Proverbs – Practical Skills for Wise Living

April 23, 2021 version

 

There were three parts to the Old Testament: the law, the prophets, and the writings, primarily for the priests, from the prophets, and from the wise. Proverbs is a part of the writings, and most similar to James, in giving practical instruction for an individual living a life pleasing to God. The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.902 says some think Solomon wrote Song of Songs in his young years, Proverbs in his middle years, and Ecclesiastes in his older years.

 

Pre-Nicene writers who refer to Proverbs

Philo of Alexandria (20/15 B.C. to 50 A.D.)

Commodianus (c.240 A.D.) (allusion)

Clement of Rome (96/98 A.D.)

Origen (225-254 A.D.)

Ignatius of Antioch (c.100-117 A.D.)

Cyprian of Carthage (c.246-258 A.D.)

Justin Martyr (c.138-165 A.D.)

Firmilian of Caesarea (256 A.D.)

Melito of Sardis (170-177/180 A.D.)

Dionysius of Alexandria (246-256 A.D.)

Athenagoras (177 A.D.)

Seventh Council of Carthage (258 A.D.)

Theophilus of Antioch (168-181/188 A.D.)

Dionysius of Rome (259-269 A.D.)

Irenaeus of Lyons (182-188 A.D.)

Adamantius (c.300 A.D.)

Clement of Alexandria (193-202 A.D.)

Peter of Alexandria (306-311 A.D.)

Tertullian (207/208 A.D.)

Methodius (270-312 A.D.)

Hippolytus (222-235/236 A.D.)

Lactantius (c.303-c.325 A.D.)

Theodotus, probable Montanist (ca.240 A.D.)

Alexander of Alexandria (313-326 A.D.)

 

Early manuscripts of Proverbs

Dead Sea Scrolls (-68 A.D.) 4Q102, 4Q103

Sinaiticus (340-350 A.D.)

Vaticanus (325-350 A.D.)

Alexandrinus (c.450 A.D.)

 

An outline of Proverbs

Prov 1:1-7 The purpose of writing

Prov 1:8-9:18 Proverbs to a son on the value of wisdom

- Prov 1:8-33 Warning for criminals not to value riches over wisdom

- Prov 2:1-22 The benefits of wisdom are more precious than silver

- Prov 3:1-35 The way of wisdom gives rewards, but wisdom itself is a prize

- Prov 4:1-27 Wisdom preserves from trouble and sickness

- Prov 5:1-23 Wisdom preserves from sexual immorality

- Prov 6:1-35 Wisdom preserves from what displeases God

- Prov 7:1-27 Take wisdom as your sister, vs. the adulterous woman

- Prov 8:1-36 Lady Wisdom’s call, the desirability of wisdom

- Prov 9:1-18 The invitations of Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly

Prov 10:1-22:16 Other Proverbs of Solomon

- Prov 10-15 The Righteous vs. the Wicked

- Prov 16-22:16 The value of wisdom

Prov 22:17-24:34 30+ Sayings of the Wise

Prov 25:1-29:27 Proverbs of Solomon collected by Hezekiah

Prov 30:1-33 Proverbs of Agur – comparisons of wisdom

Prov 31:1-9 Word of King Lemuel that his mother taught him, on women, drink, and the weak

Prov 31:10-31 The Noble Wife

Chapter 1 is like a symphony overture. It gives a flavor of the motifs found later in the book. The fear of the Lord, a father’s instruction to a son, and wisdom’s call. See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.906, the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.791, and The New Geneva Study Bible p.923-924 for more info.

Proverbs Background and Context – some brief answers

 

1. In Prov 1-31, what is the value of this book?

 

 

 

2. In Prov, what is “wisdom literature”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. In Prov, was “most wisdom literature was ascribed to Solomon almost as a matter of course…” as the skeptical Asimov’s Guide to the Bible p.506 claims?

 

 

 

4. In Prov, given Solomon’s personal life, why should his writings be in the Bible?

 

 

 

5. Where is the Book of Proverbs quoted in the New Testament?

 

 

 

6. In Prov, how should we interpret this book?

 

 

 

7. In Prov, did Solomon write all of the proverbs?


 

Proverbs 1 – Why You Really Want to Get Wisdom

 

1. In Prov 1:1-7, what is the purpose of this book?

 

 

2. In Prov 1:1, what does the word “proverb” mean in Hebrew?

 

 

3. In Prov 1:2,7,20; 9:10; 14:27; Ps 111:10; Job 28:28, what is wisdom, and how is the fear of the Lord the beginning of wisdom?

