Day 30

Proverbs

The book of Proverbs opens with The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, the king of Israel. However, the structure of this book tells us that this is a compilation from sources other than just Solomon and, in the form we have it, was compiled some three centuries after Solomon’s time. First Kings 4:32 reads, “He spake three thousand proverbs”. With such a number quoted, there must at some time have been a known collection of Solomon’s proverbs. Clearly, there is only a small proportion here in this book, the remainder of which are lost to us. Theologians don’t all agree on how far this book goes in providing us with teachings of Solomon himself, what portions may be attributed to him and what may be attributed to later writers. Nevertheless, the book can be readily divided into sections, which probably goes some way to answering this. However, we shouldn’t be too concerned about differing opinions of theologians and commentators. It is sufficient to know that All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness [2Tim 3:16]. The only problem, perhaps, is that the way the proverbs read is as if someone threw them all into a hat and then picked them out randomly to record them. For this reason, some have categorised the proverbs by subject matter. This is somewhat subjective as witnessed by the varying number of categories used: Matthew Henry offers seventy-seven; Hugh Buchanan forty-four; Thompson Chain Reference Study Bible twenty-two; and The Lion Handbook to the Bible just sixteen. If the reader likes the idea of reading through the proverbs in this way, and has access to the Internet, then a search will probably find a categorisation that suits. As there are thirty-one chapters, a popular way of reading this book is a chapter a day. This is as good a process as any to familiarise oneself with Proverbs. The random manner of the proverbs makes it almost impossible to provide a summary without commenting on each individual proverb, which isn’t a summary. Consequently, there is a limitation on what can be achieved here. Including the introductory verses in ch1 vs1-7, the book can be divided into eight sections: Prologue [1:1-7] Lessons on wisdom [1:8-9:18] Proverbs of Solomon [10:1-22:16] A collection of thirty sayings of wise men [22:17-24:22] A further collection of sayings of wise men [24:23-34] More of Solomon’s proverbs (Hezekiah’s collection) [chs 25-29] Sayings of Agur [ch 30] Sayings of King Lemuel [ch 31]

Prologue

[1:1-7]

Here we have the purpose of these proverbs: to know wisdom and gain understanding. Primarily intended as instruction for the uneducated and young, but the wise will also benefit. All will grow in understanding and knowledge. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.

Lessons on Wisdom

[1:8-9:18]

The superiority of the way of wisdom

[1:8-33] Before presenting the reader with a selection of proverbs, the writer offers some lessons on wisdom, speaking as a father to his son. He speaks of the superior way of wisdom, beginning with the necessary caution to avoid the company of sinners, and to listen instead to the voice of Wisdom, personified, complaining that she is ignored, even being treated with contempt. She warns those who ignore her counsels that there will be serious consequences.

Commendation of Wisdom

[2-4] Chapter 2 - Benefits of accepting Wisdom's instructions If Wisdom is sought, then she will be found in the fear of the Lord, who is the giver of all wisdom and its consequential knowledge. She will protect you from falling into wrong company, both male and female, and lead you to the path of righteousness. Chapter 3 - Wisdom’s instructions and benefits Wisdom teaches obedience, trust, humility, giving and submission to God’s chastening, the benefits of which riches cannot buy: peace, happiness and security. We are not to hold back from doing good, practising love and forbearance continually. The wicked and their ways are not to be envied, for the humble and wise will be the beneficiaries of God’s grace. Chapter 4 - Challenge to hold on to wisdom Wisdom should be passed from father to son; should be embraced and not forgotten. Wisdom is life and her path is as a shining light, whereas the way of the wicked is as darkness. Keep wisdom in your heart and do not deviate in any way from the path she leads you down.

Warnings against folly

[5-7] Chapter 5 - Warning against adultery The character of a loose woman is described, as are the dire consequences of submitting to her enticing words. Rather than submit, rejoice in the wife of your youth and the pleasures of conjugal love, for to do otherwise is folly and has its cost. Chapter 6:1-19 - Warning against perverse ways There are things the author describes as perverse, which include becoming surety for others, slothfulness and a mischievous person. We are then given seven things that God hates: a proud look; a lying tongue; hands that shed innocent blood; a heart that plans wicked things; feet that are swift to run to mischief; a false witness; one who stirs up trouble amongst friends. Chapter 6:20-35 - Cost of committing adultery The author provides an exhortation to keep the Word of God in our hearts, before returning to the subject of adultery and repeated warnings of whoredom and adultery that can destroy a man’s soul. A warning is given concerning the jealousy of an adulteress’s husband. Chapter 7 - Warning against the incitements of an adulteress Another exhortation to acquire wisdom as armour against the adulteress. This time, an observation of a harlot at work is recorded, enticing a young man who is seemingly unaware of his spiritual fate. It is followed by a solemn warning that Her house is the way to hell.

