Contributor: Tobi Morakinyo
Proverbs are truths expressed in a somewhat obscured or coded way—short sayings filled with wisdom. The Book of Proverbs is one of the “Wisdom” Books in the Bible, alongside Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. King Solomon authored Proverbs during the early years of his reign after receiving the gift of wisdom he asked of God, and before he turned away from God. The book is like a father’s letter to his sons, and given the spirit of wisdom (God) in Solomon, he was writing the mind of God to his children as an earthly father speaking to his son. The primary purpose of the book is to teach wisdom, reaching not
only the young and inexperienced but also the learned. May the Lord open our understanding as we study this book afresh this month in Jesus' name.
Chapter 1 – The benefit of Proverbs , the enticement of sinners and the warning of wisdom
Proverbs 1 has three broad themes starting with the usefulness of Proverbs. For instance, vs 4 says, “To give subtlety to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.” This implies that though wisdom is attained by experience, young people, through listening to the wise and keeping to their instructions, can obtain wisdom that would normally take time to garner, thereby saving time and achieving desired results.
The point here is some life lessons should not necessarily be learned through personal experience; we leverage the lessons from the experience of others included in the Bible to lead an effective, productive, and kingdom-focused life. The Bible says in Romans 15:4, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”
The enticement of sinners (Proverbs 1:8-19) – Righteous (not moral) living is uncommon; this makes it common for believers to be enticed (vs 10), and as sons of God, we must be determined not to consent. Temptation will come, and it is not sinful to be tempted; yielding to temptation is sin.
Wisdom warns (1:20-33) - The tone changes here to the first person as Wisdom speaks of her loud invitation to people on a platter, but despite her effort, there was no response. She warns of a payback time when she will be sought after and needed but says, “I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh…” (vs 26-28) but “whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely and shall be quiet from the fear of evil” (vs 33). The key point here is that we should hearken diligently to the instructions of God so that we have Him as our ally as we proceed into the new year.
Chapter 2 – The pursuit of Wisdom.
Given our understanding of the benefits of wisdom and the danger of rejecting wisdom, this chapter reveals the extent we should be ready to go in the pursuit of wisdom. For instance, it says we should seek wisdom as silver; and search for her as hidden treasure (2:4). It further reveals that the Lord is the giver of wisdom (vs 6). This means to have wisdom; we should seek the custodian. “…If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever” (1 Chronicles 28:9c). However, God hides himself to be found by intentional and diligent seekers. He says “he is a rewarder of those that diligently seek him.”
So wisdom is one of the rewards of diligent seekers. This received wisdom, among others, will deliver the receiver from the ways of evil men (2:12), crooked ways (2:15), and strange women (2:16).
Chapter 3 – The blessing (rewards) of wisdom.
The chapter, like the previous one, highlights some nuggets for living, e.g., “bind mercy and truth around your neck (vs 3) to obtain favor of God and men; trust in the Lord and lean not on your understanding (vs 5-6); despise not correction from the Lord (vs 11-12); if you are to choose, buy wisdom not gold or silver (vs 14); and each coming with individual benefits. However, vs 35 sums up the benefit of living by godly wisdom - “to inherit glory and good testimonial of God and men.”
Chapter 4 –the Father’s instruction.
This chapter starts with a father's admonishment to his children to obey his commandment as their blessings are attached to their obedience. We can relate this to many other conditional blessings in the scripture, e.g., Deuteronomy 28:1-13 and Isaiah 1:19 – “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land.” It also highlights the importance of guarding one's heart with all diligence, for from it flows the issues of life (vs 20-23) – actions are first decided from the heart, and the consequences of our summed actions are what we have as our lives outcome. So we must be careful at what goes on in our hearts.
Chapters 5 & 7.: Warning against immoral women
Both chapters focus on the danger of adultery and the importance of marital fidelity. The father to his son describes the cunningness of a “strange woman” who through sweet mouth (5:3; 7:1-8) and warns that transactions with her will ultimately lead to destruction. “Let not thine heart decline to her ways; go not astray in her paths. For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her. Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.” (vs 25-27). For by means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a piece of bread: and the adulteress will hunt for the precious life (6:26). The Father subsequently encourages young men to be satisfied and faithful to the wife of their youth, avoiding by all means the walking on the path with a strange woman.
Chapter 6 – Parental counsel.
It provides more nuggets for various aspects of life, including financial responsibility, work ethics, and relationships. For instance, it encourages diligence and hard work following the example of ants, emphasizing the importance of preparing for the future and avoiding laziness (6:6-11). Another important aspect can be found in vs 16-20, which highlights the seven abominations that the Lord hates - A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren. (vs 16-19).
Chapters 8 & 9 –Wisdom calls for hearing and Wisdom invitation.
Both structures as a contrast between wisdom and folly, both personified as a woman. Proverbs 8 – 9:12 portrays a feast prepared by wisdom and her effort in inviting people to her banquet, especially the simple (young and inexperienced). Accepting her invitation yields longevity. On the other hand, folly similarly prepares her banquet and sends out an invitation targeting the simple with a catchphrase “stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is sweet” (vs 17). But he knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell (vs 18).
Chapter 10 –Contrast of righteous and wicked.
The chapter contrasts the lifestyle and outcomes of the wise and foolish. Overall, wisdom is portrayed as a source of blessing; prosperity and protection while foolishness lead to destruction and adversity (vs 8, 21). It also emphasizes the importance of speaking wisely and truthfully as opposed to gossip and spreading lies (vs 13, 18-21). It also encourages hard work and diligence as conditions for success and abundance (vs 4, 22).
May the Lord help us to be doers of His word in Jesus' name.