The book of Proverbs accomplishes something no other biblical book does: it simply compiles numerous short instructions for living an effective life on earth. While other books articulate profound theological truths, lengthy narratives of triumph and failure, or prophetic preaching to a disobedient people, Proverbs concerns itself completely with instructing people in the path of wisdom. The writers of the book recognized the varied circumstances of a person’s life and provided principles to apply in a variety of situations rather than instructions to follow in only a few specific instances.
Its strong association with Solomon means most of its contents were completed prior to his death in 931 BC. Clearly the book stayed in the southern kingdom of Judah, as Hezekiah’s men compiled more of Solomon’s proverbs in Proverbs 25–29. This indicates that the book was likely in its final form sometime before the end of Hezekiah’s reign in 686 BC.
The three most powerful points I took from the book were;
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.
Keep God's commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.
That wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with wisdom.
Purpose of the Proverbs.
The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:
for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight;
for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair;
for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young -
let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance -
for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
Author's Plea to Embrace Wisdom.
Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching.
They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.
Avoid Sinners and Enticements.
My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them.
If they say, "Come along with us; let us lie in wait for someone's blood, let's waylay some harmless soul;
let us swallow them alive, like the grave, and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
we will get all sorts of valuable things and fill our houses with plunder;
throw in your lot with us, and we will share a common purse"-
My son, do not go along with them, do not set foot on their paths;
for their feet rush into sin, they are swift to shed blood.
How useless to spread a net in full view of all the birds!
These men lie in wait for their own blood; they waylay only themselves!
Such is the end of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the lives of those who get it.
Exhortation to Wisdom.
Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares;
at the head of the noisy streets she cries out, in the gateways of the city she makes her speech:
How long will you simple ones love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?
If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you.
But since you rejected me when I called and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand,
since you ignored all my advice and would not accept my rebuke,
I in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you-when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you.
Then they will call to me, but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me.
Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the LORD,
since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke,
they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.
For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them;
but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm."
Trust and Honour God.
My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart,
for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.
Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favour and a good name in the sight of God and man.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.
Honour the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops;
then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.
My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.
Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding,
for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.
She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.
Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honour.
Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed.
By wisdom, the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place;
by his knowledge, the watery depths were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew.
My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion;
they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck.
Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble.
When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,
for the Lord will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared.
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.
Do not say to your neighbour, “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you” - when you already have it with you.
Do not plot harm against your neighbour, who lives trustfully near you.
Do not accuse anyone for no reason—when they have done you no harm.
Do not envy the violent or choose any of their ways.
For the Lord detests the perverse but takes the upright into his confidence.
The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous.
He mocks proud mockers but shows favour to the humble and oppressed.
The wise inherit honour, but fools get only shame.
The Discourse of Wisdom.
Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice?
On the heights along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand;
beside the gates leading into the city, at the entrances, she cries aloud:
"To you, O men, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind.
You who are simple, gain prudence; you who are foolish, gain understanding.
Listen, for I have worthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right.
My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness.
All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse.
To the discerning all of them are right; they are faultless to those who have knowledge.
Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold,
for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.
I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion.
To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behaviour and perverse speech.
Counsel and sound judgment are mine; I have understanding and power.
By me kings reign and rulers make laws that are just;
by me princes govern, and all nobles who rule on earth.
I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.
With me are riches and honour, enduring wealth and prosperity.
My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver.
I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice,
bestowing wealth on those who love me and making their treasuries full.
The Eternity of Wisdom.
The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old;
I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began.
When there were no oceans, I was given birth, when there were no springs abounding with water;
before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth,
before he made the earth or its fields or any of the dust of the world.
I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,
when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.
The Blessings of Wisdom.
Now then, my sons, listen to me; blessed are those who keep my ways.
Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not ignore it.
Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway.
For whoever finds me finds life and receives favour from the LORD.
But whoever fails to find me harms himself; all who hate me love death.
First Collection of the Proverbs of Solomon.
A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son brings grief to his mother.
Ill-gotten treasures have no lasting value, but righteousness delivers from death.
The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.
Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth. He who gathers crops in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.
Blessings crown the head of the righteous, but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked.
The name of the righteous is used in blessings, but the name of the wicked will rot.
The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin.
Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.
Whoever winks maliciously causes grief, and a chattering fool comes to ruin.
The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.
Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning, but a rod is for the back of one who has no sense.
The wise store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.
The wealth of the rich is their fortified city, but poverty is the ruin of the poor.
The wages of the righteous is life, but the earnings of the wicked are sin and death.
Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.
Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool.
Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.
The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value.
The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of sense.
The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, without painful toil for it.
A fool finds pleasure in wicked schemes, but a person of understanding delights in wisdom.
What the wicked dread will overtake them; what the righteous desire will be granted.
When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever.
As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so are sluggards to those who send them.
The fear of the Lord adds length to life, but the years of the wicked are cut short.
The prospect of the righteous is joy, but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing.
The way of the Lord is a refuge for the blameless, but it is the ruin of those who do evil.
The righteous will never be uprooted, but the wicked will not remain in the land.
From the mouth of the righteous comes the fruit of wisdom, but a perverse tongue will be silenced.
The lips of the righteous know what finds favour, but the mouth of the wicked only what is perverse.
Second Collection of the Proverbs of Solomon.
These are more proverbs of Solomon, copied by the men of Hezekiah king of Judah:
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.
As the heavens are high and the earth is deep, so the hearts of kings are unsearchable.
Remove the dross from the silver, and out comes material for the silversmith;
remove the wicked from the king's presence, and his throne will be established through righteousness.
Do not exalt yourself in the king's presence, and do not claim a place among great men; it is better for him to say to you, "Come up here," than for him to humiliate you before a nobleman.
What you have seen with your eyes.
Do not bring hastily to court, for what will you do in the end if your neighbour puts you to shame?
If you argue your case with a neighbour, do not betray another man's confidence,
or he who hears it may shame you and you will never lose your bad reputation.
A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.
Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man's rebuke to a listening ear.
Like the coolness of snow at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to those who send him; he refreshes the spirit of his masters.
Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of gifts he does not give.
Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.
If you find honey, eat just enough - too much of it, and you will vomit.
Seldom set foot in your neighbour’s house - too much of you, and he will hate you.
Like a club or a sword or a sharp arrow is the man who gives false testimony against his neighbour.
Like a bad tooth or a lame foot is reliance on the unfaithful in times of trouble.
Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.
If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.
As a north wind brings rain, so a sly tongue brings angry looks.
Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.
Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land.
Like a muddied spring or a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way to the wicked.
It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honourable to seek one's own honour.
Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.
What I took from it.
The Book of Proverbs can make an important contribution to Christians today. First, it places the pursuit of wisdom over the performance of individual wise acts. To seek wisdom above all things is a fundamental option and a way of life. Second, it portrays the quest as filled with obstacles. There are men and women who offer a substitute for the real thing; discernment is required. Third, the book teaches that acquiring wisdom is both a human task and a divine gift. One can make oneself ready to receive by discipline, but one cannot take so divine a gift. Fourth, wisdom is in the world but it is not obvious to people entirely caught up with daily activities.
The instructions and the aphorisms of the book can free the mind to see new things. Christians will see in personified Wisdom aspects of Jesus Christ, who they believe is divine wisdom sent to give human beings true and full life. Yet there is a universal dimension to Proverbs, for in its attention to human experience it creates a link to all people of good will.