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FRAMEWORKS: Proverbs: Introduction


Why Read Proverbs: Apart from the fact that it is part of the Biblical canon, Proverbs is a fascinating collection of wisdom from Solomon and other writers that can be an excellent source or basis for meditation or group discussion.


Contents: Any division of the book of Proverbs has to be by author or compiler as follows:










Proverbs of Solomon



Words of the Wise



Further words of the wise



Proverbs of Solomon copied



Words of Agur



Words of Lemuel



Poem of the good wife


Part 1: The Prologue : Chapters 1-9: are all about Wisdom and some of the ways it should be worked out. Various themes are repeated throughout and the following are a few examples but the reader is encouraged to search more fully for these and others:

Purpose: 1:1-7, 2:1-5,

Encouragement for the readers – Solomon's son[s] – to heed his parents teaching: 1:8,9, 4:1-3, 6:20-23,

The Benefits of Wisdom: 2:10-12,20,21, 3:1-4,13-24, 4:10-13, 9:11,12,

Wisdom seen as a person calling out: 1:20-33, 8:1-36,

Wise Outlook/Behaviour to follow: 3:1-12, 4:4-9,23-27, 5:15-19,

Wrong Behaviour to Avoid: 3:27-35, 4:14-17, 6:1-5,16-19,

Avoidance of those who would lead you astray: 1:10-19, 2:12-15, 5:22,23,

Avoiding Adultery or the Promiscuous Woman : 2:16-19, 5:3-14,20,21, 6:24-35, 7:5-27,


Part 2: The Proverbs of Solomon: Chapters 10-22: are straight forward proverbs in no particular order and for this reason we have not attempted any divisions or made any comments about individual verses. However, to help the reader study or meditate on the proverbs we suggest the following helps and examples that we take from chapters 10-14 that can be applied to all the proverbs:


a) Observe contrasts – especially the use of the word ‘but', which is most frequently used [yet not always used] e.g.

10:1 A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son brings grief to his mother.

10:24  What the wicked dread will overtake them; [butwhat the righteous desire will be granted.

11:10  When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; [butwhen the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.

12:8  A person is praised according to their prudence, and [or but ] one with a warped mind is despised.

12:13  Evildoers are trapped by their sinful talk, and [or but] so the innocent escape trouble.

13:7  One person pretends to be rich, yet has nothing;  [butanother pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.


b) Observe similarities – where, for example the word ‘and' is used

10:10  Whoever winks maliciously causes grief, and a chattering fool comes to ruin.


c) Observe One-point verses – where only one point is being made, although with perhaps more than one aspect to it, e.g.

10:22  The blessing of the Lord brings wealth without painful toil for it.

12:9  Better to be a nobody and yet have a servant than pretend to be somebody and have no food.


d) Observe Comparison within one point verses – one point made but a comparison given, e.g.

10:26  As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so are sluggards to those who send them.

11:7  Hopes placed in mortals die with them;  [i.e. so] all the promise of their power comes to nothing.

11:22  Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.


e) Observe Consequence Verses – a behavioral consequence follows the main point, e.g.

11:29  Whoever brings ruin on their family will inherit only wind,  and [the consequence] the fool will be servant to the wise.

12:28  In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality. [the consequence or perhaps repeating the first point but differently]

13:14  The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, [the consequence or outworking] turning a person from the snares of death.

14:27  The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, [the consequence] turning a person from the snares of death.


f) Observe Double Point Verses – two similar things said to make a point, e.g.

12:14  From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and [the similarity] the work of their hands brings them reward.


g) Similarity yet Comparison Verses – both occur together, e.g.

14:14  The faithless will be fully repaid for their ways, and [butthe good rewarded for theirs. [yet both get something!]


Common Subjects: An alternative approach which many commentaries use, is to simply look for common subjects in the proverbs. The following are just a few examples:

- Parents: 10:1, 13:1, 15:20, 17:25, 19:13,26, 20:20

- the Righteous – 10:3,6,7,11,16,20,21,24,28,30,31,32 etc.

- the Idle [sluggard] – 10:26, 13:4, 15:19, 19:24, 20:4, 21:25, 22:13, 24:30 etc.

- Speech [words, tongue] – 10:19, 12:6,18, 15:26, 16:21,24 etc.

- Speech [tongue] – 10:19,20,31, 11:12, 12:18,19, 15:2,4 etc.

- Speech [lips] –10:13,18,21,32, 12:14,19,22, 13:2,3, 14:3,7 etc.


Part 3: The Words of the Wise: Chapters 22 to 24: From 22:17 to 24:21 the nature of the writing changes from straight forward proverbs to directional or purposeful teaching grouped as ‘thirty sayings' which often maintain the same feeling as the previous proverbs. For this reason we continue to NOT provide additional structure or notes.


Part 4: Further Words of the Wise: 24:23-34: Some commentators lump the following parts together but we simply note the wording at 24:23 where the tone and style changes yet again and the linking word ‘but', seen in so many proverbs, is completely absent.


Part 5: Proverbs of Solomon copied (or compiled): Chapters 25 to 29: that start, These are more proverbs of Solomon, compiled by the men of Hezekiah king of Judah,” apparently from Solomon's original store but copied by Hezekiah's men centuries later. Although appearing as obvious proverbs the link word ‘but' is hardly used until chapter 28. Similar helps can be applied as used in Part 2.



Part 6: Words or sayings of Agur: 30:1-33: that start with the assertion that they are “an inspired utterance”, implying prophecy or revelation [30:1] which have more of a personal feel about them than much of the latter parts of the book. Again we leave comment to the reader. Agur's identity is unknown.


Part 7: Words or Sayings of King Lemuel: 31:1-9: nine verses of this unknown king that are said to be “ an inspired utterance his mother taught him” [31:1], a call to live wisely avoiding women [v.3], or drink [v.4-7] and to speak up for the weak and needy, bringing them justice [v.8,9]



Part 8: The Poem of the Good Wife: 31:10-33: a poem of an unknown writer that extols this woman of noble character. A Beautiful writing to end a book that often appears to some as dry and perhaps academic. [In reality, very practical!]

Part of the fascination of this book is observing the different styles in each of the Parts we have suggested above. As a resource for meditation and group reflection on moral, ethical, or behavioural issues, it is excellent.



Continue to Proverbs 1