 

 

4. In Prov 1:3, what is the difference between having a heart ready to receive instruction vs. not?

 

 

5. In Prov 1:7, are we to fear the Lord, or are we to love God?

 

 

6. In Prov 1:7, why do you think fools despise wisdom and instruction/discipline?

 

 

7. In Prov 1:8 does this mean we should obey our parent’s laws instead of God’s laws?

 

 

8. In Prov 1:8-9:18, since some parts are addressed to his “son”, was this Solomon’s foolish son Rehoboam?

 

 

 

9. In Prov 1:10, how do sinners entice others?

 

 

 

10. In Prov 1:11, why do some people join gangs?

 

 

 

11. In Prov 1:18, how do robbers and murderers lie in wait for their own blood?

 

 

 

12. In Prov 1:22, what is the difference between the three different types of fools here?

 

 

 

13. In Prov 1:29, why do some people hate knowledge?

 

 

 

14. In Prov 1:32, how does the prosperity of fools destroy them?


Proverbs Background and Context – some brief answers

 

1. In Prov 1-31, what is the value of this book?

A: Many Christians can give many good answers, but here are words from a very early commentary by Hippolytus (225-235/6 A.D.): “Proverbs, therefore, are words of exhortation serviceable for the whole path of life; for to those who seek their way to God, these serve as guides and signs to revive them when wearied with the length of the road.”

   Hippolytus (170-235/6 A.D.) was a disciple of Irenaeus of Lyons (wrote 182-188 A.D., lived 120-202 A.D.), who was a disciple of Polycarp (wrote between 100-155 A.D.), who was a disciple of John the apostle, who died around 90-110 A.D.

 

2. In Prov, what is “wisdom literature”?

A: Today there are certain types, or genres, of literature, such as a novel, short story, historical chronicles, hymns, love poetry, apocalyptic, biography, etc. Some modern genres were not known in ancient times, and some ancient genres of literature are not written anymore today. One common ancient genre was “wisdom literature”. There are at least four types of wisdom literature, both inside and outside of the Bible:

Proverbs and Sayings (Instruction of Onkhsheshonqy (400-300 B.C.) 11:10 says “he who sends up spittle to the sky, upon his face it falls”)

Parental Advice

Why Suffering (The Babylonian Dialogue of Human Misery answers this by saying the gods made men evil)

Pessimism of Life (Ecclesiastes is a part of this sub-genre, except that Ecclesiastes also transcends this by pointing to God.

The Bible says that other cultures had wise men, too. For example, Egypt (1 Kings 4:30; Isaiah 19:11-12), Edom (Jeremiah 49:7; Obadiah 8), Babylon (Isaiah 47:1,10; Jeremiah 50:35; 51:57; Daniel 1:4,20; 2:13-14; 5:8) Here are some other examples of wisdom literature in other cultures:

Egypt

Insinger Papyrus (c.400-100 B.C.)

Onkhsheshonqy

The Harper’s Song

Dispute of a Man with his Soul

The writings of Prince Hardjedef

Instruction of the Vizier Phahhotep (Ptah-Hotep) ca.2450 B.C.)

Instruction of Kagemni

Merikare (2160-2040 B.C.)

Amenemhet (Amen-em-Hget) (ca.2000 B.C.) (father to son)

The Instruction of Ani (c.1100 B.C.)

The Instruction of Amenemope (=Amen-em-Opet, =Amen-em-Ope) (1300-900 B.C.)

There are similarities between Proverbs 22:17ff-24:22 and the teaching of Amenemope

Admonitions of Ipu-Wer (ANET p.441-444). A protest against the changes in Egyptian society, decline of morality, and destabilizing influence on the social order.

Protests of the Eloquent Peasant (ANET p.407-410) (21st century B.C.) nine speeches of a peasant’s protest against the Pharaoh for justice.

Sumerian and Akkadian

Instructions of Suruppak (Shuruppak) (ca. 1500-1000 B.C. or 2000 B.C.) gives points of court etiquette

Counsels of Wisdom (ca.1500-1000 B.C.)

