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Students will be able to

1. find in the Proverbs lists of wisdom for correct living.

2. learn that awe and reverence for God is the beginning of wisdom.

3. identify the many topics of wisdom in the book of Proverbs.



Wisdom literature is a special genre that was found throughout the ancient Near East. It was mainly a collection of proverbs, riddles, wise sayings, or essays on particular problems in life. They were designed to teach young men (and women) how to live happily and successfully.

Proverbs is usually considered one of these books of wisdom, along with Job and Ecclesiastes.

The Text:

Marvin Tate, in The Broadman Bible Commentary on Proverbs, says the Hebrew text of Proverbs is many times more difficult to translate ­ mainly because of the nature of the wisdom sayings and expressions. They do not have parallels in any of the other Old Testament books. More than one translation is possible for the Proverbs.

Authorship and Date:

Five to seven tides in the book help provide information about the author of Proverbs. Three titles speak of the Proverbs of Solomon (1:1, 10:1, 25:1). But the meaning darkens here. Does it mean written by Solomon, collected by Solomon, or in the tradition of Solomon? The titles The Words of Agur (30:1), and The Words of Lemuel (31:1) point to other sources as do 22:17 and 24:23. The section 31:10­31 seems to be independent.

Some do not support Solomon's authorship. The Hebrew pattern of collecting materials and then assigning them to the dominant personality is probably true of Proverbs.

The best judgment, after all the facts, is that the direct authorship of Proverbs by Solomon is unlikely. The personal identities of the authors remain unknown.

As for a date, the book of Proverbs can be fixed only in a broad sense. The sense of teaching of the wise suggests strongly that the book was written before Ezra ­ by about 400 BC. We cannot attempt a more precise dating.

Major Themes:

1. Fear of the Lord ­­ 1:29, 2:5, 8:13, 9:10, 10:27, 14:27, 15:16,33, 16:6, 19:23, 22:4, and 23:17. The command to fear the Lord ­- 3:7 and 24:21.

2. Wisdom and the law ­­ Honor your father and your mother is addressed in negative and positive ways in Proverbs 15:20, 19:26, 20:20, 23:22, 28:24, 30:11;

The act of murder ­ 28:17;

Consequences of adultery ­­Proverbs 2:16­19, 5:3­6, 6:23­29, 7:1­27, 22:14;

Theft 20:23,

Giving false testimony against a neighbor is denounced in Proverbs 6:19, 12:17, 14:5,25, 19:5,9,28, 21:28, 25:18.

3. Wisdom and creation theology ­­ In Proverbs 8 wisdom is personified as being with God at the time of creation. God in His sovereignty works all things according to his purposes (Proverbs 16:4). God's work provides for man's enjoyment -­God's design in creation ­­ Proverbs 5:18, 10:1,28, 11:10, 12:20, 13:2, 15:20, 23:16,24-25.

(Roy B. Zuck ea., A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament, 214-219 ­ Points 1­3).

4. Human Speech ­­ Proverbs has much to say about the use and abuse of the tongue. Three of the admonitions in the warning against the seven sins God hates are directly related to human speech.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue (18:21).

Words are used to wound or heal the spirit ­­ 12:18, 15:4,

shape attitudes ­­ 18:8, 29:5,

scorching fire ­­ 16:27­28.

Words of the wise are marked by honesty­­ 16:13;

serenity­­ 15:1;

and aptness­­ 15:23.

 5. Human Sexuality ­­

The wisdom of Proverbs extols the virtues of monogamous marriage.

Wisdom is an antidote for sexual sin ­­ 2:16;

The sanctity of marriage and the appropriateness of heterosexual love within marital bounds ­­ 5:15­23; 18:22.

The dangers spawned by idleness -- 7:6­9.

The necessity of mates keeping open channels of communication ­­19:13,27:15.



I. Title and Purpose (1:1­7)

These verses serve as a general introduction to the entire book. The verses give two reasons to attribute the proverbs to Solomon.

1. The historical relationship of the wisdom movement in Israel with Solomon (I Kings 4:29­34).

2. Wisdom literature was closely related to the Royal establishment.

II. Reflections on the way of wisdom (1:8­9:18)

1. Avoid bad company (1:8­33) A father addressing his son. Primary institution of education was the home. First teachers are parents. He says resist chose who would engage in violent activity. Wisdom appears as a female in this section shouting in busy places to the people.

2. Advice on the nature and value of wisdom (2:1­22) This exhortation is in the form of an appeal to the hearer -­ to be receptive to wisdom. Wisdom is not gained by passive effort.

3. The Rewards of a Disciplined Life (3:1­20) The listener is told to trust in the Lord with his heart and he will not be disappointed; the Lord will keep him from dangers. He is further advised to honor the Lord with a gift and not shun his discipline. This section concludes with the words, "The Lord by wisdom founded the earth." (v 19)

4. Keeping Sound Wisdom (3:21­35) The main thrust is the security which wisdom gives. Sound wisdom and discretion require constant attention. Verses 25­26 continue the theme of security. Yahweh will keep him from falling into dangerous places. The character of a good neighbor is expressed in a series of commandments in vs. 27­31.

