"The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, King of Israel"
To know wisdom and instruction,To discern the sayings of understanding,To receive instruction in wise behavior,Righteousness, justice and equity;To give prudence to the naïve,To the youth knowledge and discretion,A wise man will hear and increase in learning,And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel,To understand a proverb and a figure,The words of the wise and their riddles (Proverbs 1:1-6)
Proverbs is considered to be of the Wisdom literature (along with Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon and certain Psalms). Contained within Proverbs are principles and promises, words by which we may live righteous and fruitful lives.
While in the very first verse King Solomon is credited with authorship, it is more likely that he is the one who compiled the proverbs for the book. There is no doubt that he was not the sole author of every proverb; Agur, and Lemuel are also credited as authors of certain proverbs (chapters 30 and 31).
The book itself can be said to consider three types of people: the wise, who embrace God’s covenant and live accordingly; the foolish, who reject God’s covenant and so reap the consequences of their decisions; and the simple, who make no commitment one way or another, but rather are easily misled and lazy, and not inclined to make the effort to grow in wisdom. Which of these types of people characterizes you?
If you read carefully, you will find wisdom for conducting yourself in all areas of life. There are principles for wisdom at work; for managing your finances; and for being an effective leader. Proverbs gives wisdom to young and old; to single and married; and to parents and children.
New Testament authors, such as Paul, Peter, James and the author of Hebrews looked to Proverbs, and in fact quoted its principles. Even Jesus himself taught principles found in Proverbs.
Do not make the mistake of reading promises into every proverb. For example, Proverbs 23:13 reads “Do not hold back discipline from the child, Although you strike him with the rod, he will not die.” This proverb is encouraging effective and timely discipline, but does not advocate beating a child. Indeed, to engage in excessive discipline would be both sinful and physically harmful. Likewise, there is no guarantee that if you live wisely you will be rich or live a long life (or vice versa). Look around and you will see many wicked people living long and prosperous lives. Similarly, you will find apparent contradictions in Proverbs, such as answering a fool, or not answering a fool (Proverbs 26:4-5). These are proverbs, not laws; the proper course of actions depends on the circumstances.
Proverbs are maxims, using comparisons that give us insight into how God would have us live. As you read them, consider what behavior or characteristic the Lord approves, which he condemns, and what application you might make to the present situation. Pray for discernment as you read through each chapter and verse.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction Proverbs 1:7