"The fear of the LORD is
the beginning of wisdom."
Proverbs is about wisdom
The longer I live the
more I want to be around and listen to wise people.
The book of Proverbs is about the choices we make in
life. The beginning of wisdom is the reverential
fear and respect of Yahweh. "The fear of the LORD
(Yahweh) is the beginning of knowledge [wisdom];
fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Proverbs
1:7). This is not only the key to this book, but
also the key to life. Where is God in your picture?
He has all the answers to life’s greatest questions.
Proverbs teaches us that
we become like those with whom we associate. Be
careful in the choice of your closest friends for
The secret to life’s
success is found in our choices. The way to success
is to trust in the Lord with all your heart (3:6-8).
Life can never be understood except in relationship
to Yahweh. The basic assumption in Proverbs is the
providence of God. God is at the center of life.
Besides Solomon in the
Old Testament, Jesus Christ, the Master Teacher gave
the proverbial mode of expression its greatest
prominence. Jesus is "the incomparable master of the
Frank Gaebelein says,
"Many of Jesus’ sayings are so packed with wisdom
and pointed in expression that they have entered
into common speech." Much of the Sermon on then
Mount has become proverbial. "In deed, the words of
Jesus provide the richest mine of profoundly
spiritual proverbs in world literature."
Much the same can also be
said of the often-quoted sayings in the book of
"Proverbs" comes from the first word in Hebrew.
Mashal means a "comparison, likeness, or
illustration." The Hebrew word for "proverb" conveys
a wide range of meanings, including the idea of
comparison, a code of behavior, and the discovery of
The book probably originated in palace circles in
the royal court in Jerusalem with the bulk of the
content of the book attributed to Solomon. He wrote
most of the book, and the works of others were added
to his (1 Kings 3; 4; 2 Chronicles 9:1-24). The
authors are Solomon, Agur, Lemuel, and "the words of
the wise," probably anonymous authors (1 Kings
4:29-34). Solomon was said to have written over
3,000 proverbs (1 Kings 4:32), and many of these are
found in the book of Proverbs. Cohen says, "A
Rabbinic teaching asserts that the Israelite king
wrote Song of Songs in his youth, Proverbs in middle
age, and Ecclesiastes towards the end of his life."
Solomon’s section is found in 1:1-9:18; 10:1-22:16
along with the committee appointed by king Hezekiah
to select more of Solomon’s proverbs (25:1-29:27).
"Wise men," perhaps who
attended Solomon (22:17-24:34; cf. 1 Kings 4:31;
Agur son of Jakeh
King Lemuel lived in the
area of Uz (31:1-9) and perhaps (31:10-31).
The present arrangement of the book was probably
made near the end of Hezekiah’s reign before 700
B.C. (25:1). The main part of the book was probably
arranged under Solomon (970-931 B.C.), and the
entire book between tenth and sixth centuries B.C.
Much of the material in Proverbs was compiled during
the time of Solomon. Some of the Proverbs was
compiled during the reign of king Hezekiah (727-698
B.C.). It could be that the two sections of
anonymous sayings by the wise men came from the
period between Solomon’s reign and the collection by
Hezekiah’s scribes. Proverbs 30-31 could have been
added later before the inclusion in the Hebrew Canon
of Scripture. The entire contents of the book is
pre-Exilic. LaSor, Hubbard and Bush conclude, "The
fifth century is a reasonable date for the final
editing, although most of the contents are much
earlier with most individual proverbs and even
longer speeches stemming from long before the
Exile." Nothing in the book demands a date later
than the early 7th century B.C.
The opening verses clearly state the purpose of this
book. Proverbs 1:2-6 tells us the proverbs were
written so we could "know wisdom, and instruction,
to discern the sayings of understanding, to receive
instructions in wise behavior, righteousness,
justice and equity; to give prudence to the naïve,
to the youth knowledge and discretion, a wise man
will hear and increase in learning and a man of
understanding will acquire wise counsel."
This book, notes Dereck
Kidder, "is no anthology, but a course of education
in the life of wisdom." The theme of the book is
stated in v. 7, "the fear of the LORD is the
beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and
instruction." We gain wisdom when we go to Yahweh
with an attitude of reverence, or worship. Solomon
then begins to expound his theme in a series of
fatherly talks, which illustrate and apply the
fateful choices between wisdom and folly. The
importance of reverencing and trusting the Lord is
stressed though out the book (1:7; 2:5; 3:7; 8:13).
