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An Introduction to Proverbs


Bible sitting open on a table to The Book of Proverbs

The first goal of any Bible study should be to let the Bible speak of God. Proverbs is a beautiful and popular book that answers the questions that we may have on how to live. Most of the book was written by King Solomon, the Son of King David, and you can find many parallels with the Book of Psalms when you cross reference words and verses in your study of this book.


If you would like to study more about Solomon's life, you can find his story beginning in 1 Kings 1:28 and 2 Chronicles 1, ending in 1 Kings 11 and Chronicles 9. He wrote three books of the Old Testament: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs (Songs of Solomon). 


The Book of Proverbs is not a book of promises. This can be a problem for people who read it as if it is. It is a book of principles. The book gives guidance for life. Solomon gives us the purpose of the book in the very beginning, in verses 2-6. 

Most of us do not need a definition of what a promise is, but a principle is not a promise. When we read these verses as purely being promises to us, we would expect everything that it says to come true in our lives, but as many of us know that is not always the case.


Another thing that I would make a note of here is that the book is written in riddles and short dynamic sayings that are meant to provoke our minds and be mulled over. I think that while we can have the principles of this book happen in our lives, what is really in view in many of these verses are eternal rewards. This is how we live so that we can finish our race well, which is an analogy that we find throughout the Bible.


Many Christians are missing a view of eternity in their thinking. It is very easy to get so wrapped up in this life that we forget that what happens here is literally going to be a blip on the radar of forever. We can get caught up in our hurt, our desires, and our lives here, so much so that eternity is not even in sight for us. I have been guilty of this as we all can be during certain periods of our lives.


I also think that there are links to the parables that Jesus gave in his ministry and what we will learn in the book of Proverbs.


This is my opinion, but as you read through, see if you agree with me.

 

Proverbs 1:2-6 NET.

To learn wisdom and moral instruction, to discern wise counsel. To receive moral instruction in skillful living, with righteousness, justice, and equity. To impart shrewdness to the morally naive, a discerning plan to the young person. (Let the wise also hear and gain instruction, and let the discerning acquire guidance!) To discern the meaning of a proverb and a parable, the sayings of the wise and their riddles.


Far from being just an assortment of miscellaneous sayings, the book provides evidence of organization in this opening segment. The first nine chapters comprise the book's first section, which we will focus on. Chapters 10-30 are the short sayings that the book is known for. I do not plan to cover all these sayings because we would be here for years if we tried to unpack them all. Proverbs 31 is probably one of the best-known Chapters in the Book of Proverbs. It is a beautiful chapter about a good woman, and we will end our study there. 

 

The Book of Proverbs is meant to be digested. It should be something that we come back to regularly because something different stands out to us each time we read it. I like to read a chapter of Proverbs daily. The book has 31 Chapters, and by reading one chapter a day for a month, you can make your way through it at a slower pace. Every time I read a chapter, something stands out. It is always something relevant in my day. This book can bless any Christian willing to apply it to their lives.  


This book claims it can lead the reader to wisdom. The word in Hebrew is hokmah. It is not the only word used for wisdom, but hokmah is found here in verse 2 of this chapter and in other places throughout the Book of Proverbs. We can better understand it by looking at other verses in the Bible where it is found. This word is used in Exodus, which describes the artisans constructing the Tabernacle, its contents, priests' robes, and in other verses. I will only list some because it appears in 141 verses in the Old Testament.

 

Exodus 28:3 NET

You are to speak to all who are specially skilled, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, so that they may make Aaron's garments to set him apart to minister as my priest. 


Exodus 31:3 NET 

and I have filled him with the Spirit of God in skill, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship,


Exodus 35:31 NET 

He has filled him with the Spirit of God - with skill, with understanding, with knowledge, and in all kinds of work, 


Deuteronomy 34:9 NET 

Now Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had placed his hands on him; and the Israelites listened to him and did just what the LORD had commanded Moses.


2 Samuel 14:20 NET 

Your servant Joab did this so as to change this situation. But my Lord has wisdom like that of the angel of God, and knows everything that is happening in the land."


1 Kings 3:28 NET 

When all Israel heard about the judicial decision which the king had rendered, they respected the king, for they realized that he possessed supernatural wisdom to make judicial decisions.


1 Kings 4:29 NET

God gave Solomon wisdom and very great discernment; the breadth of his understanding was as infinite as the sand on the seashore.


Job 28:28 NET 

And he said to mankind, 'The fear of the LORD - that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.'


Job 38:36 NET 

Who has put wisdom in the heart, or has imparted understanding to the mind?


Psalm 37:30 NET 

30 The godly speak wise words and promote justice.


Psalm 90:12 NET 

12 So teach us to consider our mortality, so that we might live wisely.


Psalm 104:24 NET 

24 How many living things you have made, O LORD! You have exhibited great skill in making all of them; the earth is full of the living things you have made.


Proverbs 3:19 NET 

19 By wisdom the LORD laid the foundation of the earth; he established the heavens by understanding.


Isaiah 11:2 NET 

2 The LORD's spirit will rest on him - a spirit that gives extraordinary wisdom, a spirit that provides the ability to execute plans, a spirit that produces absolute loyalty to the LORD.