5. A Teacher's Instructions (4: 1­27) The basis of the teacher's authority was received from his parents. In Vs 5­9 the teacher exhorts his students to get wisdom and insight. Verses 10­19 contrast the two paths or ways. The path of righteousness gets brighter and brighter while the way of the wicked is like a deep darkness. Verses 20­27 put together the idea of discipline of the heart, mouth, eyes, and feet.

6. Instruction About Sexual Behavior (5:1­23) Chapter 5 is concerned with a familiar theme in Wisdom literature, namely, the danger of sexual affairs. The young man is warned of the bitter consequences of illicit relationships and advised to enjoy sex at home with his own wife. Verses 1­14 describe the loose woman and her seductiveness. Verses 15­20 talk about one's own wife and 21­23 warn that God sees all.

7. Lessons on Economics and Social Behavior (6:1­19) The discussion deals with business ­­ the complicated arrangements of finance and business that must be treated with great caution. No legal means existed to free a man from a commitment sealed by an oath. There were no bankruptcy laws. In verses 6­11, the ant is a model for the wise man. He plans for winter months and has plenty. The fool is caught by surprise, but the wise man is prepared. Verses 12­15 talk about the troublemaker and verses 16­19 list seven clings dolt the Lord hates.

8. The Folly of Adultery (6:20­35) The opening verses read as if they are right out of Deuteronomy, actually borrowed from the wisdom literature. The young man is told to keep his parents' teaching over his heart. This way, he will not yield to another's wife. The RSV represents the interpretation that sexual intercourse with an adulteress is far more dangerous and expensive than with a harlot, who is content with a price while the adulteress stalks a man's very life (Marvin E. Tate, Jr., "Proverbs," The Broadman Bible Commentary, 27).

9. Instruction on the Seductive Power of the Strange Woman (7:1­27) Verses 1­5 say, "keep my teachings as the apple of your eye." The pupil is very precious. Verses 6­23 provide a teaching narrative. A young, immature man, one of the simple, encounters a women who uses all her sexual skills to seduce him (v 9­20). She is a woman who lives at fever temperature (McKane, p. 336). She is bold in her action and invitation. She has prepared her bed for a night of love­making, and she promises security from interference by her husband because he is away from home (Marvin E. Tate, Jr., "Proverbs" The Broadman Bible Commentary, 29).

10. The Preaching of Wisdom (8:1­36) Wisdom appeals clearly to the people here. She is clear, not seductive. Wisdom proposes to speak words to chose who will listen, words which are more valuable dean silver and gold. Wisdom also depicts herself as having great power in human affairs.

11. The Invitations of Wisdom and Folly (9:1­18)

III. The Solomonic Proverb Collections (10:1 ­ 22:16)

The collections in this part are composed largely of wisdom sentences which have few immediate contexts. Many are interpreted independently. The groupings may be based on content, word play, word association. However, the main burden of exegesis must be borne by the individual sentences.

1. Collection A (10:1 ­ 15:33)

2. Collection B (16:1­22:16)

IV. Instructions in Thirty Sayings (22:17 ­ 24:22)

1. Prologue (22: 17­21)

The prologue opens with a demand for attention and the discipline of hearing. There are pleasant consequences of taking the teachings seriously. Trust in Yahweh is the objective of the teaching.

2. The Thirty Sayings (22:22 ­ 24:22)

These sayings cover such subjects as anger and robbing the weak, table manners, discipline, avoiding bad men, and sundry sayings. They all relate to the wisdom of God.

V. A Collection of the Wise Men (24:23­34)

According to 25:1, this material belongs to the proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah of Judah copied. Copied probably did not mean copied as from another manuscript. We cannot restrict the work of these scribes to dealing only with written traditions. It is probable that the collecting and editing of the wisdom of the past was part of the process of teaching.

VI. Wisdom Collection of the Men of Hezekiah (25:1 ­ 29:27)

1. Collection A (25:1 ­ 27:27) On kingship, gossip and personal confrontation, counsel for a good life, caricatures of folly and laziness, and lessons for life.

2. Collection B (28:1 ­ 29:27) Observations, wicked rulers and other subjects, matters or conduct and life, varieties of men and miscellaneous sentences.

VII. The Words of Agur (30:1­33)

The entire chapter does not belong to Agur. He maintains that his understanding of wisdom and the Holy One is really holy things or holy places as in Psalms 73:17.

VIII. The Instruction of Lemuel (31:1­9)

The genre of this material seems to be instructional, which is frequently directed to a king or some high official.

IX. A Paradigm for a Wife (31:10­31)

The book of Proverbs closes with an acrostic poem in which the initial letters of 22 couplets follow the order of the Hebrew alphabet.

