After Solomon rose to the throne, the LORD appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Ask! What shall I give you?’ Solomon responded, ‘…give to your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil’ (1 Kings 3:5, 9). It took a measure of wisdom to ask this rather than for longevity, wealth, power, etc.. The LORD honoured Solomon’s request, and also blessed him with great wealth, honour and longevity.
Solomon’s wisdom was extolled by the people of Israel (1 Kings 3:28) and by the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10; cf. Matthew 12:42). His wisdom was exceedingly great and excelled all of his contemporaries (1 Kings 4:29-30). The wise king has understanding in areas of horticulture and zoology among other things (1 Kings 4:33). One of the ways he shared his wisdom was through his many proverbs and songs (1 Kings 4:32).
What is a proverb? Proverbs are generally short sayings which express important principles about life and godliness. They are typically composed of a comparison or contrast between two distinct dispositions or actions which lead to vastly different results.
Though Solomon is the primary author in the book of Proverbs, they are not exclusively his. Proverbs 30 is identified as “…the words of Agur the son of Jakeh…” while Proverbs 31 are “…the words of King Lemuel, the utterance which his mother taught him.”
The purpose of the proverbs is set out in 1:1-7:
The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion—a wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel, to understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
The principles found in the proverbs will be helpful in our spiritual walk, but that is not necessarily the primary purpose for many of the proverbs. They extol wise living and sound judgment. Those who follow their precepts will be productive members of society and well on their way to faithful service to the Lord.
Time and again Solomon addressed his son in the book of Proverbs (1:8, 10, 15,; 2:1; 3:1, 11, 21; 4:10, 20; 4:1, 20; 6:1, 3, 20; 7:1); 19:13, 27; 23:15, 19, 26; 24:13, 21; 27:11). As much as the book shares his wisdom with the world in general, it was the wise king’s aim to make a difference specifically in the life of his son.
It is difficult to outline the book of Proverbs topically, since many of the proverbs are two-line parallelisms, but here is a list of many of the subjects which are addressed: life & death; the call, protection and blessing of wisdom; beware the immoral woman; things the LORD hates; the folly of adultery; the fool; authority; the use of money and the hardship of debt; etc.
Next Week we continue with Ecclesiastes…