Introduction to Proverbs
and Study of Proverbs 1-3
June 29th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

Proverbs (Overview)

Proverbs consists of 31 chapters of wisdom that apply to a variety of situations and are as relevant today as when written hundreds of years before Christ. The Proverbs were popular in ancient times and are valuable in current times because they proclaim the truth in short and memorable phrases.

Solomon, son of David, and king of Israel, is considered to be the primary author of most of the Proverbs. The book is important enough that it often appears alongside Psalms as the only two Old Testament books added as a supplement to a Bible that would otherwise have only contained the books of the New Testament.

Proverbs and Psalms have some intersecting themes, most notably the joy and celebration of the Creator and his Creation. However, most of the contents and style of the book of Proverbs is markedly different than the book of Psalms. For example, Proverbs has the following characteristics:

These attribute also apply to other books of wisdom in the Old Testament, including Job, Ecclesiastes, and to a certain extent Songs of Solomon (1). Topics in Proverbs cover values that could be considered secular as well as others that have a clear moral focus (2).

The introduction to Proverbs in the Good News Bibleprovides an appropriate summary of what to expect: "(Proverbs) many short sayings reveal the insights of ancient Israelite teachers about what a wise person will do in certain situations. Some of these concern family relations, others business dealings. Some deal with matters of etiquette in social relationships, and others with the need for self-control. Much is said about such qualities as humility, patience, respect for the poor, and loyalty to friends (3)."

Contemporary purveyors of wisdom have recommended this book as a suitable monthly devotion because there are enough chapters for each day - even in the longest month. We could read one chapter every day in each month and frequently find something new or just read it every day for a single month and move on to other devotions. In this case, we will be going through the book in about ten days. The chapters of the Book of Proverbs can be divided into several parts by assumed author (4). Our division of chapters by days roughly follows these divisions :

References used for the analysis of this book include the following sources, which are also worthy companions for further study:

Proverbs 1-3 (The Beginning of Wisdom)

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

Here are proverbs that will help you to recognize wisdom and good advice, and understand sayings with deep meaning.

- Proverbs 1:2 (GNB)

Summary of Chapters

Chapter 1 begins the introduction of the Proverbs by explaining why they are important and then re-affirms one of the intersecting themes from Psalms: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but the fool detests wisdom and discipline (1:7 - NIV).” In the next group of verses the author warns young people of falling in with the wrong crowd whose plans seem enticing, but who eventually fall in their own traps.

The final group of verses in this first chapter personifies wisdom as a woman’s voice calling in the marketplace for all people to taste wisdom. She warns those who don’t listen to her, but promises peace and safety to those who do.

The second chapter begins by explaining what the student can do to gain wisdom and projects the outcome. We are advised to receive instruction, store it, open our ears to its meaning and apply it to our hearts. There are great rewards if we seek wisdom with diligence and passion:

Other benefits of this education include the ability the ability to avoid wicked people and adulterers.

The third chapter of Proverbs describes additional reason for embracing wisdom. To achieve these goals the author instructs the reader to integrate wisdom into their being: “bind them around your neck, write then on the tablet of your heart (3:3 - NIV).” The LORD’s wisdom should replace how we think things should work, explains the writer of this chapter. Near the end of the chapter the author gives some concrete advice, warning of specific actions not to do to others. He concludes by reminding the audience of the preferred outcome for those who follow his advice: “The wise inherit honor but fools he holds up to shame (3:35 - NIV).”

Reflection and Application

The book of Proverbs is one of the few that begin with a stated purpose for the whole book. Most of the other books just jump right into a narrative, such as "In the beginning (Genesis 1:1 - NIV), or only introduce the initial section: "This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham (Mathew 1:1 - NIV). By contrast, the author or editor of Proverbs tell us exactly why it's important to take the time to read this book:

In contrast to the Psalms, these chapters are a bit more straight-forward to interpret and apply. We have two choices: Seek wisdom or not. If we wish to seek it, we have been given a checklist in the second Proverb: Receive, store, focus, and look for it as if for hidden treasure.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What interesting objects, if any, have you found while digging in your own backyard or in other places?
    2. How long would you keep digging in your backyard if we were convinced there was a crate of gold bars or hard cash?
    3. Most of us would dig all night to find it and maybe invest in some equipment to help us. How could we apply that same determination to seeking wisdom?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know you are the source of wisdom. Help us to seek your wisdom with all of our heart, soul, and strength.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns


    (1) Boadt, Lawrence, Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction, Paulist Press, Mahwah, NJ; 1984, p. 472-3
    (2) IBID p.479
    (3) Good News Bibleonline, published by the British Bible Society, Introduction to Proverbs
    (4) Boadt, p.479-480

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Proverbs 4-6 (Though it Cost All You Have)

    Comments and Questions
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