The poem embodies the virtues of a good wife or woman. Most likely all the virtues of this chapter are not likely to be embodied in one woman, but a combination of them makes a strong and wise wife.

(Outline and comments taken from Marvin E. Tale, Jr., "Proverbs," The Broadman Bible Commentary, 10­12.)


I. Title and Purpose (1:1­7)

II. Reflections on the way of Wisdom (1:8­9:18)

1. Direction to avoid bad company (1:8­33)

2. Advise on the nature end value of Wisdom (2:1­22)

3. The rewards of a disciplined life (3:1­20)

4. Keeping sound wisdom (3:21­35)

5. A teacher's instructions (4:1­27)

6. Instruction about sexual behavior (5:1­23)

7. Lessons on economics and social behavior (6:1­19)

8. The folly of adultery (6:20­35)

9. Instruction on the seductive power of a strange women (7:1­27)

10. The preaching of wisdom (8:1­36)

11. The invitations of wisdom and folly (9:1­18)

III. The Solomonic Proverb Collections (10:1­22:16)

IV. Instructions in Thirty Sayings (22:17­24:22)

V. A collection of the Wise Men (24:23­34)

VI. Wisdom Collection of the Men of Hezekiah (25:1­29:27)

VII. The Words of Agur (30:1­33)

VIII. The Instruction of Lemuel (31:1­9)

IX. A Paradigm for a Wife (31:10­31)


1. Read from text on Ecclesiastes such as pages 293­298, Andrew E. Hill & John H. Walton, A Survey of the Old Testament.

2. Read Proverbs 15 and record the verse numbers of three Proverbs that stand out. Be prepared to share in class.

3. Read Proverbs 31:10­31 and write a paraphrase. Hand in at next class session.

Discussion Questions:

#1. What does Proverbs 31:10­31 suggest about the role of some women in ancient Israel?

#2. What is the real meaning of wisdom?

#3. Name and discuss the seven abominations to God listed in 6:16­19.

#4. Discuss why many writers feel Solomon is the author of most of the Proverbs.


Teacher's Notes:

Strictly speaking, the word proverb comes from a Hebrew word meaning to compare or to be like. The exact conception in the use of this word for the title is unclear. However, there is no doubt about the nature and purpose of the book. The book of Proverbs is a collection of conclusions that have been reached out of the experiences of life. They are brief, attention­getting, rhythmic ways of expressing conclusions about who God is and what He is like, about the world, and about human nature. Their purpose is to help us know how to relate to people and God. The Proverbs provide wisdom for daily living (Waylon Bailey and Tom Henderson, Step By Step Through the Old Testament, 168).


Teacher's Notes:
  • Wisdom Literature has some characteristics which set it apart from much of the rest of the Old Testament. It is international rather than national; man centered rather than God centered; rationalistic, that is, based primarily on experience more than on direct revelation; individualistic rather than corporate; and practical rather than theoretical (Ralph L. Smith, Israel's Period of Progress, 156-157).
  • From time immemorial people have coined witty sayings about life and then used them to teach their pupils or friends about life. Kings used wisdom techniques in daily communication ("let him that girds on his armor boast himself as he that puts it off," - I Kings 20:11) Also look at Goliath's question to David: Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks? ­ I Samuel l7:43).
  • The origin of the proverb is lost in the preliterate fog of antiquity, but many avenues of life must have contributed to its development. The earliest proverbs were designed for oral rather than written transmission, and much wisdom retained this oral emphasis. The book of Proverbs, for instance, puts far greater stress on hearing what is taught than on reading (see Proverbs 1:8,4:1, etc.). . . W.G. Lambert has pointed out that, rather than having a moral content, in Babylon generally wisdom refers to skill in cult and magic lore, and the wiseman is the initiate (William LaSor, David A. Hubbard, Frederic w. Bush, Old Testament Survey, 534).
Teacher's Notes:

Study the following passages and match each with the correct theme listed in the column to the right.

1. Ch l:8-l9 a. The pitfalls of immorality
2. Ch 4 b. The enticements of sinners
3. Ch 5 c. Heeding parental advice
4. Ch 31:10-31 d. Description of a worthy woman


Credits and Copyright This online text book is provided by the Division of Student Ministry of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, 333 N. Washington Dallas, Texas 75246-1798 214.828.5100 Use the text to meet your academic needs. If you copy any part of this online text, please give credit to the Division of Student Ministry of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Any donations which you give will be used in the Division of Student Ministry Summer Missions Programs.

Credits and Copyright This online text book is provided by the Division of Student Ministry of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, 333 N. Washington Dallas, Texas 75246-1798 214.828.5100 Use the text to meet your academic needs. If you copy any part of this online text, please give credit to the Division of Student Ministry of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Any donations which you give will be used in the Division of Student Ministry Summer Missions Programs.