Author: Ron Graham

Old Testament

The Book of Proverbs
—An introduction

Although placed in the Old Testament, the book of Proverbs is received by Christians with great love and respect. The book is even attached, with the Psalms, to some editions of the New Testament.

According to the Chambers’s dictionary, a proverb is "any of a body of well-known, neatly expressed sayings that give advice or express a supposed truth." The sayings in Proverbs are neatly expressed, but not as well-known as they ought to be. Their truths are not "supposed" but are the very word of God to several persons whom he blessed with wisdom.

1 The Prologue

The first seven verses introduce the book, giving its title, purpose, and guiding principle.

2 A Poem on Wisdom and Folly

Proverbs 1:8 to 9:18

The anthology that takes up the first third of the book, may be regarded as a long poem constructed of many smaller poems.

3 Collected Proverbs

Proverbs 10:1 to 31:31

The other 21 chapters are the collected proverbs of wise men including another large collection of Solomon's own proverbs.

4 A Poem on the Noble Wife

The last chapter of Proverbs is attributed to King Lemuel, but you will observe that it is "the oracle which his mother taught him" (Proverbs 31:1). The first nine verses give some earthy advice. First she warns him to have nothing to do with prostitutes. Then she warns him off strong drink which she regards as a crutch for the weak. But she does not despise the weak, poor, and needy, and commands Lemuel to treat them justly and to support their cause.

The poem about the virtuous and excellent wife is quite stunning. Lemuel's mother had a very clear idea of the kind of wife she wanted for her son! This poem also celebrates the power and glory of women. This wife is her husband's equal. She is intelligent, independent, strong and energetic, astute in business, By virtue of her own accomplishments, she is highly spoken of with respect "in the gates" where the male elders sit and discuss business and community issues. (Proverbs 31:23,31). This wife is a model for all women and for all men seeking a companion in life (Proverbs 31:10-31).

5 Main Ideas in the Proverbs

Some of the recurring themes and main ideas in the book of Proverbs are listed below with sample verses...

Study Project

A worthwhile way to study the book of proverbs is to read it from start to finish, sorting key verses into topics. The best way to do this is in sweeps, where you read through the book collecting key verses on two or three topics only, then repeat the exercise with another two or three topics, and so forth. As you make one sweep, new topics will suggest themselves for following sweeps. That would be a most profitable study, and you would finish up with a set of excellent lessons from the Proverbs on important subjects.

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