to develop a grasp of Proverbs from which to apply individual Proverbs

In time I wish to add to this a couple of actual studies on bits of Proverbs, there are areas here that are underdeveloped - it might be worth raising some of the key themes, and other directors in the text... its not just 'marry Christ' its also got live for him, be an ambassador for wisdom, be a true king in Christ for your people and hood, and key guidance issues on main areas. But time limits, if any wants them i could just put em up as .rtf downloads... Found some good stuff here, poorly laid out though! But good to see I am not entirely departing from older understandings of the same text.

Author Issues

  • Solomon et al

      Click the Solomon - how he examples it in life, symbolic relevance he gives wisdom by being the man who defines it, the ultimate king.

      What is Solomon's connection with wisdom & what is the significance of it?

      • How bright was this guy that arranged them? 1 Kings 4:29-341 & Ecclesiastes chapter 12.
      • When did they appear? Not under Moses (Goldsworthy comments: shadow of the kingdom now complete, and in the epitome of Israel, Solomon, 2 Sam 7:12-14a son of David, Peaceful reign of wisdom appears...). So these ain't no ceremonial law to drive us to need of sacrifice in particular. They represent the greatest wisdom of Israels second wisest king. What is the relevance? He writes as the King of the Covenant, Solomon=Peaceful (the king under whose reign peace came). Tis the advice of the king named Peace.
      • Proverbs 25:1 - Hezekiah's men had copied some of his Proverbs and chosen where to insert them. Proverbs 30 - has the words of Agur; Lemuel. Yet Proverbs 1:1 would lead one to think it is Solomon's book. Though he did not write all the Proverbs in the book (as perhaps, to a lesser extent Paul did not write all of 1 Corinthians, but selectively included the writings of some wise pagans), Solomon is the clear symbolic head of wisdom & organiser of the book, though he could not have compiled it in its final form, his editing influence will have been extremely heavy to have such references in both Pro 1:1 & Ecc, and in their addition/insertion in Hezekiah's day, no doubt they bowed to Solomonic style and structural ideas, as God aided them to compile Proverbs to the extent that we can comfortably say it was 'written by Solomon.'

      When did Solomon write this?

        One of the problems historically with Proverbs is how could such a foolish idiot (with women and idolatry) write such good stuff on 'wisdom'. Consider that he must be at least 30 to be instructing his son, and referring to the time when his father taught him as a tender youth (Proverbs 4.3). I wonder also (as Proverbs surely follows Ecclesiastes), if much of the wisdom he gained to write Proverbs did not occur in fact through his 'experimental' path into pain and madness in pursuit of wisdom as recorded in Ecclesiastes, and 1 Kings 10ish etc. Proverbs 5.8-14 possibly gives insight into this - after talking about the forbidden/foreign woman's dangers, he says the following to his sons:

        Keep your way far from her,
          and do not go near the door of her house,
        lest you give your honour to others
          and your years to the merciless,
        lest strangers take their fill of your strength,
          and your labours go to the house of a foreigner,
        and at the end of your life you groan,
          when your flesh and body are consumed,
        and you say, 'How I hated discipline,
          and my heart despised reproof!
        I did not listen to the voice of my teachers
          or incline my ear to my instructors.
        I am at the brink of utter ruin
          in the assembled congregation.'

        The Proverbs are so wise, and cover (in the early chapters) an aspect where Solomon so failed: women... Thus I believe much of Proverbs was fine tuned (if not written wholesale) after his return to the Lord, and we have here in writing the closest you will find to his prayer of penitence. How deeply he would have been able to impart meaning and feeling to the above words when he said them to his son. And read it, and doesn't it just sound so personal, he has manage to convey a remarkable sense of feel to something - unless he is merely telling his son - "This is how it is, you will feel like this, because you know this is how I feel, so now I tell you what I wish I had done myself." How could a man who is still in the midst of such activities say such incisive, penetrating and damning things about them? He could not... IMHO!

      the sequel to Ecclesiastes?

        If Ecclesiastes was the evangelistic giveaway book to stir the enquirer to seek meaning amidst all the meaninglessness, then Proverbs is the book that delineates evil and righteousness with perfect clarity, applies it into the real world and demonstrates it WORKS, commending a total embracing of the wisdom from God. Proverbs begins where Ecclesiastes ends:

        The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

        The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.

