By Tyson Thorne

October 23, 2018

Intro Proverbs Large

When I was 12- or 13-years old I had a very Old Testament theology. I believed that by living according to God's commands one would be blessed with a good life. So when I began to evangelize my middle school and received the persecution that usually follows, I was confused. Thinking that God hadn't lived up to his end of things, I walked away from him. Even then, I never doubted God's existence, so I never went off the deep end by experimenting with drugs, alcohol or sex. I reasoned that if I were going to leave God, I needed to live wisely.

Set aside the contradiction of that last sentence for a moment as we turn to the Bible's wisdom literature. The word "proverb" means "to govern" or"rule". The implication is that the book of Proverbs contains direction for governing one's life. As wisdom books go, it is not unlike other compilations from rulers written around the same time. Take the Instruction for Merikare (circa 2010 BC) for example. It too was written for "young men" or "son". Of course none of these other texts were written under the superintending of the Holy Spirit.

Some things to keep in mind when reading Proverbs:

  1. These are a collection of sayings, so do not expect continuity from one to the next.
  2. These are not promises from God, but general principles for living wisely.

Point number 2 is part of the mistake I made in my youth. I took promises made to Israel and applied them to myself. As my education about the Bible enlarged I recognized that the promise Jesus made is that we will be hated by all men when we identify with him (Mark 13.13).

Author and Date of Writing

The bulk of the book was written by Solomon, with the exception of the last two chapters which were written by Agur and King Lemuel. Little is known about these two men. Of Agur nothing is known, of Lemuel there are a few theories. Tradition holds it was a poetic reference to Solomon himself, some believe it was the leader of a Ishmaelite clan in Massa, and others connect him with the king of Assyria. or detailed information about these possibilities, and other lesser guesses, see the article located here. Either way, the book was mostly written during Solomon's reign, about 950 BC.

Structure of Proverbs

  1. Solomon's Writings, 1-29
  2. Agur's Proverbs, 30
  3. Lemeul's Proverbs, 31
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