Akkadian Proverbs (ca.1800-1600 B.C.)

Sumerian: Man and His God (why suffering) (18th century B.C. A photograph of a table of this is in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia vol.6 p.123. In this work, an innocent man has misfortune, prays for help, is finally saved and then praised his god.

Akkadian: I will Praise the Lord of Wisdom (sometimes called the Babylonian Job)

Akkadian: Dialogue of Pessimism (12th century B.C. teaching by contradiction) (ANET p.437f) a servant agrees with what his master says. When the master says the opposite, the servant also agrees.

Babylonian: The Dialogue About Human Misery (= The Babylonian Theodicy) 27 speeches between Shagil-kinam-ubbib and a group of friends about divine justice and human misery.

Hittite: Tale of Appu. Appu suffers because he has no children, and is criticized by his wife.

The Words of Ahiqar of Assyria (700-670/400 B.C. Aramaic, and possibly Akkadian) (An English translation of this is in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha volume 2 p.494-507).

Greek:

Pseudo-Phocyclides (200 B.C. - 200 A.D.) (An English translation of this is in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha volume 2 p.494-507).

Syriac:

The Sentences of the Syriac Menander (3rd century A.D.)

Jewish:

The Wisdom of Solomon in the Apocrypha

Ecclesiasticus (=Sirach, =The Wisdom of Ben Sira) in the Apocrypha

3 Maccabees (1st century B.C.)

4 Maccabees (1st century A.D.)

(3 and 4 Maccabees are classified as Wisdom Literature according to The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha volume 2 p.vi-vii.

Within the Bible, wisdom literature is Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job, and Psalm 19, 37, 104, 107, 147, 148. Some have tried to call the Song of Solomon wisdom literature, though it is really of the genre of love poetry.

   See The Anchor Bible Dictionary volume 6 p.928-931, The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1815, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.905-906, The New International Dictionary of the Bible p.1067, and The Expositor’s Bible Commentary volume 5 p.883 for more info. See The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha volume 2 for an English translation of the Words of Ahiqar, 3 and 4 Maccabees, Pseudo-Phocylides, and the Sentences of the Syriac Menander.

 

3. In Prov, was “most wisdom literature was ascribed to Solomon almost as a matter of course…” as the skeptical Asimov’s Guide to the Bible p.506 claims?

A: No, Asimov is showing his bias here. Here are the known examples of Jewish wisdom literature.

Proverbs

Ecclesiastes

Job

Psalm 19, 37, 104, 107, 147, 148.

The Wisdom of Solomon in the Apocrypha

Ecclesiasticus (=Sirach, =The Wisdom of Ben Sira) in the Apocrypha

3 Maccabees (1st century B.C.)

4 Maccabees (1st century A.D.)

Not counting Psalms, only two of the seven are said to be by Solomon. Some of the Proverbs are stated to be by others besides Solomon and the Song of Solomon is not wisdom literature.

 

4. In Prov, given Solomon’s personal life, why should his writings be in the Bible?

A: First let’s see what the Bible says Solomon did wrong

Sin 1. Solomon sinned by marrying alien wives (Exodus 34:15-16; Deuteronomy 7:1-5; Nehemiah 13:26-27; 1 Kings 11:1-2; 2 Chronicles 8:11)

Sin 2. By having too many wives (Deuteronomy 17:17; 1 Kings 11:3)

Sin 3. Wives turning his heart after other gods (1 Kings 11:4-6,10,33)

Sin 4. Building high places and idol temples for his wives (1 Kings 11:67-8)

Sin 5. Having many horses and chariots (Deuteronomy 17:16; 2 Chronicles 9:28; 1 Kings 10:26-29)

Here is what we can learn from this.

Lesson 1: Even with wisdom as great as Solomon’s, someone can have wisdom and still not be obedient to God. This is humbling to know that no matter how intelligence or learned we may be, that alone is insufficient to draw us to God; we all still need God’s grace.

Lesson 2: Someone can practice wisdom in many areas, and disobey in others. However, James 2:10-11 reminds us that if someone obeyed the law in every area, except that they broke it in one area, they are still a lawbreaker of God’s law.

