Survey of Proverbs

Book Type: The fourth book of Wisdom; the twentieth book of the Old Testament; the twentieth book of the Bible.

Author: Proverbs is generally associated with its primary author, Solomon. However, he is only specifically listed as the author of Proverbs 1—22:16. Proverbs 22:17—24:34 were likely only compiled by Solomon, rather than being originally written by him. Proverbs 25—29 are attributed to Solomon but were recorded by King Hezekiah (Proverbs 25:1). Agur is noted as the author of chapter 30, while Lemuel is noted as author of chapter 31. Some argue Lemuel is another name associated with Solomon.

Audience: As a book of Jewish wisdom literature originally composed in Hebrew, Proverbs was composed for the education of Jewish readers. However, it was not collected in its final form until later, at least the time of King Hezekiah (726—697 BC.) and was therefore originally most likely compiled for the people of Judah during this time period.

Date: The proverbs were written from the time of Solomon (970—931 BC) through the time of King Hezekiah (726—697 BC). The final form of the book likely began to circulate late in the reign of King Hezekiah, perhaps around 700 BC.

Overview: Proverbs is unique among other Bible books for several reasons. It primarily involves a series of wise sayings, on a broad range of topics, rather than a narrative. So, unlike other passages in the Bible, these tidbits can be readily understood when read alone. Most Scripture is meant to be read in a continuous passage, while proverbs are meant to be short, independent, and general.

However, a basic structure of the book still exists. Proverbs 1:1¬–7 gives an introduction to the book.

After this, the first nine chapters focus on wise sayings to instruct those who are young (Proverbs 1:8—9:18). Chapter 1 emphasizes wisdom, chapter 2 notes wisdom's value, chapter 3 teaches about trusting the Lord with all of your heart, chapter 4 expresses a father's wisdom, chapters 5—7 warn against various sins, including adultery, chapter 8 extols the blessings of wisdom, while chapter 9 provides the way of wisdom.

Next, general proverbs are recorded in chapters 10—29. These include three sections covering proverbs from Solomon (Proverbs 10—22:16), proverbs from other wise men (Proverbs 22:17—24:34), and additional proverbs from Solomon collected by the men of Hezekiah (Proverbs 25—29).

A fourth section includes two final chapters by additional authors. Chapter 30 relates the words of Agur, while chapter 31 contains wise sayings from Lemuel, including the beloved description of a wife of noble character.

Key Verses (ESV):

Proverbs 1:5: "Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance."

Proverbs 1:7: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction."

Proverbs 4:5: "Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth."

Proverbs 8:13–14: "The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. I have counsel and sound wisdom; I have insight; I have strength."

Proverbs 18:13: "If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame."

Proverbs 26:4¬–5: "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes."

Proverbs 27:5: "Better is open rebuke than hidden love."

Proverbs 29:1: "He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing."

Proverbs 31:30–31: "Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates."