Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise. Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, to help them do what is right, just, and fair. These proverbs will give insight to the simple, knowledge and discernment to the young. [Proverbs 1:2-4 (NLT)]

gulf fritillaryWhen claiming God’s promises, we must be cautious of thinking the words of Proverbs come with the same guarantee as do God’s promises. Rather than promises or fool-proof formulas, Proverbs are general life principles telling us how to live honorably, constructively, and successfully in the world. While they prove true far more often than not, they do not ensure success. For example, in spite of directing our children on a godly path and teaching them to seek God’s wisdom [Proverbs 22:6], they still may walk away from the faith and righteous living. Nevertheless, there’s a far better chance for that child to walk the right path, or return to it after straying, if his parents taught him God’s ways.

Proverbs 1:1 credits the wise King Solomon with its words but we know he wasn’t the only author. Although chapters 1 through 24 probably were written around 950 BC. during his reign, Proverbs 22:17 introduces a nameless sage whose thirty wisdom sayings continue though Proverbs 24:22 where we find “further sayings of the wise” similar in style to the previous section. The thirty proverbs in those chapters are markedly similar to sayings found in The Instructions of Amenemope, a book of Egyptian wisdom believed to have been written prior to Solomon’s time. Since Solomon made a successful alliance with Egypt and married one of Pharaoh’s daughters, it is likely that he was familiar with Egyptian wisdom. The king who wrote, “Intelligent people are always ready to learn. Their ears are open for knowledge,” [18:15] may well have read Amenemope’s words and modified the Egyptian advice by adding references to the God of the Israelites. On the other hand, the Egyptian texts could be misdated or two wise men penned remarkably similar texts independently; we don’t know.

Proverbs 25 credits King Hezekiah (716-687 BC) with compiling the next collection of Solomon’s proverbs. This was a time of spiritual renewal and, with over 3,000 of Solomon’s pithy sayings from which to choose, Hezekiah’s scribes may have gathered, edited, and added these to the previous collection. The dates of the last two chapters of Proverbs are unknown and they are attributed to men not mentioned elsewhere. Chapter 30 is credited to Agur, son of Jakeh and Chapter 31 to King Lemuel. While Agur clearly knew that God’s wisdom was greater than his own, Lemuel ascribes his wise instruction to his mother’s sage advice. Although Jewish tradition often attributes this last chapter to Solomon, several Aramaic spellings indicate non-Israelite schooling. Regardless of who laid pen to parchment, the voice of God is heard in all of Proverbs’ words. God’s wisdom has no boundaries and He may have inspired different people with His words.

The wisdom that starts with fear of the Lord is found in Proverbs. Noting that Jesus’ prayer said, “On earth as it is in heaven,” Eugene Peterson calls wisdom “the biblical term for this on-earth-as-it-is-in-heaven everyday living.” Like a handbook for righteous living, Proverbs’ wisdom gives us a guide for our daily lives. When taken to heart, its words can shape our thinking, attitude, and moral character so that we are better able to live according to God’s ideal. They may not be promises, but they are wise advice!

Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment. [Proverbs 9:10 (NLT)]

Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. Let those with understanding receive guidance by exploring the meaning in these proverbs and parables, the words of the wise and their riddles. Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. [Proverbs 1:-7 (NLT)]

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