Lesson 3: God has the freedom to choose anyone He wishes, even someone like Solomon, to transmit His word to us. There is no verse in the Bible saying God is restricted from doing this.

Lesson 4: We cannot think that because someone has some serious moral deficiency, we can ignore their words. God’s truth is God’s truth, no matter from who we hear it.

Conclusion: Solomon’s words should be in the Bible because they are God’s true word. Solomon’s sins do not invalidate God’s words, nor give us an excuse not to follow them.

   See Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.250-252 and When Critics Ask p.245 for more info.

 

5. Where is the Book of Proverbs quoted in the New Testament?

A: Here are the ten places.

Proverbs 1:16

Romans 3:15

Proverbs 3:7

Romans 12:16

Proverbs 3:11-12

Hebrews 12:5-6

Proverbs 3:34

James 4:6

Proverbs 10:12

1 Peter 4:8

Proverbs 11:31

1 Peter 4:18

Proverbs 24:21

1 Peter 2:17

Proverbs 25:21-22

Romans 12:20

Proverbs 26:11

2 Peter 2:22

Proverbs 27:1

James 3:13

This list is taken from The Expositor’s Bible Commentary volume 5 p.890.

 

6. In Prov, how should we interpret this book?

A: The book combines both deep and simple teaching with beautiful Hebrew poetry. As 735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered p.155-156 says, we should recognize that most of the sayings are both universal and general in character. The apply to everyone in every society, and the points are generally true, but not necessarily for every individual.

 

7. In Prov, did Solomon write all of the proverbs?

A: No. Solomon probably wrote most of the Proverbs, but Proverbs 30 is by Agur son of Jakeh, and Proverbs 31 came from Lemuel repeating his mother’s teaching. As The Expositor’s Bible Commentary volume 5 p.886 says, there is no reason to think Agar and Lemuel are synonyms for Solomon. More than four-fifths of the Proverbs are by Solomon. Clement of Alexandria in The Stromata (193-202 A.D.) book 2 ch.15 also related that Solomon wrote Proverbs.

   The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.907 says scholars differ on whether the intro here refers to the first section (Proverbs 1:2-9:18) or the entire book of Proverbs, but that it probably just covers the first section, since other sections have their introductions.


 

Proverbs Background and Context

 

1. In Prov 1-31, what is the value of this book?

 

 

 

2. In Prov, what is “wisdom literature”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. In Prov, was “most wisdom literature was ascribed to Solomon almost as a matter of course…” as the skeptical Asimov’s Guide to the Bible p.506 claims?

 

 

 

4. In Prov, given Solomon’s personal life, why should his writings be in the Bible?

 

 

 

5. Where is the Book of Proverbs quoted in the New Testament?

 

 

 

6. In Prov, how should we interpret this book?

 

 

 

7. In Prov, did Solomon write all of the proverbs?


 

Proverbs – Background and Context – some brief answers

 

1. In Prov 1-31, what is the value of this book?

A: Many Christians can give many good answers, but here are words from a very early commentary by Hippolytus (225-235/6 A.D.): “Proverbs, therefore, are words of exhortation serviceable for the whole path of life; for to those who seek their way to God, these serve as guides and signs to revive them when wearied with the length of the road.”

   Hippolytus (170-235/6 A.D.) was a disciple of Irenaeus of Lyons (wrote 182-188 A.D., lived 120-202 A.D.), who was a disciple of Polycarp (wrote between 100-155 A.D.), who was a disciple of John the apostle, who died around 90-110 A.D.

 

2. In Prov, what is “wisdom literature”?

A: Today there are certain types, or genres, of literature, such as a novel, short story, historical chronicles, hymns, love poetry, apocalyptic, biography, etc. Some modern genres were not known in ancient times, and some ancient genres of literature are not written anymore today. One common ancient genre was “wisdom literature”. There are at least four types of wisdom literature, both inside and outside of the Bible:

Proverbs and Sayings (Instruction of Onkhsheshonqy (400-300 B.C.) 11:10 says “he who sends up spittle to the sky, upon his face it falls”

Parental Advice

Why Suffering (The Babylonian Dialogue of Human Misery answers this by saying the gods made men evil)

Pessimism of Life (Ecclesiastes is a part of this sub-genre, except that Ecclesiastes also transcends this by pointing to God.

