The key word in the Book of Proverbs is “wisdom,” the ability to live life skillfully. Living a godly life in an ungodly world, however, is no simple assignment. Proverbs provides a divine commentary on how to deal successfully with the practical affairs of everyday life: how to relate to God, parents, children, neighbors, government, and others. Proverbs tackles topics as wide-ranging as pride, greed, procrastination, slothfulness, sexual sin, anger, friendship, and speech—among many others.
Solomon, the principal author, uses a combination of poetry, parables, leading questions, short stories, and wise sayings—all wrapped in striking and memorable nuggets—to enable God’s people to gain the divine perspective necessary to handle life’s issues. He does not issue divine promises or guarantees, but instead says to us, in essence, “If you live wisely according to the guidelines set down in God’s Word, then blessing is the usual result. If you live foolishly, however, and follow your own stubborn path, then you should expect regret and pain and destruction.”
Because Solomon, who represents the pinnacle of Israel’s wisdom tradition, wrote the majority of the book, its Hebrew title is Mishle Shelomoh, “Proverbs of Solomon” (1:1). The Latin title, Liber Proverbiorum, “Book of Proverbs,” combines the words Pro (“for”) and Verba (“words”) to describe how the proverbs concentrate the meaning of many words into a very few.
Themes: Proverbs presents time-tested wisdom for achieving a successful everyday life. The book takes the principles of the Law of Moses and expresses them in a practical, easy-to-understand form that anyone can understand and apply. The phrase “the fear of the LORD” appears more than a dozen times in Proverbs and provides the underlying theological concept for the entire book.
Authors: Solomon is the generally accepted author of Proverbs 1–29. Agur and Lemuel are credited with writing chapters 30 and 31.
Date: Solomon ruled Israel in the tenth century B.C. Apparently King Hezekiah’s men compiled and edited many of his proverbs during the revival of their day (about 715–686 B.C.), a fact briefly noted in Proverbs 25:1.
Structure: Chapters 1–7 of Proverbs take the form of “fatherly advice” concerning the acquisition of wisdom. Chapters 8 and 9 issue Solomon’s call to wisdom. Chapters 10–20 contrast wisdom and foolishness, godliness and ungodliness, good and evil. Chapters 21–24 offer wisdom in the form of maxims and counsel, and chapters 25–29 present more of Solomon’s proverbs, compiled and edited during King Hezekiah’s time. Chapter 30 gives us the words of “Agur,” while 31:1–9 are from “King Lemuel.” Proverbs 31:10–31 describes an ideal wife.
Charles F. Stanley, The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles, 2005), Pr.