proverbs | wise up!

Reading the book of Proverbs is like drinking a glass of clear water on a hot day when you did not realize how thirsty you were. It is unexpected, different, and deeply satisfying. The four so called “wisdom” books in the Old Testament (Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and The Song of Solomon) are dangerously practical. They deal with the circumstances of normal everyday life: work, family, finance, leisure, alcohol, speech, and exposing our deep motivations.

In Biblical terms, “wisdom” is not just learned through experience. Wisdom begins, grows, and bears fruit in the fear of the Lord. It requires humility and hunger before the person of God and his word. It requires our acknowledgement that we are not wise, so that we turn to God to fear him in all things, with all our hearts, all our days. The wisdom revealed in Proverbs is relational, not intellectual. If we come to know and love God more deeply the book is achieving its purpose.

The book of Proverbs is an amazing and unique combination. It is not “law” but it is full of commands. It is not “story” but it is full of stories. It is not “prophecy” but the God who revealed himself in the covenant with Israel is working his purposes toward the future fulfillment. It is certainly not advice—of the “haste makes waste” variety, though it captures 375 of Solomon’s pithy proverbs (e.g. ‘Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing.’ Proverbs 27:14). The book is not a random string of pearls, but a series of collections gathered carefully together, and as such context is important.

As it is not always easy to see the patterns in either the proverbs or through the book, the basic structure of the book is helpful to know.

  • Chapters 1-9 — How to read the book of Proverbs: the key is the fear of the Lord
  • Chapters 10-29 — The Proverbs of Solomon (with Sayings of the Wise 22:17-24:34)
  • Chapter 30 — The Sayings of Agur
  • Chapter 31 — The Sayings of Lemuel

Proverbs deepens and develops the basic categories of life and faith, on which the rest of Scripture builds. As such it offers unique paths to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in whom all the wisdom of God dwells.