The Bible says that other cultures had wise men, too. For example, Egypt (1 Kings 4:30; Isaiah 19:11-12), Edom (Jeremiah 49:7; Obadiah 8), Babylon (Isaiah 47:1,10; Jeremiah 50:35; 51:57; Daniel 1:4,20; 2:13-14; 5:8) Here are some other examples of wisdom literature in other cultures:

MODERN TIMES

Benjamin Franklin’s sayings

Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book

EGYPT

Insinger Papyrus (c.400-100 B.C.)

Onkhsheshonqy (mentioned earlier)

The Harper’s Song (c.1160 B.C.) are eight stanzas that have been found on many tombs. Here is stanza 5: So seize the day! hold holiday! Be unwearied, unceasing, alive, you and your own true love; Let not your heart be troubled during your sojourn on earth, but seize the day as it passes!

Dispute of a Man with his Soul from around the time of Abraham is a man arguing with his “ba” (soul) about why he has to suffer. It has nine parts, and Wikipedia says it is considered one of the most important pieces of ancient Egyptian literature.

The writings of Prince Hardjedef

Instruction of the Vizier Phahhotep (Ptah-Hotep) ca.2450 B.C.)

Instruction of Kagemni (unknown date, but before 1895 B.C.) has four stanzas. Here is first half of the third stanza:When you sit with a glutton, Eat when his greed has passed; When you drink with a drunkard, Take when his heart is content. Don't fall upon meat by the side of a glutton, Take when he gives you, don't refuse it,

Merikare (2160-2040 B.C.)

Amenemhet (Amen-em-Hget) (ca.2000 B.C.) (father to son)

The Instruction of Ani (c.1100 B.C.)

The Instruction of Amenemope (=Amen-em-Opet, =Amen-em-Ope) (1300-900 B.C.)

There are similarities between Proverbs 22:17ff-24:22 and the teaching of Amenemope

Admonitions of Ipu-Wer (ANET p.441-444). A protest against the changes in Egyptian society, decline of morality, and destabilizing influence on the social order.

Protests of the Eloquent Peasant (ANET p.407-410) (21st century B.C.) nine speeches of a peasant’s protest against the Pharaoh for justice.

SUMERIAN AND AKKADIAN

Instructions of Suruppak (Shuruppak) (ca. 1500-1000 B.C. or 2000 B.C.) gives points of court etiquette

Counsels of Wisdom (ca.1500-1000 B.C.)

Akkadian Proverbs (ca.1800-1600 B.C.)

Sumerian: Man and His God (why suffering) (18th century B.C. A photograph of a table of this is in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia vol.6 p.123. In this work, an innocent man has misfortune, prays for help, is finally saved and then praised his god.

Akkadian: I will Praise the Lord of Wisdom (sometimes called the Babylonian Job)

Akkadian: Dialogue of Pessimism (12th century B.C. teaching by contradiction) (ANET p.437f) a servant agrees with what his master says. When the master says the opposite, the servant also agrees.

Babylonian: The Dialogue About Human Misery (= The Babylonian Theodicy) 27 speeches between Shagil-kinam-ubbib and a group of friends about divine justice and human misery.

Hittite: Tale of Appu. Appu suffers because he has no children, and is criticized by his wife.

The Words of Ahiqar of Assyria (700-670/400 B.C. Aramaic, and possibly Akkadian) (An English translation of this is in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha volume 2 p.494-507).

Greek:

pseudo-Phocyclides (200 B.C. - 200 A.D.) (An English translation of this is in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha volume 2 p.494-507).

SYRIAC

The Sentences of the Syriac Menander (3rd century A.D.)

JEWISH

The Wisdom of Solomon in the Apocrypha

Ecclesiasticus (=Sirach, =The Wisdom of Ben Sira) in the Apocrypha

3 Maccabees (1st century B.C.)

4 Maccabees (1st century A.D.)

(3 and 4 Maccabees are classified as Wisdom Literature according to The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha volume 2 p.vi-vii.

Within the Bible, wisdom literature is Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job, and Psalm 19, 37, 104, 107, 147, 148. Some have tried to call the Song of Solomon wisdom literature, though it is really of the genre of love poetry.

Conclusion: there were many wise people outside of the Bible. While they wrote wisdom literature also, or varying quality, Proverbs is wisdom from God.