        Ecclesiastes 12.13 & Proverbs 1.7

        Ecclesiastes last chapter (12.9-10) also contains a fairly unsubtle advert for further reading from the same author - i.e. the Preacher's proverbs... The order in our bible should most probably be Ecclesiastes THEN Proverbs!

  • Jesus

    • One greater than Solomon is here Matt 12:42
    • 'wisdom justified by her children' Matthew 11:19
    • wisdom of God 1 Cor 1
    • the foolish man & the wise man (Peter Sanlon's structure for Proverbs 13 as follows)
        1. Wisdom Shouts Out v20-23
        2. Suicide of the Simple v21-32
        3. Safety of the Listener v33
      What Solomon could say only in the third person, Jesus said for himself. No wonder he blew their heads.

Structural Analysis

  • target audience

      The part of narrator, and that of the intended audience in this play belong to Solomon the author, and his son, it is a narrative customised for his son, though this develops at times to the plural 'sons' (say 7.24). So it is advice from King named Peaceful, royal advice to the royal heirs of the kingdom. One reading of 'Israel' is 'prince-with-God', and the true church is the Israel of God (Gal 6.16). So Jesus, Prince of Peace & everlasting father advises his princely royal children through this book as we read it with extended vision. This does effect particular the use of women as the two main actors in Act 1 (so women might want to consider switching them with men in their minds).

  • 1-9: introduction to wisdom & folly

      This deeply metaphorical section stars two females that go by these names (though folly has a number of others: the forbidden, evil, immoral or foreign woman, the adulteress & the prostitute). They both have a long term influence on your health far beyond the powers of mortals (7.26 'her slain are a mighty throng', 8.23 'ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth', 8.35 'whoever finds me finds life') - they are in biblical theology - the pearl of great price aka Jesus Christ & the lady Babylon aka Satan - 'My son,' says Solomon, 'you have just 2 Ways 2 Live...' This section crescendoes in chapter 9 where the characters deliberate parallels and contrasts are at their most stark.
      [aside: Why does Solly choose to use women as his metaphor for greater issues? Hint: why may it help his son to listen and understand?]

  • 10-30: wisdom & folly in the everyday

      Why the sudden switch to daily life? '...and my son,' says Solomon, 'we all make one of those two choices every day.' We MUST look at Kings 10.1-94 - from what does the Queen of Sheba learn his wisdom?

      In understanding application to life, dealing with day to day physical/spiritual realities & often looking at long term health issues... (the contrasting words wisdom, folly/ ignorance, knowledge/ success, destruction that continue, but now apply to anger, money, time, tongue, work, not women).

      Wisdom, particularly in Proverbs, reminds us that being human means making human decisions for human acts then wearing the consequences. The Bible knows nothing of the kind of piety once expressed to me by a sincere but rather mistaken Christian who said, 'Isn't it great that we don't have to make any decisions.'

      Graeme Goldsworthy

      Spiritual wisdom & maturity in Christ is not simply how much of the bible you know, how much you pray, play your part in the work of the church. Rather being a fully blooded Christian is much more than that, about how respectful you are, how you have arranged your life, how you lose your temper, how much you think about life b4 God, how indiscreet you are, how you work, how you conduct your marriage, how much debt you have built up... It can be godly to consider 'worldly' things:

      In my study of chapter 13 of [1 Corinthians] I was deeply impressed with the importance of godly character (namely, love). Character is more important that charisma. The Bible also teaches that a man is measured more by his character than by his creed (cf. I Tim. 3). A godly man is not merely one who professes to believe certain truths, but one who practices them (James 2.14-26).

      Bob Deffinbaugh, Th.M,

  • 31: finale - marry wisdom, she rocks - BIG TIME!

      (cf v.3) the apparently random conclusion about a good wife (as the wife of a friend said - '...who does more than any wife could conceivably do...') to which maybe we are given a subtle clue in 31:10 - a phrase only used in 3 other places in the bible: Job 28:18; Pro 3:15, 8:11. What is the gospel application of THAT!!! Beautiful, ne c'est pas?!

