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Proverbs

Updated
Aug 19, 2023 4:19 PM
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Old TestamentK'tuvimWisdom
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31
Total Number of Chapters
31

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 📕Psalms, 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.

Chapter by Chapter Breakdown

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Proverbs 1-9: Exhortations and Warnings
ProverbsChapter StudySolomonWisdomSymbolismAdulteryWomenPeace
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Proverbs 10-22: More of Solomon’s Wisdom
ProverbsChapter StudyPrideWisdomAngerRepentance and ForgivenessWomenJusticeLyingCommandmentsRelationshipsMoney
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Proverbs 23&24: Saying of the Wise
ProverbsChapter StudyWisdomAdulteryLying
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Proverbs 25-29: Hezekiah’s Collection
ProverbsChapter StudyHezekiahPridePovertyAngerMoney
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Proverbs 30: Agur’s Proverbs
ProverbsChapter StudyWisdomDeathAnimals
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Proverbs 31: A Virtuous Woman
ProverbsChapter StudyPovertyDrunkennessWomen

Important People

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New posts are being added all the time! Check back for more posts later.

Lessons Learned: Wisdom is Everything

Proverbs is one of those books I never sat down and read from beginning to end. Generally, I thought of Proverbs as a bunch of disjoint sayings. Now that I've reread it, I rather like reading it as a whole. There are so many gems that even a person like me who isn't generally into quotes can appreciate the book. I have a desire to make art containing the quotes to hang everywhere in my house. There's so much wisdom in the passages here, it'll never get old. We often forget even the simplest things.

Improving Myself

As a woman, Proverbs 31 probably sticks in my head the most. However, I think reading Proverbs really made me reevaluate how I view myself. There is always something we can improve upon and I found several qualities in my on life I need to revisit. For one, most of the movies and TV shows I enjoy are riddled with violence; Solomon warns us about taking delight in such things and as I thought about it, it makes sense that God would not want us indulging in such things. Another question I had my for myself was how well do I take criticism? It's easy to criticize, but many times we don't want to hear other's criticisms of ourselves. Going forth, I plan to make an effort to be more aware and pray over criticisms before accepting or rejecting them. While I think I give thought to the poor, I’ve spent much of the past few years feeling as though I was one of the poor. In that state I didn't do much to help those who actually are poor. As an American who grew up in the middle class, it's easy to allow your perception to become distorted. Even though I didn't have as much money as I needed to live the way I was used to living, I was still fairing much better than others. It is important not only to remember the plight of those less fortunate than ourselves, but to do all that we can for those suffering. This is something I plan to work on as well.

Homework

The next time I read through Proverbs I plan to keep a journal comparing the behaviors talked about to my own. I think that by using the wisdom here as a mirror to our own lives we can really improve ourselves and strength our walk with Christ.

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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