives thoughtful man guidance.
D. The means for doing this is through understanding
1. Proverbs - Short statements which say far more than what appears in the words
a. The Hebrew word mashal means a comparison, similar, or parallel.
b. Things are compared and contrasted to get you to see the relationships
2. Enigma - Satire or taunts. Sayings that at first glance appear to be saying one thing, but are really saying the opposite.
3. Wise Words - Straight forward advice
4. Riddles - Puzzles, hidden sayings. Statements which you have to think about for a while before you grasp their meanings.
a. Parables and figurative language would fall into this category - Psalms 49:4; John 16:25
E. The theme of the book - Proverbs 1:7
A. The teaching style
1. If you have ever seen Sesame Street, you see a teaching style that focuses on giving just one point and then jumps to another, completely different point
a. This is done under the theory that young minds can’t stay on task long. Rather than fight it, they use it to retain attention by constantly changing topics.
2. Now take that same idea, but make the order of jumps, while seemingly arbitrary, leads a person to deeper understanding as one idea follows another.
a. Seemingly unrelated thoughts now shed light on each other.
b. Things you would not usually put together, fall together in the presentation.
3. I’ve seen many people try to organize the many ideas of proverbs by reordering the presentation and grouping the subjects, but they miss out on a lot of the teaching.
4. What is fascinating is that every time you go through the book, you learn new things.
a. Ideas that were always there jump out at you because they have immediate application in your life
b. Combinations bring in clarity as your mind develops
5. All of this is done by purposely making you puzzle over ideas.
6. The grouping is mostly by style
B. Proverbs 1-9
1. Focuses on the value wisdom, how it protects the learner and rewards the seeker.
2. The style is short dissertations
a. Each has an introduction, body, and a moral or conclusion
C. Proverbs 10-15
1. Focuses on the difference between right and wrong
2. Uses proverbs – two line contrasts for the most part
D. Proverbs 16-22:16
1. Focuses on self-evident truths, or godly living
2. The style is paralleled similarities
E. Proverbs 22:17-24:34
1. Here we have groups of wise saying that each cover several lines.
2. They are still short sayings, but not nearly as condensed as the earlier proverbs
F. Proverbs 25-29
1. The later collection of Solomon’s proverbs. Most focus on relationships and are grouped by topics
2. The style is more mixed, but are mostly similitudes
G. Proverbs 30
1. Agur favored the use of lists to show similarities
H. Proverbs 31
1. The description of the worthy woman is an acrostic