Solomon is the writer of the next 3 books of the Bible: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. Proverbs is the book on wisdom; Ecclesiastes is the book on folly; Song of Solomon is the book on love. Love is the happy medium between wisdom and folly. Solomon is an authority on all 3 subjects (1Ki_4:32-34).
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Pro_1:7)
“A proverb is a saying that conveys a specific truth in a pointed, pithy way.” “Proverbs are short sentences, drawn from long experience.” A truth couched in a form that is easy to remember, a philosophy based on experience, and a rule for conduct. A proverb is a sententious sentence, a maxim, an old saying, an old saw, a bromide, and an epigram.
The Orient and ancient East are the home of proverbs. Evidently Solomon gathered together many from other sources. He was the editor of all and the author of some. Dr. Thirtle and other scholars noted that there is a change of pronoun in the book from the second person to the third person. Their conclusions are that the proverbs in the second person were taught to Solomon by his teachers, and the proverbs in the third person were composed by Solomon.
There is a difference between the Book of Proverbs and proverbs in other writings (the Greeks were great at making proverbs, especially the gnostic poets):
1. Proverbs bear no unscientific statement or inaccurate observation; e.g., “Out of the heart proceed the issues of life” (see Pro_4:23); about 2700 years later, William Harvey found that the blood circulates. In contrast, in the Epistle of Barnabas (an apocryphal book) mention is made of the mythical phoenix, a bird that consumes itself by fire and then rises in resurrection. A fable such as this does not appear in the Book of Proverbs, nor anywhere else in the Bible.
2. The Proverbs are on a high moral plane. The immoral sayings that occur in other writings are not present. Justin Martyr said that Socrates was a Christian before Christ. Although, according to his admirers, Socrates portrays a high conception of morals, he also gives instructions to harlots on how to conduct themselves. The best that can be said of him is that he was unmoral.
3. The Proverbs do not contradict, while man’s proverbs are often in opposition to each other. For example: “Look before you leap” vs. “He who hesitates is lost.” “A man gets no more than he pays for” vs. “The best things in life are free.” “Leave well enough alone” vs. “Progress never stands still.” “A rolling stone gathers no moss” vs. “A setting hen does not get fat.”
Although the Book of Proverbs seems to be a collection of sayings without any particular regard for orderly arrangement, the contrary is true. It is not a hodgepodge of unrelated statements, nor is it a discourse of cabbages and kings (Ecc_12:9). The book tells a story. It is a picture of a young man starting out in life. His first lesson is given in Pro_1:7. Two schools bid for him and both send their literature. One is the school of Wisdom, the other is the school for fools. Wisdom is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ (see 1Co_1:30). In chapter 8, the young man goes to the academy of Wisdom where he is taught in proverbs. From chapters 10 through 24, the young man is in the classroom of Wisdom. This book is especially helpful to young men. (A very prominent jeweler in Dallas, Texas, had the Book of Proverbs bound attractively and copies given by the hundreds to young men.) The advice herein transcends all dispensations.
In a brief examination of the book, we can highlight only certain proverbs — not necessarily the most important or the most popular.
There is a proverb that is a thumbnail sketch of every character in the Bible (we can suggest only a few). Likewise, there is a proverb that will fit all your friends and acquaintances, which adds interest to the reading of the book (but may not increase your popularity if you identify them publicly).
Solomon wrote 3000 proverbs (1Ki_4:32); we have fewer than 1000 of them in this book.
STRUCTURE OF PROVERBS, by A. C. Gaebelein:
The literary form of these proverbs is mostly in the form of couplets. The two clauses of the couplet are generally related to each other by what has been termed parallelism, according to Hebrew poetry. Three kinds of parallelism have been pointed out:
1. Synonymous Parallelism. Here the second clause restates what is given in the first clause. Judgments are prepared for scoffers, and stripes for the back of fools. (Pro_19:29)
2. Antithetic (Contrast) Parallelism. Here a truth is stated in the first clause and made stronger in the second clause by contrast with an opposite truth. The light of the righteous rejoiceth, but the lamp of the wicked shall be put out. (Pro_13:9)
3. Synthetic Parallelism. The second clause develops the thought of the first. The fear of a king is like the roaring of a lion; whoso provoketh him to anger sinneth against his own soul. (Pro_20:2)
I. Wisdom and folly contrasted, Chapters 1 — 9
II. Proverbs of Solomon, written and set in order by himself, Chapters 10 — 24
III. Proverbs of Solomon, set in order by men of Hezekiah, Chapters 25 — 29
IV. Oracle of Agur, unknown sage, Chapter 30
V. Proverbs of a mother to Lemuel, Chapter 31
I. Wisdom and folly contrasted, Chapters 1 — 9
Chapter 1 — The boy in the home starting out in life.
Pro_1:5 — The challenge.
Pro_1:7 — This is repeated for every age and period in a person’s life: childhood, teens, school age, adulthood, and the estate of senior citizen.
Pro_1:8 — The responsibility of parenthood — the little boy in the home is to be taught by his parents.
Pro_1:10 — This reminds us of Joseph (Genesis 39).
