An Introduction to Proverbs

Proverbs pupose 1Last year I was challenged, prompted and encouraged to review the Bible. However I don’t want to religiously start from the beginning. So I’ve decided to begin with a book that holds my interest: Proverbs. Proverbs is translated as “oracle”, “taunt” and “parable”, which may explain some of the longer extracts found in Chapters 1-9. Most proverbs are short, compact statements that highlight the truth in human behaviour. Repetition is an important feature in Proverbs as it is designed to help in memorization. The passages are also mainly written for instruction.

The introduction to Proverbs in my bible states that the proverbs contained in this book are “not to be interpreted as prophecies or their statements about effects and results as promises”. For example, 11:31 says that the righteous and wicked “receive their due on earth”; the thing to remember here is that the rewards and punishments lie beyond the grave, in eternal life. Proverbs also deals with evaluating conduct, describing the consequences of particular actions.

There are several techniques used by the author (mainly Solomon however another author is suggested) to garner our attention. Similes are used to make the proverbs more vivid and powerful and are occasionally interpreted as humorous or sarcastic: “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion”. Similarly, figurative language plays an important role, which poses as a common feature. Metaphors are also dominant and highlight both the positives and negatives: “the tongue that brings healing is a tree of life”. Direct comparisons are used to develop a proper set of values: “Better a poor man whose walk is blameless than a rich man whose ways are perverse”. Repetition of entire proverbs is believed to serve poetic purposes. The different variations, however minimal, allows the writer to make a related point, achieving greater clarity or a different emphasis. In 26:4-5 the same line is repeated in a seemingly contradicted way to make a different point.

Proverbs is also known to be very direct and earthy, which happens to be the nature of wisdom literature because it seeks effective ways highlight life situations to guide the unwise into wise choices that concern shaping their lives for the benefit of society.

Proverbs is written to give “prudence to the simple, knowledge to the wise and discretion to the young” (1:4) and to make the wise wiser. With frequent references to “my son(s)” emphasises instruction to the young, guiding them in a way of life that reaps rewarding ends. Proverbs bases its practical wisdom primarily on the fear of the Lord. Continuous reference to tohe reverence for God and reliance on Him are set forth as the path to life, prosperity and security. All this yields a happy life that God intended.

Proverbs is a collection of human situations, relationships and responsibilities that offer insight, warnings, instruction and counsel. In a variety of such proverbs, we are urged to honesty, integrity, diligence, kindness, generosity, readiness to forgive, truthfulness, patience, humility, cheerfulness, loyalty, temperance, self-control, which are all attached to their consequences. The main point is this: life should be lived in conscious awareness of the unfailing scrutiny of the Lord of creation and reliance on his generous providence.

So I hope that you will join with me as I embark on my journey through Proverbs….

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