by Pastor Mark Hudson
The book of Proverbs is probably an edited work of proverbs written by Solomon, Hezekiah, Agur, Lemuel, and possibly others. We do not know if the names listed originally wrote each proverb or they compiled and edited long standing proverbs. Solomon, King David’s most well-known son, and heir to the throne, was well-know for his wisdom (I Kings 3:5-14; 4:29-34; 5:7,12; 10:1-9, 23-24; 11:41; II Chr 1:7-12; 9:1-8:22-23).
This book of proverbs was compiled, written, edited around 1000 B.C. At the time, Israel was at the peak of her political and religious life. King David was Israel’s preeminent King who unified the nation, wrote Psalms, music, and conquered her enemies. But Israel’s second King, although a man after God’s own heart, witnessed the last few years of a unified nation.
It was during Solomon’s reign, David’s son and third King, the nation divided between Israel in the north and Judah in the south. What follows in the Old Testament narrative is a confusing spiral downward of a nation that demanded a king but could never live under or up to the restrictions and obligations of a monarchy.
The style of Proverbs is unique even for wisdom literature. The reader will notice the fatherly advice motif with the constant, “Listen, my son” or “My son”. One will quickly notice the difference between chapters 1-9 and 10 and following. The author seeks to promote a type of living best characterized by wisdom. The counsel covers a broad range of living including eating, wives, sons, relationships, money, words, et al.
The first nine chapters are distinct from a proverb someone may quote. These chapters teach wisdom by warning the son of the “lady” folly as contrasted to wisdom. These chapters contain numerous warnings about adultery, listening to the wisdom of parents, avoiding ungodly friends, and the many benefits of wisdom.
One author summarizes the teaching style in Proverbs as not merely education but formation because formation is broader. Formation, like the teaching and intent of the book of Proverbs includes both intellectual and ethical development. Proverbs is not focused on only what a person knows but how a person lives. The Bible has a word to describe the person who navigates life well: that word is wise” (Tremper Longman).
Wisdom is the skill of living. It is the practical knowledge that helps one know how to act and how to speak in different situations. Wisdom entails the ability to avoid problems, and the skill to handle them when they present themselves. Wisdom also includes the ability to interpret other people’s speech and writing in order to react correctly to what they are saying to us. Longman 14-15
Proverbs presents a specific world view. A world view is a paradigm or grid through which we look through and filter all we see. The following are the questions a world view attempts to answer according to James Sire:
- What is prime reality – the really real?
- What is the nature of external reality, that is, the world around us?
- What is a human being?
- What happens to a person at death?
- Why is it possible to know anything at all?
- How do we know what is right and wrong?
- What is the meaning of human history?
Worldview – a set of beliefs about the most important issues of life.
A worldview is a pattern and ordering of ideas.
a map whereby we consciously or unconsciously place everything we believe and by which we interpret or judge reality.
According to the author of Proverbs the followings aspects are crucial for a world view: (all Estes)
- CreationProverbs 3:19-20, 8:22-31;
God is not merely a tribal god, but the Creator of the entire universe. Also God’ ethical system is true for all people. In reference to chapter 8, if God created the universe in accordance with the principles of Wisdom, it is folly for anyone to live contrary to those principles. Garrett
- SovereigntyProv 8:29,31
Wisdom is the skill in living according to Yahweh’s order. God is the sole Creator and He controls the world in an active and personal sense. So the physical order manifests purposeful design. We must also learn about the predictable relationship between acts and their consequences.
Furthermore, this divine order is knowable, at least in part. This is both observable and can be taught.
- Rationality 3:1-12; 5:8-14, 7:25-27
The universe manifests intelligent design in its order. This fact is foundational for human understanding in the cosmos. Yahweh planted truth within his universe, and he endowed humans with the capacity to discover it by using their intelligence (Crenshaw). In chapter 9, 1:2-21, and 8:1-3, wisdom utters its cry at the gates, the center of public life in the ancient city. As Cox notes,
Wisdom is competing for attention in precisely that arena where people live their lives, and where they are already preoccupied with affairs. Wisdom’s place is thus not the ivory tower, but the arena of daily life, and she wishes to become involved with mankind at every level.(1982b:148)
The search for wisdom, then, is not a supplement, but it must be a radical reorientation of life, in which wisdom becomes the prime priority. There must be a commitment to seek after wisdom. This commitment is pictured as an intensive search for precious metals. In four lines ascending to a climax, this search requires perseverance, diligence, and hard work (Pr. 2:3-4). Just as miners go to heroic efforts in locating and extracting precious gems from the earth, so wisdom is found only by those willing to put forth the same painstaking efforts.
As wisdom teachers observe the world, their attention turns from seeing what is in the world to explaining why actions typically produced predictable results. The question of causality assumes that the world possesses inherent order, which is a prerequisite for rational thinking (Bloomfield, Toombs)
- Reverence 1:7,29; 2:5; 3:7; 8:13; 9:10.
The phrase “the fear of the Lord” frames Proverbs 1-9, occurring near the beginning (1:7) and near the end (9:10) to form an inclusio (like parentheses). In Pr 10-31, the expression and close parallels are used twelve times e.g. 31:30. The fear of the Lord is an implication of his creation of the universe. “Hebrew wisdom presupposes the existence of God, which in turn gives the whole system coherence, authority and integrity. (Craigie).
The term “fear of the Lord” can refer to dread (Dt 2:25) or terror (Jonah 1:10, 16) or more positively to awe or reverence. The expression `the fear of the Lord’ combines the senses of `shrinking back in fear and of drawing close in awe’ (Ross 1991: 907). See Is. 6:1-5.
This precludes arrogant defiance of the Creator or flippant disregard of his moral demands (Barrre 1981: 42). The fear of the Lord is profound respect which causes the human to acknowledge creaturely dependence upon Him.
Lord, we long to know Christ and live for Him. Guide us through life by giving us wisdom that only comes from you. We can only live a life of wisdom if Your Son, the Lord Jesus lives in us by the power of Your Spirit so fill us up daily with more of You. In Christ’s name. Amen.