The knowledge and fear of Yahweh are the dominant
ideas of religion in the Old Testament.
The proverbs also had a
teaching function by providing a useful sourcebook
for public and private study. They help to
communicate wisdom of the years and are a source of
practical, moral and spiritual guidance. Proverbs
have an effective means of driving home the message.
They make effective impact to statements. It arouses
the listener’s mind, creates curiosity calls for
action and helps him remember.
Essentially the book of Proverbs is a "collection of
comparisons based on observation and reflection that
seeks to instruct people in ‘right behavior’" (Hill
and Watson). Proverbs presents one major class of
Hebrew wisdom literature what includes individual
proverbs that are sharp, practical applications of
wisdom concerning many areas of life. The two
most prevalent literary forms in Proverbs are the
short, pithy sayings used to impart wisdom, and the
long didactic sections.
writes Gleason Archer, Jr., "was more intuitive and
analogical, endeavoring to interpret the moral order
in the light of a personal, omniscient, and
omnipotent God, who had revealed His will for
Hebrew proverbs are
compact wording of skillful expression. The
statements are placed opposite to each other in
balanced parallels such as in contrastive couplets
that are connected with "but" or "nevertheless." The
connective couplets bring similar or parallel
thoughts together with "and" or "so." Comparative
couplets link two ideas with "better/than" or
Five types of
proverbs have been observed in the book of Proverbs:
Synonymous parallelism as in 18:7 where the same
thought is placed in parallel.
Antithetic proverb (13:9) where one parallel is set
in contrast to the other.
Synthetic proverb (10:26) where the second line
completes the thought of the first.
Emblematic proverb (3:12) in which the symbol is
created through a word picture.
Introverted proverb where there is parallelism
between the lines (1 and 4, 2 and 3).
Solomon is probably most
responsible for giving definitive shape to Hebrew
proverbs. The book is written in clear, classical
is found in 1:7. "The fear of the Lord is the
beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and
instruction" (NASB). The word "wisdom" occurs 37
times in Proverbs, and indicates an informed,
skillful use of knowledge, hence the use of the word
"knowledge" in the NASB translation. It is only as a
person takes the first step of trust in and
reverence for Yahweh that a person can enter into
Wisdom is sometimes personified in wisdom literature
as in the powerful picture in Proverbs 8:1-9:6. Only
in Jesus Christ, the Word, do we have these
personifications fulfilled. This is not abstract
personification, but Hebrew concrete terms. In the
incarnation of the Son of God, we have the Word made
flesh (Prov. 8; Luke 11:49; 1 Cor. 1:24, 30; Prov.
8:22-23; John 17:5). How else could He be called
Wonderful Counselor (Isa. 9:6)?
The New Testament sees
Jesus Christ as the answer to the two most important
questions in life. How does a holy God approach
sinful mankind? How did He create the universe? The
answer in Proverbs is Wisdom. Wisdom like the Word,
Jesus Christ, is the one absolutely essential and
A. K. Helmbold states,
"Proverbs 8:22f is a bold restating of the doctrines
of Genesis 1; 2. God’s creation is not a chaos (cf.
Gen. 1 and 2), but a cosmos. Wisdom is the essence
of the being of God. The universe does not just
happen, nor does it stand-alone. The world has a
teleology because there is a theology (Prov. 3:19;
20:12)" (ZPBE, vol. 4, p. 918).
THEOLOGY OF PROVERBS:
Helmbold notes, "The sovereignty of God is stressed
(16:4, 9; 19:21; 22:2). God’s omniscience is set
forth (15:31; 11; 21:2). God is seen as the Creator
(14:31; 17:5; 20:12). He rules over the moral order
(10:27, 29; 12:2). Man’s actions are judged by God
(15:11; 16:2; 17:3; 20:27). Even in this life virtue
is rewarded (11:4; 12:11; 14:23; 17:13; 22:4). Moral
judgment is more important than prudence (17:23)"
(Ibid. pp. 919-920).
Title: Introduction to