The Book of Proverbs

Resources Used: 

  • Kreeft, Peter. You Can Understand the Bible: A Practical Guide to Each Book in the Bible. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005.
  • The Bible Project (videos below).
  • Scripture Class @ Seminary of Christ the King, Mission, B.C.

 

 

“Proverbs is the brilliant young teacher…”

  • She’s not just smart… she’s smart about everything! She has incredible insights, things you would not see on your own.
  • She’s the perfect friend when you need really specific advice. So don’t read Proverbs like a narrative. Read it like a library (browse through and pick samples to use bit by bit) and use it as a toolbox.
  • And why is she so smart? She believes that there’s an invisible creative force that can guide us in how we live. This force – hokmah is wisdom – an attribute of God Himself that God used to create the world and has woven into the fabric of things. Good, just, wise decisions = tapping into hokmah. Bad decisions = working against hokmah. Hokmah is like a moral law of the universe.
  • Proverbs personifies hokmah as Lady Wisdom. Anyone can access and interact with hokmah and use it to make a beautiful life. You can create with hokmah – that’s why it’s also used to describe a skilled artisan at their craft – you show you possess hokmah when

 

“Fear of the Lord” (Chapters 1-9)

  • Introduction (1:1-9) = Proverbs of Solomon.
    • 1st Kings 4:32 says that Solomon wrote 300 proverbs (this book includes some 800 of them). Solomon wrote three thousand proverbs; this book includes some eight hundred of them. Solomon probably wrote them in his middle years, when he had progressed beyond youth enough to have acquired much wisdom from experience, but had not yet begun his decline into idolatry, folly, and immorality, which characterized his later years and which precipitated the catastrophic decline of the kingdom. This fact proves that “the knowledge of three thousand proverbs is not enough to ensure a good life: they must be practiced, not just preached (see Mt 7:21–29)” (cf. Kreeft, 95).
  • Hokmah = skill / applied knowledge
  • Exodus 31 – artists and craftsman had hokmah
  • Fear of the Lord = healthy sense of reverence and awe for God and my place in the universe. And a healthy respect of God’s definition of good & evil. True wisdom is knowing those boundary lines and not crossing them. Fear of the Lord is a moral mindset = “I’m not God… I don’t get to make up my definitions of good and evil… I must embrace God’s definition of right & wrong…”
  • “This “fear of the Lord” that is the beginning of wisdom is not, of course, a crude, cruel, or craven thing. It is high and holy and happy. It is the awe of adoration, the wonder of worship” (Kreeft, 96).

  • 10 Speeches from a father to a son
  • 4 poems of Lady Wisdom – a creative poetic way to explain how we live in God’s moral universe.

“Proverbs” (Chapters 10-31)

  • A collection of some 800 ancient proverbs that cover every possible topic… all filtered through the value system outlined in chapters 1-9.
  • Hokmah is applied to these sayings. Proverbs arise from the confidence that we can discover the order in the universe – the wisdom that God has poured into all things – wise man detects this order & expresses it in sayings.
  • Design your life with these sayings = your life will be good!
  • Proverbs = are pithy condensed sayings that express truth in a striking way. First, a short, pithy saying is stated. Then, it is reinforced or (more often) contrasted with its opposite (reflects the “two ways” road map). The Proverbs are meant to be a guide to choosing the right way in a world full of sales pitches for the wrong way, a guide to living a good life in an evil world.
  • Proverbs = God’s own invitation to learn wisdom from previous generations.
  • Characteristics of proverbs = Brief + Grounded in experience + Arise from careful observation of life in the world + Expressed in memorable form – a rhyme, alliteration, parallelism (antithetical = “better… than”; synonymous = “like”… repetition) + comparison + claim to present valuable insight – timeless truths.
  • Proverbs = probabilities… NOT promises. No guarantees in this world. General rule but no exceptions, which are many. Job and Ecclesiastes, the other wisdom books, tackle these exceptions.
  • Proverbs are boring! In today’s world, we are bored with the old, well-worn truisms of proverbs. They are simple, dull, and often tell us nothing we didn’t know before… but since they are true, we must return to these “safe”, “dull” platitudes if we want to return to the one sure path to life and health (cf. Psalm 1) (cf. Kreeft, 92).
  • The value of proverbs: (1) proverbs are real, true, objective statements attainable for everyone; (2) the most important things in life, which are the subjects of Proverbs, are knowable and discoverable, at least partly; (3) are lives here on earth are meaningful & patterned; (4) ordinary life is the most reliable teacher of this wisdom.
  • 3 levels of wisdom found in proverbs:
    1. Pragmatic virtues – practical, utilitarian advice – ways to prosper by use of diligence, cleverness, prudence, and common sense. Universal =

      every culture and every individual knows and lives by proverbs of pragmatic wisdom like “look before you leap.”

    2. Moral virtues – ethical level, the extolling of righteousness and justice, charity and chastity, not only because they “pay off” but because they are right in themselves. Widespread but not universal = A small number of great ethical teachers like Plato rise to this level, and teach that “virtue is its own reward.
    3. Theological virtues – where wisdom is seen as coming from God… a way of being Godlike. This is “the fear of the Lord”.
  • Life = #1 desire of the wise man – consists of material blessings in this life (good health, many friends, security) with a sense of being generous too (not selfish with possessions).
  • The way = We are homo viator – men on the way to death. Road maps = ways created by effort of charting (those who do not use road maps can get lost). Also, we can plan our paths but the Lord can direct our steps another way. The way is a good image for man’s finite existence, involving toil but also a certain security & direction to a particular way.
  • Wise vs. foolish = Both intellectually & morally. Wise = righteous. Foolish = wicked. Simple lesson = “be wise so that you may follow the path of life”.

Conclusion (30-31)

  • Agur – model reader of Book of Proverbs
  • Lemuel – passes on wisdom given to him by his mom.
  • The woman of noble character – acrostic poem – takes God’s wisdom and translates it into practical decisions of everyday life.
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