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Proverbs

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Dec 22, 2022 3:36 AM
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A proverb is a brief but popular saying, usually containing some sort of wisdom.[1] You've probably heard proverbs such as "two wrongs don't make a right" or "the pen is mightier than the sword." God provides us with a whole book of proverbs, which we can be sure were guided by the Spirit. Because proverbs are short and sweet, they tend to be easier to remember; clearly God wanted to make sure we could hold on to the principles and ideas taught in the book! The book of Proverbs is one of the Books of Wisdom and provides just that, wisdom.

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Table of Contents

Who Wrote Proverbs?

Proverbs doesn't have one author. Like

, it is a collection of writings by multiple people that was placed together by an editor. The works of Solomon were prepared by men from the Tribe of Judah under the instruction of King Hezekiah (Proverbs 25:1). Since most of the proverbs are attributed to King Solomon by the book itself (Proverbs 1:1, Proverbs 10:1, and Proverbs 25:1), it's probably safe to say that these men constructed the majority of the book. It is possible that they constructed the entirety of the book, but it is hard to say with certainty due to the other authors listed as authors in Proverbs.

Agur

Proverbs 30:1 tells us some of the proverbs were written by a man named Agur who was the son of Jakeh. This is the only reference to Agur or his father in the entire Bible. We are told that Agur spoke his words to Ithiel and Ucal. Ithiel is mentioned in Nehemiah 11:7 as a son of Benjamin. Ucal isn't mentioned again. This makes it difficult to know who Agur was or when he lived. Was he a priest? A prophet? Just a regular guy with wisdom? We aren't told.

Lemuel

Proverbs 31:1 introduces us to king Lemuel as another author of proverbs. Once again, this is the only mentioning of him in the Bible! We usually expect that authors of the Bible, particularly of the Old Testament, are Israelites. A man writing proverbs inspired by God during the BC era would most likely be an Israelite, but the Bible never lists anyone named Lemuel in the lineage of Israel's kings. Some believe that Lemuel may have been a nickname for Solomon.[2] Others believe it is a nickname for Hezekiah.[3]

It's important to note that Lemuel's wisdom came from the teachings of his mother, which is not only a statement to remember when thinking of what the Bible says about women, but a clue to piecing together his identity. The above identifications all hinge of the assumption that Lemuel was an Israelite and thus an Israelite king. It is possible that his mother was an Israelite but his father was not. Lemuel could have been king of a neighboring nation.

Date

Since we can't figure out when Agur and Lemuel wrote their proverbs, we can't pinpoint when the final compilation of the book was. The proverbs written by Solomon would have been written after 967 BC.[4] If the entire book was compiled under the authority of King Hezekiah, the book would have been compiled between 726 BC and 698 BC.[5] Depending on when Agur and Lemuel wrote their proverbs, the book could have been compiled much later.

Structure

Most books of the Bible are meant to be read chronologically; even books of law, such as Leviticus, have a chronological flow. Proverbs, however, does not follow this type of structure. Theoretically you could read Proverbs in any order you wish. I will say I think God chose this order for a reason and there are passages that I believe may be interpreted differently if read in isolation or before other verses.

Purpose

Proverbs gives nuggets of wisdom in the form of proverbs, hence its inclusion with the Books of Wisdom. Most of the proverbs were written by Solomon himself, one of the wisest people to ever live. Proverbs are easy to memorize and thus, Solomon's knowledge readily sticks in our minds. Much of the knowledge given in proverbs is stated in the Books of Law, but the authors of Proverbs word the message so that it is clear and concise. We can confirm God's authority in their words since they match God's law, but we can more easily relate and remember their words.

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References & Footnotes

  1. Proverb". Merriam Webster; visited June 2017
  2. "Lemuel". Bible Study Tools; visited June 2017
  3. "Who was King Lemuel in Proverbs 31?". GotQuestions.org; visited 2017
  4. American-Israeli Cooperative Initiative. "King Solomon". Jewish Virtual Library; visited June 2017
  5. "Hezekiah". Bible Hub; visited June 2017