The Book of Proverbs is part of the Bible’s wisdom literature. The Bible’s wisdom literature explores the question, “What does it mean to live well in God’s world?” You can think of it as “The Good Life, for Dummies.”
Wisdom literature comes in all forms: songs, story, reflection and romance. This book is primarily one form of writing called the proverb. A proverb is a short, pithy statement that contains a powerhouse of wisdom. A proverb is a type of poetry. However, the structure of Hebrew poetry is different than English poems.
In most simple modern poetry (think greeting cards) two lines are made to rhyme with each other through their final words. Hebrew poetry, on the other hand, contains two lines that don’t rhyme words but rather rhyme ideas. The second line in a Hebrew poem will reinforce the same thought as the first line, but in different words. Most of this book is a collection of these short, poetic pieces of wisdom called proverbs.
The Book of Proverbs is interested in how to architect the best life possible on God’s earth. The proverbs themselves are compact in nature, but they are not trite! The proverbs cover important life lessons and they do justice to the full complexity of life.
Solomon is the author of many of the proverbs—but not all. The book itself appears to be the work of a later hand who organized it into its final form (see 25:1). Solomon authored at least 3,000 proverbs in his day, but only a small percentage of those works made it into this final collection.
As we make our way through this ancient book of wisdom, we’ll look carefully for key terms and major themes that will “gently nudge” us to the prevailing message found in the work. We’ll find that themes like “The fear of the Lord” weave through the entire book.
As we begin, you’ll notice that the first nine chapters are not proverbs, but are instead a series of poems that warm you up as to why you should read the proverbs. These poems tell us about the nature of God’s wisdom and its critical role in our lives.
Let’s get started! If you haven’t watched our video on the overview of Proverbs, we recommend doing that first before we begin chapter 1.