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Proverbs

Proverbs Bible Study Notes

Overview of Proverbs

Conventional wisdom holds that Solomon wrote Canticles (The Song of Solomon) as a young man, The Book of Proverbs during his middle age, and Ecclesiastes as an old man. Solomon was a contemporary of the Greek poet Homer and his era is often viewed as the golden age of Hebrew literature. (Some believe the Book of Job was written during this period; however, it is more likely that Job was written closer to Abraham’s era.) In the Hebrew Scriptures, Proverbs is classified as part of the Hagiographa or The Writings.

First Kings 4:32 informs us that Solomon spake 3000 proverbs. (It is probable these were both a combination of his own thoughts and a collection of proverbs by other authors.) Nothing is known about Agur and King Lamuel, the authors of the last two chapters of Proverbs. Some scholars, however, believe King Lamuel was a symbol for Solomon.

A proverb expresses in a few words a (moral) though, which is often easy to remember due to the clever language it contains. Eastern peoples were found of poems, riddles, pithy sayings, etc. That being the case, it is easy to understand why Solomon’s fame for wisdom was so great in his day.

Proverbs generally makes use of a Hebrew literary style known as parallelism. The most common are forms are synonymous and antithetic parallels. In synonymous parallels a thought is given then restated. The following is an example of a synonymous parallel:

Wisdom crieth without;
She uttereth her voice in the streets.

In antithetic parallels a thought is state then it opposite is presented. The following well know proverb illustrates an antithetic parallel:

The fear of the Lord prolonged days;
But, the years of the wicked shall be shorted.

A third form of parallelism is progressive parallelism. In progressive parallelism the second part of the couplet amplifies the thought and flows from the thought expressed in the first part of the couplet.

The Lord is my Sheppard:
I shall not want.
Psalms 23:1Psalms 23:1
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

23 A Psalm of David. 1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  

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Another form of parallelism, especially in Proverbs, is comparative parallelism. For example:

As vinegar to the teeth,
and smoke to the eyes,
So is the sluggard to them that send him.
Proverbs 10:26Proverbs 10:26
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

26 As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him.  

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Proverbs also provides insight into the problems faced by a new age. Originally, the Israelites had been nomadic herdsmen. They then became an agricultural people. In Solomon’s time they experienced numerous changes. They entered a period of peace; and became the dominate military power in the region. Jerusalem became a great commercial center. The people of Jerusalem were faced the problems associated with prosperity in a time of peace. Some came to know new and sudden wealth. These were new problems for the Israelites to contend with.

The Book of Proverbs provides insight into these problems. And their solutions. Many of the problems faced in Solomon’s day are similar to challenges we face today. Much of the counsel Solomon gave his people is helpful today in coping with the problems and temptations that our society encounters.

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