      So we agree with the ESV's 'The Preacher taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care.' Ecclesiastes 12.9

  • Application

      [Fear of the Lord motif: beginning 1:7, penultimate verse, & throughout - significance? (not quite crystal on this) - you can't get out of the many covenant, word, commandment, LORD/maker etc references throughout - however earthly bits are, you cannot take em and separate them from God.]

      Solomon sets it up for his son(s)

      • (1-9) there are two women, they both look alike (Pr 9), where they'll take you is where they split. I major on this. My reason is you must understand where they lead & how they operate, cos appearances deceive.
      • (10-30) Now let me show you where you've met them, cos until now you think its only the next man, but let me show you, you've already been trading, guaranteed, with one or the other... - now do you see, when I tell you son, don't be lazy, son be at ease - let your anger be, now do you see why I'm telling you these things: it's cos of who you are trafficking with & where it'll lead. The fish are more dangerous than you clock.
      • (31) And let me say just one last time, on my dying breath: let me commend to you the one who excels all others. She built my house alone, its cos of her I'm well spoke of, she has no equal and her praise will stand. [aside: problee does have something to say about a real wife, as do 1-9, but their strongest move is elsewhere]


      So when we teach from 10-30, are we bringing in the point Solomon is showing them -€“ how they meet two very powerful players 1-9. In other words, if ultimately we are not relating wisdom in 10-30 to Christ / Satan Heaven / Hell we are not doing what Solomon was doing. 10-30 is controlled by 1-9 and so in a very clear 2 Ways 2 Live5 framework. This aspect is surely emphasised much less in some proverbs than others, but if we don't ever make the connection we're problee adrift of Solomon.

Proverb Studies

  • language forms

      hebrew poetic parallelism (standard 2 types)

        Look it up in google if you haven't heard of this term!
        • contrast
        • identical/development

      number sayings

        There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him... Under 3 things the earth trembles, under 4 it cannot bear up. Goldsworthy suggests possibly it was a list to allow you to add your own or consider further connections that could be made?? Probably more to it given they cluster around Pro 30.15-31.

      looseness of language not found in English translations

      • Whoever loves discipline, loves knowledge (NIV)
        Loving knowledge, loving discipline. (Hebrew)
      • A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. (NIV)
        A word fitly spoken, apples of gold in settings of silver (Hebrew)
      • Like cold water to a thirsty soul is good news from a distant land. (NIV)
        Cold water to a thirsty soul, and good news from a far country. (Hebrew)
      • There is no indication of cause or effect or any other relationship between them. Thus there is room for interpretation which would not be allowed otherwise.

        Graeme Goldsworthy

        The fact is, its written loose, and the aim is to make us cogitate and work out connections & applications, not to lay it all up on a plate for us.

      not a set of laws, but principles to be appropriately applied

        Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.

              Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.

        Proverbs 26.4-5

        If set laws to follow then blatantly impossible cos mutually exclusive. Rather we are to use our mind to work out when to apply which...

  • the master patterner

      The order of the proverbs is NOT RANDOM.

        The main body of actual proverbs (chapters 10 through 30) can be loosely broken up into:
        • short proverbs (10 to 22.16)
        • longer sayings (22.17 to 30)

        A brother once said, "Proverbs are a little like pebbles on a beach, you can pick on up and look at the shapes in it, its polish, its unique life, then take another one - each one has its own unique message and feel."

        Much, much better is to conceive of the short proverbs as being beautiful stones in an awesome mosaic created by a master craftsmen, the wisest sinner in all known history, in fact. If we cannot perceive the order that we are told is there, we ought not assign randomness to this man and the God who inspired him, but rather weakness to our own minds: for the Word of God says he spent time 'weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care.'6 Here we merely seek to consider a couple of possible items of note in this pattern, and the depth of reasoning behind it. I may be quite wrong, for my mind is not like Solomon's, though I have 'the mind of Christ', as all Christians in the Spirit.

      Occasional deliberate 'break up' of structure?

        You can find some longer sayings in the middle of the shorter sections too! Say 11.24-26 and 16:10-15. This latter one raises some questions: why verse 11 in middle? - clearly others are related, but not this one - almost always very worth having a look a little bit back, and a little bit forward to see similar phrases developments if you are stuck on connections... 19:4, 6-7 (why verse 5 in middle, clearly others are related, then 5 is echoed v soon after in 9). Why, what benefit? Why would a master riddler do this?