   See The Anchor Bible Dictionary volume 6 p.928-931, The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1815, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.905-906, The New International Dictionary of the Bible p.1067, and The Expositor’s Bible Commentary volume 5 p.883 for more info. See The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha volume 2 for an English translation of the Words of Ahiqar, 3 and 4 Maccabees, pseudo-Phocylides, and the Sentences of the Syriac Menander.

 

3. In Prov, was “most wisdom literature was ascribed to Solomon almost as a matter of course…” as the skeptical Asimov’s Guide to the Bible p.506 claims?

A: No, Asimov is showing his bias here. Here are the known examples of Jewish wisdom literature.

Proverbs

Ecclesiastes

Job

Psalm 19, 37, 104, 107, 147, 148.

The Wisdom of Solomon in the Apocrypha

Ecclesiasticus (=Sirach, =The Wisdom of Ben Sira) in the Apocrypha

3 Maccabees (1st century B.C.)

4 Maccabees (1st century A.D.)

Not counting Psalms, only two of the seven are said to be by Solomon. Some of the Proverbs are stated to be by others besides Solomon and the Song of Solomon is not wisdom literature.

 

4. In Prov, given Solomon’s personal life, why should his writings be in the Bible?

A: First let’s see what the Bible says Solomon did wrong

Sin 1. Solomon sinned by marrying alien wives (Exodus 34:15-16; Deuteronomy 7:1-5; Nehemiah 13:26-27; 1 Kings 11:1-2; 2 Chronicles 8:11)

Sin 2. By having too many wives (Deuteronomy 17:17; 1 Kings 11:3)

Sin 3. Wives turning his heart after other gods (1 Kings 11:4-6,10,33)

Sin 4. Building high places and idol temples for his wives (1 Kings 11:7-8)

Sin 5. Having many horses and chariots (Deuteronomy 17:16; 2 Chronicles 9:28; 1 Kings 10:26-29)

Here is what we can learn from this.

Lesson 1: Even with wisdom as great as Solomon’s, someone can have wisdom and still not be obedient to God. This is humbling to know that no matter how intelligence or learned we may be, that alone is insufficient to draw us to God; we all still need God’s grace.

Lesson 2: Someone can practice wisdom in many areas, and disobey in others, at the same time. However, James 2:10-11 reminds us that if someone obeyed the law in every area, except that they broke it in one area, they are still a lawbreaker of God’s law.

Lesson 3: God has the freedom to choose anyone He wishes, even someone like Solomon, to transmit His word to us. There is no verse in the Bible saying God is restricted from doing this.

Lesson 4: We cannot think that because someone has some serious moral deficiency, we can ignore their words. God’s truth is God’s truth, no matter from who we hear it.

Conclusion: Solomon’s words should be in the Bible because they are God’s true word. We should not follow these words because we admire Solomon, or even because Solomon was a very wise man, but because like the flawed prophet Balaam, God could speak through Solomon too. Solomon’s sins do not invalidate God’s words, nor give us an excuse not to follow them.

   See Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.250-252 and When Critics Ask p.245 for more info.

 

5. Where is the Book of Proverbs quoted in the New Testament?

A: Here are the ten places.

Proverbs 1:16

Romans 3:15

Proverbs 3:7

Romans 12:16

Proverbs 3:11-12

Hebrews 12:5-6

Proverbs 3:34

James 4:6

Proverbs 10:12

1 Peter 4:8

Proverbs 11:31

1 Peter 4:18

Proverbs 24:21

1 Peter 2:17

Proverbs 25:21-22

Romans 12:20

Proverbs 26:11

2 Peter 2:22

Proverbs 27:1

James 3:13

This list is taken from The Expositor’s Bible Commentary volume 5 p.890.

 

6. In Prov, how should we interpret this book?

A: The book combines both deep and simple teaching with beautiful Hebrew poetry. As 735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered p.155-156 says, we should recognize that most of the sayings are both universal and general in character. The apply to everyone in every society, and the points are generally true, but not necessarily for every individual.