Jerimiah 8:9 NET 

9 Your wise men will be put to shame. They will be dumbfounded and be brought to judgment. Since they have rejected the word of the LORD, what wisdom do they really have?


Daniel 1:17, 20 NET 

17 Now as for these four young men, God endowed them with knowledge and skill in all sorts of literature and wisdom - and Daniel had insight into all kinds of visions and dreams. ... 20 In every matter of wisdom and insight the king asked them about, he found them to be ten times better than any of the magicians and astrologers that were in his entire empire.

 

 

I suggest reading more of each of the passages from which these verses are pulled to gain context. But as we study, we will learn that God is the source of everything good, including knowledge and wisdom. How we use our knowledge and the wisdom we seek in this life is important.


What do you see in the verses above?


When the verses speak of people, I see those whom God has blessed with the ability and knowledge to carry out their lives in ways that are pleasing to him, and at least for a time, they chose correctly. Sometimes, it is for a particular purpose that we see wisdom from these people, but it does show us that God, through the work of the Holy Spirit, can and will provide what we need when we need it.


When we see people using their knowledge and gifts incorrectly, they are literally taking their gifts and turning them against God. Rightfully so, this is an affront to God.

Imagine it: God gives someone a brilliant mind, knowing that if they turn to Him, they will do wonderful work for the kingdom of God, but instead, they turn that gift against Him and cause others to fall with them. I think that teachers of any kind, not just Christian teachers, will be held to a higher standard of judgment when the time comes, and that is truly terrifying.  


People are fallible, and we will make mistakes, but if there is one thing that the Old Testament will show us is that our actions have consequences, and that should be considered too when we are speaking of wisdom. In my next post I plan to cover verse seven which speaks of the fear of the Lord. Part of that fear and part of wisdom is accepting correction from God when it comes into our lives.


Not every bad thing that happens to us is a punishment, but just as any good father corrects his children God will correct us. Any trial that enters our lives has been allowed by God, and that is a sobering thought, and a lesson that is made clear from the Book of Job.


The type of wisdom God has in mind for us goes beyond being able to apply practical knowledge. While practical knowledge is important and necessary,C we see the Holy Spirit often spoken of in the verses that bear this Hebrew word. There is certainly spiritual wisdom that works in conjunction with our practical knowledge when a Christian is walking in wisdom from the Lord.


I am not very charismatic in my viewpoint of the Christian faith. I am not a cessationist at all, but I think that our focus can become skewed when we need to see spiritual gifts to affirm our faith. It can be very unhealthy, and we risk being led purely by our emotions if we focus too closely on things such as speaking in tongues and the Bible is clear in its parameters for doing things like this. A well-rounded knowledge of the word of God and submitting our lives to him are the best ways to avoid errors. There is nothing wrong with being a very good secretary and using the skills that God has allowed to grow in your life instead of being a prophet.


One aspect that we will see is that wisdom creates order from chaos in our lives, because as we grow, we begin making choices that are intentional and clear. Applying Godly wisdom to our lives strengthens our faith by showing us that His ways are correct and proper and that if we ask for wisdom, God will give it to us. 


By reading this book, we will gain knowledge and understanding about life. The people in Exodus show us that we are to apply God-given wisdom in our work. They were considered masters in their crafts, and God used those talents for his purposes. Not all of us will be asked to do something as grand as work on God's temple, but that is not precisely the point. 


David was beloved by God even though he made mistakes that should have cost him his life. Solomon's wisdom was turned against God, and as a result, the kingdom was split in his son's time. Abraham made mistake after mistake but became the forefather of the Jewish people. The Bible shows us over and over again that we need a savior and that no one can live the perfect life necessary to reach heaven on our own merit.


God can and will use you. There are times when we may be held up as good examples to follow, and there are other times when we may be an example of what not to do. Both Solomon and David are these things to us. I hope that this isn't you. But even if it is, turn to God. He can and will forgive you. Submitting your life to him will change your destiny and bring glory to Him.


The Bible also speaks about our trials in life bringing about patience in us, and when we keep our minds on God and learn the lesson he is teaching, patience will bring about endurance.


Can Your Life and Job Also Be Your Ministry?

As with those who built the Tabernacle, mastery can take a lifetime of learning a trade. These people would have learned their skills in a foreign land as slaves. They could not have imagined that God would one day call upon that knowledge to build his Tabernacle and everything in it. If you truly dedicate your life to the Lord and take what you do seriously, who knows where it will lead you?


Do you know what the Bible says about how Christians should act at work? Do you know what it says about being a good boss or employee?


Many pastors teach that to do God's work, you need to enter some type of ministry related to the church, and if you are led to that, then that is a wonderful calling, but I firmly believe that you can honor God through your honest day-to-day job. How many of us make our work our ministry? You can be a barber and do it for God by doing what He says and treating others with love and gentleness even when they don’t deserve it.

You can be a housecleaner and do it for God by being good at your job because we are called to be good workers and to be of service. 


With that being said, not every job or place of employment can do this, and I would ask you, do you work in an area where you cannot offer your labors to God for His glory? If you do, you should look to do something else with your time and to earn money. That may be harsh, but it is honest.