Appeals addressed to youth

[8,9] Chapter 8 - Wisdom’s appeal Wisdom’s appeal is addressed to all men. The excellence of her instruction and the value of it exceed any earthly riches, and benefit those who submit to her counsel. Wisdom has existed from the beginning, the very first of all creation. Only those who heed her counsels are blessed. Chapter 9 - Invitations of wisdom and folly We are now invited by Christ, under the name of Wisdom, to enter into fellowship and communion with Him. Fear of God is what is required from us, but the choice is ours. For we are also invited by folly, in the name of a foolish woman, to commune with her, but her reward is spiritual death.

Proverbs of Solomon

[10:1-22:16] Other than the introductory words of 10:1 – These are Solomon’s proverbs – this section is devoted entirely to proverbs, many of which are within a single verse, and most of which have no relationship to adjacent proverbs. Consequently, as alluded to earlier, there is no opportunity here to summarise them.

Sayings of the wise

[22:17-24:22] This is reckoned as the beginning of a new section, introduced by the words of verse 17: Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise. Who wrote these words and who ‘the wise’ are appear to be matters of theological debate. What is notable is that following verses 17 to 21, which are an encouragement in the pursuit of wisdom, the proverbs are generally expressed in more than one verse. A change in style to Solomon’s proverbs earlier.

More sayings of the wise

[24:23-34] Verse 23 begins The wise have also said these things: and announces a new group of just a few proverbs.

Proverbs of Solomon - Hezekiah’s collection

[25-29] Hezekiah was one of the great kings of Israel who brought about a reformation. It is perhaps not surprising, then, that he collected some of Solomon’s proverbs, recorded here. As in Solomon’s proverbs in earlier chapters, they are now predominantly one-liners and summarising them is impractical.

Sayings of Agur

[30] Regardless of some speculation or theories, we don’t know who Agur was. The structure of this small collection of proverbs allows the following summary. Agur first professes his faith and offers a short prayer. He then gives a caution against wronging servants before he delivers his proverbs grouped in fours. The first two are reflections on four wicked generations and four things that are never satisfied. A caution then follows against one who despises his parents before following with four things he finds too wonderful for him, four things that disquiet the land, four small but wise animals, then four things that go well. Finally, there is a warning against doing foolish things that will lead to strife.

Sayings of King Lemuel

[31] This final section is The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taugh him (verse 1). This is the only mention of King Lemuel in the Bible, so we don’t know who he is. Some say he is Solomon, but careful consideration of verse two speaks against this view. Lemuel’s mother advises him against debauchery, wine and strong drink, as these things have the potential of adversely affecting both kings and their subjects when administering justice. She then describes at length a virtuous woman whose many qualities will cause her children to call her blessed and her husband to praise her.Such a woman is one who fears God.

Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes is the Greek translation of Koheleth, which is generally translated as preacher. Koheleth is the name the writer gives himself in several places in this book. The word Koheleth is found only in Ecclesiastes. Although the writer isn’t named, verses 1:1, 1:12, 1:16 and 2:4–9 strongly suggest it was Solomon. As we read Ecclesiastes, it is easy to view it as Solomon’s reflections on his life and all its extravagances, and the futility of them without God. ‘Vanity’ is used thirty-eight times in Ecclesiastes. In the context of this book, it takes on the Oxford Dictionary’s second meaning: ‘the quality of being worthless or futile’, or as Strong describes it: H1892 emptiness or vanity; figuratively something transitory and unsatisfactory.

Summary

Chapter 1 Men come and go and nature goes through continuous cycles. There is nothing new under the sun. The writer gave his heart to seeking out wisdom, and in his observation of all things declares wisdom is meaningless, as the abundance of wisdom and knowledge merely exposes lack of knowledge and consequent sorrow. Chapter 2 The teacher relates his acquisition of pleasures and possessions and considers them all as vanity and waywardness of spirit; of no advantage under the sun. Even wisdom that excels folly becomes meaningless at the point of death. The toils of life are resented, they are all meaningless, for there is no satisfaction in life without God. Chapter 3 There is a time and season for everything in life and In this world. Everything that God has made is beautiful in its time and is a gift from God, for which people should be thankful. What God has done is everlasting and nothing can be added to or taken away from it. Man should be in awe of Him, for He will judge both the good and bad. All will return to dust, until which time man should enjoy the fruits of his own labour. Chapter 4 The oppressions of life have no comforter, either for the oppressed or the oppressors. There is envy and idleness. It is better to share life with another than to be alone. It is also better to be young, poor and wise than to be an old foolish king. Advancement in itself is meaningless. However, make sure your offerings are more meaningful than that of a fool. Chapter 5 Reverence is to be observed in all aspects of worship. The produce of the earth is for all, but not so riches, which are meaningless. They lead to covetousness and evil, and cannot be taken to the grave. We should be thankful and enjoy the blessings of God. Chapter 6 What Is the value of long life to a man with all his riches if his soul cannot be satisfied, and what advantage has the wise man over a fool if he doesn’t know what will satisfy his soul? Chapter 7 Here the writer quotes a series of proverbs in a style remarkably similar to Solomon’s Proverbs. They conclude with the observation that man was good as God created him; his problems are of his own making. Chapter 8 Wisdom encourages a spirit of obedience. Despite the fact that the ungodly sometimes seem to have advantage in life, it will be well for those who fear God. Man should enjoy the time God has given him. The writer set his heart to know wisdom, but God has concealed the answer to life’s mysteries. Chapter 9 The righteous are in God’s hands, but for everyone, good and bad, death is inevitable. The righteous should enjoy the time God has given them, all the while living to His glory, for there is no knowing how long a person has on this earth. Wisdom is greater than power, yet is not always recognised as one sinner can destroy much good. Chapter 10:1–11:6 A collection of proverbs on wisdom and folly. Chapter 11:7–12:7 Old age, with its problems, and death, will eventually come. So rejoice in your youth, all the while remembering God and walking blamelessly, for God will be your judge. Chapter 12:8–14 This is the conclusion: Let wisdom be your guard. Wisdom is to fear God and keep his commandments, for God will judge everything, good and evil.