 

7. In Prov, did Solomon write all of the proverbs?

A: No. Solomon probably wrote most of the Proverbs, but Proverbs 30 is by Agur son of Jakeh, and Proverbs 31 came from Lemuel repeating his mother’s teaching. As The Expositor’s Bible Commentary volume 5 p.886 says, there is no reason to think Agar and Lemuel are synonyms for Solomon. More than four-fifths of the Proverbs are by Solomon. Clement of Alexandria in The Stromata (193-202 A.D.) book 2 ch.15 also related that Solomon wrote Proverbs.

   The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.907 says scholars differ on whether the intro here refers to the first section (Proverbs 1:2-9:18) or the entire book of Proverbs, but that it probably just covers the first section, since other sections have their introductions.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Proverbs 1 – Why You Really Want to Get Wisdom – some brief answers

 

1. In Prov 1:1-7, what is the purpose of this book?

A: Doing everything in Proverbs 1:1-7 is a tall order, but the book of Proverbs delivers on its promise. Arnot calls Proverbs “Laws from heaven for life on earth.” Proverbs is a practical book with both deep and simple sayings of wisdom. Every believer needs God’s wisdom, and this book helps us learn God’s wisdom.

   Proverbs 1:1-6 gives the stated purpose of the book.

“To know wisdom and instruction,

To discern the sayings of understanding.

To receive instruction in wise behavior,

Righteousness, justice, and equity;

To give prudence to the naïve,

To the youth knowledge and the discretion,

A wise man will hear and increase in learning,

And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel,

To understand a proverb and a figure, The words of the wise and their riddles.” (NASB)

See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.902-903 and the Believer’s bible Commentary p.787 for more info.

 

2. In Prov 1:1, what does the word “proverb” mean in Hebrew?

A: A proverb is considered a wise saying. The Hebrew word for Proverb, masal, has two meanings, and both are in view here.

a) It can mean a comparison, as in parallel sayings. Most proverbs have two lines, with the second either being a close synonym of the first, or an antonym of the first. Some have three or four lines though.

b) The Hebrew word can also mean a by-word, i.e., a warning. See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.903 for more info.

 

3. In Prov 1:2,7,20; 9:10; 14:27; Ps 111:10; Job 28:28, what is wisdom, and how is the fear of the Lord the beginning of wisdom?

A: Wisdom can be defined as applied knowledge for life. The word hokmah is used 45 times in the book of Problems It can be translated as “wisdom” or also “skill” as in the skill of the clothmaker on the tabernacle in Exodus 35:26, a woodworker or metalworker in Exodus 31:6, the skill of the seamen in Psalm 107:27, a general in battle in Isaiah 10:13, the skill or an administrator in Deuteronomy 34:9 and 1 Kings 3:28; and the advice of a wise counselor in 2 Samuel 20:22. The Book of Proverbs can be thought of as a book of skills for living wisely. We wish that more people would want to learn those skills. See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.5 p.904-905, the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.402, and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.902,907 for more info.

   It is curious that nations are not considered wise, only individuals. Respect for God and obeying Him are the starting point of true wisdom. Proverbs 8:13 says that to fear the Lord is to hate evil, and that God hates pride, arrogance, evil behavior, and wicked speech. See Today’s Handbook for Solving Bible Difficulties p.328-331 for more info.

 

4. In Prov 1:3, what is the difference between having an open heart ready to receive instruction vs. not?

A: There are at least four aspects of a heart ready to receive instruction.

In humility, we realize that we do not have all the wisdom we could use right now.

Expectantly, we are open-minded and eager to learn more that could help.

Diligent to learn, even if the lazy way is just to remain ignorant. Learning can be hard word. One can think of “climbing the mountain of persistence.”

But not distracted by useless knowledge or having our time sucked up by meaningless things. Some people just don’t have time to learn things that are important; they have squandered too much time on trivial things.

 

5. In Prov 1:7, are we to fear the Lord, or are we to love God?

A: Both, properly understood. We are to love God with all our heart, all our mind, all our soul, and all our strength. Yet we are not to consider God as merely “our little buddy”. God’s commandments are not just His suggestions for us. Fear of the Lord is respecting Him for who He is, and being in awe of Him. Proverbs 1:7 says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Proverbs 8:13 says that the fear of the Lord includes hating evil, pride, arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.

   True Christians do not need to fear that God will send them to Hell (Hebrews 12:18-24), but we still do need to fear for the eternal destiny of those who have not accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. For example, Peter was so concerned about the salvation of his hearers, that he pleaded with them in Acts 2:40. See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.284 and 735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered p.156 for more info.

