ALPHABET letters, vowels, and consonants, formed into words, sentences, paragraphs, and books – spoken, lectured, signed, whispered, passioned speeches and from dusty volumes to daily tabloids, messages are sent and received with each sender trying to impart knowledge… and wisdom.
Woven into human fabric is the desire to learn and understand. Our minds set us apart from animals, and we analyse, conceptualise, theorise, discuss, and debate everything from science to the supernatural. And we build schools, institutes, and universities where learned professors can teach us about the world and about life.
Knowledge is good, but there is a vast difference between “knowledge” (having the facts) and “wisdom” (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.
The wisest man who ever lived, Solomon, left us a legacy of written wisdom in three volumes – Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs. In these books, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he gives practical insights and guidelines for life.
In the first of these three volumes, Solomon passes on his practical advice in the form of proverbs. A proverb is a short, concise sentence that conveys moral truth. The book of Proverbs is a collection of these wise statements. The main theme of Proverbs, as we might expect, is the nature of true wisdom. Solomon writes, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline” (1:7). He then proceeds to give hundreds of practical examples of how to live according to godly wisdom.
Proverbs covers a wide range of topics, including 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. These proverbs are short poems (usually in couplet form), containing a holy mixture of common sense and timely warnings. Although they are not meant to teach doctrine, a person who follows their advice will walk closely with God. The word “proverbs” 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.
As you read Proverbs, understand that knowing God is the key to wisdom. Listen to thoughts and lessons from the world’s wisest man, and apply these truths to your life. Don’t just read these proverbs; act on them!
PURPOSE: To teach people how to attain wisdom and discipline and a prudent life, and how to do what is right and just and fair (see 1:2, 3) – in short, to apply divine wisdom to daily life and to provide moral instruction
AUTHOR: Solomon wrote most of this book, with Agur and Lemuel contributing some of the later sections
DATE WRITTEN: Solomon wrote and compiled most of these proverbs early in his reign
SETTING: This is a book of wise sayings, a textbook for teaching people how to live godly lives through the repetition of wise thoughts
KEY VERSE: “The fear [two places at once] of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline” (1:7).
SPECIAL FEATURES: The book uses varied literary forms: poems, brief parables, pointed questions, and couplets. Other literary devices include antithesis, comparison, and personification
Wisdom for Young People (1:1-9:18) Solomon instructed the young people of his day like a father giving advice to his child. While many of these proverbs are directed towards young people, the principles supporting them are helpful to all believers, male and female, young and old. Anyone beginning his or her journey to discover more of wisdom will benefit greatly from these wise sayings.
Wisdom for All People (10:1-24:34) Solomon wanted to impart wisdom to all people, regardless of their age, sex, or position in society. These short, wise sayings give us practical wisdom for daily living. We should study them diligently and integrate them into our life.
Wisdom for the Leaders (25:1-31:31) In addition to the proverbs that Solomon collected, the men of Hezekiah collected many proverbs that Solomon and others wrote. While most of these are general in nature, many are directed specifically to the king and those who dealt with the king. These are particularly useful for those who are leaders or aspire to be leaders.
EXPLANATION: God wants his people to be wise. Two kinds of people portray two contrasting paths of life. The fool is the wicked, stubborn person who hates or ignores God. The wise person seeks to know and love God.
IMPORTANCE: When we choose God’s way, he grants us wisdom. His word, the Bible, leads us to live rightly, have right relationships, and make right decisions.
EXPLANATION: Proverbs gives us advice for developing our personal relationships with friends, family members, and co-workers. In every relationship, we must show love, dedication, and high moral standards.
IMPORTANCE: To relate to people, we need consistency, tact, and discipline to use the wisdom God gives us. If we don’t treat others according to the wisdom God gives, our relationships will suffer.
EXPLANATION: What we say shows our real attitude towards others. How we talk reveals what we’re really like. Our speech is a test of how wise we have become.
IMPORTANCE: To be wise in our speech we need to use self-control. Our words should be honest and well-chosen.
EXPLANATION: God controls the final outcome of all we do. We are accountable to carry out our work with diligence and discipline, not laziness.
IMPORTANCE: Because God evaluates how we live, we should work purposefully. We must never be lax or self-satisfied in using our skills.
EXPLANATION: Although people work very hard for money and fame, God views success as having a good reputation, moral character, and the spiritual devotion to obey him.
IMPORTANCE: A successful relationship with God counts for eternity. Everything else is perishable. All our resources, time, and talents come from God. We should strive to use them wisely.
©Kingsway International Church, 1973.