The key word in Proverbs is wisdom, “the ability to live life skillfully.” A godly life in an ungodly world, however, is no simple assignment. Proverbs provides God’s detailed instructions for His people to deal successfully with the practical affairs of everyday life.
Who Wrote Proverbs?
Solomon’s name appears at the beginning of the three sections he wrote: 1:1 for chapters 1-9, 10:1 for chapters 10:1 – 22:16 and 25:1 for chapters 25-29. According to 1 Kings 4:32, he spoke 3,000 proverbs and 1,005 songs. Only about 800 of his 3,000 proverbs are included in the two Solomonic collections in this book.
It is likely that Solomon collected and edited proverbs other than his own. According to Ecclesiastes 12:9, “he pondered and sought out and set in order many proverbs.” The second collection of Solomonic proverbs in 25-29 was assembled by the scribes of King Hezekiah because of his interest in spiritually benefitting his subjects with the Word of God.
Proverbs 22:17 – 24:34 consists of “the words of the wise.” Some of these sayings are quite similar to those found in The Wisdom of Amenemope, a document of teachings on civil service by an Egyptian who probably lived between 1,000 BC and 600 BC. Wise men of this period went to hear one another, and it is probable that Amenemope borrowed certain aphorisms from Hebrew literature.
There is no biblical information about Agur (30) or Lemuel (31). Agur ben Jakeh (30:1) is simply called an oracle, and Lemuel is called a king and an oracle (31:1). Both have been identified with Solomon, but there is no basis for this suggestion.
The Christ of Proverbs
In Proverbs 8, wisdom is personified and seen in its perfection. It is divine (8:22-31), it is the source of biological and spiritual life (3:18, 8:35), it is righteous and moral (8:8-9), and it is available to all who will receive it (8:1-6, 32-35). This wisdom became incarnate in Christ “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God – and righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30, 1 Cor 1:22-24).
The Key Word of Proverbs
Wisdom – Proverbs is one of the few biblical books that clearly spells out its purpose. The purpose statement in 1:2-6 is twofold: (1) to impart moral discernment and discretion (1:3-5) and (2) to develop mental clarity and perception (1:2, 6). The words “wisdom and instruction” in 1:2 complement each other because “wisdom” means “skill” and “instruction” means “discipline.” No skill is perfected without discipline, and when a person has skill he has freedom to create something beautiful.
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