 

6. In Prov 1:7, why do you think fools despise wisdom and instruction/discipline?

A: It could be for one or more of these reasons.

a) They don’t think they need it, since they are already wise in their own eyes.

b) They are too impatient to listen to it.

c) They wouldn’t want to do what wisdom tells them to do

d) In fact, they don’t want anything or anyone to ever tell them what to do

 

7. In Prov 1:8 does this mean we should obey our parent’s laws instead of God’s laws?

A: No. Rather, this verse is teaching that we should follow God’s teaching, which many learn from childhood through their parents’ godly instruction.

 

8. In Prov 1:8-9:18, since some parts are addressed to his “son”, was this Solomon’s foolish son Rehoboam?

A: The phrases “my son” or “my sons” is used 19 times in chapters 1-7, and only 8 times elsewhere in Proverbs. While Solomon had a great many sons, this was probably not addressed to any specific son but to younger people in general. However, it is both interesting and sad to ponder that someone as foolish as Rehoboam could have a father as wise as Solomon. All Rehoboam had to do to keep the kingdom together was not be a jerk. In fact ,his wise, older counselors counselled him correct on this. But he chose to listen to his young companions. As the song, made famous by Frank Sinatra says, “I did it my way”. You might say, anachronistically, that Rehoboam went to the “Frank Sinatra School of Diplomacy”.

   A child becoming as wise as their parents is not automatic. The child has to desire wisdom, and the parents have to make it a priority to make the time to teach their children. See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.902 for more info.

 

9. In Prov 1:10, how do sinners entice others?

A: Sometimes they use a logical argument to convince others, but that is not the primary method. More often, it is an appeal to sinful desire, and to peer pressure. Imagine how different TV, movies, and roadside billboards would be if there were no enticements to sin.

   The Hebrew word for entice is related to the root of “simple” or “naïve.” There are three parts to enticing: greed, fear, and peer pressure

   A point to ponder is that two people might be exposed to the same enticing influences, yet that can respond very differently. We might not have control over everything that tries to entice us, but we are responsible for how much we allow ourselves to be influenced by bad things. Do you turn off the bad music, or keep on listening?

   See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.5 p.908 for more info.

 

10. In Prov 1:11, why do some people join gangs?

A: Reasons could be peer pressure, boredom, looking for a thrill, or thought of the future. It is not necessarily to get a lot of wealth. See the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.793 for more info.

 

11. In Prov 1:18, how do robbers and murderers lie in wait for their own blood?

A: Many wicked people are short-sighted and consider the gains but not the ricks or consequences. What are the odds of them being found out? After that, what are the odds of retribution? They might not think about that. Thus, when they plot against others, they are ignorant that they are plotting their own doom.

 

12. In Prov 1:22, what is the difference between the three different types of fools here?

A: It is interesting to know that there are different levels of foolishness.

Simple-minded (peti singular and petayim plural) are like easy-to-mislead gullible children. They don’t know the way of wisdom. They can be changed just by instructing and correcting them.

Mockers, lesi or lesim, (also in Psalm 1:1) are defiant fools who know something of the way of wisdom and yet refuse it.

Total fools kesil or kesilim are stubborn fools so habitually foolish that they are hardened against any change.

   See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.5 p.910 and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.902,908 for more info.

 

13. In Prov 1:29, why do some people hate knowledge?

A: While some people are apathetic toward learning, others actually hate some knowledge. Knowledge that you are not supposed to sin, and why you are not supposed to sin, is undesirable to those who have already made up their mind that they want to sin.

   In a similar way, 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 says that Christians are the “aroma of Christ”. To some we smell of death, and to others life. To those who reject the true God, we are unpleasant reminders of the coming judgment. To those who believe that sin is inevitable and normal, we are reminders that their view is narrow-minded and wrong.

 

14. In Prov 1:32, how does the prosperity of fools destroy them?

A: Money gives them the means of living out their desires. These can physically kill them, either through sickness (including cirrhosis), violence, or other means. In addition, a fool’s sin kills him spiritually. The NIV and NRSV translate this as “complacency”.


 

Proverbs 2 – W – some brief answers

 

 

 

 


 

 

by Steven M. Morrison, PhD.