Proverbs: Digging Deeper

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Digging Deeper: The Book of Proverbs

What is a Proverb?

Simply put, a proverb is a wisdom saying. The Proverbs are about teaching us how to live from our heart. It’s very practical wisdom, how to deal with everyday life. But the book is about living from our heart. Proverbs 4:23 – Guard your heart with all diligence because out of it comes your whole life. Proverbs are the place where theology meets practicality.

The Proverbs are intended to reflect and wrestle with the question: Can life be well managed? How can I live life and live life well?

Who wrote the proverbs?

If we were to read the first verse of the Book of Proverbs as an introduction to the rest of the book, we would think Solomon wrote all of the proverbs. However, there are separate sections where Solomon mentions other authors. And we are told by Solomon that certain sections are written by separate authors.

Solomon wrote most of the proverbs and compiled the rest from other people/

Solomon was a King of Israel – the son of King David. His history and reign is recorded in 1 Kings 1-11 and 2 Chronicles 1-9. He was probably born around 1035 BC – became King of Israel at about 16-18 years of age and reigned for 40 years.

Guidelines for Interpreting Proverbs

  • Proverbs are not legal guarantees from God. They are founded in absolute truth, but they aren’t formulas.
    • Proverbs 15:25: “The Lord tears down the house of the proud…” – this is stated as a guarantee, but it’s not completely true… I know proud people who still have their houses
  • The Proverbs must be read as a collection. The more Proverbs you read, the more the individual, obscure proverbs balance themselves out. The collective wisdom of Proverbs is what you use to understand the short, one-liners in the book.
  • Proverbs are effective because they are memorable: they are short and to the point. Proverbs are weak because a short statement doesn’t have the ability to explain all the details of a statement.
  • Some Proverbs need to be translated in order to be appreciated. In other words, you need to understand the cultural background of a proverb in order for it to be meaningful to you.

Purpose of the Book:

It’s rare for an author in the Bible to state the purpose of the Book, but the purpose of The Book of Proverbs is stated in 1:1-7

Key Words in the Opening Section:

  • Know – Hebrew word yada – it connotes experiential knowledge. This word is used to talk about sex, “to know” your wife was a Hebrew idiom that meant to have sex. The kind of knowledge that can ascertain wisdom is that which is experienced and lived out, not wisdom that is merely comprehended.
  • Receive – Hebrew word laqach – to receive actively. Not to wait until something drops in your lap, you’re searching it out and grabbing hold of it. The approach to instruction and wise behavior should be to reach out and grab it. It’s not a stagnant reception. A heart that is obsessed with receiving instruction is a heart that will grow in wisdom.
  • Hear – Hebrew word shama – this word means to hear, but it is often translated as “obey”. So to “hear” wisdom is to obey wisdom.

Wisdom is Relational  

  • 1:8 – the context by which wisdom is being given is in the context of a family. This is key to understanding wisdom – wisdom is relational. Wisdom is only attained in the context of relationship.
  • We can’t treat Proverbs as a cold document of things people have observed. We need to treat it as if it’s a father relationally communicating truths to us.
  • 1:20-23 – wisdom is personified as a woman – she is actively calling out and she can be related to. Wisdom goes out to a place where everyone can see her. The way you earn wisdom and grow in it is relational.
  • One of the best ways to gain wisdom is to soak in the presence of the Spirit of God.
  • Solomon prayed for wisdom, but he also prayed for humility. We need to have enough humility to be open to coaching the older we get. Wisdom comes to those who are humble. As you get older you can’t just say I know some young kids who need these proverbs, you need to realize you need it. The person who is going to grow in wisdom is seeking it with humility – 1:7 says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”