Pro_1:22 — Simplicity is “stupidity.”
Pro_1:32 — Prosperity of fools is a picture of our affluent society.
Chapter 2 — The boy begins to grow up and moves beyond the circle of the home.
Pro_2:2 — Source of true wisdom.
Pro_2:16 — Strange woman was a harlot. God’s law forbade His people from being harlots.
Chapter 3 — The boy is now to listen to God’s law, as he was advised as a child in the home to turn to his father and mother (Pro_1:8).
Pro_3:5-7 — This is a popular portion, but Pro_3:7 is usually omitted — it should be included.
Pro_3:9 — Material blessings always have a spiritual significance.
Pro_3:11-12 — A Christian should learn this early in life (Heb_12:5-11).
Pro_3:33-35 — These verses are gems. The first part of Pro_3:33 applies to Ahab and Jezebel.
Chapter 4 — Although the child is now a boy who has entered the big, bad and mad world, he is still counseled to remember the instruction of his father.
Pro_4:7 — This thought runs like a stuck record through the entire book as the total objective of life. Wisdom, for the Christian, is Christ.
Pro_4:23 — The heart is the seat of the total personality. For its importance, get a concordance and look up all the references to the heart.
Chapters 5 and 6 — Read these chapters carefully and you will find that the young man is counseled to live a pure life for the sake of his home. This is the kind of sex education that God gives.
Pro_5:21 — The private life of the individual is always open before the Lord.
Pro_6:1 — Beware of signing a friend’s note, and never become a partner with a stranger.
Pro_6:6-9 — Don’t be lazy. Have a plan. Be organized. Let the lowly ant teach you.
Pro_6:16-19 — God loves, but God also hates. Here are 7 things on His hate parade. They are an ugly brood. Pride is number 1. Pride is a tumor of the brain. Through pride, Satan fell (Isa_14:12-17). Contrast these 7 things with the 7 beatitudes.
Pro_6:27-29, Pro_6:32 — The young man is being given a full sex education. A clean life is the only thing that meets God’s standard. It is in conflict with, and actually opposite to, the “new morality.”
Chapter 7 — Beware of the woman of easy morals.
Chapter 8 — The young man is ready to go to college. The school of Wisdom and the school of fools bid for his application.
Pro_8:1-4 — Wisdom calls urgently to the young man.
Pro_8:13 — This is the major in the college of Wisdom.
Pro_8:17 — The only scholarship offered is a passionate desire to learn.
Pro_8:23 — Set up is “anointed.”
Chapter 9 — The young man matriculates in the school of Wisdom.
Pro_9:10 — This is the freshman course. It is the great lesson from the cradle through college. Classes are ready to begin.
II. Proverbs of Solomon, written and set in order by himself,
Chapters 10 — 24
Chapter 10 — The school bell rings. Notice the guidelines for the young student: Pro_10:1, Pro_10:5, Pro_10:7, Pro_10:14, Pro_10:16, Pro_10:18, Pro_10:23, Pro_10:26, Pro_10:30.
Pro_11:1 — Principle for business.
Pro_11:10 — Think of David and Saul in connection with this verse.
Pro_11:15 — Don’t sign the note.
Pro_11:16 — This reminds us of Ruth and Boaz.
Pro_11:22 — Beauty is only skin deep.
Pro_11:26 — This also reminds us of Joseph’s experience in Egypt.
Pro_11:30 — The young man is to witness.
Pro_12:4 — Choosing a wife is more important than choosing a course.
Pro_12:15 — Rehoboam illustrates this proverb (1 Kings 12).
Pro_12:22 — Tell the truth.
Pro_13:3 — Shut up!
Pro_13:5 — When you talk, tell the truth.
Pro_13:24 — This is child psychology.
Pro_14:3 — This reminds us of the giant, Goliath (1 Samuel 17).
Pro_14:5 — Don’t believe all you hear.
Pro_14:9 — This is applicable to Jezebel.
Pro_14:12 — This is God’s answer to the man who says that it does not matter what you believe as long as you are sincere.
Pro_14:16 — The prodigal son did not return to the far country. Jonah never bought a second ticket to Tarshish.
Pro_14:34 — This is the plank that has been left out of the platform of all political parties. It is a prophecy that is coming true in the United States.
Pro_15:1 — See the story of Nabal and Abigail — “Beauty and the Beast” (1Sa_25:2-38).
Pro_15:3 — Big Brother may not be watching you, but God is.
Pro_15:8, Pro_15:26 — The wicked cannot do good nor think right.
Pro_15:16-17 — Read Daniel 1.
Pro_15:20 — The father brags about his son who does well — forgets the other.
Pro_15:23 — It is not only what you say, but when you say it.
Pro_15:29 — Does God answer prayer?
Pro_15:30 — The young man gets his first-quarter grades.
Pro_16:2 — This is the way we rationalize our conduct.
Pro_16:5 — God has not changed His mind.
Pro_16:7 — This is a barometer for conduct.
Pro_16:11 — This is a word for the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker.
Pro_16:12 — This is the lesson Hitler (and others like him) did not learn.