Song of Solomon

We are told in the first verse of this book that Solomon wrote this song. It is called ‘song of songs’, a title that is, presumably, a superlative telling us that this song is the greatest of the 1,005 songs composed by Solomon [1Kings 1:1]. It is an explicit story telling of the love between a husband and his wife during courtship, the wedding and life after the wedding, and represents marriage as God intended it. The husband here is Solomon (3:7) and the wife a Shulamite girl (6:13). There is, however, another view that suggests the two lovers are the Shulamite girl and a shepherd. In this version, she is captured by Solomon and placed in his harem in an attempt to win her affections. This fails and she is finally reunited with her shepherd. Both these versions have been allegorised. In the first, the Jews see Solomon as God and the Shulamite girl as Israel, with the song depicting the love God has for His people Israel who are often referred to as His wife. Christians view this story as representing the love between Christ (Solomon) and His church (the Shulamite girl). In the second, Solomon represents the world coming between Christ, the shepherd, and His church, the Shulamite girl. The fact that all three interpretations can be gleaned from the text does not make for an easy summary. So here the allegories are put to one side and the book is summarised as written, that is, a lengthy and highly symbolic dialogue between a maiden and her lover. The dialogue covers three periods of their relationship: courtship, marriage and post marriage.

The Courtship

[1:1-3:5] The maiden, a Shulamite woman, longs for her lover and his kisses, but is concerned about her dark complexion acquired from working in vineyards. She looks for her lover and is directed to the shepherds’ tents. Her lover brushes aside her concerns with expressions of praise of her beauty and suggests how he might provide for her. The maiden describes herself as a rose and lily, and her beloved as a tree under which she sits, providing her with fruit sweet to her taste. She warns women not to fall in love too readily. The maiden likens her beloved to an energetic roe or young hart, come to take her away in the spring. She and her lover now belong to one another. At night, in her bed, the maiden dreams she cannot find her lover. With help, she finds him and takes him home. Again, she charges other women not to give in to love too early.

The Wedding

[3:6-5:1] The wedding day has arrived and an elaborate wedding procession is described. Her bridegroom appears, now identified as Solomon. Having compared parts of her body to animals and precious objects, Solomon tells how his heart has been ravished by her. She is then spoken of in terms of an enclosed garden. She asks the winds to blow on her garden, invites her beloved to come to her and they make love.

Post Marriage

[5:2-8:14] The maiden has another dream in which her husband comes to her to make love. She prepares to receive him, but he disappears. As in a previous dream, she seeks help to find him, but this time is abused. She then asks some women to help her and gives a description of him, comparing parts of his body to precious things, jewels and animals. They find each other in the garden where her beloved again praises each part of the maiden’s body. She invites him to the fields and villages from where they will go to the vineyard and she will give him her love. She seems to wish he would be looked upon as her brother, so that her open displays of affection for him would not lead some to despise her. The maiden looks for their love to be sealed in her heart so that their strong love will overcome the cruel effects of jealousy. She reflects on her young life and is content that her chastity was lost to Solomon. Finally, although Solomon has many women (vineyards), there is contentment in this particular relationship.
30-Day Reading Plan This is a 30-day reading plan based on an average of 15 minutes per session - a total read time of 7½ hours. The actual read times vary from 12 to 20 minutes to accommodate for practical read session end points. If the reading times don’t suit you, then simply go at your own pace and note where you finished. Please select your reading day below
New Testament History Books -
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10   11
Old Testament History Books -
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26 27 28 29 30
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New Testament Epistles -
The Prophets -
The Poetry Books -