Week 23: The Proverbs

God gave Solomon very great wisdom and understanding, and knowledge as vast as the sands of the seashore. In fact, his wisdom exceeded that of all the wise men of the East and the wise men of Egypt. He was wiser than anyone else, including Ethan the Ezrahite and the sons of Mahol—Heman, Calcol, and Darda. His fame spread throughout all the surrounding nations. He composed some 3,000 proverbs and wrote 1,005 songs. He could speak with authority about all kinds of plants, from the great cedar of Lebanon to the tiny hyssop that grows from cracks in a wall. He could also speak about animals, birds, small creatures, and fish. And kings from every nation sent their ambassadors to listen to the wisdom of Solomon.” 1 Kings 4:29-34 (NLT)

What’s Going On?

A Proverb is a wise saying. We’ve heard examples all our lives. “A watched pot never boils.” “Actions speak louder than words.” “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” But the Proverbs recorded in the Bible are three thousand years old. They still hold up and many are familiar. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” They are Life Truths. I remember learning once that *BIBLE* stands for ‘Basic Instructions Before leaving Earth’ and nowhere in the Bible are there more instructions for daily living than in the book of Proverbs. They are wise sayings that point us toward a life of happiness, justice, wisdom, fear or reverence for the Lord, relationship advice, parenting advice, and simple truths.

We are still in the group of Literature books and this one is mainly attributed to King Solomon. Proverbs 22:17-24:34 are a collection of “Sayings of the Wise” and then chapter 25 continues with more Proverbs of Solomon that were copied down by scribes under King Hezekiah. Chapter 30 includes the sayings of Agur, and 31 is the sayings of King Lemuel, neither of which are mentioned anywhere else in the Bible and probably weren’t even Israelites. So, MOST of the proverbs are the sayings of Solomon, but not all.

Apparently, it was very common to collect “Words of Wisdom.” Similar sayings are found in Egyptian writings. In fact some are almost identical. Both use personification – speaking of wisdom as though she were a woman. Proverbs 22:17-24:22 contain thirty sayings of the wise that are almost word for word the same as The Writings of Amenemope.  If you remember, when Solomon is anointed King of Israel, God tells him he may ask for anything and it would be given to him. He asked for Wisdom and discernment to rule over the nation (1 Kings 3:5-9 and 2 Chron 1:7-10). Apparently, God granted him this wisdom as his reputation brought many to hear him. “When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the Lord, she came to test Solomon with hard questions” 1 Kings 10:1. The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart” 1 Kings 10:24. So here we have the grand collection of Solomon’s Wisdom.

When and Where Are We?

King Solomon lived during the era of the United Kingdom, about 1,000 BC. The last few chapters of Proverbs were copied by the scribes of Hezekiah who was King of Judah about 700 BC during the era of the Divided Kingdom. If you remember, King Hezekiah led a spiritual revival so it makes sense that the Wisdom of Solomon would have been studied and copied at that time. So even though Solomon lived years earlier, the words of The Proverbs were likely complied much later.

Who’s Who?

King Solomon – The third King of the United Kingdom of Israel, David’s son

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7 (KJV)

Weekly Reading Assignment:

  • Monday: Proverbs 1-5
  • Tuesday: Proverbs 6-10
  • Wednesday: Proverbs 11-15
  • Thursday: Proverbs 16-20
  • Friday: Proverbs 21-25
  • Saturday: Proverbs 26-31
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