      Deliberate repetition

        A more common thing is, as with 19:12, to repeat with variation/contrast a chapter or so later 20:2.

        This can perhaps be grasped by trying to nail a piece of wood down at various points. Generally banging once one nail is in, you move onto next, now often while banging the other nails in the vibrations cause the nails to jump back out of the one that you just banged in, or the one at the other end of the plank that you did first, so you have to go back round and hammer them in again. That is like the human mind, 2 Peter, these things you know but it is good to remind you again, indeed when I'm gone I'll make sure you still have a reminder... We forget one area & think we've sorted it, old Solly comes back to it, in sure and even fashion (well, if not even, then at least perfectly wise). 'And like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings'7 - so they need revisiting, cos like the nails they jump out of our lives, while working on another area! Or hammering at from a slightly different angle to insure they finally go in straight.

  • use your mind

      A number of the above encourage one to think, the looseness of language, not natural reading - it has been naturalised to much, natural pondering...

      Everywhere in the world around us are the evidences of God's maintenance of order if we would only see them. The wise men were content to observe life and to note that even the most unlikely things and events are related in some way.

      Graeme Goldsworthy

      In the conclusion to the introduction of the book of Proverbs Solomon said:

      Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
        and the one who understands obtain guidance
      to understand a proverb and a saying
        the words of the wise and their riddles

      Jesus worked thus with his Proverbs, sorry parables. They concealed meaning from those who, in the hardness of their hearts, refused to think and seek understanding - but to the irresistably drawn, to those who had an ear to hear, it would beg the asking of more questions, and in seeking guidance they would obtain it.8 As the butterfly must struggle to break out of its cocoon in order for its wings to properly form, so we must struggle and really desire to get out, to grasp what is said, and that struggle over meaning and application is essential to any deep & true valuing, understanding, holding, storing and use of wisdom so gained...


  1. authorship/association Solomon issue -> Christ & Wisdom

  2. Proverbs addresses 2 Ways 2 Live: Wisdom or Folly

    1. (1-9) introduces them as ways of life, love, like women

      • time & again he points 'my son' past the surface to consider the end, ultimately heaven & hell (as far as the OT could grasp it)
      • in the next section you get varying degrees of 'forward looking', but it is there, so in our ultimate consideration of proverbs we should be considering it in the context of 1-9 - with whom are we living (on a day by day)?
    2. (10-30) show how this works out in daily life

      • it is not a series of laws you must do (some contradict one another)
      • it is a series of subjects & issues carefully arranged to provoke thought & produce wise reaction
      • you cannot separate wisdom from God
      • you cannot separate wisdom from the fallen world we live in
    3. (31) represents a final remonstrance to steer clear of folly & grasp wisdom with both hands

      • conclusion to marry Christ & be sorted

        As Ecclesiastes is the prequel, perhaps Song of Songs is the sequel detailing how a marital relationship to the Wisdom of God begins and ends, with all its ups and the downs...?!

    See also Peter J. Leithart's article: The Dramatic Structure of Proverbs.


    Links in footnotes were correct at time of writing. If you find dead ones, please let me know. In a number of cases I have saved a copy of the linked page/file, and can make this available on request.

  • 1: ^   And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon's wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all other men, wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Calcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol, and his fame was in all the surrounding nations. He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005. He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall. He spoke also of beasts, and of birds, and of reptiles, and of fish. And people of all nations came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from all the kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom.

  • 2: ^   The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. I said in my heart, 'I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.'

  • 3: ^

  • 4: ^   When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relation to the name of the LORD, she came to test him with hard questions. Arriving at Jerusalem with a very great caravan with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind. Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her. When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the LORD, she was overwhelmed.\n\nShe said to the king, 'The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard. How happy your men must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! Praise be to the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the LORD's eternal love for Israel, he has made you king, to maintain justice and righteousness.'\n\nParallel passage from 1 Chronicles 9.2-4:\n\nSolomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for him to explain to her. When the queen of Sheba saw the wisdom of Solomon, as well as the palace he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, the cupbearers in their robes and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the LORD, she was overwhelmed.

  • 5: ^

  • 6: ^   Ecclesiastes 12.9

  • 7: ^   Ecclesiastes 12.11

  • 8: ^   'Seek and you shall find...' & 'And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables.' Mark 4.10