I could not be a stripper and give honor to God because I am acting in a way and participating in behavior that is outside of His will for me. I could not be a bartender in certain establishments and offer that to God.


You can, however, work somewhere that serves alcohol and serve the Lord, but you want to avoid contributing to drunkenness and immoral behavior. These are not the only two examples out there, but they are the two that I see the most often.


Godly wisdom can and will enhance everything in your life, including how you work, treat others, raise your family, and overall, what kind of person you are. Allowing the Bible to change our minds on how we should live will give us a more meaningful life and a deeper faith in God that is lived out daily. The wisdom in this book was inspired by God, and because of that, this book matters a great deal.


I have heard it said that you cannot find Jesus in this book and that it offers nothing to a person's theology. I disagree. You have to learn this book in conjunction with other books of the Bible to see some of it, but Jesus is here.

Proverbs 30:1-4 NET. 

The words of Agur, the son of Jakeh; an oracle: This man says to Ithiel, to Ithiel and to Ukal: Surely I am more brutish than any other human being, and I do not have human understanding; I have not learned wisdom, nor do I have knowledge of the Holy One. Who has ascended into heaven, and then descended? Who has gathered up the winds in his fists? Who has bound up the waters in his cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son's name? - if you know!

 

Definitions

As we move through the first few verses of the book of Proverbs, we see words that people do not use much today. I asked my teenage daughter's bandmates to tell me what they thought the words that we find in the first six verses of Proverbs meant.

I asked about wisdom, and they said that it was being smart and knowing a lot of stuff.

Morals are what is right, discernment is understanding, righteousness was a Christian thing. That one made my heart hurt because many of these kids have been raised in the faith but couldn’t really define righteousness for me.


Justice is someone getting what they deserve like when we commit a crime.

Shrewdness is being miserly, and prudent means that you are a prude and think that fun things are wrong.


          Let’s take another look at the verses. Do you understand these words?

 

Proverbs 1:2-6 NET.

To learn wisdom and moral instruction, to discern wise counsel. To receive moral instruction in skillful living, with righteousness, justice, and equity. To impart shrewdness to the morally naive, a discerning plan to the young person. (Let the wise also hear and gain instruction, and let the discerning acquire guidance!) To discern the meaning of a proverb and a parable, the sayings of the wise and their riddles.

 

Is being called shrewd and prudent insulting in today's society? I suppose that the answer could be yes if you are living with an ungodly mindset and think that it means being miserly and against fun. Which in the mindset of these kids was things that can be sinful, such as the types of movies you watch, or the types of books that you read, which were their examples.


What is shrewdness? A shrewd person can quickly understand and judge a situation and use this understanding to their benefit. It is a keenness of mind, sharp insight, and cleverness in practical matters. Prudence is the care and good sense someone shows when deciding or taking action. 


The book of Proverbs is part of the wise counsel we are to meditate on and, in a sense, puzzle over. It is meant to be thought-provoking, and as we think about what is said in this book, we are to apply what we learn to our lives. This requires discipline from us. 


In verses 3 and 4, we see the concepts pulled together and expounded on. So, to summarize the definition of wisdom from above, it is skillfulness that gives honor to God when used appropriately. Instruction and learning require discipline, and there are times when the Lord will allow us to be disciplined to learn and grow. 


Discipline is a quality that should separate a Christian from the world. We should be able to behave and work in a controlled way, obeying God and correctly judging His word to be true as we begin to understand it. 


Gaining understanding requires discernment. We often hear this word in teachings and pulpits, but what does it mean? Discernment is the ability to tell what is wrong from what is good and right. It requires knowing what is happening around you and understanding what it means. 


In the context of what we will learn to do as we read this book, righteousness is learning and practicing the right and proper behavior, and justice is making correct decisions. 


The definition of equity has been lost in our current culture. Though we often like to use the word equality, I wonder if people truly consider what the word means. Equity is moral integrity. It is being fair and impartial like Solomon in the Book of Kings was fair and honest in his judgments. It is the action that results from believing that everyone is equal. In a proper Christian mindset, we understand that even though we may not like the actions of someone around us, God loves them. This knowledge should lead us to treat people differently than the world does. 


This book is not meant to exhaustively explain what to do in every situation. It is intended to give us examples and understanding that we can apply to the world around us and our actions as we move through life. Other than some of the verses that led me to salvation, the wisdom books of the Bible have been among my favorites, and I hope to do justice to this book as we go through it. 


As I close this post, I want you to consider an idea for your daily reading that I have repeatedly done. The book of Proverbs has 31 Chapters, and I have taken the date and read that chapter along with my daily Bible reading. If you miss a day, don't worry about returning to it. Just keep with the day of the month and move on. I suggest that you do this for around six months. It has helped me so much throughout the years. 

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About Me

My journey is guided by a deep faith in Christ. I am passionate about using Christian principles to help individuals find healing, hope, and purpose in their lives. Inspired by 2 Timothy 3:16-17, I believe in the transformative power of God's Word and its ability to guide us in teaching, reproof, correction, and righteousness, equipping us for every good work.

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